As we all endure multiple lockdowns of varying strictness and duration, the idea of an escape from the past year’s febrile world is an attractive one. Time for a break from the pandemic fallout accompanied by multiple heated global conversations, including one which would have brought tears to Voltaire’s eyes, about whether we should actually be allowed to have a conversation.
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All of which makes your own beachside villa a delightful prospect. Although for some people, the attractiveness fades when you start to examine the details. It may have full service, but your chef realistically isn’t going to be able to rustle up a Michelin-starred Japanese meal one night and some molecular gastronomy the next. Your pool, while potentially big, will be just that, a pool, not a choice of numerous pools in different locations. As to the atmosphere, you’ll either have to make your own, or travel to the nearest establishment which has one.
Then, there is The Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Perched on a cliff at the southern edge of the Canary Islands, with a spectacular view across the sea to a volcano bursting out of the ocean and looking as if it might come alive at any moment (don’t worry, La Gomera hasn’t erupted for three million years). Abama has a sense of geography that would be the envy of many places in more exotic settings, in a location that is a short flight and transfer from the major cities of Europe.
The luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel is at the heart of the complex, but we stayed at one of the villas, located on a series of pathways traversing exotic hanging gardens tumbling down the peak of the cliff. Despite the name, these are not villas per se, as they do not have a kitchen: ours was a large private apartment, with two big bedrooms with vaulted ceilings, marble bathrooms with North African touches, a marble living and dining room, and no fewer than four balconies, all facing the sea, the volcano and, at night, a view of the stars for which the islands are famous.
On our first night, we became addicted to room service, taking it on the biggest of the balconies, itself the size of a decent suite. Iberico ham, local Canarian potatoes with an intensity of taste served with a spicy vegetable sauce, the day’s catch of local white fish, and as secluded as you might ever want to be. Eventually one evening we headed out to El Mirador restaurant. This is located below the villas with its own pool, on the edge of the cliff itself. We dined on the restaurant’s speciality, its seafood paella with clams, mussels, white fish and calamari.
The resort exists in an elevated sphere of gastronomy. A short ride in your own dedicated golf buggy takes you up the hillside to Kabuki, an outpost of the famed Madrid restaurant of the same name, with a 100km view in three directions, a Michelin star and dishes that remain in the soul, like butterfish and white truffle nigiri, and white fish and Iberian pancetta sushi.
There are more outdoor pools than we could count – we gave up at ten. Each set of villas has its own long, sinuous, sneaky 40m-long pool at whose side socially distanced sunbathing on the garden terrace, accompanied by butterflies and exotic flowers, is not just possible, it happens naturally. This is a place with a luxury of space.
At the bottom of the cliff, accessible by lift, hotel transport or a short walk, is the only white-sand beach of the island, with its own beach restaurant, bar, rock diving spots and a sheltered swimming area where even short swim brings you into visual contact with an array of multicoloured fish. And at the top of the resort, high on the mountainside, is one of Spain’s most celebrated 18-hole golf courses, and a set of championship quality tennis courts.
The facilities of one of the world’s greatest hotels with the seclusion of a villa? The best, as Voltaire’s Candide would say, of all worlds.