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 Islands Information

Place: St. Lucia

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guests, Roger and Mala Burt.


The Burts were owners of a Caribbean travel business, and they have built a second home in St. Lucia. They are also the authors of two novels, Circle of Dreams and Dream Across Time.



Good day Mala and Roger and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.


Norm:


Could you tell us something about yourselves and why you became interested in building a second home in St. Lucia?


Mala and Roger:

Almost twenty years ago we innocently went on vacation with some friends who wanted to look at land on St. Lucia. At the time it was a very poor undeveloped country. We stayed at an all inclusive which was a ridiculous mistake. The island was so beautiful and the people so interesting that we wolfed our breakfast each morning and disappeared into the island. Our friends did not buy land but we were caught. We came home and researched the islands of the Caribbean and found that this enchanted island was just what we wanted. We went back and bought a lot high on a hill with views of the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Part of the attraction of St. Lucia for us was that it was undeveloped. We don't do golf or tennis but love to get out into the often chaotic local culture.

We started out to build a one bedroom starter house which turned into a villa with pool. Then it was as if we were employing a village and we had to support our home by renting it for short term vacation rentals. That venture led us into a short term villa rental business which expanded to other islands. At the time we were national experts on stepfamily dynamics and adjustment.(Roger is a clinical psychologist and Mala a clinical social worker.) We had a clinical practice together but managed care was making it impossible for us to practice ethically so we closed the practice and went into doing villa rentals full time.

The time spent in the Caribbean led us to more and more fascinating stories which we are now writing in the Demontagne Saga which began with A Dream Across Time and is continuing with A Circle of Dreams.

A simple vacation led to major life changes and a great adventure.


Norm:

Where is St. Lucia and why has it been referred to as the emerald isle of the Caribbean?

Mala and Roger:

It is in the Eastern Caribbean islands far down the chain and only 200 miles from South America. It is also called Helen of the Antilles. As a prototypical tropical island it is a gem and truly beautiful.

Some islands in the Caribbean have lovely waters and beautiful reefs but may be flat, dry and covered with scrub. Not St. Lucia. It has soaring volcanic peaks covered with rich vegetation. There is a large rain forest in the middle. Traveling the island leads to one beautiful sea or mountain view after another.

Norm:

If you had to select 6 of the most romantic venues in St. Lucia, which ones would you opt for and why?


Mala and Roger:

We probably need to define venue broadly. Here is a sample:


    ***Ladera Resort near Soufriere. It is located between the signature mountain peaks called the Pitons. High up, it has striking views out to sea and over the area of the Pitons. The fourth wall is missing from the rooms so it has an intimacy with the lush tropical setting.

    ***The Coal Pot Restaurant. A charming island ambiance with really good food. Flavors of the Caribbean with a continental flair. It is right on the water in Castries Harbor.

    ***Picnic at Grand Anse. Wild and wonderful. It is a beach in a plantation which permits the public to come in. This is a place to marvel at nature and it is NOT for swimming. The surf is roaring and spectacular. Generally there are few people around if any. A guide would be required to find it.

    ***Did you ever want to canter bareback on a beach? You can roam together with a discrete guide on Cas en Bas beach and through the lovely scenery. Trim's Riding Stable in the far North of the island will rent you some willing horses who are well taken care of. If bareback is not your style they do have Eastern and Western saddles and hard hats.

    ***Cottage for two at Stonefield Estate near Soufriere. Our Canadian builder put together a very romantic and private set of cottages with dramatic views of the Pitons.

    ***Getting engaged in a private villa. Much less expensive than you might think. All villas have island management and they will make arrangements for a private dinner for two at the villa or cottage, flowers, champagne. You just bring yourselves, your commitment to each other and a ring.


Norm:

When is the best time to visit St. Lucia and why?

Mala and Roger:

St. Lucia only has a five degree (Fahrenheit) temperature variation over the year. The high temperatures generally run in the low to mid eighties. Summer is a little more humid. It may well be 10-20 degrees cooler than much of North America in the summer and has constant trade winds. Summer is really quiet and a bargain. We avoid the winter holidays Christmas to New Years. Everyone comes then. High season is Dec. 15 through April 14. In high season January is the least popular and rates are lower. St. Lucia is below the hurricane belt. But it can be stormy in September. In October and November it is generally quite nice and prices are lower. In contrast Cancun and Cozumel are typically raked by storms at that time of the year.

