Home » Caribbean Journal (2011) »St. Lucia

Caribbean Log – Powered by British Airways. A Day of Rum with Stormy Norman

This morning did not start on the right foot. At first, the morning sky was not as clear as it used to be the days before. Then we found out we could not go around the island with the catamaran, as planned. And then the sun became so bright, that if I stayed in the water, I might have burned all the parts of my body… Therefore I needed some sudden inspiration…

Day 5. Star date: September 13, 2011

There is this area where reggae bands play and they have karaoke shows at night, while early in the morning nice girls sell tourists various tour offers… So I thought I could try my luck… I started talking to the girl from Virgin Holidays (Branson’s airline company flies to St. Lucia)… She gives me a list of the same well-known options: ATV (I don’t like it); Segway (I think the very inventor and owner of these famous vehicles died in a Segway accident himself – so thanks, but no, thanks!), zip-line (hmmm, maybe)… I check the offer for helicopter tours. Half an hour for EUR 110. Not bad, especially with this blue sky the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The girl from Virgin makes a phone call, but we cannot get a helicopter, because there should be  at least four people making this request, but I am alone… Until she shows me a small leaflet reading “from sugar to rum”… Hmm, a rum tour… Three weeks ago, I visited Jameson’s historical distillery in Dublin, Ireland. At this rate, I’ll soon become an alcoholic… But what could be more specific for the Caribbean than rum? So let’s do it!

Our tour starts at 1:00 p.m., so I can finally get my all-inclusive lunch (the other days I was roaming around the island), so I enjoy a Romanian dish conspiratorially presented as „polenta”, steak and other such things.

At 1:00 p.m. sharp I go into the reception lobby, where a guy comes to me. “Are you for the rum tour?” Yeah, that’s me. So off we go. Well, my driver today is not just any driver, but a really interesting guy. He abruptly introduces himself as Norman, aka “Stormy Norman”. Oh my God, he’ll throw us around and shake us well in his microbus, on the roads of St. Lucia… He also has a small presentation where he describes himself as “the best island tour guide and the safest driver”. That’s comforting. But what about his “Stormy Norman” nickname? In the 1980s, he worked as a KFC manager in St. Lucia. The owner of the franchise was from Los Angeles and he brought his fiancée on the island for the opening of the first KFC restaurant on the island. Norman took her from the airport and, as he was driving really slowly for her taste (probably enhanced by some strong liquor on the plane), she nicknamed him “Stormy Norman”… When she went back to Los Angeles, she sent him a T-shirt with “Stormy Norman” printed on the front. In 1988, Norman quit his KFC job and decided to start his own business as a guide and tour operator on the island. Three years later, operation “Desert Storm” started, starring General Norman Schwarzkopf… So Norman from St. Lucia thought the name “Stormy Norman” was not so bad, after all…

One thing led to another, and we end up picking two more American couples from “Sandals”, an American hotel chain for couples only. They do not accept children or single people in these hotels. Stormy Norman makes his debut with a joke: “There are six clinics on this island: five regular ones, and one for mental diseases. We just went out of that one.” The Americans laugh their hearts out. I learn that four clinics out of the other five are state-owned, and a medical exam costs 8 dollars, as opposed to 80 dollars at the private clinic. Anyway, each and every town has its medical office and at least one school. The government invests a lot in education and health care, he says. This is great! We keep going and he tells us more about himself. He is 62 (this is really surprising, because he really does not look this age); he has 7 children and 11 grandchildren (actually, 10 granddaughters and one grandson). He even shows us a small file with their photos, but the Americans don’t seem too interested. What could I say? They were staying at the “Sandals”…

We go through the village of Anse La Raye (Stormy Norman tells us this is one of the poorest on the island, with high unemployment and high birth rates), and we stop by a river… We should have crossed the river by bus to get to the old cane sugar factory, but since it rained heavily last night (I have to confirm this: at a certain point, the rain was pouring down so violently that the noise suggested a tsunami was coming), the river is flooded and we cannot cross it by bus. So we take our shoes off and cross it on foot. Don’t get the wrong idea – it was no Indiana Jones adventure, as the water was warm and maybe a bit muddy, but other than that everything was OK.

