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Thread: Many trips report...

  1. #1

    Many trips report...

    Hello all !

    Usually this time of year I start going on the forum to see what is new on the island. A valuable resource of course.
    So I thought I would finally add my two cents from many years of visits. Maybe it can help a first visit for somebody.
    We always go late February for 10 days. Wish it was more often !
    I know many people track how many years or times they have gone, we don't, but I figure it's been at least for 25 years.

    How to get there. This is just our experience from Philly, I am sure others have input also.
    PHL-SXM-SBH. We tried PHL-SJU once and used Tradewinds. Great professional carrier. Back then they didn't have as many flights, so if AA was late into SJU, well you can imagine. Oh did I mention TRIP INSURANCE. Used it twice.
    Now I know Winair has a VIP service now. But I have to highly recommend Brice and his crew at St. Barth Services. I wouldnt go without them. Makes you feel like a VIP even if you are not one, for a small price.
    Arrive SXM, agent gets you on first available Winair, gets bags to SBH, brings them to villa, because they won't fit in our Moke. More on Mokes and luggage later.
    Same drill on return flights. I book Winair through them also.
    Here's an example of why you may consider them. One year, AA delayed from PHL. Our new arrival SXM after dark. No flights to SBH at night. I called them from the gate in PHL, they arranged a yacht (think Below Decks) for us. Ok, it was $$$, but I thought we are not the only ones in this position. I stood up at the gate and said "anybody wanna get to SBH tonight?" Plenty of takers, ended up being $200 each (trip insurance paid), so much better than a night in SXM's crappy hotels ("The Friendly Island") losing a night (dinner) in SBH, and trying to get a flight next day.
    I won't mention the arrival into St Barths. It has been well documented ! Just remember these guys and girls do this all day long. I am a pilot and have landed there myself. They do a great job. And it's fun as hell.
    Oh, and the ferry...NOOOOO!

    Ok, if you made it here, villa or hotel ? Maybe first visit could be a hotel. We usually recommend to people Hotel Christopher, medium priced, nice pool, food, location, etc.
    Then next time maybe a villa. We always use Ici&La. For no special reason, we just settled in with them and have a relationship, somebody on the island to call from home if needed. I always felt they were a little more connected locally. One time our fridge broke, and a new one showed up before the beer got warm. When Hotel Christopher caught fire below our villa, they were right on top of it making sure we were OK. Speak to Sophie or Matilda or any of the great staff. I am sure the other agencies are great too. Remember it is hard to get back to the same villa the following year, the same dates, due to the 30 day booking policy, so plan ahead.

    We have settled in Point Milou last 10 years or so. Good location, quiet at night, except for sound of ocean! Mosquitos not too bad, usually. Avoid the windy side.
    Short walk to Hotel Christopher beach bar who last year won my vote for best burger on the island. My god it comes wrapped up in paper.
    Villa Bali was our favorite for a while, best outside shower we found. Wish the owner had upgraded a little each year, but still nice for first timer.
    Now we rent Villa Upside. I hate to give this info away ! It is the best value, we think on the island. View is great, open floor plan, oh, and there are screens for the bedroom !
    Important if you like to sleep and hear the ocean. Screens are rare on St Barths. Nets are ok, unless one bug gets in and tortures you all night !
    The downside, the steps. But they keep you healthy and ready for the next meal !
    Request what time of day you want the maid to arrive, otherwise maybe a surprise for you and her!

    Now for food I guess.
    Recently somebody asked best place for first night, after a long travel day. Boy thats right, why go spend big when you are so wasted. Get to villa, unpack, if you had some pre stocking of villa, pop a cork and enjoy some cheese. We used to always go to Do brazil first night. Since gone, we roll down the hill to Le Bouchon in Lorient.
    Simple local outside place with great pizza.

    Our favorites. Boy it changes each year. Based on last year, here we go...
    L' Isola. probably the best on the island, just don't go on a Holiday or weekend unless your yacht is on the Quaye. Busy, and loud. But so good.
    Eden Rock, always a favorite, hope new setting is great. Good in the past for lunch also. Already made a reservation.
    Bonito, probably a tie with L'Isola. Different cuisine of course, but always phenomenal. Staff, views, menu, I'm starved now.
    Nikki beach. Even if your not one of cool people, always a fun lunch experiance with great food. Never rushed, great music and people watching. (models)
    Tamarin, Bagetelle, Black Orchid, Cheval Blanc, Francois Plantation. All great last year. Francois has a nice lunch by the pool.
    Le Select of course. Think Tums later. But we always go. Also lunch at Shellona, believe it or not, is good and great scenery.
    And of course Le Toiny. One of the last Gastronomic places left. Now granted, some years have been better than others. Miss the whole pasta cheese wheel thing, hope its back. The beach club is worth a lunch for the ride if nothing else, but we attended a full moon dinner last year there, and maybe the kitchen is not set up for a full house. It was nice, but may not go again.

