It took 12 hours to get to St. Lucia from San Francisco — five hours to New York, plus a two-hour layover, then five more hours to the island. Which is one of the southeastern most countries in the Caribbean island chain, just north of Trinidad and Tobago, slightly northwest of Barbados, and fairly close to the old Spanish Main (ie, South America) — due north of present-day Guyana. Beyond the general vicinity, I couldn’t have told you much about it before I landed, other than it seemed like the kind of place you’d hear about in a Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffet song, a place where rum-soaked expats go to collect mosquito bites.
I was almost immediately disabused of those notions simply by the natural beauty on the two-hour drive from the airport (surprisingly long for an island that’s only 27 miles by 15, though I’m told the same trip only takes 12 minutes by helicopter). As the two-lane road wound through rainforests and mountainous terrain, it looked more like Hawaii or the misty jungle scenes from Jurassic Park than whatever my barely-formed conception of the Caribbean had been (flat, scrubby, humid — though St. Lucia is pretty humid).
As we wound through jungle, mountains, bays, and several traffic-influenced detours, passing all manner of what looked like beach cottages, with signs advertising incongruous businesses — “NJ’s Spare Parts,” “All American Windows,” “Plastics Repair,” and my favorite, a tiny hut reading “Paul’s Free Wifi” — my driver, Otto, asked me if I knew why St. Lucia was “the only woman island” in the Caribbean.
“Uh… because it’s the only one named after a woman?” I tried. It was a wild guess, and I wasn’t convinced myself, as even nearby Dominica and Martinique sound a little feminine. It turns out I was right though. St. Lucia is the only country in the world named after a woman (Saint Lucy), unless you count Ireland, named for the fertility goddess Ériu.
“Because it’s the only one with twin Pitons,” Otto smiled, pantomiming breasts.
Ahh, yes, the titty mountains (Gros Piton and Petit Piton). The “looks like boobs” game never gets old, as I know from driving past the San Onofre Boobs (as seen in The Naked Gun) countless times during my formative teen years.
In this case, the idea really starts to fall apart if you break it down. “Teton” is the more classic boob-based French word for mountains, as in the Grand Tetons. “Piton” seems to be a word for a spire, a peg, a spike. In other words… a dick. If we’re getting technical, St. Lucia is more like the only two-dicked lady island in the Caribbean, and isn’t that a much more interesting selling point?
From the airport in Vieux Fort at the southernmost tip of the island, we wound our way up the rainy southwest coast, through rainforests, and up to the sunnier northeastern coast of the island, passing through four or five different climates along the way. I saw nothing but rain in the forecast so I packed a jacket and rain shoes, which was unnecessary — it tends to rain for 10 minutes and then the sun comes out again, five times a day. There are lots of rainbows.