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Thread: Old Trip reports from an old site: Caribbean Travel Roundup

  1. #1
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,673

    Old Trip reports from an old site: Caribbean Travel Roundup

    St. Barths by Gray Guzzardo January 1994
    ---------------------------

    I just got back from our favorite paradise. Other than our first day, we had great weather with just a few storms at night and some brief showers during the day. Other than some wet seats in the Sazuki, rain was not a problem. Mosquitos were also not a problem.

    Our villa, EDB, was everything we hoped for - beautiful view of Anse De Cayes, private, nicely laid out and even though we were perched on a hillside, we could hear the waves all day and night.

    We landed in St Martin at 3:00PM and used the Transit Gate 8 (our luggage was checked through to St. Barths) and were offered seats on the 3:30 WINAIR flight. We gulped down a Rum Punch and got to St. Barths earlier than we expected. (Our luggage wasn't so lucky, it arrived on our schedule 5:00PM flight). Unfortunately, our trip back was a nightmare due to the AA strike, but that's another story!

    It was quite windy while we were there especially on the west side of the island causing bigger than normal waves on Saline and Gouverneur that caused some significant erosion on Gournerneur. They are actually building a paved access road and parking lot at Saline! Again, we were able to use the Ille De France facilities during our visit to Flammands even though we weren't guests at the hotel. They have great lounge chairs on the beach and an excellent pool.

    Here are some thought on restaurants:

    Marigot Bay Club - Should be on everyone's short list for great food, service and atmosphere. Be sure and call ahead to request a table on the water for a very romantic evening. The lobster bisque and goat cheese salad are excellent appetizers. They will sweeten your capucino unless you ask them not to.

    Le Gaiac - The restaurant at Le Toiny is arguably the best on the island for food quality and service excellent. Very elegant for lunch and dinner. The lunch experience here should not be missed. The view is spectacular and is matched by the food and service.(and the price!) The tomato stuffed with goat cheese in a creamy tomato sauce is unbelievable. Tables by the pool are mandatory for lunch and desirable for dinner unless it is real windy.

    Castelets - Another must visit restaurant. Visit during the daytime on your way back from Gouverneur to make reservations and check out the views that are not available after dark. Impeccable service and food. They just switched from Italian cuisine (as "Sapore Di Mare") to their original french cuisine. There are so many great french restaurants on St. Barths I wish they would have stuck with the Italian menu we enjoyed so much in March. However, many (including the Maitre D') would disagree.

    Vincent Adam - A pretty little restaurant with friendly service and excellent food. Great Creme Brulees.

    Le Pelecan - A great spot on St. Jean Beach for lunch. We tried dinner this time and were not impressed, although the creme brulees was as good as I've had anywhere.

    Le Select - You are required to have a "cheeseburger in paradise" while you are on the island. Great spot for people watching.

    Santa Fe - Stopped for lunch after a morning at Gouverneur Beach. Great burgers and fries served with a spectacular view.

    Oualalao - At Manapany. Had a nice lunch, excellent chicken salad and lobster club sandwich. Not cheap.

    Ille De France - This new restaurant is only open for lunch. Nice location, but we were not excited about the food or service.

    Bernard - No, not a restaurant, a chef! At our request SIBARTH arranged for Bernard to come to our villa and prepare a meal. We agreed on a menu and Bernard did the shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning. He even selected a great bottle of wine. It was a truly memorable experience. Bernard is an interesting character who has cooked for many celebrities who have visited St. Barths including Steve Martin, Diana Ross, Warren Moon and Quincy Jones. He also worked for Jimmy Buffet as a nightclub bouncer and still sees him occasionally. Bernard was not only interesting to talk to, he is an excellent chef who will welcome you into the kitchen and share his recipes.

    Other great restaurants we didn't get to this time include L' Escale, Le Sapotillier and La Toque Lyonaise. Also, Bernard says that the restaurant at Hotel Chistopher is as good as any on the island.

    Le Hibiscus has reopened, but if you want a view with your $9 drink, you'll have to stand and drink because they no longer have tables out by the pool. Carl Gustov is a great place for drinks with a view, but it doesn't come cheep at $11 per drink. We also had drinks at Manapany. It is very pretty by the pool but their drinks are also priced beyond belief.

    We loved shopping at Black Swan. They have great clothes with St. Barths themes, especially T Shirts and sweatshirts. They also have lots of bathing suits to pick from. There is a store in Gustavia called Free Mousse that sells unique ceramic in gold jewelry. The pastries at the airport bakery are the best.

    That's all I can think of for now. We had a wonderful time and are already planning our next trip to St. Barths.

    St. Barths by Beverly Baridon February 1994
    ------------------------------

    Our flight out was BEAUTIFUL! Flying over the Bahamas was so very very pretty! I just kept my nose to the window looking at all the islands and the beautiful changing shades of blue in the waters below us. Flying over FLAT Anguilla we then saw the GORGEOUS mountains of S. Martin arise out of the water! It was really something! (Gush, gush) Anyway, I went in the bar and looked for Tony, but Judy was working. She made me a rum punch and of the very few drinks I had on this trip, I must say Judy's $3.50 rum punch was the best! (I could have had another, but didn't want to arrive too tipsy.)

