Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers traded a room in a hotel for a
boudoir in a villa on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, recently. She
might never set foot in a hotel again. Here is her bedtime
Reed Travel Features
PETER BAY -- It was the mosquito netting that got me.
Draped over the mahogany posts of my king-size bed, the white
gauzy material swayed gently in the breeze and conjured up images
of decadent afternoons spent on the Nile (where I've never
The netting (which I didn't need), the arched windows with
wooden louvers, polished dark wood floors, wicker furniture,
cathedral-style ceilings with fans, stone sconces, water views and
me in the tower reaches of a circular stone gatehouse set a
Caribbean scene far removed from most I'd experienced.
Where in the world was I?
Peter Bay Gatehouse overlooking Peter Bay on St. John in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, an escapist's dream -- and I never wanted to
The villa stay was an ingenious overnight break in the midst of
a hectic three-island press trip.
Journalists were scattered throughout the island in various
private residences with names such as Zanadu and Christmas Winds,
Paradise and Milesaway, Altamira and Coral Rhapsody.
The lodgings ranged from deluxe hillside casas with pools and
wraparound decks to beachfront condominiums that fronted secluded
coves and cays.
Our assignment was to sample an alternative form of lodging
available to visitors, an option that is easily bookable,
commissionable and similar in price to a stay in an upscale
When we next gathered to compare notes, I was very smug,
convinced that I had gotten the best deal for sure.
My villa (I immediately claimed direct ownership) was built of
native island stone in the architectural style of a sugar mill,
complete with mill tower.
The gatehouse had two self-contained separate units, one
upstairs and one downstairs.
Each had a Jacuzzi and its own private entrance, so that two
families or one extended family or two couples could rent the
gatehouse at the same time.
Coral stone terraces hung from the villa in all directions.
From my upstairs vantage point, I could open French doors in the
bedroom to a deck overlooking national park forests; I could relax
in my hot tub in total privacy on a side deck brimming with
terra-cotta pots heaped with blooming flowers; I could wander out
from the living room to another deck offering unobstructed views of
Cinnamon and Frances bays and Tortola beyond.
My bathroom had stained-glass windows and an enormous tile-lined
tub and shower; my small but compact kitchen had a microwave, a
coffeemaker and packets of coffee (nothing bugs me more than having
a coffee maker without the fixings), a two-burner stove, a sink and
My living room had bookcases and reading lamps, candles,
comfortable chairs and a music system with tapes and CDs. I never
turned on either of the two televisions.
The gatehouse where I stayed was actually the entry point of a
15-villa gated community complex called Peter Bay situated within
the national park on St. John's north shore.
Access to the complex was via a tall wrought-iron gate that
swung open when the proper code was punched in. All villa guests
received coded card keys upon arrival.
A private beach was a 10-minute walk down a cliffside trail (and
a 20-minute steep climb back up).
During my brief but blessed sojourn in the gatehouse, I didn't
go to the beach, I didn't take a walk and I only reluctantly left
my sanctuary for a group dinner in Cruz Bay.
I wasn't being anti-social. Villa life, and this villa in
particular, had totally captured me. I was in love with my
environment, my surroundings and my views.
I left the French doors wide open that night in my bedroom. When
I pulled back the Caribbean print bedspread and crawled into the
four-poster, I gazed out on a full moon above, the waters below and
I called my husband in snowy New Jersey.
I booked the gatehouse the next morning for our anniversary next