From time to time we feature guest bloggers on our site and we’re very grateful to Theresa Feeney for this review of a property we’ve recently added to our portfolio: Petit St Vincent, or PSV as it’s known to its friends.
I had not travelled at all during the winter which was disappointing and so I was very much looking forward to my trip to Petit St Vincent to embrace the balmy temperatures and warm hospitality of the Caribbean. I was on the 11.20 BA flight to Barbados, a civilised departure time compared to some of the European trips I do, and lucky enough to be at the front of the bus! The flight seemed to pass so quickly; by the time I had done some “homework” and had a sleep, it was time to land.
On arrival in Barbados, I was whisked off to the Mustique Airways check in by Rose, a vivacious Barbadian who meets all PSV guests and ensures a smooth transit to Union Island. I didn’t even have to collect my bag and when I asked Rose for the third time, “Where’s my bag?” she assured me it would be loaded on the Union flight using the bag tag I had given her. And so it was. There are two scheduled flights a day to Union – one at 12.30pm and the one I took at 4pm. Within an hour of landing in Barbados, I was boarding the twin engine light aircraft for the 50-minute hop to Union Island. I could not resist asking the pilot, “Is my bag on board?” and he replied that it was always the English who ask about their bags….I took that as a yes! There’s a $30 fee when departing from Union but PSV add this to guests’ bills and give them cash on check out which makes it a lot easier.
Once in Union, there was a 5-minute car ride to the port where a PSV boat awaited me and took me on the 30-minute transfer to the resort (chargeable at $35 per person). Greeted by managers Matt & Anie, the long journey paled into insignificance. I checked into my cottage on the Bluff which was really extensive, comprising of a bedroom, lounge and a big private terrace and bathroom. The overall style is rustic, but high end rustic. There is no wi-fi In the rooms which may be a disappointment to some (me included!) but after Day 1, I acclimatised and saw the benefits of “switching off” especially if you were here with a partner/family. Petit St Vincent is purposefully a digital detox. Guests can connect via the wi-fi in the main house but for those who are addicted to their phone, this is probably not the place ….. Or maybe it is!
After unpacking and enjoying a cup of tea and homemade cookie on my terrace taking in the most spectacular ocean view, I met Matt & Anie for dinner in the beach restaurant. Friday night is BBQ night so I savoured the fresh king prawns and mahi mahi lightly seasoned with Cajun spices, indulging my appetite since all meals are included, as are non-alcoholic drinks. For me, though, the best part was the steel pan band playing lively, well-known tunes which soon had couples up dancing on the sand…definitely recommended. The clientele were relatively young, aged 30-50 with a good mix of nationalities; in fact about 40% of guests are European.
The following morning I awoke very early at 3.20am and instinctively reached for my phone to check my emails but the deliberate absence of connectivity began to make sense. The PSV ethos is to encourage us all to unplug from the technological grip we are in and enjoy the surroundings and each other. Matt assured me that if guests need news or FTSE index updates, they will be delivered by the butler each morning or at any point in the day. I tried to get back to sleep and dozed in and out of consciousness until 5.45am when I had to get up, and surprisingly felt full of beans!
I decided to test the system for breakfast. They have a box in the room with notelets requesting breakfast, lunch and dinner (with menu options) and guests put their notelet in a bamboo horn at the entrance to their cottage and raise a yellow flag for service. I was told that butlers check the flags every 15-20 minutes (there’s a red flag for ‘do not disturb’) and, sure enough, my breakfast arrived right on time at 8am.
The view from my terrace was spectacular and the only sound the lapping of the waves and birdsong. This is a place to be shared though so I was a little sad to be having breakfast alone in such an idyllic setting! After breakfast, I had a tour of the island and had the chance to look around some of the cottages as there were several departures today. There are 22 suites in total: 16 one-bedroom cottages and six two-bedroom beach villas (numbers 6-11) and each one has a very different but spectacular vista. I also learnt that guests can dine in their cottage as often as they want and some guests take every meal in private.
