Dalai In Paradise

For my BIG birthday, one of those that end in zero, Mrs. Dalai and I had to go somewhere special. I had first heard of Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia many years ago, and had even seen it from the deck of a cruise ship back in 1995. It seemed to be just the place for some rest and relaxation, somewhere to get away from it all. This is a wonderful village of unique and eclectic rooms built up the side of a mountain facing the beach, and overlooking the Piton, the twin peaks of southwest St. Lucia.

In doing my due diligence prior to booking, I discovered that Nick Troubetzkoy, the visionary architect behind Anse Chastanet, had just opened a sister resort above the first, called Jade Mountain. It seemed to be a magical and wonderful place from the description and the reviews (something like 99% positive on TripAdvisor.com, an unheard of validation in this industry.) Figuring that due to the economy and the coming changes in medicine, this would be our last blow-out for a while, we decided to splurge for that big birthday and went for the Jade.

You can read many reviews and descriptions on line, and I won’t bore you with my feeble attempts at describing paradise, but suffice it to say, that’s exactly what we found here: Paradise. The rooms (appropriately titled “sanctuaries”) at Jade Mountain have one completely open wall, and most have infinity pools, which overlook the Piton. This is the view from within our sanctuary:

From the Anse Chastanet beach, you can see the Jade Mountain complex at the top of the hill. There is a restaurant and bar at the very top, with several levels of sanctuaries below. Each sanctuary is completely private, and you can’t see into your neighbor’s. However, because of the generally open design, you can hear them if they make too much noise. This hasn’t been a problem, as the ambient sounds of birds, frogs, and the rush of water through the adjacent fountains covers everything with a soothing backdrop.

A view from the other side, the entry to the Sanctuaries, reveals a spidery network of bridges, each room having its own private walkway. “Sanctuary” as I noted above, is the proper term for the rooms. There is an spiritual air about this place that reminds me of nothing so much as a Buddhist Temple, not that I’ve ever seen one, and the network of bridges brings to mind Hogwarts Castle of Harry Potter fame.

There is open steel rebar coming out of the pillars, apparently a deliberate design touch, looking somewhat like a flare, some decorated with glass sculptures, giving Jade Mountain somewhat of an unfinished look. We have heard that there are plans for expansion, which would build upon these unfinished columns.

My description and these photos do not begin to do the place any level of justice.
We did a few of the touristy things, visiting the volcanic park and viewing the sulfur springs and such in nearby Soufriere, as well as the botanical gardens and Diamond Falls.

St. Lucia has a long history of occupation and colonialism, having been traded back and forth (more accurately captured) between the French and British fourteen times. Marie Antoinette was actually born here, and not on nearby Martinique, or so they say. Sugar plantations formed the major industry for many years, eventually replaced by fruit exportation, and now tourism. We had a fascinating little journey into St. Lucia’s past on a walk through the rainforest and the ruins of a sugar plantation on the resort property. Meno, our guide, was the descendant of the slaves that worked the plantation, and lives today in a one room house in which his grandmother raised him. While touring the remains of the boiler-room in which the cane was rendered down to molasses, and in which many slaves endured a horrible existence, Meno said something quite profound in his heavily-patois-accented English: “It does no good to ignore history, to ignore what happened here. We must remember it and deal with it, and then go on with our lives.” I couldn’t have said it better.

I’ll leave you with one word that sums up Jade Mountain: Paradise. Trust me on this. Save your pennies and come spend some time here. This is one of the most relaxing, restful, spiritual, and romantic places on Earth. I have never, ever, seen anything like it.
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