St Vincent & the Grenadines – March 2023

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Rose Bank Beach with La Soufrière Volcano, St Vincent, Grenadines

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The Grenadines: from the remote black sand beaches of St Vincent to La Soufrière volcano, rainforests, waterfalls and mountainside botanical gardens; the beautiful island of Bequia with its golden sand, teal waters and laidback lifestyle; and, finally, a sailing trip to the exclusive and immaculately manicured island of Mustique. 

We arrived at Argyle International Airport and walked straight through customs and immigration. The airport is tiny and not very busy. I had booked a 4-wheel drive with Red Top – there is somewhat of a dearth of rental car companies on these islands so choices are limited. I had typically low expectations since most Caribbean rental cars are filthy, ratty and very often falling apart. Red Top turned up as arranged after some frantic and confusing messaging during which he mentioned that he hadn’t arranged our driving permit. Great! After an emergency trip to the onsite police office at the airport we bought a $40 driving permit and Red Top turned up at the bar outside the airport with a car which wasn’t totally decrepit which was a bonus!

Twenty five minutes later we checked into St Vincent’s newest hotel – LaVue Boutique Hotel – in Arnos Vale just outside of the capital, Kingstown. Room 8 was a King Oceanfront Balcony room which turned out to be the best room in the hotel – albeit nothing at all like the photographs on their website. Our room overlooked the pool, the bar and the sun terrace and their small beach at the Beach Club to the far left. Best of all we could see far out over the Caribbean to the island of Bequia (our next destination) on the horizon. I gazed out at it every morning from the comfort of our bed whilst sipping my morning tea and listening to the waves crashing upon the rocks of the headland. The hotel is built high upon a skinny peninsular and the pool terrace protrudes like the prow of a ship into the sea. Not a bad place to hang our proverbial sun hats for 3 days before we headed over to Bequia for a week. 

Something we learned very quickly about St Vincent is that nothing is ever what you expect it to be. Neither the food nor the hotel is quite what is advertised on the box … gradually we conceded that it was best to just accept defeat and go with it 😉

I had booked into one of St Vincent’s top rated restaurants for our first evening. French Veranda sounds much posher than it actually was. But no matter … we like rustic. The restaurant sat on a sandy beachfront opposite Young Island. We watched the sun setting behind yachts bobbing about in the harbor and, apart from the cocktails (which were dreadful) and some minor issues with the food, all was good with the world. 

We were surprised to find (on an island surrounded by water filled with a myriad of sea dwelling creatures) that the menu was very heavily meat oriented. So I ordered the vegetable samosas. It clearly said vegetable samosas on the menu. However, when the server delivered them to the table she said “They’re chicken … that’s alright isn’t it??” “Well, no … not really … we don’t eat meat and we ordered vegetable …” Seems they were fresh out of vegetables so they offered to make fish paste samosas instead which was unique but not something I’d likely repeat 😉

Breakfast at LaVue the following morning was a similar culinary adventure! Half of my Sunrise Fruit and Oat platter was missing. When I pointed out to the server the discrepancy between the description in the menu and what was actually on my plate the chef came out from the kitchen to apologize. I was told that he would go in search of the missing ingredients and it would take only a few minutes. I assumed he was going to root around in the storeroom but no … he got into his car and drove ten minutes up the road to the nearest supermarket for the rest of my missing comestibles. Thirty minutes later (a substantial time after Geoff had finished his breakfast) the rest of my breakfast arrived delivered by the chef with further apologies. Bless him!

The first 18 hours or so should, with hindsight, have set the scene for the entire holiday but it was early days and we were still young and naive and filled with hope.

We were keen to set out for the day to explore the famed Leeward Highway with its steep, winding and dramatic scenic coastline en route to our ultimate destination – Dark View Falls. 

Still, before we could set foot outside into the blazing tropical sun the critical matter of acquiring some sunscreen had to resolved otherwise we’d be frying to a crispy crisp in the Caribbean sunshine. Two supermarkets, two pharmacies and an hour later of increasing concern and we finally found the last can of factor 50 on the island. Apparently there’s not much call for it here amongst the local population and neither are there many pale foreign tourists on the island to cater for … so we were lucky to find any sunscreen at all.

We grabbed a few snacks, a case of water and our precious can of sunscreen, set Google maps to Dark Falls and headed west towards the capital, Kingstown, at the start of the Leeward Highway.

