We woke up at 7 am, took showers, made coffee, and headed to breakfast at Ti Bananne at 8:30. Our adorable waitress was named Vanya, and we had a very nice chat with her. We decided to order a full breakfast today, as we didn't know when we would be eating lunch. Craig got the "American" omelette (cheese and mushroom) served with bacon and sausage. I got two fluffy yet dense pancakes with sausage. We had juice, toast, and yummy coconut bread from the continental buffet.
At 9:30 we left the hotel. It took us about 25 minutes to get to Sandals,as there wasn't much traffic on Saturday morning. As we entered the gate and turned down the long driveway, we noticed an employee walking to work. We offered her a ride, and she graciously accepted, as it looked like it was about to start raining. We chatted with her, and she said that the only reason she could accept a ride from us was because we were not staying at Sandals (they are forbidden from fraternizing with guests. They are allowed to be polite but not overly friendly). Having her in the car made all the difference in the world when we got to the securty gate. She rolled down the window and yelled "wedding" and the guard waved us through without asking our names. Of course, he was also the same guy from last night, so he probably recognized us in our little car. Not many people arrive at Sandals driving themselves. We told her about our day yesterday. She seemed surprised and pleased that we had eated at Hardest Hard. "Oh, Hardest Hard! Good food, good food!" She recommended a place called Sugar and Spice at the Castries Market. We parked in the same manager's lot as last night. We said goodbye to our new friend, and headed to the lobby. Of course by now it was pouring, and I tried in vain to avoid getting water stains on my silk blouse.
We were about an hour early. We knew where the wedding would be, so we decided to sit down on a couch in the lobby and people-watch. We looked out over the restaurant, the largest pool on the island, and the beach. The waves were once again really violent. We found out that the guests were not allowed to swim at the beach all week, due to the rough surf. A red flag symbolized this.At 10:35 we heard someone call out to us. We turned around to find Mike, Andrea, and Nick, each rolling a suitcase behind them. They had just picked up their luggage at the airport 10 minutes ago, on their way to Sandals. They were so happy. The luggage had been flown in via helicopter. They would have their wedding attire after all. They caught the shuttle up to their parents' room so that they could change. At around 10:50, we got up and walked down the beach to the gazebo. Some workers were laying a concrete patio. They were very friendly and chatted with us on our way over.
When we got to the gazebo overlooking the ocean, a bunch of the guests were already there. We greeted everyone we had met last night, and were introduced to those we hadn't had a chance to meet yet. A steel band called the Harmonites set up on the grass next to the gazebo. The grounds were very pretty, with tropical flowers, green lawns, and even some colonial cannons pointed toward the ocean. We joked that they were defending the property from non-Sandals-sanctioned guests. Kathleen and Susan were wearing color-coordinated mothers' dresses. Craig finaly had occasion to wear his Panama hat and henequen shirt which we bought in Mexico. Andrea, Mike, and Nick arrived, having changed into their newly-arrived clothes. Tom and his dad arrived, looking a bit warm in their suits. Two rows of chairs were set up along the perimeter of the gazebo.
The Harmonites began playing a steel drum version of "Here Comes The Bride" and Karen's father Martin walked her down the steps of one of the hotel buildings, down the stone pathway, and up to the gazebo. Karen looked beautiful. Sandals provided a justice of the peace, a photographer, and a videographer. The videographer mustn't have had zoom capability, as he and the photographer stood in the dead center of the gazebo for the entire ceremony. The ceremony was very personal, and is one of the most moving weddings I have ever attended. Tom took out a roll of ribbon and everyone took ahold of it and passed the rest along. The ribbon ran out just as it made its way back to Karen and Tom. They couldn't have planned it any more perfectly. Nicholas (the ring bearer) produced the rings, and Tom and Karen threaded them onto the ribbon. The rings were passed from person to person, and each person briefly addressed the bride and groom when the rings got to them. The video camera was right in our faces as we wished them all the best. Tom's parents, Andrea, Mike, and Nick each did a reading. Tom and Karen wrote their own vows, which were very beautiful. The justice of the peace pronounced them to be married. Karen announced that her "something blue" was a tie that had belonged to her brother Charlie (who passed away several years ago). She took a little clipping and sewed it into the lining of her dress, and gave the tie to Tom (he was wearing it now). It was a very sweet way to honor her brother's memory. Martin wrapped a glass in a cloth napkin and laid it onto the floor. he said that unlike the glass (which would shatter) Tom and Karen's marriage would be very strong. Tom pulverized the glass underfoot, and some Hebrew prayers were said. The bride, groom, and witnesses signed the paperwork, and some group photos were taken. Then we headed to one of the main buildings.
