Spice of India Restaurant, St Lucia

We stumbled upon Spice of India one lunchtime a couple of weekends ago, drawn inside by the notable TripAdvisor certificates displayed at the front of the restaurant. Spice of India is an authentic Indian restaurant situated in the heart of Rodney Bay. Yesterday we visited for the third time and met it’s owner, Adil Pervez Sherwani. Since opening it’s doors in 2010, Spice of India has become one of St Lucia’s most revered spots, winning TripAdvisor’s prestigious Travellers’ Choice Award in 2015 and rave reviews from visitors. “Never, ever let’s you down” praises one, “Wow wow wow” gushes another.

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Stepping inside this ethnic space, one is at once transported to the mystic paradise of Asia, all while relaxing in the modern comfort of a western-style eatery. The interior of the restaurant strikes an unusual contrast between contemporary warehouse chic and Indian boudoir glamour, without any air of gaudiness. Beautiful bangles in every colour adorn the bar area, rich fabrics in vivid pink and blue drape from the ceiling and the soft sound of Eastern meditation music helps diners to unwind.

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Shortly after sitting down, Mr Sherwani comes over to greet us, introducing himself and briefly explaining what there is to eat on the menu. As once stated by Maya Angelou, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel. Mr Sherwani’s leads the restaurant with meticulous attention to detail and service. This has filtered down through his wonderful staff who go out of their way to help us feel comfortable and welcome. 

The restaurant’s most popular option is the Chef Tasting Menu. At just $53 East Caribbean Dollars the menu offers a set selection of dishes that include vegetarian, meat and fish options, Indian bread and dessert. As my husband had sampled the Chef Tasting Menu on his previous two visits, he decided to order Lamb Korma and Basmati rice from the A La Carte Menu. I ordered a simple starter of potato and vegetable samosas with poppadoms. Since becoming pregnant, food has lost much of it’s pizzazz. I generally eat through necessity rather than desire, and eating six to eight small meals (as opposed to three large ones) has helped to control my nausea and heartburn.

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Before the food arrived we were treated to five complimentary fresh juice shots; Mango, Tamarind, Guava, Passion Fruit and Orange, which were all delicious. My husband ordered a fresh mango lassi and I had fresh coconut water.

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The food arrived promptly and beautifully presented. My samosas were cooked to perfection; soft spicy potato and peas encased in a warm, sublime pastry that melted in the mouth, accompanied with stylish streaks of tangy chutney. The poppadoms were perfectly crisp and coated in the thinnest layer of oil that prevented them from being too dry. Sprinkled generously with seasoning, they were the perfect accompaniment to both our meals. I sampled my husband’s basmati rice, each grain supple, separate and fragrant. Another satisfying visit, the only minor complaint my husband had was that there wasn’t enough lamb in the korma!

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It is the combination of service, ambiance and culinary excellence that has established Spice of India as one of St Lucia’s most celebrated restaurants. Mr Sherwani has expanded on his success here to open a second restaurant, Masala Bay in Marigot Bay, about half an hour south of Castries City. His new venture has surpassed the success of Spice of India and is now rated the number one restaurant on the island. We’ll definitely be heading down to Marigot Bay to experience what all the fuss is about, we just need to drag ourselves away from the attachment we have to Spice of India first…

Information:

Location: Spice of India is situated at Baywalk Mall in Rodney Bay, Gros Islet, St Lucia.

Telephone:  1 (758) 458-4243

Opening times: Closed on Mondays. Open from 12pm-4pm for lunch and from 6pm onward for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday. Booking may be necessary during peak times. The restaurant is also available for private functions.

Food preferences/Allergies: The restaurant has a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian options. It also offers gluten-free dishes. The food is mild but can be made spicier upon request! Halal chicken and lamb are available subject to availability. Let your server know your food requests or any allergies before ordering.

Cost of Food: $53 East Caribbean Dollars per head ($19.57 US, £14.36) for the Chef Tasting Menu at lunch. About $114 East Caribbean Dollars per head for three courses ($42.09 US, £30.89).

Cost of Alcohol: Wine from $14 East Caribbean Dollars per glass ($5.17 US, £3.79), Champagne or sparkling wine from $99 East Caribbean Dollars per bottle ($36.55 US, £9.90).

