Where's my wall? You'd think at one of the Caribbean's top luxury resorts they could afford all four walls. My room only has three. Oh, I get it, without the wall there's nothing between me and one of the most gorgeous sights on the planet.
I'm in my hilltop room – one of 24 sanctuaries, as they're called – at the Jade Mountain resort on the island of St. Lucia. Where the wall should have been is an opening about the size of a Starbucks storefront, giving me an eye-popping view of the island's crown jewels: twin volcanic peaks soaring a half-mile in the air.
The peaks are the Pitons, and like the Tetons towering over Wyoming's Jackson Hole, the Rocky Mountain peaks over Denver and the picture-postcard spires over Bora Bora, they're a feast of natural beauty.
My sanctuary features a lot more than a view. For one thing, there's a big, colorfully tiled pool running through my living room to what looks like the edge of a waterfall a little outside the missing wall. (It's actually an “infinity” pool, meaning the water is collected in an unseen gutter just below the edge then cycled back to the pool.)
The wall-less theme continues inside the sanctuaries. So the bedrooms, living areas, pools and views of the Pitons all seem to flow together, like platforms floating in space. Hallways are out as well. Guests get to their sanctuaries by walking over 100-foot-long “sky bridges,” one to each sanctuary. A little down the hillside are five suites, also with spectacular views of the Pitons but without sky bridges and in-room pools.
To help us get away from it all, none of Jade Mountain's 29 units have TV sets, phones, radios or computer hookups.
Getting hungry? Ask your private major-domo to make reservations for you in any of the resort's restaurants. A tip: Go for the Jade Mountain Club, way up atop the five levels of sanctuaries. From there and the Celestial Terrace above it you can get breathtaking panoramic views of the Pitons and the surrounding mountains, the Caribbean waters and the neighboring island of St. Vincent.
Perhaps you'd like to dine in your sanctuary. No problem, mon. Besides 24/7 room service, you can opt to have the Executive Chef drop in to whip up a six-course gourmet dinner.
Imagine chowing down on a freshly caught red snapper or a dry-aged filet mignon with that special somebody while a guitarist (they'll send one in, just ask your major-domo) strums romantic tunes at sunset under the Pitons – all in your own sanctuary. Oh, and the infinity pool lights up, and you can set it to cycle through a bouquet of colors.
Naming the resort: an easy call
When he built this place in 2007, Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy didn't have to struggle over the name. He'd been collecting small antique mountains carved out of jade for 35 years, and as his wife, Karolin, says, “(Nick) finally got to carve his own jade mountain, only made of stone.”
Troubetzkoy came to St. Lucia from his home in British Columbia in the early 70s to design vacation villas. He went on to buy an old beach resort near the Pitons called Anse Chastanet, which he redesigned and turned into a multi-award-winning getaway. The 600-acre resort now has 49 rooms ranging from beachside units to hillside suites, some offering Troubetzkoy's distinctive “missing wall” views of the Pitons.
A winding road links Anse Chastanet to the Jade Mountain resort up the hill. Shuttles run back and forth, roughly a five-minute ride.
History books say Christopher Columbus spotted the island on Dec. 13, 1502, named it St. Lucia – it was the saint's feast day – and then sailed on. He was lucky he didn't go ashore, because he might very well have ended up as a feast himself. The island was inhabited by the Caribes, who were cannibals, as occasional French, English, Spanish and Dutch would-be settlers found out, the hard way.
Caribe-style feasting went on for over a century, until the Caribes were whittled down by mumps, smallpox, scarlet fever and other diseases of their digested foreigners. The French (considered the tastiest of the Europeans, local legends say) finally signed a treaty with what was left of the Caribes in 1660. After numerous wars between the French and British – each raised its flag over St. Lucia seven times – Great Britain finally won out in 1814.
Today, the 27-mile-long, 14-mile-wide island is a member of the British Commonwealth, but with strong French ties. Troubetzkoy's two resorts are on the southwest coast of the island a few miles from the town of Soufriere, St. Lucia's original capital under French rule.
You can get a taste of old-time St. Lucia by strolling around the little town (population: 6,000 or so). Many of Soufriere's stores and homes haven't changed much since the French ran this place centuries ago (although the guillotine in the town square is long gone). Crossing the narrow streets can be something of a challenge since they're shared by pedestrians, cars, bicycles, motorcycles and chickens. Local drivers generally ignore the town's handful of stop signs.
Besides a mind-boggling array of dining selections, Jade Mountain serves up an equally dazzling list of top ratings and rave reviews by prestigious magazines.
Some examples: “One of the World's Top Three Resorts” (Travel & Leisure Magazine), “Number One Hottest Caribbean Escape” (The Travel Channel), “Most Excellent Romantic Resort” (Conde Nast Johansens), “Resort With the Best View” and “Best Romantic Resort” (Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine).
More info and prices: Visit the resort at www.jademountain.com.
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