A perfect Martini in the tantalising Turks (even James Bond would approve) - June 2005

The journey to Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands is very long, particularly if you change flights at Miami, queuing your way through the unbelievably slow American immigration process only to leave again.

So, by the time we had boarded a taxi on the island of Providenciales, a two-hour flight from Miami, I was barely awake. Which was probably just as well, given that we were driven at speed through the black night by a huge man whose phone seemed constantly to be ringing.

Turks and Caicos

Rosa poses with her personal butler, Martini

The last five minutes of the journey were like being on a Bond film set - we went down unlit alleys and across abandoned parking lots, then suddenly arrived at a chic decked area, where uniformed staff were waiting to escort us to a boat.

Half an hour of speeding through the night sea breeze undid the damage of 12 hours of recycled air and, within seconds of being met by Martini, the designated butler for our stay, all the unpleasantness of our fingerprinting, iris-photographing time in the immigration queues was forgotten.

Martini drove us in a golf buggy to our beach villa (one of six on the island), where she had run a bath full to overflowing with scented bubbles and scattered bougainvillea petals. Our cases were unpacked and a light supper left on the table.

We flung open the doors so that we could hear the sea, climbed into a four-poster bed, closed the mosquito nets and fell asleep to the sound of cicadas, crickets and the gentle lapping of the waves.

The next morning I sloughed off the jetlag in the villa's outdoor shower, using the peppermint and eucalyptus shampoo provided. I dried off in the screened porch and lay on a Balinese day bed, peering out at our private pool and seductive-looking hammock.

Turks and Caicos

Fragrant: Bathing in petal-infused water

Privacy is what Christina Ong - owner of the island - understands perfectly. The six beach houses and six beach villas are completely secluded and so comfortable that you need never leave them. Just pick up the phone and have all your meals delivered - and served - by your butler.

In the main hotel, meanwhile, staff outnumber the guests, so the standard of service is exemplary. Despite being in the West Indies, over half of the employees are Asian, most of them with experience of working in some of the other hotels in the Christina Ong portfolio. Their experience shows - nothing is left to chance.

I am ashamed to say that on my return home I found myself waiting for someone to pull out the chair for me before I sat down.

Every morning we climbed up the walkways to the hotel for breakfast on the terrace, where Martini was waiting for us to find out what we wanted to do for the day. It was hard not to say: 'Just pamper us.'

Christina Ong opened Parrot Cay in 1998 as part of her chain of COMO hotels and resorts. Her philosophy can be summed up as less is more, and she understands that her clientele, which varies from the rich to the very rich, need time to themselves and appreciate a resort where they can go round all day in one of the extremely comfortable Parrot Cay dressing gowns (which I did).

Packing for Parrot Cay is simple - things to swim in, things to sleep in and exercise clothes for yoga and Pilates. Throw in a couple of dresses, a few sarongs, a pair of flat sandals and a shawl for the evening and you're done. None of that 'what on earth shall I wear' angst.

We spent most mornings by the infinity pool, which is vast and provides a glorious view of the sea. The top spots by the pool are the chairs at either end that overlook the ocean, and which come with their own pavilion to shelter from the sun and tropical rainstorms.

Turks and Caicos

The view over the top of Parrot Cay's villas is one of endless sea

You have to bolt down your breakfast if you want one of these. I resisted doing the towel-bagging exercise, although, maddeningly, some other guests had no such compunction.

One morning, I was beaten to my favourite spot by an extremely spoilt shih-tzu called Ping Pong. Her owner was in the pool and Ping Pong was torn between guarding the hotspot or running up and down the length of the pool encouraging her owner to go faster. It was her fifth visit to Parrot Cay - Ping Pong's, too.

The island's beach is extraordinary - more than a mile long and not a pebble to be found. The sand is so white and so fine that it feels like crushed velvet under your feet. Here, the Atlantic is calm, buoyant and easy and safe to swim in as it is protected by a coral reef about half a mile out.

There are pavilions scattered above the beach where you can lie on comfortable day beds and contemplate the turquoise water and dazzling, pearl-like sand. It would be very easy to spend all day in one of these, just dragging your bed out at night to lie and look at the stars.

But for me, Parrot Cay is about the COMO Shambhala Retreat; shambhala meaning a place of peace and harmony in Sanskrit. Every morning and evening there are complimentary Pilates and yoga classes either on the beach or in the dedicated yoga pavilion.

