Seaport (pop., 2001: 13,191), capital of Saint Lucia. Located on the island's northwestern coast, its fine harbour is Saint Lucia's chief port. A fortress on Mount Fortune (852 ft [260 m]) overlooks the town. Castries is a gateway for tourists visiting the island.
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Castries is located in a flood plain and is actually built on reclaimed land. It houses the seat of government and the head offices of many of the businesses both foreign and local. The city's design is in a grid pattern similar to a metropolitan city like New York but on a much smaller scale. It has a sheltered harbour which receives cargo vessels and ferry boats as well as cruise ships. It contains duty free shopping facilities such as Point Seraphine and La Place Carinage; many restaurants which offer varied menus from local to Chinese; supermarkets and many other shopping facilities. The city is well serviced by a bus system and taxi service.
St Lucia's main post office is located in Castries. Because most parts of the country do not use standard street addresses, mail is largely sent to P.O. boxes. Any mail sent without a town name ends up in the Castries post office.
During WWII, a German U-boat sailed into Castries harbor and sank two allied ships. Castries suffered major fires in 1796, 1813, Castries has been rebuilt, having been destroyed by fire several times, notably on June 19 1948.
One of the major tourist areas in St. Lucia, Castries is a port of call for cruise ships. Cruise ships doc at Pointe Seraphine, to the north of the harbour which is also a duty free shopping centre. A taxi service is readily available to take you on tours of the rest of the country or the city. There is also a water taxi available to take you from there to the city as well. The greatest concentration of hotels, resorts, and restaurants are near Castries and the island's other main towns, Gros Islet, Soufrière, and Rodney Bay. The city maintains three tourist offices, and one in the airport. There are also many duty free shops within the town itself and several restaurants and other eating establishments including Burger King, Dominoes and KFC.
Castries has a few landmarks such as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Derek Walcott Square (named after the island's Nobel Prize-winning poet, Derek Walcott), the Government House, and Fort Charlotte, at the top of Morne Fortune (an 845-foot hill) to name a few.
One of the major draws for tourists to St. Lucia is its beaches, and there are several in or very near Castries. Vigie Beach, Malabar Beach, Choc Beach, and La Toc Beach are all within easy reach.
Castries is served by George F. L. Charles Airport, also known as Vigie Airport. Passengers on longer flights arrive at Hewanorra International Airport, near Vieux-Fort. However, the drive between Hewanorra and Castries can take an hour and a half. Helicopter service between the two airports shortens travel time. Ferry service between Soufrière and Castries is another way travelers shorten their transportation time from Hewanorra Airport.
In addition to the Castries - Soufrière ferry route, ferries run regularly throughout the day between Castries and Fort-de-France, Martinique. Yachts may also dock in Castries, though they must clear customs first. When the customs area is full, yachts must anchor at the quarantine dock to wait. Those who don't comply are fined. Afterward, yachts may anchor in front of Castries Town or Vigie Creek.
Standard bus routes run from Castries to all the outlying districts on the island. These buses can be identified by their green license plates with the numbers starting with an M example M456. There are designated areas where you can see these buses lined up awaiting passengers to take them to their destinations. On the front of these buses is what is called a "Route Band". It is luminescent and contains the words Route 1A or 1B.To get to other areas of the island, one can use these buses or the taxi service which have blue plates. The private minivan buses offer transportation from bus stops, or simply by being flagged down on the roadside. Always use buses with the green plates or if you can afford a Taxi those with the blue plates.
A number of international embassies and consulates keep their headquarters in Castries. They include the Organization of American States, British High Commission, Chinese Embassy, Dominican Republic Consulate, French Embassy, Italian Vice Consulate, Jamaican Consulate, Netherlands Consulate, Norwegian Consulate, and Venezuelan Embassy.
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