Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Two Tickets to Paradise

The Cloisters on Paradise Island (c) dbyrdHere's another shot from Paradise Island.

This is called "The Cloisters" and the name is appropriate - it is actually an Augustine Cloister from the 12th Century. It was brought to Paradise Island by Huntington Hartford, who purchased it from the estate of former newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

It is a breathtaking place. Unfortunately, condominiums are being built adjacent to the property that threaten its silent beauty.

The Cloister is part of what is called the Versailles Gardens, a multi-tiered layout that features statues of mythological and classical heroes and heroines, but also includes a couple of massive bronzes of David Livingston and Franklin Roosevelt.

According to Frommer's 2004 guide, The Cloister was reassembled on its current site stone by stone after Huntington Hartford, the A & P heir, bought it from the Hearst Estate.

When they took the thing apart, no one numbered the pieces, so it had to be reassembled by artist and sculptor Jean Castre-Manne. It took him two years but it is as close to the original as could be achieved. Versailles Gardens in the Bahamas

When we were there, the Bougainvilleas were in full bloom, the grass was cut to about two inches deep and felt like shag carpeting under your feet and the sun was shining brightly off the statues and the steps. The stairs have an overgrown quality to them, with a thick mound of grass in the cracks where mortar used to be.

It was a garden of tranquility. Unfortunately, The One and Only Ocean Club, a private Country Club, owns part of the gardens and has its pool on one of the tiers. You cannot explore the full garden, since the Club portion is "for members and guests only." If you need a reminder, there are signs.

One thing we enjoyed was sitting in the gazebo on the harbor side of the gardens in the photo above. This spot is supposed to be a favorite for weddings and you can certainly see why. When we asked directions to it, the concierge called it "dat place where dey have de wedding pictures taken."

But development threatens this sanctuary. Even the Frommer's guide acknowledges that "although the monument remains a timeless beauty, recent buildings have encroached on either side, marring Huntington Hartford's vision." But it is still worth seeing.

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