Base Camp or Hide Out? Rock Star Or Naturalist? Green Resort Pioneers
An unlikely bunch set the standard by being true to their nature
slow travel pioneers
“I want guests to feel as if they have been to a country and a community rather than just a resort or a beach.” Chris Blackwell Founder, Island Records, Island Outpost Resorts and visionary responsible for putting U2, Bob Marley and countless other musical legends on the map of the world.
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Me and my late friend Elizabeth with Laurel of Strawberry Hill ilaughing our way through Jamaica
“Good hotels are places where you dream of staying,” Chris Blackwell, Island Outpost owner told me. “Great hotels are where you want to live. This is how a lot of these hotels began, as places I lived."
Golden Eye Island Outpost Resort
Some people are so magnetic and driven they command our attention because of how they use their time and imagine the world. And some of those people have created resorts that are entry points to values, dreams, ideas and adventure using local resources and preserving cultures by simply framing a location and letting it breathe. Pleasure and fun of course are important so there might be some elements like a jet ski, a full bar, the glamour of private pools and a few other indulgences. Ok a lot! Here's a few resorts where their owners backed into this world because of their daring natures, drive and passion about place. These second career resort trendsetters helped start a movement and brought us into their all dimensional world instead of the music or films they created.
Francis Ford Coppola, Eco Resort Pioneer and The Iconic Film Director Became An Amateur Eco Resort Owner And Helped Set An Industry Standard
“After shooting “Apocalypse Now” in the Philippines in the late 1970-’s, I had become used to living in a jungle paradise. When I first visited Belize, I was searching for the same paradise there, and tucked in the Maya Mountains, I found it. Blancaneaux Lodge”
The art of living is such an Italian thing and legendary movie director, Coppola was not afraid toget his hands dirty, rough it and live the good life at the same time. He is used to recreating worlds through his movie sets and the jungle held a particular passion for him. In the early 80’s he went to Belize to set up telecommunications and wound up buying an old jungle lodge as a retreat for his family. In 1993 he opened his jungle paradise to the public. Coppola explains that having a resort in the remote reaches of the jungle didn’t intimidate him at all. “It’s like being a movie on location—you just bring everything with you or build it yourself.” Like running wires through the jungle or planting an organic garden full of tropical fruits and Italian culinary staples like eggplant, basil and tomatoes. He is delighted his laptop is run by the clean free energy that his river-powered hydroelectric plant provides while feasting on caprese al fresco.
An Interview From WSJ
Francis Ford Coppola Talks Travel
The filmmaker on the best luggage, life's greatest luxury and how 'Apocalypse Now' made him a hotelier
THE STORY OF what got Francis Ford Coppola into the hotel business is one of a simple plan that became complicated.
It started with the making of his Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," released 35 years ago next week. Though shooting in the jungles of the Philippines pushed Mr. Coppola to his limits psychologically and financially, he nonetheless grew attached to the setting. "When you work or stay in a location for a long time, as I did, you fall in love with it," said Mr. Coppola, now 75. "David Lean, when he made 'Lawrence of Arabia,' couldn't bear to leave the desert. Well, I felt the same way about the jungle."
He later considered buying a nearby island, but at the urging of his wife, Eleanor, found something closer to the U.S.—a remote, rundown lodge in Belize. "I just wanted to have a place to go off in the jungle and write," he said.
That's not what happened. As the Coppolas improved the property, they needed caretakers. Guests were inevitable. "If you say yes enough," he said, "you'll find yourself in the hotel business." In 1993, his Blancaneaux Lodge opened to the public. Over the next 21 years came the Turtle Inn in Belize; La Lancha on Lake Petén Itzá in Guatemala; Jardín Escondido in Buenos Aires; and, in 2012, Palazzo Margherita in his ancestral village of Bernalda, in southern Italy.
All exude casual luxury, focus on great food and wine, and reflect Mr. Coppola's love of film. Palazzo Margherita's salon was inspired by the movies of Luchino Visconti; ceiling fans in Blancaneaux Lodge came from the set of "Apocalypse Now." Even if Mr. Coppola didn't quite end up with his ideal writing retreat, he got something better—a great tale to tell.
My first big travel experience was: a road trip from the East Coast to the West Coast. I may have been 11 or 12. I remember somewhere in the middle, we stopped at an A&W Root Beer stand, something I'd never seen before. There was a girl working there, probably 14 years old, in her A&W clothes and hat. She had jet-black hair and was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. She looked like Snow White all grown up.
