It turned out that Presley had brought his ‘friend’ along for our journey up to Rodney Bay – her name was Eunice and she sat in the back with me. I have a feeling that they were a little more than friends. It was Presley’s birthday and he seemed to want to celebrate as we went along …he was particularly chirpy. We’d only got down the road when he pulled up at a local seafood bar for some refreshment. Nothing like a bowl of Octopus Stew to set you on your way!!! Steve was very gallant in eating a bowl of it – I chickened out .. and declined the offer of a fish too – they didn’t look too appetising. A little reluctantly, we joined in the celebration with a beer though … but there was something slightly disconcerting about Presley driving along with a beer in one hand and the other hand on the wheel, going round steep and twisty corners!!!
We drove up the East Coast – this was a part of the island we’d not yet explored. The further north we got the lusher it became and we stopped at some spectacular viewing points, driving through banana plantations and rain forest – everything felt so fresh.
En route we stopped for some sustenance at a roadside stall, famous for its wood-fired oven baked bread and pizza. We were invited inside to watch the preparation and cooking – full credit to the young man – he had the hottest job ever! We feasted on hot bread and cheese, politely refusing the addition of herring.
After three hours of travelling we finally arrived at our destination – The Bay Gardens Resort. We said our goodbyes to Presley and Eunice and they set off to return to the south. What a fabulous choice – the resort is on the beach, the bedrooms are beautiful and have air-conditioning (after 5 weeks without I can’t tell you how amazing that feels) and the pool and poolside bars and restaurants all very fancy. It felt quite a culture shock to be staying somewhere so civilised … and completely devoid of chores!
Wasting no time, we quickly unpacked and headed to the pool and to the beach. At sunset we took up the offer of a complimentary rum punch sitting at the beachside bar. In the first few hours of arriving we’d bought a palm basket and some jewellery from hawkers (we’re rubbish at saying no!) and consumed a whole load of rum punch – all before changing for dinner.
And so the day progressed in that ‘first night of the holiday’ mode – stunning meal of shrimps, lobster, chicken and salad with chilled white wine – having lots of fun with the restaurant staff. An after dinner cocktail turned into three as we ended off the day dancing to a country singer, meeting lots of new friends and flopping into bed in the early hours. Who said we’d missed company!?
And the last few days we’ve really just taken the opportunity to relax. We decided not to do any trips or water sports (1) because we’re saving our pennies for the next islands (2) we just fancied being lazy!! Having said that, Steve has run the last two mornings and I did the hotel Pilates class yesterday, even though I was the only guest to turn up! Loads of swimming too, both in the sea and the pool. And earlier and more sober nights.
There’s plenty of restaurant choice for the evening – we walked along the beach to Spinnakers the 2nd night and enjoyed Red Snapper and Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry. Last night we walked into town for a pizza and there was quite a buzz going on.
Unfortunately I’m feeling under the weather today, sore throat etc. – hoping it won’t last. Plus it’s been heavy rain most of the day so thought I’d attempt to blog. Steve’s been filling the time by watching some cricket on TV … and there’s also a great selection of golden oldies to choose from including ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ , Benny Hill, ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and ‘On the Buses!’ – what more could you possibly ask for!!!? We have to be up at 4.30am tomorrow to catch the ferry to Martinique … so, it’s packing and an early night for us … here we go again.
And just like that, the house-sitting assignment comes to an end and it’s time for us to move to pastures new. Although parts of the last 5 weeks have been tricky, that can’t be denied, our overall experience has been amazing and one to be remembered for a long long time – for all sorts of reasons!
Last Friday we took the mile wander up the road again, to Roses Bar, with the intention of saying our goodbyes. Turned into a fun session with Brad, Rose and all the chaps – they certainly like a drink and a chat. We introduced Brad to our blog and he loved it – he showed lots of the customers, feeling famous as he was so largely featured. We stayed longer than intended as we were being bought drinks and didn’t want to appear rude. But we tore ourselves away at 6.30pm as it was getting dark and we still had a supermarket shop to do … and that closed at 7.00pm. We did however get talked into going back up for a final beer and goodbye on our final evening here – Wednesday.
Masseys, the supermarket, is across the road from Roses Bar and even getting that far we got pretty wet as the rain had started. We’d just got inside though when the heavens opened and there was an almighty downpour. The metal roofs in these parts certainly alert you to the situation. Feeling a little ‘merry’ after a few beers we were still relaxed about the storm outside, the mile walk home in the dark and the heavy bags we were clearly going to have to carry … it’ll be fine!! Towards the end of our shop, and by miraculous coincidence, we came across a young English couple … these are the first non-local people we have met in the last 5 weeks. So of course we got chatting and exchanged our stories – they really were sweet. They have just moved to live in St. Lucia and are so excited about their adventure. It just happened to come up in conversation that we had no car so they very kindly offered us a lift down to nearer our accommodation – we accepted without hesitation. They dropped us at the top of our lane so we just had a 10 minute squelchy walk down the muddy overgrown path to the house – we were like drowned rats when we got home – I think we even scared the cats!! But we’d had a great couple of hours and now had enough supplies for the rest of our stay.
