was a villa rookie when I crossed the
doorway of Villa Le Roi Soleil (King of the Sun), high above
Gustavia, St. Barts' picture-postcard capital.
Sol and Charlie, the husband-wife team of caretakers/chefs,
welcomed me with champagne; plunked me in a lounge chair on the
wide, tiled pool deck; and deposited my bags in my bedroom.
They returned with hors d'ouevres, discussed the dinner menu and
refilled my crystal flute.
Mon dieu! I was in villa-heavy St. Barts, and already I was a
very happy customer.
Villas are synonymous with St. Barts, which has more than 300 of
them. The term is used to describe properties from small cottages
with a cook/maid to over-the-top estates with gardens and
The four-bedroom, red-roofed Villa Le Roi Soleil -- which is
reached after a winding, uphill, 20-minute drive from Gustavia --
was built in 1998 and totally renovated last year. It ranks in the
super-upscale category of places to lay one's head on an island
known for its sophisticated lodgings.
Sol and Charlie barbecued fresh fish for the arrival dinner; I
dined barefoot by candlelight on a terrace overlooking the harbor
of Gustavia and the lights of St. Martin in the distance -- the
perfect end to a day that had begun hours earlier in wet snow at
Newark Liberty Airport.
Two days later, after inspecting several villas -- which ranged
from Arc en Ciel, a rainbow-hued, multilevel property with a Mayan
stone ruin/cum shower stall in each of the four bedrooms, to
Byzance, an all-white, columned edifice flanked by marble lions and
lots of gauzy canopies over modernistic, sleek king beds, to Casa
Blanca, a casual two-bedroom place with bunk beds for kids -- I was
feeling very proprietary about Villa Le Roi Soleil.
This place felt like home -- albeit a very upscale and elegant
one -- a comfortable, private place in which to wake up, hang out
or return to each evening.
Each of the villa's four bedrooms had its own bath with tub,
bidet, balcony and private outdoor shower. The master suite
featured a small Jacuzzi on the deck, a plasma-screen TV, a ceiling
fan and lots of light switches.
The other three bedrooms did not have a TV or a ceiling fan, but
the air conditioning was efficient and the stars at night were big
Among the villa's obvious charms were its decks; balconies; an
infinity pool; courtyard gardens with a fountain and waterlily
pond; an outdoor gazebo with a TV, a bar and comfy cushions; a
tiled kitchen where we could wander in and out at will and poke
about in the refrigerator; and an entertainment center with a
multiple-disc CD player and cable radio music.
Luxury tour operator Island Destinations launched its 30-villa
collection on St. Barts this winter.
The firm also offers villa stays in St. Martin and the British
and U.S. Virgin Islands in addition to its 50 hotels in Bermuda,
Costa Rica, Mexico, Fiji, French Polynesia and the Caribbean.
Island Destinations' five hotel properties in St. Barts are
Guanahani, Carl Gustaf, Eden Roc, Le Toiny and St. Barth Isle de
Pascale Gheradi, the company's vice president and CEO, said she
is confident that the villa product line is the perfect vehicle for
"We only work with agents; we are the first tour operator to
have an agent-only villa inventory on this island," she said.
And not only does the firm offer bulk air to accompany its villa
getaways and pay 10% commission -- many villa stays are priced from
$20,000 per week in the high season -- but "we also personally
inspect each villa and reevaluate each property at least once a
year," Gheradi noted.
According to Gheradi, Island Destinations' clients "are the
travel agents, and their goals are our goals: Boost productivity,
increase commissions and fulfill clients' every vacation
"These villas will accomplish all of the objectives," she
Because client demand for the villas is heavy "and because there
are so many beautiful properties on St. Barts," Gheradi said Island
Destinations plans to expand its villa inventory by another 15 or
20 properties by next winter, particularly villas appropriate for
families. She said the company also hopes to add Anguilla villas to
Villa rentals generally run from Saturday to Saturday; clients
are met at the tiny St. Jean Airport in St. Barts and transferred
to their villas, where a rental car awaits.
Island Destinations has an on-island rep to handle transfers and
itinerary changes if need be.
Caretakers do everything else, and they possess a wealth of
local information. Sol and Charlie conferred with me about menus
and advised me on masseuses, places to shop, the best beaches,
island sightseeing and funky nightspots.
But, in fact, it was hard to leave the villa once there. The
island stared back at me from the villa's decks and terraces.
St. Barts is a gem, and the Villa Le Roi Soleil a diamond. I was
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].
Room key: Villa Le Roi Soleil
Address: Lurin, 97133, St. Barts, French West Indies
Phone: (011) 590 590-29-16-62
Location: Perched on the crown of a mountain in
Lurin above Gustavia, about 30 minutes from the airport.
Tour operator: Island Destinations at www.islanddestinations.com
No. of bedrooms: Four
Facilities: Two-level infinity edge pool with a
terrace and a 180-degree view over Baie de St. Jean; tropical
gardens, lily ponds, and a fountain; outdoor gazebo with
large-screen plasma TV and seating area; indoor TV and
entertainment center; open-air dining area; well-stocked kitchen
with snacks and beverages.
Rates: $25,095 per week through April 15. In value
season (April 16 to Dec. 14), rates are $20,090 per week.
Noteworthy: Dramatic sunset views can be viewed
from multiple terraces; the villa has a homelike, comfortable feel
despite its upscale amenities; and caretakers/chefs Sol and Charlie
Not worthy: Light switches and air-conditioning
controls are confusing; no ceiling fans in the three bedrooms (the
master suite has a fan).
Words to the wise
• Rent a car. St. Barts is an 8-square-mile, hilly, rocky island
with more than enough anses (beaches), baies (bays) and coves to
explore than there's time for. There are two gas stations and no
taxi services. Roads are narrow and steep, the cars are small, and
the drivers drive fast.
• Dine out. Villa chefs often are "extraordinaire," but so are
many island restaurants, so advise clients to try a few of them.
Villa staff know the island and can make recommendations and
reservations; restaurant listings and information can be found on
the island Web site at www.st-barths.com.
• "In" clubs change from season to season; advise clients to ask
around for the hot spot of the moment. Le Select in Gustavia is the
island's original hangout, a beer garden setting on Rue du
• Spot a celebrity but stay cool. They're all over the island
but just trying to relax like everyone else.
• Although prices generally are high in this French playground,
there are duty-free deals to be had, especially in perfume,
fashions, jewelry and artwork.
• Don't expect mega-cruise ships, casinos, high rises, golf
courses, night landings, traffic lights, poverty, all-inclusive
resorts, beach vendors or U.S. fast-food outlets.
• Get used to the euro. That's the currency, and it fluctuates
slightly with the dollar, which is accepted everywhere.
• St. Barts has plenty to see, and most visitors explore the
island by car, spend time at the 14 beaches, shop at boutiques and
art galleries, dine at more than 60 restaurants and prowl around
Gustavia's natural harbor.
• St. Barts is pricey, chic, tony and French to its marrow in
signs, language, flags, newspapers, brasseries and baguettes. St.
Barts also is Caribbean, with its red roofs, green fields, blue
water, Creole pastel cottages and schoolchildren in crisp
• Although St. Barts' airport will be closed in September and
October for an upgrade, ferry service from St. Martin will be
available and five hotels will be open. --