En­joy­ing par­adise with the lit­tle an­gels

Josie Clarke en­joys a trip to St Lu­cia to see how a fam­ily hol­i­day can also be re­lax­ing

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - LIFE & LEISURE -

IT’S a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion that en­sures our fam­ily hol­i­day gets off to the best pos­si­ble start. “El­iza, we are go­ing to the Caribbean so that mummy and daddy can have a nice rest.” “Well, what am I go­ing to do?” “You, my lit­tle love, are go­ing to learn how to be­come a ninja.”

On ar­rival at St James’s Club Mor­gan Bay in St Lu­cia, after a 90-minute drive from the air­port, we have barely stepped out of the taxi be­fore we’re handed a rum punch, while the chil­dren re­ceive an al­co­hol-free ver­sion and a kid’s pack out­lin­ing their week ahead with the au­thor Chris Brad­ford, who is run­ning a se­ries of ‘boot camps’ based on his best­selling Young Sa­mu­rai and Body­guard se­ries.

Brad­ford is the lat­est Puf­fin artist in res­i­dence for Elite Is­land Re­sorts in the Caribbean, where Rachel Bright, au­thor of My Sis­ter Is An Alien! and Cur­tis Jobling, the orig­i­nal cre­ator of Bob The Builder, have also run two-week hol­i­day work­shops as part of the all-in­clu­sive pack­age.

It’s a high-oc­tane, en­er­getic se­ries of morn­ings that teaches all the es­sen­tial skills re­quired to be­come a hol­i­day ninja – silent creep­ing, self-de­fence tech­niques, a dash of origami and the cor­rect pro­nun­ci­a­tion of kon­nichiwa and say­onara – amid some great lessons about the im­por­tance of per­se­ver­ance and in­di­vid­u­al­ity.

The work­shops also make use of the re­sort’s stun­ning set­ting amid 25 acres of trop­i­cal gar­dens over­look­ing its own stretch of sandy beach.

The older chil­dren are taken on a tour of the grounds to test their new­found stealth skills (although sneak­ing up on a doz­ing dad with his third rum cock­tail in hand is no great feat, even for an eight-year-old) and later try out their body­guard abil­i­ties on a ‘pop star’ who ur­gently re­quires their as­sis­tance dur­ing her stay.

All of this is an aw­ful lot more en­ter­tain­ing than sit­ting with mum and dad, who are en­joy­ing the sort of bliss­ful peace and re­lax­ation they thought had been rel­e­gated to a pre­vi­ous lifetime.

Safe in the knowl­edge that the chil­dren are un­der the watchful eyes of not only Brad­ford, but a full com­ple­ment of ded­i­cated child car­ers, we spend our morn­ings glid­ing gen­tly be­tween the swim-up bar (it opens well be­fore lunch, which is hardly our fault) and the lovely beach, where a vast range of wa­ter sports are on of­fer.

There is also a spa, where we nar­rowly miss out on a ‘his and hers’ treat­ment due to an over­tired tod­dler who scup­pered the deal.

But by this time, we’re ac­tu­ally start­ing to miss the lit­tle ones and it’s lovely to col­lect them for a lunch date at the ever-popular fam­ily pool with its bar and grill. We spend almost ev­ery lunchtime here, as it en­joys a slightly el­e­vated po­si­tion on the site where breezes take the edge off the heat of the af­ter­noon and the chil­dren make new friends as they play.

We also make good use of the re­sort’s new cafe, which opened shortly be­fore our stay. Some may won­der why you’d want hot drinks at the height of a Caribbean sum­mer, but it’s a re­fresh­ing al­ter­na­tive to the cock­tails and other sug­ary drinks that are a sta­ple of the all-in­clu­sive hol­i­day. It’s also the per­fect spot for the chil­dren’s glass of warm milk first thing – it opens at 6.30am, specif­i­cally for those who are slightly thrown by the four-hour time dif­fer­ence – and last thing at night. The range of cakes and pas­tries is also de­li­cious.

Din­ner is run on a reser­va­tions sys­tem, eas­ily made up to three days in ad­vance at guest ser­vices. Par­tic­u­lar favourites are the Tree Tops pizza and pasta restau­rant, which serves a jerk chicken pizza – the likes of which I’ve never tasted be­fore, in the best pos­si­ble way – and Mor­gan’s Pier, where we eat freshly-caught seafood to the sound of lap­ping wa­ter as the sun­set fills the sky with ev­ery shade of red.

But de­spite the many de­lights of the re­sort, there comes a point when the sea beck­ons and we de­cide to ven­ture out to ex­plore the is­land.

Joy’s Cruises run from the re­sort’s beach and we set off down the coast, headed for the mighty Pi­tons, which we had tan­ta­lis­ingly glimpsed as we flew in. They are a truly ex­tra­or­di­nary sight and cap­ture ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion – un­til a pod of dol­phins ap­pears about a me­tre from the bow. We slow down and they play a great game of hide and seek as we ap­proach the town of Soufriere, where we leave the boat for a mini bus that takes us to the Sul­phur Springs, or the “Caribbean’s only drive-in vol­cano”.

It’s here that our day’s ad­ven­ture steps up a notch as we slap on min­eral-in­fused mud be­fore sink­ing into the pleas­antly hot sul­phuric pools, emerg­ing with beau­ti­fully soft skin and smelling like old eggs, be­fore tak­ing a short drive to a wa­ter­fall where we swim in its warm wa­ters.

Then it’s back to the boat and off to a de­serted beach with crys­tal clear wa­ter, where a bar­be­cue lunch is wait­ing for us, show­cas­ing de­li­cious Caribbean spiced fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.

And if this im­mer­sion into Caribbean heaven isn’t enough, our next stop is the stun­ning Sugar Beach, an ut­terly lovely strip of white sand nes­tled in be­tween the Pi­tons – surely one of the most strik­ing coastal vis­tas any­where in the world.

We swim, and the chil­dren try snorkelling in a cor­doned area near the cliffs, where they en­joy a Find­ing Nemo-style ex­trav­a­ganza that has our daugh­ter mar­vel­ling that she “can’t be­lieve it’s re­ally real”.

As we cruise out past the head­land, the dol­phins reap­pear and we hang about with them for a while, be­fore cut­ting the en­gines to dive into the deep blue, both chil­dren join­ing us, such is their new­found love of the sea.

Our daugh­ter, now a fully-fledged ninja war­rior who can count warm mud baths, climb­ing wa­ter­falls and leap­ing off a boat into the Caribbean among her life ex­pe­ri­ences, de­clares her­self sat­is­fied with how mummy and daddy’s rest­ful hol­i­day has played out.

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