Jenn & Ben's Christmas/New Years' Trip 2017

We took a needed break from our busy medical research careers to have a 2 week trip to St Barts over the holidays.   It was our 2nd time to this beautiful island.  First trip,  we met Jeff when we arrived in St Maarten, trying to find our flight to St Barth when the airport was being re-configured---for a pair of tired travelers it was not something we could navigate.  Jeff introduced himself,  guided us through immigration, baggage, customs and to our flight like a personal assistant.  We stayed at a nice hotel but knew next trip we'd like a private villa...he may have not remembered that he gave us a card 5 years prior.  We checked the Flamands Blue website and knew that it was exactly where we wanted to have this vacation.


Since the villa was has two separate suites we invited our very good friends to come with us for week in the middle of our trip.    They loved it!

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It was fun to show them about what was becoming "our" island.


We did the beaches.

We spent time just hanging out---in this case over pre-dinner drinks.


Fine dining....here at Eden Roc


Danced in Gustavia to great music on the harbor.

We hiked all over the island but found the views off the natural pools such a gorgeous place to be.


Along with plenty of "romantique" time to remember this trip, and plan our next one.

The villa, staff, and location were perfect!  We'll definitely be back....

Bucket Regatta Trip 2016

This trip was something we'd not done before: a full house, using all three bedrooms with all of us at our Flamands Blue. Caroline and I invited our good friends Bill and Susan from Phily. They've vacationed at our villa several times before over the years and came down a week prior....sent us this beautiful "teaser" pic from the deck.

They spent the next four nights with us, with Sancere in the frig when we arrived. Along, too was our may-as-well-be daughter, Heidi from Chicago, on her 5th trip---who's now "addicted" to St Barth she tells us.

Some of you may remember her as one of the "Big Girls" and cliff jumper on the trip with sister back in '12.

Heidi & Julie Sisters' Trip May, 2012

First night we all went to 25 Quarter in Gustavia which was very good---we'd all really looked forward to this trip and the company was outstanding! The three of us on the right had been going since about 4am....no problem, we were on vacation!

Next was a lunch and spa day for the ladies at Isle de France (still call it that) which many believe is the best on the island. Staff at their spa remains the same from year to year and is quite attentive.

Wonderful next day on the boat---excellent company (Jeanette, Dennis and Diana were in our group, too) viewing the gorgeous Bucket Regatta racing yachts, ending with lunch/drinks and swimming at beautiful Colombier.

A day simply does not get any better than this and our skipper could not have made things finer, either.

Skipper put out the paddleboard, some of us tried-----it's little harder than it looks.

Next morning Heidi made us all this tasty breakfast vegetarian frittata....Mimosas, along with the company and our views were so nice to share.

Afterward, we walked down to spend a lazy afternoon at Hotel Tiawana with a perfect lunch then swimming and napping in their lounges.

We've found the management here to be very accommodating at this beautiful setting on the beach.

Snapped this pic as we were leaving...I contemplated waking her but I asked my friend Bill who advised to let her sleep. It was that kind of day....later she woke and walked back up to the villa.

Bill and Susan told us we had to have the fish sandwich here at O'Corial----it along with French fries and Caribs were SO, good!


A local, long-time folk singer here sings one with words "I go to bed now when I used to go out".
After dinner with us, Heidi met friends & went out to Le Ti or BAZ most nights.
Thanks also to Jeanette & Dennis for looking out for her.

A chill day for us, but Heidi went rock climbing next morning & swimming near the natural pools.

Our fine dining experience and it did not disappoint, whatsoever. Our finest meal along with the ambiance & service, an establishment that simply does everything right.

This day we all went for a long lunch at Do Brazil and swim/relax down on the beach.
Friend and Manager David took great care of us, as always.

Heidi's last day she and Caroline planned another spa massage. I met them afterward for Rose down on the plage. The result....do these ladies look relaxed and happy or what?

Does this vacation have to be over??
Heidi left a day before us and took this beautiful last morning walk down Flamands.


After we took Heidi to the airport, I spent the afternoon with some ongoing maintenance. Good friend DDA stopped by to help with a new (US/Euro interface issue) kitchen faucet omitted from last fall's new counter work. Later that evening we had dinner with he and Diana at Eddy's.

Love this one, even though it was a busy vacation, my wife certainly looks like she has the "St Barts Glow" coming out of the sea with Heidi on Flamands Beach.

We've had so many wonderful ones on St Barth in the last 20 years (15 at our villa) but this one will be remembered as one of our best, ever.

Jeff
Flamands Blue

Sharon and Brian's Honeymoon

After getting engaged, we quickly realized that we were much more excited about planning the honeymoon than the wedding. When we decided on St. Barts, we spent hours looking at hotel and villa options. Ultimately, we reached out to the great community at SBH Online, and were pointed in the direction of Flamands Blue. We knew that it was meant to be, as Jeff’s villa had already caught our eye in our initial search. Everyone simply raved about it, and we tried to keep our expectations in check. Well, Jeff and the villa offered by far the best honeymoon experience we could have imagined. It was an easy flight into St. Maarten, and the excitement really began when we boarded our St. Barts Commuter flight. We were the only “first timers” on our flight, and we could tell we were in for a treat by speaking with our fellow passengers. The mood was entirely different than it had been on our large flight to St. Maarten - these people were ready to have some fun! I was practically the co-pilot, and we got to see an amazing aerial view of our home for the next week.

