BAREFOOT LUXURY

BAREFOOT LUXURY

The ocean view from Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf

Let’s face it: St. Barts is an insider’s destination. These days, the celeb hideaway is more popular than ever, according to our intrepid global reporter, Kristen O’Brien, who recently dropped into Le Carl Gustaf, part of the Hotel Barrière Group, to experience the best that luxe beach life has to offer.  

Photography courtesy of Le Carl Gustaf, part of the Hotel Barriere Group

The beach at Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf

BEACH PARADISE

The prop plane pitched to the right, then to the left, bucking and rolling over the wind currents as we made our descent, but first we had to clear a mountain range, followed by a sudden drop in altitude, before the plane could hit the runway at a great speed and pull to a stop before ending up in the azure-colored bay at the end of the 2,100-foot runway. Most runways are between 8,000 and 13,000 feet long for comparison, so landing safely was a welcome end to the beginning of my adventure.  Welcome to Saint Barthélemy, aka St. Barts or, à la française, St. Barth. Personally, I thought the landing at Gustaf III Airport was exhilarating, but then again, I’ve always loved roller coasters. For a less dramatic arrival one can take the ferry from St. Maarten, usually a 45-minute ride, give or take some choppy waters. St. Barts is not easy to get to, yet certainly that is part of its allure and mystique.

Seeking some R&R, with ample beach time and sun, and a dash of glitz and glamour, I set my sights on St. Barts recently for four nights and it did not disappoint. The “season” on the island is a long one, from early November until the end of August, when most hotels shutter for the hurricane season. By the time I arrived, the eight-mile island was starting to pick up steam, but the height of the season is between Thanksgiving and the New Year when the population of almost 10,000 grows to include a who’s who of monied and well-heeled globe trotters and their yachts on display in Gustavia’s harbor.

The view from Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf

The island’s capital is named for King Gustav III of Sweden as the island belonged to Sweden from 1784 until 1878 when it was sold to France. Historically, the first jet setters arrived in the late 1960s when the Rockefellers and Rothschilds started to frequent the island and build homes. Those in the arts soon followed, with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev as early devotees, and Hollywood celebrities like Steve Martin and Chevy Chase, and musicians like Jimmy Buffett discovered the allure of paradise. Today there are too many A-listers who frequent the island to mention.

As a guest of the five-étoiles, Le Carl Gustaf, part of the Hotel Barrière Group, I was warmly welcomed to the property nestled in the foothills overlooking Gustavia with a glass of champagne and a Carl Gustaf fan. The panoramic view immediately took my breath away as the sun set over a series of mountains rising out of the Caribbean Ocean, the red tiled roofs and colonial buildings of Gustavia, the marina with super yachts, lush palm trees and frangipanis. After a ridiculously early start and an almost twelve-hour journey from Texas, I felt like I had arrived in heaven.

CHIC DESIGN

Fouquets at Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf

Designed by renowned French firm Gilles & Boissier, Le Carl Gustaf exudes luxury, elegance, and French-style charm throughout its 21 rooms, suites, and bungalows that all face the ocean. The bungalows come with plunge pools, and the 5-bedrrom Villa Diane comes with a private chef and butler. The colonial style Carl Gustaf was built in the 1970s and purchased by the Barrière Group in 2016. With a roster of luxury properties all over France, including Cannes and Courchevel as well as Marrakech, and the recently opened Hotel Fouquet’s in New York, this was their first venture into the Caribbean. Renovations had to be halted in 2017 due to Hurricane Irma and therefore it wasn’t until late 2020 that they finally reopened. The hotel has a chic, French ambiance, yet also fits in with the laid-back atmosphere of the island while still offering all the necessities and luxury one could desire. Pricing for the villa starts at just under $19,000 per night and for the other accommodations, there are some rooms available during the low season for $781 a night.

After settling into the beautifully appointed bungalow and catching the final rays of sunlight dipping behind the islands in the distance, I made my way up the steps to Fouquet’s to discover the cuisine created by three-star Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire, a mélange of traditional French cuisine with Caribbean accents. The restaurant is mostly open air with wooden floors and wicker furniture, a Caribbean house with Riviera accents, so one is always enjoying the view of twinkling lights below in Gustavia, and the warm tropical breeze tousling my hair. I was keen to try Fouquet’s signature cocktails by Emanuele Balestra created with specialty edible scents from his “Bar A Parfums.” I ordered the “Daiqui Jasmin” with Havana rum, fresh squeezed lime juice, and jasmine scent which was lightly sprayed on my wrists and then in my glass to ensure a complete olfactory experience.