We’ve had so much rain, thunder and lightning this week – a real tropical storm. There’s always sunshine in between though and things dry up so quickly. We’re still swimming everyday and making sure we enjoy these last few days of having a swimming pool to ourselves – that really has been such a luxury. We’ve even swum in the rain this week – no time to waste! And a couple more after dinner skinny-dipping swims too. I can’t begin to explain the marvel of floating in the dark under the magnificent array of stars, there’s very little light pollution here – that memory will stay with me forever. And because, as many of you will know, we always have music playing, we’ve discovered that late night pool dancing is on another level to kitchen dancing – absolutely magical and hilarious. Thought of all our fellow kitchen-dancers, including Immy!
We had an early rise on Monday, 5.00am, to be able to watch the Queen’s funeral live. My goodness, what a send off, it just couldn’t have been any better, so appropriate and deserved. Thrilled that so many people turned out to show their respects and the pageantry was something else. We couldn’t believe how seven mesmerising hours slipped by … and we’d only had a cup of tea. Betyann was in cleaning that day and watched some of it with us – she was absolutely fascinated. We tried our best to explain who was who and why we did things in such an extraordinary way – like all of us, I don’t think she’ll ever forget the spectacle of how we said goodbye to our beloved Queen Elizabeth II.
On Tuesday we spent quite a few hours making sure everything was ship-shape for the Doc’s return on Wednesday afternoon. It’s been so disappointing for Steve not to have the lawn at its best, due to broken mower, after all the effort he put into it in the first couple of weeks. But inside and out we made sure everything looked marvellous for the homecoming – our job was done. We’ve even managed to keep the cats alive!!!
As the Doc arrived back after a 2 day journey from Upstate New York, we grabbed Presley to drive us up to the bar for our final night beers. Turns out Presley has his own bar just near Roses so we stopped in there for a couple first (there were a lot more females at that one). And then on to Roses. We were given such a lovely farewell – people we hadn’t met before turned up as they’d heard about us and wanted to meet us before we left. A fair few rounds of beers ensued and much much laughter – we will treasure that night always. Presley gave us a lift home and we had a lovely chat with the Doc over dinner and wine.
Oh my goodness, there is SO much we are going to miss about house-sitting in River Doree, Choiseul. The views of the Caribbean Sea at the bottom of the garden and the views of the Pitons as we walk up the road. Picking fresh fruit from the garden and enjoying local foods that are kindly donated by the villagers. The ready smiles and ‘hellos’ from everybody we see. Although we hated it at first, we’ve even grown fond of the night-time jungle noises – so atmospheric. We’ll miss our lovely furry chaps – Tabby and Bebe – they’ve been an absolute joy. The birds too – our increasing number of egrets, the magnificent frigate birds which soar above us each day and the stunning hummingbirds. We’ll certainly miss the swimming pool and the relaxation it’s brought us … and from our sun loungers waving to the British Airways flight as it comes into land around 3.00pm each afternoon. And it’s hard to say goodbye to our new friends – travelling is the best adventure but always brings the sadness of farewells – we will miss seeing Betyann, Paul, Presley, Ian and all the lovely folk at Roses Bar.
And then it was time to say goodbye to the Doc, the house, the pool (after a final swim in the rain) and the cats. Presley is driving us up the East Coast of the island today, stopping off at some sights, on our way to our new home for the next 4 days at Bay Gardens Resort in Rodney Bay. The rain has been pouring all morning – raining tears as we depart this little piece of Paradise.
As is typical of many a holiday, just as the house-sit draws to an end, so we begin to gather new friends and discover new places. This week we’ve been to a different local bar, eaten out, met some more local people, visited a beautiful beach and swam for the first time in the Caribbean Sea.
This all came about as a result of last Friday’s venture up to Roses Bar – there we met Roger (King Charles) who offered to cook a meal for us at his girlfriend’s bar. So this happened on Monday evening – he asked his friend Ian to come and pick us up and it was a short but very uphill drive to Delphia’s bar, which is a roadside hut opposite her family home. Delphia is lovely and it was great not to be the only female – naturally we chatted loads. She works at the local hospital during the day and opens up her bar, mostly for family and friends, on weekend evenings, or at special request like that evening. Roger cooked us the most delicious meal of pork in a sauce, chicken with potato, plantain, a root vegetable of some kind and salad. And there was wine! Ian is Delphia’s uncle and what a good chap he is – he drove us home afterwards, despite the beer consumed.
We’ve grown to know that there are no rules here … and indeed they find it hilarious that the UK has so many ‘dos and don’ts.’ Well, there are laws but they absolutely take no notice of them … even the Police turn a blind eye. Drink and driving being an obvious one. When we were at Roses Bar last weekend, numerous customers drove up in their cars to purchase blood sausages, fitting in a swift double rum before jumping back in their cars and speeding off. And then there’s the bar opening times – they simply open and stay open whenever and for how long as they please. They do have to have a liquor license though, surprisingly!! We mentioned how surprised we were at the lack of smokers … they giggled somewhat and explained that the St. Lucia population grow and smoke their own kind of narcotic … obviously have been hiding that from us – not for sharing!! And definitely not illegal.
It turned out that Ian was on leave from his job with the Electricity Board for a few days so he offered to drive us the following morning to a beach in the next town – Laborie. An incredibly kind offer – he wanted nothing for it … it was like he felt sorry for us being stuck in the house – didn’t like to explain to him how palatial it is, with swimming pool and lots to amuse us. Still, we weren’t going to turn down an offer to explore new places. He turned up in a beautiful Lexus – turns out as a sideline he imports cars from the UK, via Ebay, and he loves this car. He told us that Lucian people will spend all their money on a good car, even it means they can’t eat or afford to pay rent or buy a home. The car is priority apparently and certainly we can see that as we walk around. He said he would pick us up at 9.00am after he’d dropped his son at school.
