Discovered: The idyllic St Lucia hideaway of Amy Winehouse
If you want some peace and quiet, sun, sand and some luxury, I can recommend a week on the island of St Lucia.
I have just returned from a stay there ( No I did not disappear, Dan Hodges, into a nineteenth century opium den,(see http://bit.ly/XM83jx). But digesting the horrors of Leveson and midway through a long disturbing investigation into a historic paedophile scandal requires a break.
The hotel chosen by my wife, Margaret, from a Sovereign holiday brochure, proved to be a great find – remarkable oasis of calm and privacy – and yet extraordinary spacious and comfortable – and by no means the most expensive venue there.
While many hotels are crammed into massive noisy resorts – this one was tucked away alongside a wild and semi deserted public beach where horses cantered along the shore with the local youth demonstrating their bareback riding skills on Sundays.
The Cotton Bay hotel (http://www.cottonbayvillage.com) consists entirely of villas and apartments, two restaurants, one attached to a bar on the beach and the other, Piano,Piano, an up market one with a resident pianist; a superb pool, good facilities for kids, a spa, and for the very energetic (unlike me) kite surfing. Built next to a mangrove swamp, part of this had been preserved with the result that the night resounded to myriad frogs calling their mates.
But its charm was that this piece of unashamed 21st century luxury was alongside the rest of the Cas en Bas beach – a very public place where families drove the odd car down for a beach party, dogs were welcome to roam (unlike England) following you on hikes and anyone could bathe in the warm Atlantic ocean.
What caught me off guard was when a local driver taking tourists on a trip to see the remnants of St Lucia’s rainforest (the colonial Brits chopped down rather a lot of it) and I mentioned Cotton Bay and he said ” You’re staying with the celebs then”.
As I knew neither Dan Hodges, Rupert Murdoch or even Barnet’s local celeb Mrs Angry had been staying there, I wondered who.
It turned out that Amy Winehouse had rented a rather large villa there for six months ( being a journo I checked this out with the hotel manager) and had also committed a remarkable feat of generosity by giving £4000 to a local coconut seller so he could have a hernia operation. See the tale in The Mirror (http://bit.ly/Y7gXUF ) and it appears to be true and happened on the beach! The good news -from another taxi driver – is that the Chinese are building a new public hospital at Castres, the capital.
The hotel had many plus points. we were on half board and could dine at either restaurant and if we had three meals, they only charged us for the cheapest one. We had one complimentary spa treatment between us and they did not charge us for the most expensive treatment.
The ground floor apartment was more than spacious with its own kitchen, sitting room and two bathrooms ( we appear to have been upgraded!)
Bad points – if you were going self catering, the shop had only limited supplies, though they did run a complimentary bus service three times a week to a local shopping mall. Also it was a long way from the main road where there are cheap bus services and it would have been far too hot to walk there. Taxis, car hire and tourist trips are expensive though the rain forest trip on an aerial tram was breathtaking.
Probably the most bizarre story there was that at one stage the forest was occupied by Zimbabwean refugee Rastafarians, who started chopping down parts of it for firewood and introduced a new species, cannabis sativa, into the forest. Our tour guide, a trained lawyer, said they had been moved and some Norfolk pines had been imported from Cuba to fill the gaps. Anything can happen in the Caribbean.