ST. BARTS, French West Indies — This tranquil, beautiful island just 15 miles from St. Maarten is the current "in spot" in the Caribbean. Now we know why.
Quite simply, St. Barts is a little gem offering stunning views, glorious beaches and exquisite cuisine along with unsurpassed tranquillity.
You'll lose yourself in its charm and slow-paced life style. You'll return home completely recharged and planning a return visit.
There are few phones, little or no TV, lovely beaches featuring endless numbers of readers devouring books that are left unopened at home.
Helping the island's tourists are members of the Turbe family, which dates back to 1799, of Flamands at the northwest of the island. They are reaping handsome rewards for their hospitality and services provided for affluent visitors from France and the United States.
Guy Turbe operates the St. Barts Beach Club at Grande Cul de Sac and a car rental company at the airport. He has other interests as well, and is described as being "well-heeled."
Our favorite Turbes are Annie Turbe Anges, one of Guy's sisters, and Pierreute Magras, a daughter of Guy; she's 21 and married to a young electrician.
Annie, 32, earnest and energetic, is a ball of fire. She and husband Jean Pierre (formerly of Tours, France) have just opened a spotless nine-unit hotel, La Baie des Anges, on beautiful Flamands Beach. Coming to St. Barts in 1982 to work as a carpenter, Jean Pierre also found love and he and Annie were soon betrothed. They have a beguiling 15-month-old daughter named Elodie.
The hotel, built by Jean Pierre Anges, sits on 1,040 meters of land given to the newlyweds by Mama Turbe. Casual and family-oriented, the facility is first-rate in every respect. There are refrigerators in each unit, large airy rooms with spacious baths featuring showers and, of course, bidets. Two end units also have well-equipped kitchens.
A Good Travel Buy
The Anges Hotel is a very good buy for travelers who wish accommodations away from the glitter of the island's more posh resorts. High season rates, Dec. 15 to April 15, are $70 single, $90 double. The rooms with kitchen are $80 single and $110 double.
During the low season, rates drop to $40 single, $50 double and $70 with kitchen. Two new mini-mokes (open-air vehicles) are also available at $30 a day.
The enterprising Annie started her entrepreneurial skills earlier, launching Annie's, a charming small restaurant featuring lobster and grilled fish. Renamed La Langouste (in honor of the featured clawless Caribbean lobster), the eatery, housed in a century-old building, rates three stars in many of the leading guidebooks.
We sampled the lobster and, though different from the tasty and tender Maine lobster, the grilled fare is just fine. The price is right, too.
Annie's mastering of English underscores a fierce determination to excel. In 1975 she spent four months in Springfield, Ill., at the home of "surrogate parents" Lee and Tootsie Benanti. There she learned English and returned to her beloved St. Barts to grow further and prosper.
Pierreute Magras, Annie's 21-year-old niece, shows similar spunk. She rented us a mini-moke at her father's rental agency at the airport. She also adopted us, giving us all kinds of generous help and hints about restaurants, shopping and directions.
Her charm, warmth and general demeanor far belie her tender years. She and her husband have built a duplex in Vitet, on a lovely hillside overlooking the sea.
She, too, learned English at the home of the Turbes' benefactors in Springfield, Ill. She also studied in Canada.
A Landing Thrill
Landing at St. Barts aboard a Virgin Air Piper Aztec (five passengers) is something of a thrill. The plane swooshes down over a small mountain to land on a narrow air strip between two hills that reach to the sea at beautiful St. Jean beach.
Despite the lack of phones, TV and the like, there's lots to do. Rent a mini-moke for your stay. You'll explore a rugged, hilly and utterly beautiful island with a host of wide, secluded beaches where most European women wear topless swimsuits.
You can tour the island, which is eight square miles, in half a day. Make notes on your map and plan return visits to selected spots.
The main centers are Gustavia, a town of charm and a beautiful harbor, and St. Jean, above a gorgeous beach, with elegant shops and restaurants.
The concrete roads are narrow, so be careful. Dinner that night might be scheduled at Maya, a seaside restaurant with varied menu and a good wine list. Maya is a native of Martinique. Her husband, Randy, is from Nantucket. Our grilled fish dinner with wine was $62.
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