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When I needed to escape another East Coast snow storm I looked to book the Caribbean but everything was sold out or impossible to get to. I booked Harbour Island because it was available and I wasn’t terribly excited about it. I worried the Bahamas wouldn’t be warm enough, I’d be bored to tears with no kids camp, tennis clinics or sunrise yoga on the beach, blah, blah, blah. How wrong I was.
We stayed at the Coral Sands Hotel, situated right on the pink sand beach for which this island is famous. Our room was large with a separate dressing area and a balcony with sea views. We slept with the doors open and the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep. The pool is the absolute best on the island despite its lack of poolside services. You will have to hike it a bit to the beach to collect towels or find an attendant to help you open your umbrella, and you will have to bring your own Goombay Smash up from the bar. There is limited lunch service on the beach and no lack of boogie boards and sand toys for the little ones. The staff was warm and welcoming: Romanda helped us book our dinners and Terrence even bleached a conch shell for Erela.
The Dunmore next door on the same sweet beach has just had a complete overhaul and its 13 rooms are perfection in dark wood and raffia with island colors and all the modern conveniences. The Landing reminded me of my days in Key West. It’s one of the oldest buildings on the island; a cozy guest house on the harbour side with rooms designed by resident India Hicks and a bar where you could imagine Hemingway holding court.
In addition to being your cozy home on island, The Landing boasts the best breakfast on Harbour Island and some of the best dining altogether. We ate there most mornings as Erela befriended the proprietor’s daughter, so it was ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and French toast with whipped cream in caramel sauce along with a harbor view from your porch-side seat (and an additional five pounds to your waistline).
As Sip Sip was closed for vacation before the season rush, we lunched beachside at The Dunmore daily. The conch ceviche, lobster tacos and Norma’s Terrace salad were on high rotation. Note that The Dunmore staff was friendly and happy to accommodate my five year old’s requests for pen and paper, but alas no children are allowed at dinner time. The Rock House has a similar dinner time policy, allowing children to only dine early and by the pool rather than in the main dining room overlooking sunset views of the harbour. The food, however, was exceptional with fresh mahi mahi in a coconut Thai curry nearly blowing my mind.
Other island options include sunset drinks at Romora Bay, where if you time it right you can see the nurse sharks circle as the fisherman bring in their catch. Acqua Pazza was an excellent dinner choice with a child. As I watched the sunset over the bay and sipped a Bahama Mama, Erela ran around the lawn outside the adjacent ‘haunted house’, climbed trees and hung out in the hammock. An arugula salad from their own garden and local lobster ravioli were delicious.
There are several options on the bay side and Queen Conch reigns supreme. A ‘shack’ near the water’s edge where the local conch man pulls conch from their shell and discards the shells in a pile on the beach and smiling women in head scarves prepare the ‘exotic’ salad with fruits and veggies, this is the perfect casual-dinner over-sunset-with-the-kids -place. Liquor is BYOB so pop over to the bar next door for a Goombay Smash in a plastic cup to sip with your excellent conch fritters or spicy shrimp.
Want more Harbour Island? Stay tuned for next week’s post, highlighting the island’s charming boutiques and my favorite things to do in this Bahamian paradise!
Careyes is the ultimate in a hot, sexy, Mexican hideaway. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s by design. A luxury development tucked away on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Careyes is the home to numerous Sports Illustrated cover shoots, and is the destination of choice for Hollywood types and jet-set internationals for whom privacy is paramount.
It’s not difficult to relax in a place like this, and my first experience with Careyes – on a recent weekend getaway with friends – did not disappoint. Arrival to our private villa had us feasting on freshly made cheese quesadillas, truly out of sight guacamole, and margaritas, as well as the view from our infinity edge pool overlooking the jagged cliffs and ocean below. Hello holiday.
While Careyes boasts no shortage of extravagant comforts, the 3,000+ acre property has a decidedly quirky feel reflecting the eclectic taste of its founder, Italian-born financier and artist, Gian Franco Brignone. His private home fashions an external stairway to the stars with a giant question mark aside a giant explanation point on the roof that must be visible from space. Signage here and there on the vast property has this same ‘?!’ which a friend says is because when asked ‘why Careyes?’ Giancarlo would say ‘Careyes? Careyes!’ Inside a giant ‘stairway to heaven’ leads to a king size mattress under a huge skylight. Careyes?!
Lazy days consisted of reading by the pool, hiking down the cliffs to an ocean dip in the sea below, following along the rocky coast in a boat for more saltwater swimming, and eating from the gorgeous seaside buffet at the ‘club.’ And massages. Plenty of them. At least one a day for at least an hour a piece, on the beach under swaying palms. Crazy nights involved inspired dancing on tabletops under the starry sky and midnight skinny dipping. Ah, Careyes?! Yes, Careyes definitely cast its spell.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this trip – the brightly-painted bungalows, the seaside revelry, the stunning stretches of beach, and Careyes’s distinctly bohemian sensibility – stayed with me long after my return to Manhattan. So much so, it’s the inspiration behind our Stephanie Johnson Careyes Collection, new for Spring 2014. Get to know the Careyes Collection – and take a peek at what I packed for this magical getaway – on next week’s post, Style Guide: Careyes.
