It was a rainy and overcast St. Barth’s day when my husband and I drove across the island to visit the Spa at Hotel Saint Barth Isle de France. After a delightful lunch at a nearby beachside restaurant recommended by Fiona, the spa manager, it was time for a relaxing treatment. We found the busy hotel and spa tucked away in a quiet corner of Flamands Bay . Right away, I liked the look and style of the small spa which boasted of its “customer centered holistic approach.” After leaving our car in a diminutive parking lot, we walked to the spa entrance. Inside, I was greeted warmly and given a short questionnaire to complete. Soon after, a lively British therapist with a bright smile walked me over to the Garden Pavilion for the fully clothed Thai massage. I applied a liberal second dose (we had sprayed ourselves before leaving) of mosquito repellant, lay on the floor mat and she began. An hour and a half later, found me sitting in a cushy chair at the spa reception eating fruit sorbet and feeling “noodly” though awake.
On the eve of our departure from St. Barth, we discovered this lovely Caribbean gem on a hill overlooking Anse Toiny. The romantic and elegant Le Gaiac was named after the guaiacum tree which has the heaviest tropical wood with many medicinal purposes and is found in the area where the restaurant is located. Part of Le Gaiac’s appeal was due to its blue and white décor and setting next to the Hotel Le Toiny’s night lit swimming pool. The open air dining room facing Toiny cove was inviting, comfortable, breezy and mosquito free. We greatly enjoyed the relaxed ambiance, live music (performed by Alan Landry) excellent service and innovative cuisine.
Visiting this tiny (eight square miles) French Caribbean island was like a ray of sunshine during a storm. We enjoyed some of the best of island life with few of the common inconveniences. Favorite characteristics that would draw us back in a heartbeat included stunning panoramic views, a polite sophisticated attitude, English is spoken by many of the locals and Anglophones are welcome, a laid back ambiance, almost no crime, fine French and international dining (there are 70 restaurants!), an outstanding infrastructure with cell phone and high speed Internet connectivity, wonderful options for accommodations, inviting spa facilities and beautiful white sand beaches.
Turning off the main road onto a non-descript private street that would have made a mountain goat feel at home, we arrived at Villa Bel’Ombre. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was more comfortable and prettier than the photos we had seen online and the postcard view was even more stunning than we could have imagined. The $3 million villa was spacious, open and full of thoughtful features we liked such as a shaded deck area facing the bay, comfortable lounge chairs in the sun and shade, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a partially open kitchen facing the bay, and a Jacuzzi by the master bedroom. Marble landscape skies with a moon, pink and purple sunrises, the sound of birdsong and the surf, the impeccable swimming pool where we could linger while enjoying the view from the infinity edge and a welcome sense of privacy were some of the extras we discovered onsite.
Dinner at Bartolomeo was good. After a day of rain, multiple failed attempts at beach lounging and room service (the other restaurant at the hotel was holding a private function) we were ready for a treat and Bartolomeo made it possible. It was convenient to walk from our room on the opposite end of the Hotel Guanahani to Bartolomeo, named after Columbus ’ brother. When we walked by earlier that day on our way to the beach, the bright orange sign with an adjacent menu and plain entrance gave no indication of the gourmet promises it held.
We had barely entered the arrivals area at the modern Gustave III airport, hot and tired after a long day of travel, when we encountered Xavier, the Guanahani representative who was waiting for us. He collected our luggage and walked us over to his waiting van, where he provided us Evian bottles and Hermes refresher towelletes. These small touches meant a world to us and were the promise of things to come. At the hotel , he waited while we went through a five minute check-in, and then drove us to our room.