Saint Bart -- April 29 - May 2

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

St. Bart, more properly called St. Barthelemy, but also called "St. Barts", "St. Barth", "St. Barths", or even (on a local Anglican church) "St. Bartholomew", is the most French of the French West Indies.  There are many gourmet restaurants, and many many tres chic boutiques.  (Tres chic is French for "very expensive.")  Gustavia, the capital, has become a major duty-free shopping spot, and has, according to the guide books, over two hundred shops, almost all of which emphasize famous brand names and quality rather than quantity.  Barb and her sister Audrey can vouch for the quality of the shops.  They spent an afternoon going through the shops and were blown away by the gorgeous merchandise.  The entire island is cleaner and more affluent than the other islands we have visited, and it has, incidentally, the largest concentration of slender, beautiful, youthful and fashionably groomed and attired women we have yet seen.  Everything French seems downsized, compared to American standards.  The roads, the cars, the stature of men and women, the portions in restaurants, the size of bikinis -- everything is smaller.   Except the prices, of course.

We rented a car on May 1st, their Labor Day, and spent the day touring the island, stopping at a boutique version of a sidewalk sale and at many beaches and overlooks, grabbing a baguette and some pate to stave off the hungries, but also eventually stopping for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the famous Shell Beach. Two salads, (one of which was split between the two sisters), two glasses of ice tea, and one bottle of beer; the bill: $90!  And then we explored the north portion of the island, running out of road at Colombier and venturing on a rocky foot path along the side of the mountain, a path that promised to go to another famous beach:  Colombier Beach.   We got there, all right, but it was much more challenging (and therefore fun) than we had expected.  The fun (and beauty) was in the getting there.  Looking down at the beach was anti-climactic -- it was a "Chevy Chase at Grand Canyon" moment. 

Did I mention that the cars are little on St. Bart?   At one point during our tour, it began to rain.  Water running down the concrete roadway.  On the next switchback our poor little car just couldn't get enough traction to make it up the steep slope.  Oh joy.  Another car right behind us.   Cannot go forward, and cannot go backward.  Fortunately, the driver of the car behind us screwed up his courage and backed back down around the blind switchback, waited for us to do the same, and then pulled around us and roared his somewhat bigger car up the hill.   We waited in the rain on the shoulder of the narrow road, scrunched up against the high rock wall, feeling a bit foolish but seeing no alternative.  When the rain stopped and then the water stopped pouring down the concrete, we too went roaring up the hill, accompanied by the cheering of the two lady occupants.

We had planned to dinghy up to Colombier Beach to try out the rumored excellent snorkeling, but instead headed to Saba for some world-class scuba diving. 

Small car

Small truck

Barb & Audrey and our small rental

Gustavia from Ft. Gustav

Another view

The girls near Ft. Gustav

Labor Day sidewalk sale! Attack! Charge!

What fun!?

Finding some treasures

Audrey bought two bathing suits

Lorient Beach

Toiny Beach (dangerous swimming)

Barb on approach to prettiest beach: Grande Saline

Lunch at Shell Beach

Cemetary at Lorient

Airport just below a high saddle in the hills

The wind vane has to be up on the saddle -- down near the runway would be too late

Scrambling along the path from Colombier to Colombier Beach -- which is on the other side of the mountain to the right!

Some portions of the path were pretty challenging

...challenging but beautiful

Returning along a smooth section

Cliffs below the path

Ice cream in Gustavia

Dinghied in to the French bakery

Flag courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.