I wrote these two paragraphs below on my very first evening on St. Barths a few weeks ago. It was meant to be a diary-entry of sorts, a collection of my thoughts and feelings about a wonderful experience in a new place. Reading it over now, I want to share what I felt that night, and why I felt compelled to write about it.
“It is almost midnight, and around me the high-pitched chorus of tree frogs, cicada’s and crickets rise and fall, lulling me into a somewhat hypnotic trance. Above me, the night sky is pulsing and flickering, my own private light show to accompany the symphony being conducted by Mother Nature. A shooting star describes a fiery arc across the glittering canvas, and I break out in goosebumps. I am sitting out on a large, wooden deck of a private villa perched high on the side of a mountain on the tropical isle of St. Barthelemy, French West Indies, and I am in heaven. Without the spectacular sight of the turquoise Caribbean ocean that holds hostage over one’s senses during the day, I am now free to focus on the strange sounds of night-time in the tropics, feel the breeze on my bare arms, cooling me from the heat of the day, and focus on the sheer wonder of a clear, starry night with no light pollution to dim the impact. As a backdrop to the orchestra of crickets and frogs, I can hear the rhythmic pounding of the waves crashing upon the reefs below, a sound that is impossible to discern during the day.
What amazes me the most is that it has been a totally enjoyable first day, and that’s not something you can say most of the time when you fly somewhere and then have to find your accommodations in a strange, new place, unpack and get settled in. So far this has been a most magical day!”
While vacationing in St. Barths is not really new to us (this was our fifth trip to this tiny, impossibly chic French island in the Caribbean), we had never stayed on this part of the island before, nor ever had a “private villa experience”. Thanks to WIMCO Villas and their fabulous concierge staff, it was one of the most fun and stress-free “first days” ever.
Our adventure began as we boarded the tiny St. Barths Commuter plane that would take us from St. Martin/St. Maarten, a nearby island where we had been staying for a week, and land us on one of the most famous little landing strips in the entire world on the island of St. Barthelemy. I say “famous” because it is classified as a “STOL” airstrip – short take-off and landing. Ever time we’ve done it I have found it more fun that the last, perhaps because I like a few thrills in my life! Flying in over the mountains (little mountains, I must say, coming from the West Coast of Canada), the pilot must drop the plane quickly in order to come down fast enough to land on the short runway which ends quite abruptly in the turquoise blue waters of St. Jean Beach. Sometimes it means the pilot nearly stalls the engine, which can cause some passengers hearts to stall as well, and provoke the occasional screech. Still, I love it.
WIMCO, the West Indies Management Company, offers a fabulous selection of luxurious villas not only in St. Barths but on other Caribbean islands and in other parts of the world as well. When we decided to make the focus of our upcoming “New Jetsetters Gloss” Digital Magazine on the Caribbean, the part of the world where we first discovered our shared love of travel, we decided to make a Private Villa Experience with WIMCO on St. Barths our feature. And how glad I am that we did! They handled all the details from finding the ideal villa, to arranging our flights to pre-stocking the villa with food for the first night.
From the moment our WIMCO Concierge (a lovely man named Moe) met us at the tiny arrivals gate at St. Barths Airport, took charge of our luggage and escorted us over to the rental car desk to pick up our Mini Cooper, we knew we had made an excellent decision choosing WIMCO for our first villa experience.
One aspect that we found particularly comforting is the fact that the head office for WIMCO in St. Barths is right across the street from the airport arrivals gate – it is almost the first thing that you see when you come out of the baggage claim area. That gives you an instant sense of comfort; the company you have been dealing with through websites and e-mails is very real and very professional – and they are right there in front of you if you need them.
Before you knew it we had picked up our very cute convertible Mini-Cooper and we were driving behind Moe as he led the way along the spectacularly beautiful coast of St. Barths, up the curving, switchback roads leading into the mountains. While this is an experience not for the faint of heart, Moe drove slowly enough so that I was comfortable following him – and he never lost sight of us as we followed.
