Sunday, December 29, 2013

On the Ninth Day of Winter

We celebrate!

Nine years ago today on a beautiful beach in Barbados...Happy Anniversary, mi amor, mi dushi, mi querida!

And Happy Anniversary to Ola Lola's! Seven years ago today we reopened Ola Lola Garden Bar and began the wonderful adventure to what Ola Lola's is today.

For us - and for Ola Lola's - the adventure continues.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the Sixth Day of Winter..

Happy Boxing Day!

Boxing Day is very old holiday in the Britain and adopted by the Commonwealth nations like Canada and Australia. Although there are conflicting theories of the true origins of Boxing Day (see Wikipedia and this article from Time Magazine), basically Boxing Day comes down to the English upper classes giving boxes of food, gifts and/or money to the lower classes on the day after Christmas. There are similar traditions in other European countries as well.

In Puerto Rico (which mostly has no idea Boxing Day exists) the day after Christmas is a day to enjoy the beach and stand with one's feet in the sand and let the warm ocean flow past. At least it was this year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On the Fifth Day of Winter...

Merry Christmas!

Today was an awesome day with horses. First, Chocolate and I had a great lesson in our new round pen (Elaine's big Christmas present from me). Then Elaine on KTJ, Marie on her horse Zip and Chocolate and I had a fabulous ride on the beach. Today was one of those stunningly perfectly beautiful days. It was all the better coming behind the crappy weather we've had for the last week.

What can I say?

On the Fourth Day of Winter...

Amazing company, great friends, fabulous food in an incredibly awesome setting. Thank you Tim, Kay and Rebecca for Christmas Eve at your house.

But then we came home. Our Vizsla Jazz freaked out over fireworks. He pulled a nail out of the gate to the main part of the house. He got out and ran away. We spent hours walking the beach and driving the neighborhood calling him, looking for him. Somewhere around 1:00 am we decided we couldn't do anymore in the dark, that we we would start over at first light. We went to bed.

About quarter til two we woke up to the sound of Jazz coming up the steps to the bedroom. Christmas miracle! He was home! Shaken, sore, but home. So today he's just going to take it easy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

On the Third Day of Winter...

Elaine is back from St Lucia!! She's in PR for about a month then back to St Lucia for three more months. 

Her first day-and-a-half back she spent a lot of time with the horses. No surprise there. But we did get her diving at Crashboat on her second full day back. Awesome!

How we spend the winter...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice! Today is the shortest day and longest night of the year and the first day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. From now until the Summer Eqinox, the days get longer, even if it is only by a couple of seconds a day.

The Winter Solstice is truly the reason for this season. In fact, it IS the season.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The rest of the story

(If our last post seemed disjointed and unfinished, that's because it was. It suffered from a bad case of  "premature post-ulation." I've tried several times to start a new post to finish the last one but power outages, Internet outages, scheduling and just plain laziness have prevented kept me from it. I apologize to everyone who read the unfinished post and said, "What the heck?" Okay - no whining! No excuses. Onward!)

To get to Cas En Bas there is a paved road through the golf course. The paved road ends at a resort and the resort's beach bar anchors one end of the beach. 

The other end of the beach is anchored by the Cas En Bas Beach Bar:

Cas En Bas, on the Atlantic side of the island, is in a kind of protected cove, at least protected from the Atlantic waves. But the wind whips down the beach, making Cas En Bas one of the most popular kitesurfing beaches on the island.

So between the resort bar and Cas En Bas Beach Bar is the "Aquaholics Kitesurf Center." (I am so-o stealing that name!)

This woman is originally from Britain. She is reputed to be the best kitesurfer in St. Lucia. Alas, I didn't get - or don't remember - her name.

The area around Cas En Bas is one area of St. Lucia we both agree we could live. There is room for the animals. It's not right in a town. The beach is beautiful - and obviously horses and dogs can swim there.

So the answer to the million dollar question posed in the last post remains "I don't know." There is still a lot to be discussed. 

We'll let you know.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

the million dollar St Lucia question

Of course the $1,000,000 question everyone is asking are we/when are we moving to St. Lucia. Honestly, we don't know a) if we are moving and b) if we do, when.

