Posts Tagged ‘Hôtel de la Collectivité’

What does St. Barth look like 8-9 weeks post Hurricane Irma?

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

A St Barth first-person Experience November 02-05, 2017

My passion has always been St. Barth. My heart was aching for the people who experienced the wrath of Hurricane Irma and I longed to get back. Finding flights from Boston had become a huge challenge. I would book flights only to have them canceled. Finally, I found a flight through Miami to St. Maarten. Today’s blog covers my first few days back in paradise.

November 02, 2017:

My husband and I flew on America Airlines to Miami. Fortunately, the flight was on time and we made it to our connecting gate to St. Maarten in time. Both flights were full. I was surprised that so many people wanted to fly to St. Maarten because the recovery there is going at a snail’s pace.

I had heard that the terminal at Princess Juliana Airport was not open and was badly damaged. Make-shift arrangements had been made. That bit of news meant that I was clueless as to how to transit through to St. Barth. We had four heavy checked bags because we packed knowing that we would be here until May. I relied upon my fabulous concierge in our US office, Julia Hurd to arrange VIP services for us. What a smart move!

As soon as we touched down on the tarmac in SXM, I saw the devastation on both sides. I was so used to seeing pictures of how well St. Barth is recovering, it was a bit of a shock. It was as if Irma had hit only 3 days ago instead of 8 weeks ago. Our pilot parked the plane near some tents and we deplaned via a stairway. We were told to go to the “FOB” building. I had no idea what that was, so I asked a friendly guy at the bottom of stairs. He said, “Is your name Walsh?” He took me to Jerry who was handling my Easyway VIP service. Thank you, Jerry!

We deplaned in St. Maarten via a stairway.

We stood in line to clear immigration while Jerry retrieved our luggage, He then escorted us to another tented area where they had some counters and checked us in at Winair. Then we went to a booth to get our passports stamped again, this time for departure, and we went through a security checkpoint in a hangar serving as the departure lounge. It had some places to buy drinks and snacks and a restroom. Soon after, Jerry came to get us, and we were on our way to St. Barth.

We stood in line under a tent, in order ito go through immigration in a temporary building.

We waited for our Winair flight in a hangar that had become the departure lounge.

I admire St. Maarten for adapting to the aftermath of Irma by opening the airport to people like me. SXM is a gateway to many other destinations. I admire American Airlines for flying from Miami and Jet Blue from JFK every day, too. FYI If you are transiting through St. Maarten, please be sure to ask Julia to arrange the VIP service, you will be so happy that you did.

Vive La Différence! As we approached the island, we could see how green St. Barth is – already! We cleared immigration and headed to the St. Barth Properties booth that we share with Gumbs Car Rental. Odile was waiting for us with her always pretty smile and showed us to our rental cars. (Yes, we have two so that I can go off and work without stranding Steve.) 0ff we went to Villa Everest.

I tried to look at the surroundings as I drove. Yup, definitely, a hurricane had hit, the most obvious indication being the almost-naked palm trees. Otherwise, there were many signs of repairs and recovery that impressed me. Even the palms’ fronds had sprouted new growth showing that they were well on their way back to their stately beauty. We unpacked, showered and headed out to dinner. I had vowed that we would frequent every restaurant whose staff had busted their tails to reopen as soon as possible and show my support by dining there. We are always a bit tired on our first night and chose the casual Le Grain de Sel by Saline Beach; it was busy; they had blackboard specials, and we enjoyed the food, the friendly staff as well as the nice breeze.

November 03, 2017

I love waking up my first day back in St. Barth. Feeling rested, I grabbed my camera-phone and took a picture from the pool deck. The island looked nice and green and I remarked that Lorient beach looked beautiful. My mission is to give you firsthand knowledge of how St. Barth looks in real time but to also let you know how the people who lived through this nightmare felt and now feel.

My first morning view from Villa Everest was different but still stunnng.

Steve (aka “Doc”) went to his favorite warehouse in Lorient to stock up on supplies. In case you do not know my husband, he is Dr. Chatter and loves to talk to anyone. Maybe that is because he is a dentist and he was great at distracting his patients with banter between his dental assistant and him. He and the warehouse owner had a long conversation after the guy in front of him had bought every last bottle of Heineken out from under us!) The owner said that the guy owns a restaurant and people like him will go wherever they can to get what they need. Steve settled for Amstel Light and chatted away.

