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Thursday
Mar182010

A Day in St. Barth's

Location: Gustavia, St. Barth's

Yesterday Kristin and I did a whirlwind day trip to shop in St. Barth's. 

To start with, the flights to/from St. Barth's were worth every penny, even if we had never set foot outside the airport. We caught the 9am commuter flight from Grand Case, the tiny airport just down the road. I've been watching planes fly in/out of the airport for weeks now - everything from tiny 2-seater prop planes to large prop planes - and was excited to finally give it a shot. 

Boarding our plane was in and of itself an adventure. We walked out to see a tiny little 10-seater prop plane with very small doors. With no indication of seating assignments on our hand-written tickets, we weren't sure what to expect, but upon walking out onto the tarmac, we were told where to sit. It turns out, Kristin got shotgun - she was assigned to be the navigator. Literally. As in, sat next to the pilot, with her own set of controls, both hand and feet. I sat directly behind her, and had to pull my seat forward to let other passengers on, like I was in an old 70's station wagon. The only safety briefing we received was when the guy who had checked us in (and did the plane inspection among other assorted odd jobs) told Kristin not to touch the pilot until after we landed safely. We only understood this admonition when he arrived - he was a Hottie! Sadly we were all sweating like pigs. I had to try and lean forward in the gap between the pilot's and Kristin's seat in an attempt to get a whif of AC. I almost asked the pilot to open his window - the plane was so small that that was an actual option.

The flight itself was spectacular. We saw amazing scenery, and I was able to take some great pictures of both islands on the flight there and back. 

The flight was also like an 8-minute amusement park ride. For those of you not familiar with the St. Barth's landing, I refer you to the YouTube video of a plane crashing. It's a very short runway, and on the approach, you have to crest this hill before the pilot literally cuts the engines and glides down to land. We were luckier than the plane in the video, but it was definitely an adrenaline-inducing ride. 

After the shortest flight in the history of aviation, we grabbed a rental car, and the real ride began. Kristin knows St. Barth's very well, and with only six hours to shop, we had not a moment to lose. We started with this amazing consignment shop - our only opportunity for a bargain. As my Mom once told me, you only go to garage sales in neighborhoods nicer than yours. St. Barth's definitely qualified. This consignment shop was full of Dolce & Gabbana, True Religion, and all manner of crazy brands, all items worn maybe once or twice. We each found a good deal there. 

We then embarked on our shopping mission of St. Barth's proper, starting with Gustavia. There was a cruise ship in the harbor, but I was amazed to see how empty the streets and stores were. It's clear that the economy has taken its toll. But did this translate to sales and deals? Hell no. When Kristin asked the store owners how business was, they were all in denial... and then they closed for a three-hour lunch, something they never would have done if there was actual business. Given where we were, I decided I was on the hunt for the best beach cover up ever. I found several... and they were all 150 euro or more. I was amazingly restrained, waiting until we had done the full tour before making a decision, but sadly the stores were all closed when it came time to make the final purchase. Actually, it's not so sad for my wallet... or my relationship with my husband. 

The one thing I did purchase was a fantastic silver ring and matching necklace from a great store called Les Artisans. They had unusual designs, and the owners were wonderful. It was amazing how quickly the day flew by, and how little time six hours turned out to be. We barely had time to pick up paninis for lunch (the French version of fast food, which took 30 minutes to prepare "to go"), much less tour the island or check out the beaches. 

The flight home was on a slightly larger airplane, so no one got to ride shotgun. The problem was the lack of AC (yet again)... compounded by the idiot who sat in front of us and FARTED. On a 10-seater airplane, in tropical Caribbean heat and humidity, with no AC. SERIOUSLY? Seriously? You couldn't have held it? Cruel. 

Beyond the shopping, St. Barth's is a beautiful island... but it reminded me a little of Disney World in that it was a little too clean. It just wasn't real. Even the souvenir shops were crazy - it took me a minute to realize it was because the souvenir T-shirts were actually cashmere sweaters. With St. Barths printed on them. On the CASHMERE. And the woman who worked in the souvenir shop was wearing a $3k necklace we had just seen next door. The yachts in the harbor were insane. To say St. Barth's is a bit pricey, snooty and full of itself would be a gross understatement. 

All that said, I'm really glad we took the trip over there. We had a great time, and I love to explore new places, but more than anything, it reaffirmed our decision to come to St. Martin's instead. This island has real people, many of whom we've met and absolutely adore. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Did I mention before that I'm positively green with envy, and it ain't St. Paddys hangover. Sounds like you are having a blast! St, Barths was nice, but agree it is too pristine and way out of my price range. Did shop at the Louis Vutitton there dripping wet in my swim gear and they were really cool about it so it's not all bad. Life back here in SF is going well--had some great weather but not exactly the sunny Caribbean. I'm way jealous--oh for a dip in the warm seas.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnatol

The warm seas are the best. Not a day goes by that I'm not swimming in the sea or in the pool. It really is the best. Of course, they've been saying the sea is even warmer than usual for this time of year, so it might be one hell of a hurricane season :(. Glad to hear SF is going well. I can't believe Elis is already a year and half old! How did time fly like that? Hope you guys are going to get her down to the Bahamas sometime soon. Take care, Lucinda

March 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterLucinda

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