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MARCH 2 0 0 8
C O U N T R Y F O C U S
THE CARIBBEAN'S HELEN OF THE WEST INDIES
by CaribPro Source
Come to St Lucia and it will not take you long to see why the island became known as the Helen of the West Indies – and why the French and British empires spent almost two centuries fighting to possess her.
Possessor of the same great beauty as namesake Helen of Troy… St.Lucia is one of the most unspoiled natural splendors in the entire Caribbean. The island's beauty is beyond skin deep, from sheer cliffs and lushly forested tropical canyons to its endless, sandy beaches and coral reefed bays.
THE SORT OF ISLAND THAT TRAVELERS TO THE CARIBBEAN DREAM ABOUT...
St. Lucia’s unique cultural mix enchants and delights and is reflective of its motto,, "the land, the people and the light".
The island’s name evokes wonderful states of mind: seduction, honeymoons, romance, and adventure for that perfect island holiday. Its French legacy can still be heard in the local patois, seen in the many Gallic place-names and enjoyed in the irresistible French Creole cuisine to be found in hotels, restaurants and bistros.
It is the sort of island that travelers to the Caribbean dream about – it has stunning natural beauty, delicious food, upscale hotels and some of the best street parties in the Caribbean. And in this article we are going to introduce you to some of the towns, quaint villages, events, festivals, sea and land activities, as well as the famed entertainment loved by visitors and locals alike - Jump Up!
..DRAMATIC TWIN COASTAL PEAK, THE PITONS, SOAR 2,000 FEET UP FROM THE CARIBBEAN SEA... SHELTERING MAGNIFICENT RAIN FORESTS
St Lucia is a small, lush tropical gem in the Lesser Antilles. It is located midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain, between Martinique and St. Vincent, and north of Barbados. St. Lucia is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, with a shape that is said to resemble a mango. The Atlantic Ocean massages its eastern shore, while the beaches of the west coast are caressed by the calm Caribbean Sea.
To some, St. Lucia may seem like an island plucked from the South Pacific and set in the Caribbean. Its dramatic twin coastal peaks, the Pitons, soar 2,000 feet up from the Caribbean sea on the southern village of Soufriere, sheltering magnificent rain forests where wild orchids, giant ferns, and birds of paradise flourish. Brilliantly-plumed tropical birds abound, including endangered species like the indigenous St. Lucia parrot. The rainforest is broken only by verdant fields and orchards of banana, coconut, mango, and papaya trees.
St. Lucia has been inhabited since long before colonial times, and its cultural treasures are a fascinating mélange of its rich past and its many different traditions.
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands, named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse. It was first visited by Europeans in about the year 1500 and first colonized successfully by France who signed a treaty with the native Carib peoples in 1660. Great Britain took control of the island from 1663 to 1667 then went to war with France over it fourteen times, and finally took complete control in 1814.
Representative government came about in 1924 (with universal adult suffrage from 1953) and from 1958 to 1962 the island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations on February 22, 1979. The island's people have earned a well-deserved reputation for their warmth and charm, and the island itself is dotted with aged fortresses, small villages, and open-air markets.
Tourism is vital to St. Lucia's economy and the economic importance of tourism is expected to continue to increase as the market for bananas becomes more competitive. St Lucia tends to be popular due to its tropical weather and scenery and its large number of beaches and resorts.
TOWNS AND VILLAGES – MUST SEES
The majority of tourists visit St. Lucia as part of a cruise. Most of their time tends to be spent in Castries, although Soufriere, Marigot Bay and Gros Islet are popular locations to visit.
Marigot Bay is where second homes to some stars like George Foreman and Mick Jagger are situated.
However, St Lucia is a haven of wonderful and unique small towns and must see quaint villages:
The capital of St.Lucia is home to more than a third of the island's total population. Located on the northwest coast, the town is has a typical busy and congested urban culture that is often combined with a relaxed and peaceful aura.
The town reflects a blend of centuries-old West Indian lifestyle and the fast-paced modernization. This town is primarily the place to conduct business or to indulge in a shopping spree at the many duty-free shops in the plazas and malls here.