I went to the yoga classes every day. The teacher, Andrea, was extremely patient and didn't mind at all if you were still unable to launch yourself into a headstand after half-an-hour of trying. By the end of the week you discover that your body can contort itself into positions that you had no idea it could ever achieve.


Lynda, the Pilates teacher, spent the class I attended demonstrating how minute adjustments to various positions make all the difference to the stretch and to the muscles - a difference you notice when you stagger out of the yoga hut, down the track and into the spa, where you can relax in the steam room lying on a marble slab and then, when you feel you are about to expire, go outside and slip into the outdoor Jacuzzi.

The massage menu is comprehensive - everything from a couples massage to the very latest in hot-stone massage. The rooms are full of natural light, so you avoid the claustrophobic effect you get from so many European treatment rooms that never seem to have windows.

I was given the best facial I have ever had, which started with a foot bath and massage. Then my face was cleansed, steamed and lathered with oil and endless creams and unguents. It was a massage going deep into the neck and shoulders, which left me feeling relaxed for 24 hours.

So relaxed in fact, that I felt unable to walk the short journey back to our villa, so it was just as well that Martini was outside, waiting to drive me home. And home, alarmingly, is what it was beginning to feel like. There is something totally and utterly seductive, and corrupting, about excessive pampering.

After 48 hours you become accustomed to being looked after in this way, and after another day you become utterly incapable of doing anything for yourself.

You can contact your butler 24 hours a day on their own four-digit number. My husband wanted to play chess and discovered that the set in the library had a piece missing. He mentioned this to Martini, who - stirred but not shaken - delivered a brand new set to our villa within the hour.

Foodin the resort is completely delicious - at London restaurant prices. You can take the extremely healthy route and have the Como Shambhala cuisine, which is exquisitely flavoured, fat-free and full of vitamins and minerals.

This food is served in both the island's restaurants. The Terrace restaurant also serves Mediterranean food and the Lotus Poolside Restaurant, which we preferred, has a variety of Asian-inspired dishes.

Yes, the rich live differently, and the super-rich live very differently-indeed. At the end of the beach outside our villa lies Rocky Point and beyond Rocky Point lies another mile or two of beach on which there are some stupendous villas, which look as if they are part of some Hollywood film set. And indeed they are.

This is part of Parrot Cay Estates, where it is possible to buy a one-andahalf-acre plot of land with a three-bedroom villa on it for a mere £6million.

Among those who have already bought their little piece of paradise are Keith Richards, Christie Brinkley, Bruce Willis and Donna Karan. These astonishing villas are also available to rent - they have bedrooms with vast ocean views, infinity pools, large indoor and outdoor living spaces, outdoor and indoor showers and bathrooms, and each has its own private beach.

Turks and Caicos

Christie Brinkley is a resident of Turks and Caicos

My favourite was the one belonging to Bruce Willis, which has its own long drive with a sign reading Big Daddy Boulevard. Not content with the gardeners seen everywhere on the island, Big Bruce imports his own from mainland America, so his Boulevard is a riot of colour, rather more manicured than the rest of the island, which prides itself on being a nature reserve.

There is a pleasing symmetry about Willis's villa with its large, ocean-view bedrooms and huge living space. To rent it will set you back £3,000 a night, basic. The Donna Karan eight-bedroom spread is available for £11,000 a night but, as one of her team who was there when we went around said to us, that's just the basic price. Food and service is 'plus, plus, plus'.

Donna Karan's villa is more quirky and full of Indonesian furniture, including two towering chairs at each end of a beautiful table which must sit at least 20 people. Miniature tailor's dummies are scattered around on tables, and her bedroom for the children is perfect - a large room with four double beds, two each along opposite walls. You can imagine fun, games and pillow fights going on deep into the night.

The privacy in these villas is absolute as they are a five-minute golf-buggy ride along a dirt track from the main resort.

It is not just a long journey - Parrot Cay is a world away from the realities of most people's lives, which is why it is so desirable. Money like this buys you something that is almost beyond price: privacy, discreet luxury and an escape from the daytoday worries of managing your wealth. Just spend it.

Travel facts

Seasons in Style (01244 202 000, www.seasonsinstyle. com) offers seven nights' B&B at Parrot Cay & COMO Shambhala Retreat from £1,945 including return flights from London with British Airways and private transfers.

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