I'm sitting at a table overlooking the reef surrounding On the Rocks. The restaurant is perched on a cliff that jetties out into St. Jean Bay, on the north side of the French West Indies island of St. Barts. Through the dusky light I look out over the water as a sea turtle bobs its head into view. A spray of cottages, lit from within, freckles the hillside in the distance. I feel as though I'm in a Parisian café as I dine on foie gras and grilled sole and sip pinot grigio. But I'm clad in a sundress and flipflops and cooled by the seaside breeze; my Caribbean locale is unmistakable. For dessert, passion-fruit soufflé: a symphony of tart fruit, light-as-air pastry and homemade banana sorbet dreamed up by chef Jean Claude Dufor, who, like so much of the feast, has been imported to the island from France.
In the morning as the sun climbs higher above me, I gaze out at St. Jean Bay, this time from eye level. Seizing the opportunity, I let the warm, turquoise water fill the crevices of my Proustian memory, savoring the soft sand between my toes and drifting through the waves, dipping my head below the surface. Through the clear water I spot a single, gray sandstone on the bare seafloor and pocket it -- a reminder to immerse myself in simplicity. Traces of my morning swim linger in my hair, which is still deliciously salty, and my skin is dusted with powdery, white sand as I amble past red-roofed shops and fashion boutiques in St. Jean. The strip of town just east of the resort is as quaint as the villages on European postcards. At a pine-floored shop with French music tinkling from a stereo, I stop -- this time to answer the call of the couture in the window -- but my excursion is quick. Back at Eden Rock, the sea still beckons.
Rates from $695. edenrockhotel.com
-- Adrienne Egolf
photo: Richard I'anson