The Harmonites (featuring even more players than had been outside) were set up, and there was a long table with chairs and a small wedding cake. Tom and Karen were introduced as husband and wife, and had their first dance to "Unchained Melody". During Karen's dance with her dad, they (rather amusingly) played the theme to the Godfather. Then the music kicked into high gear as they played "Hot Hot Hot," and Tom and Karen joined in on the drums. Next we headed over to the table and sat down. We had a champagne toast and appetizer platters of cheese, cold cuts, stuffed mushrooms, and olives. Tom and Karen cut the cake, and the Harmonites played on. Mike and Nick went over and joined in on the music. They were really into it.
At 1:00, it was time to head up to Armando's for the reception lunch. At this point another small shower was passing through. We all got into the shuttle and were driven up the hill, while Tom and Karen waited out the rain to get a few more photos. We had salad from the antipasto bar and ordered lunch from the menu. Craig got a Napoleon calzone, and I had a panini. Karen and Tom arrived shortly before lunch was served. Everyone was enjoying the air conditioning, and some even went to their rooms to get into more comfy clothes. The cake was like a light gingerbread with white frosting. At around 3:00, we all left the restaurant. Tom and Karen said they would meet us at the pool. Everyone else changed into bathing suits and headed to the pool to go swimming (swimming in the ocean was not allowed during their entire Sandals stay, due to the rough surf). We were rather uncomfortable in our fancy clothes in the heat, and the pool looked mighty inviting. But we had not brought bathing suits, so we wound up watching everyone else. I walked over to the other side of the patio to look at the ocean just as the Brig Unicorn sailed by. I had taken off my high heels as my feet were hurting, but then I jammed my toe on an uneven patio brick and it started bleeding all over the place. Nice. I wrapped it in a tissue and limped around. There was a very cool yellow and black bird amongst some berries in a tree near where we were standing. We ran in to Dean, John, Tom, and Mary Anne and chatted.It started to pour again and we took refuge behind the fake waterfall. When they saw that the clean towel bin was empty, they asked an employee for more towels. She told them rudely that there were towels in the bin. They politely said that there weren't. She kind of shrugged and walked away. No towels appeared. At around 3:45, Tom and Karen arrived. We said our goodbyes and took the shuttle back down to the car. Andrea, Mike, and Nick wer eleaving as well, as Nick is 14 and wasn't allowed to swim in the Sandals pool. We couldn't give them a ride back, though, as our car was too small (especially since they now had luggage) in tow.
As we drove back, we pulled over and I hopped out to get a picture over Castries. Where we pulled over there was a sign for the "St Lucia Labour Party Castries South Office" and also "Stephanie's Apartments." We had to take a picture of that! Standing near the pool had made us want to go for a dip, so we considered going back to the room and swimming in the pool before the sun went down. But as we passed by the airport shortly after 4:00, the late afternoon light looked absolutely gorgeous on the cemetery in the background. We made the spontaneous decision to stop and check it out. We drove to the entrance of the cemetery and parked the car. The place was deserted. I started to hobble around in my high heels with my injured toe, but I soon took off the heels and went barefoot. I had to be a bit careful about sharp gravel and some occasional broken glass, but it was much easier than the heels. The graves were above-ground. Most were white, decorated with stone crosses, etc. Several were much more ostentatiously decorated with tiles (Did these come from Tiles Plus?), bright paint (one was fluorescent green and orange) and flowers. We could see the ocean in the background, and it was just beautiful. We wandered among the graves and saw a metal cross near the beach. The beach (we would later learn that it is called Vigie Beach) was absolutely beautiful, and not a soul was on it. We walked onto the sand and I dunked my feet in the water. It felt good to wash off my injured toe. The water was really warm, and the waves lapped against my feet. I turned my back to the ocean so that Craig could get a picture of me. Just then a huge wave hit and soaked my skirt. It was hilarious and I started laughing uncontrollably. We walked back to the car. Along the way, Craig picked up some fallen flowers and restored them to their grave.A plane flew very low overhead. We saw some graves marked "Walcott", and wondered if they were relatives of Derek Walcott, St Lucia's 1992 Nobel Prize winning poet. As we reached the car, we saw a bluish gray heron or crane in a culvert.
