The St. Barts I know is a “completely different world from the one you see splashed all over the pages of magazines,” said Janine di Giovanni in Condé Nast Traveler. During high season—especially between Christmas and New Year’s—“Euro trash and jet-setters” invade the island, turning this quiet haven in the Caribbean into a “bubble of Champagne, celebrities,” and yachts the size of Texas. But for the rest of the year, St. Barts remains what it always has been—a heavenly sliver of France that’s just a hop, skip, and a puddle jumper from the U.S.
I “fell in love with its minuscule scale” on my first visit, five years ago. The toy plane we arrived in, the tiny coves we spent afternoons exploring, “even the croissants at the boulangerie seem smaller than the ones in Paris.” From the “doll-size houses” to the old men playing pétanque, this colonial outpost is “more like a village in Provence than an island in the Caribbean.” Now, during each of my visits, I fully immerse myself in this “parallel, private” France. Best of all, St. Barts delivers all the charms of France—“impeccable sense of taste, good food, and ridiculous attention to quality”—without “any of the stuffy uptightness” of the homeland.
I typically stay in small, “out-of-the-way” inns that almost never cost more than a hundred dollars a night. My family and I picnic on the desolate shores of Grande Saline Beach and while away hours at the Shell Museum, admiring the enormous langoustine shells and delicate, dried-out sea horses. I dine at tiny, no-frills restaurants “tucked away in the hills”—like Chez Andy’s, whose motto is “lousy food, view of the car park.” All the patrons here are locals, and they usually come with their extended families, “shouting, passing baskets of bread and bottles of wine, kissing noisily, and hugging each other.” Here, over pizza and wine, I feel completely at home.