Tuesday, 5 February 2008

ST. LUCIA (photos, commentary and more)

at long last, kimberly goes where she has never gone before. nope, not st. lucia, although that is, in fact, the subject of this post. and, no, not off to volunteer for the obama campaign; she's doing that from the comfort of her own couch, courtesy of this gorgeous blog, her impassioned mass email appeals (thanks holly), her by now well-honed bundling prowess, and the obama campaign's extensive call list, which will certainly be the subject of a future blog. no, where she goes now requires more courage and conviction than any of these things: she has entered the world of the guest blogger.

and i, lindsay, am honored to be the first.

as many of you know, kimberly, dianna, and i took a vacation to st. lucia last year to recover from life in our respective war zones (d: baghdad; kimberly and i: raisingdc). and st. lucia turned out to be just the thing. (see last year's post on kimberly's old blog). in fact, it was SO good that kimberly and i bought return tickets to go back to st. lucia the week we returned to dc.

and so it was that three weeks ago, kimberly and i boarded a plane bound for this:

the view from our room, at dusk.

highlights from the plane:
a) meeting a woman from new hampshire who had NEVER owned a swimming suit.
b) jane austen book club (lindsay) and curb your enthusiasm (kimberly).
c) the view.

the first person who correctly identifies this island can be the next guest blogger.
(hint: it's not st. lucia.)

lowlights from the plane:
a) 6 am departure from dc.
b) honeymooners.
c) biscoff cookies. can someone please explain the point?

for some reason, we don't have pictures of our landing. and that's a shame, because there was a marching band and motorcade to meet us. us, and the president of taiwan, who landed on a giNORMous china airlines jet moments after we entered the terminal. evidently, there has been a long-standing feud between china and taiwan in the caribbean, with successive st. lucian governments recognizing one or the other. for decades, it's been taiwan, in; china, out. then, a few years ago, a new government came in and recognized china. so the taiwanese packed up their embassy and agricultural/rural development projects (which the st. lucians loved) and went home. and the chinese moved in, with their economic development plans in the form of monster building projects (a stadium in the capital city; a state mental hospital) and chinese laborers to build their monster projects (which the st. lucians didn't love so much). unfortunately for the chinese, they got about 2/3 of the way through these buildings when the government changed (again) and the new government recognized taiwan. so the chinese went packing (one-china policy and all), leaving the buildings unfinished, to make room for the taiwanese. i find this whole episode fascinating: china's much-touted rising influence around the globe is a far more nuanced picture than i had previously thought. it's not just about propping up dictators in africa, or diverting natural resources to fuel china's domestic economic development. i've pitched some version of this story, now, to two npr producers, one whose response i would characterize as tepid and the other's as totally uninterested. nevertheless, i think there's something there....

michelle, owner of the still plantation and beach resort, met us at the airport with our rental car and drove with us to soufriere, thus foiling our plan to go straight to have our legs waxed. like last year, there were fresh-cut flowers waiting for us in our room. unlike last year, however, the flowers were covering the private parts of washcloths:

two more reasons to love st. lucia.

st. lucia has the only rainforest in the caribbean, so it is unbelievably green and lush. and, because it's also a volcanic island, there are natural hot springs, warm waterfalls, and mineral "baths" in the hills surrounding the old french capital, soufriere.


a close-up of the still beach resort. (the one with the green roof).

kimberly and i managed to do as little as humanly possible during the week. on our first morning, when we finally rolled out of bed and went downstairs for breakfast, we were informed that they stopped serving breakfast at 10 am. It was 11:30. that could also explain why the cooked served up "french fries" when kimberly ordered "french toast."

this bird enjoyed our breakfast as much as we did.
after feasting on the marmalade, he joined us in our room for a banana.

kimberly at breakfast.
the reflection in her sunglasses=one more reason to love st. lucia.

kimberly spent most of her days like this:

to appreciate why this is such a great set-up, imagine the view.

these pictures don't really do it justice.

when we weren't sprawled out on the couch or the beach, we spent quite a lot of time in one of the mineral baths. our personal favorite are the private baths at the diamond botanical gardens.

if you can't read the fine print, this sign says that napolean's wife, josephine bonaparte, grew up here and used these baths. they fell into disrepair for many years, until the 1920s when one of the du Boulays, who had inherited this land along with the still plantation (where we stay! same family!) restored the private baths. there is an admission fee to use the baths--around $5 US--but it is WELL worth it.

here is kimberly, enjoying the privacy of the mineral baths. inside this building are two enourmous tiled tubs that fill with (scalding!) hot mineral water from a natural spring. because it's private, you don't have to worry about anything as cumbersome as clothes. you just get to sit in your own private hot tub, and when you need a break, you step out into a cold shower. it feels very roman. and very amazing.

on the way to the baths, please stop to touch the "torch ginger" or "wax rose." but only with your eyes:

like this:
touching with my eyes.

twirly green plants=another reason to love st. lucia.

we went to the store to pick up some essentials.
we left the squeezy brown sauce at the store

the week's big adventure was our dive. kimberly is a black-belt scuba diver, and has long petitioned me to get certified myself. i've resisted, mostly because (as it turns out) i have this teensy fear of water, but also because i am slightly oppositional defiant with kimberly. but this time around, i decided to take the plunge.

here i am with chester, the dive master, preparing to do my "resort course." a resort course isn't certification. it's just an hour or so of book work and under-water tests (clearing the mask, putting in the regulator, and one more i can't remember.)

do i look scared? that's because i am.

gaining confidence.

after the "course work," we took the boat out to the pinnacles, a reef just outside soufriere for my first dive. we went down 60 feet, past tiger fish and eels and coral, and a bunch of other animals i didn't recognize. it was pretty wild. fun, but a little stressful, too. bless his heart, chester held my hand the whole time.

(kimberly here...lindsay feel asleep about half-way through her ultimate st. lucia post. i am just going to post the first half for your reading pleasure. i am sure she will be back in a couple of days to finish up the rest of the trip...the best is yet to come...)

1 comment:

Dianna said...

YAY for a scuba date with Chester. I only hope he doesn't forget about OUR good times, while he's holding hands underwater with you.