Morne Coubaril: History & Hotwires!

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If you are looking for an afternoon of historical interest and wonderful vistas, the Morne Coubaril Estate in Soufriere is an 18th century working plantation where visitors are introduced to the artisanal skills of cocoa-making and sugar cane and cassava processing, as well as visiting eerily authentic reproductions of ancient homes and communal buildings.

A short walk through the grounds reveals replica huts like those used by local villagers, Carib and Arawak, many centuries ago, and a cocoa processing shed where visitors are treated to the cocoa-rina dance by a charming young man who shows off the traditional method of ‘polishing’ the beans before they are roasted and made into cocoa vinegar, cocoa butter and cocoa powder right there on the estate.

Grab a cocoa pod and sniff the familiar aroma from the glutinous white beans, before taking a taste–the totally unfamiliar sweet-tart flavor of the ripened fruit may surprise you, although round these parts it’s a staple for Saint Lucian kids who are often found pinching their favourite snack from a handy, low hanging branch.

Head to the sugar cane press and meet the experienced operator of the ancient machinery: a gentle donkey who is very much at home with the visiting crowds, and shaded by a local cherry tree which is laden with bright red, tart-tastic fruits in the right season. As the donkey walks gently around the contraption, you’ll see the clear cane juice being squeezed out of the fibrous stalks, just like they did “back in the day.”

The Morne Coubaril grounds are beautifully cultivated and manicured, full of colourful bougainvillea, tropical flowers, plants and trees which your guide will point out as you head towards the rustic restaurant and an authentic local lunch buffet, complete with fresh squeezed juices and home-baked cake. Service is friendly, the food is delicious and plentiful, just right if you’ve worked up an appetite on the tour.

MANGO Madness

Picture-019Mango Madness, or 1001 Things You Could Do To A Mango Before You Die, has been brought to life by JADE MOUNTAIN consulting Chef Allen Susser and his team, celebrating the many varieties of mangos available in Saint Lucia. Allen Susser, who is the author of a mango cookbook and the definite authority on mangos, will host the event  personally. The activities include a mango chutney workshop, mango cocktail party, mango tasting and demonstration Mango Madness cooking class. The highlight is the “Night of 1000 Mangos” dinner at the Jade Mountain Club.

Participants in the Mango Madness will join in mango field trips to the resort owned organic and historical plantations of Anse Mamin and Emerald. The farewell event will include a Mango Champagne Brunch served on the beach at Anse Mamin estate.

Drenched in exotic beauty and erupting with flavour, Jade Mountain nourishes both the body and soul. “Jade Cuisine” created by James Beard award winner, Chef Allen Susser, is a brave new world of tropical flavours, exotic and delicious, with a history of fusion it its fabric.

“Jade Cuisine is a celebration of the bold flavours of the world’s tropical cultures in my kitchen at Jade Mountain”, says Chef Allen. “The cooking is fresh, simple and succinct. There is always flexibility for the seasons, and availability of local product. As a chef, my passion is taste.”

Chef Allen’s new New World Cuisine is fresh and   flavourful, like a tropical vacation on a plate. His vision is a culinary fusion of cultures that share similar landscapes, tropical ingredients and diverse spice boxes.

MANGO MADNESS HIGHLIGHTS

SAT JUNE 21
A once in a lifetime Mango Tour of Nick Troubetzkoy’s Emerald Gardens Hosted by Chef Allen Susser (US$35 per person cover charge)

A Night of 1,000 Mangos Dinner
A five-course spectacular Mango, Seasonal and Sustainable Menu matched with wines
(US$95 per person plus 18% tax/service.)

SUN JUNE 22
Mango Chutney Workshop with sample jars to take home. (US$25 per person cover charge)

MON JUNE 23
Anse Mamin Plantation Tour

Originally a sugarcane plantation in the 18th century, nowadays cocoa plants are more numerous and used for Jade Mountain’s private label estate chocolates.
Find mangoes of course, plus turmeric, cashews, tamarind, avocado, oranges, tangerines, guavas, papaya, coconut, breadfruit, yams and sweet potatoes.

A fishing life . . .