The most underrated destination is: Ireland. It's a beautiful country, and the people are extraordinary. They have such a wonderful literary tradition, one of warmth and humor. Also, Irish ice cream is among the best in the world, which no one knows.
The first time I visit a city I: like to book one of those tour buses that stop at all the hotels picking up guests that signed up, and then a guide talks you through all the areas of the city. The second day I like to go with a car to the areas I found interesting.
My favorite souvenir is from: Paris. I don't have many souvenirs, but I remember when we first bought an apartment there about 25 years ago. My kids were all thrilled, and they ran out along the Seine, and Sofia came back with a little Eiffel Tower. It made me think of that wonderful Alec Guinness movie, "The Lavender Hill Mob," where they attempt to smuggle gold disguised as miniature Eiffel Towers, some of which accidentally get sold to a bunch of schoolgirls. They then have to run around trying to buy them back. So, I have this little 10-inch Eiffel Tower, and when I see it I always have a laugh.
On weekends I love to: stay at home in Napa, look out at the little birds and animals that visit me, and admire the trees.
One of my most memorable trips was: when George Lucas invited my whole family to go across Canada with his family on the Royal Canadian Pacific train. He rented the whole train. We went from Toronto to Vancouver in these four or so cars—sleeping cars and dining cars, with wonderful service. The trip itself had three phases of escalating beauty and grandeur. The first third heading west was absolutely beautiful. Then the second part, across the plains, was spectacular. The final third, through Banff and on to Vancouver, was beyond spectacular.
One of the most important business lessons I've learned came from: Fred Astaire. He once told me that when he was younger, he sold the right for people to have Fred Astaire dance studios. The schools had nothing to do with him; they just used his picture and his name. And he told me that was one of the worst decisions he ever made. If you're going to make wine or open a hotel, you're not just selling your name, you have to be personally immersed in it and know what you're offering people under your auspices.
My favorite luggage is: Ghurka, a line of very beautiful leather [goods] made by a wonderful American company. I won't give my bag up. My wife is always saying, "Well, why don't you get a new rolling bag?" But I love this one.
What makes a hotel great is: sort of like what makes a great wine; it's much more than the fruit you drink, and the bottle and the label. It's the story connected to it; the context and the history. A hotel is made great by the guests who stayed there 100 years ago, and all the detail and personality that developed over that time. The Hotel Metropole in Hanoi has a wonderful story. Somerset Maugham stayed there.
I still have: my old VW Westfalia. It is like a little camper, but done beautifully within a Volkswagen bus. They were ingeniously supplied with a refrigerator, a stove and several beds that can fold up, and a hammock below a pop-up roof. I used to like to go off by the beach with my little boys in it. I wrote while I watched the kids.
The ultimate luxury is: traveling with family. My family is spread around in different places, and travel means we can get together with the kids and see the grandkids and have time with them. At a certain point in your life, you get the idea that if you buy a new car, it's a thrill for about a week. After a while it no longer continues to give you that pleasure. Material objects are very short lived, but a memory with your family lives forever.
—Edited from an interview by Matthew Kronsberg
Selengut, a Long Island engineer who pioneered sustainable resort development began using low impact building practices and set up a communal, recycling, resort preserve in1976. Maho Bay sits on the north side of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, surrounded on both sides by national park. Its 114 cabins spread unobtrusively among 14 acres, a nearly invisible complex of buildings.
Camp Caribbean (excerpt from Audobon by By Jane Braxton Little)
Wake up in a solar-powered tent, snorkel in an aquamarine underworld, bathe in water collected from the clouds, and turn your beer bottles into art—all while helping preserve St. John’s natural appeal. A pioneering experiment in ecotourism has endured for years. Note to readers, Maho is losing its lease and after forty years, there is some question about what the fate of this cherished ecotopia will be. I really wanted it in here so you can learn more and maybe even help save its current status.
I keep bringing Sundance up but it has so many lives that they are worth mentioning in different offerings here. SO if you read my Slow In The Snow entry here's more fodder about Sundance. Robert Redford started this way of life early and is known for environmental activism as much as his work in film. Again, it was his home that became a resort and an institute and the place where nature and creativity are nurtured. Take the ideas and values of the person and watch them grow and look at how the world gets to learn, play, aspire, enjoy and slowly consider the possibilities of our nature and ideas.
Check out this video on the vision at Sundance and how it evolved from Redford's small parcel in the 60's to the nature and creativity sanctuary is today. Click on the videos and get the story.
The Bedford Post Inn
That's it for now. Yes, there are others but we will talk about that later.