I’ve just returned from a blissfully relaxing trip to the deep Caribbean. After the Christmas rush, my family annually escapes to the West Indies for a week of sailing, diving, and, with months-in-advance reservations in place, great food! As French and posh as ever, St. Bart’s seemed virtually unaffected by the unfavorable economic climate—with Microsoft magnate Paul Allen’s 416 foot mega-yacht Octopus in the lead, an unparalleled collection of pristine 150+ footers took up their usual spots on Gustavia’s glitzy dock.
That is, until a powerful tide and unforeseen surge forced the multimillion dollar vessels to leave their front-row seats on the flashy dock and retreat to the outer harbor (where our relatively diminutive sailboat lay), leaving the high-profile passengers to be shuttled in their heels and tuxes to the mainland in lieu of stepping right off their boat onto dry ground. A nice reminder that being on a boat does, in fact, involve being in contact with water!
While I love St. Bart’s for the beaches, restaurants, and distinctively French feel, I always get a little thrill from the inevitable celebrity sightings. On Saline beach I have been known to take an inordinate amount of sandy walks in the tracks of a black-Speedo clad Giorgio Armani, during a dinner at the waterfront, seafood-centric Maya’s I doled out jokes to my table-mates in a fantasy impromptu audition for SNL’s Lorne Michaels, sitting at a neighboring table, and I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off of the two twinkly-eyed mini-mes R&B singer Usher had in tow across the room.
Our second stop on the Leeward island of Anguilla was a more sobering experience: no big boats in the harbor, clapboarded restaurants and bars, and half-finished resorts tell of recession’s toll on this tourist-reliant spot. A stop at the newly opened Viceroy Anguilla suggested otherwise, however—overtaking a chunk of the island’s west end, the Kelly Wearstler-styled property is chic, airy, and undeniably luxe, with its floor-to-ceiling marble entryway, wealth of indigenous art, and a daybed-dotted poolside bar affording unobstructed, as-far-as-the-eye-can-see ocean views.
Another encouraging Anguilla experience came from a dinner at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Blanchards. Its simple, fresh, and wildly flavorful fare (the Caribbean sampler is best—crisp coconut lime mahi mahi, roasted Anguilla lobster and spicy jerk chicken with grilled cinnamon-rum bananas) and famous owners' hands-on approach (Bob and Melinda Blanchard, best-selling authors, are always milling about, making suggestions and signing their turquoise lifestyle and cookbooks), is enough to warrant a stop on this otherwise quiet isle. Katie Couric, who was sitting a table away from us, must have thought so too.
Sarah Storms is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.