The Key to Tranquility
By Patricia Keegan
Tranquility is a musical, happy word denoting a convergence of a soul at peace with its environment. When it's relinquished or forgotten, it may not be easy to find again, but it's importance to well-being is immense.
It's a breezy day at Parrot Cay, bunches of palm trees bend and dance in the wind. A few billowing clouds traipse slowly across the blue sky. In the foreground of the long horizon, white waves break across a turquoise sea. The weather has been a bit stormy, making everything feel vitally alive. After three full days wrapped in lush vegetation and long stretches of communing with nature -- including nights lit by a full moon -- we see Parrot Cay as a great escape from the hazards of 2009, especially as the temperature drops.
The escape starts on the yacht that was waiting on the private dock in Providenciales for my husband and I. Once you step aboard, it speeds across waters of translucent greens and blues that appear untouched since time began. The five star, 1,000 acre, private island resort lies 35 minutes by high speed boat north of Providenciales. The cruiser is comfortable as it springs gracefully across turbulent waves. The captain tells us that it had been a somewhat stormy week but things were settling down again.
Approaching the resort we see the faint outline of a few buildings hidden among palm trees. Even at a distance it evokes a tangible peace. First impressions of the hotel are of quiet elegance. The spacious lobby with its shiny marble floor and cushioned couches is low key. While checking in guests are offered a refreshing drink.
Parrot Cay, considered the ultimate in private islands, was the creation of Christina Ong, one of Asia's style icons and the châtelaine of a fashion empire that includes ownership of the licenses for Jill Sander and Issey Miyake in Asia, Armani in Australia, and Donna Karen in Britain. It was actually, Christina's daughter, Melissa, who discovered this lush, unspoiled island while on a diving trip in 1997. Mother and daughter also own a group of upscale properties known as the COMO Hotels and Resorts. (COMO is an acronym for Christina Ong Melissa Ong.) There are unique COMO properties in London, Bangkok, Bhutan, Bali and Cocoa Island in the Maldives. Mrs Ong's husband, B. S. Ong, also an expert on hotels, is a real estate baron. He owns five Four Seasons and is a major investor in Four Seasons Hotels .
Throughout the resort there are Asian influences which add not only the feminine touch, but an uncluttered open effect. Our room 104, designed in natural dark wood, with white walls, and a king-sized four poster bed, exudes simplicity. The large bathroom has an open shower, Asian style, which, although it looks like it could cause a flood, is easily controlled. Each room has a large terrace The wide terrace with round table and two chairs has an added settee with soft mattress filled with pillows. The terrace is an ideal spot to read, write, watch the sunset or have a candlelight dinner, all the while enjoying the pure freshness of each lovely day.
Besides being a superb escape to wallow in tranquility, at the heart of the resorts success is the fine cuisine. At first I had wondered how it would be on a private island, totally dependent on the resort menu. However, arriving on the island famished, I ordered a sandwich and French fries at the Lotus Restaurant and, to my delight, I enjoyed the best quality fries I've had in a long time. This simple lunch, besides being tasty and satisfying, gave me a sense of optimism that the care invested in its quality and preparation was a good omen for more complex meals. I was never disappointed.
Breakfast became something to look forward to with its large assortments of freshly squeezed juices, home baked pastries, luscious Greek yogurt and wide selection of hot items. I can't imagine a morning without my “Parrot Cay” juice -- the delicious, tangy carrot/beet/passion fruit combo. One important aspect of Parrot Cay's menu -- from a sandwich to a five course dinner at the Terrace Restaurant -- is the knowledge that behind the scenes there is a high standard set for quality, with an overall orientation toward health and well being.
Crawford White, the general manager, informed me, without even a smile, that heads of lettuce arrive at Parrot Cay on their own plane. When I picked up a thick, crisp lettuce leaf -- I took him seriously.
Excellent ingredients alone don't spell success; the creativity comes from the great kitchen team led by Anna Rossel, who arrived on the island from Australia in July, 2007. She had previously been head chef at the Umo Paro in Bhuton. (One of the the COMO group's assets is the ability to broaden staff experience by moving personnel from one hotel to another. Most of the dining-room service was executed by Asian staff.)
In speaking with Anna, she modestly gives all the credit to her team, and to Amanda Gale in the New York office, who basically creates and updates the menu every quarter. Anna uses similar ingredients to what she prepared in Bhutan: high quality, contemporary, clean cut produce. A farmer in North Caicos is now supplying the resort with tomatoes, herbs and arugula grown in open fields, other products come from as far away as New Zealand and North Carolina.
Outside of the first class beach and surroundings,a major attraction for guests at Parrot Cay is the Shambala Spa. The spa's concept is holistic and Eastern inspired, where a visitor may come to experience a retreat from the pressures of the world and feel the stress melting away. The setting is spectacular, overlooking the island's wetlands. The Spa occupies a series of breezy, wooden pavilions, cooled by offshore breezes with an outdoor swimming pool, saunas and whirlpool. The emphasis is placed on restoring the body to its natural balance through yoga, massage, meditation, and a special menu designed to promote health and well-being. Each day the schedule changes, with varied activities which include complimentary lectures by expert Asian therapists on various aspects of Yoga.
Many guests also come for the diving and snorkeling which takes them on explorations of the archipelago comprising the Turks and Caicos (meaning string of islands). It stretches across 103 sq. miles of the Atlantic. The resort has developed full and half day excursions combining land and water based activities.
One of my highlights of the stay was the enchanting open air Tiki Huts, with mattress and pillows. Set on a incline on the beach where you were safely sheltered from direct UVA rays. It became a four day morning ritual we would put our beach paraphernalia in a Tiki Hut, then run down, dive into turquoise water, enjoy a refreshing swim, go sailing in a catamaran and return to a good book. I my case it was Daniel Silva's, “The Confessor,” which I found in the resort's library, and which was totally absorbing for a few days.
If Parrot Cay becomes one of those perfect spots where, at the point of departure, you feel as if exiting a chunk of paradise -- there is always the option of buying a villa and living next door to Christie Brinkley, Donna Karen and other celebrities, OR, more realistically, making plans to return every season.
For more information visit Parrot Cay website at parrotcay.como.bz or dial direct at 649-946-7788.