Saint Lucia… one of the most romantic destinations in the world and a honeymooner’s paradise. It would be rude not to get married there… right Shara?
According to my recently discovered Moment app, I am glued to my phone 2 – 3 hours every day. And that doesn’t include the evenings when I’m propped up on the sofa glued to my laptop. Needless to say, life as a Londoner can be hectic. I need a break.
It’s February and I am craving sun, sea, good food, exercise (only if and when I want it), and great wine. Unlike my last trip, when I squeezed in as many flights, hotels and locations into two weeks, I want to stay in one place.
One wifi-free flight and 11 hours of movies later, and I arrive in Saint Lucia… a honeymooners paradise… which is ironic, given that this trip ends with a wedding. More on that later.
I am almost 20 minutes late for the cab that is coming to meet me at the airport… I start apologising, flustered, after sprinting through arrivals. He turns to me laughing. “Don’t worry… we live by island time here.” I later learn that if you turn up within 2 hours of an arranged appointment in Saint Lucia, you’re doing fine.
After a 45 minute drive through winding roads and mountains (Saint Lucia is more mountainous than most Caribbean islands), we arrive at Stonefield Villa Resort. I am instantly relaxed. Everyone is relaxed. What are they drinking, RUM? Do I need to buy it in bulk?!
Surrounded by tropical gardens, each villa is secluded, personal with a private pool, and a sea view. Oh, and there’s a beautiful outdoor shower with natural plants and products. I jump into the hammock and plan to never return to the UK.
The property is run by Cybelle Brown, an ex New York City high-flyer who returned to St Lucia to work in the family business. An excellent life choice, she tells me, after suffering burn out from big city life. I couldn’t agree more.
The rest of the day is spent relaxing, before I retreat to the peaceful on-site Mango Tree restaurant that offers a 360 degree ocean water and view of Piton mountain. All the food is organic, farm-to-table cuisine. I have never been so keen on chutney until now. There’s Mango, Papaya, Pumpkin… all sourced from the property gardens. I try them all, along with the soup and fish burger. With no room for dessert, I make do with a night cap and I’m out… for a full 12 hours.
Sleep really is the best healer. I devour a delicious fresh fruit breakfast followed by poached eggs with mushrooms (two course breakfasts are standard for me on holiday) and set off to explore the resort.
On my travels I discover a small gym with weighted equipment, a large fitness studio. While there are no regular classes, yoga instructors can be booked when requested. There’s also a spa with a stunning sea view. Is there anywhere at Stonefield you can’t see the sea? I’m in heaven.
Our taxi arrives to pick us up for our first excursion – the Sulphur Springs experience which is comprised of puddles of boiling mud and steam. It smells a lot like rotten eggs. The dormant volcano (here’s hoping) originated from a weak spot in the crust of a collapsed volcanic crater. “Jump in – you’ll look 12 years younger” says a voice behind. I’d be happy with 5.
I strip down to my swimwear and creep into a very hot and satisfying mud bath. Packed with healing minerals, the baths are well-known for their smoothing and tightening benefits on the skin. They also help to heal sun burns, eczema, arthritis, sore joints, and more. Best of all, it’s not just a tourist attraction. Shortly after we enter the baths, many of the locals join in.
5 years younger (for now), I leave the baths and head to lunch at The Diamond Botanical Gardens. Now, I’m no gardener but I have never seen gardens this beautiful, colourful and full of life. An Instagramers dream, I take 600 pictures of leaves and petals. Lunch is served at Old Mill restaurant, buffet style.
I am initially skeptical, but after my first bite, I am wowed by the taste of my newfound addiction – Saint Lucian hot sauce. I buy 6 extra large bottles for the flight home.
Today we are heading out on a climbing adventure to The Pitons – two mountainous volcanic ranges. We opt for the Gros Piton – 743 metres (2,438 ft
We are escorted by a hiking guide, (who walks this once, sometimes twice a day). At the age of 52, he looks 30.
2 hours up, 2 hours down, this is not for the faint hearted but it’s just what I need to counteract the over-indulgence. And my efforts are rewarded with a refreshing mango at the top (Piton beers are also available).
I enjoy a very well deserved rest back at Stonefield admiring the view of the Pitons, feeling smug relaxing by our private pool where we spend the rest of the day.
Today calls for chocolate tasting and Zip-lining. A wondrous combination. The Coco pod in St Lucia is as common as the apple in the UK. We visit Maria at Cacoa Sainte Lucie. Backing onto her home, she takes us into her pristine clean work kitchen where she demonstrates the entire chocolate making process from Coco Pod falling from the tree, to producing and selling St Lucian chocolate, the first brand to be retailed in the country rather than be exported. Tasting the chocolate is crucial every step of the process. I am overwhelmed with the intricate detail that goes into hand making chocolate that tastes so smooth and pure. How do we get this in the UK I ask her. She laughs and tells me she’s working on it. It’s wonderful to see small businesses flourishing on the island in the chocolate industry Vs the export business.
Not too full on chocolate, we dash to our Zip Lining experience. Now, after completing Zip World in Wales (the biggest in Europe), my standards are set pretty high. But this experience doesn’t disappoint – especially when surrounded with jungle views and the most entertaining instructors. I get the endorphin rush I was hoping for.
We dine at Orlandos. Chef Orlando’s mission is simple: to make Caribbean cuisine as influential and flavourful as other internationally known cuisines by using only the freshest local fish, meat and produce to create his masterpieces. He shows us exactly how it’s done while making adaptations for allergies and intolerances. The food is divine.
We depart Soufrière for Castries, the island’s capital where we’re hit with traffic jams. Now I feel at home. I pack in a yoga class, delicious lunch and a Segway tour. With sights for sore eyes and a rum shack on route, this is the best way to see Castries.
Despite my love for yoga, I have never had a private lesson so it was time to treat myself. Jill Hagar owns a studio in a beautiful gated garden. After emigrating from US many years ago, she fell in love with the St Lucian lifestyle. My Iyengar yoga practice needs quite a few corrections. Have I really been practicing chaterangas this badly for this long or is due to the glass (or three) of Malbec from the night before?
Never have I known all my bad habits until now. As a fan of critical feedback, I love Jill’s corrections and leave with lots of improvements to make. Thanks Jill.
We eat lunch at Golden Taste where I devour an enormous portion of freshly grilled tuna steak and a side of everything you can think of. A really authentic St Lucian experience and perfect for those who are hungry, which I am post yoga and Segway experience.
I wasn’t joking when I said this trip ended with a wedding. Ever the last minute planner, I wanted to visit Anse Mamin beach during this trip. The simple, secluded spot surpasses my expectations and provides the dream location for my wedding. As one of the world’s romantic destinations and honeymooner’s paradise, I surmise that it would be rude not to get married in Saint Lucia.
I rise to the challenge and after two days of planning, I am exchanging vows with my now husband (I’m still getting used to how that sounds), sipping champagne and eating dark chocolate cake on the beach (a St Lucian tradition). We dine in the one and only gourmet beach burger shacks with our new friends (also witnesses from Anse Chasenet Resort) and spend the rest of the day snorkelling and dancing at the resort.