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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grenada on a Budget

Since starting my blog I’ve received a few questions from family and friends asking about how much it costs to take a holiday in Grenada, and if this is achievable on a budget. I’ve conducted some research and I’m pleased to report that with a little creativity it certainly appears to be achievable! Below are the details you need to enjoy a Grenada getaway that doesn’t cost the earth. For the purpose of simplicity, prices quoted here are based on costs during the high season (January to April), as this is when the majority of people choose to travel to the island. Travelling during the shoulder or low seasons may reduce the cost of your holiday significantly.

Flights

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly to Grenada from London Gatwick. If you book in advance you can find a flight for as little as £570 but expect to pay more than double this at short notice. The total length of the journey is about eleven and a half hours, including a short stop in St Lucia. My favourite website for booking flights is Skyscanner. The cheapest prices on this website are offered through third-party travel agents but sometimes there are benefits to paying slightly more and booking a flight directly through the airline’s website. I was relieved I’d booked through Virgin directly when I had to change a flight to London recently. Having full access to their customer service team ensured I was able to amend my details smoothly.

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Accommodation

The Grenadian tourist industry is generally geared towards the luxury all-inclusive market. Despite this you can find a wide range of self-catering options and home stays. Airbnb features self-contained apartments for as little as £30 a night. If you’re the type of traveller who loves venturing from their comfort zone, nearly all parts of the island are fairly safe, but staying outside of the main tourist areas will require renting your own transport. If you prefer to stay on the beaten track, opt to stay in St George’s parish. Lance Aux Epines, Grand Anse, True Blue and Point Saline offer close proximity to the beach. The capital of St George is worth exploring for the day, but considerably more hectic than other parts of the island and probably isn’t somewhere you’d want to stay.

Activities

Apart from visiting the beach, there aren’t many free activities to do on the island. Grenada has some lovely reefs which can be explored with a snorkel. I can’t remember seeing snorkels for sale so bring one with you. The capital of St George is a pleasant city to explore by foot. The most economical way to see the island is usually with a day tour. This way you’ll get to visit several landmarks such as the Nutmeg museum, Concord Falls and the Etang Lake for a set fee.

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Getting Around

Buses are the most simple way to get around the island if you’re on limited funds, but be warned, Grenadian buses ought to come with a health warning. Pulling out into oncoming traffic without indicating, and using full beam headlights on busy roads, avoiding the buses has become something of an in joke among Grenadian road users. If this doesn’t put you off, you can find a bus almost anywhere in the parish of St George, but they’re difficult for newcomers to spot. They tend to be Toyota minibuses with a conductor hanging out one window, but are privately owned and lack any identifiable markings. There are bus stops but it isn’t necessary to wait at one. Walk along the street for half a minute and a bus driver is likely to pull over asking where you’re going and if you want a ride. Otherwise you can simply flag one down on the street. There are no strict routes or fares, most drivers will drop you where you like, as long as the location is convenient and on a main road. If you’re female you may receive some advances from the men on board! These are usually harmless and non threatening, if a little awkward. Make sure you negotiate the fare before getting in the vehicle. A one way journey should only cost a few pounds.

Food

Trying to keep this cost from spiraling out of control may be the most challenging obstacle you’ll face as a budget traveller. The majority of the island’s food is imported and restaurants targeted towards westerners are priced similarly to that of the UK. The simplest way to keep costs down is to eat local. You can buy local produce such as plantain, yam, breadfruit and watermelon from the supermarkets, or street stalls in St George. Restaurants and cafes frequented by locals are also cheap.

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Other Considerations:

Currency

Grenada uses the East Caribbean Dollar. US dollars are widely accepted but it is better to pay in the local currency. Prices are usually quoted in the local currency and in this way you avoid being fiddled by the exchange rate.

Solo Travellers/Female Travellers

Grenada is perfectly safe for solo travellers, including women on their own, but it goes without saying that one must exercise some common sense when travelling without the security of a companion or group. You may be able to meet other travellers by organising a group tour through a reputable operator, but these opportunities aren’t guaranteed, so you’ll need to enjoy your own company if you choose to travel solo here.

If you’re female you’ll also need a high tolerance threshold for catcalls and advances from the locals. Grenadians have no qualms about asking for your number, or if they can join your sunbathing session at the beach. None of this is usually aggressive and a firm ‘no thank you’ is usually enough to send them on the way to their next conquest.

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Health

Book an appointment with a doctor or travel clinic at least six to eight weeks before you travel. They’ll ensure all your vaccinations and boosters are up to date as is recommended for life in Britain. You may also be offered the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Mosquitoes are likely to present the biggest health nuisance to travellers. There are sporadic outbreaks of the Dengue and Chikunguna viruses, and the island is in the midst of a Zika outbreak, which poses a threat to pregnant women. None of these illnesses are likely to present serious problems in otherwise healthy people but could ruin a few days of your holiday if you’re unlucky. If you have any health conditions you should consult your doctor before visiting any country where mosquito borne illnesses are present. DEET is the most effective weapon against tropical mosquitos. Sleep under air conditioning or nets during the night, and try to stay in a property that has mosquito screens over the windows.

Tap water is generally safe to drink and instances of food poisoning are uncommon.

When to go

The island has a tropical climate with temperatures that rarely fluctuate. Year-round, daytime temperatures hoover about the 30C mark. In the night this drops to about 27C. Staying high in the hills or on an elevation facing the sea provides some respite from the heat. Air con or fans are essential for a comfortable night’s sleep.

The best time to visit Grenada is from January to April. This is the dry season and there are cool trade winds that placate the humidity. Another good time to go is August, which is when Grenada has it’s annual carnival. Avoid the hurricane season which runs from September to October.

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Visas

Brits can travel visa-free for up to three months.

If anyone has any suggestions for how I may improve this post please feel free to contact me, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concord Waterfalls, Grenada, Caribbean

Londoners such as myself often have a distorted sense of scale. In our minds, cities such as Brighton and Bath are reduced to ‘large town’ status and we naively assume everyone in Paris must know their neighbours.

This distorted sense of size became evident as soon as I’d landed on the island of Grenada. “My god it is small!” I exclaimed, as my husband’s colleague took us on a short tour around the island’s capital of St George and it’s neighbouring villages. Whilst gazing out the car window, I breathed a sigh of relief that we’d be living on the considerably larger island of St Lucia, whilst envisioning I’d be able to open the back door and holler to my husband at work from our Grenadian corporate apartment. My husband’s been offered a position with Sandals resorts and we’ve come here for his training. We fly on to St Lucia next month.

Driving to Concord waterfalls from St George a couple of days later, I gained some idea of my misjudgement. Stopping along the way to take in various sights, the drive took the best part of an hour, due in part to the hilly and winding terrain. As we passed forest, charming fishing villages and rugged coastline, the journey certainly highlighted Grenada’s diverse landscape.

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There is plenty of parking at the site but many choose to walk up, either making their own way or travelling with a tour guide. Bring food with you if you can. There are public toilets and a handful of rustic gift shops, but food options are very limited, with only one stall offering light snacks.

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Whilst beautiful, this isn’t Dunns Falls and those expecting dramatic scenes of cascading water over towering rocks will be royally disappointed. However, far removed from the buzz of the luxury resorts below, Concord Waterfalls provides a refreshing swim and tranquil haven in the hills.

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