Last stop on the Caribbean extravaganza is St Lucia, a bit further south and hopefully a bit warmer and drier. Unlike Dominica, there’s an international airport here so we can fly back direct to the UK rather than experience the rural journey back to Antigua by LIAT. “Luggage In Another Terminal”. “Leave In’ Any Time”. Their reputation goes before them.
We break the habit of a lifetime by staying somewhere which expects “a collared shirt and slacks or Bermuda shorts” for dinner. We’ll happily dress up for a restaurant that’s really gone to town on food – if they’ve made the effort, so should we. But in the Caribbean?? It better be good.
None of these Caribbean islands can be described as wealthy. Strip away the secluded, luxury resorts and you find the local population is poor, with simple infrastructure frequently destroyed or disrupted by hurricanes or tropical storms. Unlike, say, Africa though, the costs here are geared to wealthy tourists. Take a local bus (basically mini coaches which stop on request) and it’s cheap, maybe USD$4; take a taxi and it’s USD$70. Airport to resort USD$115.
We arrive after a journey on a rather bumpy road – the last couple of miles probably. It’s seriously bumpy, a mountain track which our taxi driver takes very slowly. We arrive at Anse, which announces its presence spelled out in huge letters much like the famed Hollywood sign, only lit up in colour. You can’t miss it. On the other side of track an equally prominent sign for the Jade Mountain hotel, in the same ownership. A shrinking violet it ain’t. We are given a welcome drink and an exam in form filling. Pages and pages. Address, ages, passports, credit card, damage and liability waivers. We think one was a contract to purchase but what we really want is dinner.
There’s lots to do, some complimentary, others for a charge, as “trips” usually are. We enjoy snorkeling right off the beach. We sit under a straw umbrella with a little yellow flag on a pole to summon life saving sustenance – cocktails, snacks, whatever you need is “no problem”. As we arrived in our room for the first time, huge with one wall missing and a view across the bay, we burst out laughing; we’ve never done anything like this before. You could imagine it being a luxurious beached cruise ship, everything on hand. We look for the escape tunnel but by the end of the first morning we’re hooked; we can survive for three days.
There are several restaurants and bars and we’re given a familiarisation tour to acquaint us with the facilities. Basically everything is “no problem” and someone is on hand for the guests’ every whim. And especially to ensure outsiders don’t breach the barricades. The food is excellent and varied, a mixture of international with local spices and influences, as well an an Indian-themed restaurant as part of the Beach Bar. The birds are a constant menace and you’re given little waster pistols to scare them off.
Whilst we’re there it’s Valentines Day. Little white gazebos are erected on the beach for those who’ve been prepared to pay the $500 or so supplement to dine on the beach (not us). It’s not perfect weather, the clouds rolling in, but it will be memorable. A couple we meet have been into Soufriere to shop for bottles of wine to drink in their room, so shocked are they by the minimum $65+20% tax and service it costs for the least expensive bottle wine here. There are some rooms here upwards of $1,145 a night, perhaps you shouldn’t be shocked at the drinks prices. Cocktails are USD$14+20% tax and service.
The “probably never again” beach resort Anse Chasanet
…and their sister resort up the hill Jade Mountain. We’re sure it’s fabulous inside looking out, but from the outside looking in, it’s like the recently demolished Gateshead car park featured in Get Carter.