Fishing161203-12Many of the coastal villages in Saint Lucia have a fishing heritage, and in the past many families had fishing as a source of income and livelihood.

It is no surprise that St Lucia’s fishing history has led to a modern day celebration known as the Fisherman’s Feast which takes place in June. But let’s trace the history of fishermen in Saint Lucia.

Fishing can actually be traced back to the early Amerindians that settled the island long before the Europeans arrived. The Caribs and the Arawaks were among the first fishermen of Saint Lucia, and many of their techniques are still employed today.  Perhaps the most fascinating of these is the crafting of the fishing canoe.

Although many of the earlier ceremonies surrounding the craft have been abandoned, the basic building methods are the same, beginning with the selection of a giant gommier tree from the heart of the rainforest.  A tree of great girth is required and once felled, it is roughly hollowed out — the Amerindians would have used hand held axes.

Once the bulk of material has been removed from the centre of the tree, the would-be canoe is hauled to the beach, where the remainder of the material is hollowed from the belly. To increase the width of the center of the boat, it is filled with rocks and water. As the wood softens from the water, the rocks help to stretch and shape the sides. This takes several weeks.

Planks of white cedar are used to build up the sides. and the canoe is painted. Then a very important and final step! A name is given to the vessel which reflects the lifestyle and personality of the owner. The canoe is ready for its official launching (theses days by motor, a further step away from tradition).

Another great craft learned from the early Indians is the making of fish pots. These are giant traps made of dried bamboo cut into strips of about two inches.  They are loosely woven so as to allow spaces large enough for the water to flow freely, but small enough to keep the fish inside.  The opening is a funnel shape with the smaller end towards the middle. This makes it easy for fish to swim in but very difficult for them to escape.  Placed near the bottom of the sea, usually around the coral reefs they are generally marked on the surface with a modern day device—a floating plastic bottle.

The fisherman also fish by net and line, so imagine the fisherman’s day is long and never task free.  Between leaving before the break of dawn in the morning and such chores as mending nets and building new pots, a fisherman is a very industrious person. It is fun simply to stop by one of the fishing villages like Anse La Raye, Canaries or Praslin and watch the various activities in progress. (You’ll also discover that during the hottest part of the day, old pieces of fish net make perfect hammocks!)

One of Saint Lucia’s beloved fishing traditions is the method by which a catch is announced. When fresh fish is available, the deep, rich sound of the conch shell fills the air. Some fishermen even put their catch into the back of a pickup and drive around the neighbourhood, delivering the fresh bounty door to door and it is the clarion call of the conch that alerts the folks of his arrival.

