NEL­SON GAY VILLA, BAR­BA­DOS

Red - - ESCAPES -

White pow­dery beaches, sparkling aqua­ma­rine seas, rum punch and a gen­eral feel­ing of re­lax­ation – th­ese are my mem­o­ries of Bar­ba­dos, from my trip five years ago, when my twins were just two years old. So with the op­por­tu­nity to visit again, all three of us jump at the chance to make new mem­o­ries.

This time we de­cide to do the home away from home thing – if your home is a cool, vine-cov­ered 1960s villa and comes with staff, that is. The villa at Nel­son Gay, made out of lo­cal coral stone with­out win­dows or doors, but walls and pil­lars where the sea breeze can blow in, has the air of a by­gone era. The house sits in a per­fectly over­grown, lush two-acre trop­i­cal gar­den that leads down to the turquoise sea, with a glow­ing out­door pool lined with mo­saic tiles.

Here, ev­ery­thing feels loose and nat­u­ral: tiny birds fly through the liv­ing area, the oc­ca­sional gecko will scurry up the walls, and the res­i­dent fam­ily of mon­keys troupe across the lawn. The house has five dou­ble bed­rooms with the big­gest beds I’ve ever seen (handy, as I end up shar­ing one bed with both my chil­dren – all dreams of starfish­ing by my­self erased), and in the main house all come with en suites (there is a self-con­tained cottage in the gar­den and two wooden chat­tel houses in the grounds), mak­ing it the ideal op­tion for ex­tended fam­i­lies or holidaying with friends.

The lofty lounge is adorned with faded whites and greens and eclec­tic ob­jets d’art, African carv­ings, and a bronze Burmese tem­ple gong, used to call guests for din­ner (or cock­tails). The deca­dent din­ing room full of Mu­rano Crys­tal Bac­carat glass seats 12 for a sparkly oc­ca­sion, but what is re­ally charm­ing is the feel­ing of in­side out­side and the air of in­for­mal­ity. We eat all our meals on the ter­race, ser­e­naded by frog song at din­ner and chirp­ing birds at break­fast.

Nel­son Gay also comes with staff: chef, but­ler, house­keeper, gar­dener and night watch­man. I am un­sure about this ini­tially, with two seven-year-olds I worry about mak­ing a mess/ bick­er­ing/fussy eat­ing/gen­eral chaos but the staff are su­per laid-back and it’s a joy to re­turn to tidy bed­rooms and clean clothes each day and to be cooked for but feel to­tally at home. Our chef, Ty­rone, is end­lessly ac­com­mo­dat­ing, whip­ping up his sig­na­ture grilled mahi mahi, shrimp salad, fly­ing fish, but also buy­ing in snacks and mak­ing banana bread for the kids.

Con­ve­niently the villa has an off-site concierge ser­vice who will book taxis, restau­rants, of­fer trip advice and even ar­range for me to have a massage un­der the gazebo in the gar­den (re­lax­ing ex­cept for the two fas­ci­nated seven-year-olds watch­ing), but mainly we just ven­ture as far as the end of the gar­den, where the gates open onto a per­fect soft sandy beach, co­conuts wash­ing up on the shore and calm clear wa­ter that’s ideal for chil­dren. Even with a small ho­tel next door, we have the beach to our­selves. Hol­i­days abroad with two kids – and just you – can feel vaguely daunt­ing, but then there’s sun­shine and Caribbean rum and friendly faces and a fish on the grill and sud­denly ev­ery­thing seems easy. BEV­ER­LEY CROUCHER

Bev­er­ley with her twins Tom and Kitty; the house has five dou­ble bed­rooms

Housed in two acres of lush gar­dens, you can choose between your own pool or the sea right in front

A cottage in the villa’s gar­den

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