Chic, French Saint Barthélemy
By Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher
Posted: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012
Locals call the French West Indies island of Saint Barthélemy St. Barth, also spelled St. Bart. No matter how you spell it, it equals splendid beaches, fantastic cuisine and plenty of pampered luxury.After David Rockefeller bought a property here in 1957, the little island of eight square miles quickly grew into an upscale destination. Howard Hughes, Humphrey Bogart and many Hollywood elite had retreats here. The island is still a jet-setters' casual getaway, attracting celebs and the well-heeled with private villas and small hotels, welcoming about 200,000 visitors a year, both French and international. All must arrive by small plane, and the landing a quick dive past a peak to a short, seafront runway is exhilarating (some say scary).You wont find high-rises on St. Barth, which is fitting since there are only about 8,400 year-round residents, so expect boutique properties. Size doesnt diminish service, though; there are seven five-star hotels.Heres a look at three distinctly different honeymoon hideouts and a few must-sees-and-dos. Dont forget your bikini its French, too, you know.Carl Gustaf, a regal perchFrom its cliff-side perch, Hotel Carl Gustaf has a panoramic view of the yacht-filled harbor of the islands main town and capital, Gustavia, named for King Gustav III of Sweden. The adjacent hillside is home to historic Fort Gustav.Wow is the one-word descriptor for the suites, with private plunge pools and gorgeous views. Equally impressive is the propertys hub one open space divided into reception, bar and dining. Here, man-about-island bartender Jacky Bertrand will pour you a vintage champagne as well as offer an impromptu course on rums (none made on the island, but plentiful nevertheless).Time your aperitif for sunset, as Gustafs bar is a primo spot for viewing. Then try the Victorias Restaurant mystery dinner, also called a blind menu because the chef surprises you with courses of his choosing, which can be paired with optional course-by-course wines by the glass.
Even before dinner, an unusual treat arrives: thin slivers from a carving station just in front of the hotels open kitchen. Its pata negra, an expensive Spanish ham delicacy almost buttery in taste.After cocooning in the rooms luxury linens, venture to Shell Beach (first walking Gustafs stairs; remember its cliff-side) for swimming, sunning, snorkeling and eating or drinking at Dõ Brazils tables in the sand. A honeymoon keepsake, beach glass, can be found at waves edge.Back at the hotel, the two-level Boutique Spa featuring Carita, Decleor and Valmont products awaits, as does a fitness center and adjacent hydro-zone area with huge whirlpool bath, essential oils shower, jetted foot bath with pebble floor, and an ice fountain.Gustafs accommodations include 13 one- and two-bedroom suites, one junior spa suite, the two-level penthouse Royal Suite (where the Black Eyed Peas have stayed) and Villa Golden Reef, a stand-alone, seven-bedroom villa perhaps for your 30th anniversary with all the kids and grandkids. www.letoiny.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Oh Christopher, oh what a poolThe manager at Hotel Christopher, located at Pointe Milou, calls it a lifestyle hotel that approaches its mission with "integrity, honesty, enthusiasm." The staff lives up to the promise.Built into the hillside as four, two-story buildings on terraces, Hotel Christophers steps lead down to a rocky shoreline and the Atlantic yes, hills equal super views.Its 42 rooms and suites, all renovated in 2009, have different styles but share very hip décor. Each has either a private terrace or balcony, but the focal point is a knockout infinity pool beside the ocean.Our second-floor, one-bedroom ocean suite boasts 942 square feet with a spacious living room, plus a bedroom that also has a full sofa. The high ceilings accentuate the space that easily accommodates the stark, black tubular framework bed.This décor, done in wide swaths of black, white and natural wood, is all about openness and leanness think Scandinavian. The bathroom seems built for newlyweds with a stone, free-standing, two-person tub and separate rain shower. A unique trough-like sink runs along one wall. Hotel Christopher has two dining options; Taïno and Mango bookend the pool. Mango is feet-in-the-sand casual, great for lunch or sunset snacks and drinks. Youll love bartender Jackson. The Taïno Restaurant is located just off the "living room" space of the resort, a covered area sporting a small library and sitting room. Dining can be inside or out, with sea or pool views that are quite romantic at night. To dine off-property requires a taxi, and if staying more than a few days, consider a rental car.Guests at Christopher spend lots of time lazing in that luxurious, fashionable pool. Wood decking surrounds it and holds comfortable, cushioned loungers, large, fun, bean-bag-like chairs and well-placed beach umbrellas. There are two levels of the pool, one main area and an upper, shallow level more for children or those who simply want to sit and talk. Note: this property does offer day passes to sample the pool, spa and dining, so you can expect some Marco Polo moments.The concierge staff will be happy to arrange spa, tennis, volleyball, horseback riding, hiking on several hiking paths, SCUBA diving or snorkeling, windsurfing, fishing, surfing, water skiing and more. Contact:800-550-1769 or www.hotelchristopher.com , or email email@example.com. The hotel requires a minimum three-night stay.If you're going:St. Barthélemy lies about 150 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Flights by small plane, like St. Barth Commuter and Winair, arrive from St. Martin, Anguilla or San Juan. The island is also accessible by 45- to 90-minute ferry from St. Martin. Picture-perfect beaches include Grand Fond, Flamands, Gouverneur, Lorient, Saline (named for the nearby salt flats) and St. Jean. Warm Caribbean temperatures vary just slightly from 86 degrees in the summer, (July/August highs of 90 degrees) to just 80 degrees in the winter. Summer ocean temperatures can reach as high as 84 degrees.For more information, visit www.saintbarth-tourisme.com. If you need a tour guide, consider Claude Questel; email him at Claude.firstname.lastname@example.org. A rental car is recommended.