Monday, September 23, 2013

Postcard from St. Lucia

Rendezvous Resort in Malabar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
And...we're back! (With lots of photos to share!)

Rendezvous Resort in Malabar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Our first sunset in St. Lucia at Rendezvous Resort
And...I'm a naughty blogger. Or, at least a less-than-committed one. I tried to be so very mysterious about my whereabouts, and then, spurned on by prevalent Wi-Fi and gorgeous scenery, ended up Instagramming my photos. Mystery solved.

Rendezvous Resort in Malabar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Pretty beach curve at Rendezvous Resort
Remember how I mentioned here that I was interested in exploring the Cocoa Trail of the Caribbean (as written about in the NYT article I linked to)? Oddly enough, the name of the hotel must have stayed with me (how could it not, really), because we did in fact spend part of our time in St. Lucia at Boucan's Hotel Chocolat on the Rabot Estate. It was a bit of a splurge, but if not now, when?

(Clearly there really is something to writing down your dreams, hopes, ideas, etc., and having them manifest! Nudge, nudge, Sweden!)

But let me backtrack. After R steered me away from Cartagena, the idea of St. Lucia started to grow gradually stronger in my mind. For all the reasons I mentioned before, it seemed like the perfect fit. And, funnily enough, a few agencies ago, I did some work on the tourism brand of the country—so it was such a treat to actually experience St. Lucia after working on its branding!

Rendezvous Resort in Malabar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Glorious morning view at Rendezvous Resort
Once we had agreed on St. Lucia, and found reasonable flights, we had to decide where to stay. Since the country has such gorgeous and varied terrain, we thought of splitting our time between the beach and the jungle/mountains. We've never actually stayed at two places on one island before, so that was a first. We rented a car so we could drive between them and around a bit, and I was freaking out beforehand because R's Italian license has expired and I didn't want to be "forced" to drive the rental (they drive on the other side of the road there). Luckily, they didn't even check, so I was spared dealing with that frightening scenario, which would have been greatly compounded given the whirly-turns of the island's topography.

Rendezvous was our first stop—directly on the beach, colonial style architecture, and a more mature/sophisticated crowd. We decided our time there would be a proper (lazy) detox. No more than 20 minutes a day online, lots of beaching, reading, lazing about and sandy walks as the sun set.

All was going well until Day Two when we came back to our room late and fell into bed without realizing the A/C was turned on (and very high), which means we both woke up with horrifically sore throats that later turned into fevers. Quite a damper on the vacation. We both did our best to not let it slow us down too much, but sadly, I'm only just now getting over this nonsense. I'm not sure if I'm more mad that I was sick while on vacation or that I ended up being sick so long. The whole point of my commitment to improving my wellness every chance I get is to avoid piddly things like this—clearly there's a breakdown somewhere. Sigh.

Rendezvous Resort in Malabar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Morning coffee is for (and with) the birds!  |  Rendezvous Resort
Rendezvous Resort in Malabar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
St. Lucian boys racing wild horses down the beach  |  Rendezvous Resort
But, back to the trip: the highlight at Rendezvous was definitely seeing local St. Lucian boys racing wild (at least they seemed wild to me) horses along the beach. There were about 10 or so of them and the thundering of hooves crescendoing and then descendoing as they passed was quite thrilling. Other highlights: taking breakfast on the beach (oh so peaceful), and tea time. That's something I love about visiting resorts on English-influenced islands like St. Lucia, and Antigua (where we spent our first honeymoon). Tea time is so proper and civilized.

We also indulged in a little Hobie Cat-ing, one of my favorite things to do when in the Caribbean. I learned how to wield the little boats ages ago (much before I met R), but he always seems to forget that I know how to captain them. I like to remind him once he's sailed us out of the harbor area and then laid down on the netting for a little nap. Then I scooch down the sides, wind the sail rope around my hands and start feeling around for a breeze while I maneuver the rudder thingy. Nothing better than seeing him pop up in surprise when we've started to zoom over the water.

