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…