Currency conversion can vary and reflects the rates at the time this article was published. 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a Baby in St Lucia

I’ve looked after children as part of my professional life for the past four years. Those four years brought about some of the biggest challenges I’d ever faced at work but I’m exceedingly grateful for that time. Armed with ideas for educational activities, the knowledge of developmental milestones and how to establish routines, I’ve a better grounding in early childhood development than most parents to be. However, I’ve no idea if this knowledge will translate to real life when I’m severely sleep deprived and suffering chapped nipples. What’s more, having a baby abroad is uncharted territory. Who will handle my antenatal care? How do I meet other mums in my community? How will I feel when my husband returns to work and I’m at home on my own with a screaming newborn? I’ve been told that parenting is one of life’s toughest gigs. I’d imagine that parenting in a foreign country doesn’t make things any easier.

I had my first antenatal appointment in St Lucia at approximately eleven weeks and two days into my pregnancy. We’d had a disappointing experience at SAMS hospital in Grenada and were desperately hoping that the medical care in St Lucia was on a different par. From what I understand, British women initially make an appointment with their GP who refers them to a midwife at a hospital or birthing centre and most give birth at the same establishment. In St Lucia, women tend to seek the services of a public health clinic which offers antenatal care led by midwives, or the services of a private obstetrician. Some opt for a combination of both, then refer themselves to the public health hospital once in labour. Others opt only to receive private care, either using just the private hospital or a combination of the hospital and private health clinics. Antenatal counselling such as breastfeeding advice and breathing techniques for labour are only available at public health clinics. Depending on your outlook, you could say that antenatal services in the UK are more streamlined, or that the care in St Lucia is more flexible.

We’ve chosen the services of Dr Nadia Samuel at the private Tapion hospital in Castries. She’s a St Lucian obstetrician and gynecologist who has worked in the UK for twelve years and has vast experience of dealing with obstetrical deliveries and emergencies.

After being weighed, Dr Samuel asked me a series of questions about my medical history. She took my blood pressure then asked me to lie down on the bed for my first ultrasound scan. For numerous reasons, I’d been unable to bridge many emotions to my pregnancy until that point. Being pregnant is a lot like partaking in your own wedding – it feels oddly surreal. I’d also spent a month concentrating all my efforts on the exhausting task of morning sickness boot camp. This had left me little time to ponder life’s changing course and if I’m being honest, had me feeling partially unresponsive.

As Dr Samuel slid the ultrasound Doppler across the jelly on my stomach, a beautiful image came into view on the screen. For the first time, we laid eyes on our unborn baby. My husband mentioned something about being surprised the baby was moving so much and I fell silent in a rare moment of speechlessness. What I felt in that moment was a surge of pure love that was both primal and all consuming in it’s nature. Any suffering from previous weeks was suddenly eclipsed in the miracle of maternal biology. Mummy and Daddy already love you more than you could ever imagine and we will do all we can to protect and guide you in the years to come. 

We left Dr Samuel’s office on cloud nine, heading downstairs to the laboratory in quiet contentment. She’d been professional, thorough and sensitive to our questions, and seeing our baby was the icing on the cake to our first successful appointment. I’ll have an ultrasound scan and appointment every month. These will get more frequent as I approach labour.

The laboratory took a blood test and urine sample. I was given a total of twelve tests which included:

  • Diabetes
  • A test to establish which blood group I belong to
  • A complete blood count
  • A few tests for sexually transmitted diseases, including Hepatitis B, HIV and Syphilis
  • A hemoglobin test which can identify serious illnesses such as sickle cell and leukemia
  • A test that establishes the likelihood of a series of serious illnesses, including a rare type of cancer called adult T-Cell lymphoma
  • Rubella
  • Thyroid
  • Urine infections

A week later Dr Samuel emailed me to state that all my tests were clear.

Before planning our family, Pawel and I sat down and discussed the sort of parents we’d like to be. We believe children should be shown the same love, respect and understanding as adults. We believe children need gentle boundaries, but that these should always be given from a point of love rather than fear or threat. We are strongly against the idea of corporal punishment. We’ll strive to put our child’s needs before our own but try to avoid the pitfall of becoming martyrs to them. We’ve agreed not to read a single book but to parent entirely on our gut instincts. The problem with books is they facilitate the idea that there is one way and only one way to parent. Children are actually fairly individual in terms of the communication, boundaries and affection they require and parents are just as unique as their offspring. Some parents work. Some parents stay at home. Some parents roll around with their children in the mud. Others prefer to cheer them on from the sidelines. All possess the universal goal of wanting what is best for their kids. None of us really have any idea of the type of parent we’ll be until that becomes a daily reality. One thing I know for sure is that life will never be the same again.

DSC_059313 weeks and 3 days. Our baby is approximately the size of a lemon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Caribbean Baby!

