Welcome back to my Travel Column where I share facts about some of the interesting places I’ve traveled, and some new places I’d like to travel to. I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. As we get ready to venture into a new season, there are plenty of beautiful places you will discover in this series, and some I too have yet to visit.
I’ve written about a few islands in the Caribbean so far, and today I want to continue the Caribbean theme and take us all to Saint Barthelemy, or the often abbreviated, St. Barths, the French prefer to call it, and, St. Barts in English.
St. Barts is a small volcanic island, encircled by shallow reefs, and is one of four territories that make up what’s called the Leeward Islands, located in the northwest of the Caribbean Sea, lying approximately 22 miles southeast of St. Martin and just north of St. Kitts. The capital city of St Barts is Gustavia, named after a Swedish King. The other three islands part of these territories are: Martinique, French West Indies, and Guadeloupe.
St. Barts is a French-speaking island that is renowned as an elite destination most popular to the rich and famous, but certainly not limited to just the rich and famous. The island is most known for its beautiful beaches, luxury yachts and of course, designer boutiques and spectacular restaurants. St. Barts is considered one of the safest islands with very little to zero crime!
There are three methods of which to arrive in St. Barts. The first is truly geared toward the rich or famous, arrive by yacht, or take a ferry from another island. The other option is to fly into St. Martin and take a small prop plane a short 10 – minute flight into the St. Barts landing strip, most likely the method I would choose.
Check out the video below to see the landing strip and a bit more history and overview of the island:
A Bit of History
St. Barts covers an area of just short of ten square miles and a population of just over 8,000 people. It was a Swedish colony for almost a century. In 1784, Louis XVI traded the island to Sweden in exchange for trading rights in Gothenberg. In 1878 France re-purchased the island. To this day, the Swedish national arms and its three crowns still appear on St. Barts’ coat of arms.
In early history, before the European takeover of many of the Caribbean islands prior to the 15th century, the Taino (indigenous peoples of the Caribbean ), and the Arawak (indigenous peoples of South America) were the prime inhabitors of most of the Caribbean islands. Prior to France taking over, St. Barts’ original name was Ouanalao. Columbus first encountered the island in 1493. The next 100 years would pass until the island was formally colonized.
By 1648, the French settled on the island, lasting a mere 8 years before the settlement was attacked by the Caribs, causing a brief abandonment of the island. Five years later St. Barts was bought back by the French. The island didn’t prove to be very successful or valuable and was often pirated, and once attacked by the British. This prompted Louis XVI to sell it to Sweden in return for trade access in Gothenberg, Sweden. The island became a free trading port for Europeans.
In the late 1700s, slavery was common on the island and continued well into the mid 1800s until the slaves were freed. The slaves suffered severe economic hardships because the island had no plantations. In 1852, a devastating hurricane hit the island, followed not long after by a massive fire. The Swedes decided the island wasn’t worthy of much, so decided to sell it back to France in 1878, when it became an archipelago of Guadeloupe (a French commune, forming part of Guadeloupe which was the overseas region and department of France). It wasn’t until March of 1946 that the people became French citizens with full rights.
The island offered few economic prospects and many had to take jobs on neighboring islands to get by until the 60s and 70s rolled around and the idea of tourism came, building a few hotels and a narrow landing strip on the island – big enough to accommodate a mid-sized aircraft. The island soon became known as a luxurious island for many old movie stars to stow away to for vacationing without being hounded by paparazzi. Tourism and the rapid resulting growth of the island’s economy soared, making St. Barts become a unique island with a rise in living standard, resulting in ultimate modernization, still coveted by the rich and famous. In a 2003 referendum, the residents of St, Barts wished to separate from the jurisdiction of Guadeloupe, and in 2007 they got their wish. The island of St. Barthelemy became an overseas collectivity (OCM). A governing council was elected providing the island with a degree of autonomy and a senator in Paris represents the island. The island currently retains its free port status, and in 2012, St. Barthelemy ceased being an ‘outermost region’ by leaving the EU.
The island is mostly a dry climate from December through April, with the exception of the rainy season – typically May through November with an average of 39 inches of rainfall. Despite the rainfall, there is typically sunshine throughout the year with average temps hovering up to 90 degrees during the day and mid 70s in the evenings. There isn’t much humidity thanks to the light winds.
The Euro is the mainstay currency of the island, but U.S. dollars are also accepted. Because the island is touted as a ‘luxury island’, it is quite pricey to visit, but rates do plummet quite a bit during the off- season months. Travelers recommend best rates from April through June. The island’s economy is based on tourism and it is a duty-free island, so although many of the boutiques you can shop at, although designer with designer price tags- it’s duty-free which will be considerably cheaper than at home.
St. Barts attracts approximately 200,000 visitors per year. The wealth generated by investors on the island is responsible for the high standard of living. Most of the food on the island is imported from both U.S and France.
There are approximately only 25 hotels on the island, with most of them having on average 12- 15 rooms available. Most other accommodations available are villas to rent. For more accommodation information, check out this link.
Most hotels offer free round trip pickup and drop offs to and from the landing strip airport. To get around the island, most rent cars as it’s been said that taxis are not plentiful.
The island boasts over 70 restaurants – many of them gourmet cuisine. Common cuisine you will find there are: French, West Indian, Creole, Italian, and Asian.
St. Barts has a small hospital and a diagnostic lab in Gustavia as well as doctors specializing in many capacities, and several pharmacies. For patients requiring more serious issues they travel to Guadeloupe, San Juan or France.
St. Barts hosts 14 public white sand beaches. Nudism is prohibited, but topless is very common. Shell Island, to name one, is one of 4 unique beaches in the world, loaded with beautiful shells. To have a look at some of these beautiful beaches and their locations on the island, please click HERE
Find a beautiful overview of the island below:
St. Barts hosts many festivals annually. You will find a complete list of festivals and dates HERE
It is customary to say hello to fellow islanders when passing.
Nobody honks their car horns – it’s considered rude.
For more information on St. Barts, visit the links below.
Thanks Debby for all that information and I would be very happy to have a couple of weeks there right now.. anyone want to join us?
Read the other posts in the Travel Column: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-travel-column-with-d-g-kaye/
About D.G. Kaye
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.
Books by D.G. Kaye
A recent reviews for Have Bags Will Travel
D.G. Kaye takes the reader around the world with laughs galore. I’m not much of a shopper, but I found myself chuckling about all the occasions when the author and one her pals attempted to slip onto an airplane with a cache of treasures. I especially enjoyed her description of contorting one’s body inside the airplane’s lavatory while also doing everything in her power to avoid germs. If you’re looking for a fun, quick read, check out this book.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO
More reviews and follow Debby on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye
About me: http://www.wiseintro.co/dgkaye7
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@pokercubster (yes there’s a story)
Thank you for joining us today and Debby would love to receive your feedback and your travel experiences. Also any questions please add them in the comments.