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Unread 22 May 17, 12:00 PM  
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geoffa
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This is my island in the sun - Day One

Day One - Saturday 20th May 2017
A road sign would be good! OR Malabar and the squeaky wheel frog.

I open my eyes. I can tell its still dark outside although we have blackout curtains because there is a halogen spotlight below our window illuminating the hotel frontage and half of Gatwick. The voice next to me says: Are you awake? Struggling not to say "obviously!" I murmur a yes. I look at the alarm clock. It is 3:30 a.m. !
Silly o clock and we havent even flown anywhere yet. Darrin gets out of bed and puts the kettle on. I scrape myself from under the duvet. The bed was really comfortable. My tummy doesnt seem too good and so a couple of Rennies are swallowed. Food? Wine? Who knows? Darrin has the constitution of an ox and the water retention of a camel. I head to the bathroom.

When I return to bed, a mug of Earl Grey tea awaits me bless him! I do some DIBBing for an hour and munch on chocolate chip cookies to stave off my hunger.

We had set the alarm for 5:30 but we are way in front of that. Around a quarter to five I finally have a wash and clean my teeth. As we have run out of tea bags, I get dressed and head down to reception to see if I can get a couple more. The night porter guy soon piles me up with tea bags and milk portions. Im like the Mad Hatter at Wonderland tea party.

Darrin has been checking that all is OK in the world of IT and then he too, gets washed and dressed. We put yesterdays clothes and temporary tooth brushes (we always save the ones from flights) and toiletries into the overnight bag ready to dump in the car boot.

Its down to reception where we have to pay 5 for the overnight parking and with that sorted its time to head for the South Long Stay car park. The exit from the hotel is at the rear and I am merrily clinging to the paid ticket for the barrier to get out. Blow me, if the said barrier is locked in an upright position.!We could have saved a fiver! Knowing our luck, if we hadnt paid you can guarantee that barrier would have been in a down position!

Its a short drive back to the South Terminal entrance and the Long Stay is just off to the left before the actual buildings. We have to drive to area C as A and B are indicated as full. Space is found and I make note of row number on back of this car parks ticket which is securely placed in my wallet. We are literally 10 yards from the pick - up shelter No 8.The shuttle bus arrives within a couple of minutes and we are soon at the terminal.



Security is upstairs and we have priority access.



It is belts off, laptops out and empty your pockets. I could be going on a ride at Universal Studios! The trays disappear into the mouth of the x ray machine. Through the arch with no problems so no X men photos in the chamber of secrets!

They have now provided little partitioned tables where you can grab all your stuff and get it sorted whilst your trousers fall down. Now then it is to the Club World lounge. I picked up a good tip off a fellow Dibber. Totally ignore the escalators in front of you that deposit you on the lower ground duty free area. If you look to your immediate left before said escalators there is a corridor and it is marked Lounges. Its actually a wheelchair route. You come out facing Boots. Turn right and youll see the lounge entrances. BAs is on level 5. Its a bit of a faff getting there but take the lift to shorten the journey.



We settle into a couple of chairs by the huge viewing windows. From here we can see the runway and watch planes landing and taking off.





Im not feeling hungry but Darrin heads for a bacon roll and an omelette and cheese roll. I eventually decide to just have some natural yoghurt. Think I had something dodgy night.

I sit writing up this report and watching planes go in and out. Its only gone 7a.m.and the gate for the fight is forecast for 8:55.



Its amazing how that time slips by. Suddenly someone comes over and introduces themselves. Its Disney332 Phil who is on his way to Orlando with his wife and daughter. We have a natter about hotels and Orlando and St. Lucia. I introduce him to Darrin and then I go introduce myself to the ladies. By now Darrin has got me a croissant and a coffee so I leave Disney332 in peace. Next we thing we know our flight has been called. Gate 2,3 which by the length of the walk is located in Brighton!

Within 5 minutes of arriving they start boarding. Disabled passengers and families with young children are first .Why, oh! Why do people in row 38 jump up and go to the desks when its First and Club World that have been called? If you are in row 38 then wait until they call it. Im not being snobby but airlines operate boarding in a certain way for a reason. We all have a sea and the plane wont be leaving just yet for a while.