If one were to die and go to heaven it may look something like a Cathay Pacific First Class flight. I was disappointed when I called looking for a mileage ticket in Business Class and none were available. Alas First was available so First it was. The only problem being that now that I’ve experienced silver caviar service with handwritten notes, my own 100% organic Cotton PJ’s to sleep in, my very own closet with which to stow my own raggedy sweatpants and hoodie, and enough personal space to accommodate a family of three, as well as a sleeper bed that would easily accommodate me and Erela nestled cozily together, champagne on demand, and service with a smile, how can I ever go back to economy on my beloved Delta?
And so that is how I kicked off another trip to one of my favorite cities, Hong Kong. The flight was just the beginning though as everything about this city is first class. Arrival at The Upper House is like arriving home to familiar faces. The staff is young and eager but not fussy and all over you the way some high end hotel staff can often be. They greeted me with a smile, asked about my daughter, Erela, and presented me with a proposed itinerary of new restaurants that I might like based on my previous choices.
The rooms are sublime with sky high views over Victoria Harbor and Kowloon, and as agreed by my driver, simply the best bathrooms anywhere in Hong Kong. Alana my friend, this is the hotel for you! In addition to four perfect croissants (I promptly ate them all and there began my gluttonous journey) and coffee, was a gift of some mandarin room spray in a sexy glass and wood bottle upon arrival in my room. Even the smallest room is a minimum of 750 square feet and has a view. The real treat here, though, is the staff. Kristina, who had been helping me arrange several morning and half day hikes, presented me with my very own book of Hong Kong hikes (another gift!) and the night before departure had another Hong Kong book of collected photos as well as an Upper House duffel bag delivered to my room! How did they know I’d be coming home with more loot than I had room for in my Rimowa?
Hong Kong is a city that is ripe with all of my favorite things in life: afternoon tea, reflexology, wonton in noodle soup, and access to nature not too far from the urban excitement. In addition to working the fabric markets (purpose of my trip after all!), I packed lots of these into my days.
Start the day with breakfast (and a view!) at Cafe Gray, including a ten grain cereal with stewed raspberries and a pomelo and grapefruit salad. Afternoon tea at Le Salon de The at Joel Robuchon (twice) with my favorite jasmine tea and sweet delights that are as pretty as they are good. Plus I love the oddity of eating in a luxe tea salon located in the middle aisle of a mall with views of the Tom Ford shop from your leather banquet.
Lunch everyday at one noodle shop or another. I hit my old favorite in the Meekok district, sampled new fare at Tim Ho Wan, and on my last day I stumbled upon Mak’s Noodle on Wellington Street. Tim Ho Wan has numerous locations (and a Michelin star to boot!) and in addition to wontons in noodle soup, they have a full menu including some seriously sweet BBQ pork buns (as well as accolades from folks like Anthony Bourdain). Mak’s is straight up noodles and wontons and might be my favorite. They make the dishes in the window and their dumplings are extra tiny which I like. None of these places have napkins though and if they do, expect to pay for them.
I skipped dinner most nights due to jet lag but did make it across the street to the Asia Society of the Arts which houses the intimate AMMO restaurant. They offer mostly pasta dishes featuring seafood and urchin, and I was ready for pasta after a marathon week of dim sum and dumplings. Although I didn’t eat there, I did pop into Duddell’s one day when I was in the neighborhood. A mostly expat escape with a clubby feel and a charming garden amidst the skyscrapers.
This trip I took advantage of the beautiful hiking Hong Kong has available. A half day trip to Lamma Island included a ferry ride to and fro (one has to see Hong Kong island from the water!), a nice hike and a seaside lunch at the port. Another morning had me hiking a portion of the famed Dragon’s Back trail in Shek O Country Park. My favorite was the hike I took the morning I left. Peak Tram to the peak! Nice little hike along the circle path (which would have had insane vistas if it hadn’t been so hazy), and a hike straight down again to Central.
Due to strict orders from the chiropractor (that I mostly follow), I rarely indulge in full body massages and have taken to reflexology instead. There is no shortage of foot massage spots in Hong Kong but this time I discovered my happy place (thanks to the ladies at the Upper House). Ten Feet Tall is a laid back oasis with a beach vibe. White washed wood walls and floors remind you of a private beach club cabana, with privacy curtains and a personal drawer in which to charge your iPhone or Blackberry. I dimmed my lights, hydrated with coconut water served in the coconut, and settled in for necessary relaxation. Twice. At $35 bucks for 50 minutes I would have treated myself daily, but alas the time!
Next time I’m bringing Erela and I really am going to go to Disneyland!