a perfect picnic

Picnicking at the beach house made for the most atmospheric en plein air lunch I’ve had in I don’t know how long. Poached shrimp on a citrus salad with avocado and shaved fennel, and a meaty lobster sandwich with celery, red onions and spicy creole mayonnaise on lightly-grilled brioche made the perfect foil for a splendidly chilled bottle of rose. The postprandial nap was equally sublime, too – just in case you were wondering.

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welcome to my shake-shack

I’ve never been much for the cabana experience. Frankly, I just never saw the point; I mean you’re already paying to stay at a resort on the beach – why would you pay even more for what amounts to little more than a pup tent with a day bed? Yet the trio of miniature beach shacks at Four Seasons Resort Nevis struck me as far too inviting to not finally break down and give it a try. Each architecturally detailed bungalow comes fully loaded: couch, dining table, flat screen tv, wi-fi, iPod dock, fruit, stocked refrigerator, loungers on the deck, loungers on the sand, loungers on your own stretch of beach, and best of all, a butler. I had no idea what I’d been missing. Happily ensconced after breakfast in my little home away from home, I didn’t want to leave. So I didn’t. I read a little, I slept a little, I listened to all six hours of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung while navigating between the three levels of lounge chairs at my disposal. I swam, I snorkeled, I got spritzed with Evian and cooled by soothing mint-scented towels just as the beads of brow-sweat were becoming an irritant. When hunger hit, a feast was delivered. So, too, a crisp bottle of Chateau D’esclans Whispering Angel rose. In fact, every time I had passing thoughts of some thing that I might like, the butler was there with a toothsome smile and one treat or another, be it the aforementioned spritz or a mid-afternoon mango smoothie. The phrase “treated like a king” gets bandied about these days with far too much frequency, so let’s just say I was duly recognized as the reigning royalty of my little shake-shack. Alas, time passes far too quickly when you’re being coddled. Before I could truly appreciate it, the sun was setting over the Caribbean and I was draining the last dregs of rose – raising a glass in toast to the purest day of wanton leisure I’ve had since I was 10 years old.

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perfect moment: sitting on the dock of the bay

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one rainbow, or two

Much as I’d like to bestow credit for an early morning double-rainbow, I think there are limits to even what the superior staff at Four Seasons Resort Nevis is able to carry out.

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video: beach walk, in stereo

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every day a parade

Twice-daily a boat arrives from the St. Kitts “mainland,” ferrying resort guests and provisions to the dock on Pinney’s Beach. Here at Four Seasons Resort Nevis even such quotidian occurrences are treated as cause for celebration. Colorfully-clad locals and the island’s best string band line the gangway in a scene straight out of Fantasy Island. As the sounds of jazz and bluegrass build to a crescendo the welcoming party unexpectedly transforms itself into a parade, dancing across beach and into the resort’s lobby. With a welcome like this, who needs Mardi Gras?

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hotel paradise

For all their friendly hospitality, Mexican hotels almost uniformly miss the mark to some degree. It’s never tragic mind you; in fact it’s often nothing more than a curious detail that leaves you to scratch your head, bewildered by a corporate thought process which somehow led to a jar of mustard arriving alongside an egg white omelet, or an artful turndown arrangement of bed pillows in the bathtub, or plush bathrobes atop paper slippers in the spa. (I will go on record, however, with enthusiastically vocal admiration for the novel Mexican art of twisting humble bath towels into fancifully shaped flowers and swans.) Brain power has obviously been extended into these little flourishes. But to what end? What does it add?  All this blather is just a long introduction to telling you how Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla & La Esmeralda, twined resorts which share a common zocalo yet somehow manage to navigate the task of catering to – and keeping separate – both families and adults, proves a refreshing exception to the rule. Attention has been paid here. And a great deal of thought and design have gone into Paradisus: La Esmeralda is for families, while La Perla is adults-only. Opt for Royal Service – a semi resort within the resort – and the two need never intersect. Royal Service features a private pool, bar, and an exclusive restaurant surrounded by palapas and Bali beds – in addition to a private stretch of  beach. Discrete butlers are at your beck and call, available for everything from ironing trousers to finding a preferred table at Passion by Martin Berasategui, a restaurant collaboration with the seven Michelin-star Basque chef. (Surely that’s a first for an all-inclusive resort.) Each resort is its own oasis, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico – with the stress-free luxury of never having to reach for your wallet.

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supine beach views

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tidy tidal pools

Playa del Carmen and the oceanfront that stretches up to the Riviera Maya are rightly famous for clear Caribbean water and fine, white, sandy beaches. Yet something I’d never noticed until today are the shallow tidal pools that dot the craggy bits of coastline between beaches. Aquariums in miniature, each is rich in life:  seaweed, coral, tropical fish, and colonies of spiny sea urchin.

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¿donde esta la playa?

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la jolla laissez faire

La Jolla is a small coastal village with left-leaning sensitivities just up the road from San Diego. It’s craggy coastline alternates caves, bluffs, and small stretches of sandy beach which are favored by the local populations of both seals and people. It’s one of the prettiest parts of southern California, with an off-the-beaten-track veneer and laid-back attitude to match. You get the sense that people once came to La Jolla and, smitten, never left. (Today, however, they’d have to be able to afford its premium oceanfront prices.) Speaking of premium prices, Mitt Romney has a house here – John McCain, too – so the town’s about to descend into notoriety to some degree. But don’t let their potential presence fool you: La Jolla is a true blue as it’s endless Pacific views.

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harvey cedars, nj: mail call

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long beach island, nj: world’s away

If there’s anything more sublime than rolling out of bed and diving head-first into salty seawater, can someone please alert me? A few days on Long Beach Island with friends this weekend was the perfect palliative to the grief and grind of life on the grid. Sometimes a little change of scene is all it takes to feel utterly transported.

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playing for change

Nicely tying up my time in Jamaica with a rainbow, my final day on the island coincides with an announcement by the Jamaican LGBT rights group J-FLAG of a television campaign aimed at encouraging Jamaicans to love and support their LGBT family members. The US Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamela E Bridgewater, addressed a packed audience at the launch of the public service announcement, Unconditional Love, stating that “homophobia must be eliminated immediately, [because] as President Obama says, no one should be hated because of who they love.” Featuring Christine Straw, former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe, and her gay brother Matthew Straw, the video is a public declaration of love and acceptance – not the typically bigoted rhetoric one has come to expect publicly from the island’s leaders. As a step toward greater visibility, the effects of the PSA can’t be underestimated. For too long people have dwelt in the fear of what they don’t know: when it comes home to roost that’s no longer a valid excuse. Change, it seems, is finally coming to Jamaica – whether people like it or not.

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lounge chair views

Continuing the weekend theme of gross inactivity, I can barely lift my head off the chaise. Nor do I particularly want to. I’ve been lounging about the DR for three days now, but to tell the truth, I could be anywhere.  Anywhere warm, that is. Punta Cana is one of those fake towns created to house hotel and residential developments and lots of tourists. If there’s any authentic Dominican element to be found, it’s in the friendly staff. Their inviting voices remind me that this island bears revisiting.  And traveling further afield.

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