Surely it was divine intervention. A sign from above. Here I was on the beautiful island of St Lucia being pampered galore and hoping to connect with my Jewish roots – but I have to admit I was struggling – when something SUPER happened. Or rather someone named ‘Super’ happened.
I was told about an inspirational young rabbi, Avraham Super, who recently moved to the Eastern Caribbean paradise from Miami and is working hard to build a Jewish community and ensure tourists can enjoy a Shabbat service, a reading of the Scroll, get married under a chupah or participate in anything else that he can support.
His mission is impressive – but that’s not the only thing that impressed me on the island. My other half, Ilisa, and I were treated like royalty during our time at two fabulous hotels – a few nights at the magnificent Marigot Bay Resort and Marina followed by an equally-perfect stay at stunning Sugar Beach. Honestly, if Kate and Wills had been invited, they could not have been treated better.
St Lucia boasts a lovely temperature throughout the year but we were equally pleased by a different sort of warmth – that shown by every member of staff at our hotels.
If you don’t want a stuffiness that you can find at some elite hotels, then choose these properties.
If you like a laugh and a joke, that famous laid-back Caribbean charm – and the highest degree of professionalism – then look no further.
The setting at Marigot Bay is picture postcard. It has been described as one of the most stunning bays in the world and has featured on the big screen in several films, including for the 1967 classic Doctor Dolittle, starring Rex Harrison. And it’s certainly a place where you will want to do-little!
My only activity was popping up from my sun-lounger to look at the surroundings and wishing I owned one of the fine yachts in the harbour. Alas, I am no millionaire, but the hotel made me feel a million dollars.
The days were slow and relaxing and the evenings kicked off with a scrummy cocktail before, perhaps, a fine dining experience at The Grill, where the freshly-caught fish melted in your mouth.
Retiring to bed was a pleasure as the guest rooms are exquisite and so is the turn-down service, including a new hand-written message by our bedside table every evening.
On one night, for example, there was a note (and a delicious chocolate) that read: ”The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”. How lovely.
One evening the hotel put on the mother of all barbeques and on another we enjoyed one of the best nights ever with a private dining experience in a treehouse. Chef Billy, from Elvis’s homeland of Memphis, created a magnificent dinner in the most romantic of settings where many young women are often ‘all shook up’ when their partners suddenly get out a ring and propose!
Don’t worry, ladies, if your man doesn’t get down on one knee… just enjoy Billy’s cooking instead! His parsnip broth was the best soup I have ever tasted.
It would have been a total wrench to depart from Marigot Bay but we were fortunate to be moving on to another gem in Sugar Beach, about an hour away. A very different backdrop as this hotel is right on the beach, with more views to die for. Indeed, just like our first ‘home’, this is no ordinary setting as it is bang in the middle of the world-famous Pitons – mountains formed from volcanic eruptions and a Unesco World Heritage site.
Breathtaking is often an overused description – not here. So easy to fall in lava with!
Again, I kept interrupting my sunbathing to admire the scenery. To the left is Gros Piton and to the right Petit Piton, with the clear Caribbean Sea in the middle.
If you look closely at Petit Piton, the top part is, by nature, carved out in the shape of King Kong’s head. It took a few minutes for me to notice this and, when you do, it is a little eerie. But quite appropriate in that Sugar Beach is fit for a king!
As with our first hotel, the service was world class. One afternoon, after returning to our glorious villa situated up high in the hillside – and with muscles nicely stretched from a bamboo massage at their stunning spa – it seemed appropriate to ask the butler to run a bath. Not for the lady… for me! Well, it’s not something I can do back home in Redbridge!
The pampering continued on the beach the next morning when, aside from the fresh fruit and cold towels brought to us, one charming beach attendant offered to clean my sunglasses.
Later on in the day I asked Ilisa to give them a wipe. Ouch!
Sugar Beach boasts probably the finest restaurant on the island and we were fortunate to experience it.
Well, I have dined in 3-Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris before and the experience at the Great Room Restaurant was right up there with that. Fantastic food, presentation and service to match (but in no way stuffy). Ilisa chose the locally-caught Mahi-Mahi fish and assured me it was to die for whilst my tender Kobe beef was one of those melt-in-the-mouth situations!
I never wanted the taste to leave me. What an incredibly-talented chef. The setting is also rather special – a bit like a charming step back in time – and well worth choosing for a romantic and memorable evening.
Like with Marigot Bay, returning to our villa was something you looked forward to. It boasted a charming lounge, exquisite bathrooms and a bed that gave us both the most comfortable sleeps we can remember. Staying in one night to watch a video and be pampered by the butler is also recommended.
Although reluctant to leave our two wonderful hotels, we did venture out and discovered that St Lucia really is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. About 30 minutes’ drive from Marigot Bay is Lushan Country Life, where you tour a plantation and enjoy nature at its best. And kids and adults alike will enjoy the cooking stop to taste delicious fresh doughnuts.
If you want to lose those extra calories then try a ride with Bike St Lucia in a jungle about 20 minutes from Sugar Beach. You are taken on a short boat trip to be greeted by ‘Bike’ Tyson, a delightful young man who probably could have gone a few rounds with the former heavyweight champ but is a gentle giant.
Needless to say, the experience was a big hit. Peddling for 45 minutes built up an appetite and we dined at nearby Jade Mountain, the island’s most exclusive hotel.
There are about 20,000 Jews who come to St Lucia every year, whether it be staying on shore or just visiting for the day via the many cruise ships. Rabbi Super is aiming to welcome as many as possible and also integrate the 200 Jews currently residing here.
He has even created the island’s first-ever shul at his home in popular Rodney Bay.
Well, I reckon the rabbi is going to be very busy but, if he does need a breather, he should make the short trip to Marigot Bay or Sugar Beach. Trust me, all holiday prayers will be answered…
There’s a lot to lava with Volcano Energy Therapy…
Thousands of visitors enjoy the Sulphur Springs in Saint Lucia – ‘the world’s only drive in volcano’ – and lap up the benefits of the mud baths, which are said to have many therapeutic benefits, such as helping with arthritis and eczema.
My other half, Ilisa, and I had already arranged some excursions and therefore did not want to leave the luxury of the Marigot Bay Resort and Marina too often.
But happily the property offered a treatment that covered us in the very same mud and we only had to make a journey of about 50 yards to their glorious spa!
Furthermore, they are the only hotel in the world to offer Volcano Energy Therapy.
Considering the quality of the hotel and the benefits of the treatment, $130 (about £100) was a more than reasonable price.
Sulphur mud is applied over the whole body, you then shower it off, before the best bit of a hot stones back massage, which will really help to relax the muscles. Apart from improving various ailments, the mud will leave your skin feeling revitalised and silky smooth.
It also slowly draws the toxins out of your body and that, of course, is a good thing as toxins inhibit our bodily functions.
Make sure you drink plenty of water after your treatment and try to avoid alcohol, which is not so easy especially if you acquire a taste for the rum at Marigot Bay’s Rum Cave!
Mark and Ilisa stayed at Marigot Bay Resort and Marina (marigotbayresort.com), which offers Resort View Rooms from £274 per room, per night, on a B&B basis, based on two adults sharing. He also stayed at Sugar Beach, where prices start from £335 per night in a Luxury Sugar Mill Room, room only based on double occupancy and excluding 20 per cent tax and service charge. Details: 001 758 456 8000 or viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/sugarbeach
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