Not a large city, nor particularly busy but Kingstown is a maze of one-way streets, hills and winding back roads which frequently dead-end. Try as she might Google maps became very, very confused and increasingly stressed with what should have been a simple task. There were moments when I feared that she might have a complete technological meltdown in her desperate attempt to navigate us out of the city and onto the start of the highway. Upon her instruction we drove around and around the city, through its suburbs and remoter residential areas, up steep hillsides, down the same steep hillsides and around in ever increasing and, finally, decreasing circles until we realized we were seeing the same buildings, the same stores and the same billboards touting various local politicians over and over again. Time was passing, nerves were fraying, so we gave up on her and navigated ourselves. After only another wasted half hour or so circumnavigating the capital, we found our way out of the city – no thanks to technology whatsoever.

Breathing collective sighs of relief, we were pleased to find that the Leeward Highway became a lot more interesting outside of the city. It is a very winding scenic drive along the coast road which passes tranquil, brightly colored fishing villages wedged in between the undulating headlands. Forests plunge down steep hillside slopes to the black sand beaches and the ultramarine Caribbean sea. 

Now we were finally on it – the highway was definitely worth the effort.

Our ultimate destination for the day was Dark View Falls which should have taken an hour and 20 minutes or so from the hotel. Because we took three unanticipated laps around the back streets of Kingstown and the highway itself is more challenging to drive than it appears on Google maps it took considerably longer than this. It didn’t help that we also got completely lost in the last mile or so from our destination. Whilst she got us roughly to the right area, Google maps was entirely baffled (again). We stopped and asked for directions and retraced steps. It didn’t help that a crucial road sign (which might have assisted in guiding the foreign visitor down the last few miles of bumpy dirt track) had been damaged and knocked over – and nobody had yet thought to replace it for the ease of the paying customer. 

Still, we were finally at Dark View Falls and even better we had timed our arrival with the departure of 3 small taxi/buses of tourists visiting the island from a cruise ship moored back in town. We paid our $5 ECD each and bounced over a rickety bamboo bridge to the first fall which was dark (very dark) and shady. We followed the steep concrete steps (confusingly built for someone with at least a 4 foot stride) up behind the dark and shady waterfall into the jungle undergrowth. We popped out at the top of the steps, waded across a shallow rocky stream and emerged from the undergrowth by a far more impressive sunlight-drenched waterfall. The pool at the base was not as icy as I was expecting so I took a quick dip – too chilly for Geoff even to dip the tip of a digit. By the time we made it back down the giant’s staircase to the bottom dark and gloomy falls it was jam-packed with sunburnt Brits. Obviously, they had had absolutely no luck in finding sunscreen on this, or any other, island 😉

Time to head back down to the beaches dotted along the Leeward Highway. First stop – Richmond Beach with its fabulous shiny deep black sand. It is a beautiful clean beach definitely worth a swim. As everywhere on this island the locals started chatting to us about where we lived and whether we liked their homeland. I’m sure visitors are a source of entertainment in some of the more off-the-beaten track parts of the island.

I spotted a fabulous crescent of black sand between the headlands and I was determined to find a way down to the beach because it looked pristine and entirely deserted. It didn’t take us long to discover why. Google maps continued to confuse both herself and us but, to be fair, the beach was a long way down from the high coastal road with no obvious road or track leading to it. 

After a couple of false starts it became clear that the beach was only accessible at the small fishing village of Rose Bank wedged between two headlands. We asked a local resident how to get to the beach and he pointed us down the only road in Rose Bank – a narrow residential road which dead-ended at a concrete wall. We abandoned the car and descended a makeshift pathway of haphazard concrete steps which passed through the backyards and gardens of shacks and cottages. There were dogs lying in the shade and small children running barefoot. Down on the sand a small boy was feeding his very happy pig on the beach which was tethered under the shade of a palm tree. The inquisitive piggy was distracted only momentarily from her bucket of delicious veggie scraps by a vigorous scratch on the head from Geoff. She spotted me and scampered over screeching like a banshee possessed … which was somewhat disconcerting. Upon reflection I think she was more interested in the emergency stash of pistachios in my backpack than having another quick scratch of her fleas 😉. 

As I had hoped, Rose Bank beach was a fabulous sweep of pristine black sand backed by forest and volcanic rock. The water was warm enough even for Geoff to (finally) immerse his entire body and the views were mesmerizing. In the distance you could see Richmond Beach to the north and, above it, the rocky grey face of La Soufrière volcano looming above the forest line. I would have liked to have hiked the volcano but the trails still weren’t considered safe after the last eruption in April 2021.

