5 Facts About the Maldives (or, Why Can’t I Just Relax and Enjoy Nice Things?)

Oh, hello there. I realize I left you all on a bit of a cliffhanger. Not about the Mad Pooper. I mean, we’re all waiting for bated breath on that one, but alas, I’m not sure we’ll ever really find out who she is or why she does what she did. And the Colorado police want us all to just flush it and forget it.

No, I left you hanging over our visit to the St. Regis Maldives. Which, honestly, is not a bad place to just hang. And, because really, that’s kind of all there is to do there is…..hang.

Let me tell you a little something about the Maldives, which is sometimes pronounced “Maldiiives” with a long “i” (if you are American) and sometimes pronounced “Maldeeeves” with a long and pronounced “e” (if you are British). Somehow along the way, XFE and I had taken to pronouncing it the British way. That’s fine, too. Nobody at the very fine and expensive St. Regis Maldeeeeves ever corrected us while they were taking our credit card information. No harm. No foul. Or “foal,” however you want to pronounce it.

St. Regis Maldives welcome note for Ms Peo
Perhaps this little mispronunciation of my last name is why they didn’t correct our mispronunciation of Maldives.

Anyway, about the Maldives.

Here are 5 things to know about the Maldives.

They are incredibly remote. – The Maldives – all 1,000 coral islands that make up the tiny 26 ring-shaped atolls of this adorable little tropical paradise – are just floating along in the middle of the Indian Ocean, far, far from just about anywhere. This island nation is just under 9,000 miles (or 19 hours by plane) from our home base of Washington, D.C.

Sri Lanka is probably the closest gateway country to the Maldives at just 642 miles away (it’s a one-and-a-half hour flight from Colombo to the Maldives largest city, Male).

So it’s got that whole Robinson-family-shipwrecked-far-from-civilization vibe to it, which, I’ve got to say, freaked me out a tiny bit.

Atolls in the Maldives
Future St. Regis atolls beginning to take shape.

They are unbelievably beautiful. — Lonely Planet calls it “nature’s sunken garden” and XFE commented that being there was “like living above an aquarium.” The water is an impossible clear, light aqua blue that literally makes your eyes hurt and the sand on the beaches was so soft and white it reminded us of the sand you find in those fancy stamped ashtrays in Las Vegas.

The reefs we explored – both around the St. Regis property itself and during a day of exploring other reefs by private boat – were exceptional. Crystal clear waters teaming with all kinds of sea life and underwater cliffs covered in coral that just went on forever. The reefs were so exceptional, in fact, that we didn’t even go scuba diving. We felt we could see everything we wanted to see just snorkeling, including sharks, octopus, rays, turtles, and all the colorful small fish you can possible imagine.

They are amazingly expensive. – I already spoke a little bit about the room prices at the St. Regis, which we were lucky enough to not have to pay. But those multiple dollar signs pop up in all the other stuff, too.

Hey, you know what grows in coral? Nothing. Not a damn thing. The lack of arable land makes agriculture a no-go, which is why just about every food item (besides fish, and in particular, tuna) has to be brought in. And it’s also why everything in the Maldives (at least in my resort-laden experience) was incredibly expensive (think: $45 burgers, $36 margherita pizza).

Menu at the St. Regis Maldives' Cargo restaurant
Please note the $23 falafel starter. There was also a $45 kebab.

 

(Disclaimer: Apparently, there are a few things that can be grown in the Maldives – hello, coconuts — but even this website notes it’s mostly grown in homestead gardens, not enough to consider marketable. And if these Maldives farmers did sell them, I’m sure they’d be really, really expensive.)

They seriously rely on tourism. — The overall population of all 26 atolls is just over 425,000 and pretty much everybody is involved in the tourism industry. More than 1.2 million tourists visited the Maldives in in 2016, shacking up in one of the 126 resorts located on the atolls. Local laws require a certain percentage of the staff to be Maldives citizens (I think it was something like 51%) so it’s safe to say that the vast majority of Maldivians are somehow involved in travel and tourism.

our St. Regis Maldives Butler
Our amazing St. Regis Maldives butler who put up with us for days on end.

So these guys are total pros—very service oriented, always smiling, very professional. The staff at the St. Regis was top notch all the way. Even when there were glitches (and yes, there were a couple), they bent over backwards to fix things, no questions asked. In fact, if anything, managers and servers wanted to dwell on those glitches: we were asked about and apologized to for service snafus by multiple people throughout the staff multiple times, which sometimes bordered on uncomfortable.

They are all about relaxation. – I don’t want to say there’s nothing to do in the Maldives, because there probably are lots of things to do, if you are not a pasty-delicate-white flower who burns when she even sees a picture of a sun.

And certainly the St. Regis had all kinds of different buildings with a ton of different activities (a gorgeous round library stocked with books, magazines and even Kindles for guest use, another building fully stocked with games—everything from video game areas to ping-pong and foosball tables, a yoga studio with those hanging ribbons ala Pink, a cooking kitchen designed for kids, a ridiculously cool, futuristic-looking spa). They have a movie night on the beach (I think it was on Thursdays) and a very cool DJ spinning at the Whale Bar every night.

Gravity free yoga at St. Regis Maldives

But most of the times we went in those buildings, they were entirely empty. We strolled by the movie night and it was playing to empty bean bags. When we went to the Whale Bar for after dinner drinks, it was usually just us, the staff and the very cool DJ.

Maybe it was the time of year. Who knows? We’d been to resorts on an island before, but this was entirely different. This was an island resort – not a resort on an island. It often felt (other than at breakfast time) that we were the only people in the entire place, which again, made me a wee bit angsty.

St. Regis Maldives beach
Where is everybody?