As I’ve explained before, nothing happens on time here …. at 10.30am we’d given up hope and had just settled by the swimming pool when we hear a beep of the horn and Ian arrives. He was able to squeeze us in after dropping his Mother-in-Law at the hospital and picking her up again. And so we got to Laborie beach which we’d heard about and enjoyed immensely. The sea was incredibly warm and the three of us swam and floated around for an hour, just ‘liming’ as they say!
And as we bobbed around in the incredibly salty warm sea, we got onto the subject of ‘laws’ again … Ian mentioned that because he was busy that morning, he let his 14 year old son drive himself to school … and that wasn’t the first time! Apparently he learnt to drive when he was 7. Although the legal driving age is 18, this is not policed! Neither is the use of crash helmets on the high speed motor bikes and quad bikes being driven.
But the funniest of all was when we were discussing taxes. There apparently is a ‘house tax’ in St. Lucia but the common way around this is to not quite complete the building – this means you are not liable for payment. And so Ian explained that most Lucians will just leave one wall unpainted – priceless!!
On Wednesday we had a day at the house – catching up on chores and Royal News. Just as it was getting dark we had a power cut – all felt a bit scary. Luckily there was still enough light for us to scrabble around and find candles, matches and torches – we had no idea how long it would last. We were able to phone our new friend Ian who confirmed it was the area and not just our house. But, with no fans working, we sat down to a very sweaty dinner in the dark – at least we have a gas oven and the meal was already cooking when the power went.
It was getting pretty unbearable after a couple of hours so we relocated to the verandah and were contemplating a swim to cool down when the electricity suddenly returned. But it was another beautifully starry night and the trees by the pool were bustling with fireflies so we decided to take a dip anyway … and a skinny dip at that! What larks!! So we spent a fabulous hour floating in freedom and looking up at the constellations and fireflies … oh, and the bats that were increasingly dive bombing! It was magical.
And so, the last 5 days have passed with a lot more variety. We’ve had our regular wildlife visitors with a few new ones too …
It’s Friday afternoon and we’re about to take a wander up to Roses Bar for the last time – have a few beers and be home before dark (6.30pm). We have 6 more sleeps now before we head up North and we’re going to make the most of every day.
It will be an early rise for us on Monday in order to catch the Queen’s funeral live – but we would not miss it. Will be thinking of you all back home.
So, just off out to see if we can break a law or two … and feel like we’re really local.
Saturday 3rd September – Sunday 11th September 2022
Our whole world was rocked this week with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, on the afternoon of Thursday 8th September, peacefully in her Scottish residence in Balmoral. I have to start this blog with our small tribute to this absolutely remarkable woman, whose death has left us feeling bereft, like lost children. Thank you for your graciousness and inspirational commitment to your duty, your selflessness and humility always displayed for us all to see and to learn by. We loved you, we were so proud that you were our Queen and we will miss you. There will never be another like you and you will never ever be forgotten. R.I.P. Your Majesty x
So the first part of the week ticked by as usual, with our new little St. Lucian routine of chores and chilling starting to feel like normal life. Now that we have less than two weeks to go in the house, we’re trying to soak up all the amazing views the house and grounds have to offer, and its solitary peacefulness, and to appreciate this whole strange but true experience.
Last Sunday, we went to the Mission Church with Betyann and had a good old sing song. It started off with a rousing rendition of “We shall not be moved … we shall not, we shall not be moved …” etc. We didn’t know many of the other hymns but the words were boldly displayed and it was easy enough to get the gist of the tune, with a fair few “allelujahs” and “amens” thrown in. And we easily fell into the dancing and swaying with the rest of the congregation – loved it. There was a lot more besides – readings, prayers, testimonials and a long long sermon from the Pastor. We chose an appropriate moment to slip out after two and a half hours – we felt we had certainly done our bit.
On Monday, I took a walk down to the beach with Betyann. She goes there regularly for her lunch and to swim and she wanted to convince me that I would love to swim there too. It is pretty, and I loved the short walk but, being pebbly and seaweedy, it doesn’t entice me as much as our pool does.
On the way back, Betyann took me through our neighbouring farm – goats and pigs … it was interesting but not how we would like to see our farm animals kept.
Betyann’s cousin very kindly gave us a breadfruit from his garden. Betyann showed me how to cook it when we got back to the house – we were eating it for the next 4 days – it’s very similar to potato.
On Tuesday, Presley took us out on another drive – this time to Vieux Fort which is near the airport, still in the south of the island. We drove around the town, looking at schools, universities, the Heineken brewery and a race course that was built at great cost and only used once before covid hit, and has now been left to ruins. There is a huge sports stadium too which is currently being used as the hospital as the original hospital burnt down.
We stopped for a while by the beach and Presley introduced us to ‘sea grapes’ growing on the trees. They tasted similar to cherries but smaller and less sweet. Presley said that the children often come to pick them and then sell them in bags on the street to collect money to pay for their school uniform and books. I was wondering about British teenagers being asked to pick blackberries and sell them to contribute to their school costs – can you imagine!!!?
From this same spot, Presley pointed out the Maria islands that are not inhabited by humans but are home to two reptiles not found anywhere else in the world … (1) the St. Lucia racer snake and (2) the St. Lucia Whiptail reptile. That wouldn’t be a great trip for me!