Heading back to the capital we drove past Wallilabou Bay famed for its starring role in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It is also a well-known destination for snorkelers. There was a cruise ship in Kingstown that day so the bay was busy with mini tour buses. As we parked up, a huge catamaran disgorged a couple of dozen very, very red-raw sunburnt Brits. We decided we’d return the next day earlier in the morning to avoid the crowds. Most visitors go there anyway, it seems, to gawk at the stage props left behind by the movie company – coffins with plastic skeletons strung between the trees and – the highlight – having a photo taken standing on a plinth with a hangman’s noose around your neck. Hopefully what was underwater at the north end of the bay would be a little more inspiring.

In the meantime we were getting hungry and my research had already clarified that we weren’t going to find a lot in the way of restaurants in the various fishing villages and settlements along the coast. Clearly, the local populace don’t dine out too frequently and, of the few tourists who do spend any time on the island, they aren’t hanging out in the villages on the Leeward Highway looking for lunch.

I did have one name though – and Google had convinced me that it was open for lunch. Sunset’s Hideout Bar and Grill in Keartons should have been open since 11am. Just for the benefit of anyone thinking they should go in search of this establishment – don’t bother – it doesn’t exist despite the online reviews. As we drove slowly up and down the same few hundred feet of beach road looking in desperation for any sign of Sunset’s (extremely well-hidden) Hideout an elderly gentleman who looked like he might have been smoking something positively mind-bending leapt out of the shadows of a palm tree and asked if he could help. I told him we were looking for Sunset’s. Unsurprisingly, he had absolutely no idea – however he jumped into the back seat of the car and pointed us to the far end of the beach down a short dirt track (the only one we hadn’t yet driven in our search). After 60 seconds he announced that we were there (I still had no idea where) and hollered for his friend “Olive”. Olive padded out from her house barefoot into the garden and wandered over to us. Olive also had absolutely no idea where we wanted to go. For reasons unknown Geoff felt compelled to give the old guy something for his time – $5 US – for a one minute drive along the road we had already been on for no gain whatsoever. We gave up on lunch and drove back to the hotel to change our dinner reservation at Ada to an hour earlier.

Ada is considered the primo in quality and style for St Vincent. In our neck of the woods in Arnos Vale we had 2 main options outside of our hotel: French Verandah with its rustic atmosphere and Ada which is next door in the Beachcombers Hotel. Ada exudes a relaxed Caribbean chic sophistication. It is a vision of Victorian filigree in white. The tables overlook the sun terrace and the pool. Service was enthusiastic and the food was the best on the island so far – the second time we dined there the food was still good but the service was pitiful. On our final night on St Vincent after a week on Bequia our third visit to Ada was something in between. The tourist food industry in the Grenadines is nothing short of patchy and unpredictable …

The next day we drove back to Wallilabou Bay to snorkel without the crowds. We rented fins, snorkels and masks from Dive Antilles in Arnos Vale which would have been pretty good value at $20 US per person for the day if it weren’t for the fact that my snorkel had a broken valve so I was swallowing sea water with every intake of breath. My mask was also leaking and kept filling up with water so the tip of my nose was sitting in sea water. I shall never forget to pack my own mask and snorkel again. The wall of coral running along the rocky headland in the bay was in good enough shape with some colored corals and we finned out as far as the famous arch. We were the only people snorkeling and there were no other tourists on the beach. A couple of fishermen with their boats were cooking their recently caught lunch on a grill on the sand. They wanted to chat and Geoff bought a beer from them and sipped it under the shade of their palm tree. 

Beer sipped, we were starving again, but with the certain knowledge there wouldn’t be anywhere to eat until we got back to the hotel. So we drove back to LaVue where we ordered mahi tacos – the one and only fish item on the menu. St Vincent is a very heavy meat eating nation for an island. Nope – fresh out of mahi. A Caribbean island surrounded by water and fish … and yet none on the menu … unbelievable. Nothing vegetarian so we fell to our emergency back-up dry biscuits and pistachios before heading to Ada again.

With every passing hour it became clearer and clearer that St Vincent is not an island entirely reliant upon tourism. Restaurants are few and far between and are concentrated around the harbor where the yachties moor up or in hotels. So don’t get excited about the culinary experiences here.

