Living La Vida Loca In St Barths

Text & Photography by Yves de Contades


t Barths is an international fusion of French, English, Swedish, American and Caribbean and takes the very best from each nationality. St Barths is named after Bartholomew the brother of Christopher Columbus who discovered the island in 1493. It was a part of France and is now a Collectivité d'Outre-Mer since 2007. Bruno Magras is the president and owns the airline St Barth Commuter. The locals are mostly descendants of fishermen from Normandy and Brittany and still speak a patois native to those regions in the 17th Century.

You fly to St Martin first and then take a puddle jumper on to the island; it is a wonderful scenic journey and the landing is wildly exciting as the runway is somewhat short and the pilots must possess a special license to land there. The airstrip is charmingly pictorial, winding down a verdant hill straight to St Jean beach. This is one airport everyone wants to live next to.

Minis and quad bikes are the preferred method of travel on the island as the roads are in decent condition but very narrow. Though in the rainy season I would recommend a 4 wheel drive for the steeper inclines.

French is the first language but everyone speaks English too, think of it as Paris meets Manhattan in an azure sea and you will get an idea of the international ambiance, island

certainly in Gustavia, the

the Caribbean. The port of named after

best the

dressed Swedish

king, is immaculate and the place where everyone congregates. Replete with vast yachts, towering catamarans and first-rate restaurants, bars and high end fashion shops stocking Versace and Valentino, such as Stephane & Bernard's. These chaps used to run a top modelling agency in Paris, discovered Marie Helvin and Jerry Hall amongst others, and are both utterly charming.


Christmas and New Year are the high points in the calendar. St Barths is frequented by the wealthiest, most influential and famous names in the world. The names are a list of the top who's who, from Steve Martin, David Letterman, Gwen Stefani, Prince, Sean 'P Diddy' Combs and Beyoncé to the Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman, disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, Salma Hayek, Microsoft co founder Paul Allen and the billionaire Warren Buffet.

The latest resident is Roman Abramovich who paid $59 million for his pad on Gouverneur beach. His party is the one to attend at Christmas even amongst ta host of other lavish affairs. The list of famous guests is endless. For a $3 million party one year he flew in the Black Eyed Peas for a private performance and put them up at The Carl Gustaf hotel. They filmed one of their music videos on the roof and apparently had a rocking time. The Hotel Carl Gustaf overlooks the Port of Gustavia, does wonderful food and is highly prized as the place to stay.

August is my favourite time there as it is less crowded and you really get the island to yourself without the celebrity Christmas crowd; however if you want to mix with the rich and famous then December is the time to go. Hotel rates do multiply fourfold in the peak period. Avoid September to October as that is the rainy season and the whole island shuts for maintenance, improving the decor and repairing the roads, which is why the island is always in such pristine condition.

The place to stay for those that want luxury and privacy is Le Toiny. A member of Relais Chateau, Le Toiny is situated in the area of the island referred to as the Cote Sauvage. The 15 pastel- coloured bungalows, called Villa Suites, are set on a gentle slope overlooking the bay of Toiny and the Caribbean Sea. Condé Nast Traveler's Gold List ranked Hotel Le Toiny's restaurant Le Ga1ac third in the Americas for food with a rating of 96.3.

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