After being on call for a whole week over Christmas, me and the wife finally packed our bags and left for a well-deserved vacation. The first stop was London and we arrived at the famous Brown´s Hotel in Mayfair late afternoon New Year´s Eve. An excellent room with a complimentary bottle of Champagne waiting in an ice-bucket set the tone for the evening. Dinner was pre-booked at Nobu Berkley Street, just two blocks away. New Year´s Eve at a restaurant being what it is the food was still not a disappointment, with a well composed and expertly prepared menu that can be seen here – New Year Menu Nobu. Most memorable being the Wagyu with truffles, which was exceptional. As could be expected on a night like this the service wasn´t spectacularly good, but still more than acceptable. After dinner some wild dancing in the bar downstairs commenced before walking the two blocks back to the hotel, flushed and happy.
New Year´s Day showed London from a slightly less flattering side – rain, chill and strong gusts of wind almost tearing the complimentary Brown´s umbrella from my hands. Not even the New Year´s Day parade that had left large parts of Mayfair cordoned off could muster enough interest to keep us on the streets for very long. Better to withdraw to the Brown´s Tea Room for an absolutely lovely Afternoon Tea in front of the fireplace.
The following day initiated the next phase of the trip, with an early wake-up call and transportation to Gatwick Airport for an eight hour flight to the Caribbean island of St Lucia. Historically alternating between French and British rule it has now settled as an independent territory, while still being a part of the British Commonwealth. Although English is the official language, the French influence is still present in the local patois Kwéyòl.
The unexpected storm that hit St Lucia during Christmas had messed up all kinds of transportation and many hotels had difficulties with guests not being able to return home colliding with new arrivals. For our part this meant that the room we´d booked at the exclusive Anse Chastanet resort wasn´t available for the first night. This could have been dealt with in a number of ways, but for us it amounted to having to spend the first night at the equally swanky Ladera resort and then being upgraded to the Jade Mountain part of Anse Chastanet (more about that later). Ladera is situated on a hillside between the two picturesque Piton Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site of rare beauty. The journey from the airport to the resort gave ample opportunity to observe the ravages of the storm, with huge mudslides from the steep mountainsides, large trees partially blocking the road and detours through provisional water-filled dirt-tracks. Upon arriving at our dwelling we sat sipping yet another complimentary Champagne while enjoying a very special arrangement that´s sometimes used in St Lucia resorts. The room has only three walls and where the fourth one should be you instead have an opening towards the magnificent view of the Pitons and the sea below. A beautiful plunge pool makes up the border between the spacious room and the hillside, making it wonderfully open to the elements while still being totally private. A first evening on the island that initially seemed less than ideal, ended with a delicious meal at the Dasheene restaurant with its breathtaking view of the Pitons. Exceptionally fresh grilled scallops and yellow-fin Tuna tartare, followed by blackened and grilled Dorado together with assorted vegetables and grilled plantains.
Transportation from Ladera to Anse Chastanet meant a shaky back-seat ride through the small community of Soufriere, ending with a climb up a ridiculously bad road to the reception area of the resort. Two wonderful beaches, a hillside covered with rooms and suites, with stairs leading to the exclusive enclave of Jade Mountain. Sort of a resort in the restort, Jade Mountain overlooks it all in its futuristic splendor. How someone could have built something like this in such a remote and unaccessible location is beyond me. The rooms and suites of Jade Mountain rises in several levels from the hillside with the missing fourth wall giving an unsurpassed view of both Pitons. Colour-coded bridges connects the different rooms to the cliff-side, making it a both daring and beautiful architectonical feat. I assure you, everybody arriving here will begin by standing wide-eyed with dropped jaws.
The generous upgrade to Jade Mountain offered to us by the management was of course something that made an already great experience even better.
A beautiful room open to the view of the Pitons, an elevated Jacuzzi, the attentive 24 hour butler service and access to the Jade Club gourmet restaurant, what´s not to like. A typical day involved untroubled sleep in the big mosquito-net covered four poster bed, waking up to birdsong at sunrise with a light breeze keeping you comfortable. Every morning a colourful colibri visited the lime tree standing on the slope outside our room, giving a unique exhibition of the wonders of nature. After the wife´s yoga session on the aptly named Celestial Terrace, breakfast was brought to our room by the butler. Fresh fruit juices, different kinds of bread, youghurt, a variety of omelettes and coffee or tea. At one of the two beaches friendly attendants immediately set up comfortable beach chairs and offered fresh towels. Drinks, fruit, ice cream and a variety of foods were promptly delivered to your beach chair upon request, the frozen banana Daquiri quickly becoming a favourite. Time at the beach was split between the more popular Anse Chastanet beach (with its proximity to the resort and all the water sports on offer), and the Anse Mamin beach a 5 minute walk away (offering stillness, sublime beauty and of course the tasty Jungle Burgers).
After relaxing under our straw parasolls, swimming in the clear ocean and generally being pampered with every conceivable indulgence (including the ever present Frozen Banana Daquiris), we returned to our room to dress up for the night´s dinner. Several restaurants were on offer, with slightly different characteristics and levels of ambition. Most of our dinners were had at the Jade Mountain Club, offering inventive and high-end three course menus every night – highlights being beer-braised mussels, spring rolls filled with slow-cooked short ribs, braised Dorado with vegetable stew, pan-seared blue Marlin with noodles, Brussel sprouts and reduction of ginger, as well as a fabulous marinated flank steak. Another high point was chef Jonathan Dearden´s gourmet dinner with wine pairnings, serving up a five course menu at the Treehouse restaurant.
Not everything in life is about food though, and during our stay we managed to fit in a few other activities. A sunset cruise on the 42 foot sailing yacht “Searenity” with captain Kerwin and his first mate, as well as a guided snorkeling tour to an otherwordly beautiful Caribbean bay between the Pitons. More snorkeling was done on both beaches, just wish someone had told us about the sea ants.
Eventually all good things comes to an end, and our last night on St Lucia was destined to be something really special. A six-course gourmet meal prepared by the chef of Jade Mountain and served just for us in total seclusion under the stars on the candle-lit Celestial Terrace. Courses brought in by a dedicated waiter, presented by the chef himself and the wines poured by the sommelier. Most of the time we were left alone in the extremely beautiful ambience, being able to walk around the terrace between courses watching the pitch black starry sky and stealing some moments of slow dancing fuelled by the overall romantic air. A truly unforgettable experience.
Then all that remained was the trip home. Going from 28 degrees Celsius to minus 15 in a single day is not something to wish for. But hey, that´s just the way things go.