My three-course taste of a St Lucia honeymoon
Just like Kate and Wills, Sarah O’Meara escapes city life to honeymoon like a princess. Serene St Lucia comes up trumps.
Lying flat on my back in the nose of a plane, my stomach full of bubbles, I soared towards St Lucia.
Still fizzing with post-wedding excitement and a little tipsy from drinking champagne at altitude in Virgin’s Upper Class, I noted this current state of stressed euphoria had become rather too normal during the last 18 months of wedding planning.
It was definitely time to come down to earth and thankfully the Caribbean island I’d chosen for my honeymoon was just eight hours away.
Bedford's latest food hygiene scores reveals takeaway needs "urgent improvement"
Bedford house prices dropped slightly in June
Biddenham's The Three Tuns gets over £300k investment as part of joint deal
This Bedford house for sale even has its own outdoor swimming pool
The 15 best takeaways in Bedford according to TripAdvisor
As soon as my husband-to-be had proposed, I just knew I wanted to go back to the lush tropical island of St Lucia. So much so that I booked the flights before the wedding venue.
A trip years earlier had left a lasting impression and I wanted to revel in that warm air, with the hint of an approaching storm, those glorious beaches and that palm-tree fringed vista again.
But as the kind of neurotic who asks her dinner companion to order a dish she wants on the menu so she doesn’t miss out, I couldn’t decide on just the one hotel for our 10-day stay.
Was it to be the luxuriously vegetative and vertiginous retreat of Ladera, nestled in the St Lucian hills overlooking the island’s famous volcanic rock peaks, the Pitons; the ethnic, beach-based bliss of the colourful Anse Chastanet resort, or time at Jade Mountain hotel, a floating collection of walkways, infinity pools and pristine views, held together in an space station-style vision of architectural glamour?
Of course I couldn’t choose. So I opted for all three.
There was a scent of Disney magic in the air as my husband and I entered the Ladera resort. Making our way up to our Hillside Dream Suite, 1,100ft above the Caribbean sea, through groggy eyes we noted yellow-bellied finches hopping along mahogany wood banisters, before collapsing on to a huge four-poster bed.
Like slugging deeply on a gin and tonic, the room had a medicinal effect. We succumbed our to the cool water of the room’s pool (oh, yes) and then sank even deeper into unconsciousness. It was just 5.30pm St Lucian time.
Waking with the sun - it’s hard not to when a room has no fourth wall - we spent our first hours watching the morning light warm the pink clouds, and then flood the Pitons, two beautiful points of 250,000-year-old volcanic rock that are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the focal point of tourism on the southern coast of St Lucia.
Over dinner the following night, with the hotel owner’s daughter, we discovered the original developer of the site (American yachtsman and architect John DiPol) sailed into port during the Sixties and spent a year-and-a-half walking along the densely forested ridge, overlooking the Pitons, looking for ways to design buildings with a glass-fronted view.
As he cut down plants with a machete, he realised the winds blew exclusively east to west, meaning no rogue gust would ever upset a room’s contents and consequently built them without windows.
Dinner at Ladera’s restaurant, Dasheene, was also where we enjoyed our first taste of authentic Caribbean food and heard the story of chef Orlando Satchell.
The Birmingham-born cook, of Caribbean parents, came to the island 12 years ago (when he heard they had no decent local food) and set about turning this restaurant into a must-eat destination.
After a meal of blackened mahi mahi served on a sweet potato cake with pineapple relish, and grilled rack of lamb seasoned with island spices served with a rum barbecue sauce, eaten in the company of loud local frogs, we had discovered a new respect for his food and vowed to eat more on returning home.
Orlando and his family, it turns out, live just five miles from our south London home, and he’s back four times a year.
After three days of dawdling in our exotic treehouse-style room, two stunning meals and one Anti Stress Massage treatment at the Ti Kai Pose Spa (Little House of Rest) later, we were off to Anse Chastanet.
Just 20 minutes along the bumpy, winding main road of St Lucia, is a resort entirely different in tone, stretching from the beach up the mountain.
Vividly painted walls, bold local artwork and staff with dazzling smiles follow you around this beach-side, feelgood hotel where you only have to poke your head in the water to see a village of cartoon-like fishes going about their business on a pink coral reef. Or a blur of saltwater if you forget to put on your complimentary snorkelling gear.