Hummingbird Beach Resort

IMG_1245At the northern edge of the Soufriere waterfront, we found a lodging experience worth gold: a stunning vista, interesting history, an inviting common area, and proximity to the local community. From every corner of this intimate paradise, the ocean can be heard as hummingbirds whirl and the faint scent of curry drifts by.
The Hummingbird Beach Resort offers a cluster of 10 guest rooms drawn around a pool and restaurant angled toward the Gros Piton mountain rising from the sea. The multi-level lay-out makes it easy for visitors to feel they have a front-row seat to beauty and rest. The open-air restaurant inhabits the shell of what was once a private residence. Remaining stone columns bear witness to the structural origin. The person responsible for the transformation is Soufriere native Joyce Alexander-Stowe. She always dreamed of owning a hotel as she sold her batik art to visitors, including the late Greek shipping heiress Christina Onassis. In 1979, when the homeowner put the house up for sale, Alexander-Stowe secured a loan with a partner to purchase the property. For the next 22 years, she resided in Guest Room 10, often working until 4 a.m.
Conveniently set at the intersection of the roads to Anse Chastanet and Castries, the Hummingbird sits sufficiently close to central Soufriere. Daily we walked to market, bank, bakery, pharmacy, harbor, and buses. Residents greeted us with “Good Morning.” We recall the man grilling conch outside his house, neon lights flashing at twilight, as locals stopped by for a bite. The kaleidoscope of music, people and vivid colors fed our interest in the St. Lucia tradition. At the end of the day, the Hummingbird awaited with quiet room and helpful staff. I appreciated TV with CNN and BBC news updates and a roomy bathroom counter not readily found in hotels.
A decade ago, Alexander-Stowe built her own home on the hill across from the Hummingbird. Here she oversees the cultivation of vegetables and spices used in the restaurant. Daily she can be seen mingling with guests asking, “How are you doing? How is the food? Do you have everything you need?”
There was nothing more pleasant than going to the restaurant for breakfast, included in the room rate. An elegant dish of varied fruit slices greeted us. An array of tempting breakfast choices followed. While we sipped papaya juice, the view of the Gran Piton mesmerized us as clouds slid by crossing from land to ocean.
Fresh meals drew our attention artfully presented under the direction of Alexander-Stowe’s son David, graduate of the Florida Culinary Institute. The Side Salad, one of the tastiest we found on the island, shines with arugula, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, watercress bathed in a light dressing. On the lunch menu, the tuna croissant teams nicely with salad and French fries. Dinners such as Shrimp Creole are accompanied by rice and vegetables masterfully sautéed. Blended Fruit Punch and a variety of rum fruit drinks sweeten the day at the meticulously polished wood bar.
Batiks illuminate the restaurant and bar walls, carrying over to a showroom called Batik St. Lucie. The reception area, also from the original house, exhibits photos of Alexander-Stowe at Buckingham Palace in 2009 receiving from Queen Elizabeth the Order of the British Empire, a high honour recognising distinguished service.
Whenever we leave a hotel we have enjoyed, we feel pangs of sadness. This happened when we left the Hummingbird Beach Resort. After years of international travel, we believe the most enduring memories come from connection to local living – the
neighborhood. Because of setting, staff and story, we place the Hummingbird in a class by itself.

A Special for Tropical Traveller By Kimberly A. Edwards
2013 Jack London Award – California Writers Club

St. Lucia is Caribbean’s Next Poker Destination

Opening of its first casino puts St. Lucia on the poker world map

1070156484_1378912564Christopher Columbus set foot on its shores in 1502, and yet casinos only arrived in St. Lucia 500 years later in 2011. But while St. Lucians are only beginning to embrace gaming, tourism provides a promising potential to make this island-nation the next poker destination of the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Islands are known around the world as the top tropical haven for poker players. Not only is the Caribbean popular for its powdery white beaches and golden sunset, it is also known increasingly for its world-class gaming facilities. Barbados, Aruba, and the Bahamas are the established poker locations in the region, but St. Lucia’s burgeoning casino industry offers a lot of potential for poker tourism in the Caribbean. This began when luxury liners that house poker rooms as well as tournaments enlisted the country as part of the cruise itinerary. However, the recent opening of St. Lucia’s first-ever casino raised the island nation’s profile as the Caribbean’s next poker destination.

The Treasure Bay Casino, St. Lucia’s first gaming establishment, created much fanfare and excitement among the residents and visitors of this island-nation when it was opened in December 2010. Located in the Baywalk Shopping Mall in the popular tourist belt of Rodney Bay, Treasure Bay offers traditional table games such as blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and craps. The casino, however, takes pride in its state-of-the-art poker lounge that offers diversions such as Texas Hold ‘Em, Mississippi Stud, Omaha Stud, Bet the Set 21 and 21+3, and Caribbean Stud. This poker offering will surely be received well by American tourists, who comprise 40% of St. Lucia’s annual foreign arrivals. The modern and innovative amenities of Treasure Bay could play host to international poker tournaments such as their very own Caribbean Poker Tour or the world-class Betfair Poker Tournament. The casino doesn’t impose a dress code, so people can enter the Treasure Bay premises with just their beach swimwear on.

Because of the surge of poker gaming on the island, the tourism industry also experienced a spike in the number of tourists. St. Lucia’s Tourism Director Louis Lewis reported a 5% increase in stay-over visitors during the first half of 2013, attributing the country’s success to targeted campaigns in the vast US market. Surely, its booming gaming industry will put St. Lucia as a poker hotspot for the American (and, hopefully, the global) tourist market. It will only take a matter of time and massive investments from the private sector to seize St. Lucia’s untapped potential as the Caribbean’s poker holiday destination.

