Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to visit not one, but two beautiful Caribbean islands for a whistle-stop tour of these fascinating spots. From hair-raising internal flights to jaw-dropping views as we scaled St.Lucia’s lush heights in a rickety minivan, here’s what I got up to during the trip and what I loved most about these beautiful countries.
First Stop Gatwick Airport
Since a lot of mainline Caribbean flights don’t go as frequently from smaller UK airports we all met down at Gatwick to start our journey together. Something I didn’t realise before we got there is that the Hilton Hotel there actually has a passageway inside to get to the airport and 10 minutes free drop off time, winner! So with a cup of tea in hand and cases at the ready, we made our way to the check-in desks.
A Pampering Treat
Being some of the shorter people on the flight (yes we couldn’t reach the overhead compartments on this one) we don’t tend to have a problem with legroom on flights, particularly with the wider spaces on longer-haul flights. However, for this one, we upgraded to Premium class seats and were absolutely blown away. Being a bargain hunter, my travels are usually of the budget variety so this was my first time in Premium.
Welcomed on to the flight by a glass of bubbly in real branded glasses we took our seats tucked in with a squishy pillow and blankets at the ready and opened up our amenity kits to see what was inside. As Michael Caine and Joanna Lumley took it away with the safety video, we were up in the air with full over-ear headphones and a beautiful dish (real pottery again) of steak to start our trip off the right way.
Something I absolutely loved was the mini magnums passed around just before landing with a pizza delivery to your seat! As an absolute foodie, the amount I stuffed my face with on the outbound journey was heaven.
A Steel-Pan Welcome
Touching down in Antigua for the first time we were welcomed into the arrivals lounge by the live sounds of a man bashing out the best tunes on a set of steel pan drums. As we passed him in his brightly coloured house, he gave us a grin and a nod to welcome us, the perfect start to our trip!
The weather on our first day was not quite as bright however, as we stepped outside to a tropical downpour. One of the good things about rain over here though is that it rarely lasts for a long time and doesn’t lower the temperature much. Stood under the shelter in shorts and dresses, we were plenty warm enough as we enjoyed the dramatic downpour going on around us.
A Sandals Welcome
Despite the downpour, we were in store for a warm welcome as we arrived at our first port of call, Sandals Grande Antigua. Receiving cold towels as we stepped off the minivan we were whisked away to the Club Lounge for check-in with another lovely glass of bubbly after the trip. I’ve written all about my stay in another blog but I have to say it is one of the most beautiful places I have visited.
With a mile-long stretch of beach, a Mediterranean and Caribbean village and some incredible food, I think I left the resort half a stone heavier than when I got there! One of my favourite spots on the resort was breakfasting in the Italian Restaurant. It is such a beautiful open space and it really feels something special enjoying your morning cup of tea (or coffee) there along with the multitude of food on offer.
The trip to the airport for our internal flight was definitely an eye-opener, giving us a bit of a glimpse into what Antigua was like away from the resorts. One thing I can say there are a lot of in the area is goats. We had to stop the van more than a few times for families of goats crossing our path. When we arrived at the airport for our flight we could instantly tell who the English people were as we heard shouts going up from the big screens as Liverpool scored their goal. One of the security guards even stopped me to ask who was playing so he could get involved!
Whilst we were there our flight ended up being delayed for a few hours so we ended up at one of the cafés for drinks and got chatting to some of the lovely ladies who worked there (which is a story in itself). The Antiguans are incredibly friendly people and hilariously sassy which made our stay upbeat. One of the saviours of our delay was a game of ‘I am a biscuit’ or ‘I am a chocolate bar’* depending on how difficult you want the game to be. We ended up getting a massive group of people involved with people shouting guesses from all the way down the queue!
*The rules of 'I am a biscuit' for anyone who is interested (definitely recommend) are as follows. A person will state 'I am a biscuit' and everyone else has to ask yes and no questions such as 'are you round', 'do you contain chocolate' to guess what that biscuit is. This is a lot harder than you think and can be used on all sorts of foods with chocolate being slightly harder.
A Bumpy Ride
There is absolutely no sugar-coating this one. The ride from Antigua to Saint Lucia was extremely bumpy. Setting off on our tiny forty-seater plane was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences but also something I definitely wouldn’t have missed out on. Nervous fliers might want to prepare themselves if they are making the trip with a number of screams and one woman praying quite loudly during the flight.
Arriving safely at St. Lucia’s smaller airport, one or two members of the group were definitely in need of a strong drink. The airport itself was beautifully small with the luggage carousel being literally at the side of the arrivals corridor as you queued up for security. Bear in mind that you will need to complete an arrivals form going into both St. Lucia and the other Caribbean islands and keep hold of the slip of paper until you exit the country!
A Slightly Later Arrival
After the flight delay, we arrived at our next stop a lot later than we had planned originally and had to miss out on our plans to visit the Teppanyaki restaurant. Being absolutely exhausted, I headed off to my room whilst some others headed to the English Pub for some food. Wandering through the lovely open lobby area there was live music aplenty and I couldn’t wait to start exploring the resort in the morning.