A lady guide is waiting for us on the other side of the river. She takes us to a small botanical garden, showing us various kinds of fruits, flowers and other exotic species – banana trees, cocoa trees, coconut trees, various flowers including the “Naughty boy” – and you should check the photo below to see just how naughty that boy was… We finally get into an old building, partially restored, where we find a huge machine used to extract the sugar cane juice back around the year 1800…  Sugar cane used to be the main harvest in St. Lucia until 1958, when the British decided not to import cane sugar anymore, so locals switched to bananas or marijuana… You can see banana tree plantations from the car, while the marijuana fields are only visible from a helicopter .

We explore the whole process needed for the extraction of this precious juice (unfortunately, the tradition of sugar cane cultures is long gone, so I cannot taste that wonderful mix of sugar cane juice and lime that delighted me a while ago, in Cuba), we are introduced to some exotic fruits and finally get to the climax of this visit, i.e. tasting no less than 19 types of rum – all of them local products of St. Lucia!

We munch some coconut in between two sips, and I end up being just as confused as I was in the first place… Most of the rum types we tasted were really good… And in the end, after crossing the flooded river once again, I reach my conclusion in the retail store of the St. Lucia distillery where almost every type of rum cost between 5 and 7 dollars for a 750 ml bottle… My Americans bought so many bottles that they almost broke Stormy Norman’s car…

This tour could only end in the most beautiful bay of St. Lucia – the Marigot Bay, i.e. the place where Captain Typhoon had told us Jagger owned a house… Well, Stormy Norman cruelly destroyed this beautiful legend, claiming that probably Jagger had never set foot on St. Lucia, but told us that as far as he knew, the singer owned a house in St. Vincent & Grenadines, the republic-island located further to the south… The way some people can kill a beautiful story!

With or without Jagger, Marigot Bay is gorgeous… Two days ago, when we were coming from the Caribbean Sea, it was all sunny, but now it’s engulfed in the shadow of some clouds furiously pouring in over the sea, in a show that would stir the envy of any painter… So on the ferry boat going to Doolittle Bar, we spend a few minutes admiring the Caribbean sky…

On our way back, we find out that St. Lucia is one of the few countries of the world that have recognized Taiwan, but not the People’s Republic. Apparently the Chinese offered to build a hospital for St. Lucia, but it became the tallest building on the island, and they only wanted to build it using labor force imported from China. This made the locals on St. Lucia to immediately vote for Taiwan, a country that invested money here, building the hospital, but using local labor force…

In the end, I ask Stormy if there are many locals living abroad. “Quite a few”, he says. “I told you I have seven children. One of them lives in Canada, and the rest – in the US. All my grandchildren are over there. I have nobody to call me Grandpa here.” . Good bye, Grandpa Stormy! Unfortunately, you are not the only grandfather with no grandchildren on these islands of Paradise, left behind by many locals heading for what they consider to be the actual Paradise…

1. piscina Smugglers Cove.jpg

One of the swimming pools in Smugglers Cove

2. ski jet pe Caraibe.jpg

Ski jet for free (upon reservation)

3. aqua aerobics.jpg

Aqua Aerobics

4. Stormy Norman.jpg

Stormy Norman

5. camp banane.jpg

A field of banana trees

6. banane la copt.jpg

Ripening bananas

7. Anse la Raye.jpg

Anse la Raye

8. Anse la Raye.jpg

9. Anse la Raye.jpg

The Main Street in Anse la Raye

10. prin rau.jpg

Crossing the river on our way to the former sugar factory

11. prin rau.jpg

12. naughty boy.jpg

Naughty boy

13. lamai gigant.jpg

Giant lemons

14. fabrica zahar din trestie.jpg

Inside the former factory

15. fabrica trestie de zahar.jpg

16. fructe exotice.jpg

Exotic fruits in St. Lucia

17. degustare rom.jpg

Rum tasting

18. degustare rom.jpg

I am still OK, even after 19 types of rum

19. magazin rom St. Lucia.jpg

The rum retail store at the factory (the guy in the photo is Stormy Norman)

20. cumparand rom St. Lucia.jpg

21. Marigot Bay.jpg

22. Marigot Bay.jpg

23. ferry Marigot Bay.jpg

The ferry boat in Marigot Bay

24. de cealalta parte.jpg

25. uragan in Caraibe.jpg

Two steps away from the Caribbean

26. furtuna in Caraibe.jpg

Spectacular sky

27. cer in Caraibe.jpg

28. uragan in Caraibe.jpg

29. ferry Margot Bay.jpg

30. Stormy Norman.jpg

Stormy Norman and his car

31. hotel Smugglers Cove.jpg

Smugglers Cove Hotel

Până acum există "1 comentariu" la acest articol:

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