Monday, January 17, 2011

A window into the past with a West Indian twist

If you’ve ever visited one of the English-speaking Caribbean islands, jumped into a car and driven off on the left-hand side of the road, have you ever wondered why?
Maybe you’ve been too busy trying to avoid a darting mongoose or dodging the potholes to give it much thought…But this is just one of the many present-day reminders of the islands’ past that has helped to shape these countries today.

The English may have left traces of their time on these islands, but the Caribbean people have given them an unmistakeable West Indian identity. Take the traditional stone-built churches that could have been plucked from any English village, surrounded by tropical palm trees, and hosting the sort of rousing Sunday church services not often found in the UK.

Beautiful Georgian architecture and imposing plantation houses may have taken their inspiration from English designs, but creeping bougainvillea and hibiscus brighten up the stonework and lend an unmistakeably tropical touch. This continues inside such building where beautiful locally-made furniture, of Jamaican mahogany for instance, adds a special flair.

Of course, while English is the official language of these islands, many locals speak “patois”, their own language combining a mix of English, sometimes French, African and their own unique words, that make it impossible for outsiders to understand. Strike up a conversation with locals, and you’ll probably find they have relatives who live in England. They might even challenge you to an impromptu game of cricket and will enthusiastically discuss the latest form of West Indies and English players.

There are even familiar-sounding places such as Brighton or Worthing in Barbados, Falmouth in Antigua and Portsmouth in Dominica, but all have their own distinctive West Indian ambience. In the British Virgin Islands, which are among a handful of spots that are still British Overseas Territories, there’s even a traditional red phone box in one of the bays, which has been ingeniously converted into a shower!

In some ways, aspects of the English Caribbean lifestyle are reminiscent of Britain 20 or 30 years ago, particularly among the older generation who place more importance on formal manners and modest dress. Children are turned out immaculately in their uniforms for school and families turn out en masse in their Sunday best for their weekly visit to church. For visitors from modern-day Britain, it is a refreshing reminder of times past – yet with its own distinct flavour that tells you exactly where you are.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Families at Cotton Bay Village in St Lucia

Jane Anderson met with their Director of Marketing, Michael Bryant, at World Travel Market’s what she found out...

Cotton Bay Village likes to promote itself as ‘life in full colour’. Take your family here for a week and you’ll certainly feel the rosy hue of a luxury hotel that really understands what families need for a successful holiday.

For starters, this small property in the north of St Lucia has a great range of two, three and four-bedroom villas with designer kitchens, en suite bedrooms throughout with flat screen TV’s, private pools and gardens, all perfect for families or even two families holidaying together, which works out very economically. Villas come in an eclectic range of styles from colonial to South Beach and can be booked self-catering, á la carte or half-board. There’s great attention to detail as re-visiting families find a photograph of themselves in a frame in the entrance hall.

But it’s not just about accommodation. Cotton Bay Village has taken the trouble to devise father and son programmes such as playing cricket with the locals, deep-sea fishing or diving, whilst mothers and daughters can head to Heaven spa for some quality girl time. All programmes are tailormade to family requirements.

For active families there are two good stables next door to the hotel and it’s possible to ride along the sand and take the horses into the sea. Quite a magical experience - especially for children! Families with older kids might like to try kite surfing on the beach. Three-hour tuition sessions cost US$300 to get you started. There’s also an 18-hole championship golf course right behind the hotel. Whale and dolphin watching or zip line adventures can also be arranged.

The Hummingbird Kids Club offers mums and dads a little freedom. The Hummingbird Crèche takes babies as young as six months, up to the age of three years. Staffed by Montessori trained nannies, parents can rest assured their little ones are in good hands. The crèche is free of charge for up to two hours daily. Parents are also entitled to one free night’s babysitting during their stay. If they want extra one-on-one assistance, a nanny can be hired for US$20/hour.

The Hummingbird Club caters for children from four to eight years and is open daily for a varied activities programme with kite flying outings and picnics a speciality. Joanna, one of the Hummingbird carers takes youngsters on beach-combing expeditions where kids return laden with beautiful shells and driftwood to transform into collages and the like. There’s also a cinema room with beanbags for times when kids need a rest out of the sun, along with computers, a Wii and a ‘dirty room’ for painting.

A great innovation is ‘Bring the Baby not the Baggage’ which allows parents to pre-order practically anything they need for their baby such as Johnson’s baby products, cots, highchairs, Pampers nappies and waterwings. Mums no longer need sacrifice that extra pair of shoes for baby’s paraphernalia and this also helps massively with current luggage restrictions imposed by airlines.

Carseats and babyseats are all ready and waiting when the hotel car picks families up from Hewanorra Airport and DVD players with videos of your choice entertain little ones on the one and a half hour drive north.

When it comes to fussy eaters, the Beach Club 1461 caters for most tastes. Think oversized armchairs on the sand and lots of kiddie favourites on menu such as fresh pasta and gourmet fish fingers. Children Under-12 eat free from the 1461 children’s menu every day and under fives are not charged an all-inclusive supplement when a family elects to go all-inclusive.

Bruschetta is a lovely deli open daily, which sells fresh produce from bread and fruits to coffee and wine. Sandwiches and pastries are made fresh on the premises and can be home delivered. There’s also a local supermarket close by, but if you don’t feel like lifting a finger, you can pre-order with concierge.

Butler service is offered, but you can have as much or as little done for you as you like from unpacking your luggage to private dining – a real treat for parents. Life in Technicolor I’d say!

For more general information about the hotel please see Definitive Caribbean’s Review of Cotton Bay Village.
Bookmark and Share
Related Posts with Thumbnails