Think Pink and find a Di­a­mond above Castries

Tropical Traveller Magazine - - ISLANDFEATURE -

Perched on a hill­side, with its jaw-slack­en­ing panorama of lawns, gar­dens, Castries har­bour, Vigie penin­sula, Pi­geon Is­land, the blue Caribbean hori­zon and, on a clear day, Mar­tinique, the Pink Plan­ta­tion House is worth seek­ing out for the view alone, but this rosy di­a­mond in the trop­i­cal sun is much more than it ap­pears at first. Head­ing out of Castries to the top of the La Toc or Morne Road, flamin­gopink signs point the way to one of the is­land's most unique des­ti­na­tions, a happy blend of his­tory, art, hor­ti­cul­ture and darned good food, and once there, the charm of the 110 year old home and its host­ess are ir­re­sistable.

The home was built by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment around the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury, and anec­do­tal ac­counts say it was used to house vis­it­ing and work­ing of­fi­cials abroad: in­deed lo­cal hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist and land­scap­ing legend Veronica Shin­gle­ton-Smith came to St Lu­cia from Eng­land in 1952 when her fa­ther was sta­tioned here as chief of po­lice; she later mar­ried into a fam­ily who'd ar­rived in 1906 and has lived here ever since. There are other houses of the era scat­tered across the hill­sides of Morne For­tune and La Toc, but many are in dis­re­pair, and none cap­ture the essence of the fam­ily home that Pink Plan­ta­tion feels when you en­ter it.

Michelle El­liot is the cre­ative driv­ing force be­hind the Pink House, hav­ing lit­er­ally stum­bled upon it's blush­ing beauty "in the bush" when look­ing for a place to house her stu­dio and work­shop eight years ago. Wild Orchid De­signs had been lo­cated on the shore of Vigie Cove next to the El­liott fam­ily’s restau­rant The Coal Pot, but dam­age from Hur­ri­cane Dean in 2007 drove Michelle to look for a new lo­ca­tion “on higher ground”. She also wanted some­where beau­ti­ful, but was start­ing to give up when a sur­veyor friend men­tioned the prop­erty sit­u­ated on two acres of slop­ing grounds, and in­sisted on a visit.

Over­grown, jungly gar­dens and di­lap­i­dated out­houses couldn't hide the cap­ti­vat­ing Vic­to­rian charms of the Pink House, which was on the mar­ket after the most re­cent owner had died about eight years be­fore. Other prospec­tive buy­ers were in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing the acreage, but Pink House needed a spe­cial owner and Michelle needed a spe­cial place, so the fam­ily put in an of­fer the next day, bought the prop­erty and set about clean­ing it: she doc­u­mented the trans­for­ma­tion by pho­tograph­ing it ev­ery step of the long, painstak­ing “labour of love” as she calls the process of bring­ing the house back to life.

A mighty lit­tle crew of builders, gar­den­ers and car­pen­ters worked side-by-side re­plac­ing rot­ten wood, ex­tend­ing the ve­ran­dah, cul­ti­vat­ing and car­ing for the lush, slop­ing grounds and veg­etable gar­dens; Michelle res­cued au­then­tic ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails, turned win­dows into doors, re­cy­cled old wooden boards from another old plan­ta­tion home, in­sisted on hand tools in­stead of power tools and grad­u­ally the pink di­a­mond in the rough was brought back to some of its for­mer glory. The in­te­rior of the old fam­ily home was left almost in­tact where pos­si­ble, and thick lay­ers of an­cient paint still adorn the wooden doors and jalousie shut­ters; dry-rot­ten walls were re­placed with au­then­tic sal­vaged boards where pos­si­ble, but many of the quaint, rus­tic de­tails were left to re­tain the livedin feel of the Pink House. Where prac­ti­cal­i­ties came into play, win­dows be­came doors to open up the flow, and the ex­tended ve­ran­dah was in­spired by another lo­cal home, all ex­e­cuted in keep­ing with the his­tory of the prop­erty.

Orig­i­nally the vi­sion was to cre­ate a home for Michelle’s pot­tery business, Wild Orchid De­signs, but vis­i­tors to the Pink Plan­ta­tion House had other ideas, and soon she had re­quests for wed­dings and par­ties which were catered by The Coal Pot; sud­denly she was buy­ing a stove and a fridge, cater­ing “home-style” from the tiny kitchen and peo­ple came.

Nowa­days the breezy ve­ran­dah with its cap­ti­vat­ing view is usu­ally full to ca­pac­ity at lunchtime with lo­cals and vis­i­tors en­joy­ing au­then­tic Saint Lu­cian cook­ing in a spec­tac­u­lar, his­tory venue. It may be a lit­tle off the beaten track, but that’s one of the rea­sons to seek out the Pink Plan­ta­tion House early in your visit to Saint Lu­cia: follow the pink signs once, and be­lieve us, you’ll re­mem­ber your way back ev­ery sin­gle time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.