The Hartley House experience
Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer
There's nothing like the appeal to the senses of a bargain, particularly when that bargain, on assessment, is extremely good value for money in a climate where the economic challenges see persons wanting more bang for their buck.
In tough times, it's not only the economically challenged that are demanding more for their money, but also the very rich. They are more demanding when it comes to parting with their cash, especially in the areas of leisure, particularly in the travel and tourism markets. And travellers the world over have been for aeons now, seeking ways to maximise enjoyment while minimising financial exposure. They do so while discovering and exploring the wonders of the world, visiting new people, sampling different cuisine, and exploring other entertainment offerings in their quest for adventure.
This is a position that most Europeans have understood since the advent of modern tourism and have sought to capitalise on over the years. We here in the Caribbean have seemingly been oblivious to this market, opting instead to go for the high end of the market at one stage, then the middle at another, and in more recent times, the masses! In this mix, the more discerning, not necessarily poorer vacationers, have been overlooked for what was considered volume. In the process, our marketing strategies were driven by and designed for the mass market, to be found in multi-occupancy properties. This strategy ignored the wealth of travellers who by their very nature eschew these monolithic properties, offering the predictable an ever-changing world.
In recent times, a number of Jamaicans have come to realise that they, too, can cash in on the unexplored side of the tourism bonanza that has gone largely unexplored here by successive tourism administrators and stakeholders. They insist on flogging the tired horse of beach and sun by taking advantage of the underexplored and undervalued component known under the moniker of bed and breakfast! It has not yet been trumpeted as the next big thing since spring break. For those in the know, the international traveller or Jamaican desirous of seeing more of the island than usually offered bed-and-breakfast inns now coming to the fore represents the very best offering on the tourism menu.
One such place is the absolutely charming Hartley House, a fabulously Georgian-style mansion, nestled between Montego Bay and the beautiful coastline of Hanover. It is sufficiently tucked in away from the coastline up the hillsides in the shadows of the famed Round Hill Hotel and Villas, but with a sufficiently commanding view of the coastline. One is stuck with the notion that the beach is just a hop, skip and jump away, and if one is desirous of an immediate plunge, then there's a cosy pool and deck to assuage!
Operated by an innkeeper, the smashingly beautiful and oh-so-very charming fashion designer and former 'it' model, Sandra Kennedy, and her mom, the engagingly lovely Yvonne Hayles, Hartley House represents the very best in boutique offerings. It is really an exclusive home, capturing the essence of Jamaica's extraordinary natural beauty and architectural and cultural heritage in the good old traditional sense. Style and comfort are of paramount importance, while ignoring the appeal of the chintzy or gaudy.
This dream house is a five-bedroom villa on two acres, 300 yards on the top of a hillside, which offers a magnificent view of the mountains, city, bay and the Caribbean sea. It's just 20 minutes from Sangster International Airport and boasts, in a very nonchalant mode, perhaps one of the single largest collections of Gene Pearson sculptures and masks to be found outside a gallery. The bedrooms are furnished comfortably in traditional colonial style with four-poster beds and wide picture windows with louvred shutters.These bring in the ever-present trade winds. And then there's the 'family room', perched literally on the hillside, with its bay windows giving way to one of the more scenic vistas ever to crown the beauty of the architectural showpiece that Hartley House represents.
Now for all of this grandeur, Jamaicans opting to use the facilities pay a surprisingly affordable J$3,600 per night, per person, which includes a scrumptious breakfast! It was amenities such as: transport during your stay (can be pre-arranged on request); free wireless Internet connection; fax and printer; housekeeper to take care of any laundry requests; plus tea and coffee throughout the day; with lunch and dinner available upon on request, by prior arrangement.
We are talking a simply divine steal here, as this is the pampered life, devoid of the drama and the attendant complications that can ruin one's vacation or a simple excursion. Trust moi, the Hartley House experience is all that, with one additional drawing card being that just fine people with that discriminating sense of style and an appreciation for life's finer offerings, without fanfare or confetti, are welcome.
And as is to be expected for such a fabulous experience, reservations are expected!