The night before my husband and I were due to go abroad by ourselves for the first time, I found myself looking into the cost of last-minute flights for a young child. In the particular madness felt by a mother who has never left her firstborn before, I reasoned that £3,000 wasn’t that much to get a seat for our little one on the same flight as us… even if it would mean raiding our savings account and forgetting about getting the bathroom done. “I can’t leave her,” I sobbed to Harry, who was joyously dropping hardbacks into a suitcase that would otherwise be filled with baby stuff.
Seeing quite how deranged I was – what if something happened to us and she had to spend the rest of her life knowing that her parents had deserted her for six days in the Caribbean? – he told me that a break was clearly exactly what I needed. Then he pointed out that the hotel we were booked into had a strict no-children policy. Exhausted (I had just completed a strenuous work project), sallow-skinned (it was midwinter) and actually quite keen to have a functioning bathroom (the lavatory sometimes leaked and the bath was green), I reluctantly agreed to be carried on to the plane, granny promising twice-daily FaceTime sessions with our daughter and that she would check on her every 20 minutes throughout the night.
We were going to St Lucia – to Jade Mountain, to be precise. If ever there was somewhere to go without your child for the first time, we had found it. Set in 600 lush acres on the south-west coast of the island, this is more of an experience than a hotel; it is so mind-bogglingly beautiful that any worries about home disappear quicker than the manager can offer you a rum cocktail.
Perched near the top of a hill, Jade Mountain’s 24 rooms all have spectacular views of the Piton mountains, the two 2,500ft volcanoes that are on the Unesco World Heritage List. Sleepy from a long flight, it was hard to process what we were seeing as we drove up to the resort (there is a helicopter pad if you’re feeling particularly flash).
It’s difficult to describe what the architect-owner Nick Troubetzkoy has created on the island he now calls home – a sort of Brutalist masterpiece that wouldn’t look out of place in a Star Wars film. Each room has its own walkway, suspended as if by magic, that leads to a door so huge you feel as if you’ve gone down the rabbit hole and entered a land of giants.
Our major-domo, a handsome man in a waistcoat and suit, opened the door and we were transported yet again – this time into the lair of a Bond villain.
Like every other “sanctuary” at Jade Mountain, our room was without its fourth wall. Gazing out over the Pitons one evening from our living area, we worked out that it was bigger than our flat in London, in part thanks to the giant infinity pool at the foot of the four-poster bed. And the lavish netting over the bed and strategically placed candles meant we left without so much as a mosquito bite.
Our major-domo handed us an old-fashioned Nokia phone with his number programmed in and told us the establishment was Wi-Fi-free, aside from near the reception, a detail that initially panicked me (what if my mother couldn’t get hold of us?), but soon left my mind. It’s amazing how relaxed you become once you take technology out of the equation.
My husband and I quickly settled into life at Jade Mountain, enjoying the water pistols left on tables to scare off inquisitive birds (we never used them, but appreciated the touch) and embracing the steep walk down to the beach shared with its sister property, Anse Chastanet.
All beaches in St Lucia are public, yet the secluded location means hotel guests have this one to themselves. There was an excellent spa, plenty of watersports, and a beach bar so beautiful we were in danger of spending most of our time there. No matter. A quick call to our major-domo and a shuttle was arranged to transport our tipsy, sun-kissed bodies back up to our room.
We loved the “secret” second beach, a short walk around the base of a cliff, on which we found the resort’s delicious burger bar. Food was plentiful and seafood-heavy – Allan Susser, the award-winning American chef, is in charge of fare at Jade Mountain, with more relaxed local Caribbean cuisine at Anse Chastanet. At night we would order an alcoholic hot chocolate – all the chocolate is grown locally – and digest our food on sun loungers. I could happily lie there naked without worrying that anyone other than my husband would see me.
We ventured to the island’s sulphur springs, took a dip in its apparently life-giving waters, and went on a sunset boat trip during which we saw dolphins and flying fish. We snorkelled to our heart’s content and witnessed a rare coral spawning outside the hotel – a once-a-year occurrence that turns the water yellow and pink at night (though we weren’t brave enough to book nocturnal snorkelling with the resort’s expert divers). A kayaking trip almost ended in divorce, but this was the only upset in an otherwise blissfully romantic trip.
Romantic, not in a rose-petals-and-swans-made-out-of-towels kind of way, but in a way that sees you become completely one with the environment. There was something blissful about a bed out in the open at the top of a hill – I swear I looked 10 years younger by the end of the week. Everything felt so out of this world that the one back home barely registered, other than in daily texts and video messages to let us know that everything was OK. Our daughter barely noticed we were gone, but, crucially, we felt like we’d been away for about three months.
I would do it again in an instant, were it not for that green bath.
Bryony Gordon travelled with Inspiring Travel Company (01244 355527, inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk), which offers a seven-night stay at Jade Mountain from £3,799 per person, based on two adults sharing a Sky Jacuzzi Suite on a bed and breakfast basis. This offer – a saving of up to £485 per person – includes return economy class flights, private transfers and one free night. It is valid for travel from June 1 to October 31 2018.