Once upon a time on a small 5 square mile island called Saba, my husband and I got to call an original captain’s house our home for a weekend. What started as an impromptu trip became an unexpected romantic getaway and that romance was mainly due to the Hidden Garden Cottage.
When it comes to my husband, romance is not his forte, but sometimes he does things out of the blue that make me almost retract that statement. Like when he came home from work one day and told me we should go to Saba for Valentine’s Day weekend. Although I highly doubt he was aware of this titbit. This was not the first time he blurted out something like that either. Most of the time we dream about it, plan it and nothing comes of it for one reason or another and so, it is discarded onto the pile of other unrealized trips. I didn’t think this one was gonna be any different, that is until he asked me to actually book the tickets.
Now, that is something you don’t need to ask me twice. I immediately jumped on that task before he changed his mind or before work got in the way like it did so many times before. Tickets secured and a place to stay booked by my husband through a friend, we hopped onto a Winair flight a few days later. We landed on Saba’s very short runway at the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in less than 20 minutes after taking off from St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport. Once there we quickly got into the previously arranged taxi awaiting us outside.
It’s only a short, yet very steep and winding drive from the airport to the little town of Windward Side. Everything is a short ride on Saba. After all, the island is only 5 square miles. Still, I was anxious to get to the house. in the days leading up to the trip I had done some research and found photos of the house on the real estate website.
I realize that what I’m about to say is a huge cliché but take it from me, the photos I saw online are nothing compared to when you’re actually standing there in front of this cottage. I think it has to do with the surroundings, the narrow lane leading to the house, the other original Saban houses around it, the clouds hanging so low down the hill behind the house that you can almost touch them. Whatever the reason, I knew instantly that this place is magical.
Walking into the house was like stepping back in time. We entered through a small wooden gate in the back of the house into a beautiful and very green back patio. From there we followed the owner’s instructions and opened the back door of the house into the historic kitchen and dining area. The original stone hearth dating back to 1890 when the house was built was to our left. The owners did a beautiful job combining the old with the new. The appliances of today’s world were reminders that we were still in 2020. To our left was a very fancy dining table with upholstered high back chairs, and a small desk by the window overlooking the town below, which welcomed the writer in me and I was tempted to take a seat at this desk and start writing immediately.
From there we walked through one of two openings, one on either side of the dining table, into the sitting area, which to me felt very aristocratic. I don’t think I sat on one of the couches in here once. Just not to disturb anything. The sitting area faced wooden double doors that opened up onto the veranda. The house sits on an incline and gives the most beautiful view of the little town of Windward Side, with all its shops and green hills and the mostly present low hanging clouds.
It was easy to just call the rest of the tour of the house quits and just sit in one of the rocking chairs on this veranda forever but there was still another part of the house to be discovered.
Next to the sitting area was the bedroom. Like the rest of the house, the bedroom too was intimate and inviting. A door opposite the king size bed led to the bathroom and another door led to a sort of dressing room, it could also be a baby room, I’m not sure. I guess it’s the style according to the customs of yonder years.
A gasp coming from the bathroom demanded my attention from the bed. It was followed by my husband’s voice urgently requesting my attendance by his side. He had just discovered the highlight of this old cottage, the outdoor shower.
Try, if you may, to imagine getting up in the morning, the low hanging clouds adding to the charm of this place and bringing with them colder than the average Caribbean temperatures. Now imagine stepping outside into the outdoor shower, the mist helping cover your nakedness. You turn on the shower and you stand there in the open air under a steady stream of hot water. If this is not perfection I don’t know what is.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, you take the pathway leading away from the bathroom and the outdoor shower into the actual hidden garden. yes, there’s a hidden garden. Hence the name, I guess.
Here, you’re in your own little green paradise. The landscape is well maintained, private and just breathtaking, especially in the weather we had the good fortune of having during our weekend, which was mostly rainy and misty. But don’t you worry, it’s not always raining and the mist normally disappears mid morning and reappears in the late afternoon again. To me Saba is at it’s prettiest when it’s raining, with the low hanging clouds keeping the island’s secrets securely hidden. But this is not normal weather.
Exit the hidden garden into the front yard. The front of the house has a pathway leading from the front gate, which you enter from the quant old lane on the side. On one side of the pathway is a thick old wall covered in moss, behind are two gravestones. This is a common practice in the Windward Side. Most homes have a grave or two of their ancestors in their yard and it’s not spooky or eerie at all. It’s actually charming and kind of beautiful if you think about it.
The veranda or porch was our favorite spot to sit in the early mornings and the late evenings before heading to bed. We would sit out there in matching rocking chairs, watching the little historical village of Windward Side wake up in the morning and before heading down ourselves to Bizzy Bee bakery for a coffee and sandwich or pastry.
The town, the island, the people
Windward side village is small, very small, but its old world charm and beautiful Saban homes scattered uphill and downhill, each with its red roof beautifully coordinated is so enticing.
Everything here is a short walk away. Windward Side has everything you need, from grocery stores, restaurants, bars, a must-visit optics store (the interior is too cute to miss), the Saba Tourist Office, a (handmade) gift store, a museum, two beautiful churches, an gallery, three hotels, the Saba Conservation center and Trail Shop, and the most incredible handmade jewelry store called The Jewel Cottage, which happens to be owned by the same person who owns the Hidden Garden Cottage.
Saba is a very special island. Most homes in Windward Side have a view. Whether that view is of the town like we had or of the ocean, or both. The island itself is a volcano. Everything is built in the hills. It means that you’re mostly either walking/driving uphills or downhills. For more about the island itself, click here for another Saba post I published not too long ago and here for a post on my stay at one of the three hotels located in Windward Side.
The people of Saba are super friendly and welcoming. There are less than 2,000 people living on the island, so it’s a real small community. Everyone will know an outsider has arrived the moment you step foot out of the plane. On the drive to the airport we spoke to the taxi driver about going to see out friend in the main town of The Bottom later in the day. By the time we got to our friend an hour later, he already knew we were on island and was expecting us.
There is a sense of safety here that you cannot find in larger places. People look out for one another, whether you live on the island or you’re just visiting. It is still a place where crime is so small-scale, it’s almost non existent. The inhabitants of Saba live a worry-free existence coveted by most. It is not at all strange leaving your doors unlocked. It’s a life many would love to have. I know I do.
The Hidden Garden Cottage is one of those perfect places you have such a hard time saying goodbye to at the end of your stay. We actually ended up canceling our return flight and staying another night.
It’s a place filled with history and old world Caribbean charm. It belongs to a special type of home on Saba, the legendary Captain’s homes, built back in the day for the families of sea captains and the captains themselves whenever they found their way back home. These vintage homes are rare and it is even rarer to stay in one.
For more information about the Hidden Garden Cottage, visit their website.
*The above is based on my personal experience while staying at the Hidden Garden Cottage. This is an unsponsored post.