Monday, August 20, 2007

Saint Barth's & Bella Vista Bed & Breakfast

Almost 20 years ago, J.D. & I were married. Looking at the pictures I see a couple of kids with a beat up old Ford Tempo and a two bedroom apartment. After our wedding reception, we took off in the old Ford to San Francisco to spend our first night at the Portman Hotel (now known as the Pan Pacific). If you haven’t stayed at this hotel, we highly recommend it, as one of the very best hotels in San Francisco, even to this day.

For the rest of our honeymoon, we flew out of the country to a little island in the French West Indies, called Saint Barthélemy. It was a little nerve wracking to fly in a little four-seater Piper plane over a large ocean and landing on a driveway on a small island. I guess it was the wedded bliss that veiled the fear of flying with a pilot who looked like Captain Bligh, hung over after a late night binge. He boarded us while carrying a steel case marked “Emergency tool kit” and we boarded the plane anyway. It was like being in a small sports car in the sky.

St. Barth’s is an island only realized in one’s dream. We had reservations at the Hotel Le Manapany, situated prettily on the north shore’s secluded Anse des Cayes. We had our own cottage and access to a private beach. I still don’t remember how we afforded it, but we had an excellent travel agent at the time. She put the whole deal in a honeymoon package that cost roughly $3,000 including airfare, meals and a Mini Moke car (think golf cart) which easily transported us around the small island paradise. Isle de St. Barthélemy is located in the northeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, 4400 miles from Paris, 1700 miles from New York, 125 miles east from Puerto Rico, and 15 miles southeast from St. Maarten. A little more than eight square miles, its steep hills divide the island into several valleys, usually open on one side to the sea. Each valley is distinctive, with unique variations of topography, flora, density of settlement, and character of architecture. I remember driving our Mini Moke up one peak where we noticed a yield sign for air craft coming over the hill into the airport.

Since the island was name for St. Barthelemy (St. Bartolomeo), the feast day celebration is a big deal August 24, so we were lucky to be around on that day. The French Navy also docks there on such occasions and you see them wander around the village, where natives and visitors come into contact daily. The native peoples resemble Dutch sheep herders. I know it all seems so surreal. The primary languages spoken on the island are French and English, although most residents come from France and Portugal. We spent ten days there absorbing the wonderful cuisine and people of St. Barth’s vowing that someday we would return.

For this nineteenth wedding anniversary, we opted for a local getaway that I wanted to share with readers as a beautiful way to celebrate a wedding anniversary or special birthday. Once you are there, you feel like you are truly “away” and we only traveled 20 minutes. Some wisdom just comes with age and experience.

Our destination was a new bed and breakfast that opened in Placerville off Cold Springs Road near Coloma. Bella Vista Bed & Breakfast sits on an oasis overlooking the Coloma valley on carefully landscaped grounds. The owners Bob & Kathleen Ash are the perfect hosts in a lovely home that they’ve created for their guests to enjoy. Just down the hill from Gold Hill and David Girard Wineries, this was a wonderful getaway that allowed us to feel as if we had gone away, much in the way we did for our honeymoon. Kathleen and Bob take very good care of their guests and treat them like family. Each room is tastefully decorated, with no detail left to chance. The evening wine and appetizers made us want to stay in for dinner.

The next day we took our whole family to brunch at Sequoia Restaurant, another local treasure situated in Placerville on Bee Street that boasts a lovely atmosphere in an old historic mansion and a chef who keeps the brunch and dinner menu very interesting and delicious.

You don’t have to fly out of the country to celebrate special occasions; sometimes the romance and the ambiance can be found in your own backyard! We wish Bob & Kathleen every success with Bella Vista; it’s truly a beautiful view and one of Placerville’s newest “hot spots”.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at

1 comment:

tom mcgowan said...

Happy Anniversary!!! Hootie Hoo!!