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We are, by our own admission, budget travellers who love a little luxury.
We’ve always been very thrifty with travel, but that doesn’t mean hostels and bunk beds. A nice 2 or 3 star locally run self-catering hotel is our sweet spot usually. Ailsa has for years tried to stick furiously to an average of £100 a night across a trip. This has meant the odd splurge, but never for more than 1-2 nights. Otherwise, we make do. Ailsa dreams about winning the lottery and staying at Jade Mountain on St Lucia. Colin dreams of Ailsa shutting up about Jade Mountain.
When we planned to move we hadn’t banked on 2 weeks of paid quarantine. We knew we needed space to work and exist happily, but with Ailsa soon to be potentially unemployed we also had to budget. We had a balance to find.
A big decision
That brings us to our stay at The Lookout, in March/April 2021.
Bequia is a small island, with few hotels. We had to choose from a list of accommodation which had been approved for quarantine purposes. The list was long, and very overwhelming. The hotels listed were all luxury options, and well outside our budget. Ailsa dutifully started working through the list and checking prices. It was stressful, to say the least. Everything felt like far too much. Meeting our usual budget in the Caribbean is often hard, but this seemed REALLY hard.
In desperation, we contacted one of the Bequia Facebook groups looking for suggestions. Nicola (who we’re pleased to say we’ve now met!) put us in touch with Chris and Louise Smullen, who own The Lookout.
It was of course over our usual budget. We had to stop and think. From the outset though, we knew that The Lookout was the place for us.
Not only did it look spacious and very comfortable, but Chris and Lou instantly put us at ease. A lot of the things we may have been nervous about didn’t even need to be asked. They had hosted quarantine stays already, and volunteered all the information we needed. So all those niggles, like space to work and how we would get groceries, ceased to be a worry. Louise even made sure we were well prepared for the gamut of PCR tests and protocols to come!
We traded emails regularly before our visit, and in those stressful weeks before moving they became a reassuring voice, reminding us we’d be in paradise soon.
Arriving at The Lookout
We cannot stress enough how much Chris and Lou did to make arriving in Bequia and settling into quarantine life easy.
When we landed on Bequia after four days of travel, a taxi arranged by the Smullens was already waiting for us. We knew that we didn’t need to have cash ready as they would settle the bill and work it out later.
We had no concerns about our fridge being well-stocked – Louise had walked us through the complexities of grocery shopping on a small island. They helped us with orders, and hit the supermarket on our behalf. They had even collected our box of wine from St Vincent from the ferry dock.
As the taxi performed an incredible reverse up the hill to The Lookout, we were greeted with warm smiles. Chris’s exclamation of “fancy seeing you here” is a phrase that will always put us at ease. We were heavily laden and Chris made short work of taking the luggage up the steps to the house. Louise set to showing us around, but not before making sure we had a beer.
As well as our groceries, there was a lovely welcome pack of essentials with everything that, under non-quarantine circumstances, we would need to get comfortable – breakfast foods, tea/coffee, wine, beer, fruit, and homemade honey and oat bread. There’s also a mobile phone for guests to use for local calls, toiletries, and plenty of local information leaflets etc. Both apartments have a Bluetooth speaker so you can choose your own soundtrack to paradise.
The Lookout is perched on the hillside above an outcrop, between Lower Bay and Princess Margaret Beach. Up a drive from the Lower Bay road, you find a set of stairs to take you up to the two-storey, two apartment building. We stayed downstairs, in the Hummingbird Deck apartment. Upstairs, with its own outdoor staircase, is the Ocean Deck apartment.
When not quarantining, you’ll find both Lower Bay and Princess Margaret Beach a short walk away. Lower Bay has a good selection of bars and restaurants, and Jack’s Bar on Princess Margaret Beach is a sundown favourite on the island. The apartments have parking space, and Port Elizabeth is only a few minutes drive. Nowhere on Bequia is far away – the airport is only a 15-20 minute drive.
