Tag Archives: Bel Jou

ST LUCIA

I’ve recently returned from a holiday in St Lucia.  It was my first time in the Caribbean, and I am so pleased that I went.  It is a beautiful island, and the people are lovely.

I stayed just outside of Castries, the capital, about an hour and a half’s drive from the main airport (there is another airport at Castries, but it’s smaller and has a shorter runway so is used by Liat rather than the bigger airlines).

The island is very green – lots of trees and a rainforest in the middle of the island – and on the drive from the airport, I noticed that there were a number of houses on stilts, which I assumed were to help protect them from mudslides.  I guessed that they must get a lot of rain and, in fact, it did rain for a short time most days during my stay, although apparently that is unusual.  The locals put it down to climate change, and they are probably right.  It didn’t rain for long though; and didn’t spoil the stay.  In fact, for me, it was a bit of a blessing.  I struggle if it’s too hot.

Location, location, location

St Lucia is in the Eastern Caribbean, and the currencies are the US Dollar and the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. The main airport is Hewanorra, which was the name given to the island by the native Caribs (natives of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean).  St Lucia is northwest of Barbados and south of French-speaking Martinique, which can be seen from the eastern part of the island.  St Lucia is 238 square miles in area, 27 miles long and 14 miles wide.  

They say on the island, ‘Seven times French, seven times English.’  Its first European settlers were French, in 1660, then England took over in 1663, and so it went on until 1814 when Britain took final control.  I have to say, I’m not sure we should be too proud of what we’ve done.  The island is a bit of a mixture – it’s English speaking, although many Lucians speak French, but much of the other infrastructure takes its lead from the US – employment law, for example.  Creole, the other language that they are taught in school, contains a lot of French, and if you are in the tourist trade, which is very important to Lucians, why wouldn’t you learn the most important languages?

Lucians refer to the island as being female – one of the reasons is that it is known as ‘the Helen of the West Indies’ after Helen of Troy.  One of the other reasons is the Pitons, the volcanic mountains (which are, incidentally, World Heritage sites) which, some say, look like a part of the female anatomy.  I can’t remember the third reason.

Bel Jou

We stayed at the Bel Jou, which is on the outskirts of Castries.  The hotel provides a free shuttle bus to and from Castries, and the nearby Vijay beach.  They don’t recommend that you walk into Castries, although you could.  Having seen the roads, I can see why – there are lots of hairpin bends, and pavements are mostly non-existent outside of the city.  Without wishing to be rude, some of the drivers could do with taking lessons again.  

https://www.beljouhotel.com/our-hotel/accommodation.html

Everyone at the hotel was lovely, very friendly.  We were greeted by being taken into a sitting room, and offered a fruit drink while we registered.  There is a veranda restaurant where we had breakfast, and which was also open for lunch and dinner – all buffet style.  There was always a good selection of food, an egg station (which also served other specialities such as pancakes, depending on which day it was).  One of the chefs, Gideon, sang to us while cooking, which was a wonderful start to the day.  It was an art form watching the chefs cooking omelettes on a hot plate – not the way that Delia taught me, but beautifully cooked, nonetheless.  The veranda restaurant held the entertainment most evenings – sometimes live music, sometimes disco.  

Taken from the Veranda restaurant

There was also an A la Carte restaurant for the evening, which was an absolute delight and where they served an amuse bouche between starter and main course.  

At lunch time, there was a poolside bar where they’d prepare freshly cooked fish and chips, a selection of salads and other things.  

All of the restaurants catered for any special dietary requirements such as gluten free, vegetarian, etc, and if you asked for anything special, they’d arrange it.

Thursday was Caribbean barbecue night, so all the food was served outside the upper pool.  There was a steel band – a very good steel band, I find it fascinating how they make such wonderful sounds, and fire eaters.  (Yes, my health and safety head did come out, and I did have to check on a few things.  The perks of my job I guess.)

Most days we went either to the beach or the city.  It took us about an hour and a half to walk the length of the beach and back, which was just as well with the amount of food we were eating.  

Island tour

While I was there, I took a tour around the island – the volcano, the botanical gardens and the rainforest.  It was amazing.  I opted for a jeep tour – it was actually a bit truck with seats – which started with views of Castries as we drove up the hillside, then past the Governor’s house.  

We headed down to Soufriere, which was the French capital, for breakfast.  We stopped off in a little bar and the chef prepared scrambled eggs, fried plantain, bacon and some wraps.  From here, we drove a bit more, into the rainforest.  All the while, our guide, Randy, was telling us about the history or geography or just about the life there.

Next we headed to the volcano and the sulphur springs.  There was an option of going into a mud bath or just walking around the edges to see the volcano.  From there, we went to the botanical gardens, which were beautiful.  All the time, Randy was telling us huge amounts of information, I am amazed at how much he knew.  I’ve attached the link to the company I did the tour with, for info.

https://www.suntourscaribbean.com

From the botanical garden

I had the best time in St Lucia and would like to say I will be going back soon.  The truth is, there are lots of other places I want to visit too.  I do, however, really want to go back and hope I’ll manage it soon.

© Susan Shirley 2020

The lovely Princess, she was great fun, and a really lovely person.