A Piton Pilgrimage: Luxury in Saint Lucia

Jade Mouuntain
Jade Mountain

On approach into Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) in St. Lucia I realized, that the Caribbean of my mind’s eye existed in a giddiness-inducing reality. The gorgeous Pitons rising straight from the depths of the ocean made me feel that perhaps I had in fact flown to a much more far-flung destination, like Phi Phi Island, when in fact I was mere four hours and forty minutes nonstop flying time from Boston.

The Pitons on approach to UVF
The Pitons on approach to UVF

 

After about a thirty minute wait on arrival, I was greeted by a friendly immigration official who was somewhat dumbfounded that I was traveling alone to St. Lucia for eight nights. The allure of the destination for romance travel (honeymoons, anniversaries, and destination weddings) is virtually unparalleled in the Caribbean. She asked no further questions, hastily stamped my passport, and off I went to retrieve my luggage and find my driver.

My first two night hotel stay in my Piton Pilgrimage to St. Lucia was at Ladera Resort which is located near the top of the Pitons, and overlooks Sugar Beach. The views from this height were absolutely memorizing.

The view from Ladera Resort
The view from Ladera Resort

Next, I took a quick fifteen minute taxi ride down the hill to the base of the Pitons for two night stay at the aptly named Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. The beach has soft white sand, beautiful views of the Pitons on either side, and plenty of shade from thatched umbrellas.

Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort

A boat was the preferred mode of transportation for my transfer around the base of the Petit Piton and on to my next resort for two nights, the absolutely incomparable Jade Mountain. With views like this from bed, I was almost too relaxed to bother leaving my room.

View from bed at Jade Mountain
View from bed at Jade Mountain

However, while at Jade Mountain, I could not resist the opportunity to visit their sister beach resort, Anse Chastenet, which has a great traditional Caribbean vibe, lots of dining options, and a beautiful natural sand beach.

Anse Chastenet Beach
Anse Chastenet Beach

The last stop on my trip was another boat ride away from the Pitons for a two night stay on the north end of the island at the casually elegant Cap Maison. The food was delicious, the public spaces felt both intimate and secluded, and the service at the beach was amazing. The wine cellar dinner was one of my favorite all-time meals.

Dinner in the wine cellar at Cap Maison
Dinner in the wine cellar at Cap Maison

My last transfer was the most exciting, a fifteen minute helicopter ride over the rain forest to Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) to catch my flight back to Boston.

Helicopter transfer to UVF
Helicopter transfer to UVF

I loved my experience in Saint Lucia, and I can’t wait to share my in depth trip reports with you on each hotel. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you have questions about the resorts, the complimentary Virtuoso amenities, or are ready to book your vacation to Saint Lucia, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email or phone at 508-485-3061.

I can’t wait to see where you go next!

A January Week in Iceland

Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights

Is Iceland on your list of must-visit destinations? I spent six nights in Iceland in January 2017 and I had an amazing time. Definitely one of my top five all-time favorite places, and one that I would love to return to soon.

 

How was Iceland in January? I have lived in Boston for the past thirteen years and I am finally more or less acclimated to the cold. Of course, every year is different, but when I was looking at the weather the week before I left, Boston was usually colder than Reykjavik.

Hraunfossar, Iceland
Hraunfossar, Iceland

The first three days it was cloudy and rained, which made adjusting to the time change a challenge since I never saw the sun. Typically at that time of year sunrise is around 10:30 AM and sunset is at 4:30 PM. My last few days were sunny and cold and absolutely beautiful.

 

Gulfoss, Iceland
Gulfoss, Iceland

My reason for traveling was to attend the Icelandair Mid-Atlantic Trade Show. This was a great opportunity for me to meet with boutique suppliers (from Alaska to Scandinavia) who wouldn’t necessarily attend my usual luxury travel conferences, make personal contacts, and experience as many hotels, sites, and activities as possible.

 

Of course, I flew Icelandair’s Business Class product called Saga Class. From BOS-KEF I was on one of their new 767-300s which has 2-1-2 seating. On the return from KEF-BOS I was on the 757 which has 2-2 seating. The seats themselves (all with seat-back entertainment) and the amenities were the same, regardless of aircraft type.

 

I loved that the WiFi on Icelandair is gate to gate and is complimentary for those sitting in Saga Class. I pre-ordered my vegetarian meal and was pleasantly surprised that unlike most airlines, it was actually vegetarian and not vegan.

 

I started my trip with a long nap, as I was unable to get any sleep on the short five hour and five minute flight. Then I set out to meet up with a small group walking tour in the evening. It was a great orientation and introduction to charming Reykjavik.

 

The next morning I worked from my hotel room before heading to one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, the famous Blue Lagoon. I booked the Luxury Package (of course!), which truly is the only way to go.

