The weather's turned chilly in Los Angeles the last few days, or at least what passes for cold in El Lay, and even though Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter have just returned from a perfectly lovely week-plus of semi-vacation in sunny and warm Palm Springs, the vaguely winter-ish cold snap has us pining for a few more bathing-suited days in someplace a little more exotic.
A wintertime tropical vacation taker who benefits from deep pockets stuffed-full of shits-and-giggles money might opt for St. Barts, the tiny and wickedly expensive Caribbean island on which just about every heat-seeking New York City fashionista and card-carrying member of the global glitterati descend over the December-through January high-season holidays.
St. Barts has hosted infinite list of high-wattage cold weather escaping hobnobbers that includes but is far from limited to Michael Kors, Roman Abramovich, Donatella Versace and this mortifying piece of shoe leather who is not Donatella Versace, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Marc Jacobs, Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, and Bravo's Andy Cohen, all of whom have been snapped by the paps as they strolled the boo-teek lined streets of Gustavia, frolicked in the azure surf and/or bobbed around on boats bigger and better-equipped than an average millionaire's mansion.
As scenic and tropically paradisaical as über-upscale St. Barts may be, the recherché flotilla of mega-yachts in the harbor, the snap, crackle and piercing glare of bejeweled sandals on meticulously pedicured feet, and the self-satisfying cachet that comes with snagging a wee piece of the slim supply of high-priced and high-demand accommodations on St. Barts creates a kind of centrifugal force of celebrity that attracts the paps who could easily make it feel a little too too for those famous folks who desire and require a vacation completely free from the tabloid media's blinding flash bulbs.
Spendy sorts who yearn to exhale and escape to a more isolated but still ridiculously sumptuous–not to mention shockingly costly–Caribbean getaway might swap the star-studded sands of St. Barts for teeny-tiny Parrot Cay, a 1,000 acre privately-owned and almost totally unspoiled island resort in the Turks and Caicos. With fewer than 70 rooms, suites and villas that range in price from $450 to $6,700 per night during the wintertime high season, Parrot Cay plays temporary home to only, at most, a few hundred pampered people at a time.
Parrot Cay certainly attracts its fair share of a-list celebrities and super stars–think Barbra Streisand, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Janet Jackson–but an enforced no-fly zone over the island and a vigilant security staff who police the crystalline waters that surround the almost entirely undeveloped island fosters the sense of seclusion and privacy and ensures high-, low- and no-profile guests alike aren't disturbed by long-lensed cameraman while they set their vanities aside, bask barely dressed in the hot sunshine and languidly stroll the island's powdery white-sand beaches with their beer guts, fat asses and/or Thanksgiving Day turkey-bloated bellies hanging out every which way from Sunday.
In addition to the intimately-scaled and supremely-serviced resort, Parrot Cay has a few handfuls of privately-owned villas and compounds, all of which are located close enough to the resort's main buildings to take convenient advantage of its spa, sports and dining facilities and some of which are available as short-term vacation rentals to those with the bank accounts to pay the sky-high published rates.
In truth we haven't any idea precisely how many privately-owned villas and compounds exist on Parrot Cay but scads of online reports reveal a fair number of them are owned by internationally known business barons, showbiz types and glitzy glam-industry folks who include former supermodel Christie Brinkley, (severely prune-faced) Rolling Stone Keith Richards, Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl and Capital One credit card tycoon Nigel Morris. Of course, not all of the villas and compounds owned by rich and/or famous folks can be rented. However, two of Parrot Cay's most well-known private compound owners–those would be aging but still virile action movie star Bruce Willis and iconic New Agey fashion designer Donna Karan–do indeed rent out all or portions of of their multi-pavilion Parrot Cay compounds to real-life escapees with the wherewithal and inclination to drop a hundred thousand clams (or more) on a week-long Caribbean vacay.
Mister Willis, who has about half a dozen mostly action films in the hopper, in post- or pre-production, married his current and currently knocked up second wife Emma Heming at his Parrot Cay vacation getaway known as The Residence in March 2009. Among the few reported attendees were his children and his ex-wife Demi Moore and her philandering soon to be ex-husband Ashton Kutcher.
The Residence, just a seven minute buggy ride from the casually ritzy resort's main building, comprises three main structures: a two-story 5 bedroom main house with over-sized swimming pool (above) flanked by two 3 bedroom guest residences, each with private swimming pool and direct access to the gently curved, gleaming ribbon of white sand that fronts the turquoise water. Each of the compound's 11 total bedrooms have simply designed but luxuriously well-equipped en suite terliting and bathing facilities.
photos: Parrot Cay, Como Hotels & Resorts
The airy (and air-conditioned) interior areas have wide-plank walnut floors, wide banks of windows that slide open to expansive decks and palm tree dotted bay views, and clean-lined contemporary day-core that leans towards white slip-covered upholstered sofas, teak tables, four-poster beds dressed in crisp white linens and enshrouded in gossamer netting. The interior spaces blend seamlessly with broad decks and terraces that stretch out into the thick tropical foliage towards the turquoise water and private beach areas that include outdoor shower areas (above) for rinsing off the sea and salt.
Both the main house and self-contained guest villas come with butler service and all the electronic hoo-haws and gewgaws someone unable to completely detach from tech-driven modern life might want or need including dual-line telephones with voicemail, fax machine, electronic in-room safes, WiFi internet access, radio and CD players, over-sized televisions with satellite services. Bathrobes, beach umbrellas, coffee/tea making equipment and flip-flops are complimentary but Yoga mats must be requested.