Following lunch at the Beach restaurant and the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted, I visited Mopion Island which is a small sand island just a 10-minute boat ride away, where guests can enjoy a romantic picnic or indeed get married in the middle of the ocean! It is a unique place.
I decided that since Matt had told me the ice cream was made purely from cream rather than milk that I had better attend the 4pm complimentary yoga class with Frankie, a Balinese instructor whose wife is a masseuse at the resort. The yoga platform has stunning views and, with three complimentary classes a week, one cannot help feeling relaxed. As always, the 10-minute relaxation at the end sent me into oblivion!
Not content with the fact that the room service system had worked for breakfast, I had to try it again, ordering a frozen Margherita for 6.30pm. Guess what, right on the dot, it arrived.
Matt had shown me around the island today and one can’t help but be impressed by all the eco measures in place here. They have their own water plant converting sea water into drinking water and recently introduced their own bottling plant. They are proud of their organic vegetable garden and 200 chickens. Children can collect the eggs for breakfast and learn how the fallen leaves, cut grass and seaweed are used as fertiliser. Glass containers and cans are crushed and transformed back into sand and small particles. There is also a Children’s Scholarship Fund which funds 80% of educational costs for employees’ children from the age of three right through to university.
Dinner tonight was in the main restaurant, the more formal of the two restaurants and obviously a popular choice.
Day 3 – I had packed my phone away in the safe and was concentrating on more important issues like what to do today. All non-motorised water sports are complimentary at Petit St Vincent and they also have a fleet of five boats and I could see that Matt has a passion for them! Black Pearl is a sexy speedboat but my favourite was a sloop called Beauty, expertly captained by Geoff and one of the reasons why guests return year after year. Today he took us to a remote beach and cooked up a BBQ “like only Geoff knows how”. Fish has not tasted the same since ….it was sensational and so healthy!
Later that afternoon, I had a tour of the cottages I had not seen, my favourites being 10,17,18,19 as they are close to the beach, but numbers 1-5 on the bluff are so private you feel like you’re on a desert island (oh I am!). What I really loved was that there are no room keys at PSV.
Day 4 – I am feeling thoroughly spoilt by now as I never normally stay more than three nights anywhere, but Matt had insisted that I stay four to get the full experience. Very indulgent but I was so glad I had because I had a wonderful day ahead.
After breakfast and checking emails (the weekend was over!) I joined a group for snorkelling at Tobago Cays, the most stunning collection of five cays, each more beautiful than the last in crystalline waters and a protected marine park for the turtles. We then went to Mayneau, a small island with only 320 inhabitants and 56 houses where many of the super yachts moor to get supplies, fresh fish, ice, eggs etc. I had not realised there is a whole industry based around the yachts passing through. It was fascinating. Young fishermen were cleaning out sea urchin prepared to order for the yacht captains. There is even a boat taxi industry should yacht owners wish to come ashore and browse the little stalls of clothes and jewellery, and of course stop at the iconic rum punch bar for a mandatory tipple! I really enjoyed seeing these simple yet resourceful people, pleased to see and chat to visitors about their lives and families.
On the return, we passed by Union Island which seemed vast in comparison to Mayneau and saw the boat used in Pirates of the Caribbean which can evidently be chartered for day sails. One of my favourite spots was a restaurant called Chatham (local fare) which is totally remote and a favourite with repeat guests to Petit St Vincent. Our last stop was at Happy Island, close to PSV and built from rocks and conch shells by its eccentric owner Janti Ramage who advocates “rum therapy“. The island is actually only a few feet above water but Janti is quite the host and for every punch you buy, there’s one on the house!
It was a busy and most enjoyable day so I opted for dinner in my cottage that night. It is the same menu as the main restaurant and the table, whether alfresco or inside, is set as if in the restaurant. It’s an extremely romantic thing to do – I just needed George Clooney to walk through the door!