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Thread: An Affair to Remember

  1. #1
    GayleR is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2002 Toronto, Canada Posts: 1,958

    An Affair to Remember

    I feel like a bit of a cheater...I went to another island for the first time in probably 18 years. Like many of you, we have been enduring the most frigid winter in memory. A girlfriend suggested we get away for a few days to somewhere warm that was easy and quick to get to and I've always wanted to check out Turks & Caicos, specifically Providenciales. A short, direct 3 1/2 hour hop found us arriving in Provo (PLS). As usual, here is my lengthy trip report.

    The 3 1/2 hour direct flight from Toronto is easy and we arrived at a very small airport which reminded me a bit of the old SXM, though it's currently under construction to be modernized and enlarged. We were advised to rent a car but chose not to for our first time and we didn't regret our decision, though for a return visit, we'd definitely do so. After a short wait, we were picked up by our hotel.

    This was our first time in T&C but I don't think it will be our last. We stayed at Point Grace, a small, boutique hotel right on Grace Bay beach. http://www.pointgrace.com/
    We LOVED Grace Bay beach and understand why it's always named one of the world's most beautiful beaches. If you think St Barths is small, you haven't been to Provo. Wow, it's super tiny and still quite undeveloped...oh, and it's very flat. The weather was absolutely perfect, not very humid and the tradewinds were gentle and cooling.


    Point Grace offered pros and cons. We really liked the location because it is nowhere near the noise, hub bub, hordes of children or large resorts at either end of Grace Bay. Point Grace is on a very quiet stretch of the beach but still only a 5 minute walk (or a 2 minute bike ride on courtesy bikes) to the teensy town where there are a few restaurants and shops. The property was extremely quiet. In fact we rarely saw other people and were often two of maybe 6 people on the beach. For us, that was perfect.


    The property has only 28 suites, mostly 2-3 bedroom suites, some larger, all with full kitchens. The landscaping was gorgeous, as was the pool area. Our suite, E103, was a 2 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath Ocean Front on the 2nd floor (though they call it the first floor) and had a lovely view, though the top floor suites would have better, more panoramic views as they'd be up above the palm trees. In addition there was obviously a family with children staying in the suite above us as the footsteps and running on the hardwood floors was easily audible at 6:30 a.m.


    The suite was very spacious, colonial traditional in style, and while it was well furnished the furnishings are old and shabby. The upholstery needs to be cleaned as the sofas and cushions are stained. The televisions are old tube TVs, most of the wood furniture chipped and scratched. There was a leather chair and ottoman which really need to be thrown out. The kitchen was modern and equipped with most things you'd need for meals, though we did not eat in. The linens were very good and the abundance of high quality, fluffy towels and Asprey toiletries were very nice. The bathrooms were very nice and had good lighting and the shower pressure was fantastic. We had a spacious terrace with a round table and four chairs, an arm chair and ottoman and a teak divan. The terrace seating was in need of updating and cleaning too.


    The breakfast buffet, which was included with our room, is exactly the same every morning with no variation. Besides the requisite juices and coffee and tea, there is oatmeal (sweetened), dry cereals, sweet baked goods, cheeses and fruit consisting of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple. Every day. Yawn. There is an additional a la carte menu of eggs etc and I enjoyed two superb omelettes, though they were ridiculously large (8 eggs) and came with no sides. Toast, bacon, or any other side were additional.


    A few words about the service on the property. First and foremost I want to point out that other than the staff at Grace's Cottage, the on site, fine dining restaurant, every single staff member we encountered was lovely. They were welcoming, genuine and seemed, for the most part to enjoy their jobs. The staff at breakfast were wonderful and warm. Our housekeeper Simone was a gem. That said, we were unprepared for the complete lack of service at the pool and on the beach. The vibe is different than other resorts we've been to over the years. The pool bar is often unmanned. No one circulates around the pool to offer drinks or snacks, though fruit kabobs (same boring fruit being recycled from breakfast) and sorbet (same two flavours every day) are offered poolside and on the beach at 11:00 and 2:00. When you go down to the beach you have to grab your own towels and often your own bottled water from the cooler. Sometimes a staff member would bring you an ice bucket with two bottles of water, if he happened to be there when you arrived at the beach, which was only 2 our of 5 days. But that was it. If you wanted more water, drinks, towels or to order food, you had to go and get it. I'm not complaining about it, I'm just pointing out it's a much more relaxed place. If you're expecting 5-star, solicitous service or pampering, you won't find it here. It's more of a relaxed, self service model. Once I knew that was the model, I was fine about it and in fact enjoyed being left alone.


