Jalousie Plantation on St. Lucia Becoming Tides Sugar Beach

Descending into the Valle des Pitons at night.

Descending into the Valle des Pitons at night.

Driving through midnight darkness on the road from the airport down to Jalousie Plantation on St. Lucia was rather like sitting on a gyroscope. I adapted to the constant shift of climbing up hair pin turns glued to the pitches of the legendary peaks of the island, and then of course there was that going down thing.I never really considered exactly how many of these hairpin turns it took to reach Jalousie and sea level. Couldn’t really make it out in the dark, but rocking from the “going up” to the “going down” got my attention.

My cottage with Gros Piton on the right

My cottage with Gros Piton on the right

Lost in post air travel dimness I barely noticed the lovely white villa under the Flamboyant tree that would be home for the next week.   I disappeared into the most comfortable of beds and snapped off the light wondering at what this intensely vertical terrain must be like by daylight. By morning it did not disappoint. Seconds later the sun came up. Petit Piton was so close and so alarmingly huge that it consumed the window, filled the sky, stopped my brain in its tracks.

My cottage with a private pool looking out to sea

My cottage with a private pool looking out to sea

Through the white French doors at the foot of my bed I saw an elegant patio with a million blossoms around a charming small plunge pool and what was that beyond? Dripping sunlight glistened on the rainforest soaked trees that clung miraculously to the vertical sides of that impossible peak. I was stupefied by these visions until I found the coffee pot on the terrace and sat down to process where I was. Then I was humbled.

Jalousie in the Valle des Pitons

Jalousie in the Valle des Pitons

I had done my homework and learned that the visionary Lord Glenconner had purchased 492 acres between the pitons in the early ‘80s which included the old Jalousie Plantation, then a producer of Royal Lime. Under his guidance the Jalousie Plantation Resort opened its doors to a festive crowd of celebrities and royalty in the fall of 1993. This is the same Lord Glenconner who purchased a chunk of rock in 1968 which his vision evolved into the playground of the royal and elite known as Mustique.

Sugar Beach

Sugar Beach

In 2005 the resort on 192 acres was purchased by another experienced visionary, Roger Myers. He has joined forces with KOR/Tides to launch a $100 million regeneration of one of the most beautiful and unique sites on the planet. In so doing he has created a rare opportunity for investors to own part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tides Sugar Beach Resort project is due for completion in 2011.

In the mean time Jalousie Plantation is open and glorious to visit. The villas are clean lined and elegant and with a cool white living room, huge bath with claw foot tub, separate shower room with garden access. The plunge pool with its flowers, sunny terrace and small bar set up create a lovely laid back way to pay homage to the gods that created the pitons!   The food is fresh, local, interesting, and served in three gourmet restaurants with a villa delivery option. Don’t miss the chef’s tasting menu! Jalousie offers to set up tables and serve your dinner anywhere on site so fire up your imagination and create an unforgettable evening!

buffet breakfast each morning by the beach

buffet breakfast each morning by the beach

Jalousie Plantation Villas offer 24 hour butler service,   a sweet West Indian Spa, a diving center under Petit Piton, the beach club with lounging under the palms, several different lounges inside and out, a children’s club and swimming pools. The list grows as renovation continues creating Tides Sugar Beach Resort. It seems as if every day I was there another inspiration was added to the plan. This very imaginative team of experienced resort creators is focused now on making the most exclusive and elegant complex in history. They intend to blow right by the “5 stars” designation and given the prospectus as designed and this heart-stopping UNESCO site it seems a possibility!

Meanwhile down the beach, our friend Lord Glenconner is not sitting on his laurels. Owning the rest of le Val des Pitons, he has planned a new village where owners and guests get to meet the locals who will run the restaurants and shops there. I heard about a dock capable of handling super yachts and a new wide sandy beach along the shore with paths for access to Tides Sugar Beach Resort.

There are bits of construction going on, but nothing that takes away from the experience of being in such a lush location. Together Jalousie Plantation, Tides Sugar Beach Resort and Glenconner Village nestled between the famous and unforgettable Pitons of St. Lucia seem destined to leave 5 stars behind to mere mortals.

For more information on visiting the Jalousie Plantation Resort http://www.thejalousieplantation.com/content/87.htm Tel: (758) 456 8000 reservations@thejalousieplantation.com

For more information on Tides Sugar Beach Resort contact Lisa Basire, Post Office Box 251, Soufriere, Saint Lucia,+ 44 (0) 208 812 4761,+ 44 (0) 7917 701486, + 44 (0) 208 874 8205, lisa.basire@sugarbeachvillas.com

How to get to St. Lucia and Jalousie Plantation:

There are two airports on St. Lucia, Hewanorra Int. Airport (UVF) in the south and the George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU) in the north. American Airlines flies direct from Miami daily. US Airways and Delta have staggered schedules in. Jet Blue is starting to service the island. From the UK British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have flights. LIAT offers local flights between the islands. There is a departure tax of EC$68 ($26 US) per adult which is built in to a round trip ticket. A taxi from either airport to Jalousie Plantation is roughly EC $120 ($50 US) for up to 4 people.

S/Y Brilliant or How to Leave the Land by Schooner

ChuckBefore my eyes a New York city Lawyer turned twelve year old boy as his sky blue eyes scanned the busy Mystic River while directing our two masted schooner out to sea. Like Frank, Earl & Jen and myself, Chuck was a guest aboard the Mystic Seaport’s training schooner. No computers here, no TV or even music to distract from the sounds of rigging and hull responding to the wind and waves or the gentle chatter of getting to know our boat and fellow travelers as we sailed.

