Even if the fairy-tale notion of the knight in shining armor is just that—a fairy tale—perhaps another part of that fantasy may yet exist: the mythic white horse. In fact, it does—and it’s both gallant and Gallic, going by the name of Cheval Blanc.
Set on Flamands Bay, widely regarded as Saint-Barthélemy’s finest beach, Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France is the third property in the Cheval Blanc collection, under the umbrella of the French luxury consortium LVMH. On an island that is synonymous with luxury itself, it’s saying something to call this resort the chicest of the lot, but in doing some research by way of a quick poll before my trip, friends and colleagues independently agreed that it is—and it’s hard not to concur.
Had I known sooner about this white horse, I never would have waited so long to visit. I was happy my research led me to bypass a commercial flight (which typically involves a customs bottleneck in St. Maarten), and instead flew in via the hassle-free San Juan airport, where I connected to a small private charter in the form of a Pilatus PC-12 from Tradewind Aviation. Once on the ground (yes, the nosedive descent into Rémy De Haenen airport is as harrowing and thrilling as it has been described), a member of the Cheval Blanc team escorted me to the resort, a mere 10 minutes away. The property prides itself on its highly personalized approach to the art de recevoir (the art of receiving guests), and this was apparent from the moment general manager Christelle Hilpron, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a circa-1970 sun-kissed Lee Radziwill, greeted me with the sort of warm French flair you find along the Côte d’Azur. I felt as if I had arrived where I was always meant to be.
Cheval Blanc is not far from anything on this enchanting island of eight square miles, and you should definitely delight in the charm and shopping of downtown Gustavia, or a trip to one of the other beaches like Colombier or Gouverneur, or a day-long private catamaran tour led by a Cheval Blanc major-domo. But the true magic of staying here are all the indulgent touches right at home. The line between outdoors and in is blurred by the open West Indies architecture. A recent renovation by Bee Osborn lends a sense of understated sophistication, set off by a delicate color scheme: blush pinks and dusty dove grays everywhere. That art of receiving guests is renewed each and every day: from bedtime elixirs on the nightstand, to small daily packages (a handsome gray beach bag one morning, a stylish beach blanket the next); from pillow mists with the house’s signature scent—Tropical Chic—to what are decidedly the best bedroom slippers I’ve ever slid into (silky yet sturdy in those same elegant shades of blush and gray). The LVMH connection means Ruinart Champagne flows here like sparkling water at other hotels, and the Cheval Blanc Spa lays claim to the only Guerlain outpost in the Caribbean (don’t forego a signature cooling facial with deep-tissue massage). At night, you could have fun at any of the boisterous boîtes in town, but I was just as happy here with the cuisine and ocean views at La Case de l’Isle—or keeping my toes in the cool night sand at La Cabane de l’Isle.
As it came time to leave, I didn’t want my séjour to end (an off-season trip is wonderfully private), which is why I was happy to suffer some travel hiccups that delayed my departure. Not to worry: it meant one more casual meal at the poolside White Bar before Tradewind Aviation summoned a plane and a pilot just for me, giving the run of a private aircraft all to myself. Turns out it’s easy to forget that knight in shining armor: there’s an even more unforgettable legend, and it’s called Cheval Blanc