There are trips and there are vacations. Trips are full of touristy activities, running around town to try out all the restaurants, and maybe even trying to keep up with work emails. Vacations are special. You disconnect from technology, eat meals at the hotel and read books on a beach or by a pool. This, to me, is St. Barth Bliss.
Some of us remember the vintage TV show Fantasy Island. (Da plane, da plane!) As you sit on your balcony, you see little “puddle jumper” planes flying in and out and look at your beautiful surroundings and feel like you have landed yourself on an episode of Fantasy Island.
St. Barth (the “h” is silent)– its proper name is Saint-Barthelemy– is considered the French West Indies. An island in the Caribbean, St. Barth is a “French Overseas Collectivity” and part of the EU. Most who live and work on the island speak French.
Oui, Your French Escape: Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf, St. Barth
A short taxi ride from the airport, through the bustling walkable village of Gustavia, and then up a hill is perched the oh-so-chic Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf, as lux as the name is long! Out of 11 five-star hotels on St. Barth, this is the only one near the city center.
Even check-in is 5-star. You’re invited to sit down– overlooking the gorgeous harbor view– with a cold beverage, while you sign your paperwork (rates vary per season, but range approximately $1k-$1,500 per night). Guests are taken to their bungalow for a private tour. All 16 villas (1 or 2-bedroom options) have a view of the harbor, their own plunge pool, and an impressively stocked bar (featuring four different types of glasses you might desire.)
It’s the outstanding marina view that wowed me the entire time, but it’s also the little things: the uber soft mat on the floor by the bed, a pillow menu (soft, firm, relaxation, ergonomic, hypoallergenic), and the fanciest electric toilet featuring a bidet.
Villa Diane boasts five rooms, with a butler and a private chef! The Royal Loft features three rooms that can be rented separately or together. The interior design is exquisite, and that same marina view blesses each suite!
I can’t advise this enough: Simplify your vacation by eating at the hotel for a truly relaxing vacation. Breakfast is included in the daily rate so enjoy room service on your terrace (or there’s a buffet in the main lounge). Either way, you get that fab view!
Lunch (a verb) at Shellona beach bar just down the hill. With a superb Mediterranean menu, the vibe is perfection. Mezzes (apps) are king on this menu: the Shellona salad is a delicious Greek salad featuring black olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onion and feta (Opa!); the Trio Melitzana features hummus, tzatziki and eggplant dip with pita chips; or the Carpaccio de Poisson St. Barth Style is a local fave. You can also take a “main” of prawns with pastrami flavor (on the lighter side), the Burger Boeuf or the daily sea bass or lobster special (optional: served with pasta). When I tried the 150 euro Japanese Kobe burger with truffle fries, the waitress said: “Five stars for you, Madame!” Pair lunch with a Landing in Paradise cocktail, a chilled glass of chardonnay or a Carib beer.
Coming in November to Carl Gustaf is the famous Beef Bar from Monaco. This dining concept features gastronomic street food in a modern atmosphere and even boasts a DJ.
A little ditty about …St. Barth
> From Texas, you’ll likely fly to ATLanta or MIAmi and then down to St. Maarten (the famous airport where the planes fly right over the beach). From there, you can either take a 10-15 minute WinAir flight to St. Barth or the less expensive option– a boat ferry that takes about one hour.
> Festive season (what we refer to as the holiday season) is the busiest time of year on St. Barth, with November – March being high season. The hotel closes from August 20 through the end October for hurricane season.
> There are approximately 80 bars and restaurants on St. Barth and the police station is located in an old fort across the harbor from the lighthouse with an impressive view.
> Colonial architecture from the Creole culture is the scene, featuring red roofs very on brand with the French West Indies.
> I recommend getting to the island as early as possible on the first day. Enjoy relaxing on that day and then start your vacation with a massage at Spa Diane Barriere (at the hotel) to really kick off your full relaxation vacation mode. The spa utilizes only the best grade product, biologique recherche.
Joie de vivre
The local Zion Magazine features an article talking about the seductive relationship with French summers on St. Barth from the owner of Never Say Never: “There’s something about the French and their ability to really capture the sexiness of vacations. I’ve always loved Saint Barths. Its size, its exportability, its sexy elements that are so well hidden, yet right out in the open for anyone willing to take notice. It’s the perfect place to vacation.”
After a visit to St. Barth, you will reflect on specific memories, such as the great conversation you had over lunch at Shellona, the bobbing of water on Shell Beach, gazing out over the dawning sunlit harbor at dinner. The special memories will put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart. There’s just something about being on the fantasy island of St. Barth that releases endorphins, causes you to take a big deep breath, and reflect on your life’s gratitude.
Cover Photo Courtesy Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf
Marika Flatt, Outstanding Austin Communicator 2021, is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She began her travel writing career in 2002, and can be seen as a contributor on TV shows across Texas, such as KVUE, Daytime (FOX), San Antonio Living, Good Morning Texas, and KXAN! Marika spent five years as the voice of the “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s Texas Standard pre-Covid.