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Thread: Not a Trip Report

  1. #1
    bkeats is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2010 Nuevo York Posts: 773

    Not a Trip Report

    This isn’t a trip report, more some observations and musing on my part reflecting our trip. Please skip or ignore as appropriate.


    So we have returned from our first post Covid trip. Our trip started early one morning at JFK. While we were waiting in line to check in for our flight, we were behind a family with two small children, the youngest was an adorable little girl who might have been 3. She wanted to say hello to us but was too shy to say anything and so hid behind her older brother. As we boarded our flight to St Martin, we saw that the family was just a few rows behind us. An interesting coincidence I thought that the family would be on the same flight as us. Didn’t think much more than that.


    Once at SXM we went through the in transit line. Showed the EHAS and vax cards and were through in 5 minutes. Went to get our bags and head to Winair. Who do we see? That same little girl. I ask her are you following us? I think that’s the way you start a love affair with the island for the kids. Get them when they’re little. We are on the 2:55 flight and when we talk to the mother we find out they are on the 2:40 flight. The Winair counter team waves me over and reissues new boarding passes that has us also on the 2:40. Small jackpot as we will arrive 15 minutes earlier I think. As we are waiting to take off, we chat with another couple who are also making their first return trip since Covid. Everyone is eager to go, but this being the Caribbean the flight doesn’t leave until 3:00. We land and part ways with our new acquaintances.


    It was such a thrill to be back. I think this was the second time we have been in June. Felt a lot busier than the prior visit. The island was buzzing with activity. As others have noted, the traffic was heavy and trying to get parking in Gustavia was challenging. I would loop around waiting for something to open. Felt like hitting a mall the week before Christmas.


    We drove around to see what changes have happened the past two years. It’s clear a lot more money has flown into town. There’s more massive villas being built. The same hedge fund names I deal with IRL are here. The sand lot wrestling pit on St Jean is an eyesore waiting for a billionaire cage match to be resolved. The roads are in better shape but I think something has been lost on that stretch of Grand Fond. All the new walls are too perfect. As if the Disney imagineers have been let loose to create a fantasy version of the island.


    We went to lunch at Lil Rock. This isn’t the same place we discovered 3 years ago. Much more refined space. No longer looks like it would blow down in the next minor storm. No accras or simple grilled fish on the menu either. Everything was tasty and 50% higher in price but lacking the feel it used to have. Then I found out that it had been sold for a considerable sum and suddenly it made sense what happened.


    We went to Zion for dinner. The place looked the same but I noticed that the food had changed. When it used to be really good food that was well prepared, it now had that international modernist spin where it was beautiful but nothing was recognizable anymore. It could be served anywhere. Deconstructed and reconstructed. It was all good, but it no longer spoke to me of the island. I can get plenty of high end modern cuisine in NYC. I was disappointed by the meal as I had such different expectations for it. I felt it had lost something in its refinement.


    So the wife and I endeavored to eat more of our meals at place where there is less refinement and frankly fewer American tourists if that’s possible. I had a fabulous bit of mahi mahi mi-cuit at Le Jardin. The bavette with a sauce made from blue cheese at Bouchon was spectacular. Le Piment and Le Repaire were as reliable as ever. Cre’age for true creole food instead of what passes for Colombo at a €40 fare place. Lunch at Fish Corner has confirmed for me that the best local fish cooking on the island is happening here. Eddys was just so comforting despite the mosquitoes that turned us into an appetizer for them. Santa Fe is perhaps for us the pinnacle (literally and figuratively) of dining in the island. When we came, we were told they were out of mussels. I didn’t care as I had other things like chicken nems in mind.


    Does anyone else wonder why they’re flying mussels thousands of miles? In a world where people supposedly care about sustainability and local how does that work? When I think about some of the sushi that’s being served with some fish that’s from Japan, I wonder how it got here? A flight from Tokyo to Paris, then another from Paris to SXM to make another small hop to SBH? That piece of fish flew 10-12 thousand miles and gets more frequent flyer miles than I do. Seems crazy to do that. So I resolved to eat local fish, thon, mahi mahi, wahoo, langouste, chatrou. Had to break down on getting a bit of green stuff as that all seems to come from elsewhere. I know in a place like St Barts everything has to come from somewhere else, but I can at least make a decision not to encourage so much stuff coming half way around the world to be enjoyed in a 10 second bite. Yeah, yeah I know I had to fly there too but I can do what I can to minimize the impact in little ways. A guys has to go on vacation somewhere.