    Anyway, The flight in to St. Barths was totally uneventful. It was not scary. I guess I was just too busy looking around me and trying to see the island, but the view is obstructed by the cabin of the plane, so I never had the opportunity for any real thrill of a landing. I think I've had more thrilling landings with my husband in single engine planes!!

    Catherine Charneau was waiting for us when we arrived at Village St. Jean. We were late getting in and Gaby, her Mom, took us to our cottage. Gaby and Catherine were very very nice and very very helpful to us. One nice touch they had at Village St. Jean was a notebook filled with most of the menus of the restaurants on the island so you could look through them and choose where you thought you would like to go! They also have a "commissary" there, which is a little shop which operates on the honor system -- you just get what you want, be it champagne, coke, wine, peanuts, whatever and just write it down. I thought the little touches like that were very very helpful!

    When Gaby took us to our cottage we just could not believe our eyes! It was BEAUTIFUL! The outside terrace was approximately 19x32 feet. It had a big picnic table, a hammock and two lounge chairs. Then there was the kitchen which also had a small microwave, but no regular oven. Inside, the bedspread and curtains were in a "rainforest" print -- really exotic and the furniture was all wicker and very comfortable. We had a living room and our bedroom and a large bathroom.

    One way to measure the level of service you are getting is by the quality of the toilet paper. Village St. Jean provided 2-ply soft toilet paper, which I thought was amazing!

    When we awoke the next morning and pulled back the drapes from the french doors we nearly dropped our teeth at the breathtaking view! It HAD to be the best view VSJ had! We looked right out over beautiful blooming frangipani, hibiscus and bouganvilla plants onto the gorgeous St. Jean Bay! There were already sailboats meeting out there for the beginning of a regatta. It was so very very pretty! We only swam in the pool once as most of our time was on the beach, but we did take advantage of VSJ's jacuzzi which was great! It is a WONDERFUL place with WONDERFUL people!

    Now for the island itself. I had read about St. Barths being "hilly," but was not initially prepared, nor was Phil, for just how "hilly" it really is! However, I will make a point of warning you all now that you probably should not vacation there while I'm there in the future as I learned to drive that Suzuki like the locals drive (fast and furious with no fear of crashing!). The bumpy, curving roads actually gave the island a unique kind of charm. It is hard to explain, but getting around was easy and there is a different "personality" to every different beach or area you visit on the island. For instance, we learned to snorkel from Nancy Galinas, who loaned us her equipment at Shell Beach.

    I LOVED Shell Beach. It is not the most talked about beach, but, even without a mask, I could surface dive down and see how, as the water steeply dropped off, it changed its hue of blue. I really just loved that beach! The best snorkeling, by far, though, was at Petit Anse (thanks, Mark and Lori Weaver). There were so many varieties of tropical fish there and they were all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns! It was just gorgeous. I know that when we go back we will spend more time at Petit Anse snorkeling!

    For beaches, my two favorites were St. Jean and Saline. Gouverner had a wild surf and strong undertow, so, even though it was a beautiful beach to look at from high up, we could not really do much there in the water. I found St. Jean to be a narrower beach, but there was so much fun there for people who like beach-type fun on very calm water. Swimming was great there and then, of course, there were the windsurfing activities and other water sports going on there. It is a fun people watching beach, too. While we were eating lunch at Chez Francine a volleyball game was going on and windsurfers were breezing by us.

    Saline Beach was great because it was so wide and expansive and because it was so European! I had heard and read about full nudity there, but being a firsttimer, that first look was a little shocking to me! But, no matter. I quickly adjusted and relaxed like everyone else because nobody cared. I found very interesting and friendly people on Saline as well. Actually, I found friendly and interesting people on the whole island.

    We went to Flamands once, and although it is a beautiful beach, there wasn't a lot to do there so I found it a little boring. We never made it to Colombier. Since we only had 5 full days and 6 nights there, Colombier will have to wait until next time! I thought the beach at Guanahani left a lot to be desired (I am being extremely understated here.). There was hardly any sandy beach and the water was very shallow and full of plant life. You couldn't swim on the ocean side because it was so rough. I did climb the little mountain there at the end of the beach, though, and took some great pictures!

    The only BIG mistake of any consequence I made was getting my film developed on St. Barths. Being concerned about getting some of the shots with partial nudity developed in the U.S., I went to Photo Fast in Gustavia. They do one-hour processing. I gave them 4 rolls of film and they told me it would be $22.00 per roll! Not only was I stupid to agree to do this, but I then told them that I wanted two prints of each picture and they upped the price to $44.00 a roll, which I stupidly paid!

    Oh, well, one mistake -- one lesson learned (for all of you, as well!)

    This is the restaurant review section of my trip report.