Our cottage-like, whitewashed room with original painted canvases and an 180-degree open-air view curving from the Pitons round to a sunset-ready horizon, was a subtle work of art.
Spacious with wooden louvred windows and low, colourful, comfortable furniture, it filled with a yellow, sunny warmth every morning and was an ideal pad from which to launch ourselves towards a slightly more active section of the honeymoon.
St Lucia is one of the world’s premier dive sites and somehow my husband and I had both picked up the art of scuba diving during our busy lives.
Producing professional-looking certification cards at the scuba centre on our first morning, we looked at each other warily. It seemed odd our first ‘activity’ together as a married couple should be something we’d never done together before.
Heading out with the instructor for a quick refresher session, I decided that if my new hubbie did turn out to be an extreme sports fantasist, we would still have the memories of Ladera.
Luckily the happy couple were still happy while giggling over a silky smooth goat curry later that day. In fact you can substitute happy for smug.
After we’d been diving (very successfully and often holding hands), we’d snorkelled the afternoon away above Anse Chastanet’s mesmerising off-shore reef and were now basking in the glow of a well-spent honeymoon day at our candlelit beach dinner - complete with personal waiter.
After three more days of snorkelling, swimming and drinking gin at the beach (not a combination recommended by the resort), we were ready for our final adventure: Jade Mountain.
About a decade ago the architect behind Anse Chastanet, Nick Trobetzsky, decided to extend - but he didn’t just add a room or two. Excavating tonnes of earth out of the side of the hill just metres away from the still working resort, he planned an expression of retro luxury.
On our first night floating in our infinity pool, eyes wide, drinking in the spectacle above us, we thanked our lucky stars.
“If the Jetsons built a hotel, it would be like this,” my partner offered, referring to Jade Mountain’s bold, Frank Lloyd Wright-style curving, layered structure and its distinctly retro-futuristic vibe.
“Or Charlie Sheen,” I add, referring to my constant need to drink gin while holidaying in such a decadent playpen.
Almost all the Jade Mountain rooms are reached by personal walkways, often tens of metres high above the ground. In the fashion of a grounded Caribbean space station, we could see fellow inhabitants following similar paths to their own rooms (sorry, sanctuaries) like tourists reporting for their daily swim, cocktail and sunset missions.
Jade Mountain has no lobby or real reception. You are simply introduced to your major-domo who becomes your front desk and best friend. Whether you need a shuttle to the beach, flight times checked or restaurant reservation confirmed (it’s amazing how many little jobs crop up while doing ostensibly nothing), they’re on hand.
And while Jade Mountain really needs no cherry, the fact that chef Jonathan Dearden is creating some truly perfect fusion food in the intimate restaurant which sits on top doesn’t damage your experience.
I now know how I count the ways I love my husband. It starts with Coconut Spiced King Fish and is shortly followed by Pina Colada Shrimp, Dorade Ceviche and a Local Conche curry. If all of that was always on the menu, my love would remain very strong indeed.
Key facts - St Lucia
:: Best for: Romantic, chilled holidays with fun watersports.
:: Time to go: Year-round, although June to November are wetter months and temperature rises.
:: Don’t miss: Romantic dinner at Jade Mountain.
:: Need to know: There isn’t much going on outside of the resorts.
:: Don’t forget: High-factor sun screen and a great bikini.
Sarah O’Meara flew to St Lucia with Virgin Atlantic, which flies thrice weekly ex-Gatwick from £660 return in 2011.
Virgin Atlantic reservations: 0844 209 2770 and www.virginatlantic.com
Virgin Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B in a superior hillside room at five-star Anse Chastanet from £1,526, incl Virgin Atlantic return flights and transfers. To use V Room at Gatwick Airport, adults pay £20, children £12.
Regional deps incl Manchester and Glasgow, both £109.
Virgin Holidays reservations: 0844 557 3859 and www.virginholidays.co.uk
Virgin Holidays + Hip Hotels offers seven nights’ B&B in Sky Jacuzzi Suite at Jade Mountain from £2,945, incl private transfers.
Same operator offers seven nights’ B&B in Gros Piton Suite at Ladera Resort from £2,099, incl private transfers.
VHip reservations: 0844 573 2460 and www.vhiphotels.co.uk