Header image  
"East best, home West"
   HOME Photos



Saint Barthélemy, or St-Barts as it is also known, was named after the brother of Christophe Columbus. It has belonged to the Knights of Malta and the Compagnie des îles, and was briefly ceded to Sweden (Gustavia has to be the perfect mixture of a Breton and a Swedish city). It has been ravaged by the Caribs and attacked by the British, but nowadays it is a peaceful haven for the rich. Rich with a big R-, as in Rockefeller, Rothschild…  So this is the impression of someone not belonging to this clan of exclusive holidaymakers.

On the spot

Curiosity brought me to Saint Barth, a 15 mn flight away from St Martin. The island is a French paradise in the Caribbean. It is totally safe; there is no crime whatsoever. It is densely built, with houses costing millions of euros to buy and very expensive to rent. The tourist population is mainly young and well off. The majority are French, although a big number is wealthy Americans with a sexy French accent. There is not a huge nightlife, despite of what your guides may indicate. And there are not so many fashion shops as I imagined (all the known fashion houses are concentrated in one street in Gustavia). You definitely need a car because there are no buses (they would not fit in anyway). Traffic jams are not rare but driving is very disciplined. There are a few taxis (Porsche Cayenne, BMW X3 and similar...). The roads are extremely narrow and there are bumpers everywhere.  Do not hire a big car to show-off, this is only going to be a burden. 

Life is very expensive, and again my guides were wrong. Prices are more expensive in France. You cannot have a cheap meal, and do not expect to find many snacks… There is practically no beach with a restaurant or a bar not belonging to a hotel where you can have a drink or a meal. You are welcome of course to any of them, but you pay hotel prices. There is no shade anywhere on any beach and all chairs are reserved for hotel residents, if there is one. The sun is relentless, but try to not rest your overheated body under a mancenillier (see what they look like) and move on… You quickly feel unwanted in St Barth, without anybody telling you so: the island functions in such a way that you need to belong somewhere to eat, to bathe, to commute and even to have social fun (once again, not for loners, St Barth). No place here for backpackers either. The best place I found for a quick, affordable and delicious snack was Chez Rolande, at the Anse des Flamands, and L’ ardoise at St Jean..

There are about 40 beaches, superbly clean all of them. The water is green and the sand is white. It is by times hard to find a parking place.  The good thing is there is not much sightseeing to do in St Barth and you can rest for the biggest part of the day without feeling necessarily like a beach bum.

The biggest attraction of the island for me was the airport and the landing. The corridor is almost hidden behind a hill and is extremely short (no international flights here). Upon arrival, the planes need to plunge, shaving the top of the hill, in what feels like a roller coaster ride, trying not to miss the corridor. If they do, a nice beach waits at the other end (see here what I mean…). I was wondering, when is one of them going to end up besides all these lovely ladies sipping cocktails at the other edge of the corridor: St Jean, the nearest popular beach, is the one you see at the end of the corridor on your right… See also this film about St Barth and St Martin airports (Nr 1 and 3!).


The postcards

The slideshow