Thursday, May 17, 2012

St. Barth’s

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his second voyage to the “new world,” Saint Barthelemy was named after Columbus’ younger brother, Bartholomew.  The Spanish considered the island worthless and left it for the British and French to squabble over.  Unlike other islands in the Caribbean there were no plantations on St. Barth’s because the island had no fresh water and little arable land.  In 1784 the island was ceded to Sweden.  France purchased the island in 1878, and it remains French to this day.  St. Barth’s residents recently participated in the French Presidential elections.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, St. Barth’s has no large cruise ship terminal, and therefore a limited number of tourists.  St. Barth’s has the reputation of being a playground for the rich and famous; note the private yacht above.  Reportedly Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn have a home on the island. 
We didn’t let St Barth’s reputation bother us; we pulled right into the center of harbor at Gustavia and took their bow and stern moorings.  The next day the Izzy R joined us.
For the really adventurous, there is turboprop air service to the island.
But, be prepared for an abbreviated roll out, because the runway is short and the overrun has limitations.
Appropriately there is a cross on the hill next to the airport’s wind sock.
Usually the first thing we do at a new island is breakout the fold up bicycles, but at St. Barth’s we decided our little one-speeds were no match for the terrain.
Kamikaze scooter riders are very prevalent on the island.  One passed us and then around the next curve/hill we found the scooter wedged into a car’s rear bumper and the rider sitting on the road with his bell severely rung.  Lucky for him they seem to enforce a helmet law.
Even though they drive on the right side, I found driving in St. Barth’s to be the most challenging of all of the islands so far.
Not sure what this sign was trying to tell me, but I am sure it is not good.
So, we gave up on the rental car and went back to our trusty dinghy for transportation.
Adequate dinghy parking was conveniently located around the harbor.
There seemed to be at least one boat of some sort for every island resident.
This one looks like it would be groovy to sail.
Maybe I am wrong, there seems to be one guy without a boat.
Exploring the streets of Gustavia, St. Barth’s main city on foot was fun.  Note the baguette in the backpack; we found the bakery.
Of course we had to visit the iconic Le Select, home of Cheeseburger in Paradise.
Urban legend has it that Jimmy Buffett wandered into Le Select and discovered they were claiming that Le Select was the inspiration for his song Cheeseburger in Paradise.  When confronted about this misrepresentation, the owner offered Jimmy a free bar tab for life in exchange.
Of course crêpes are readily available, even from street vendors.
This crêpe with cheese, ham, and an egg in the middle with the edges folded making a square was delicious.  We never did understand what they were calling this creation.
Food and lodging can be quite expensive on St. Barth’s.  Here I am looking at a menu that has a cheeseburger priced at 25 Euro (1.32 dollars to the Euro).  The service charge (tipping) is included in the price on French islands.  In the Bahamas and some other islands it is customary for the establishment to add a 15% service charge to the bill.  It is all very confusing especially for Americans that are use to tipping.  In St. Martin we noticed that there was no place on the credit card receipts to add a tip (because tipping is not customary).  When questioned, the owner said we could pay cash or he would add it to the bill for us.  Americans are so easy – oui? 

St. Barth’s has some great beaches.

But, don’t look too close as many of the beach goers are topless.
The interior of St. Barth’s was also very picturesque.  On many of the islands when you get away from the tourist attractions it can get very “rough;” 
But, not on St. Barth’s. 
While walking a trail to look at yet another beach;

We found the source for Beef Carpaccio.
Izzy and Jeff setting up their mooring lines for a graceful departure
Of all of the islands we have visited so far, St. Barth’s was the hardest to leave.

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