Difference between revisions of "Saint-Barthélemy"
Revision as of 17:14, 1 April 2008
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. St Barts has about 25 hotels, most of then with 15 rooms or fewer, and the largest, the Guanahani hotel has just 70 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe.
Singer Jimmy Buffett is a frequent visitor on the island, and owns a house there. He also owned a hotel, the Autor de Rocher, before it burned down. There is a famous sailing event called The Bucket, in March featuring the largest sailing yachts in the world.
David Letterman and Steve Martin also own property on the island, as well as the French singing star Johnny Hallyday.
Gustavia 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 and the island is frequently visited by the wealthier end of the United States' demographic.
There are direct flights from the US to Saint Maarten, from New York, Charlotte, Miami and Puerto Rico. Connections from Europe come via Paris and Amsterdam, as well as from London, connecting through Antigua. Access to the island is via Antigua, Guadeloupe or more frequently St. Maarten from the air, or from St. Maarten by boat, but beware - it's a pretty rocky crossing!
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.
The transfer through Saint Maarten airport can be somewhat chaotic, and luggage can frequently spend the night there.
An alternative to Sint Maarten is to fly direct from San Juan, PR. Tradewind Aviation offers daily scheduled flights and private charters.
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.
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 in tourism, and the island has some of the best hotels in the Caribbean.
Be prepared to spend . . . everything is imported and it is reflected in the prices.
As many as half the available accommodations are private homes or villas.
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.
There are a number of wedding planners on the island who can organise the whole event for you.
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.