The island was named after Columbus' brother Bartholomew. First settled by the French in 1648 it was not suitable for plantations and served mainly as a base for French pirates preying on Spanish galleons.
In 1784, Louis XVI ceded it to Gustaf III of Sweden in exchange for trading rights in Göteborg. A century later the Swedes sold it back to France for 320 000 Francs.
St Barts as it is commonly called is, along with St Martin, a sub-prefecture of Guadeloupe which is an Overseas Department of France.
St Barts gets 160 000 visitors a year. Unfortunately I could not calculate its Tourist Saturation Index because the statistics I have group it with St Martin and Guadeloupe.
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The day after Anguilla, we decided to visit another exclusive resort island, nearby St-Barts that was of special interest for Annika because it had been Swedish from 1784 to 1878. Forewarned by our Anguilla experience, we paid 57 $US each for an all inclusive organised tour.
Here the ferry is approaching Gustavia.
The private yachts lined up at the entrance of Gustavia's harbour are an indication of how exclusive this island is. Ordinary tourists like us come here on cheap day tours to have a look at the rich tourists! That is sick! Can you imagine how much maintaining one of these babies and its crew must cost!
There are also some smaller boats in the marina but even those are out of my reach.
I really don't mind being "poor". As a matter of fact I think that I'm lucky not to have that kind of money because if I did I would be cut off from ordinary people no matter how open minded I might try to be. I know that is so because I realise that as much as I would like to, it is not possible for me to understand some of the extremely disadvantaged people I have met such as the dalitbahujan at the bottom of the caste system in India for example.
And still more anchored in the roadstead outside the harbour.
Gustavia is very small. There are only about 5 000 permanent residents in all of St-Barts' 21 square kilometres.
This is rue du Général de Gaulle, where a couple of relatively inexpensive restaurants and bars cater to day trippers.
The 5000 permanent residents of St-Barts are used to seeing tourists. The island greets 160 000 visitors a year, that's 80 for each man, woman and child! Most of them are just day visitors who come to gawk at the rich but still, that's a lot of people for a small place with a limited number of shops.
This old stone warehouse has been transformed into a municipal museum where exhibits retrace the island's history through its French, Swedish and again French periods.
The guided tour was worth it. St-Barts is small but the scenery is great.
Anse à Toiny is a couple of kms east of Anse Grand Fond on the south-eastern shore of the island. It is the favourite of wind surfers.
From Anse à Toiny we crossed to Grand Cul de Sac renowned for its good windsurfing conditions on the north shore.
After Grand Cul de Sac we pass Marigot and Lorient before coming to the "Baie de St-Jean" seen here. Lorient was the site of the first French settlement back in 1648.
Click here for a live view of the nearby village of Lorient.
We stopped in St-Jean for lunch and time off at the beach. St Jean is where the airport and all the action is. It is a kilometre long strip of hotels, restaurants, shops and bars along a beautiful white sand beach with protected turquoise waters.
That is the original Eden Rock Hotel on a rocky spit that separates St-Jean beach in two. A room here can cost more than 1 000 $ US.
This is the eastern part of St-Jean beach. The western part, on the other side of the Eden Rock, is larger and goes on past the airport that you can see on the picture of the bay, two photos back.
The lunch was not bad for a tour group lunch but not at par with the island's reputation. We did however get a chance to observe, like in a zoo, some of the very rich creating traffic jams in the very touristy St-Jean strip.
Finally its time to leave on this ferry. The sea was a bit choppy but there was an open bar so we met congenial fellow travellers and managed to survive the cruise to St Martin.
By the time we got to Marigot we were feeling no pain but we had to stop at this bar to say goodbye. Eventually, we somehow got back to José's place in Philipsburg after another great day's adventure.