Gros Islet, a village on the northwest coast of St. Lucia, beckons a return visit. But not a first visit.

The average world traveler would, by odds, never set ten toes on St. Lucia’s soil. Lovely as it is—indeed, named “Helen of the West Indies” (presumably after Helen of Troy and not Helen Thomas)—this volcanic rock poking through the warm aqua waves of the Caribbean Sea is one of thousands of dirt spots smooched by the sun that may entice an explorer. Browsing vacation destinations online, the island’s pitch always includes images of Les Pitons, two sheer mountains on St. Lucia’s southwestern shore. Splendid they are, but not necessarily more inviting than a hammock on Tahiti, Aruba’s windmills, or the whitewashed architecture of Santorini.

For the sake of this entry, let’s say you do select St. Lucia (otherwise you’d never get to Gros Islet and I’d never get to the end of this piece). Travel brochures may suggest a dozen local attractions, including those Pitons, a stroll through the capital’s markets, countless hiking opportunities, golf, scuba, or just a respite in the hammock that you passed up in Tahiti. You’ll also likely see a blurb about a Friday night street party in Gros Islet. It’s not really a summons for tourists; simply a statement about something to do on a weekend evening, when your golf and scuba are done.

So be it. You arrive in Gros Islet at sundown. It is a steamy evening. The village streets are full of St. Lucians standing on street corners, laughing, milling, moving their sweaty bodies to reggae playing at appropriately high volumes from speakers installed within easy reach of all ears. You also notice an oversupply of amorous street dogs doing the loco-motion whenever and wherever they get the feeling. Smells of roasted meat surround you: chicken sizzles on grills set up every several dozen feet, while vendors at crude wooden stands offer goat meat, oxtail, rice, yucca, and plantains. The local rum and beer, Bounty and Piton, are in steady supply. As you drink, you step around the chicken bones that serve as snack for the mutts when they need a break.

The warmth wraps you as a blanket. Sweat, pervasive, is but a small nuisance; it’s a welcome element of the ambiance, part of the tropics’ character. While a first time visitor from colder latitudes may question why they ventured into this unfamiliar inferno, they soon agree that a chilly breeze just wouldn’t do here; it would blow the whole experience. Goosebumps are not welcome.

After a few hours in Gros Islet, you’ve likely committed to a return trip to St. Lucia and this small village. You begin to work out the particulars as you board your flight back to Manchester or Munich or any drab Midwest destination.

Gros Islet is a mouthful of mango, wet and sweet. It may not be on your list of places to visit, but it might just be on there twice.

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