The modern aspect of Castries is apparent around the waterfront and government complex areas, where gleaming and towering structures of glass, concrete and steel are located.
The town is set against a backdrop of the deep harbour of Port Castries that remains busy with several cruise and massive cargo ships. Downtown Castries has over a dozen blocks of crowded streets, shops, bus stands. The heart of the area is the bustling and noisy Castries Central Market that offers a rich mix of colour and aroma.
|The area surrounding the capital town of Castries is a fascinating area with beaches, forts and forest-laden hills. All these sights are easily accessible through the excellent public transport network of the capital.|
Past the Vigie Peninsula lies the Choc Bay, a pristine stretch of golden sand made lively by beach bars. It is a great place for relaxation and a popular getaway from the city heat.
Offshore is the tiny Rat Island, an erstwhile quarantine station, presently earmarked by Nobel Prize-winner Derek Walcott as a probable artists' colony.
Next to Pigeon Island, Cap Estate is a posh residential area with large villas and estates nestled in the hills east of the highway along the coast. The views from along the road are quite remarkable and mesmerising.
Cas-en-Bas is a small settlement on the east coast of the island and has a series of secluded beaches that are good, and safe to enjoy a private swim.
Located near Gros Islet, a turn off the coastal highway will bring you here where the road ends at the ocean.
You can walk to Cas-en-Bas in about an hour or travel by car. During the rainy season, 4WD vehicle is recommended.
The beach at the end of the main road is lovely an alluring with long and wide stretch of sands with some shady spots under the trees. An excellent reef off the coast in the rough waters of the Atlantic makes the beach marvellous for swimming.
Concentrated around the sheltered bay of Port Micoud, this town was named in honour of the French Governor de Micoud who ruled St Lucia from 1768 to 1771.
The harbour, ideally suited for fishing, forms one border while the Troumassé River forms the southern border of the town. There is evidence of Amerindian presence in the area with probably nine settlements having existed in the Micoud Quarter that had been abandoned after the arrival of European settlers in the eighteenth century.
It is a typical fishing village with numerous narrow and small streets lined with a blend of old homes bearing West Indian fretwork and modern concrete block architecture. The pretty bay is dotted with fishing boats and churches.
Marigot Bay is located around 5km south of the capital, along the west coast. The path to this bay passes through a pleasant winding, hilly terrain. The area exudes the much sought-after a sense of seclusion and privacy.
Marigot is set in a picturesque tropical backdrop with massive hills covered with lush vegetation. The sea here is surrounded on three sides and this setting has attracted Hollywood as well. The bay was the site for the 1967 film Doctor Dolittle, starring Rex Harrison.
The sheltered inner lagoon, Hurricane Hole, is one of the best-protected natural yacht harbours on the island, and Marigot's waters are perennially dotted with boats of all shapes and sizes, some owned by the local Moorings charter company and others belonging to the "yachtie" crowd that frequents the area.
Dennery was once known as Anse Canot and later as Le Grand Mouyaba. Its present name was given by the French, following a 1768 visit to the town by a former governor, Count D'Ennery.
The village extends back from a deep and protected bay. The uninhabited Dennery Island lies at the northern tip of this village.
Since the addition of the large, Japanese-funded Daito Complex and Pier processing facility, it has acquired the status of being one of St Lucia's busiest fishing centres.
THE WILD PARTY IS A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AND IS QUITE SAFE AND USUALLY A GOOD-NATURED AFFAIR...
Gros Islet is a small fishing village centred around a beach and is located just across the harbour channel from Rodney Bay. The town has old, dilapidated wooden homes along the narrow and sometimes crowded streets. These streets remain busy with vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables.
The town is a favourite with the tourists and locals alike for the Friday night street party that is locally popular as jump-up. This is the village's most alluring, and also, its most popular feature.
The wild party is a memorable experience and is quite safe and usually a good-natured affair.
Choiseul is a small village located south of Soufrière along the west coast. You can explore the pretty waterfront or simply meet the friendly local people. The River Dorée flows along the southern extremes of this village and northern border is a small oceanside settlement called Caribe Point.
This was home to the last of St Lucia's Caribs until the nineteenth century. Their descendants still live here today, some in the traditional thatched huts.
