A home far, far away from winter…
The National Post
By Nancy Truman
Craving sunshine and warmth? Condos at The Crane come with tranquility, seclusion and take-your-breath-away views.
Standing on the balcony of my suite at The Crane Resort in Barbados, watching the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash ashore as day fades to night, it’s easy to understand why this former British colony has captivated travellers for centuries.
Of course, just about anywhere you go in the Caribbean you can find unimpeded views of the wave-whipped Atlantic or the calm, turquoise Caribbean Sea, dramatic sunrises or sunsets, long strands of sandy beaches with swaying palm trees, fresh tropical fruit and free-flowing rum punch, and plenty of sunshine. What’s harder to find is the peace of mind Barbados offers snowbirds looking to buy a piece of paradise.
Not surprisingly, after a year of record hurricanes crippled popular destinations and severely damaged properties, concern about hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes has heightened. “Barbados hasn’t had a direct hit from a hurricane since 1955,” Paul Doyle, founder and managing director of The Crane Resort explained.
By many accounts, Barbados tourist numbers suffered from confusion between it and Barbuda, the small island about a 1.5 hour flight northwest of Barbados, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma in September. While Barbados has the good fortune to be closer to the equator, nowhere is immune to natural disaster. That said, the island delivers, when it comes to a more general checklist that includes a good standard of living, established education and health care systems, low crime levels and feeling at ease with the population.
It isn’t hard to imagine owning a piece of paradise on the most eastern island of the Lesser Antilles, as I discovered on a recent visit. Fond memories from my first visit several years ago — of Soca music, sweet bread made with fresh coconut, and the soft-spoken, polite Barbadians — didn’t disappoint, and I carried home new memories of the people I met and the places I went.
Torontonian Doyle, who used to work in the reinsurance business in Canada, first went to explore the opportunity of buying a small, out-of-the way hotel in the late 1980s. He ended up selling his home in the city’s Wychwood neighbourhood and buying the Crane Hotel, which has perched on 16 hectares of cliff-top land on the southeast coast of the island since 1887.
“Barbados grew on me the longer I stayed,” says Doyle, who is now a resident. “It became clear Canadians are very appreciated here. And that the people are very warm and welcoming.”
During a tour of the property, Doyle frequently points out that design, engineering, construction, furnishings, landscaping and management are all done in-house in keeping with his belief that you can have luxury without an exorbitant price tag, while maintaining authenticity and harmony with nature.
The award-winning resort has five restaurants — serving everything from sushi, to seafood, and southern Italian — a café (which coincidentally has awesome coconut ice cream and sweet bread), shops, a fitness centre, spa, tennis and multiple pools, yet I never had to fight for a beach chair or line up to eat.
Doyle’s uncompromising approach to development has also been applied in two previously announced residential projects that are underway. The first of five buildings at The Private Residences at Crane is move-in ready. Spread over two hectares, each building consists of 16 two- and three-bedroom units of 1,916 sq. ft. and 3,619 sq. ft., respectively.
And a model home sits at the low-density, eco-friendly East Coast Beach Houses, 35-minutes north of Crane on the one per cent of the east coast not allocated to Barbados’ National Park. When finished, 63 freestanding two- and three-bedroom beach houses will snuggle into the rolling hillside overlooking Skeet’s Bay Beach and Culpepper Island, each with unimpeded ocean views.
Site plans include a boutique hotel, two restaurants, a bar, day spa, state-of-the-art wellness centre and a convenience store. While under construction, a free shuttle will take residents to The Crane. Completing the site will likely take seven to 10 years, Doyle says, adding he’d rather take his time than use a “build it and they will come” approach.
It seems “liming,” the Barbadian term for relaxing, has its benefits. An article in the most recent “Ins and Outs of Barbados” magazine cites a global survey ranking the island second to Okinawa, Japan when it comes to reaching a ripe old age. The Caribbean nation, with a population of about 285,000, boasts more than 110 centenarians, which the writer attributes to the island’s stress-free, unhurried lifestyle; access to clean, coral-filtered drinking water; cooling northeast trade winds that keep temperatures at 24 to 28 degrees Celsius; and a diet of ground provisions — think yams, sweet potatoes, dasheen root and cassava.
