We’ve been back from our much-needed trip to paradise for a few weeks and yet every time I look at pictures, I feel like we were just there. And now that it is getting chillier outside, I especially like to fondly remember the beautiful warm weather!
Now I must confess that I never did do trip re-caps from the last few trips we went on the past few years. Would it be lame to do them years after the fact? At least I’m more current on writing about this year’s trip!
Our trip to St. Lucia actually began as a trip to Morocco! My travel bucket list has grown quite a bit and I have always wanted to go to Morocco, so I started researching a trip there a few months ago since this was supposed to be a 10th wedding anniversary trip. I knew what I wanted to do and was starting to price out the trip when I was stopped in my tracks by Mr. Spice, who challenged me to plan a trip for half of what I had planned on. Well, Morocco was out at that point and I was scrambling to find something worthy of a 10th anniversary trip.
I knew that Mr. Spice really wanted a nice relaxing beach vacation, which I didn’t necessarily mind. But I also wanted a bit of history and culture (and food!). I’m still not sure how I fixed upon St. Lucia, but once I saw pictures of Soufriere, on the southwest coast, I knew that’s where we were going — a drive-in volcano, lush rainforests, gorgeous beaches, and surrounded by mountains? Umm, yes please!
After doing lots of research on where to stay in the area, I finally decided on Fond Doux Resort & Plantation. The price was very right,the location was good for getting around and exploring, and I loved that it was a working plantation that grows cocoa, spices, fruits, and vegetables, all of which are used in the food served in the eco-minded resort — talk about from plant to plate! Plus the resort consists of only 12 cottages, which meant that it wouldn’t be too crowded, which was perfect since we were planning to be lazy and relax the whole time.
We booked the trip and just looking forward to it got me through my stressful September and October tax deadlines. And soon enough, we were on our way! Fortunately, there are direct flights from Atlanta to St. Lucia — we flew into the international airport in Vieux Fort and had arranged for a driver to meet us and drive us the 45 minutes to Soufriere. Along the way, as we drove on the 2-lane, twisty-turning road, our driver, Dennis told us about the plantation and about the towns we were passing through. He was really nice about letting us stop and gawk at the views and take pictures!
Fond Doux Resort & Plantation
During our stay at Fond Doux we were in the cozy Cinnamon cottage, which was in a perfect location in the resort — not too far from the restaurants and reception area, yet far enough away from the other cottages that we had peace and quiet. We were warmly welcomed by the reception staff and taken for a welcome drink as they got our cottage ready. The rum punch was the specialty, but Mr. Spice and I don’t really drink much, so we opted for the fresh lime juice. I immediately became addicted to it — it was just sweet enough to quench your thirst but not overly sweet.
Soon we were being shown to our cottage, which was hidden away in the lush rainforest settings. I knew I’d be in trouble, wanting to take as many pictures as I could!
I spent a LOT of time out on the porch during our stay, reading and enjoying the tropical breeze.
The morning after we arrived in St. Lucia, we sat down with Katrina, one of the staff members, to discuss what we wanted to do and how she could help arrange it for us. I had a list of stuff I wanted to see and places to eat, so she worked with me to schedule our week so that it wasn’t too jam-packed, leaving us time to relax. She made dinner reservations for us at neighboring resorts and arranged for activities off the resort.
One thing we did do on the resort was go on the plantation tour, where we were shown all the different types of spice and fruit trees and had a hummingbird sighting. Then our guide started taking us up one of the trails to see a view of the Piton mountains, but it was a bit too steep for me, so Mr. Spice and I ditched out on that. It wasn’t until we got back that I realized that we could have waited for them to get back since we ended up missing seeing where they processed the cacao pods. Next time! And there will be a next time, we already want to go back!
We loved our stay at Fond Doux and would definitely recommend it to anyone staying in the area. If you are looking for a brand-new shiny all-inclusive resort, this isn’t it. But if you are looking for a unique and more “authentic” experience, you’ve come to the right place. It’s one of the oldest working plantations in the Caribbean, you’re staying in restored French Colonial cottages, the food you eat is mostly grown on the grounds of the resort, and the staff are more than happy to help you with anything you need.
So I was really intrigued by the idea of visiting a drive-in volcano, let alone seeing a volcano. I’m just a girl from Kansas, after all!
