Toujours, St. Barth

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A quiet morning on Saint Jean Beach on St. Barth.

After a busy holiday season, blue skies and warm waters beckoned. We touched down in San Juan the night before and grabbed a Tradewind puddle jumper to St. Barth in the morning. We arrived around noon, which turned out to be a vastly better idea than getting up at 4AM for an early morning flight to set foot on the island as the sun was going down. This year was the first time we tried that; and it worked.

It was nice to be back. Aggie, our pup, felt that way too, and broke into a big grin as she got off the small plane. French customs eyed our passports and waived her through, not asking for her papers. It’s true, the French prefer dogs to people. Two weeks of bliss followed.

Things constantly change on St. Barth. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. But, there is always something new to savor.

Good Afternoon Flamands
Good afternoon Flamands.

We arrived on St. Barth on a near perfect day. Flamands beach, located on the northwestern part of the island, was calm as the winds were hitting the other side of the island. We dropped our bags off at the house and headed to St. Jean for lunch.

A Fun Bar And Restaurant
A fun bar and restaurant.

Last year we discovered a few smaller restaurants favored by locals. Le Piment is one of them. It sits on a busy corner, and is a clean and open space. The menu is classic French.  I had an os à moelle, or a slit and roasted marrow bone, with fleur de sel. One of my favorite treats that is difficult (but not impossible) to find in New York. Michael enjoyed a poke bowl. That night we had a fun dinner in a long-time favorite in Gustavia, Eddy’s Ghetto.

Le Piment, St Jean / Eddy’s Ghetto, rue Samuel Fahlberg

Another Perfect Day On Flamands on St Barth
Another perfect day on Flamands.

Flamands was even calmer the next day. While taking in the sun and a cool breeze, it dawned on me that St. Barth’s attracts a multitude of different personalities. There is the group that loves to party. They sleep late, go to the buzzy beach restaurants and drink and dance, they lie in the sun a little bit, go out for pricey dinners, and club the nights away. Then there are others who love to swim, sun and dine while enjoying the beauty of the island. On this day, it was fairly crowded for a beautiful St. Barth beach.

The Hillsides Are Crowded With Huge Homes in ST Barth
The Hillsides are crowded with huge homes.

The island elected a new president who has promised to cut back on rampant over-development. “Foreigners” had gotten permits to build hulking houses up the hills of Flamands. The brown “house” at the left  has 19 rooms, and a pool with a footprint that is larger than most homes on St. Barth. While on the right, two huge homes are being built next to one another on multiple levels. On an island where water is scarce, and so much of the land is off limits for housing, the citizens have had enough. Who really needs a 19-room house?

Late Afternoon Sun On Saint Jean
Late afternoon sun on Saint Jean.

That afternoon we headed to St. Jean beach, which is sheltered from the wind. Lunch clubs dot both ends of the beach, and the luxurious Eden Rock Hotel is at the center. Everyone loves this beach. And it is the best beach for kids. That night we went to one of our favorite spots for dinner, La Langouste, back on Flamands.

The Drive Down To Gouveneur
The drive down to Gouveneur.

The next morning the wind had shifted and was blowing on the Flamands side of the island. So we headed to Gouveneur. As you can see, the ride down the hill is dramatic and beautiful.

Gossiping Turtles At The Beach
Gossiping turtles at the beach.

There were turtles all over the island. St. Barth loves its turtles. If you see one on the road, the polite thing to do is to stop the car, get out and move the turtle to safety. It makes everyone smile. As do sitings of  juvenile turtles. Goats and chickens roam all over the island, too. There was a family of chickens living on Gouveneur. And down the street from our house, a particular cock would start crowing at 4 a.m. It got to be a bit much, but after one Sunday there was no more crowing. We, and others in the neighborhood, suspect that he ended up on someone’s plate at a Sunday lunch.

A Clear Day At Gouveneur
A clear day at Gouveneur.

There were several families on the beach playing in the sea. Interestingly, the undertow was very strong and the currents were fast. The wind may change direction, but its effect on the sea remains for several days.

Island Fishermen Selling Their Catch in ST Barth
Island fishermen selling their catch.

It seems like there were many more stores selling fish. And this was the first time I had seen fishermen selling fresh catch out of the back of their truck at the crossroads above the airport.