Until our arrival in the Grenadines I haven’t been the biggest fan of black sand beaches (although Hawaii has a beautiful one) … this island changed my mind. They are just as spectacular in their own way as the sugary white variety! St Vincent is quite beautiful and, after our recent trip to Jamaica, we were delighted to see that there was barely any trash in sight. The Vincentians are considerably more proud of their country’s assets than the Jamaicans. By further comparison the Vincentians are a friendly laid-back nation of people who are keen to strike up conversation with visitors and shoot the breeze for a while without trying to sell you something. 

After three nights it was time to catch the Bequia Express ferry from the busy ferry terminal in downtown Kingstown. Red Top was waiting for us as planned to collect his car. He’s definitely reliable. No need to buy tickets for the ferry ahead of time, we paid as we boarded and headed up to the covered top deck to stare intently at the horizon in an effort to stave off any possibility of seasickness. We shouldn’t have worried. The ferry crossing in neither direction warranted stocking up on seasick pills nor sucking for an hour on ginger chews.

Finally we were heading to the island we had been gazing at for 3 days from our oceanfront bedroom.

Our rental car on Bequia was ready and waiting at the ferry terminal. There was only one rental car agent on the island – Gideon Ollivierre’s Taxi (and rental) Company. This is a very small island. I think Gideon may also own every taxi on the island. His wife Bronte brought the car for us and since she lives only a short distance from Bequia Beach Hotel (which would be our home for the next week) we dropped her at her home before checking into the hotel. Here, our ocean view beachfront room was distinctly more Caribbean in style than trendy LaVue but very spacious and comfortable with a fabulous view from our top floor balcony. 

Most tourists don’t rent cars on Bequia. It’s far more popular for taxis to ferry people around since no destination is ever more than 15 minutes from any other point on the island. With hindsight we wouldn’t bother with the expense of a rental car but we are used to our own independence.

Our hotel was beautiful (and breakfast was extremely good) but next time we might choose Bequia Plantation Hotel in Port Elizabeth which is conveniently located on a small beach on the Belmont Walkway only a few minutes leisurely stroll from most of the good restaurants and cafes in Port Elizabeth and a five minute walk around the headland along the Belmont/Princess Margaret Trail to the spectacular Princess Margaret Beach. No real need for a car there.

Still, at Bequia Beach Hotel we rubbed shoulders for the first time in decades with (almost exclusively) posh British retirees and even the odd actress … I’m useless with context but I’m good with faces … I literally bumped into a well-known English TV actress over the buffet fruit bowl at breakfast one morning. I knew her face but had no idea why … when I pointed her out to Geoff he knew exactly which TV show she had starred in from our previous life way back in the 1990’s in England.

Bequia Beach Hotel is lovely and, due to its clientele, very peaceful and relaxing. It sits on a narrow strip of golden sand backed by swaying palm trees in Friendship Bay on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Several afternoons were frittered at leisure under one of the palm-frond covered palapas on the sand a few feet from the water. No disappointing cocktails here! The bar staff were much more competent here than on St Vincent and very keen to ply the wealthy retirees with overpriced alcoholic beverages.

That said, we didn’t just spend our week sitting on our laurels sipping pina coladas and spit-roasting in the sunshine. We did make a half-hearted effort to burn off the calories with a couple of hikes. The most popular hike on the island is to the viewpoint at Ma Peggy’s rock at the top of Ma Peggy’s Mountain. I say that it’s popular even though we didn’t meet anyone on the hike nor did we meet a single other tourist who’d actually tackled it . So, one morning we dug out our hiking boots and carefully guarded sunscreen and set off on a hike which, we later learned, even the majority of native islanders have never done. It wasn’t long but it was awkward. We hiked up the side of a boiling hot mountain through scratchy undergrowth, clambering over large rocks, uneven terrain and tripping over twisted tree roots. This is one of those hikes which should have been reasonably quick and easy but even the more benevolent sections of the hike through the dry grassland was a dice with death. At the summit the howling wind was almost enough to knock Geoff from his perch balanced upon the rock for the obligatory photo shoot. The view from the famous rock was worth the sweaty effort and the twisted ankles but we’d definitely earned a few drinks back at the beach bar. 

