Saturday, November 30, 2013

St. Barths: Simply Mah-velous Dah-ling!

"If the tiny island of Saint Barthélemy were to succumb to some kind of natural disaster and sink into the sea, the world would suddenly be bereft of its rock stars, rappers, fashion designers, supermodels and Russian oligarchs. It would be a tragedy of almost insurmountable proportions."  

I wish I came up with that line, but I did not.  Alas, St. Barths (pronounced: St. Barts, drop the 'h') is truly an island unlike any other we've been to.  To be totally honest with you, I loved it.  LOVED it.  Maybe I have champagne taste on a beer budget, but - despite living a "simpler" life at sea - like a moth to flame I am definitely not immune to going starry-eyed at the glitz and glamour that is St. Barths.  I suddenly had a taste for bubbly, felt the need to kick my wardrobe up a notch and rarely, if ever, did I take off my sunglasses in a weak attempt to appear mysterious (okay, really I just wanted to people watch without getting caught, but still...).  Did I mention the king of the Caribbean, Jimmy Buffett himself, has a home here?  The man knows his Caribbean islands and he chose this one to call home.  That says something (namely that he is filthy rich).

First of all, the island is totally beautiful and the main town of Gustavia feels as just as chic and lovely as it's "mother", the South of France (think Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez...).  Furthermore, if you like to shop, this is your place.  All the top designers are represented along the cobblestone streets; Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, Hermes...the list goes on. But fear not, the knick-knacky stores are here too... Heck, if you feel like spending 85K on a nice new watch to wear to dinner and $5 on an "it's better in St. Barths" shot glass to add to your collection, you can do it on the very same street!  The pace of life on this tiny island is just a little bit quicker, the style a little more fabulous (effortlessly tropical boho-chic, of course), and the food a little more gourmet.  I probably don't have to mention that it's also a lot more expensive.  But hey, you only live once, right?

Don't get me wrong, superficiality, overspending and celebrity sitings are not all that St. Barths has to offer - like the other French Islands (which are now, hands down, my favorites.  Note to self: learn French), it has an authentic and relaxed European feel, well maintained buildings and roads, beautiful beaches and you are never more than a block away from a buttery croissant and a perfect cappuccino.  The island is clean, the locals are sophisticated (yet friendly and laid back...) and - despite the granduer - it maintains a quaint, small town feel.  There are no chintzy resort chains and the largest hotel boasts fewer than sixty rooms.  It's all boutique, all the time.  In other words, it's really hard not to fall in love with this place.  Pretty much all of Hollywood has.

My favorite moment in St. Barts occurred on the famous Shell Beach.  Scott was staking out a place for us to lay our blanket and chill out, and Isla and I were trailing behind, beach combing.  Suddenly I hear a ruckus of laughter followed by "oooooo's" and "ahhhhhs" from the restaurant up the shore a bit.  I look and see a gaggle of glamorous fashionista-type people waving excitedly with their hands on their knees, visibly gushing with big, exaggerated grins (fyi, spotting a model on the job in the wild requires zero skill - they are that obvious).  I turn to look at the source of their gushiness thinking that perhaps Lindsay Lohan just waded up from the surf, and lo and behold - there is Isla, about thirty feet behind me, wearing her million-dollar smile, doing her very best Miss America wave and excitedly yelling "hi!!" at the group of fans.  Before I can say a thing, the eldest of the fabulous ladies (the designer? a location scout? makeup artist?) walks right up to Isla, scoops her up with a smile while muttering something in French and brings her over to her fabulous friends who continue to gush over our little munchkin's super friendly personality, pretty smile and Shirley Temple curls.  For whatever reason they had with them balloons, which just so happen to be Isla's favorite thing on the planet right now, and while the folks were fawning, she was trying to get her hands on one.

I walked over and chatted to the group for a bit and gathered was that they were from New York, on a photo shoot and came to St. Barths to "work" pretty regularly.  They were drinking very expensive champagne and had about a college education's worth of camera equipment with them.  A slinky and bikini-clad heart faced model gave Isla a balloon before the group called it quits on their lunch break and packed up to return to the catamaran in the bay where they continued their photo shoot from afar.  Only then was Isla content to march along down the beach, balloon firmly in hand, finally getting what she had been after all along.  One of my friends said it best when she said in a Facebook update, "Balloons: entertaining toddlers since forever".  True that.

So I cannot begrudge Beyonce for wanting to kick back on this island.  If I were rich and famous, I too would vacation in St. Barths as much as humanly possible.  It might not be the toned down, less commercial Caribbean paradise that we've become accustomed to, but it was paradise nonetheless.  And yet, even after getting a taste of how the other half lives (and really, really liking it), I was happy as a clam to return to our (relatively) modest gypsy home and set our sails for a new horizon...
Considering cheeseburgers are my #1 pregnancy craving, we ate here.
Look out Zsa Zsa! 
Shopping, anyone? 

Isla, climbing, as usual.  This child has one direction and that is UP.

I am very angry that this photo didn't come out as clearly as it could of, but here is the quintessential tortured intellectual Frenchman reading, smoking and enjoying a cappuccino.


Kelley - Sailing Chance said...

That anchor bathing suit may be one of the cutest things I've seen! Rock it Isla!

Anonymous said...

St Bart's is the only Caribbean without a visibly impoverished native population, because there is none. It is entirely a haven for the rich, famous, and would be wealthy: from the heavenly hillside villas, to the restaurant tabs (just about everywhere other Le Select). It's beaches are near to perfect, it's citizenry world class, and it's ever on display many magnificent yachts in Gustavia is a sight for any sore yachtsman's eyes all year round. I know what you mean Windtraveller. Champagne cruising dreams to you too. :)

Anonymous said...

darn...the only Caribbean island...where's my editor when i need her?

Courtney Davis said...

I really enjoy reading about your adventures. We are a family (4+1 dog) setting sail in the fall of 2014. I'm trying to convince my husband to sail the Caribbean (thanks to your inspiring Caribbean blogs). He is pushing for Baja and the South Pacific. I grew up with 2 sisters so I know Isla will have 2 best friends her entire life. As Jimmy Buffett said "I'm inspired by people who keep on rolling..." You have emboldened us!

Anonymous said...

Wow, beautiful there!

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