Archives for the month of: November, 2014

If the phrase “no man is an island” is true, then how is it that I am so in love with this one?

St Lucia is known as “The Helen of the West” not only due to it’s continual change in control between the French and the British in the 1600-1800’s but more fondly, because it is said that like Helen-of-Troy, St Lucia is an Isle that could summon 1000 ships, and it does not disappoint.

St Lucia 2014-98

So what is it that draws people to this particular Caribbean gem? Well, for my money, it has it all going on and at a mere 238.2 square miles, it packs one hell of a punch – especially if there’s some of the local 80% proof rum involved! Unlike many of the Caribbean isles, St Lucia has large mountains (Mount Gimie stretching over 3000ft) so the landscape you see is truly breathtaking. Smattered with tropical rain forests, some of the warmest & friendliest local inhabitants you’ll ever meet, and with celebs like Oprah Winfrey & Mick Jagger owning houses on the island and Matt Damon’s recent vow-renewal at Sugar Beach, it’s clear that this little island is a “must see”.

With no further ado, and with a pinch of Julie Andrews, these are a few of my favourite St Lucian things:

Luxury in Paradise, with a Cherry on top

St Lucia 2014-1-3

We recently had the privilege, nay, delight, of staying at exclusive luxury beach resort Windjammer Landing.

Now, I feel I must start by clarifying that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill beach resort – I would describe it as more of a village or community and I challenge any of you that have the joy of staying here not to be on first name terms and chatting merrily away with all the staff and half the beach by the end of your stay.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no-one who likes to be more of an island than I on my holidays, often hiding away from other tourists and local characters in the past for fear of somehow ruining my tranquil experience by getting caught up in someone else’s day-to-days. I must say though, this is nothing like that as you just feel like you belong. Windjammer is so extraordinarily luxuriously comfortable, you are not worried about losing time in your week, you become part of it and it is hard not to get immersed in island life.

From the moment you arrive, genuinely happy and delightful staff are on hand to help you get settled in and enjoy your stay at Windjammer. The accommodation sprawls up and across a perfectly positioned hillside on Labrelotte Bay, just a short cab ride from the island’s capital, Castries. Shuttles are laid on free of charge to run you up and down the hill from your accommodation to the main amenities on the complex with all the drivers being super helpful – our favourites being Arlington, Kennedy & Spencer! You are welcome to take a stroll and walk up the hill to your accommodation but to be warned, you may find it quite challenging in the heat as it’s fairly steep but the views at the top are worth it!

Hosting anything from Ocean View rooms to full-on celeb style Estate Villas, the accommodation options are too good to be true (but they are!). We were lucky enough to stay in one of the 3 bed villas with a plunge pool, indescribably breathtaking panoramic views of the Caribbean sea and a setting sun that you could just never tire of gazing upon with a timely G&T.

St Lucia 2014-balcony

Windjammer also offers weddings, honeymoons & vow renewals with on-site Spa for beautifying yourself (and a brand new sea-view Spa complex to be completed around April 2015) & sunset beach ceremonies, I personally couldn’t think of a better place to get romantic!

The Beach! Oh yes, we mustn’t forget the beach. Well, they’ve thought of just about everything, getting you as close to the sea as you can get with some hammocks actually nestled in the water! Cocktails available on tap from the aptly named beach bar “96 Degrees In The Shade”, plenty of comfy sun beds, 2 beachside restaurants, beach games if you choose, swimming pontoon and watersports centre, oh and they also serve lunch straight to your sun-bed should you wish – what more can a holiday-maker in need of some deep relaxation need? Whilst the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze envelope your body in a luxurious cocoon, you feel as if you never want to leave.

The Island Itself & Getting About

On past trips to St Lucia, I have engaged in a few different activities on the island and for anyone planning a visit to this stunning hunk of land jutting out of the Carribean Sea here are a few top tips:

The Virgin Experience: Virgin Atlantic is the only way to go as far as I’m concerned. To be honest, I’m not sure there is another way to get there from The British Isles, but that’s fine by me. In-flight entertainment and massively improved meals and yummy snacks make this flight a breeze and ensure you feel like your holiday is getting started from the minute you get on the plane. Make sure you get a window seat as there are some stunning views to be had on your initial approach to the island.

It’s all about the money, money, money: St Lucia trade in dollars and their local currency which is called “EC’s” – rather confusingly this is also represented by a $ sign but is currently worth around 2.70 to the dollar or 4.25 to the British pound. Roughly translated, this means that £10 = $15.70 US Dollars which converts to $42.52 EC’s. This can get a little confusing on menus so be sure to check whether the money represented is in dollars or EC’s!

Local Culture: Must visits include the vast market hall at Castries harbour featuring all sorts of locally produced hand made items, the Friday night Fish-Fry at the beautiful traditional seaside fishing village of Anse La Raye and of course, “The Jump-Up” – the longest running street party, held every Friday night in Gros Islet from 9pm until the early hours – make sure you sample a Piton – the local beer of choice. These are all excellent opportunities for grabbing some documentary style photography, but make sure you ask permission of your subject first!

The main languages are English and Creole, derived from the time of the Atlantic Slave Trade and made up of a mix of French, Portuguese, Spanish & West African languages.

Chocolate? Yes please: Visit the Taj Mahal of Chocolate – Boucan Hotel, of Hotel Chocolat fame, a must-do pilgrimage for all chocolate lovers.

