by Glenn Ormiston, Villa Specialist
Savoring the last of my rum punch, I let out a deep sigh and watched from our verandah as a new patch of orange splashed across the evening sky. Every so slowly the tropical sun sank toward the horizon and the three of us held our breath — There it was! The green flash!
“Did you see it?” I excitedly asked my companions. “Just as the sun disappeared?”
“Yes, I think so,” Bethany said.
“What is the green flash exactly?” Matt asked. “A mirage? An optical illusion? I mean, is it real?”
“I don’t know. I mean, we saw it, right? That makes it real,” I said, as I turned to see the sky burst into another new pallet of colors and the sea deepen to a mystical violet.
The hillsides of Mustique slowly released the golden light of the day and sank quietly into a hushed silence. Gradually from the darkness rose the sound of crickets and the gentle slap of waves on the shore.
“Then again,” I said, rethinking the green flash. “Think of the incredible villas we saw today. The beaches, the ocean, the hills. Pinch me, I’m not sure if anything on Mustique is real.”
Earlier that day, the three of us arrived on Mustique, an emerald charm in the Grenadine bracelet, via air direct from Barbados. We’d claimed three of the six seats on our tiny plane and enjoyed a spectacular flight low over the vast expanse of the blue Caribbean. Our final approach revealed stretches of white sand and clear, China blue bays embracing green, rolling hills. The airport, with its array of bamboo buildings and thatched roofs, was postcard perfect. Clearing customs and immigration was as easy as the tropical breeze and we made the short trip from the airport to our villa using the local form of transport: a golf cart.
Picturesque and secluded, Mustique’s 1,400 lush, green acres are a gem in the landscape of Caribbean paradises. The island was a vacant sugar plantation when Lord Glenconner purchased it in 1958. In 1960 Princess Margaret received a 10-acre plot from Lord Glenconner as a wedding gift. This land was developed into the renowned “Les Jolies Eaux” estate and the island began its tenure as an exclusive hideaway for the celebrated and successful.
The Mustique Company, whose shareholders represent 20 different countries include some of the island’s property owners, now owns the island. Under the company’s stewardship, residential development remains carefully controlled an arrangement that has allowed nature and luxury to co-exist in a unique and symbiotic partnership.
Les Jolies Eaux Estate
The morning we arrived on Mustique we were greeted at our villa with tall glasses of fresh fruit juice and a full, hot breakfast. The table was set with bacon and eggs and fresh bread from the island’s bakery. Hot coffee, tea and an array of tropical fruits were also offered. The villas on Mustique are staffed with some of the friendliest, most professional individuals we have come across in the Caribbean.
While many villa rentals around the region come with a professional housekeeping staff, Mustique villa rentals come with a dedicated staff, so the experience is very close as to when the owner is in residence. Many of these highly educated individuals are from St. Vincent and exhibit an obvious pride in “their” villas. Visitors are always greeted at the door with a cool, refreshing drink and a smile, and while it is the staff’s nature to be friendly and warm, they are also professionals who can be as unobtrusive and as invisible as each guest desires. We had our laundry collected and cleaned daily, our shirts ironed with the requested amount of starch. Our staff consulted with us on menu choices and prepared three delightful meals each day.
Between the three of us it seems we have walked just about every beach in the Eastern Caribbean and have seen a good portion of the luxury villas available throughout the islands. But Mustique has the finest collection of luxury villas we have ever seen. They are truly over-the-top gorgeous, each one unique and exquisite in its own way. Oliver Messel designed several of the popular (along with several of the secret) villas, including Yellowbird, Les Jolies Eaux and Gingerbread, while many of the others have a distinctly Asian flare.
Villa Sleeping Dragon
One of Bethany’s favorite was Sleeping Dragon. Located on five acres of gardens just north of Macaroni Beach on its own private bay, the villa is a luxurious fusion of classical Chinese and Caribbean architecture. A central pavilion houses two master bedrooms and a living room with stunning views. There are separate pavilions for two additional master bedrooms and children’s bedrooms. A gazebo alongside the 70-foot pool houses a dining area with sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea.
