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Thread: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

  1. #1
    thomasj is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Nov 2009 Toronto Posts: 282

    SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    hello everyone!

    I was very fortunate to come for a visit this past summer to check things out. Sorry it took a while to post. It's been busy, I haven't even downloaded my photos yet I will add as I can.

    Instead of a "traditional" report, I will just note some of my observations, as many others here have already been and very wonderfully detailed all the restaurant and beach stuff (caveat: I tend to cook more than go out, I'm not really a big restaurant person).
    This was my:
    1. 1st visit in summer (I usually do Nov-Dec or Jan-Feb, never Christmas or NYE)
    2. 1st visit post-Irma

    I just realized I've lost count of the # of visits I've made, like all of you, I am addicted.

    In some ways this was my favourite visit and in some ways saddest. Walking and driving around it is impossible not to see how much the island has been through and still has to go through. The island is basically "naked" (although growing back nicely) and exposed. It wasn't "busy" in the traditional sense. Getting around was easy, the stores were fully stocked, life was going on, everyone was friendly. Not too much smoking (surprise). Right now the island has that feel of "St Barts 1970s/80s" in that its kinda rougher, sea is wilder, beaches a bit messier however I trust that as all the big hotels start opening again this winter, the full fabulousness will be back.

    VILLA
    - stayed at Villa Palmier: https://villapalmier.com/
    Good: VERY stylish, clean, nice, breezy, open plan, zero mosquitos, overall LOVED it
    Bad: I think the American owners have overpriced it a bit (when compared to other 2 bedroom villas on SBH). It's truly a 1 bedroom plus den, they say its suitable for 4 people however the 2nd "bedroom" is really just the bed so very tight squeeze. It's more ideal for 1 couple only or a couple with a teenager say. The Driveway into the property is TINY, so much so, that for the first time ever I damaged my rental car (side note: Turbe Car Rental are PROS! handled it excellently, my insurance co. not so much)
    - takeaway STAY up in the hills! Breezes keep the biting bugs away.

    BEACHES
    - tons of seaweed, no surprise, quite a bit of people (for SBH), a little surprised. I wasn't sure what to expect in July but lots of people on Saline and Gouverneur. Ladies mostly topless, so summer is certainly more "French" where winter I find its more "American". No full nudists though, unlike in winter. Just some observations. Therefore in my experience, unless you go at 6am to the beach (which I do to practice yoga), in summer there are more beachgoers in summer than winter.

    SHOPS
    - for the first time ever, I actually went shopping. I am NOT a shopper at all, however this visit I was with 2 people who live to shop and wanted to test St Barts reputation as the Caribbean hotspot. This was useful as it allowed me to chat with the shop owners and staff to see how things post Irma are shaping up.
    My takeaways (based solely on what people told me):
    - sales WAY DOWN and not going up even with more visitors coming to the island
    - staff very hard/impossible to find. Most people who left (Metros) have not yet come back and managers don't know if they will. Housing is a huge issue.
    - lots of sales! My friends certainly hit their luggage weight limit
    - some of the managers told me the owners (this is the little shops, not the LVMH brands) are considering closing. The rent on a small boutique is 7000 euros per month and they aren't making that in sales.

    FOOD
    - as mentioned, I mostly cook so I visited Marche U daily. The new organic grocery in Anse de cayes is also lovely, clean and a wonderful vegan/vegetarian selection. Overpriced. Of course. Did a few pick ups to take to the villa from my usuals. Mayas to Go is still a great standby, however noticed they ran out of food much much quicker than in previous visits. (The Mayas staff told me that they are seriously understaffed and make less food overall) their food counter would sell out in early afternoon basically. So Cuisine is a favourite of mine, but its more raw/vegan style so I know its not to everyone's taste here. Black Ginger - did this twice - IMO the food was better than on previous visits, their Thai food rivals the best places in NYC and Toronto Yum! Tom Juice is now Shakar Juice, went twice and they were inexplicably closed! Isoletta pizza is as good as I remember. The Boulangerie off the main road from Anse des cayes was well used my myself and my friends - as excellent as any in Paris. I didn't try the other ones.
    - Final night was the farewell dinner at Tamarin. Many have been so I won't oversell, its a lovely place, everyone really LOVED the setting, vibe. Cookie and Cyrano are safe and sound - YEAH! Food? Well it was mixed, the appetizers were only ok, and mains - 2 were fab (the daily fish) and 2 (the meats) kinda meh according to my friends. Its a solid choice for this kind of dinner. Spoke to the manager and he said they had a very busy summer, usual challenges with staff and such but the service was AWESOME on the Saturday night we visited.

    Geez - what else?
    - traffic not too bad (the Lorient reroute is fun!) not as many cars and scooters like winter, but more trucks.
    - Gustavia was hopping every night we went, lots of people walking around however parking was never an issue.

    overall, the islanders have done a wonderful job considering its only been a year. Sint Maarten, from the air, still looks like a disaster zone.

    Speaking of SXM: It is what it is, its a temporary tent that is crowded and hot. The transit process in place is not TOO bad considering the state of the island. I would only recommend that Sunday is slightly better than Saturday in terms of crowds as the check in area for Delta, American, Jetblue and Westjet is TINY! Best is if you can do midweek as its significantly less busy and crowded, however with the lack of flights, I know that is hard to do.