Under the guidance of Captain George Moffitt and mate/chef Keith Chmura our mission was to learn old fashioned sailing. Before setting off, Keith assigned our bunks, offered the all-important “head lesson” followed closely by all the various safety procedures finishing with a drill on boat handling. George’s twenty years of experience as captain/teacher aboard Brilliant had us eager to face what four days of wind, weather and sea might present as we learned to sail between the islands and harbors of the New England coastline.

departingThe river was mirror smooth as we passed beneath the railroad bridge. Our first lesson in raising sails on a gaff rigged schooner was done without too much tension on the lines. All four lower sails went up peacefully with our main concern being where the lobster pots were. Brilliant sliced neatly through the flat sea but when we passed Race Rock, the breezes freshened to six knots as suddenly as if someone had turned on a fan.

As we made the turn at Plum Gut towards Gardener’s Island two hours later, Keith arrived on deck with antipasto on excellent slices of bread and the scent of luscious beef stew followed him up the companionway. The disembodied voice of NOAA spoke of the front we could now see approaching with its flashes of red and gold bursting on the horizon, at once hypnotically beautiful and alarming. The air had that round rolling feel that usually precedes a heavy rain. Some people thrive on that kind of exciting turbulence. I am one of those, as long as I can see my way to a safe harbor. In this case it was Sag Harbor and it was right around the point.

SettingUpAs we put our schooner to bed that first night, the wind on deck became a gale while Keith put “Brilliant Bouillabaisse” on the table in the saloon. This original blend of mussels, scallops and fish in rich broth had spiced aoli on floating toast sprinkled shredded cheese on top. I am certain that I am not the only one who was feeling entirely well fed already, when the fork tender medallions of steak drizzled with zesty horseradish sauce arrived at the table. I noticed that we all began reclining against the back of our seats when the sliced melons and nectarines layered with Crème Fraiche arrived. It was clear that we were not going to starve.

By 9:30PM with the rain pounding on the deck overhead, we could legitimately climb into our cozy bunks declaring it a full day of exercise, salt air and great food. I never sleep better than I do on a boat, and this night was no exception. Voices drifted through the dark saying good night in the soft tones of tired bodies and it was as good as fondly remembered summer camp.

AtTheDockAs an early riser, I had the first few minutes of buttery sunlight to myself. George hosed off the deck while I chamoised hatches and rails as the smell of coffee wafted up the companionway. If NOAA predictions were correct (only a 48% probability) we were in for a long day of running before the wind to cover the 60 miles from Sag Harbor, NY to Newport, Rhode Island.

Brilliant’s name is also an adjective which only applies when all hands spend a bit of time every day polishing the beautiful brass winchs, cleats and fittings aboard. George calls this the “Brilliant Mantra”. I found this polishing a pleasant activity performed over that first cup of coffee, accompanied by quiet talk as we enjoyed the early morning. The time was short lived though, soon to be replaced by warm french toast, sliced peaches and maple syrup.

As we eased away from the breakwater at Sag Harbor we could see the chop on the waves indicating plenty of wind. Blue skies, warming sun and 18k of breeze set us up for the Gollywobbler and the asymmetrical pole-less spinnaker. We made ten knots of speed over the bottom. By late afternoon we comfortable with what the deck jobs were, and how to do them properly under the watchful eyes of Keith and George. Frank and I talked of how we were in no hurry to get ashore, it had been a wonderful day at sea and we wanted it to linger.

SettingUpEntering Newport harbor Endeavour greeted us with that uncanny ability she has of appearing to make 20k while still on the mooring. We were early for our dock space so we took a leisurely wander through the mooring field. Graceful Gleam slid by on her way to collect guests for an evening sail, followed closely by the elegant dark hull of Northern Light. Both captains hailed George and exchanged welcomes. This is an early summer ritual born of each captain’s understanding of how many parts must come together to ready a classic yacht for the season. The sense of reunion is clear. This atmosphere carried into the evening as we were loosed on Banisters wharf where captains, crew and visitors created a festive scene that would only accelerate as the season progressed.

The next day we were heading for Block Island roughly 35 miles away. There was absolutely no wind as we left Newport but NOAA’s bleating voice had promised light wind from the south-west turning mid-day to 10-12 out of the North. Jokes about the accuracy of weather prediction aside, we turned on the engine and hoped they were right. Arabella, a classic famous for having 50’ inserted between bow and stern, had just picked up a mooring when we passed her. More new season greetings were exchanged between captains over the rails.

ragingWe motored out for a while, but collectively decided that a slow day under sail was still better than speed plus engine noise. We put up the #1 jib along with the staysail and the main. There is truly no louder silence that the first instant after the engine is shut off on a sailboat, especially when the sea is quiet. Brilliant slid quietly towards Block Island. I dozed in the warm sun with the soft voices of George, Chuck and Keith drifting forward from the cockpit, lulled by the even motion of the boat gliding through the soft swells and the soothing sounds of the hull in the water. I eased awake when the angle of heel increased and noticed then that Sarah, Paula and Doug were beginning to stir from the same relaxed state as the breeze freshened.

