Thursday, February 5, 2009

Past the Pink Gates of Lyford Cay Club

The pool in all its glory.
What better way to spend December 25th than flying to Nassau? After a cozy family Christmas eve at home with our daughter, Samantha, son-in-law Roberto and nephew Nick, downing cheese puffs, shrimps de Jonghe, pink champagne, turkey and a chocolate chimney sweep from Sant Ambreus, we’re ready for a change.

“Wheels up” at 11 AM on the chicest airline of all, Jet Blue, departing from their sparkly new terminal at JFK, which feels just right for the new world. Under three hours, we touch down in the Bahamas, greeted at customs by a Calypso band and our spirits begin to soar.
On the lawn at Lyford. The shell covered Xmas tree rising in the Club's elegant entrance.
Fifteen minutes later, bags in hand, dropped off past the pink gates of Lyford Cay Club, we’re at the main club house, welcomed by porters in new uniforms, their camel trousers sporting wide pink stripes down the side. Friendly, familiar faces greet us warmly at the desk. The staff makes us feel like family, especially Jeanette Smith, whose smile lights up the place. Feeling right at home, delighted to ring in another year, we’re surrounded by old friends.

A glorious tree, over twenty feet tall, dominates the elegant lobby, covered in sea shells and delicate lights, creating a breathtaking vision. Heading up the double stairs we can’t wait to unpack and hit the beach. A romantic four-poster bed draped with paisley is soon covered with our clothes. Unpacking is so much more fun than packing! By 4:30 we’re in shorts, exploring new changes at the club.

Under the supervision of Lyford’s dynamic new young president, Charlie Dana, the pool is redone and repaved, Bougainvillea climbs along the cabanas, and the breakfast area is moved under an expanded thatched roof beside the pool. The effect, replete with new coral umbrellas succeeds magnificently, without changing the beloved setting.
The scene at breakfast by the newly renovated pool area.
The breakfast buffet tempting my husband with fruit, muffins, omelets, cereals and yogurts.
The weather is perfect. We stroll down to the pristine beach, hand in hand, through a new passage way, past the glamorous new locker rooms designed by Tom Scheerer, who is responsible for the club’s redesign. Sand under foot and one soon forgets all the problems that seemed so pressing in the city. A gentle breeze, greetings from pals, children running into the ocean, diving off the float, the sight of the surf shop, pink and white striped towels, and we feel a million miles away.

Families from England, Greece, Canada, France and the U.S. all gather for the holidays, some in private homes scattered over the grounds, others in the club and its cottages, all taking advantage of the beautiful beach, the golf course and the tennis courts. Activities are planned for children, from tee-shirt painting to hula-hooping, while parents and grandparents move from the beach to lounges to their sports, some bicycling, others in brightly painted golf carts. We find Patricia, the Queen of the ice cream bar, in her new location, closer to the beach, dispensing sprinkles and bubble-gum ice-cream, on our way to Marcella, Empress of the beach bar, presiding over the pouring of Rum-Dums and fruit Daiquiris. We end the afternoon asleep, under umbrellas on lounges by the pool.
The marching band entertaining the guests with its music and precision drills.
Christmas dinner is served in the Little Club under its festive pink-and-white striped pavilion. The Lou Adams Band plays softly, and we have turkey and all the trimmings, followed by slices of Concorde, the signature meringue and chocolate ganache layer cake that Lyford members crave.

By ten we return to the room, falling fast asleep. Waking up to the sound of birds, the rustle of palm trees, the sunshine peeping through the slatted door we set off for breakfast, where a buffet greets us, full of fruit, yogurt, bread, muffins, cereals, bacon, and an omelet chef, waiting for our order. Our friendly waiters bring us skim-milk Cappuccino’s and Guava jam.

Children and parents enjoying the entertainment on the club lawn.
Thus begins our incredible ten days at Lyford, each one sunny and warm, marred by only one two-hour rain storm that gave us a chance to nap. Friday we dine at the Yacht Club, under the stars, enjoying heirloom tomato salad, onion soup, lobster stir fry and roast beef, followed by frozen key lime pie. On Thursday George and Sophie Coumantaros invited us, along with Alexandra and Steven Mandis for dinner.

