St Barts is back, and it's more chic than ever
Badly hit by the Hurricane Irma in 2017, the Caribbean isle is on the A-listers' map again
Arriving at Villa Marie, a five-minute drive from the airport, we are met by Pascal, the young, polished manager. He describes returning after Irma to find the neighboor's roof in the hotel's swimming pool. "You cannot believe that it can happen to such a paradise," he says to me. Excusivity does not protect you from extreme weather. Just look at Malibu.
It is a true boutique hotel, with each room uniquely designed. The most expensive is a two-bedroom suite with panormaic views, a private pool and an outdoor barbecue area where you can host friends. Ours, a mid-range, is a stylish wood-clad cabin pleasingly called Coco Passion. It has wide windows offering magnificient views of the tropical coastline and the nearby islands. It's all white and dark wood with a few bright, tropical accents. There is a four-poster bed, a small private deck and an elegant bathroom with a requisite stand-alone bath. It's extremely cosy at night, when you can hear the wind whistling around you.
At the base of the hill lies the hotel's main building, a colonial-style ranch full of dark-wood furniture, art, tribal curiosities and a touch of Hollywood regency style. It's so full of stuff it's hard to believe it all had to be sourced anew.
Outside is a palm-fringed swimming pool and the resident cat, Aya, with whom we enjoy our first rum cocktail. Dinner at Villa Marie is a classy affair: there's a designated aperitif and cigar room full of suave men linen. The house wine and olive oil is sourced from the vineyard and olive grove in Provence belonging to the owners, The Sibuet family. We try the bouillabaisse with a carribean twist, which uses a local mahi-mahi white fish.
From Villa Marie, it's a must to take the short morning hike down to Colombier beach, where we pass maybe 50 tortoises creeping along the path. They must have wedged themselves between rocks to survive the storm. The vegetation post-Irma is dramatic: you can see how the cacti were lashed by the wind and sea until they were mere sticks. Get down there early, when the beach is likely to be empty but for the yachts in the bay. There was some nude paddleboarding à la Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry already under way when we went. Up on the cliff edge are the bare bones of David Rockefeller's former mansion.