But George was visibly alert, listening with his head turning slowly as he watched the wind over the water. He asked us to get the #2 up on deck and be ready to bring in the #1. As we were doing that it seemed like all hell broke loose. We had just gotten the #2 on deck for a sail change when a wall of wind marched through and we were slammed with 35ks. In truth it took about ten minutes to build but that is practically no time at all aboard a schooner doing a sail change.

jibdownThere is a complicated dance associated with doing a sail change in high winds, but George and Keith calmly directed us through it. Earl and Frank were out on the bowsprit while the rest of us hauled in the huge #1 before it could be shredded or filled with water. Our rails were fully submerged with water running freely inches deep along the deck. We moved about carefully and consciously as Brilliant sliced along through the white caps blowing off the chop. It was an exhilarating 15 minutes after which the wind settled into about 20k as we raged towards Block Island.

We did discuss doing the “harbor burn”, basically shooting through the channel under sail, but considering Brilliant’s 47 tons of momentum nobody would even find the pieces of a small craft that chose not to observe a sailboat’s right of way. We dutifully brought down the sails outside the channel and motored peacefully through the interior chop to the dock.

BeforeAfterA small crowd of locals warmly greeted our arrival at the Block Island Boat Basin. George was again waving and greeting old friends as he directed the fairly complex docking arrangement required in such winds. Brilliant seems to draw appreciators at every dock, we observed this phenomenon often. Whether or not you understand the true nature of such a yacht, you can’t miss the seaworthy resonance such an honest boat.

We used our residual adrenaline to clean the boat before heading up to The Oar for a wee dram. On the deck of the local pub overlooking Brilliant at rest, we talked about another aspect of this boat’s history, racing. George is justifiably proud of Brilliant’s performance, he calls it “successfully racing an elephant against gray hounds”. George limits the schedule because the stresses on gear and the risk to the boat are high but he believes that it does help with training for a crew to focus on an objective.

ChartReadingAboard Brilliant the world becomes smaller and perceivable, populated only by the friendly and adventurous group aboard and united by teamwork and being in tune with the elements. Days are filled with the rythm of raising, lowering or trimming sails, punctuated by Keith’s creative and irresistible cuisine. Evening brings exploration of some new or familiar harbor followed by the summer camp atmosphere of bunking in an open saloon.

And at the end of four days, what had I gained? I learned that the kind of life at sea that Brilliant represents is a larger subject than only the sailing. George and Keith instruct visitors in the total adventure of being “boat people” and that there is something very restorative about that. I learned that beautiful Brilliant, and by extension probably all schooners, are in constant need of caretaking, understanding and guidance. Without such programs as the Mystic Maritime Museum offers, schooners would surely remain tied up at the dock. I learned that George’s 20 years of accumulated experience has evolved into instincts that should always be respected. I learned that Frank, Chuck, Earl & Jen and the more than nine thousand others who have had the experience of pulling strings aboard Brilliant will return because they can’t help it. Certainly I will.

medrivingTo attend a schooner training program aboard Brilliant:
There are 6 Teen programs scheduled from Sunday through Friday in July/Aug
There are 6 Adult programs from Friday to Monday beginning in September


Schooner  Program
Mystic Seaport Museum
75 Greenmanville Avenue
P.O. Box 6000
Mystic, Ct 06355-0990
Ph: 860.572.5344
Email: visitor.services@mysticseaport.org
Web: www.mysticseaport.org

Stowe Weekend of Hope: This coming weekend

1I am going to be at Topnotch this weekend for the most amazing gathering of cancer survivors that has ever been put on by any community I have ever heard of.You can find out more about it, please tell your friends who have lived through this awful year that it is free for first time visitors, lodging as well. There are over 50 different venues ranging from oncology massage to restorative exercise programs, to reinforcing the remembering that you are not your disease and life can be fun again.

Here is a link: http://www.stowehope.org/

Please drop me a note if you are interested in talking with me there.

Details to come soon, in the mean time enjoy the day,


The New Phoenix, A Glorious Surprise Rising in the Desert

balloon1Rising into the early dawn darkness over the desert outside of Phoenix was a surprising and mystical experience. I had been in a hot air balloon, once, so I was not surprised by the huge flame lit volume of air overhead, or by the roaring of the burners as they raised the contained air temperature. The fact that without any sense of movement you are suddenly looking down on things you were looking across at seconds ago was interesting, unnerving for some at first but everyone quickly acclimated. What really moved me were the colors.

 Millions of stars dimmed as the light slowly amped up, mesmerizing to watch. What had been shapes of black and gray stretching for miles towards the mountains began to grow colors silently. Long dark shadows were creeping towards the western mountains leaving sages, tans and russet colors in their wake.  The phrase “line in the sand” crossed my mind as clearly on one side of that line there was shadowy darkness and on the other was the rich gold of the new light cresting the ridges. Coyotes, cactus’ and even desert hares stayed in the dark side for protection. We gazed down from our brightly colored now sun lit hot air balloon above them. They must have heard us, but were certainly focused on other things like breakfast and shelter, rather than the beautiful ritual of the desert awakening as seen from the air.

We were offered the traditional post-hot air balloon breakfast as the day warmed up. We watched the balloon getting packed up as we were served wilderness cooked eggs, sausages, sweet rolls and of course chili, accompanied by cold Champagne. We were then offered, I kid you not, cotton candy. Turns out to be pretty much of a palate cleanser served at many restaurants in the area! 

 Phoenix had never been on my radar to visit, I am pretty much of an ocean girl. But then I heard about how the city was reinventing itself, and that people seemed to be liking it so I decided to take a look. Opening that exploration with watching the sun rise over the desert bordered on strategically brilliant. I was primed to like what I found even though I had only been inside the airport previously on my way to somewhere else.

