2023 - St Lucia - Day 9
As they say at the Masters, today was moving day. Disappointingly despite not needing to leave before 11am I still had to set an alarm for 6.45am in order to apparently book a taxi.
I had tried to book one yesterday evening but the reception staff had said I had to book it at the excursions desk the following morning for a reason I didn’t understand at all. She also said it was unlikely I would be able to book one at this short notice and the only hope was to be at the excursions desk when they opened. It had worried me all night about what we would do if we couldn’t get a taxi to the villa in Soufriere.
By 7.10am no one had turned up at the desk and so I walked back over to reception who apologised and just booked one for me. Despite being exasperated by why they didn’t do that for me the previous evening, I just smiled and thanked them.
Consequently, we were in for our final breakfast quite early. I had the Eggs Benedict for the last time and we then headed for back to sit on our balcony for the final time. Neither of us lasted too long as it was so blinking hot in the early morning sun.
We then finished packing our bags and got ourselves ready. At 10.45am we checked out and were waiting when the taxi arrived dead on time.
The taxi driver was the most miserable St Lucian we had met to date. I tried to engage him in conversation but it was difficult. After about 30 minutes I could see on my phone that we were on the same road and catching Graham up on his journey up to the villa. Eventually we did catch them and I messaged to say we were behind them and following. I was pleased that we were as it meant we would be arriving at the same time and that the taxi driver would be forced to slow down and not attempt any more overtaking moves on quite inappropriate roads for driving at speed.
Soufriere looked pretty as we approached it. We knew the villa was up a track halfway up the side of the mountain the other side. The taxi driver claimed Graham was going the wrong way and took us a different route. Graham was right though, and arrived just ahead of us. The track we had to go up and down was ludicrous. It was unmade with stupid hairpins and something that should only have been attempted in an ATV.
We reached it eventually and it did have a stunning location. It was still being cleaned and we didn’t officially have access until 4pm but they had agreed we could leave our bags here. So, within 10 minutes we had piled back into Graham’s car and headed towards our appointment for a tour and lunch at Project Chocolat which is the St Lucien plantation and HQ for the Hotel Chocolat brand. It was only a 15-minute drive away.
The admission price was lots and it had mixed reviews on Trip Advisor so we were not sure what to expect. We loved it though from the moment we arrived.
There were just 8 in our tour group which helped and the other couples were friendly enough. Our tour literally started with sowing of the seeds for the cacao plants. It was fascinating to learn how quick they grow and the grafting that then takes place. We were even allowed to name our own tree and they will send us pictures of it as it matures with the name we chose. I was all for calling it Teemu Pukki but was overruled and it was named Wensum14.
We were then taken through some stunning gardens to see some mature trees which had ripe fruit that were picked so we could handle. It was fascinating.
Then we were given a non-alcoholic Ice Chocolate shot each before being taken to the highlight of the tour and make our own chocolate. Actually, we also managed to sneak in a Cacao based Gin & Tonic as well and inadvertently delaying the start.
I had anticipated it all being a bit sterile and perhaps we may have been allowed to stir something in a kitchen. How wrong I was. We were all given our own red-hot mortar and pestle. We individually had to grind our own cacao nibs down into a paste. It took much elbow grease to do so. Before we did so we were told to try a sample of the nibs. They were delicious. We were told of all the medical benefits from eating the nibs including its reputation as a natural Viagra, to which one of the wives of the other couples asked if she could get her husband a large bag to take away which caused much laughter.
To this we added cacao butter which turned the paste into a liquid. Then we were given the choice of adding as much sugar as we wanted. The less we added the ‘darker’ the chocolate would be. Without the sugar it would be considered 100% cacao bar. I reckon mine was about 80% when it had the flavour I wanted. We then had to stir it for another 10 minutes before turning it out into the mould we were given. Not that it was a competition or anything but mine was singled out for the amazing gloss I had achieved. I may mentioned this once or twice later during the day.
It was then time for lunch. This was served from various containers and we had a wide choice. I had some local fish, with Cacao Mac & Cheese and Cacao Breadsticks . Karen had her fish with some White Chocolate Mash which she enjoyed. As dessert was also covered, I had some Dark Hotel Chocolat Ice cream which was good. I missed that I could have also had of having nibs as a topping to it as Jo did.
We then wandered around the shops selling Hotel Chocolat products. Karen & Jo were persuaded to try many of the drinks on offer. The hard sell worked and we bought a couple of bottles that were on offer between us.
The place was deserted but we thought we would have one drink to make the experience last longer. I have a Chocolat Daiquiri which was very strong. Karen & Jo had a Prosecco mixed with parts of the Cacao bean from when it is first picked. Poor Graham who was driving just had a taste of each.
Then it was back to the villa via the route Graham went which was even hairier than the one we took. We tried to settle into the villa. The view was absolutely spectacular and took our breathe away. However, though we started to find more and more faults with the villa. The chairs on the balcony were all broken. None of the loungers had any cushions. Then we realised there was only air conditioning in the bedrooms leaving the living areas unbearably hot.
We moved the dining table out onto the upper balcony and tried to make the best of it. The girls then went off to freshen up just as it was getting dark. By the time they returned, the whole outside was a mosquito festival. There was no way we could sit outside and the living areas were roasting. So, we moved the dining chairs into our bedroom where we sat looking out over the bay through the patio doors drinking wine. This was not quite what we had imagined when booking a paying quite a lot of money for the booking.
Despite this we had still had had a memorable day and we decided that tomorrow we would eat out somewhere that had either air con or no mossies’.