When I asked Harbour Island hotelier Tracy Barry if she would be a part of the Island Connoisseur series she responded yes although not without stipulation, “I don’t see myself as defined – meaning as ‘an expert judge in matters of taste’ – rather I think of a Connoisseur as one who appreciates, enjoys and is passionate about matters of taste.” There truth never more out-spoken, her passions translate in to the running of the twelve well-appointed guest rooms, an eclectic bar and a restaurant which prefers serving farm-to-table cuisine, homemade bread and fresh pressed juices. All that said – who she is as a mother, wife, businesswoman and hotelier is seen and felt in the walls of The Landing hotel, which dates as far back as the 1800s – making it apparent that she lives up to her own definition of an Island Connoisseur in every way.
TB: Most guests arrive mid afternoon at The Landing and whether they have travelled for many hours and been up since pre dawn to get here – or it’s been a quick 15 minute flight from Nassau or a picturesque leisurely voyage on the ferry – from the moment they step onto the dock you can see the transformation begin; They have after all stepped into a wonderland of sorts – pink sand, wild chickens, pastel coloured houses, frolicking dolphins, friendly potcakes, golf carts as the main mode of transportation on bougainvillea and Oleander lined streets, beautiful, smiling, friendly people and the image of a large Afro Head spay painted onto a wall – our version of X marks the spot – and a treasure chest does indeed await you.
Yes, you’ve arrived on magical Harbour Island and are now at The Landing Guest House located a few steps from the arrival dock. Walking up the outside stairs to the verandah en route to check in at our office you will notice one of the first historic details of the property, the verandahs are on quite a slant, built that way to allow rainwater to roll off them and protect the wood. The main building dates back to the 1800s and is one of the Grande Dames of the island. The 16 inch thick limestone walls, with their classic corner coins, were quarried from behind our Captain’s House building. The soft dove grey with white trim is immediately soothing to the senses. The Abaco pine wood floors, the collection of 1936, hand coloured reproduction maps of the Caribbean region of the 1400 – 1600’s from the Museum of Seville collection (one of our favourite treasures found in The Attic after we bought the property in 1996) , the sneak peak at the library with it’s striking Ralph Lauren furniture and you are checking in – warm greetings, smiles, a little property and island orientation and you are escorted to your room. Be you in the main building, The Captain’s House or The Library Building, you will experience our island living – a mixture of style, heart and soul, authenticity and barefoot elegance.
Best to drop your bags, don something more comfortable and head out on your golf cart or on foot to acclimate yourself. You are in the heart of the village – children, chickens, golf carts, locals, tourists, potcakes, gossip, shop fronts, eateries, open harbour vistas………… and you can’t resist the call of the beach – a 1 minute drive or a 7 minute stroll away. It’s just a quick stop, a confirmation of sorts…….yes it really is pink and my word, it’s powder soft and the colour of that water! Back on the golf cart or on foot to explore some more.
6PM– Time to freshen up and get ready for a sunset cocktail or two. On the verandah of your room or on the porch at The Landing restaurant – the sun sets gloriously over the harbour. An Afro Head Rose champagne with elderflower liquor or perhaps a Ginger Fro in hand…….yes, tastes like a sunset to me.
8PM – You have of course booked your table out on the porch overlooking the harbour but have left time to linger at the bar – raspberry red walls, old black and white photographs telling the story of a family and a bygone era, an inclusive intimacy, a strange desire to know more. The chilli salt squid, the organic arugula salad – we love the 2 farm miles on that one – or the stone crab wonton stack, followed by the local catch of the day, the goats cheese ravioli with shrimp and tea soaked raisins or the unbelievable tenderloin. Our cellar is rather fabulous if not a little daunting. Dessert is a must – the flourless, soft centred chocolate cake/pudding for any chocoholic and there are bite sized delights like the coconut and chocolate macaroon for those who choose not to sin fully! A nip of our 25 year old Afro Head rum caps out your evening. A starlit stroll through town -one at full moon on the beach is a must. That’s night blooming jamsine that you smell in pockets about the place – heavenly. Then it’s off to bed – beneath the canopy………it feels like you are dreaming before you even close your eyes!
4AM – Roosters crow………..ignore it and go back to sleep – they keep a strange island time!
