The phrase ‘home away from home’ is as passé as ‘redefining luxury’ (the latest to say this is Guenter Richter, the seasoned hotelier being parachuted in to run – though for how long – the glorious Setai on Miami Beach).
Anyway, forget home away from home. The gal’s gorgeous home, the bolthole that keeps her sane, is as different from room 500, Villa Bougainvillea, at Le Touessrok, Mauritius, as chalk from cheese. Yes, her home has water, in the form of rain. But this villa, oh wow.
This is the home one would not mind having. Even the half-mile curving drive down from the main road, going through sculpted gardens a-colour of bright flowers and flowering date palm (and there are a couple of hundred-year tortoises) is impressive.
A couple of years ago Ciel Group, who bought out co-owners and now have 100 percent of Le Touessrok, put on three 4.400 sq ft private villas to the far north of their property.
You take an eight-minute buggy ride around the ‘work’ areas of the resort, go through yet another security gate – manned, like the main security gate, by a cheerful woman in a khaki army-type suit – and swing round into a turning circle that would do justice to an embassy. Parked in front are six bikes.
Yippee, a choice of four for an adult biker, and bikettes for little ones. A retinue of fit-looking males in chinos and pristine polo shirts await. You are handed a drink that is probably kiwi downstairs, orange upstairs.
You go into the salon and look through and all-glass wall beyond. You see your private deck, 12 feet deep and about 30 feet across, with Dedon furniture. You look over your own infinity pool, about 25 feet long. It is cantilevered, as it were, over a sandy beach, with water beyond.
There is not a human in sight, unless what appears to be a statue standing thigh deep in the sea fishing is in fact real. This is all so calming that the pressure of getting to Heathrow, the subsequent nearly-12-hour flights (slept like a log, thanks for asking) and all that floats away. No wonder 23 percent of those staying here are repeats, and average length of stay is nine nights.
Villa Bougainvillea has three bedrooms, two of which could be called master. Both are about 15 by 15 feet, with the cream tessellated tiled floors that go throughout the place, as do the cream walls with Palissandre, from Madagascar, wood doors, pull-across shutters and cornices.
Bedroom ceilings are flat (the salon’s is open-cathedral, with two giant poppy-like paper chandeliers having over the six-seat dining table). Beds are made up with colourful throws: one bed has fibre optic lights complementing bedside lights. Both have substantial walk-in closets – obviously the Nine Nighters bring nine cases of togs.
Both have bathrooms looking out to the deck, and into very-private walled garden areas. Tubs are freestanding, and if you have anything to wash, like a baby or your underwear, you will probably do it there, bending over, as the pair of ‘basins’ are mere design artefacts, rectangular flat surfaces with a tiny moat around to catch the water that pops out of an ‘eye’ in the mirror above, to plop down in the centre of said flat surface. (The third bedroom, definitely the Cinderella, has two beds but no sea view.)
This Leading Hotel of the World finds many of its 171 rooms are taken by Leaders Club members from Italy – but there is no Italian restaurant. Never mind. They, like everyone else, love having two private islands to visit by hotel boat.
On Ile aux Cerfs they might lunch off simple seafood at Paul & Virginie but they might well have headed there for the 18-hole Bernhard Langer golf, with a Langer’s Bar & Grill.. On Ilot Mangenie they find Crusoe Restaurant, run by Friday.
If they are not golfing, or islanding, they could simply lie by one of the resort’s main pools, or snorkel or swim, or play tennis, or go into town, or bicycle, say to nearby Trou d’Eau Douce village, to see the church, vintage 1990 with stunning cobalt blue stained glass, or that mighty hang-out, the Taj snack bar.
Since biggest arrival day is Friday, every Saturday morning there is a market in the main lobby, with stalls ‘selling’ all the many activities.
Back in Villa Bougainvillea, you can add to the above activities chess (a set is provided) or reading (the selection ranges from John Grisham through to a gold-edged Homer’s Iliad). Alternatively, of course, you can play with the HP laptop or iPad provided, or delight in the excellent, and free, WiFi.
Personally, I head for the gym (Cybex, Precor, and a Power Plate, and a view to one of the main pools), and take an adult’s bike for a spell into town. For dinner, we have opted for Indian at the open-sided rondavel that is Safran, run by chef Ramesh Bundi from Bangalore. Once again I wonder how cuisines can look so different.
Japanese is so precise, and so utterly beautiful to look at. Much of Indian, sorry, looks a mess. As my grandmother said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but when will an Indian chef make a curry look as eye-appealing as, say, sashimi, sushi or tempura?
That said, the meal was a delight, and since it was half dark the visual effect was minimal compared to the taste, and the conversation. There is a six-course tasting menu, paired with wines from Chile, Italy and South Africa, but having perused the menu (which has a tiny light clipped to it, so thoughtful), I chose à la carte.
The table was already set with divine orange and clear-glass plates, and condiments of sweet mango, yoghurt and rose water, yellow curry leaf, chick pea. We were brought amuse, tiny shot glasses of goats’ milk blended with rose water, and rolled roasted-cumin popadum on the side.
My starter was divine, one finger of black-roasted, one finger of white-covered tandoori salmon. I went on to a vegetable curry, Palak Paneer, stir-fried Indian cottage cheese poached in baby spinach puree with mint and saffron pulao.
I have a side order of Cucumber, onion and tomato salad with tamarind dressing and chat masala, and a side of Vegetable biryani. We are also brought a Naan basket, which turns out to be a plate bearing three hot naan breads, flavoured with cheese and onion, peshawan, garlic and coriander.
A buggy is waiting, and back home the Philips has thoughtfully been turned on to BBC for yet another depressing news bulletin. As the sun comes up I spy through the wood shutters two of the villa’s ‘boys’ (who both look like successful IT tycoons) tidying up my already-tidy deck.
Once they have left, I head out for a swim, and then cycle over to breakfast for its seven o’clock start – but, guess what, some Germans are already there. You know where people are from because of the daily bulletins they are reading – English is yellow.
The serve-yourself juices, identifiable by slices of fruit in front, are magnificent, as are the selections of home-made yoghurts. One of the already-there guys piles a plate high with crisp strips of streaky bacon, another heaps his with a balancing act of white bread rolls.
The choice of already-sliced for the quick-action roll-through toaster includes banana and near-pumpernickel breads, and there are stylish steel toast racks. Karen, who keeps on filling my coffee, has a winning smile. Yes, nine days here could well turn any young lady into a Nine Nighter (there would even be time, then, to try the Givenchy Spa). This would then be a home, away.