Fouquet’s at Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf 

The consumable scents such as “Mandarine & Lavande,” or “Pamplemousse Jaune & Mimosa & Pelarconium Rosat” are elegantly displayed in a box on the bar. Balestra is the “King of the Aromatic Cocktail” and holds court at the Bar Galerie Le Fouquet’s at Le Majestic in Cannes. Balestra creates his palette of flavors in the form of extracts and changes them up depending on the season. For dinner I ordered a Périgord black truffle rigatoni with parmesan while my guest ordered the local catch which was prepared and deboned in the usual French Guéridon service style. The sommelier took great care of us, recommending wines to accompany each dish. I did forgo the trolley of mature French cheeses opting instead for the Crêpes Suzette, also prepared like the fish, “à table” with great panache and showmanship. The dining experience encapsulated all the elegance of a top French brasserie with the welcoming casual simplicity of the Caribbean.

Breakfast at Fouquet’s

ON THE GO

What’s wonderful at the Carl Gustaf is that you really don’t need a car and can walk to most of the places you’d want to go…a fabulous beach restaurant and club at Shell Beach, the cute boutiques and haute couture shops of Gustavia, the trendy bars and other incredible restaurants like Bonito, Bagatelle, and Orega, are all walkable, if you don’t mind climbing down a steep hill…and up again. The hotel does provide electric bicycles for their guests, as well as offering car service to the ferry or airport, and the stellar concierge team can organize taxis to other destinations on the island. On the first day I had a reservation at Shellona, the private beach club and Greek restaurant on Shell Beach, a quick five-minute walk from the hotel and where guests can easily get a day bed and soak up the sun, enjoy an Aperol, mix with interesting people from around the globe, and watch one of the best sunsets on the island. Like most of the beach restaurants on St. Barts, and there are 22 beaches on the island, there is  usually a DJ on site creating a carefree party vibe similar to Ibiza or Mykonos.

A guest room at Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf

Another key benefit of staying at the Carl Gustaf? All the pampering and treatments you can dream of on site at the Spa Diane Barrière which offers multi-sensory and bespoke holistic treatments, facials, mani-pedis and tailored massage in three massage rooms as well as a fitness and yoga studio. I signed up for a massage and after an hour of bliss and relaxation. I had to purchase the Biologique Recherche lotion that was used because my skin felt so smooth, and I loved the earthy scent. The Spa also carries the local brand, Ligne St. Barth, as well as selling chic swimwear and beach attire. Other activities that the hotel offers or can coordinate besides the electric bikes and aqua bikes include organizing a Catamaran sailing excursion, water sports, hiking tours, picnics, and fishing.

 

Shell Beach has the best sunsets on the island. And Aperol Spritz. Photo courtesy of Kristen O’ Brien

When I wasn’t relaxing at Shell Beach, on my own spacious balcony with the plunge pool, or at the spa, I ventured into Gustavia for shopping at Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada and adorable local boutiques like Poupette, Lolita Jaca and Sea Memory. I had some memorable meals at L’atelier De Joel Robuchon and L’Isoletta…and people watching at Bar L’Oubli. I also planned an excursion with the help of the concierge team to Eden Roc for dinner and to experience more of a party atmosphere. I appreciated that my hotel was more tranquil and not party central.

I do wish I had explored St. Barts more. After all, there are 40 quartiers to discover and so many places to swim, snorkel, hike, eat and dance the night away. But I was so happy with my stunning hotel and all that it offered; it was hard to stray too far. Next time I will plan to stay longer, but for now, I can still feel the warm Caribbean breezes, see the stunning water, islands, and mountains, as well as the colorful Caribbean buildings dotted with Swedish architecture and churches, and hear the bleating of the cabris, the church bells ringing, the mourning doves singing and by nightfall, the katydids. St. Barts is a magical place that enchants the senses, luxurious but understated although there is nothing understated in its stunning beauty and impeccable hospitality.

Nothing beats the view from the private Villa Diane. Photo courtesy of Kristen O’Brien

R.S.V.P HOUSTON      SANTA’S LITTLE HELPERS

R.S.V.P HOUSTON SANTA’S LITTLE HELPERS

Paige Fertitta, Santa, Patsy Fourticq and Greg Fourticq

Sixteenth Annual Santa’s Elves Event Benefits The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital

By Jennifer Roosth         Photography courtesy of The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital

Tilman Fertitta and Blayne Fertitta

A festive group of Houstonian holiday partiers, more than 350 in attendance, got in the holiday spirit for the 16th annual Santa’s Elves party benefiting The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. In fact, it’s the first in-person Santa’s Elves since 2019.

Nick and Angeliki Vrakas & Michael Fertitta

Of course, Santa Claus himself was in attendance as well as event’s founders, Patsy Fourticq and Gregory Fourticq, Jr., and the entire Tilman Fertitta family. The Fertitta children, Michael, Patrick, Blayne, and Blake, took the stage to welcome MD Anderson Cancer Center and guests as part of the welcome.