The owner said he had never experienced anything like Hurricane Irma. It was a category 5 but that is as high as the rankings go, and he thought of it as a category 7. In 1995, I remember when Hurricane Luis stalled over St. Barth for 36 hours. He said Irma was fast moving but was much stronger. Some people has lost part of their roofs and windows and when the eye hit at 7:00 am on September 6th, it was a blessing in disguise because people were able to go to the homes of friends and relatives and be safe. The backside was even worse. On September 7th, the island immediately began the recovery process. Everyone showed solidarity and pitched in to help one another. No one was going to sit back and wait for France to send help. The French didn’t think we needed it anyway because, “rich people come to St. Barth.”

Later, I met Anne laure and Laura from my rental office at Villa Les Embruns in Flamands so that I could visit it for a client of mine who is arriving in December. I saw people as well as the villa owner working on the villa, readying it for the first arrival on November 28th. Stonework was being done on a wall as well as repairs on the deck’s gazebos. When we went inside, it was perfect. The furniture looked as if nothing had happened. Laura successfully tested a “flybox” that enabled the Internet connection at the villa. I am going back next week to see the difference and report back.

I stopped at my offices in Gustavia to see everyone and to look at the damages. We have lots to do but both offices are open and ready to welcome you.

I stopped by my new St Barth Properties Sotheby’s International Realty sales office to check out the damages and to say hi to Benoit, Pascale, Nadine and Melissa.

That evening, we dined at another casual place, Bistro Josephine, which is on the road towards Shell Beach, not far from my offices. As soon as I opened the door, I saw my dear friend Audrey Ferrari who was the owner of Carpe Diem restaurant until the landlord decided to tear it down in favor of more shops. Audrey described the menu and the specials to us as we sipped our Coupes de Champagne. Once again, we had a delicious meal and had the chance to talk to Jean Paul, the owner. The bistro features a band once in a while; it also has a rear garden where you can dine alfresco. Try it, you’ll love it. We will make the reservations at any of the restaurants for you.

Doc and I are with Audrey and Jean Paul at Bistro Josephine.

November 04, 2017

Another day of reconnaissance found us driving past Grand Cul de Sac Beach, then turning left to view the lagoon from the righthand side. I wanted to see Le Barthélemy hotel and in the distance Le Sereno and Le Guanahani. The colors of the lagoon were as beautiful as ever; the beach looked inviting, too. The hotels are already in recovery – mode but it will take time before they can reopen. We have plenty of villas ready for your arrival. Maybe it’s time you try the Villa Experience. We can arrange every kind of service you may wish to have while you are there.

Next stop: Lorient Beach. We parked in our usual spot and took the footpath by the cemetery onto the beach. I looked to my left to see a very, very wide sandy beach. We walked the beach and realized that it was as wide as it is because the vegetation in front of the houses was gone. I saw homes that I had never seen before. It should all grow back soon. I spotted a woman with her two children playing on the beach near where the surf shack used to be and, as we approached, I realized that it was Hafida, the owner of The Hideaway restaurant. She told us that she is doing her best to reopen in December. I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

Lorient Beach is looking good too.

We had dinner at Eddy’s which had just reopened October 30th. It was quite busy, and we enjoyed seeing Brigitte, Eddy and their son Mahé again. The restaurant itself didn’t suffer any damage. The front garden lost its big tree. Eddy remarked that they were very fortunate because the tree fell across the street instead of onto the restaurant. Our meals were delicious, and I can’t wait to go back.

It is always a pleasure to see Eddy.

November 5, 2017

Today is Sunday. The day of rest is taken seriously by the islanders, so most places are closed. I put on my sneakers, put my Fitbit on my wrist and we headed off to Gustavia for a combination power walk and reconnaissance trip. The bakery in Lorient was open and a coveted parking space was free, so we parked and went in to buy our baguette for sandwich-making, so we could head to the beach with them later.

We stopped to buy our daily fresh baguette at La Petite Colombe in Lorient.

