“We’re going to rely on your expertise!..”
…my boyfriend, Ship, joyfully exclaims to me one day while still in the early planning stages of our trip. Out of the four of us in the group, I am the only one who’s ever been to St. Barth. This means I will now be relied on for my ‘expertise’ in all things St. Barth for the next 5 days. Talk about pressure! These guys have all heard countless stories of shenanigans from my life here, and now they’re looking to me to lead the way. Holy crap.
This shouldn’t be a big deal…
…I’m normally ‘the organizer’ in my group of friends. Ask any of my St. Barth circle, they’ll validate; I like to be in charge! Plus, we’re on island time. We’re in constant 80°F temperatures when the rest of New England is experiencing the coldest temperatures this winter. Everyone is relaxed…except me. I am stressed. I want everything to be perfect. I don’t want any of them to have a bad experience so I want to make all the right decisions.
Swim in the pool or swig on vodka?
We have a West-facing villa, which allows for perfect sunset views, but with clouds on the horizon, the sunset, although a pretty pink wash, is nothing spectacular. It’s still better than sunset in New Hampshire tonight. The guys immediately put on their bathing suits & jump into the heated infinity pool. I proceed upstairs to the master bedroom, tall vodka-tonic in hand, to unpack. I am exhausted and I still need to go shopping. The original plan was for me to go to the grocery store for essentials while everyone else stayed home to unpack. After having seen the traffic on our way to the villa, and knowing that the market would be packed, I change my mind. I don’t want to go to the store and because I’m so tired, I feel cranky about it. I delay my unpacking, open the sliding glass doors to the terrace and lay on the bed. I listen to the guys in the pool below, discussing giddily how amazing this place is! I smile to myself. I consider going down to join them but I know myself, when I’m in this exhausted state of mind, the best thing for me is solitary confinement to decompress. I swig my vodka.
“No shopping for you!..”
…I declare, channeling my best but still totally lame Soup Nazi impression to Ship, when he enters the room to check on me, dripping wet from the pool. After some discussion (and by discussion, I mean him speaking like an adult & me whining like a teenager), we decide to go out for dinner and leave the food shopping for the morning. Perfect, but I still need to figure out where we’ll eat. I want more vodka, but since I’m driving soon, I reach for bottled water. We decided to keep dinner simple and quick; we’re all tired. We hop in the Mini and head for the restaurant I’ve chosen. It’s a casual spot called The Hideaway that fits our criteria for tonight: good food, adequate bar. I remember on the way that it’s Monday and many restaurants are closed tonight. I can’t, however, remember if they’re one of them. I decide on a backup location not far from restaurant #1 just in case. We pull into the parking lot and see The Hideaway is dark. Damn, they are closed…and so is location #2, just across the parking lot. “Quel dommage!” I say in French, “what a shame!” but it’s really a disguise for what I’m thinking in my head “Can’t a girl catch a break?!”. We head back to Gustavia, where I know there are more restaurant options. As fate would have it, our friend Tom, pipes up from the back seat “Are there any hotel restaurants nearby we could just eat at?” at the very moment we are coming upon the Eden Rock Hotel. I immediately turn in. It turns out a girl can catch a break!
Not your ordinary hotel restaurant.
I figure we’ll eat in their On The Rocks restaurant, with a lovely nighttime view of the bay lit from the cliffs. As it turns out, The Sand Bar is open for dinner as well and we can eat, literally, with our toes in the sand! We opt for the Sand Bar, are led to the table, kick off our flip-flops, sit back in the love-seat couches and peruse the cocktail menu. This is the perfect option #3, with an incredible atmosphere of waves gently kissing the shore just yards from us, and the feel of soft, cool sand beneath our bare feet. I finally start to feel relaxed for the first time all day. We order cocktails, an Italian meat charcuterie plate and tomato, mango, avocado salad to share. The drinks come quickly and the appetizers arrive not long after that. This is average service time for American restaurants, but very quick by French standards. We order more cocktails and main courses and devour the appetizers.
Perfect dinner, capped off with free booze.
I love the style of service in French restaurants. It’s not like in the USA where you’re rushed through your meal and practically kicked out the door before you’re finished. Here, as in many European countries, you’re left to dine at your leisure and take as long as you’d like. We discuss these differences throughout dinner, and are in agreement that we prefer the French style over American. Actually, Karen & I (the queens, as I like to refer to us) agree, whereas Ship & Tom could care less, they go along with whatever we want. Tonight, even Ship, who normally eats faster than a 15 year old boy at boarding school (true story!), adjusts his tempo in order to savor this wonderful dinner. Once sufficiently fed, but not overstuffed, we ask our server for the check. In classic St. Barth style, she first brings us each a complimentary digestif of vanilla rum. This is the perfect way to end an incredible meal as well as long travel day. I feel stress-free as we stroll back to the Mini to head home.
Mario Andretti will be your driver this evening.
I forget that I know the roads better than my 3 passengers. I probably drive a hair faster than what is comfortable for them, squeezing by oncoming cars with ease and trust that no contact shall be made. I realize that maybe I need to be a bit more aware when, upon arrival back at the villa, I hear Tom say to Karen in the back seat “honey, breathe” as she unclenches her fingers from the back of my seat.
Note to self: try not to scare the bejesus out of your traveling companions over the next 4 days!
Next Leg of the Journey: Mardi Gras!