Now some of you know our plan. 7 days before we can book our seats pre selection for free because we are Executive Club members. BAs phrase, not mine. 24 hours before you can do online check in and it is at that point we check 15 E and F which are by the bulkhead. This is the one that has the two mini exits and means you dont have to crawl over people to go to the loo. If no family with a baby have booked it then its fair game.

Sometimes fate conspires against you. We have settled in to our seats when a young couple arrive with a baby. They have seats 15 J and K which, whilst side by side and has a sky cot shelf doesnt allow them to sit facing the same way. I hear the man speak to the Cabin Crew lady and I know whats coming. They want us to swap seats. We agree but on the proviso that we do not have to climb over anybody to get to the aisle. In my current battered and bruised state after my pre holiday tumble state I would probably slip and fall on them. That would be nice for them in the middle of a snooze! (Not!)

The seats we booked a week ago 10 E and F are still available and the single aisle seats are not occupied either side. So we still have exits. Bags are retrieved from overhead lockers and moved to row 10. by the crew. We are treated to another glass of champagne by way of thanks. In a way it does us a sort of favour because we are six rows back from a potentially crying baby.
(I never wrote that!)

So we settle in again. Take off is 17 minutes late but in the scale of things they always make this time up.



Its only just about an hour into the flight and pre - lunch drinkies are dished out .We get asked if we want a second round so we dont object. Whisky and a drop of ginger ale for me and champagne and a white wine - (not together! ) for Darrin.



Lunch consists of a hot smoked salmon with cumin and coriander dressing for starters. Not too keen on those edamame bean things though.



I have crusted beef with baked new potatoes. Not too keen on the lentil sauce.



Darrin has a chicken curry with Kichidi rice.



Both meals were pre ordered prior to flight via "Manage your booking".

I dont have dessert and opt for a coffee which I have with the two Hotel Chocolat chocolates.

Darrins dessert is Lemon Almond wedge with white chocolate and passion fruit delice. (Sorry no photo - he'd eaten it before I could dosrt the camera!)

Its at this point the air is shattered with a screaming baby the one we gave our seats up for. I turn to Darrin and cynically say: Excuse me but could I have a glass of Calpol please? Its not for the child its for me.

To be fair I know kids get grumpy on flights and their ears hurt and all sorts of things we adults dont experience. It was just my sarcastic wit. The father soothed the baby and within 5 minutes the kid was calm and probably asleep. Its the parents who ignore their offspring that annoy me ,not the children themselves.

When everything is cleared away the Duty Free trolley does the rounds then lights are dimmed and it is time for a snooze.

Whilst Darrin manages to get around an hour of sleep, I just cant get comfortable. I turn and stretch and fluff pillows and turn again after half an hour of not being surrounded by the arms of Morpheus I give up and head to the galley kitchen. Here you can find such wonders as mini Crunchies, Joe Sephs sea salt caramel popcorn, wine, tea, coffee, chilled meals, sandwiches etc. I get chatting to one of the crew - Gloria. She is Spanish and soon we are wandering the vineyards of Rioja and the city of Logroo. She is rfom north-west Spain but now lives in Hainault!

By the time I get back to my seat Darrin iswide awake and wanting a cup of tea.

Somewhere over the Atlantic about 2500 miles into the journey:



We decide to watch a film. They dont really have the latest blockbusters but one I been wanting to see for ages is Hacksaw Ridge. It stars Andrew Garfield.



It is about a conscientious objector who joins the US army Desmond Doss. He was a real person, a 7th day Adventist, who chose to serve his country but refused to bear arms. We see his upbringing and how this shaped his views, especially his religious view and anti-killing stance. The other soldiers and his Sergeant brand him a coward. At one point he is severely attacked by about 6 of them but he refuses to say who did it and, indeed ,denies he was attacked. They try court martial-ling him to get him to leave the Army but intervention by his father and a General establish that under the US constitution he had the right to refuse to carry a rifle.

Finally, we see the hell on Earth that was Hacksaw Ridge at the Battle of Okinawa where he single handed saved 27 severely wounded men as well and his commanding officer. He would receive the Medal of Honour for his bravery. The battle was intensely portrayed in the film showing the real horrors of war and the prosthetics used for the wounded were stomach churning. Im glad I watched it but dont think I will view it again. Andrew Garfield gives an amazing performance.