Les Bananiers Is Always Popular
Les Bananiers is always popular.

Dinner that eve was at another well-priced restaurant with delicious food, Les Bananiers. The restaurant is sort of hidden atop a building that also houses a good bakery/patisserie on the top of a hill. It has views of the village of  Corossol and the Columbier quartier. The food is a mix of Creole, French and Asian accented dishes. All of it yummy, of course.

Restaurant les Bananiers, Columbier

An Unusual Storm For St Barth
An unusual storm for St. Barth.

The next day was not fun. It does rain in St. Barth, but normally the rains are very gentle and the small clouds are scattered across the sky. It could rain on one side of the island and not the other. But this was different. Huge dark clouds covered the skies and high winds blew. We had gotten used to the winds, and even welcomed them a bit as Dengue fever was spreading in this part of the Caribbean. But the winds kept the mosquitos away. Which was a good thing.

The Salt Flats And Breakers On Saline Beach
The salt flats and breakers on Saline Beach.

The dark clouds were gone the next day, but there was more cloud cover than usual. The wind had turned again, and Gouveneur was too rough for swimming. We drove to Saline, the next beach, and it too was full of whitecaps. Back to the other side of the island.

Marigot Beach Is A Marine Preserve
Marigot Beach is a marine preserve.

Marigot Beach is pretty protected, but this year there was some surf. This had always been a secret beach. And it was also a perfect place to snorkel as it had lots of coral, turtles, fish, and even small friendly nurse sharks. Last year the beach was hit by the waves of sargassum that were inundating the Caribbean, suffocating and killing the coral, and causing the wildlife to flee. This year the algae was gone, and marine biologists are trying to bring the coral back. I hope the waters are teeming again soon.

Gustavia Harbour At Sunset
Gustavia Harbour at sunset.

Later that afternoon, I headed into Gustavia to do some shopping. The setting sun was tinting the clouds a sunny pink. There were definitely fewer large yachts moored in the harbor this year. The fees for docking are extremely high, but the locals say that the big boats should pay because they use a great quantity of electricity and water.

Perfect Shirts For Men and Women in ST Barth
Perfect shirts for men and women at Jacques Zolty.

There are hundreds of small boutiques on the island. The big brands are here too, but I was looking for something new and fun. Jacques Zolty offers very chic bathing suits, and shirts in solids and original prints for men and women. They also have a good selection of Borsalino hats, for a finishing touch. The brand is Monaco-based, and has expanded to St. Barth.

Jacques Zolty, Rue de la République

The WIld Side Boutique is Packed With Fun Things
The Wild Side boutique is packed with fun things.

Wild Side of St Barth is a large store aimed at a younger customer. They sell lots of dresses, long and short, kimonos, shirts, shorts, pyjamas and skirts. Many of the pieces are made in their workshop in the South of France. You will find a little bit of everything here. Sunglasses, jewelry, hats, and more.

Wild Side of St Barth, Les Hauts du Carré d’Or

Street Syle At The Beach in St Barth
Street style at The Corner on the beach.

The Corner offers a good selection of on-trend sneakers for men and women. Something not found in other boutiques on the island. And even though there is a Dior boutique in town, it is only women’s and does not offer the Dior-branded surfboard seen here. All the right funky street brands are here for men and women.

The Corner, 3, rue de la Suède

Bijoux de Mer's Relaxed Jewelry in St Barth
Bijoux de la Mer’s relaxed jewelry.

Bijoux de la Mer is a tiny space filled with pearly creations. The pearls are mixed with a variety of cords and beads. Funky but chic describes the pieces, with an elegant boho vibe. This is jewelry that would not look out of place at the beach.

Bijoux de la Mer, 37, rue de la République Gustavia

Tender Colors and Unique Prints in St Barth
Tender colors and unique prints at Voila St Barth.

Voila St Barth offers very refined clothing for men and women. The clothing is a mix of the best of sailing and modernity. The shapes are classic, and the prints are designed by Voila. My favorite is a Toile de Jouy print with a tropical island theme. The boutique is full of elevated beach dressing. And there are even some pieces for kids.

Voila St Barth, 4, rue de la suede

Delfina is Known For It's Swimwear
Delfina is known for its swimwear.

