St. Barthelemey is a very small island with a huge ego. Its original Swedish and Breton fishermen settlers might have been simple folk, but it has grown into the kind of place where Hollywood A-listers vacation because they claim they want privacy, but actually want to be photographed because the paparazzi are everywhere there. Put it this way, an Easter weekend just spent with my family reminded me of all of the things that are important in this life. A day spent in St. Barthelemy reminds me of all of the things that get in the way and cloud our judgment.
There are some places that I love because I feel like they bring out the best parts of me. I have written before about the places where I feel natural and happy. St. Barth is not one of those places. Yes, it is undeniably beautiful. But it also brings out the parts of myself that I continuously need to work on. It’s loveliness comes at a high cost. Where can you justify spending 30 Euros on a cheeseburger? Yes, it has some great shopping, but spending a day in Gustavia in aesthetically pleasing shops makes you wonder, is there anything real peddled on the island?
I said before I didn’t like some people on the boat because of their endless praise of St. Barth and their putting down of other islands because other islands actually had economic diversity and not just holiday homes of people pulling in at least seven figures annually. Part of my dislike stemmed from me disliking those people. I didn’t want to like a place that they liked, because I don’t want to be associated with those kind of people. I don’t want to live in a bubble where poverty is something to ignore because you don’t have to look at it. I don’t want to live in a place where I don’t have to think about the effect that my consumer choices have on other people. So much of my post St. Barth dislike of the place problem stems from the dislike of the people who were praising its gleam; its trim, attractive beach goers; and its high-priced real estate.
But I have to admit now, I did enjoy my day on the island, even though I remarked when boarding the tender back to the boat, that everything was so lovely, but soulless. It left me entirely devoid of emotion. Would I go back and visit for another day or two? Yes. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the island because I hear there are some beautiful beaches that I didn’t get to see. Also, I did like the shopping. However, I wouldn’t want to spend too much time there for fear of losing my own soul. It is pretty, but I feel like it might not be so relaxing if you are caught up in the image of it all. It seems like people go there because it is a trendy place to go, not because of any substantial cultural uniqueness. Pristine but vapid. It is a name to be dropped, not a real connection to be made. And I don’t want to feed any part of me that wants to value those things.
David and I took the first tender to port in the morning and spent the morning shopping. It is easy to shop well in St. Barth. In Ligne St. Barth, purveyor of bath and body products that are pretty heavenly, I fell in love with a body lotion with avocado oil that I have used every single day that I have been back from our trip because it smells like the freshest lilies and makes my skin feel soft all day. Before my experience with this body lotion, I never bothered with body lotion. Ever. For David’s anniversary present, I bought him some ridiculously expensive Vilebrequin swim trousers that we liked because they were Carolina blue in color and when wet, sea turtle designs appeared on them. These are the kind of purchases that seem reasonable in a place like St. Barth. We walked around Gustavia and explored the harbor.
We then took a catamaran out to a marine park to do some snorkeling where we had to first endure some condescending French guy instruct us on how to use flippers like we were some dumb American boobs. Fortunately, it was a good day for snorkeling. It was, however, impossible to tell if the fish of St. Barth were as affected as the people were. I don’t know enough about fish to judge their relative snootiness levels.
Next we hit up a restaurant at Shell Beach for lunch. The restaurant was called Do Brazil, where I ate the aforementioned 30 euro cheeseburger. It was good enough and they made some tasty gazpacho. I am not sure how Brazilian any of it was though. Here is another reason I want to go back to St. Barth. I hear the food at some of the other restaurants is fantastic. I would like to enjoy more of that. Also, I really want to eat a lot of good food in a place where everyone on the beach looks like they suffer from eating disorders.
The weirdest thing about the restaurant is that there was a model who was modeling different outfits by walking around the restaurant like it was a catwalk. Weirdo. I am just trying to enjoy my cheeseburger, lady. Tip Do Brazil: if you want people ordering more food, don’t have a model showing off bikinis and coverups while people are trying to eat. Otherwise, you are just going to sell a lot of salads. I don’t have any pictures to document this except for David’s reaction to all of this:
The restaurant was in a very pleasant spot though, and it was nice that Shell Beach was walkable from Gustavia. I liked the beach just fine. I think other beaches on the island are nicer, and maybe I will get back there some day to see for sure.
It obviously got its name from all of the shells at the water’s edge. Duh.
We hung out at the beach until it was time for me to go back to the boat for my facial appointment at the spa late in the afternoon. Because obviously, a day in St. Barth is pretty hard on my skin because I keep making all of those incredulous faces in the harsh tropical sunlight.
Anyway, here is the last statement I will make about St. Barth. It makes me sad because it has no soul, but it also makes me not give a crap about trying to fake keeping up appearances with all of that aspirational aroma that hovers over the island. If you can manage to feel okay about just being yourself in a place like St. Barth and leave there feeling like oh my goodness, I have no desire to be like these people, then you probably are okay in my book.
Finally, next time I go, I am renting a four-wheeler to explore the island. It will remind me of my roots away from the posh veneer of superficiality.