We’re not high rollers, just the opposite---a couple looking for a beautiful, romantic vacation “on budget” away from work, teens and exes. As we told friends “we’ll be staying at villa on St. Barts” their faces dropped like we’d hit the lottery or were maybe embezzling from our employers? Leon is the general manager of a large appliance store who “beats” deals 50 weeks a year and I work in the administration of our school board.
In other lives we’d done cruises and Mexico/Jamaica trips we did not want to repeat. I’ve been to France and have a familiarity with the language---we considered St. Barth but always thought it was much too pricey. We checked here and other boards and our villa owner's name kept popping up in a good way.
We reviewed where to stay options (pre-trip fun), some we ruled out quickly: hotels in our price range...a few with marginal or no views.... (why would come all this way NOT to have one?) and others with “lesser” rooms and summer packages at our price point which just did not look that good and we checked some smaller, lower priced one bedroom villas. Our “must haves”: nice views, quiet---up off the beach, privacy and a place that was very well maintained, as we’re both neat & clean types. We contacted Jeff and since he was familiar with all the hotels and some of the villas, too, advised look at a couple of hotels that were a little less than the villa, which we considered. One basic & well run (according to him and his Buddy MikeR ) at the nice end of Flamands with views with rates less than the villa. In the end decided we wanted more privacy, our own jacuzzi, along with nicer amenities and since we were economizing elsewhere we reserved Flamands Blue. It turned out to be a great choice and much prettier than the website photos.
We rode the Rapid Explorer (a few were sick on the crossing---not us) at $114 RT was really cost-effective. Since the villa was booked the first night, we walked right across to the Sunset Hotel (clean but old) that Jeff arranged. Up since 4am, we went down to AMC grocery and bought a couple of items---got back to our room and had wine and snacks on their terrace overlooking the harbor with sunset, then fell asleep without dinner. Up early, we walked over to the nearby bakery for breakfast and around town to locate Eddie’s, LaSaladerie, LeSelect and Kudetta, that were on our list. At 10:30 our car was delivered and we drove up and met the villa housekeeper at the pre-arranged time (11am, hours before typical check in) who we knew would still finishing from the prior family. She was quite friendly and gave us the key, we put our bags outside the master on the deck and passed on a Manager’s tour*, she explained and we knew she’d require another couple of hours (we did not want to rush her) and walked down to explore Flamands and then out to Match. When we returned our things were placed neatly in the Master Suite the villa was absolutely immaculate. It was so beautiful (the nicest place either of us had ever been) I confess I cried. We spent time reading the guest book entries while having lunch on the terrace from Petite Colombe Bakery.
*Jeff sent 10 pages of trip recommendations... from what to pack in your carry-on down to (no kidding) the “glow in the dark” flashlights in the nightstands in case power goes out, plus beach, dining and many other details and even contingencies you would never think of.
As you enter this bright, beautiful villa you feel it's owned and managed by someone who knows everything about how to run a place perfectly and loves it, too. Flawless: no scratched paint, faucet drip or even a torn screen, which we learned most places don’t have at all.
Our first beach day was Flamands….later we took Jeff’s tips to do a little recommended “beginners” snorkeling (we brought our own masks but everything else was in the guest closet) in the calm little bay down at the end of Flamands, Petite Anse. We swam in the beautiful turquoise water through our first wall of fish! We’ll remember to bring a little camera for this next time…
That night we went to LaSaladerie---never had Pizza that crispy and thin and the Jeff’s friend’s the owners made us feel special with a reserved on the water and free drinks afterward.
Monday we trekked out to the isolated and pristine beach at Colombier for even better snorkeling. We were one of the few there--- and loved the “end of the world” feel all the way down the beach. Later we enjoyed a really nice dinner at Eddie's.
Tuesday, a long afternoon on Shell Beach (more snorkeling) and lunch down below at
Do Brazil. Not expensive, with nice swimming on the beach.
Highlight of this day was the nice party that Phil and Amy put on at Rosita’s new villa in Lorient, a very beautiful place. Good to meet a friendly group of SBH online posters. We wondered if we'd feel a little like “imposters” among such a group of regulars some who really do this island on the upscale side. We were made to feel very comfortable in the wonderful setting.
We fell in to the “routine” of an island villa vacation....mornings at the bakery, out to a different daily beach, back to the villa for lunch, sometime naps, then back to another beach, dinner, then nightime in the warm jacuzzi (bubbles off)---so we could listen to the ocean down below---which for us was even illuminated by a full moon!
Hard to pick a favorite….we savor this part of the vacation most. Leon and I are pretty athletic and loved walking down to Flamands early mornings. My favorite beach may have been Colombier which is to absolutely to die for, but the drive down to Gouvanier is really spectacular and the those rocky hills on both sides of Saline are really something, too. Shell Beach is a perfect way to spend the afternoon with drinks from Do Brazil and those huge cliffs above.. St.Jean was the most developed compared to the others and we never made it to Lorient, which some in the guestbook noted snorkeling out the sea turtles grazing…next time.
Dining: Wall House and some others were closed this time of season, the one’s we tried were all very good in terms of food and value. LaSaladerie, Eddie's, Kudeta, plus the carry out pizza from LaSantoise-- was wonderful. We had burgers at LeSelect as well, great people watching but not a place you go for the food.
Other hightlights.. Jeff arranged a ½ day trip on Bertrands' catamarnan from Marine Service. We contemplated the “sunset” cruise but instead decided to take the afternoon one out to Isle Fouchue, a good choice. The snorkeling and company were great and a treat we’d heard about were the musical selections by Captian Phillipe on the return. Picture: boat cutting the aqua ocean , guitar/ soft French vocals, and his “secret” tropical fruit rum (mainly rum)----were we dreaming?
Thoughts on St. Barts?
That it's a little hard to get to is part of the charm. It CAN be very expensive if you don’t watch. We checked menus at some really high high end places and were blown away. We also saw how you could pay ($30 each) beach chairs at some hotels….no way, when we could use the good ones from the villa free. We decided to stay out of the upper hotels for dining except the 29E price fix at LaBanane (Kifi Massai). Driving takes concentraton and some getting used to and those scooters that seem to come out of nowhere—for us, forget consuming much more than a glass or two of wine or in the evening.. This Island is so beautiful (everywhere) clean and the locals are extremely nice. July 2009, the same week---both of our “slow times”, we'll plan to reprise this exact trip, staying Flamands Blue, but this time with another couple, their eyes will pop out----we're “hooked” now!
Thanks to all who posted & commented on the trip reports we learned a lot from and “old-timers” who compiled the helpful newbie sections, too.
note: I read some issues about cars. We know Jeff typically rents through Europcar which we have heard is excellent. Since we'd stayed the first night at Sunset their manager arranged a “special” deal from his agency Solei Carib that week… The first car (we're not that picky) was a piece of junk. Called Dominique the next morning from Solei: no attitude---she delivered a nicer, upgraded car right to our villa and apologized.