You can get arrested for cursing in Nevis.
This is a good thing to know, because by the time you arrive at the Four Seasons Resort there, after 10 hours of traveling in planes, mini-planes, a van, and, finally, a boat (picturesquely staffed by men in white captain's uniforms who exude the sort of friendly attitude one would expect from the Coast Guard toward potential drug runners), you will feel like cursing. You will also, perhaps, wonder whether you've arrived at the right resort.
"Is this it?" my traveling companion, Darren Star, whispers as we stand on a simple weathered wooden dock. In front of us, a small sign reads FOUR SEASONS GUESTS ONLY. There are palm trees, a beach (brown sand, not white), and water (greenish brown, as opposed to stunning Caribbean turquoise blue), with people paddling around on what appear to be giant tricycles. Our itinerary indicates that we are staying in Fig Tree Cottage, but we don't see anything that could actually be defined as a "cottage." Instead, there are many two-story buildings with wooden trim lined up next to one another.
Okay, maybe we were expecting something more…glamorous. But what the…heck. After all, we're here to enjoy ourselves. Darren has just finished shooting the HBO pilot for Sex and the City, based on a book I wrote, and I've just finished shooting a series for VH1. We need to mellow out. We have only three nights and two full days, but somehow we're going to get tan, finish the books we're reading, eat healthy, exercise, and do a smidgen of work so we can return to New York smarter, more attractive, and in better shape than we were when we left.
After all, isn't that the point of a vacation?
5 p.m. Arrive at dock; enthusiastically greeted by staff all wearing bright flower-print shirts. Led by a charming man, who asks how our trip was and is exceedingly nice when we rant about how awful it was, to the Great House, where we "check in" by sitting in large rattan chairs thirstily gulping rum cocktails.
6 p.m. Go to "suite," which is fabulous: two rooms, overlooking the pool and ocean, each with its own air-conditioning system and patio. Ooh and aah over large fruit selection dotted with chocolate truffles. Eat all the truffles. "We're going to be very happy here," Darren says.
7:30 p.m. Open the door to our patio and hear the sound of a steel band mixed with the loud, pleasant chirping of tree frogs. Cocktails on the patio of the Great House—blue tequila martinis (the resort is known for its martinis, served in chilled silver shakers)—and hors d'oeuvres—wonderful conch fritters and roasted coconut slices. Check out other guests, who all seem to be either young couples on their honeymoons (it is June, after all) or families on vacation. Everyone is well dressed and in good shape. Who says Americans are overweight?
8:30 p.m. The Dining Room is lovely, with a wraparound screened porch, a giant stone fireplace, chandeliers, and huge flower arrangements. I eat a pork appetizer followed by some kind of fish followed by a Grand Marnier soufflé. We drink a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine. Naturally, talk turns to the island. The schools are excellent, everyone is very upstanding, and, yes, you actually can get arrested and thrown in jail for swearing.
Day One, 9 a.m. It's sunny…or is it?There's a big, black cloud hanging around the peak of Mount Nevis. When I remark on this, one of the pool attendants says, "Don't speak of the wolf or he'll come to the door."
"Right," I say.
Breakfast. Darren and I are on this diet where we don't eat any carbohydrates—no pasta, no bread, and no potatoes. It's a shame, because breakfast looks really tempting, from the island special (Caribbean lobster hash) to pancakes with bacon. Darren tries to convince me that I shouldn't be on the diet, hoping that I'll order pancakes so he can have a bite, but I don't fall for it. Instead, I ask for a large bowl of fruit. So there.
10 a.m. Sit by pool. Order iced tea. Open new book—American Pastoral by Philip Roth.
10:15 Put down book to sip iced tea.
10:30 Pick up book, but quickly put it down to discuss where to go for lunch. We decide on Sunshines, a shack down the beach that serves grilled seafood and some special drink called the Killer Bee.
10:45 Go to room to get more suntan lotion.
10: 55 Get into discussion with Darren about how great it is that our room is "right where the action is."
11:00 Order another iced tea. Very relaxed. Wonder when it's going to be time for lunch.
12:00 Walk 50 yards down beach to check out scene at Sunshines and see how far away it is. Smile at local teenagers pulling a string out of the water—the only other people on the beach.
1:30 Finally go to lunch at Sunshines. It's run by a local man named—you guessed it—who started by serving lunch to the construction workers building the Four Seasons six years ago. Sunshine offers to make us a fresh batch of the special drink. He brazenly whips it up in front of us, knowing full well that two hours and four Killer Bees later we won't be able to remember what's in it anyway.
We can't. We also can't quite make our island tour. Our reasoning is this: Everything we might possibly want or need is at the resort, so why leave?
We spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling (lots of tiny fish and sand dollars and a huge barracuda under the dock), paddle tricycling, having massages, and playing tennis. We feel good. We definitely accomplished a lot.
It's another beautiful evening. Over blue martinis and conch fritters on the terrace, we agree that nothing beats that Caribbean air. We're mellow, very mellow.
Meanwhile, someone passes out in the dining room. Too mellow. Too much sun, too much tennis, too many Killer Bees and blue martinis. We absolutely have to take it easy tomorrow.
Day Two, 10 a.m. It really is raining—a cliché warm, soft, gentle rain. We spend the morning happily reading on our patio.
12:30 Lunch in the pool cabana. More conch fritters. We're wondering whether it's going to clear up but secretly hoping it won't. We got a lot of sun yesterday.
3:00 Still raining. Our snorkeling trip is canceled, so we take the island tour instead. There are only 9,000 residents on Nevis, and our tour guide, Bumby, seems to know every one of them—or at least where they live. He points out each house and gives us a brief description of its inhabitants ("American, from Connecticut"; "local, teaches in the school"). We also find out that the island is filled with wild monkeys, which escaped from English sailors who brought them as pets. In fact, there may be more wild monkeys on Nevis than there are residents, and it's our lucky day—on a high mountain road we see them in bushes, lounging on rocks, eating green mangos. They have black faces and stippled brown bodies and long, skinny yellow-tipped tails. Darren and I decide they look like a cross between little people and cats.
Bumby is impressed. Evidently, tourists are always demanding that they see the wild monkeys, but the monkeys don't always cooperate. Naturally, this makes us feel superior. "We saw the wild monkeys," we tell each other.
That night, during dinner in the Grill Room (the best shrimp cocktail I've ever had and a grilled lobster tail), the wild monkeys are a big topic of conversation. Bob, the assistant food and beverage manager, says that the adult monkeys are "as big as small children." Somehow, this leads into a discussion about zombies. Although Nevis is completely safe, apparently one does have to watch out for ghosts. One woman swears that once, unbeknownst to her, a zombie jumped in the back of her truck; when she got home, her brother saw the zombie and "his hair stood straight up." When zombies aren't hitching rides and scaring the &%*$ out of people, they basically show up at beach parties as "balls of fire."
Walking back to our room, we pass the remains of "West Indies Night," held in the pool cabana. Tacked up to a wooden wagon is a scarecrow-like creature—a hook-nosed bird mask attached to brightly colored streamers. It's a zombie, all right.
We run screaming back to our room.
Day Three: Up early (7 a.m.) to catch the eight o'clock boat to St. Kitts. As we bounce over the waves, under the watchful eye of the crew, Darren reveals that he dreamed a zombie came into his room. "Prove you're a zombie," he commanded. "Turn into a ball of fire."
It did. But then he woke up and realized he was staring at the orange indicator light on the smoke alarm.
Oh, well. At least we're tan.
P.O. Box 565, Pinney's Beach, Charlestown, Nevis, West Indies; 869/469-1111; fax 869/469-1040; doubles from $250.
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