We also made a stop to buy some Johnnycakes – so delicious – similar to doughnuts but less sugar. Ironically, after centuries of sugar plantations, it is currently almost impossible to buy sugar in St. Lucia. A little embarrassing discussing sugar plantations though!
Our last stop before the inevitable supermarket shop was to drive up a very long and incredibly steep hill to see the lighthouse, and the amazing views.
Another sad demise this week was the sit-on lawn mower! Steve had it out for another outing and it ceased to cut. He’s very sad not to have the two acres looking like a cricket field when the Doc returns! By the power of Whatsapp we managed to show the spare part required for the Doc to bring on his return.
Thursday came with the sad news of the Queen and since then we’ve been, with unyielding patience, tuning into BBCiPlayer to watch all the footage … with all sorts of interference and buffering. That and YouTube have helped us so much in feeling closer to home at such a momentous time in our history. Not only the sadness of the Queen but watching and listening to Charles as he ascends the throne.
At times this week, with the bewildering grief, we have felt quite alone – so on Friday late afternoon we thought we’d wander up into the village to see if there was any marking of Her Majesty’s passing. There was no obvious wailing or flag flying but we headed to a local bar we’d noticed called ‘Roses Bar.’ We had no idea what it would be like but we thought it would be a great photo opportunity if nothing else. Well, we made many new friends in that next couple of hours … and yes, they were all so sad about the Queen and fascinated with the thought of Charles for King. There was also lots of cricket and football talk naturally as the customers were predominantly men. This is a completely local bar, not an inch of tourism about it (and that goes for the whole region we’re in) … but they seemed to love us – especially Steve who had them laughing hysterically. “Rose” is the super-friendly lady who owns it and and her fabulously funny son, Brad, runs the bar. So, we met Rose and Brad Brett, Roger Charles (who we crowned King) and Thomson Anthony … we did suggest to them that they have a lot of Christian names for surnames. We met lots of others too, including one poor old chap who fell off his chair – well he had been drinking 80% white rum all afternoon! Very basic and only beer or rum to choose from but the best fun we’d had in ages.
We promised to return the next day as Saturday is their ‘Pork day!!’ Brad kills a pig in a hut by the bar in the morning and then during the day his customers pull up to buy fresh pork, and no doubt have a rum or two at the same time. He also makes ‘blood sausages’ which he raved about and said we would love. In the morning also he sells bowls of pig head soup which is made from the head of the pig from the week before, with vegetables added! We kept our promise and walked up again, in the heat, at about 4.30pm. Luckily all the pig head soup had gone but there were some blood sausages left which Steve bravely sampled … I cowardly declined … it was the name as much as anything!
We made sure we left the bar in time to walk down our lonely lane before dark … and we were rewarded with some stunning sunset views.
And today, Sunday, despite the fact that Steve had had one of those holiday upset tummies during the night, he medicated up and we headed up the lane for 9.30am mass at the Anglican Church – it felt important to pay our respects to Queen Elizabeth. It was a lady priest today and to be honest she was a bit fearsome. She was half an hour late turning up which didn’t get things off to a great start. She did say some words in tribute to the Queen plus a minute’s silence. Then we were asked to sing the National Anthem for the Queen for one last time!! It was slightly odd singing “Long live our noble Queen.” Steve and I boldly sang out … but came unstuck at the next two verses … so just had to listen along with the others. But then the sermon came and she took the opportunity to rant for over an hour about the lack of commitment and financial contributions from the parishioners – reading out all sorts of regulations. It was tedious and uncomfortable and completely irrelevant to us as visitors so we took an opportunity when her back was turned to make an exit. We’d been there for two hours at this point.
Now it’s Monday again which means we have 10 days left before we head up to the North of the island. We’re hoping to visit the local school sometime this week so it will be interesting to meet the children and find out about St.Lucian education.
I would definitely be there laying flowers and visiting the Queen lying in state if we were home – I feel sad not to be able to do that. We are with you all in this national grief, connected by the love of our beloved late Monarch – may she rest in peace.
A quiet week for us pensioner house-sitters – have not been out and about apart from shopping … oh and church on Sunday.
River Doree Grace Church is an Anglican Church in our village and easily walkable. Mass was at 9.30am and we had agreed to meet Betyann outside, so we got there for about 9.15am – it seems that ‘punctual’ is not a word here … most people, including Betyann, wandered in from 9.35am onwards! They were such a welcoming congregation, so much so that the priest at one point asked Steve and I to stand up and introduce ourselves and after some questions we received huge applause. I guess we did stand out a bit! The Anglican service seemed identical to the Catholic mass and so I wandered up to take communion … the priest afterwards confirmed that I was most welcome to receive communion but google seems to disagree! The hymns were all familiar although sung at the highest soprano pitch ever .. we still enjoyed warbling along. A couple of differences to back home (1) when they say ‘Jesus,’ rather than nod their head as we used to do in UK, they do this slight bend of the knee thing (it looks so funny en masse) and (2) t’s very high tech – the readings are done from their mobile phones!
This Sunday the mass starts at 7.00am (it alternates), so we’ve opted to join Betyann for a 10.00am service at the Mission Church. This promises lots of lively singing, dancing and whirling around – right up our street.
