Hôtel Le Toiny is a Relais & Chateaux property on a secluded part of the well-heeled island of St. Barthelemy in the French West Indies.
We happened to arrive just as Tropical Storm Irene rolled in, so when it was time to head out for my spa appointment, I donned my Le Toiny flip-flops and wrapped myself with a beach towel. The umbrella provided in the villa was useless against the wind gusts, so I tightened my floppy sun hat tight around my head for some protection. I briefly made my way from our villa along the roadway then up a long set of stairs to reach the little cottage that houses the spa not far from reception and the fabulous Gaïac Restaurant.
I have to say my first impression was, "hmm, mighty small." The Serenity Spa Cottage is one room with a tiny courtyard out front. Inside is the massage table to one side, (shown) a sink, some products on a tall display case, and in one corner, a drape covers a little changing area holding lightweight spa robes. There’s no bathroom (that’s a few more steps up toward reception – the restroom for the pool area).
Once inside, my therapist Simon explained my facial and all of the products he would be using from the Ligne St. Barth spa line. He had everything ready.
As I settled in on the massage bed, the wind howled and whipped outside, rattling the building from time to time, a little reminder that Mother Nature rules even in paradise.
Despite the storm and the property’s countdown to hiatus, I must say that my therapist took it all in stride giving me his full attention and a wonderful hour of tranquility, yes serenity.
Once Simon got my treatment under way, I forgot about everything. And now, looking back, I realize for a property this size, the spa cottage size is just fine.
“We are going to use the best products,” my therapist Simon announced. (See the podcast for his explanation.) “We are going to start you with cleansing milk and then we'll use a tonic, a melon tonic, and then I'm going to use the papaya peel for the face, and then I’m also going to use ... a firming gel and (a product) with camphor and menthol for your chest, and then for your face, for the massage, I will use mango butter cream, avocado oil and also mint."
Asking for more details about the products, I learned that the melon tonic, which I especially loved for its lightness and aroma, is great to add to your beach bag to refresh the skin. It’s made from pure melon, natural flowers and plants, plus fresh mint.
The camphor and menthol relaxing oil is very good for sore muscles; seniors can use it to ease arthritis pain.
The facial papaya cream also just won a spa award in Europe thanks to its ingredients that not only shed dead skin cells but also help regenerate them.
The skin line features two types of facial masks, both using pure clay; one mask is anti-inflammatory and very hydrating – perfect for my rosacea skin — while the other is for more oily skin.
Simon promised there’d also be a chest massage and face massage, after which, he said: “I will apply a masque - it's a pink clay masque with pineapple. Then I will remove your masque and again, a little massage, I'm going to apply mango butter cream for your face. Very relaxing," he proclaimed with a big smile.
For the next hour I turned myself over to the magic of the island’s all natural products and Simon’s experienced hands.
My spa confirmation note said this spa uses Ligne St. Barth, “an exquisite line of local spa products featuring exotic oils and fragrances of the Caribbean Islands” including extracts of pineapple, papaya, melon, passion fruit and mango.”
Now, having sampled them myself, I have to say they smell terrific, feel very pure and are, well, nothing short of wonderful. The hype was warranted: My one-hour Pureness Facial was delightful, relaxing and so good for my face.
My only disappointment was that at checkout, when I wanted to purchase some of the products at reception, the stock was low since they were closing for a month.
I didn’t realize until I was home that I could have purchased the products right there on the island. (In my defense, we were departing the next morning and all day there had been that tropical storm, so even if I’d known, I doubt I would have been able to visit the plant where these products are made on the island.)
Once home, I talked by phone with Christine Lecorre, Ligne St. Barth’s business development head for the U.S. “This is just great,” she said when I told her how much I’d loved all the facial products. “It's all natural ingredients,” she explained, quickly noting these products are “the island's only manufacturing endeavor. We import plants and flowers from the Caribbean, so it's all regional ingredients. And it’s all produced in St. Barth’s plant with pharmaceutical standards. Our scientific director is working with the Health Director in France.
“It’s just very well done, regulated and with high quality control.” One fact she’s proud to explain is that all the products are registered with the U.S.’s Federal Drug Administration (FDA), which is not the case for a lot of skin care products. They are PABA free, not tested on animals and approved by dermatologists.
Would you like clams with that?
As I reviewed the spa materials further at Le Toiny, I came across this intriguing take on the old Hot Stone approach to massage – how about clams?
Called Ligne St. Barth Chill Out, the massage features Tiger stripped clam shells along with warmed cold-pressed Ligne St. Barth avocado oil.
Beforehand, the smooth, hand-polished clams are filled with a natural, self-heating mineral mixture from the sea containing both algae and seaweed. The moisturizing, vitamin-rich avocado oil is then warmed. After a St. Barth “Ouanalao” opening ceremony, the slick shells are used on the skin in stroking movements, combining manual massage techniques with the subtle fragrance of the oil.
Ms. Lecorre explained, “A precisely trained sequence and harmonious interplay with the shells ensures that the temperature remains constant during the treatment and that the massage flow does not have to be interrupted.”
For islanders, round clams are a routine menu items. Clamshells that were previously tossed in the garbage are now collected, precisely selected, polished by hand and treated to give them a completely smooth, gentle surface. Added bonus: these clams consist of the same calcium carbonate as human bones and teeth. The warmth releases the clamshells’ valuable calcium ions, and these are transferred to the skin during the massage, said Ms. Lecorre.
“This stimulates skin renewal. The result is a noticeably firmer and healthier skin texture.”
“Ligne St. Barth means increased moisture level. When you use these products, they have high hydrating properties. I use the products. I use it each day by the way - the advocado oil. You add some drops in your regular body lotion. It’s very good to apply on your body for very soft skin that looks young.”
And, it can extend your tan up to four weeks more, she says. Seems that’s another good beach bag item for my next trip to St. Barth’s.
For more on Ligne St Barth spa products, visit www.lignestbarth.com. The company's two St. Barth island shops are open November through May, Monday-Saturday, and June-October: Monday-Friday and half-days Saturdays. Call for hours: 05 90 27 82 63
For more on Le Toiny, including booking your spa appointments here, visit letoiny.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-680-0832. After its usual fall closure, the property reopens for another season on October 28, 2011.
About St. Barthelemy
After David Rockefeller bought a property here in 1957, this little island of eight square miles quickly grew into an upscale tourist destination. Today, distinctly French in feel, it remains a chic but casual hideaway with many villas and hotels welcoming French and other visitors (about 200,000 a year).
There are beautiful beaches, plenty of watersports, plus wining and dining in the island’s varied restaurants, shopping in Gustavia’s trendy boutiques, and a variety of cultural events year-round.
Warm Caribbean temperatures vary just slightly from 86° in the summer, (July/August highs of 90°) to just 80° in the winter. Summer ocean temperatures can reach as high as 84°.
If You’re Going: St. Barthélemy lies about 150 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the French West Indies. Flight by small plane, like St. Barth Commuter and Winair, arrive from St. Martin, Anguilla or San Juan. The island is also accessible by 45- to 90-minute ferry from St. Martin.
For additional island information, visit www.saintbarth-tourisme.com.