Some resorts have no need to shout out their elegance. Rather, they have a sense of style and refinement that’s pervasive, but understated and intimate. That’s what guests will find once they pass through the grand gates of the historic Montpelier Plantation and Beach that’s ringed by ancient stone walls, and blanketed by a wonderland of colorful blooms and verdancy that resembles a botanical garden.
On this 60-acre, undulating landscape that sprawls at the base of the more than 3,000-foot-high Nevis Peak, you’ll stroll to your spacious, many-windowed villa along a palm-lined path; sip a passion fruit-mint mojito cocktail in an atmospheric Great Room where candles flicker; relish a multi-course meal while dining in a dimly lit, converted conical sugar mill; and luxuriate in a ginger lemongrass warm stone massage in their simple, alfresco spa cooled by tradewinds, draped with boldly-hued pink trumpet vines, and positioned with views of the Caribbean Sea in the distance.
Wandering this property, you’ll discover abundant botanical treasures. Beside the gated entryway, an informal swing hangs from a blue jacaranda tree. And a frangipani tree’s curly branches contrast with its delicate red flowers. Along the well-tended lawns, an egret flits about, brightly-colored pepper flowers bloom, and the light pink blossoms of a Chinese violet wave in the light breezes.
This former sugar plantation that dates from the 18th century seamlessly blends historical remnants with its contemporary and nature-based present. Cast iron coppers that were once used to boil sugar now serve as planters for umbrellas palms. Metal gear boxes are set in the lush landscape, resembling industrial sculptures, of sorts. Old circular wooden forms that were once molds for the metal milling cogwheels were repurposed as works of art, dangling from the ceiling in two of the property’s three restaurants, and acting as a giant mirror frame in the Great Room.
The Great Room
Standing sentry outside the doors to the thick stone walled Great Room — said to be the former sugar boiling room — is a majestic weeping fig tree that, with its gnarled stature, appears far older than its mere 56 years. (At night it’s ringed with small fire pots, while iron lanterns are placed on the steps to the Great Room, all contributing to the romantic allure.) In stark contrast to the exterior that’s painted with black and white brushstrokes (whether it’s the ubiquitous shutters or the dark volcanic stones along the walkways), the interior has a vibrant, but subtle, color palette.
The sofa and armchair cushions, throw pillows and lamp shades in magenta hues pack a fun, design punch while also conveying a modern sensibility. The lighting is subdued. Candles pepper the space, and glass vases of Ti plants decorate the tables. It’s hard to escape a connection with botanicals, visible through myriad portals or arranged in vases in the room. Even the fabrics are embellished with images of fern fronds or otherwise have a muted foliage pattern, like so many of the fabrics found on property. Off to the side, the stone-walled Card Room is believed to be where the original smoke stack was located. Now, it’s warm and cozy, a perfect romantic spot for a couple to dine or relish a cocktail.
The Great Room with its twin bars is where you’ll want to gravitate for pre-dinner cocktails and an array of canapes, such as a zucchini croquette with onion jam. Or maybe you’ll want to play a game of checkers at a stone-topped table.
The bewitching hour is the early evening, as the light of the setting sun streams through, illuminating the tall glass cylindrical vases containing delicate moth orchids.
So named because it sits at 750 feet above sea level, this restaurant offers a stellar venue for dining on the terrace, where each night the sun settles down into the horizon as a fiery ball streaking the sky a rainbow of gold and honey hues. Guests are treated to the sounds of tree frogs and the sight of a forest of palms. The menu changes regularly, but no matter what you order, you’ll be presented with dishes that resemble works of art. For example, on the creative vegetarian menu, the mushroom consomme is served with a central mass of crimini mushrooms encircled by strips of parsnip crisps that are arranged like a teepee. A spiced tomato and aubergine mousse comes with crispy quinoa and zucchini along with a tamarind balsamic glaze. The dessert has a playful look: fresh fruit balls surround a tropical pavlova with a passion fruit coulis drizzled on the meringue. For those who can’t get enough of the Great Room, you’ll want to retire there for a cup of coffee or tea along with a selection of petit fours.
Aptly named for the many shades of blue accents, sun-filled Indigo is the contemporary, white-washed restaurant and lounge that sits adjacent to, what else, but an azure-hued, tile bottom, 60-foot-long pool. In this airy pavilion, two large black metal sculptures (one of a frog and the other, a pig) lend a sense of whimsy to this inviting space where it’s easy to while away the afternoon reading a book, or playing chess as tall areca palms sway just beyond the interior. At the bar, guests get comfortable on the modern bamboo, high-top stools or the comfy sofas beside locally-made tables inset with weathered beach stones. Vases of colorful bougainvillea and snake plants dot the space. After lunch, save room for afternoon tea where you’ll be served scones with jams and cream along with a scrumptious baked good (such as passion fruit cake).