 My sister and I had given most of a week to exploration of this “new” city. Sure enough everywhere I looked there was renovation. Phoenix really did appear to be reinventing itself. Traffic was continually snarled up because areas of construction were cordoned off in all the streets but you could see the potential. I felt sorry for people working downtown in this snarl, but with parks emerging where there had previously been trash filled lots, and people based cityscape architecture evolving from old square brick buildings it was going to be worth the temporary inconvenience.

Laurie Nessel showing me how to turn rods of colored glass into fanciful hand made beads.The Mesa Arts Center  was something I was so looking forward to seeing, and it exceeded anything I could imagine. It was like a small city of art studios with gardens, restaurants, and public spaces woven through it designed to inspire the right side of your brain. There are free performances by the symphony on Sundays “weather permitting” but this is Phoenix where the weather is always permitting. When I got there I realized that pretty much anything that you could wish to learn to make you could find in this place. I had signed up for a lesson in how to make glass beads with Laurie Nessel. She showed me things that could be done with glass rods and a torch which made me wish I had a room there for a month.

 We moved out to the historic Arizona Biltmore hotel. Turns out it was not in fact designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but rather by one of his students who got the design contract. He called Wright to see about licensing a deco tile design that Wright had shown him. Wright decided that made him a consultant, which was fraught with problems for all parties involved but did at least result in the building of beautiful Taliessen. It’s an interesting story that they tell on the tour of the Arizona Biltmore which is worth the time to go on.

Elegantly whispering of ladies in jewels and men in top hats.The Arizona Biltmore is a wonderful blend of the original design as seen in the large photos that hang all over the building, and a modern facility with all the conveniences. It feels very deco, elegant and timelessly graceful. Perched in the desert it is a jewel. Our room was in one of the new buildings which was spacious and had a lounge of its own accessed by our room key, and a pool that was a short easy stroll from the back balcony or our room.  The large hot tub out there turned out to be a perfect place to sit out one of the cloud burst that came through making the desert around bloom.

Lunch at the edge of the olive orchard.We took a drive out to the Queen Creek Olive Mill as I had never seen olive oil pressed.  Coming from Vermont the term “localvore” has a whole lot of importance for me, implying healthy locally grown food, as well as healthy employment for the locals. All of that turned out to be true, and it was a beautiful family owned olive grove which processed and aged it product right on site.  We had a wonderful lunch there (surprising considering vast number of things we sampled from the olive buffet) as well as a demonstration of all the steps that go into making fresh pressed olive oil. It was a very nice afternoon. 

 While we were in the area one day we visited the brand new Museum of Music. I wish we had been able to give that a whole day, which it richly deserved. It is wired for headsets which they give out when you pay admission. Every time you stop to look at something, a gentle voice offers information about that thing. There was music from all over the world, and instruments, as well as a fabulous special exhibit on music from the 60s which had photos, costumes, instruments and songs from “rockers” of my childhood. Be still my heart. 

If I could only revisit one thing there though, it would be the exhibit of mechanical music. I kid you not, calliopes, carnival organs, metal robots that would sing and dance for a nickel placed in the palm, clocks that sang with tiny dancers moving around, and a truly astonishing collection of miniature musical players that were hard to fathom in their complexity. Not all of them worked, but those had videos and sound which became activated when you approached. 

 We spent another afternoon exploring the area around one of the many sports centers that Phoenix has recently invested in. The spring training baseball field at Talking Sticks was as intimate as Fenway, but all brand new. You could see everything happening on the field in detail as if you were part of the team. 

From there we crossed the street to one of the most fun restaurants I have ever been in, complete with a mechanical bull and a cowboy who clearly just lost his last dime at poker and needed to make a very quick escape. The food there was western style, chuck wagon plentiful,  and followed up of course, by cotton candy served in a very fancy cone just ripe for the plucking! There is a whole community of things to do and see with families in mind surrounding the Talking Stick baseball field.

Another day we spent an afternoon at the Heard Museum. I happen to really enjoy museums that preserve the style, artwork and culture of the west, and this was one of the better ones that I have visited. While we were there an exhibit of each tribes costumes, artwork and lifestyle complete with full sized dioramas for each culture was ongoing. You walked through their lives, saw the rituals of daily living and heard the music of their lives.  I was surprised at how different each culture was when laid out this way.

Our casita at Four SeasonsWe arrived in the mid-day heat and had the kind of smooth entry to the Four Season’s Scottsdale that Four Seasons always delivers. Our suite looked like part of a small adobe village from the outside, and a very private casita from the inside. We had a large comfortable ramada off the bedroom that put us face to face with the tumbled rocky landscape of high desert right down to a cactus the size of a school bus on end 10 feet out.

 We spent a relaxing day roaming this small estancia starting with the bar by the pool, some excellent southwestern chow and the mandatory margarita, or two. The spa there is cool and dark and very nicely comforting from the heat of the desert.  That evening we met some friends at the western facing cantina before dinner. In front of us a hundred yards across a wide grassy plaza a fifty foot wide fire blazed as the sun went down, the shadows retook the desert and the stars reclaimed the sky.  I thought of the desert hares and coyotes we had seen the first day we arrived, and saw in my mind the images playing backwards. I could happily do this hundreds of times over.

 sunsetWe were liking this new Phoenix. The atmosphere of the new Phoenix is fun, energetic filled with great food and interesting things to look at, learn and do are everywhere. The reinvention of this city is creative and beautiful and I really enjoyed its new burst of life. We even eventually got accustomed to the tradition of serving cotton candy after meals.


