Sunday, May 17, 2015

Caribbean Meets the Riviera?

Before moving on to Ilet Pinel on the east coast of St. Martin we were treated to one more beautiful sunset at Marigot - I never get tired of this!

Not that it was intentional, but according to sailor lore, it is bad luck to start a passage on a Friday. Of course there's that whole thing about having women aboard a ship too that we threw out long ago. Regardless, it was now Saturday morning and the winds looked great for the 15 miles to St. Bart's so we set off having whiled away our Friday on Pinel.

St. Bart's in the distance, beckoning us forward over benign seas.
There are lots of rocky outcroppings around St. Bart's that we had to keep our eyes on. It didn't seem to matter what tack we chose, we had to adjust course around big and small mounds of rock.
There are two main anchorages in St. Bart's, the town anchorage at Gustavia and the bay on the northern tip of the island called Anse de Colombier. We chose Colombier where there are free mooring balls and no anchorage fees, even though from there to Gustavia is a two mile trip in the dinghy.

All checked in at the Capitainerie, we were free to wander through the town. Gustavia is one of those places we've heard so much about and seen loads of pictures, but it really is the prettiest little town we've seen down here. Incredibly neat and tidy, not a speck of litter and loads of historical interest. The island has an interesting history of having been owned by the French, been a pirate and smuggling hangout, given to the Swedes, played a part in the American Revolution as a supply hub and then finally sold back to the French. Today the island plays host to the most well-heeled glitz and glamour and the high-end shops on every corner can well attest to the coin that is spent here each season. However, we have arrived in low season, and - on a Saturday. Only tomorrow will be quieter.

We wandered around town, getting a feel for the little streets and their historic buildings that surround the harbour in a deep U shape, but still manage to follow an organized grid pattern. Many of the buildings are tagged with historical plaques outlining their importance in the town's story and a short climb up the hill provided beautiful views out over the surrounding waters.

One of the old forts that once protected the town from marauding privateers was Fort Oscar, that now houses the local police station.
The Collective refers to the overseas territories of France.
Within the grounds of the Hotel de la Collective were a collection of the most whimsical sculptures. No captions or names to the works so I will leave these to your imagination.
This one's for Caitlin & Jamie!
Wall House - interestingly this building that dates back to the early 1800s and now houses a museum (closed for the season) and a library, has never revealed it's original purpose be it warehouse, residence or public meeting hall.
The Wooden House, and early prefabricated house, and the Brick House, home of a Swedish merchant.
The Anglican Church was actually open for visitors - an unusual sight in the Caribbean.
Simple and austere, but quite beautiful inside.
Another view of one of the shopping streets - this one with cobblestones to enhance the allure.
But Madame, what type of balsamic vinegar do you prefer?
Much of the town is built into the hillsides surrounding the harbour so as you walk away from the water there are choices of steeply inclined lanes or well manicured steps and shopping galleries.
How often can you look back down the street though and catch a glimps of a ship under full sail glide by, or catch a Frenchman scratching his butt? So classy!
We loved Gustavia and will be back tomorrow for another day of exploration, this time a little farther outside the town limits.

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