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Everyone was incredibly helpful in directing us to the the villa (although Jeff also provided excellent directions), and we got there without a hitch. Diana made us feel right at home, and we were so incredibly impressed by our accommodations. The photos don’t do it justice, and the view is one of the most spectacular around! We decided to head into Gustavia to have a nice, low-key night because we were still a little tired from our day of traveling. We’d had several people tell us that Bagatelle had terrific food and a fun atmosphere. Little did we know that the “fun” atmosphere translates into dancing on tables and group sing-alongs. We ended up staying out much later than we anticipated, but we had a blast watching (and participating) in all of the fun. An evening here was such a great way to start the trip.

The following day, we took Jeff’s advice and picked up croissants from the little bakery just up the hill. Enjoying the delicious pastries every morning on the villa terrace became one of our favorite things about our stay. We also discovered that they have delicious (and affordable) sandwiches for lunch!

We decided to spend the day exploring the island, and broke out our map and sunscreen. We made it to 10 beaches on the first day, and had such a good time navigating around and seeing the whole island. It was a great way to decide where to revisit on the following days.

We spent the next few days lounging on all of the island’s beautiful beaches - it was so hard to pick a favorite! Flamands is definitely one of the best around, and it’s so nice to be able to walk from the villa. We also discovered that Shell beach has great swimming, and wonderful restaurant to pop into in case of a rain shower and emergency glass of wine!

We’re so glad that Jeff told us about the hikes that are available on the island, as these are some of our best memories! Colombier is absolutely breathtaking, and we spent an incredible afternoon there.

The hike to the natural pools was incredible in itself - we felt like real adventurers! The pools were a wonderful reward to reach at the end of our journey.

The next day was spent soaking up some serious luxury at Cheval Blanc Isle de France. It’s a stunning hotel, and just down the hill from Flamands Blue. It’s definitely worth the splurge to enjoy lunch there and take advantage of their beach loungers for the day.

While on the island, we met some of the members of the SBH online community. They were so friendly and welcoming, and even invited us to their sunset watching “party” at the lighthouse in Gustavia. We felt like we were part of the crew, and can’t wait to be on our 20th trip showing the island around to newbies like us one day!

On our final day, we planned a return visit to Colombier. This time, at Jeff’s recommendation, we booked a trip on a chartered catamaran with Jicky Marine. It was incredible to see Gustavia and Colombier from the perspective of being out in the water, and we had such a blast snorkeling.

There were 3 other couples on the boat with us, and two of them were also honeymooning! We hit it off so well, that we agreed to meet at Baglatelle that night for our send-off party. Again, we had so much fun, and it was a great place to begin and end our trip.

We both agree that the island has some of the best food we’ve ever eaten, and we looked forward to dinner (when we splurged a little more) every day! It was so nice to spend a day at the beach, come home and shower and dress for dinner, while watching the sunset over Flamands from our window. All while enjoying an aperitif, of course!

We ended our trip enjoying yet another fabulous meal, this time at the sandwich shop that Jeff recommended near the airport. It was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.

It was so hard to leave Flamands Blue, and the island, and taking our last photos was bittersweet. It definitely eased the pain to know that we had officially been on our honeymoon, and it was better than we ever imagined. We can’t wait to return the island, and to Flamands Blue, for future special occasions or “just because” getaways.

Jessie and Devin

We've been pretty busy with the new home and jobs, but made a little time time scroll though some photos and post this...

After making a last minute (but easy) decision to return to St. Barts for the 3rd time for our 5-year anniversary, we were ready to have 9 days of fun & relaxation at our favorite spots (and some new ones too!). As usual, Jeff's Flamands Blue was perfect and even boasted some unique upgrades. It's certainly "improved" a little more every time we go!
This year, we did not take quite as many pictures, but focused more on spending time at our favorite beaches and just taking it all in. Here are a few of the ones we did. We certainly had a blast!

It was the 4th of July and so immediately after arrival, I donned on my patriotic bikini and we headed out to St Jean for a late afternoon swim the far side of Eden Roc with some new friends we met on the plane who were staying near there.

 

We celebrated in style at Andy's and even sang the Star Spangled Banner with some of the few (but loud) Americans and locals joining in, too. We eat healthy back home, but not so much here on vacation.

Devin likes contemplating his view from the villa, especially around sunset before we go out.

It didn't take long for us to venture back out to the natural pools - still our favorite spot in the entire world, then my brave husband climbed up pretty high on the cliff to snap this pic! Actually, we did T-shirt ones too for a contest our gym is having for exotic locations, we'll see.

No fine dining this trip. We absolutely loved the pizza at Les Bananiers. Devin could not help himself with a "pizza shot" to compliment his former burger one from Le Select.

