Sunday, 21 June 2015

St Lucia in the Caribbean

Rodney Bay, St Lucia ©Solange Hando

St Lucia is a true Caribbean dream with beaches so vast they appear almost deserted mingling with pretty coves like the upmarket Marigot Bay and sleepy fishing villages such as Anse la Raye.

Rodney Bay is the main tourist hub and only a short drive from Castries, the capital, where jazz and modern art share the highlight with duty-free emeralds, diamonds, batik and palm-leaf hats in the local market.

Safari in St Lucia ©Solange Hando

Then, when you want a change from shopping or the beach, you can enjoy an inland adventure, maybe with a spot of trekking for good measure, a dip in a waterfall and an exciting ride through the hills, past lush banana plantations.

Look out for the Botanical Gardens and their multicoloured waterfall and the world's largest drive-in crater spewing out sulphurous fumes.

The Pitons, St Lucia's Iconic Landmarks ©Solange Hando

Just below, near the aptly-named town of Soufrière, the Gros and Petit Pitons rise straight from the sea, attracting ramblers and hikers but not an easy climb for the unprepared, especially the smaller of the two peaks which is the harder to tackle.

The views are superb but it's best to keep to the paths for deep in the bushes might lurk a fer de lance, said to be the most venomous snake in the world.

View from Pigeon Island in St Lucia ©Solange Hando

When you get back down, exhausted but exhilarated, the sea beckons and the good news is, you get two for the price of one as pictured above: the dark blue Atlantic Ocean (left), often wild and windy, and across a mere strip of white sands, the calm translucent waters of the Caribbean Sea. 

What more could you ask for at the end of the day?
A spectacular sunset?
That can be arranged, most of the time...

Sunset on Rodney Bay ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Hiroshima, Hope and Peace

Hiroshima, the A-Bomb Dome ©Solange Hando

On 6th August 1945 at 8.05 am, 'Little Boy', the first atomic bomb, was dropped over Hiroshima, killing 70,000 people outright, mostly civilians, and as many again from radiation in the following months and years.
War crime or justified, the controversy goes on but there was nothing 'little' about what hit Hiroshima that fateful morning. The epicentre was the Shima hospital and the building above the closest to remain standing, in part.
The A-Dome is now on the World Heritage list as a witness to the tragedy and a stirring symbol of hope for a future free of nuclear destruction. 

The Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima ©Solange Hando

Beyond the Dome, the Peace Memorial Park has the same dual purpose with a special area dedicated to the thousands of children who died as a result of the bomb.
The monument (above) shows a young girl holding a crane. Her name was Sadako Sasaki and it is said that while she was in hospital waiting to get better, she folded 1000 paper cranes. She died of leukemia at the age of 12 and  paper cranes have become a symbol of peace. They are sent by children from all over the world to be displayed in glass cases around this monument.

Peace Concert in Hiroshima ©Solange Hando

On ground laid to waste by the bomb, the Peace Park was open in 1955, a place to wander around near the river, relax and reflect  as you take in the memorials, the Peace Bell or the Mound containing the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims.
The nearby museum is a silent sobering place, beyond comprehension for most visitors, but just as moving on my visit was a small concert outside where hymns such as 'Amazing Grace' sent shivers down your spine yet gave you with hope for the future.
The above piano was rescued from the bomb site.

The  Cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park ©Solange Hando

This concrete cenotaph contains the names of all known victims.
It is in alignment with the A-dome and the Eternal Flame lit in 1964, which will burn continuously until the world is free from the threat of nuclear destruction.

Paper Cranes in Hiroshima Peace Park ©Solange Hando

'I will write peace on
  your wings
and you will fly
all over the world.'
(Sadako Sasaki)