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Jet Off to St-Barth

Planning a high-season trip to the world’s most-exclusive destination in the Caribbean isn’t something you theoretically want to be doing only two weeks before arrival, but there I was anyway.

I assembled the dream team and blocked the doors of the conference room. We were going to stay until the job was done. I broke out a charcuterie board and a few bottles of rosé to get us in the mood while the team cracked open computers, passed iPhones back and forth between French and non-French speakers and started to check things off the lists I had made earlier that day.



Villa with six en-suite bedrooms? Called Daniel Correira, traded links and photos by WhatsApp and booked Villa Good News. Check.

Rental cars? Emailed Alamo St-Barth and booked two Mini Coopers. Check.

Restaurant reservations? The first three nights were booked and other possibilities were coming together. Check.

Flights? Flights? Flights…?

There is always one part of the logistics that is trickier than necessary and this year, it was bound to be the flights into St-Barth. Tradewind Aviation, with service between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St-Barth is always our preference, but there weren’t enough seats available for all of us arrive at the same time in St-Barth. And no one – no one – was volunteering to overnight in San Juan.

That’s when the phone rang from an unknown number with a Maryland prefix. “Hi, this is Jon with Tradewind Aviation, we saw you were trying to book San Juan to St-Barths on Monday. We can’t get you all on one scheduled flight, but we could charter an eight-passenger jet for you and add it to the schedule for Monday afternoon.”

Check.

Someone said something about copies of passports, but I was serving celebratory glasses of rosé. We were officially headed to St-Barth.



The next two weeks flew by. There was dry cleaning to organize, a pet sitter to schedule, phones to forward and houses to winterize. The next thing I knew, I was in a car on the way to the airport. We all met up in San Juan, greeted and guided through the SJU airport by Tradewind Aviation VIP greeters and handlers. I sent a text to Daniel Correira, our luxury villa concierge in St-Barth: Everything was on-time in San Juan. I sent the same text to Alamo Rent A Car. There were snacks and drinks in the Tradewind Aviation lounge and we met other passengers traveling the same direction: St-Barth for Thanksgiving.

From San Juan, it’s up in the air for 50 minutes and then a turn and swoop over Gustavia’s picturesque harbor and a quick descent to the ultra-short runway at SBH airport. If you haven’t seen the new season of Real Housewives of New York where they all go to St-Barth together, cue it up on Peacock, because the camera crew really captures the landing in St-Barth well. Your stomach will live through a series of emotions on your first descent from unsettled to unsure to on the ground in about 12 seconds.

Daniel was waiting for us on the other side of the airport customs and immigration office with car keys and a smile. This was our second time using Daniel’s concierge agency, Luxury Villas SBH, and wonderful experience from start to finish. He had the rental cars lined up with the A/Cs on high and he put most of the luggage into his SUV before leading us to Villa Good News in Marigot.

I will say this about choosing a villa in St-Barths: don’t worry about geography. Marigot, Petit-Cul-de-Sac and Toiny areas are on the far side of the island from Gustavia, but they’re gorgeous, quieter and – about the third time you do the trip from downtown and back – not as far away as they feel at first.

We chose Villa Good News because of its size. We needed six en-suite bedrooms to accommodate our group. Villa Good News is an enormous cliff-side property within a private domain in Marigot. With four en-suite bedrooms upstairs and two additional en-suite bedrooms downstairs (along with a movie theater, fully equipped gym and laundry), the separation of spaces was perfect for our needs. Additionally, upstairs on the main level were a formal living room that we set up as a home office/work space, a formal dining room, a huge kitchen, and an enormous common space with sofas and sculptures that led directly to the garden complete with a pool, an outdoor kitchen, two more dining rooms and multiple lounge areas, including one carved into the cliff-side with view of cruise ships and yachts in the distance.



Breakfasts were set up outside on a patio with a table that could easily seat 10. The retractable covering overhead shielded our faces from the strong November sun. On the only rainy day of our stay, we ate lunch in the formal dining room off the kitchen. We had never rented a villa with a movie theater before, and we used the cinema room multiple times. Daniel quickly went over the tech-connection basics, but we found it was really self-explanatory and soon we were signed in and streaming Netflix, Apple TV and more in theater chairs with ambient lighting and a screen that would put any other home theater system to shame. I text Daniel from my seat, “Netflix on the big screen… love it.” He replied with a thumbs-up.

Like most visitors to St-Barths, we started most days with a run to La Petite Colombe bakery in St-Jean. Their delicacies and delights are a staple for our breakfast table, from fresh quiche to decadent croissants and desserts for later. I made sure to grab a couple double espressos to go, too. On the occasional morning that took me into Gustavia early, Eden Roc To-Go, across from the airport, was a great place to grab a quick breakfast. Luxury Villas SBH has a preferred partnership with The Rosewood Le Guanahani, which was just down the mountain pass and back up the road from Villa Good News. I decided to drop by one morning during breakfast. A pleasant hostess greeted me outside of the restaurant and immediately identified that I was not a guest of the property; one mention of Daniel’s name and connect with Luxury Villas SBH, and I was seated inside with a flourish. Breakfast at Le Guanahani is technically a buffet, but I decided to see if the staff would accommodate an Eggs Benedict custom order. I was not disappointed and – added bonus – I never had to get up and walk over to the buffet.