When quarantining, while you can’t get out to explore the island, you’ll find the best views of Admiralty Bay imaginable. The daily rhythm of the sun’s movement, the yachts coming and going, the clouds passing… let’s just say a TV isn’t necessary.
We had considered booking the Ocean Deck apartment, but with its large outside terrace, it’s a higher rate than downstairs and was a stretch of our budget. As it is, Hummingbird Deck, with more indoor space, was perfect for quarantine.
There is a deck, and there is a hummingbird.
The deck forms the entrance to the apartment, with double glass doors leading directly on to it from both the living space and the master bedroom. The spacious deck has a dining table and comfortable chairs for sundowners, as well as folding sun chairs available for the inevitable post-lunch nap. Being on a hillside, a fresh breeze (on days there is one) passes pleasantly across the deck.
This is where we spent much of our time, only retreating away for the couple of hours in the afternoon when the deck is in direct sun. Our Scottish skin wasn’t quite ready for that! If you are a sun worshiper, the folding chairs would easily be pulled down to the terraced area beside the entrance. Beautiful plants and tropical fruit trees surround the property – hence daily visits from a lovely little hummingbird.
When you step inside, the first thing you notice is the space. This is a very generously proportioned apartment. Unlike many self-catering properties, it has a full-sized kitchen, just to the right as you step in. It’s also one of the best-provisioned kitchens we’ve encountered in a holiday let. In our time there we cooked, made bread and baked, and had everything we could possibly need. The space worked well for two of us cooking together. Even washing up was a joy because of the amazing views!
Everything would easily accommodate cooking for a family, from the large fridge-freezer to the amount of crockery and cookware provided.
Passing the kitchen, you end up in the living room. There is a large breakfast bar connecting the two rooms – this was the perfect spot to work indoors. Again, this had views ahead towards the horizon through the window. The wifi was great and coped well with both of us having video calls for work. We found it reached well around the property.
The ceiling fan above kept us comfortable on those less-breezy days. As a solid stone building, with mosquito nets on most windows meaning they can stay open, the house is in general a very comfortable temperature.
In the large living room, there are two small sofas that convert to day beds, and a coffee table, which we found a good spot when we wanted to watch a little TV (on the iPad). There’s also space to move – Ailsa had plenty of room for yoga practice.
A word about the floors – these are stunning! With dark wood laid into white concrete, everything feels incredibly stylish and modern. Throughout the house, Chris and Louise have added little touches of positivity and light – mantras, Bob Marley lyrics, and reminders to take in the beauty of the Caribbean. When you’re confined, these go a long way to keeping a smile on your face (and reggae on the brain!).
Bedrooms and bathrooms
From the living room, you access both bedrooms, and one of the two bathrooms. The bedroom and bathroom towards the back of the house are off a neat area where the laundry facilities are tucked away. With two weeks stay we were very grateful for the use of a washing machine!
The master bedroom is an absolute treat. The spacious four-poster bed allows you to enjoy the stunning view out of the doors which open on the terrace. Being relatively close to the beach, there was the odd mosquito, but the nets around the bed kept them away at night. Chris and Lou had also made sure we had repellent and mosquito swatters to help. It’s an inevitable part of Caribbean life so the preparation was welcome!
This is another very spacious room, with plenty of wardrobe space and a dressing table. It also has our holy grail bedroom setup – bedside lamps, a shelf and plug sockets with USB outlets on both sides of the bed! The fan above the bed was enough to keep us cool through the night after a short blast of A/C (also above the bed) at bedtime.
Off the master bedroom is a large, beautifully finished bathroom. This has plenty of storage and counter space, another of our accommodation wishlist features. The large open shower in the master has both a rain shower head and a handheld head, with excellent water pressure for those of us with thick hair. That said, we were mindful of water use and turned the shower off between rinses.
The second bedroom at the rear of the house is a comfortable double, with a mosquito net, wardrobe and a dressing table. Being at the rear of the building it doesn’t have the views, but it does have a blissful cool breeze. We used this room for our luggage and spent enough time in it to know it would be very comfortable. Likewise, the second bathroom is generous and beautiful.
