Saint Lu­cia is a trop­i­cal lux­ury

The News (New Glasgow) - - DESTINATIONS - BY JOHN AND SAN­DRA NOWLAN

Saint Lu­cia, the de­light­ful south­ern Caribbean is­land in the Wind­ward Is­land chain, is a pop­u­lar cruise ship stop. For a few hours vis­i­tors can tour the steam­ing, bub­bling drive-in vol­cano and view the steep and sharply pointed twin sea­side moun­tains called the Pi­tons. But the for­mer French, then British, colony is much more re­ward­ing with a longer visit.

Over four days we stayed at two unique, cou­ples-only ro­man­tic re­sorts, toured three oth­ers and en­joyed some of the best cui­sine in the Caribbean.

Our first stop af­ter a non-stop flight from Canada was at the allinclu­sive Rendezvous Re­sort, on the west coast just north of the St. Lu­cia cap­i­tal, Cas­tries. This lo­cally owned bou­tique ho­tel re­cently cel­e­brated its 50th an­niver­sary but has kept its charm and high level of ser­vice. Best of all is its lo­ca­tion on Mal­abar Beach, a three-kilo­me­tre stretch of pris­tine Caribbean sand, with sea­side cot­tages and low-rise build­ings spread among a well-main­tained trop­i­cal set­ting. There are three pools and an ex­cel­lent spa.

The 100 rooms at the Rendezvous are all clean, spa­cious and well equipped — ex­cept there’s no tele­vi­sion. The gen­eral man­ager, Yhas­mine Remy-Hyl­ton, told us that the re­sort wanted guests to be free of every­day dis­trac­tions.

“We want cou­ples to feel hu­man again,” she said. “We want them to feel spe­cial, to re­con­nect, to dance to­gether, to learn to cook to­gether, to have a cou­ples mas­sage.”

There’s ex­cel­lent Wi-Fi in all the suites but the din­ing rooms and most pub­lic ar­eas are not in­ter­net friendly.

“Too many cou­ples spend their din­ner time on their iPhones and iPads,” Yhas­mine said. “We want to en­cour­age con­ver­sa­tion and to­geth­er­ness.”

The con­cept seemed to work be­cause we saw cou­ples chat­ting to­gether, swim­ming to­gether or en­joy­ing cham­pagne to­gether in the nightly tast­ing room or on the beach at sun­set with sax­o­phone ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

To­geth­er­ness was also the theme at our se­cond ac­com­mo­da­tion, the Ladera Re­sort near St. Lu­cia’s orig­i­nal cap­i­tal, Soufriere. The re­sort is sit­u­ated in a spec­tac­u­lar set­ting, high on a ridge be­tween the two Pi­tons.

The 37 suites all face the twin moun­tains (a UNESCO World Her­itage site) and the open sea. But each has just three walls with one side wide open al­low­ing a unique bond­ing with na­ture. The huge rooms and bath­rooms (the shower was big enough to hold five) in­clude mos­quito net­ting around the king size bed and lo­cally made fur­ni­ture, beau­ti­fully carved. Ev­ery suite has a pri­vate plunge pool, par­tic­u­larly en­chant­ing at night when it’s to­tally dark and you can gaze up at the car­pet of bril­liant stars.

For its 74 guests, Ladera has a staff of 135 to look af­ter ev­ery need, an ex­tra­or­di­nary ra­tio for a ho­tel. Like the Rendezvous, the Ladera guest phi­los­o­phy pro­motes con­nect­ing or re­con­nect­ing. Tele­vi­sion is not needed. “It’s all about you and your part­ner,” we were told. “En­joy the view, re­lax and we’ll take care of all your needs.”

Those needs in­clude Dasheene, a fine open-air din­ing room with lo­cal spe­cial­ties in­clud­ing very fresh fish. On one morn­ing we or­dered room ser­vice break­fast, a won­der­ful way to watch the sun­rise il­lu­mi­nate those amaz­ing St. Lu­cia twin peaks.

We were cu­ri­ous about other is­land ac­com­mo­da­tions so we vis­ited three in­ter­est­ing prop­er­ties. Near Cas­tries in the north, the Marigot Bay Re­sort and Ma­rina fea­tures 124 fam­ily-friendly rooms built along a hill over­look­ing one of the most idyl­lic har­bours in the Caribbean. Many high-end yachts tie up here for shel­ter or to en­joy life on Saint Lu­cia. Movie fans may re­mem­ber that Doc­tor Doolit­tle, star­ring Rex Har­ri­son, was filmed in and around the bay. The Hur­ri­cane Hole restau­rant was an ideal spot for a seafood lunch.

The Ho­tel Choco­late, built close to the Ladera re­sort and with good views of the Pi­tons, is on the site of a co­coa plan­ta­tion. Be­fore an ex­cel­lent lunch, a choco­late ex­pert showed us how to grind co­coa beans into a paste, add co­coa but­ter and su­gar and then grind some more. The re­sult is a smooth liq­uid we poured into moulds, then cooled. Af­ter lunch we were pre­sented with our own home­made choco­late bars.

Our fi­nal ho­tel tour took us along a very bumpy road to a fu­tur­is­tic look­ing re­sort, the Cana­dian-owned Jade Moun­tain. Built high on a hill, it of­fers stun­ning views of the Caribbean Sea and the twin Pi­tons from just 29 suites (they’re called “sanctuaries”), all of which have the open-air con­cept and pri­vate in­fin­ity pools. Guests have the op­tion of ar­riv­ing by he­li­copter. The top rooms, at 2,000 square feet, com­mand US$3,000 a night. A great re­sort usu­ally of­fers great cui­sine and Jade Moun­tain’s kitchen is over­seen by James Beard award win­ner chef Allen Susser. We en­joyed an ex­tra­or­di­nary din­ner in­clud­ing fresh seafood, duck breast with foie gras and Mango Baked Alaska. Veg­eta­bles and spices came from the re­sort’s or­ganic farm. Din­ner was ac­com­pa­nied by a per­fect bot­tle of wine se­lected by the res­i­dent som­me­lier.

Be­fore we left the is­land we wanted to check out its fa­mous rum so a visit to the Saint Lu­cia Dis­tillers was in or­der. The small dis­tillery pro­duces 25 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of rum and rum prod­ucts, in­clud­ing an in­no­va­tive peanut prod­uct called Nutz’n Rum. Af­ter a tast­ing we de­cided to pur­chase a bot­tle of the Chair­man’s Re­serve Spiced (with added cin­na­mon, vanilla, nut­meg, clove and bit­ter or­ange). It will be per­fect to toast the Caribbean and Saint Lu­cia on cold win­ter nights.

John and San­dra Nowlan are travel and food writ­ers based in Hal­i­fax.

PHOTO BY SAN­DRA NOWLAN

The fu­tur­is­tic Jade Moun­tain Re­sort.

PHOTO BY SAN­DRA NOWLAN

Plunge pool and a view of Pi­tons from Ladera Re­sort.

PHOTO BY JOHN NOWLAN

The Rendezvous main pool is next to the Caribbean.

PHOTO BY SAN­DRA NOWLAN

The rum still at Saint Lu­cia Dis­tillers.

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