September 18, 2020

Champagne, French toast and not a single pirate – that’s what I call Treasure Island!


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article-2420767-1BCC90B1000005DC-124_306x423 By Penny Smith From The Mail UK

Blame it on Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek or Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates Of The Caribbean films…if a holiday destination comes with a tale involving a skull and crossbones, I’m up for it in spades – or with a spade, if there’s any hint of buried treasure.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are awash with stories of swashbuckling varmints. They even boast of an association with one of the most notorious pirates of all – the 18th Century Captain Blackbeard. Legend has it that Blackbeard marooned a number of men on one of these islands and the poor blighters drowned trying to swim to another – hence the name Dead Man’s Bay on the BVI’s Peter Island.

article-2420767-1BCC925E000005DC-664_306x423Caribbean dream: The view of the bay from the Peter Island Resort
With these tales of buccaneers in mind, not long after my arrival at the BVI at the exclusive Peter Island Resort, I set off in search of gold doubloons, goblets and jewels. But the treasure I found was of the living variety. Floating on the sea above a coral reef, I spotted a green turtle and shoals of blue and yellow fish. In the distance, I spied an eagle ray gracefully flapping its wings. I was finally enticed away from the turquoise water by a shout announcing a bottle of chilled champagne was being uncorked in a thatched beach hut.

The BVI, which are just east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, comprise about 60 islands. Unfortunately, there is no quick way of getting to them from the UK, so it was best to think of my 18-hour journey, which article-2420767-15A9308B000005DC-446_306x423included a lengthy stopover in Antigua, as time to catch up on reading. But once there, as a vista of white sandy beaches, palm trees and crystalclear water greets you, you cannot help but feel the trip was worth it. On arrival at the Peter Island Resort, I was handed a delicious ginger drink with rum, and in moments my bags were deposited by a giant bed.

Ahoy me hearties: There were no Jack Sparrow-style pirates to be found…meaning Penny could sail around Peter Island at her leisure

From there, all there was between me and the sea was a hammock. The resort has the whole of Peter Island to itself. Accommodation is split between 32 Ocean View Rooms – one of which was home for me and my companion – 20 Beachfront Junior Suites and three luxury villas. The resort also has a spa and two tennis courts. A jolly man with a goatee called Colin took me on a tour, including the most palatial of the villas, Falcon’s Nest, with its staggering views across the fingers of land reaching into the sea. ‘You know the story about a dead man’s chest?’ asked Colin. I nodded enthusiastically. ‘Well, I’ve looked everywhere for the treasure and all I’ve found is a load of sea urchins.’ Ha. That was just to put me off, I thought.

Then, walking past a tree with thin, pointed leaves, he joked: ‘That’s called the tourist tree, because the bark goes red and peels.’ He let out a belly laugh as I discreetly applied more suntan lotion. Colin’s humour aside, all the staff were impossibly friendly, including the lady who badgered me into eating her special French toast at breakfast. This mouthwatering snack, covered in coconut and maple syrup, looked fiendishly unhealthy and was delicious. But nothing could match the experience of a Feet In The Sand dinner on Dead Man’s Bay, where my table was flanked by light cubes that changed colour every few minutes as the sea slapped on the shore to provide a soothing backdrop.

article-2420767-1BCC91C0000005DC-394_634x477You can also hike, or be driven, along a trail to a place called Sunset Loop, a fantastic vantage point where, from the comfort of armchairs and with glasses of champagne and fruit and cheese on hand, you can watch the sun sink in spectacular style. And then there’s the special vintner’s dinner in the Tradewinds Restaurant, where an expert took us through the bottles of wine chosen to go with the food. ‘My name is Valerie,’ said our sommelier, before advising us on what to look for in a good glass of wine. ‘Check the legs,’ she announced before one wag among the diners chipped in: ‘Yes, always check the legs – no matter whether it’s wine or not!’

Drizzle away: The delicious French toast on offer at breakfast time…

One day, my companion and I ambled over to the spa on the wilder coast of the island. Hummingbirds poked their noses into the flowers, hawks hovered overhead, frigatebirds soared past and pelicans patrolled the shoreline looking for shoals of fish. We relaxed in an open-air Jacuzzi, a salty breeze ruffling our hair. ‘If I owned an island like this,’ said my companion, ‘I would call myself king and have a crown.’ ‘A crown would be irritating,’ I replied. ‘It would fall off every time you bent over.’ ‘You really aren’t romantic,’ he added. ‘You really aren’t going to be king,’ I concluded. But we were kings that day. We were taken to a bohio – a hut open on one side to the glorious view along the craggy shore – where we enjoyed possibly the best massages ever. It left us feeling floppier than cooked asparagus. Brilliant.

Apart from walking round the island, you can also set sail and check out the pirate havens from offshore. Captain Judy welcomed us aboard her beautiful yacht Silmaril. ‘The name comes from a collection of stories by J.R R.Tolkien called The Silmarillion,’ she told us. It was one of three brilliant jewels that was tied to the mast of a ship and sent up to the heavens.’ We cast off to Norman Island, believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. ‘I’ve read the book and it doesn’t match the description. But who knows?’ said Captain Judy rather cynically as the wind filled the sails. ‘But they did find Spanish doubloons there,’ chipped in her daughter Robyn, who later took us snorkelling. It was beautiful.

Amid the coral we saw blue tang (a surgeonfish), foureye butterflyfish and darting purple and yellow fairy basslet. Then we swam into some caves to investigate more fish. It was a blissful half-day sail, and as we tied up on the quayside we saw a turtle in the dock. Perfect. The thing about Peter Island is that you cannot help but relax. The sand was soft and white. The beds huge and comfortable. There was no television. And the staff, who can’t do enough to help, were a delight. My only problem was overcoming the urge to ask the local folk why pirates are such terrible people. They just aaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh. Sorry. Too much sun.

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