Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy, French West Indies

The island (also called St Barth and St Barts) is named after Christopher Columbus’s younger brother. The main town on the island is Gustavia.

We really liked Gustavia in the off season. Here are some reasons why:

Rock-star parking

When we visited before in the high season, the inner harbour was full of mega yachts and we had to anchor way out. This time, Tony motored us into the inner harbour and we looked for a mooring ball until an official in a zodiac came to us. After chiding us for not calling ahead, he told us to side-tie at the government dock.

It was so convenient to be right in town and near the clean public facilities too! The price was surprisingly reasonable — we decided to stay three nights. It was lovely to be off the boat and into town whenever we liked — no need to dinghy in and risk wet-butt.

French food

We had delicious French food, professionally served in attractive cafes and restaurants. Highlights were crepes Breton, euro-style pizza, and the best was dinner at Bonito — a beautiful restaurant overlooking the harbour. Daniella’s father lives on St. Barts and she asked him for a recommendation: Bonito was the top of his list.

Bonito was well worthy of Tony Day’s birthday meal (albeit a few days late). He kicked it off with an innovative rum cocktail served under a cloche filled with sage-scented smoke. The meal carried on delightfully from there. Everyone at the restaurant appeared to be “someone”. I think that we must have looked like “someone” also because when the diner at the next table got up to video his party, he quietly captured each one of us on video too.

Le Shopping

St. Barts is a high-end shopper’s dream. Gayle, our shopping expert says of Barts:

A combination of Laguna Beach, Beverly Hills (the classic part) and Hayes Valley. The art was iffy, but the jewelry and fashion and decor were so luxurious. Also, French women don’t wear baseball caps. Just so you know.

I enjoyed shopping at the grocery store; in particular we stocked up on wine and got some yummy French cheese too.

People

All the people we met were appropriately pleasant and helpful (and not obsequious).

  • The chandlery stayed open an extra 10 minutes to help with our pump problem.
  • The harbour staff tried to appear officious but were very helpful and service oriented.
  • The quirky lady at the sandwich shop made us laugh.
  • Gayle and Pete enjoyed chatting to the shop girl just back from two years of travel.
  • The clerk in the post office spoke enough English but the next day allowed me to complete my transaction in French.

History

I enjoyed learning a bit of island history. I did not know that Sweden had had a Caribbean colony for nearly 100 years; France didn’t get St. Barts (back) until 1878. I did a self-guided walking tour; I liked the plain, solid architecture of the Swedish-built structures.

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