Castries, Saint Lucia – January 3, 2013
At 06:00, I found myself on the lido deck, mostly because that is where the coffee is at that hour. The ship had not yet docked. As we cruised alongside the island heading north, it was mostly cloudy. It looked like it was raining in several places on the island.
Once everyone was up, and we had finished breakfast, we walked off the ship and into the port town of Castries, the capital of St. Lucia. We had decided that since we are so comfortable with international travel and since we had a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide for the Caribbean; we would not sign up for the Carnival shore excursions. That decision meant we were bombarded with offers for tours and taxis as we walked out of the duty-free shopping area and into the bustling capital city of Castries. In three blocks, I said “no” more times than I could count. However, everyone to whom I said “no” responded very politely. That made us feel good about the people of St. Lucia.
I was trying to navigate to Castries Vendor’s Arcade. Instead, I took a wrong turn, ending up at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The island’s patron saint, St. Lucia, is painted directly above the altar. After seeing so many cathedrals in Europe, my family did not want to spend much time there.
I regained my bearings and steered us back to Castries Vendor’s Arcade. Once again, en route, we were questioned time and again about whether or not we needed a taxi or tour.
Castries Vendor’s Arcade is much like the markets we have seen in Mexico. It consisted of numerous vendor booths under a questionable roof. Water was still dripping through into the stall areas as a result of the morning rain before we arrived in port. It seems the same items are available in each of the booths. It did not matter to us; we bought numerous tourist trinkets there. While we were in the market, Tyler decided he wanted some sunglasses. He asked one of the vendors if there were any for sale in the market. He discovered we needed to cross the street to the other market to find those.
As we crossed the street to the other market, Romanus intercepted us. He “sold” us on a quick tour of the island for $10 per person. So, after poking around a little bit, when we came out of the market we found Romanus (actually he found us), got in his taxi and headed up the central mountain, Morne Fortune.
The road was quite steep at several points which allowed for some spectacular views. On the way up we stopped a couple of times to take some photos from overlooks. At each stop, vendors mobbed us, hawking their “handmade” items. Again, when we said we were not interested, they were polite and immediately moved on to their next target. We ended up going to the top of Morne Fortune, some 850 feet tall. The views on the way up were breathtaking.
At the top of the mountain, we saw some of the old barracks and the jail that was used by the fort in the late 18th century. The barracks are now classrooms for the local school.
When we stopped at the jail, the vendor there showed us a calabash shell. The fruit is not edible. Locals use the calabash shell to make bowls or plates; it is purely utilitarian. It comes from the calabash tree, the national tree of St. Lucia, according to Romanus. Just before we got back in the taxi, Romanus showed us what he called a Mimosa plant. When one touches the fern-like leaves, they fold in on each other. The leaves are very tiny; the pinna (or leaflets) are no more than an inch long. Romanus told us they were often used by trackers when looking for runaway slaves. When touched, the leaves of the plan immediately fold in upon themselves. The folded leaves would remain that way for up to five minutes, making it easy for trackers. I remember having one as a child. I know it as a sensitivity plant. I would pester it incessantly while eating my cereal in the morning.
Romanus also showed us a Christmas Palm. Its seeds are green. When they are ripe and ready to fall, they turn red, thus the name.
Looking north from the Inniskilling Monument.
From Morne Fortune, we drove to the Eudovic Art Studio (www.eudovicart.com). The studio is on the side of the mountain. That means there is not a piece of level ground to be found. Romanus did a yeoman’s job of finding a place to park among the other taxis and rental vehicles. On either side of us, regardless of the pitch of the land, there seemed to be a structure. In addition to the studio buildings, I believe there is a bed and breakfast building that doubled as Mr. Eudovic’s home.
As soon as we exited the taxi, a young woman met us and acted as our tour guide. She first took us into the part of the studio where the carving takes place. There was a carver working on a bas relief when we entered. Our guide told us all about the different types of wood used, one of which is extinct (I don’t think I completely understood how that works).
After watching the carver for a few minutes, we walked across the drive to a small display area/bar. We looked at several pieces there and bought some bottled water. Then we walked into the main gallery. That is where we met the studio’s namesake, Vincent Joseph Eudovic. In the gallery, Hillary bought a mask for a friend of hers. Mr. Eudovic was kind enough to carve his initials into it as we waited. I would highly recommend this stop for anyone traveling to St. Lucia.
A carver at Eudovic Studio showing the progress of his work.
Romanus then took us back to the cruise ship dock. Before we boarded, we walked through the duty-free shops. I bought a suitcase to replace the one I took on this trip. The old one was beginning to fall apart.
After my purchase, we stopped at Chef Robby’s Restaurant and Bar. We each had a Piton beer. Romanus had told us that was the local brew. While we were sitting there, I commented that I now have some idea what fish feel like when victimized by fishermen. Fishers are throwing all sorts of lures and baits in the same water trying to catch that one fish. It was the same with the taxi drivers and tour operators trying to reel us in that morning.
A beer from St. Lucia, Piton.
We went upstairs to that restaurant because we heard and saw a man on the upper level of the duty-free shops shouting and ringing a bell to get people’s attention and get them to come upstairs.
After having our beer, I went back to him and struck up a conversation. I found out he was Rob Skeete, the owner of the restaurant. I asked if any of the stores sold dominoes. He said no; however, he offered to get some for me. I told him I did not want to impose. He said he would not have offered if it would have been a bother to him. So, he sent a runner, literally, to the Castries Vendor’s Arcade to bring me some dominoes. In about five minutes, I had them in hand, and we were on our way. That was not before we found out the runner had been growing his dreadlocks since 1993! He had them stuffed under his knit cap. He said they were about seven feet long!
Back on the ship we just lounged about until it was time for dinner. After dinner, we spent a little time and about $30 in the casino. That was followed by the musical revue show “Vroom.” The show was very entertaining. The show featured a male and a female lead vocalist as well as several dancers. They sang their way through the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s with some Motown splashed in for good measure. We all thought it was very entertaining.
Tomorrow, St. Kitts!