St. Paul Pioneer Press

Oct 6 2016

The scent of embers from fall bonfires soon will be replaced by the crisp smell of a winter morning. Like most of you, I find that crispness enjoyable for just so long, until I start anticipating the smell of lilacs and the site of the first tulip peaking out from the grass as if to say, “Hey there, bud, we made it”.

But what do we do in the meantime — when those memories of summer barbeques seem like distant fading visions and strangely we begin to long for the days when we swatted mosquitos? We begin to listen with added interest to all of the advertisements luring us to splurge for a warm-weather retreat. And, of course, be prepared for endless barstool banter and cocktail chatter from friends and family members as they share the details of their pending trip. Where are you going this year to escape the cold?

Maybe this year is your year to take the plunge, splurge a bit, plan ahead and be the one in the office to envy. If you are thinking of making winter get-away plans, I just may have the place for you. I recently was invited as a guest of the Saint Lucia Department of Tourism to experience the beauty of this island paradise in the Caribbean. Here are a few of my suggestions after a week on Saint Lucia.

First off be prepared for a long day of travel, but once you arrive at this little sanctuary of paradise, you will have quickly forgotten about the plane ride struggle you had with your seatmate over who gets the armrest. You know that “armrest hog” who stakes his or her ground with armrest ownership until that moment when he or she reaches to adjust the fan and you make your move sliding into armrest conquering territory? Whew – you got it – and its heavenly — until you realize the pre-flight hydrating is catching up with you and you will soon have to surrender your ownership to wait in line for the restroom … The flight to Saint Lucia from the Twin Cities is about 7 hours. I flew American Airlines changing planes with a layover in Miami. Yes, this does make for a long long day of travel but you aren’t shoveling snow or scrapping the ice off your windshield.

I have visited other tropical destinations, but this place just seemed to set itself apart with its natural beauty, the ease of travel after arrival, and the feel as if you had actually left the United States for a splendid place far from the confines of a Minnesota winter. Fast food and coffee addicts be warned: You won’t find a Starbucks or a McDonalds anywhere on the island. If you are looking for a destination for relaxation on a beach at a beautiful resort, Saint Lucia will satisfy. But if your jam is instead to live out-loud with a bit of excitement and adventure, this island definitely has you covered.

When you leave the airport immediately jump into the culture with a stop at one of the many roadside stands where locals are selling street foods such as my new favorite and their version of roti — a traditional Caribbean favorite that consists of a curry-based stew with a protein tightly wrapped in a flour pancake lighter than a tortilla.

I split my stay between a few different properties to get a taste of what the island had to offer. The north part has a completely different vibe than the southern part. The north area has a more typical beach-resort feel, similar to what you will find in many other cities by the sea. I spent the majority of my time in the south with a brief visit to the all-inclusive Windjammer Resort on my final night to get a taste of the north. In contrast the south has a lush mountainous wilderness environment with interesting destinations and natural attractions dotting the coastline. I spent the first two nights in the hillside on the western coast at Cappella Marigot Bay. Marigot Bay feels like a small self-contained private village with shopping and two fun spots right on the water for dinner and cocktails, Doolittle’s and the Rainforest Hideaway.

One of the highlights of my visit to Saint Lucia was a day trip from Cappella for horseback riding and kayaking: My travel companions and I saddle-up our horses for a ride through a banana plantation out to the Caribbean Sea, where we swam with our horses in the water. We then set off in a kayak to paddle back to Marigot Bay Marina.

At that point, I thought it couldn’t get much better but afterwards, we headed to Jade Mountain for two nights of opulence. Jade Mountain is carved into the natural landscape of Saint Lucia and has a wonderful view of the Piton Mountains. My open-air suite included my own private extravagantly sized infinity pool. As difficult as it was to leave my room, I did to join my companions and check out Saint Lucia’s famous volcano and sulfur springs and the “world’s only drive-in volcano.” We gathered at the edge of the volcano to relax in the hot volcanic natural springs to prepare ourselves for the mud bath ritual. We covered our bodies from head to toe in the thick muddy sulfur, which is said to have healing properties. We ended the day snorkeling at the white sand beaches of Sugar Beach.

St. Paul and Saint Lucia — I love both you “Saints” but you can never take the Paul out of this kid. Well, maybe for one week a year.

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