We decided to start our walk towards the other side of Gustavia. A cruise ship was anchored outside of the harbor and passengers had come in by tender. Therefore, a few shops were open. We headed to my offices and saw both the Bagatelle and the Baz Bar were under renovation. They plan on being open in December. Yay! As we continued on, we saw a few places that had been harmed by Irma. The harborside buildings that once held Hervé’s Coté Port and Carole’s Yacht Club were already scheduled to be torn down in favor of more dock space for boats, so no need for repairs there. We walked past the Hôtel de La Collectivité, as handsome as ever, and turned around at the end of that side of the harbor. Minor things such as benches need repair and the palm trees need more fronds.

The Hotel de la Collectivité (city hall) looks great

Reversing our steps, we walked down the other side of the harbor past the ferry dock and fish market. Everything seemed normal. The Voyager ferry had just arrived from St. Martin, taxi drivers were offering island tours to the cruise ship passengers, Le Repaire was open for breakfast and the fish market was intact but not open because it was Sunday. I did see a piece of plywood on the window at Longchamp’s but not much more. Further up the Bar de L’Oubli was open, too.

The Voyager ferry arrived on this quiet Sunday.

The fish market showed no sign of damage.

The afternoon reconnaissance: St. Jean Beach. After packing the cooler, putting beach chairs and an umbrella in the car, we headed to the parking lot across from the beach. The path at the end of the runway, going onto the sand, was wide, once again, because the foliage was gone. Believe it or not, we found a tiny piece of beach where we usually sit, that was shaded by some rejuvenating palm trees.

The sand on the Les Ilets de la Plage side of the beach has come back nicely. I think it is because most of the fence washed away.

We walked the beach towards Eden Rock and saw the damage to Tom Beach, Emeraude Plage and Eden Rock. Lots of work to do there. Tom Beach is already on its way back and expects to be open in December. We saw piles of sand waiting to be spread in various spots along the beach.

The sand at the Eden Rock side of St. Jean Beach is recovering well.

A benefit from Irma is that the better parts of the fences washed away. You can walk the entire beach again. Hope it lasts.

I noticed a few chaise lounges with umbrellas at the spot where Carib Water Play’s booth used to be and stopped to chat with Lucas, Jean Michel’s son. He was open for business! Good to know – 15 euros for a lounge chair and 10 euros for an umbrella – well worth it.

Carib Water Play is open for business.

Lucas is ready to set up your chaise lounge and umbrella, rent you a surf board or give you a windsurfing lesson.

To end the day, we enjoyed a casual Sunday night dinner at Le Vietnam restaurant in Gustavia.

My next blog will be shorter, I promise, and I will tell you more about my adventures post-Irma.

The History of St. Barth

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

For those of you who are wondering about the origins of tiny, St. Barth, here’s a summary:

St. Barth’s history is long, tumultuous – and fascinating. St. Barth was originally inhabited by Arawak Indians (who called it Ouanalao); they were followed by the Caribs, who greeted Christopher Columbus when he arrived in 1493. He named the island for his brother Bartoloméo. The French made initial unsuccessful attempts to settle it until some determined Huguenots from Normandy persevered and prospered. Later, French buccaneers made it a way station as they plundered Spanish galleons, which adds to St. Barth’s lore. (It is said that pirate Captain Monbars “The Exterminator” buried his treasure by Gouverneur Beach. Try your luck in finding it!)

Arawak statue overlooking the airport

Arawak statue overlooking the airport

In 1784, France traded the island to Sweden, and the capital was named Gustavia – in honor of its king, Gustavia III – and declared a free port. (To the delight of shoppers, it remains free.) By 1878, the island had become a burden due to some natural disasters, and it was sold back to France. Charming reminders preserve the past in street signs and the Swedish Cemetery. Those touches delightfully enhance St. Barth’s European ambience.

Sweden's influence remains today

Sweden’s influence remains today

In 1945, tourism took hold when Rémy de Haenen, an eccentric Dutch aviator, landed his plane at what is now the airport. He later became the first hotelier and the island’s mayor. Rémy hosted the era’s luminaries – he was a friend of Howard Hughes – and Hollywood starlets. The ’60s brought the Rockefellers and Rothschilds and saw the arrival of the first jet-setters. Thus, the mystique was created. The ’70s brought spectacular yachts like Onassis’s Christina into the Lilliputian Harbor in Gustavia.

