‘Welcome, welcome. Just call me Mr Good Vibes,’ said the man in the brightly coloured shorts, offering a smile that extended the width of his face, arms open in greeting, on a beach that had been beamed down from heaven.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the beautiful Caribbean island of St Lucia where the warmth and friendliness of its people are matched only by the beauty of its landscape.
From the moment you arrive, the island is mesmerisingly otherworldly… from the chickens strutting around outside the airport, to the banana plantations lining the roads. Then there are the tropical forests packed with birds in jewel-coloured jackets.
The Caribbean island of St Lucia, which has been passed back and forth between the French and the English through the years, as the two countries fought for ownership
I was in St Lucia for a week-long creative writing course, with the mornings spent writing at a luxury hotel and the afternoons exploring the island.
But, for now, back to the beach, where Mr Good Vibes had waded through the turquoise waters to retrieve a small raft that would take us on to a boat for the afternoon. We were heading for Soufriere to see the Pitons, the two volcanoes that have become the symbol of the island.
The boat trip was wonderfully decadent – lounging across the deck, admiring the Pitons emerging in the shimmering, hazy sky ahead. We were accompanied by a school of whales, dancing alongside us while the gentle hum of reggae music drifted over us.
At the Pitons we headed for the volcanic mud bath where we lay like basking seals while it dried before sliding into hot whirlpools to wash it off, then returning to the boat for a barbecue.
The next morning, it was time for creative writing, in an open-sided room with views of the sea, and soothing gusts of sea breeze. It may seem like an odd mixture to have a course in the middle of a luxury holiday, but it worked.
The process of writing and attempting to bring experiences to life on the page made the reality of the holiday all the more intense. ‘Describe mud baths without using the sense of touch,’ we were told. But don’t think that this is a course for experienced novelists. The charm of the writing lies in the choice of tutor.
Stylish: One of the bedrooms at East Winds, which offers a week-long writing course
A colourful signpost at the hotel. It is set in 12 acres by a private beach near Rodney Bay in the north of the island
Victoria Pepe is an experienced editor who wears her knowledge lightly. She expects nothing but that you get involved, enjoy yourself and develop your skills. I’m an experienced novelist, but there were people who had no experience, and they found it useful and uplifting.
It begins with basic word games, and develops slowly until you are writing fluently. You won’t write a novel while you’re there, but you will leave with a suitcase full of ideas.
Away from the writing, we also spent time at the hotel where the course is based. East Winds is a boutique resort set in 12 acres by a private beach near Rodney Bay in the north of the island.
It’s run by Judith Milne, an English businesswoman who moved to St Lucia to manage the hotel. She socialises with guests and is on hand with tips about the island and its heritage.
St Lucia has been passed back and forth between the French and the English through the years, as the two countries fought for ownership. This explains the language: many things have English names, others French.
The resort has a lovely outdoor pool, as well as a gym, yoga and Pilates classes and any watersports that take your fancy.
Mud larks: In the volcanic mud bath in the Pitons, the two volcanoes that have become the island’s symbol
Everything became fodder for writing. The gnarled roots of the elephant foot tree and the spiky leaves of a plant became characters in their own right as we let our imaginations run riot.
What if someone was found murdered in the mud baths? Could the volcano erupt? What would happen if it did? Or perhaps those chickens will find themselves a charismatic leader and take over the airport?
This is a holiday to remember in a wonderful resort that might set you on the road to penning that bestseller you always promised yourself you’d write…