    Maya's -- hands down was our favorite restaurant. I would HIGHLY recommend that anyone going to St. Barths make it a point to eat at Maya's. From the beautiful beachfront setting (with floodlights on the water lapping at the rocks) to exquisite cuisine and my favorite "garcon" of St. Barthelemy, Laurent Moller, it was a great experience to be there. We met some friends there and split one bottle of sauvignon blanc (65FF). Phil ordered a roquefort salad which he just raved about (45 FF). He also had Mahi Mahi which was an unbelievably enormous portion. It had a nice mild spice to it. Nancy, our friend, shared her Soup #2 (a poulet with some "spicy" sauce) and I became a fire-breathing dragon after a bit too much of the spice in my taste! Ron, our other friend, had a chicken dish which I did not write down the name of. I only remember it was FANTASTIC! While the waiters were very busy and occupied and I really wanted someone to take our group photo there at the beautiful setting, Laurent came by and was just so gracious about taking our picture. Laurent also came to the rescue when the regular waiter did not bring Phil's requested hot tea until nearly after dinner was over. So, I would say that between Laurent and the chef, Maya's was definitely our favorite and we will definitely eat there next trip.

    We ate twice at Le Patio -- first was the night we flew in and second was our last night on the island. We found the quality and quantity of the food to be very very good and the atmosphere was especially relaxing -- nice music in the background. First night Phil had an antipasto 4 saisons (82 FF) and Filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce (148 FF). He liked it so much he ate the same thing the second night. I had salads which were very very good and the first night chicken parmigiana (95 FF) and the second night veal parmigiana (125 FF). Both were excellent!

    Marigot Bay Club was also nice. The food was very very good. Phil & I both had the fish steak grilled with herbs and served with spicy creole sauce (that sauce was great!) which was 130 FF. The setting was nice too. We ate by the water at Table #7. For anyone planning a trip to Marigot Bay Club, there are 4 tables by the water -- nos. 4 - 7. Table #4 only seats 2 people, though. The employees had a good laugh at me and my very broken french as we drove down there to make the reservation and they came out telling us they were closed. I asked if they spoke English and they really didn't, so I pulled out my phrase book, which I had already circled the expression for making a reservation by the water and started reading to them. They just laughed so hard! (But, it was a friendly laugh!). They were very nice inside while we were eating, as well, and inside they did speak some English.

    Le Select was nice but Gustavia was crowded and very busy. I saw a REAL Rastafarian when I went inside the bar to buy a "Cheeseburger In Paradise" tshirt. I've only seen them in movies before.

    Chez Jo Jo Burger was great for inexpensive cheeseburgers, as well. We got burgers, fries and sodas for $13.00.

    Chez Francine was great and served bountiful amounts of food -- too much to eat in one sitting for me. I even took photos of our plates! Back to Chez Francine: That is one other restaurant I would return to. It's casual "on the beach" atmosphere was great and it was great to sit down with fans blowing on you after being out on the beach all day. There was a volleyball game going on and lots of windsurfing and stuff. It was a great people watching place.

    Other restaurants of note: Le Ouanalao was o.k., but we would not return there. Phil and I had Caesar salads and saltinbocca alla romana (small terderloin steak of veal with ham) and it was good, but not extraordinary. There was a nice setting by the pool and a sax player was playing from the middle of the pool. They played "Misty" and "Mack The Knife" among other songs I recognized. But, I thought the service was the poorest we received while we were there and for the money I would much rather have been at Maya's again.

    We also ate at Vincent Adam. This too was a nice restaurant but it is not one I would return to. Lydia at Village St. Jean had recommended it as "the best" in her opinion because you get a large amount of food (appetizer, entree and dessert) for 190 FF. While we found that to be correct, the food was raw when it was served and I didn't find the setting (seemed like it was near a junkyard) to be all that great. The best thing about it was that Billy Joel's music started to play and it ended up being his new CD, and, being a VERY big Billy Joel fan I tipped the waiter who played the CD $3.00 for having good taste in music!

    We did do some shopping, but didn't buy a lot. We visited a few shops in Gustavia, but I must say that Gustavia was my only disappointment on the island and that is only because it was so very very crowded and busy. I much preferred St. Jean. People were slower paced and more laid back there and not so "touristy."

    One of the greatest highlights for me personally was taking the Suzuki (alone) to Corossol to try to find the ladies who make the straw hats. I had heard they were hard to find but I was determined. It wasn't hard at all. I came upon a small house with a straw (they aren't really straw, they're palm) hat and other things sitting out by the road, and so I pulled over. The lady came out and I bought a beautiful hat with blue ribbon for only $16.00. I got a "string of fish" with ribbons through them for about $8.00 and a basket for Mandy for $12.00.

    I then drove on down to Public Beach and parked the Suzuki. I took a couple of pictures of the fishing boats and got back in the Suzuki. I looked up and there were two more ladies hanging in my window dangling their "straw" goods at me! These women don't speak French or English (a Norman dialect I have read) so we had to use sign language which worked. I ended up with a "straw" wine bottle holder and a "straw" string of birds which was very intricately woven. I was delighted, and I'm sure they were too, to have found a willing sap to buy their goods.

    On the way to Corossol I stopped at the new wine store, Les Grands Vins De France. I ended up buying 3 bottles of wine there. One was a Chateau Gazin Pomerol 1983 for 223FF. The young man in the store was very knowledgeable and very friendly and spoke good English. I also bought a bottle of Cuvee Majorum 1989 which he said is served at Le Sapotillier.

