02 Sep Barefoot in St Barths: Le Toiny
It’s funny how things work out! For six years when I represented Petit St Vincent, agents would ask whether it would be good to combine PSV with Pink Sands in the Grenadines. I would always respond by comparing the two to Le Toiny and Eden Rock respectively based on what I had read about St Barths and PR I had seen on these two hotels. Over the years I had hoped that one day I would visit this stunning island and see for myself.
Fortuitously, about two months ago I received a call from the charismatic Felipe Sandoval, Director of Sales for Le Toiny asking if I would be interested in joining the team there as their Representation company in the UK and I have to say I knew it would be a perfect fit for the Highlife Marketing portfolio. Of course, I did the accompanying research and discovered that although it is not an obvious choice from the UK, those clients who love the Maldives and have been to the more traditional Caribbean destinations numerous times, ought to consider this gorgeous destination for their next long haul trip.
As you are probably aware, St Barths is 22 miles South East of St Martin, north of St Kitts and a collectivity of France. This tiny paradise (9.7 square miles) with a population of just 10,000 is part of The Leeward Islands constituting the French West Indies along with St Martin, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
My flight schedule to arrive in this beautiful island was slightly less appealing. I was on the 6.20 am Air France flight to Paris and then connecting to St Martin with a short air hop to St Barths at the end. Ordinarily UK clients would travel via Antigua and onward with Tradewind Aviation for the 10 minute last leg which is an experience in itself. Or alternatively via boat from St Martin (45 minutes). However, I would recommend the plane to experience the spectacular landing!
I have to say it was the first time I had flown with Air France and I was quite impressed. The service was efficient and friendly and the Business Class seat (because I am apparently a Princess) turns into a flat bed. Obviously, the Air France option is more cost effective.
St Martin is a small airport and as a hub it’s busy so I would recommend taking the VIP service to transit the airport. Car rental is also recommended with most of the rental cars being convertible minis! It is so easy to drive around, visit different beaches and obviously do some retail therapy in Gustavia, the red roofed capital of the island with a central harbour and an array of one off boutiques. Many French brands like Hermes and Cartier are tax free so with savings of up to 20% it’s worth an evening stroll Before my visit, I had heard that Le Toiny is a long way from Gustavia but it is 12 minutes drive and for clients wanting to switch off from the world in peace and privacy I think it’s an ideal choice. I was surprised to find out it was nothing like St Tropez, but much more understated and not at all glitzy.
On arrival I was greeted by the very smiley Maria, assistant GM who has been there for 17 years, welcoming a plethora of repeat guests. My first impression was that the hotel felt intimate and homely with natural woods, neutral colours and a view to die for.
I stayed in what was my favourite of the room categories, a Signature suite which are super spacious, very private with a pool and extensive deck area. Each one has a lounge area and generous mini bar, coffee machine and lots of snacks which are all included. There are 22 rooms in total in the hotel of which 13 are Signature suites.
The Spirit Suites which are more elevated and a duplex option in some are the second category after the one Junior Suite. These were added to the resort just 5 years ago, they are more modern with slick white interiors and lovely terraces enjoying spectacular views from their elevated position.
Most of the suites can accommodate 3 people so for a family of 4, guests would need to take two adjoining suites or a 2-bedroom villa suite depending on the ages of children.
All accommodation has a private pool and ocean view allowing for a truly tranquil stay.
I managed to stay awake for an early dinner at Le Toiny restaurant which overlooks the beautiful pool and has a panoramic vista of the ocean and rugged surroundings. My bed was calling after a long day reflecting on the ease with which we can cross the globe….
The following morning I awoke at 7.30am so no jetlag – clearly I had been totally exhausted but leaped out of bed to see the view, grabbed my yoga mat (provided in all rooms) and to the delight of my back after a day on Air France enjoyed a pilates session on my deck.
At breakfast I realised that most of the staff are French, young for the most part, speak excellent English and are beautiful of course! Breakfast is a la carte and a selection of healthy options including green juices as well as more indulgent treats like pancakes. One could never tire of the stunning views and I love the contemporary style by Lady Bee Osborn which is light and airy with an open plan kitchen.
Then off we went on our day tour visiting various beaches and all the 5* hotels on the island – it’s interesting that there are so many on such a small island and I am happy to chat about their different styles and clientele.
Shellona beach club is an absolute must for lunch – it has a great vibe and delicious food. There are a number of trendy organic cafes and coffee shops dotted around the island and overall it feels much more French than Caribbean for obvious reasons. I think I would find it hard to leave our beach club however which can be reached by complimentary shuttle in one of Le Toiny’s signature Defenders. The spa is also down at the beach along with another pool for those who don’t like to get the sand between their toes.
That night I ate at Eden Rock with Damien Bastiat, Managing Director of Le Toiny who was previously GM at Ballyfin, one of my favourite former clients so although I preceded his arrival there we had a lot to talk about and enjoyed fresh fish and lobster with all the little touches synonymous with this iconic hotel.
It was a whistle stop tour but three days well spent and I came back enthused and excited to be adding Le Toiny to our portfolio.