This wasn’t our only hike on the island. A couple of days later we followed a much longer and considerably vaguer route referenced in a blog I had read. It started from the harbor front. We checked with the hotel receptionist where we should park for the morning in town. “Under the almond tree” she said. I giggled. “So … on an island covered in trees I need to locate “the” almond tree under which we can safely park without getting towed or fined” (concepts with which no one seemed familiar). Apparently we couldn’t miss it … she was right … everyone in town parks under the almond tree. 

The walk starts behind the island’s one and only bank a few blocks from the harbor front. We turned uphill and followed the road past Goddard’s Pottery. Thankfully I had photographed the blog which had included satellite photos of various landmarks and buildings. Without that we would have been completely lost. Google maps was struggling on Bequia just as she had struggled on St Vincent. In any event we weren’t on a recognizable track. Navigation consisted mainly of blind hope and careful analysis of the out of focus satellite imagery stored on my cellphone camera. We tramped past civilization through rough scrub running along a wooded ridge. We could see the ocean way down to our left but little else through the trees. Eventually we popped out at Spring Hill Park viewpoint which was not quite as exciting as the blogger had suggested. In fact, I wouldn’t have bothered driving there in the comfort of our air-conditioned car never mind tackle it by a 6 mile hike. The route was steep… very steep in parts … and when it wasn’t very steep it was still uphill. Then it was very steep downhill. In equal measures, a destroyer of knees and a glute burner.

Back at ground level we passed a relatively wild beach called Spring Bay Beach backed by hundreds of tall, skinny palms from an old plantation. The beach was covered by sargassum seaweed so it wasn’t tempting to linger long. The route back to town followed past the popular attraction of Grenadine Sea Salt Farm where visitors were taking tours in the grounds of the renovated 18th century mill. We passed on the opportunity to taste-test sea salt samples since we were focused on something rather more liquid by that stage: a quick dip in the sea to cool off and a long recline on a sun bed replenishing vital fluids. No-one can deny that a couple of pina coladas and margaritas work best for dehydration than sea salt 😉

The following day was far more leisurely spent onboard the 50 year old restored schooner Friendship Rose sailing from Bequia to the serenely pristine island of Mustique. Breakfast was served onboard at 8am and the drinks started flowing shortly afterwards. We were fed and watered at various stages during the day by the onboard chef. It was a fun and sociable day from early morning until our return to Port Elizabeth at 5pm. The schooner is considerably more rustic than it looks online but that is all part of its charm. 

What better way than to spend the day sailing in the Grenadines to Mustique with the chance of rubbing shoulders with vacationing royalty and the filthy rich and famous?! We didn’t spot Mick Jagger but apparently he was “in residence” according to our knowledgeable taxi driver who took us on a somewhat limited guided tour of the island. Mustique is bijou but immaculate as you might expect. Barely a bougainvillea flower petal out of place – everything is pruned and manicured and constantly preened. Still, if I were Tommy Hilfiger or Paul McCartney I too would likely be outraged at the sight of a dead leaf blowing in the breeze … 

No musicians or film stars to be seen, but we did snorkel with some very inquisitive green sea turtles at the Britannia Bay beach beside ultra-famous Basil’s Bar – which in my book was far better than spotting a celeb! The turtles were popping up all around us for a breath of very exclusive air, swimming over for a closer look and then sedately descending again. 

For those planning on visiting Mustique there are some important points to consider. There is only one hotel – The Cotton House – unless you want to rent a villa or a 30 bedroom hilltop mansion. The hotel was far more reasonably priced than I imagined so we have added it to the list for a future trip. Still, given the diminutive size of the island, the dearth of dining options (obviously the movie stars bring their own personal chefs) and the tragic state of Macaroni Beach, Mustique’s most famous beach (which is knee-deep in sargassum seaweed), I can’t imagine more than two or three nights would be required before moving on to one of the other more laidback islands. L’Ansecoy Beach was fabulous, the beach at Basil’s is lovely and the “village” is pretty but there’s nothing more to do, unless you receive an invitation from Mick for cocktails, than sunbathe and swim and drink $20 US drinks at Basil’s. Great for a couple of days but thereafter …

Having said that, the one and only bakery on the island, Sweetie Pie Bakery and Coffee Shop (a delightfully ornate sugar-mouse pink wooden house opposite Basil’s) does sell remarkably excellent chocolate croissants. I tried one … and then I went back and bought two more because you never know when you’re going to have a sugar deficit emergency which can only be remedied by a chocolate croissant. 