    Breakfast, Creperie. Sit outside and enjoy the traffic drama and get the bacon, Swiss and egg crepe. Le Repair great eggs, and fun to watch the cruise people with fanny packs and SLR's, and the ferry people hurling as they get of the ship.
    My favorite bakery, and food store, in the small shopping center in Lorient. Food store open every day. Also a good doc there, hopefully you won't need him.
    Oh, and it is OK to have a Heineken and a plate of frittes for breakfast. Only the Americans will stare.

    Just tip. Not like the old days anymore. If the wait staff does a good job, make their day. For us the experience is as important as the food. Or a little of both.

    In my thoughts, a little overrated are Santa Fe, L' Esprit, and Eddy's. I was so excited last year for the mussels at Santa Fe, good, but nothing special.
    L' Esprit, nice spot, but staff and dishes never impressed. I know, I am the only one...
    Eddy's is good, maybe a first night place, but food in my eyes just average, but which on St Barths is still good.
    All mentioned above are good of course, and priced well, but just havent had a memorable meal yet.
    Mayas, if your new, you gotta go. Everybody else, if you liked what you had last year and the year before, go again. Simple food.
    Mayas to Go though is great and a good option for lunch at the villa.

    Really miss Victoria at the Carl Gustav. How's that coming along I wonder? Will try L' Isoletta this year, first time. Would love any other recommendations.
    Hows the new place by the post office? Heard its smokey? Remember L'Escale on the harbor? First time I had a raw egg on a pizza!!!
    Guy who does the restaurant list every year, thank you very much.

    Beaches, personal choice of course. We like St Jean for the airport action, Saline and Shell. Lorient for a quick walk. If you come across a beautiful topless sumbather, try not to embarrass us here in the states. My god a four hour plane ride and you are in a different world. Search for shade or see your dermatologist immediatly when you get home.
    You can rent or buy beach chairs, but this aint New Jersey, and everybody will know your a tourist like me.
    Sundays on the beach seem like locals day off. Watching the kids surf at Lorient is always cool. Glad that surf shack was rebuilt after the storm.
    If you are a beginner surfer, like me, be careful. See below about the ER. I would start at Lorient, and progress to Toiny.

    What to pack... Maybe one or two nice outfits for for the better dinners, otherwise, shorts and polos and t-shirts, boat shoes and flip flops, a lite jacket for woman at night. Books. Cross pack in case you lose a bag.

    Car rental. We started with the original Mokes, when they died, Samurais, a couple of sedans, but now the only way to go for us is the new Mokes from Cool Rental.
    Makes your trip fun. Semi automatics, soft tops, easy to park, fast, and a rough rider ! Makes for great photo ops too. Already reserved.
    Minis are probably the second choice. Jeeps sound fun, but they are wide and the roads are not.
    Never had a parking ticket issue, just use the clock thing, make sure rental place gives you one, if this is still in effect. Always take the first spot you see!!!
    Years ago there were rumors of speed traps and breathalyzers. Saw one once I think, but it may have been a seat belt check. Nothing last few years.
    The best time of our trip is always walking the harbor and then driving home after a great dinner, when the streets are dead.
    Scooters are cool also, but check health insurance is up to date. On that note, the ER is very good, even on a Sunday morning.
    Don't ask how I know, but it has to do with too much Foie Gras ...


    Ruhm and Cigars. Sandy at M'Bolo in Gustavia for vanilla ruhm, and Sandrine and girls at La Casa Del Habano in St Jean for the best advice for some Cubans.
    You can bring them home now without cutting off the labels.
    Good liqueur store across from airport for exotic stuff. Wine good anyplace. Even the cheap crap is good. But for better stuff, go to one of the wine shops.

    Money exchange, if you have any left, a place up a flight of stairs downtown near LuLu's. Can't remember name. Maybe there are others, but seem to always go here, good rates. Of course credit cards are best, if you have one with no international surcharge.

    Trip insurance.

