I call them "light zones" areas in the world displaying sunshine in powerful and rarified splinters of sheen, effusing plant leaves and tree bark with dancing fluid colors for just a moment, and it can not be photographed truly but only scratches a quick sketch across the retina before banked in the mind's memory and then there is a rapid change, squeezing the light in another direction and in a different spectrum.
While hiking in the rainforests of the Kenai the klieg barn doors opened a filter of red light lensed through a smoking volcano across Turn Again Bay. The light in Hawaii is an interchange of power and vision, afterall, light is nature's fastest moving force, so you have to be alert to catch it bouncing off the tips of elephant grass and the skin of the Kuhio trees. In the trade winds the head-high elephant grass sparkles and waves, as if the tules were shot into the ground by the light itself.
Light in the Caribbean oozes. You have time to grasp it. It is not always as colorful as in the Pacific. It is brighter. It is more golden. Ian Fleming named his home in Jamaica Golden Eye because the sun sets on the yachting lagoon and when viewed from Oracabessa (Golden Head in Spanish), a hill above the lagoon, it does look like an unblinking golden pupil.
The indigenous Arawak were the first to arrive in Barbados from South America. I wish I knew the Arawak description of light that they saw, but their language went extinct with the tribe. When the first British arrived in 1627, just a mile down the coast from Glitter Bay at present day Holetown, there were no natives around whatsoever. Give the British credit for navigating first to the best beaches.
The Glitter Bay site was named at the turn-of-the-18th-century by prominent Barbados businessman, George Manning. In the 1930s the property was acquired by Sir Edward Cunard, a member of the famous shipping family, and nephew of the renowned London hostess, Lady "Emerald" Cunard.
George built the Great House that is now part of the grand Fairmont Hotel resort at Glitter Bay in St. James Parish. He played host to celebrities and members of the British aristocracy in that halcyon era between the wars, including the late Ronald Tree, grandson of the Chicago tycoon Marshall Hall, and Cunard was Winston Churchill's frequent wartime host. Ronald Tree rented Glitter Bay for a holiday from the Cunard family in 1946 and later went on to develop Sandy Lane Hotel just around the corner.
Together Tree and Cunard made Glitter Bay a byword for refined relaxation on winter holidays. Their friends strolled through acres of landscaped gardens aflame with tropical flowers like the bougainvillea and the air-scenting lilies, shaded by the royal palms. You can now stay in the beautiful Beach House modeled on the Cunard family palazzo in Venice, Italy. All is still quiet grandeur reflecting the "glitter" of a bygone genteel society.
The two resorts at Glitter Bay recapture that style of gracious living. The gardens have flourished. The magnificent Beach House suites are named after former Cunard guests Sir Edward, Lady Emerald, Clarence, the Marquis. The Great House still stands and today houses the reception and concierge areas, the gym, and administration offices.
The first hotel on the West Coast of Barbados was the Miramar Hotel, built in the 1940s. The original hotel was only 12 rooms in what today is home to the Palm Terrace Restaurant and the administrative offices at the newer and renovated Fairmont property, the Royal Pavilion.
The Café Taboras of today once was the Miramar manager's bungalow; the three bedroom villa was referred to as the "Garden Rooms". The Miramar was purchased in 1987 and condominiums were added or expanded into the hotel/condo Royal Pavilion complex that offers luxurious beach front rooms. The new property opened in time for Christmas that year, to a festive celebration.
Set on eleven acres with a half mile of platinum beach (the area is also called the Platinum Coast), the royal pink façade comforts guests in 72 oceanfront, deluxe rooms, and one three-bedroom private villa.
All Royal Pavilion accommodations come with a king-sized bed. I must say, without management provocation, that the spacious dream zone came with plump body pillows and it was the most comfortable night I ever had. There was an electronic mosquito zapper that I didn't need in the dry season; the pests were non-existant.
The room's private lanai has an overhang to keep out some of that glittering light that can be overpowering, but you won't miss the Jimmy Buffet moment sunsets as the golden orb peels quietly into the Caribbean. The shrubs around the lanai keep the room private and intimate. I found the padded beach loungers just a hop over a small wall. Each chair was a library of discarded European magazines, which I read with delight during the lazy days, especially the James Bond cartoons! Barbados is still very much British influenced, even though the Fairmont is a Canadian hotel chain. A New York Times Digest was also slipped quietly under my door daily by the colonists!
