The travel diaries, St. Lucia part 2

image

If you ever plan a trip to St. Lucia, you absolutely have to spend the day at Pigeon Island. It is a park on a hill that used to be a fort at one time. You will find yourself surrounded by ancient relics in the most beautiful place in the world.

If you are staying at a Sandals resort do not buy the excursion there. Simply get yourself to the Sandals Grand St. Lucian resort. Then walk across the parking lot until you get to the enterance. You will see someone in what looks like a toll booth. If I remember right, we paid less than $10 per couple to get in.

I took the first picture from the top of the hill facing the Sandals resort. The resort itself is on the middle left hand side of the picture with the red roofs. This resort has a very impressive beach as well which we enjoyed. It also seems like a popular sailing destination.

image

It was wonderful to travel with friends for many reasons. One of the best reasons was that we were able to get so many pictures together as a couple which we didn’t get in other locations. We both purchased expensive cameras to capture every minute of the best trip I have ever been on.

image

This is a picture of Lisa and I sitting on top of a building within the fort.

image

The view on top of the fort.

image

The picture above is my favorite picture of Paul and I that was ever taken. We were able to explore the park at our leisure. It wasn’t crowded inside. The best part was that we could walk within the crumbling structures. It wasn’t cordoned off in any way. There weren’t any signs that cautioned danger. It was something that I know would be frowned upon if not downright illegal in the U.S.

image

It was falling apart. It was dangerous. It was fun.

We were so in love with St. Lucia that we didn’t want to leave.

 

The travel diaries, St. Lucia part 1

image

For our 15th wedding anniversary, Paul and I took a trip to the caribbean island of St. Lucia. It is the most beautiful place that I have ever been. I decided to break this into 2 parts simply because I had a hard time narrowing down the pictures that I wanted to post. Our friends Tom and Lisa also accompanied us on this trip.

We stayed at the Sandals Halcyon resort, one of three Sandals resorts on the island. My favorite resort, however, is the Sandals Grand St. Lucian. It was very large and had by far the best beach. The location was absolutely lovely (more on that tomorrow). Unfortunately, we had a room very close to the bar. It was where all of the hustle and bustle was and was loud at night. I would recommend asking for a quiet room. The beach was very small at the resort and flooded with vendors. I must have bought at least 3 bracelets before the trip was through. There was a dirty man that sold aloe vera on the beach too, rubbing it on the backs of guests for a small fee.

image

While we were there, we booked a excursion with Joes Knows to see the Pitons and a volcano tour. We went with our friends and a couple of other people we didn’t know. The tour guides were top notch. They brought out the rum punch first thing. They cranked the party music and we were off. Our first stop was the Pitons. Above is a picture of us with the Pitons in the background. The tour guides said that the water is as deep as the mountains are high. We went snorkeling in the water near the Pitons. The water was very clear to see the tropical fish.

Then we stopped close to a bat cave. It was more of a crevice full of squeaking bats. We saw a resort that didn’t have any outer walls taking the open concept to new extremes. It was a very expensive place to stay. We saw celebrity homes. When we got closer to shore we saw young teens diving off of a cliff like they were performing for us. The tour guides said to not give them money even though they begged because they were school drop outs.

image

There really was not that much to see at the volcano as I thought there would be. It was just a big mass of yellow steaming sulfer. Then we walked down the stairs and waited in a short line by a muddy river. We were instructed to paint each other with the mud from the river for pictures. After we finished, we sat with our friends in a dirty mud bath that was hotter than a hot tub. It was very relaxing. I would suggest wearing an older suit that you can throw out afterwards. The sulfer smell lingers in your suit for awhile.

After the calming hot mud bath, we toured a waterfall. We plunged into the cool refreshing waist deep water. Then took an ice cold shower in the waterfall. The hot mud bath and cold refreshing waterfall was therapeutic, similar to a day spent at the spa.

image

On the way back to the resort, we stopped at a location where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. I want to say it was called Lady Slipper. If you look closely you can see a high heel shoe in the rock formation. The guides said we could take a break and jump into the water. So that is what we did. The water was remarkably clear giving us the ability to see everything.

The water is so deep in St. Lucia that it is a great location for large vessels. We saw many sailboats and even a large cruise ship in the harbor. It was in St. Lucia that Paul sailed his first sailboat, a little Hobie Cat.

image

Back at the resort, one night Paul decided to go to bed early. I always wanted to check jumping into a pool in formal attire off of my bucket list. So that is exactly what Lisa and I did. Tom took pictures, then we came up with a plan to have me talk it up and them to pretend that it didn’t happen until we saw the pictures at home.

There were many things to do at the resort. One evening we were entertained by a local steel drum band. I enjoyed the Piton beer and a special blender drink that I had a hard time replicating at home. We met some wild Canadians that didn’t seem to know what to do in sunlight and warm weather. The guy carried around a boombox on his shoulder that constantly played Fat Bottom Girls.

