CHRISTMAS IN SAINT BARTHELEMY

ST BARTS

Welcome to St Barts, It’s a paradise within Paradise. The ultra wealthy and Instagram rich flock here during a particular time of year to blow off the year's steam of hard work and the hustle and bustle of the city. Celebrities such as Simon Cowell, David Letterman, Jay Z, Beyonce, Diddy, Leonardo Di Caprio are just a few who frequent this island

Christmas and New Year are the busy times for the stars, celebrities like Denzel Washington, Victoria Silvstedt, and Bjorn Borg visit the island during this time.

And it's true. At Nikki Beach and Maya's restaurant on New Year's Eve, waterfront tables can be worth billions. For a small island that not so long ago was among the poorest in the Caribbean, that's quite a change. So how did a tiny, dry and neglected outcrop become the favored winter home to the stars?

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Why is St Barts so exclusive?

One, it's small and hard to get to, which means it was never overrun by mass tourism. Early visitors included the Rockefellers, who came for the isolation and beauty.
Which is another feature. St Barts has excellent beaches and surpris­ingly pretty scenery. Further, it is French. The body beautiful stroll along St Jean beach in a mere nuance of a bathing suit, or ride by on a scooter, windswept with all that stylish nonchalance.

Two, St Barts is also completely free of security fears - the celebs feel so safe that they barely have body­ guards. You really do bump into Sting in the supermarket and Paul McCart­ney on the beach.

Three, Christmas and New Year are the busy times for the stars, celebrities like Denzel Washington, Victoria Silvstedt, and Bjorn Borg visit the island during this time. Meanwhile, Roman Abramovich's New Year party is legendary. The Kings of Leon have played his party as well as Red Hot Chili Peppers and they enjoyed the island so much that drummer Chad Smith came back for another holiday.

Oddly, although hotels such as Eden Rock, Isle de France and Le Sereno are world­ famous, most visitors stay in a villa because of the additional privacy.

There are hundreds for rent, some extremely spectacular and yet surprisingly affordable, starting at less than £1,000 a week.

As FLY LYFE explore, it all begins to fit. People are quite active on St Barts (unlike in some Caribbean islands, where they hardly leave their hotel), so a villa makes sense. Here they drive off to the beach, two or three in a day sometimes. St Jean is the live­liest.

People stroll up and down - was that Sir Norman Foster? - watching the aircraft taking off (the island is so small that the airport abuts it) and then pause for lunch at Eden Rock's Sand Bar. This and next-­door Nikki Beach are two places where people dress up for lunch. But there are low-­key beaches too. Three of the best - Saline and Gouverneur on the south coast and Colombier, which is generally visited by boat - have no development at all.

St Barts has the Caribbean's best shopping by a country mile, so towards evening all cars point to Gustavia, the pint-­size capital and port where the mega-­yachts stand shoulder to shoulder and people promenade.

Hundreds of well-­known brands are there, plus some of St Barts' own, such as Patti and Poupette and others.

Gradually the crowd thinks of din­ner. There are more than 100 restau­rants on this island just six miles long. In Gustavia, Bonito is flavor of the moment, and tables on the veranda have a view of the harbor and all its yachts - check, that was definitely Simon Cowell. The Beef Bar of Monaco and Mexico has opened up this season and nearby Isola also buzzes until midnight.

The natural thing to want in the Caribbean is a villa on the beach, but there are relatively few right on the sand. The best are in Flamands, a beach in the north, where the six­ bedroom Villa Sand Club has pride of place. But in such a steep island, there is plenty of drama in the location. French musician Johnny Halliday's house, Villa Jade, is an extraordinary confection of oriental styles, perched high on a hillside with a superb view out to the Atlan­tic.

 And for those who want to party, look no further than Villa Wickie, which has six bedrooms and a sun­ set view just a short walk from the bars and clubs in Gustavia itself. Strangely, service in most villas is not that extensive - the island simply doesn't have the space to offer the butlers and housekeepers you would expect in, say, Barbados - but of course masseuses, babysitters and chefs will come to your villa.

And concierge companies are there to help you with anything from a res­ taurant reservation to a wedding. There's no doubt St Barts is an extravagant place. Stories abound, of a £23,000 Louis Vuitton hammock, of string quartets being flown in from the States to play to just four people, and of special dog cushions in the restaurants.

Yes, if you see a dog in St Barts, it won't be a mangy street animal. It's much more likely to be a pampered lap dog being taken out to dinner.

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10 FACTS ABOUT ST BARTS

1.The flag of St. Barths (besides the French flag colors) is composed of the Lily flower – a reminder that it belongs to France, the Maltese cross – referring to possession by the Order of Malta, the crown – symbolism of the Swedish period, and lastly the Pelican as their emblem (the Pelican which is also on the St. Martin flag, means that you would want to fly from one island to another to discover new treasures.)

2. The biodiversity of St. Barth's and the surrounding islands have: 183 different species of fish, 54 varieties of coral, and 60 types of sea sponges.

3. St. Barths was originally called “Ouanalao” by the Arawaks (original island inhabitants) in 1493. Columbus discovered St. Barths and named the island after his brother, Bartolomeo.

ST BARTHS


4. The island was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus who named it for his brother Bartolomeo. St. Barthelemy was first settled by the French in 1648. In 1784, the French sold the island to Sweden, who renamed the largest town Gustavia, after the Swedish King GUSTAV III, and made it a free port; the island prospered as a trade and supply center during the colonial wars of the 18th century. France repurchased the island in 1878 and placed it under the administration of Guadeloupe. St. Barthelemy retained its free port status along with various Swedish appellations such as Swedish street and town names, and the three-crown symbol on the coat of arms. In 2003, the populace of the island voted to secede from Guadeloupe and in 2007, the island became a French overseas collectivity.

5. French is the official language, but English is widely spoken.

STAINT BARTHS


6. Despite limited rain in St. Barths, there is still plenty of vegetation. The west coast is drier with shrubs and cacti, the East coast is greener with more tropical vegetation like floral species which adorn the landscape.

7. Tourism took hold in St. Barths when Rémy de Haenen, an eccentric Dutch aviator, landed his plane at what is now the airport. He later became the first hotelier and the island's mayor.

8. The island gets more than 300 sunny days a year on average.

NIKKI BEACH, ST BARTS


9. The glamorous island of St Barts is one of the Caribbean's top beach destinations. Ringing the island are immaculate strips of sand and ethereal turquoise waters. The shallow reefs that encircle the island help to protect these renowned beaches, and they also provide excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.

10. This volcanic island without any rivers forced the population to adapt to its rigors in order to here live comfortably. Fresh water in St Barts comes from a desalination plant or large cisterns built into villas and hotels to collect rainwater. Thus water is a valuable resource to be used carefully.

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