It is an excellent place on the south coast to buy locally produced crafts. Artisans also display their pottery, mats, carvings, wicker baskets and traditional wood furniture in the main building here, while at the back of the complex is a training centre where you will find pottery or furniture carving in progress.
The Town of Soufriere
Soufriere is not the capital city but plays an important role in the politics, commerce and tourism of the island nation.
Soufriere shows signs of Amerindian occupation. After the Amerindians, the first permanent settlers to arrive were the French, who realized that the rich fertile soil of Soufriere would be ideal for farming.
In 1746, Soufriere was, officially recognized by France, as St Lucia’s first town.
The discovery of the terraces and carved rocks at Belfond and the exciting new find of the petroglyph near Jalousie indicate that Soufriere was perhaps one of the most important sites of all.
Some famous St Lucians have come from the town of Soufriere. Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, who spent most of her childhood in Soufriere became Empress of France, Dr Beausoliel, the islands first doctor came from Soufriere, R Belizaire, wrote St Lucia’s first georgraphy book. Also Queen Elizabeth II, when she set foot on St Lucian soil for the first time in 1966, she landed, not in Castries but on the Soufriere Jetty.
The tiny village of Laborie is skirted by the west coast road and boasts a pleasant bay teeming with fishing boats and a colourful oceanside market.
The Le Blanc Nature Heritage site is located atop a steep and rocky hill. A ten minutes drive will bring you to the peak from where you can enjoy magnificent views of Vieux Fort and the southeast and west coasts.
Aside from its enchanting towns and villages there is much to do in St Lucia, from nature walks, to enjoying therapeutic mud baths to taking in the vast array of sea and land activities:
St. Lucia has exceptionally therapeutic mud baths, due to the sulfur that filters into the springs from the island’s long-dormant volcano. The best of these is considered The Diamond Waterfalls of Soufriere.
The Sulphur Springs from which the town of Soufriere got its name are a weak spot in the crust of an enormous collapsed crater, the result of a volcanic upheaval of gigantic proportions which took place some 400,000 years ago.
Similar hot springs feed the mineral baths on the Diamond Estate, built originally in 1786, so that the troop of Louis XVI, king of France, could take advantage of the water’s therapeutic powers.
Behind the baths, a narrow, shady path runs through ferns and banana plants to a spot where the Diamond River, coming straight from the Sulphur Springs, black with volcanic mud, drops in a picturesque waterfall. The rock face behind the fall scintillates with the many colours deposited there by the minerals in the water. All of them reflected in the pool below.
SEA AND LAND BASED ACTIVITIES
There is a broad array of exciting and exotic activities available on St. Lucia. The island's steep coastlines and lovely reefs offer excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. The rainforest preserves of St. Lucia's mountainous interior are one of the Caribbean's finest locales for hiking and bird watching.
ST. LUCIA'S SOUFRIERE VOLCANO, THE WORLD'S ONLY DRIVE-IN VOLCANIC CRATER.
Of course, the island also possesses excellent facilities for golf, tennis, sailing, and a host of other leisure pursuits. Not to be missed is St. Lucia's Soufriere volcano, the world's only drive-in volcanic crater.
Other tourist attractions include the Sulfur Springs at Soufriere, the Botanical Gardens, the rain forests and Pigeon Island National Park, which is home to Fort Rodney, an old British military base.
RODNEY BAY MARINA
A main hub for sea based activitis is in Rodney Bay Marina. It is over a mile long, with a man-made causeway at its northern end that connects Pigeon Island to the mainland and protects the whole bay.
Within the bay is a large, completely protected inner lagoon, accessed via a man-made channel between Reduit Beach and the town of Gros Islet. This lagoon is the home of Rodney Bay Marina.
With its full-service facilities- all the berths feature water and electricity (220 volts, 50 cycles) with transformers available-Rodney Bay Marina is one of the best anchorages in the Caribbean.
Most yachts tie up at the Marina, while others choose to either anchor inside the lagoon (dredged to 8-10 ft) or to the southeast of Pigeon Island off Reduit Beach-one of St Lucia's finest beaches. Anchorage is also available off the town of Gros Islet.