As I say, besides this there’s just been a couple of shopping trips. We’ve walked to our local supermarket a few times now – it’s a mile each way so between the heat and the precariousness of roadside walking we only go if essential i.e. milk, bread and wine! We did need more of a major stock up this week though so booked Presley to take us to the larger supermarket in Vieux Fort. Just the taxi fare alone came to £50, besides the substantial cost of the food shopping. Being budget travellers, we really have picked on the wrong part of the world here. I’m not exaggerating in saying that everything is at least double if not three times the prices back home. Which is the reason why, while we’re staying in this remote part of the island, we’re opting to stay home-based, live simply, forego the more active life temporarily (apart from Youtube workouts and aqua aerobics), learn to chill with a book and assume that learnt Lockdown state of spending 24/7 alone. Luckily we love each other’s company but we are social animals too and I think we’ll both admit to wishing we had some others to share this with. Especially in the evenings when we’ve had a glass of wine – there’s a massive kitchen/diner floor and a fabulous juke box and just the two of us to boogie. We’ve jived on the verandah after dinner, we’ve sipped wine at dusk watching the fireflies in the trees, we enjoy gorgeous meals which Steve creates out of local produce, we chat over dinner and play board games … and then it’s still only 7.30pm, so we feel forced into doing battle with the array of TV remote controls!
We do have some visitors. Betyann comes once a week to clean and we manage to pack in a whole load of chatting during that time. Paul the gardener comes twice a week and is lovely but quiet – he has a coffee and then trundles off with his wheelbarrow and machete. We also have Ethan the Egret who particularly loves to play ‘catch me’ games with Steve when he’s on the mower. Then’s there’s Glenda geko and all her many pals (who love to leave little parcels), teeny tiny ants too numerous to mention and the odd frog. Lots of visiting birds too, none of which we recognise, except the hummingbirds. There’s plenty of night wildlife – the fireflies are such a spectacle and there’s a continuous blanket of sound from dusk till dawn – it’s like being in a jungle. Ironically, just as I’m typing (and it’s mid-afternoon), a wild dog, resembling a hyena, has just run through the garden – he looked a bit scary but luckily he ran off when he saw Big Steve!
And of course, we have the two beautiful cats – Tabby and Bebe – to entertain us. Tabby is very old (and fat!), walks very slowly and is prone to coughing … desperately hoping she lasts for the next few weeks.
Steve’s had some England v South Africa cricket to keep him entertained and still manages to tune into the Wycombe football game every Saturday. Feeling so sad at the news of Bill Turnbull’s death this week at the young age of 66 – a wonderful BBC presenter and legendary Wycombe Wanderers’ supporter.
We’ve had a couple of family zooms this week too – so reminiscent of Covid times – maybe we’ll get to quizzing by the end of our stay here. As Alice said, we’ve got plenty of time on our hands to set some quiz questions!
As the days go by we begin to list the things we won’t miss but almost feel guilty suggesting it whilst living in such beauty and lavishness. So thought I’d do it in a praise sandwich, as we do in education and training!!
Things that are marvellous:
Our outdoor shower – absolute love washing in cold water with blue sky or stars overhead.
Fresh mangos for breakfast and fresh limes for my G&T in the evening.
The sit on lawn mower and the two acres of lawn to keep looking splendid.
A perfect temperature swimming pool from early morning.
Things that we won’t miss:
Struggling to dress because constantly sticky (no AC)!!
Lack of company (at times)!!
Expensive wine! … and expensive everything!!
Finishing off on a positive, of course:
Who wouldn’t want to hang out their washing with the view of the Caribbean Sea at the bottom of the garden?
Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by natural colour and beauty in abundance?
Who wouldn’t want sunshine to fill their day?
And a whole host of colour to admire each day, without leaving the garden:
So yes, we are glad we took this house-sitting assignment. Our retirement project was to experience living in different places and cultures and this is certainly one to embrace. Less than three weeks to go here before we move to the north of the island and then on to Martinique and Barbados. We’re pretty mellow right now – it’s 7.45pm, we’ve had dinner, we’ve had wine … I’ve finished the blog and Netflix here we come.
It’s Saturday tomorrow – do you think anyone will come knocking!?
Today we broke loose and ventured out on an island trip with a fabulous driver named ‘Presley’ – recommended by the Doc – a very lovely, witty man who took us to some interesting places in the south of the island and knew all there was to know. He kept us entertained. And the best thing ever … he was such a careful driver, particularly as the roads are a bit hairy – couldn’t believe how relaxed I felt.
We selected to be picked up at 8.00am rather than 9.00am, thinking of the heat. As it turned out it was a great decision, as at each spot we seemed to be leaving just as coach parties were arriving, having done all that we wanted to do. We’re so used to being alone now that crowds of tourists seemed so alien!
Our house is on the outskirts of a town called Choiseul so we first had a little look at the main town area, taking the opportunity to visit the Catholic Church.
Right from the off, we had magnificent views of the Pitons – Gross Piton being right on our doorstep. Presley had climbed Gros Piton when he was younger and said he recommended it but it was tough. We’d love to have a go but it’s at least a four mile walk and we think it would be impossible for us in this heat – even though as our name suggests, we love a ramble. Petite Piton, although not quite as high, is even harder as it requires ropes. So this time round we’ll just admire them from a distance and appreciate their magnificence.
We headed on to the town of Soufriere, stopping on the way at the Sulphur Springs – the only drive through volcano in the Caribbean. The smell hits you long before you arrive and takes some getting used to. It supposedly clears your sinuses – I should say it does … and more. It last erupted in the 1700s and is thought to be dormant – though bubbling away like a good’un. We had such a sweet guide called Suzette who was so knowledgeable on volcanos and sang to us as we walked too. We relished her company as we toured around and she introduced us to the gardener, Junior … who gave a huge toothless grin when Steve called out his name. It felt so good to have other people in our lives!! But very soon a whole stream of tourists arrived – it felt novel at first as we haven’t seen any non-Lucian people since being in St. Lucia – but as more and more arrived we decided the quiet life was preferential.