By the time we’d arrived in Grenada in February, my husband’s broodiness had reached feverish levels. I had my usual ambivalence towards the issue; I’d always wanted a family, but was selfishly reluctant to give up the freedom one become’s accustomed to after living child-free beyond the age of thirty. I was also plagued with the common anxiety of wondering what a good parent was, and if I was even capable of being one.

Moving abroad forced me to examine the unforeseen direction my life had suddenly taken. Now prohibited from conventional employment due to visa restrictions, I explored different ideas, from starting my own business to embarking on another stint of travelling. Neither idea came to fruition for the simple reason that most ideas fail to come to fruition: I lacked the passion to pursue either. Starting a business felt too big a leap for a novice expat who’d just arrived in their adopted land, and whilst I loved travelling, the one and only time I travelled sans husband, I missed him terribly.

After a couple of months in Grenada I finally found myself on the same page as my husband. I’ve been practicing Buddhist meditation since last summer and have begun to use it as a tool for tuning in to my intuition. By honing intuition, one is supposedly able to follow their heart’s desires, as opposed to the conflicting desires of the mind, and in turn lead a life which is more authentic to their true self rather than what society and other influences expect of them. So what does any of this spiritual mumbo jumbo have to do with starting a family I hear you cry? Whilst I’ve reluctantly come to accept that there is never a perfect time to procreate, a messy home filled with happy children is an ambition I’d wholeheartedly love to fulfill at this time in my life. In my gut, the decision to grow our family feels right.

I took a pregnancy test a few days before my period was due on the 17th of May 2016. I knew I was pregnant as I waited for the results whilst simultaneously trying not to vomit! Nonetheless, a haze of surreal excitement and disbelief hit me as I watched two positive lines slowly appear in the test window. What followed has been a roller coaster few months. We’ve felt jubilation as we watched our baby dance in my womb at our first ultrasound scan, and apprehension as the Zika epidemic predictably took hold of the Caribbean at the start of the rainy season. We realised we’d seriously underestimated the emotional upheaval of having a baby abroad as we navigated foreign health systems, but felt relieved I was unemployed as I battled debilitating morning sickness that had me bed bound for a month.

I will try my very best not to morph into that social media nuisance who posts incessantly about pregnancy and babies, as I’m aware that many people have zero interest in either topic. However, our journey into parenthood is now a significant story in our expat life here. I hope you won’t think me self-indulgent for including a few posts on the topic and I hope that these are both interesting and informative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Grenada, Hello St Lucia…

Apologies, I’ve been utterly useless at updating this blog. I don’t have many excuses for the hiatus, except that I haven’t been feeling very well recently, and a bout of homesickness debilitated much of my creative energy.

We landed in St Lucia on Saturday 25th of June, after what can only be described as four uneventful but emotionally tumultuous months on the island of Grenada. It’s important that bloggers report on their experiences with integrity, so it must be said that I met many a Grenada fanatic whilst staying on the island. It just wasn’t for us.

DSC_0878Grenada’s beauty is unquestionable but we found it a hard place to live

Grenada’s provincial charm has long drawn honeymooners and retirees from the United States and Europe, seeking a peaceful getaway which has shunned the over-development that has blighted other islands in the region. However, this provided a challenging environment for a pair of former Londoners, who, overindulged by the conveniences and efficiency of the UK’s First World infrastructure found it hard to adjust. Every process, from visiting the hospital, to extending visas, to finding a house to live, presented a bewildering and unexpected set of challenges. In the end we didn’t have the patience or the flexibility which was required. The irony is that we moved to the Caribbean in hope of a simple life. The reality is that we stayed in a resort overrun by cockroaches, ordered taxis which failed to turn up and unknowingly moved into a house which resembled a construction site, duped by a landlord which failed to make us aware of the work which needed doing to it. Developing Indonesia, a riotous mix of culture and corruption that we visited on honeymoon, looked as organised as Singapore by comparison.

“I want to go home,” I flatly explained to my husband, about three months into our relocation abroad. “You don’t like the UK,” he explained, “You’ve always wanted to live abroad. Perhaps Grenada isn’t the right country for you but going back to England isn’t the answer.” I wasn’t listening. A spiritual person by nature, I was utterly convinced I’d been sent to Grenada by way of karma for not realising how lucky I was for living in London.

DSC_1080Grenada’s secluded appeal offers the ideal opportunity for a quiet break

My bout of homesickness coincided with the desire of my husband’s employer to send us to St Lucia. My husband had regularly visited the island for work in the last few months but before arriving I’d never been here. We were originally supposed to move to St Lucia but ended up staying in Grenada due to a last minute development. “They’ve asked if we want to move to St Lucia. We can go there or the other manager can go there. I’d like us to go. I love it there. I think you’d prefer it. It’s easier, more developed, less hard work,” my husband enthused. I agreed without any thought or deliberation. Moving offered a small beacon of hope to my current emotional downturn, but essentially my husband’s happiness is imperative. Whilst I have the rather privileged option of crying over Netflix on weekdays, he’s got all the shackles of a major career and had made his preference clear.

