When the rich and famous need to get away, they head to Parrot Cay. This idyllic 1,000-acre private island is just a few hours from New York City, yet a world away. The best way to describe this understated property is barefoot elegance. Don’t let the breezy air fool you; the abundant and attentive staff runs on anything but island time. You might be dining in your bikini, but drop your napkin and another will be whisked to your lap before you notice.
Donna Karan and Bruce Willis both own homes on this Caribbean refuge. Celebrity spotting is almost as popular as catching a glimpse of JoJo, the local dolphin. Racquel Welch told the New York Times “I’ve never seen so many [celebrities] in one place, they all come for the privacy and for the beaches.”
After hearing that a visit to Parrot Cay was like having your own island, Tracy and Monty Yort of Greenwich had to check it out for themselves and found that the reality matched the illusion.
Once only a getaway for adults, children are now welcome at this posh paradise. The zero entry infinity pool and shallow ocean waters make a perfect playground for pint-sized vacationers.
Guests can enjoy the Asian-inspired Shambala spa, book a catamaran to explore a sand dollar beach, paddle board or simply nap on the verandah. Parrot Cay can only be reached by boat and explored by foot, bike or golf cart; there are no cars on the island.
Accommodations vary from $450 for a terrace room to $30,000 for a villa, per night. parrotcay.com
Mystical & Magical
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
It’s on the way to nowhere and next to nothing. Those who visit Easter Island are drawn by its mystery. This dot of land in the middle of the southeastern Pacific Ocean was given its name by the Dutch explorer who discovered it on Easter Sunday; but to the locals and the travel savvy, it’s known as Rapa Nui.
The Easter Island Heads (which are really torsos and more accurately called “moai”) and the origins of the local civilization have puzzled historians for ages. Diane Terry, founder of Greenwich-based Private Journeys, has led dozens of adventurers looking to unlock the secrets of the island. “What draws most visitors to this [island] are the nearly one thousand moai stone statues. They are huge. Some are five stories tall and over 270 tons. All carved from a single quarry—without stone tools of any kind—and mysteriously transported as far away as six miles,” she explains.
Luxury travelers will be glad to know that Explora Lodge offers five star accommodations on Rapa Nui and organizes excursions for explorers of all ages. There is more to do than “just look at the statues.” Visitors can surf, dive, snorkel or enjoy the beauty of the wild horses that roam free. Caving draws the truly daring: Though the openings to most of these caves are small (some barely large enough to crawl through), and hidden, many of them open up into extensive cave systems that are fabulous for exploring. Diane explains that, for her, the allure of this great island is uncovering the mystery and history. “With each visit I gain a little more clarity as to how this civilization sprang up from nowhere, built these giant looming big-headed statues and then wiped itself out within a century or two.”
An all-inclusive stay at Explora Lodge runs $1,500–$2,000 per night. explora.com
Why would anyone willingly sleep in a room made of only ice and snow? Bragging rights come to mind. Impressing your friends certainly motivates more than a few adventure junkies.
The original Ice Hotel is in Swedish Lapland, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. By day it is an art gallery. By night, it is the most exotic of hotels with fifteen artist-designed suites, one luxury suite and twenty snow rooms. Artists from around the world handcraft the suites every November and December—only to watch them melt away come spring.
Mary Gibbons, a Greenwich artist, has returned year after year to help turn the crystal waters of the Torne River into luxury accommodations. Her love of this place has drawn more than a few questions from bewildered friends. They wonder, “Is there a bathroom in the room?” “Is there running water?” “Do you sleep on the ice?” (No, no and yes.)
Though guests do sleep on beds of carved ice, they are kept warm with high-tech sleeping bags and reindeer pelts. Mary says many feel the quiet gives them the best sleep of their lives. A morning trip to the sauna is included.
Sleeping on ice isn’t the only attraction. Thrill seekers can race domesticated reindeer, take a tour with the Polaris Ranger Razer, a “side by side” ATV. Or go on an exciting and fast-paced tour on a plowed track where you can compete against the other participants. Come nightfall you will enjoy arguably the best view of the majestic Northern Lights.
For the warm-blooded traveler there is a “warm” hotel complete with a five-star restaurant and cozy (heated) rooms. It is recommended that guests book one night in a “cold” room followed by several in the “warm” hotel. Rates run from $250 to $670 per person. icehotel.com
Old World Elegance
A visit to Blantyre Resort is more than a vacation; it’s an escape to a different time and place. As a guest, you’ll feel as if Jay Gatsby himself invited you to a soiree. Though the Blantyre is a five-star Relais and Chateaux property, it is also the home and passion of owner Ann Fitzpatrick Brown.
Arrival at the nineteenth-century Scottish-inspired estate sets the tone for the rest of your stay as footmen unpack your car. There is no front desk check-in; the staff immediately whisks you away to your suite. Here champagne and fruit are waiting on silver platters. Antique Louis Vuitton trunks, footed tubs and sumptuous four-poster beds beg you to leave the twenty-first century far behind.
Greenwich resident Susan Elkin recently retreated to the Blantyre for a girls’ getaway. “It was my fantasy, spending the weekend in a grand old home where you can sit by the fire and read a book. It’s not a sleek spa experience; you recharge your soul with old world comforts,” she says.
Breakfast in the sunny garden room is included and the morning conversations with Pascal, the French monk-turned- waiter, are priceless. The Blantyre’s extensive cellars hold 19,000 bottles of wine from all over the world. Each evening these magnificent wines are paired with equally impressive gourmet dishes at the jacket-required dinner.
The suites in the carriage house start at $650 per night, the Ice House, a cottage with two bedrooms, runs $2,000 per night. blantyre.com
For the complete list of spectacular jet setting locations pick up Greenwich Magazine's June 2012 issue!