    This is my "wrap-up," of our trip but I feel I can now only summarize what I've already said. I have taken loads and loads of photographs, all of which have now been developed. (My U.S. photos only came to $32.00 -- still a sore spot). I also came back with several copies of the newspaper and a few copies of Ti Gourmet, a little booklet which is like a coupon book for going to different restaurants or staying at certain hotels. You don't get much, for instance, if you stay at Les Castelets you get a free bottle of champagne upon presentation of the coupon; if you stay at Village St. Jean you get a 10% discount on a 7 night stay between 6/1 and 10/30. The booklet also gives a summary of the island -- from the hotel/restaurant association view.

    I would STRONGLY encourage anyone going to St. Barths to try snorkeling if you don't already. It is so much fun and Baie Petite Anse was fantastic. Additionally, I have an underwater photo that shows the steep drop off from underwater at Shell Beach. It is neat.

    All in all, it is a lovely, lovely island. We found the people to be lovely and the food to be great! The water was great at every beach except Gouverneur, and I am hoping that this was an exception to the rule for that beach. It is a gorgeous beach to look at from up high, but the undertow was definitely scary.

    Village St. Jean was better than I thought it would be and given the research I put into it, that is really saying something. There was daily maid service, which you pay for, by the way, when you check out -- it is 10% of your room fee, but I must say that when Lydia did our final accounting she was more fair than any of the other merchants on the island. She gave us an exchange rate of 5.9 FF to the dollar, when we had been given 5.5 and 5.6 everywhere else.

    I never found Robert Danet (a local artist). His gallery is supposed to be at the Carneage at St. Jean, but I didn't see it. We did visit one local artist, her name was something like Hannah Moses, but her work was not my style. It was also $1,000.00 per painting. That was a bit more than I was ready to pay to even R. Danet.

    We are definitely going back -- hopefully next year, but we also have to paint the house, etc. Whereas I was dragging Phil off on this trip, he has been the one asking when we can go back again. He also immediately adopted the "I don't want anyone to know about St. Barths" attitude -- a protective one which many people have who don't want others to know just how very special St. Barths is. For its small 8 square miles, St. Barths is as diverse geographically, culturally, and socially, as it could ever be. That's part of its charm. It has some of everything wonderful!


    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

  2. #2
    andynap is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 43,593
    Nice to look back-


    Andy

  3. #3
    MIke R is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Stinson Lake - New Hampshire & Provincetown - Cape Cod Posts: 52,003
    lot of oldies but goodies there....MBC...Vincent Adam..Chez Francine....

    those were the days
    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace" Jimi Hendrix

  4. #4
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,673
    A couple more goodies.

    ST. BARTHS BY RON TOWNSEND 7/01

    Just returned from our seventh trip to St. Barths since we first
    discovered the island in 1989. The six year lapse since our last trip
    ('95) has produced many changes. The population is now up to 7,000,
    twice as many as '89, and there are more cars on the road which does
    create a little congestion now and then. The park at the end of
    Gustavia port is nice, as are the new streets with their fancy
    design. Before Hurricane Luis hit the island we had stayed one year
    at the Flamands Beach Hotel. All that remains today is the shell of
    the building which apparently for some reason is not being rebuilt.
    We looked in at our old room and it was sad to see it in its present
    shape.

    Today, next to the old hotel is La Langouste, a new restaurant/small
    hotel which used to be in Gustavia but moved to its new location a
    few years ago. "Madame" is very amiable and lobster, of course, is a
    house favorite. We stayed at the eastern end of the island on a
    hillside overlooking La Toiny. Each day we rotated our beachtime to a
    different beach. Saline is still my favorite because it is wild and
    pristine, and no civilization can be seen from the beach. For those
    of you who do not care to get a lot of sun, I'll let you in on a
    secret. At the far eastern end of Saline there is a rock overhang
    which produces shade until about 11:00 AM. If you get there early as
    we did everyday (7:30 AM), it will be yours. The same applies to the
    East end of Gouvenouer. Of course if you have a beach umbrella
    (rarely seen), all of this advice is redundant.

    You won't get a bad meal on St. Barths. With the exchange rate around
    7ff to the dollar, food was reasonable. I had a terrific rack of lamb
    at Maya's for about $30 which is what you may expect to pay in NY or
    S.F. Everyone who goes to St. Barths always has their favorite
    restaurants. We usually go to what we consider the "value"
    restaurants. Don't miss Le Rivage for lunch, especially the Chef's
    Salad. In Gustavia, Le Repaire has always been a good value. One day
    we stopped for lunch and I had mahimahi in a buerre blanc sauce that
    was outstanding. Of the new restaurants, we liked Massai in Lorient.
    The splurge restaurants are Francois Plantation, Carl Gustav, Le
    Gaiic and Le Sapotellier where all the little extras can be found
    (i.e., service and presentation). As we have done before, we splurged
    at Le Gaiic on our last night and were not disappointed. The ambiance
    there is memorable.

    For those of you who may want to visit St. Barths in the future, here
    is my short list of DONT'S:

    Unless you speak fluent French, leave your high school or Steve
    Martin French at home. Almost all of the people you will be in
    contact with speak English.

    Don't bother to ask for a table in the no-smoking section.

    Don't bother to ask the person at the next table if he/she would mind
    putting out their cigarette unless you want to create an
    international incident. Remember, you are in someone else's country
    and the French do smoke up a storm.

    Don't ask your server to remove a cat or dog from a restaurant. The
    French like cats and dogs.