9AM – a civilized hour for breakfast – though it does start from 8AM. No room service here – it’s back to the porch, this time enjoying the view of the village waking up – water taxis to and fro-ing, deliveries, lively conversations, local colour, fashionable foreigners with fabulous accents. The Ricotta hotcakes with honey comb butter are a must, though the french toast with salted caramel syrup and fresh whipped cream is my new favourite. Espresso, cappuccino, latte…all done the classic way and the coffee is ours as well, Afro Head, roasted to our specifications by a passionate Calabraian!
10AM – It’s glorious on the beach and again Afro Head marks the spot. Beach chairs and umbrellas await you there.
12PM – The Landing doesn’t serve lunch so head out and enjoy the many offerings on the beach or the harbour front.
2:30PM – Shopping! Shop owners have to be as savvy as their clients and have similar to the best of the best on offer in Paris, Milan, London and New York ………. they seem to satisfy every time!
3:30PM – You’ve been on the island for about 24 hours now…a little pink sand between your toes, sun kissed, a fab new outfit, belly fully, a little tipsy perhaps – on life or libation – relaxed and smiling for sure!
VP: What are five characteristics that set The Landing Hotel a part?
1. Our Afro Head: rum, wine and merchandise – it was worth going logo-less for 7 years before deciding on this fab iconic image of my mum from the 1970’s
2. Our kitchen is pretty sensational – our daily fresh baked sourdough bread and more recently our fresh pressed juices (The Green Goddess, The Red Ruby definitely set us apart)
3. Thai yoga massage – an incredible ancient healing art that dates back 4000 years that I practice. Vacation is the perfect time to lay in complete surrender for 1.5- 2 hours under my hands and feet and body weight.
4. The wonderful history of our buildings that date back to 1800 and give our guests a hint of life and style of a bygone era
5. Family operated – it brings a special level intimacy to the property – I love that paying guests write us thank you letters as if they had been guests in our home.
VP: I’m a fan and follower of your daily musings on your personal Facebook page, each to do with inspiration, energy, gratitude, and your love for life. I wondered as The Landing is a family-run business, of which you are the matriarch, how does this influence the overall experience?
TB: Ah the matriarch – very Bahamian that. The female energy has as warmth and compassion and gentleness and nurturing and emotional intimacy and strength and quiet power. I think you feel all of that at The Landing.I have 4 gurus – my children – their births and raising them have resulted in major turning points in my life. As they are very spread out in age, currently ages 20, 15, 11 and 4 and very individual and strong characters, I find myself having to meet them where they are in each of their moments. That takes present moment awareness and understanding perspectives to a whole other level. I also have lost both of my sisters in the last 8 years…your world stops spinning and you loose your footing and you free fall, maybe even disintegrate in the different atmosphere, all while appearing, at least outwardly to be the same person. That inner journey to find out who you are again and the meaning of life and what’s important and the song of your soul…it’s quite a trip! I like to live out loud and share my experiences and perspective – that truth is therapeutic and creates real connections. We allow the Light to shine upon us and our own light to shine on others.
TB: Favourite room…that is hard as they are each unique…but I would probably have to say The Attic. I love the intimacy and romance of it. Trussed up under the eaves, the dormer windows – 10 windows in total on all 4 sides. Views of the harbour and the dance of light as the water reflects the setting sun throughout the room. The Louis the 16th bed frame, whitewashed floors, the bathing room…it is my idea of a dream master bedroom suite.
VP: If you had to describe your “Island Personality” which island would it be and why?
TB: Harbour island – It is the perfect blend of local and international, sophisticated and unsophisticated, intimate, authentic, soulful, colourful, charming, peaceful, lively, the mystique of living history, the fact that you can be on a tiny island – 3 miles long and half a mile wide – and that the world comes to you, literally! Today at lunch I was taking photos of the beach – which never ceases to take my breath away – and the young server asked where I was visiting from. He was surprised to learn that I was from here, “You are taking photos like a tourist who has never seen the place before” he said. That’s exactly how I like to live it!
VP: What a way to live…
Thank you to Tracy and The Landing family for being a part of The Experience.
P.S. Photo Credits: Cookie Kinkead
P.P.S. To experience The Landing visit here.