Check the weather in Phoenix (http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/phoenix-az/85003/weather-forecast/346935)

Hot Air Balloon Tours (http://www.hotairexpeditions.com/)

Mesa Arts Center (http://www.mesaartscenter.com/)

Arizona Biltmore (http://waldorfastoria3.hilton.com/en/hotels/arizona/arizona-biltmore-a-waldorf-astoria-resort-PHXBMWA/index.html?wt.srch=1

Queen Creek Olive Mill (http://www.queencreekolivemill.com/)

The Museum of International Music (http://mim.org/)

Talking Sticks Baseball (http://www.saltriverfields.com/)

The Heard Museum (http://www.heard.org/)

Four Seasons Scottsdale (http://www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale/accommodations/?c=t&_s_icmp=mmenu)

Cruising Under Four Masts; Luxury, Elegance and the Poetry of Sail

A half dozen huge white sails drove the 320’ four masted schooner north up the pacific coast of Panama towards Costa Rica through Tiffany box blue water. As an early riser, I arrived on deck just as the sun broke over the coastal cliffs. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a croissant in the main salon lounge before heading up to a higher deck to enjoy the poetry of a morning under sail. Alone on deck, I could fully appreciate this lovely craft for what it was, a real sailing vessel. Although positioned as a “cruise” you will find no gambling casino here, no mall or arcade, just the beauty of a seaworthy ship as it does what it does best, under sail.

We had boarded the afternoon before, leaving Balboa Panama before dark. Luggage arrived at our handsome cabin and we changed out of travel weary clothing to explore our home for the next week. Our cabin had a very nice “head” (bathroom), many closets and storage spaces, a dresser and two comfortable beds. It was compact, as most sailing ships are, but very functional and comfortable.

On deck hors d’oeurvres and cocktails were served at the Tropical Bar where Charly played music on his electronic keyboard while we met many of our companions for the week. The ship carries up to 100 guests, which is a great size as there are plenty of people to meet, but not so many that you get lost among them. We decided to dine with the people we met at the bar that evening, and as suspected, they were a bit more adventurous, interesting and frankly, humorous  than you would have found on a “celebrity cruise”.

Dinner that first night was a delicious surprise. The dining room is a throwback to old fashioned European luxury with brocade curtains, gold velour fabric seats, starched white table cloths and heavy silverware. The dinner menu offered several options for a wide variety of pallets, accompanied by wonderful wines that came in cobalt blue bottles with the ship’s logo on them. All guests enjoyed this elegance in casual evening attire. The cumulative effect is quiet dining, interesting multi course offerings, perfect service and a charming experience. Just when you thought you couldn’t touch another bite, your waiter hands you an irresistible dessert menu! It confirmed for me that this was not any kind of weight loss excursion.

Days began with breakfasts being an enormous buffet of hot and cold choices along with an omelet bar where a chef makes custom egg dishes for each guest. Lunches always had a large salad bar including all of the elements to make up any kind of sandwich you could think of, and then of course there was the luscious lunch menu offered by your waiter. At 5 PM everyone gathered on the main salon deck for cocktails and hors d’oeurvres. Dinner started at 7:30 or so followed by live music in the lounge courtesy of the irrepressible Charly, and if there was any possibility that you might still be hungry at midnight, there was a large buffet presented. Honestly the food never ends aboard Star Flyer!

Each day was filled excursions which were mostly about exploring coastal nature. There were whale watching trips, picnics on islands, a zip line through the Costa Rican canopy opportunity, swimming and snorkeling and a bit of shopping ashore. Each day ended with the dramatic ceremony of raising the sails and setting back out to sea. One evening our captain brought his bagpipes on deck and piped the sun down as the enormous sails unfurled and began to catch the wind. Made my heart sing.

IMG_8020Captain Klaus Mueller spoke elegantly on the subject of the rare opportunity presented by sailing for living with the cycle nature. The world beyond the rails slowly drifts from your mind as the salt air, and rithmic waves fill days and nights. During the week we saw dolphins alongside the ship on several occasions as we all slowed down, giving time to watching the sea roll by and the sky migrate from cool morning colors to mid day fierceness into warm glorious sunsets. After dinner guests would frequently gather on deck to watch the stars and enjoy an aperitif.

I am an experienced cruise guest, and an avid sailor, with thoroughly salty blood. My first thought about the other guests on board was that they would also be sailors but I was surprised. While many were sailors, this luxury yacht provided a wonderful travel platform for people who just want to enjoy a different kind of travel luxury, something slower and more organic. It appears that they were surprised as well by how gentle and slow their thoughts became under sail.

With slightly more than a hundred people on board, I met two people who had never even been off the land before, a few people who had cruised before but never under sail, and several who used to sail often but due to age, injury or arthritis just could not continue sailing. The compliment was large enough for a nice mix and small enough that we made real friends, the kind we will see again.

There are three Star Clipper Sailing Yachts and they move around the planet all the time. You can join a leg of the trip, or just stay aboard. When we boarded in Panama about half of the people we met had come from the other side of the Panama Canal. Some had come all the way from the Med! When we left the boat, many were staying on for the next leg of the journey north.

