Monday, May 18, 2015

Beyond Gustavia

These days the weather is still dry, dry, dry - so much so that we often leave all our hatches open all night without fear of doing the wee-hour dance to get them all closed before the threatening shower ends and then having to open them all over again.  The days are hot and hazy, and although we don’t feel the dust in the air that plagued us earlier in the month (from the Sahara no less!) visibility is still such that you can’t see islands on the horizon until they are about 20 miles away.

Our explorations around St. Bart’s continued with another day ashore, this day being Sunday Gustavia was quite like a ghost-town with only one or two cafes open for business and just about everything boarded up tight behind their shutters.  Not a worry though since we really had our hearts set on two destinations outside of town.

The first we’d heard mention of was Shell Beach.  Turns out this little tiny beach is nestled just behind the town on a southward facing beach.  It’s claim to fame is indeed the shells, but not a natural phenomenon as we first thought.  Turns out, when they dredged the harbour in the past, they dumped all the shells on the beach and as they break down they contribute to the beautiful pink sand found above the ‘native’ grey sand.  Of course, being shells, the beach attracts enthusiasts searching and collecting and I have to admit we have contributed some new additions to our Wizard card game counter set.

We wandered back through town finding this anchor that was found somewhere on the ocean floor between St. Bart’s and St. Thomas - massive and about 150 years old.

We also checked out some of the shop windows (that weren’t shuttered) and also admired some of the architectural details.

Our second destination for the day was the airport and the crazy down-hill landing that pilots have to make onto the runway.  To add to the craziness, there is not just a road but a roundabout at the top of the hill replete with a statue of a native Arawak Indian.

We walked down the hill beside the airport taking in some of the landings and takeoffs, walked on and admired the beach at St. Jean at the end of the runway, watched a stand-up paddle board race and decided the the silk flower sales-person has convinced the islanders that they can beautify their island with a bit of colour!  We then returned to watch more of the daredevil pilots who fly for WinAir, St. Bart’s Commuter and others.  Having been on more than one landing at Saba and seen the landings at St. Bart’s, I have to question the sanity of building airports on some of these islands and the sanity of the pilots who fly to them!

Our return trek to Gustavia took us past a couple of monuments and the lighthouse that sits atop the hill above the harbour entrance replete with old canons and then down into town for a late lunch.  Order a hamburger and fries in the only open restaurant (La Cantina) and it is assured to arrive with such a chic French touch - a refreshingly small portion of fries served up in a glass bowl decorated with a balsamic reduction swirl.