Room Service: The Northolme Hotel & Spa, Mahé, Seychelles
Saturday 19 August 2006
I half expected to find strong-jawed men squinting into the sunlight; what I got was a group of Russian travel agents. With its glamorous history, the Northolme, one of the oldest hotels in the Seychelles, could easily set anyone's imagination wandering. For a start it's where Ian Fleming stayed while he wrote For Your Eyes Only, finding inspiration in this land of private islands and wild beaches. But those heady days are gone, along with the old hotel; last year the Northolme was transformed into a chic luxury spa resort, part of the Hilton portfolio.
Tree-shaded paths meander up the hillside to wooden villas built on stilts, which perch over the granite rocks and look out over the Indian Ocean. Frangipani flowers drop at your feet and mynah birds whistle at each other above your head as you stroll down to the two small beaches, sheltered by coral reef and perfect for an afternoon's snorkelling or kayaking. Or you can simply chill out by the infinity pool, where the water pours seamlessly over the sides, creating its own mini horizon that blends into the ocean.
The Northolme is in Glacis, at the northern end of the 3km-long Beau Vallon Bay in Mahé, the largest island in the Seychelles ( www.hiltonworldresorts.com/resorts/seychelles; 00 248 299 000).
Time from international airport: it's a half-hour drive.
Everything is new and super-high-spec. The 40 villas all face west out over the ocean, some double-deckered, others standing alone by the waterfront. Inside they are cool, elegant and spacious. There's dark wood panelling everywhere, set off by heavy cream Roman blinds, white linen and acid-bright accents. A huge four-poster bed sits on a platform, framed with gauzy mosquito nets. The bathroom is all glass, chrome, limestone and smooth black granite, with a big Jacuzzi tub and walk-though shower with ocean views. From both the bathroom and living area, French doors open out onto a terrace furnished with sun loungers.
The Ian Fleming Suite - a 007-themed villa has a library of Bond books and DVDs, animal-print cushions, groovy rug, and a vast circular bed.
Freebies: tropical fruit in the villa and mineral water. Toiletries are decanted into earthenware jugs.
Keeping in touch: direct-dial telephone, satellite TV, CD and DVD player.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at €520 (£371) with breakfast. Elite Vacations (01707 371000; www.elitevacations.com) offers a five-night package including flights from £1,735 per person.
I'm not paying that: Self-catering at the Romance Bungalows (00 248 247732; www.seychelles.net/romance) in Beau Vallon Bay from €68 (£49) a night.
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