It was a charming (if fattening) week and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing passage at sea. The boat schedule is posted on their web site so you can pick a leg to join on any of the ships. Flyer is the smallest of the fleet, but I am sure the quality of life, the extraordinary culinary delivery, and the attention to detail around every guest’s enjoyment is the same on any of the ships. Perhaps our paths will cross out there under four masts as certainly this particular “lemming” will head for the sea again!

Information about Star Clipper Cruising

Feature will be published in the April Issue of Upscale Living Magazine

World’s Best Spa

Each spa cottage floats like an island off this central canal.

Each spa cottage floats like an island off this central canal.

To see the magazine clip: http://issuu.com/admspublishinggroup/docs/ulm_issue_27__web?mode=window page 39

Blending, that is the key to a really fabulous spa experience. In this case royal tropical elegance meets Bahamian culture to produce a world class experience in whitewashed plank and stone cottages floating like islands under tall rustling palms. This is the luxurious stage set by the designers of the Regent Palms spa. Sweet in its simplicity and rich in mental, physical and spiritual reward, the environment and lusciously delivered therapies leave you with an internal hum that lingers longer than your tan.

I did the signature Zareeba (Afrikaans for “personal space) treatment. I had never seen a Zareeba space before, and it looked for all the world like a teak crate, maybe 5’ tall and deep, 8’ long. Lying on its side with no front on it. There was a small bench on either end with a candle lit on the floor underneath. In the center was a large cerulean ceramic vessel. A handsome young Bahamian man came in and filled that vessel with boiling water that had been simmering lemon and eucalyptus. I sat on the small bench as a thick curtain was lowered that closed me into the Zareeba with the steam.

This is a Zareeba, Afrikaans for "your personal space",

This is a Zareeba, Afrikaans for “your personal space”,

This is the cleansing and it worked wonders for my body as the thoughts of the outside world drifted into utter unimportance. I found this to be much more soothing than electrically heated steam which is pumped into a space and sometimes seems too hot to breathe. Nothing but soft candle light, gently scented steam and me for 20 delicious peaceful minutes.

When the curtain was raised I stepped out into the softly shaded massage cottage and was gently dried of by sweet Amor, the Polynesian therapist. Once on the table she used long smooth slow strokes to renew my skin with an oil that never felt oily. For an hour it just rolled over my body smoothing skin and relaxing muscles. The sun peeked through the jalousie blinds, the palms rustled outside in the scented breeze and that became the whole sweet world. An hour disappeared in a blissful few minutes.

Days later I did the Pearl and Water Lily Passage because I simply could not help it. Earl, the lead therapist at the spa performed one of the most sensual and sensitive treatments that I have ever had. This is a treatment that combines gentle natural scents with gold infused oil for a full body massage that is followed by a facial massage treatment with essential actives combined to nurture the skin while slowing the aging process. The soothing was enhanced by the gentle glittering light from the water surrounding the cottage as jasmine floated on the breeze. There were many elements to this beautiful 90 minute therapy but frankly I couldn’t focus to pay attention. When it was time to go I could barely tell where my body ended and the soothing tropical breezes began.

I am a serious “spa hound” and consider myself pretty hard to “wow” but it happened with both experiences at this spa. The stage that Regent Palms has set for such restoration is as good as they get. The sound of water soothes and the light of it glitters softly on everything as it flows through the interior courtyard and surrounds the therapy cottages. Interior spaces are cool, graceful and soothing in the tradition of the Bahamas. The practitioners are gentle and intuitive in their usage of hands, nutrients, scents and oils. It’s a place that you never want to leave.

Relaxation at its finest.

Relaxation at its finest.

Not surprising to me was the news that On December 16th this spa won the Leading Spa Resort in the World, given out by the World Travel Awards.

The Award http://www.worldtravelawards.com/press-151

Online Brochure http://www.regentpalmsebrochure.com/

This article will be featured in the February 2013 issue of Upscale Living.

Cold Raw Day in Vermont Brings Warmth

The wind came howling through the valley at 2:20AM followed by a hard rain. My heart went thud at these sounds as with morning light came a 30″ truck we had been given by LandAir Express out of Burlington to fill with warm outerwear for people recovering from Sandy’s wrath. I pictured locals stopping by the parking lot to deliver what they had removed from their closets and cleaned for the trip south … in the freezing rain. We only had this one shot, and we wanted it to be good. We had survived Irene with lots of outside help, and it meant a lot to us to help these guys.

There it is. The big cold dark spot in NJ and NY where thousands of displaced people are battling the cold.

Well the morning light did come hours later, and in the dark I had made mental notes about where to find a few pop up tents to keep things dry, and where to get tables to keep clothes off the ground while we sorted into the big bins that would be shrink-wrapped and sent south to the National Guard on Staten Island for distribution.

People here were generous beyond belief. Bags large and small started coming into the parking lot delivered by friends we knew or shortly would know. Twice vans arrived from clothing stores filled with coats still tagged for sale. One sweet lady knitted a dozen warm soft hats to send, another came with just two precious spare hats. Everyone cared. The truck began to fill from the front to the back with warmth.

Many people stopped by for periods of time to help with the sorting. We are an infectious lot when we get fired up. The truck driver got into it with us and never stopped helping, even though his day was the longest as he had the drive the truck on either side of a hard working day.

This is our beloved valley though, home of Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, hiking, soaring. ski joring, music, food & the arts, and 35 hundred of us who will always rally for our neighbors. The party was on in that cold parking lot by Shaws. For 7 hours we packed the truck, hugged our friends, laughed at each other and kept sending the warmth south. We all had a great day, and the best part is that I believe that we really did make a small dent in helping. This is who we are, we couldn’t have done anything else.

