H E R O ( )

Life centres on the beach – and the hedonistic pleasure of doing as much or as little as you please – at the St Luciaresortof Windjammer Landing where paradise is found.

Words: Libby Norman

St Lucia attracts more than its fair share of superlatives thanks to its reputation as a paradise honeymoon destination. But it’s also a brilliant location for family holidays. The teardrop-shapedWindward Island nation– measuring 27 miles north to south – is a place of lush jungle, pirate-hideout bays and pristine sand beaches.The lofty pitons that dominate the island (and star in every tourist brochure) make for a slow but fascinating taxi journey of vertiginous climbs and ear-popping descents through lushbananagrowing country as we make our way to Windjammer LandingVilla Beach Resort on the north-west coast.

It’s more than worth the ride because Windjammer Landingbagged one of the most picturesque and sheltered spots on the island. Covering some 60 acres, and withbleachedwhite villas dotted through the hillsides to capture ocean views and sea breezes, the resort sits oncrescent shaped Labrelotte Bay – pristine white sand, obligatory swaying palms and gentle Caribbean waters.

Our villa is, we decide, one of the best. We have an uninterrupted view over the bay, a wooden deck big enough for a party, a plunge poolwith space for four and suntrap terraces off both living room and main bedroom. There’s also a small roof terrace above our bedroom that we only discover on the second day. Bedrooms are deliciously cool, and we keep doors shut to maintain that air-conditioned chill, but the living areas are open to the breeze,island style, with white-painted metal grilles instead of glass windows. The children love this– so too the resident birds. We get used to encountering a pair of cheeky chattering

bullfinchesin the living room in the mornings checking for our crumbs.

The living area is spacious, with sofas (convertible, as our villa can actually take six), a large dining table and anexceptionally wellequipped kitchen self-catering would be a breeze. The on-resort shop and larger supermarkets in Rodney Bay offer everything from comforting British biscuits and vast bags of American snacks to beef, lobsters and langoustines. Lovely another time, but on thislonged for and twice postponed holiday we’ve gone all inclusive. This gives us the luxurious pleasure of locking away our wallets in the safe for the duration and neverworrying about meal planning.

Food choices are indulgent and plentiful. Our day starts with thebreakfast buffet fresh fruit, pastries and muffins plus hot options ranging from waffles, bacon and beans to plantain and even deep-fried ginger (surprisingly moreish). Two chefsrustle upeggs your way,so the children are in heaven. Options for snacking and dining unfoldsmoothly through to dinner. With two beach restaurants and multiple bars, excellent local ice cream at the beach kiosk and sun-lounger servicefrom attentive beach waiters, we can all fill up as and when we please. And we do. Cheesy chips, mini burgers, tacos, pizza or worthy and less worthy saladsfrom Embers beach bar become daytime favourites. We resist the all-inclusive slippery slope of starting cocktail hour early (a surefire wayto be tucked up in bed by dusk), but it’s good to know we have the option. We do succumb to the odd pina colada or daiquiri near the end of a hard day’s lounging in the shade of a palm.

This is life lived on the beach, and that includes the entertainment. I silently bless the beach animation team daily for their discreet attentionto younger guests‘ amusement.They have an almost limitless supply of energy and good cheer that ensures spontaneous games of beach cricket, tug-of-war and other breakout events to keep hyperactive small children up to surly teens from boredom. The beach is vast and well stocked with beach games and toys – even a pingpong table so plenty of space for action that doesn’t interfere with reading and snoozing among the sun-loungerfraternity.

There’s a children’s creche, but we don’t stray that far because the ocean is a readymadeactivity centre especially withfree watersports, plus diving and sailing excursions for the more adventurous. We love swimming out to the giant slide and trampoline (climb on, jump off, repeat). Meanwhile, my husband embarks on a heroic attempt to master paddle boardingin one holiday, with a few lessons from one of the watersportscrew to refine his technique. We commiserate each time he returns dripping and tells usit’s not as easy as it looks.

Off resort trips are plentiful, with sunset cruises, deep sea fishing, jungle zip-lines, visits to the botanic gardens, Pigeon Island and volcano tours among the most popular options organised by an on-resort team from Jammin’ Tours. For solo explorers, Rodney Bay (a US$32 round trip by taxi) is the nearest town for villa supplies and cashpoints, but the capital Castries isa better bet for souvenirs and St Lucian produce.

The bay offers calm, almost bath-temperature, water and this may help to explain why so many families are repeat visitors. It’s a truly international crowd, with guests from North America, Europe and other Caribbean islands (some are villa owners or part owners). Casual conversations happen easily on the efficient shuttle minibuses that ferry people up and down the hillside to their villas, just as they do on the beach and at the bar.

Dining choices cover all bases. We love the authentic Italian at Papa Don’s and the fabulous steaks at Upper Deck, and Friday Fish Night is fun, but our regular choice is Jammers– it’s easy and informal and nothing beats dining overlooking the beach. Entertainment alsocentres around the bar and the beach. The fire-eating limbo dancers and teen-to-adult calypso band wow the children, while we are pleasantly surprised bya nightly lineup of musicianswho really can sing and play. The playlist is broadfrom jazz R&B and dance to a romantic country & western singerin a dazzling white Stetson who gets the bar staff crooning along as if this were downtown Memphis.

Bob Marley is a St Lucian singalong staple too and his greatest and lesser hits feature somewhere on the playlist nightly – always to an enthusiasticaudience. There’s even a cocktail here in his honour,carrying layered colours of the Jamaican flag and laced with a whole lot of rum. Advised and guided by the mixologists at Jammers, we do a respectable job working our way through the extensivecocktail list and settle on a favourite in the frozen, creamy and award-winning inhouse invention 14X61rum base (naturally),named after the latitude and longitude of this island and slipping down all too easily.

Perhaps the most seductive thing about Windjammer Landing is the sense that creeps over us that this is our place. With its relaxed, do it your way vibe and so muchroom to spread out and find a perfect spot, it’s impossible to do anything but settle in and enjoy. We adults don’t get round to visiting the highly ratedspa this time, but find that we’ve shrugged offwinter blues, aching limbs and layers of stresswithout it. We also realise on our last day that the children’siPadshave been languishing, fully charged,in the safe since day two and the TVs in our villa have not been switched on oncesurely the mark of a perfect check in and tune out family holiday.

* Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort offers rooms from £213 per room per night, based on 2 sharing.Premium All-Inclusive Package rate for 2 adults and 2 children is from £809 per night. windjammer-landings


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