Beautiful scenery and the beautiful people on St. Barts.
By Charlie Huisking
I didn't see David Letterman while I was on St. Barts this week. Though the talk-show host owns one villa on the island and is building another, he was probably busy in New York, trying to end the television writers' strike.
I didn't see Bill Gates, either, though a taxi driver pointed out his huge yacht in the harbor and said Gates is always here between Christmas and New Years.
I did spot hip-hop billionaire and "Def Poetry Jam" creator Russell Simmons, who was walking along the beach in front of Nikki's, a trendy restaurant where guests sit by the shore on couches under a sail-like canopy. Simmons likes St. Barts so much that he was married here several years ago. That marriage didn't work out, but he must have kept the villa.
When you arrive in St. Barts, you feel as if a tiny piece of the Cote d'
Azur has broken off and drifted to the middle of the Caribbean. The
U-shaped harbor of this French-owned island is filled with mega-yachts from around the world. French and American rock music pulses from bistros and from shops selling Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Rolex watches, French perfume and Cuban cigars.
St. Barts' lush green foliage and azure waters attract tourists--and celebrities--from around the world.
We took a tender in from the Crystal Serenity about noon and rented a terrifyingly tiny car called a Chevy Spark. We spent the next few hours driving around the island, stopping at isolated, windswept beaches like Grand Saline, and crowded, see-and-be-seen spots like St. Jean Beach, where the famed resort Eden Rock commands attention from a rocky promontory, and where all the women command attention because they are topless.
Driving up and down St. Barts' steep hills was an adventure. The roads are narrow and the scenery is so spectacular you're tempted to look at the view instead of the oncoming cars. Not only that, many of the other drivers are vacationing from France, and are used to driving like madmen.
Isolated beaches and spectacular scenery make a trip to St. Barts' worth every Euro.
So I needed a relaxing break by the time we reached Nikki's, which has branches in St. Tropez and Cannes. The staff was pleasant and welcoming. We weren't treated like American rubes, even though I was wearing a battered SNN hat and a t-shirt.
St. Barts was an expensive island even before the currency was converted to the Euro. And now, prices are out of sight for vacationing Americans. My Salad Nicoise, my friend's chicken satay and our two iced teas cost about $80, including tip. But as I sat there taking in the Caribbean light, listening to the pounding surf and watching the beautiful people, I didn't even blink when the bill came. And for a cheapskate like me, that's saying a lot.