Saint Lucia; Mi yon bèl koté!

October 26, 2013 § 8 Comments

st lucia 5

 

I am supposed to be knee deep grinding out a submission for the Commonwealth Writers Prize which closes on November 30th, but have been doing everything except that. A few weeks back, I was allegedly chasing  inspiration in Warwick, New York. Last week, the beautiful St. Lucia was home for a few days and I deluded myself into thinking that maybe a main character is from the island and needed to return to get her voice.  Unsurprisingly, I left my computer in the United States and embraced the island with voracity.

And if the cab driver who transported me from the airport to my hotel (Coco-Palm Resort) in Rodney Bay was an indication of what the island was going to be like, I knew I was in for a very pleasant experience. He informed that after  3 or 4 Pitons (their local beer named after the twin mountains), I was “going to realize that the world has no problems.” Although I’m not a beer drinker, I decided if I’m going to have a true Lucian experience, I better drink up. It’s not recommended to have alcohol in hot climate but the Piton is refreshing, lite, and maybe just what you need in Paradise. Lo and behold, after the first one on a Catamaran Cruise around the island, I forgot about pressing deadlines and used their kreyol phrase, “i bon.”

I will not profess to be a travel expert on things St. Lucian but if you must  go, do not make my mistakes; remember to pack your camera because no matter how high-tech your phone is, you need a camera. Also, drive the Buggies. More specifically inquire about the Island Buggies Soufriere Safari tour. It is the most exciting way to see Soufriere and the Pitons.  You’ll basically leave from the North side of the island and drive the buggy along the West Coast to the town of Soufriere and I promise, it will be breathtaking. The tour has three stops at various vantage points; the kick is being able to drive your buggy into the volcano, to a waterfall where you can stop and splash and finally at a restaurant atop the hill for reaaaaallly good St Lucian food.

Another must is the Sea to Sky tour, where you will leave one side of the island on the liveliest Catamaran Cruise. The staff has great taste in music, hor d’oeuvres, and sips (amazing rum punch,  piton from the tap, and something they dubbed the ooo-hmmm). When the boat docks, your personal guide takes you to a plantation where you can zip line above bamboo trees, a body of water, some of the rainforest, and fruit trees. Mind you, to return to your original location on the plantation, you have to zip line back. For my fellow thrill seekers, it shall please you when the instructor informs you that if you brake prematurely, it is a treacherous self-rescue as you climb the line back. After, there is another delicious lunch at a restaurant  on the estate with the best Golden Apple Juice. After a few days, you’ll realize the running theme is great food, beautiful scenery, and lovely people (both visitors and nationals from every corner of the world). I made acquaintances on a lot of my excursions with whom it felt like we were friends for years as we laughed and traded experiences. On your return via the Catamaran, the boat docks for a bit for a swim in the Sea, snorkel, some dancing etc.

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view from one stop on the zip line.

Of course, if you’re in the Caribbean you will go snorkeling, lounge on the beach (Reduit is nice) but try parasailing. However, if you aren’t an adrenaline junkie, on Friday nights the village Anse La Raye has street dining and the main dish is fish prepared in every fashion imaginable. It’s my belief that if you’re going to visit a country you have to experience it like its citizens and that’s a perfect opportunity. You can walk the streets and mingle with everyone; they are quite friendly. Afterwards, you can take a cab ride to the village Gros Islet for the Friday night Jump Up. It’s a street fair/block party with vendors, grilled meats, souvenir stands, locals and tourist mingling, music, and exotic liquids. One vendor was selling a blueish-green liquid he insisted was fertility in a bottle, “the baby maker.” I had one sip and concluded if my fertility depended on that, I was going to be childless.

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‘baby maker’

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Random New Yorker who shared the cab from the hotel to Gros Islet playing the drum (anyone can) at the Jump Up.

It would be unfair if I fail to give honorable mention to the staff at Coco-Palm. It’s a three star hotel but their service is five star. The food will give your mouth orgasms. Unfortunately, you cannot dive in the pool, and after 7pm swim at your own risk. However, it was the best time to go to the pool. The place is cool, no one is there so you can swim the full length undisturbed,  and the up-lights on the building and the lights in the pool give a warm glow. I recommend staying in the pool view room (it’s not as expensive as a suite and offers a better view [the village, mountains, hotel grounds, and pool] than the garden view). Drink a fruit punch everyday, the bakes are boss, the Kreyol Vinaigrette is heavenly. As a matter of fact, everywhere I went the food was DELICIOUS!

Since St Lucia is very close to the Grenadines and Martinique, it is a great opportunity to kill a few birds with one stone. With an extra $185 you can sail to Martinique which is considered the France of the Caribbean where you can shop, tour the island with a guide or just explore on your own, and dine (covered in the $185). The grenadines will cost about $400 dollars in a small plane but imagine having to buy individual airline tickets for all three locations. Yes, it is a steal!

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sunset onboard the catamaran

 

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the town square in the capital, Castries.

The sad thing about a vacation is that once it’s over, you’re planning another and I shouldn’t be doing that but I am. Instead, my attention should be on that submission. I should be sitting at the computer piping out pages. Instead once again, I’m telling myself stories; claiming to be channeling my inner Alice Walker and the Color Purple, searching for characters in random places. I know they aren’t city people…but I learned they aren’t Lucian either. Nevertheless, every day on that island was worth it and the experiences dampened the guilt of not writing.

Glossary of terms

Mi yon bèl koté!: what a beautiful place

i bon: It is good.

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Chasing inspiration in Warwick

October 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

Warwick, New York

Fall is by far my favorite season; cooler temperatures, post card worthy scenes of yellow, wine red, rust brown, and burnt orange desiccating leaves, apple picking, and the prestigious Commonwealth Foundation/ Commonwealth Writers Prize welcoming entries for its short story prize (Oct. 1st- Nov. 30th). Admittedly, as much as I look forward to the competition, I am always nervous to begin my submission, and before long find myself arguing out loud with the story. That kind of mania demands a step back and away from the laptop. So, last weekend I took the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors at Maskers Orchard in Warwick, New York. To say it was a worthwhile excursion is an understatement. Even the hour and change drive through West Milford, Butler, and a great deal of New Jersey was refreshing. The trees in the city aren’t quite into their change, but further away they are every shade of Fall. My inner country girl had a field day; winding roads, windows down, singing Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” at the top of my lungs. I love the small town feel of Warwick, pumpkin picking, apple cider donuts and tea, or simply roaming the orchard eating way too many apples, absorbing the fresh air and scenery, and the juicy Golden Delicious, Idareds and Empress apples of Maskers.

apples on tree cheesing with applesapple shadebiting that apple

It’s safe to say, I feel sane enough to resume my efforts. Last year, I wasn’t even fortunate to be shortlisted. However, after the winners were announced, I received an email to re-send my entry and through a few exchanges learned that the Caribbean region submitted very few entries. So, Caribbean writers, if you’re up north, as the temps dip, huddle under those blankets and share your stories. If you’re in the region, pull a fan close and get to typing. Other than the attractive monetary prizes for regional winners (₤2,500) and (₤5,000) for the overall winner, the greatest benefit of winning is that it ‘connects writers and storytellers in a range of disciplines…builds communities of less-heard voices and links them to groups which seek to bring about social change.’ And if/when frustration hits, get out, and enjoy a bit of mother nature. Or, like the Dixie Chicks crooned “touch the earth…break it in [your] hands, grow something wild and unruly…be the only one for miles and miles.” Seek your inspiration, then follow the link: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/

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