Celebrating Creole Heritage Month

Tropical Traveller St. LuciaAs many a tour guide will tell you, St.Lucia’s history is a multi-faceted one, beginning with the early Amerindian settlers and continuing through the conquest of the Europeans, the introduction of slaves from Africa, and the subsequent employment of indentured servants from India. Each ethnic group brought with them a set of traditions and cultures that merged into ‘creole’, and became the backbone of St. Lucia’s heritage. Although distinctive to this particular island, we share similarities with other Creole ethnicities around the world including other Caribbean islands, New Orleans and even some areas in Africa. Throughout October, the world celebrates the diverse and colourful nature of Creole culture, culminating in International Creole Day, which this year is on Oct 26.

Here in St. Lucia, the big day is called “Jounen Kwéyòl” and activities are centered around designated communities which change from year to year.  Each community adds it’s own particular flair to the events, but one thing is for sure – wherever it may be held, this favourite local festival focuses on Creole heritage, food and drink.

During Jounen Kwéyòl, you may think the only language being spoken is St. Lucian “patois”, but fear not – most Lucians speak patois as a second language, and only in the very rural areas do you find folks who still speak it exclusively.

Depending on the village or town holding Jounen Kwéyòl, you may find a ‘shak-shak’ band playing traditional St Lucian music, generally a group of older gentlemen armed with drums, a violin and the locally made seed-pod maracas or shak-shaks that lend their name. If you’re very lucky, they will be accompanying pairs of quadrille dancers whose dainty steps, polite bows and deep curtsies are a real reminder of more genteel times.
As far as traditional activities go, one of the favourite draws is the art of cassava-making, which was passed on from the early Amerindian settlers. The long tubers of this scraggly bush are grated, pressed through a sieve to remove the poisonous juice and dried over a fire in large cauldrons to form a flour-like product locally known as farine.  It is often eaten with avocado, mixed into a porridge or baked into cakes.
If you don’t get a chance to see our Lucian coalpots being made during Jeunen Kwéyòl, you’ll definitely see some of these traditional but trendy cooking vessels in use: part stove, part grill and all hand-crafted out of local red clay, coalpots have been adopted by iconic chefs like Jamie Oliver, and are being exported to the UK and USA.

Food, food, food is the order of the day at the Creole festival, ranging from everyday favourites like bakes and accras, to fire-roasted breadfruit which comes dripping in butter, kidneys grilled on a stick, lambi (conch) stewed in Creole spices and of course St. Lucia’s national dish of green fig and salt fish. Green figs are simply unripe bananas which are peeled and boiled like potatoes, while saltfish is cod or other white fish that has been salted and dried, and was originally a favourite staple of sailors on Atlantic crossings. After soaking and boiling in water to re-hydrate, the bones are removed and the fish is cooked in a sauce with onions and green peppers to be eaten with the green fig.
The heritage theme doesn’t stop with the food, but continues with the serving dish, as the round gourd-like fruit of the Calabash tree is dried and used for bowls, another tradition borrowed from the Arawaks.

Over the past 15 years, Jounen Kwéyòl has become a significant date in the celebration of St Lucia’s rich history and heritage, and each year the communities involved reach deep into their pasts to present authentic food & drink, exciting art and craft displays and truly cultural entertainment.

If you want a glimpse into St. Lucia’s Creole past alongside our contemporary Creole culture, Jeunen Kwéyòl is an absolute must.

Magical Mamiku Gardens

Mamiku Gardens - Tropical Traveller St. LuciaA visit to Mamiku Gardens in Micoud is restful and awe-inspiring at the same time; the lush, tropical flowers and trees are breathtakingly impressive, as are the sea views from some of the higher points, but in many spots you feel like you are in your own secret garden. In fact there is more than one garden to choose from; the Mystic Garden, Grandpa’s Medicinal Garden, Veronica’s Garden and the Herb Garden. Botanists or keen gardeners wanting to identify all the species will appreciate the comprehensive list with clear numbering which is provided to guests, but Mamiku guides are also equipped with extensive knowledge of all its flora and fauna. The area is also excellent for birdwatching, and on a walk around the gardens lucky twitchers may catch a glimpse of the white-breasted thrasher, the bullfinch, mangrove cuckoos or the indigenous St Lucia peewee.
After taking in the wonders of Ma Miku’s estate, quench your thirst and relax with a  long, cool drink at the Brigand’s Bar. The two-hour tour of Mamiku Gardens is perfect for botanists, birdwatchers and lovers of nature, but it is also a spectacular location for special occasions, especially weddings.

