Dining and Nightlife:La Casa de L’Isle at the Isle De France Hotel This restaurant boasts one of my very favorite settings overlooking the Flamands Bay. Newly added dining on the white sand beach only adds to the allure. The food is simple and fresh. Try the crab and quinoa tabouleh or tuna tartare with avocado and ginger, and the fresh grilled fish of the day is always outstanding. The charming beach bar also has fantastic frozen cocktails. Don’t miss the hotel’s well-edited gift store, stocking hard-to-find Vitamin A and Lenny swimwear and unique caftans. Word of warning: shopping here after a few glasses of Rosé has been known to result in the purchase of some daringly skimpy swimsuits, obviously viewed through rose colored lenses, but it’s a great way to feel truly “local” on the beach. 800.810.4691, www.isle-de-france.com.
Next door to Isle de France, Hotel Tawaina is a small, sleek, sophisticated hotel and restaurant with gorgeous walls covered in thousands of orchids. The restaurant menu is very select but the food is always perfection: mango tomato salad, BBQ chicken, fresh fish and great bread, which is REALLY hard to do at the beach. Our group had a few tequila lovers among its members and the consensus among us all was that Tawaina has “the best margarita…in the world.” A super attentive staff will take care of every need, including the continual raking of the sand on the beach, so that you can enjoy impeccable views during your afternoon lounging. 590.590.276501 or www.hoteltawaina.com.
Dining at La Plage is of the open-air, feet-in-the-sand variety. It’s a remarkable experience to dine while watching the planes from the nearby Juliana Airport take off literally right over your head or pull up at the end of the very short runway just before hitting the waters of the bay! La Plage has a slightly bohemian feel with a great DJ. The lobster burger is dream-worthy as are the French fries. The baked camembert is an appetizer must and even my children, who snarl at everything, still talk about this! Don’t miss the Bubble Mint cocktail, featuring mint, lime, lychee and cognac over champagne on ice! 0590.275313 or www.tombeach.com.
Le Ti is a favorite for late-night dancing and great people watching. The music never changes and it's rather funny every time they roll out the crowd-pleasing soundtrack to Grease, but then again, there is something funny about going dancing at my age—and one of the benefits of going on vacation! 590.590.279771 or Letistbarth.com.
St. Barts Sip:Not available in the US, Chateau Beylesse, is a French rosé, encased in a beautiful cobalt blue bottle, that is much better in taste and value than the often-ordered Domaine Ott. And if you have a large enough group, ordering a magnum of this pink quaff is quite festive!
Star Wattage:During the Christmas season, St. Barts was hopping! Fergie and Josh Duhamel were there, much to the delight of my children and nieces—OK, and my husband, who was clearly taken with Fergie. They were in town because the Black Eyed Peas were the headliners at Russian billionaire Roman Abromovich’s glitzy, annual New Year’s party. You can see the gates of his mansion on the way to Guvenours beach, and, if you’re lucky, spy glimpses of his property from the beach. Also spotted: Ellen Degeneres, Portia de Rossi, music mogul Russell Simmons, and actress Jane Krakowski, who let my son Emerson in on the secret that she was pregnant well before it came out in the tabloids!
St Barts is a shopper’s paradise and tax-free, so it’s a great excuse to indulge a little. Instead of shopping at the usual luxury houses, it is fun to venture off and get things that are a little more unusual or local. My absolute favorite is 100% Capri for linen specialties, with a limited-edition color added yearly. The service is very individualized and they have been known to give my clothes a fresh press during mid-day shopping jaunts. I also love Le Civette for men & women. The Italian designs are perfect for warmer climates. Villebrequin is a great store for men’s swim trunks and towels. Lolita Jaca has boho-glam tunics, dresses and crazy-beautiful sequined and embroidered pieces.
Vanita Rosa in the harbor has beautiful embroidered and lace applique tops and caftans in crazy color combinations such as acid yellow with fushia or lime green with royal blue. I love popping into Manuel Canovas for bikinis and matchy-matchy coverups, then walk to Petit Bateau across the street for basic cotton t-shirts for me and the kids– a French version of The Gap.
Relaxing, shopping, hiking and taking long leisurely lunches followed by afternoon swims, top my list of things to do. However, St Barts also offers a windsurfer’s paradise, as well as snorkeling and scuba diving guides. Daredevils might want to take the jet ski tour through the turbulent waters of “The Washing Machine” along Grand Fond. However, once was quite enough for me!