On Sunday Norma Dana threw a cocktail buffet for her many friends, including Sean and Micheline Connery, designer Jeannie MacQueenie, Joep and Dixie de Koenig and their beautiful daughters Daria and Liska, Posy Dana and her daughter Isabella, son Milo and daughter-in-law Zoe. Monday the club began a new film series and Sean Connery introduced his favorite film, “The Man Who Would Be King.” Guests enjoyed popcorn and drinks while watching Connery and Michael Caine traverse the wilds of Afghanistan.

Tuesday Jackie and Jean-Charles, the Marquis and Marquise de Ravenel, threw a splendid lunch at their newly expanded home. Blue tables dotted the shell and stone encrusted walls over-looking the bright turquoise water of Clifton Bay. Their guests, including Kenny Lane, Mary McFadden, Jim and Minnie Coleman, Barbie and Tommy Bancroft, Sandra and Michael Whitman, enjoyed a spectacular buffet and Jean-Charles’ special Bloody Bull Shots. After dessert of carrot cake the rain arrived and all of us were happy to spend a lazy afternoon. We chat with Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Diana Taylor as they hit the links.
Kenny Lane, Jackie de Ravenel holding her new puppy, Jelly Bean, Peter, and Mary McFadden.
The de Ravenel house "Otherside" perched on the water.
Jean Charles de Ravenel, our gracious host, Minnnie Coleman, Barbie Bancroft. Mary McFadden.
A close up of one of the luncheon tables, elegantly set.
The scene at lunch.
New Year’s Eve is a festive affair with two parties, one, black tie in the dining room, where hydrangeas and coral roses tumbled from silver centerpieces, to the outdoor and more relaxed version at the Little Club where we joined forces with the Waterman clan, Phil, Jane, Todd and Allison.

Peach and white balloons cover the tent. Party hats and sequined glasses that spell 2009 are passed out and all 400 guests regroup on the beach at midnight, after dancing, to see fireworks explode from a barge on the beach. Soon after the colorful Junkanoo dancers appear, playing fantastic music, wearing incredible and colorfully embroidered costumes in a rainbow of colors, and soon lead everyone in a conga line. Some revelers continued on to David McGrath’s for a late-night party.
The New Year's Eve Party decorations in the main dining room where dinner is formal.
Gerry and Mita Bland and Daisy Corsini invited us for cocktails at Michele and Alessandro Corsini’s house where the Italian contingent turned up in full force. We all devoured conch fritters, the island specialty, and admired twinkling lights that had been transported from the kick-off party at the Albany, a new resort. Ruth and Harry Fitzgibbons, our pals from London, give a marvelous dinner on their terrace. Chicken pot pie always hits the spot!

Guests include their son Alexander and his beautiful wife, their effervescent daughter, Allegra and her handsome husband Paddy, Bob and Jacquine Arnold and forty others. Norma Dana ended the week with a chic dinner at her home. Coral umbrellas covered in golden charms from Thailand decorated her table, which was covered with Lyn Chase’s hand-painted plates and colorful striped glasses. Tom Bancroft offered a charming toast and friends like Elsie and Henry Hillman, who gave a cocktail on their boat, The Madcap, joined in the fun, savoring Shepherd’s Pie.

Leaving Lyford isn’t easy. We walked four miles every day, played tennis, read eight books between us, caught up on sleep and enjoyed each day, surrounded by tumbling flowers and blossoming trees. Others golfed, played croquet, and stayed late in the Little Club bar surrounded by torches. No one likes leaving paradise!
A view of the newly renovated and ever-popular golf course. Inset: Jane and Phil Waterman at the pool after a morning of golf.
Beth, Lulu and Freddie Field waiting for their ice cream and sprinkles at the brand new ice-cream bar easily reached from the beach.
Jamee in beach, tennis, and casual mode.

Click here
for NYSD Contents