    Thanks for reading and Merci to St Barts for, well, being St Barts!
    LAST VISIT: December 2018
    NEXT VISIT: March 2019 (for my Birthday!)
    St. Barth Je t'aime (except all the smoking...)

  2. #2
    cec1 is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 5,229

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Excellent report, Thomas! I also was on island in the summer, and I think you've very well captured its post-Irma spirit and ambiance and the summer "vibe." Thanks for colorfully and succinctly describing your visit. It gave me a great sense of being with you and your friends!

  3. #3
    elgreaux is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Saint Barth Posts: 10,224

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    I have always said that summer is the best kept secret in St Barth, the beaches are empty and the island feels a bit more like its old self... right now, it's rather quiet, most restaurants are closed...
    a bit of calm before the season swings into gear...

  4. #4
    thomasj is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Nov 2009 Toronto Posts: 282

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Quote Originally Posted by cec1 View Post
    Excellent report, Thomas! I also was on island in the summer, and I think you've very well captured its post-Irma spirit and ambiance and the summer "vibe." Thanks for colorfully and succinctly describing your visit. It gave me a great sense of being with you and your friends!
    Thank you! and thanks for reading. Summer is certainly a different vibe and ambiance for sure, and even though I won't come back in the summer season, I am very glad I checked it out. Happy belated Birthday by the way!
    LAST VISIT: December 2018
    NEXT VISIT: March 2019 (for my Birthday!)
    St. Barth Je t'aime (except all the smoking...)

  5. #5
    thomasj is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Nov 2009 Toronto Posts: 282

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Quote Originally Posted by elgreaux View Post
    I have always said that summer is the best kept secret in St Barth, the beaches are empty and the island feels a bit more like its old self... right now, it's rather quiet, most restaurants are closed...
    a bit of calm before the season swings into gear...
    merci!
    truthfully I would LOVE to come visit in September. As a non-party, non-restaurant person, the quiet appeals to me. Too bad September is a very busy time for work in North America!
    LAST VISIT: December 2018
    NEXT VISIT: March 2019 (for my Birthday!)
    St. Barth Je t'aime (except all the smoking...)

  6. #6
    GMP62 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2015 Martinsville, NJ Posts: 1,401

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Very nice report, Thomas! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you and your friends had a lovely visit. We will look forward to seeing some of your vacation photos in the near future hopefully! We always used to go to St. Barth in late June when our kids were younger and still in school and it’s a perfect time to go down. We now have been coming down in April since our kids are grown and that’s a great time also.

    Gayle

  7. #7
    cec1 is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 5,229

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    I agree about April, Gayle. It (especially late April) is -- for all practical purposes -- the beginning of "summer." Seasonal workers (particularly from restaurants) are beginning to leave the island . . . long term rental opportunities begin to open . . . the island becomes more Caribbean-centric (e.g., Les Voiles & West Indies yacht/boat regattas and the St. Barth Film Festival/Cinéma Caraïbes) . . . business owners and other residents begin to exhale after frenetic months of tourism . . . and the concentration of island visitors begins a seasonal shift from primarily US travelers to people from other parts of the globe. There's not a bad time on SBH . . . only periods for different tastes and moods!

  8. #8
    amyb is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 25,409

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Dennis, your closing sentence is how I feel. Come when you can...it is all good.
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  9. #9
    Lance is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Nov 2002 Posts: 296

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Wonderful observations of your recent visit. Nice job.
    Cheers

  10. #10
    GMP62 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Feb 2015 Martinsville, NJ Posts: 1,401

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Quote Originally Posted by amyb View Post
    Dennis, your closing sentence is how I feel. Come when you can...it is all good.
    We agree with Dennis and Amy....it is ALL good. Cheers and Happy Friday, everyone!!

  11. #11
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 8,072

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Great report. One question- how does the humidity and how do the ‘skeeters’ compare in the summer vs. other seasons?

  12. #12
    thomasj is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Nov 2009 Toronto Posts: 282

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Quote Originally Posted by stbartshopper View Post
    Great report. One question- how does the humidity and how do the ‘skeeters’ compare in the summer vs. other seasons?
    thanks!
    - the humidity was surprisingly not too bad for what I was expecting for summer, Florida in summer is WAY worse. I would say only marginally more humid than say February or November. The island was quite breezy during my visit so that helped.

    - speaking breezes, our villa was up the hill, very windy so not a single mosquito there, however at "sea level" there were tons. Much more than previous visits. I was ok as i am not a magnet for them, but my friends got bitten (A LOT) mainly in Gustavia, shopping by the airport and at Tamarin, beaches not too bad. This made me realize that a villa or hotel in the hills is really the way to go, as lovely as a beach location may be.
    LAST VISIT: December 2018
    NEXT VISIT: March 2019 (for my Birthday!)
    St. Barth Je t'aime (except all the smoking...)

  13. #13
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 8,072

    Re: SUMMER VISIT OBSERVATIONS and FEELINGS

    Thank you

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