Hummingbirds and High Tea
Much like a prestigious postcode dropped artfully into dinner-party conversation, your hotel choice when staying in Barbados says a lot about you. And the most impressive is Sandy Lane.
Is there a hotel more rumour-shrouded? A clientele more photographed? A beach more opulent? (At one point, I had Scottish entrepreneur and ‘Dragon’ Duncan Bannatyne being papped on my left, while on my right an elderly couple chatted with their bodyguard about their daughter’s latest stint in rehab). It is surreal. It is scandalously wealthy. But it is also beautiful. Cruising into the grounds (and you can, for brunch, or a spa treatment, or whatever – even if you’re not staying there) is like entering a grand studio lot where they are about to film Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery – all neatly pressed staff, hushed marble corridors, hummingbirds at play and a level of service that is effortlessly ‘50s rather than in-your face new money.
Sandy Lane deserves its own list of extraordinary one-offs. There is a free unpacking service. (Yes, really.) On arrival, guests are asked if they want that evening’s dinner outfit pressed. (No word of a lie.) You summon your beach waiter by placing your own personal SL flag in the sand. (I kid you not.)View at the Sandy Lane Luxury Resort
And when you walk over a mopped floor, the sign doesn’t read ‘Watch your step’, but ‘Please excuse us in our pursuit of excellence’. Before I had even unpacked, there came a gentle knock at the door: “Madam, our monitoring software indicates your television is not working correctly,” apologised the technician, before swiftly fixing it. I hadn’t even turned the thing on yet.
Cobblers Cove hotel is another Barbados-only wonder: a collection of traditional wooden cottages around the gloriously pink Great House (the ‘40s former beach retreat of a sugar-cane planter). Yes, you can swim with an endangered wild sea turtle just seconds from its terrace, but you can also order oysters and caviar on the same terrace each Friday night (this is the hotel’s respectful nod to Barbados’s ‘fish fry’ tradition). It’s this combination of the untamed and the refined that will seduce you, just as it seduces so many other faithful island fans.Cobblers Cove hotel – Barbados
There is nothing quite like a glass of punch at Cobblers, clinking glasses with your neighbour as abandoned laughter skips through the darkening sky – even better if there’s the thrilling threat of a thunderstorm and you can catch that last evening swim before electric jolts scribble on the horizon. And all this before you don your pearls and sit down to pick at a posh dinner.
Of course, there are so many more ‘only in Barbados’ stories I could share (my favourite is that when pilots used to fly Concorde to Barbados – a fact silly enough in itself – they’d tip the wing as they flew over Sandy Lane because virtually every passenger was a guest), but you’ll have more fun collecting your own. So pick a lounger, order a punch, position your shades just right, and prepare yourself for some of the greatest people watching on Earth.
And when you get home? You won’t be going to Kodak to print out your holiday snaps, but to buy a copy of Hello! – where the whole fabulous whirlwind you’ve just experienced will be laid out in glorious high gloss. Now that’s a souvenir.