The World Cup was happening during our trip and every restaurant in Gustavia was packed for the event. A pic from the Brazil game at Le Select , where patrons were unusually quiet.

A lot of beaching, mornings at the bakery up the hill, snorkeling and just hanging out this vacation, and it went by quickly. We both tried paddle boarding for the first time which was so much fun. The sea off St. Jean was a little choppy this day, but we had a great time trying not to fall. We definitely recommend trying it if you never have done it before!

Our last day on the island, we met a group of Americans on Gouvenier beach who invited us back to their villa just up the hillside. They had a great infinity pool, so we went for a dip. Gorgeous views!

Last night was back to LesBaniers up from the Villa which has become a favorite.

Hate saying goodbye to one of our other favorite places, Colombier. What an amazing view of all the boats that day!
My one attempt at bringing home a souvenir from St Barts---a HUGE shell we found on Gouvenier. With a tight connection and since we did not check bags we did not have time to go back through security to declare it, so I had to part with it. Sad!!

Each return trip has become a little sweeter as we now are officially "old timers"...
As I'm certain others can relate to, it seems to us that becoming regulars makes the reality of coming home that much harder! But as always, we'll find a way back sooner or later. Friends back home have listened to us talk up our little island and we've resolved invite another couple or two back with us to share Flamands Blue maybe next time. A special thank you to Jeff, Caroline and their Staff for the hospitality.

Owners trip - Jeff & Caroline

Just a few photos from a relaxing vacation, right between Bucket Regatta Week and Easter. The island was quieter than our prior visit early January just after New Years, which just happened to fall over the Russian New Year...quite a scene.
"Toes in the sand" morning as my wife & I walked down from the villa to the calm turquoise sea along plage Flamands.
Our first day, a leisurely Sunday Brunch at Hotel LeToiny-- just a good as last trip.
We visited our regular beaches, too: Gouverneur, Shell, Saline and Colombier.
Note: her beach coverup is one we saw in the window last trip at the Spice shop in St Jean.

New owner/manager Alain is doing an excellent job here. We had pizza and fish and though the menu and pricing is about the same as by the former owners, it has a nicer vibe with better service than before.

We've hiked over most of the island, including a guided one by Helene Bernier out to the "cliff jumping pool" (we passed on that), but the natural ones off Grand Fond are a place not to be missed.
Caroline about 1/2 way out past the flat rocks on the beach, up and down the goat path, just past her on her left is the most treacherous spot where the going gets narrow.

It's a quite steep drop off here along the path and long way down to the boulders, one wrong step and.....

We soaked in the pools and hiked the rock formations---good water shoes are a must over the loose stones and in the pools where there are urchins.
The sound of the sea and water colors are so very beautiful.

Little details creep in when you have a place...one midday after lunch I found a little time to do a scrub the dining chairs and let them dry in the sun while we went to the plage.

Since we rent our villa most weeks it's imperative to have good staff. As a maintenance guy I enjoy observing and interacting with trade and service people who make things go smoothly. Our conscientious gardener on the right is showing his vacation replacement the exact procedure for cleaning the filters so the drip watering system works perfectly.

Jicky Marine: husband & wife Caroline and Emmaunel run their marine service business in a friendly and efficient manner, we recommend them to all our friends and villa Guests. They provide water transfers from St Marten, charters, boat rentals and several weekly scheduled trips on their large, brand new Catamarran. The crew was very good and they took us to a place where we and we snorkeled right over the starfish.
Afterward we swam up the beach and were handed ice cold Rose' for the return...an afternoon does not get too much better than this.

Always a favorite for us....a beautiful long lunch at Hotel Manapany.
Afterward my wife swam laps in the pool while I chatted with local music celebrity PapaGuyo (far right sunning himself) who is an afternoon regular.

Fellow rental villa owner Libby Troyer (Villa Kercliff & Haute Maison) invited us to join the St Barth International Villa Owners Association and listen this evening to a very informative talk by internationally known Ocean Scientist Deborah Brosnan, who was instrumental in helping plan and establish the Marine Parks about the island. Dr. Brosnan explained the dune project she supervised at Gouverneur Beach and reef restoration efforts elsewhere.
In the photo: Deborah Brosnan, President Melanie Smith and Secretary Ellen Lampert-Greaux.
We learned this group supports many worthwhile projects on St Barth.

You know it's a good "vacance" when your afternoon is fully taken up by swimming, skipping rocks on the plage at Shell Beach and hanging out at your favorite place to watch the sunset. Manager David (formerly of Nikki Beach) is a gracious host at Do Brazil and we've gotten excellent feedback and enjoyed very nice dining there ourselves.

Even though the fare, company and the ambiance were superb, it was bittersweet dining at Wall House hosted by good friend and Co-Proprietor Julian Tatian. We'd had lunch there earlier in the week he filled us in on details of the pending sale, discussed healing from his scooter accident last December and he made time for us as we took him to dinner at LaLangooste. Over the five years he and his father Bernard have run this fine restaurant I've gotten to know them well by sending our Guests on a regular basis. For this special occasion my wife wore a vintage (let's just say it was purchased in a St Barth shop in French Francs) silk dress.
I know many of us here wish he and his father Bernard the best in their future endeavors ----this pair of class guys will be missed.

