St Barts

St. Barts is probably the most highly styled and exclusive island in all of the Caribbean, a kind of tropical Saint Tropez. Somehow afloat on the dreamy azure hue of the sparkling Caribbean, it is as small and perfectly formed as an elegant charm bracelet. Long a magnet for A-listers and the seriously rich, the entire island is suffused with a distinctively Gallic flair.

Measuring only a few miles across, the island still retains some elements of its original, Swedish owners. Check out the small, picture perfect capital of Gustavia, named after a former Swedish queen. Set around three sides of an open rectangle- the fourth is the harbour mouth- Gustavia is an easy place to stroll.

The town itself is all low, red roofed houses and shops, set around a series of wooden quays and landing slips that jut out into the sparkling, sun splashed Caribbean. Yachts as large as aircraft carriers sit alongside quays lined with chic, eye wateringly expensive designer shops. Here and there, spindly palm trees provide shade for people lounging at sidewalk cafes and restaurants, picking over food and wearing sun glasses worth the entire national debt of a small third world country.

Worth checking out is the tiny airport, with its landing strip literally jutting out toward the sea. Landings and take offs look a lot more hair raising than they actually are, but it is hugely entertaining. But, for the true, platinum chip indolence of that ‘Riviera in the Caribbean’ feel, you need to head to one of the beaches.

Shell Beach- or Anse Galet in French- is one of the easiest to reach from town. A steady fifteen minute walk takes you past white, stone houses shaded by oleander, jasmine and fragrant hibiscus blossoms. The beach itself is the stuff of dreams.

Shell Beach is as chic and elegant as they come; a sweep of deep, honey blond sand backs onto a rocky escarpment with its own restaurants. The surf is warm enough to stroll in; it laps almost apologetically at the beach, with its secluded nudist area behind the rocks. Groups of tables and chairs dot the sand, beneath the shade of idle, soporifically waving palm trees, as jet skis tear up the azure blue hue of the briny.

Cruise ships cannot dock at St. Barts. Ships arriving here anchor in the bay of Gustavia itself, and then tender their passengers to the pier at Port de Pleasance, literally in the middle of the town.

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