Mustique is a Caribbean island made (in)famous by our very own Party Princess, Princess Margaret, long before Prince Harry was a twinkle in his grandparents’ eyes, let alone his parents’. Mick Jagger has a a place here and Amy Winehouse has holidayed here, both at times performing at Basil’s Bar, an island institution. David Bowie sold his house to the late publishing giant Felix Dennis ( who owned 2 houses here). It’s like a living Hello magazine but with Tatler style guests.
Mustique itself is a limited company and the house owners are shareholders. Some of the villas (“houses, darling”) here have over 15 bedrooms, some are a more cosy 4-6 bed size.
There are people here who come year after year and seemingly everyone knows someone who knows someone. At times it’s been like being invited to a party where everyone knows everyone else except you. We expected to be surrounded by Americans given that their travelling to the Caribbean is a little like us popping to France. But actually it’s mainly British guests here, making the most of the unusually long (for a Caribbean island) season.
Our stay at the Cotton House has exceeded all our expectations. It’s like a 1930s colonial houseparty in its feel, its elegance not faded at all. The staff greet you like old friends and don’t just say hello whilst performing their roles. They love nothing better than to chat and advise and offer suggestions. They remember your names and your room, your preferred drink and even what it was you told them yesterday.
Being a Caribbean island we had expected the usual laid back style of service, necessitating you to order what you want about 90 minutes before you want it. However, that’s not so here. Junius, one of the bar tenders has gone out of his way to look after us. We discovered early on that most people like to sit on the beach which means it’s been like having our own personal pool the entire time. Junius has made a point of coming up to the pool regularly to bring us drinks and generally make us feel at home.
We have been very well looked after by Eric, a 58yo Noo Yoiker who sounds like he’s just dropped in from a Woody Allen movie. He’s in overall charge of the restaurants and bars and is the sommelier too. Get him started on his favourite topics (wine, hotels, himself – not necessarily in that order) and you can idle away a good half an hour. MrS has decided to play him at his own game and they have a kind of name-dropping competition going on now but featuring hotels, restaurants and wine instead of people! He soon skips off when he finds someone more important to fete …
The food here is fantastic (chef, the talented Tim, is from Warrington and a United Supporter) but, as people don’t generally come here for two weeks at a time like us it’s quite limited and both of us are now craving something simple like a toasted cheese sandwich. It makes the most of the local, fresh ingredients – lots of fish of course- but the portion sizes are definitely directed at our American cousins! Those in houses can come to eat here, so mixed in with your own food I guess you wouldn’t get tired of it so quickly.
There isn’t a huge amount to do in Mustique, but we knew that before we came. The island is only 3.5 x 1 miles. However, should you have a spare $1200USD you can charter a boat to take you to other islands for a day… Bequia is the nearest big island and I read recently that it’s going to be the next new Caribbean destination of choice. Whilst here we’ve snorkelled directly off the hotel beach and for a reef so close to shore the sea life is amazing, a bit like Finding Nemo come to life! MrS is well travelled and has 49 tropical dives under his belt, but he’s been quite happy with our little reef.
There is an activities office here, run by Jan, a spade-is-a-spade Yorkshire woman. Jan and her husband Louis live on Bequia but stay on Mustique during the season. They both play at Basil’s on a Sunday evening for the sunset jazz, Louis on keyboard and Jan on sax, and over the years Louis has been instrumental (no pun intended) in organising music festivals both here and on Bequia. No tents or wellies required for those! It was Jan who organised the trip to the top of Gun Hill on Saturday evening. Whilst she organised the champagne and nibbles and torches, she couldn’t organise the sunset, which was slightly disappointing compared to the previous night. But it was fun, and we met some fellow islanders. Going back down the hill in the dark was interesting to say the least… And today MrS and I are taking a buggy (mule) out again to revisit it in the daylight, along with snorkelling off a different beach. There is a wealth of flora and fauna here as you’d expect, most common are the red-footed tortoises which are EVERYWHERE. Drivers spend their time avoiding them and at night we have had to stop and pick them up at of the middle of the road because they stop moving around in the dark and will just sit there until daylight!
This week the island is less than 50% occupied and the hotel even less so. Everything will close at the end of August and reopen again in November. We knew we were coming late in the season but we’ve had only one bad storm. The locals say they don’t get half the storms here that other islands do. The weather is odd. Sometimes the rain comes from nowhere and by the time you’ve put up your umbrella it has passed and the sun is out again.
Mustique is certainly a paradise. I can see why people (especially Brits) return year after year. Whilst MrS and I are having a fabulous time we won’t come back. But only because there are too many other places to see in the world. Mind you, if we win the lottery I might investigate one of the empty plots available here…