Published 2012 High season rates for The Residence–approximately January through mid-April–run $24,600 per night for the full 11-bedroom compound. No children, that is not a mistake. That is actually the published per night cost for The Residence, a figure Your Mama's bejeweled abacus shows totals $172,200 for a week-long stay. The almost unfathomable price includes dedicated butler service, complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea–a full meal plan may be purchased at an additional $150 per person per day–and a number of non-motorized water sports and other scheduled activities such as yoga and Pilates.
photos: Parrot Cay, Como Hotels & Resorts
The various villas that make up The Residence can also be rented separately. The main house, which includes a 1,500-plus square foot second-floor master suite (above) with private ocean view terrace, can be had for $11,200 per night (high season) and each of the two completely self-contained 3-bedroom guest villas (below) run $6,700 per night during the high season. The price drops to $15,900 per night during the low season for the entire compound but, let's get real butter beans, that can't really be called a bargain by anyone without a multi-million dollar post-taxes annual income.
photos: Parrot Cay, Como Hotels & Resorts
As high the price for renting The Residence, the numbers pale in comparison to the butt-clenchingly steep prices at which fashion designer and committed downward facing dogger Donna Karan offers her Balinese-inspired Parrot Cay compound she calls–natch–The Sanctuary.
Sometime around 2000, Miz Karan and her now-deceased husband Stephen Weiss vacationed on Parrot Cay where they renewed their wedding vows. He gave her a ring, so the story goes in an 2009 article in Architectural Digest, and she gave him the undeveloped piece of ocean front property next door to the villa they'd rented. Mister Weiss died just six months after their re-marriage ceremony but Miz Karan pushed forward with plans to build a multi-generational family compound on Parrot Cay that her children use at their leisure and where Miz Karan goes to, in her own words, "create awareness," whatever that means.
Miz Karan utilized noted Singaporean architect Cheong Yew Kuan of Area Designs to fashion her "cocoon of serenity" on Parrot Cay that sprawls over approximately 10 pristine bay-front acres and encompasses six principal wood and stone structures that combine Caribbean architectural vernacular with a heavy dose of the Bagwan Giri resort on Bali, also designed by Cheong Yew Kuan and also owned by COMO Hotels and Resorts, the current proprietor of Parrot Cay.
photos: Charity Buzz
In addition to the main residence that opens out through a wide screen-porch to a vast deck and infinity-edged swimming pool sheathed in charcoal-colored volcanic stone, The Sanctuary includes a separate and secluded spa villa for Miz Karan's exclusive and private use, and two 4 bedroom guest villas.
The guest villas are separated (and also connected) by wood walkways that lead to a centrally-situated open-air pavilion kitted out with the necessary equipment to be converted to a media room for evening movie watching. Additional outdoor lounging and dining areas surround yet another beach-side swimming pool, this one colored the exact same turquoise of the ocean water that laps up on the shimmering sand. A separate yoga pavilion sits waterside amid a thicket of tropical foliage for maximum mediation encouragement.
As best as we can tell Miz Karan does not rent the entire property. The rentable portion includes the 3-bedroom main house (and swimming pool) and the two 4 bedroom guest villas, each completely self-contained with private indoor and outdoor living/dining areas, each with private infinity-edged swimming pool and spa, each with a second-floor master suite with 360-degree island and ocean views, and each outfitted with thoroughly modern amenities that include air conditioning, iPod docks, plasma tee-vees, fax machines, and WiFi internet connections.
Photographs of The Sanctuary show a low-slung decorative serenity and Zen-infused luxury comprised of deep sofas and lounges for sultry afternoons and bare-footed evenings, kente cloth bed clothes and throws, clean-lined teak tables, cedar-paneled walls, rich wood and limestone floors, floor to ceiling windows with explosively fragrant sea views, and a hefty smattering of Miz Karan's own extensive collection of artworks from Africa and Asia.
Published rates show the main house and the the two guest villas–a package that presumably includes the pool and pavilion between the guest villas–rented together as an 11-bedroom compound costs thirty grand per night during the high season. The two guest villas––a package that presumably includes the pool and pavilion between them–runs $20,000 per night (high season) and the 3 bedroom main residence will set a body back $10,000 per night (high season). Published rates on the resort's website do not show any off-season discount for The Sanctuary.
The standard (and published) rental rate of $210,000 for the entire The Sanctuary compound includes access to all resorts services that include a number of non-motorized water sports and other scheduled activities such as yoga and Pilates, and two full-time butlers, described on the resort's website as "at once your dedicated business concierge, personal assistant and trusted babysitter." They are, in effect and with all due respect to the Parrot Cay butlers, the guests' vacation bitch.
Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter will never be able to afford nor are we of the ilk who would we could ever ever ever spend $30,000 per night for a hotel–even if it is a spectacular 11 bedroom Caribbean compound with 4 swimming pools–but iffin we were so financially endowed and inclined we can imagine that for our money we might want a vacation bitch or two who could arrange for a in-villa spa treatment from some delicious looking local, keep our pitcher of gin & tonics full and ice cold and dash out to the store–or whatever they have on Parrot Cay–for a mid-morning candy snack and some breezy, warm weather reading material.
In our minds we're going to lay ourselves out on a padded chaise lounge with the latest absurdist novel by Gary Shteyngart (or maybe something saucier by smart-alleck comedienne Chelsea Handler) and a drop-dead view of the shimmering aqua waters of Parrot Cay, but in real life we're gonna go pour ourselves a tall early afternoon gin & tonic, curl up under a cashmere throw, munch on some gingerbread snacks and sift through a stack of the latest gossips glossies.