The center where Elaine works would like to keep her permanently. She is doing great work there. And St. Lucia is an incredibly beautiful island.

That said, there are a number of questions. Near the top is the question of where we could live with our animals. Two horses and three dogs have to go with us.

The one area I saw is the one above. It is below Cap Estate, which is one of the high HIGH end areas to live on the island and near what is one of our favorite beaches, Cas En Bas.

The photo above is looking south and down from Cap Estate. The Atlantic is on the left. The bay at the top center is Epouge Bay and Cas En Bas is out of the photo at the top right.

This particular are is pretty undeveloped. You can see jeep and horse trails through it. And there is land available.

Cas En Bas itself is a beautiful, weird little beach. It looks wild and untamed. And in some ways it is.


 There is a paved road through ut the paved road ends at a resort and the the resort's beach bar anchors one end of the beach. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Snorkeling Reduit Beach

Pigeon Island is at the north end of Rodney Bay, guarding the entrance to the bay, quite a hike from Elaine's apartment. At the south end of Rodney Bay is Reduit Beach which is just a few minutes walk from the apartment.

The beach and the bay beyond are sand bottom so for much of it there is not a lot to see. But there are these fantastic little patches of reef that you just happen on. They are all the more remarkable because they are such a surprise, sort of popping up out of the sand. The biggest and most interesting bit of reef, Elaine calls her "dessert reef." It's the last one she visits each time. It truly is amazing.

We saw a number of things we don't see here in PR. For example, the bright red cushion starfish is very common. They can grow to nearly 18 inches across.

Another common but weird resident of the reefs in St Lucia is the spaghetti worm.

These are actually tubeworms, The worm buries itself in a crevice or a space between bits of reef. the long spaghetti-like things capture food for the worm. I have heard that we do have then in PR but I'v never seen one here.

These little patches of reef are Elaine's after work hang-out. I understand why.

You can see more photos of snorkeling at Reduit Beach on our Flickr page.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Surf season is here

Grace. Power. Strength. Beauty.

It doesn't matter if the surfer is female or male: that description applies.

Surf season is here in Puerto Rico. Last weekend they held the Corona Pro competition at Middles. Unfortunately other responsibilities kept me away so I didn't get to see or photograph any of it. But they had waves! Unusual for this event. Everything I've heard indicates it was a great event, well attended by both surfers and spectators. I know it was hard to drive through Jobos and past Middles.

This photo is from a session at Wilderness on Veterans' Day. You can see a lot more photos from this session on our website, and on our Flickr page.

There's a big swell supposed to hit on Friday and Saturday. It looks like it's going to be windy as well so we'll have to see how good the surfing is. But we'll be there ready for it.

For those of you hoping for more about St. Lucia, thanks for your patience. There is more coming, we promise.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Meanwhile, back in Puerto Rico...

There are still more posts to come about St Lucia, but life goes on in Puerto Rico as well. Surf season started this week with the first big swell of the year. I got a pretty good set of photos from Wilderness this week. The photos are up on our website,

I've heard varying reports about this swell, how big it's been, how good it's been (or not been), how much some people have surfed, etc. Maybe I've just been in the wrong places but here are my observations. Yes, it has been by far the biggest, longest lasting swell of the new season. But everywhere I've been - mostly Wilderness and Surfers - the waves have seemed very "heavy" and very "fat," not breaking very well. I've seen a lot of heads bobbing in the water but frankly, not a lot of surfing. Like I said maybe I've just been in the wrong place.

The Corona Pro Surf competition is this weekend at Middles. It looks like this swell is going to stick around long enough make this competition fun. If the wind stays down, the competitors should have some nice clean waves to play on. On the other hand, if the wind comes up a bit, I'll be able to fly my KAP kite and get some photos from up there.

