Besides being known for their beaches, shopping and great weather, St. Lucia is also known for 2600+ foot Twin Pitons which are part of an active volcano on the island of St. Lucia. These Pitons can be seen from many parts of the island as they tower of mostly everything. Today we happened to get up early than other days and in time to watch the ship cruise into the port in Castries (capital of St. Lucia). It was very nice to sit on our balcony and watch as the land rolled by. We also got a pretty good glance at the twin Pitons. I snapped a few photos and even got a photo of the Captain of the ship (I had to use digital zoom so it’s a bit blurry). The Captains Bridge was located in the front of the ship and offset to the right of the boat and built on an overhang. Not sure why it is designed this way. I just hope he can see the left side of the ship.
My immediate reaction as I stepped outside onto the balcony at 745AM was “boy it is hot out.” After laying in the sun the past three days, sun was not our friend. Sure we wanted to continue building up our amazing tans, but not at the expense of having our skin blister, boil and burn. I think it is fair to say that the best thing I brought along on the trip was the 16 fl.oz. bottle of aloe I got from target. I think we had used half the bottle already. We quickly got ready, packed up my backpack which again weighed 25 pounds (Nicole does NOT pack light), had a quick breakfast (thankfully alone) and we’re off to explore St. Lucia. In reading Fodor’s not many beaches that were accessible to use seemed appealing. Unfortunately, I went with one that was located near resorts and that meant touristy. Again, we were shoved into a taxi and whisked away 30 minutes to the other side of St. Lucia to a beach known as Reduit Beach. St. Lucian Hotel was located here among other small resorts. The beach stretched pretty long out pretty long. When we arrived it was somewhat of a madhouse. There were a million taxis dropping off hundreds of tourists and some guy who appeared to be running the show kept asking if we had a “ticket.” I had no idea what this ticket was, how it would help us, so I grabbed Nicole and walked past them, through the St. Lucian Hotel and onto the beach.
Like beaches of the past, we were greeted by some dude who was running the show for the chairs and umbrellas. We bargained (slightly for a set of chairs (no umbrellas), lotioned up and enjoyed the warm St. Lucian air and pretty spectacular beach (look for my rankings of the beaches we went too in my last blog entry of the trip). The worst part of being at such a touristy beach is the annoying vendors. Now I have been to my share of beaches and man these vendors ranked up there when it came to being annoying. I swear a vendor came up to us every five minutes trying to sell us something or some service (aloe massage, foot massage, back massage, drugs, you name it they’ll sell it to you). I understand that this country lives off of tourism, but seriously guys and girls back the hell off. You are ruining my relaxing vacation by asking me if I need something every 5 minutes. If I need something, I’ll find you! And g-d forbid you insinuate you are even remotely interested, these vendors will stalk you (Nicole learned that the hard way and got the business from me on that one).
When it was time to head into the water we quickly agreed that this was by far the warmest water we had had up to this point. I wouldn’t call it bath water, but it was certainly warm (maybe in the mid to upper 70s). Being from Long Island where the Atlantic Ocean is never warm, this was something that I had only experienced a few times in my life (Fiji the water was like bath water and actually not refreshing at all). Another annoying part of being at a touristy beach is that they offer watersports; i.e. banana boat and tubing rides, jet skiing, parasailing, which equates to me having less area to swim around. Due to all these watersports going on, I was confined to a small swim area. I also found that annoying. I was able to get Nicole into the wear, but only briefly. Nicole was too busy getting the sand off her legs, blanket and lounge chair. Nicole has to consistently clean the sand off everything. She prefers coarser sand to fine sand as it is much easier to clean. This girl just loves to clean and really hates sand. I think she may have spent more time cleaning off her chair and body parts of sand than actually sitting in the sun!
After watching several groups head out on jet skis I asked Nicole if she wanted to give it a try. I had only been on the back on one once in my life, but never had a chance to ride one. I always wanted too and figured what better place to do it than St. Lucia! I spoke to one of the guys offering up their jet ski for rental. He told me that a bunch of groups had already signed up but that we could have it at like 1230 (it was like 11AM at that time). I said no problem and we hung out and waited for our turn. We were given 30 minutes on the jet ski and given some BASIC instructions as how to ride it.
Before we knew it, it was 1230 and our time to jump on the jet ski. It took me a few minutes to get a handle for it. There was no brake, so essentially braking meant taking your hand off the throttle and it was a little sensitive. It was also hard to manage with Nicole saying every 2.5 seconds “Josh, you’re going too fast, slow down Josh, Josh you’re going to kill us, JOSH!” By the end of our ride Nicole was hooting and hollering when I accelerated, hair blowing in the wind, water smacking up in our face. She finally relaxed and enjoyed herself instead of worrying whether or not we were going to die in St. Lucia. If the speedometer was correct we got that bad boy up to 27 MPH which is pretty fast on water.
