Published: August 12th 2007
September 28th 2002
Manny and his Lil' Sidekick
Manny whipped this little guy all around the island, a wonder we didn't have a head on collision on the narrow streets, or fall over the edge of a cliff.
You'd think that because it's in the Caribbean, it's not too much trouble to get to, but being exclusive requires some restrictions. So we flew into St. Maarten so we could clearly see what we were NOT missing! That place looked like Jamaica on Spring Break, all dilapidated. That doesn't mean we weren't in for a bit of a scare when we came into St. Barths on the STOL aircraft. The runway is so oddly located and short that these special aircraft are required and the approach requires a last minute nose-dive onto the runway in order to clear a large hill at its western end. We later heard stories that some cars had been clipped, even carried away from this hill by landing aircraft.
Le Manapany Hotel & Cottages
We stayed at the Manapany Hotel & Cottages
located at l'Anse des Cayes in an Ocean View Jacuzzi Junior Suite. At the time it was part of the French Concorde Hotels chain but seems to have since gone independent. We did a seven day package that included a Suzuki Sidekick and breakfast.
Very much island in style, with cottages scattered and hidden in the hill, but
The Suite's Interior
This was the partially-enclosed seating area of our suite.
the amenities and quality of a luxury resort. Needless to say, service was excellent, with the concierge Co' picking us up from the airport and essentially waiting on us hand and foot for the week since there was only one other couple, they weren't staying in as nice a room, and they were Americans who didn't speak a word of French . . . life sucks when you're not in the know.
Breakfast every morning was served by one guy who was old young, I think from Auvergne, a little plouc but so excited about pleasing and taking care of us. He is one of those people that meant well but he would always forget the same thing every morning and we would have to invariably ask for it. Other than taking care of breakfast, he had been spending late nights on his computer working, among I'm sure other things, on a promotional CD-ROM for the hotel (yes, yes, this was 2002). So he talked this thing up for several breakfasts and we finally got a copy of it with many assurances from us that we would watch it when we got back home.
Co' was a Belgian
View from our Suite
Taken on our suite's balcony at Le Manapany.
guy, a career world hotelier shifting from property to property living the transient life only as Europeans or Asians will in the business. He was a shorter guy with thin legs a blonde chestnut curly hair and the requisite Belgian square rimmed glasses. When he picked us up at the airport in the hotel's little white minivan, I think he just assumed we were another American couple and barely said to words, but the more we had contact during our stay, the more he helped and looked out for us.
Our Ocean View Jacuzzi Junior Suite
Oh yeah, it's a mouthful and it was worth it! Sadly the bathroom and bedroom were hard to capture on film so I only got exterior shots of the suite, but it was big including the patio, maybe 1200 square feet. The jacuzzi and large deck with views of the Atlantic were great, but despite it's rustic luxury, even the room and bathroom were nice. Everything was essentially open and there was a wall-mounted modern air conditioner that we quickly learned had to be cranked to the max or we would die of humidity. Plus leaving the sliding glass doors to the
No way that's suntan lotion . . . and no way it's water, by the end of the trip it was mostly rose wine.
bedroom open at night was a no-no in this season and we learned that the mosquito netting over the bed had a very real purpose. So we suffered quite miserably the first night but seemed to have assimilated this knowlede quickly and there was nary a problem after that. Of course that might have been brought on by the large quantities of wine we were drinking that either made the mosquitoes not interesed or just made us not care.
They were so nice they just had to call them Anses instead of "plages". We have not seen any Pacific atoll beaches, but we've seen a few in the Caribbean and St. Barths hands down has the best ones yet. The clarity of the water was better than a swimming pool, there is simply no way to describe it. There are so many on the island and they are all secluded by jettied mountains jutting out into the ocean, isolating each from the surrounding area. The biggest beauty of all was that because we were there in low season, there weren't too many people on the island in the first place, and then everyone seemed to congregate
Jennifer at Shell Beach
There were tons of little minnows in the water that we were chasing around. Not a single person at the Anse with us that day.
on the worst beaches located close to the agglomerations of houses and hotels. We only had one bad experience on a beach where some bronzed up cretin decided he had to jog around the beach in the nude and then laid down not too far from us and was doing bicycle exercises on his back facing to the sky. You can imagine what that might have looked at if we were so stupid as to even merely acknowledge his presence by glancing over.
Jennifer had never been scuba diving, so there was not better opportunity than on St. Barts to get some good diving in. We took out a private boat, the only problem was Manny didn't realize that this real life experience would one day become the subject of a Hollywood romantic comedy . . . "Along Came Polly". Despite being French, Manny wasn't portrayed as Claude (he after all does not have the requisite accent), but was Reuben Pfeffer (Ben Stiller). The dive instructor, of course, was Claude. As we were on our way out to the dive site, this clown 'Claude' kept saying how we were too young to be married and Jennifer
Jennifer at Baie de St. Jean
Right at the end of the landing strip, unfortunately there had to be people on this beach . . .
was most undoubtedly "mademoiselle" and not "madame". That was okay until Claude decided he was going to show Jennifer how to dive one on one and grabbed her by the hand and pulled her effortlessly around the reef as Manny furiously swam behind them trying to keep up. After being set back $150 for the great experience Manny got to dole out another $100 at the island's urgent care center due to overexertion of his diaphragm. Take his word for it, there is nothing worse than that.
The Last Night
The top memory of the trip happened on the last night as Jennifer and I were relaxing in the pool after dinner in Gustavia. I was talking hotels with Co' as I had just started as Asst General Manager at the Crowne Plaza and was somewhat still dillusionally proud of the place and the fact that I worked for those jerks at Tecton.
I asked him to bring a wine list so we could enjoy some Cognac or Port. When he returned he told me that we could have any champagne on the list on him. I looked at the list with prices going from $75 to
1 Hour Later . . .
. . . in the Centre d'Urgences with some crazy lady yelling at the top of her lungs for no apparent reason.
$350 and told him I just couldn't pick myself. So he said he would pick and he returned with a bottle of Roederer Cristal 1994. The $350 bottle of course. So Jennifer and I were pretty drunk already from two wine bottles with dinner but there was no way this thing was going to waste and so we drank the whole thing right there. Embarassingly I can't quite tell you if it was all that good or not, but it was certainly worth the price. :-)
On the other hand, my being a cynic, we paid for the thing one way or another (he did get a $50 tip), considering we were one of two booked rooms in the hotel, and seeing as how the other couple was behaving, I am certain I did not do enough negotiation when booking the package.
All in all, having seen the Eden Roc, the Guanahani, and other well-rated hotels on the island, Le Manapany was the right choice for us. It's only short-coming was that l'Anse des Cayes was not particularly nice, but that didn't matter when nicer ones were a short drive away. Plus, since the other hotels are on
Jennifer on Corossol
Again, I think this may have been the last night. Jennifer wanted to squeeze in one more visit to a beach.
nicer beaches, people there have a tendency to stay there and stay away from the nicest beaches in their own self-satisfaction . . . which was good for us.