    I enjoyed a fantastic 90 minute massage in the small, but charmingly bohemian spa hut on the sand dunes, set back from the beach. The therapist was professional and accomplished. Prices were resort ridiculous.



    When we arrived we were not told that the water is not potable and there was no water left in the suite until turn down when a 500 ml bottle was left bedside. The local water smells terrible, like mothballs, so we had to ask for extra water to make coffee in our suite (excellent, locally roasted coffee was provided). They really need to leave a small tent card by the bathroom sinks to inform guests.



    Turn down service is always appreciated but arriving at 6:00 p.m. is pretty silly when that's the time guests are winding down for the day and want privacy. I prefer turn down after I've gone out for dinner, say 7:30 - 8:00, when they can change the towels, turn down the beds, leave water etc. I did comment but the comments were ignored.



    And finally, I must give a shout out to Mary, the Concierge. Mary recommended excellent restaurants and made our reservations. She also happens to own a cab so she was our driver. Beware, taxi rides are crazy expensive (hence one of the reasons we'd rent a car next time, not to mention the freedom to explore). Mary is "in the know" and really made our dining experiences memorable. By the way, if you want to dine at Coco Bistro you'd better get her to reserve months, or at least weeks in advance.


    We had dinner at the famed Grace's Cottage at Point Grace on our first night and I can honestly say it was by far the worst meal of our trip. The restaurant was packed and there were three or four very large groups of 8-10, which always affects a restaurant's ability to cope. The service was non existent and when we could flag someone down, they were fairly surly. The food was almost inedible. How do your screw up grilled snapper? You overcook it beyond being able to cut it. The cost was obscene for what we ate and a service charge was added.

    We had been told the food was amazing on the island, though pricey. There were in fact some really top notch restaurants, and like anywhere, some mediocre and crappy ones. We experienced the gamut. We found prices to be on par with the restos on St Barths. In fact some were actually quite a bit cheaper given the currency is U.S. dollars. Our best meals were at Coyaba and Mango Reef. We had a mediocre Italian meal at Lupo where the fabulous service made up for the meal that was just okay. Hemingways on the beach was highly recommended for lunch and was pretty awful, despite the great setting and good service. Baci was passable, reasonably priced, old school Italian in a nice setting on Turtle Bay. And we enjoyed Sunday brunch watching the Canada-Sweden gold medal game on the deck of Dannybuoys along with 60 other Canadians.


    One last note, like on St Barths the mosquitos and midges are virulent. Bring repellant and use it at dawn and dusk.


    We really enjoyed our visit to Provo and feel we barely scratched the surface of this sleepy little island with very warm, friendly people. I'd like to return next year with Michael and explore a little more. No, it's not St Barths, or even slightly European. But it was one of the most laid back and relaxing trips I've been on in years and that was exactly what I needed before I returned to the -20C temps of this awful Toronto winter.

    This was our beachfront and it was always this empty...
    GraceBay.jpg

  2. #2
    MIke R is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Stinson Lake - New Hampshire & Provincetown - Cape Cod Posts: 51,937
    great!....29 years ago I delivered the one of the first Caribbean live aboard dive boats to Provo which I believe is still there ( Sea Dancer )....and hung out for a few weeks getting the gig started....loved it very much...

    as you know....great big wide world out there
    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace" Jimi Hendrix

  3. #3
    GayleR is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2002 Toronto, Canada Posts: 1,958
    Yeah, truth be told Mike, it was a really nice change. And I loved how casual it was. No jewelry, no dressing up, no make up, all things I do/wear on SBH. I think I could get used to this style (once in a while).