More about the competition as the weekend goes on. And let's hope this is also the start of our season at Ola Lola's as well.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

At the base of Pigeon Island

There are a number of amazing snorkeling spots in St Lucia but Rodney Bay isn't usually mentioned as one of them. However, around the base of Pigeon Island there is some pretty good snorkeling. The bottom is mostly huge rocks I guessing were put there when Sandals built the causeway. A few corals, some sponges and other assorted sealife are moving in and trying to turn this rip-rap into a reef.
One of our more interesting experiences with with these brown chromis. We must have been too close to their nesting area because a number of them got very aggressive and stated pecking at us. Kinda cool actually but we moved away and left them alone.

There are a lot more photos from snorkeling at the base of Pigeon Island on our Flickr page. Click on the link or either of the photos to see them.

Monday, November 04, 2013

More from the top of Pigeon Island

We wrote about Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island at the north end of Rodney Bay. This is the view looking south from Signal Hill, the taller of the two peaks on Pigeon Island.

Pigeon Island used to be an actual island, separated from the main island. Then Sandals resorts built the causeway between the two and built a resort on the causeway. If it's not obvious, the resort is all those red-roofed buildings in the center of the photo. This is one of three Sandals resorts on St. Lucia. Tourism is far and away the largest industry in St Lucia. While there are a number of resorts, Sandals is the largest player and the largest employer on the island.

That little stretch of beach below and to the right of Sandals is a cool little spot. It has food-and-drink kiosks, similar to Villa Pesquera here in Isabela, one of which is my new "away-from-home-happy-place." My happy place used to be a bar/restaurant on the beach in Barbados called Lobster Alive. Now it's this little kiosk at the foot of Signal Hill on Rodney Bay.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

First days in St Lucia

My first day in St. Lucia I went to work with Elaine. This is the view from her therapy room window. I've seen most of the therapy rooms she's worked in and this one is one of the nicest. Back in Michigan she had a therapy "room" that was just a corner of the school's boiler room. She's shared classrooms, used janitor's closets, you name it. Her room at CDGC is bright and airy and colorful. Oh yeah, and this is the view!

After work we took a walk around Castries.This is the interior of the Castries cathedral.

The kiosk where we stopped for a "bake" in the morning. What's a "bake?"

This is a "bake." They come roasted on a BBQ grill, fried (a "fry bake") and a yeast version called a "float."

You can get them plain, buttered, filled with cheese (a really good white cheddar), salt fish or tuna. They are yummy!

Street scene in Castries:


A favorite way to get around:

The church beside the church:

The farmers' market in Castries:

One of the sauce vendors at the farmers' market:

A second story bar/restaurant:

A commercial building in Castries. I love the way the green paint has peeled to reveal the blue underneath.

A tiny small part of the hill Elaine walks up every morning to get to work. She and other pedestrians share the tiny roadway with cars - and buses and trucks - going up and coming down.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Home again

Sunset at Shacks Beach

Back home again. Well, at least I am. Elaine is still in St Lucia and will be until Christmas.

Interesting flight home. Not bad, just a little weird. My flight on Liat Air from St Lucia first stopped for a passenger pick-up in Dominica then on to Antigua where I was supposed to change to the flight for San Juan. In Antigua everybody has to get off the plane, go through a "transit" station where they check your passport and boarding pass for the next leg and then back through security screening (even though nothing has changed since you boarded the plane an hour earlier).

When we went through the transit screening, they told us our flight to San Juan was not going to be direct, that we were making a little detour to - Dominica! apparently Liat had a problem with a plane and passengers who were supposed to get from Dominica to Antigua for the San Juan flight couldn't get there. So we went and picked them up.

Arriving two hours late in San Juan wasn't any big deal for me at least. I didn't have anybody waiting for me. I didn't have to be anywhere at any particular time. Some passengers did have to change connecting flight though.

What was a big deal was Elaine was tracking the flight on the Internet. The Liat website showed our flight leaving St Lucia, leaving Dominica, and then, it just disappeared. The website didn't show it landing anywhere. We did in fact land in Antigua, but then because of the detour, they had to create a whole new flight number on the fly (as it were). Our old flight simply ceased to exist. But that information didn't show up on the website anywhere.

