Dear Fellow St. Barth Lovers,
Now that the borders of St. Barth are opened to vaccinated travelers, the Staff at St. Barth Properties were finally able to resume their twice-yearly inspections trip. St. Barth Properties Specialist Allegra Pawlowski writes today’s post.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder!
It had been almost two years since I had been able to visit the island due to Covid -add to that being so busy with rescheduling and booking new clients that my fall inspection trip for 2021 was not something that could be postponed. So, with the balance of 2021 and the start of 2022 looking like an unprecedented year for tourism on the island, mid-October was the time!
For this trip, I brought along my sister, Tess, as she had never been to the island before, and we’ve never taken a sister’s trip. We arrived via San Juan on Tradewind Aviation and were treated to the VIP service there, which made our lives a lot easier. Our greeter escorted us to the TJ lounge in San Juan and handled the check-in process by taking our passports, copies of VAX cards and our test results. We were then allowed to relax and wait for our flight, which was surprisingly full for mid-October.
The day was a bit cloudy, so Tess did not get to see all of the Virgin Islands from our flight (one of my favorite things about that flight), but it was a very comfortable flight. When we arrived on St Barth, we were greeted by smiling Enzo, who waited while I collected the car with Gumbs and then we cruised off in our candy red mini cooper convertible to gorgeous St Jean Beach and the perennially popular Crystal Dream. It’s so good to be back!
Crystal Dream is our most popular villa, so I was thrilled to be able to enjoy it first-hand and see why our clients love it so much. The location really cannot be beaten – ON St Jean Beach, three bedrooms under the same roof and a pool. What more could you ask for? Once we got the “lay of the land,” we ran out to the new grocery in St Jean – the Super U and WOW, what a nice shopping experience that was! We got our essentials and returned to the villa to get ready for dinner. As I do each time on the island, my first dinner is always at Les Bananiers in Colombier– I love the escargot! Tess had never had escargot, and she is now converted. It’s a nice place to help one ease into the island vibe and let go of the New England weather. We were tired from the long day of travel, so we went back to the villa to take a dip, have some rose and crash, plus I had an early morning the next day.
Saturday morning, I was up for a tennis lesson at 7 a.m. at the Tennis Club in St Jean. It was an easy drive from the villa (even with the road detours). I had an hour session with Gregory, and it was great to get moving and start the trip this way. I have always adored tennis and have been hoping to get back into a more regular routine of playing after the last year and a half, which did not include a lot of movement. I hope that this trip would help jump-start the new routine. Mission accomplished!
Following the tennis, humbled, out of breath but invigorated, I returned to the villa to have something to eat and catch up on the overflowing email inbox after a travel day. I set up my office by the pool and admired the view in between messages. Tess woke up, and we relaxed by the pool for a bit and took a dip in the sea. HEAVEN. In the afternoon, we did some errands and drove around the island with the top down, focusing on the western part of the island (St. Jean, Flamands, Colombier, Corossol, Gustavia, Gouverneur and Lurin) and did a little window shopping. The sun was starting to set, so we returned to the villa to get ready for dinner. We had a special dinner that night at Tamarin. I love this restaurant. The entire experience is just so unique and is so different than anything we have at home, and the food, cocktails and ambiance are always such a treat.
Sunday was a lazy day, and we tried to sleep late, relaxed by the pool and on the beach again and drove around the eastern part of the island again in the afternoon before a delicious dinner at Santa Fe that night where we ran into my colleague, Benoit from our office in Gustavia. St Barth allows you that comforting small-island feel where the restaurant owners remember you, and you see people you know around the island. I won’t sugar coat it – what I noticed all over the island was roadwork. This is in preparation for the season and the construction of new villas. Unfortunately, it is clear that St Barth has really been discovered. However, the road improvements are going to be great, when complete. With the wires/fiber optic cables underground (helping with sightlines as well as help with quicker recovery after future storms) and the sidewalks constructed almost everywhere and roundabouts in a few places, traffic should move smoother and give people more places to take a walk to enjoy different parts of the island, on foot. It’s always amazing to me how quickly things can get done here.
