February 2002by Anne-Marie and Matt
One of the finest jewels in the crown of the Orient Express family of hotels is La Samanna. Located in the Lowlands of St. Martin (French territory) and a short 15-minute shuttle from the Julianna airport, La Samanna Resort & Spa is nestled amongst tropical gardens along the beach of Baie Longue. What comes immediately to mind whenever I think of La Samanna are the details. It is not unusual to possess a beautiful waterfront location in the Caribbean. It is easy to commission a renowned architect to design a resort reflecting the latest trend in hotel style. It is hard to manage and maintain the everyday details that separate an excellent resort from your everyday cement block-and-stucco tropical getaway. After checking in to my room and before I left for my afternoon appointment I received two phone calls, one from the head housekeeper and another from the assistant General Manager. They both welcomed me and asked if I needed anything else. Details. (The only thing I really needed was note from the doctor to get me out of my afternoon appointment.) I wanted to spend the rest of my life here. The room was wonderfully colorful, soft, but not pastel. When I looked out toward the sea with the colors of the room in the periphery of my vision, I felt as if I was in the midst of a Raoul Duffy painting. As quickly as I could, I changed into my swim trunks and made my way to the ocean for a swim. While I was lying on a chaise lounging in the warm sun, along came an attendant offering me a cold bottle of water. Details. After my relaxing nap in the sun, I made my way back to the room and noticed a huge sea clam shell filled with water to rinse the sand from my feet. Details.
I had been in the islands for more than a week. While traveling on business I have a tendency to neglect my regular workout routine. The fitness pavilion at La Samanna beckons you to keep your routine even while vacationing in the tropics. No rusty equipment here, this is a state-of-the-art exercise facility on par with any gym in Manhattan, South Beach or L.A. I’m not an exercise fanatic; I just felt I had to stay ahead of the eight ball. I was well aware that the chef at La Samanna had an excellent reputation for creative cuisine.
Chef Chouette comes to La Samanna from Les Halles in New York City where he was praised in The Zagat. Schooled in France and honing his craft in such notable establishments as La Colombe d’Or in Houston and the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, Chef Chouette did not disappoint. My colleague Anne-Marie and I each enjoyed Snapper “en papillote”, which as of this writing, was the best piece of fish I have ever had. Dining on the terrace at La Samanna is always a treat, especially in the midst of tropical shower while gentle lightning reaches through the night sky.
The next morning I woke up with birds. This was my last day in the islands, but I wasn't quite ready to go home. I put on my trunks and took a long walk to watch the sun come up and get as much 82 degree water before I had return to bone chilling waters of New England beaches. When I returned to my room I noticed the red light on the phone was blinking. I returned the call and learned from the Front Desk Manager that the hotel provides a service of collecting your passport, plane tickets, and luggage, and for a nominal fee, checking your luggage at the airport, and paying the departure tax on your behalf. Upon checking out of the hotel, we received our passports, plane tickets and departure tax receipts, thus allowing us to spend more time relaxing at the resort than waiting in lines at the airport. Details.
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