LUXURY RESORTS: Le Meridien, Isle of Pines,
Style: Island resort chic
Scene: Taste of France in the South Pacific
Seen in the lobby: Loved-up couples
I suck in the fragrant air as soon as my toes touch the water - which laps onto the small beach a few steps from our shaded timber and stone bungalow. The sun's tropical warmth proves deceptive. The water is icy cold as the rising tide fills the narrow estuary that snakes around the resort separating us from the day trippers to this unusual pine-strewn island. It takes a few minutes to acclimatise but its clarity is so inviting I'm soon wading knee deep before climbing somewhat indelicately into a sun-yellow canoe. My partner and I cruise effortlessly up steam with the current. Our journey ends when the banks widen and curve to form a tranquil sea pool. The peace of our seclusion is only interrupted by surf crashing over rocks at one end like an explosion of crystal fireworks. I wait for the proposal, but it never comes. Ok, so it's early days, but it would have been perfect. A bottle of celebratory French champagne -dug into the sandy shallows - would have stayed nicely chilled.
Just 14 kilometres wide and 18 kilometres long, this forested island off the south-eastern tip of New Caledonia, is often referred to as the "jewel of the Pacific" and not without merit - framed as it is by brochure-image white beaches, colourful coral reefs and turquoise waters.
I'm a sucker for a French accent, (seriously who isn't?) and the island's finest resort, which lies on its southern tip is just as smooth-talking, seducing me with its sophisticated European connections, chic laid-back island style, coconut-scented breezes and a sapphire night sky that glitters with more stars than
Even the netting draped around my king bed flirts playfully with my imagination.
... a sapphire night sky that glitters with more stars than Oscars night.
This is undoubtedly couple heaven and while the secret sea pool has to be my favourite spot, the idyllic powder white sands of Oro Bay which the resort faces, provide a beautiful protected water playground for even the littlest discerning sun seeker (although facilities are limited for the little ones).
There's also the option of the man made pool to splash about in, but few like us saw the need to use it - except to wash off the sand while we admired the sunset. The heady combination of sun and balmy trade winds stirs the appetite and dinner on the restaurant's terrace (beside the main pavilion) with flames romantically flickering is highly recommended. The "fuits- de mer" is as fresh as its gets and is cooked in both the local Melanesian and classic French way.
The mostly Melanesian staff don't speak much English which can be frustrating at times. But even if your French is just as basic, give it a go in return for a smile the natives are famous for. Island life is traditionally unhurried so relax and just go with the flow.
There are 39 bungalows with private terraces and 10 deluxe rooms to stroll back to. Some overlook the pool and main beach while others are more privately secluded along the estuary or cliff top with private steps leading down to the bay. They have all amenities you'll never need from hairdryers to DVD players and wireless high speed internet access. The size of the walk-through wardrobe, suggested I could have brought more than two pairs of swimmers, a sarong and an evening dress. But even these weren't often required! Ooh la la!
|Check in: Le Meridien, Baie d'Oro, BP175, Ile des Pins, 98832, New Caledonia. Tel + 687 46 1515.
|Ultimate Luxury: For the best views of the "Baie d'Oro" book one of the cliff-top bungalows.
|Most Indulgent Moment: It could be as luscious as a chocolate-body wrap in the Spa or simply gazing at the night sky. The island's remote location makes the ever-turning galaxy of stars seem bigger and brighter.
|Insider Secrets: The natural sea pool is a 20-minute walk through forest or by canoe (when the trade winds aren't blowing) along the river that surrounds the resort at high tide. The quality of the dive sites around the island are outstanding. Day trips can be organised.
|The Little Things: Taps outside your bungalow for washing off the sand.
|Junior Luxies: There are no real facilities dedicated to children. The deluxe rooms can accommodate up to three persons. Cots are available.
|Dress code: Tuck a flower behind your ear and keep it casual.
|Dent in the platinum:
|Luxury Resorts Link: www.lemeridien.com
Debbie Neilson-Hunter 18/3/10
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