One of our favorite St Barts couples we always look forward to spending time with, Diana and Didier. Earlier in the week the four of us were at Eddy's, but here our last evening the preferred LeSantoise pizza on the villa terrace with salad and cold Caribs.

Last morning a pre-departure stroll down from Flamands Blue to the beach where a passer by at Isle de France snapped this happy couple and asked,
"your first time here?"

Jeff

Sarah, Imants & Family

We have been coming to St. Barth's for the past seven years but this was the first time we stayed at Flamands Blue. The villa is located about half way up the hill from Flamands Beach and has stunning views of Anse des Flamands and Ile Bonhomme. We had many memorable lunches and dinners on the porch overlooking the scene. The villa was spotless, well maintained and well appointed along with being a perfect size for our family. Jeff McGrew is absolutely wonderful and passionate about his guests enjoying their time on the island. When our flights were canceled due to bad weather, Jeff made every effort to help us get back on track. He also called several times during the week to make sure everything in the villa was OK. We are looking forward to returning to Flamands Blue next year.

Jessie and Devin

It's taken a little while to post this from last fall, but job changes, our complicated first home purchase and family issues took priority. We'd like to share just a few pictures (of several hundred) and story of the amazing trip we had this time around.
After four wonderful years of marriage we could not think of a better present to each other than a return trip to St Barts! It was a little sweeter this time since we felt a little more like regulars than just casual visitors on our little French Island. We're still paying off the final student loans. So, thanks to 80K of ff miles from USAir Master Cards, a job bonus and off season discount with a free night thrown in, we were able to pull it off with everything else going on in our lives. It was incredible last time and were so happy we stayed a full 10 days instead of 8 the previous year---like long-timers we read about here who keep adding to their trips. There is something so special about seeing Gustavia harbor come in to view on the flight in.

Jeff's attention to detail at Flamands Blue was even better than we remembered.
Starting off with tradition, we shared bottle of good Rose' which was waiting for us in the frig before unpacking and heading out to Flamands Beach for a first swim.

Then, hiking down the steeper path to Colombier, a favorite beach and getting in some exercise for a pair of athletic types before indulging in rich French cuisine!

There we were excited to jump out as far as we could into the crystal-clear waters near the former Rockefeller Estate.

Spa time in our own tropical paradise, always nice to soak in the Jacuzzi after a long afternoon in the sun.

We've been all over the island now and the natural pools remain our favorite hangout, since we love the beauty and rugged seclusion of this place. One afternoon we were joined by another couple for a dip who lived in France and we spent time with them later in the trip.

Good to see Devin in a relaxed moment (his days are go-go-go at the office...looking to make partner at his firm) viewing yachts in the harbor just after watching a beautiful sunset before walking the Quay to dinner.

We arranged to share a nice brunch and spend the afternoon on Jeff's recommendation at Hotel Manapany with our new French friends, Julien and Samia. When we told them about plans to go cliff jumping the next day they said they were in, too!

One of the highlights this time was hiking out to the "Leap of Faith" (named from WIMCO contest) and jump off the cliffs ourselves! Here with friends led by our private guide Helene Bernier of Easy Time tours to this place we tried to find last year on our own. It's not easy to locate and you pass through areas known to her and locals past abandoned construction and what looked like an old unauthorized dump climbing over fences. Jeff arranged and paid for this as a gift to us, we totally recommend her!

We took so many jumping pictures, it was hard to choose which ones to post. I was terrified the entire time but made it about halfway up! This place is truly awesome with the sound of the sea rushing in and out between the rocks and beautiful colors of the natural pool. Our camera did not record so I'm posting this clip from youtube locals made to give you an idea.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=sTMnkCbaqFc

Devin was the only who climbed all the way up to the top and lept from the tallest ledge. SO daring!

Rare for us to get a picture together! Enjoying the beautiful turquoise waters at Gouverneur.

We really looked forward to this dining and indulged in a bottle of excellent Crystal Champagne for our anniversary dinner. The Wall House does not disappoint when it comes to beef and this was the best we both have ever had, period.

Our annual photo with Proprietor Julian Tatin who treated us like old friends. Our favorite restaurant in the world!

Other restaurants we tried were good, too---among them Hotel Manapany, Eddy's and LeBouchon.
We didn't spend much time at this beach, but after a late afternoon swim down near the end, Devin had the idea to make Eden Roc fit in the palm of my hand. So cool!

Our last night at our villa (10 days flew by), a little visitor came to see us. Fortunately, he had a collar and we were able to phone and return him to his owner. His name was Kenza, so cute and friendly. Local people up the hillside had been searching for him and were grateful to be re-united, we met them in the restaurant parking area by the bakery.

