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BoBo is a French expression, short for Bourgeois Bohème, and it pretty much describes who we are.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

W Retreat and Spa- Vieques Island

The long anticipated "W Retreat & Spa- Vieques Island" recently opened, the day before we arrived on Vieques.

Because the facility had been under development for several years (after the owners took over the failed Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort & Spa) it became the subject of wild gossip as its projected completion date dragged on & on.

Below, aerial shot of the W pool area prior to opening:
The property, operated under license to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, controllers of the W brand, is owned by REIG Capital of Spain, who also own the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona & who were early backers of Tyler Brulé (né a Winnipeg, reluctant resident of Toronto, former editor of Wallpaper* magazine) when he launched Monocle magazine.
REIG, who are apparently quite well versed in the high-end design scene, appear to have very deep pockets & we do not doubt that this project has longevity.
(By the way, all of the above comments are attributed to on-line research & are therefore as reliable as anything one finds on the internet)

The partnership between REIG & designer Patricia Urquiola is a winning one. These photographs of the Mandarin Barcelona demonstrate that together they do "SEXY" very, very well. They also demonstrate that the owners thoroughly understand their market & will spend the dollars (or euros) necessary to cultivate it.

(The chairs above might look familiar as you get to the Vieques photos)

The website for Mandarin Oriental Barcelona

So, back to Vieques:
The Press Release for the opening glowingly describes the new facility, but for those who know the island it reads in places like a bit of fiction, especially this about the restaurant & the inspiration taken by the star chef who is said to conceptually guide the food service:
"...an exciting epicurean experience at miX on [the] beach, inspired by Alain Ducasse, featuring organic, local ingredients handpicked from the island's growers..."

OK, that describes the chickens running around the streets, maybe, but not much else!

Above is an old photo of the entry to the main building at the former Martineau Bay Resort.
Below a shot of the current entry to the W "Greathouse" which includes the reception area, lobby ("Living Room"), lounge, & dining room.
The bones were maintained & re-worked to give a much more modern look. The slatted wood cladding is a theme woven throughout the property and it allowed the designers to both disguise (somewhat) the faux plantation- style architecture of Martineau Bay while providing some natural texture.

Above, a north coast beach just to the west of the Greathouse. It would be a shame if guests never saw the south coast beaches; they would leave Vieques wondering what all the fuss over her spectacular beaches was all about.

The patios in front of the ground floor guest rooms utilize the wood slat motif for a little bit of privacy, and the gauzy curtains, which also flank the terraces of the Greathouse, provide further separation if needed. The custom daybeds are also a recurring element throughout the property.

These bathtubs, named Vieques, were designed by Patricia Urquiola for Agape. We understand they were intended for W but we're not sure if they made it into the final design. (There are room photos on Trip Advisor which show tubs other than these.)

The pool is a multi-tiered affair. These loungers are floating in a black stone basin between the two swimming levels. (see picture 2 at the top of the post for better orientation)
Between the pool & the Greathouse is a large outdoor dining/ lounge space

Above is a concept rendering of miX restaurant (still used on the W website) and below is the actual as seen from the exterior terrace. It appears the interior spaces had a final re-think which saw them become darker & funkier. It seems that the conception at some point in the design was for a crisp & airy Caribbean room. In the end, that idea migrated to a darker & edgier look, still a cool respite from the hot sun, but more cave-like. No question, definitely geared to a younger demographic. (see also the "living room" design below)

The continuous terrace along the north face of the Greathouse. Dining at the east end, lounging at the west. Do the chairs below look familiar? (see picture 5 of the outdoor terrace in Barcelona)
Below, kicking back on a 'punctuation piece' where the continuous outdoor terrace meets the main aisle connecting the lobby of the Greathouse with the outdoor firepit.

View of the bar with those awesome Tom Dixon light fixtures ('beat' series) in the center of the lounge space.

Below, view through the lounge to the outdoor terrace. We LOVE the web strap seating in the jewel-tone jelly bean colours! In the above & below shots you can see how the darker, edgier, more industrial aesthetic has been employed.

Above is the 'view' of the lobby space known as 'Living Room'- it's actually a computer rendering that appears on the W website. Below is a portion of the actual space. As in the miX dining room, the space as built is much moodier than the rendering. The way it's turned out is, we think, more appropriate to the setting & clientèle, more the kind of place you'd feel comfortable wandering into barefoot from the beach. The 'mural' wall is exceptional & the high level rope 'curtains' (shown better in the rendering than in the photo) really soften the 'garage-chic' bones of the space. There are dozens of different patterns & textures, all woven together with a very sophisticated colour palette that successfully walks the line between neutral & vibrant.
Below, the outdoor fire pit. An extravagantly indulgent primal gesture. The setting is spectacular, with the sea grapes having been pruned in a very sculpted, almost Japanese manner. We don't doubt that there are evenings when the warmth of the flames would be welcome.
Unfortunately one must sit upwind of the fire because, whatever the fuel is that is being burned, it gives off a noxious exhaust smell.
All in all, we liked W very much, but on its own terms. It's probably well out of our snack bracket. For an early evening cocktail, though, it can be a fun place to go feel the buzz of the "see & be seen scene". In addition to the obvious target market of winter-weary, time challenged, hipster Northeasterners and Euro jet-setters, it should find a following in the trend-loving San Juan bourgeoisie and even the local over-wintering ex-pats who are desperate for a little blast of sophistication from stateside.

Having said all that, we couldn't escape the feeling when we were there that we've left Vieques & ended up somewhere much less exotic.


(Check here for More photos taken by guests from Trip Advisor's hotel review pages)

1 comment:

  1. couldn't agree more with you guys.

    while our mojitos were good, the "food" we ordered was inexcusable at best. we ordered the "pinchos" which were grilled skewers: one chicken, one cuttlefish. they were a disgrace. nearly inedible. no way in hades alain ducasse oversaw that number.

    regardless, i thought the place was very well done. but it's not what vieques is all about.