    Hopefully this may help a first timer or anybody who hasn't been for a while. I didn't mean to insult anybody or any businesses.
    I was just being fair from our experiences.

    I hope this is a freindly forum, and that I won't get too many nasty replies.

    Wow, this got kinda long. Sorry if I repeated things in other posts.

    See you On the Rock !

    Best,

    GnL






  2. #2
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    Nicely done. Thank you for posting this (from "the guy who does the restaurant list", LOL, and you and everyone else who use it are most welcome.)

    You may be among the first to experience the new restaurant at the Carl Gustaf, Fouquet's. From what I've heard, the target date for the hotel reopening is sometime in February.

    QG, the new place by the Post Office, is doing very well. We ate there several times, with a 19:00 reservation. There were more families, fewer groups of locals, and we had no problem with the smoking. Later, I would expect more groups and possibly more smoking.

    I miss L'Escale (later Saladerie, and later still Harbour's Saladerie), and we liked the egg on the pizza too. Sometimes we would add "suplement oeuf" to our pizza order - an extra egg, so that we could both have one.

    Sandy at M'Bolo is still her wonderful self. We spent some time talking with her, and with Nathalie, new owner of the boutique in front. The boutique, formerly Case in Blue, is now called CocoKabana, and has some new lines. It's worth a look. I've bought freshwater pearls there, as well as a few ankle bracelets. (The bikini bathing suits aren't for me, LOL)

    I saw Sandrine at Casa del Habano a few weeks ago. Parking there can be difficult, but I have a solution. Across the street, in the former Butcher Shop location, is a Pate de St Barth "St Barth French West Indies" store, with a parking lot. I park there, walk in the front door with my wife, and leave her there to shop. (It's one of the very few places where she likes to shop.) I walk through the store, out the back door, and cross the street to Casa del Habano. I shop, buy my box of cigars, walk back across the street, go in Pati's back door, and help to finish the shopping. If necessary, instead of helping with the shopping, I can instead do a quick dash across the street to the Pharmacy while still honoring the privacy of Pati's private lot.

    The currency exchange is Changes Caraïbes, upstairs, close to the other end of the block from Lulu's. There may be another, at the Public end of Gustavia, beyond Le Repaire, and next to the Petite Deauville ice cream place.

    Thanks again for a nicely written list of tips.

  3. #3

    Re: Many trips report...

    Thanks Kevin. I was worried I may have overstepped on a couple things. Best 10 days of the year for us. So looking forward. It's hard on forums like this to say anything negative. I know how it can hurt a business, we have a hair salon, so you can only imagine. No where is bad on the island, only some better than others. Thanks again for your work on the restos, I always print and bring with us. Now I can put a personal thought to it when I access it. Best, George and Lauren

  4. #4
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    GnL, your honest comments on your personal experiences are always most welcome here. This site isn't Yelp or Tripadvisor. There are no ratings. I understand that some are reluctant to say anything negative here, but I'm OK with those that do. Their experience is their experience, and they should feel free to write about it.

    On the other hand, a gratuitous slam might not be as well received...

  5. #5
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 9,168

    Re: Many trips report...

    GnL - great many trips report. We contacted Le Fouquet for dinner reservations into mid February and they politely turned us down- ‘will not be open yet’- so we will sadly miss them.
    sorry you know the island ER but glad they were able to help you.
    Thanks for reminder of Francois for lunch and Repaire for breakfast- we always forget about those two options.
    We love the walk down to Christopher and sit listening to the surf with feet in sand at Mango. They have multiple flavors of rum made there that are each delicious. Ask to try each as they make the walk back up more heavenly.
    Bon Voyage in February!

  6. #6
    GramChop is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Austin, Texas Posts: 17,260

    Re: Many trips report...

    Very informative report and tips, GnL. Thank you for sharing.
    The waves of the sea bring me back to me.

  7. #7
    LMAC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2003 Northern Virginia Posts: 1,568

    Re: Many trips report...

    Fun to read - thanks! Be sure to try Orega. A great dining experience.

    and, as always, kudos to Kevin for the "retro list". Fun to read at home and make plans and always take it with us for hours and days of operation, phone numbers, etc.
    Libby

  8. #8
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    I always bring a laminated copy of my latest Resto List with me, and leave it behind in the villas which I rent. The old version has always been there when I return in the next year, and I replace it with the updated version.

  9. #9

    Re: Many trips report...

    Good idea !

  10. #10

    Re: Many trips report...