Neera Patidar and Amanda Abiassi

Guests grazed on a massive charcuterie board complete with all the accoutrement before moving onto to a buffet of BBQ shrimp, decadent macaroni and cheese, Chicken a la Paige, roasted vegetables, and more. Festive Christmas trees and garland dotted the entry way and carried guests through the living room and kitchen, then out onto the Fertitta’s massive outdoor entertaining space.

Gregg Harrison and Jennifer Roosth

The entertainment? The Houston Children’s Chorus sang Christmas carols on stage while guests mingled and stopped by the Galleria Giving Tree. The evening wasn’t complete without a signature Fertitta Christmas cookie. It was a wonderful evening a great time to reconnect with MD Anderson supporters. The event raised nearly $130,000 for this very worthwhile cause.

 

Hallie Vanderhider and Santa

 

 

 

R.S.V.P. HOUSTON       A CENTURY OF PROGRESS

R.S.V.P. HOUSTON A CENTURY OF PROGRESS

Eduardo and Maria Morales, Dierks Bentley, Valentina Morales & Victoria Morales

Shriners Hospital Houston 100th Anniversary With Performer Dierks Bentley

By Jennifer Roosth    Photography by Wilson Parish and Jacob Power

Lisa Rydman Lindsey and Eric Lindsey

The Minute Maid Park crowd of a thousand guests were dancing, laughing, applauding, and celebrating in support of Shriners Children’s Celebration of the Century, 100 Years of Care event. Chairpersons Maria and Eduardo Morales were applauded along with the Host Committee members, for the success of the evening that raised over $1.5 million (with donations still coming in for the event).

Kenny and JJ Craven

Chairman of the Board of Directors Kenny Craven, and his wife Jennifer Craven, greeted everyone and thanked sponsors for supporting the organization that helps ensure children the world over will receive excellent specialty medical care. The entire evening on the floor of the stadium was filled with high energy. Adding to the fun were guests taking pictures in the dugout with freshly-won World Series signs above them.

Rania Edlebi and Elia Gabbanelli

Testimonials from parents and families that personally experienced the impact of programs and treatments delivered by Shriners Children’s touched the crowd. Shriners has treated more than 1.5 million children since 1922, and their dedication to changing and improving lives is a commitment they will continue for the next 100 years. The Cowboy Auctioneers took over for the appeal and live auction which had paddles flying high.

Sean and Cheryl Stanko & Megan and Adam Rowe

Then, the highlight of the night was a special performance by acclaimed multi-platinum entertainer singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley. The guests surrounded the stage signing along, dancing and sheering to each song he played. Departing guests received a sweet special treat: a cowboy hat-shaped chocolate. The Centennial sponsors were Mexcor, Specs and others.

 

R.S.V.P. HOUSTON      ALWAYS A TEACHABLE MOMENT

R.S.V.P. HOUSTON ALWAYS A TEACHABLE MOMENT

Mike and Carol Linn, Susan Sarofim, Alvin Abraham, Cody Johnson & DeeDee and Wallis Marsh

Grand Champions For TEACH Wrangles Big Win for To Educate All Children (TEACH)

By Jennifer Roosth                Photography by Priscilla Dickson, Daniel Ortiz and Jacob Power

Tim and Tammy Andreas & Donna and Norman Lewis

Applause, Applause…for Grand Champions for TEACH! The annual fundraising event celebrated its 10th year with more than 700 guests packed into the ballroom at The Post Oak helping raise a record-breaking $1.9 million to advance To Educate All Children (TEACH)’s mission of creating positive learning environments for all children.

Shaun and Natalie Hodge

The Texas-chic-themed gala had everyone decked out with boots and bling to support TEACH, the locally based independent nonprofit that works with more than 1,800 educators and serves more than 20,000 children. Wildflower arrangements upon all the tables, along with murals from the legendary Gruene Hall and Luckenbach, were the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities. An intimate concert by award-winning country-music superstar Cody Johnson had supporters singing along and tapping their boots. A short interview, led by event Co-chair Wallis Marsh, showcased some of Johnson’s career, which has included competing on the rodeo circuit as a bull rider. A standing ovation at the end of his performance capped the night.

Brady and Zane Caruth

Co-founders Susan D. Sarofim and Mary Yenik and Co-chairs DeeDee and Wallis Marsh and Carol and Mike Linn were cheering to the event’s huge success. The organization will net the entire amount raised, thanks to the late Fayez Sarofim, a generous, long-time TEACH supporter, who underwrote the entire event with a surprise check received the week after he passed away.