    Don't drink and drive. The roads are difficult to traverse entirely
    sober let alone under the influence. At night, it is even more
    difficult. During our stay there were two fatal motorbike accidents.
    One took the life of a mother while she walked down the road with her
    two children. She was struck by an intoxicated motorcyclist who has
    been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Pulling something like
    that could really ruin your vacation bigtime.

    Don't try and drive like the French. They have enough accidents on
    the scoreboard and do not need any more.

    Don't embarrass yourself or others by bathing au naturale at beaches
    other than Saline or Gouvenour. Currently, the aforementioned are the
    only two beaches that are unofficially clothes-optional.

    And please, don't order a "Coke" with dinner. If you've got enough
    cash to go to St. Barths, for crying out loud, buy a bottle of wine
    (or even a glass).

    And above all, if you are American be proud of that fact, but don't
    act like an idiot. I have seen Americans at their worst while
    traveling and it is embarrassing

    I almost forgot to add something about the airport at St. Martin
    (Juliana). It is still a zoo but if you know the ropes in advance you
    can pass through without too much trouble. After you land and go
    through customs, pick up your bags and go to whatever airline is
    taking you to St. Barths. With passport and boarding pass in hand, go
    to the brown booth for a departure tax waiver. All of these documents
    will get you into the boarding area when passing through security.
    The same applies on your return trip if you are passing through.

    ST. BARTH BY ????? 1/96

    St. Barth is in good shape. There has been an incredible amount of cleanup done since Luis. Things are improving even more as each day passes. I'd go back tomorrow.

    OK - From the top... SXM Airport - same as always. Fewer flights, so delays aren't as bad. Carryon and the Transit Gate are the way to go unless you have a 2-hour connect time. New bar in the departure lounge. SBH Airport is the same as always too - with the exception of a trashed Cessna in one corner.

    Restaurants - The Wall House was offering a 25% discount off of their wine list, and had taken 'service non compris' off of their dinner menu. (They'll be back to normal before long I'm sure...) The 'restaurant of the year' at L'Hibiscus hotel is called L a Mandala. Worth a visit. Eddy's New Place (across from Sapotillier) is doing well. Eddy doesn't believe in signs, so look for the gate in the stone wall. We ate there several times. The West Indies Cafe at the El Sereno is worth a visit. It and Le Rivage at the adjacent St. Barth Beach Hotel are the only beachfront restaurants open. Le Rivage is worth a visit too. Also ate at Au Port, Le Select (of course!), and Francois Plantation.

    Disappointments - Marigot Bay Club is now targeted for 12/15, sooner if possible. Maya's is targeted for the week of 12/3-12/10. No estimate on L'Escale, La Marine, or Santa Fe. Chez Francine is open at L'Entrepont (Chez Francine by day, L'Enterpont by ni ght) but it's not the same without the beach.

    Beaches - St. Jean is wider than it has been in years. Still some damaged buildings. Gouverneur - a little narrower, some rocks at the far end, watch for rocks under the water. Saline - a little narrower, but still great. Flamands - a LOT different. Most of the sand is gone, but the beach is still usable - more on that later. Colombier - gone - a few patches of sand have reappeared.

    Biggest difference on the island - Houses and hotels are much more visible. A lot of brush is gone, opening up the views. I was amazed at how built up some areas really are.

    Biggest annoyance - Black Moths at night. I've never seen them before. We had dozens in the open areas of the house each night. Many more of the Light Yellow Butterflies in the daytime too.

    Summary -

    The island is indeed ready for visitors. As noted above, several of the popular restaurants on the island are not yet open, but you won't starve (g). The beaches are different, but usable. The island was much less crowded than a year ago, and I rather enj oyed that. (Fewer cruise ships too!) The local people have done an exceptional job cleaning up the island. (Look for the $20 Luis book with a post-Luis view of SXM and SBH. I found it in one of the shops at Le Creole.) I'd definitely go back tomorrow. (Ac tually, I'm looking into the possibility of a long weekend in January...)

    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

  5. #5
    phil62 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2005 Glen Cove, NY Posts: 6,063
    I have so enjoyed these trips down memory lane. Amy

  6. #6
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,673
    A couple more from '95


    St. Barts by William Bradley
    ----------------------------

    We stayed at the Guanahani Hotel in room 92 facing west over the Bay of Marigot over on the north side of the island. This was a very nice place except for the squeaky floors in the bungalow. the restaurants were fantastic. Barththolomo on premises was very nice. Two tables away at the Indigo Restaurant was Marla Maples and Rick Ocasik from the Cars with kids in tow. See the April "People" Magazine for pictures. Also say hi to Barbara she helped a lot at the front desk.

    Rather expensive for a night but you get hermes shampoo and soap each day and champagne on arrival in your room. There's A/C in all rooms the #90 rooms (newest ones built) all face west. these are farther away from the beach but are very private. Nice showers, mini bar that is expensive but there is a general store 5 min. away by car and a Caves de Vin about 4 min. away that is much cheaper. Breakfast IS included with a choice of rolls, croissants, jellies, milk ,tea, coffee, juices etc. (continental).

    phone: 011-590-27-66-60

    restaurants:

    First Charles from the Wall House says that one of their waiters from the U.S. (actually Rye, NY and mentioned in a previous report from a NY restaurant/ travel critic) is no longer there and from personnel experience 2 weeks ago they still have some of the best food on the island. Charles (our waiter) stated that he was good at bringing in customers but either you loved or hated him and they would like that 1 year stint with "Paul" (the waiter) to be behind them. The people there were all very nice and when I mentioned this, some of the drinks were free. Steven King sat next to us at the restaurant that evening and he enjoyed his meal as well as us. Very nice place with local and foreign artists works that are displayed and for sale. We have bought two paintings there. Upon negotiating the sale of the last painting, we received a free Moet and Chadon champagne bucket after I said "Gee what nice bucket could I have one" - the answer was "sure no charge".