    Orega has always been a consideration, will put it on this years list! I think we have tried all the different places the location has been. My favorite table was at Le Sapotellier by the street window ! Thanks for the recommendation.

  11. #11

    Re: Many trips report...

    Of course !

  12. #12
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    For Orega, their preferred method for reservations is to use their website at http://oregastbarth.com/ The page comes up in French, but if you click on the French flag you can change the language. You can request a table in the window (my preferred location too) when you reserve. Orega is more popular than ever, and now requires a credit card number in order to make a reservation.

  13. #13

    Re: Many trips report...

    Obviously I don't seem to know how to reply to each post individually ! But hopefully you all can figure out who I was writing too !
    But, since I mentioned great tables...remember the place upstairs across from the post office? Name escapes me. Nice guy, I think named George also. Second best table, on the balcony. Our first taste of christophine was here. Why hasn't it reopened !!!!

  14. #14
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by Guenther View Post
    Obviously I don't seem to know how to reply to each post individually ! But hopefully you all can figure out who I was writing too !
    But, since I mentioned great tables...remember the place upstairs across from the post office? Name escapes me. Nice guy, I think named George also. Second best table, on the balcony. Our first taste of christophine was here. Why hasn't it reopened !!!!
    The restaurant was Au Port. Back in the "Sorry No Telephone" days, I remember writing a reservation request on the note pad pinned to their street-level door. The interior tables could be suffocating in the heat, but those balcony tables were a treat. When they built the new Post Office across the street it eliminated much of the view, and changed the breezes. My recollection is that the balcony was removed post-Irma due to damage. There was indeed a George there for many years.

    The last time that I ate there, we had dinner with Marius. As always, we talked much about times past. One story which I remember was about he and his wife sailing to Guadeloupe on a merchant ship in anticipation of the birth of one of his children.

  15. #15
    GramChop is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Austin, Texas Posts: 17,260

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by Guenther View Post
    Obviously I don't seem to know how to reply to each post individually ! But hopefully you all can figure out who I was writing too !
    But, since I mentioned great tables...remember the place upstairs across from the post office? Name escapes me. Nice guy, I think named George also. Second best table, on the balcony. Our first taste of christophine was here. Why hasn't it reopened !!!!
    Click on "Reply With Quote" and the text that you would like to respond to gets captured. Voila!
    The waves of the sea bring me back to me.

  16. #16

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by GramChop View Post
    Click on "Reply With Quote" and the text that you would like to respond to gets captured. Voila!
    Ok, thanks, got it now !

  17. #17

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinS View Post
    The restaurant was Au Port. Back in the "Sorry No Telephone" days, I remember writing a reservation request on the note pad pinned to their street-level door. The interior tables could be suffocating in the heat, but those balcony tables were a treat. When they built the new Post Office across the street it eliminated much of the view, and changed the breezes. My recollection is that the balcony was removed post-Irma due to damage. There was indeed a George there for many years.

    The last time that I ate there, we had dinner with Marius. As always, we talked much about times past. One story which I remember was about he and his wife sailing to Guadeloupe on a merchant ship in anticipation of the birth of one of his children.
    Yes ! That was it... still drive by and wish somebody would open up there!

  18. #18
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 5,846

    Re: Many trips report...

    Very witty, Guenther . . . thanks for the entertaining survey!

  19. #19
    julianne is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2003 CT Posts: 3,122

    Re: Many trips report...

    Great report—-pithy and pertinent. Am sure some first-timers will value your insights. Generally agree with your opinion of various restaurants, especially L’Espirit. It is such a personal thing——unless the experience has been truly dreadful, I don’t give a negative review. It is easy to have an “off” night so we like to give a restaurant a second chance. It is helpful to have a number of inputs and your straightforward comments will be useful. People should try different places, weigh reviews and decide for themselves.

  20. #20
    cassidain is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Ailleurs Posts: 6,622

    Re: Many trips report...

    very entertaining !
    Fils du Sud - Ministre de la Santé

    If I can't wear my Havaianas, I ain't goin'...ÀMHA

  21. #21
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 5,846

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by julianne View Post
    Great report—-pithy and pertinent. Am sure some first-timers will value your insights. Generally agree with your opinion of various restaurants, especially L’Espirit. It is such a personal thing — unless the experience has been truly dreadful, I don’t give a negative review. It is easy to have an “off” night so we like to give a restaurant a second chance. It is helpful to have a number of inputs and your straightforward comments will be useful. People should try different places, weigh reviews and decide for themselves.
    As always, Julianne . . . your input is gentle, thoughtful, & perceptive. I love reading what you write! Somewhat similarly, Guenther has hit on the same “cylinder” with respect to L’Esprit (“L' Esprit, nice spot, but staff and dishes never impressed.”)