For the rest of our week on Bequia, we hung out a lot at Princess Margaret Beach which was no more than a 3 minute drive from our hotel. Rumor has it that Princess M swam here once in 1958 off the royal yacht on her honeymoon. It’s a tenuous connection but obviously sufficient enough to have led to the renaming of the beach. I swam here a lot so I’m expecting it soon to be renamed after me 😉

We frequented the famous Jack’s bar on the beach and availed ourselves of their sun beds. For the average punter and cruise ship traveler the beds were rented for an exorbitant fee. For guests at Bequia Beach Hotel their use is complementary. We also intended to snack upon their food and sip their overpriced alcoholic beverages during our lazier days but we managed this with only varied success. This is shame because their location and ambience is second to none.

Since it’s the Caribbean I am compelled to drink pina coladas – but alas – here we were surrounded by coconut palms with coconuts literally falling from the trees around us – but no coconut cream in stock at the bar! Although they managed to scrape together the ingredients for a couple of margaritas one lunchtime, the following day there was neither coconut cream nor tequila … so no margaritas either … hmm…

Jack’s was not the only bar on the island to have proclaimed that Bequia was “out of coconut cream” (odd since our hotel couldn’t supply me with enough pina coladas) but it was the most surprising since its reputation precedes it. All day long we watched water taxis ferrying yachties from their yachts to Jack’s dock. It’s a miracle that these disorganized, understocked bars and restaurants can actually stay in business. Having said that I guess anywhere which charges $10 per teeny tiny coconut-battered shrimp (yes – $30 US for 3 shrimp served with a thin smear of dip) maybe can afford to be lackadaisical in its stock-taking and inventory replenishment. The food looks promising on Jack’s website but, if I’m honest, it is eye-wateringly overpriced for the quality and quantity. I’d spotted a delicious fruit-laden cheesecake online. I checked the description with the server – nope – it was merely a slice of New York cheesecake with a glace cherry on top. I declined the offer. Still, with hindsight I probably should have given it a go because it turned out to be almost the only place on the island which had anything in stock other than ice-cream for dessert.

We walked the Belmont Walkway to Port Elizabeth a couple of times. It is a short walkway, some paved, some wooden boardwalk over the water and some rustic pathway passing through the forest and around the headland between Princess Margaret Beach and Port Elizabeth. It is a must-do walk which runs adjacent to most of the waterfront restaurants and the Bequia Plantation Hotel. It is an absolutely beautiful, albeit short, walk. The water of Admiralty Bay is crystal-clear and laps at the edge of the pathway with overhanging palm and shade trees. It was very relaxing sitting in a waterfront restaurant watching the comings and goings from the yachts.

We tried various restaurants on the Belmont Walkway.

Frangipani – filled with 20 somethings. The entire population of young people on the island must hang out here. Most guests on the island made us look positively youthful. The food was distinctly average. They are renowned for a lime meringue pie which I ordered. It was horribly sweet and the “lime” layer was glowing fluorescent green – the kind of green which most definitely came more from chemicals than the fruit of a lime tree. Not to be recommended.

Cheri’s Rooftop (inland overlooking the cemetery) was probably the best quality food of the low-key local restaurants we tried. It came recommended by a number of Brits we chatted with so we had to give it a try. By way of confirmation of its culinary pedigree we spotted the English TV actress again at the table next to us. I had high hopes of the dessert menu since it was apparently extensive. Of course, there was nothing available but ice-cream because the chef (according to the server) hadn’t bothered to do any baking that day … probably too busy hanging out under the palms trees on the beach until opening time.

If you actually do want ice-cream on the island there’s only one place to get it – Maranne’s on the waterfront. Even that wasn’t absolutely worth the calories. It was gradually beginning to sink in that dessert isn’t top in the minds of the local chefs. 

Fig Tree – a family-run restaurant – again in a spectacular location on the Belmont Walkway with the waters of Admiralty Bay lapping against the retaining wall of the path. The food was better than most restaurants (no dessert other than ice-cream though) but most impressive of all was the generosity of the lady who owned and operated the restaurant. We went there on our first and penultimate evenings. Luckily she remembered us from the first visit because as we were making our selections from the menu on our second visit I was struck with the sudden realization that I had completely forgotten to bring any cash or credit cards. She listened to our story of woe (incompetence) and told us not to worry. We could have dinner and come back the following day to pay. That’s not the kind of relaxed, trusting and laidback service you can expect in many places in the world.