Needless to say, we had a wonderful time and can't wait to return sooner rather than later!
We're fortunate like all of you to have found this island and enjoy these trips together.
Showing these photos to friends there might be a future couples visit.
Thanks to Jeff for taking such good care of us again!!

Jessie & Devin

Krissi and Marc's 10th

St Barts is a long way from our little girls and life in the Pacific Northwest, so it was important to get our anniversary of ten wonderful years of marriage exactly right. Since the afternoon we left in March '06 we'd been talking about the day we would return. We contacted Jeff at Flamands Blue where we stayed prior, he helped arrange flights, we were on our way---and the bar was high. Both of us were even more excited this time since we knew the lay of the land and our villa was a known quanity as they say. I'm a nervous flyer so we took the ferry last time but St Barth Commuter was perfect. Oldie at Gumbs had our Mini Cooper waiting and we were up to the villa in no time.

There we savored the views along with all the imporvements Jeff had done over the years and were so happy to be there. Instead of immediately going back for provisions just walked right down to the beach for first toes in the sand of Flamands, our favorite beach.

A first walk up back, then we were on VACATION!!!

We set up our account at Isle de France were we went a few times there for lunch and just lounging in their beach chairs. Entering, you get the sense of a perfectly run establishment and our time was no exception. We took all the pampering and loved it.
First evening we walked over to Spice. The owners, ambiance and a casual dinner prepared just as we liked was just right for a first night and we left feeling almost like family to these people.

A challenge for diehard Seahawks fans was finding the big game on TV. Jeff informed us he had had recently installed a larger screen with expanded US channels, unfortunately none had our particular game...we checked about the island, no luck. However, for this pair of resourceful techies found it streamed online. With the better villa internet connection and a full moon rising over the hillside, Rose', snacks, breeze plus the sound of the ocean---we were doing great! This was like our 2nd home now. Only issue was maybe some of the neighbors hearing our screams our team scored....afterward we soaked in the Jacuzzi like every night to plan our next day.

We did a lot of hiking this trip. Prettiest were the ones to Colombier and the Natural Pools. At Colombier the sea was SO, SO beautiful so we swam and lounged for hours taking in all in and I put some miles on these new shoes. Last trip I had packed only flip flops and sandals!

Jeff helped with the dining recommendations he says he's always tweaking. After a long morning at Gouvanier, he insists that we have lunch at Santa Fe and see his friend Manu. It was one of our best experiences and I topped it off with a ruhm Sorbet that was so nice with that view. What an amazing way to spend the afternoon!

Phoning us a couple of times....(Jeff freely admits living vicariously though his Guests) as we were contemplating another restaurant that he had only heard 50-50 about----we told him we ONLY wanted 100%, so he had Fedrico at Wall House set a beautiful table for us with our chilled bottle of Rose' waiting and VIP all the way, how can anyone NOT love this place?

Perfect weather was appreciated, especially coming from where we live. Can someone explain what it is about sexy Saline Beach that seduces one into wearing less?

After Saline we took another on the list: Le Grain De Sel....we loved this shady place too, service was friendly and casual, just what we were looking for after the beach plus the food was great!

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Late afternoons were a time slow down (not easy for us) and chill, just contemplating our view. Enjoying time at the villa is so much a part of this vacation and one of the reasons we so love it here.
One night we did L'Isola, which was great in every regard, but it was weird to be a formal, air conditioned restaurant, which I could have had back home. The food was really incredible and they took every attention to detail. We think we'll skip this one next time to keep up with the island vibe---this is coming from someone raised in a very Italian culture. 
Yet another beach day we spent a little time walking and swimming St Jean and ended up LaPlage.
I could have stayed there all day! Nice relaxing setting, incredible food and just a perfect sandy, beachy kinda hang out.

The nautural pools: Wow!!! Never would have known about this without those pages of recomendations our villa owner makes his Guests read. This place was an absolute favorite even though we loved Colombier, too. Something about hiking out to where sea crashes into the pools and the rocky beach with overhangs just is just awesome....and we had it all to ourselves.


Note: Black Ginger....we walked in and out...seems they seated us at one of the least desireable tables and simply forgot about us...the place was not busy and we were not offered a drink or anything....Odd?

That night, Eddy's - nothing to say but pure awesomeness! We love this place and we're glad to go back for the second time! Eddy even came by and chatted with us for a good 10 minutes. The food, ambiance and service were impeccable!

Sunset shot is from the beach at Corosol, yes another favorite, I shot it through my sunglasses....we loved the serenity of the place, too.

Shell Beach and DoBrazil: We SOOOOO enjoyed it here. Staff were great along with the food and setting. They put us up to in what seemed like our own private cabana to enjoy the views and beauty here. We even collected some shells for our little girls.
It's true for us this island is high on "romantique" as the French say.

Here's to ten great years together (love, kids, professions, a global financial crisis, promotions and a pair of sweet trips to St Barth) and many more to come!

