Monday, June 3, 2013

Where to Stay: Round Hill Hotel & Villas

Round Hill Hotel's Villa 16
Back in February, when New York City was still gloomy and freezing, I escaped winter for a few sunny days in Montego Bay, Jamaica at Round Hill Hotel & Villas. The morning of my flight, I left our apartment before the sun and got pounded by sideways rain as I desperately hailed a cab, absentmindedly wondering why, exactly, I ever decided to leave Arizona. Those thoughts fell to the wayside as soon as I landed in Montego Bay. Oh yeah, I thought, I moved to New York City for the four-hour direct flight to Jamaica.

I began shedding my layers as soon as we stepped out of the airport and, realizing just how pale I'd gotten, started a mental countdown to beach time. Arriving at Round Hill was a giddy experience. You're basically surrounded by a paradise of white plantation-style "cottages" (read: villas) and emerald vines with pretty pops of hot pink bougainvillea. Ahead of you, nothing but the view of palm trees and blue water.
All of the villas, though individually owned, are done in plantation-style furnishings.
I was there on a press trip with several other writers and we stayed in Villa 16, pictured first high above, which is basically its own compound with six cottages and two pools overlooking the bay. We toured many of the other villas (there are 28 in total, including two owned by Ralph Lauren), each one individually owned but fitting in nicely with Round Hill's Americana/nautical/plantation-style aesthetic.

When it first opened in 1953, Round Hill was the escape-of-choice for American and European socialites, celebrities and politicians. So, you can only imagine the history its walls hold. John F. Kennedy and Jackie spent part of their never-ending honeymoon here (Villa 10), and the President even rehearsed his famous inaugural address in Villa 25 (coincidentally owned at the time by Adele Astaire).
Nautical touches.
Besides the option to rent out sprawling villas and their individual cottages, Round Hill also features the Pineapple House, a more affordable block of hotel rooms recently renovated by, who else?, Ralph Lauren. Each one has an ocean and/or pool view. One of my favorite places to post up during my stay at Round Hill was directly stage right of the Pineapple House, at a small beach bar under an old, shady tree.

There is a lot to do on property at Round Hill - water sports, tennis, fitness classes - but (happily) the most energy I exerted during my stay was walking to the spa one rainy afternoon. Round Hill's spa is small and peaceful, surrounded by a generous stretch of beautiful green lawn that I made a mental note to nap on later, but never got the chance to do so.

I had the Pineapple Body Buff, which smelled deliciously tropical and left my skin in a much better state than it was when I left the city. The spa menu is actually full of ingredients that are good enough to eat - Jamaican coffee beans, sweet vanilla with brown sugar, and lime and ginger. They all come in the form of massages, body scrubs, and facials.

Round Hill and the beach from Villa 16.
A small number of the spa's ingredients are grown in Round Hill's onsite organic garden, which is mostly used to supply the resort's restaurant with fresh produce. We toured it one sunny afternoon with the gardener, named Billy, who pointed out the many plants and herbs and what they're used for. Colic mint for an upset stomach. Moringa leaves for concentration and a healthy heart. Sorrel flower for a delicious champagne garnish (my favorite).

Round Hill's chef is passionate about using locally-grown produce and area purveyors in The Grill restaurant. Every Thursday and Sunday night, The Grill hosts a farm-to-table dinner with a menu of only local goods. This includes fruits and vegetables from Potosi Farms, which is owned by quite possibly the most attractive farming couple on the planet. Seriously, I'm not kidding.
Around the resort.
My stay at Round Hill was one of those one in a million experiences. It's the type of place where employees stay for 20+ years and families return to every season. The sort of resort where people remember not just your name, but where you're from and the names of your adult children back home. Where drivers nicknamed Goofy give you a special goodbye handshake and you devour bites of scotch bonnet peppers by the spoonful. No? Just me?

Round Hill was so picture-perfect! I couldn't fit all of my photos into one blog post. Head on over to the Style Jaunt Facebook page for more images.

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