People have been sleeping on St Lucia.
All feedback I had heard about St Lucia before visiting was quite ambivalent. Of course the country is beautiful; clean, pristine beaches, fascinating landscape and friendly people, but there’s nothing that sets it apart from its Eastern Caribbean sisters. And so, I (regrettably) wrote St Lucia off as just another Eastern Caribbean island, beautiful for tourists visiting from outside of the region, lovely in its own right but not somewhere I’d spend my last penny to go.
I stand corrected – I’m currently trying to figure out how to get back to St Lucia as soon as possible to experience the country a bit more. My trip to St Lucia was for the Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference which celebrated its fifth staging this year. Though I was there for a conference, my intention was to skip some sessions to see a bit of the island. This never happened because the conference was that good. Conference aside – I actually got to only one of the places I wanted to visit, but my week there was enough for me to fall in deep like with St Lucia.
The French and the English spent years fighting over ownership of the island. The English were eventually successful but France’s colonization left remnants which are still alive and well today. One of these is their local dialect French Creole. It’s actually a mixture of French and African grammar, and Spanish, French and mostly English vocabulary.
I had no idea that so many people in St Lucia still speak French Creole, but I loved it. I’ve had a great appreciation for the Lucian accent for years, but hearing ‘garcon’ at almost every street corner and being almost serenaded by French Creole at restaurants was one of my favourite things. The prevalence of the language gave me the impression that they were quite proud of it. This is interesting because so many of their Caribbean neighbours still struggle for recognition of, and to instil a sense of pride in their local dialects. While I was told that the use of the language is on the decline, I definitely heard it quite frequently.
Another surprise was that literally every single party or bar we went to was real vibes. I haven’t experienced this in any other Eastern Caribbean island. I stayed in Rodney Bay which was clearly a tourist area – a lot of hotels, clubs, bars, food and the beach in close proximity. This made it easy to access the bars and other entertainment spots. Aside from this, we also made it to Gros Islet Friday nights and a boat cruise organised by United and Strong St Lucia. They were all really enjoyable – the people, music, drinks and vibes. The boat ride even featured a ‘split in d middle’ regional competition – I wish I had footage! A couple years ago, someone told me that St Lucia has the best Carnival in the region after Trinidad and I really didn’t believe them. After this lah hay, I’m definitely less doubtful.
Gros Islet Friday Nights was another great surprise. Many of the islands I’ve visited have a Friday night vibe. Grenada has its Gouyave Fish Fry and Barbados has Oistin’s Fish Fry. So when I head about Gros Islet, I figured it would be the same kind of experience; people selling food, music, chairs to sit, somebody might get up and dance a bit. Well boy, was I surprised. Gros Islet was a whole street dance! Streets closed off, mostly good DJ, speakers, food…the whole works!
To get to the street party, whether you take public transport or a taxi, it can only go so far; you’ll eventually have to get out and walk which is great as this is an experience in itself. At the entrance to the party there were quite a number of craftsmen selling great art pieces, jewellery, souvenirs and trinkets. As we got closer to the music, the craftsmen turned into people selling food – different types of fish, meat, provisions etc. When we got to the thick of the party, the chefs turned into a stretch of bars and people on the streets selling alcohol and other drinks – the rum punch was great. The middle of the street was jam packed with people dancing and parading like it was a Monday night mas. It was SO different to what I was expecting and I enjoyed every single minute of it. It’s a definite must do when in St Lucia.
Gratefully unsurprising was the beach. I was able to visit Reduit Beach which was beautiful. Apparently you can get a boat from that beach which takes you to a museum on the other side of the island. We went in the middle of the week so the beach was almost empty save two old men. One had appointed himself protector of the beach and the other was soaking up sun, living his best life. The water was calm and refreshing and I got a free tour of the environs from Mr Beach-protector.
In terms of food – which is always high on my list when I travel – I ate mostly at the conference hotel, Coco Palm Resort . If you’re a hotel person when you travel I definitely recommend Coco Palm. It’s queer friendly, staff are great and there’s a nice variety of food- everything I had was yummy!
Location wise, it’s about twenty minutes from the airport and in the middle of a strip of bars, restaurants, malls and the beach. The rooms aren’t crazy expensive in comparison to other hotels around, especially if you stay in the Kreole Rooms ($90 USD per night with breakfast). These rooms are separate to the rest of the hotel and noisier as they’re close to the bars. On the flip side though, they’re not far from the pool, cheaper and have the same basic amenities.
There’s a Mexican place worth mentioning next to the hotel in a bar called Coconutz and the karaoke at Keebees (the bar next door) is very entertaining and can turn into a party afterward.
St Lucia’s national dish is green fig and saltfish. I know this sounds basic but it was tasty every single time I had it. I even had a version of it made into a salad (mixed with mayonnaise) which I was really hesitant about, but it was delicious. Aside from one thing whose name I cannot remember, everything else I saw and ate were things I’ve had in Trinidad. Their local beer is called Piton after their world famous volcanic plugs.
I also had this great tequila flavoured beer called Desperadoes. While it isn’t unique to or from St Lucia, I just had to plug it in here as it’s where I first had it and it was great! Of course in true tradition I had to try their KFC. I had a Zinger and also tried the chicken wings. It wasn’t as good as Trinidad’s but get this, their KFC biscuits come with strawberry jam.
There’s so much left to see, do and eat in St Lucia – I contemplated not even blogging about my trip because I felt as if I didn’t see enough to justify a post. But I also felt that I had to encourage people out there who are on the fence about St Lucia to visit.
When you visit, the tour I planned to take was the Island Expo tour from Real St.Lucia Tours. The private tour which costs $75 USD, takes you to over ten places of interest including a stop at the Pitons, sulphur springs, beaches and alcohol. The tour company has great reviews, but so do many others. A good taxi to get you from the airport is George and you can get him on Whatsapp: 1(758)520-2143. Once you’re a party person, the Gros Islet Friday Night party should be at the top of your list. When you go to the street party, buy drinks on the street – they’re cheaper than the bars.
Be sure to let me know how that lah hay goes 🙂