St. Lucia

June 2, 2015

Wedding season has been insane this year and so I’m just now finding a couple of hours to sit down and blog about my recent trip to St. Lucia. For those of you that don’t know where St. Lucia actually is (like me at first), it’s sort of between Puerto Rico and Venezuela and for those of you interested in flying there, it really isn’t as expensive as you would think. Another little fun fact is that they do speak English and most (pretty much all) places will take US currency…which makes your trip a LOT easier. For our flight, round trip, it was a total of $1400 + resort stay (3 nights 4 days) $630 + traveling expenses like food, tips, etc while you’re there. As always, prices vary.. but it’s worth the cost!

Many people have asked me, “Why did you decide to go to St. Lucia” and here’s why:
Last year I got an email from a bride-to-be named Beth asking me to photograph her wedding on Mother’s Day in St. Lucia. As much as I really wanted to be her photographer, I didn’t want to leave my mom hanging on Mother’s Day while I was soaking up the rays in paradise so I initially said that I couldn’t do it. And then it was like a brick hit me on the head and I emailed Beth again saying that I would just take my mom with me! My mom is a teacher, has 5 kids, and has never really even been out of the south let alone the country.. so she REALLY deserved a trip like this and I am so happy I was able to take her.

We left for St. Lucia on Friday (May 8th) at 6am from Little Rock and arrived around 2:30 that afternoon (their time zone is only one hour ahead of Arkansas) so it was a pretty quick flight especially with the in-flight movie, McFarland USA and reading up on my new 35mm film camera.
Oh, and I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but when you’re flying over different places don’t you wish the countries or states had signs telling you what you were flying over? I feel like that would be so cool?? Anyways..
The St. Lucia airport is probably the smallest airport I’ve ever seen and we had to walk outside right by our plane and into the building. When we landed they had signs saying, “St. Lucia Welcomes Flo Rida,” so apparently he was on our flight and I had no idea…
When we were ready to leave, Beth (the bride), had arranged a car service to pick us up and take us to the resort, La Haut, (which is a 45 minute drive for those of you planning to book a stay at the resort we were in) and on the way there we got to see a good portion of the island which has two oceans that surround it, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Oh- another fun fact, they drive on the opposite side of the road there and it will most definitely freak you out.
When we got to our room at La Haut Resort I couldn’t believe it. Seriously I was at a loss for words. I’m sure a lot of you saw the photos I posted but it really didn’t do it justice. The view was something I’ll never forget and the relaxing atmosphere was exactly what I needed. We hung out on the hammock for awhile (I fell immediately..and there’s a photo of course) and decided to end the night eating dinner at the resort. I was pretty nervous coming to St. Lucia because of my vegan diet and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to find food that fit what I wanted but for those of you that are vegan or vegetarian, it’s actually really easy! They had a lot of options for me there and I pigged out.
Oh, and no surprise, the view from the restaurant and just about everywhere on the resort was amazing and it’ll make you not want to leave….ever.
Another fun fact about St. Lucia is their sunset is WAY earlier than ours (it was dark at 5:30) so we ended our night listening to music from the town below us while relaxing in the hammock on the balcony. The temperature was perfect, there was no bugs, and it was the best way to end our first night in St. Lucia.

