Sunday, 18 January 2009

Days 9 & Ten: St Maarten and St Lucia What a contrast!

Day Nine: St Maarten

Yesterday I wrote a huge rant about the Isle of St. Maarten, then the internet went down as we were in a satellite black spot. When I came to write the blog for today Day 10 – see later – I overwrote everything that I had written which in itself was probably not a bad thing as it was not a good day. I was miserable, the island was not a fun place, the tour was not anywhere near as good as we thought that it should be and we were not sorry when the day came to an end. The only really good thing about our trip was the coach driver who was funny, witty and deserving of all the tips that he got. ‘nuff said, let’s press on with some photos of St.Maarten and just a comment about the island which is jointly shared between the Dutch and the French. On the Dutch side their currency is guilders, on the French side it is Euros and the common currency is US dollars. On the Dutch side they speak Dutch, on the French side they speak French and their common language is English! Real English too as they spell aluminium the correct way.

Day 10: St Lucia

The only problem that we have with this island is its relationship to the internet satellite, it is a black spot and so you have yet to read yesterday’s rant so make sure that you read them in order.

We woke early, again! This time around 4.30am and then fitfully dozed until 6.45am when Sam decided to get up and have a shower so once again we were in the little Al Fresco restaurant shortly after they opened. This time Hilary had just the salmon and cream cheese bagel and I had that as well as my early morning muesli and fruit. What a boring life we lead, but onwards and upwards to higher decks to watch the ship enter the lovely deep water harbour of St. Lucia. Almost, but not quite, as beautiful as Kauai and certainly a lot poorer - as we later found out. The bay that we moored in is a natural deep water harbour and the landing dock itself is surrounded by lush tropical plants, red roofed houses and gives off an air of being pretty well looked after. The organization of our tour was this time not quite so chaotic, many of the passengers have been to St. Lucia before and they simply opted to do their own thing, either walking into the local town or taking a taxi to a local beach. For those who chose to go into town they had an extra bonus as it is Saturday and that is market day on this island. Not quite like the market in Koloa but the same idea with local people bringing their produce and trying to sell it. We saw plenty of fruits and particularly vegetables that we did not recognise and I hesitate to say it but some of it looked pretty inedible to me, or it would require a lot of cooking to make it edible.

We selected our tour from the book based mainly on the fact that it looked like the most interesting out of the limited number available. It is called Escape to Eden and involved a 30 minute drive through St Lucia’s capital town Castries to a family run house naturally called Eden House. This is a working family home owned by the Welch family who emigrated to St Lucia some 4 years, bought this beautiful old stone house and restored the house and its gardens to its former glory. Our driver was called Samuel and he was a lovely chap, originally from Ghana he decided a few years back that he didn’t want any child of his to have the same sad upbringing as he had so he stowed away on trucks and ships and found himself on St Lucia. Since his arrival seven years ago he has built himself up so that for 6 months of the year during the tourist season he drives people like us around and for the other 6 months he grows bananas. He was certainly very knowledgeable on all aspects of this part of his business and even stopped the bus at one stage to show us how one banana farmer had forgotten to take the flowers off and so that bunch would be valueless as they get marked by insects. Then he showed us a half bunch where someone had been along by the side of the road and stolen all that they could reach.

Eden House is beautiful both inside and out. We were fortunate to have Nick, the owner of the house, as our guide for the tour and he met us at the gate with three of their dogs. Hayley you would have loved Nick and his wife (Laura? Lauren?), they arrived with one spaniel and presently have 33 rescue dogs which have been injured, abandoned, dropped at their gate or just found their way there. They have a nursery for the puppies, a play area for the older dogs and the very old are allowed to roam the gardens accompanying the tourists – they followed us and Nick everywhere. Nick was certainly very knowledgeable about the trees and plants they have added to their garden and after a tour of the grounds we were led into the main house. This is not a show house, this is the house that they live in day to day and when all the tour parties are gone they sit down and have their meal in the rooms that the tourists have traipsed through. They gave us mango punch and banana bread made by Nick’s mother in law who lives with them, they also have a beautiful Caribbean girl who helps them out and when tourists are around she dresses in the National costume. She explained to us that the tying of the head scarf that she wears shows her marital status. One knot means single, two knots engaged and three knots married and she added that the number of knots that she has in her scarf depends whether or not she and her boyfriend are on speaking terms!