    The Inn of the Three Forces:

    Very interesting and quiet and looks out over the pool. Nice food with a fixed price menu. Narrow roads to the place just 10 minutes away from the Guanahani. located in Vilet. The matre'd was very nice and the chef is an astrologist. Very good view of the ocean from high up during lunch hour.

    Photos:

    Best place "Photo Fast 1" in Gustavia. This is where islanders have finishing done and get instant passport photos. Interesting cheap gifts:

    Door Mats in French:

    At the building supply store as you come into Gustavia (after the hair pin turns down the hill) before the True Value Store. Also, the general store at the corner of Rue General de Gaulle and Rue de Centenaie in downtown Gustavia. Look for the building with boxes in the window on the second floor. This is on the same east west street as "The Select" restaurant east of "The Select". Door mats available at the time I was there (about $10)

    Les Copains d'abord: "Pals First"

    Sans amis la vie est si triste!: "without friends life is sad"

    Cez moi......le service n'est pas compris :"My House the tip is not included" (alluding to the fact that most French restaurant bills include a 15% service charge on top of their hospitality by providing a good time, good food and sometimes good companionship. Don't give your host a tip, this is a joke).

    Best diving:

    "West Indies Diving": English spoken. Erik is verrrrry patient with new divers. Call 011-590-27-91-79 business 011-590-27-31-29 boat

    011-590-27-91-80 fax

    VHF channel 79

    Run by Lawrence (a female, in Europe Lauren and Lawrence are reversed as to gender) and Erik (from Belgium). My wife completed the written P.A.D.I. (professional association of diving instructors) course and some of the pool work in the U.S. Se finished the pool work in the ocean and did the open water part at St. Barths with Erik in nice 83 degree water. This was much nicer than going to some cold lake in early spring. after certification. She did some small cave diving and dove on a wreck about 15 min.

    outside of Gustavia harbor. She is not a good swimmer so take the plunge if you are not either. Dive times are 9:30 am, 11:30 am and 2:30 am. Special dives can be arranged.

    The wreck is the most expensive suicide I've seen, and I've been diving for 26 years. The story is a follows:

    During the terrible market crash around 89 this man who owned, what was to be considered one of the 3 most beautiful yachts in the world, lost it all, except for his yacht or ship. It's about 210 feet long, dual screws, lounge and had a pool. The crew was sent ashore for leave and the owner opened a valve and scuttled the ship. He stayed onboard and died. His body was found a few days later. There was still a sound board and a reel to reel tape deck laying on the bottom next to the hull and the interior still has some chairs, toilets, and carpeting left. A must see for divers. oh, by the way the props are still on the ship.

    Get a 1 year dive insurance policy from P.A.D.I., it also covers snorkeling. so if you get injured run and fall into the water immediately. Also, there is an assurance (insurance) shop located 1 street north of The Select. Legal remedies are very different in France for bodily injury (i.e. you won't collect).

    Best jeweler:

    Diamond Genesis

    East of The Select phone: 590-27-66-94 a little cheaper than "Little Switzerland". Plus buy a watch and ask for a bag or tee shirt from the manufacturer for free. Yes, they have them, usually. please speak a little French this helps and a little. Negotiation is o.k. but don't press it too far.

    Best Car:

    Don't rent a moke. They have side located fuel tanks on them. The roads are very narrow and I've seen many side swipes on cars there. And don't rent a motor scooter. Get a Samurai. All major rental companies are there. Remember you are in a department of France under French law. I lived in France for 1 year. It is best to get a little of the French language under your belt to at least show you tried (helps in negotiations). Get tapes and a translation book and a small dictionary for weird words. If you go into shops like you were going into K-Mart, and say things like "hey how much is this thing!" it still doesn't sit well with the people. If you use American slang they won't understand it. Keep the English simple and do not raise your voice unless it is something funny and laugh at the jokes.

    Always complement the food and good quality of the merchants merchandise etc. (they have feelings to). Plus they also think that they have about 500 years of civilization under their belt as opposed to us and you will not change that. I've tried. "Seh tay tray b n" = "everything was nice" is a good finish to the waiter and staff. always gets good results

    "Co mo sa va" = how is it going kinda like hi

    "Bone jewer" = good morning/good afternoon

    "Bone swar" = good evening

    The response is usually asking you how you are and say " tray b en..mer c"

    Learn to count to ten in french, say thank you, pardon me, etc.

    "Je voo dray oon...(insert word)" (put in what you would like even in english). look like you are trying. somewhat impressive to them.

    "I would like a ..........."

    Hint: never pronounce any letter at the end of a word that is a consonant. It does not exist except in certain instances in speech.

