From many aspects of the magnificent Le Gallerie, you would almost think Derek Walcott was sitting on one of its rattan armchairs when he wrote these lines in “The Prodigal”:
The ceaseless creasing of the morning sea,
The fluttering gamboge cedar leaves allegro,
The rods of the yawing branches trolling the breeze,
The rusted meadows, the wind-whitened grass,
The coos of the stone-colored ground doves on the road, the echo of benediction on a house —
The Pitons have been lauded by Walcott in his writings and others have less capably tried to describe Saint Lucia’s volcanic twin peaks, which thrust from the sea like monolithic warheads and form the basis of the island’s tourism industry in one way or another. These days the overused “iconic”descriptor may sound like a cliché, but in the case of this World Heritage Site, there are few more compellingly beautiful coastlines on earth.
Which is why Le Gallerie is a singularly wonderful place to spend quality time, because from almost every inch of this sprawling, two-storey villa, the changing reflections of sea and sky may follow the sun along the west coast from dawn to dusk, but the statuesque profile of the Pitons remains a constant backdrop to this Caribbean cliffside jewel of a home.
Perched on the aptly named Lookout Point, the oceanfront villa commands a heady position 300 feet above the sea below, and its panoramic views are astonishing and compelling in equal measure. Lying on a white upholstered sunlounger by Le Gallerie’s 30-foot infinity pool, you can gaze at the changing faces of Gros and Petit as speeding clouds throw ever-morphing shadows on their green-grey crags.
Watch the emerald sea shift to sapphire and steel with the winds and weather as you dine on the charming Creole-inspired terrace with its market chairs and madras tablecloth. Or awaken in a carved cedar four-poster bed to welcome the pearlescent dawn as the inimitable silhouette of Saint Lucia’s famous twin peaks lights up with the break of day.
Despite simple lines and local influences, the West Indian colonial inspiration is clear, but never does Le Gallerie become stuffy or pretentious. Its L-shaped layout hugs the pool, and outdoor living spaces in the form of a stern-shaped deck take full advantage of the 180-degree ocean views. Crisp white balustrades and acres of louvres are offset by the soft pink Soufriere stone columns and architectural details; polished wood glows on upstairs floors while blood red clay tiles join the entertainment areas to the lower floor terraces.
A classically Caribbean gazebo on the pool deck offers an awe-inspiring hang-out for sunset cocktails, with its shingled roof and understated gingerbread trim. A shady veranda with comfortable watergrass furniture is perfect for after-dinner drinks or a family game night—for Le Gallerie is not only about the outdoors. The sumptuous living area is as stylish as it is practical, with a huge flat-screen TV undoubtedly the focal point, while off white overstuffed lounge furniture and glossy wooden floorboards make a chic style statement.
And if a little home-cooking is your style, the large kitchen is lined with butcher-block counter tops, state-of-the-art appliances and open windows to welcome that coastal breeze. A trip to Soufriere’s Saturday market to stock up on local ingredients and you’re all set for that Creole-inspired meal.
Despite its sleepy reputation and burgeoning development in the northern entertainment mecca of Rodney Bay, the town of Soufriere has always been the heart of Saint Lucia’s tourism industry, with the vast majority of visitors making a pilgrimage by land or sea to “see the Pitons, do the Drive-in Volcano, have lunch at a plantation and jump in a waterfall.” All of which make for an excellent day out if you’re visiting for the first or second time, and there are many tour companies providing top-class service.
But getting off the beaten track in Soufriere is becoming the “in” thing, especially with guests from the nearby five-star resorts of Jade Mountain, Sugar Beach and Ladera. Even on the busiest of cruise ship days when tourists are pouring onto buses to be whisked away for a mudbath, take a step off the waterfront and onto one of Soufriere’s quiet side streets and you might find Skipper’s, where the beer is cold, the chatter is lively and the chef might have just caught a mahi mahi for today’s lunch.
Or head for the tiny square with its hodgepodge of stores, rum shops and street vendors selling everything from yams and guavas to hair accessories and umbrellas. Wandering around is a great way to discover the real essence of Soufriere, and yes, it’s a sleepy little place, but charmingly so, and with a waterfront so beautiful you could easily fall in love with Saint Lucia forever.
Le Gallerie is located only minutes from the town, and there are a number of restaurants nearby which are attracting discerning fans of Caribbean cuisine in the heart of Saint Lucia’s so-called bread basket, where fresh fruits and produce are plentiful. Chef Orlando Satchell is a former executive chef at Ladera who opened his own restaurant in Soufriere two years ago, and has become a bit of a local celebrity for his philosophy of “sharing the love” through local food. He’s also welcomed international celebrities such as Ziggy Marley to the courtyard of his home where they rave about Orlando’s innovative tasting menus and cultural theme nights.
Back up the hill to the captivatingly welcoming villa, and an investigation of the four en suite bedrooms reveals that indeed, every single one has a view of the Pitons.
The sheer artistry of the design is constantly surprising, as if the architect was determined not to let that iconic image out of his sight for a second. But while the style of Le Gallerie has a foot firmly planted in West Indian heritage, there is an eclectic element which keeps “local” from becoming folksy and “tropical” from becoming clichéd.
The soft rose and beige roughness of the Soufriere stone walls and columns add a layer of texture to the decor which works harmoniously with the white woodwork, polished hardwood and clay tile. Luscious flamboyant trees bloom in season while the 1.9 acre grounds are planted with pineapples, limes and mangoes, through which a private pathway leads to down to the sea.
As Derek Walcott also could have written on the terrace of this very special retreat: “I know when dark-haired evening put on her bright silk at sunset, and, folding the sea sidled under the sheet with her starry laugh, that there’d be no rest, there’d be no forgetting.”
Without a doubt, once her magnificence has been discovered once, there will be no forgetting Le Gallerie, a cliffside haven with the view of a lifetime.