Serenissima, another Asian-influenced villa, overlooks a lush valley with views of the Atlantic, the Caribbean and neighboring islands. It is a Balinese-style villa with polished wood floors, canopied beds and Indonesian antiques. Surrounded by a lily pond, it lies just steps away from Macaroni Beach.
Villa choices range from those with easy access to Mustique’s small village and quiet beaches, to villas hidden in the hills or villas built on their own secluded beaches. Two villas popular with families are Blue Waters, perched on the northern end of Endeavor Bay near an excellent snorkeling beach, and Alumbrera, a luxurious villa above Macaroni Beach that includes bedrooms with bunk beds for children. Many of the homes on Mustique have been featured in Architectural Digest.
While on the island we stayed at Liselund, the former home of the manager of Mustique Company. Tucked into the northern hills, the four-bedroom villa is cooled by the trade winds and commands a picturesque view of neighboring islands. Our days were bookended with an energizing morning swim at Macaroni Beach and a relaxing evening dip in the calm, warm sea. Our staff presented us with delectable choices at mealtimes, serving fettuccini alfredo, grilled mahi and even homemade pizza piled high with fresh toppings. We found ourselves unable to turn down second helpings! Upon request the staff can make a picnic lunch that guests can bring to the beach, or have a staff member bring to the beach. One afternoon we noticed our staff making a meal of grilled breadfruit and callaloo soup for themselves and asked if we could join them to taste these local favorites.
It’s no secret that the famous retreat to Mustique for privacy and serenity. Mick Jagger and Tommy Hilfiger are just two of the celebrities who own homes on the island. This eclectic mix of English royalty, rock stars and international guests make for some interesting evenings at the gathering places in the village. Every Tuesday night the Mustique Company sponsors a cocktail night at the Cotton House Hotel. So we decided to join the English lords and local schoolteachers for an enjoyable night of rum punches and island gossip.
The Cotton House Hotel is a restored plantation house and sugar mill set amid lily ponds and flowering tropical splendor. Oliver Messel designed the guest cottages and pool complex and the boutique hotel includes a white sand beach and tennis courts. The spa, decorated in soothing hues of lavender and blue, reflects the serenity and beauty of the nearby sea. While there we could see the candles flickering in the dining room set with cobalt blue china for a formal evening meal. Basil’s Bar on Britannia Bay is the place to be for Wednesday night “Jump Up.” Each week the well-heeled rub elbows with island guests, visiting yachties and locals for authentic island grub and lively steel drum music. You never know who you might run into at Basil’s.
The Cotton House, photo courtesy of the hotel.
Mustique’s tiny village includes three fine boutiques, the Sweetie Pie Bakery and a grocery store. Inside the grocery we found an interesting mix of fine wines and foie gras alongside plantains, yams and sweet potatoes. One afternoon we stopped across the street from the grocery store to watch the local fishermen unload their catch of grouper, snapper and lobster destined for the island’s kitchens.
The days seem to drift by in a blur. Each day we thought about hiking one of the island’s many top-notch nature trails that showcase the hardwood hammocks and mangrove forests. We even thought of arranging a horseback ride with the Equestrian Center or playing a few games of tennis at the Tennis Club. We knew that sailing charters, surfing, SCUBA diving, kayaking, even golf (on nearby Canouan Island) were all available, but that’s one of the great beauties of Mustique — the emphasis clearly rests on the simple things and the villa life.
The “activities” and “sight seeing” becomes an ethereal possibility instead of a “must see, must do.” Life seems to slow down and we found ourselves talking in hushed voices for no apparent reason at all. As the sun set on our final day on Mustique, we spotted the green flash once again. Science says we must understand the mirage before we can understand the science of what’s real, but under the sway of a cool Caribbean breeze brushing across the beauty of the island, the thin line between reality and fiction blurs easily on Mustique.
Originally published in 2003