We stayed in the house longer than we probably should have but it was fascinating to see and so beautifully restored to its former glory. Huge wooden framed windows, red corrugated iron roof, one large coloured glass window as you enter the living room, white washed ceilings and chunky furniture. We will post photos as soon as we can. Nick quickly zipped us through the rest of the garden, over the little bridge that crosses a small koi-carp pond and back to the main gate where the two “guard dogs” were still sleeping and sadly it was time to leave. We could easily have spent a day there just talking to Nick – (an ex- Custom’s Officer Julian) – his wife and the children’s granny. A lovely experience.

Samuel drove us off to the next stop, a place where they make batik clothes and other goods. It was OK and located such that you could look down from the staging at the rear onto the harbour and this gives the opportunity to take photographs of the cruise ships. Then it was down to Castries again and once more Hilary and I opted to get out of the bus before it reached the ship. We strolled around the market and bought a couple of souvenirs before hiking it back to the Oriana for a nice cup of tea and a short nap. Sam elected to go back to the swimming pool (now 29C – almost warm enough to tempt Hilary), so a quick dip later, a snooze in the shade, another chapter down on the novel and it is time to come back to the cabin so that we can blog and get ready for our Casual Country and Western night. The new Longhorn shirt that Sam got for Christmas is already out of the wardrobe and ready to go.

Hi, Tiz me. We have had soooo much a better day. As Sam said the trip out this morning was fantastic, lovely people, friendly dogs and a very knowledgeable plantsman in Nick. He so much reminded me of Tony Hooper in his approach to life. He does not miss the customs service. I spoke to the grandmother of the family for a long time and she is a thoroughly super person, so kind and totally in love with her family, especially the grandchildren – something I can understand. A really amazing experience thank you St. Lucia. The town of Castries is lovely, so clean and sparkling. It is surrounded by mountainous hills full of tropical greenery. The people are a lot friendlier than those in St Maarten – all in all a super place to visit. We finally bought some rum and persuaded the bar staff to give us a cup full of lemon slices along with the ginger beer we got from them. Tomorrow we will see the sun set whilst sitting on deck with our drinks – I hope I like rum! It’s a lovely thought anyway so thank you Julian. On 20th we go through the Panama Canal and I am very excited about that. Dad and I would also like to wish Sammy a safe and comfortable trip to China and wish her a wonderful time there with Jess, Nathan and Kate. Take lots of photographs we will be over to see them as soon as possible. Well that’s it for another day – Sam is off to the IT room now to see if the internet is up and running.

We had one breakthrough after we got back from dinner and the show tonight and that was a box of Soya milk delivered to our cabin, we should have thought of asking for one before as Hilary had been offered it at dinner on our first night. So now she can have tea and coffee whenever she likes. The after dinner show was OK, bordering on rubbish I thought, he was billed as a multi talented musician capable of playing several instruments and apparently he was in the film Little Voice playing a money lender. If he was then I missed him, he has also said to have played at a Royal Variety performance. The instruments that he actually played were the clarinet (tolerably well), the penny whistle (with his ear and his nose, so different) and the soprano saxophone (badly). He also tried to tell jokes - very badly. So I will probably not go back to see him if he does another performance.

Hilary starts her clay modelling tomorrow, me I just might go for a swim. We are heading for the Panama canal and should get there around 6.00am on Tuesday.


samw7 said...

Sorry to hear that St Maarten was not a good day, but it sounds as though St Lucia made up for it. Eden House seems like it was a good choice. Not much going on here.I start the acidopholus on Monday and the pepto-bismol on Wednesday to try and prepare my stomache for the new food. The plane takes off on the 28th, and I can't wait. I am going digital camera shopping this week, which should be fun. I think I have narrowed down my choice and went through all the Sunday flyers to find the best deal. Jeff and I went to aee Frost/Nixon yesterday. It was good, and Dad you would especially enjoy it. The actor who played Nixon was superb. Enjoy the tropical weather.
Love you both, Sam

Julian said...

Hi glad to hear you are enjoying yourselves. I expect the engineers have fixed the stabilizers for you by now. If you want to enjoy a Dark and Stormie it must be Lime and not lemon slices. It makes all the difference to the taste. We went to the cinema today before I flew up to Newcastle. We saw Defiance with Daniel Craig, I say it was watchable but not the best film I have seen. Enjoy yourselves and I hope the pool is up to 30 by now. Love to you both, Julian Moira Carl & Kelly