“Jump Up!” – Friday nights in Gros Islet, St. Lucia
Jump Up at Gros Islet – St. Lucia’s Weekly Street Party
Every Friday evening the town of Gros Islet hosts a party they call a “jump up”. They close the street, bring in giant speakers, crank the music, encourage the street vendors, light the barbeque pits, and set up portable rum bars. Gros Islet (pronounced Groze Eelay) is in the northwest corner of the island of St. Lucia, just north of the sailing marinas of Rodney Bay, and about 7 miles north of the main cruise port city of Castries.
If you arrive early you can sample the first vendors’ steamed fish, barbeque chicken, and St. Lucia’s own Piton beer before the craziness begins. We arrived a little too early, about an hour before sunset, and well before most of the food vendors had set up. But the spiced rum punch was already flowing, so we sampled some and made our way to the waterfront to enjoy the view of the sailboats and nearby Pigeon Island. Some local kids were swimming, diving, and showing off their backflips from the dock.
As the sun goes down, the colors become more muted, the music does the opposite, the rum vendors are a bit more hawkish, and the crowd trickles in.
The sunset changes and intensifies by the moment. You might feel inspired to carve a romantic heart on the beach. 🙂
While watching the sunset, we couldn’t help but notice the huge crowd overflowing at one of the restaurants, while other establishments were just getting a trickle of customers.
Duke’s Place (“The Place for Fish”)
Duke’s is just a couple streets over from the main party street. Sure, you can get great food from the street vendors, including roasted chicken which Sheila had her eyes on, but if you want some really good grilled fish, this is the place – just ask any local. It’s the opposite of fancy – with outdoor picnic tables and plastic plates and utensils. But the food is delicious and the prices are great. We stood in line for over an hour to get our food and the wait was made easier by the music, the smells of the cooking, the rum punch, and the conversations with fun people in line. Over 90 percent of the customers at Duke’s are St. Lucia residents, many of whom make the weekly pilgrimage and take a stack of fish filled take-away boxes back to their family.
Wandering back to the party street, you can’t get lost. Just let your ears walk you to the giant speakers. The start time for the dancing varies by the season and the crowd. For us it got going just before 9pm and was in full swing by the time we finished our meal at Duke’s – perfect timing. The crowd was happy, rowdy, and well behaved.
Another element of the Jump Up is the chance to sample homemade rum. St. Lucia is famous for its rum, with many brands exported around the world. But locals also like to show off their private brands, probably distilled in backyards. We sampled a couple from Aunty Jane. The one called “Brace Yourself” will knock you over, while “Take it Easy” is relatively smooth by comparison.
We saw a few kids at the Jump Up and teenagers would probably enjoy it, but if you are worried about under-aged drinking, keep them home. The vendors are not likely to check for ID here.
We felt very safe during our Jump Up experience. The advice from locals was to stay alert and not stay too late – and that a different element tends to take over after midnight. We chose not to test that and were on our way to our lodging in a taxi before 11 – with smiles on our faces and Caribbean rhythm in our feet.
St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Grenada
The Jump Up was one night of our 6 days in St. Lucia, before bareboat sailing with 33 friends and 4 catamarans through St. Vincent & The Grenadines and on to Grenada. We have scuba diving and sailing stories and photos to share with you soon. Start with our Disaster Day in Marigot Bay.
RTG Helpful Hints
- There are plenty of taxi drivers, so getting a ride is simple; just have a clear idea of what it should cost so you don’t pay double.
- Since it’s mostly street vendors, have local Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC$). The exchange rate is fixed at US$1 = EC$2.70.