Tuesday, January 07, 2003

paradise left behind...

wow.. where do i begin? this monumental task of describing our vacation is going to take too long. so instead i give you snippets:

we arrived at our hotel after a shady landing at st. lucia airport amidst clear skies, blue waters, 80+ degree weather.. it was absolutely gorgeous. we arrived at the hotel capri which had absolutely stunning views as it sat atop a hill overlooking the caribbean sea. the proprietor of the hotel was unexpectedly out of the country but he had an english couple looking after the hotel in his absence.

by the time we got to the beach which was about a 5 minute downhill trek, it was almost sundown. but we hung out a bit nonetheless and noticed that the beach area was rather small, and attached to a hotel called "le sport" which entertained what appeared to be rich, bougie folks who preferred secluded spa resorts. all beaches in st. lucia, we were told, are public, but it turns out that hotel capri has an agreement with le sport to allow capri guests to use the beach chairs and towels at the le sport beach, which we decided we'd definitely make use of.

later that evening the couple overseeing the hotel offered us a ride into "town": rodney bay, the northern portion of st. lucia that attracts the most tourists and has a strip of restaurants and hotels as well as a little mall with souvenir shops, etc. the ride by car was only 10 minutes, but we were told that the walk would take about 45 what with it being hilly and all. that evening in rodney bay, we had dinner at a restaurant called castaways. being christmas day, they offered a very limited menu: steak or turkey. we both ate the steak which was actually quite fatty, but tasty, and sat and chatted with this english bloke in his mid-forties we had seen earlier on our flight, who planned to stay for a few weeks. he was somewhat entertaining, though he often used very awkward terms like "colored girls" to describe his particular preference of women. he shared a bottle of wine with us, which was nice.. and gave us a few pointers on things to do as he had been to st. lucia before.

after dinner we went looking to buy a pack of cigarettes and wandered into the royal st. lucian hotel which was this huge, fancy hotel with a swimming pool shaped like the number 8 without the crossing and a swim up bar attached to it. and just in front of the hotel was a vast beach known as reduit beach which the english bloke said was the nicest beach he had seen. since it was dark, we really didn't get to see it well, but knew right away that it was a much nicer beach than the one in front of our hotel. we looked into rates at the hotel just incase and found out that it was well over $500/night. well, so much for that.

we ended up at the triangle bar, a quaint little outdoor bar which appeared to be visited by many local st. lucians. we met two guys who tried to do the old "divide and conquer" thing with me and c, but of course they failed and we left them on a relatively sour note as they started to get a bit obnoxious about it. when we got back to the hotel late that night via taxi which cost a whopping $15, we realized that rodney bay was most definitely the happening part of town.

the next morning, or should i say afternoon since we managed to sleep in after having stayed up long hours chatting in the gazebo overlooking the sea, we decided to head back over to le sport and have some lunch and chill on the beach. when we got there, we were greeted by unfriendly looks and gazes from the security people who were apparently wondering why two colored folks were walking around the white-only (save for the people that worked there) property. we paid them no mind and proceeded to the reception desk to see about getting lunch. we balked at the price of a lunch buffet and decided instead to just hang out by the beach and soak in some sun. not 5 minutes after we sat down on the beach chairs, a security guy came up to us and asked if we were guests of le sport. we told him no, and that we were guests of the capri. that seemed to not make a difference to him at all, and he proceeded to tell us that even though this is a public beach, we aren't allowed to use their chairs. we tried to explain that the capri guests are indeed allowed to use the le sport facilities but he mumbled something about not knowing about this arrangement and that the rules must have changed recently because he isn't aware of it. at this point c and i are pissed so we left the property and headed back to our hotel. another (white) lesbian couple that was staying at our hotel were sitting outside on the deck when we got back. and this is what followed:

me & c: "hey, did you guys just get back from the beach?"
them: "yeah! it was awesome!"
me & c: "cool.. did you guys use the beach chairs?"
them: "oh yeah.. and they gave us towels and kept coming around asking if we wanted drinks"

well, to make a long story short, both c and i looked at each other and realized that we had indeed been discriminated against in a country that is 90% black. how f'ing bizarre is that? the details behind what happened next is irrelevant; our hotel complained to le sport, they apologized, blah blah blah.. they said we could go back and use their facilities, no problem, blah blah blah.. whatever. we didn't even want to go back to that damn place..

having had that experience, we realized that the next thing on the agenda was to find a new hotel asap somewhere near rodney bay. even though the capri was a great hotel, it just seemed as though there wasn't much to do around there, especially without a car. we didn't want to be dependent on the hotel to give us rides to rodney bay, and we hated the fact that we couldn't just venture out even to buy a pack of smokes! the location was just too secluded. so we headed out.. walking.. to rodney bay. the walk was refreshing.. even though the uphill slopes left me breathless, it helped c and i release the stress accumulated from the situation at le sport.

finding a hotel at rodney bay turned out to be easier than we thought. we walked into about 2 or 3 until we finally found the tuxedo villas which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.. our own private apartment with a full kitchen and all the amenities, for only $20 more than the capri. the best part was that it was directly across the street from the royal st. lucian where we bought day passes for $25 to use their facilities all day which included, ahem, beach chairs and towels and their swimming pool, etc. a much nicer arrangement indeed, and the people were much friendlier than at le sport.

at this point, our vacation really started rolling.

we spent two full days at the beach, got really dark, got thrashed by waves a couple of times, but in general we thoroughly enjoyed the blue waters where you could actually see your foot under water, it was so clear! considering c wasn't much of a swimmer, i was surprised by the amount of time she spent in the sea. it was heavenly! it was fun! it was (finally) relaxing! so what if we didn't get the hammock in our balcony.. this was better than anything.

but alas, as soon as we started to relax, it seemed, it was time to go.

but before we left, we did a tour of the island and saw some magnificent rainforests, a huge botanical garden up in the hills complete with a waterfall and mineral baths, the sulphur springs volcano and a few fishing villages which oddly enough reminded me of bangladesh at times.

while there were definitely other highlights to our trip, particularly an almost-run-in with the cops while chillin' with a rasta (doin' our ting ya no?), my hands are tired from typing (hey! i've been on vaca for 2 weeks!) so i shall end here. but i will be back with an indepth review on how some old school british racism seems to persist in st. lucia and much of the caribbean, i imagine. it was definitely an eye-opener for me.. and a realization that institutionalized racism can surface it's ugly head where you least expect it.

all in all, we had a fantastic time. i can't even begin to describe how beautiful st. lucia is. if you have the opportunity, definitely visit and shoot me an email for details on good deals, etc. that i wrote down for future reference. i wish i was still there.. but alas, we had to leave it behind.

miami, in comparison, was blah. but we had fun there too. we stayed with my cousin, grilled out, drank and ate too much.. a wonderful transition before coming back to the hellish winter of chicago.