St. Barths is a small island, easy to drive around and hard to really get lost. Though sometimes it seems you have no idea where you are, if you just keep going, eventually you will come out somewhere that you will recognize and you will find it easy to get your bearings. Our first residence, “Villa Oceana” (WV OCT) took only about 15 minutes to reach as we wound around and up, then down and up again, exclaiming every time we rounded a bend with a view of that incredible Caribbean Sea far below.
Soon we pulled into our villa’s private driveway and Moe led the way up a few steps to the door. He pulled out some keys, and we laughed. It really wouldn’t have mattered if didn’t have the keys – the villa was wide open on three sides to let the warm, tropical breezes blow through. We could have just stepped over the window-ledge! While it was a little unnerving at the beginning – to actually leave your villa without even locking the door, we soon became very comfortable with it; this is an island that prides itself on safety and security. For those of you who really can’t fathom or feel comfortable with the lack of locks, you can derive some assurance that while the main living area was too open to lock off, we did have two rooms that could be secured… A TV room on the main level off the living room, and the master bedroom in a separate building and up some stairs both locked securely. Our bedroom had an even more incredible view, and a patio with two deck chairs for pre-sleep star gazing. We liked the idea that these two rooms were air conditioned – we found that we can deal nicely with no air conditioning during the day (especially with a private plunge pool to cool off in), but sleeping in the tropical heat at night is another matter. Having a good air conditioner to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep was a major factor.
Moe gave us an excellent orientation to Villa Oceana. The open kitchen was huge and full to the brim with every appliance, amenity and condiment you could think of. There were enough cups, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans to furnish a small army. It seems like WIMCO ensures all of its villas have everything one could need. Nespresso coffee pods to get you started? Check. Plenty of towels for the pool? Check. Mosquito coils – check. Flashlights and candles – check. Moe even had some plug adapters ready for us so we could plug in our computers, tablets and phones – fabulous!
We loved the huge wall to wall windows that slid all the way back so that it seemed you were always part of the outdoors, and the large table that we ate at every morning looking out over the incredible view of “Baie Toiny” far below. We loved the fact that Moe took plenty of time to sit down with us and go over the map of the island, making his personal recommendations for where to go and what to do (more on that in a later article!). He also made sure we could hook up to the wifi before he left, which I appreciated. Another thing I liked was the ability to connect with Moe instantly via my iPhone throughout the stay; he promised he would be available at all times when I texted him, and I can tell you that he was true to his word – and was very helpful, kind and polite with every question and request.
The other service we were very impressed with was the option to have our first villa meal catered by “Maya’s To Go”, a boutique deli that is very popular on the island because of its excellent food and great service. If you opt to order this, WIMCO can deliver it the morning of your arrival, or soon after you call in the order. Within the hour a van pulls up outside the door and the next thing you know your fridge is being filled with all sorts of delicious goodies, perfect for that first day you arrive when you are too tired to go out to eat or go grocery shopping. I had gone up to the bedroom to put a few of my items away and when I came down to the main villa, there was Randy, the owner of Maya’s, already tucking item after item into the fridge. Just some of the wonderful items – Fresh milk, a gorgeous cheese plate with fruit, some ground coffee, roasted chicken, grilled mahi-mahi, a large tossed salad, pasta salad, bocconcini tomato salad, jam, biscotti, orange juice, fruit salad, cream and two beautiful desserts. What a beautiful way to settle in and enjoy your first evening. We watched the sky fill with orange and yellow streaks as the sun set behind the villa, sat at our own table with a view, and enjoyed our beautiful dinner with a fine bottle of chilled Rose. A wonderful way to relax on your first night in your own villa.
We learned quickly that the WIMCO “ villa experience” can come in a wide range of prices, sizes and locations on the island and that there’s something for everyone, for those who desire a romantic couple’s getaway, a mid-sized house to vacation with other couples, or a large place for a family get together. We were fortunate to visit a number of outstanding villas during our stay, and also spent a few nights at one of the most glamorous villas on the island, WV BON on Pointe Milou, so stay tuned for upcoming articles and for our feature on “New Jetsetters “Five
By Deborah Thompson
Photos by Deborah Thompson
Originally published on New Jetsetters