Mark Liponis MD is Corporate Medical Director at Canyon Ranch. In his book Ultra-Longevity: The Seven-Step Program for a Younger, Healthier You, preaches Breathe, Eat, Sleep, Dance, Love, Soothe, Enhance. The gal felt it was time at least to experience Enhance, which meant a quick trip to the Caribbean.
Now for some, clad only in shorts and T-shirts and carrying tiny holdalls of essentials, nipping around from an island airport to a ferry dock is all lots of fun. For the global traveller, carrying business gear and laptop and so on, it is not quite such a dance (OK, that is the Dance, above, covered).
St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International airport is the hub for the Windward and some Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Saba, St Barth’s and St Eustatius). It has an extremely impressive five-year old terminal, with four air bridges and enough space inside for 40 ‘outlets’ (shops, on departure).
My jam-packed plane arrived on time, there was no wait at immigration. Outside a jolly woman holding a Cap Juluca board put me in a van (taxi), for a three-minute shuttle (free) to the dock. I paid for my boat fare ($55) and waited in the boiling sun. The 20-minute crossing turned into 45 as we had to go and get gas.
I was put into a taxi ($22) for the 15-minute ride to Cap Juluca. I think back to our visit to W Vieques, off Puerto Rico, where we paid something like $150 for the ten-minute air-shuttle from San Juan International Airport, but at least the ongoing hotel shuttle was free. The Caribbean is not cheap, at least in monetary terms.
No wonder most get here and stay put. What does one do all day long, I asked. Lie on the beach. The luxury resort’s 179 acres wind around the curve of Maundays Bay. The sea is turquoise, the sand is white. The 96 rooms are clustered in 18 all-white Moroccan-type villas, mostly two-floors high and each one unique. 12-4 is an upstairs room (up 17 rough terracotta-tile steps) from the rear.
Into the room, about 600 sq ft, you see big white shiny tiles on the floor, white plasterwork everywhere else. The ‘desk’ is a white-tiled built-in ledge. The bed is decked in a white mosquito net. Doors have no outside locks but you can admittedly bolt yourself inside, once you are inside, and there are room safes.
Modernity is also found in the big Sony LCD screen, Bose, WiFi, a big fridge, and the bathroom. This last is indoors, with Molton Brown toiletries, a deep, double-person bathtub and an indoor shower, but it leads to outdoors, with another shower.
One high point of this Leading Hotel is its gardens. They are stunning. Somehow has sculpted concentric grass rings around a small mound. Nearby a footbridge of parallel bamboo trunks straddles a small ornamental pond. There are bright-bright bougainvillea, and not a fleck of litter in sight.
I meander around a well-marked garden walk trail. Rather like Soneva Fushi, in the Maldives, the sand path winds between natural undergrowth that is half tunnel. The trees are labelled, including a Clausia Rosea, commonly known as an autograph tree, and looking at the photo on the right you can see why.
When time is not rushed, many things do seem to rush – ideas, through the head. I think back to Soneva Fushi, and its owner Sonu Shivdasani hosting the first-ever Six Senses spa conclave there, with lunch in the kitchen garden. I think back only to last month, to Japan, where everything is so meticulous and perfect (Japanese coming to the Caribbean are in for a culture shock). I had such exact and perfect food in Japan, with every sashimi, sushi and tempura dish an artistic perfection, and every caprese more beautiful than the last.
But why does one come to be sauna-ed in the Caribbean? The sunsets, the answer is clear, particularly if the luxury resort one is staying in has a chilled sundowner ready at the precise moment. And for booklovers, lovers of REAL books, hardbacks with covers, this place is a dream.
It has not one but two libraries, stuffed full – including the aforementioned longevity tome. It also has a story to tell, of past ownership and, since May 2nd 2012, renewed ownership…. read on, tomorrow.