Alessandro Tomé has a Columbus moment when he visits the Caribbean for the first time in 10 years and discovers a new world of sunkissed loveliness.
Canouan Island, The Grenadines
Earlier this year the PulciBear Tribe was invited by some very courageous friends known as the Mowgli Clan (half watch-collecting, gun-toting Indian entrepreneur and half actress-model-fashion-designer-farmer) to spend a couple of weeks in July as their guests in the land of the famously fierce Caribs.
Although we hadn’t been there for ten years, such an invitation would normally be met by immediate, if polite, rejection. I don’t do guest, I don’t travel well long distance, I don’t really like new places, the food could be weird and The Mowglis tend to crowd their house with X-Men, strange people with names like Ape or Poison. But above and beyond all that, we PulciBears are Euros and Euros in the summer do Mare Nostrum, ‘Our Sea’ as the Romans called it, now known as the Med by the Anglo-Saxon, Hun, Visigoth or other Viking invaders that raid its shores.
So why break a habit of a lifetime? A couple of weeks in Greece in the Lion’s Den and then a restful time in Ibiza, on ChildTime rather than SpaceTime, with Maggie, the Mother-in-Law. It’s the best time of the year to be here, and not the best to be there. You don’t have to travel so far, or spend so much to get here, there is no jet lag and as a real Euro you speak the language of most locals. But both curiosity and the fact that there was trouble and strife in the Lion’s Den made us chance our two weeks in July and take the plunge.
The island of Mustique was to be our final destination, but I was concerned that two weeks as a guest — as difficult a guest as I am, coupled with the various Apes and Poisons — might end up more like filming The Island of Dr Moreau than The Blue Lagoon. So we decided that we should make a stop over for the first week of our trip, giving us a chance to get over jet lag before facing continuous human interface.
The options rapidly narrowed down to the Sandy Lane, but the fear of having to dress like Michael Winner for lunch and dinner, let alone run into him or his lookalikes and just end up feeling like I was in post-climate-change-induced-polar-cap-meltdown London, kept me searching for an alternative. Finally, salvation came when a real Euro (read Belgian) friend suggested we look into the Raffles Resort on Canouan Island in the Grenadines, a quick hop away from Dr Moreau. It turns out we had found Blue Lagoon.
In spite of Barbados making us feel really wanted by keeping us for six hours in their lovely terminal owing to local flight delays (just to get us on the local rhythm), going to Canouan was an inspired, if lucky, choice. Besides having night landing, which avoided our spending a night in Barbados, it really has its own Blue Lagoon and a fabulous resort. The incredibly friendly staff and guest-services team, brilliantly led by Benjamin Simpao, the director of rooms, are there to anticipate all your whims.
And you can certainly do whims there. You can choose from four excellent restaurants, where the French one serves exquisite French food with French mineral water and the Italian one, of course, delicious Italian food with Italian water. Or you can choose when you want your tennis lesson, what time the kids want to join the Kids’ Club on an island-discovery trip or when you want to visit the spa, which has fantastic treatments — and I am a guy, so that is how good they are — where you can choose any of the hillside palapas for the treatments or even over-water ones, or indulge in private yoga sessions in yet another one overlooking the ocean.
Two beautiful beaches await you, both on the lagoon: one by the enormous pool and bar; the other for water sports with yet another restaurant and bar. Or you can gamble what is left of your City bonus at the Villa Monte Carlo Trump Casino, which is not as tacky as it sounds. And, if you have a desire to lose a lot of golf balls, you can play the stunning back nine on the Trump Golf Course.
I know the whole thing might sound dreadfully, how shall I put it, American? But it isn’t. Raffles is an Asian hotel group that is half way through refurbishing all the rooms in their style and imposing its Asian approach to service and hospitality. And people — like us until this trip — don’t seem to give the Carib a second look during the summer so the resort was less than half full. So it was just perfect, rather quiet and civilised, with not too many riotous uncontrolled brats (which their parents refer to as ‘children-being-children’). The only criticism, if I had to make one, is that the resort has too wide a range of rooms and rates making for a confused offering and a disparate crowd that doesn’t mix well. Not that I like to mix at all.
After such a fabulous start, the Med was a far-away memory that already felt more like a dirty tub than a proper sea after the blue lagoon, and the island of Mustique only went to further reinforce the feeling. We stayed in lovely Les Jolies Eaux of tired royal fame (it was built for HRH Princess Margaret) and had one of the nicest times I can remember, guest or not. Poison was a wonderful addition and the Mowglis were incredibly lovely, generous and relaxed hosts. Other than deserving its mozzie name, I had forgotten what a paradise this island is: friendly people, quiet but fun, pure sea and ocean, everything the Med isn’t any more. Why would you want to be in the dirty tub rather than here in the summer?
No crowds, no louts, no resentful attitude from the locals, no crime in this neck of the woods, and it is also much cheaper this time of year. Hotels and villas operate on low-season rates — supposedly, I was told back in Euroland, because of the ‘bad’ weather. Yes, there are occasional tropical rains, but it is part of the fun, unless you get very unlucky. And I for one am more than willing to gamble on exchanging the certainty of noisy crowds, dirty sea, unfriendly locals and extortionate prices for the possibility of occasional showers and average food. I am on a diet anyway. The Land of the Caribs is the place to be in early summer, but please don’t ruin it. Keep it a secret.