Delphina is an Italian brand that started selling in St Barths, and now, all over Europe and the States. The brand offers well made swimwear and cover-ups in their unique prints. They did a Toile de Jouy print, too, this season. And if you need a straw tote, look no further.

Delphina, Passage de la Crémaillère

Home Decor With A Sense of Humour in St Barth
Home decor with a sense of humor at Les Petits Carreaux.

Les Petits Carreaux is a cheeky home goods store located in a tiny mall. Most of the items are adorned with phrases/sayings and fun prints. Boxes, coasters, water bottles, trays, pillows, books, mugs, etc., etc. There are even some fun island paintings. A feel good store that does not take itself too seriously.

 Les Petits Carreaux, Rue du Roi Oscar II

Vanita Rose Is Full Of Saucy Dresses
Vanita Rose is full of saucy dresses.

Vanita Rosa is a rare store in St Barth that is not full of prints. The fabrics include silks, crochets and lace, linen and trimmed in laces and embroidery. Everything is designed and manufactured in Paris. Prices are not cheap, but the pieces are timeless beach dressing. And the clients love them.

Vanita Rosa, Rue du Roi Oscar II

Cool Jewelry In Chrome Hearts
Cool jewelry in Chrome Hearts.

Finally, American brands have boutiques on the island. Chrome Hearts is one of my faves. The tough-love jewelry is family made, with the second generation involved in running the business. The store is more airy than the branches in New York. And the ceiling is covered in brand specific “fleur-de-lis.” Although there is a small selection of casual clothing, the jewelry is the thing.

Chrome Hearts, rue du roi Oscar II

Le Select On A Normal Night
Le Select on a normal night.

Le Select is the funky gathering point for so many locals and visitors to the island. The cafe is one of the places Jimmy Buffet indulged in the “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” he made famous in song. Although that burger today — when served with all the trimmings — costs over thirty euros.

Le Select, rue de France

Bags, Dresses and Shoes in Cult Gaia
Bags, dresses and shoes in Cult Gaia.

Los Angeles brand Cult Gaia opened a chic shop this January. Party dresses, bags and shoes are brand specialties. All the looks are a bit flirty.

Cult Gaia, 8, rue du Roi Oscar II

Aggie Blowing in The Wind in St Barth
Aggie blowing in the wind.

The wind was so strong that it ruffled Aggie’s coat. Even so, she held her own.

Shell Beach In Gustavia
Shell Beach In Gustavia.

Thankfully, the storms had moved on, but the wind was hitting the Flamands and St Jean side of the island. Shell Beach, in the town of Gustavia, is one small beach that is pretty much always protected. Shells wash up on this beach and are ground down into sand (hence “Shell” Beach). There is a restaurant right on the beach and it offers loungers, umbrella, and food and drink services.  It was a little bit crowded — yes, that’s crowded — as many of the other beaches were too rough to swim.

Shellona and It's Boutique
Shellona and its boutique.

The restaurant is called Shellona. A small boutique is housed in a little case next to it. Shellona is the beach outpost of the Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf. And it is also possible to rent gear for watersports.

Shellona, Shell Beach

Boats in The Gustavia Harbour
Boats docked in Gustavia Harbor.

Heading back to the other side of the island, the red roofs of Gustavia were a lovely contrast to the blues of the sea.

Relaxed Looks At Sable Show in St Barth
Relaxed looks st Sable Show.

We were en route to Orient beach as our pup Aggie had a vet appointment to pick up a prescription. After we left the office, I noticed that there was a brand new group of buildings across the road. It was a tiny mini-mall with more boutiques. Sable Show had good, inexpensive (rare for St Barth) clothing for men and women. I got a men’s crinkle cotton shirt that was perfect to wear to the beach; Michael got some casual pull on apres-swim pants.

Sable Show, Centre commercial l’ïlot

The Perfect Casual Shoe
The perfect casual shoe at Brin d’Ile.

And there was an even better find. The Gustavia boutique Laurent Effel had closed last year as the owner went back to France. The shoes and bags in the boutique were made especially for the store. This year several of his employees revived the business, now called Brin d’Ile. The suede drivers with the silhouette of St. Barth on them, and the many sandals and bags, are also for sale again. It’s great to have them back.