My cellphone didn't work until I got back to PR. I don't have a smart phone or tablet or any of those other gadgets. It was some old skool travel for me: Plans changed, flights changed, and I had no way to communicate with anyone. Just keep truckin' til you get to where your goin.'

Even though I back in PR, I still have some stuff to in St Lucia to write about. That will be coming up as I get time. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

At the southern tip

As part of our Jounen Kwéyòl tour of the island, our hostess and guide Aretha took us to the very southern tip of the island past Vieux Fort. From here you can see the widest part of St. Lucia.(Unfortunatly my lens isn't wide enough to take it all in.) This is looking north. The Atlantic is on the right, the Caribbean on the left.

The community at the base of the hill is Vieux Fort. I know it's hard to see in this photo, but just past the settlement is a flat grey strip that runs horizontally at just about the center and almost the full width of the land. That is the runway of St. Lucia's larger airport, Vieux Fort. This the airport where the bigger jets land. And the runway really does run almost the full width of the land at that point.

From up on top of this peak it meeting of the Atlantic (top) and Caribbean (bottom) is very apparent.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

St. Lucia's El Morro

Like El Morro commands the entrance to San Juan harbor in Puerto Rico, Fort Rodney overlooks the entrance to Rodney Bay in St. Lucia.

Fort Rodney, named for British Admiral Rodney, was built in 1778 on Pigeon Island, two peaks that rise between the Atlantic Ocean and Rodney Bay. Located just 25 miles south of the French post at Fort Royal in Martinique, Rodney Bay "is the post the Governor of Martinique had set his eye on and if possessed by the enemy would deprive us of the best anchorage in these islands and from which Martinique is always attackable" Admiral Rodney wrote to the Admiralty back in England.

Barracks, cook houses, and other support buildings were built below. The heart of the fort was the gun battery on the lower of the two peaks commanding the entrance to the bay.

Three 24-pound cannons and two eleven-and-a-half inch mortars guarded the bay entrance.

Further up the ridge between the two peaks the fort's heaviest gun, a 32-pounder, could be turned from north to south to cover the St. Lucia Channel and Gros Islet Bay.

In 1781 Fort Rodney successfully held off a French invasion of Gros Islet.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jounen Kwéyòl

In St. Lucia the last Sunday in October is Jounen Kwéyòl, a international celebration of all things Creole and we got to join the party!

As to the origins of Jounen Kwéyòl:

"At a meeting of the international organization of Creole speaking countries, Bannzil Kwéyòl, in
Louisiana, U.S.A. in 1983, it was decided to observe an International Creole Day (Jounen
Kwéyòl) annually on October 28th. Countries involved in this decision included Cayenne,
Dominica, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles and St. Lucia." 

The purpose is to preserve Creole customs, languages and traditions.

Here in St. Lucia, Jounen Kwéyòl is celebrated all over the island. Some districts have designated areas for the community to come together to celebrate. Our hostess and guide for the day, Aretha, took us to one of these community celebrations in Monchy.

We got there early specifically so we would not get into the huge crowds that showed up as the day went on because we had more parts of the island we wanted to visit.

Like all good festivals Jounen Kwéyòl celebrates music and dance, like these women dancing to Creole music:


and of course drink

But it's not just these designated sites. Every little roadside place, which are normally closed on Sundays, have pots and grills of food to sell and music - Creole music mostly - blasting. I can't begin to tell you how many of these roadside parties we passed in our travel down the Atlantic (eastern) side of the island.

On our way back north in the late afternoon, we passed by the same where we stopped in the morning. There cars were parked a mile or more from the main festival site. There were so many cars and so many people the main road was nearly blocked.

It was a fabulous fun day. I would love to come back and spend a more time and stop at many more of the little roadside places. What a great celebration! Even if I didn't understand a lot of what was said in Kwéyòl. But then I'm used to that.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Celebrating early

On our horseback ride through a banana farm we kept hearing what sounded like gun shots. We asked our guide Spencer what people were hunting. He said they weren't gun shots, they were bamboo tubes.


He asked if we wanted to see them. Sure!

