Take a walk around town!

Castries has lots of sights and a unique, bustling charm.

Tropical Traveller Magazine - - ISLANDTOURS -

Cruise ship days bring lots of vis­i­tors to the streets of Castries, as they stretch their sea legs on the short walk along the har­bour front from Pointe Seraphine, through the fish­ery com­plex with its brightly coloured and amus­ingly monikered pirogues to the busy heart of Saint Lu­cia's cap­i­tal, where they seek out the city's hid­den trea­sures.

Along the route is the red-roofed Castries Mar­ket on the left, with the farm­ers' pro­duce mar­ket at ground level, which con­tin­ues to the rear of the two storey craft mar­ket, and ad­ja­cent is the orig­i­nal his­toric build­ing that now houses ven­dors' stalls full of lo­cal bas­kets, gifts and sou­venirs: across the street on the har­bour side is the Ven­dors' Ar­cade, sell­ing arts and crafts and t-shirts galore. Make sure to bar­gain if buy­ing in bulk - cheer­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions of­ten pay off.

As you wan­der through the mar­kets area, look out for any num­ber of tiny restau­rants and bars or 'rum shops' - the smell of fried chicken and slap of dominoes against a wooden ta­ble will give away their lo­ca­tion, and the size of the crowd will let you know how popular they are. Many bars have ta­bles on the street, just right for swig­ging a cold Pi­ton beer or a Chair­man's rum and watch­ing Saint Lu­cia's cap­i­tal go by. Pay US$2 for a beer and it's a bar­gain - pay $3 and it's get­ting to­wards ho­tel prices - but you'll be wel­come to join in with the lo­cals.

Across the traf­fic lights and you're on Peynier Street, which leads to the Cathe­dral of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion, the is­land's largest Catholic church and home to the vi­brant, im­pres­sive mu­rals of lo­cal artist Dun­stan St. Omer. The cathe­dral is open for vis­i­tors all day, although late af­ter­noons may find a fu­neral tak­ing place, which in Saint Lu­cia of­ten means a large crowd of fam­ily and friends decked out in black, white and pur­ple which is a lo­cal sym­bol of mourn­ing.

Right be­side the cathe­dral is Derek Wal­cott Square, the city's gar­den heart and trib­ute to Saint Lu­cia's Nobel Lau­re­ate for Lit­er­a­ture. Busy stores line the square on three sides, some old and au­then­tic, oth­ers ren­o­vated in a mod­ern Caribbean style. The park is an oa­sis of calm in the bustling cap­i­tal, and a gar­gan­tuan sa­maan tree throws wel­come shade on benches that are per­fect for tak­ing a breather.

Bour­bon Street is at the western end of the Square, and home to the Cen­tral Li­brary, a gra­cious old build­ing with col­umns and balustrades and other Caribbean ar­chi­tec­tural de­lights, which has been serv­ing the read­ers of Castries for many years. It's a real throw­back to nos­tal­gic days when books and read­ing were top on most kids' agenda, and well worth a brief stop as you head to­wards Bridge Street, another of the city's main thor­ough­fares.

Ar­chi­tec­turally, Castries is a mixed bag, in part be­cause of a dev­as­tat­ing fire in 1948 which wiped out three quarters of the com­mer­cial cen­tre: Bridge Street is an in­ter­est­ing mix­ture of con­tem­po­rary Caribbean build­ings and mod­ern Saint Lu­cian de­sign, home to banks, re­tail­ers and the Post Of­fice. Dom­i­nat­ing the street is the slick glass Blue Co­ral Mall, which is an air-con­di­tioned shop­ping haven with a range of bou­tiques and stores. Turn right on the cor­ner and you've reached WIl­liam Peter Boule­vard, which is another busy thor­ough­fare, lined with cars and store­fronts and of­ten rock­ing to the bass of an in­promptu sound sys­tem, es­pe­cially on the week­ends.

At the end of the Boule­vard is Con­sti­tu­tion Park, which may be called some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent by the time you read this! The small park houses gov­ern­ment build­ings, the law courts and reg­istry, is a popular short cut across town and af­ter­noon work­place of many an am­a­teur po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. Keep­ing the park on your right, the street leads back to the sea front and emerges on Jeremie Street op­po­site La Place Carenage, which is the cap­i­tal's sec­ond cruise berth. If all that walk­ing has worn you out, a breezy har­bour ferry is just the ticket back to Pointe Seraphine if that's where you started, or re­ward your ef­forts with a seat on the bal­cony of Caribbean Pi­rates restau­rant and drink a cold one whil you look out at the har­bour.

Whether you're just in town for the day or on a longer va­ca­tion, TT rec­om­mends a walk around Castries city cen­tre - but re­mem­ber to keep your eyes peeled and cam­era to the ready be­cause there's lots more to see than we can men­tion!

Castries Mar­ket - an un­miss­able land­mark

Cathe­dral of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion, with mu­rals by Dun­stan St Omer

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