Brin d’Ile, Centre commercial l’ïlot

Tons Of Tees In Love in St Barth
Tons of tees in love at Love St Barth.

Love St Barth is full of logoed basics. Everything you need for a very casual look.

Love St Barth, Centre commercial l’ïlot

Plenty of Good Vibes In This Boutique in ST Barth
Plenty of good vibes at Victoria St Barth.

Victoria St Barth sells clothing and little fun bits for the home. The looks are boho and very print-centric. Hats, bags, shoes, swimwear and plenty of dresses have got those island vibes.

Victoria St Barth, Centre commercial l’ïlot

A Perfect Beach for Windsurfing
A perfect beach for windsurfing.

The beach at St Jean was calmer, but the wind was still up. Because the beach is reef-protected you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, windsurf and kitesurf gear, and electric surf boards. There was plenty of wind to kitesurf and these two zipped about once they got their sails up.

A Full Moon Lights Up The Night
A full moon lights up the night.

A gorgeous full moon appeared to rise out of the sea. As it got higher, it cast a silvery shadow across the bay. Really a beautiful night with the waves gently rolling on to the shore.

A Feet In The Sand Lunch in ST Barth
A feet in the sand lunch.

The next day we were off to Grand Cul de Sac to meet friends for lunch at the small Ti’ Corail. Reservations made days before is recommended. Ti’ Corail describes itself as a food truck on the beach, but it is basically a beach shack with tables plunked down in the sand. The menu changes every day and it is inventive and quite sophisticated. It only serves lunch, and on Saturdays cocktails, too. A dive center and watersports rental business is attached to the restaurant. They teach scuba diving and arrange scuba and snorkeling trips to many sites around the island. I am looking forward to returning next year.

Ti’Corail, Plage de Grand Cul de Sac

The Protected Beach of Cul de Sac in ST Barth
The protected beach of Cul de Sac.

The Cul de Sac beach is big reef protected and ringed with hotels. The water is shallow, and it is a good spot for kiteboarding and other sports. The little black spec in the distance is someone kiting out by the reef. The lagoon is also the home to many large sea turtles that you can visit when you don a mask and flippers.

Everything You Need in Monoprix
Everything you need in Monoprix.

Another great new addition to the island is Monoprix, a major French retail chain known for its value pricing and well designed merch. The chain has opened several large stores in a commercial space in L’Orient with a small branch in St. Jean. This location carries everything for the home, from sheets and towels to knives and forks. Another building houses a grocery store. Monoprix is well known in France for offering a good selection of meats and vegetables, equipped with a cave stocked with a great selection of wines and spirits.

Monoprix, quartier de L’Orient

A Very Trendy Restaurant in St. Barth
A very trendy restaurant St Jean.

We stopped in St Jean to take a look at the menu at Zion. This is a foodie restaurant set in a lovely garden that serves a chef’s menu. We had been told that the menu often changes so wanted to take a look at what was posted. It looked interesting; and it was for our last night on the island.

Zion, Centre Vaval

Loads of Merch in a Typical Case in ST Barth
Loads of merch in a typical case.

ComciComca is stuffed with lots of jewelry and items for the home, pool and beach. Everything has a very casual feel; made for island life.

ComciComca, Centre Vaval

Interesting Prints And New Shapes in A Store in St Barth
Interesting prints and new shapes at I Love Pop.

Next to Eden Roc and Nikki Beach were a few more shops. I Love Pop serves up ruffled clothing that is not overly sweet. The designer loves revealing necklines.

I Love Pop, Pelican St Jean Beach

Beach Casual Please in St Barth
Beach casual please at Cabane St Barth.

Next door is Cabane St Barth. It is filled with cool casual wear.  Soft jersey tees, delicate prints, stripes, and one of the few places to offer denim. It is feminine without the ruffles. Hats, bags and belts complete the look.

Cabane St Barth, Pelican St Jean

Sunset Reflected in The Clouds in ST Barth
Sunset reflected in the clouds.

It was time to bid farewell to St Barth. The trip back went smoothly, although Aggie sulked for several days without a terrace overlooking the beach to amuse her and restaurants to welcome her. I have promised her she will be going back.

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.

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