When you travel a lot you come to learn what you do and don’t like. For a family or two couples the physical space between the two bedrooms and bathrooms would be ideal – no chance of hearing your friends snoring. For a couple, it’s always nice to have space to escape to if one of you can’t sleep. A bathroom where you won’t wake your partner with a 3 am flush is also welcome.
Hummingbird Deck had everything we needed. There was plenty of space indoors and outdoors, a great kitchen, and room to work/exist in operate rooms.
As a treat, we got even more space…
As Ocean Deck was empty during our stay and we’d spoken about it, Chris and Louise kindly gave us access. This meant that for most of our stay, we had more outdoor space.
Ocean Deck is just as beautiful, and being on the top floor means that the views, and outside, take precedence. It has an equally spacious kitchen and two well-proportioned bedrooms. One of these has incredible bay views, and the other opens onto a small terrace at the side of the house. The master bathroom is enormous, and has a loo with a view. Both bathrooms have open wall features in the shower which is a lovely touch. We didn’t use any of the indoor spaces, but they were beautifully done.
In Ocean Deck, more space is given to the outside deck, and the doors from the living space can be opened up. This, combined with open-air features and high ceilings, gives more of a Caribbean feel to the space. We loved the way the kitchen window could slide to open to the deck.
Our main use of upstairs was to enjoy a little sun on the loungers and to go upstairs with a beer to watch the spectacular sunset views each night. Both apartments get these views but upstairs gives a wider view, with less in the way. Rather memorably, we got to view both the unofficial Easter regatta and the third eruption of La Soufriere from the deck.
Our general feel, having been in both spaces, was that Ocean Deck would be great for a holiday stay, especially if you’re desperate to be in the sun. Hummingbird Deck suited us better because we were trying to stay indoors and in the shade whilst working a 40 hour week from home.
The best hosts
Throughout our stay, Chris and Louise continued to be just as friendly and helpful as they had been in the run-up. They checked in on us remotely most days and visited regularly. On their visits they brought not only any groceries we needed, but also take away food on our first night (from Mac’s) and mid-stay (from Petra’s). They even fed us up with delicious homemade bread and cakes.
Throughout our stay all Covid protocols were maintained – Chris and Lou wore masks and stayed outside the apartment when they visited. We didn’t have a cleaner come during our stay because of protocols. We didn’t mind this at all – we had what we needed to keep everything clean ourselves, and fresh linens/towels.
Of course, we experienced something highly unusual with La Soufriere erupting on St Vincent on the last night of our stay. We could see the Smullen’s putting in a lot of effort to prepare the property for ashfall. We helped where we could. This meant keeping the apartment sealed, ceasing to use the A/C, and being mindful of water use. None of this led to any discomfort at all. And despite the stress of protecting their property (and the one they caretake), Chris and Louise still kept smiling and checking on us. They helped us to move to our new temporary accommodation and settle in, even amidst their own worries.
Should quarantine be this easy?
All we can conclude is that we are incredibly lucky. We’ve been fortunate enough to not only have a wonderful, comfortable spacious place to stay, but warm and gracious hosts. We didn’t at any point feel confined or restricted, and we didn’t want for anything. The local knowledge we gained, from which supermarkets sells what, to how to get our covid vaccine, has been invaluable.
And now, out of quarantine, we have friends. We’ve already, despite the volcano chaos, been able to share a meal. We’ve met other new friends through Chris and Louise. We feel like we’re already becoming part of a welcoming and kind community.
Had we stayed at a budget guest house, or even a very expensive hotel, it may have been a very different outcome. Our physical and mental well-being has undoubtedly been preserved and protected through our experience with The Lookout.
This is more than a review, it’s an ode to two wonderful people who have made the first few weeks of our big move infinitely more comfortable. If you visit Bequia, be it to quarantine or not, we can’t recommend The Lookout enough.