On the second morning, Daniel set up a spa appointment for two of us at Le Barthélemy. The entire sea-front property is gorgeous, but the management is particularly proud of the spa – and with reason. The subterranean maze of luxuriously appointed rooms, relaxation areas and treatment centers are something out of heaven. I could have stayed all day.

Dining in St-Barth can be tricky any time of the year, but high season – Thanksgiving to New Years – is particularly competitive. Those coveted second-seating tables – you know, so that when you arrive at 9:45 p.m., the entire restaurant is already seated… with the last remaining mystery table reserved for you – require a combination of planning, charm and a great concierge. Since planning in advance didn’t happen for us, we relied on the latter of the three. Between my charm and Daniel’s direct connections with management, we confirmed late tables at L’Isola, La Petite Plage, Bagatelle, Le Ti St-Barth, Eden Roc and Bonito.


L’Isola


We hadn’t been to L’Isola in years, so we were curious to try it again. One of the charming things about L’Isola is the Italian staff who make no attempt to speak French. At all. The menu is in English and Italian. The waiters switch indiscriminately between English and Italian. It is delightful and completely different. Plus, the food is to-die-for. Order the prosciutto because, as our publisher said, “We have to go back to L’Isola… the prosciutto is literally screaming my name.”

Pro tip: Do not skip L’Isola



La Petite Plage

We also went to La Petite Plage twice… because Sunday nights are just more fun there. The DJ blasts Euro-infused, pop music hits while servers pour magnums of champagne and dance on pedestals and table-tops – sometimes with you. But La Petite Plage is not just all show; the food is delicious, the service is impeccable and this is definitely the see-and-be-seen spot for Sunday nights. This was the hardest reservation to get on the entire island and required both Daniel’s connections and my charms.

Pro tip: Be charming (in French if possible)


Bagatelle

Going to Bagatelle is like going to your most-fun, rich friend’s house. The servers come back to Bagatelle St-Barth season after season, so it’s hugs and kisses the minute you walk in the door. How do they remember everyone? I have no idea. There are gift bags on the table, a DJ is pumping your new favorite beats, everyone is dressed to the 9s and the party doesn’t stop until the last table is done. There is nowhere else to be on Friday night.

Pro tip: Save room for dessert(s)


Le Ti St-Barth

Simply, Le Ti (Luh-Tee), to those-who-know, this is a tradition of seasoned party-goers. Go for dinner and stay for the show… and then stay for the after-party, which commonly goes until the sun rises. Dinner guests are entertained with live performances and are encouraged to join in the revelry – in costume.

The on-site costume shop is complete with wigs and headdresses, accessories and anything sequined. Whether you feel like going full-on Marilyn Monroe or Pocahontas, there’s something for everyone. As soon as the show concludes, the dance party stars – exclusively for dinner guests until the clock strikes midnight and those who have been patiently waiting at the velvet rope are allowed in to join the fun.

Pro tip: Wear something breathable; wigs add 10 degrees to your body temperature


Eden Roc

The landmark, luxury property’s restaurant is a dining experience not to be missed. The long, beach-front arrangement of tables ensures that every table looks up as you make your way through the restaurant to your reserved booth. Any night of the week is the perfect night to spend at Eden Roc, where food and drink are taken to new culinary heights. We couldn’t choose from the caviar service menu, so we just ordered one of each.

Pro tip: Order the caviar service


Bonito

It seems like everyone eats at Bonito at some point – and there are two really good reasons for that. Bonito can seat a lot of people – it’s just bigger than many restaurants, plus its kitchen stays open late. That makes it easier to get into and harder to get out of. The food features Peruvian influences, so if you’re leery of spicy, make sure your server knows to tell the kitchen to hold the kick.

Pro tip: Forgot to plan? You can usually get a last-minute table here


A trip to St-Barth wouldn’t be complete without time at the beach. There are two ways to go to the beach in St-Barth: public beaches or private beach clubs. The term public beaches might be a turn off, but in St-Barth it’s not. The major public beaches – Salines, Gouverneur, Colombier – are all pristine, white sand where yachts regularly send tenders of their guests for a beach picnic. Gouverneur is the smallest, Salines is the largest and Colombier is the hardest to access (we’d recommend chartering a catamaran). Private beach clubs, on the hand, abound in destinations like St-Jean, where Pearl, Gypsea, Eden Roc and Nikki Beach are all just a stone’s throw from each other. Among them, Nikki Beach reins supreme.


Nikki Beach

For our day at Nikki Beach, we invited some VIPs that are so VIP that we can’t mention who they are. To be clear, they weren’t sold on Nikki Beach at first. As one of them put it, “I never think about coming here because it seems very American.”

A magnum of Côtes-de-Provence, a sushi boat and the best table in the house quickly converted them. Nikki Beach does two sold-out seatings on weekdays, so planning in advance is absolutely necessary. People come to Nikki Beach to drink rosé and dance on the tables, and there is no better spot to do that on the island.

Pro tip: Make a reservation early

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