A Tale of Two Resorts: One vacation, two experiences

A Tale of Two Resorts: One vacation, two experiences

There’s an old saying (very old―it dates from the sixteenth century) that we’re sure you’ve heard before: It’s an ill wind that blows no good, or as it was originally written: “An yll wynde, that blowth no man to good…” In some ways, we could say that about the last two years of seriously restricted travel because returning to travel has been a little like conjuring the excitement of doing something for the first time. Now that we’ve returned home from our winter sojourn in the Caribbean, we can tell you that we’ve been making up for lost time. As we told you in our last post, we had a three-part vacation. Let’s talk about the first two parts.

When the dust had settled on our cancelled Caribbean cruise and we put together our vacation, we decided we wanted to return to the islands, with the emphasis on the plural―islands. One would not be enough. Since both Caribbean stops were similar in that they were both low-rise, beachfront, adults-only properties, which included everything, it only seemed natural that we’d make comparisons. And we made lots. Let’s start this trip in Barbados.

We arrived at The House on the west coast of Barbados in mid-afternoon and were greeted by one of their onsite “ambassadors.” [For a few more details, we did introduce The House in our last post.] A thirty-four all-suite property, The House takes its name literally. We were led into the living room that opens to both the entrance and the beachfront to the rear. There is no reception desk, no concierge desk―only a living room furnished with comfortable couches and “ambassadors” who will attend to your wishes (when you can find one).

Our suite was exactly like the one we had when we were last here nine years ago, except we were on the ground floor this time. This location turned out to be excellent in that we could step out onto our lanai, then into the pool and onto the beach beyond. The suite is so pretty but the bathroom―let’s just say it was past its best-before date by some years.

The property is now all-inclusive, an amenity it didn’t offer nine years ago. Is this a good thing? Well, the food is not for foodies, but we enjoyed it. Last time around, we took advantage of the wonderful restaurants dotting the west coast of Barbados. We stayed on the property this time, eating all our meals in the living room/dining room and at Positano, the Italian restaurant attached to the property. This was actually a good thing, though, because the COVID restrictions are (were in February 2022) in full force. There were interesting (if limited) buffets on some evenings, à la carte offerings on others. The lunches were the best of all.

The property is quiet, populated with mostly older guests hailing from Britain. There may have been a few Americans―we didn’t hear any. And there was a smattering of Canadians. There are only thirty-four suites, though, so there weren’t many people at all.

If we are being honest (and making a comparison), the beach and pool deck services were a bit spotty. It depended on which staff member happened to be working that day. Some were wonderful―others not so much.

So, what do you do at a property like this one? It’s quiet, and that’s what we wanted, frankly. But we also walked a few kilometres north and visited the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre― a fancy-sounding name for a small mall with a few upscale retailers such as Cartier and Longchamp. Then there was a short run into Bridgetown.

Sadly, the capital does not appear to have weathered the tourist dearth over the past two years very well. We saw many shuttered shops and very few tourists at all. And everyone on the street was wearing a mask. So, it was a short stop, and we were back in a taxi and back to The House to enjoy the sound of the surf, a bit of relaxation and a really good glass of Mount Gay XO rum on the rocks. The House provided us with a QR code to book a COVID test that we’d need for our onward travel. A charming young doctor arrived at our suite on the last Saturday morning, completed our test and paperwork and then it was off to St. Lucia.

Getting to St. Lucia is a subject for a whole other day. Can you say privately chartered aircraft? Well, yes, we can (but that is for another post!). When we arrived in St. Lucia, we navigated the health requirements, which resulted in donning white bracelets reminiscent of hospital identity bracelets.

The bracelet

They signified to everyone that we were adequately vaccinated and negatively tested, and we had to wear them until we left the country. We hopped in the waiting transportation and headed off to The BodyHoliday for the next week.

We arrived at The BodyHoliday long before standard check-in time, so we had to stow our belongings in well-appointed lockers. Then we headed off to the beach and lunch. When the time came for us to get into our suite, it wasn’t ready. We waited and waited. At first, patiently, then after an hour and a half, not so patiently. Finally, a concierge staff member told us the truth―the reason we couldn’t access our room was that the previous guest (who was supposed to check out at noon) still hadn’t left at four p.m. It’s hard to believe that anyone could be that obnoxious, but there are those around. To make up for our wait, the executive housekeeper asked us if there was anything we wanted. Usually, in those situations, the answer is not really, but we did have something in mind this time. We asked for a bottle of a very high-end St. Lucian rum we’d wanted to sample. A bottle of the not so high-end version arrived that same day, and a bottle of Forgotten Cask arrived the next day. Bliss on a balcony overlooking the beach!

