Difference between revisions of "Saint-Barthélemy"
Revision as of 13:38, 11 January 2013
Saint-Barthélemy is a French island located in the Caribbean among the Leeward Islands. Its land area is 21.0 km² (8.1 sq. miles). Administratively, the whole island of Saint-Barthélemy is a French Overseas Collectivity, until recently part of Guadeloupe and is part of the European Union.
The island is also known as St Barts, Saint Barths, or Saint Barth.
St Barts has long been considered a playground of the rich and famous and is known for its beautiful pristine beaches, gourmet dining in chic restaurants and high-end designer shopping. There is one small airport that can only accomodate small prop planes from St Martin and San Juan, and the harbor is too small to accomodate cruise ships. The fact that it is hard to get to is part of the island's appeal.
Singer Jimmy Buffett is a frequent visitor on the island, and owns a house there. He also owned a hotel, the Autor de Rocher, which burned down in the early '80s. David Letterman and Steve Martin also own property on the island, as well as the French singing star Johnny Hallyday.
Noteworthy annual events include New Years, Carnival in February, The Bucket in late March (a sailing event featuring the largest sailing yachts in the world), and Bastille Day.
CitiesGustavia is the capital city, built around a colorful rectangular harbor lined with one and two story shops and restaurants.
Oddly enough for a Caribbean island, the population is nearly entirely of European ancestry.
Having massacred the native Arawaks in the 17th century, the French population, originating from Normandy and Brittany, is one of the oldest in the Caribbean.
There was a minimal slave population on the island due to the lack of agricultural opportunities as the island is principally cliffs and hills and has no rivers or springs.
There are no official statistics but the "native" St Barths, known simply as "St Barths" make up around 30% of the population and have a distinct culture and manner of speech that distinguishes them from the more recent Metropolitain French arrivals.
The island has changed hands several times over the centuries, belonging to Sweden from the late 18th to late 19th century, after they swapped it for some warehouses with the French.
As part of the Treaty with Sweden, St Barts (currently) pays no taxes.
It is very Gallic in flavour now, and English is widely spoken as the island is frequently visited by the wealthier end of the World's demographic.
The air connection into St Barts is by small planes ideally adapted to the short runway. The airport is truly one of the most wonderful aviation experiences. Pilots are highly trained and require a special licence to land here, given the maneuvering required.
From the US, connections to St Barts are in San Juan, St Thomas and St Maarten. From Europe, connections are in St Maarten from Paris, France and Amsterdam and Antigua from London and Guadeloupe from Paris. There are also direct flights to San Juan from Madrid, Spain.
There are also connections by boat from St Maarten and St Martin, but beware - it's a pretty rocky crossing!
Flights from Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe :
Flights from San Juan, St Thomas and Antigua:
Rent a small 4x4 Jeep but be careful!! Narrow, steep and windy roads! Fun to drive! Often a small car or jeep will be included in vacation package. Small island and everything is within a half hour drive. It is so beautiful, take your time and your camera!
French is the official language of St. Barthelemy. Many residents, especially those involved in the tourism industry, also speak English.
Creole is widely spoken on the windward side of the island, and a variety of Patois across the leeward side. These languages are sadly dying out in favour of French.
Up until recently Gustavia was English speaking and the creole quarter, La Pointe, remains so.
St Barts Weddings
To get married on St Barts, one of the couple has to have been resident on the island for a month.
As such the majority of "weddings" held on the island are in fact blessings, carried out either by the Anglican or one of the Catholic Ministers. Blessings for other faiths and secular celebrations can also be organised at a range of locations.
The Euro is the official currency, although US Dollars are widely accepted.
The hotels, villas, and restaurants are generally not on the "package tour" plans, so deals are scarce - if available at all in High Season.
The Christmas/New Year period is Peak-Season when the Jet and Mega-Yacht set come to the island.
The High Season runs from mid December to mid April, and many Low Season deals are available with significant discounts on hotel and villa accommodation as well as car rentals.
Meals are wonderful, and a number of restaurants will let two people out for under $100.00 for an essentially basic meal (two entrees, a bottle of wine, and a salad or dessert or two.)
Budget hotel accommodation is available, as well as reasonably priced villas and appartments. However the island does specialise in high end tourism, and the island has some of the best hotels in the Caribbean.
Be prepared to spend . . . everything is imported (except fish) and it is reflected in the prices.
The island of St Barts is refreshingly undeveloped. An old French communal law mandates that no building can be taller than a palm tree, so you'll find no high rises, and no massive resorts. In fact most of the rooms allocated to tourism on the island are found in private villas, not hotels.
St. Barth has about 25 hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer, and the largest, the Guanahani has just 70 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe.
Villa vacations are extremely popular and there are hundreds of villas terraced into the hillsides throughout the island as well as many beachfront locations. Villas here can range from one-bedroom bungalows to large luxurious homes.
Villa rentals range from one bedroom to six bedrooms in size. Most are located on hillsides where they can be cooled by the prevailing winds, not on the beaches. The main agencies representing villa rentals on the island are Sibarth , the oldest and largest agency on the island, Wimco Villas with 170 exclusive villas, St Barth Properties and Premium Island Vacations  who offer strictly luxury villas and hotels.
The hotels on the island are all well rated,and on the small size for the Caribbean. The largest is the Guanahani Hotel with 58 rooms. Other hotels of note are Eden Rock Hotel, Hotel Le Toiny, The Carl Gustaf, Le Sereno Hotel and the Isle de France. Value priced hotels include the Sunset Hotel, Salines Garden and the Christopher Hotel.
You can choose villa rental from owners :
St Barths is without a doubt the safest island in the Caribbean, and one of the safest places in the world.
There is virtually zero crime, beyond petty theft. You can go anywhere on the island night or day with no fear whatsoever for your personal safety.
However do not leave valuables in your car, and use the safe in your villa or hotel.
There are no pickpockets, muggers, dealers or street traders to hassle you.
The roads are narrow and often steep and winding. Small 4x4 rental jeeps are the vehicle of preference and renting scooters is not advised.
St Barts is very French and very traditional.
As such it is customary to say "Bonjour" on entering a shop or restaurant and "Au revoir" on leaving.
Similarly on passing a stranger in an uncrowded environment.
Men shake hands more frequently than in "Anglo-Saxon" countries, however only on the first encounter of the day. A handshake will be declined if you have already met the man on the first day.
For both men and women meeting women a kiss on each cheek is customary (La bise). Right cheek first. The same once a day rule applies. A man shaking a woman's hand only occurs in formal business situations.
If meeting a group of people one is expected to greet each each and every individual with either a kiss or a shake of the hand as appropriate.
Honking of horns is considered to be highly impolite.