Indigo is noted for its themed dinners, such as Caribbean tapas night where you’ll choose from among a variety of innovative menu items. Each is served as a trio atop a black slate plate. Some of the tempting dishes include: ginger grilled shrimp with cucumber and green papaya relish and honey soy sauce; Cajun lobster sliders with breadfruit toast, microgreens, garlic aioli and lemon slices; and butternut parmesan bruschetta with spinach pesto, an herb garnish and quinoa seeds.
Once you’ve ascended the stone steps to enter this unique, centuries-old venue, you’ll notice barely a handful of tables in the soaring conical, stone-walled space that’s solely lit by candles. Resembling a castle tower, this may very well define a romantic setting. Everyone speaks in hushed tones, enjoying the sensory experience, including the dim lighting, rugged walls, faint breezes, and the slight movement of the foliage beyond the arched openings. The five-course menu might include a delectable watermelon and poached lobster salad; pan seared wahoo in a ginger-infused broth; sous vide lamb loin with pickled beets; and two desserts: papaya ice cream, and poached pear slices.
Breakfast in the Courtyard
Whether sitting under a white umbrella in the volcanic-lined courtyard or under the arches of the open-air breakfast room, you’ll have views of myriad palms, from the fox tail variety whose fronds resemble those of its namesake to the Australian umbrella tree with its elongated scarlet-hued blooms. The air is filled with calls of birds, such as pearly-eyed flashers. It’s easy to get distracted from your tasty meal — it includes creamy, homemade yogurt and warm coconut scones with butter and jam — as you watch the veils of mist swirling around the summit of foliage-coated Nevis Peak. In fact, guests will find that Nevis Peak is a majestic presence at Montpelier, whether you view it as you walk to your accommodation, sit on the back verandah of the Great House facing Mill Privée, or lounge beside the pool.
Once you’re done with your meal, saunter over to the rear verandah of the Great House that’s an ideal locale for mindful meditation. Your vision will be taken up with the orange blooms of scarlet stars (a bromeliad), fragrant Indian jasmine, and brilliant flaming torch plants.
Montpelier’s private beach with an exquisite strip of sand beckons, a mere 20-minute-drive away. A shuttle drops off guests to spend the day with their packed picnic lunch, sunscreen, reading material, and the opportunity to quench your thirst at the well-stocked bar pavilion where coconut martinis are a favorite cocktail.
You’ll find half a dozen cabanas with lounge chairs where you can choose to get some shade from a guanacaste and almond tree if you so desire or opt for sunning on a chez set on a grassy lawn. You’re bound to see green monkeys scampering about.
This beach is also a must-visit on Thursday evenings when Montpelier typically hosts a festive Beach BBQ, complete with tiki torches, a band, and a front row seat to one of the best sunsets in the Caribbean.
The path to this two-bedroom villa is framed by areca palms as well as great bougainvillea, and honey locust. Rugged black volcanic boulders and rocks are decoratively scattered in the adjacent lawns as they are around much of the property.
The villa’s outdoor space is planted with giant taro, bridal bouquet and more. Inside, you’ll find sunny, contemporary spaces with nature-patterned fabrics, a custom-made table inset with a mosaic of bamboo, and a four-poster king bed in the master bedroom, which catches the rays of the morning sun. (The other bedroom gets more sunshine in the late afternoon.)
In the morning, after you’ve showered — don’t miss gazing at Nevis Peak from your shower room window — wrap yourself in a soft white robe and sit or lounge outside on your immense deck. Of course you’ll want to soak in your private plunge pool, delighting in the views of the sea in the distance beyond the verdancy.
Contemporary Art: Kirk Mechar
While there’s so many treasures to discover at the Montpelier Plantation and Beach, it’s worth exploring the myriad interior and outdoor spaces where Kirk Mechar’s paintings and sculptures are hung.
Mechar, a Canadian artist, fell in love with Nevis and now lives and paints on this wee Caribbean island for a large part of the year. His works, whether paintings or sculptures, can be found all over the property — including in the Tamarind Villa — and often in the unlikeliest places, including the back wall of a parking lot, and in a public restroom beside the pool.
“I love that,” says Mechar. “People think works of art are precious. They are not.”
His work is quite striking and unusual. But while some of his oil paintings indirectly appear related to nature, “this was not a conscious choice,” says Mechar. “What people call ‘flowers’ started out as X’s on a canvas; grid patterns.”
Mechar’s line paintings — his most recent series, which is hung in the breakfast area — reflect the horizon. “Nevis is just 36 square miles, but, to me, every time I look at it, it’s massive, it’s infinite.” Lines are what he sees when looking out from his garden. “Is it nature? It’s all nature. But I don’t do it consciously.”
To create his recent line series, he first paints three or four of them on canvas, then he cuts them up, and pieces them back together. “It gives it more texture.” In fact, he thinks of these paintings more sculpturally.
His sculptures that sprinkle the property — he creates them by using a chainsaw and discarded wooden beams — are often painted a crimson hue. But, again, he has no preconceived ideas. “I see what happens. I do my sculptures for fun.”
Interestingly, while it can take Mechar a week to finish a sculpture, “a large painting can take hundreds of hours.”