We boarded a British Airways flight in Grenada which was bound for London, and exited on it’s short stop off in St Lucia. As soon as we’d entered the taxi to our home the clouds metaphorically lifted. We arrived in Rodney Bay late in the evening, but as my husband had assured me, St Lucia looked and felt very different. Rodney Bay presented a small village of cosmopolitan shops and restaurants which could easily be explored by foot. In Grenada, one must drive, or risk being hounded by incessant bus drivers for business at every given opportunity. Of course I’m careful to rave about St Lucia too soon. We need to seriously explore and find out what this island really has to offer before drawing too many conclusions. I’ll be reporting my findings in the coming weeks, and please bare with me as I deal with the backlog of posts I’ve got on Grenada…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Our Move

I’ve spent most of today in ‘headless chicken’ mode trying to organise the finer details of our move overseas. Frankly I think my emotions are coping fairly well considering the enormity of the plunge we’re about to take! In the last few hours I’ve learnt that nothing about moving abroad is simple or cheap and wanted to share my experience with those considering the same. If you’re the free-spirited type who dreams of jetting off on a wing and a prayer this post is for you…

Be careful what you sign!

It turns out we have to give SIX MONTHS notice on our rental contract, despite being tenants since 2012!

We’ve signed a new rental agreement each year since we moved in. Each rental agreement was valid for one year and expired on the 15th of December. Each time we signed a new agreement, we unwittingly committed ourselves to staying in the property for a minimum of six months. We’re also required to give two months notice. We read the small print the year we moved in but took to signing each contract thereafter in a blasé manner. We arrogantly assumed that when the time came to leave, our long length of service and flawless track record as tenants would affectively nullify the terms and conditions of what we’d signed.

To their praise, our lettings agency and landlord have been fantastic. They’ve agreed to let us break the conditions of our contract on the premise they find someone to fill the property, so we’ve given a month’s notice. Given the colossal scale of London’s housing shortage this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if they fail to find a new tenant we’ll be responsible for paying the rent until they do, up until June 15th. This serves to put an expensive dampener on our exciting plans.

Whether you’re already planning your move abroad or simply an aspiring expat, be aware of any contractual obligations you may have and try to shackle yourself to as little as possible. Have a Pay and Go phone and don’t buy your car on credit. Most companies won’t allow you to get out of your contract early. If you own a property this will serve to complicate your situation further. If you plan to sell, be sure to put your property on the market well ahead of your move. If you wish to rent your property, be sure to check the terms of your mortgage agreement to ensure you aren’t breaking the conditions outlined by your provider. This all sounds obvious but is so often overlooked, both at the time of signing the paperwork and in the thrilling haze of celebrating your relocation plans with family and friends.

Be Ruthless With What You Want to Keep

One of the advantages of living in a flat the size of a rabbit hutch is that we haven’t had much opportunity to accumulate lots of stuff over the years. Or at least I haven’t. My husband, unlike me, is a legendary hoarder. During past clear-outs I’ve stumbled across just about everything, including payslips dating as far back as ten years and a little box of rosary beads despite claims he is an atheist.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out moving abroad is nothing less than extortionate. Our matchbox flat, not including the bed, two wardrobes and storage units we bought when we moved in, will cost approximately two grand to ship across the Atlantic! I’m currently rubbing my hands together with glee. This means my hoarder husband needs to clear out the stacks of old paperwork and junk which have swallowed our cupboards whole for the past three years. We simply cannot afford to take everything with us.

My strategy for sorting out my things is to organise them into three piles I’ve named Bin, Keep, Donate and Store. I’ll get rid of what isn’t necessary to keep – ‘Bin’, bring a small amount of things with me to St Lucia – ‘Keep’, ‘Donate’ a few things to charity and ‘Store’ my winter clothes at my parents.

All-in-all my stress levels have seen better days. On the plus side our flights will probably be booked by the end of the week and we’ve just learnt Pav’s training will be in Grenada. That means we’ll get to see another country in the Caribbean before flying on to our permanent home in St Lucia. That’ll satisfy my wanderlust desires nicely!