For more information contact 455-3729 or find Mamiku Gardens on Facebook.

Historical Note:

The estate once belonged to a French governor of St. Lucia named Baron de Micoud who acquired the grounds in 1766. In order to secure ownership of the estate which was threatened by the British invaders, Baron de Micoud passed the property to his St. Lucia born wife, Madame de Micoud. She was a very popular lady and eventually her name was adapted to “Ma Miku” and the estates retained the name ever since.

Floral Notes:
Look out for the Sleeping Hibiscus which doesn’t open at all but just shoots out a flower bud that hangs on until it drops. The Noni Tree bears pale, pocked, acridly pungent fruit, and is rumored to be the “cure for all” with people traveling hundreds of miles just to get one leaf.
Don’t be fooled by the bougainvillea ‘flowers’. They are the brightly coloured papery bracts
surrounding the actual flowers which are in fact very small and white. Waterlilies can bloom during the day or night. Day bloomers open around early morning and close in the late afternoon. On very cloudy days they may not even open. Night bloomers open around 8pm and close around 11am the next day.

 

 

Sail Training for the Future by Jus’ Sail

herbert's back

Jus’ Sail is a local day charter company owned and operated by husband and wife team, James & Pepsi Crockett. They are committed to helping reawaken the maritime culture of St Lucia, whose rich heritage of seafaring has been largely lost over the last few generations. Their goal is to train local youngsters in seamanship and marine ecology, inspiring them to pursue work experience, further technical training, and potentially secure long term and sustainable employment in the growing marine sector. The broader aim is to develop local expertise in order to compliment multi-million dollar investments in infrastructure such as the redeveloped IGY Rodney Bay Marina and Marina Village at Marigot, which are helping to build St Lucia’s reputation as a centre for yachting excellence in the region.

This summer, Jus’ Sail aims to work with the International Youth Foundation and the National Skills Development Centre in St Lucia, training local teens to sail their traditional West Indies trading sloop, Good Expectation, which will represent St Lucia in the annual Carriacou Regatta in August. The development of practical sailing, teamwork and leadership skills, along with the challenge of sailing between the islands, will boost participants confidence and inspire them to achieve bigger and better things in the future.

Jus Sail Youth Training Diesel Engine ClinicJus’ Sail’s charter guests help to fund the training program by purchasing their very cool branded t-shirts, and some have even gone so far as to undertake fundraising activities in support of the program. If you would like to buy a t-shirt or make a donation, please visit the online store at www.jussail.com or call James Crockett on 758 287 1071.

Jus’ Sail would like to thank guests and invaluable sponsors like Island Global Yachting and The Moorings Charter Company, without whose financial and other support the youth training program would not be possible.

Minute but Magnificent Hummingbirds!

 

In St Lucia we are used to the everyday sight of hummingbirds whirring their wings over a hibiscus bush, but we definitely don’t take these tiny, wonderful feathered-friends for granted. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the ‘kilibwi’, as they are known in Patois!

 

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Hummingbir.nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.    Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world – they can weigh anywhere between 2 and 20 grams. Babies are generally smaller than a penny.

2.    They are very smart and can remember every flower they have been to and how long it will take a flower to refill.

3.    A hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,260 times per minute in flight and 250 times per minute at rest.

4.    They have little or no sense of smell.

5.    A hummingbird’s tongue is grooved like the shape of a “W”.

6.    Their metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant.

7.    Hummingbirds have an average life span of about 5 years.

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

8.    Their wings beat on average 70 times per second.

9.     Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly both forward and backwards.

10.  Hummingbirds feed on average 7 times per hour for about 30-60 seconds and eat anywhere from one half to eight times their body weight per day.