A couple of hundred metres downstream from the springs, the water temperature is still hot (about 45 degrees celsius) but cool enough for tourists to enjoy a mud bath. Well, whilst in Rome and all that …!! So, off with the clothes and into the excruciatingly HOT muddy water we went – questioning ourselves as to why. Then, we were encouraged to cake our faces and body with further mud supplied in buckets … said to heal sunburn, eczema, arthritis, sore joints and more. Despite not having any of these conditions we did as we were told and joined in with the throng of others experiencing this strangest of exercises. It was fun, and different, except the water was so hot that my heart was racing big time. Walking up the hill to the car in the heat afterwards I started to feel dizzy but luckily enough made it back in time to rehydrate and bask in the car’s air-conditioning.
Our next stop was the opposite extreme. Presley drove us to the Toraille Waterfall where we could shower off properly … in freezing water. Although painful in its force, we much preferred the water temperature here and again were lucky to beat the crowds. A beautiful peaceful spot to enjoy.
Suitably refreshed and re-clothed, we drove on into the town of Soufriere, which sits on the West Coast of the island, overlooked by the Pitons. We took a little look around the town and it’s beautiful harbour before joining Presley for a traditional lunch.
We had lunch in this brightly painted first floor restaurant, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Lunch consisted of tuna, saltfish, creole chicken, yam, plantain, avocado and salads, washed down with Piton beer. We loved it.
We were home by 2.00pm, exhausted after our day’s release! Managed to fit in some swimming and chilling before dinner.
And the rest of the week has been more relaxation, swimming, reading, writing, some chores plus regular Youtube exercise sessions. We took a hot walk down to our local beach but unfortunately it’s not that inviting – the river meets the sea and so is churned up and murky – decided to return to our beautiful pool instead. While we were there though, we did see an elderly, very slight Rastafarian man, inch his way down the hill from his hut, on his bottom, fully naked … casually diving in for a swim. We’ve since learned that his name is Rambo … wouldn’t have been the first nickname to spring to mind.
And the mowing commenced this week … and, despite some heavy duty tropical rainstorms, Steve managed to complete the exercise over three days, choosing early morning hours to avoid the strong sunshine. The lawn looks great … and he so enjoyed the ride.
We’ve been here a week today – 5 of those days we’ve been alone! And we are still marvelling at the splendour of it all – both inside and out. Views of the Caribbean Sea from the verandah, fresh fruit in abundance in the garden, luscious green plantation, tall palm trees, tequila plants, a perfect swimming pool literally steps away from our bed, a spacious indoors fabulously furnished, dream kitchen … and we can just pretend it’s all ours for 5 weeks!!
So, we’ve barely left the house since the Doc left on Wednesday – and not hugely feeling the need to do so. For one, there’s plenty of chores to keep us busy … it’s a working holiday you know!! There’s the cats to look after – the gorgeous Tabby and Bebe, the large number of verandah plants to water, some swimming pool maintenance and keeping the very extensive verandah all around the house clear of webs, bug life, frog and bird poo … the latter being very time consuming. Steve has yet to do his first stint of lawn mowing.
I know I shouldn’t complain but the bugs are the big downside. We can take the gekos, the moths, the grasshoppers, the beetles …. but it’s the ants and the mosquitos that can just drive you to distraction. The doc says there are no mosquitos but something is biting us good and proper … and all day long! Getting through gallons of repellant and after-bite – please send supplies!!! However, come the evening when we’re all tucked up inside, the itching goes away and it’s fine during the night – so, could be worse (Egypt springs to mind)!!
The gardener Paul comes here on Mondays and Thursdays – this involves us setting the alarm as we have to open the gates for him by 7.00am … well, I say ‘we’ … Steve does!! He’s a chilled sort of guy, fit for his age (70) but not in any rush!! He brought us some coconut water on Monday – very thirst quenching. Waiting for the mangoes to ripen.
And after the chores are done there’s plenty of time to relax. Steve has not been out running again .. (1) because it’s either too hot or too wet (between the soaring heat there are some huge downpours going on) and (2) because I feel I’d be a bit nervous here alone and just worried about being apart … safety in numbers. We have to be honest, we were quite anxious the first couple of nights here alone, it gets dark at 6.00pm and it just feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere. Beer and wine has helped to relax us come evening … and we’re getting more used to it now.
My main sport of the day is being chased around in the water by the pool cleaner ….no, not some hunky Lucian … a rather clever little robot who seems to make a beeline for me every time I enter the water … and I always shower!
I also try to do a daily aqua aerobics session (can’t get Steve to join in) … which always reminds me of our lovely friend Ebraam from the Badawai Hotel in Sharm El Sheik …. such fun days.
Plus plenty of time for reading, writing, watching Wycombe games – the days whizz by in a oh so non-frantic way. Every afternoon we glance up to see the daily BA flight arriving … and then it’s back to chilling.