At 4:30 we headed back to the hotel. When we arrived, the pool was already in shadow and nobody was swimming any longer. We relaxed in the room for a while. Sanjay had said that Ti Bananne would be hopping tonight, and they were supposed to have another band. We kind of expected to just hang out there, eat some dinner, and enjoy the band. They told us that the restaurant didn't start serving dinner until 7, and that the band wouldn't start until 9:30. That was too long to wait. We walked down by the bank and continued on to a nice playground where many local families were hanging out. There was a bouncy house, trampolines, see-saws, an inflatable Santa in a hammock betweek two palm trees, and an inflatable Grinch. There were stands selling snow cones and popcorn, and there were some pinball machines. It was definitely the local hangout, and we enjoyed watching the kids play.
We thought we might try to hook up with Andrea, Mike, and Nick, so we walked down Reduit Road toward their hotel. We passed the Rastas we had met yesterday afternoon at Rodney Bay Village Green. Lawrence introduced himself and we started to talk with him. We were introduced to another Lawrence (a musician), Ronny (who worked for the Pigeon Island ferry) and Ania (Earthquake) who sold wood and coconut carvings. They were all very friendly and we chatted with them about the island, etc. They were happy to know that we were staying at Coco Palm, as it is a Rasta-friendly place. We really clicked with Ania and he talked to us about the Rasta lifestyle, etc. He was softspoken and lapsed into patois every now and again. His catch phrase was "check it" which he would interject into his sentences as someone from the U.S. might say "You know?" We told him about the wedding, and he showed us some of his wares. He was a carver, and carved birds out of coconuts and St Lucian scenes out of wood. He showed us one carving that he said would be perfect as a wedding gift. A friend of theirs walked by with a bag of coconuts. Ania chopped a hole in the top, and made a little cap out of part of the coconut. As he handed it to us, the cap fell on the ground and he looked disappointed. We drank the coconut milk. When we were done with the milk, he chopped the coconut in half lengthwise with a machete. He hewed out two little pieces of coconut flesh to use as scrapers, and instructed us to scoop out and eat the "jelly", a gelatinous membrane around the milk chamber. It was tasty, and the scraper worked very well, though we did get a few woody coconut fibers in our mouth in the process. Ronny showed us a brochure for the boat that he works for, and told us about tours that they offer. We mentioned that we had a rental car, and Ania said that he could be our tour guide for the day tomorrow. This was exactly what we were looking for - a local's perspective. We would rather give money to a local than to a tour company. We asked how much he would charge for such a day trip and he said 120 EC. That was very reasonable.
He then brought out a glass jug filled with what appeared to be sticks and a brown speckly liquid. He explained that this was "spice", a local concoction. The jar contained local herbs, sugar cane, cinnamon, and honey. It was filled with rum and is said to be an aphrodesiac. He poured a little bit into the bottle's screw cap, and handed it to Craig. Craig took a swig. After making sure that he didn't go blind as a result of whatever this moonshine was, I took a sip as well. The liquid was kind of brown and speckled. It burned as it went down. It tasted a bit like cinnamon Schnapps, but with much more of a kick. It made us instantly warm inside. Ronny called me over to the bench where he was sitting and took his backpack off. He pulled out a bunch of CD's and asked if I would like to buy one. I said not right now, but that I'd keep it in mind. We were still discussing the possibility of spending the day with Ania tomorrow, when Ania asked if we could buy him a Guinness. We said sure, and told him to lead the way to where he wanted to go.