The one thing that felt slightly odd to me is that every day felt identical. They were all beautiful picture-perfect days. The sun was always shining, the sky was always blue, it was always warm and humid — there seemed no variation to the days at all. I think that could make someone go crazy. You don’t even have the weather to talk about!

In my next post, I’ll talk a bit more about the St. Regis specifically and our overwater bungalow.

Hotel Crashing: Westin, Marriott in Lima

I love, love, love hotels.

I love the sometimes modern, sometimes classical, sometimes retro, but always sweeping and grand front desk areas.

I love the smiling friendly people who work at the front desk area and the way they focus so intently on their little screen while trying to find you the absolute best room upgrade.  I love the concept of a concierge to help you with every single little request, no matter how weird of small.

I love the music they play in the lobby and all the lovely flower arrangements. I love the free coffee in the lobby in the morning or the free wine in the evening and the chance to make small talk with fellow guests.

Lilies in Lima
Lilies (my favorite) in one of our rooms.

I love the huge, luxurious beds with the fresh clean sheets and towels every single day (and sometimes in the evening, if you’d like) and the pillow menus that let you pick the firmness and composition of your pillow. I love room service and I definitely love the toiletries.  Oh, and the turndown chocolates.

Basically, I wish I was Eloise (especially since she lived at the Plaza. Can you just imagine what the robes must be like?? I. Die.)

One of the best compliments my co-decorator XFE and I ever got was, “You’re house looks like a W Hotel.”

To me, walking into a hotel is kinda like opening a present. And then opening the door to the room is like opening a present inside a present. There have been many a time when we’ve opened the door to our room and I’ve looked back and thought, “Is this all for us? All of it? We don’t have to share it with anybody?”

Which is all to say: We stayed in some pretty freaking great places in Peru.

Lobby at the Westin Lima Peru
Like this one.

We stayed at two hotels in Lima. Because, really, why wouldn’t you hotel hop when you get the chance? Actually, our Lima hotels bookcased our trip down to Paracas, so we chose the second hotel based on its proximity to the car rental drop off. I mean, that wasn’t the only reason we picked it, but it did make it an attractive option.

First we spent two nights at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center in the San Isidro neighborhood. It’s the newest major hotel in Lima and was the tallest building in the country when it opened in May 2011. The lobby was gorgeous with lots of dark wood, and low couches and open-sided fire pits in the lobby bar area.

Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center in the San Isidro neighborhood.
Fire pits!

We were immediately upgraded to an amazing executive suite on the 19th floor. This suite had a living room, eat-in dining area, powder room and master bath; and a humongous bedroom with panoramic views of the financial district. In total, it was 700 square feet. Basically, a little more than half our house. Yeah. It was basically, slightly bigger than the lower half of our house.

Bedroom, Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center in the San Isidro neighborhood.

 

Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center bathroom

They had the most amazing lilies in vases throughout. Our “room” smelled like a really upscale florists’ shop.

Living room at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center
Our living room. For two nights.

We also got access to the Westin Executive Club Lounge a couple of floors up (home of the legendary best pisco sour we had the entire trip). Poor people: listen up. There’s this big secret amongst the rich people out there, which is: They get to eat for free! Like, every meal. And sometimes even drink for free! And it’s pretty good stuff! I mean, it’s not like a full menu or anything, but there are usually meats and cheeses and salads and sandwiches. In the morning, there are even free mimosas to go with your pastries, sausages and eggs (although, if I do have one complaint, it’s that the scrambled eggs are always a bit runny for my taste at these executive lounge places. But the same could be said at any breakfast buffet, really. Blech.)

westin lima welcome
Free food! In our room! Thanking us for staying with them. KRAY-KRAY.

I swear, if I’d known all of this free food stuff was going on when I was a poor college student, I would have spent all my time lurking outside hotel executive clubs. It’s insane.

Between the amazing room and the free food and wine, I really didn’t even want to leave the hotel. Ever. And we didn’t even have time to check out the other amenities, (although I hear they had a fantastic heated indoor pool.)

Closet at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center
Oh, did I mention the walk in closet?

Eventually, we did have to leave, and it was a very sad day indeed when XFE had to pry my claws off the door frame so we could check out.

The JW Marriott in Miraflores was our next hotel in Lima, and while not quite as amazing as the Westin, it was still pretty damn nice.  Or, actually, I should say that the room itself wasn’t as luxurious, but I actually preferred the executive club at the Marriott better. It’s true I liked the Marriott club food slightly better, but primarily it was because our fellow club attendees were vastly more entertaining (there was a fighting couple sitting nearby who it turns out weren’t a couple, but were actually work colleagues who were quite fed up with each other. Also: an exceedingly large man explaining a diet that he was on, and a bunch of other personal things, all very loudly).

It’s been a long time since I stayed at a Marriott. I guess I thought they were a bit dated and appealed more towards and older clientele. Our room basically enhanced my pre-conceived impressions. There was nothing wrong with the room per se (in fact, the ocean view was very nice), but after the grandeur of the Westin, it seemed kinda basic.

JW Marriott in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

However, it did the trick and provided a good home base for our last, short evening in Lima. Also, the front desk staff was great and we were particularly grateful they remembered our 2 am wakeup call so we could catch our 5:30 flight to Cusco.

View from the JW Marriott in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Couple of other notes about the Marriott: the location is great. You’re right across the street from the Larcomar mall, and there’s a casino next to the hotel. In case you’re feeling lucky. In fact, we saw quite a few people straggling in as we were leaving for the airport at 3 am, including a proud Longhorn dad explaining craps to his two young UT-togs-wearing sons as they waited for the elevator. If I hadn’t been so bleary-eyed, I might have grabbed a cup of free lobby coffee and made small talk with them. But I had other hotel rooms awaiting me in other parts of Peru.