I can’t wrap my mind around the whole solution down there, but you can count on the fact that the next time we get a good idea of how to help, we will do that too.

Mad River Valley Vermont Rallies for Sandy’s Victims

The Mad River Valley in Vermont is an endlessly interesting community. I have lived here for 40 years now and never ceased to be surprised by the ingenuity, creativity and generosity that abounds, especially in crisis. We learned the hard way about vengeful weather when hurricane Irene ripped through our towns, and while we lucked out on Sandy’s rage, we do understand what it is like to recover from such trauma. We saw it on a micro scale by the numbers, but then Vermont is not a numbers state. One person to another we all got what this means to the people on the coast. We have lent our power repair guys in their trucks, and the phone company sent theirs as well. For the rest of us normal people though we do what we can.

The network started humming and suddenly we were given a truck and driver from LandAir Express in Burlington. Someone figured out a method to handle distribution when the truck arrives on Staten Island, which we learned the hard way is a serious issue. Telecom, our local ISP among other things has offered to bring a dumpster full of cardboard boxes to the site where locals can sort by size and then pack up all of the things that we have learned will be needed. It is a short list of things that we are allowed to send for distribution, but valley wide you can hear washers and dryers running with people emptying closets and getting ready to pack the south bound truck on Tuesday.

This is one thing going on, but the truth is that in Vermont, filled as it is with independent minded people, groups are forming to tackle all the facets of this recovery. I know of at least a dozen different approaches to assistance, all of them important and everyone bringing whatever resources and skills they have into play.

For me, the party is on Tuesday at our local Shaws but I have learned that the need for assistance will last for months. We need to develop regular deployments of people and property to the area until everyone is once again safe and warm. Please let me know if you have a good idea and need help implementing it. You can post your thoughts and ideas here http://www.facebook.com/WelcomeToTheValley which is a community of local and out of state people interested in participating in all things going on around here. Together we can really make a dent in the damage done.

We are Vermont Strong.

Superyachts – The Ultimate Luxury Travel

Hatairos, unfortunately sails no longer, but beautiful private yacht in her day.

Have you ever been sitting at a charming dockside tavern, enjoying the sunset over a balmy harbor when a boat turns into the harbor and dwarfs all the others? You count the windows you realize that the thing has got to be over 100 feet long, in fact maybe 130 feet or so. And the thing is three stories tall, with a helicopter on one deck and a 20 foot sailboat on davits on another. As it takes anchorage people appear on deck and shortly the yacht is bobbing gently on the blue waters of paradise and all is quiet and calm. As if by magic a hole appears in the stern, yet another boat slides out and is lowered slowly to the water as you try not to think that you have just witnessed the live birth of a large hard bottom center console zodiac.

As uniformed crewmen leave the yacht heading for shore to provision, you can’t help but wonder who is on that boat? From your perch you can see the rest of the crew in casual uniform getting ready to serve cocktails for the guests on the lower deck. Half an hour later there are sequined dresses and blazers as if the glorious sunset was arranged just for them. While these guests are occupied with relaxing on deck, overhead on the deck above more crewmen are setting the stage for dinner. It is theater, no mistaking it. Tomorrow night the same scene might occur but with palm trees on the lower deck, guests in shorts and pareos, and Polynesian music flowing over and around a dinner table of fruit, flowers and Poisson Cru on the upper deck. Practically anything is possible on a luxury cruise. And who are these guys? And where do these yachts come from? Well the answers have changed in the last decade.

It used to be that luxury yachts were built only for people with bottomless checkbooks. Ok, that is not the part that has changed. But what has changed is that the technologies for design and construction of Superyachts and Megayachts has advanced to the point where there are several hundred of them afloat now and if you want to spend your vacation moving through paradise on a yacht surrounded by crewmen who live by the phrase “your wish is my command” you can.

WindRose under sail in Antigua Classic Regatta

This burgeoning new industry of crewed yacht charter has made it feasible to charter yachts in length from 80’ to over 300’ practically anywhere on the planet. They come with engines, sails or jet power. They often wear other boats and water toys like jewelry. They come with one hull, two hulls and even with three. And they can be tall! One new sailing yacht can not be chartered from Sydney because is can’t get under the bridge over the harbor. It can, in theory, be sailed by computer from Florida though. Some have three staterooms and a crew of three while others carry up to 45 people with over half of them being crew.

Let’s say a group of six wants to charter a yacht for a week in the Caribbean. You request three state rooms with heads and you want it to be very nice. You have three flavors of yachts to choose from, and the rates for them vary by kind of boat as well as location. In the US & Caribbean aboard a motor yacht it is estimated that the-add on service charge will be 35% of the charter, to cover fuel, dockage, the bar (which can expand enormously when you invite guests aboard “your” yacht) and crew tips. You can expect this average to be 55% in the Med. Sailing vessels don’t have the huge fuel consumption, so generally fuel is included in the charter price, and the service charges will be only for extra dockage, bar use and tips which come in closer to 15%. And now for the boats.

