Beaches and blue skies at Windjammer Landing
Tempus stopped by this stunning St Lucia resort to sample its luxurious oceanfront villas
When you call the reservations desk at the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort on St Lucia, the first thing they ask you is: "How can I make you smile today?" The answer is simple: “By checking me into your glorious hotel asap.”
Just a few minutes at the Windjammer Landing is enough to make anyone smile. When I enter my two-bedroom villa – which is almost as big as our house in the UK – I am greeted by the sight of two adorable doggies crafted out of hand towels sitting on my four-poster bed.
They are the guard dogs for an enchanting display. Spelt out in pink bougainvillea flowers and green ferns across the bed-spread are the words, “Welcome to Paradise”. Yes, that phrase may be a cliche, but the thing about cliches is that they are often true. As I look out from the veranda of our villa, it does feel as if I'm enjoying another day in paradise (without Phil Collins, obviously). Either side of me, palm trees cascade down the vertiginous incline towards a beautiful crescent beach. Hammocks are dotted across the shallow bay, and a traditional Caribbean boat called “Prosper” pulls in to sell guests freshly harvested coconuts.
The resort is bounded on all sides by imposing mountains that seem to say: "Don't mess with me. I'm in charge here.” Their slopes are clothed in rainforest so thick, verdant and primeval, it exudes more than a hint of Jurassic Park. You half-expect an aggressive velociraptor to rush out at you from the dense bushes. The villa, which looks like a West Indian take on Gone with the Wind, is beautifully appointed. Opened by an entry card which says, “The key to the perfect getaway,” it furnishes guests with everything from a private pool to a washing machine. It is so spacious, I don't even notice for a couple of days that it has a downstairs loo.
It is all too easy to imagine yourself as James Bond – no stranger to the Caribbean – taking a luxurious break in this sophisticated white-washed villa before finishing off his martini – shaken, not stirred, of course – and dashing off to thwart another villain hell-bent on world domination. The name’s Landing, Windjammer Landing. My villa is perched on the top of a slope so long and steep it would take several hours and even more stops for me to climb it. Fortunately, I don't have to. The resort has devised a fool-proof system for ascending heartbreak hill: a 24-hour shuttle bus service that you can whistle up from reception or your room.
The road uphill has more hairpin bends than the Monaco Grand Prix. But even though their tyres screech at every turn, the drivers negotiate them with the skill of 007 steering his Aston Martin away from the aforementioned baddie.
The service at Windjammer Landing is equally impressive. On arrival, you are assigned an “ambassador” who assiduously checks in with you every day. At our very first dinner, a sous-chef called Nissa seeks out my vegetarian companion to assure her she is going to cook her a special off-menu, meat-free dish every night. Now that's what I call service.
There are four excellent restaurants to choose from at Windjammer Landing: Papa Don’s, a stylish Italian; Jammers, a casual eatery built on three tiers like a beachside wedding cake; Dragonfly, a superior seafood place; and Upper Deck, a classy fine dining establishment. After dinner, there is a wealth of entertainment to enjoy. On the hotel beach one evening, for example, a fireworks display that would not look out of place at the London Eye on New Year's Eve lights up the night sky. On another evening, I am treated to a quartet of stilt-walkers hopping around on one leg in a gravity-defying circular dance. Bizarrely compelling. but not something I would recommend to the untrained.
This is followed by another very unusual sight: a glamorous diva in a little black dress floating on a huge fake lily-pad across the hotel’s main swimming pool while singing Sade’s "Smooth Operator.” The unfortunate frogman doggedly pushing her floating platform back and forth – who looks like he might be struggling to be a smooth operator – is surely the person who has drawn the shortest straw in the resort.
Windjammer Landing is a terrific place to unwind. As you swing yourself gently into a doze on the hammock in the bay, the only thing likely to disturb your tranquillity is the occasional hungry, dive-bombing pelican.Boasting more luxury than you could shake a cocktail stirrer at, Windjammer Landings leaves its guests feeling spoilt for choice. In fact, you could envisage them saying to their ambassador: "Ambassador, you are spoiling us."
Venturing – perhaps reluctantly – beyond Windjammer Landings, we have a simply delightful lunch at the Coal Pot. Taking its name from the traditional Caribbean cooking implement, the restaurant enjoys a romantic waterside location at the Vigie Marina just outside the island’s capital, Castries. Open to the elements and decorated with piles of pink conches and ancient cannons, it offers exquisite seafood served on lovely plates with vivid fish designs. Please do not leave without trying the splendid fish chowder. The Coal Pot provides exactly the sort of idyllic St Lucian experience that the brochures would lead you to expect.
Windjammer Landings is the ideal location to escape the winter blues. While my friends back home in UK battle the January snow, I try – and fail – not to feel enormously irritating levels of smugness as I have to slather on more sunscreen when the thermometer tops 30 degrees. Windjammer Landing has a high number of repeat guests. One man we meet on the shuttle bus – where else? – tells us this is the 49th time he has stayed at the resort over the past quarter of a century. That is surely the best review any hotel can have. My only complaint about Windjammer Landing is that I couldn't stay much, much longer.
As I prepare to board my flight back to London, on the wall of the departure lounge of Hewanorra International Airport, I notice a poster of the Pitons, St Lucia's stunning twin mountains that burst out of the ocean in a volcanic eruption millions of years ago and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caption reads: "Thanks for visiting our shores… Come and see us again."
Try and stop me.