Thursday, March 10, 2011

Round Hill reborn

Moon over Montego Bay.
by Gail Karr

There are few private resorts that have attained and maintained the status of legend as that of Round Hill in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which was opened by Elizabeth and John Pringle 60 years ago.

For our own vacation this winter, we were looking for a few days escape from the grim news coming at us from around the world. We found it, after only a 3 ½ hour direct flight (Jet Blue) from New York. Whatever the news on the television, there is little evidence of that when disembarking from our plane in Montego.

Jamaica is an exotic paradise. It hits you immediately. The air, the color of the water and the skies; the flowers and mountains; it’s heavenly to behold. Then, after just a short drive from the airport to a private cove, we arrived at Round Hill, the luxurious club resort nestled in the hillside overlooking the Caribbean.
After a breezy 3 1/2 hour flight from JFK to Montego Bay and a quick 30-minute drive to Round Hill, we were greeted at the front door with a glass of rum punch.
Justin Karr arrives and is greeted by Kingsley at the Villa. Kingsley has worked at Round Hill for over 30 years.
Originally part of the British West Indies, Jamaica has been a destination for British aristocrats looking for tropical climes and plantations by the sea. Post World War II, Montego became an even bigger draw. Within a few years of its opening, the Round Hill Club became the resort for the international jet set. Names like Bill and Babe Paley, Fred Astaire, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Grace Kelly were just a few of the guests and residents who first discovered Round Hill. In 1953, John F. Kennedy, the handsome young Senator from Massachusetts, brought his bride Jacqueline Bouvier here for their honeymoon. Today some of the club’s residents include Ralph Lauren, Larry Leeds, Bob Pittman.

Ralph Lauren himself designed the Oceanfront Rooms and Luxurious Villa Suites. The photographs he used to decorate the bar area tell the story of the guests and home owners. The villa that once belonged to the Paleys is now owned by Ralph Lauren.
A warm welcome.
Under the direction of Josef Forstmayr, Managing Director, and his associates, the staff at Round Hill provides excellent service and facilities. There’s something about the place that feels special. The place has style. It was always expected, from the beginning, that Round Hill would attract people who possessed special qualities themselves in a world outside the club’s gates. Star Quality.

It is said of Round Hill, a great resort, that great places are like great families, they have a history. We had a wonderful time.
A bottle of Rum awaits.
"New York Comes to Roundhill."
Driving towards the reception area and veranda.
Mark and Diane greeted us at the front desk.
Diane checking us in. Fellow New Yorker (born and raised in North Carolina) Carolyn Pressly-Ryan also checks in with the front desk.
The Veranda.
Exploring the villa and the private pool; and our first night at Roundhill.
The entrance to our Villa, #28.
The sitting room.
The open dining and living room.
The master bedroom.
Overlooking the private pool.
A private pool is standard at most of the villas.
Bobbi sweeping around the pool and grounds.
Our view of Montego bay from the villa.
My husband on his Blackberry. This was a common (and frustrating) scene during our stay.
Our Invitation to Round Hill Hotel's shareholders cocktail party.
Dennis, Justin, and me ready to go.
Live music at the cocktail reception.
Once at the party, we met John Bradway, Marketing Director of Round Hill.
Breakfast at the villa and lunch at the beach and seaside terrace.
Delivering the food for our morning breakfast.
My pre-breakfast morning cup of coffee.
Karen and Ketura cooked up the most amazing breakfasts. Whatever you want, they will make for you, including all of the Jamaican specialties such as salt fish (with eggs). An abundance of fruit was on hand each morning and what we couldn't finish turned into our afternoon snack.
I preferred my lunch at the pool while Dennis and Justin lunched at the seaside terrace. I tried everything on the menu including the stand-out Jamaican Jerk Chicken, but wanting to watch my weight, I stuck to a salad by the end of the trip. The organic greens are grown on the Round Hill property. The food was fresh and plentiful.
Ann Massner and Ross Finkle held a destination wedding at Round Hill for close family and friends.
The wedding party gathering on beach.
Water sports for the more adventurous.
The wedding ceremony was being set up on the lawn in front of the spa.
Raking the lawn in preparation for the wedding.
Wedding flowers in a tropical arrangement arrive.
Pre-wedding lunch for the bridesmaids.
The spa.
The path to the massage and treatment rooms.
A post-massage outdoor relaxation nook.
Rain Forest Oceanfront walk way and jogging path to the spa.
The beach at Round Hill.
Justin with Claude and Yvette Weir.
At the end of each day, afternoon tea is served for all guests. Children are picked up at the Pineapple Kids' Club and join parents for cookies, cakes, and juice served at the seaside bar. The bar was designed by the one and only Ralph Lauren and furnished by the Ralph Lauren home collection. He also renovated and designed all deluxe rooms on the property.
The seaside bar is lined with vintage pictures of guests.
Yes, Paul McCartney and his family have been guests at Round Hill.
Ralph Lauren's touch.
The Pineapple room is equipped with a large screen TV.
The adjacent library.
Children's shoes on path to the beach.
Pineapple Kids' club.
Tea time.
Guests relaxing after having flown in from Austria. Both guests have color after only one day.
All of the children I came across at Round Hill were very well behaved. Many joined their parents at dinner time. It was nice to see three generations sitting down for dinner, relaxing, laughing, and sharing the day's events.
The Double Edge Infinity Pool.
The path to the Hotel Pool.
After a day by the pool, there is nothing better than an afternoon shower.
Cocktails at the pool bar. Where there is liquor, there is lively conversation.
The bar is always stocked with plenty of Red Stripe and Ginger Beer.
Debbie and Charles Richter.
Dan Broderick from California.
John Bradway.
The Organic Vegetable Garden at Round Hill.
Bamboo rafting trip on the Great River, which divides Saint James and Hanover parishes.
Our bamboo raft.
Captain Chris practically grew up on the river as a boy making his money by bringing the rafts back up the river. He knows every specimen of tree and prefers to be treated by the Island's Bush doctors who live along the river.
Pumice stones found along the river bank turned into a natural pedicure for me!
Rope trees ...
... and clotheslines
At the wheel.
Cottage #10 is where JFK and Jackie spent their Honeymoon.
The breathtaking view from Cottage #10.
Cottage #25 is where JFK practiced his Inauguration speech. The house has since been replaced and a pool added, but the view remains the same.
Ralph Lauren's private cottage entrance and path to the beach.
The gift shop at Round Hill.
Just ask Shanade for help and she will find you something to take home!
Flip flops, trays, postcards ...
Bags ...
Bracelets ...
Round Hill Tees ...
... and hot sauce.
According to Round Hill's Facebook page: Now's the time to get your reservations set as winter returns for many of you. Great rates at for early March and the first few weeks of April. Our staff is waiting to spoil and pamper you as they always have at Round Hill.

Hard to say no to that.

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