Category: Saint Lucia.

Welcome to the best kept secret…party

BY Michelle Martin

CARNIVAL QUEENS: Where there’s Mas there are beautiful women

CARNIVAL QUEENS: Where there’s Mas there are beautiful women

WHEN YOU think of carnival in the Caribbean, St Lucia is not normally the first country that springs to mind. The Trinidad carnival, Crop Over in Barbados and Antigua’s annual Jump Up are the three best known mas events in the Caribbean.

St Lucia is typically known for its tranquillity and the excellent annual Jazz Festival, which year after year brings thousands of tourists from both the UK and the US flocking to the tiny Island.

It is also a destination that is fast becoming known as a playground and a place of rest and relaxation, for the rich and famous. Oprah Winfrey, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Prince and Whitney Houston are just some of the stars who have visited and fallen head over heels in love with the Island, marketed as ‘simply beautiful’.

St Lucia is noted for its volcanic beaches that boast jet black sand and lush scenery. Oprah Winfrey once named it as one of the top five places to see in a lifetime.

As a St Lucian virgin I was assured that this was going to be a trip to remember ‘You are going to love St Lucia and your going to love carnival, it’s a great experience, no, and it’s a spectacular experience!’ St Lucia Tourist board representative Katie Gorrill informed us with much authority ‘and I promise you this, after this trip you will definitely want to return’

Strong words I thought, because as a lover of all things Jamaican, could this mountainous Island really capture a piece of my heart?

We arrive in St Lucia late Sunday afternoon and head to our accommodation. It’s the five star Cotton Bay Village. Situated in the north of the Island, It’s the same resort British songstress and Grammy Award winning singer Amy Winehouse made her home when she relocated to the island for nine months last year.

Cotton Bay Village is a beautiful family friendly complex that that is home to a number of Town houses and private Villas. Each Town House/ Villa boasts their own private pool, Jacuzzi and state of the art appliances to make you feel truly at home.

Each property is situated just yards from the resorts private beach where arts and crafts and water sports are readily available it’s self catering accommodation but if cooking not your thing then head down to their beach front restaurant that boasts a delicious gourmet menu of national and international cuisine.

Once checked in we grab some dinner and are advised to rest up as we were going to do J’Ouvert and were gonna start the carnival party St Lucian style!

‘Wear old clothes and be up and ready at 5am because the carnival officially starts then’ Katie tells us.

Rising early we head off to the Capital in the early hours of Monday morning not knowing what to expect. But on arrival we find that the city of Castries did not go to sleep! We are greeted by a sea of colours and a vibrancy that is so clearly infectious. Hundreds of people have lined the streets and are celebrating this bank holiday with drums, steel pans, Soca and Zouk, food, free flowing beer and a lot of provocative dancing.

Paint, mud and oil are being thrown (I make sure my headscarf is wrapped tightly!) and smiles of encouragement from the local are our cue to join in this early morning jump up. It’s the official start of carnival and the mood is good. Instinctively were drawn in and become part of the ensuing party.

J’Ouvert (pronounced juu vey), is an amazing experience. The roots of J’Ouvert stem from slavery it was the celebration of the emancipation of slavery where ex slaves would take to the streets to sing, dance and celebrate their freedom. It’s a tradition that has been played out annually for hundreds of years and it continues to grow and have a strong meaning to the indigenous population.

After a few hours of jump up, drinking and paint throwing! We return to our villa to rest up again! (We are tourists remember!) And then get ready to become part of the 2009 St Lucia Carnival parade.

This year a record number of bands have registered to take part in the festivities in an attempt to win the coveted King and Queen of the Band title.

It’s a crown that St Lucians take very seriously and the preparation which includes extravagant costumes and energetic sets and dance routines have taken months to put together.

We have been invited to be part of one of the most popular bands that are participating, The Royalties Xtreme Carnival band. Who incidentally are previous winners and also have a regular spot at our very own Notting Carnival

Once our costumes arrive I assume that there has been some mistake as my costume seems to be made for someone who has statistics like a supermodel!

