Where's my wall?
You'd think one of the Caribbean's best luxury resorts could afford all four walls. I've only got three. Oh, I get it, without the wall there's nothing between me and one of the most gorgeous sights in the world.
I'm in a hilltop room -- one of 24 "sanctuaries," as they're called -- at the Jade Mountain resort on the island of St. Lucia. Where the wall should have been is an opening about the size of a Starbucks storefront, giving me a jaw-dropping view of twin volcanic peaks soaring a half-mile in the air.
The peaks are the Pitons, and like the Tetons towering over Wyoming's Jackson Hole and the iconic twin spires over Bora Bora, they're a feast of natural beauty. No wonder Christopher Columbus tagged this island Santa Lucia when he first spotted it on Dec. 13, 1502 -- the feast day of St. Lucia. More about that later.
My sanctuary features a lot more than a view. For instance, there's a big, colorfully tiled pool running through my living room to what looks like the edge of a waterfall a little outside my missing wall. (It's actually an "infinity" pool, meaning the water is collected in an unseen gutter just below the edge then cycled back to the pool.)
The wall-less theme continues inside the sanctuaries, too. So the bedroom, living area, the pool and the view of the Pitons all seem to flow together, like a platform floating in space. Hallways are out as well. Guests get to their sanctuaries by walking over 100-foot-long "sky bridges," one to each sanctuary. A little down the hillside are five suites, also with spectacular views of the Pitons but without sky bridges and in-room pools.
To help us get away from it all, none of Jade Mountain's 29 units have TV sets, phones, radios or computer hookups.
Behind the name
When he built this place in 2007, Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy didn't have to struggle over the name. He'd been collecting small antique mountains carved out of jade for 35 years, and as his wife, Karolyn, says, "(Nick) finally got to carve his own jade mountain, only made of stone."
Troubetzkoy came to St. Lucia from his home in British Columbia in the early '70s to work with a group of architects designing vacation villas. He went on to buy an old beach resort near the Pitons called Anse Chastanet, which he redesigned and turned into one of the Caribbean's top properties. The 600-acre resort now has 49 rooms ranging from beachside units to hillside suites, some offering stunning "missing wall" views of the Pitons.
Shuttles run up and down the hill between Anse Chastanet and the Jade Mountain resort atop Morne Chastanet, roughly a five-minute ride.
History books say Columbus spotted the island, named it and then sailed on. He was lucky he didn't go ashore, because he might very well have ended up in a stew pot. The island was inhabited by the Caribs, who were cannibals, as occasional French, English, Spanish and Dutch would-be settlers found out the hard way.
St. Lucia remained unsettled by Europeans for over a century, until the Caribs were whittled down by mumps, smallpox, scarlet fever and other diseases of the digested foreigners. The French -- considered the tastiest of the Europeans, local legends say -- finally signed a treaty with what was left of the Caribs in 1660. After numerous wars between the French and British -- each won seven times -- Great Britain finally took control of St. Lucia in 1814.
Today, the 27-mile-long, 14-mile-wide island is a member of the British Commonwealth, but with strong French ties. Troubetzkoy's two resorts are on the southwest coast of the island a few miles from the town of Soufriere, St. Lucia's original capital under French rule.
Guests of Jade Mountain have a choice of restaurants down the hill at Anse Chastanet or in the Jade Mountain Club atop five levels of sanctuaries. Here, wrapped around a huge infinity pool, the club area and the "Celestial Terrace" above it offer breathtaking, 360-degree views of the Pitons and the surrounding mountains, the Caribbean waters and the neighboring island of St. Vincent.
Menus offer a mind-boggling array of fresh "farm to fork" organic fruits, vegetables and herbs grown on Troubetzkoy's nearby Emerald Estate, coupled with fusions of "New World" cooking, traditional St. Lucian dishes (accenting freshly caught seafood) and seasonal Caribbean cuisine with "hints of spices that influence the cooking of the English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Latin, Asian and Indian."
The resort serves up an equally dazzling list of top ratings and rave reviews by prestigious magazines. Even if the rooms just have three walls.