Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Escaping to The Village of Islands

I want to say a heartfelt thanks to all of The Library's beautiful readers, and especially those who have taken the time to post thoughtful comments these past two weeks. Reading them has made my heart sing as we've travelled through the US. I also want to apologise for the pathetic lack of posting from this end. It's never nice (or polite) to neglect a blog for too long, but I hope you'll bear with me. You see, we've been a tad distracted of late. We've actually been on our honeymoon.

It's actually our 'Rehearsal Honeymoon' (or 'Faux Moon' as RR calls it), but as it's the only honeymoon we'll ever get, it's official enough for me! (The nuptials are very soon, but as my partner is super-private, I'll probably be as shy about posting details of those as well.)

I don't want to bore you senseless with photos (and admittedly I haven't taken many, for once in my life), but I would like to show you a glimpse of where we stayed, an enchanting hideaway called The Moorings, down on the Florida Keys. It is, quite simply, my favourite place in the USA. And quite possibly the world.

PS A special thanks to my new friend Pamela (or 'The Diplomat's Wife', as RR calls her) who has been updating me on her European travels via the Comments on this blog. Pamela, you see, is also celebrating a honeymoon of sorts – her second! So it's quite fitting that we've been exchanging correspondence via our blogs. Pamela, I do hope this trip is as memorable and as wonderful as your marriage / relationship has been all these years.

I first stumbled across The Moorings three years ago when I came here for a photo shoot. I took one look at the beach, the idyllic little houses and the whole understated beauty of it all and fell head-over-palm tree in love. Everyone does. Even George Bush Sr. was won over by its endearing charm. The former president stayed here the same time I did and was reportedly so enamoured with the place he now returns each year to go fishing. Just him, a few mates and half a dozen Secret Service. (Bet those Secret Service men pull straws to get that gig!)

This is where Georgie stays. Beautiful, isn't it? Apparently he's a very nice man, according to Thomas Gibson, The Moorings' manager. I lean towards the Democrats myself (unlike my partner who is a firm Republican man!), but I'd happily have Georgie stay next door again. No loud music. No mooning out the windows. No running around the beach naked with a US flag draped over the nether bits. Those Republicans are obviously a discreet lot. (Unlike my Democrats who roared through New York yesterday in a cavalcade worthy of North Korea. I waved to the President as he passed – I just happened to be on Madison Ave at the time – but the Tour de President flew by so fast all I caught was some exhaust fumes out of 10 or so of the cavalcade cars. Mr President, perhaps you may like to consider riding a bike next time? I have a Schwinn. It's very handy for getting around town.)

But back to The Moorings. The estate is actually a former coconut plantation situated in a tucked-away place called Islamorada, which means 'Village of Islands'. (Beautiful name, isn't it? I'd love to put 'Village of Islands' as my address.) Unlike the cute name, the property was an eyesore when the owner, Hubert Baudoin, bought it. All it had were a handful of derelict old beach houses, a scattering of rusted cars, and a whole lotta palm trees blocking the view. A true visionary, Mr Baudoin spent the next few years painstakingly and lovingly restoring the property into the magical escape it is today. An anti-resort, it features just 18 cottages on 18 acres, which means you rarely see another person. And that suited my fake husband just fine!

The grand house with the blue shutters above was actually built by Mr Baudoin for his mother. He wanted a place for her to stay when she came to visit. So he knocked this little French Colonial number up. As you do. Mrs Baudoin spends half of the year in Africa and the other half in Paris, so the interior is a mix of French glamour and Out of Africa. I've seen inside. It's fabulous.

This is what Mrs Baudoin uses to drive around the islands. It's a Bentley. Personally, I think a Bentley is perfect for purring around the Keys. I like the garage too.

We didn't stay at The Great House. It's really only for presidents and people like J.Lo, not unknown plebs from Australia. But we did stay somewhere just as gorgeous. This was our cutie (above).

Here's another darling one with pink shutters. I asked the Hubster if we could buy a beach house with pink shutters one day? He was on the hammock at the time and muttered something beneath his political book that sounded like a profanity. But I could have been wrong. It could have been: "Of course honey".

This is him saying "Of course we can buy a beachhouse!". I swear I heard it. I'm positive it wasn't the palm trees whispering.

Seven other words you always long to hear are: "We'd like to give you an upgrade". This is what happened when we went to rent our usual Hyundai cheapie in Miami beach. Instead of the ol' Hynie, we received this: a black Mustang convertible. Talk about an upgrade.

Unfortunately, it was wasted on us. As we both burn easily, we only took the top down for three minutes to take this posy photo. Yes, we drove all the way down the Keys in a convertible with the top UP! For all we knew, we could have been driving the yellow Hyundai.

The place is so beautiful there are orchids growing out of the trees. Like weeds. Can you imagine a place where orchids are as prolific as weeds? I couldn't until I saw it for my own eyes.

They had my books in the Lobby / Reception, but I think they just put them there because they knew I was coming. That's the kind of thoughtful, generous thing they do at The Moorings.

More details: If you ever have a chance to stay here, do so, as it really is worth it. Thank you to Thomas and the lovely staff – who treat every guests as well as the president. We're so grateful to have stayed here.


  1. It looks like you are having a very happy time. What a delightful thing to do, place copies of your books in the foyer. How accomplished to have written books, that people are pleased to place in their foyer!

  2. congratulations on your wedding! Enjoy your honeymoon xxx

  3. Oh that looks lovely, I really want to get down to the Keys some time. I'm off to Eden Rock, Antibes, tomorrow - can't complain!

    Well, when the time comes if you don't post about it, many, many congratulations on getting married.

  4. Oh, and the orchid growing naturally? What a great sight!

  5. Dear Janelle

    Many thanks for the kind response to my comments. So glad to hear how wonderful your honeymoon has been - I'm sure the wedding too will be lovely. Your pictures of the Keys are really beautiful - it's obviously an ideal place for such a special time and occasion.

    Congratulations to you both and best wishes for many many years of happiness to come! Pamela

  6. Oh how I wish I was there! Would especially love to see those wild orchids.

  7. Wow! Its nice place:) I am remembering my resorts by seeing this photographs:) even my resorts is of village atmosphere and it’s really awesome:)

  8. Loving the blog Janelle. Loving your book on Paris even more as I'm planning our third visit there. Hope your honeymoon and US trip continues to be amazing!

  9. Looks like a super slice of heaven to me. And brilliant idea to run the honeymoon before the wedding. That way you can have one afterwards as well. A wedding sandwich, if you will.

  10. Congratulations on a beautiful honeymoon and enjoy the wedding!!!!! What a wonderful Janelle way to do it!!!! xx

  11. Oh it looks like utter perfection! Congratulations on your pre-honeymoon / nuptials - naturally you're setting a stylish new trend for back to front weddings you know!
    Paula x

  12. Thank you thank you thank you! I was looking at nearly every post of your fantastic blog when I stumbled upon...HOME! Not the Moorings per se (I wish) but Islamorada (which, sorry to say, means The Purple Isle') For 12 years I lived a block or so away and was blessed enough to enjoy its beauty regularly. Many lazy afternoons in that hammock :) I miss it all the time.. so what a great surprise to see it here! Thanks for posting and Congratulations!


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