Rodney Bay Marina (VHF16) is an official port of entry to St. Lucia, and features a 50-ton hoist and room for 150 yachts on a long-term storage. In addition, a well stocked chandlery, a bank, showers and bathroom facilities are available. The complex and the surrounding area offer sailors a machine shop, paint shop, fibreglass repair shop sail making and GRP shop, and mechanical workshop.
The St. Lucia Regatta has been held every Janurary in Rodney Bay for over 10 years, and attracts yachts and participants from not only from St. Lucia and the Caribbean, but from all over the globe with its combination of exciting racing and fun parties.
Sailing around St Lucia or visiting neighbouring islands aboard your own private yacht has become increasingly popular in recent years, and several companies in St Lucia provide charter yachts. With the sparkling Caribbean Sea on one side and the mysterious depths of the Atlantic Ocean on the other, sailors have been falling in love with St Lucia for centuries.
At Rodney Bay Marina and Marigot Bay, Saint Lucia's two most popular marinas, yachts and sail boats can be chartered to navigate the West Indies through the beautiful Grenadine Islands. The marinas offer safe anchorage, shower facilities, restaurants, groceries and maintenance facilities.
Sports fishing enthusiasts will find good game fishing offshore of St Lucia, where the main catches include sizeable marlin, kingsfish, wahoo and shark, or even the rarer tuna, dorado or mackerel. St. Lucia offers opportunities for some of the best deep sea fishing in the world. Described as "an angler's dream come true", it is home to several species of big game fish, including white Marlin. The legendary white marlin dwells off the coast of Saint Lucia, where deep sea fishing is a popular recreational activity.
With miles of easily accessible sandy beaches and the vast ocean never more than a couple of miles away, St Lucia is perfect for watersports. The island is at the tip of an underwater volcano where both beginner and experienced divers alike will enjoy the stunning variety of coral, sponge and marine life.
As mountainous below sea level as it is above, St Lucia offers incomparable sightseeing for divers who are drawn to the tremendous variety that nature has to offer: huge gorgonians, black coral trees, gigantic barrel sponges, purple vase sponges and lace coral. Angelfish, black beauties, golden spotted eels, seahorses, Stingrays, nurse sharks, turtles and many varieties of schooling fish are as plentiful as they are colorful and varied.
A few submerged shipwrecks and a mysterious serpentine creature of mythical proportions known as “the thing” add to the excitement of diving in the waters of St Lucia.
There are several spectacular diving sites just off St Lucia, ranging from easy to challenging. Keyhole Pinnacles consists of 4 seamounts rising from incredible depths to within a few feet of the surface. Superman's Flight, a drift dive on a gentle wall which drops to 1,600 feet. At the base of Gros Piton the Coral Gardens rise from a depth of 15 to 50 feet and Anse La Raye, midway up the west coast is a superb wall and drift dive, where huge boulders cover a shallower slope creating fascinating formations to explore. On the point of Anse Chastenet, a plateau slopes gently from 40 - 60 feet. The reefs fall away to a depth of 140 feet in a unique coral chain, meandering out from the Bay.
Water sports are a way of life on this island, where a coastline of rain-forested mountains is frequently interrupted by natural harbors and bays. The island boasts some of the best underwater dive sites in the Caribbean.
This particularly good around the island's southwestern fringes, where the Soufrière Marine Management Area hugs the shoreline for nearly seven miles from Anse L'Ivrogne south of Gros Piton to Anse Jambon, just north of Anse Chastanet.
The reefs here are pristine by most standards, and the area is marked as a protected area for fishing and recreational use. Areas around the base of Petit Piton and Anse Chastanet bay are particularly stunning places to snorkel.
Windsurfers will be challenged by the waves at Cas en Bas and Vieux Fort, the most popular spots for advanced and intermediate windsurfers, while beginners will find the calmer waters of the west coast perfect for sharpening their skills.
Waterskiing & Parasailing
Water-skiing in Saint Lucia can be enjoyed by beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. For an aerial thrill, visitors are encouraged to try parasailing, which allows riders to view spectacular sights as they soar above Rodney Bay.
Beaches of St. Lucia
The island of St.Lucia is estimated to have around 120 beaches. There are long white sandy beaches as well as black sandy beaches brought about by volcanic activities...
