Feeling at Home in Barbados

Thursday, 01 August 2013

Feeling at Home in Barbados

When you arrive at "The House" in the gorgeous St. James district of Barbados, don't bother looking for the reception desk, because there isn't one. Would you find a reception desk in your friend's home or at the beach house of your wealthy and rather eccentric cousin? No, you wouldn't. And you won't find one here because this lovely 34-room establishment feels more like a comfortable, private home than a hotel. I stood in the lush courtyard for mere seconds before a beautiful young woman came up to me and asked, "Ms. Grant?"

as she extended her hand. I said "yes" and she introduced herself as Nadia, the assistant manager. She invited my friend and me to take a seat in the spacious, open-air lounge while she retrieved our registration information. Meanwhile, our bags were whisked to our room as we were offered our choice of rum punch, fruit punch, beer or water. Welcome to the warm hospitality of The House.

At the center of the white-washed lounge was a spacious seating area furnished with oversized couches dressed in white cotton slipcovers and large, low tables in dark wood. Running down one side of the outdoor room were the serving area and bohemian-looking bar, and on the other side was a row of dining tables. Beyond, the space opened onto a beautiful deck, which in turn led to the wide, sandy beach.

"Shall we head to your room?" asked Nadia after we finished our drinks. We followed her through the courtyard and up the outdoor stairway to our room — a one-bedroom suite facing the ocean with two balconies and two bathrooms. Simple yet elegant furnishings complemented the setting, but the view of the ocean trumped everything!

Nadia explained that any member of the hotel staff could deal with virtually any request. There were no hard-and-fast roles, as every "ambassador" (as they were called) moved fluidly from one job to the next, depending on the guest's needs at that moment. Not only did this wonderful staff have the capacity to assist with any request at any time, they shared a lovely manner that was at once friendly and respectful, helpful and unobtrusive.

As comfortable as the room was, we felt the draw of the ocean and it was not long before we found ourselves on the expansive outdoor deck under one of the many royal blue umbrellas, enjoying lunch. A generously proportioned club sandwich, lightly crisped French fries and a green salad with a whisper of herb dressing made the perfect mid-afternoon repast. We were so taken with the view, we forgot to have the 30-minute "jet lag" massage that is complimentary for all guests – whether you have flown from afar or walked down the road.

The beach at The House is one of the most famous in Barbados. It is on the beautiful west coast of the island, known not only for its continuous expanses of sand, but also for its elegant hotels and estates. You can walk for miles, admiring one impressive property after another. We went for a long stroll, and then headed back to The House, where we discovered a petite plunge pool hidden from view with vines and tropical plants.

By the time we came down to dinner, the lounge had been transformed into a different world. The entire space was lit with candles and torches, and enchanting Euro-lounge music was playing in the background. Subtle in-floor lighting guided us from one zone to the next but the predominant sense was of the ocean breeze, the candles and the music. It was magic. Then it got better. We told the ambassador at hand that we wanted to have dinner and he said that one of the two beachside cabanas had not been reserved. And so we were led to our private dining space, under a cabana, lit by torches, on the beach. Unbelievable! We proceeded to enjoy Champagne cocktails, followed by an excellent dinner of seared tuna and Caesar salad. Our enchanted experience ended with a delicious assortment of cheeses. All the while the moon shone and the waves crashed, as though on cue from a theatrical director. Does life get much better than this?

The next day, I learned that The House is part of a small group of hotel properties under the appropriate banner "Elegant Hotels." A few miles north and set on an expansive seven acres, Colony Club is an elegant, old-world resort. Many decades ago, the main building was home to a Barbados private gentlemen's club, and it retains that feeling with its elegant furnishings and hushed atmosphere. The rooms and suites at the Colony Club epitomize luxury and sophistication. Gorgeously appointed and varying in character from one building to the next, these private living quarters are second to none. I particularly liked the private patios equipped with day beds where one could quite easily laze the day away in luxurious relaxation.

After my tour, I headed back to The House. The idea of lazing the day away had planted itself firmly in my psyche and so I unwound in style for the rest of the day, alternating between lounge chairs on the beach and lounge chairs by the pool. Either way, my newfound laziness was facilitated with the continuous beach ambassador service bringing water, ice cream and lunch. Lunch was incredibly delicious grilled mahi-mahi with a piquant sauce on a soft bun, accompanied by light, crisp red onion rings.

The balance of our stay at The House was characterized by relaxing days, elegant evenings, delicious food and incredible service provided by the ambassadors of goodwill and hospitality. I will remember this experience with the same fondness usually reserved for visits with family and friends because The House really does feel like home.

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