 

I had my own private changing room with shower, access to an exclusive lounge with private indoor access to the lagoon, souvenir flip-flops and amenity kit, one free beverage of choice, complimentary towels and bathrobe, two faces masks included, and much more.

 

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

After my relaxing Blue Lagoon experience I went out for a night on the town with a small group Beer Tour. It was one of the best experiences of my trip. I learned a lot about the history of Iceland, met a fun group of people, and tried numerous traditional and micro-brew beers, as well as the traditional Icelandic spirit, Brennivín.

 

Polar Beer
Polar Beer

I also did a full day Golden Circle tour with a foodie spin, the Into the Glacier tour, and a successful Northern Lights tour in a Super Jeep.

 

 

Plus five hotel site inspections, twenty-five travel supplier meetings, two hotel stays, and one quick souvenir shopping excursion.

 

This all added up to one amazing travel experience. I can’t wait to go back to Iceland, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do so in any season. If you go in winter you will have a chance to see the Northern Lights, there will be fewer crowds, more availability, and rates will be lower. However, anytime is truly a great time to go to Iceland.

 

Aurora Borealis in Iceland
Aurora Borealis in Iceland

 

I would love to utilize my expertise and personal contacts to help you plan a wonderful vacation in Iceland. Please get in touch via phone at 508-485-3061 or email to get started today!

 

 

Adventure in the Yucatan

 

Our Ride to the Cenote
Our Ride to the Cenote

Our Yucatan adventure started a few weeks before our departure when it came to my attention that American Airlines still did not have approval to fly to Merida. Luckily, even though it was a prime holiday travel week I was able to find two seats in Business Class on AeroMexico.

This was my third trip to the interior of the Yucatan, and my primary goal was to see Uxmal. The other goal was to stay in one hotel for the duration of the trip, so we booked the centrally located Hacienda Temozon, a part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection (yes, I can get you VIP perks here too!).

Hacienda Temozon
Hacienda Temozon

Our Junior Suite was located near the main entrance, and was appointed with all of the creature comforts that one would expect at this level of hotel. I appreciated the cold air-conditioning, crisp clean sheets, abundance of bottled water, and last but not least, the adorable towel art.

Towel Art Elephant
Towel Art Elephant

For our first full day we toured some of the Puuc Route visiting Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, and had lunch at the beautiful Hacienda Xocnaceh. Uxmal exceeded my expectations, and is quite different in comparison to the other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan.

Our lunch at Hacienda Xocnaceh was amazing. A beautiful setting with more food than we could ever hope to eat, although we gave it our best try. Plus, impeccable service from Juan Carlos who never let our glasses go empty.

Lunch was followed by a swim in the former water tank that has been converted into a pool. There’s nothing better after a hot day of exploring ruins than taking a cold refreshing dip.

The next day we went to Celestun Biospehere Reserve to take a boat ride to see the pink flamingos. Another nice break from seeing ruins. It was refreshing to be out on the water, ans interesting to get to go into the mangroves.

Day Four was where the adventure truly began. Our journey back in time to see what Mayan ruins looked like before they were excavated and reassembled. The first stop was the parking lot at Labna where we met our archaeologist guide, an assistant, and Juan Carlos. We all smushed into a small well-loved pickup truck and barreled down some dirt roads into the jungle. What fun!

Our first stop was Huntichmul, a largely unexcavated site. We hiked up a hill, or what appeared to be a hill. Upon closer inspection everywhere you looked there were piles of stones, rubble, from ruins that had collapsed.

Huntichmul
Huntichmul

Of course, Juan Carlos was waiting for us with comfy chairs and refreshments after we hiked back down to the truck.

 

We got back in the truck and bounced down the roads toward our final destination of the day, Kiuic. The site is surrounded by the Kaxil Kiuic the Millsaps Biocultural Reserve, operated by an international organization that carries out archaeological and biological research.

It was interesting and sobering to see ruins that had never or only partially been excavated. To be able to picture in your mind how this carries through the entire Yucatan peninsula. There were so many people living here and now there are so few, and so much of their culture has been lost.

Beyond that, the amount of effort and skill that goes into creating sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza, and how much more money is needed to maintain, preserve, and continue exploration. And to whose benefit? We had lots to think about on our way back to Hacienda Temozon that evening.

Day Five was purposefully planned as a free day, since it would be the last day of our vacation. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast. Took a ride on the old rialway to the cenote for a swim. Participated in a cooking class, ate a delicious lunch, had a couples massage, and lazed by the pool for a couple of hours.

The perfect end to another amazing trip to the Yucatan with Catherwood Travels.

Interested in having your own adventure in the Yucatan? Contact me via email or phone at 508-485-3061.

PS: Stayed tuned for our next adventure in Mexico when we visit Chiapas later this year!