Insiders View A First Visit To St. Barts
For those visiting this site who are contemplating going to St. Barths (also referred to as St. Barths, St. Barth or St. Barthélemy),
located in the French West Indies, for the first time or for regular St. Barths visitors who cannot read too much about this little
Caribbean island, we have included a somewhat impressionistic and admittedly highly personal description of St. Barths as we have experienced it.
If you are planning your first trip, we recommend that you also read through the posts on our St barts discussion forums
-- not only for the helpful
tips and insights you will find there but also to appreciate the kind of passion St. Barths inspires which is unique in our experience.
Why this outpouring of affection for and devotion to St. Barths?
To us, it arises from the happy balance of all of the ingredients necessary for a perfect Caribbean vacation (or life for that matter!) that the island
possesses. The people are sophisticated yet very friendly and down-to-earth. The shops and hotels run the gamut from simple to world class, but the
cleanliness and quality of service are uniformly excellent.The food, whether consumed in restaurants of all price levels or purchased from numerous
shops scattered throughout the island, is the equivalent of and frequently far superior to the very best food available in the best restaurants in
the largest cites in the United States.The climate is ideal with daily air temperatures varying only between 82 and 85 degrees throughout the
year (evenings are in the 70's), and water temperatures ranging from 79 to 82 degrees.
The physical appearance of St. Barths is breathtaking, comprised of a number of volcanic peaks which guaranty fabulous vistas both day and
night and ringed by Caribbean waters of an almost unbelievable azure and a dazzling variety of beaches (sand, shell and stone) which are almost all undeveloped.
Of course, the most gorgeous mountains and Caribbean beaches and the best restaurants in the world would mean nothing were it not for the residents
of St. Barths who are unfailingly polite and pleasant to be around. To quote Julia Robert's description of George Clooney, they are “charm
monsters” not only because of their very good looks but also because they embody both the very best of French culture together with the mellow,
laid back style of “the Little Latitudes.” Most of the people we have met on St. Barths have moved to the Caribbean from someplace else
and are there not only because of the beauty of the place but also because they want to live by a different
set of rules. It is no easy task to provide service and meals at the most exacting standards while at the same time not taking oneself or life too
seriously, but the people of St. Barths manage this feat. If only we Americans could learn how to follow their example.
A personal anecdote may help to explain what makes St. Barths people so special. On a trip to the island many Decembers ago, my wife had the
misfortune of breaking her collarbone in very rough surf at Saline Beach. (Depending upon the time of year, the waves at Saline are normally quite
manageable and at times even nonexistent but December is the tail end
of the Hurricane season and can produce some sporty conditions on the windward side of the island. Go to Lorient Beach any time of year if you
prefer calm waters). We somehow managed the long hike back to our jeep (my back had conveniently chosen this opportunity to go out of whack as
well) and returned to our hotel, Francois Plantation, not knowing what to do. We first called the U.S. thinking that we would have to immediately
make arrangements to fly home for treatment. Our doctors informed us that there was nothing complicated about dealing with broken collarbones and
recommended that we see a doctor on the island. The hotel couldn’t have been more helpful and called ahead to make arrangements in the emergency
room of the local hospital. When we arrived, we were taken immediately
into a spotless examination room where x-rays confirmed what we both already knew. The doctor carefully set my wife’ collarbone in a harness and sling of
some sort and politely asked if we would mind stopping by
the local pharmacy before we left the island to pick up a replacement harness as it was his last one. He wrote out a prescription for pain killers
and then presented us with our bill which we thought was for $300 (which we would gladly have paid) but turned out to be only for 300 francs. He
and his assistant were highly amused that we would ever think that an emergency room visit with x-rays could cost anywhere near $300.
When we returned to our hotel, dinner was waiting in our room. Before we left the island, the hotel gave us an excellent bottle of wine from
their cellar to compensate for the fact that we had to miss a sailing
trip which was part of the package for the week. Wherever we ate out from
that point forward, the waitstaff at various restaurants were extremely solicitous about my wife's condition giving her the best chair or
retrieving pillows to place behind her shoulders to make her feel comfortable. At Le Tamarin (the old Le Tamarin before the fashion shows arrived), one
of the waitresses brought a rotating magnet to our table after lunch and spun it all around my wife's shoulders to make the pain go away.
Thanks to such acts of compassion and hospitality (augmented no doubt by a bottle of wine at lunch and dinner and rhum punch at sunset to say
nothing of the superlative French drugs), our vacation was saved, and our love affair with St. Barths began.