Skip to comments.If you can tip $17,000, this is the island for you
Posted on 01/07/2007 1:39:25 PM PST by nuconvert
If you can tip $17,000, this is the island for you
BY DAVE BARRY
If you're looking to visit a Caribbean island that you cannot possibly afford, I highly recommend St. Barthélemy.
St. Barthélemy -- more commonly called ''St. Barts,'' or ''St. Barth,'' or ''The Land of Naked French People'' -- is a tiny exclusive island located in the Caribbean island chain known as the Lesser Antilles, which also includes Anguilla, Antigua, Begonia, Barbuda, Saba, Simba, Bomba, Rhumba, Gazebo, Madagascar, St. Kitts and the Dave Clark Five. (I may be making some of these islands up; there is no way to know for sure.)
St. Barts is known as a playground for wealthy billionaire jet-set celebrities, who go there to relax with other billionaire celebrities in a relaxing billionaire-celebrity environment. For example, according to a guidebook that my wife read, Brad Pitt sunbathes naked there. I am not saying this is the only reason we went there, but I am saying that, from the moment she read this fact, my wife seemed more interested in St. Barts than any of the other Antilles.
We went to St. Barts for Christmas week, along with my wife's cousin's family. Except for the mass vomiting (more on this later), we had a wonderful time. If you decide to go, here is some useful information:
HOW TO GET
TO ST. BARTS
It turns out that you cannot, in fact, get to St. Barts. That is one of the qualities that make it exclusive. The closest you can get is St. Maarten, which is another Antilles altogether. We flew there from Miami, and we were supposed to then fly to St. Barts on a small St. Maarten-based ''airline.'' I put ''airline'' in quotation marks, because it did not turn out to be the traditional kind of airline in the sense of having actual working airplanes that could lift you off the ground and fly you to another island. It was more the kind of airline where they truly, sincerely would have LIKED to have a working airplane for you. We found this out when we got to the ''airline'' counter, where we spoke with a nice lady who communicated primarily by sighing.
US: Hello. We have tickets on the flight to St. Barts.
NICE LADY: St. Barts. (Sigh.)
US: So where should we go to get our plane?
NICE LADY: (Sigh.)
Eventually the nice lady was able to communicate to us, by sighing in certain patterns, that there would be no flight to St. Barts for us, or for any of the dozens of other people who also had purchased tickets from this ''airline.'' So we all ran outside and jumped into taxis and raced to catch the last ferry to St. Barts. The good news was, we made the ferry. The bad news was, we made the ferry.
Here is a very important tip about taking the ferry from St. Maarten to St. Barts: Before you get on board -- say, 10 minutes before, just to be sure -- kill yourself. Trust me, this is better. You know those carnival midway rides that spin you violently around and upside down so that when you get off you are retching like a dog that ate a diseased squirrel? Well, those rides are like sitting on a Barca-Lounger compared to riding the ferry to St. Barts. EVERYBODY was throwing up. SEAGULLS were throwing up. At one point I was holding my daughter, who was throwing up, and I looked over at my wife, who was also throwing up, and my wife shot me this look that said: ``This had better be one amazing island that we are going to, Mr. Trip Planner. This island had better be Bali Freaking Hai, or for the rest of your life you will sleep on a futon.''
Fortunately the ferry ride lasted only an hour and 15 minutes -- or, translated into Seasickness Time, eight years. Finally, we arrived in Gustavia, the port city -- basically, the only city -- of St. Barts.
WHAT ST. BARTS IS LIKE
It is fabulous. Seriously. The views are fabulous, the beaches are fabulous, the food is fabulous, the shopping is fabulous. Many of the people are fabulous, although to my wife's bitter disappointment we did not once see Brad Pitt sunbathing naked.
This is not to say that we did not see naked people. St. Barts is very French.
Q. How French is it?
A. It is so French that one of the restaurants was advertising that it had ``TV for Super Ball.''
The thing about French people is, they get naked on the beach. Sometimes they get only halfway naked, and sometimes they get all the way naked. But pretty much every beach we went to, there were people, especially women, exhibiting some form of nakedness. Often they would be in family groups; sometimes you would see clots of them standing around chatting in French about whatever it is you talk about in that situation.
FIRST FRENCH PERSON: As you can see, I am making the flagrant display of my privates.
SECOND FRENCH PERSON: I, too, am as naked as the bird of the jay.
THIRD FRENCH PERSON: Whom are you liking to win the Super Ball?
We, being repressed uptight middle-class straitlaced bourgeoisie Americans with children and body fat, did not get naked on the beach. But if we had stayed much longer, we probably would have, because we would have had to sell our clothes to afford to eat. This brings us to our next travel tip:
BUDGETING FOR ST. BARTS
You should budget $17,000. I don't mean $17,000 total; I mean $17,000 for each individual item, as follows:
Lunch for four: $17,000
And so on. Of course these are just guidelines; all of these prices have gone up considerably since you started reading this sentence.
St. Barts uses the European system of tipping, under which Americans are expected to tip on behalf of all other nationalities. The restaurant bill includes an extra 15 percent for something called ''service,'' which is similar to a tip, but not exactly the same. So you, as an American, are expected to leave something in addition to the ''service,'' even though it is never clear that anybody else is doing this. The recommended amount is $17,000.
The only way to get around St. Barts is to rent a small battered Japanese car ($17,000) and grip the wheel in terror as you drive up and down frighteningly steep hills next to vertical cliffs on bad roads approximately the width of Julia Roberts with insane French drivers coming the opposite direction going 500 kilometers per centimeter. It's actually kind of fun, once you realize that, if you are killed, there is no way you will have to take the ferry back to St. Maarten.
THINGS TO DO IN ST. BARTS BESIDES EAT, SHOP AND SURREPTITIOUSLY LOOK AT NAKED FRENCH PEOPLE ON THE BEACH
You can go to the airport and watch planes attempt to land. The airport runway on St. Barts was apparently built hastily in a single very dark night by workers who did not notice that they left a large hill smack dab in the middle of the incoming flight path. I swear I am not making this hill up. A pilot wishing to land has to skim very low over the top of the hill, barely missing it, then immediately put the plane into a terrifyingly steep dive to get down to the runway, then slam on the brakes, because the runway is very short and ends on the beach, so if the plane doesn't stop in time, it will plow through the thin protective barrier of naked French people and plunge into the ocean. It's very exciting to watch planes land. Tourists gather at the airport to take pictures and give thanks to God that they, personally, are not on the planes. After we saw the airport, we began to understand why our ''airline'' would not fly us over. The pilot probably said, ``You want me to land on ST. BARTS? Are you out of your MIND??''
We flew out of this airport, having located a local St. Barts airline that had actual, physical airplanes. The takeoffs are not nearly as scary as the landings, and we had a spectacular view of the islands and the sparkling blue Caribbean as we made the 15-minute flight back to St. Maarten, following the trail of vomit left by the ferry. We all agreed that it had been a great trip, and that we will definitely return to this magical island, if we can figure out how to do it without using either a plane or a boat. Also we are going to need a lot of money, so if you enjoyed this travel guide, please note that service is not included.
Thanks for the laugh.
I forgot to ping you. I'm sorry
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