Johnathan & Kathy's 20th Anniversary

Perspective: On the flight home we ran across a couple who had stayed on St. Maarten for a week. They’d taken a day trip to St. Barths. “It didn’t seem like there was much there,” they commented. “Exactly,” I think to myself with a big grin. Little did they know how perfect our 20th wedding anniversary trip in St. Barths was, never lacking for something to do, but never pressed by masses of high density hotel and casino crowds. We found it to be just about perfect. Here’s what that meant to us.

I discovered St. Barths while planning a surprise 20th anniversary trip for my wife and me. The plan was to create a unique adventure unlike anything we’d done. A different culture and language would be important. While we normally hike and bike the Rocky Mountains sometime in the summer, but for this occasion I looked for the opposite altitude with postcard worthy beaches and blue waters. I sought exclusivity where we could spend uninterrupted time together snorkeling, hiking, or just quietly soaking up some sun hearing absolutely nothing but wind and waves. Staying in a sterile hotel where every room was the same would be avoided if possible. Lastly, it had to fit my budget. 

St. Barths looked perfect, but how to plan such a trip? And how to pay for time in the same paradise enjoyed routinely by Hollywood’s elite? Hours of research paid off when I started looking for villa accommodations and discovered Jeff McGrew’s Flamands Blue. The villa looked nice online, and the reviews were of course glowing. Off season made it more affordable. With Jeff located here in the USA, my confidence in renting a property in a foreign country from an individual whose cell phone I could call sealed the deal. Jeff spoke my language, understood my expectations and was transparently thrilled with his roles as virtual concierge, landlord, and facilitator.

That settled, mid June couldn’t come soon enough! When the time came, we hopped a few flights to St. Maarten and met the staff from Saint Barth Commuter airline. They were fantastic, and even allowed me to fly across to St. Barths in the co-pilot seat. The island from the air was like something out of a movie. The storied landing on the short strip was all I hoped for. I’m sure the ferry is fun, but I’d suggest the flight to anyone.

Jeff put me in touch with Gumbs Car Rental where we got a great rate on a little topless car (it is a French island after all!). I’ve not seen anything quite like it here in the USA, but it did everything we needed, from driving the roller coaster roads to keeping us dry in the rain.

After picking up our car, we were met at the villa by our greeter, Diana. She is an American living in St. Barths who oriented us to the villa and offered her cell phone number should we need anything during our stay. Flamands Blue turned out to be the perfect St. Barths villa for us. Its location was great. We did the Columbier hike three times and were down at Flamands Beach a couple of times. Morning breakfasts were short trips up the hill to retrieve some pastries then watch the water at Flamands while eating. There’s a valley directly in front of the villa, and a hill (or mountain?) rising above the villa’s elevation on the other side. Birds sang from the opposite slope’s wall of vegetation late each the day.

We really have a hard time settling on a favorite beach. We like mountains and hiking, so Columbier was always a fun hike. The snorkeling there was a blast! There would typically be a few boats and a handful of people. Just what we were hoping for!

The hike to the natural pools with only the goats observing was blast. Good shoes are a requirement for this one in my book. We got soaked in heavy rain leaving the natural pools, and it rained a fair amount during our stay. But it just added to the adventure, and had a sound and feel all its own.

The roar of waves at Gouverneur was inspiring. The power of the waves both cost me my prescription sun glasses and gave me a forced sinus treatment that had me breathing better than ever all in the same split second. I couldn’t say just how big the beach was, but it lacked one thing – people. There must have been almost a hundred yards between each small party, with less than twenty people scattered there. Off season is good!

Saline was similar, but calmer and even more beautiful. There were a few more people, maybe twice as many, but still just what we came to St. Barths hoping to find. One sits on the beach at Saline wondering how many movies and magazine pictures have been made there.

Shell Beach is a must see place. Pictures don’t do it justice. Our favorite part was playing with the tiny crabs that climbed the mounds of shells doing whatever crabs do. St. Barths is full of life, from Shell Beach all the way back to the Villa. The landscaper at Flammads Blue was there while we were at the villa one day. He brought us out to see an impressive iguana who apparently really liked hanging out at Flamands Blue. Other mid to small lizards showed up or scurried by while there, too. Who knows how many of their portraits I took…

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We expected to eat well, and we did. There’s only one way to put this – food is pricey on the island, even if you’re dinning in. We ate in the first three dinners in, grilling on the deck of Jeff’s villa. Steaks from super market in St. Jean with only salt, pepper, fresh garlic and butter left nothing to complain about. Sitting on the upper deck enjoying them with the island breeze – and occasional real wind – made us feel right at home. For that matter, it really was home to us, unlike any hotel experience.

Yet, as good as our cooking and the perfectly casual ambiance of Flamands Blue was, dining out simply must be done on St. Barths! We went to Sante Fe, where we announced ourselves as guests of Jeff McGrew. That was a good move netting good seats and a good evening. We hit the Hideaway, and La Repaire, and Kiki Mo’s. All were good, all unique. But the best was the Wall House where Jeff made reservations for our 20th Anniversary dinner. Hands down, I ate the best filet mignon ever there. And Jeff had clued the owner in about our anniversary, so when desert was brought out, it read “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate!