The thing is, I don't really have any idea at all of what I'm doing. R grew up on a proper island (unlike Manhattan), and also served in the Navy, so he actually knows how to man everything from a canoe for fishing off the coast of Sicily to a sailboat to an actual, you know, military boat. I, on the other hand, approach Hobie Cat sailing as I do everything else: try a little of this, a little of that, and if it doesn't work, try a little of something else. Tweaks and whatnot.

And, it works. I'm pretty good at finding a good wind and steering into it so we can get moving. Also fairly good at steering around other boats and mini land outcroppings. What I'm not so good at, though, is slowing down. Which is why almost every time I take over the captain-ing, everything is lovely for a bit until I pick up way too much wind and the speed (and the fact that HC's tilt to the side when going fast) gets to be too much and I freak out and shove everything over at R.

That's my version of the dreaded "pie/cheese wedge" method of stopping when skiing. I should probably learn how to gradually slow down and stop, versus my throwing-of-the-rope and releasing-of-the-rudder, which creates a crazy fast turn and immediate stop. I should also learn the terminology so I can stop saying rudder thingy and rope thingy.

Maybe next time.

Pitons |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
The road from Castries to Soufriere, passing by the Pitons
After three days at Rendezvous we headed down the western coast of the island just past Soufriere to celebrate my birthday. We passed the looming Pitons along the way—which ended up playing a starring role for the rest of the trip.

Hotel Chocolat was our second stop—a modern, chic, eco-lodge—where we had finally detoxed enough (nasty illness aside) to have the energy to do a few (brief) hikes, tours of the cacao groves (the national product I alluded to!), and enough of an appetite to indulge (regularly, overly, abundantly) in the cacao-infused menu at the hotel's on-site restaurant.

But first, we had to actually check-in, which involved walking up to the outdoor restaurant / terrace / reception area, where we were faced with this view:

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
View from the terrace at Boucan Hotel Chocolat
That's the famed Gros Piton of St. Lucia. It and its sister, the Petit Piton, were up for consideration as the 8th wonder of the world. Beautiful, right? As soon as I shut my mouth, which had dropped open when "surprised" by the sight of it at the top of the stairs, we sat down to check in, accompanied by a  refreshing glass of local rum and coconut water. Yes, we were both ill, but when on vacation, right?

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Boucan Hotel Chocolat reception and gift shop all in one!
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Cacao, cacao everywhere!
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Gorgeous restaurant terrace with the most stunning view
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Jungly wilds between the main building and all the lodges
Then we were escorted out to our room, and that's when we realized that those nice folks had upgraded us to a Luxe Lodge—an individual villa bigger than our apartment and with a ridiculously huge terrace with a straight on view of the Pitons. Cue another jaw drop:

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Looking up to our lodge
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
View from our lodge, featuring R's foot
The views from our jungly perch to the island's most iconic feature was surreal. Like, smack you in the face with its massiveness, surreal. Now combine that with the gorgeously dark, teak-like furnishings and creamy, gauzy linens (my favorite combo!) and I was in heaven.

Our terrace, besides having that glorious view, came equipped with a nice little tea/coffee-time corner of our own. First order of business that afternoon was indulging in some. And then a few local friends swung by to join us:

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Coffee and chocolate and chocolatey-nut break on our terrace...
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
...where we were joined by this little cutie
My other favorite part of the Luxe Lodge was the indoor/outdoor shower. I'm a clean person, but even I don't need to take three showers a day...which I definitely did while there. A less-favorite part of the lodge was the antithesis of a favorite part: all that nature during the day is wonderful. At night? Less so. There are these frogs and birds that create a racket as soon as the sun begins to dip.

I'm someone that has learned to more or less sleep through the non-stop insanity that is NYC noises at night, but even I had to dutifully shove the complimentary ear plugs in so I could sleep. Actually, I had to put them in much earlier, as the show began at dusk. Still, there was something pretty magical about sleeping with that view at the foot of our bed—we chose to keep the louvered doors open all the time (which also made sleeping with a mask a necessity).

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Where I spent a good ten minutes, three times a day. New love of my life: indoor-outdoor showers.
While on that part of the island we took a day trip to Sugar Beach to fit in a little more sand time. There was a little kerfuffle since we were accidentally on the Viceroy's part of the beach (which apparently costs $100 to sit on if you're not a hotel guest—?!?!).