The only time we’ve ventured out this week is up the overgrown lane to a local store called Masseys – to top up on some essentials. It’s just over a mile each way so requires a 7.00am outing before the real heat sets in. At the top of the lane we walk along a stretch of what we would call country road but the cars seem to move at motorway speed … and there’s no pavement so we have to keep our eyes peeled. We’ve already witnessed one accident! But this small store seems to have most of what we need and some interesting products too. It really is expensive here though – more expensive than England. Another reason we’re quite content to make the most of our lovely accommodation is that taxis and rental cars cost a fortune. Today we met the lovely housekeeper – Betyann – who comes to clean once a week and she was telling us how St.Lucia is really struggling with this economic crisis and short supplies of goods. She tucked into some of our food before she left … and dropped lots of hints about other things she likes – chicken breast, cake, orange juice etc.
Once it’s dark, Steve locks up the house … and then we only venture outside to admire the amazing constellations. Haven’t yet tried swimming in the dark although the pool area is lit up – think we might get braver. The Doc suggested that we might like to skinny dip but there’s CCTV cameras everywhere so we’re feeling a bit shy!
Steve likes to cook so I write or simply relax with a G+T as all colonial ladies do! We love the jukebox and there’s so much space for dancing … but we miss our fellow dancers (you know who you are)!!! We’ve had a few chess battles, suffice to say I’ve come second every time. And then there’s the TV – it’s the fanciest thing with millions of channels and five remotes …. but although the Doc showed us, we haven’t got a flipping clue – desperately need a young person.
On Wednesday we’ve booked a trip out with a driver called ‘Presley’ to take us on a tour of the island and visit some hot spots – looking forward to that. And next Sunday we’re meeting Betyann at the local church for a sing song plus she’s recommended the local beach where she goes to cook her lunch most days. So, we’re dipping our toes in the water so to speak.
But at the moment, there’s no place like home … even though it’s just borrowed.
Today we arrived on the island of St. Lucia after a smooth flight from Gatwick. Just a couple of mishaps since leaving home – (1) I left my travelling clothes and sunhat on the back seat of Tom’s car when he dropped us at the hotel on Sunday night . He is officially the best son in the world as he insisted on turning around and bringing them to me despite it adding 2 hours to his journey! Love you Tom and (2) I left my phone charger in the hotel room! Could have been worse I guess.
The house-owner, Jay … known locally as the Doc … met us at the airport and we had a jolly chatty ride back to his house – he really is a jolly and extremely chatty chap. Having left a parched UK, St. Lucia seemed so green and luscious with prettily coloured houses – we immediately fell in love with it. We are staying in the south of the island which is not a tourist area, so life here is interestingly simple and we’re living amongst local Lucian folk. We took all this in on the 20 minute journey to Doc’s house, culminating in a drive down a long overgrown path till we reached the gates … and there the splendour of his magnificent house and grounds. Jaw-dropping, even the photos we had seen had not done it justice.
We had a tour of the house, met the cats and met Jack, Jay’s friend visiting from the USA. Jack is a well-built Italian New Yorker (with a dodgy background!) but a sweet guy … and his meatballs and pasta were delicious. After lots of chat and explanations about the house-sitting requirements we hit the sack at a reasonable hour.
When Steve and I were finally alone we couldn’t help but laugh at the enormity of what we’ve taken on. The house is even more remote than we imagined, there’s a fair amount of chores and nothing simple in terms of reaching amenities. It’s hot, humid and the house has no air-conditioning! But besides all that, it is going to be our biggest adventure to date and we’re well up for it.
Tuesday 16th August 2022
Quite a fitful night between the heat and the new night noises that I’m sure we’ll become accustomed to (a selection of crickets, beetles, frogs and birds). But we woke up relatively fresh all the same. Steve set out at 6.45am to attempt a run – he managed a three mile hot, humid and hilly run – jury’s out on whether or not this will be repeated. I got up early and headed for the pool instead – right outside our bedroom we have the most gorgeous swimming pool with perfect temperature – this is where I’ll be mostly hanging out for the next 5 weeks.
After breakfast Jay drove us out for a local tour and shopping expedition. We are not going to have a car while we’re here so wanted to take the opportunity to stock up while we had the Doc and his car. So, first stop … the liquor store!! Numerous cases of beer and wine later we moved on to the supermarket – I always love this experience in a new country. Jay was on hand to give us tips about what and what not to buy … mostly imported food sadly and some very expensive. We decided to ‘invest’ in some fresh milk but thinking this will be a one off. Stocked up well on groceries though as it’s an hour’s drive away. Hoping to rely on local stores from now on. Stopped at our nearest (walkable) fruit stall on the way back and purchased all she had on offer which was bananas, tomatoes and cucumber … it’s going to be an interesting diet.
In the afternoon, Steve had his sit on lawnmower lesson and took to it like a pro. Jay then showed us around the ‘yard’ as he calls it – two acres of luscious garden and fruit trees. The gardener will apparently bring us ripe fruit twice a week – lemons, limes, mangoes, wax apples, coconut and we can help ourselves to thyme, rosemary and even paracetamol plant!
As it was Jay and Jack’s last night, they wanted to treat us to dinner out at a local Caribbean restaurant – ‘Mama Tilly’s’ in Laborie Village. What an experience, Mama Tilly was hilarious and the food tasty and plentiful – pork, chicken, tuna, salads, rice and potatoes, rounded off with homemade rum and raisin ice-cream. There’s no menu, it’s just what she happens to have that day. And plenty of beer and rum consumed.
Wednesday 17th August 2022
Jay and Jack left this morning for the USA and we are now officially alone – yikes!! Daunting and exciting all mixed together. Sure we’ll get into a routine of chores, leisure and local exploration soon. We have two beautiful cats to look after – Tabby and Bebe plus the Doc’s estate.