What a week! We are usually more interested in exploring new places than returning somewhere we’ve been, but I’ll be looking for reasons and ways to return to St. Barths, and to Flamands Blue…

Julie & Gens's 10th Anniversary

This was our second trip to St Barts. The first time was our honeymoon. We booked Flamands Blue but it wasn't available for our entire stay, so the first two nights we stayed at Les Ilets de la Plage. My wife, Julie, planned our trip and had a list of beaches and restaurants we had to visit. Thanks to the forum and Jeff, the amazing owner of Flamands Blue, we were very well prepared. Thanks to all who had posted so many helpful tips and great reports. Here's our first attempt summarizing our great 10 year anniversary trip.

Part 1 - Friday through Sunday. Friday: We flew out of Charlotte and arrived around 3:30. No issues with the flight or transfer. We toured around in our convertible Mini and stopped by a local supermarket. (Gen forgot to mention that we got lost on our way to the hotel- quite the feat since it is literally a stone's throw away from the airport! -Julie) After purchasing some essentials - a bottle of wine, cheese, and bread, we headed back to the hotel. It had rained a little earlier, so we sat by the pool under the gazebo to enjoy our snack. A few hours later, we took a walk on St Jean beach and ended up at La Plage. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera at the hotel. The food was delicious, and everyone that worked there looked like models. What a way to start our vacation! (Gen was very enamored with the view- and he was sitting with his back to the ocean...Julie) The next day it rained again, so we headed to Gustavia. We did a little shopping and the rain tapered off just in time for lunch. We drove to Shell Beach and relaxed at Do Brazil. The Mahi burger was amazing. The sun came out, so we headed back to the hotel to change. The rest of the afternoon was spent at St Jean. The clear, blue water and soft, white sand looked like it had been photo-shopped! I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Dinner was at a spot highly recommended by the forum. The goat cheese salad and 4 cheese pizza at Andy's were delicious. We were stuffed! Day 2 ended with a lot of sun, food, and wine. The next day we drove to Le Guanahani for a visit. This is where we had stayed for our honeymoon. After reminiscing we headed back to St Jean to have lunch at Sand Bar. I think this is the best lunch view that we had all week. We checked out of our hotel and moved to our villa in Flamands. We really enjoyed Les Ilets and would definitely recommend it to anyone, especially if you want to stay right on the beach. The open air rooms we very cool and the pool was always deserted. Flamands Blue was great. The views are amazing. Jeff's greeter was off the island so he called us and took us on a phone tour of the villa, along with lots of recommendations. We still had a few more hours of beautiful sun, so we drove out to Governeur. I can't think of any other place with so many beautiful beaches on one island! Dinner was at La Langouste and was another first experience for me. I had never seen a 4 pound lobster! The waiter was so nice and even let me hold the lobster that was soon going to be our dinner. The first three days quickly came to a close. Beautiful beaches, delicious food...what more could you ask for?

Monday: I have a terrible habit of waking up really early while on vacation (also on weekends). Luckily there is plenty of room at Flamands Blue to spread out! Here I am enjoying my book and the view.

After Gen woke up we went to Petite Colombe for breakfast. It was really hard to choose. It looked gloomy but we decided to chance it and drive out to Governeur. Jeff had suggested a forum favorite, Santa Fe, for lunch so as to admire the view. The plan was a nice morning at the beach with a delicious lunch. We unpacked the car, set up the chairs, and then the rain rolled in. Gen is a trooper (or perhaps just stubborn) and swam in the rain but I sat in the car and finished my book. It went pretty fast from a slight drizzle to a pretty heavy and steady rain so even Gen had to admit defeat. We stopped back at Petite Colombe for lunch goodies to take back to the villa, which made the girl behind the counter laugh. Lunch (sandwich for me, the daily special of lasagna for Gen) was accompanied by a bottle of rose and a dip in the Jacuzzi. Here's Governeur before the rain rolled in.

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For dinner that night we met up with a friend from the forum, Andi, and her husband. We had a drink at l'Oubli and then walked over to Eddy's for dinner. Eddy was there of course, and told us about his upcoming vacation to Europe and wherever the wind blows him. It was a great night with some new friends.

Tuesday: At Jeff's suggestion (sensing a theme?) we booked the full day snorkeling trip with Jicky Marine. It was a full house with 5 other couples on the boat but it didn't seem crowded at all and everyone was delightful. We absolutely loved the trip. We sailed over to Isle Fourchue, snorkeled for a bit, had lunch on the boat, and went back in for a quick dip before heading back to Gustavia. I thought the full day trip might be too much but I actually wished we had more time! There was a huge barracuda swimming right under our boat and the captain threw in some leftover chicken for him to feast on. The weather was great, which at this point was kind of miraculous as we had quite a bit of rain so far.

Back to the villa of our pre-dinner ritual of Jacuzzi and Caribs. Tuesday night dinner we drove out to Lorient to Table de Jules for dinner. The restaurant is lovely and the food was good but it wasn't one of our favorites. It's hard to describe but the atmosphere just wasn't doing it for us. That said, the prix fixe menu is a great deal.