    I was waiting for Le Rivage to open and excited I would have the chance. When I saw the pictures and the menu, my heart sank. While it’s in the old Gloriette space, it’s not a successor for us. The setting and the menu could put it anywhere. Miami, St Tropez, Vegas frankly. It feels as though much of what is opening on the island is targeting not even the 1% but the .1% international set. I do fine, some would say even well. It’s not that I can’t afford these places, but the abundance of places like this show me how much has changed since we first came. We used to come to enjoy the beaches, the weather and the natural beauty in a different culture and have a casual meal where you could dig your toes in the sand or have a view of the car park and get far better food than what you would expect given the setting. Instead I feel as though it’s becoming a place where people come to put another notch in their dining belt of places they have been.


    You have to dig down to find as the inestimable Buffet called it the old St Barts. It’s still there. But you have to seek it out in places that might not have a great view or no view at all. The staff might not even speak good English. But it’s there and as long as I can find it I will keep coming despite the bling.


  2. #2
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 7,772

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    I'm appreciative of the time that you've taken to convey your assessments . . . and respect the kudos paid to time-tested and reliable venues. But am feeling that the "observations and musing" are dispiriting. I can't tell if you feel that the "glass is half empty, or half full." Nonetheless, I'll go with you on the thought that "the old St. Barths . . . is still there." My wife said nearly the same words in 2003 . . . twenty-five years after her first visit to the island. (Actually, what she said was, "if you go a block off of the main streets, the old St. Barths is still there.") The island has changed enormously in my 44 years of visiting it, but I still find it to be irreplaceable.

  3. #3
    Dennis is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Apr 2004 Austin, TX Posts: 10,243

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Well written, objective post.

  4. #4
    Mary Liz is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Apr 2011 Pittsburgh Posts: 30

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    We are on the same page.

  5. #5
    cassidain is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Ailleurs Posts: 8,375

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by bkeats View Post
    You have to dig down to find as the inestimable Buffet called it the old St Barts. It’s still there. But you have to seek it out in places that might not have a great view or no view at all. The staff might not even speak good English. But it’s there and as long as I can find it I will keep coming despite the bling.
    that's the spirit ! for me, I prefer the staff speak no English

    btw why is le Grain de Sel not on your list?
    Fils du Sud - Roi des Fils Verrouillés

    If I can't wear my Havaianas, I ain't goin'...ÀMHA

  6. #6
    bkeats is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2010 Nuevo York Posts: 773

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by cassidain View Post
    btw why is le Grain de Sel not on your list?
    That is another good one. The reason we didn’t get there on this past trip is other than our first day, the two times we went to Saline in the morning, the beach was covered in weed and we left. If we had been able to go to the beach we would have had at least two lunches there. The wife really likes Grain de Sel. Hopefully next trip. And despite my initial reservations, Le Rivage for the chalkboard menu.

  7. #7
    bkeats is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2010 Nuevo York Posts: 773

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by cec1 View Post
    I still find it to be irreplaceable.
    Dennis, I am in complete agreement with that statement. My post was not a glass half full or empty. More maybe a wistful longing for what was.

    I have the same sentiments about NYC. I came to the city in the 80s for college when the city was still recovering from the downturn of the 70s. It was at turns a dark scary place and exhilarating. You needed street smarts to know where to go in the pre internet days. Now everything is disneyfied and catalogued on Yelp. You have to dig down to find the pockets of the city that have not been over run by tourist and developers. The city and the island have both changed a lot. Can’t imagine being anyplace else to live or vacation despite the transformations.

  8. #8
    cassidain is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Ailleurs Posts: 8,375

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Le Rivage ardoise report was a nice surprise ! We used to just do Grain de Sel for lunch too but have come to enjoy it as well in the evening. For Eddy's beautifully grilled langouste.
    Fils du Sud - Roi des Fils Verrouillés

    If I can't wear my Havaianas, I ain't goin'...ÀMHA

  9. #9
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 7,772

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by bkeats View Post
    Dennis, I am in complete agreement with that statement. My post was not a glass half full or empty. More maybe a wistful longing for what was.