Coco’s at the far end of the town. The owner (presumably Coco) was very surly. We wanted a water view table but they were all set for 4 people. It was half empty, well past lunchtime and there were probably 8 other 4 person tables available. We weren’t allowed the tables with the view “just in case”. If we hadn’t been starving we might have left which would have been a pity because we would have missed his legendary fish chowder … which was absolutely legendary.

Our last few days on Bequia were spent hanging out at various beach bars like a couple of sun wizened bar flies. We discovered Lower Bay Beach which was nearly as lovely as Princess Margaret Beach but far busier. We decided to try Da Reef for lunch. It’s so horizontally chilled at Da Reef that you can place your order, dump your bags at your chosen table overlooking the beach and take a dip in the bay until the server waves at you and delivers the food to your table. The downside of Lower Bay Beach was its popularity. A giant catamaran filled with tourists disgorged onto the beach causing noise and chaos. Time to head back to the utter tranquility of Bequia Beach Hotel and the promise of a coconut cream-filled pina colada.

By far the most exclusive restaurant on the island was located at by far the most exclusive hotel – The Liming. When I made the hotel reservations for this vacation I thought long and hard about staying at The Liming. The problem with it is location, location, location … and the location of The Liming is not great. Whilst Bequia airport is not exactly London Heathrow (think more island hoppers and the occasional private Learjet) it is right next to the hotel. By that I mean the planes actually come in to land right over the top of the hotel pool and restaurant which means ear-splitting noise and disruption of tranquility (albeit only for a few minutes). I think if all that you require of a stay in Bequia is to hang out in an elegant upmarket hotel set upon its own private beach and eat pricey but delicious food then perhaps you could do no better. To be fair, the average guest flying in by private jet is not likely to rent a dusty, dirty car and head off to explore the island. They will most certainly not wish to bump along a long, dusty, dirty track past Paget Farm to access the more appealing parts of the island. Paget Farm is a very active fishing village and the least pristine and, hence, most authentic settlement on the island. Here, stray dogs roam the streets and fishermen sit around tables in the evenings under the glare of a single lightbulb sipping beer and shooting the breeze.

So, I sacrificed the cool, chic style of The Liming for location and accessibility to Port Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Beach.

Once we’d eaten at The Liming on our last night on the island, however, we might have reassessed that previous thought process. And another big plus – The Liming had dessert!! The passionfruit panna cotta with passionfruit butter was perfection for a dessert-starved sugar addict. Perhaps, in hindsight, we really should have stayed there 😉 … but the fact remains that we are explorers and the thought of being marooned (relatively speaking) at one end of the island for a week just wouldn’t have worked so well. 

Finally the day of reckoning had arrived and, with heavy heart, we boarded the one hour Bequia Express ferry back to St Vincent. Red Top was waiting for us as promised at the busy Kingstown ferry terminal. Hard to imagine but this rental car was even filthier than the first one we had rented at the start of the vacation 10 days earlier. I could barely sit down in it without fainting in horror. He’s nothing if not reliable in turning up as pre-arranged and supplying you with a (mainly) functioning vehicle. They do all come with four tires and a steering wheel but I fear that his vehicles do lack something in the hygiene department. In this case the vehicle also lacked something in the maintenance department. When we returned the car to the airport the following day I thought I’d double-check for any papers that we might have left in the glovebox. The glovebox latch fell apart in my hands and the door smashed down onto my knees. This might have been awkward at any stage in the previous 24 hours. Thankfully, it was the moment immediately before handing back the car keys and catching our flight home. 

Anyway, we were returning to LaVue for our final night on St Vincent. They checked us in at 11am – service is good here but the food is not – so we drove down to Cafe Soleil at the Blue Lagoon Marina for a quick coffee and cake (I was happy – I had found dessert for the third time in 11 days!). The destination for the afternoon was Belmont Lookout with its sweeping countryside views over the Marriqua Valley in Mesopotamia. Because we took “the scenic route” instead of the main road it was a rugged ride over pot holes and up winding mountainsides with expansive views over villas, terraced farmland and forests. Having made it as far as the scenic overlook it would have been churlish not to have continued onwards further into the mountains. So we did. We drove past even more rustic settlements en route to Montreal Gardens way out in the boonies. Once we had finally found it (Google maps still continuing to mess us about) the botanical garden turned out to be surprisingly fabulous – wild and overgrown but immaculately maintained all at the same time. There was a minimal $5 US entry fee which we paid to a lady who appeared out of the shrubbery in the car park with a machete in hand. It was well worth the trip.

