A Five-Room Hotel overlooking Marigot Bay – St. Lucia
Tour #3 – The East Coast Tour
Driving North from Marigot Bay, you’ll start your journey by going through extensive banana plantations with the occasional packaging plant through the village of Ravine Poisson before climbing steeply over Barre de l’Isle, the mountain barrier that divides the island. This area, the limit of the St. Lucia Parrot’s range, abounds in rainforest trees and fine stands of pine, blue mahoe and mahogany.
The road descends through Grande Rivière to Dennery where the vegetation is mostly xerophytic scrub.
Dennery is set in a sheltered bay with Dennery Island guarding its entrance and dominated by the Roman Catholic church.
Here you can see the distinctive St. Lucia fishing boats pulled up on the beach.
Carved out of single tree trunks, the bows are straight and pointed rather than curved and are all named with phrases like “Gold help me”, “African Roots”, “Jesus is my Lord”, etc…
Between Dennery and Praslin, just off the coast, lie the Fregate Islands, another nature reserve. The small islands, hardly larger than protruding rocks, are the nesting spots of the majestic frigate bird.
Your next stop will bring you to Praslin, a community South of Dennery where local boat builders still fashion fishing canoes from gommier trees. The Gommier tree (dacryodes hexandra) grows in the forests of Dominica and St. Lucia. It secretes a resin that protects it from the seawater and its heart is circular with little solidity, making it easy to hollow out.
The trees are traditionally cut at the time of the new moon. At any other time, the trunk is susceptible to insects. Once cut down the trunk is stabilized and slightly elevated off the ground. Initial hollowing out of the hull is done in the forest to make manual transportation to the nearest road less cumbersome.
Chalks marks indicate the place where the first incisions will be made. If the axe work is careless, the hull will split and that will be the end of a good tree. Little by little as the opening gets larger, wooden bars are forced in to open the hull even more and prevent the new wood from shrinking.
Humid sand dampened with seawater is placed in the boat. The weight opens the sides some more. The process takes about a month. The bottom of the boat is far thicker than the sides. This must be carefully formed; the boat’s stability depends on it. Too thick, the canoe will be sluggish, too thin and it will tip over. To maintain its final form, struts are fixed along the inside. These are made of Poirier or cedar wood.
Today, the largest gommiers measures between 7 and 9 meters (24 to 30 feet) with a depth of 40 cms (16 inches) and a width of 90 cms (3 feet).
Vieux Fort & The Moule à Chique Lighthouse
Vieux Fort, at the southernmost point of St. Lucia, is one of the island’s oldest settlements and the site of its newest airport, Hewanorra. The airport’s name, by the way, was an Indian name for the island. It means “land where the iguana is found”.
In Vieux Fort, an industrial center, you’ll find a hodgepodge of French colonial architecture and modern concrete block houses. The main attractions here are the beaches, miles of white sand and palm trees.
The nearly lighthouse at Moule à Chique is 730 ft above sea level and looks across the water to St.Vincent, just 21 miles away. From this vantage point you can see where the Caribbean’s distinct blue-green waters mix with the darker-hued currents of the Atlantic.
The duty officer will be glad to point out the views including the Pitons, Morne Gomier (1,028 ft) with Morne Grand Magazin (2,022 ft) behind it. Further to the east is Piton St Esprit (1,919 ft), Morne Durocher (1,055 ft) near Praslin and the Maria islands.
Lunch at The Fox Grove Inn
The Fox Grove Inn’s Whispering Palms restaurant is often quoted as one of the best restaurants on the island.
The owner, Franz Louis-Fernand, with his 35 years of international experience as a chef in the best hotels in England, France, Belgium and Switzerland, runs the kitchen himself.
Fish – and lobster when in season – are bought fresh from the fishermen in the village, whilst local herbs, vegetables and fruits are selected at the market and from local farms.
With an excellent international a la carte cuisine and daily specials, there will be no need to dine anywhere else! The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. Friendly waitresses as well as Franz’ wife Esther are looking forward to serve you either in the tastefully decorated restaurant or on the spacious terrace with it’s magnificent view.
Designed by one of the top landscape designers in the Caribbean, Mamiku Gardens boasts beauty, nature and history. It is a tropical blend of natural woodland trails and beautifully landscaped gardens. The ruins of the old estate house, situated on the hill at Mamiku Gardens have an interesting, yet macabre history.
The estate was originally acquired in 1766 by the Baron de Micoud, a colonel in the French army and a former governor of St. Lucia when it was in French hands. The name ‘Mamiku’ is an adaptation of the title of the Baron’s wife, who was known as Madame de Micoud (and in true Creole fashion, the estate would have been known as Ma Micoud’s estate).
By 1796 the estate house was no longer a family home to French aristocrats, but a British military post, set up by the famous General Sir John Moore. The post endured much action, culminating in a famous battle with the ‘Brigands’ which Sir John recounts in his diary. This battle left 15 soldiers dead, 20 wounded and the de Micoud home a burnt-out ruin. The captain of the post committed suicide after the battle so as not to live out his life in disgrace and for two hundred years, the de Micoud estate ruins were left virtually undisturbed.
This was not, however, the end of Mamiku Estate. It eventually returned to its former glory as a profitable sugar estate. Today, Mamiku Estate is a hardworking plantation producing bananas, tropical flowers and fruits, with the botanical gardens a recently-added enterprise.
An ongoing archaeological dig has uncovered fragments of 18th century pottery. The entire estate has been owned and operated by the Shingleton-Smith family since 1906.
Drinks and snacks are served on the lovely balcony and terrace, and The Garden Gate Shop provides interesting gift ideas. All set amid the ruins of an 18th century French estate and battleground, Mamiku Gardens is a “must-see” adventure!
Sightseeing and Shopping in St. Lucia
St. Lucia demands to be explored. There’s basically one main road that circles the entire island, so chances of losing your way are slim indeed. Be prepared for narrow roads, dogleg cruces, hairpin turns and more potholes than you will care for; but be assured the trip is worth every twist and gasp.
If you’re venturing out on your own, it’s a good idea to bring along your bathing suit, a towel and something to drink. Most of the tour can be done in a full day, but to really enjoy it, you should split it up over a couple of days or more. Get an early start and avoid the afternoon heat.
If you plan to buy duty free items at duty free shopping malls such as La Place Carenage, Pointe Seraphine or J. Q. Mall in Rodney Bay, you need to bring you airline ticket and identification. You will be required to show both when making your purchases.