The Handbook
The Handbook

Imagine this: You’re on a private beach. You drink a cocktail without sanitising your hands. You smile at your other half who is within a 2-metre radius. Someone further down the beach coughs and you don’t even flinch.

As I sit at home, self-isolating with a giant M&S trifle (that’s all they had left in the shop), I reminisce about this very scene that played out only a few days before Covid-19 came to town and liberally spread itself like sourdough recipes during lockdown.

The volcanic Caribbean isle of St Lucia sits like a teardrop of land just northwest of Barbados. While the latter is famed for Rihanna and booty-shaking carnivals, St Lucia is a quieter neighbour, known for spiced rum and the picturesque Pitons. The key to a good holiday here is choosing an all-inclusive retreat in which to place your pale, winter body for its yearly Vitamin D boost.

Cap Maison... where glossy palms and punchy pink bougainvillea welcome us into the Moroccan hacienda-style property.

So after a nine-hour Virgin flight (remember flights?), I’m whisked away to Cap Maison in the north of the island where glossy palms and punchy pink bougainvillea welcome us into the Moroccan hacienda-style property.

We check into our three-storey villa, complete with hot tub, fully-equipped kitchen and a roof terrace that offers spectacular ocean views from dawn to dusk.

Dining at The Naked Fisherman on the resort’s private beach (disappointingly no naked fishermen to be seen), the fish is fresh and the vibes are chilled as we enjoy the best tuna poke on the island. Alternatively there’s the smarter Cliff at Cap restaurant, where you can opt to dine on a private little bluff. The party piece is a zip wire that delivers an engagement ring to your table, on request, an experience guaranteed to induce a ‘yes’ from your partner by force of stranded panic alone! Interestingly my boyfriend chose to give the place a wide berth…

The party piece is a zip wire that delivers an engagement ring to your table...

But the pièce de résistance of Cap Maison is Cellar Maison, where you can indulge in a paired wine menu surrounded by ageing bottles. Guzzling duck confit with a savoury-sweet Passito la Callatella and delicate coral crab with a creamy 2018 Louis Latour Chablis, the restaurant’s attention to detail is second-to-none; our names are printed on the menu and we are given two fuchsia-pink pashminas to keep us warm (who needs a zip wire ring anyway?).

Aside from eating, our time is spent on sun loungers and ordering an endless supply of piña coladas, my addiction really building momentum. We dip into the water for a spot of snorkelling every few hours and are delighted to take in an octopus mid-mouthful alongside a flutter of tropical fish.

It transpires that neither of us can sit still for long periods of time, so we distract ourselves with a whistle-stop rum tour at St Lucia Distillers. Galloping through the process, our eyes firmly on the prize: the samples.

Bounty is the local tipple, but we step it up a notch with a refined bottle of Admiral Rodney, named after an English naval strategist who spearheaded one of seven on-off colonial battles against France on the island in the 1700s. An odd choice of name, all things considered, but it tastes delicious and probably beats calling it Delboy…

Taxi drivers always turn out to be the best tour guides. One driver, Gavin, pointed out a man holding a giant snake on the side of the road and introduced us to sugar cane juice, by chance being sold by his old school friend Daniel from a little tin wagon.

Shifting gear, we had decided to spend the second half of our retreat at Anse Chastanet, set on 600 private acres of land in the south of the island. Checking into room 7E has to be one of the greatest achievements of my life (finally kicking my post-holiday 40-a-day piña colada habit being another). Two sides of the room are open to the elements and display panoramic views of the jungle, the sea and the two Jurassic peaks, the Pitons. Nick Troubetzkoy, the owner and architect, sure knows how to capture a good view.

The resort is the perfect springboard to explore Gros and Petit Piton, whether you climb them or take in the view from the Tet Paul Nature Trail or a sailing boat. We do the latter with Kerwin, our skipper from Anse Chastanet, who sails us across the open waves in his yacht, pointing out flying fish, a pair of fighting frigate birds and the best place for an obligatory Titanic pose as the sun sets.

Make sure to take black swimwear; otherwise you spend the rest of the holiday sporting suspicious brown stains.

Of course, you can’t visit a volcanic island without venturing into the heart of a volcanic crater, welcome to Sulphur Springs. The bubbling geezers are a smell you won’t forget. Guides used to wander freely near the bubbling gasses, cooking eggs and fish in the ground to impress tourists… until one fell in. We opted to watch from a safe distance. Down the road you can slap on some mineral-rich mud in the communal baths, but (word from the wise) make sure to take black swimwear; otherwise you spend the rest of the holiday sporting suspicious brown stains.

As a treat on our final night, we head for a night at Troubetzkoy’s next-door property, Jade Mountain. It’s an architectural fantasia. Stone walkways connect the rooms like moving Hogwarts staircases covered in creeping vines, multicoloured glass and pot plants. It’s how I would imagine Bond villain’s lair set to look – although in this version, Bond would be doing a lot less killing and even more shagging. Rumour has it one honeymoon couple didn’t leave their suite for four days straight. But then you wouldn’t need to – you have a personal butler.

It’s how I would imagine Bond villain's lair set to look – although in this version, Bond would be doing a lot less killing and even more shagging...

Ours is called Alain and he welcomes us with cocktails. I like him immediately. He shows us inside our suite or ‘sanctuary’ as it’s called, and I can see why. Our four-poster bed overlooks an infinity pool and the two Pitons – making one wall of this room look like a green screen from Avatar.

Alain gives us a mobile phone, so our every whim can be catered for at a moment’s notice. I promptly call him for some more piña coladas. There’s no limit to what he can do; after dinner, we are greeted by a foamy, piping hot, bubble bath. Handy, given we’ve got four days to squeeze into one evening…

Now, back to post-lockdown Britain and another mouthful of M&S trifle, and I wonder why on earth I left St Lucia. After all, what could be better for self-isolation than a butler and cocktails on tap?

Recreate the trip:

Rates at Cap Maison start at £360 per night including breakfast in a Garden View Room, inclusive of service and taxes. www.capmaison.com

Nightly rates at Anse Chastanet start from $410 (£343*) per room based on double occupancy. Rates are subject to 10% service charge and 10% VAT. www.ansechastanet.com 

Nightly rates at Jade Mountain start from $1,165 (£975*) per sanctuary based on double occupancy. Rates are subject to 10% service charge and 10% VAT. www.jademountain.com.

For more information on St Lucia, visit www.stlucia.orgavailability of activities may be subject to change due to phased reopening after Covid. Please check with the tourist board before booking

*Prices in pound sterling accurate according to today’s exchange rate.