After returning back from jet skiing we hung out until about 2PM when we got a taxi back to downtown Castries. The driver dropped us off near a major market which ran along the water. The front of the market was lined with tourist crap and the prices reflected that this was the tourist portion. Now, anyone who knows me knows that on trips like this I find the real, local spots. I wander along until I run into something spectacular. Well, whether I’m in Hanoi, Vietnam, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, or Castries, St. Lucia I find the local hotspots. Behind the touristy part of the market was the local market where locals went to buy groceries such as fruit, vegetables, local spices, meats, fishes etc…This part of the market also had local vendors selling local dishes. This area reminded me of Vietnam in that these vendors or mini restaurants was run by a family, had a table outside their restaurant (which was basically a one room kitchen) and made great local cuisine. I could tell from Nicole’s face that she was NOT digging it. The area was a small alleyway, was very tight and we were getting bumped by passersby constantly. With my big backpack on, I was getting nailed left and right and Nicole was getting bumped a lot as well.
I had picked out three bags of spices; one filled with cayenne pepper, one meat and fish spice and one chicken spice. All three smelled amazing. Now I had read in Fodor’s that St. Lucia offered up a great collection of local, fresh spices at an affordable price (significantly lower than what spices sell for back in the USA). The price I had bargained down too was 3 bags for $5. The price seemed high and the lady knew I thought the price was too high. So what did I do? I waited around until a local came up to buy some spices. The lady caught on to what I was doing, smiled and said “you are waiting around to see how much THEY pay aren’t you,” I smiled back and said “you better believe it. I want to make sure I am not getting ripped off.” “LOOK at how much he is paying, see, it is the same as you!” she responded. It said “fair enough” and bought my three huge bags of local, fresh spices for $5 (upon return, I checked in the supermarket and I basically paid 10-20% of what it would cost for the quantity of spice I actually bought, so in hindsight, I was really happy with the purchase). However, this also led to my rip-off of the day brought to you by Castries, St. Lucia.
Along with the 3 bags of spices, and one bag of fresh nutmeg I bought (they gave me whole nutmegs which you grate to get the spice, so cool), I bought a bottle of banana ketchup. On our trip down to the Caribbean, a guy had told us to get a bottle of banana ketchup, that it was amazing and something not to be missed. So, me the schmuck, thinking that only local vendors would sell a sealed bottle of mass produced banana ketchup, I bought a small 5 oz bottle of it from the lady for $4. Later on, Nicole and I went into a supermarket and found the same stupid bottle for about 20% of the price. I think the bottle in the store was the equivalent of $1-2 USD. And that is my rip-off of the day brought to you by the woman in the local market in Castries, St. Lucia.
After buying the spices and banana ketchup, I was hungry and decided to get some food from one of these small, family run restaurants selling amazing local cuisine and for $5 what could be better! I threw back a bottle of beer and got a delicious cup of freshly squeezed passion fruit juice to go. Nicole got an order of fried plantains. From there we walked back through the market. In walking back through the market we stopped at a vendor in the touristy part selling all the crap we were collecting. We ended up bargaining pretty well and got all the stuff we wanted including some t-shirts, shot glass, picture frame and some other things. Anyway, after we bought some tourist crap, we decided to walk deeper into downtown Castries to see what they had to offer. I can honestly say that outside this huge market, it didn’t have much to offer. I ended up buying some stamps from the post office and we went to a local supermarket (where I found that small bottle of banana ketchup for really cheap). In the supermarket, we bought some ice cream pops and some other nosh foods, jumped in a taxi and headed back to the ship.
Once back on the ship, we got some food, talked with some of the crew members from Thailand (especially our one friend who worked in the same spot on the 9th deck buffet area). We really took a liking to her. She gave us a really good inside look into how the crew members are treated and what kind of hours they work. It is really a tough job. They don’t get paid a lot (and possibly paid in their local currency which blows) and work upwards of 16 hours a day (and on their feet). But like I told Nicole time and time again, for the vast majority, I’d say 98% or more of them, this job is better than any job they would have in their home country. The wages are higher for sure, they get treated pretty well (from what our Thai friend said), they get to leave the ship for a few hours twice every week) and get to live on a cruise ship! However, Nicole did wonder if the crew members were able to drive to work every day, instead of living on the ship (Oh Nicole!).
Dinner was typical, after dinner Nicole and I gambled then went to sleep pretty early. Tomorrow we were off to St. Kitts!