28th September – UK
I drove down to Gatwick from Stoke late so the journey was uneventful as I’d missed most of the traffic on the motorway. I arrived at the hotel around mid-night, checked in with the night porter who also showed me where to check my car in for the meet and greet parking. The room was small and very basic but clean and the bed was comfortable (not that I slept much as I was too worried about oversleeping so woke up every 40 minutes to check that I wasn’t late!?)
29th September – UK and St Lucia
The bus from the hotel to the airport only took 15 minutes (a blessing after the amount of sleep I got last night). I met up with the guys from the Caribbean Tourism Office, the St Lucia Tourist Board and the Trinidad & Tobago Tourist Board who are hosting the trip and got my boarding card… BA Business Class on the outbound flight! I needn’t have worried about losing sleep the night before, the cabin is kitted out with sleeper seats that convert into a fully flat bed and this combined with the excellent food and wine made for the perfect way to fly trans-Atlantic.
I landed in St Lucia feeling fresh and raring to go which was just as well as the transfer up to Cotton Bay Villas (in the Cap Estate) took over 90 minutes on some of the most spectacular (but torturous roads) I’ve ever seen. It was well worth the transfer though when we reached the property, it’s absolutely stunning. A resort of private Villas (which I stayed in), Town-Houses and apartments makes it a great location for families or a group of friends looking for a top-end experience and the great food and service in the restaurant backed up my initial impressions of the resort. What a place!
30th September – St Lucia
What a day!!!! It started at 05:30 with me waking up to the sound of a thunder-storm… I could have stayed at home for this (with the exception of the view, the 20 something degree temperature, the pool outside the Villa and the fact that it’s 05:30!) After a site inspection of the Cotton Bay Villas it was off to a supplier presentation session followed by a short trip to Sandals Regency for lunch and a site inspection. The food we had at lunch reminded me why I love that hotel so much – Evidently I’m not the only one… Even at the end of September the place was reportedly 96% full, which explained the difficulty in getting a sun bed around the pool area whilst we waited for the transfer back to our hotel.
1st October – St Lucia
For someone who’s travelled out to the Caribbean as frequently as I have, I don’t seem to be doing very well adjusting to the time zone this time… 06:15 and awake again (despite a team-building session until the early hours last night), I’m really not looking forward to the day when all this catches up with me! After spending the day looking around the Almond Morgan Bay and the Windjammer Landing it was time for a visit to Calabash Cove for the final site inspection of the day and canapés. It turns out that Friday night in St Lucia is the same as most places in the UK and the Friday Night Jump Up in Gros Islet is no different. With local food stalls, great Reggae and Soca music (not to mention the bountiful supply of chilled Carib beer that always seems to be available) it’s a night not to be missed!
2nd October – St Lucia
Another day of hotel visits today, I’m glad that I didn’t succumb to eating and drinking too much last night or today could be another really long day… The first port of call (quite literally) was Castries, where we boarded a boat to move down to the coast to visit The Anse Chastenet and Jade Mountain resorts. These hotels were great for those looking for an isolated getaway, food and service again superb but the real buzz was the view from Jade Mountain.
From Jade Mountain it was just a short boat trip down the coast to Soufriere and a further short (ish) road transfer to our overnight stop at The Coconut Bay Resort & Spa.
3rd October – St Lucia to Trinidad
A short flight from Hewanorra to Port of Spain and after checking into the Hyatt Regency and a quick shower it was time for a quick beer before going down to “Movietowne” (a Cinema/Restaurant/Bar complex in Port of Spain) for some food. It was good value but the American menus were a far cry from the traditional local fayre I was hoping for.
4th October – Trinidad
After a great night’s sleep, we launched into our only full day in Trinidad with a vengeance!!!! We left the hotel early in order to get to (after a coach tour around Port of Spain) the Asa Wright nature Reserve in time for lunch. A nice couple of hours spent watching the wildlife before heading back to the coast and making our way (via the Angostura Bitters Factory) to the Caroni Swamp to see the world famous Scarlet Ibis returning to their nests for the evening. A long but very memorable day was finished with a quick trip to one of the local “Pan Yards” (where the steel drum bands practice) before heading to a local restaurant for some great local food and of course the obligatory bottle or two of “Stag”.
5th October – Trinidad to Tobago
The last leg of the tour, really looking forward to this as (like Trinidad) I’ve not visited here before! It’s only a short 20 minute flight on a twin-prop plane from Port of Spain to Piarco International so we arrived at the Coco Reef Resort & Spa in good shape (despite visiting Turtle Beach by Rex, The Grafton Beach, Le Grande Courlan, The Blue Haven and Le Bacolet hotels between arriving and checking in at our host hotel). Dinner was fantastic! A hosted meal with the management of the hotel (a former Miss Trinidad & Tobago) and local dignitaries did start a fairly passionate debate about the state of world cricket and what had what the West Indies were going to do to regain their crown… That should have been the end of the day until we were invited by the hotel management invited us to join them at a local bar for some limin’ (chillin’ out) and some local brew. Mental note to self: “only drink one of the local shots”.
6th October – Tobago
Our last full day was going to be the one day where we were able to relax as in the morning we joined a glass-bottomed boat at Pigeon Point. From here we went to see the coral and fish at Buccoo Reef, went snorkelling on the reef and then took a dip at Nylon Pool. We rounded off the morning by getting a beach barbeque at “No-Man’s-Land” and then back to Pigeon Point for some beach sports and a bottle of Carib beer. Our last evening was spent in a local bar where we had some Sweet Chilli Chicken Roti (and another Carib or two) followed by karaoke with the locals… Genuinely brilliant!