 

 

Researching St Lucia

British culture is obsessed with homework. From a young age, we’re berated by our parents when we attempt to shirk this early childhood responsibility. We’re warned a ‘lack of homework’ is the reason why most businesses fail in infancy. We’re told to research, prepare and gather information on a prospective position and company before going to a job interview. Unlike my soon-to-be Caribbean comrades, we Brits do not seem to bode well with ‘going with the flow’. So when Pav was first offered the position in Saint Lucia, I had the immediate impulse to trawl the internet for information related to our forthcoming move. After all, neither of us have ever been there. Without wanting to make us sound crazy, Pav hasn’t even stepped foot on that side of the globe, travelling only within Europe and Asia.

I innocently Googled ‘what is it like living in St Lucia?’. This was a classic textbook error. In fact, I’d go as far as to say this mistake probably rates alongside some of my greatest travel faux pas, namely consuming tap water in Nepal by mistake and running in a sports bra in Indonesia: I learnt that the best area to stay in St Lucia is Rodney Bay because it is most suited to expats. I also learnt that the worst area to stay in St Lucia is Rodney Bay, which can be likened to an expat goldfish bubble. I learnt that road conditions are terrifying due to cowboy driving and rain ditches at the side of the road. I also learnt that road conditions are perfectly viable for drivers with some experience. I learnt that the locals are super friendly, relaxed and open. I also learnt that the locals are unwelcoming, hostile and judgemental towards westerners. I learnt that St Lucia has a fairly high murder rate per capita. I also learnt that St Lucia feels very safe and most expats and visitors do not feel threatened. I randomly learnt that falling coconuts have killed more people worldwide than shark attacks. As I will be living on a Caribbean island I realised I have the unfortunate privilege of being at the mercy of both. I learnt, not for the first time, that Google is most often my worst enemy and I need to take anything I read with a pinch of salt.

Sadly I am not known for my laid back attitude towards life. I’d like to say I worry very little but the opposite would be most accurate. After reading the plethora of opinions on various expat forums my head was spinning. I decided to shut the laptop and make a cup of tea – another British failsafe for succeeding at life. I opened my notebook and started to scribble down a list of what we needed to do before leaving. I reluctantly accepted this would involve utilising Google’s help as I do not have the required knowledge for navigating a move abroad. I asked Google to find a ‘to do list’ for organising a move overseas. I looked at exactly two websites, telling myself any more than this would be information overload. Disregarding the fact that my checklist now spans the size of four copies of A4, this exercise was surprisingly productive. It allows us to focus practically on the move. I’ve accepted that waging an internal war on the pros and cons for leaving Britain is entirely pointless. We made our decision long before Pav was offered the position that we’d be leaving. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him, offering a challenging and diverse role he can really sink his teeth into. I’m enticed by the Caribbean’s beautifully uncomplicated approach to life, keen to leave the shackles of western Capitalism behind. Thankfully my husband is my polar opposite. Resolutely pragmatic by nature he says that worrying is a pointless waste of energy, especially if the worry is fruitless to the outcome of a situation. He’s definitely on to something with that. After all, fear is a temporary state of mind, regret can last a lifetime…

 

Our Exciting News

My first ever blog post! Yay!

We got the news on Friday afternoon that Pav had been offered a job in St Lucia with a leading travel provider. We leave in about six weeks time.

Since receiving the news I’ve experienced every emotion and thought process possible. I’ve oscillated between fear and excitement, euphoria and guilt, premature nostalgia for the British countryside and dreams of sunshine and coconuts. The initial elation has now subsided and we have some fairly practical considerations to mull over. We’ve told our families and friends, and Pav has told his current employer. Thankfully the news was received positively by all.

We need to find a reasonable and reliable international shipping company. We need to close bank accounts, inform our rental agency we will be leaving the country and research our new location. We need to ensure we have all the right immunisations, adequate health insurance and correct documents for processing our visas. What I have listed here is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a gazillion-and-one things we need to do in order to make the transition to our new home as smooth as possible.

The truth is, my affection for London has been draining faster than flour through a sieve lately. The eye-watering cost of living, grey weather and “every man for himself” culture is enough to send even the most balanced pragmatist over the edge. I am certainly NOT a pragmatist by nature and tend to view most situations with monumental emotion. London isn’t the most forgiving place for a sensitive soul. As I’ve gotten older my values have shifted. Instead of all-night parties I enjoy quiet environments which allow me time for spiritual self-reflection. I have adopted a regular yoga practice. I relish simple solitary pursuits, such as Buddhist Meditation or the escapism of a good book. I now value community, kindness and nature over ruthless career ambition or pushing and shoving onto the tube in rush hour. I am hopeful that my new environment will better align with my values.