October 2002by Bill Chittick
Adventures aside, the rest of the trip was a huge success, whether seeing villas with Isabelle, Cathy & Anne from Sibarth, meeting up with one of my long-term clients whom I'd never met before, visiting with hoteliers, or sampling the haute cuisine and local fare of the island's enticing restaurants. St. Barts certainly has it all, that's for sure. The three of us started out the first night at Eddie's, a Gilligan's Island-sort of place behind a proverbial hole in the wall. Very soft mood lighting, open-air seating underneath palm fronds - really just the perfect place to get into the island swing. After a delectable fish dinner prepared with ginger, our evening's fare was capped with a jigger of locally-made vanilla rum, de rigueur nowadays at all of St. Barts' restaurants. A couple of nights later we went to l'Esprit de Saline for another great meal, and our last night together was at Le Repaire, right at the entrance to the port. Other odds and ends of places would have to include the Santa Fe Bar high atop Lurin (excellent escargots provencales for 12 euros a dozen, and a decidedly "local" ambience - altogether a good choice) and Le Select, the hangout to end all hangouts.
La Rotisserie - my personal favorite for 10 years running. With both a Gustavia and St. Jean location, La Rotisserie is a tiny "deli" (for lack of a better word) that features gourmet comfort food in single servings - perfect for "on the go" worldly sophisticates like myself (or gourmands, if you'd like - I'm not fussy). Anyway, every day they dream up 7 or 8 snazzy little items you can pop in your mouth, maybe a feuillete St. Jacques (scallops in a puff pastry), quiches (plain, tuna, carrot etc.), meat pies, terrines, delicious fruit tarts, individual jellied fruit (grapefruit, passion fruit, apple etc.) and bite-size chocolate truffles - and that's just Monday. (sigh) It's going to be a long week… The best part, though, is that it's not expensive and there's no waiting; no fuss, no muss - just little food vignettes to tantalize the palate.
When the sugar wore off, I managed to compose myself and ventured to all the far-flung corners of the island, seeing villas and hotels alike. There were few, if any, "near misses" - I was very impressed with the overall quality of our product, and was able to experience firsthand the magic that is St. Barts. Le Toiny, of course, was impeccable - I met with Virginie who had just come back from vacation the day before. Unfortunately, David was out doing errands, but I did get to pet Rusty, his new dog. Woof! The Christopher was also in tip-top shape, and I met Benoit (a.k.a. Hans) Ducholet, the new director of the hotel (as of 3 weeks). In St. Jean I met Fred from the Eden Rock and saw the Greta Garbo Suite, a beautiful and evocative accommodation if there ever was one. Down the rock from the Eden Rock was the Filao Beach, and I had the pleasure of meeting Sylvie Greaux again - one of her staff, Lisa showed me around the premises, and I must admit it was fantastic. A real eye-opener, though, was the Emeraude Plage, which I hadn't seen since the early 90s. Genevieve Nouy, owner and manager, was a true delight to behold, a breath of fresh air on an island, which is getting more and more frenetic as tourism soars to dizzying (and ultra-lavish) heights. The property is cute as a button, with all of the rooms painted a crisp white, with stylish bathrooms and casual terraces - a veritable oasis of tranquility on busy St. Jean Beach. The last two hotels I visited were the Isle de France and the Carl Gustaf. The former is the epitome of refined elegance, classic and well-run in every aspect, and the latter is stylish in a quiet way. I liked both hotels very much.
On Sunday, Bastille Day (July 14), the island celebrated the festivities by doing really, well, not much. Later that evening, though, there were fireworks in the harbor but they lasted all of 8 minutes. (I'm still waiting for the Grand Finale - I think they may have been shot off first, by mistake.) How retro.
Other salient points to note: not every one is a size 2 (although it seems that way); in truth, women larger than this are not permitted, under French law, to be out in public between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Fact: everyone does smoke (again, something buried away in Section VII, Article XXIII of the Napoleonic Code). Anything else not covered herein, please refer to the latest issue of the Vendôme Guide - you'll be glad you did.
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