Kristina Somerville, Cody Johnson and Paul Somerville

This year’s event honoree was the Houston Livestock and Show and Rodeo, which for more than 90 years has been an ardent supporter of public education in Houston. Brady Carruth, chairman of the board, and Chris Boleman, president and CEO, accepted the honor on behalf of the organization, which also received the inaugural annual Fayez Sarofim Champion for TEACH 2022 award. A fast-paced video on the rodeo garnered more applause to complete this festive evening.

 

HOLIDAY GLAM

HOLIDAY GLAM

Dr. Robert Hilliard, Jr., Chree Boydstun, Mary Patton and Milton Townsend

Legacy Community Health Annual “Holiday Schmooze”

By Jennifer Roosth   Photography by Killy Chavez

David LaDuke, Bonnie and Rob Lloyd, Allison Thigpen, Chree Boydstun and Gary Hammett

Houston’s unpredictable weather didn’t dampen the holiday spirit of the 150 revelers who came out to mix and mingle at Holiday SCHMOOZE.  Leading the helm of this soiree were co-chairs Mary Patton and Milton Townsend, with Townsend graciously opened his beautifully decorated home for this magical event benefiting The Jackson Hicks Endowed Fund for the Awareness, Prevention, and Treatment of HIV/AIDS at Legacy Community Health.

Eric Van Haselen, Steve Pate, Tylor Hearn and Gerry Heard

George Lancaster and Phoebe Tudor

The glam squad crowd was treated to a winter wonderland with holiday trees decorated by the co-chair duo, and spectacular floral arrangements that were created by Rebekah Johnson of Bergner & Johnson Design. The festive crowd were greeted to flavorful cocktails upon arrival and enjoyed light bites created by Jackson and Company. Bonnie and Rob Lloyd of Lloyd Wines graciously provided flavorful selections from their winery.

Tarek El-Bjeirmi, Ceron and Shannon Hall

SCHMOOZIN’ and celebrating the season were Legacy Community Health Chief Development Officer Chree Boydstun, Legacy Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Hilliard and Greg Fown, Legacy Chief of Staff Benjamin Stewart, Legacy Chief of Population Health Dr. Vernicka Sales, Legacy Chief of Clinical Services Dr. Vian Nguyen, Chief Information Officer David Chou, Ben Patton, Gary Hammett and David LaDuke, Mike Holloman and Juan Querol, Bryan Hlavinka, Naveen Pinglay and Lynn Nazareth, George Hawkins, Phoebe Tudor, Courtney Hopson, Kari Findley, Mary Ann and David McKeithan, Kashay and Steve Crawford, Shannon Hall, Tripp Carter, Nancy Allen, Gerry Heard and Tylor Hearn, Shannon Hall, Sharon Land, Linda Cantu, Hani Barazi and Serene Wafai, Cathy Easter, Melissa and Michael Mithoff, Steve Pate and Eric Van Haselen among many others.

Trent Hrncir and Courtney Hopson

MIchael and Melissa Mithoff

RISING & SHINING

RISING & SHINING

Katie Perez, Hannah Bricker, Kaity Bonville, Grace Verslues and Taylor Blackburn

Rise School Austin Hosts Annual Shine for Rise Gala on the University of Texas at Austin Campus

By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Keira Hand

Jamie Lipp, Chris Rapp, Drew and Sarah Gibbs & Elisha Rapp

THE SETTING: The Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on the University of Texas campus in Austin was the recent setting for annual Shine for Rise event. The event drew over 300 of Austin’s most notable sociables, educators and philanthropists for an evening of fun and fundraising.

Lutie Butler and Nicole Grupp

THE STYLE: The cowboy-chic crowd began the evening on the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center patio for a lively cocktail hour. Partygoers sipped on their favorite spirits while perusing a well-curated list of silent auction package that had something for everyone. Additionally, guests were spotted playing a wine toss game, where revelers who successfully threw a ring around a bottle of spirits receiving a libation as a takeaway item for the evening. All this was done against the backdrop of live music courtesy of Band of Bandits.

Brandon and Natalie Melendez & Bob Woody

The festivities then continued in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center for the main program. While dining on a delicious, multi-course meal, guests were treated to a series of heartwarming testimonials showcasing how the Rise School has positively impacted so many young lives. Next came a live auction which included such impressive items as a private island in Belize and artwork created by Rise School students in a collaboration with Austin-based Artist Kelly Brynteson and was capped off with a Heads-or-Tails live auction with the lucky winner receiving a weekend for two at the Palmilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas.

Bill Bayless and Jennifer Beese

THE PURPOSE: The event raised over $645,000 for the Rise School of Austin. The Rise School provides inclusive learning for children ages 12 months to five years, has a 50% traditional and 50% developmentally delayed learning environment who 100% learn together to help all students succeed to their maximum potential. For more information, visit www.riseschoolaustin.org.

Corra Dunigan