Royal Treatment At Sandy Lane, even the sand castles have room service

February 25, 2003

It was a cold and lonely feeling, discovering that we'd be
fighting this battle on our own. On our second day at the Sandy
Lane resort in Barbados, my wife and I each grabbed a Limoges
plate and passed through a buffet line of unearthly delights.
Having indulged the day before in spicy shrimp, Laura went with
the tiger prawns, which, though larger than the spicy shrimp, had
to be peeled by hand. Even though Laura said she did not relish
this task--"That's the kind of effort I simply can't be
making"--none of the legion of uniformed help stepped forward to
peel her prawns for her. We continued with lunch in a state of
mild shock.

We weren't being unrealistic. We'd simply been spoiled rotten by
the service at this high end of the high-end sybarite's dream. At
the airport we were ushered through customs by Andrew, who handed
us off to Dave, the driver of the Bentley in which we made the
half-hour trip to the resort. After Dave pulled onto the
grounds--which give the grounds at Versailles a run for their
money--we were greeted by staff members bearing chilled
washcloths and chillier daiquiris. It occurred to me that when
our three-day stay ended I might break down and cry.

Check-in occurs in one's room. (It wouldn't do to have Jerry
Seinfeld or Claudia Schiffer standing at a counter in the lobby,
now would it?) That's followed by a 15-minute cram course on how
to work the touchpads controlling lighting, temperature and
plasma-screen TV in one's boudoir. The high-tech hardware was
added during a recent $300 million renovation. The venerable
resort opened in 1961 and has been a playground for such
luminaries as Queen Elizabeth, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger and Ari
Onassis, who, according to Sandy Lane lore, was rowed ashore from
his yacht while Maria Callas breaststroked alongside, a pet
marmoset on her back.

By the late '90s the property needed some gussying up. The hotel
was razed, then rebuilt--Sandy Laners prefer to say "reborn"--in
the neo-Palladian style of the original. I was told by Nina
Marshall, one of the resort's duty managers, that the makeover
was a source of anxiety for many of the affluent families--some
American, more European--who've been returning to this resort for
decades. "When they return and realize it's still their Sandy
Lane, only better," she says, "they're overjoyed." And we, of
course, are overjoyed for them.

Other highlights of the renovation are a new golf course designed
by Tom Fazio, which complements a pair of old courses; and a
47,000-square-foot spa that Caligula might have found a trifle
decadent. I golfed, Laura got Rolfed. But on this island, where
some say Arawak Indians invented the hammock, the bulk of our
time was spent on chaise lounges, facing the Caribbean and
wondering if it was late enough in the day to order an adult
beverage. (It usually was.)

One morning Laura foolishly attempted to plant an umbrella in the
sand...by herself. "Here at Sandy Lane," said the attendant
who promptly interceded, "you don't have to do anything for
yourself."

He was right, I now realize. Had we only asked, they probably
would have peeled our prawns. --Austin Murphy

COLOR PHOTO: DIANE SMITH MAKE YOURSELF SANDY Green greens and wide white beaches came in handy as ideal backdrops for Pestova and photographer Gavin Bond. COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANDY LANE [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: JENNIFER KAPLAN [See caption above]

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SANDY LANE, TURN TO PAGE 218.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)