Even though the Royal Pavilion and The Glitter Bay Fairmont serve some of the best Bajan and international cuisine, the twice daily maid service kept the mini fridge stocked so you could get in more swimming and beach time.
The Glitter Bay Hotel is not set beach front like the Royal Pavilion, and I was puzzled that my room has plush and barefoot pleasing carpets, while Glitter Bay has cool terra cotta tiles. The maid must fume when vacuuming out the sand. The tropical fabrics, rattan furniture, and cool, coral painted walls gives my hideout a colonial feeling.
The 63 rooms of white stucco and Spanish-tiled Moorish/Andalusian themed Glitter Bay Fairmont was originally built on 19 acres as Cunard's private manse. There is a combination of deluxe rooms, one and two bedroom suites, two and three bedroom penthouses, and the five superb oceanfront suites in the Beach House.
The Great House was renovated and now houses the breezy reception area and concierge. One set of tennis courts is behind the mansion and another is near the Royal Pavilion.
Both properties have A/C and 24 hour room service, king beds, with twins and rollaways available on request. Glitter Bay rooms have pool and garden views, so that is why I chose the Royal Pavilion with beachside rooms. The outdoor pool has a separate kids' plunge, shared by all from both hotels. I come to the Caribbean to swim in the ocean, so again the Royal Pavilion receives my vote.
The only real difference between the two properties is that Glitter Bay has one bedroom suites and penthouses with stoves and refrigerators, complete with crockery and utensils. I don't cook, especially on vacation, so the RP is again the nominee for a choice beach hangout. Both hotels offer direct dial telephone and voice mail.
The Fairmonts share these facilities: Fitness and massage centre featuring LifeCycle and LifeStep, treadmills, free weights, aerobics, and a personal trainer, tennis pros for instruction on day or night-lighted courts. There are two tennis courts on the dual properties. Only a mile away is the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. championship Royal Westmoreland 18-hole golf course. There is also access to the Sandy Lane Golf Course which had it's new section completed in late 2002. The Fairmont shuttle is complimentary to both golf courses. Complimentary watersports include snorkeling, windsurfing, hobie cat, and sunfish sailing.
By luck, I happened to read about the free turtle snorkeling tours held on certain days of the week, and voila, today was one of the days. I quickly made my noon excursion reservation and then hopped the beach wall and walked down the beach to the water sports centre. A Rasta named Philip was at the helm of the powerboat, but a Canadian vacationer wanted a go, so he gave up the helm. I thought we would be snorkeling in the Folkstone Underwater Marine Park near Holetown, but we headed in a different direction and into the stinging rain. It reminded me of wild times hopping through the isles of Belize. We snorkeled around a 36,000-year-old coral head and actually saw a few green turtles. I hope the turtle restoration efforts on the Cayman Islands make their way to Glitter Bay.
It was mentioned that leggy screen star and Ronald Reagan friend, Claudette Colbert, once lived in the area, married to a plastic surgeon. All the homes along the strand were in the multi-million dollar range; the West Coast of Barbados is densely built up, as opposed to the more windy side of the island around Bathsheba.
Everything is royal around here. Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Golden Jubilee the year I am on island, but the celebrations are all over the former British Empire, and I expected her to skip up the walk for high tea and crumpets held daily at the the Piperade Restaurant. The service was impeccable. A silvery, three-tier dish of tiny dainties were served with the standard Earl Gray tea. What a great way to spend a stiff upper lip afternoon, and with the pool nearby, swimsuits are accepted, but only if seated on a beach towel.
The arched Moorish ocean front Palm Terrace is the signature restaurant at the Fairmont, with an international and Caribbean menu. This is the ultimate spot for romantic dancing as well. I stepped out of the frog croakie night into a sparkling spotlight of finely dressed Gatsby types swooshing around, each tightly held over the white marble dance floor, swooned by a three-piece with piano combo.