Then, there was a lovely surprise. The first evening we arrived back in our room after dinner, the room was serviced and there was a tea tray with tiny biscuits. That chamomile tea helped us to drift right off. Every evening thereafter, another tea tray magically arrived with a different herbal concoction every evening. such a nice touch!

What about the resort, and how does it compare to The House. First, it’s larger. It’s not a high-rise, but it does have over two hundred rooms and suites, and it sits on a thirty-acre property which is so much larger than The House. Both are adults-only, but the guest demographic at The BodyHoliday skewed much younger. We expected that since this vacation can be a very active one with so many extras included.

One of the extras that we enjoyed daily was the included spa treatments. Each day you’re a guest here, you can have one of an extensive series of spa treatments, from massages to facials. We availed ourselves of the gamut. It’s possible to book these in advance, but we had a few issues with glitches in the online booking system and said to hell with it and left it up to them. When we arrived, we were each provided with a personalized schedule of daily treatments. We just had to get ourselves up the many steps leading up to the Wellness Centre to partake. It is worth noting that this may not be the spot for you if you have mobility issues. The property will provide an alternative lift up the hill, but the property itself isn’t really friendly to those who can’t walk a lot. There are lots of stairs and no elevators.

Unlike The House, one of the highlights was the food. As a rule, we’re not buffet-lovers, but the buffet at the main restaurant was quiet and extremely well-provisioned. As you can imagine, since this is a wellness holiday, there is an emphasis on healthy food. Every dish on offer had a small placard beside it indicating its content. For people who have chosen to restrict their diets in one way or another, it would have been heaven. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free etc.―they were all available. We don’t go for that kind of restriction, so we just enjoyed sampling many new dishes. The stand-out lunch was the Indian buffet.

The property has one onsite special restaurant they call Windows. A couple of times a week, they turn the buffet areas of the main restaurant into a special, reservation-only space that is advertised as something special. When a server asks Patty to reuse her fork―not once, but twice―there is nothing fine dining about it. Reusing cutlery? Not unless we’re at a low-end diner. It didn’t live up to its hype, and we’d definitely give it a miss the next time.

Then there was the spa. The Wellness Centre on the top of the hill above the beach and restaurant area was all we hoped it would be. It was beautiful, quiet, meditative and Zen-like and offered some of the most enjoyable treatments. We also consulted with the onsite Ayurvedic doctor, and that was worth the extra money we spent, if only for its entertainment value.

Then there were other activities on offer. In fact, there were so many that they had to give us a booklet when we checked in. Yoga and Pilates classes. Meditation classes. Scuba diving lessons and dives. Snorkelling. Hobie craft sailing. Paddleboarding. Windsurfing. Tennis lessons. Golf lessons. Aquacise classes (those were very popular in their activities pool which was separate from their pool for leisure swimming and sun-bathing). And the list goes on. It was exhausting just reading it. But the good news was you could select to do as much or as little as you like. We enjoyed exploring the walking trails on the property and relaxing to the sounds of the ocean waves in Cariblue Bay, the little bay that The BodyHoliday has all to itself.

When it was time to leave, the concierge made us an appointment with their onsite nurse, who did our COVID tests and paperwork so we could move on to the third destination on our multi-layered vacation.

So, how did these two Caribbean, adults-only, low-rise, all-inclusive properties compare in the end? Well, there you have the similarities: location in the Caribbean, guests restricted to adults, no high rises and everything included. Everything else was different.

Despite our penchant for smaller resorts (we suppose that by most people’s standards, The BodyHoliday was small, The House minuscule), we preferred The BodyHoliday and would return in a nanosecond. But you do need to book an oceanfront room―not an oceanview. The oceanview rooms are much higher up the hill, away from the sounds of the surf. But, of course, they’re cheaper!

We have a great story to tell about our trip between islands. Stay tuned!

If you have a few minutes and would like to see what these two resorts are all about, here are the two video tours we made for you.