If you choose to buy a Crane property on the southeast coast, you can be relaxing on Crane Beach — widely considered one of the Top 10 beaches in the world — in less than 20 minutes after clearing customs at Barbados Grantley Adams International Airport. There are no nightclubs, or noisy motorboats and jet skis zipping around feet from where you are swimming to disturb you. Unlike the west Platinum Coast, you can’t even see another resort.
Don’t think you have to trade excursions and nightlife for tranquility and seclusion, though. Barbados is only 19 kilometres from top to bottom and 12 km across at it’s widest point, putting destinations such as the lush tropical Hunte’s Gardens, the many pink- and white-sand beaches along more than 110 km of coastline, distilleries including St. Nicholas Abbey near the top, and many great restaurants and rum shops a short distance away by car, taxi, bus or even by foot.
You can get a reasonably priced typical Bajan lunch at Cutters Bajan Deli, an easy walk from Crane. Crispy fish cakes, and piping hot pumpkin fritters, dipped in Barbados ubiquitous yellow hot sauce, take the edge off owner Roger Goddard’s famous rum punch, while you wait for a cutter — the best is the pan-fried, breaded flying fish on a salt bread roll topped with lettuce and tomato. Or lime with locals at Oistins Friday-night fish fry, less than a 30-minutes ride away. Choose between grilled or fried tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, or flying fish with two sides — the coleslaw and macaroni pie were scrumptious — from among several vendors and find a place at the picnic tables. Or head 35 minutes up the coast to Bathsheba, a local surfers’ hangout, and enjoy an authentic Bajan buffet lunch served Wednesdays or Sundays at the Restaurant at Atlantis Hotel.
At the Crane, you have the pick of two of Barbados’ top-rated restaurants. At L’Azure Restaurant, famous for its seafood and ocean views, I opted for a char-grilled Mahi-Mahi with sweet potato gnocchi, garlic-infused wilted greens, corn and green beans, topped with a lobster nantua sauce that lived up to its reputation. A dessert of flourless dark chocolate cake that oozed warm milk chocolate when cut, and a scoop of handmade vanilla ice cream topped with spiced Bajan cherry compote, was memorable. From Zagat-rated Zen’s Japanese and Thai menu, on another evening we devoured starters of miso soup, lightly salted edamame beans, an assortment of crispy, piping hot tempura vegetables and pickled baby octopus and radish, followed by an array of sushi and sashimi over conversation with Paul Doyle.
Suites at The Private Residences at Crane have generous kitchens, finished with granite countertops, ample storage and stainless steel appliances for those times you want to cook for yourself or reserve a private chef. And a personal service elevator makes it easy to bring groceries up from the underground parking. All that’s left is to set a table under the stars on your private terrace: at ground level, terraces face a private garden and pool; private roof terraces and dining gazebos adjacent to the pool come with penthouse suites.
The Private Residences at Crane are priced from US$773,000, and include appliances but not furniture, linens and dishes. If you plan to participate in the rental program, you may want to purchase a furniture package from the developer. The second phase of the development, scheduled for completion winter 2018/2019, has one remaining suite for sale. The third phase has 19 condos available.
The Beach Houses, which offer more privacy, have 180-degree views and remote-controlled shades to shield terraces from wind and sun. A minimalist exterior hides generously proportioned living spaces, finished in tones that mimic the view through the floor-to-ceiling glass doors.
Owners can take advantage of a studio lock-off feature for some extra income, while maintaining their privacy and space. The main living area consists of a generous master suite with an indoor/outdoor bath with soaker tub and two showers surrounded by a private garden. It also has a separate 37-foot-long infinity edge pool and hot tub with ocean view. The studio has an indoor/outdoor shower, a small private terrace and a 19-foot infinity pool with hot tub.
Twenty-five of the beach houses planned for development are currently available for fractional, quarter share or whole ownership for between US$56,000 and US$2.95 million, with the front nine scheduled for completion next winter.
Monthly condo fees for a typical two-bedroom unit at The Crane Private Residences start at US$1,588; fees for a two-bedroom beach house with lock-off begin at US$2,452. That covers contribution toward resort amenities and services, building insurance, property taxes, utilities, alarm systems, internet, long distance phone calls, cable television, property maintenance and rental pool management services, among other things.
Another benefit you won’t find on most Caribbean islands is that Barbados’ foreign policy allows access to U.S.-dollar based mortgages from local offshore banks, many of which will be familiar to Canadians.
The resort and residences are perched above Crane Beach, which is widely considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world.