The Caribbeanâ€™s Best Boutique Hotel â€“ Villa Nova on Barbados
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It's a noisy and distressful world, pressing on the senses in all directions. You travel for a changeable environment â€” peace, relaxation, calm â€” and the avoidance of annoyance. I think that is the proper description of luxury stated by Wilde.
Villa Nova is a classic hotel outpost of considerable desideratum that is ensconced in the sugar hills of Barbados, recently capturing these awards: "Hottest Hotel in the World", from Conde Nast Traveler Magazine; Tattlers' "Prestige Hotel of the Year"; and in 2003, "Boutique Hotel of the Year" from the World Travel Awards.
But the award I would give Villa Nova is "Best Hotel For Solitude". After spending four days in the retreat, I never heard one airplane overhead or a single motorcycle backfire; no cars rushing by, or senseless boom boxes or any other annoyance. The only fidelity was the JVC CD-player in my room, stocked with classic standards. What I did listen to was the softness of the morning rain on the bocage of palms â€” Fishtail Palms, Lady Palms, MacArthur Palms, Chinese Fan Palms, and Prickle Palms. While peering out the Caribbean-style shuttered windows I heard a hummingbird's wings buzzing a flower. My biggest offense was leaving the property at all. The counterpoise to all this silence is peaceful sleeping. With the ozonated negative ion air and the comfy plushy pillowy mattresses, I never slept better anywhere I have ever traveled. If you have any type of sleep disorder the Villa Nova will put your nocturnal abberations back into proper sync with the absence of any mental power of your own.
The entrance to Villa Nova is a drive bordered with cascading ferns and thickly shaded by mature mahogany trees. Near the entrance to the house (it is billed as a Hill Country Manor) are three cabbage palms towering over the premises. Just arriving is a prerequisite to halcyon.
Shrubs and flowering trees of the greatest variety and fragrance give beauty to Villa Nova the year around. The resort boasts Barbados' largest Queen of Flower Tree (Lagerstroemia Speciosa); the flamboyant or flame trees (Delonix Regia) and the yellow pouri (Tabebuia Serratifolia) and the frangipani (plumeria) add a coat of many colors. African tulip trees (Spathodea Campanulata) and ylang-ylang trees (canaga odorata), whose blossoms are used as a base to many perfumes, add the aromatics. The enormous bearded fig tree (Picus Citrifolia) by the swimming pool terrace is the national tree of Barbados and it has pride-of-place on the nation's Coat of Arms, as well as on the Royal Standard of Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados.
The fig and tall stately mahoganies and Spanish Ash (Lonchocarpus Benthanriamus)
Just below the al fresco dining terrace rests the beautiful blue tiled pool that is paved all around with a cool-to-the-foot coral stone courtyard. I was in the middle of the pool that is as dark (at certain angles) as any hidden local shady swimming hole, gazing at the foliage splendor, when The Birdman seemed to appear right out of the bush. The Birdman is Villa Nova's resident gardener, but he should have his own CD pressed for the bird whistles and trills he mockingbird mimics. "All the birds know me; they build nests in the gazebo where I go." He kept me entertained with the bird calls of the Pee Witter, Cane Sparrow, Yellow Bust, Morning Doves, and Wild Pigeons, and I bet he could imitate the buzz of a hummingbird!
"I am determined to travel through life first class."
â€” Sir Noel Coward
The international jet set has discovered Villa Nova. Mick Jagger once flew over from his private home on Mustique. Liv Ulman graced the terrace with her grace. Boyance has made a dramatic and flamboyant entrance. Even Tony Blair, Prime Minister of England, stayed here. In fact Villa Nova once was owned by Sir Anthony Eden, former Prime Minister of England. He retired here, but Winston Churchill sought him out and even the Queen of England slept here, staying no doubt for the solitude. Noel Coward must have penned his motto while poolside.
The true luxuries of Villa Nova are the gardens wrapped around the coral stone cliff rural landscape. Eden found his "Eden" while gardening and raising mango and papaya trees and vegetables and herbs. Villa Nova is an oasis set on a hillside that provides for complete privacy 900 feet above sea level, with temperatures five degrees lower than on the Platinum Coast to the west. Trade winds blow thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean and up over the uplands keeping the nights even cooler. Warm duvets on the bed keep you warm throughout the night.
An open verandah runs around three sides of the main reception rooms to the north, east, and south of Villa Nova, keeping these rooms delightfully cool and shaded. The east and south verandahs look out onto lush lawns with flowerbeds, the fine old mahogany trees, and some of the tallest cabbage palms (roystonea oleracea) on the island. To the southeast from the gazebo distance sugarcane fields testify to the area's continuing agricultural wealth, a panoramic view across seven miles of rolling green Uplands country to the Atlantic. In the foreground is the pool copse and beyond is Moncrieffe Plantation.
Villa Nova presents a very interesting southern faÃ§ade broken by a curved wall (apse) with a portico supported by fluted columns, projecting beyond the verandah, and a wing to the west. The ceiling of the portico and verandah is vaulted; a door with a pleasing fanlight leads to the dining room.
The music room is a long room of 31 feet with the apse bearing to the south. The piano was once owned by Rupert Murdoch of worldwide media fame. In the Private Dining Room the 1890 mahogany dining table is from the Queen's Park House, headquarters of the British Regiment that was once stationed in Barbados. This table bears the "scars" of the officers' spurs as they literally put their feet up on the table to relax with their glass of port. The table is of local mahogany and creates a fine balance to the room.