Sulphur Springs is aptly named — you definitely smell the sulfur long before you get to the view of the crater! Hope you like the smell of rotten eggs! 🙂 Our guide explained about the volcano and the sulphur springs, giving us the history and showing us where the water came out at different temperatures in different places, then showing us various types of fruit and nut trees growing nearby. If we wanted to, we could have taken a dip in the nearby mud baths afterward, which are supposed to be good for you. We weren’t that brave!
Hotel Chocolat – Tree to Bar Tour
The next thing on my list of things to do was to take the Tree to Bar cocoa tour at Hotel Chocolat, a neighboring resort located on the Rabot Estate, a 140-acre cocoa plantation. This is actually made up of two tours – the first is the Tree to Bean tour, where you are shown around the estate and learn about the different types of cacao and how they process the cacao pods. The second part, the Bean to Bar tour, is where you get to be hands on and mix your own chocolate! The tour is done by the head of the cocoa program, Cuthbert, who blew us away with his vast knowledge and experience- he’s been doing this for years!
As we walked around the grounds, Cuthbert explained to us the three types of cocoa trees and how they have experimented with grafting from one type to another in order to produce the sturdiest and most productive trees. We were shown a “ripe” cocoa pod, then we got to try the fresh cocoa beans, surrounded by a soft, white covering — he called these “jungle M&Ms” and instructed us not to bite down, just gently eat the white part and not to swallow the raw cocoa seed inside or else “we’d be making chocolate all afternoon!” I think you know what he meant!
We were shown where the raw cocoa seeds are fermented and dried before they are shipped off to their UK location to be processed into chocolate. The Rabot Estate is in the process of building its own chocolate production facilities so that they can keep the whole process on-site.
The Tree to Bar portion of the tour also involves letting participants help graft their own cocoa tree! We were shown the procedure and under the supervision of staff we successfully grafted from one strain to another. The trees were labeled with the date and our names and theoretically if we come back in 2 years, they will be planted on the estate and we can visit our trees! I wonder if I get rights to any cocoa produced from mine . . .
Now we were ready for the Bean to Bar portion of the tour! Each of us got our own little workstation that consisted of a heated mortar and pestle, whole cocoa seeds, roasted cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, sugar, and water, which we really needed once we got going!
Let me tell you, if you ever need a great arm workout, consider grinding cocoa nibs! We started off adding cocoa butter to the roasted cocoa nibs, then ground to a rough paste, then started adding sugar until we liked the taste — if we added all the sugar, the bars ended up being 65% dark chocolate. We had to keep grinding so that the mortar remained warm, which would help us achieve a thick liquid consistency.
Finally, once we we had reached the right consistency, we were given plastic molds to pour our chocolate into. For comparison, we were also provided with some pre-mixed chocolate. We learned that the pre-mixed chocolate had been “conched,” or ground for over 72 hours and so of course our bars would be grittier in comparison. Our bars were then labeled with our names and whisked off to the cooler so that they would be ready for us after a couple hours (most of us were eating lunch in the restaurant afterwards). Cuthbert then went over the cocoa growing process for the people that had just joined us for the second part of the tour. Then we got to lick our spoons and whatever was left in our mortars — no chocolate left behind!
Doing both tours took about three hours and I felt it was a great experience and would highly recommend it if you’re staying in the area.
Gros and Petit Pitons
Last but not least, the iconic Gros and Petit Piton mountains! This is what I picture when I think of St. Lucia. I think I was a bit in love with this view, judging from the amount of sighs and “I love it here!” the whole trip. We caught glimpses of the Pitons on our way to Soufriere from the airport, but it wasn’t until we had dinner at the Jade Mountain resort that we got the full effect. We went in time to catch sunset off the Caribbean and it was worth the bumpy and twisting drive up to this resort!
We were treated to this view of the Gros Piton as we had lunch at Boucan after our Tree to Bar tour at Hotel Chocolat.
Because we were trying to make sure we had a good mix of relaxing vs. exploring, we had to leave a few things off the list. That and planning around the rain! Not surprisingly, since we were in a rainforest, it rained almost every day! Usually it was just here and there for an hour or so, but some days it was almost like a torrential downpour! We were supposed to go to the beach one day, but unfortunately the day we were going to go, it was raining so hard that morning that we decided to just have a lazy day inside. But next time we go, we are hitting up the beaches!
Now I’ve given you a highlight of what we saw. Stay tuned to see what we ate while we were in St. Lucia!