If you are a real adventurer, and you love the life force of the wind in the sails, you are quite likely to enjoy a monohull sail boat. Athena is an 295′ three masted schooner. Athena is an old world experience with luxury of a bygone era. Until you have experienced rich craftsmanship and flawless extravagance of one of these queens of the sea, there are no words adequate to describe how it makes you feel to travel this way.  If the captain has an itinerary of dockage, it is often included in the charter price, so unless you request extra overnights at a dock additional to the itinerary, you generally aren’t charged. Fuel charges are negligible on a sailing vessel, so it is included in the price, and guests are expected to pay for the use of the bar plus a 20% tip. http://www.ycoyacht.com/yacht/athena/?t7

If you like to sail, but some of your group are a bit unnerved by that, you  might think about a catamaran which has lots of living space, is a very comfortable vacation platform, and stays flat under sail. Douce France is a 138’ cat, The worlds largest ketch catamaran with six state rooms and seeming endless grace. You will have to contact them about rates as it depends on the region that they are sailing in. Captain Eric Saint Placat is a most elegant host, his crew charming, and sailing on this yacht was one of the highlights of my entire charter sailing experiences.   http://www.doucefrance-yacht.com/

For the guest who wants ultimate luxury and mobility without any involvement with sails we have motoryachts. Askari is an 108’ motor yacht with five large guest suites that roams the Society Islands during the winter season. The charter price for this beautiful yacht is $75,000 per week with ten guests and the fuel, dockage, bar and tips generally come in at 35% of the charter fee. They burn a lot of fuel, but they stay flat and can cover huge distances. Sailing with Askari makes travel a pleasure in any weather. Lon and his crew gracefully deliver a fabulous tours of the islands.  http://www.myaskari.com/

Before you go out on any charter, a reputable charter broker will ask you to fill out what is called a preference sheet. This is where you get to tell the captain and crew your favorite foods, your beloved cocktails and any fantasies that you might have relative to theme or activity. The crew really want to know how to make each day you are aboard into the best experience that you have ever had. I have seen guests become so enchanted with the amazing food delivered any time or place, the extreme courtesy of a good crew and the ultimate comfort of life on such a yacht that they run off and buy one.

Now he is not a guest, he is an owner. There are hundreds of these on the planet, gods in their world. The decision about utilization of the yacht as well as the culture aboard comes directly from him. Is this yacht for his private pleasure alone? Is this yacht a perk that he uses for business associates and employees? Is this yacht a business investment targeted towards the charter industry? At the end of the day the yachts being built are some combination of the three. Of course none of this is possible without excellent crew.

It can take a while to form a group of four to twelve people who work and live in harmony for long periods of time within the confines of a yacht. It doesn’t always happen the first time out. Crewmen join a boat for some period of time to test those waters. If the first boat isn’t a good fit, they network in pubs and on docks until they find people that they like working with, and a boat that they like that is owned by a kind and beneficent owner in a location they enjoy exploring. Once they have found this situation, they are hooked. Making good money with no living expenses while working among friends on a beautiful boat in beautiful places is a pretty sweet life and well worth the search. As the charter industry grows, more boats are being built and the need for good crew grows annually.

I know of one captain who became an honorary member of the owner’s family, and has the ability to develop really good crews. They were all having such a good time together that they decided to go for a bigger boat and longer trips. With this in mind they bought a 105’ tired old thing and brought to it beauty it had never before known under the banner of a refit. To help with expenses the now luxurious expedition trawler m/y yacht Askari went to Nicholson’s Yacht Charter Show in Antigua. The crew did such a good job with the refit and the show that the owner has not been getting much use from his boat. Askari was chartered for a nine month Caribbean to New Zealand cruise by a family that wanted to live aboard and explore the world. So that can happen too!

The world of the charter yachts is a relatively new industry and growing fast. With more boats, crews and participants exploring islands while living aboard it is no longer only available to the ultra rich. It is premature to say that under most conditions it is a good investment to buy a yacht and expect it to be a revenue stream for you unless you are the owner/captain and living aboard. People are leaving the land to become charter captains though, and the life is very nice for them too. That this is out there. You could be an owner, a guest, you could be crew, or you could be an owner/captain. These are all means of seeing the world from the water, and as a serious devotee I highly recommend spending some time at it!

Sandy Arrives and Vermont gets Lucky

At 6 AM I woke to the sound of a roaring incoming train. Wind. My small dog jumped onto the bed and tunneled under the covers like a nervous child. Suddenly rain hit my house like a fire hose and the 120′ tall pine seen through the sky light in my bedroom leaned at an alarming angle. My neighbor turned on an outside light reflecting through the dark on my bedroom wall. Ok, power still on. It was like being inside a Cuisinart for 20 minutes, then unnervingly still as if someone had thrown the “off” switch. Brightness began in the east.

Since that time about every 75-90 minutes we get hammered with rain and gusts of wind. As long as the river has a bit of time to drain between these bouts it will probably stay where it is. By mid morning it seems as if we have dodged a bullet here in the Mad River Valley. Statewide we are told that all the roads are open. While I am sure there is damage in small parts that we have not heard about yet, over all we have lucked out.

In my small part of the world all seems well for the moment. As is typical for those of us who understand the horror of  the effects of a flood a notice went out from our still active Mad-River-Valley-Hurricane-Irene facebook page posted this:

As the New York Region begins to clean up, they are collecting information from willing volunteers. This is the message from NYC Service on how to help: “There will be various ways to volunteer to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – Want to Volunteer? Please email nycservice@cityhall.nyc.gov with your name, email address and borough. There will be ways to volunteer today and over the next week as opportunities arise.

Will post again when I venture out. Praying for safety for those on lower ground.