Within the Palm Terrace courtyard of shops is the Gatsby Boutique where my subconscious mental notes placed the dancers shopping for their dance duds. The beauty salon preps the women for beauty and the men with haircuts and a shave for romance. This is such a romantic hotel, so make your alluring reservations in advance.
Café Taboras was my favorite hangout for cuisine at the Fairmont, because of the laid back, homey bistro feel that the staff welcomed me with. You can get a cool Banks Beer or a real tropical fruit drink with that pizza, pasta or grilled item, or choose from an alternative menu. I was served a munificent and magnificent lunch at Café Taboras with my newly found Fairmont friend, Catherine, the hotel sales director. We started with a cool Caribbean yam veggie soup, but not too hot, because it was still mid-day. I picked the island trademark dish, and because of the impeccable service, the flying fish flew to my table in no time. One thing I noticed about Barbados is the quality of their water, which is filtered naturally through the island limestone. I could never drink enough. Oh, by the way, there is full dining signing privileges for both hotels at all the property restaurants. Leave the wallet in the room safe.
You can get away with casual dress during lunch dining at all restaurants and for dinner at Café Taboras, but if dining at the Palm Terrace, a dress code is observed: tops at all times, gentlemen wear trousers, no jeans or Ts.
That evening I dined on exquisite grilled chicken at Café Taboras, flamed to perfection, but not by the fire eater at the unexpected floor show later at the Glitter Bay Pavilion. It was a fun night of the most unusual dancing stilt man, singers, tumblers, acrobats, and the lowest limbo in the islands. But no one topped the fire eating Maroon.
Romance Bajan Style First you get married and then you go on the honeymoon. You can do both in Barbados, and there is no place more romantic than the Fairmont.
Fairmont Wedding Packages Personalized services of a Wedding Coordinator for the fine details, all the marriage license fees, a wedding arch of fresh flowers, a wedding bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, a two-tier wedding cake and a bottle of champagne, and the third most important person a clergyman. Extra features separate from the package include: a photographer, videographer, entertainment, and additional flowers. To set up your perfect wedding or honeymoon, or both, at Glitter Bay or Royal Pavilion, call 246/422-5555 You can also arrange to be married at the St. James Parish Church, one of the oldest in Barbados.
Fairmont Honeymoon Package This package includes a private car pickup at the airport to the Fairmont; champagne, orchids, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and a candlelit romantic dinner for two; reservations at either of the Fairmont hotels.
Other Hotel Amenities Babysitting and nanny service, 24-hour room service, duty-free shops, sundry items, laundry, valet, airport executive check-in service, and they meet you at the airport at the arrival hall, limousine service, massage therapist. The voltage is the same as the U.S., 110 volts, 60 cycles.
Beach and Pool Chaise lounges and beach towels are provided at the beach. There is an oceanside freshwater pool, as well.
Concierge They can set up island trips, and in fact, they set me upon a wonderful riding adventure with Caribbean Stables in Farlay Hill National Park, just up the slope. It was a great English-style ride through preserved forests and fields, ending on the wind-swept Atlantic beach.
Meeting Rooms The Fairmonts in Barbados are well-known for their meeting facilities, and Cartherine told me that she has a strong repeat business meeting trade of professionals from all over the world. I used Glitter Bay's free guest business centre that was jammed with modern computers and quick internet access. In fact, Barbados has invested heavily into its communications infrastructure, and it is the best wired island in the Caribbean.
The Palms Terrace meeting room is just off the Palm Terrace Restaurant at Royal Pavilion, and it is a private room for intimate gatherings with about 550-square-feet. The Miramar Room is also at Royal Pavilion, and it is used for working lunches and cocktail parties, in a light and tasteful surrounding, with over 500-square-feet.
The Glitter Bay Lounge in the Great House offers a setting of casual elegance for cocktail receptions and meetings, with 2,500-square-feet.
The Fairmonts of Barbados are a page ripped out of luxurious protocol, tempered with a flair of modern amenities and superb cuisine. It is a fair assessment to say that the Fairmonts glitter with warm hospitality at Glitter Bay.
By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine. (Editor's Note: This feature was written in 2002. The Royal Pavilion completed a $10 million renovation in 2003.)