And now, for something more adventurous: For thrill seekers who like to view the island from a different perspective – Treetop Adventure Tours offer gondola rides through the canopies, multiple zip-line challenges, bike rides and waterfall trecks. Well worth a look.

Getting all Piratey: A few years back we had the honour of taking a sunset cruise on the actual Black Pearl ship from Pirates of the Caribbean which was moored up at Rodney Bay. Unfortunately since then the ship has sunk (presumably sent to Davey Jones by Barbossa), but if getting on a pirate ship takes your fancy, you can still get involved on “Black Magic” through Sea Spray Cruises.

St Lucia 2014 Sony-22

Riding off into the sunset: Horseback riding is a great trip where you meander through some forrest and bushland, climaxing in an invigorating swim/ride on the horse bareback in the sea! The tour we took part in was part of Windjammer’s Jammin’ Tours and cost $60 USD per person. This was well worth the money and gives you a chance to see the Atlantic coastline – a much more dramatic scene than the smooth, protected shores of the West side of the island.

St Lucia 2014 Sony-74

Hidden Gem

If you have the opportunity, we cannot recommend Captain Dell Jules & Exodus Private Boat Charter highly enough. It’s an experience that simply must not be missed: Our vessel of choice was a sleek speed boat and Dell was our host for the day – a larger than life local man who’s knowledge and charisma bring the trip to life. Once chartered, the speed boat is yours for the morning or the day and as we sped down the West side of the Island towards the infamous Piton Mountains, we couldn’t have felt more like Brangelina scouting for our next mulit-million dollar shore-front property.

Dell will go out of his way to ensure you get to the best World Heritage snorkelling sites before all those other pesky tourists arrive and he’ll even drive you out to try and spot a whale or two given enough time. He’s also one of the Island’s only captains who will take you through “The Lover’s Arch” most famously seen in Pirates of The Caribbean and your trip is not complete without a whistle-stop tour of the famous Marigot Bay, film location of the 1967 original Dr Dolittle movie.

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Everything changes when you start a family – everybody knows that, even me and I’ve only got a husband and cat to worry about.  Some people think that’s when the fun ends, but our recent portrait shoot with Gem, Richard and their (almost) 1 yr old Esme showed that’s far from being true!

So in love with cute baby Esme

So in love with cute baby Esme

We were asked to immortalise little Esme’s first birthday, exactly one year to the date that Richard and Gem took some ‘bump’ photos at the elegant Blenheim Palace; it was wonderful to return there to capture some really precious moments between the 3 of them – something I’m sure they’ll treasure forever and that Esme will love looking at when she’s old enough.

Let’s be honest, some people make parenting look like hard work and make my husband and I glad we haven’t got kids, but these three are a joy to watch, with Esme receiving all the love and snuggles she can handle with a pinch of firmness and a whole heap of laughter.  This is a seriously happy child (I can see why) and that made for some truly lovely moments for us to capture.

They clearly make a great team and manage to make everything relaxing and fun. When I asked them how they managed to keep the energy levels up and be so fun loving all the time, they said that they just love being big kids and of course, they’re incredibly proud of Esme and in this photographer’s opinion have every reason to be.

I suppose I’ve always been afraid of parenthood and that it would ruin our ability to have fun and be silly, but I must admit that seeing this fun-loving, care-free young family rolling around in the Autumn leaves, unafraid of make funny noises to entertain their little one and their ability to be generally silly in public, has made me question all my concerns about what life would be like after birth. Who knows, maybe it’s my turn next?

And on that bombshell, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite shots from this happy beautiful family.

Wishing Gem, Richard & Esme all the happiness & love they can handle (that’s quite a lot in this case!)

Fun, love & happiness in the grounds of Blenheim Palace

Fun, love & happiness in the grounds of Blenheim Palace

Richard & baby Esme

Richard & baby Esme

The family blow out the candle for Esme's first birthday

The family blow out the candle for Esme’s first birthday

Capturing a "family portrait" moment as Esme takes control of the frame!

Capturing a “family portrait” moment as Esme takes control of the frame!

Baby Esme in front of her Palace

Baby Esme in front of her Palace

Rolling around in the grass, the laughter keeps flowing with this bubbly lot

Rolling around in the grass, the laughter keeps flowing with this bubbly lot

Esme claps in wonderment at the falling Autumn leaves

Esme claps in wonderment at the falling Autumn leaves

Mum & Esme in an oh so sweet moment

Mum & Esme in an oh so sweet moment

Esme giggles as Gem trots around the Palace grounds pretending to be a horse!

Esme giggles as Gem trots around the Palace grounds pretending to be a horse!

Going for a ride - Gem takes Esme up on her shoulders to see the world through her eyes

Going for a ride – Gem takes Esme up on her shoulders to see the world through her eyes

A lovely family moment

A lovely family moment

Gem & Richard celebrate by giving Esme "the bumps" for the first time - she loves it of course!

Gem & Richard celebrate by giving Esme “the bumps” for the first time – she loves it of course!

If you’re looking for that ideal Christmas present, we’re currently holding the very special reduced rate of just £150* for our Portrait Shoot Sessions.

To book please get in touch on stef@photographybystefanie.co.uk

 * Usual price of £250. £150 covers one-two hour portrait shoot and mileage within 10 miles of Cheltenham centre. For venues outside this radius a standard fee of 55p per mile is chargeable. Valid for bookings made by 24th December 2014.