Grifco Spends 48 Hours at Jade Mountain, St Lucia

Wow, where do I start? I was recently lucky enough to spend 48 hours in the world-famous Jade Mountain hotel in St Lucia, the haunt of some of the world’s best know celebrities and VIPs. You can imagine that I can beyond excited for some much needed ‘R&R’ in paradise.

Soufriere, St. Lucia; Jade Mountain at Anse Chastenet Resort, where each suite has a view of the Pitons

On arrival, the first thing that struck me was the overwhelming noise of birdsong. This is quickly followed by a greeting from the enormously friendly staff who insist on doing everything for you, including unpacking your suitcase whilst you relax admiring the absolutely amazing, uninterrupted view of the Pitons. When I say amazing, that is an understatement.

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The view from our room

Once arriving in our room I found myself just gazing at the Pitons for what seemed like an eternity. Then my thoughts moved to the complete lack of a 4th wall in the room. We were entirely open to the elements which, after coming from a very cold rainy London, seemed a little counter intuitive. I very soon got used to it however and quickly felt at one with the surroundings. Jade Mountain has been so cleverly designed that despite the seeming vulnerability to the elements, you are completely protected; it’s as if there is a hidden shield in place of the wall that is so effective that even the mosquitoes do not dare enter!

After a few minutes settling in, I then focused my attention on our private infinity pool. This pool is divine and what I found intriguing were the tiles that line it. I say intriguing as, when you look at them from different angles, and as the light changes throughout the day, the tiles change in colour. Each and everyone one of the different colours is wonderful (similar colour illusions can be seen throughout the resort). The design is genius, the colours breath-taking and the cool breeze blowing in from where the wall should be, so very refreshing.

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The pool tiles with their ever changing colours

As we had arrived just after lunch, it was then off to the beach for some swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. The beach is a 5-10 minute walk down the hill from Jade Mountain, although a transfer is available both up and down at any time. After our flight we needed the exercise so a walk it was, and in any case, there are many other interesting things to see en-route including the lovely little rooms and suites of Anse Chastenet, Jade Mountain’s sister resort.

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The beach

 

Once we got to the beach we quickly jumped in the glistening Caribbean sea. The sea temperature was perfect and the water crystal clear. Although you can snorkel from the beach (which I would highly recommend), we also joined a group of other guests and took a short boat ride to go snorkelling at the foot of the closer Piton. The sights were incredible and the abundance of many, many pretty fish of varying shapes and sizes was remarkable. The highlight for me however was seeing a young turtle, something that I’ve never before seen in the wild; a great and memorable experience.

We lazed around on the beach until early evening, at which point it was time to go back to our heavenly room and to decide where to go for dinner.  On our first night we chose the Jade Mountain Club. This is located on the second top floor and has views which surpass those of the rooms below it. The food, wine, service and ambiance are all exceptional and the lovely sea breeze and serenity made the experience ever the more special.

On our second night and as it was my birthday, we had drinks watching the sun setting over the fiery red horizon. We then had a private dinner on the aptly named Celestial Terrace, an incredibly romantic experience. The Celestial Terrace is above the Jade Mountain Club so the views even more spectacular. With darkness now upon us our eyes were directed upwards towards the bewitching starlit heavens. After some time admiring the clear night sky  it was time to head back to our sanctuary and unwind some more, if that was at all possible.

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The Celestial Terrace

 

The view from the breakfast area is as good as, if not better than, the view from the room and we constantly found ourselves ordering another coffee just so we could look at it some more. The menu had something for everyone from Organic Gluten free oatmeal, a detox breakfast, to the ‘Top Sellers’ which included the “Chef’s 60 Minute poached Eggs”. Sadly as we were only staying for four days, I didn’t get to try the things I wanted to on the menu (always a great sign) but I certainly hope I will get the chance to come back and try some more!

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Breakfast

After breakfast, we went for a proper look around the resort and one thing that really stood out for me was the design; the materials and the vibrant, every-changing colours everywhere. Although, I don’t know who wouldn’t enjoy Jade Mountain, it is an architect’s and artist’s utopia. What Nick Troubetzkoy has created here is an absolute masterpiece. The design is flawless, the use of space ingenious and the positioning of the rooms to make the most of the magnificent views is an absolute credit to his skill.

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Nick Troubetzkoy’s masterpiece

Yasha, Nick and Karolin’s son, who has also inherited his parents’ acumen, has set up a venture within the premises of Jade Mountain. Yasha has started a chocolate making business and we were lucky enough to be shown around the Chocolate Laboratory, a marvellous creation that even Willy Wonka would be proud of,  and to try many of Yasha’s delicious organic chocolates, some of which are used in the Jade Mountain desserts.

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Chocolate made in Jade Mountain’s Chocolate Laboratory

Jade Mountain is dedicated to offering fresh, organic, home-grown produce wherever possible. We were shown around the resorts’ organic Emerald Estate Farm in the Soufriere Hills to learn about the mango tree and the great variety of other organic produce grown on the estate, including: vanilla beans, bay leaf, nutmeg trees and cinnamon trees

Mangos are especially loved by the St. Lucians and more than 24 different types of this exotic, locally celebrated fruit are grown on the island. We learnt that to celebrate this, the hotel has declared June ‘The Month of Mango.’ Guests staying at Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet will be lead on a journey of mango madness with the resorts’ on-site mango guru and consulting chef, Allen Susser. Spokesman for the National Mango Board and the author of The Great Mango Book, Chef Allen will show guests hundreds of methods to eat and use this tropical fruit. There will be weekly mango tastings, spectacular six-course gourmet mango menus, mango cocktail making classes and more! I never knew there were so many ways to use this delicious fruit and am terribly sad that we missed this event.