In 2003 the population of St. Barth voted in favor of secession from Guadeloupe in order to form a separate Overseas Collectivity of France, and on February 7, 2007, the French Parliament passed a bill granting the COM status. It took effect February 22, 2007. The island put up a beautiful building known as the Hôtel de la Collectivité along the far side of the harbor in the area called La Pointe. It functions as what we would call City Hall. All official business (including wedding ceremonies) takes place there.

The Hôtel de la Collectivité, Gustavia Harbor, St. Barth

The Hôtel de la Collectivité, Gustavia Harbor, St. Barth

The islanders are keenly aware that they live on a truly unique island and are determined to preserve its distinctiveness. Strict building codes are adhered to (Nothing taller than a palm tree can be built here) and “green zones” are maintained.

Some of the original St. Barth "Cases" remain today

Some of the original St. Barth “Cases” remain today

The yachts continue to come, and in the evening the twinkling lights are magical. During Christmas and New Year’s – St. Barth’s signature season – the island gets an extra measure of glitz and glamour. Contingents of the world’s celebrities come to party, dine in its world-class restaurants, shop the designer boutiques and, of course, to see and be seen. Others come seeking privacy and relaxation. They swim and sun at the more secluded beaches, stroll Gustavia and dine quietly, poolside, under the stars in their hillside villas.

Everyone melds nicely: honeymooners, families with children, locals and the front-page-news movie stars and moguls. It’s St. Barth. Trust me; it’s addictive.

Beautiful yachts line Gustavia harbor in peak season

Beautiful yachts line Gustavia harbor in peak season

Pave Paradise – Put up a Parking Lot

Friday, May 4th, 2012

For those of you who have never been to St. Barts and/or those of you who haven’t been back here this season, the parking at St. Jean Beach has changed. Everyone used to have to scramble to find parking (there wasn’t any) so people just parked along the curb by pulling onto the sidewalk, putting the right front and rear tires up there and letting the left tires stay on the road. Things really got hairy over the holiday period when the island is full and the St. Bart children are on vacation because everyone wants to go to the beach. So, anarchy set in for some people who simply decided to park on the sidewalk on the other side of the street making it impossible for 2 cars to get by. Throw in a taxi driver who doesn’t care about blocking traffic and we had gridlock. At times, the Collectivité (aka The Com) would make that stretch of road one way which helped a lot but that was just a temporary solution.

No more! The Com decided to build a parking lot across the street from the runway end of St. Jean Beach. Environmentalists were disappointed because they had to construct it on virgin land but St. Jean Beach lovers are grateful to have it. Note the photo also shows the posts that have been put up on the sidewalk just in case those anarchists don’t get the message.

The new parking lot across from St. Jean Beach

The new parking lot across from St. Jean Beach

Another concrete area was built on the water near the Hôtel de la Collectivité (aka City Hall). It’s a beautiful new extension of the quai on that side of the harbor thus creating more places where the local people can dock their boats. Whatever company won the landscaping contract must have had a huge budget because the area has towering palm trees and flowering bushes. There is a compass rose made up of small stones and it lies in front of built-in benches where you can sit and enjoy the view of the harbor; there’s a wall of stones that holds a sign welcoming people to St. Barthélemy. My morning walks that take me over there make exercising a bit more tolerable because the scenery is so appealing. I hope that you will take the time to go there the next time you are in St. Barts.

The Hôtel de la Collectivité

The Hôtel de la Collectivité

The new quai - Note the partial view of the compass rose on the left

Welcome to St. Barts

Welcome to St. Barts

One more bit of news regarding one of our villas is the “new look” at Villa Bonjour. The owner has made lots of upgrades on the furnishings including new chaises on the terrace and an outdoor sitting area in front of one of the bedrooms. If you love to be centrally located in St. Jean, Villa Bonjour is a great choice for two people and also for two couples because the king en suite bedrooms are located on either end of the villa and are identical. For more information, contact reservations@stbarth.com.

Villa Bonjour

Villa Bonjour