So we rode around to the local elementary school. The kids were fascinated by our horses but we were invited into the school grounds to see the "celebration."

This would NEVER happen in the States! A group of what looked to be nine- or ten-year-olds, with adults nearby but not hovering over them, were pouring tiny amounts of kerosene into bamboo tubes, lighting firesticks from bottles of kerosene with rags stuffed in them (essentially Molotov cocktails) and lighting the kerosene in the bamboo. The kerosene ignited with a loud cannon-like BOOM. This was what we heard from the other side of the valley.

These bamboo "cannons" are common at celebrations here in St. Lucia. People use them at times like we use fireworks - Christmas, New Year's or in this case Jounen Kwéyòl or Creole Day. (More about Jounen Kwéyòl coming soon.)

We were fascinated. One little boy watched us watch the boys light the "cannons." Elaine said to him, "we've never seen this before." The boy looked incredulous. "You've never seen this before?" he asked. "Nope." He shook his head sadly, apparently wondering at the woeful ignorance of the old white people.

We asked another youngster if anyone ever got hurt. He looked surprised at the question and said, "No."

Many of the schools celebrate Jounen Kwéyòl on Friday. The official island-wide celebration is on the last Sunday of October each year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Scuba diving St Lucia, Dive 2


Our second dive was on the purpose-sunk wreck LesLeen M, named after the former owner's two daughters. This was supposed to be our first dive because it is the deeper of the two, but currents and a gazillion other divers from other boats in the water forced us to switch our dives. It's not really a big problem: the bow, where the buoy line is tied off, is about 30 feet. The propeller and rudder bottom at 65 feet. Depending on how you profile the dive about half is spent at 60 feet or so. The rest is exploring shallower parts of the wreck.

Our briefing instructions were, if you get separated, make your way to the bow to the buoy line. With a lot of divers in the water kicking up sediment in less-than great vis to start with and everybody (but me) wearing a black wet suit, I did get separated. I spent much of the dive exploring the bow section which was fine with me. Again, visibility was not anywhere near 100' so exploring up close, looking at smaller stuff, was great.

Eventually my group did appear at the buoy line. And immediately started up the line. I looked at my air gauge; I still had over a thousand pounds left. Turns out one of the guys was under 500 when he and his buddy started back to the bow. By the time he got to his safety stop at 15' he was breathing hs buddy's air.

So for all my dive buddies back in PR - I WAS NOT THE GAUGE on either dive. Sixty minute dive on the first dive - admittedly a shallow dive - and a came up with 1000 pounds. Forty-five minute second dive, about half of it near 60 feet, came up with 1000 pounds.

Not bad for an old guy.

Photos from both dives can be found on our Flickr page.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Diving with Steve's Scuba

The dive shops here appear to be primarily tour operators catering to tourists. This isn't really surprising. For example, Steve's Scuba is on of the top-rated operations and their little tiny shack houses the office operation and rental gear. There is no retail at all. You can't even buy a mask or snorkel. I haven't seen all of the scuba "shops" but my impression is they are all pretty much that way.

I did two dives with Steve's. We had a full boat - 12 - but only 7 of us got on at the dive shop dock. The rest we picked up at stops at resorts along the way. We had 6 experienced divers, a family of four on discover dives and two snorkelers. Our boat captain was kept very busy motoring back and forth dropping off and picking up the various groups. It's sort of a water taxi for divers.

Because of conditions we reversed the usual pattern and did the shallower dive first, saving the deeper dive on the purpose-sunk wreck LesLeen M. So our first dive was on a reef called Roseman's Trench, named for a 10-meter swim-thru. Our dive master, Ken, told be on a good day visibility here is 100' or more. There has been a lot of rain here in the last two weeks so visibility is much less than normal. Some sites are literally undiveable because of the closed down visibility. Hmmm - sounds like home.

Virtually all the diving here is on the west coast, the Caribbean side. Ken told me strong currents and big jellyfish populations make the Atlantic side pretty much undiveable.

Since there has been LOTS more rain since this dive, I probably won't try to dive again while I'm here on this trip. I'll try to come back in the winter - the dry season - and dive again.