  4. #4
    andynap is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 43,756
    I don't get dressed up or wear makeup on St. Barts- maybe I should??


    Andy

  5. #5
    GayleR is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2002 Toronto, Canada Posts: 1,958
    Andy, you look fine just as you are.

  6. #6
    andynap is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 43,756
    Aw shucks.


    Andy

  7. #7
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 5,643
    You write the greatest reports, Gayle! I feel like I would know the place if I were to visit . . . and hope to do so some time.

  8. #8
    NHDiane is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Aug 2003 New Hampshire Posts: 6,928
    Hey Gail, glad you enjoyed your girls getaway. Your comments regarding many of your experiences were identical to ours. Beaches are magnificent and that was the best part for us. I had to smile when you mentioned Dannybouys....we hit that spot twice, just for hanging out and it had a good vibe. I had read where beach service at many of the resorts was spotty at best but again, that wasn't as important to us. We had a six pack cooler that we took to beach and pool. Turn down service..exactly the same at Seven Stars and water showed up sporadically in our room. We hit the grocery store a couple of times. For a girls getaway, I might consider going back. Thanks for the great report!
    Emma Peel: I suppose Mother warned you about women like me?
    John Steed: Until now, I didn't know there were women like you.

  9. #9
    MIke R is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Stinson Lake - New Hampshire & Provincetown - Cape Cod Posts: 51,937
    ]
    Quote Originally Posted by GayleR View Post
    Yeah, truth be told Mike, it was a really nice change. And I loved how casual it was. No jewelry, no dressing up, no make up, all things I do/wear on SBH. I think I could get used to this style (once in a while).
    yes indeed ....and that's why we re going to put ol st Bart's on the back burner for a bit ....variety is the spice of life
    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace" Jimi Hendrix

  10. #10
    katva is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Posts: 4,764
    Sounds like a great escape, all in all!! One of my friends from childhood was also just there---- she returned home to Newport on Wednesday. She was at Grace Bay Club---- her photos were gorgeous----- what a beach!
    If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room :)

  11. #11
    LindaP is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Mar 2003 Albany, NY Posts: 2,805
    Thanks for your great report Gayle......that last photo looks like Anguilla, and that is why we switch it up once in a while.....Anguilla is just as you said about Provo; laid back ,simple, casual but beautiful beaches.
    It's good to explore, but also good to have a home base .
    Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance !

  12. #12
    ccg is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2009 Durham, NC Posts: 671
    Gayle and Diane - thank you both for the inside info. It confirmed my decision to pack and check a cooler of food and staples for our trip. The 4 of us are tingling :) The countdown clock as begun!!!

    Charlotte
    "There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign" Robert Louis Stevenson
    House Divided - Roll Tide War Eagle

  13. #13
    NHDiane is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Aug 2003 New Hampshire Posts: 6,928
    Enjoy yourself Charlotte! I'll be anxious to hear all about your adventures when you return!
    Emma Peel: I suppose Mother warned you about women like me?
    John Steed: Until now, I didn't know there were women like you.

  14. #14
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 9,187
    Gayle-
    In your note, you stated 'One last note, like on St Barths the mosquitos and midges are virulent. Bring repellant and use it at dawn and dusk.' We have been going for 10 years and notice the occasional mosquito or midge when the wind dies down, but have never come even close to calling them 'virulent.' We stay in Pte. Milou, where there is almost always a nice breeze that keeps the pesky critters away.
    Where do you stay and go on the island, so we can stay away?

  15. #15
    GayleR is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2002 Toronto, Canada Posts: 1,958
    The prevalence of the insects is directly related to the amount of rainfall and any areas of standing water. Sometimes they're worse than other times, but always present, regardless of what area you're in. It's a tropical island.

  16. #16
    kent1994 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Aug 2004 Pennsylvania Posts: 1,741
    Great report Gayle. Thanks

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