Norm:

How safe is travel in St Lucia?

Mala and Roger:

Believe it or not, that is an amusing question. When we first went to St. Lucia people were just beginning to be able to afford cars and they drove like maniacs. While there is now an occasional crazy driver, they are much improved.

But you probably mean, how safe is it in general? Like anywhere in the world you need to not leave your brains at home. Don't pick up people on the road, don't hang out at bars in the worst section of the capital on Saturday night. In short, don't do things you wouldn't do at home and you'll be fine. Like anywhere there is crime but it is not extreme.

Norm:

Many travelers to St. Lucia are very impressed by Soufriere and its Botanical Gardens. Could you tell us something about these venues?

Mala and Roger:

Soufriere is nestled next to one of the pitons and actually is in what was once the caldera of the volcano before it exploded about 100,000 years ago. It is a fishing village with absolutely gobs of Caribbean character. The center of town takes you back in time. Not a shopping heaven but a very real part of the Caribbean which has mostly disappeared on other islands.

Joan Devaux has done a fabulous job with the botanical gardens. All in one place you can look at the botanical elegance of the tropics. It is just outside of Soufriere.

For people staying in the northern part of the island (where there are more hotels) a day well spent is to take one of the different kind of sailing trips down the island. They stop at Soufriere for lunch and generally include a tour of the volcano and the botanical gardens. An alternative is to work out a day tour with one of taxi drivers at the hotels for a private day tour in his van. Just the two of you. Their vehicles are expensive so plan to pay $150-$200 USD for the day. These are great guys who are good drivers, very knowledgeable and worth the money. We do not recommend the cheaper van tours where they will cram 16-20 of you in one van. Less expensive but&

Norm:

I have been told that St. Lucia has the world's only walk-in volcano. Could you tell us more about this?

Mala and Roger:

Don.t raise your expectations too high. It is definitely not like the volcano on the big island in Hawaii. It is interesting though. You can walk around inside and look down at steam venting and bubbling pools.

Norm:

I understand that despite the long British influence on the island, the early French and Creole history has had nonetheless determined this island's cultural tone. Could you perhaps tell us something about this tone?

Mala and Roger:

English is the dominant language. A French based patois is also spoken. It is basically very, very bad French spoken with a West African cadence. Most of the place names are French. The British influence dominates now because, although the island went back and forth between the British and the French fourteen times, the British ruled for the last 150 years. The French influences are subtle. In contrast to other French islands, St. Lucia has a character all its own and the distinctions are hard to define. One place to view the African influence is at Carnival where the dances are definitely from the African heritage. In St. Lucia they hold it in July because one year they just didn't get it together until then and they learned it brought tourists at a quiet time of the year.

Norm:

What activities is there to do on St. Lucia?

Mala and Roger:

We hardly know where to begin. You can do everything from working to achieve vegetable consciousness under a palm tree by the sea to climbing the Pitons. Water sports galore, it now has a beautiful golf course, horseback riding, touring the rain forest, sailing. St. Lucia is a little short on museums and the shopping is not world class. If you are into romance and having an affair or still having an affair with your partner, the tropical nights on St. Lucia are unbeatable.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to share with our readers concerning St. Lucia?

Mala and Roger:

St. Lucia is visually and culturally stunning. We have a strong bias against staying at all inclusives. Visitors can sit and stare out to sea anywhere. This island and its people are not to be missed. The people are a little reserved so you have to engage them. With a little effort suddenly they smile and you can see who they really are. We have a strong bias toward small hotels. In the north there is Villa Beach Cottages which is really inexpensive, quite lovely and on the beach. Colin, the owner/manager, takes really good care of his guests.

As we came to know the other islands in the Caribbean we now realize that St. Lucia was an excellent choice. Each island in the Caribbean has its own character and travelers need to choose what is most important to them. If your cup of tea is getting out into a beautiful island with lovely people, then St. Lucia offers an unparalleled opportunity.


Thanks once again