Nevis is an enchanting balm for the soul…A mountainous, historically-charged island in the West Indies that’s untouched by the overzealous commercialism of many islands in the Caribbean. And, yes, you have to commit to getting there. After two long-haul flights, our third and final one was a wild ride on a 20-seater designed in the 1960s. Vintage is something I like in furniture. Not so much for planes.
We flew straight into the sunset, and massive storm clouds, leaving Christmas festivities and sub-zero temperatures far, far behind.
The island is a storybook of how to live and create a home – especially an intimately-scaled home – like this colourful wood-frame pitched delicately, magnificently against the rolling foothills of Mount Nevis. The legendary Hermitage Inn, built 340 years ago, is a collection of pitched-roof private villas at 800 feet above sea level with a Great House finished in Nevis hardwood and defined by its perfectly proportioned dining room, verandah and library.
There’s tragedy, too, pressed into many of the island’s ruins. The Eden Browne estate looms dark and foreboding against an overgrown landscape where the groom killed his best friend on the night of his wedding.
There are copper vats and iconic stone kilns still scattered across the island where slaves historically laboured on sugar plantations.
The production of “white gold” produced monuments in stone. They might be confused as temples to Mayan Gods. And now many of these artefacts are left to fall into ruin, while wild goats graze around them.
The beaches are vast, untouched and deserted. Just us and the palm trees bent over the sand, and the vervet monkeys prankstering around in the bushes.
Several plantations on Nevis have been transformed into elegant restaurants and hotels. The Golden Rock Inn and Restaurant has been given a bold contemporary look by its owners, the acclaimed New York minimalist artist Brice Marden and his wife Helen. (Marden’s work was featured at the MoMA in NYC in 2006, and his large abstracts have been sold on the block at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for many millions – each.)
Marden asked the Paris-based designer Ed Tuttle, whose portfolio includes the luxury Aman hotels, to put his stamp on Golden Rock. A large podium with reflecting pool and steps leading to a dining terrace has been inserted into the lush landscape. Stone plantation buildings with vaulted ceilings serves as a cafe and bar, revitalized with lounge furniture and shutters painted the plantation’s signature colour of burnished red. Marden tours around the open-air restaurant, wearing his favourite black toque, saying hullo to us today and supervising the ongoing upgrades and aesthetic ordering of the wild, dense rain forest.
The Nevis fireworks on New Year’s Eve were dazzling. So was the ‘Killer Bee’ rum punch at Sunshine’s beach restaurant. And, most of all, dancing in the sand in bare feet. Happy New Year ! It’s going to be a good one. With love, from Nevis.