LAVA AT FIRS SIGHT; A blowout in St Lucia is just the ticket in winter.
THERE I was, lying on the front of a large yacht in the blazing sunshine, watching the light reflect off the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Could life get any better than this?
Even though I had been told how amazing the island of St Lucia was, nothing had prepared me for just how stunning this tiny corner of the world is. We passed beach after dazzling beach as we cruised around the stunning coast in a boat that resembled Tony Soprano's at the back and P-Diddy's at the front.
After hopping aboard, our group cracked open a few beers and settled in for a sun-drenched trip.
As we made our way to the tiny fishing village of Soufriere we passed the imposing Pitons - volcanoes which rise straight out of the sea to a remarkable 771 metres.
Our destination was the heart of an active volcano - the Pitons act as "volcanic plugs" for the molten lava a few miles below. We took a taxi up the roads which twisted through the mountains up to - quite literally - a drive-in volcano.
As we approached the smell of rotten eggs attacked my nostrils as steam seeped out of the ground while pools of watery sulphur bubbled in the intense heat.
After lathering ourselves in grey sulphur - a bit like a mud pack - we washed the thick, coarse rock off our bodies in a hot stream.
The most amazing fact, conveyed by a very enthusiastic guide who thought he was a Shakespearian actor, is that the whole area - including the village of Soufriere - is in the crater of the volcano.
When it blows again, in approximately 100 years, the whole area will disappear into the molten earth.
In the meantime it resembles paradise. Brightly coloured houses clinging onto the sides of mountains, beautiful sandy beaches darkened by the volcanic nature of the island and, above all, some of the friendli-est people you will ever meet. We received a call from our resort's chef Ian, a jovial English biker who had settled in this bit of paradise, bringing his own amazing cooking to the Caribbean.
We had met him at the beautiful Smugglers Cove resort, and hit it off immediately.
He invited us to his flat with the most amazing views across the bay and Martinique where we finished off the day with enough beer to sink our yacht.
The resort is in the exclusive area of Rodney Bay, dubbed the Beverley Hills of St Lucia. The 45-acre all-inclusive resort, complete with golf course, is right on the beach and is quite simply magnificent.
And the food - sometimes a problem at all-inclusive resorts - is fantastic.
Ian has masterminded a series of menus at the four restaurants... three a la carte spots offer meals ranging from Asian to Italian while the buffet changes daily.
The resort, which has seven pools, includes all activities ranging from water skiing to archery and has kids' clubs for all ages. Our room was practically on the beach, and came with its own hot tub.
After freshening up we headed out to sample a Friday night in St Lucia. Only in the Caribbean could it be a weekly practice to close off a main street, put a huge speaker in the middle of the road, and stage a mini carnival.
Tourists and locals danced together while little old ladies sat at "bars" - tables covered in every spirit you can imagine - while music blasted out.
After being out-danced by the locals, we retreated back to the resort.
The next morning we headed down to the local market in the capital Castries. On of the most pleasant things about St Lucia is the people. Not only are they friendly, funny and welcoming but they are unbelievably laid-back.
Next it was time for a rapid change of pace, as I found myself strapped in to a harness, dangling over a raging river... which I had to zip across on a wire.
Lose your balance and you could end up spinning around 300ft above a ravine. But off I went... and now I have no hesitation in telling everyone that shooting 1,200ft down a wire at breakneck speed suspended 300ft up in a rainforest is something everybody should experience at least once.
On some of the 12 wires I was so high up I was literally in the tops of the trees - talk about a high!
However, a torrential downpour brought me down to earth with a bump. For some reason the rain seemed to fall harder under the trees in the middle of the forest than out in the open.
Drenched and bedraggled, we headed back for another excellent meal.
Ian's dishes never failed to impress - such is his attention to detail that he has set up his own garden to produce vegetables and herbs for his restaurants.
The trip ended on a relaxing note as I enjoyed one of the many massage therapies offered at the spa.
As I reluctantly left St Lucia, I vowed to go back to Smugglers Cove with my children one day so they can also experience this little corner of paradise.
What's the deal
SEVEN nights all-inclusive at the four-star Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa with Virgin Holidays from pounds 985pp in September (saving up to pounds 166pp), based on two sharing including Virgin flights from Gatwick (www.virginholidays.co.uk/smug glers, 0844 557 3859).
For Smugglers Cove info see www.smugglersresort.com, and for St Lucia visit www.saintlucianow.co.uk
Lush... Smuggler's Cove resort Eggcellent... Justin inspects the volcano Peaceful... Smugglers Cove pool at twilight Get in the yacht club... moor your boat in the shadow of the Pitons in gorgeous St Lucia Colourful... street market in Castries, the capital
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|Publication:||Sunday Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 5, 2012|
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