Have been back from St. Lucia since late late Sunday night, and finally have the chance to sit down and write about it. Or at least share some pictures:
It's really a beautiful island, and it's fun to see animals walking on the road as if they're people. We saw probably twenty or twenty-five stray dogs on the trip and the only dog I ever heard bark was a guard dog behind the gate of some fancy house that probably belonged to a rich American who visits for a weekend a year. Our tour guide at the chocolate plantation we visited couldn't believe we'd never seen lizards before -- "You don't have them in your garden?" he asked. Little does he know, our "garden" is a $3 pot of lemon basil sitting on the windowsill that we just bought from the farmer's market. People get up from their lunches and a minute later two birds swoop down and start eating the leftovers. Maybe it's just because I grew up in the city, but I get genuinely excited to see live animals that aren't cockroaches. Horses graze on the side of the road, roosters walk on the sidewalk.... I don't mean to make it sound like the island is a farm -- it's not overrun with animals or anything like that, they have cars and stores and a Domino's Pizza, but even their "cities" are not cities as we see them up here.
The disappointing piece of it, a little bit, for me at least, was the degree to which so much of the island seems to exist entirely to support the tourist economy, and there's hardly anything that lies somewhere in between tourist trap and undeveloped rural backcountry. I mean, I suppose to some degree it's just a sad truth that there isn't a lot going on in a place like St. Lucia that isn't part of the tourist economy, and the people who live there, unfortunately, by and large live a very different quality of life than the people who can afford to visit. (And the other sad truth that, by and large, most tourists probably don't care to see actual life in St. Lucia and are completely content to stick to their fancy resort beach and never venture elsewhere.) But even to find local St. Lucian food was not that easy. The area around our hotel was pretty much entirely fusion restaurants serving meat and fish that had been shipped in from America or elsewhere, and charging Manhattan-restaurant prices. Our first night, we ate in a Chinese restaurant that could have been dropped in from Epcot -- decorated like you would expect a theme-park Chinese restaurant to be decorated, serving essentially the same food as, say, P.F. Chang's. A couple of the better meals we had were from an unmarked shack we happened to come upon, hidden behind some of the restaurants and hotels, that served lunch to the people who worked at the hotels and in the souvenir shops. We ate there twice and neither time did we see anyone else who could have possibly been a tourist. Our hotel warned us against taking the bus -- but the bus was easier to navigate than the New York subway system, by far, and besides costing a heck of a lot less than a taxi, it felt closer to the point of traveling to actually see what real life is like on the island. We told another honeymooning couple we met in the hotel that we had taken the bus, and they didn't even understand what we meant.
But besides my disappointment that we wasted a meal eating absolutely terrible Thai food in a virtually-empty tourist trap (where the wife in the family at the table next to us announced "Pad Thai -- I wonder what that is -- they don't have dishes like this at the Thai restaurant near us!" and the husband ordered a mojito, telling his wife that's a traditional Thai cocktail), the trip was actually a lot of fun, and very relaxing and beautiful and the first time I'd ever been to a "nice" beach and gone in water that you could describe as clear as opposed to murky. We hiked a little mountain, saw some waterfalls, visited the world's only drive-in volcano (??), and only checked e-mail four or five times a day.
I'd recommend St. Lucia for a honeymoon, because there was enough to do for when we wanted to be doing things and exploring, but not so much that we felt like we had to be busy every day in order to cover everything there was to see. There was probably 3 or 4 days of "stuff" to see if it was a regular vacation -- we did an all-day cruise to the southern part of the island, seeing the volcano and botanical garden, going snorkeling and swimming in a nice bay on the way back; we spent a day in the capital, Castries, wandering around and exploring; we spent a half-day at Pigeon Island, hiking and looking at the old military ruins; we spent a half-day at a chocolate plantation -- but in a honeymoon context, we spread that out over the 12 days, and mixed in beach and pool and it made for a pretty laid-back and relaxing time.
And now, wedding and honeymoon over, it's back to real life... or at least figuring out what "real life" is going to look like now that I'm back in New York...