Unfortunately I am not blessed with a body like Beyonce or Naomi Campbell there will be no pictures of myself in any Carnival gear!

We aim to leave out to join the procession for around 1pm I’m stitched into my costume (don’t ask!) and we go to meet the rest of the band, who on arrival ask us if we ready to party for two days!

No problem we answer confidently after all we attend Notting Hill annually and we normally do well once the drink is free flowing!

It is nearly 80 degree’s outside and the weather is decidedly overcast and the heavens look like they are about to open at anytime. That doesn’t deter the hundreds of people lining the streets on the road to the capital to greet the carnival procession.

When we arrive to meet our band we are greeted by sea of colours and array of exotic costumes including an Amy Winehouse tribute, the latest Soca Carnival tracks blaring to get us in the Carnival spirit and our band dj who has the strangest request, he demands ‘we want de rain! It’s carnival we don’t care and we want de rain!’

They say you should be careful what you wish for. In this case his demand was well and truly answered and a heavy down pour ensued.

The onset of rain didn’t seem to bother the St Lucians as they continued to dance and jump up oblivious to the down pour, but for us it seemed as if the wet weather turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it cooled the temperature down for us tourists to walk and dance in relative comfort.

Our Band dee jay was taking no prisoners as he ordered us to ‘back it up!’ ‘whine pon it’, ‘put a palm on the floor’ and ‘whine to the ground’ as we made our way into the capital and past the judging station.

As a veteran at our annual Notting Hill Carnival I tried my best to oblige and represent as a Brit abroad but I had to concede defeat and leave it to the seasoned revellers who met every request the dee jay asked for and added more.

After dancing and whining all afternoon we decided to call it a day and head back to our resort. On arrival and looking very weary we were offered a treatment to help combat or aching muscles as partaking in carnival in St Lucian is a tiring job! At this point muscles I didn’t even know I had are hurting so we jumped (excuse the pun) at the chance to alleviate the aches and pains of an afternoon of carnival fun.

Apart from Amy Winehouse being a semi permanent resident at Cotton Bay Villages their other claim to fame is their award winning spa and treatments. Some of the treatments included The Rasul which is a treated mud spa, the state of the art steam room and the aromatherapy full body massage.

With treatments done we were relaxed and recuperated, we packed up and the next morning said a reluctant goodbye to Cotton Bay Village and headed south to stay in the Soufriere area of the Island

After Lunch at the newly built Calabash Cove resort, we arrange a boat transfer to Jalousie Plantation. Situated just outside the Soufriere area.

Jalousie Plantation is located in one of the most spectacular sites in the world, nestled in between the famous Piton mountains, The area is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the resort is spread over 92 acres of tropical forest and boasts the only white sand beach in the area. It’s one of the most exclusive resorts on the Island

On first sight Jalousie Plantation can best be described as paradise on earth.

Its picturesque setting of private villas of which face out to the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea is a firm favourite with honeymooners or those who simply would like to get away from it all.

Each private villa boasts a butler service, Ocean or Mountain View, fully air-conditioned with King Size beds flat screen TV’s iPod docking stations, enormous walk in body showers.

Outdoor terraces and private plunge pools the luxury villas reflect a traditional French Caribbean architecture

We head up to our suite, dump our luggage and then head for the famous sulphur springs and volcano. It’s the world’s only drive-in volcano and replete with bubbling mud pools and plenty of sulphurous steam.

Here we got to bath and slather ourselves with mineral rich sulphur which is known to be excellent for the skin.

After that rejuvenating experience I returned to my villa totally relaxed and ready, but unwilling, to return home.

So the question is did the St Lucia Carnival experience live up to the expectations of a cynical Jamaican? The answer is a resounding YES!! Although it was very wet carnival was an amazing and spectacular experience. St Lucia had all the ingredients for the perfect carnival, a great vibe, amazing people, great costumes, Good music, good food and drink and a true party spirit.

St Lucia is a gorgeous island has stolen a piece of my heart. And a love affair has started and it’s a destination I definitely want to return to.

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Category: Saint Lucia
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