- Reduit Beach
- Vigie beach
- Anse Chastanet beach
- Choc Bay beach
- Labrelotte Bay beach
- Soufriere beach
- Cas En Bas beach
- Anse Louvet beach
The Rainforest in St.Lucia
Deep in St Lucia’s mountainous interior almost 1,800 feet above sea level, lies 19,000 acres of rainforest and the 29 miles of trails that run through it.
The rainforest is respected as a habitat for rare birds and plants, a world where lushness is overpowering, where elusive parrots squawk overhead, orchids scent the air, hummingbird buzz near brilliant heliconia and climbing palms encircle tall trees like lovers in a parting embrace.
It has taken centuries for St Lucia’s rainforest to become its current well-developed refuge, Amongst the most enduring symbols of the rainforest is St Lucia’s National bird, the Amazona Versicolor or the Jacquot as it is affectionately known, once an endangered species, with protection its numbers have risen.
Nature Trails and Hiking
Hiking is a pleasant experience through St Lucia's central rainforests and preserves with a beautiful interior and marked, walkable trails.You don't necessarily need guides for many of the hikes but prior permission is required from the Department of Forest and Lands to enter protected areas such as the Edmund Forest Reserve, Des Cartiers Rainforest and the Barre de L'Isle area.
One can also hike the nearly 10-mile forest trail from Barre de l’Isle to Quillesse and stay overnight in a forest house or camp in a tent. It is only recommended for the physically fit and experienced hikers.
A new trail the Enbas Saut Falls trail has been opened up in the Edmond Forest Reserve, which is moderate to strenuous, at the foot of Mount Gimie, with a combination of rainforest, cloud forest and elfin woodlands.
Though St Lucia isn't exactly the nightlife capital of the Caribbean, there's plenty to do after dark. Between Castries and Cap Estate, and particularly at Rodney Bay, there are numerous bars and restaurants where you can have a drink or a meal whilst listening to anything from a mellow jazz combo to the hotter licks of a reggae, calypso or steel pan band, or even traditional chak-chak groups and canned or live rock and roll.
Moreover there are other choices of entertainment during evenings like folk dancing, crab racing, fire eating and limbo dancers.
In May, nightlife is dominated by the annual jazz festival with lots of outdoor concerts.
There are also cultural evenings at La Sikwi, in Anse La Raye, which includes a full costume play reliving life in the village on a stage set into the hills with jazz bands and local acts.
But the highlight of nightlife in the island is the liveliest weekly event, Jump Ups, held in the open air each Friday night. Jump Up is the most visited and famous nighttime attraction, and everyone’s favorite form of entertainment in St Lucia. Every Friday night, locals head to parties, called jump-ups, in fishing villages all over the island
Gros Islet hosts the island’s longest running street party every Friday Night and this attracts locals and visitors alike. Djs and local artists provide hot pulsating rythms to which patrons dance in the streets. Jump up in Gros Islet is an institution – a joyful festival that blends the atmosphere of a carnival with a street fair. Music blares out from dozen of bars and the smell of grilled lambi and fried fish is everywhere, but which is none-the-less something unique – its “Friday night at Gros Islet”! People start to arrive at about 9.00 p.m. The fresh fish, lambi and lobster led to a new way of life for many people in the village All along the streets smoke rises from a hundred little roadside stalls, where one can buy a wonderful variety of local delicacies – tender juicy conch served on homemade skewers, fish cakes, chicken, crispy fried fish, roast corn, baked goods, fresh fruit, and peanuts are all available
Another very popular Friday night Party alternative is Seafood Friday, held in the village of Anse-la-Raye, located on the west coast just south of Castries. Whether you crave the catch of the day or desire a delightful delicacy such as squid, octopus, shrimp or lobster, your taste is sure to be satisfied. Anse-La-Raye also boasts its ability to get you partying to a wide variety of Caribbean music.
