Darla Logsdon

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Stanford, Illinois

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ST. LUCIA

St. Lucia island in the Caribbean possesses a wealth of natural beauty—lush mountains, a steaming sulfur volcano, 19,000 acres of rain forest (35% of the country), charming black- and white-sand beaches, rare colorful foliage and exotic wildlife. Add to this mix the pleasant St. Lucia weather and the nice beaches, and you understand why it is a popular Caribbean destination.

There's plenty to do on this small island, although given St. Lucia's rise as a high-end resort, you'll need your wallet or purse handy to take advantage of much of it. The rain forest is an ideal place for hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching or standing near a waterfall to soak up the mist from its spray. There's also whale- and dolphin-watching, snorkeling, kite-sailing, fishing and diving.

Vacationers who go to St. Lucia travel there generally for two distinct reasons: either to enjoy its charm and undeveloped feel, still found in some places, or to luxuriate in five-star waterfront luxury. Whether visitors stay in a deluxe, all-inclusive resort or a local inn or hotel, St. Lucia and its residents extend a warm welcome.

HISTORY

As with most of the Windward Islands, St. Lucia was originally inhabited by the Arawak, who were driven out by the Caribs before the arrival of Europeans. Accounts differ as to the first Europeans to visit St. Lucia: Some maintain that Columbus sighted the island on December 13, 1502 (though his logbook suggests otherwise and St. Lucians have changed the name of the public holiday from Discovery Day to National Day); others believe that it was another Spanish expedition, a group of shipwrecked French sailors or Dutch explorers who first reached the island. The Carib warriors prevented any permanent settlement of the island until the mid-1600s, when French colonists established themselves there.

Like so many other Caribbean islands, St. Lucia became a political Ping-Pong ball, bouncing back and forth between France and England 14 times. As a result, both countries influenced the island's culture. In 1814, France definitively ceded St. Lucia to England, and it remained an English colony until the 1970s.

Nonetheless, French traditions remain strong: The local Roman Catholic Church is influential, and most residents speak Creole. English is the official language, however, and except for truly remote areas of the island, most people speak English.

St. Lucia gained its independence from England in 1979 and is now a member of the British Commonwealth. The major businesses are agriculture (primarily bananas, though that crop's profitability is declining) and tourism. Efforts to attract offshore banking have been relatively successful. The country also has the most diverse manufacturing sector in the Eastern Caribbean; products include clothing, furniture, rum, condiments and toys.

 

POTPOURRI

St. Lucia has been the site for a number of Hollywood movies, including the original Doctor Doolittle, Superman II, Water with Michael Caine and Firepower with Sophia Loren.

In the past few decades, the population of the native, vulnerable St. Lucia parrot (Amazona versicolor), or Jacquot, has quintupled, from as few as 100 in 1975—when Gerald Durrell's Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust started a captive breeding program—to approximately 500 now living in the central mountain rain forest.

Pigeon Island was once the staging point for raids by the 16th-century French pirate Francois "Peg Leg" LeClerc. He and his 330-man crew were the first Europeans to settle St. Lucia Versatile St. Lucian composer and guitarist Ronald "Boo" Hinkson has played in the Caribbean, Europe and North America—including the Superbowl and the White House—but has declined to live abroad to further his career.

Despite its fertility, St. Lucia relies on external sources for food, particularly beef and pork. With a $350 million import bill, food security is an issue in St. Lucia.

Though 15 years apart, both of St. Lucia's Nobel laureates were born on 23 January, which makes it convenient to celebrate one Nobel Laureate Day.

Water pistols are sometimes provided on restaurant tables. These are for keeping the birds away.

Sir Dunstan St. Omer, "the Michelangelo of the Caribbean" and father of "Prismism," has painted murals, altarpieces and more in many of St. Lucia's churches, most famously in the Cathedral in Castries. The long mural on Anse la Raye's seawall is by him and his sons, all artists in their own right.

DO'S AND DON'TS

Don't be offended by aggressive taxi drivers who repeatedly yell, "Miss, taxi? Taxi, miss?" Just politely but firmly decline or, if that doesn't work, ignore them.

Don't wear camouflage clothing in St. Lucia—it's illegal, and you could face a hefty fine.

Do greet people with "good morning," "good afternoon" and so forth when you enter their space. It is not considered mannerly to wait for them to address you.

GEOGRAPHY

An avocado-shaped island 14 mi wide by 27 mi long, St. Lucia is one of the greenest and lushest areas in the Caribbean. The island is mountainous, except for the northern area around Gros Islet and Rodney Bay. Most of the resorts and towns are located right along the shore.

 

Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S. For entry to St. Lucia, your passport must be valid for at least six months after your trip.

 

Population: 179,667.

Languages: English, Creole (French patois).

Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant).

Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 220 volts. Newer buildings have either dual or 110 outlets.

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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