November 2002by by Pamela Fiori from Town and Country Magazine
Reprinted with the permission of Hearst Magazine Corporation, November 2002
When I checked in to the Sibarth booth at the airport (Sibarth is the St. Bart's arm of Wimco) and picked up my rental car from the agency right next door, I was really ready for a vacation. I followed the Sibarth representative to Villa Ben - encountering several tricky turns that I eventually got used to.
The villa was as lovely and open as I'd hoped it would be, with an inviting flower-festooned entryway and the prerequisite knockout view. All three of its bedrooms were situated quite apart from one another, so by the end of the week, when we were a full house, we'd all found our private perches. The furniture was fine - not exactly Casa Armani or Jean-Michel Frank, but comfortable and simple. The kitchen was fully equipped, although the oven was a challenge to figure out (a few too many buttons to push).
Janis arrived a few hours after I got there, and for the next few days we spent our time doing mercifully little - eating at home one night (we picked up groceries from the supermarket), going out to dinner the next two nights. We shopped some (hard not to on St. Bart's), read a lot, listened to the CDs I'd brought along (the villa had a good CD player), watched not TV at all and reconnected the way sisters do.
Gus and Susan arrived midday on Thursday. I picked them up at the airport, and then we waited for my husband to arrive -- supposedly minutes afterward. His plane from St. Maarten was, alas, late. There was no way to reach him (the cell-phone connection is dismal in the French West Indies), so the only thing to do was to wait…and wait.
By late afternoon, his St Barth commuter plane landed, several hours past its scheduled arrival (not an uncommon occurrence). We whisked him up to Villa Ben, where a gourmet dinner was to be cooked by Chez Didier, a caterer highly recommended by Sibarth. Around 8:30, Didier appeared with his assistant and an enormous stockpot filled with freshly made bouillabaisse. Dessert was a warm and tasty tarte Tatin. The meal for five of us, including a first course, was $400. It didn't include wine, which we bought ourselves, but considering that dinner in one of the many restaurants on St. Bart's can easily cost $100 per person, it seemed like an extremely fair price for excellent food served in the comfort of one's own (at least for a week) home.
Janis left on Friday, and Gus and Susan stayed until Sunday (we departed on Monday in the pouring rain and on yet another delayed flight, just making our connection in St. Maarten). Over the weekend, and since no one else in our group had been to St. Bart's before, we did a lot of island exploring, eating out and just plain hanging around the house, all of us staring dumbstruck at the view. While the weather was mostly cloudy, our spirits were mostly sunny, and the chance to be with good friends for longer than the duration of a meal was something we will always treasure.
To be on St. Bart's under almost any circumstances is divine. The bad weather was a fluke - and forgivable. It is still one of my favorite places on earth. It remains the chicest island in the Caribbean, with gorgeous people, great shopping and the finest food, by far. It also has wonderful hotels - Eden Rock, Francois Plantation and Le Toiny being three of the best - any one of which I'd gladly stay in. But there was something about having a place to call our own for a week that elevated an already quality experience - even if the villa was improbably named Ben.
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