At night, we sat around the fire. The funny thing was that we met a lot of new people that were all Wisconsinites. We sat around commiserating about the winter weather that we had to return to. It was strange to be somewhere foreign but feel completely at home surrounded by people from our culture. There was also a large group of cats that roamed freely around the resort. Rumor has it that a Wisconsinite saw a large rat like creature in the trees that the cats ate. Who knows? All I know was that I liked seeing them there. After seeing what looked like a cat of mine that passed away, I thought it was cat paradise.

It sure was paradise for me.

 

The travel diaries, Jamaica

image

Paul and I stayed in Jamaica at the gorgeous Sandals Whitehouse Resort for our 10th anniversary. Besides my 20 minutes in Canada, it was my first time out of the country. It was Paul’s first time on an airplane. This is a picture of the island taken from our hotel window.

DSC00043

The most adventurous part of the trip was simply getting there. I picked Paul up after work on a Wednesday evening. We had plans to stay at a hotel the evening before and fly direct the following morning. Our 2 hour drive to a direct flight turned into a 5 hour drive due to a snowstorm. The first half we drove snow free, the second half was downright treacherous. We had to drive through blizzard conditions the rest of the way. We saw multiple accidents, drove around jack knifed semis, and cars in the ditch. The highway was down to one unplowed lane. Every so often the snow whipped around in front of the truck so hard that our headlights would flicker off. We spent hours driving in the dark through white out conditions wondering if we were going to be able to stay on the road and oftentimes finding ourselves veering off. Nearby highways were shut down.

We drove through two feet of snow that evening in very windy conditions. When we finally got to the hotel, nothing was plowed out and we couldn’t tell which parking spaces were occupied. Management was fluttering around in a fury of flurries trying to figure out what to do. They ended up telling us to park anywhere. I had to take a picture of Paul in the snow to show what he had to drive through.

Our flight ended up being delayed the following morning, but we decided to go to the airport early anyway. Last minute Paul forgot to pack his tennis shoes, so I grabbed a pair from home and apparently grabbed the wrong ones. Just before we hit security, Paul exclaimed that I brought his old shoes, the ones that he put a screw in to hold the bottom flap together. (Cheapskates, remember?) So here we are trying desperately to get the screw out of his shoe before we hit security trying not to look suspicious. Talk about having a few screws loose!  We were really frazzled. Finally, after a 5 hour delay, we were able to fly out. We finally made it to our resort in Jamaica at 10 PM on Thursday.

image

Finally we were at our resort and could relax a little. When we went, the resort was very new and in immaculate condition. The staff took very good care of the property and even raked the beach every morning. We were in paradise. We took some dance lessons, sang at the martini piano bar, went snorkeling, and spent most of our time at the beach. The staff was personable and the food was good.

image

This is one of my all time favorite pictures of myself surrounded by the beauty of the island’s colorful flowers and plants. Especially since it was twenty below at home and our plants were dead, dormant and/or brown. We went in February and the temperature was absolutely perfect with highs around 80 without a lot of humidity.

image

Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to explore the culture outside of the resort. The beach was rugged outside of the resort grounds. We had to sign out of the resort before we left because at that point we were on our own and the resort was not responsible for our safety. This was a little unnerving so we didn’t stay away too long being very inexperienced travelers at the time.

Monday morning we were on our way back home. We were loaded up in a van for the hour and a half drive to the airport. Now if you are ever thinking of visiting Jamaica, let me give you a little forewarning about their roads. Our one and a half lanes at home are like two lanes for them. There are often animals and people along the road. They do not have traffic lights or stop signs as far as I am aware of, even in the city. The main roads were in very poor condition with a lot of potholes. It seems to work out for them, but was very scary for us. There was a woman that started screamed as we passed a truck up a hill and came inches from knocking a bicyclist off the hill. Made me have a new appreciation for our roads, even with the road construction.

On the trip back, we saw school children in uniforms walking to school, a man washing his clothes in a stream, and just the every day flow of how the people lived. For the most part, the people seemed to be happy. We really enjoyed our time there. It would have been nice to interact more with the people outside of the resort and learn more about their culture. If there is anything that I would recommend to a new traveler, it is to stay for a whole week if at all possible. We only had three full days to explore the island and that wasn’t enough.

I would recommend a vacation to Jamaica. It is relatively affordable. Sandals resorts are great, it is all inclusive including transportation to and from the airport. We were able to try some new fruits that we don’t have at home. I fell in love with eating papayas.  I was able to relax and reconnect with Paul in the slow pace under the warm sun. The constant reggae beat was calming. We listened to local radio stations in our room and I really miss the uniqueness of their music. If I went back, I would take some tours and immerse myself in the culture more. What a lovely place.

Then just like that our vacation was over. We went back to the hotel and picked up our truck which was parked sideways in the parking lot. We smiled through construction. We thought of the Jamaicans that have never seen snow who thought our snow looked like sand on a beach. It is amazing what a few days in the sun away from  everyday life stressors can do. But the best part of the trip was that we fell in love all over again.