Our return to The House in Barbados
Our first visit to The BodyHoliday

When fact & fiction collide: La Source, Grenada

The serenity of the yoga pavilion at La Source, Grenada

In the mid-1990’s Herman Wouk wrote a novel (which subsequently became a Jimmy Buffet musical) called Don’t Stop the Carnival about a displaced advertising exec who finds himself on a Caribbean Island managing a beachfront hotel.  If you ever thought that you’d just like to escape the northern climes to move permanently to the tropics, and perhaps manage a little hotel, you need to read this novel first as a bit of a cautionary tale – or so said one of the managers of the spa-hotel La Source who recommended the book  to us when we spent an eventful week on the idyllic island of Grenada.

A few years ago, we decided that we wanted to experience a spa vacation of sorts.  We had never been to the Caribbean island of Grenada, and it looked like a place we might really enjoy.  So, on closer inspection, we noticed that the hotel La Source billed itself as a place where those spa-like activities were all part of the package.  The place looked like exactly the sort of place a discerning traveler might spend a relaxing week being pampered in gloriously tropical surroundings.  So, with the full knowledge that the property was just re-opening a month before our arrival after having been closed for a couple of years (it was hard-hit by hurricane Ivan), we set out for a week of relaxation and spa treatments.

When we arrived, everything looked wonderful – the newly planted vegetation in the central courtyard was just starting to take root, and our beachfront room with its mahogany four-poster bed and high-pitched ceiling was lovely.

Our accommodation at La Source from the beach

We did note, however, that the building directly behind ours was not quite renovated.  The pool looked inviting and the beach dazzling.  The resort’s two boats (one to take us water-skiing or biscuiting, and one to take us on dives) were moored in the cove.  But where were the people?  Well, they were there – all 50 or so of them, but the place seemed deserted.  Being lovers of seclusion, we thought that was just fine.

The first evening there we happened to meet a member of the management team over drinks in the bar.  This was just as we were listening to other guests regale us with their stories of what had occurred the week prior to our arrival.  Their two-week sojourn had begun with a week where the pool was empty as a result of lack of water on the premises and – you guessed it – no water for several days in the rooms.  We were appalled!  During the week that we were there, we had only one day when there was no hot water, but at least there was water.  This all sparked off the conversation with the manager who told us that running a high-end spa in the Caribbean, especially one that had been devastated by a hurricane, was not for the faint of heart.

There had been personnel issues, construction woes, water difficulties, materials deficiencies – just the sort of story that Wouk’s book detailed.  But that had been fiction.

Patty with the aquatics director facing her fear!

We had been well aware that the place had just reopened.  We went with our eyes wide open, which is more than can be said for some of the people we met that week.  However, most seemed to take it all in stride.  We found the people who worked at the property all polite and personable in a reticent kind of way.  It’s part of the culture, and as slightly reserved Canadians, we understood this kind of cultural approach.  We enjoyed the lack of people and wondered what it would be like with 200 – the capacity – rather than the 50 or so who were there the week we were.

Art looks out over St. George's from the fort.

We both wonder now if Patty would have been as inclined to go in a biscuit with Stanley, the head of water sports (since she has a fear of the water) if there had been more people around.  And we wonder if Art would have been inclined to make his way to the spa for his daily treatments wearing a spa robe, as everyone did.  Neither activity is within our individual personalities – but La Source just seemed to bring it out in us!

The view from the Ocean Grill in Grenada

We happened to be in Grenada again last winter during a day trip when we were cruising the Caribbean.  We got off the ship and hired a taxi to take us back to La Source.  When we arrived we found an amenable front-office staff person who gladly took us onto the property (after assuring herself that we were presentable and would not accost the guests) so that we could see the finished renovations.  What had been newly planted gardens were now lush and full, and there was a new boutique in the spot where an empty building had stood.  It still seemed to us that there were few people around, although she assured us that the resort was full.  Ahhh, we thought.  It would still be a great place to take a spa vacation week.  We then headed back into St. George’s for a beer at our favorite water-front bar, The Ocean Grill.

After our week in Grenada the first time, we did read Don’t Stop the Carnival and it was as if we were on holiday again.  Bottom line: if you’re planning a winter escape this year and are looking for a great beach read, this is it.  Bon voyage!

The Ocean Grill -- the perfect place for a cold beer!