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Showing posts from May, 2009

La Soufriere Drive In Volcano

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Maybe it's my love of drama but I love volcanoes. It's no coincidence that most of my favorite places sport a lava-spewing peak or two. After the Pitons, La Soufriere drive-in volcano tops the list as St. Lucia’s most recognizable landmark. It’s also the smelliest, with the strong, rotten-egg scent of sulfur wafting over the area for miles. An active volcano with bubbling gases and seething sulfur pools, La Soufriere allows visitors to drive up to a few 100 feet of the crater and then walk through a fault in the substratum rock on a guided tour. It’s a fascinating display, especially Gabriel’s Hole, the place in a steaming fissure where a tour guide sunk into the boiling mud in 1985. He survived with second degree burns but now all of the vents are fenced off. One of the essential activities at La Soufriere is a dip in the gurgling hot sulfur baths. The warm, muddy sulfur deposits are reputed to help arthritis, eczema and instantly soothe mosquito bites. After day

Dasheene Moments or Lucian Food Porn

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Dasheen plants, also called taro, cocoyam or eddo, grow all over the Caribbean region. A starchy tuber that tastes more flavorful than a potato, dasheen is a staple in most Caribbean diets. The Ladera Resort is located on the hills of a former dasheen plantation, which is how its noted restaurant got its name. If you can't manage to stay at the lovely Ladera, eating at Dasheene is a must. Overlooking the twin-peaked, Piton mountains and surrounded by the Caribbean sea with lush vegetation and flowers everywhere, Dasheene is worth the view alone. The food however, is the real star attraction. Renowned Executive Chef Orlando Satchell describes his nouvelle Caribbean cuisine as not overly spicy, well-seasoned, with English and French influences. He also calls it sex on a plate, which is exactly how I think of it. The colors, flavors and spices meld together to create the most tantalizing spectacles that it looks like food porn. London-born with Jamaican heritage, Orlando focuses

In Defense of Derek Walcott

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I returned home from St. Lucia to discover controversy brewing about the island's most famous son, Caribbean Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. He was a front-runner for the highly prestigious, mostly honorary position of Oxford University Professor of Poetry. But a few days ago, he withdrew his candidacy because of a nasty behind-the-scenes, smear campaign. Instead of a first black professor of poetry, Oxford now has its first woman, Ruth Padel. And there has been nothing even remotely poetic about the fallout. The issues of course, run a lot deeper than just gender and racial politics. Derek Walcott has been plagued with sexual harassment claims for years. London's Guardian revealed the salacious details of how anonymous opponents of Walcott, largely believed to be backers for Padel, sent photo copies from the book The Lecherous Professor to Oxford academics. The book explores the 1982 sexual harassment claims made by a Harvard student against Walcott. Rather than dignify suc

Lush Living At Ladera

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Tropical paradise is an overused term but St. Lucia truly personifies the concept. The tiny island isn't called the Helen of the West Indies for nothing. Helen of Troy's legendary beauty inspired wars but the gorgeous St. Lucia landscape inspires a hypnotic daze. There's jaw-dropping beauty everywhere you turn, from the twin peaks of the Pitons, to the lush rain forests and the cobalt blue waters. Ladera eco resort in Soufriere embraces all this natural beauty. The 32 rooms of the resort display only 3 walls, so that the stunning views of mountain ridges and the Pitons are never obscured. There are no TVs, phones or radios on Ladera. The only sounds you hear are of tree frogs and splashing waves. The Pitons hover over the entire resort, offering panoramic views from every room's angle. Ladera feels like a luxury tree house, where you can gaze out at treetops and vegetation constantly. All of Ladera's materials, including wood, stonework, terracotta tiles and

Dancing the Cocoarena

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As if jaw-dropping tropical beauty wasn't enough, St. Lucia also offers one of nature's most important treasures--chocolate! Several cocoa plantations dot the lush southern part of the island. I toured Fond Doux Estate, a locally owned organic cocoa plantation in Soufriere, where I witnessed the cocoarena dance. After the cocoa beans have dried, workers jump into a basin and dance on hundreds of beans. They swivel their hips and toss up their heels better than any of the "Macarena" girls. Besides entertainment, the dance polishes the beans and removes any blemishes. The beans are placed in a drying bin and left to roast in the sun for 2-3 weeks. That's after the initial drying and fermentation period of 5-6 weeks. Only a small percentage of the beans make the cut to be shipped to Hershey's chocolate company in Pennsylvania. Before they are dried and polished,cocoa beans are nestled in cocoa pods, covered in a custard-like substance. I sampled

Angst About Amy

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So I couldn't escape it. I really tried but facing Amy Winehouse up close was too much. I got sucked into all the speculations, media hype and general preoccupation with her state of mind. It is not good. I'm a fan of Amy's soulful, jazz-inflected vocals. I had hope that her 5 months on St. Lucia had helped heal her demons. If any place could accomplish the task, it's the dreamy beauty and gentle-spirited people of St. Lucia. But it doesn't seem to be working. One glance at her unfocused eyes told me all I needed to know. I was only a few feet away from the stage so I saw everything and it was painful to watch. She ambled out in an aqua-colored mini and the requisite pile of hair. She grinded provocatively in her 5-inch, white Louboutin's. After 2 off key songs, she bends down to take off her stilettos. Her back is to the crowd and she flashes her white panties. Amy starts singing and then stops midway, announcing that she's bored. In the meantime, a mons

Off To The St.Lucia Jazz Fest

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I'll be covering the St Lucia Jazz Fest for the rest of the week, which means chasing headliner Amy Winehouse around, hanging out with local star Shayne Ross, eating saltfish and green bananas and soaking up the Caribbean sun! I'll post lots of photos, music reviews and cultural musings when I get back. So until then, talk amongst yourselves!

The Dish On Chicago Deep Dish

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When Gennaro of Enduring Wanderlust invited me to write about the best Chicago local eats, Chicago pizza popped up immediately in my mind. We've got hot dogs and brats and steak but there's no food more quintessentially Chicago than deep dish pizza. My post inspired a lot of hungry comments on his blog so here it is again and please eat before reading! For Chicago visitors, a taste of Chicago style pizza is a must. Noted for its thick crust and gut-busting piles of cheese and toppings, Chicago style pizza reflects the city's brash attitude and heavy Midwestern palate. There are hundreds of eateries in Chicago and out, that claim the best Chicago -style pizza but my recommendations for tourists are: Pizzeria Due, ( http://www.unos.com/ ) an iconic Chicago restaurant credited with being one of the first restaurants serving Chicago style, it's decor is basic and it's always crowded because the pizza is authentic. Due is the second restaurant that was opened becau