If you’re ready to escape the bleak British winter for some Caribbean sun, we have just the thing…
We’re ditching the grey skies if London for the tropical climes of St Lucia’s yacht-speckled bays. Travelling in the Covid-19 era ain’t for those afraid of form-filling, pre-testing, masking-wearing or very regular hand-gel application but I assure you an escape to the island’s Windjammer Landing is worth the hoop-jumping. St Lucia’s government should be applauded for its pro-active and rigorous approach to “saving lives and livelihoods” through tourism – not an easy task when your main tourist markets are Covid-infested USA and UK. We are screened, sanitised and temperature checked more times in our first 10 minutes at the Windjammer check-in than upon flying out of Gatwick. And the tourist industry isn’t merely rolling out mottos, throughout our stay on the island tourists are kept in one “bubble” and locals in another and never the two did meet.
Given that options for independent travel, such as car hire or taking public transport, are effectively banned, choosing the right resort becomes paramount. Thankfully, Windjammer covers all the essentials – and then some. It’s huge, with most of the pools and dining wrapped around its own beach but it didn’t feel like we’re just one of several hundred rooms since our villa was one of dozens which spread across the rainforested hillside.
We could leave the school-children squabbling on the beachfront and escape to our very own plunge pool and patio for sunset and feel a million miles away from them – and even further from the daily Covid case updates of London.
Our hillside villa kept to the theme of the resort, Spanish colonial plantation meets whitewashed Mediterranean stucco. Interiors are tiled, airy and heavy on mod-cons, with a palette of white, grey, coral and turquoise and enticing enough for the local birds to come inside for a look-see. We were going in the opposite direction, from morning coffees til evening cocktails, parked up on the wraparound balcony offering views beyond the pool and out the passing ships, catamarans and even Martinique when towering cumulonimbus cleared from the horizon.
I tested the (completely unfounded) medical theory that you can sweat out jet-lag as you can a fever by indulging in all the Caribbean, Creole and Cajun items on the menu at Windjammer’s beachside Jammer’s and Upper Deck restaurants. I don’t know if it worked, but it was a delight to give it a go. Highlights included slow cooked goat curry roti, local seafood jambalaya, perfectly spiced cajun kingfish and St Lucian bouillabaisse.
Given that tourists currently cannot self-cater in St Lucia for stays of less than 14 days, and dining out is limited to a few restaurants only on certain days of the week, it’s crucial that your accommodation offers adventurous local dishes while offering variety and staples to keep fussy eaters happy. The Windjammer, for the most part, pulls it off. I slept soundly after each indulgent meal, but the potent rum punch may have been the deciding factor.
Where to go
The Pitons are a national symbol for the island nation and a Unesco World Heritage site to boot, so scambering up these lush granite thumbs shooting up from the Caribbean Sea remains the number one bucket list item to check off. Independent travel outside of your resort is limited to day trips with verified tour guides (since my stay fully vaccinated travellers can now rent cars and travel independently). Make no mistake, this walk in a national park is no walk in the park, with hamstring-hammering steps and slippery rocks to clamber over en route to the top.
The halfway point lookout offers the best view of the mountain’s sister, Petit Piton, topped off with a rainbow and a necklace of superyachts lapping in the blue.
A far more relaxed day excursion is the “tout bagay”, meaning a “bit of everything”. It’s a boat trip down the island’s western side will mix snorkelling and swim stops (Windjammer’s house beach is lacklustre for waves) with a visit to Soufriere’s sulphur springs mud baths.
The Windjammer spa’s signature massage: 90 minutes including a local coffee bean and cocoa scrub (surely a waste of key St Lucian export products) which leave you perfectly pummelled and smelling like a posh cafe. And the just-harvested drinking coconuts in the relaxation room afterwards were a nice touch.
One more thing
When you eventually get cabin fever after staying put at the WIndjammer (and, even with five-star places, it can happen) do venture out to the incredible Robinson Crusoe vibes of the Naked Fisherman beach bar and kitchen, where you can park up on daybeds for hours switching between swims and ceviche, tanning and mai-tais.
Need to know: Rooms at Windjammer Landing start a US$266 per night with villas starting at US$448 on a B&B basis. British Airways flies direct daily to St Lucia. Travel and entry requirements are subject to change, so keep up to date at www.stlucia.org/en/covid-19/