The First Officer comes along and is chatting to his wife who is sat a couple of rows in front of us (remember we are travelling backwards!) He is called Tristan Potter. He asks if we are having a good flight and we have a short conversation with him. He says if we watn to go up to the cockpit - after we have landed - we are most welcome. We decided not to visit as it would severely put us behind in the Immigration /bag collection stakes but it was a nice offer.



By the time the film ends they are serving afternoon tea. A selection of sandwiches, scone jam and Cornish clotted cream and mugs of tea that will put hairs on your chest as my mother used to say.



We land at Hewanorra airport (UVF) at just after 2 p.m. local time.



Its one of those airports where you walk down steps from the plane and into searing heat. We troop along a route and into the, thankfully, air conditioned Immigration Hall.





We are some of the first to arrive at the red line. No self - check kiosks here. We are called over to an officer who is sitting in what appears to be a bullet proof glass cube with speaking intercom. We present our passports and Immigration form which is way easier to fill in than the US version. The guy reads our passports and forms and then stamps them all. We then present the International Driving Permit for stamping only to be told they dont stamp them anymore. So that was 8 well spent! It is at this point I realise that the bullet proof booth has no back on it. You can walk right past the back of the officers chair! So much for security. We do have a little wait for our luggage and then its off to the car hire.

Well, it might have said Avis on our booking form but its is handled by the Sunrise Car Rental Company. They dont take Amex. Strangely enough, Budget, at the next counter does! Also the rep uses one of the old imprint machines - clunkity crunch. All mod cons here then!

We are then taken out into the blazing sun to be shown our car, a Kia Sportage, that I would later discover was registered in 2007! It has 70,000 miles on the clock. And we paid over US $600 for this? The interior is well worn and the passenger seat leather is torn.



There are scrapes on the front:



As there seems to be no other available vehicle we have no choice but to take it. I start composing a letter to Avis in my head. We will later learn that most folk just don't hire cars here because you don't get up to date vehicles. You can get taxis or shuttles to hotels but that syrely must restrict any day travel you may want to do. hey! Ho! We are adventurers.

Saint Lucia is a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It is just over 27 miles north to south and 14.5 miles wide.



The drive up to Castries is just under 35 miles but you have winding roads, potholes, wandering mangy dogs, a mountain and idiot drivers to cope with. You take the eastern route and that goes through Dennery where you turn inland to cross the mountains the road is a sort on inverted S. The western route via the famous Piton peaks is more precarious. At least they drive on the left well most of time they do! (The electricity is good old UK 13 amp plugs but hotels also supply115 v sockets for Americans).

It takes about 70 minutes because we have to traverse the mountain range with Mount Gimie at 3,100 feet (the tallest on the island) just to the south .



So far we havent seen one road sign since we left the airport that might indicate where we are, how far it is to anywhere or what the name of the town or village we are passing through is called. I work out that if I spot a school or a police station it will have the name of the place in it. I am then able to determine from the bought map I have as to where we actually are. It is thus that I work out where Mon Repos, Praslin and Grand Ravine are. We descend the other side of the mountain route and at the bottom its a left then a right and you are on the road into Castries.

This is banana country. We pass loads of plantations and the huge green bananas are wrapped in a blue coloured plastic which apparently keeps out the bugs.



(Until the 1960s there were no cultivated bananas on the island. Prior to that the main crop was cacao (cocoa pods). Tourism brings in the most money.)

So next time you are in the supermarket and buy St. Lucia bananas, we might just have seen that very bunch!

From a distance the houses look glorious in their bright pastel shades but when you pass close by you see the faded exteriors and the crude building techniques. Most are built on concrete stilts. The island does experience earthquake activity from time to time. There some posh properties too but they are apart from everyday folk. Twas ever thus.

Women carry shopping and bundles on their heads here whilst the kids trail behind and they all wear bright and floral clothes. There are creole shacks and bars along the way and Guinness seems to be quite popular. The local ale is Piton beer. I digress.

As you come down from the mountains you reach the port of Castries, the capital of the Island. This is where all the cruise ships come in.