Sadly, our stay at Jade Mountain was too short and there were many things that we would have loved to have done which we didn’t. Now back in England and tackling our post-holiday blues we want to say a huge thanks to Nick, Karolin, Yasha and the lovely staff of Jade Mountain, we miss you!

http://www.jademountain.com/

Waldorf Drive: Get In Gear For An Unforgettable Weekend Of Speed

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Road testing the new McLaren 650S

Ferrari 458s, Lamborghini Gallardos and Porsche GT3s – all the preserve of hedge fund managers, rock gods and hedge fund managers, right? Well, only up to a point, thanks to a supercar package recently re-launched by luxury hotel group Waldorf Astoria.

Under their ‘Driving Experiences’ programme, car enthusiasts – along with lovers of great service, fine dining and luxury – are being invited to part with £899 and drive not one, not two, but three supercars on real roads, in stunning hand-picked locations across North America, Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

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Left to right: Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari 458 Italia and the McLaren 650S

As I sample the adventure in Dubai, the build-up is almost unbearable; can the actual experience meet the hype? To start with, there’s the sumptuous Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah – from where our 250km driving route commences – to get to grips with, and it’s impressive. Complete with 300-metre private, sandy beach overlooking the stunning Dubai skyline, a sinuously seductive swimming pool (or two) in shady green gardens, a sumptuous spa, a solicitous personal concierge for each guest, tennis courts, meticulously attentive service, helipad, gracious restaurants and bars and plush, oversized bedroom suites, what’s not to like?

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Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah

And then there’s the nerve-jangling pre-drive briefing from race legend Didier Theys, tasked with devising and managing the two-and-a-half-hour driving routes, worldwide. “I will put a smile on your face today,” he promises, before running through the rules of the day: don’t scuff the alloy wheels, watch out for speed cameras and “I have a big ego; don’t overtake me!”

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Getting to grips with the various supercars as we snake our way through the jagged Jabel Al Jais mountain range

Finally we rattle the hotel windows as we push the starter buttons and the highly-tuned engines thunder into life… and we’re off. It’s two and a half hours of petrolhead nirvana as – on a route snaking high into the dramatic Jabel Al Jais mountains north west of Dubai, we throw the cars into sweeping left and right-handers, tight hairpins, and roar down the straights.

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The beautiful wheels of the Lamborghini Huracan

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You won’t miss me!

We have the best section virtually to ourselves and no wonder; it’s a little-known route blasted from the mountains by a wealthy sheikh in order to reach his summer palace hideaway. He must have played a few computer games first because the twists and turns are better than any racetrack I’ve enjoyed – and with far reaching views over the desert too.

It’s proving addictive but two and a half hours whizz by in a flash as we explore the mountain roads, swapping keys – and stories – in laybys, jumping into the seats of ‘our’ supercars like children in a sweetshop. Then, all too soon, we find ourselves comparing notes on the cars in the cool of the palatial Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah, somehow even grander, somehow more intimate, more relaxed, than the hotel we left earlier on.

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Winding down a gear as we arrive in style at the palatial Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah

“It’s what our customers tell us they want,” says John T.A. Vanderslice, global head, Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts as we sit in the 16th-floor Marjan restaurant, overlooking the Ras’s own long, sandy private beach. “Car lovers want the opportunity to drive these supercars the way they were meant to be driven – on the open road and in the most stunning settings around the world.”

Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah

Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah

Didier and team are, even now, preparing similarly-challenging driving routes across Europe and North America, with Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences in Phoenix, Arizona, Florida, California, New Orleans, Chicago and Utah in the US. In Europe supercar thrills can be booked in Rome, Versailles, Berlin and Edinburgh.

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In Europe – guests can book Waldorf Astoria Driving Weekends in Versailles (pictured), Rome, Berlin and Edinburgh

Their biggest worry must be finding routes that live up to the stunning mountains roads they discovered in the UAE. Will they achieve it? Maybe; I’ll have to go see for myself. I did say it was addictive…

More information at: www.waldorfastoria.com/drivingexperiences

Crillon le Brave: A Slice of Provençal Paradise

Travelling for a living can occasionally become a tiresome task – bundling things into a pint-sized suitcase, over-ferocious airport frisking and the unavoidable jet-lag that follows. However, none of these unpleasant familiarities come into question when travelling to Crillon le Brave. A tiny little hill village, tucked away 25 miles north-east of Avignon, this sun-dappled haven offers a bubble of tranquillity, where the only reminder of time is the mesmerising timbre of the resident church bell.

Smooth sailing from the word go, we touched down at Marseille Airport after a short flight, jumped into our nifty AVIS hire car and were seamlessly on our way. Surrounded by endless panoramas of neatly aligned vineyards, spindly poplar trees and sweet smelling jasmine wafting through the windows, London seemed more than a million miles away.

After arriving at the 36-bedroom boutique property, complete with botanical gardens and al fresco terraces for endless aperitifs, what proceeded was three and a half days of pure relaxation and just a smidgen (read: deluge) of cheese-stuffing gluttony and vineyard tours.

Here are just a few photographic highlights from our trip:

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Crillon le Brave, Provence

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One of the many sun-dapped terraces at Crillon le Brave

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Purple gnocchi with roasted mixed vegetables and shaved parmesan

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Vineyards at Domaine du Tix, Provence

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Cheese galore!

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Tiramasu with a molten coffee cream centre

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santé!

To enjoy your own little slice of Provencal paradise, visit http://www.crillonlebrave.com