The island of St. Barthelemy has only 8000 residents, no casinos or mega-resorts, no golf or all-inclusive. What SBH does have in abundance are beautiful beaches, breathtaking vistas and a fantastic array of wonderful restaurants. The climate is ideal, with temperatures generally ranging from 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and the crystal blue waters have an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit making them perfect for swimming year-round.
Saint Barthelemy, French West Indies (Antilles francaises)
The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and was allegedly named after his brother Bartoloméo. The first plane did not land on the island until the 1940’s when a Dutch pilot, Rémy de Haenen, made a daring landing on the pasture in St. Jean where the airport sits today. The runway was eventually paved but people continued to wait for flights under a tree until a terminal was constructed in the 1980s.
Although the island has certainly seen development since de Haenen landed on the grass “runway”, it has retained its character and charm.
I had yesterday a lovely swim at Gouverneur beach. Like all of St Barts beaches, Gouverneur was hit by the recent high seas. But for some reason, I find that the beach was improved as a result.
Gouverneur Beach St. Barts
If you have been to Gouverneur, you know that the beach is located in a beautiful private cove, owned by software-genius-turned-St-Barts-musician Jeet. The beach remains beautiful. Yet, over the years, it was getting harder and harder to get into the water from the beach: big rocks (called “cailles” in local parlance) were showing and hurting feet quite a bit when getting in or out of the water.
The high seas hit the beach in Gouverneur just like everywhere else. The result was that sand was pulled down from the beach and covered the cailles. Hence, I was able yesterday to get into the water from any point of the beach. This is just great.
As usual, some people were naked, at the farthest end of the beach. There were at most 20 of us on the beach at 3 pm. Gouverneur is a small Salinas to me, beautiful, free. Just more houses overlooking the bay … and the naked sun-seekers 😉
La nostalgie n’est plus ce qu’elle était …
This is a hard one to translate: ” La nostalgie n’est plus ce qu’elle était” . “Nostalgia is not what it used to be” … sort of …
When I hit the island a few days ago, I met some people at the airport that I know a bit. As I usually do, I asked “How was the high season for you this year?”. They looked at me and said ” The island is changing. And not in a good way”.
In my head, I was like “Here we go again, the ritual refrain about things not being the same anymore”. Anyone who has come more than twice on the island feels like a regular and will readily tell you about how much the island has changed in 20 years, in 10 years, in 5 years, or in 2 months.
But this time around, very sad news was hitting home: a man working on the island had raped two women, a local resident, and a tourist. The guy was caught in less than 24 hours by the local gendarmerie and deported to prison on another island. I am very sorry for these two women.
This was shocking to me on several levels. First, these crimes were depictable: the tourist was hitchhiking and the resident was sleeping at home. Second, this kind of thing never happens in St Barts. It is one of the most secure places that I know. I can walk into my friends’ villas easily, as they usually do not lock their doors. Same for cars, I never lock mine: where could a thief go in my car, on such a tiny island?
Yet, recently, there has also been a break-in in the local hardware store (I know, a big deal compared to Rio de Janeiro or even to Paris or NYC). And tourists have reported personal items being stolen here and there.
So, how safe is St Barts?
Well, I guess that tourism officials would say that it is 100% safe. I would say 98%. I am not playing with numbers here. St Barts is one of the only places in the world where you can parade in the street in your Louboutin shoes, your Birkin bag in hand, and feel super safe. It is precisely because these isolated crimes are unusual that they are shocking to us.
My advice? Well, do as I do: when leaving your villa, just put your valuables (jewels, watches, iPhone, etc.) in a safe. In our villa, there is a safe in every bedroom. This is it. Lock the villa if you want to. And just remember that this is a very safe island where terrible things can happen once in a while, like anywhere else.