By J.S. Fletcher and Kathy M. Newbern © 2011
Part 2 in Series
Carl Gustaf Hotel Manager Marion Fayard’s last position was with Paris accommodations so exclusive that its guests from around the globe arrived at an unmarked location with drivers and luxury cars, butlers and 24-hour concierge service at their disposal.
No doubt she felt right at home then when she recently escorted The Black-Eyed Peas to Hotel Carl Gustaf’s two-story, four-bedroom penthouse on two levels.
At 2,600-square-foot, this Royal Suite definitely impresses, as does the seven-bedroom Villa Golden Reef, a 6,500-square-foot stand-alone villa on property.
We easily get used to the rock star lifestyle in our own suite with enticing private plunge pool and patio.
One of the hotel’s stars, barman Jacky Bertrand, we later learn is well known throughout the island of more than 8,000 residents (in only eight square miles.) “I came here (from France) 18 years ago and never went back,” Jacky explains as we talk over our welcome glasses of champagne.
The next evening before dinner, he educates us on the ins and outs of great rums. No rum is made on St Barth, and tastes here, as in other parts of the Caribbean, often lean toward flavored rums.
The rum itself is imported and then steeped with local fruits and spices, resulting in a rich, fruity taste. St Barth’s most famous producer is Chez Ginette in Anse des Cayes, whose rums are incredibly strong. She offers around 120 of them, flavored with fruits and flowers.
Over not-too-strong rum drinks, Hotel Manager Fayard tells us the island has small hotels, none over two stories, so cooperation, rather than competition, is the norm. “If we are fully booked, we recommend people to another hotel. We all try to help each other.”
Decades ago, she says, Howard Hughes, Humphrey Bogart and the Rockefellers all had villas here. The island is still a jet-setters’ getaway, attracting the wealthy and well-heeled.
Hotel Carl Gustaf does a good job in small spaces: One large room houses reception, bar, lounge, casual dining and more formal dining. Furnishings and decor separate each space giving a distinct feel for its function. Surrounding it are decks with more of those great views.
Besides accommodations and cuisine, that view is a great selling point — the capital city of Gustavia and its picturesque harbor filled with yachts is literally at your feet.
We agree with Bertrand that the Carl Gustaf Lounge is one of the island’s best spots for sunset cocktails.
The following day, we head to Shell Beach, where we snorkel and look for beachglass in the tumbling surf for hours. It’s within walking distance from the hotel once you trek the 80 steps down to the main road. We don’t mind, though, because up those 80 steps, our suite and plunge pool patio have afforded us that spectacular vista of Gustavia Harbor — one of our favorites on the island.
This December, the hotel, still overseen by the daughter of its founder, celebrates 20 years after a multi-million dollar renovation in 2006 with more updates in 2008.
It also features a 1,600-square-foot Boutique Spa by Carita and in the main building, plus the standout Victoria’s Restaurant. (We feature more on both in coming reports.)
Accommodations include 13 one- and two-bedroom suites and one junior spa suite, plus the Royal Suite and Villa Golden Reef. All suites offer those panoramic views of the city and harbor, private terraces and plunge pools, marble flooring, tiled bathrooms, kitchenettes. high thread-count linen, deluxe mattresses, mini bar, safety deposit box, dual-line telephones, LCD screens with DVD player, iPod systems, and free DSL and Wi-Fi Internet access.
Gustaf’s hotel manager says of Saint Barthélemy, “Some people come here for the cuisine, some for the shopping, some for the beaches.”
We’ve barely scratched the surface then — seems we’ll have to join the long, long list of St. Barth’s returning guests.
Next Up: Hotel Carl Gustaf dining and the hotel’s Carita Spa.
For more on Hotel Carl Gustaf, visit www.hotelcarlgustaf.com. To make a reservation, or request brochures, call 866-297-2153, or e-mail at [email protected]
About St. Barth
After David Rockefeller bought a property here in 1957, this little island of eight square miles quickly grew into an upscale tourist destination. Today, distinctly French in feel, it remains a chic but casual hideaway with many villas and hotels welcoming French and other visitors (about 200,000 a year).
There are beautiful beaches, plenty of watersports, plus wining and dining in the island’s varied restaurants, shopping in Gustavia’s trendy boutiques, and a variety of cultural events year-round.
Warm Caribbean temperatures vary just slightly from 86° in the summer, (July/August highs of 90°) to just 80° in the winter. Summer ocean temperatures can reach as high as 84°.
If You’re Going:
St. Barthélemy lies about 150 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the French West Indies. Flight by small plane, like St. Barth Commuter and Winair, arrive from St. Martin, Anguilla or San Juan. The island is also accessible by 45- to 90-minute ferry from St. Martin.
For additional island information, visit www.saintbarth-tourisme.com. If you need a tour guide, consider Claude Questel; email him at [email protected] A rental car is recommented.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other stories by Newbern and Fletcher
• Other Stories by JS Fletcher,
• Stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
International Travel Examiners J.S. Fletcher and spouse, Kathy M. Newbern, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.