Our final evening on St Vincent was spent at Ada again where we placed an order for our meals and, once again, received something entirely different. We were (unreliably) informed that the fish special was herb crusted mahi mahi with potato terrine and salad. We received plain grilled mahi on mashed potato with salad. Still nothing for dessert other than brownie and ice-cream which we declined.

By this stage we thought we’d seen it all when it came to unreliable service but even we weren’t prepared for the truly dreadful experience at the cafe next door to Cafe Soleil at Blue Lagoon Marina on our final morning for breakfast. The name of the cafe escapes me. We had taken an early morning walk on Brighton Beach – very much a local’s beach with some charm but a lot of sargassum seaweed – and then we went in search of breakfast. I ordered oatmeal and banana (which caused the server some bewilderment – odd since it was clearly offered on the menu). Geoff ordered eggs on toast – what could be simpler than that?! Did he want toast with that? Umm … yes … as per the description on the menu. After some 40 minutes the server arrived with 2 lonely poached eggs on a plate. She then looked at me with confusion almost as if I had popped up out of nowhere. Had I ordered anything? “Yes – that would probably be the other bowl in your hand I think – oatmeal with banana” … whereupon she placed a bowl of granola and yoghurt in front of me and scurried away. Geoff’s eggs were stone cold. He called her back and questioned the lack of toast and the temperature of his eggs. Toast? Did he want toast too? Did he STILL want toast? “Hmm … yes … as per the original order and the description on the menu”.

He sent the cold eggs back and asked for the order to be put in again. Another 20 minutes passed and a plate with a piece of dry toast and the same cold (but by now rubbery) eggs were presented to him. Geoff went in search of the owner. She made various excuses which fell upon deaf and uninterested ears so he placed an order for a veggie fry-up which both of us could have sworn should have been served with eggs … only it wasn’t. I wish I could remember the name of the cafe because they really shouldn’t be in business at all. The view from the marina front table, however, was pleasant so that was some consolation.

Back at the hotel for our last few hours topping up our tans on their pool terrace, I placed an order for raspberry cheesecake – I received blueberry cheesecake … honestly, who cared any longer 🤣? 

Finally at the airport we flew through check-in and security with more hours ahead of us than hoped. The incoming plane from Miami was running late so were due to board late. Eventually it landed and we were called to board. Almost immediately we had entered the jetway we were stopped just steps away from boarding the plane. A mechanical problem. My very favorite words when I’m about to board an aircraft. After another few minutes we were all suddenly rushed onboard and encouraged to take our seats with more haste than usual by the air steward who declared us ready for takeoff. Not seconds later the pilot addressed us over the tannoy. We still had a mechanical problem. But now we were all on board the airport was having to prioritize it. Very strategic … but with hindsight they might have warned us ahead of time of the nature of the mechanical problem whilst we were still in the terminal.

The machine which empties the airplane toilets into a truck on the runway had failed. We couldn’t leave with a plane full of poo from the previous passengers. We waited and waited and an hour passed whilst they tried to fix the problem but it became clear that if we took off as it was we’d either plunge into the sea (because the plane was overloaded with a full tank of gas and an even more overflowing tank of poo) … or we could fly – but first they’d have to remove some of the gas they’d just loaded onto the plane and even so halfway to Miami we’d have no toilets and we’d probably run out of fuel and plunge into the sea anyway. Perfect! After an emergency trip to the loo whilst I still could, we were notified that they would empty the gas tanks and we would fly to Puerto Rico airport for a literal emergency poo stop and then we would refuel. Just what we needed when we already had a late arrival time and a 3 hour drive home from Miami. Worse news for all the posh Brits onboard trying to catch the overnight flight back to London – which they all missed courtesy of American Airlines broken poo emptying machine …

Anyway, sometime after the pit stop in San Juan airport and hours after boarding we were served dinner at 30,000 feet. It should have come as no surprise whatsoever that our final meal courtesy of St Vincent was also going to be a unique and unexpected offering! Sitting on the plane in first class we were offered butternut squash risotto and salad (which sounded half decent). We received a plate of cold mashed potato with broad beans and salad and a dessert which defies description (for once, ice-cream would have been a bonus). Obviously they had employed the services of a Vincentian cook. First world problems but even so …

Some aspects of the culinary scene aside we’d go back to the Grenadines in a heartbeat; they are absolutely fabulous!


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