All photos taken with a Nikon D4s, iPhone 5s, and Minolta 35mm

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Our second day in St. Lucia includes some of my favorite memories.
When we woke up we got an early start on breakfast and even though I could basically only eat bread, oatmeal, and fruit.. it was still really good. If you plan on staying at the La Haut Resort they offer a complimentary buffet breakfast with your stay and they have an omelette chef, fresh jams, a variety of fresh juices, and a lot of other options for you to eat. Oh, and their coffee is so good it’ll make your heart sing.
After breakfast we decided to explore the infinity pool for the first time and, like everything else, it was breathtaking.
Later on we got our plans together and set out for a full day of activities. Oh, another awesome thing about staying at La Haut Resort is that they will give you a phone so you can call them if you need transportation or help with anything. We didn’t use this service because we didn’t need it, but it’s definitely another perk about the resort for those of you concerned about getting around while in another country.
When we got to the front desk they had a driver waiting for us that was going to take us to the Toraille Waterfall, La Soufriere Volcano, the Diamond Botanical Gardens, and Anse Chastanet Beach! I thought this driver would just be dropping us off and picking us up but no, he stayed with us the entire time! Can you believe that? He waited for us outside of everything we did. I literally felt like Kim Kardashian. It was awesome. And for him to do all of that was just $189 and that included the entrance fees to all of the places he took us! So I definitely recommend doing that if you stay at La Haut!
On the way to the Toraille Waterfall we would see mongooses cross over the road and I guess that’s their version of a squirrel over there…which is so awesome.
When we got there it was pretty crowded but it ended up clearing out to where we were the only 2 people there. After taking pictures and being the typical tourists that we are, my mom and I headed outside to be even more touristy and buy souvenirs.
After buying some coconut bread (nomNOMnom), we headed to the volcano.
When we got there we had a guide that would take us to the volcano and he taught me so much in such a short amount of time. One interesting thing I learned is that you don’t actually die from magma when a volcano erupts and instead what you die from is high levels of hydrogen sulfide that are released in the air. And if all of you already knew that then just ignore me and my little fun facts that I think are awesome.
There is also natural “healing” pools near the volcano that reach a natural temperature of over 90 degrees and all the water that surrounded the volcano is naturally that temperature as well. I don’t watch The Bachelor, but one of the scenes they had one season was filmed at the exact spot we were at called the “love pool.”
Probably one of the coolest things I learned was about cashews. There was a cashew tree (that smells like honeysuckle) by the volcano so they told us more interesting things about it. For example, did you guys know that cashews grow on trees and attached to it is a fruit that we can eat BUT we can’t eat the cashew on top because it’s surrounded by acid that will really hurt us if we try to eat it? The acid is there to protect itself from animals and the only way to get the cashew out is to boil it at a high/specific temperature for a certain amount of time. ALL of that work for one little cashew. I have new found respect for the cashew and how expensive they are at Whole Foods now…
Something else that was pretty neat was that a lot of the locals in St. Lucia know or have read about Hot Springs, Arkansas and talk about it a lot during the volcano tour, which I thought was pretty neat considering no one from other countries ever really know where Arkansas is haha.
Our guide also told us that tourists were once able to get near the boiling waters near the volcano, but one year a guy tried to be ultra cool in front of his girlfriend and he jumped in without realizing that the water (that is spewing mud and heat) was 380 degrees so he burned nearly all of his skin on his legs off. O_O So guys, don’t be ultra cool.. be semi-cool and just take pictures of the boiling water.

After the volcano we went to the mud baths and oh my goodness, that was quite the experience. There was a lot of people there but we were ready to look “10 years younger” as promised haha. I don’t think it worked but hey, I felt pretty good the entire time and the water temperature was perfect. If you go to St. Lucia, do the mud bath.. it’s hilarious and something totally worth experiencing.

Once we rinsed off we went to the Diamond Botanical Gardens and again, learned so much and we got to see every plant that grows in St. Lucia.
Right before we got there I told my mom, “I feel like everything grows here except for Christmas trees,” and then as soon as we walked in there was a freaking pine tree that they call, “Christmas trees” right at the entrance. So you win, St. Lucia.
One of the coolest plants I saw there are what they call the, “moving plant.” This thing has aerial roots and it literally moves. The guide there told us that one day it will be in one spot and then the next it will be in another spot. Does anyone else think that’s crazy because I couldn’t wrap my head around it then and I still cant! And if you want to see what I’m talking about just take a look at the pictures below. The plant will have long roots that stick straight down and will look somewhat creepy. You can’t miss it.
Anyways, we learned that bamboo grows 4-6 inches a day and just about everything that we grow here, grows double in size there. My puny little house ivy plant that I have in my apartment was like 100ft long there and hanging off of trees as happy as can be. We also learned that there are no monkeys in St. Lucia because of how important the banana export is and how much monkeys would damage that.. so they were never brought into the island. 🙁

When we were done at the gardens we wanted to end our day at the beach. We ended up getting to go to a pretty private beach (Anse Chastanet) that you only could go to if you were staying at one of the nicer resorts on the island. We had no idea what to expect when we got there but we definitely weren’t expecting what we saw. There was a perfect little restaurant right on the water with the most amazing view and service you could ask for. And then of course there was little tiki umbrellas with amazing seats and I could just go on and on with how perfect everything was there.
After we ate we got to experience snorkeling for the first time ever and I have to say, that was my favorite experience in St. Lucia and I want to do it again and again. I saw the coolest fish, the most beautiful colors, AND I FELT LIKE A MERMAID. I definitely recommend going to Anse Chastanet and snorkeling with Scuba St. Lucia! It was really affordable ($11 per hour) and they also offer scuba diving, too!
Another interesting fact about this particular beach is that the sand is darker (and most parts black) due to the ash from the volcano. Also, there are no sea shells… I searched for a freaking hour.
Once we were done snorkeling we were SO exhausted. We laid out, fell asleep on the beach, and ended our night by having dinner at the restaurant where we had lunch when we arrived. They changed out their menus and the vibe was completely different (candles and lanterns lit) and it was like being somewhere totally new. As soon as you sit down they give you peppermint towels to wash off with and amazing appetizers. And they had vegan options for me! Yay!