    The best way to learn french is easy. First go out and get a french translation book and about 2 bottles of wine. down the wine first. Try to translate the french. Now you are going to slur all the french words together, forget to pronounce letters in the word, have no inflection, or inflection in the wrong places, nobody you know will understand you, even if they are sober and looking at the same book. Viola, and congratulations you are now speaking french!!!

    St.Barths by Frank Sullivan
    ------------------------

    We rented a villa high on the hill overlooking St. Jean. I now know why most of these reports concentrate on restaurants. Before going into the usual list, however, I want to share some general impressions and opinions about the island, those who live there and those who visit.

    First, this is not really the best place for the "party-hearty" Spring Break-type crowd. That was fine with us. Eddie's Ghetto II (across the street from La Sapottilier on Rue du Centenaire in Gustavia) did have a band on Friday and Sat. night, a large crowd, and was rockin'. La Pelican, on St. Jean, has been closed for two weeks because the gendarmes caught them selling alcohol after 12:00a.m. while a band played on. Most bars are closed by 10:00 or 11:00. As you can see, it's a very quiet place and the police are fairly tough about it.

    Second, this island is very upscale (compared to St. Thomas, Cozumel, Cancun, St. Martin, Anguilla, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, or St. John). Reports of it being "dressy" are not true, but you would not be comfortable going for drinks at the Carl Gustav in cut-offs and a T-shirt. Shorts and a golf shirt for men, similar attire for women would be fine. We did not see anybody we recognized as "rich and famous" but we certainly saw a lot of people on mega-yachts who would be considered "rich" by any standard.

    Third, the French who own and work in the local businesses are very friendly, courteous and helpful. Somebody suggested that "merci" and "ciel vous plais" go a long way and we found that to be very true.

    Fourth, St. Barth's IS expensive when compared to other islands, but we think it's worth it. If you ate lunch every day at The Mansion in Dallas and dinner every evening at Morton's, your daily meal tab would not be higher than meals on St. Barth's. Because every dinner we had was BETTER than you would get in most of America's best restaurants, we did NOT think it was over-priced.

    The problem that some experience is that there is really not a place to get a $5.00 sandwich. One day we were hanging by our pool and decided that we wanted to picnic "in." A quick trip down the hill to the local boulangerie (La Rotisserie at Vaval Center in St. Jean) for bread, ham, Swiss, some awesome pastries, and a $5.00 jar of mayonnaise at the grocery store, meant we spent $30.00 for ham and Swiss sandwiches. This is not a complaint (because it was a very laid-back day) but it does let some of you know what to expect. Also, our dinner tabs may have been higher than needed, because we always ordered wine. By the way, if you like French wines, a trip to La Cave is absolutely essential.

    If there is a bargain on the island, it's there. Example: 1988 Mouton Rothschild (not a great year, but it is still Mouton!) sells for about $900.00 in Dallas-Ft. Worth. At La Cave it was $570.00. For frequent visitors to the island, they have lockers and

    will store your wine for you! Since I'll never have enough money to buy a 200' yacht, my next goal in life is to be able to visit St. Barth's so often that I require my own locker at La Cave! (How swell....)

    Finally, a word about "us"--sometimes ugly, Americans. While it is true that they want us to visit and spend our money, they don't want us to be obnoxious or oblivious to their customs. My wife saw a cruise ship passenger, who had just bought a $1.00 postcard DEMANDING change in dollars, instead of francs. The nice lady who was working behind the counter at Richard Photo said that she would rather GIVE the postcard to the customer than empty her cash drawer of the only dollars she had. We saw some people who were loud, foul-mouthed and demanding---and they were all Americans. They were an embarrassment but, fortunately, they were not representative of the vast majority of other Americans on the island. St. Bart's is not a place to belittle the locals--they are probably doing just as well as you and live in much more pleasant surroundings than many of us.

    A suggestion about getting to and from the island: if the wind is relatively calm, take the Gustavia Express out of Marigot Harbor, St. Martin. We HAD to take it over because we couldn't get a seat on Windward Air. That turned out to be a highlight of the trip! The sea was like a lake, had a relaxing drink served by the crew, and watched a gorgeous sunset on the water. The ride took about 1 hr., 20 min. and cost $36.00 per person, 1-way. Windward is only $59.00 and you get there faster but we were pleasantly surprised by having the bad luck of not being able to book our flight. Because clearing customs in St. Martin is such a madhouse, the boat ride was a great way to begin the adventure.

    Also, I would take the ferry back for the return flight because we learned the hard way that you have to clear customs again when you come into St. Martin FROM St. Barth's and THAT IS TORTURE! If you leave from the French side of St. Martin by boat, and return there, all you have to do is check in at the airline, pay the departure tax and you are done. We had to stand in the long line on St. Martin in fear that we would miss our connecting flight or lose our luggage in the mayhem that is the St. Martin airport. Trust me on this one, folks...take the Gustavia Express out of the Market at Marigot Harbor (a twenty-minute cab ride from the airport), return on the Gustavia Express to Marigot Harbor, take the taxi to the airport and avoid, at all costs, the hassle of re-clearing customs in St. Martin. I suggest this, in part, because you will need to save your strength, attitude and wits to survive what you will experience in the Miami airport when you arrive from St. Martin!