Wednesday: Gloomy morning again. Gen did kind of a run-hike hybrid down to Flamands and out to Colombier. I stayed at the villa because first, I don't run unless someone is chasing me, and second, I sprained my ankle pretty badly at the beginning of the year and unstable foot paths are not my friends. So I was all rested and ready to go out for our massage and lunch special at the Carl Gustaf. And this leads to my only gripe of the trip (but it's a pretty big one). I had booked and paid for the lunch and massage package in March. I had a receipt and a confirmation. We arrived and they had no record of the reservation. Moreover, they don't even offer the package anymore! I was pretty upset, especially since it was another rainy day and it would have been perfect for a nice spa day. Also, you know, confirmation and receipt in hand. They offered to book us with the breakfast/massage or dinner/massage on another day and at first we went ahead and booked for that Friday but the longer I thought about it, the madder I got so we ended up just cancelling the whole thing later that day. Which lead to another issue, that we had to get a refund and whoever was on duty wasn't able to process the transaction so we had to wait by the phone in the villa for 2 hours for the manager to call. It was a frustrating experience to say the least. So Gen knew I was upset but luckily after knowing me for pretty much half my life, he knows what makes me feel better- beer and cheeseburgers! By that point the sun was fighting hard to peek out from the clouds so we went down to Le Select and had a leisurely afternoon.

Happy again. After that it was a trip out to Saline which was beautiful of course and was the scene of my second fight with a beach umbrella (the other was on Governeur- beach umbrellas 2, Julie 0). Back to the villa for Jacuzzi and mixed it up with wine instead of Caribs! I know, we're crazy. Dinner on Wednesday was at Les Bananiers, which we absolutely loved. It was so unfussy and relaxed, locals coming in to pick up pizzas, the chef's wife and baby at the table next to us. To us, Les Bananiers is the type of restaurant everyone should have in their neighborhood. If it was down the street from me, I would be in there all the time.

Thursday already! So sad. Gen went for another hike/run to Colombier. He took some great pictures.

from the path that snakes up the hill behind IdF and Taiwana.

he got back we went down to IdF for some beach time. It was really windy, I felt extremely exfoliated.

never had sand in my ears before! All kinds of new experiences. Once again, we saw the rain clouds rolling in so we went up to the restaurant for lunch a little early. Lunch was great, Gen had the noodle bowl with chicken and shrimp and I got the tuna tartare with avocado. Oh yeah, and frites! It cleared up for a bit after lunch so we enjoyed the pool for a while. Then...

was one die-hard couple who stayed out in the deluge. I admire their commitment. We headed into Gustavia for some souvenirs. M'Bolo has a fun selection of flavored salts and sugars in pretty little jars. We also enjoyed the wall o'rhum. We picked up some of the vanille sec and hibiscus. Then out to La Cave for some wine to take home. The owner was really nice and saved us from accidentally buying a bottle of Sauternes. Back to the villa for the pre-dinner Jacuzzi. Dinner that night was at Le Gaiac. Amazing food and service. We sat right by the pool which was all lit up. I bet the view during the day is amazing. Gen wants to go back to try the brunch. I think I can be talked into that. Friday we woke up to rain. Again. I was bummed because we had planned to go down to St. Jean and rent chairs at Eden Rock for the day. But at about 10:00 the rain cleared up and we headed down. I know a lot of people think it's silly to pay for chairs but I thought it was totally worth it. The service was great and I appreciate the sturdy umbrellas.

We also had a very cute kitty companion for a while until he found someone who would feed him. Gen went snorkeling on the other side of the rock and I just floated around in St. Jean Bay. Can't beat it. They were also offering massages in a little cabana right on the beach but we didn't do that. Instead of lunch again at the Sand Bar (we tried not to repeat restaurants) we walked over to Kiki e Mo for sandwiches. Then back to our umbrellas for the remainder of the afternoon. My favorite day.

 On our honeymoon our favorite restaurant was Wall House so we decided that would be our final dinner on the island. It was a great decision. Jeff is friends with the owners, Bernard and Julien, and he called down and told them to give us the royal treatment which they certainly did. We also ran into Andi and her husband again, plus none other than Phil and Amy! As soon as we saw the flashes going off we knew who it had to be! And then it was Saturday, aka departure day, aka the worst day. Our flight wasn't until mid-afternoon so we went down to Lorient. I found a good shady spot and Gen went out snorkeling. He said he saw some good fish. Back to the villa to pack up (sad!) and then lunch from Maya's To Go. We got a table outside but guess what? If you guessed rain, give yourself a pat on the back. After lunch we realized that we had left our chargers at the villa so we sped up the hill to grab them. This is a great example of the island hospitality- the housekeeper, Fi, had found the chargers and had called down to the airport so they could find us! So nice. So finally we made it back to the airport with all of our possessions and prepared to depart this beautiful island.

It looks like I'm smiling, but I'm crying on the inside.

So long, St. Bart's. Until next time...well, until next time we'll keep lurking on the forums and reliving our vacation through all of you!