When we left the beach to head back to our hotel our driver kept honking at people and cars as they passed (he had been doing this the entire day) and I thought he was angry at them because in America when you honk at someone it’s usually out of frustration. Well I finally asked him, “Why is it that everyone honks at people and cars randomly as they pass?” and he said, “To say hello to them!” with a big smile on his face. 🙂

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Sunday morning was focused solely on Mother’s Day so I took my mom to lunch and we got to lay out at the pool before the wedding festivities for Beth and Daryl started! If you want to see a full album of their awesome wedding day, go here!!! I cannot thank them enough for picking me to photograph their wedding in St. Lucia! It was one of the most memorable experiences and I had the best time getting to know them both and their families! This wedding was amazing, the food was awesome, the band was SO GOOD, and the entertainment at the end of the night left me speechless.
Here’s Beth and Daryl’s story for those of you interested on how an American girl met/fell in love with a boy from England!

“Daryl and I met in Northern Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, as luck would have it. I was studying abroad in Spain at the time, and he was living in England. I decided to make a weekend trip to Ireland with a group of girlfriends to celebrate St. Patty’s. He went there to celebrate his best friends bachelor party, or “stag do” as he calls it. We were staying at the same hotel in Belfast, and we met in the restaurant downstairs. We immediately connected, and ended up talking for hours that night and exchanged info, but I left Belfast the next morning, and he went back to England a couple of days after that. We kept in touch on Facebook, but neither of us thought anything else would come of it. When I got back to the States a few months later, though, we started sending each other messages almost every single day, and even had our first phone call. After that we decided that we would try to make a long-distance relationship work even though neither of us had any clue what that meant. We just talked on the phone and through FaceTime every day, and a few months later I planned a trip to England to visit him. My parents and friends thought I was crazy for flying to another country to visit a guy that I had only met once in person, but I was crazy in love by that point! I met him at Heathrow airport, he was standing at the gate with champagne and flowers in hand, and we proceeded to have one of the best weeks of our life! I went back home, and we really made a serious plan to try and be together after that. For the next year and a half or so, we both went back and forth visiting each other. He met my parents and extended family and friends. I met his family and friends, and they all encouraged us as best they could. But the hard work was left up to us. We started looking into the best ways to live in the same country and decided that we would try to both live in the U.S. using the K-9 fiancé visa process. Basically what you have to do is fill out lots and lots of paperwork, wait for what seems like forever, and then get married within 90 days of him entering the country. We were on a real life episode of 90 Day Fiancé! We got engaged in October of 2013, and sent in his visa application about two weeks later, we waited until May of 2014 in our own countries, he had to go the several interviews and we turned in more paperwork, then he got the final decision letter and booked his flight to come to the U.S. We had 90 days but we decided just to fly to Vegas and get married so that we had more time to plan a wedding that we could share with our friends and family. We got married on May 10th, 2014 and then started in on our first year of marriage in Denver. He had to wait to work until he had a work permit, then we were living with roommates for about half the year until we could get our own apartment. He also wasn’t able to leave the country until he received his green card, which in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea to plan a destination wedding! But it all worked out in the end. He received his green card about a month before we left for St. Lucia, and we were able to have a real wedding with our closest family and friends on our one year anniversary!”

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On our last day in St. Lucia we woke up super early to take pictures of Beth and Daryl at the beach and the Toraille Waterfall! It was such an amazing experience and I love that Beth and Daryl didn’t care about getting wet or dirty for these shots because they were so worth it!

At the airport we ended up boarding the same flight back home as Robin Thicke and learned that Ellie Goulding was on the island as well. I guess St. Lucia is where all the celebrities go to relax and I can totally see why. But please, world, next time I’m there can Beyonce please be there too?!?!?!!?

Thank you, mom, for coming with me on this trip! I love you so much and I am so happy I was able to take you to another country and give you the vacation you deserve!
And thank you, Beth, Daryl, and their families and friends for opening up to us and making us feel like we have known you all for years.

I plan on going back this December and bringing Ryan and I can’t wait!

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