How does the song go again? “Now we’re sharing the same dream? And our hearts they beat as one?” I wasn’t wearing my painted on jeans, and I didn’t meet any tigers I wanted to tame, but I was dashing! Across beaches, in swimming pools, over and up mountainous hills and in exotic hotel beds. I’ve been raving about St Barths for the past three weeks now, and I know you’re just about sick of it, but this all very important information. Like Ibiza, St Barths has a reputation, and deserves some resolve.
1. Despite exuberant prices during the Christmas holidays – I’m talking an average of €1500 per night for a basic room – the island is very affordable during the summer. Rates are cut in half (at least) and occupation is not as jammed. You can comfortably book last minute flights, cars and rooms without having to starve the rest of your stay.
2. Because it is low season, there are far less people on the island, hence there is less of a scene. The quota of douche bags and ass holes drops to a miserable low, making the island practically BS-free. It’s all very friendly and communicable, even for the French.
3. August is hurricane season so there is greater risk of getting wiped out by torrential rains and flailing palm trees, and it’s hotter. We had none of that though. If you make it there before the 21st of August you should be fine.
4. There are two ways to do St Barths. You can move into a hotel, or, if you travel with friends, like we did, it’s more fun to rent a villa. We booked ours with Luxury Retreats. Richard e-mailed us several options to choose from, with detailed images and pricing. All the villas have swimming pools, a view of some kind, king size beds and all the comforts of a real home. Some have that old island feel, some are more modern and slick. The villa service takes care of everything: transfers from the airport/ferry dock to the house, cleaning ladies, car rentals, restaurant recommendations, general tourist information. The manager greets you at the house and is on call 24 hours. It’s not that different from a hotel really, except you can pull open the fridge yourself.
5. I spent the first three nights of the trip at Le Toiny. It’s a super private, relaxing hotel with just eight rooms in Cote Sauvage. I stayed in a beautiful cottage suite with a private pool. Every morning an invisible person set up my breakfast outside. If I didn’t have to leave to play tennis, I’d not have seen a single person the entire time. It’s the perfect place for honeymooners or celebrities who want absolute peace.
6. The best thing about the island are the beaches of course. They’re splayed in fantastic gloriousness all along the coast, each in their own little bay, and boasting their own, very different personalities. Plage Gouverneur has white sand, clear blue, still water and no shade. Plage des Flamands is massive, and houses Taiwana and Isle de France hotels. Grand Fond is rocky and requires a hike to the natural pools and the Washing Machine. That’s where things get hairy. Huge, crazy waves violate your very being by washing you ashore with nothing but a thread of your bikini. It’s a lot of fun though. And at Le Sereno you can do your water sports. If you have a husband who complains about lying in the sun too long, make him stop, because he’s got too many options not to.
7. If you don’t know how to a drive stick, get out of the car. The hills are treacherous! You basically shift between first and second gear all the way around the island. I panicked a few times when I got stuck in the middle of an incline, and felt like a modern day damsel in distress, grinning nervously at the French truck driver in his white pick up who motored to my rescue.
8. During the summer there is not much night life, but one place I can guarantee you’ll get your laugh on is Le Ti St Barths. It’s a pirate-themed restaurant and bar where the tables clear around eleven to create a bonafide discoteque. Even if you don’t want to dance on the chairs in a costume, entertainment is an inevitable and sometimes disturbing given. You see everything from hookers, to middle-aged playboys, go-go dancers, paraphernalia and bad, bad, BAD taste. It’s a riot!
9. Yes, St Barths is expensive, but it’s oh-so worth it. Any questions?
Thanks to my darling sister Evelien for bringing relentless tears of joy, her best friend Tom Van Dorpe for choreographing our sunset pool sessions and his sweet boyfriend Remi Barbier for bringing out the Victoria’s Secret model in me (minus the boobs). Thanks to Richard and Jazz at Luxury Retreats for their seamless service and hospitality; Samy and Ashley at Le Sereno; Dagmar and Maria at Le Toiny; Bianca and Rod Manley for being our island guides. It was unforgettable.