Being a photographer opens up the doors to a wide variety of projects. Sometimes those projects take you someplace magical. When I was invited to Saint Barthélemy with WIMCO Villas to shoot for their Vendome Guide, I almost fell out of my chair.
The Vendome Guide
The Vendome Guide is a publication that’s distributed every two years to highlight the luxurious villas and island life on St. Barths. While the food scene is incredible and offers something for everyone, I was sent to focus on the convenience of cooking in at the villa. I developed and shot two island-inspired recipes, and the villa was so stunning, we ended up cooking-in all but one night.
Getting to St. Barths is an adventure. You can’t fly direct from Chicago, because the island has one of the shortest runways in the world. This means only really, really small planes and private jets can access it. With connection flights through San Juan, Puerto Rico (about a 50 minute flight to the island) or St. Martin (about a 15 minute flight to the island), you can choose an option that works best for your travels.
We opted to connect through San Juan, because Tradewind Aviation is known for their wonderful customer service and reliable scheduling. And, for someone who can be a fearful flyer, believe me when I say, they ran a very smooth and professional operation. The views were incredible and the drinks onboard were a really nice touch.
When we arrived on the island, our concierge, Jules was there to help us get our rental car and guide us to our villa. The roads were windy and thin with some steep hills in the mix. Being able to adjust to the driving without having to worry about getting lost was amazing.
I won’t forget the calming sounds of the waterfall fountain and the gorgeous smells of flowers as we approached the villa where we were staying. Villa VUE was located high on the hillside in Columbier with panoramic views of nearby islands and Gustavia Harbor. The name actually means The View and it felt like it greeted us with open arms. The large, partially covered deck that extended the entire length of the villa with an infinity pool drew us right in. All the rooms in the villa faced the view with floor-to-ceiling glass & screen doors that could be closed or kept open. We were in complete awe of the beauty that surrounded us and it was ours for the next five days.
The Photo Shoots
My photo shoots consisted of a couple of early morning trips into Gustavia harbor to meet the local fisherman and pick up some fresh-off-the-boat seafood for the recipes. Mike graciously helped me prep in the fully-equipped kitchen, and needless to say, we had a very productive and beautiful “work day.” I wish every work day could be so pretty and mellow. We basically treated this experience like we would naturally. We enjoyed the views, we played music and we cooked and ate the recipes for lunch and dinner. It was probably the freshest seafood we had ever tasted.
After wrapping up the shoots early in the week, we had some time to play. Although we could have had Jules deliver things to the villa for us, we wanted to check things out for ourselves. And, since the beaches, markets and restaurants were only about a 5-7 minute drive, it was very convenient to do so.
Although the island is french-inspired, the cuisine offers something for palettes of all cultures. There are several varieties of restaurants to enjoy ranging from toes-in-the-sand casual lunch and dinner spots to fine dining and clubs. La Gloriette and O’corail were two of our favorite casual lunch spots located on the Grand Cul de Sac beach. We also loved our fine dining lunch experience at Cheval Blanc located on one end of Flamands Beach. The one night that we decided to go out to dinner, we decided to hit a local island favorite, Maya’s. This laid-back, but upscale restaurant has been around since 1984 and serves only the freshest local ingredients. This means the menu is constantly changing. It’s just one of those spots that you’ll want to return to every time you visit the island.
Needless to say, hanging out at the villa was our favorite experience of all. It had everything we needed with the freshest seafood only 5 minutes away. The real beauty of being on an island like St. Barths was that we felt like we could relax when we wanted to and find energy when we wanted to… we are dreaming of the day we get to go back.
With the devastating hurricanes that hit the island and surrounding areas this year, the Vendome Guide publication was postponed to allow the island to recover. I wanted to share a little shout out here on the blog while we wait and you can keep track of more updates on Wimco Villas Facebook Page and the Wimco Villas Instagram.
Once the Vendome Guide is published, I will be sure to share it with you so you can read a full recap of our experience and grab the recipes that I developed and shot while we were there.
It should be published in 2018.
Disclosure: Thank you to Wimco Villas for inviting me to St. Barths to shoot for the Vendome Guide. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you to my readers for supporting the brands and companies that keep Up Close & Tasty cooking, shooting and traveling.
All images ©Regan Baroni 2017.