By Alexander Britell
GUSTAVIA — It’s Monday night and Eddy’s is hopping. Down the corner, the Caribbean’s most creative bar, 25 Quarter, is serving up rare rums from Martinique, and the patio at Le Select is already full.
I’m eating accras de morue and sipping on a ti’ punch vieux. And if not for an extra tarp on a corner of the roof at Eddy’s you’d never even think about someone named Irma.
“St Barth 2.0” has begun, and this remarkably resilient island has already sent a major signal to the world that while it may be in recovery, it is still, very much, St Barth.
And St Barth, even at less than full strength, remains one of the world’s great vacation destinations.
While the flagship hotels aren’t open, there are myriad places to stay here, from the beautiful Hotel Le Village (long one of my favorite places to stay on the island) to the beachfront Les Ilets de la Plage to dozens of WIMCO villas.
The restaurants are open, more shops relaunch every day, most supermarkets are open and the beaches are as beautiful as ever.
But something else has happened. As some things have shuttered, other things have opened.
The loss of certain trees and landscaping has created new views, new ways of looking. Things that were previously hidden are now visible, ready to be tried.
As one local told me, It’s opened up a “new angle of St Barth.” And since it’s still less crowded, it’s a bit of a throwback, too.
It’s put Gustavia into another light, making it the epicenter of the island, drawing new eyes to old bars and eateries. Maybe instead of staying in St jean, now you stay in the capital, walking its old Creole streets and trying early morning croissants at the bakeries.
Of course, you can still have a seafront lobster lunch at La Langouste.
Yes — hotels like Le Gauanahani, Eden Rock and Le Toiny will be sitting this season out, wisely using the time to restore to better than full strength for later on in 2018.
But when you arrive in St Barth on a Tradewind flight, pop into a Mini Cooper convertible and head for St Jean, you’re still enjoying an exclusive, utterly beautiful getaway. You’re still in St Barth. (A side note: Tradewind Aviation is the best way to get to St Barth, thanks to seriously easy connections through the well-functioning airport in San Juan, given the still spotty airlift to St Maarten right now).
And when you’re sitting at your villa’s infinity pool, admiring the seascape in Grand Cul de Sac, or walking the endless sky deck at Villa Utopic In Corossol, you’re still in St Barth.
When you’re sitting on your broad terrace in your suite at Hotel Le Village, overlooking the turquoise water of St Jean, you’re still in St Barth.
Because St Barth isn’t just lunch at the Eden Rock, or rosé at Tom Beach (which is itself reopening for the holidays)
St Barth is a feeling.
The feeling that you’re in one of the world’s little jewels, a special place that’s a bit harder to reach because it rewards those who make the journey here.
It’s the feeling of being in an exotic corner of France, endlessly Gallic but oh so Caribbean.
It’s the feeling of looking out at green hills and red roofs and eating fresh baguettes.
It’s the playful, quirky, charming thrill of driving those winding roads and watching for hilltop landings.
This is still St Barth. And it’s time to come back.
See more in the latest CJ Video on St Barth, filmed on the island last week.