November 2002by by Pamela Fiori from Town and Country Magazine
Reprinted with the permission of Hearst Magazine Corporation, November 2002
I wasn't desperate to go to a warm, sunny place last March, but it had definitely crossed my mind as the mild but long New York winter persisted. Had I not read an e-mail offering from Wimco, the well-known, well-regarded villa rental company, instead of automatically deleting it, as I usually do, I probably would have stayed put in New York and stuck it out. But there it was, right before my light-deprived eyes: 'ST. BART'S: Gorgeous three-bedroom villa rental with infinity pool, lovely Asian furnishings, and gourmet kitchen, available now through April 15, 2002, for $5,500 per week.'
I turned away from my computer and called the 800 number to inquire about the villa's availability for a week in early or mid-April. Good news: it seemed to be mine if I wanted it. I put a hold on it, called my husband, and before he could think up an excuse, I essentially told him that renting a villa on St. Bart's was something I'd always wanted to do and now was the time - tempus fugit, "we're not getting any younger," etc.
The plan, I explained, was that I would go early in the week, joined by my sister Janis. He would then fly down for a long weekend with another couple yet to be determined, who are friends of ours. Before he could say, "Let's talk about it tonight," I said, "Oops, gotta go. I'll keep you posted."
Unfortunately, when I called Wimco to confirm, it turned out that the villa that had attracted me in the first place was not available for those dates after all. But by that time, I was primed to go to St. Bart's, and nothing was going to deter me. Thus began my search for the perfect villa.
It didn't take very long. Wimco has a vast number of listings for two- and three-bedroom houses on the island. Working with Bethany Ludwick, the company's reservations manager and St. Bart's team leader, and with a fair amount of back-and-forthing by phone and e-mail, we finally settled on what seemed to be the villa of our - okay, my - dreams. I wanted a house that was airy and full of light, with a pretty pool (preferably "lipless"). It had to be on a quiet part of the island, but not so remote from the town of Gustavia that it would be difficult to drive to, especially at night. (If you have ever been to St. Bart's, you know that driving on those narrow, ill-paved serpentine roads is no picnic.) Finally, it had to have a view of the ocean. All this and sunsets too.
We finally settled on a three-bedroom St. Barts villa rental in Pointe Milou, which rented for $7,000 a week between April 15 and December 14. I immediately liked the description: "spectacular new villa," "cascading pool with large Jacuzzi nestled into Cliffside landscape with views overlooking ocean," "a lot of outdoor space with covered dining and living area." So I booked it.
My sister made her flight arrangements from Fort Lauderdale, while my husband and I invited Gus and Susan, one of the couples we are closest to in New York, to come along. It took them all of thirty seconds to RSVP a resounding yes. Actually, I think it was more like, "Are you nuts? Of course we'll go."
I'd been to St. Bart's several times before, so I knew the hardest part was getting there. Every flight to St. Bart's from nearby St. Maarten, the closest island that large commercial jets can fly into, is basically the same - a quick ten-minute hop over the Baie St. Jean, followed by one or two heart-stopping minutes of terror as you land suddenly and steeply on an extremely short runway. The flight on the day I departed was a little unusual: we ran into a sudden patch of foul weather, and despite several hairy attempts, the pilot of the ten-seat plane couldn't get close to St. Bart's without running into fog, rain and almost zero visibility. Nor could he go back to St. Maarten, where the bad weather was then heading. That left us in the air, literally, for more than an hour - and had me wondering if this vacation was such a good idea after all. Finally, however, we got in, although all of us on board were a little worse for wear.
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