    I have the same sentiments about NYC. I came to the city in the 80s for college when the city was still recovering from the downturn of the 70s. It was at turns a dark scary place and exhilarating. You needed street smarts to know where to go in the pre internet days. Now everything is disneyfied and catalogued on Yelp. You have to dig down to find the pockets of the city that have not been over run by tourist and developers. The city and the island have both changed a lot. Can’t imagine being anyplace else to live or vacation despite the transformations.
    Analogy to NYC is spot-on. We lived in Manhattan & nearby (Westchester) for nearly 20 years & return regularly. I now — living in FL — can imagine living elsewhere, but I think the point of identifying NYC & SBH as flip sides of a coin is an excellent capture of irreplaceable destinations (though, I have to say that Paris is pretty great, too!). (BTW, for a lovely, French-themed dinner evening in Manhattan, I recommend “Brasserie Cognac” at 70th & Lex — you’ll feel the relaxed elegance of SBH & Paris!). Thanks for your note.

  10. #10
    shihadehs is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Mar 2012 Posts: 1,207

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Great report and we couldn’t agree with you more...we have been going for 36 years and have noticed the corporate feel inching in. But we know where to find what we know we love about the island and will still return.
    Steve and Aimee

  11. #11
    Cwater is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2016 Long Island Posts: 1,165

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by cec1 View Post
    Analogy to NYC is spot-on. We lived in Manhattan & nearby (Westchester) for nearly 20 years & return regularly. I now — living in FL — can imagine living elsewhere, but I think the point of identifying NYC & SBH as flip sides of a coin is an excellent capture of irreplaceable destinations (though, I have to say that Paris is pretty great, too!). (BTW, for a lovely, French-themed dinner evening in Manhattan, I recommend “Brasserie Cognac” at 70th & Lex — you’ll feel the relaxed elegance of SBH & Paris!). Thanks for your note.
    have eaten at Brasserie Cognac three times as per your recommendation. Cheryl’s aunt lives on 80th & 1st so a short jaunt. Yes relaxed elegance.

  12. #12
    cec1 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 7,772

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Cwater View Post
    have eaten at Brasserie Cognac three times as per your recommendation. Cheryl’s aunt lives on 80th & 1st so a short jaunt. Yes relaxed elegance.
    Great! Glad that you enjoyed it!

  13. #13
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 1,382

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Same page here, too. As you said on another post - "I would rather come more often and stay low key than come once a decade to go upscale."

  14. #14
    GramChop is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Austin, Texas Posts: 18,105

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by debd View Post
    Same page here, too. As you said on another post - "I would rather come more often and stay low key than come once a decade to go upscale."
    Moi aussi.
    The waves of the sea bring me back to me.

  15. #15
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 1,382

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by GramChop View Post
    Moi aussi.
    Missy, loving the new picture of you and your granddaughter. Have fun!! Expecting a full frites report.

  16. #16
    Reed is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Nantucket - St. Barth's Posts: 1,254

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    One of the smartest things I have ever seen posted on this forum:) Stay longer and don't run around figuring where you need to eat out at 2 times a day.
    "Like" Us on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/nantucketcatering

  17. #17
    Hawke is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2011 Posts: 1,289

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Reed View Post
    One of the smartest things I have ever seen posted on this forum:) Stay longer and don't run around figuring where you need to eat out at 2 times a day.
    Agree 100%. For us and everyone we have traveled with. Croissants for breakfast, lunch on the beach and dinners at moderately priced restaurants or grilling at the villa. Add a couple of stops at Le Select, the bar across from Select and a stop at Ramona's.

  18. #18
    cassidain is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Ailleurs Posts: 8,375

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    to each his or her own. we like some glam, some low-key local, some at-the-villa. voilà.
    Fils du Sud - Roi des Fils Verrouillés

    If I can't wear my Havaianas, I ain't goin'...ÀMHA

  19. #19
    Eve is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jun 2008 Boston Posts: 8,673

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    If all boats rise with the tide, isn’t it all relative? Give us an alternative? Especially if you like to spend a little time in French culture. Haiti? Martinique. Les Saintes?
    Things change. Nothing stays the same. Only in your memories.
    If your child grows becomes wealthy and beautiful, you still love them

  20. #20
    Dennis is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Apr 2004 Austin, TX Posts: 10,243

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Eve View Post
    If your child grows becomes wealthy and beautiful, you still love them
    Yes. That’s why it’s called unconditional love.

    if you can love them when they’re poor and ugly, it’s the least you can do.

  21. #21
    Rosemary is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jan 2010 New England Posts: 4,412

    Re: Not a Trip Report

    I love these words, Eve, and I pray for you and Jim.

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