West Indies, Saint Lucia, Margot Bay-Castries-La Toc
The British Commonwealth of Saint Lucia is the only sovereign nation named for a woman. She is a Windward Island of the West Indies with a population of under 190,000 souls of mostly African-descent who speak British English as fluently as their French-based Creole Patwa dialect.
Writer James Michener describes Margot Bay as the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean by land or by sea, which is how I found myself there in the first place. I come from Alaska, and as the scenery of Alaska is much grander than anything else of its kind in the world, my capacity for enjoyment naturally falls to seeing the finest first.
The deep turquoise waters run bathtub warm between 70-80 degrees and form a natural hurricane hold betwixt steep green hills.
An elegant golden sand peninsula dusted with palm trees holds gateway to a safe harbor where brightly-colored water taxis ferry passengers past the most luxurious of mega-yachts. It is a blissful hideaway from the cruse ships and couples resorts that terrorize the locals.
Changing hands fourteen times between France and England, St. Lucia is one of the most fought-over places on Earth, and Margot Bay itself is home of two remarkable battles - one where colonial masted ships disguised themselves amongst the palm trees of the peninsula to evade enemy forces and another where Dr. Doolittle is doomed to the death of 10,000 screams by the highly educated and cultured savages of Sea-Star island.
Yes, Doctor Doolittle, as in the poorly-aging Academy Award-winning 1967 musical feature film that left sets behind that are still in use today.
MARGOT BAY RESORT
An engaging panoramic view of exotic tropical flowers, lush green palms, and smart yachts moored in the deep blue-green waters of Margot Bay Marina is enjoyed from a private plunge pool in the residences of the Margot Bay Resort. This five-star resort allows indulgence in all the pleasures of paradise while enjoying the practicality of bunking next to a modern trading post.
A safe place to land on our first visit to the island, we found this dynamic resort to be a professionally-run tight-ship that held all our worries for us while focused on learning to drive on the proper side of the street.
DIVE FAIR HELEN
A water taxi glides over the short hop between the resort and the penunsula, which is home to a sandy beach with easy access to swimming, snorkeling or sea kayaking amongst the sheltered waters. It is also home to Dive Fair Helen, where I took my first snorkel/scuba diving classes.
An onshore pool is the starting place to gather skills quickly put to use in the open ocean exploring spectacular coral reefs, trenches, caverns and walls nestled with an dazzling array of Caribbean reef fish. The instructor was remarkably patience, graciously babysitting me while overseeing the safety of the experienced divers who were kind enough to to let me tag along on their underwater excursion.
DOOLITTLE’S RESTERAUNT AND BAR
Doolittle’s resteraunt, repurposed from the Sea-Star Island set, is the perfect place to start adventures with a fortifying St. Lucian breakfast featuring hot bakes, salt-fish, fried plantain and cocoa tea.
Also a perfect spot to cap off a busy day with their specialty dessert, a delectable combination of sweet Lucian bananas baked into a moist heavy-bread with a cream cheese center. Served with locally-made banana ice cream for a mouth-watering effect.
Local music and color flows over the casual atmosphere. Trinkets and handmade goods are casually traded from tables set by local artists on the beach. White corals and shells are easily gleaned from the shore.
COAL POT RESTERAUNT
Just around the corner is the island’s largest city, Castries, and the waterfront resteraunt that is not to be missed - the Coal Pot.
The most romantic table in town is its patio overlooking Vigie marina, a location so coveted that it is guarded by historic cannon. Candles flicker in the open breezes, highlighting the colonial decor and stone walls.
Celebrated French chef Xavier Ribot’s menu features Caribbean-centric soups made of callaloo and creamy pumpkin. Authentic West Indian sauces dress caught-that-afternoon snapper and dorado. True to it’s name, the fare cooked using the traditional methods of the Island. Coal Pot is best known for its crab-back and saltfish with green fig/banana, however it is the melts-in-your-mouth French milk chocolate cake that keeps me coming back time and again.
WILD SERENITY VILLA
Chef Xavier also holds the keys to an exclusive La Toc estate that he is known to rent on occasion, Wild Serenity Villa. Exceptionally private, his home’s well-landscaped gardens lead to a secret cove compete with a sandy beach anchored by a shading palm.
The infinity pool opens the sunset’s heavy velvet drapes to a brilliant star lite sky. The British Colonial is perfect for those wanting a private, exclusive, authentic experience guided by locals who are very gracious hosts. Highly recommend for the discerning traveller.
HOOFPRINT HORSE RIDING RANCH
Also a good man to know is Winston, who owns an herd of the local creole ponies and has access through a banana plantation, past lush cow pastures, by the rum distillery, to a quiet beach.
One can book a ride at Hoofprint Horseriding Ranch with the rest of the tourists and enjoy a sunset horseback swim or you can get to know Winston, go riding everyday, and self guide your pony over the landscape at a respectable clip. The latter is recommended for experienced riders.