The Friday Column: 'Coconut Vending Area'

St. Lucia is getting more and more familiar. This is the third year Mia and I have worked here for ARC, and the fourth time we’ve visited including Broadreach (5th if you count the time we anchored off the Pitons on the way back from Trinidad, but that was only for a few hours…we did buy fruit from a local boat though).

Monday we had the day off (days off always follow the 0200-0800 night shift – which we are on right this moment – and are followed the next day by a 0800-2000 double-shift. But that 24 hours without any responsibilities is wonderful). The yellow-shirt team has a rental car we can use, mainly to get back and forth from the marina and the hotel in the middle of the night, but also for use on days off.

We took the car south to the market in Castries, which we first discovered on that Broadreach trip. The traffic on the island is bad, especially in the first half-mile between Rodney Bay Marina and the new Bayview Mall (or whatever it is called). The intersection there is not well designed. There are loads of cars on this island. There are loads of cars on most of the islands here, and it usually makes for sour driving experiences. St. Martin around Christmas time was the absolute worst. We gave up trying to go for dinner that one night, barely making it a mile from the Pad. Instead, we went to the grocery store and bought beer and cheese.

One of the coconut men.
This day in St. Lucia was not bad though. After driving around town a bit, which was busy (there were two cruise ships in port), we eventually found the parking garage and happily paid the two EC dollars it cost to park securely (as opposed to the 25 we paid last year when we got a parking ticket).

Castries is a Caribbean city. A very nice harbor is situated to the east. At it’s terminus, a single cruising sailboat was anchored a couple hundred feet from the shoreline, on which the main road runs. The cruise ship terminal is what you would expect from a cruise ship terminal. It’s too-clean and filled with stores selling watches and jewelry. Across the road, the market comes in two sections – one for the locals (apparently) and one for the cruise ship tourists (obviously). The latter is lined with stalls under a wooden fixed roof, selling things you would expect to find in a market next to a cruise ship terminal. Crappy t-shirts that say ‘We be Jammin’! St. Lucia’ and photo albums made from palm fronds that you can buy in every single Caribbean city. This market is under the wooden roof so as to be in the shade.

Beer on the dock in Gros Islet.
The locals market is on the opposite side, further from the waterfront. Most of those vendors have tables set up beneath umbrellas. Some of them are in permanent huts, and colorful (like the one Mia’s bread lady operates). Along the streets surrounding the market space are several small pubs and food establishments, though most have only a few stools, if they have any place at all to sit down.

The locals market is where Mia and I go to buy food, where we have gone to buy food since our first year down here. Then, we found a guy, Brock-Up, who sells meat from a grill along the street at a place called Brock-Up’s. He is set up on the corner, and just this year got a nice new awning, ostensibly sponsored by Carib beer, because the awning says ‘Carib Beer’ in bright blue and yellow. He has a small hut inside which a woman cooks the side dishes, and he runs a big grill outside, this year comfortably in the shade. He sells chicken wings and pork cutlets. He remembered us last year – I took him some plantains from another vendor, and he grilled them for me. Plantains on the grill. He remembered us again this year, and questioned why I did not bring any plantains.

The bread lady was closed on Monday, so Mia was out of luck.

We drank two coconuts before buying meat from Brock-Up (and his special ‘banana salad’ side dish, which was an interesting mash-up of salt fish, boiled green bananas and mixed veg). Then we drank two more coconuts after, spreading the love between the various pick-up trucks. A nice guy wearing a Philly Flyers shirt (I do not think he knew where Philly is) sold us our last one, and I told him we’d return later for more. He told us the tourists do not really know about coconuts, so it is mostly locals who buy them, which is strange, because back home they sell coconut water in cardboard drink boxes in the grocery store. I have had about twenty coconuts since we arrived.

Today we have another day off. We will visit the market again.