Cobblers Cove offers relaxed, personal touch

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Associate editor Cathy Carroll recently spent several nights at Cobblers Cove Her report follows.

ST. PETER -- Cobblers Cove general manager Hamish Watson recalled the time a family of three from New York checked into the small luxury property on the west coast here.

"I said to the receptionist, 'They won't be staying,' and she was shocked and said, 'What do you mean?' I could tell this was not the property for them by the questions they were asking: 'Where are the nightclubs? What is there to do in the evening?' " About 20 minutes later, the family checked out, Watson said.

That is why he encourages travel agents to "see and feel" Cobblers so they can suggest it to the kinds of clients who will appreciate its relaxed, yet gentile milieu.

Recent articles in Gourmet, the New York Times and Food and Wine continue to attract guests to this Relais & Chateau property, yet Watson noted that the term "luxury" can mean different things to different clients. "For some, luxury is expected to be big rooms, central air conditioning and wall-to-wall carpeting," Watson said.

At Cobblers, however, the atmosphere is more like "a house party," as the British would say, or "a restaurant with rooms," Watson said.

Cobblers' 40 suites are in 10 two-story cottages on three acres. At the coral stone great house, a common "living room" is welcoming, with chintz-covered sofas and other British furnishings that are traditional yet relaxed. Here, Watson hosts weekly cocktail parties during which guests spill out onto the patio overlooking a quarter-mile stretch of white sand beach in a quiet cove of the Caribbean.

With Watson and his wife, Linda, socializing with the guests, the elements combine to achieve the effect about which Watson boasts. "Guests are here to do what they want, when they want -- to treat it as their home or as if they were a guest in someone else's," he said.

Daily schedules of activities are nowhere to be found here. Instead, Watson and his assistant, Dale Mapp, invent custom itineraries for each guest. "Dale will talk to people at the pool. We get to know our guests and anticipate their preferences. That's what a good hotel does. We don't just tell them, 'Gosh, you've got to do this or that,' " he said.

For instance, Watson will direct the guest who is a serious gardener to sights including Welchman Hall Gulley, a botanical garden which features tropical vegetation in its natural state; Andromeda Botanic Gardens, a major collection of indigenous and exotic tropical flora amid streams and ponds, and the Flower Forest, with its manicured trails.

The type of clients who will be most pleased here are those who are interested in food and wine, have traveled extensively and are not expecting a "typical" Caribbean experience. "Barbados is not the typical Caribbean island. Some say it is more British than Britain," Watson said.

Watson sees Cobblers meeting the demand for alternatives to "superluxury" resorts -- those hotels with multiple facilities such as a championship golf course, several great restaurants and a spa and fitness center. "They are going to create a business for me because my guest doesn't like that," Watson said.

Rates for a deluxe suite, double occupancy, including meals are $315 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 18; $998 from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, and $927 from Jan. 3 through April 11.

Cobblers Cove, Phone: (246) 422-2291, Fax: (246) 422-1460, Web: www.barbados.org/hotels/cobblers.htm

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