    Now, let's talk about a subject that is near to the hearts of everyone who visits St. Barth's--food. One peculiar characteristic of this trip was that a good portion of our morning seemed to be spent planning dinner (something we almost never do at home).

    On the night of our arrival, we tried Le Patio and because it was on the same hill as "our" villa. We had not been misled. This turned out to be our favorite restaurant and we visited it three times during our stay.

    Marigot Bay Club--Very good; excellent and friendly service.

    The Wall House--this was a great surprise! Right on the town harbor in Gustavia, nice, nice, nice (people, service, food and surroundings.) Why doesn't anybody ever talk about this place? We loved it.

    Vincent Adam--also in the hills above St. Jean, but without the water view. Extremely good service and extraordinary food. This one was also a surprise. Not as pretty as Le Patio, The Wall House or La Sapottlier but very laid back, and excellent food.

    La Sapottlier--this one is special...ate there our last night. Spectacular presentation, beautiful garden motif, and very expensive (even by St. Barth's standards). The only thing that marred this meal was a table of four American men, fresh off a sailboat, drunk as skunks but not being pleasant about it. They "scored" the women who entered the room, bragged about conquests back home and how they fooled around on their wives by taking late trains back to Conn. These guys were pigs and were the only people who got a check without asking for it. Which reminds me--I found out that you don't normally get a check at the end of a meal without asking for it. It's considered bad manners by the proprietor (who doesn't want the customer to feel rushed or unwanted). For those who are confused by the attentive service before and during meals, followed by what could be construed as a "disappearing act" after the meal--this is the explanation.

    Chez Francine-- wife loved it; I thought it was very good. (We had the lobster, rock lobster and crab "boat") over a long lunch one day. It's right on the St. Jean beach and is a pleasant place to "hang out."

    On our one fairly heavy shopping day (necessitated only because we had so much fun "frying" ourselves in our pool on the day before) we ate at the pizza place in the Vaval shopping area in St. Jean. Even this place was wonderful! This was the one place on the island where we actually heard Jimmy Buffett being played and we had a fine old time.

    It was at the Pizza Vaval that I ordered profitteroles for dessert (having been hooked on them at Le Patio). I could see the cooks opening every door of the refrigerators and freezers, frantically opening every container and growing increasingly more impatient. Suddenly, the younger one said something to the older and an argument ensued in French. Arms were waving and the two of them were very agitated. It was NOT a scene, but from where we were sitting I could see it. Finally, the waitress came over and apologized because it seemed that they had only chocolate ice cream to put into the profiterolles and no vanilla. Laughing, I told her to tell the cooks to be happy, stay calm and that I thought chocolate in profiterroles sounded like a great idea! The cooks looked over the counter, smiled, waved and served up a really nice dessert that I had no business ordering in the first place. I'm telling you, folks, these people take their cooking SERIOUSLY.

    Now I'm going to talk about a restaurant that has been highly recommended when you ask around in St. Barth's--Maya's. Maybe it was an "off" night, or maybe we just weren't cool enough to appreciate the place. I thought the service was the worst we had (BAD, by any standard). It may be quaint "whistling by the graveyard" on your way; the sunset may be beautiful (but certainly not as breathtaking as the patio bar at the Carl Gustav) but we were decidedly under-whelmed. I will admit that the food was good (though not exceptional) but I was not happy about the service or the ambiance of this place.

    If you go, be sure to drive around the island. If you get to Flamands, have a banana daiquiri by the pool at the Hotel Manapany--the bartender is a hoot. Drive out to Point Milou, see the cliffs and the beautiful houses. Most are for rent, but I wouldn't really want to stay out there unless we planned to do most of our own cooking--somehow it SEEMS far from the places we liked. I think next time we may want to rent on the hills overlooking Gustavia Harbor at Governor's or maybe Columbier--but there's was NOTHING wrong with our place above St. Jean. (It was just completed in December and will be out of the rental pool when the owner moves from St. Thomas to live there in June.) We enjoyed seeing the old rock fences built by the Normans, the unique St. Barth's- style houses in the rural areas. The beaches and the ocean are spectacular.

    One reason we went to St. Barth's is that, we wanted to find "our" perfect island. We loved the British V.I. and disliked St. Thomas (finding St. John only somewhat better). St. Martin, to us, looked like another STT or San Juan and reports of crime there have not been encouraging. Nevis looks great, if you stay in the Four Seasons. We haven't been to St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Grenada, or lots of other places but I know now that all of the others will be measured against all of those things that we found special about St. Barth's.

    This doesn't mean that we thought it was perfect. Traffic when the cruise ships are in town (which is almost daily) was congested. The people drive on those narrow mountain roads like maniacs (a trait you will soon acquire out of the desire for self-preservation). But it IS a special place that I know we will go back to again and again. If I ever win the lottery, look for me backed into the sea wall across from LouLou's Marine--I'll be the guy sitting on the aft deck of some hot-looking Eurostyle motoryacht, blastin' Buffett, and wearing the silliest grin of all.

    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

  7. #7
    RickyG is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2006 Naples, FL Posts: 2,829
    Good stuff! You got me looking through my PD (pre-digital) photos. Found one of the "Sand Bar" from 97....well maybe just the "Sand"



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