The flight from St. Martin to St Barth’s can drain the blood from the knuckles. The Twin Otter plane scuds awfully close to a couple of hills and dives onto the tarmac with a bounce. I arrived in paradise on a late October afternoon, just as the island completed its annual spit and polish in preparation for the winter tourist season. The next day, I woke up to white sunshine and fleshy clouds over the Baie de St. Jean, as calm as a lake, filled with preposterously green water the color of Scope mouthwash. Croissants were freshly scooped from a baking sheet at Carambole Pâtisserie and placed into a basket that was deposited on my patio. I grabbed one for a breakfast-to-go amble along one of the world’s most glamorous beaches. This pale comma of sand extends from Hotel les Ilets de la Plage, my home for the week, past the airport, ending at Eden Rock St. Barth’s, which claims its ever regal perch despite being under a clamor of cranes and scaffolding. In just four weeks, the hotel will reopen after two years of renovations. Even unfinished, it wears its allure in spectacular style.
It is the first day of the 2019–20 season at Les Ilets, and the hotel is bright with flowering frangipani and hibiscus trees. The French word is chaleureux,for warm and inviting, and this very intimacy makes this cluster of pristine villas along a quiet private road a case study in hurricane recovery, and a metaphor for the resilient island that it inhabits.