Barefoot Luxury: An Idyll World
Soft white sands. Lush forests. Rooms with amazing views. And your every whim catered to. Here are the perfect retreats in Antigua, Bali, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Welcome to the realm of unashamed luxury - and your own butler.
Ariel Leve reports.
There are people who will stand on the soft white sand at the edge of the ocean, look out over the endless horizon and feel grateful to be alive. I'm not one of those people. If I'm standing at the edge of the ocean, chances are I'm wondering about the poisonous jellyfish lurking inside it. Or if I'm standing on soft white sand, I'm probably thinking about how I should have worn flip-flops because the soles of my feet are on fire.
I'm not a big fan of the sun. I'm not crazy about the beach either, and I'm terrified of boats. The only thing I can think of that's worse than being on a boat, is being on a boat in the sun, after a 10-hour plane trip, on my way to a beach.
And therein lies the miracle of Christina Ong's Parrot Cay. I stepped off the motorboat (after the 30-minute ride from Providenciales), was met by smiling staff members, and mere seconds after arriving at the luxury resort on the 1,000-acre private Caribbean island, I was feeling relaxed.
"You? Felt relaxed?" My friend Joanna said in disbelief after I returned home. "That really says a lot for the place."
Yes, it does. Upon arrival I was driven in a golf cart (there are no cars on the island) to a beach-front villa. Spacious, modern, colonial style with terracotta tiles, marble floors, teak furniture and a four-poster bed with white netting, it was ideal: chic and simple. Waiting for me was a registration form and a fresh fruit drink. Fruit drinks are not my favourite, but I was thirsty. Half a sip into it, I was reformed. "This is amazing!" I cried out, scaring the lovely Balinese man who'd assisted me. "Can I please have another one?"
Five minutes later, it arrived.
Parrot Cay is meant for people like me. People who are hard to please. Perhaps that's why movie stars such as Richard Gere and Demi Moore and rich and powerful personalities like Donna Karan and Sir Paul McCartney stay there. Any need can be met. Several key factors make the Ong experience so desirable. Each hotel is like a cocoon from the outside world. It's not ostentatious, and the lack of this is in itself soothing. It is hedonistic in the new-age way _ focusing on yourself is something most people can't do in the "real" world. So her hotels, and Parrot Cay in particular, provide a chance to be indulgent by becoming revitalised. People are attracted to the simplicity and intimacy; they know what to expect and are not disappointed.
This is what sets it apart. Yes, it's elegant and remote, but it's the attentiveness that makes all the difference. It's there when you need it without being overbearing, and at Parrot Cay I felt something I wasn't used to: being taken care of.
If I asked for a bottle of water, a dozen bottles arrived within minutes. Special food requests - no problem. There is a spa menu with wheat-free, dairy-free and vegan options. It seemed if I asked for a snowstorm, they would deliver. In the morning, I woke to an odd sound. At first it was something I didn't recognise. I'd heard it before, but it was unfamiliar. Then it hit me. Silence! Who knew it was available at such long intervals.
The resort is known for providing a sanctuary for stressed-out people looking to unwind. There is an Asian-inspired Shambala spa that overlooks the ocean. It is "dedicated to renewing the body and rebalancing its energies", but I wasn't sure my energies were up for rebalancing. As it turns out, they were. I had three holistic treatments that left me wondering how I'd ever managed to exist beforehand. In particular, the Indian head massage: 60 minutes of someone massaging my brain. I left feeling so tranquil, I didn't know what to do. Should I sit by the pool and stare at the ocean? Or should I recline on the chaise longue at the spa and stare at the ocean? Or not stare at the ocean and take a nap? I was getting stressed.
I quickly discovered how easy it was to do nothing. But on the rare occasions I felt like moving (usually after a meal - the food was so delicious I ate twice as much) there were plenty of options. There was the 5,000-square-foot pool to swim in, yoga, pilates, a state-of-the-art gym, floodlit tennis courts, snorkelling, kayaking, and activities such as off-site scuba and fishing were accessible. There was the ocean, so still and translucent it was as if someone had primed it ahead of time. And, of course, the beach. Three miles long, empty and perfect to walk on barefoot. Not too hot.
ing there by myself, I'd wondered if I would stand out as the "table for one" among the couples. But the varied mix of clientele squelched this concern. There were all sorts: men alone, women alone, women with their girlfriends, older couples, younger couples, Americans, Europeans.
We all had one thing in common: nobody wanted to leave.
In fact, as the days passed and I waited for a mosquito to bite me, something was wrong. How could nothing be wrong? The only anxiety I had was knowing I had to go home. On the day I had to depart, I got up early, stood at the edge of the ocean and, for a brief moment, enjoyed being alive. Then I remembered I had to get back on the boat. And the ocean was looking pretty choppy.