We walked up the street and entered a Chinese Restaurant called "Double Happiness". The proprietors didn't speak very much English, but they were very nice. Craig and Ania got Guinnesses, and I ordered a rum punch. What I got was a shot of mango rum in a plastic cup. Worked for me. We went to one of the tables outside and sat sipping our drinks and chatting. Ania was teaching us more about Rastafari culture. He explained that in the Rasta calendar, months correspond to the tribes. May is Benjamin and June is Simeon. Ania is 45 and is currently living out of his car, which is parked on the Rodney Bay Village Green. He is divorced from a British woman, and went to England with her at one point. He was freaked out by weapons, etc. The Rastas are allowed to congregate on Rodney Bay Village Green and sell their wares for no rent, provided that they help to keep the area clean from trash.
We heard someone say "I know these guys!" We looked up, and Andrea, Michael, and Nick were walking towards us. "No way!" we said as we greeted them. Mike came over to Ania and they immediately punched fists like brothers. They had already met last night after the rehearsal dinner. Too funny! They joined us at the table. Andrea asked what we were drinking and went inside to get a round. She told the proprietor to add juice to the mango rum. He was very hesitant and asked what kind of juice. She said any kind...orange would be fine. He was still hesitant, and acted like he thought she would be mad if he actually added juice to the shot of rum. She finally convinced him. We all laughed and joked that she had "invented" a complicated drink: rum and orange juice. Nick didn't want anything to drink, but Ania took him across the street near the playground and bought him a nice fresh orange juice at Pizza Pizza.
Locals were singing karaoke at the Triangle Pub next door. It was way too loud and pretty horrendous. The most popular song seemed to be "Wind Beneath My Wings." When we couldn't stand it any longer, Mike, Craig, Ania, and I walked back to the Village Green to get some peace and quiet.We crossed the green and stood on a flimsy plywood dock. After standing around for a few minutes, Ania decided to get us chairs. In the process of carrying a long beach lounge chair, he almost lost his balance and fell in the water, but Mike grabbed him and prevented it. Ania laughed and said thanks. We sat side-by-side on the chair and looked out over the water toward Pigeon Island, and then we headed back to Double Happiness where Andrea and Nick were waiting. They had already eaten at their hotel, and I was really starting to get hungry. I went into Double Happiness and ordered curry chicken chow mein. I brought it out to the table and Craig and I shared it. We asked Ania if he wanted anything, but Rastas are vegetarians and don't eat anything "that cries". The food was very tasty, and it was a nice local spin on American-style Chinese food. Andrea and Ania walked across the street to the gelato stand and came back with small cups of passion fruit and ginger gelato, wrapped in tin foil. It was delicious. Ania then wandered off and the five of us continued to drink and chat. Mike had to go back to the room, but Andrea and Nick hung out for quite a while. Then they got tired and headed to bed.
Ania wandered by and saw Craig and I, but didn't seem to want to intrude on just the two of us, A little while later, he and Mike showed up together, walking down the road to join us. A mini-bus drove by and some local guy hung out the window shouting hello to Mike. Mike certainly made an impression. They called him the "Big mon" (he is tall with muscuular arms). Ania asked if he could have another beer. Craig gave him 5 EC. Ania played with the change like poker chips until Craig was done with his beer, then used the change to buy Craig another one. "You're all set," Ania told me, which was his subtle way of saying he didn't have enough to buy me a drink. We hung out until 1:15 and then said our goodbyes. We told Ania we would pick him up in the morning. He told us to take our time, and he would be there whenever we were ready. He said that Sunday was a good day to do an island tour. Although some Rasta restaurants would be closed, there would be less traffic and a more relaxed vibe. As we opened the door to our room we were greeted by a blast of frigid air. We joked that we were entering the Death Zone of Mt Everest. I wrote in the journal and we were asleep by 2:00.
Watch Karen and Tom join the Harmonites for 'Hot Hot Hot'
Watch Mike and Nick jam with the Harmonites