    I want to say that I found the comments of each of you about L’Esprit to be worthy of encouraging readers to give the restaurant “a second chance.”

    It’s very interesting to me that I can agree with something of the sentiment expressed by each of you. The service can be slow, though never, in my experience, without considerable concern from the staff. In this regard, I will say that I love the place . . . one of my top two island restaurants at dinner. For one reason, I believe that it’s authentic French service, much as I found on my first, 1978, visit. The second reason being that I think that the food preparation & presentation are exquisite.

    Now . . . let me add that I write the foregoing in knowing the risk of opening the angst of a pro- / negative- Maya’s exchange, as this Forum famously debated for many years. Not my intention, which only is to say that visitors,if disappointed once, should give it a second chance.

  22. #22
    dadto6 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Aug 2013 Northern Virginia Posts: 2,182

    Re: Many trips report...

    L'Esprit is our #1 dining destination, we have been to pretty much all restaurants on the Island ranging from the smallest local spot to largest hotel/restaurants. JC is always rock solid with his exquisite food preparation. I echo Dennis resounding endorsement.

  23. #23
    cassidain is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Ailleurs Posts: 6,622

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by cec1 View Post
    The service can be slow . . . I believe that it’s authentic French service
    . . . and all that that implies
    Fils du Sud - Ministre de la Santé

    If I can't wear my Havaianas, I ain't goin'...ÀMHA

  24. #24

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by cec1 View Post
    As always, Julianne . . . your input is gentle, thoughtful, & perceptive. I love reading what you write! Somewhat similarly, Guenther has hit on the same “cylinder” with respect to L’Esprit (“L' Esprit, nice spot, but staff and dishes never impressed.”)

    I want to say that I found the comments of each of you about L’Esprit to be worthy of encouraging readers to give the restaurant “a second chance.”

    It’s very interesting to me that I can agree with something of the sentiment expressed by each of you. The service can be slow, though never, in my experience, without considerable concern from the staff. In this regard, I will say that I love the place . . . one of my top two island restaurants at dinner. For one reason, I believe that it’s authentic French service, much as I found on my first, 1978, visit. The second reason being that I think that the food preparation & presentation are exquisite.

    Now . . . let me add that I write the foregoing in knowing the risk of opening the angst of a pro- / negative- Maya’s exchange, as this Forum famously debated for many years. Not my intention, which only is to say that visitors,if disappointed once, should give it a second chance.
    Ok, Ok it’s back on the list! We remember Jean-Claude at Eden Rock ( I think ? ) and followed him immediately and excitedly to his own digs at such a great spot. Hopefully we can get in. And they don’t hate us!
    Remember the great Italian place down the road from them...

  25. #25
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by Guenther View Post
    Ok, Ok it’s back on the list! We remember Jean-Claude at Eden Rock ( I think ? ) and followed him immediately and excitedly to his own digs at such a great spot. Hopefully we can get in. And they don’t hate us!
    Remember the great Italian place down the road from them...
    I’ve always said that I think that Jean-Claude is working harder in his own place than he has in years, but that he is also enjoying it more. It’s a regular stop for us, but we preferred it more when he was open for lunch.

    The Italian place which you’re thinking of was Pa-Cri. Long gone, and there is no longer a restaurant at that location.

  26. #26
    cassidain is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Ailleurs Posts: 6,622

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinS View Post
    The Italian place which you’re thinking of was Pa-Cri. .
    Speaking of Pa-Cri, what's Monsieur Ramette's current involvement in the Saint-Barth resto scene ?
    Fils du Sud - Ministre de la Santé

    If I can't wear my Havaianas, I ain't goin'...ÀMHA

  27. #27
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Boston Posts: 20,499

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by cassidain View Post
    Speaking of Pa-Cri, what's Monsieur Ramette's current involvement in the Saint-Barth resto scene ?
    Without unnecessarily spreading rumors, you can be assured that he has a finger in more than one pie.

  28. #28

    Re: Many trips report...

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinS View Post
    Without unnecessarily spreading rumors, you can be assured that he has a finger in more than one pie.
    We hope so !

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