Authentic St Barth – Part 1 Gustavia

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Le Select is a landmark in Gustavia, St Barth’s capital. The restaurant was established in 1949 and is beloved by locals and tourists. A trip to St Barth is never complete without a “cheeseburger in Paradise” and a glimpse of beloved owner and nonagenarian Marius Stackelborough.

My day job is working as a St Barth specialist for St Barth Properties, Inc.  I joined the company in November 2000 and over the years I’ve been to the small (8 square mile) island more than 30 times. I never fail to get excited about my St Barth trips.
This fall my work trip was planned for the first week of November.  I use these trips to personally inspect the villas and hotels we represent, try new restaurants, and catch up with  island friends and colleagues. I prepared my daily schedule of appointments, but purposely left Sunday free.  I wanted to spend the day just being in St Barth, reacquainting myself with the real St Barth, the small Caribbean island with the interesting history and lovely local people.

Sunday morning – Sneakers on, camera in hand, and my Fitbit ready to tell me I’m really walking my 10,000 steps a day, I started my walk.  I followed the curve of the U shaped harbor from the parking lot beside the quai to past the Collectivitie. From there I backtracked along the upper road, climbed to Fort Karl, then walked along the side streets past shops and the bakery back to the parking. I made a good dent in the 10,000 steps!

Lovely Gustavia Harbor


The iconic anchor from the 1800’s

The Collectivite or City Hall

Gustavia was named after Swedish King Gustav when St Barthelemy was owned by Sweden (1784-1878). There are still remnants of that era in street signs, architecture, and an annual Swedish festival.

The Swedish flag and the Consulate in Gustavia



Remnants of an old “case” style house

Wallhouse Museum

Local side street – the streets are cleaned several times a week and you rarely see trash.

There are wonderful Gustavia landmarks when you take time to notice. The views from Fort Karl hiking paths, the cross and lighthouse that welcome you as you enter the harbor, the old church on the main street in Gustavia, the colorful signs you pass everyday.

Hike to Fort Karl above Gustavia


The cross and lighthouse on the hill at the entrance to the harbor

Anglican Church in Gustavia

Land mark sign in Gustavia

Sunday morning mass at the Catholic church

Kids on the quai waiting for the judging of the Taste of St Barth Children’s baking contest

Young chefs ready for the tasting.

MOH at restaurant Le Gustav on the harbor, an island mascot.

St Barth is a wonderful place to spend a vacation.  The beaches are beautiful, the island is safe, clean, sophisticated, and friendly. The people who call St Barth home (about 9000 of them) go to work, take their children to school, discuss island politics, worry about the environment, grocery shop, watch their children play sports, celebrate milestones and special occasions, plan local festivals, and spend time with extended family.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that St Barth isn’t just place to enjoy a vacation, its home to the people who live and bring up their children there.
Background
St Barth is an 8 square mile island,  located about 20 miles off the coast of Sint Maarten and has an airport and runway so small that only small commuter planes can land there.  Here’s a little background……

1493 discovered by Columbus, and named for his brother Bartolomeo
1648 First settled by French colonists from the nearby island of St. Kitts.
1651 the island was sold to the Knights of Malta.
1656 angry Carib Indians destroyed the settlement, killed the settlers, and displayed  their heads on Lorient beach. Nasty!
1763 settled by French mariners from Normandy and Brittany.   Pirates used the island as a base and its rumored their treasure is still hidden among the coves of Anse du Gouverneur
Gradually some of these mariners created a small settlement of tradesman, small farmers, and fisherman. The island was too small and rocky to grow sugar like other Caribbean islands.
1784 the island is sold to Sweden by the French in exchange for trading rights in the Swedish port of Gothenburg. The island thrived as a free port serving as a trade and supply center, a mercantile tradition was established.
1878 France repurchased the island and kept the free port status. Swedish architecture, some street signs, a cemetery, and the name of the harbor and capital, Gustavia, remain today.
1946 St. Barths, Martinique and Guadeloupe, were given the legal status of a Department of France with the same privileges and responsibilities as any of the Home Departments.
1957 David Rockefeller bought a property and his friends followed
2007 St Barth changes status to become the Overseas Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy with more independence from France, its first territorial council was elected and the 19 members named Bruno Magras as the first president of the island council.

St Barth has a reputation of being the playground of the rich and famous, and that’s generally true, but if you dig deeper you see an island of wonderful, hardworking, kind people. Local families love their island and its rich history.

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