Desperately Seeking Solitude
“I love tranquil solitude…” Shelley, the ill-starred poet, he of the golden pen, knew the true value of solitude. And so do we. All around, we see the vaunted worth of the priceless melt away. The most highly prized dwindles, fades into the commonplace. But solitude eludes the calipers of ordinary measure. Not easily found today. How much more difficult tomorrow? Solitude. Such a luxury. No, the new luxury. It’s the exclusive reserve of the wealthy…or the ingenious. Presented in these pages, still spared the encroachment of progress, crowds and all manner of acclaim, is a choice selection of refuges where Solitude is valued above all else.
David Copperfield, who just happens to be the owner of Musha Cay in the Bahamas, modestly calls his island, “the most beautiful place on the globe.” Not for anyone who wants to rough it. Rather a refuge for anyone who unashamedly wants to be spoiled. The island is staffed by gentle folk whose pleasure it is to see that you are content, content, content…morning to night. To be left in peace. Swim in the free-form beach-side pool or fl oat the day away in the calm of the Caribbean. Take a turn at wind-surfing, a spell of snorkeling, tennis on a flood-lit court. Picnic on a different beach every day. While you’re in residence, you’re the supreme command. You can rule your kingdom in solitary splendor or share it with up to a dozen forever-grateful friends. Your modest housing is Highview, a manor house of 10,000 square feet, rimmed by mahogany decks with views of the far rim of the world. Travel to and from Musha Cay is via the island’s Twin Otter aircraft, transport deemed more than satisfactory by the likes of Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Tim McGraw and….oh why go on and on. Isn’t it enough to promise that on Musha Cay you will be….well, let’s just say: Content.
One of seven islands lying just off the east African coast. Today its political allegiance is to Kenya. Its cultural allegiance, however, is to the 15th century, when Arab traders sailed the seas unmolested and wealthy beyond all imagining. Their ways are here preserved. Revered. Life in these narrow, crooked streets moves no faster than a donkey’s pace…the same donkeys that still carry water jugs from well to dwelling. The beaches, called shela, are broad. White. Empty. The sea is limpid. Stay in a guest house, reserved for you alone. Barefoot girls, veiled in white linen, place baskets of mango and papaya on the doorstep at dawn. Feast by moonlight on the catch brought fresh from the sea by fishermen sailing the dhows built by their fathers and grandfathers. Each day is chanted into wakefulness by the imam high atop the ancient mosque. Here Swahili is the spoken word. Karibu. Welcome…welcome to Lamu.
Solitude, serenity, sylvan quiet. Enshrined deep in the Wisconsin woodlands, Canoe Bay is situated on the edge of deep, glacier-formed Lake Wahdoon. Nature provides the setting. Frank Lloyd Wright provided the inspiration by which this one-of-a-kind resort takes architectural shape. Rattenbury Cottage is hidden away on a 280-acre property. Designed by one of Wright’s most astute devotees, it features the open-air layout that characterizes so much of the Great Master’s creations. A large living room with soaring ceilings, polished wood paneling and massive stone fi replace…king-bedded sleeping space, huge bathroom with two-person whirlpool spa, gleaming white oak floors, broad cantilevered deck with unimpeded lake vista…it all adds up to privacy, promised and delivered. No motor boats or jet skis disturb the lake’s tranquility. The fully equipped boathouse is at your disposal complete with kayak, canoe, paddles. The gourmet picnic basket is only a phone call away. Dine in the cottage, on its deck, or if you prefer, in Canoe Bay’s glass-enclosed lakeside dining room. Under the star-studded night skies, the call of the loons is unchanged since primeval times.
Iles de la Madeleine
Adrift in Quebec’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Iles de la Madeleine (aka Magdalen Islands) form an archipelago some 65 miles long, bent like a fishhook…a dozen islands, home to the Acadians. Longfellow immortalized the Acadians with his well-beloved poem, “Evangeline.” But Longfellow’s Acadians fled the tyranny of Britain to settle in Louisiana. He said not a word about those who eschewed Louisiana in favor of staying in what Canadians affectionately term “the Maggies.” Theirs is a unique community….sea-faring, song-loving, proud of their heritage. Hospitable to visitors, perhaps because so few fi nd their way to these charming wave-washed specks of land. Red cliffs, green hills and golden beaches. A meterological quirk assures mild winters, warm autumns, gentle summers. The people have lovingly preserved the French of yesteryear…musical in its cadences, well suited to a pace of life unmatched in the world beyond the horizon. Here life is governed by tide and wind, by surf and wave. Once a true convent, today the Domaine du Vieux Couvent receives no more than a handful of visitors at a time. Each is settled into comfortable suites, tucked between a lighthouse and a working fishing pier. Walk the beaches in peace. Consort with seals and dolphins. Ship out to sea for the day with a pecheur who will gladly take you aboard. Feast by candlelight on freshly hauled lobster and crab…on greens grown right here in island gardens. A glass of vin ordinaire in the local café. A lesson in surf casting taught by the great-great grandson of an islander who cast into these very waters a century and a half ago. Pack a sweater, sunglasses, bathing suit. Leave behind your watch and calendar, your laptop, your cell phone. Time in the Maggies is unrelated to the time you leave behind at home.
On the dry breezy coast of the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, just north of the town of Tamarindo, that’s where you’ll find Cabo Velas. A traditional working ranch, complete with livestock and tropical orchards sprawled over 1700 acres on a secluded seaside peninsula. Yours and only yours. A week? A month? Whatever. No other guest sets foot on those 1700 acres while you’re in residence. Your life unwinds in a thatched rancho. Your large bedroom and separate dressing room open onto a beachfront verandah. Shower indoors or out. Upstairs…a second slightly smaller suite. A guest or guests? It’s your say. Swim on any of five…yes, five…beaches, each secluded by seagrape, hibiscus and palms. Snorkeling, diving, kayaking? Of course. Or perhaps a ride before breakfast along a Pacific beachfront. Dine in the Rancho Principal, a screen-surrounded dining room, edged by a two-level terrace and beyond….the salty deep. White water rafting, golf, tennis, cycling…only 30 minutes away. But really, just staying put at Cabo Velas in the heartland of Costa Rica will doubtless suit you very, very well. Cabo Velas. Olé!
Editor’s Note: For more information on these properties, log onto the following web sites: MUSHA CAY (mushacay.com); CANOE BAY (canoebay.com); DOMAINE DU VIEUX COUVENT (domaineduvieuxcouvent.com); LAMU (magicalkenya.com).