We smoothed things over (and then hightailed it out). But before all that, at least we enjoyed this:

Sugar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Sugar Beach cliffs
Sugar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Sugar Beach
Sugar Beach  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Sugar Beach cabana

The rest of the time, aside from that hike and a cacao tour, we spent right here. Relaxing on those chaises and facing the Pitons.

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Boucan Hotel Chocolat pool & terrace area (once again, featuring R's foot)
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
The view from where we sat (and R's knees/book)
Oh, there was also a bit of that cacao-tasting menu I mentioned. Can I tell you how nice it is to sit in a restaurant that not only has the usual sea salt and black pepper grinder, but also a cacao grinder? So very nice.

The menu included lovely dishes like gazpacho with cacao nibs, micro-green salad leaves with white chocolate, pan-seared tuna with cacao pesto, risotto with portobello mushrooms and cacao nib oil, a red lentil savoury hot pot with cocoa flatbread, angus prime beef with a dark chocolate port sauce, curried and cacao chicken, and on and on it went. And then came the desserts (followed by a decadent breakfast the next day). Surprisingly, despite the deluge of cacao, we never felt uncomfortably full, just pleasantly satiated. Must be the purity of product?

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Pre-birthday dinner cacao spread (cacao balsamic, cacao butter puree, cacao oil and herbs)
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Hello cacao grinder, where have you been all my life?
I also did a little extra indulging in cacao while at Hotel Chocolat. I looked into their Cocoa Juvenate Spa before leaving and the massages they offered are done with cacao-infused oils. You could choose from: pure cacao, cacao-peppermint, cacao-rose or (drumroll) cacao-nutmeg-cinnamon. It's like they knew me!

I obviously had to do a massage with that heavenly-sounding (and smelling) cacao-nutmeg-cinnamon oil. Afterwards I broke into a coconut on our terrace hoping the double whammy of deep tissue massage + hydrating coconut would make me feel better. It did, but it didn't knock out the fever like I hoped it would.

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Self-medicating with a freshly-cracked coconut
I've needed a good soaking in nature. Our last trip was decidedly a beachfront extravaganza, but this immersion into jungles and cacao plants and volcanic mountains was truly grounding (earthing!). After inhaling fresh island air, digging my toes into actual grass and moss, hiking through animal habitats, immersing myself into mineral-tastic waters and reveling in pure cacao I actually felt a bit radiant—at least in spurts between feverish spikes.

Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Pitons at daybreak, as seen from our terrace
Boucan Hotel Chocolat  |  Postcard from St. Lucia on *sparklingly
Hike near some potent sulfur springs
We know that we sleep better on vacation–but it's not just because we're relaxed and far away from demands, although that helps. On vacation, especially a beach one, you're barefoot. Your body is connecting with the earth and grounding the electrons within you. You're swimming for good chunks of the day, getting natural doses of healing minerals like magnesium. You're frolicking on the beach, playing and moving uninhibitedly, dousing yourself with Vitamin D. No wonder we sleep deeply and soundly (with ear plugs) and wake up with the sun and birdsong naturally (if not wearing an eye mask or ear plugs).

I wonder if I could swing a trip back now that I'm feeling better?

Although, I have to say, New York is pretty amazing right now. Crisp 55-60F weather, clear strong sunlight, light breeze. Everyone's got their tights on and belted sweaters and I even saw a few boots today. No heavy coats and gloves just yet, just the first plummy, autumnal layers are being applied. We welcomed fall our own way at home yesterday with a roasted butternut squash (alongside green beans in garlicky olive oil with crushed red pepper and...a shared steak. No dessert though!).

If this weather carries on, though, I don't mind sticking around for a bit at all.

PS. If you're curious about our path around the island:


2 comments :

  1. WoW. amazing views. cacao grinder! indoor outdoor showers. yes please!!! writing something down to manifest... was JUST thinking about that recently... must remember to go do that now... what a pity about the fevers --- i'm sure that must have been so frustratingly ironic. - oh well it's good that you WERE on vacation... as maybe your body was looking for some r&r anyway... so so lovely! -M

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seriously, that cacao grinder was genius!
      Thanks for the note, M!

      Xx.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a note!

XOXO,
J.