Monday morning was a busy morning with villa visits. My new colleague, Lison, came to Crystal Dream, and we set off for our full day. We visited some great new villas such as White Sun, Antares, Dadaye and Eden View. I fell in LOVE with Antares – getting out of the car and being surrounded by the scent of my favorite flower, the gardenia was a wonderful introduction. Then, when you round the corner and see the pool area and the view – WELCOME HOME! Of course, the view from Eden View is so spectacular, looking out over St. Jean Bay, we had to wait a bit to see a plane take off.
After our visits that afternoon, we had a private trainer come to the villa for a workout on the pool deck with 4 of the ladies from our office on the island. Being on St. Jean Beach, we had an audience cheering us along. After the workout, we enjoyed a dinner prepared by a private chef team for the whole office. This was a nice time to meet the new employees and spend some time catching up about the past couple of years.
The next morning, Lison and I visited some other gorgeous new villas to our inventory – Casa Minotto (wonderful renovation of an old “case” style villa with all of the modern amenities) and Cap Azur (an incredible renovation with a breathtaking view – some design ideas came home with me) along with some other fab, large villas in Marigot and Pt Milou like Elle, Mythique, Epicure, Bon Temps, Valentina, Heloa, Maria, Nina and Pinta and then we enjoyed a yummy lunch by the pool at the Hotel Christopher.
Our afternoon had us visit Etoile Brillante and Marris in Lurin. Marris is a wonderful three-bedroom villa overlooking St Jean. There is a lot of land here, creating a nice sense of privacy and serenity. We were greeted by many turtles on the property, which was enchanting. We ordered pizza delivery (through Delifood) that night, which was fun, and we had a night in.
The next day we visited some villas in the morning, and some standouts include gorgeous Les Palmes and Les Roches, which can also be rented together as La Reserve. The owner of these two villas did a wonderful job with the decor, and again here, the owner also loves gardenias, so their scent fills the air. How have I missed the gardenias before on the island? We also visited Villa Nala, which has such a wonderful view. From here, you can walk down the steep hill to the beach in Grand Cul de Sac – but beware, you may want someone to meet you at the beach for a ride back up to the villa.
That afternoon, we said goodbye to Crystal Dream and made our way to the pharmacy (across the road from the airport) to get our antigen tests done. This was incredibly efficient. We were in and out in 5 minutes with results in hand. Then it was off to check in to the Manapany for our last two nights. We had a gorgeous room (Ocean Prestige) and had it arranged with two twin beds. That night, we visited St Jean and the Villa Creole shops and had burgers at yummy Jojo Burger in Lorient. At that time, the road to Pt Milou was still closed, so it was a very quiet dinner 😊.
The next morning, as is included with your stay at the Manapany, we enjoyed a pilates class (or yoga class) outside at the hotel spa. Tess and I both had signed up for this and were thankful that the class and the instructor (Sandrine) were patient with us as we are new to pilates and we were the only native English speakers. It was a great way to start our last day on the island. After, we enjoyed our breakfast and a tour of the hotel with the lovely Johanna at the Manapany. Following the tour, we returned to the room where I caught up on some work and then joined Tess at the beach for some sun. We spent the middle of the day on their beach and had salads in the sand. In the afternoon, we went to Gustavia to hit the shops and visit the office to say goodbye to the team and wish us all luck for the upcoming season. Our last dinner in paradise would be an easy commute…Dinner at the hotel restaurant.
For the last morning, I enjoyed the 8 a.m. yoga class again at the spa and saw some familiar faces from the previous morning, but had a new instructor, Nanda. We chatted about the island and her services, and I hope to schedule something with her when I return in the spring. I left feeling very stretched, refreshed and ready for our day of travel home. Our departure was very easy as we had our test results in hand and had an easy connection in San Juan. Sadly, the airport only had a few options open for dining, so we grabbed something to eat before our flight back to Boston.
This season is shaping up to be a record one for reservations, so I am glad to have had the chance to go to the island, as many things have changed over the past two years with construction and the roads. There are new shops and restaurants popping up all over, and renovations help give older places a new and refreshed feel, but what remains is that St Barth is a truly special island and has its own vibe to it, which is enchanting and lures people back year after year. It is very clear to me every time I visit why people keep returning to this island paradise more than many other islands in the Caribbean. I am also reminded why people feel so protective that it retains the charm. I forgot how much I missed it and am really looking forward to the spring inspection trip to try some new places and new experiences. Tess is now totally spoiled when it comes to Caribbean vacations. She returned home totally relaxed and had a very nice tan, and we got to make some lovely memories together.