“Approach with an open mind. You are no longer in Barbados and everywhere is different and unique in its own way and should be given a fair chance to showcase its beauty.”
This is what I repeated to myself over and over as I entered the George F.L Charles airport in St Lucia on Thursday morning after arriving from Barbados. It was a bit of a culture shock. But why was I there? Let’s start from the beginning.
Being an entertainment journalist, I was afforded the opportunity to visit St Lucia for the Soleil St Lucia Summer Festival, under the invitation from their Tourist Board. I was humbled by the invitation and opportunity to go and readily accepted. From young, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Canada and the US countless times, perhaps every summer since I was a babe in arms. But with the exception of traveling to Jamaica for university, I had never explored the Caribbean so I was definitely excited about this trip.
First time on LIAT and I will just sum it up as an experience. The flight was nice, quick and smooth, well except for the landing. On arrival at the above-mentioned airport, was when the culture shock began but with that quick pep talk to myself, I was good to go. I was in and out of the airport in a matter of minutes, thankfully. It was no GAIA, but I was thoroughly intrigued by its uniqueness and the operations there. The journey to the hotel was around 20 minutes and I got a chance to get in a bit of sightseeing.
What peaked my interest most was how mountainous St Lucia is even though the taxi driver informed me that it was the lowest part of the island. On arrival at The Landings Resort, it was like arriving in paradise. The hotel in no uncertain terms was simply beautiful. We were greeted with a welcome glass of champagne and the warm smiles and friendly faces of the staff made me feel right at home. I was then whisked off to my room on a golf cart, as it was far away from the front desk.
The room was superb and very inviting. However, I reminded myself that this was a work-related trip and most of my time would be spent at the desk sending stories back home. The memories at the hotel are all fond, and I will be daydreaming about the beautiful resort for days to come. While I wish I could share them all, space would not allow, so I will mention the one that I will carry with me for as long as I live.
During my second day there, I fell ill and needed medication from the main lobby which, as I mentioned, was quite far away. The housekeepers, Sophie and Marlena, were in the room at the time and offered to get me what I wanted. And they did.
These two ladies checked on me every day and night to make sure I was well, and came to visit on my final day there and wished me a safe trip back home. Although it wasn’t their job, I appreciated that they took their time to do so. Their genuine hospitality warmed my heart and I will never forget them.
The representative from the Tourist Board Charmaine Joseph was an incredible hostess and made sure I was well taken care of and had all I needed to make it a successful working trip. From setting up interviews, to providing us with a media room and facilitating all my questions, she was on point.
Experiencing the jazz festival for the first time was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. Admittedly, I am not the biggest jazz fan but now I do have a much bigger appreciation for the music and all it has to offer.
My favourite night of the festival would have to be the first night, which featured local talent. Seeing the young artistes on stage doing their thing warmed my heart and showed great hope for the future in jazz, not just in St Lucia but also in the Caribbean.
The highlight of the festival for me would definitely be meeting and interviewing Grammy award winning artiste and actress Vanessa Williams. It was indeed a special moment for me.
Most of the events were held at the beautiful Pigeon Island and after hearing so much about it, it really exceeded all my expectations. It’s definitely a place you have to go to truly experience how beautiful it really it. One thing for sure; the location definitely is a promoter’s dream.
The Soleil St Lucia Summer Festival is one not to be missed. Being a strong supporter of CARICOM, I would encourage all to visit the islands, see somewhere else. Explore all that this Caribbean has to offer. Yes, going international is desirable, but we are sitting on a gem that is the Caribbean that should not go unnoticed.
Because of the hectic work schedule, it did not allow for any sight seeing or exploring as I would like, but there’s a time and place for everything and I will definitely be back to do so. I take this opportunity to thank the St Lucia Tourist Board for having me and for facilitating my first experience in St Lucia. It was indeed a great one.
So until next time, I really cannot wait to return to explore the Helen of the Caribbean!