On the east coast of the island another village, Dennery, with a fishing heritage offers its Fish Festival every Saturday night. The general ambiance here is in keeping with that of Gros Islet and Anse-la-Raye and the main difference is the night of the week. There is an exotic island sea breeze which lifts the tantalizing aroma of a wide array of seafood prepared by the villagers. The musical accompaniment is mainly Soca, Reggae and some R&B. perfectly adds to the atmosphere to make this festival a wonderful experience for any patron.
Canaries village celebrates “Canaries Creole Pot” on the last Saturday of every month. This celebration is much like the Fish nights of Anse-la-Raye and Dennery except that the menu is more diverse, offering a vast array of local cuisine like bouillion for example (a treat you need to experience yourself) and green bananas and salt fish, of course, in a party atmosphere.
Last but not least is St Lucia’s vast array of arts and music festivals……
St Lucia Jazz Festival
This is a four day festival of jazz, R&B and world music held in the month of May, drawing large crowds every year. The variety of music includes jazz, Latin, salsa, soca and zouk, steel drums and Bob Marley.
Most concerts take place in the evening in the open-air, although fringe events are held anywhere, anytime, with local bands playing in Castries.
St Lucia Country Festival
Its a four-day extravaganza held at Pigeon Island and the Derek Walcott Theatre at the Great House restaurant in Cap Estate in early December. You can expect an enthusiastic audience and great performers of country music.
Festival of Comedy
This is an annual event organized by the St Lucia National Trust on the Sunday preceding 1st of May, which showcases local comedy acts and theatre at the Cultural Centre in Castries and on Pigeon Island.
The Feast of the Rose of Lima (Fét La Wòz) in August and the Feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque (La Marguerite) in October are big flower festivals.
The Carnival is held in June and July, and is celebrated with music, dance and parades, preceded by weeks of calypso contests and feasts.
It is a high point in the island’s cultural activities, when colorful bands and costumed revelers make up processions through the streets.
There is a huge list of itinerary calypso finals on the Saturday, the King and Queen of the band contest on Sunday, and the official parades of the bands on the subsequent days.
It is celebrated on the 22nd of February with a large exhibition from the various ministries, business and industry, and NGOs, along with various sporting events, serious discussions and musical programs.
Festival of Lights & Renewal
This day was celebrated in the past as Discovery Day. Much has changed however, and now St. Lucians look forward to what has become the annual switching on of the Christmas lights and the accompanying Lantern Competition. This has become an arena for intense creativity and local artistic expression.
With all one can do and can experience on St Lucia it is no wonder the locals never want to leave and the visitor's keep coming back again and again...
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The Gateway to Paradise
The Seaside is the most intimate and sophisticated oceanfront development in St Lucia.
Nine luxurious residences with private Jacuzzi plunge pools as well as a 90 feet communal swimming pool built overlooking the breathtaking Caribbean Sea and its spectacular sunsets.
This exclusive gated community will offer idyllic Caribbean living for its owners amidst lush tropical vegetation.
Located on the stunning coastline of Cap Estate, The Seaside is sympathetically designed blending the Caribbean’s colonial heritage with Mediterranean accents.
The spacious 2, 3 & 4 bedroom residences at The Seaside will range from 2500 to 3500 sq/ft. and will be finished with the finest Italian fittings to create the perfect escape, with the owner’s individual taste in mind.
All units will feature expansive indoor and outdoor living areas where one can relax, bask in the Caribbean sunshine and be swept away by the cool and balmy Atlantic trade winds.
The Seaside is perfectly located within walking distance to Rodney Bay, one of the best known bays in the West Indies surrounded by the most beautiful Caribbean beaches, as well as its proximity to hotels, fine restaurants, bars, shops and the world class amenities of the St Lucia Racquet Club and the St Lucia Golf Club, one of the Caribbean’s most wonderful 18 hole golf courses, tucked away in the hills of Cap Estate overlooking the white surf of the Atlantic ocean.
The Seaside also steps five minutes away from the Rodney Bay Marina one of the Caribbean’s famed marinas.
Prices start at US$ 1,100,000 and buying at The Seaside presents an excellent investment opportunity in Caribbean Real Estate. A strong tourism market, stable government and economy, as well as convenient air travel offer all the ingredients for a sound investment.
If you are looking for an exclusive property in Paradise, St. Lucia and The Seaside are the winning combination. For more information
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