Doors are a feature of the reception rooms at Villa Nova. In the tropics you want plenty of doors to welcome the breezes. The drawing room has ten doorways; three to the north, two to the east, three to the south, and two to the west. The doorways of the reception room are fitted with inner doors of fine lattice work, and they can be closed on gusty days to exclude the wind. This interesting type of inner door is not frequently seen on the island. Although this makes for a very airy and cool room, it presents a difficulty in the furnishings of such a room, but British innkeeper Lynn Pemberton has a touch and flash of interior design that she must have ripped from the pages of the London Sunday Times lifestyle section. Throughout the cozy sitting areas in the Drawing Room there are several interesting pieces of furniture, including Chinese Chippendale chairs â€” copies that were made locally on the island by Fitz Walcott. For evening entertainment backgammon and chess boards are found about the room.
Butler trays once belonging to Sir Anthony Eden are still used in the bar that once was the "Morning Room" or breakfast room because it faces the eastern sun; the old wine cooler is in the Nova Room. Terry O'Neill black-and-white portraits of Dean Martin, John Lennon, Marlene Deitrich, and Liz Taylor cozying up with David Bowie grace the bar walls, the center stone for nighttime aperitifs. My favorite photo is a shot of Lee Marvin wearing an Indiana Jones fedora (with a shot glass and whiskey bottle placed strategically in front of him) sitting at some bar somewhere, not unlike this one â€” you could tell Lee was out on a hell-raising night.
The Berbice or planters' chairs have been in the house for many years and they offer great relaxation just off the reception area, with wings on the armrests that fold out â€” you can place your feet up just like the Royal Regimental officers!.
To the west of the drawing room there is a mahogany staircase leading to the original bedrooms on the second floor. A few bedrooms are still rented out in the original part of the home; Eden's bedroom has been converted to a library and guest computer room. The hotel's entrance hall is paved with blue and white marble tiles, a traditional soothing welcome to visitors in the tropics.
The historic Villa Nova has 15 acres of walled tropical gardens for total resort privacy, but it is also an ideal venue for business retreats, conferences, receptions, and private dinner parties. For meetings the Villa Nova offers private dining or the use of the music room or the exclusive Salon PrivÃ© or Nova Room for smaller groups. For all-day conferences audio/video equipment is on hand as well as computers and secretarial services. The al fresco Gazebo overlooking the cane plantations seats up to 50 for a buffet lunch or dinner or hosts 75 for cocktails and canapÃ©s.
One night the only Bajan bird warbling was the delightful tunes by local singing sensation Rose Mary Phillips, adding her clear vocal jazz impressions to an island tourism networking dinner party.
"Give us the luxuries of life and we will disperse
with its necessities." â€” J.L. Motley
You arrived for privacy and peace and calm and luxuries and Villa Nova delivers . . . with a personalized greeting card in your room.
There are only 28 Nina Campbell designed suites throughout the property, mostly in the newer addition grafted north of the hotel's apse. Each suite has a garden terrace, en suite shower, and separate claw-foot tub that you don't see too often, with the hottest water imaginable. Barbados is renowned for its clean water and air. A bidet is an added touch of luxury. The air-conditioned rooms were a little too cool for me and with a little adjustment the natural atmosphere was imbued.
The suites have built-in voltage adapters for all your electronic necessities. I found the VN slippers each morning on exiting the bed. The thickest towels in the world are here. There is a bumpershoot in the huge hall closet and at the hotel exit. A NewspapersDirect daily print-out of the London Times is in the Drawing Room, which I snuck to the pool each afternoon.
Patterned gray dyed sisal rugs cover the Guyana hardwood floors, giving my suite a tropical feel; spider monkeys are brocaded on the day settee in front of the Sony Trinitron TV. For an on-demand sampling of DVDs, just call the front desk and they hook up the movie. A turndown service magically appears in the evening â€” they know when you are not in the room â€” they don't want to annoy you.
The VN's Zen-like staff arranges golf outings on championship courses, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, horseback riding, sailing or other water sports, or even horseracing, polo, or cricket matches; for in-house sports play tennis on the resort's two floodlit courts or workout in the air-conditioned fitness room. I preferred the 23x8 meter freshwater swimming pool and the trills of the Birdman's birds.
In 1831, Barbados experienced one of the worst hurricanes in its history, which destroyed many buildings and totally ruined the island's sugar crops. By all historical accounts, this hurricane also destroyed the Great House where Edmund Haynes lived and from where he managed his three sugar estates: Haynesfield (Wakefield), Belle Mount (Belmont), and Claybury, totaling over one thousand acres.
On July 10, 1834, the new house, or Villa Nova, was blessed by John Gottlich Zippel, Minister of Mount Tabor Moravian Church, and this event is recorded in the church journals now in the Government Archives; Mount Tabor Church is situated half a mile east of Villa Nova, built circa 1825 on land given to the Moravian Mission by Edmund Haynes.
Villa Nova was separated from these sugar lands in 1907 and sold to the Barbados Government. For the house and six and one-half acres of wooded gardens, the government paid 800 pounds or US$1,900.
You can live at Villa Nova year around in
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Kriss Hammond , Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent â€“ Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
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About the Author
Kriss Hammond, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com Leave Your email next to the logo for FREE e travel newsletter.