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Friday, 29 April 2016

ST LUCIA is a live volcano surrounded by rainforest and beach


St Lucia is a Caribbean dream! The rain forests are a a beautiful green backcloth. The gardens a blaze of colour. When we arrived at the cruise terminal there was no shortage of people offering bus tours, water tours etc. There is a big difference in the pricing. We went to the tourist information for a map and some guidance as to what was a fair price. There were all the usual arts and crafts on sale in the terminal as well as some hand painted silk dresses, which were pricey but gorgeous!

 We wanted to visit the volcano. We palled up with another couple of tourists who were looking for the same thing and managed to negotiate a very reasonable price. 30 dollars with stops along the way. Our driver was very friendly and informative. We got out of the coach to get stunning views of the white sandy beaches and the sparkling blue sea.
We also stopped to get a view of the Pitons and take some photos. The Pitons are the most famous landmark in St Lucia. Called Gros Piton and Petit Piton, they are said to be spines of lava that were thrust up from the craters of two volcanoes. They are magnificent. They have come to symbolise the wild beauty of St Lucia. Apparently the smaller one The Petit Piton is supposed to be the hardest to climb, but I wouldn't fancy my chances on either of them! Our next stop was the Diamond Botanical gardens. Because of the amount of rainfall, the plants and vegetation are lush. There is a small, pretty waterfall and some hot baths which are meant to have healing properties if you suffer from back pain, rheumatism or arthiritus. Next, I was very excited to arrive at the live Volcano, behind Soufriere.  The stench of rotten eggs was overpowering but that is apparently good because if you can't smell anything it means that the volcano is about to erupt! You must be careful. Apparently a few years ago one of the guides fell in to the hot lava and lost his legs. They are very strict now about where you can and cannot walk. Understandably so! At the bottom of the volcano you can bathe in the mud baths supposedly the fountain of youth. If you want to do this it would be a good idea to take a costume that is old and that you don't mind getting ruined. The mud is very thick and smelly. I was tempted but I didn't go in. Then afterwards I wished I had as the two ladies that came with us said that their skin felt wonderful, and actually they didn't smell. There are showers that you can use after you have finished.The day in St Lucia went so quickly. It was so interesting, so much to see. I would have loved to stop at some of the pretty fishing villages and we had planned to get off the bus at the centre of the city in Derek Walcott Square, where there is a beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral but we ran out of time as we were enjoying ourselves too much at the volcano and we didn't want to miss the ship!!

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

ST MAARTEN, a cruise stop looking at both the French and Dutch side


The main thing that strikes you when you arrive in St Maarten is the Caribbean feel mixed with the Dutch flavour, as we arrived on the Dutch side of the island in Philipsburg. Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St Maarten.  Everything is very well signposted and organised. Everywhere is spotlessly clean and all the signs are in English. There is a ferry from the harbour to the beach but the distance is easily walkable. The beach is white sand, the sea is clear blue. There are many different restaurants to choose from, and a variety of cuisines. I sampled the coconut shrimp washed down with rum punch. Very enjoyable! There is a colonial atmosphere. The buildings are colourful, mainly two stories high and many have a shop below and living quarters above. One of the things St Maarten is most famous for is the duty free shopping. There are a wide variety of duty free shops selling everything from diamonds to technology to designer clothing.  The main area of Front Street resembles an open air mall. There are also the touristy market stalls with sarongs, necklaces, fridge magnets etc.  We stopped for a coffee and asked the waitress how to get to the French Quarter.  There a many ways to travel, including taking a Segway up and down the boardwalk. You can hire a car or a bike.  The cheapest way is by bus.  We were told the main French town was Marigot, the capital of St. Martin. The bus stops are easy to find and the name of the destination is written clearly at the front of the bus. Also the bus drivers are friendly and helpful.
As we drove towards the French part of the island it was interesting to see how the scenery changed. When we got off the bus we may as well have been in a different country. The sun was still shining and the sea was still blue but the French flavour was obvious everywhere. Gone were the well organised, well laid out streets. There were patisseries and designer stores scattered haphazardly about, as well as a very classy harbour full of designer yachts. The people are very chic.  French is spoken everywhere, and the coffee is divine. There is a yacht club overlooking the bay. I felt like I was in the South of France.
At the top of the hill overlooking the harbour stands Fort Louis. It is quite a climb to get up to the Fort but the view is breathtaking across the bay to Anguilla. The Fort was built to protect the port warehouses, which stored produce including salt, coffee and sugar cane.
The Waterfront area is alive with open air market stalls selling local art, fabrics and crafts and there are many open air cafes. There is also an upmarket shopping mall and a wonderful ice cream parlour.
I would be hard pushed to choose between the french side and the dutch side of the island. They both have wonderful qualities and are definitely well worth seeing. In fact the lovely thing is that you don't have to decide. You can easily enjoy both!

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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Doris Vists the Royal Yacht Britannia on the Queens 90th birthday.

Doris Vists the Royal Yacht Britannia on the Queens 90th birthday.

The Shades Of Bad team planned a well tweeted visit to Edinburgh on the 21st April 2016. It was to shoot a film for the spin off show Doris Visits. Here at the production company we had been contacted by two local lads, Sam and Findlay, who wanted Doris to Visit Edinburgh. They produced a list of top visitor attractions and we noted that cruise ships stopped there so it fitted our remit. We decided to drive given the kit.

What we did not put together until we were in the car travelling and listening to the radio, was the ‘two plus two equals huge prize’ scenario. It was the the 21st April and it was Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday and her decommissioned yacht The Royal Yacht Britannia is Edinburgh’s number one attraction. We went straight there before meeting our local team and found bands playing and the whole place felt heavy in music copyright issues. Doris would not be able to commentate in her normal way. However, after the band left we found a wonderful sign that encouraged us to make a complete film on Britannia not just add it as part of a general Edinburgh film.

One of the reasons it is the number one attraction in Edinburgh might just be because it totally allows you to support it in social media. Maybe they know that only positive will come of it as they have such a great product. Whether you are a royalist or not, this is history at its best. It is fantastic. The Royal Yacht is detailed right down to the bone china, attaché case and the personal pictures. You see everything from the Queen’s bedroom to the state room, from the officer's quarters to the medical surgery and laundry. It is an incredible visit which was an effort to edit down to under ten minutes. It will take you a couple of hours as there is more to see and much to study. We learnt a lot and were grateful for this unplanned birthday treat. 

I would suggest you get there early, as soon as it opens and before it is busy, or late as we did. Then attempt the rest of Edinburgh as per our other films. Another tip is to take earphones or headphones and ask for an audio guide with a neck strap.
You might just want to use your camera a few times.

The main Edinburgh film covers a good few of the other attractions, Arthurs Seat to the Castle, the Royal Mile to Restaurants and buildings. You need more than a day and good walking shoes. 

The £4 all day bus pass is worth considering too if you wish to get to places in and out of town. 

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