We pass through downtown and are soon by the Islands second but smaller George Charles airport (serving local islands). Our resort, the Rendezvous is almost next door. When we arrive a young guy comes to greet us and takes our luggage for transportation to our room. He escorts us through the gardens full of hibiscus and bougainvillea and down to the reception area which is by the terrace restaurant.



The manager arrives with a folder full of all sorts of information especially a site map. We are given a welcome drink of cranberry ,grapefruit and lime and it is most welcome.




We are sweating. It's 35C - I had planned to change to shorts on the plane but forgot and thus are in chinos which feel like a blanket right now. Once we have finished our drinks and had the hard sell of spas and helicopter trips we are taken to our room. We are on the first floor ,smack bang centre in the luxury suites with a view of the beach below us. Its just easier to show you the photos.








The room is air conditioned and has a glass block wall bathroom with shower. Super king size bed, fridge, internet access (complimentary), balcony with day bed..its heaven. We have a little balcony with a daybed and a hammock on it. Even a complimentary bottle of champagne awaits in an ice bucket:









We have now been on the go for 23 hours so its a drink at the bar to watch the sunset.



Then we have dinner around 7:30p.m. local time. St. Lucia is technically four hours behind the U.K. but because we do GMT +1 its currently five hours. They dont put their clocks forward.

When we go back downstairs it has gone dark and the beach is covered with flaming torches a beautiful sight.

Dinner is grilled prawns on top of a crab and fish cake with a light gingery sauce. We both had that.

For mains I have pork vindaloo with ice, raita and the most wonderful ginger and mango chutney.

Darrin chooses mahi - mahi with a cream and brandy sauce.
Wine was an Italian Pinot Grigio.

Instead of a sugary dessert we opt for cheese, grapes and a glass of port.

Sorry no pictures of food .In my zombie state I forgot to take the camera to dinner.

Terrace restaurant (library picture):







The couple on the next table get chatting to us Paul and Sarah from the Staffordshire / Shropshire borders. They are astounded to learn that we won this holiday when they have forked out a fortune to get here.

As we stroll back to our room along the first floor walkway we are treated to the sound of squeaky wheel coming from all directions. They are little frogs: and they keep it up all night long:

[youtube]haEU7R0AZIs/youtube]



The bird of paradise plants either side of our doorway must be some25 feet tall!

By 9p.m. we are back in the room where the bed has been turned down and candles in protective jars are provided.


We tumble into bed and promptly flake out.


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Edited at 01:03 PM.
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Cancelled because of illness.
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Unread 22 May 17, 12:24 PM  
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tigger48
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Oh Geoff loving your report. We stayed at rendezvous pre kids in an oceanfront first floor room and it was lush! Your photos are bringing back happy memories. I do know what you mean about the roads and signage though! Looking forward to more tr in due course.
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Are we nearly there yet?!
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Unread 22 May 17, 12:24 PM  
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macdonald
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Wow Amazing... & what a beautiful storyteller! Cant wait for the rest...
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The Grand Floridian
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Unread 22 May 17, 12:38 PM  
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margyloveswdw
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What an easy travel day that seemed. Beautiful resort.

Looking forward to reading more.
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Unread 22 May 17, 12:48 PM  
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Rossalino
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Oh I always enjoy reading your reports. The resort looks gorgeous and even more so when you haven't paid for it

Look forward to reading more.
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Unread 22 May 17, 12:49 PM  
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I love reading your reports, Geoff, and looking forward to reading more. If you come across any inner-tube, water float type thingies on the beach, do be careful, won't you? Remember Castaway Cay? (I promise I didn't laugh too much... )
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Unread 22 May 17, 01:21 PM  
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Mr Tom Morrow
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Geoff. An excellent report, well done. The flight seemed good and the airline food looked excellent. Always guarantee good food in Upper Class.
That hotel looks outstanding as well. I did chuckle about your so called rental car, they wouldn't get away with that in America!. To think I moan about the Dollar cars at Orlando being dogs!
You both did better than we can on flight day eating in the evening. The food again sounds excellent.
Enjoy your trip.
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Unread 22 May 17, 01:24 PM  
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Making us all jealous Though Hawksaw ridge was a great film when we saw it in Florida
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