Today we’ve fully unpacked and basically taken over the joint. A lot of relaxation, swimming, and reading this afternoon. I’m sat on the veranda blogging now, overlooking gorgeousness and feeling SO lucky to have this opportunity. Steve in the meantime is having a nap!!
Big first night alone tonight, we’ll lock ourselves in tightly once it gets dark. We’re cooking chicken curry, tucking into some wine (it’s dead expensive here too so a treat) and later we’re going to have a play around with the jukebox. As many of you know … the Roses love to kitchen dance!!
No long walks on these days … but a whole load of fun in sunny Tywyn. Some chilling but mostly active in one way or another …. swimming a couple of times a day, paddle boarding, body boarding on wavy days, boules, cricket, frisbee, running (Steve and Alice that is) and tennis tournaments. Not to mention long board game sessions in the evenings – have loved every minute. It’s been Steve and I, Alice and Jon all week, Anne joined us on Sunday and Matt arrived on Monday – we’re the Tywyn Six!
And the hot tub soothed our aching bones after all the activity … and just became a place to hang out and chat.
We’ve mostly stayed in Tywyn as have everything we need on our doorstep – but we had an outing to Portmeirion one day, travelling there by train. Beautiful Italian lunch in the most stunning of settings. This village is so worth a visit – exquisitely designed, like a fairytale – you imagine yourself on the Riviera.
14th July 2022
Anne decided to climb Mount Snowdon today – we all declined as we had done it on our visit here in November. Matt had to work so it was just the four of us who decided to fit in one little coastal walk … Steve got planning. We picked up on a little gap … Llwyngwril to Barmouth.
We caught the train to Llwyngwril and had the lovely surprise on arriving to find it is the Knitted Village – amazing creations everywhere.
The three mile uphill climb at the start was tough but well rewarded with views. The sun was shining, plenty of sheep to keep us company, easy enough terrain … all good.
And then a steady 3 mile climb down through lanes and woodland – a little loose underfoot in places but we managed to avoid too much slippage.
Finished off with 3 miles of flat walking, along Fairbourne Beach, across Barmouth bridge (a grade II listed – Brunel designed – single-track wooden railway viaduct) and into the lovely seaside town of Barmouth. This completed 9 miles walking … and we loved it.
The only snag to the day was that our train back to Tywyn was cancelled and could have involved hanging around for another two hours. So we took the option to walk back over Barmouth Bridge to catch a bus …. what’s an extra 2 miles between friends!?
But the hero of the day was Anne who climbed all the way up Snowdon – solo – hats off to her.
15th July 2022
Day 25 – our last full day so it was a chilled one.
We played tennis late afternoon and I had a spectacular fall resulting in a few minor injuries … but the margaritas helped later and had us all up dancing even before our final dinner together!!
16th July 2022
Driving home today after nearly 4 weeks in Wales. It really has been spectacular. We’ll miss everything about it especially the views of sea and mountains … and the company of family and friends. We’ve covered another 174 miles of coastline in this time – not too shabby!! No doubt we’ll be back for more!
Once again we left the studio flat just after 9am to walk to Pwllheli Station – we’ve become quite the regulars on this 9.34am train! Our destination was Llandanwg – this time walking in the other direction to the seaside town of Barmouth – and we started off on a hill going down.
A lot cooler today and, I must say, easy flat paths. To start off with a bit of road walking, country lanes, around an airfield and into woodland. There was a lot of wild camping going on in the woods and nearby fields … we were fascinated with the equipment people have these days – three piece suites, toilet tents, major dining areas!
And this led us onto Morfa Dyffryn Beach – absolutely glorious.
Every day we feel so blessed that we have these amazing views all around us … the sea, the sand dunes, mountain backdrops and miles and miles of green farmland – we are literally spoilt for choice. Today our viewing took on a little difference however. About a mile into the beach walking we couldn’t help but notice an elderly chap sunbathing with no clothes on – well except his hat! We couldn’t help but have ourselves a little giggle. But as we moved on it oh soooo gradually dawned on us that we were on a naturist beach. Mostly men I must say but a couple of ladies too … but all sitting alone and separated along a sizeable stretch of the beach, sheltered by the dunes. Mostly just sitting or lying but some wandering around in the sand dunes (including one man who looked like he was expecting twins!), some wandering down to the sea for a swim and some lying in odd positions to maximise the suntan!! Once the penny dropped, it was us that became self-conscious … of being highly overdressed … we tried to slip by inconspicuously!!
We wondered if someone from the Coastal Path people had read the blog yesterday because today we were practically overwhelmed with signs – hardly had to refer to the app at all. And as well as it being a flat day it was a really easy path today – nothing overgrown, nasty or precarious. Just a couple of stone stiles that were designed for long limbed and dexterous people – that’s my only beef.
And from there a steady walk into Barmouth, finishing the 13 miles with road and then promenade walking. A good long walk today but so manageable – certainly one I’d recommend.
Now, apparently this is going to be our last bit of coastal walking for a while. We’re heading further down the coast tomorrow to Tywyn for a ‘leisurely’ beach week – let’s see!?
Saturday 9th July 2022
We’ve now arrived at our rented beach house for the week to be joined by Alice and Jon later today and my best chum Anne tomorrow. Anne has travelled all over the world but has never been to Wales. I think it might be a fun week … and the sun is shining big time. Must go, the sea is beckoning!