Anse Paschal on St. Barthélemy with Ile Fourchue and St. Martin in the distance
Gustavia, the picture-postcard capital, is an enchanting harbor town and easy to explore on foot. A tour may take a few hours, but with a leisurely lunch, it could easily take most of a day. "Downtown" includes dozens of chic boutiques, duty-free shops, galleries, an open-air market and the Mairie. Visitors will also discover world-famous restaurants and bars housed in buildings that date back to the Swedes and the early French settlers. Of special interest is the new Musée de St. Barthélemy, near the Wall House on the harbor's far side which showcases the island's history . Lovely Shell Beach is near town and is a favorite spot from which to watch the sun set on the sea.
Northwest of Gustavia are the tiny villages of Corossol and Colombier. In these areas, the local women are charming to observe. Except for being barefoot or in sandals, they could be bustling about any little village in Brittany, Normandy or Poitou. Their modest, long-sleeved dresses are vestiges of French provincial origins, as are the shoulder-length sunbonnets (called calèches or quichenottes) on their heads. Quiet and retiring in manner and speech, they nonetheless do a great job of creating and merchandising their elegant straw hats and baskets. They tend to be camera-shy, so please respect their privacy.
In Corossol one should also visit Ingenu Magras' Inter-Oceans Museum, a remarkable collection of some 7,000 seashells. A trip to nearby Baie des Flamands will reward the traveler with a sensational beach and dramatic vistas.
Of course, everyone has to visit Baie St. Jean with its renowned beach, numerous restaurants and interesting shops. Just a few minutes to the east along the lovely north shore is Lorient, whose peaceful stretch of beach is popular with the locals. Lorient is a sweet little village with a church, flower-bedecked cemeteries and a quaint post office.
Continuing east from Lorient is prestigious Pointe Milou with its panoramic vistas and elegant villas. Another mile or two brings the traveler to the tranquil Bay of Marigot followed by Grand Cul-de-Sac, another playground of hotels, restaurants and water sports set on a gorgeous blue-green lagoon.
From here it's a ten-minute drive south to the rugged coast of to Anse Toiny. Turning back toward the east along the south coast, the magnificent valley of Grand Fond appears with its stone-fenced farms and charming, tile-roofed homes.
Before heading back to Gustavia, a side trip to Anse de Grande Saline rewards travelers with one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The gorgeous beach at Anse du Gouverneur below Morne Lurin is also definitely worth a visit.
Please click here for a directory of local tour options.
Three modestly-priced sightseeing tours of St. Barthélemy have been created by the Office du Tourisme, all departing by minibus from the pier in Gustavia. A 45-minute itinerary goes from Gustavia through Colombier, Flamands, Corossol and Public, returning to Gustavia, with one stop along the way. The one-hour excursion goes from Gustavia through St. Jean, Salines, Grand Fond, Cul-de-Sac, Marigot and Lorient before returning to Gustavia, allowing for two stops. The most complete tour takes 90 minutes and adds the villages of Colombier and Corossol to the one-hour itinerary. Check with the Office du Tourisme for current schedules and rates.
Independent sightseeing tours by minibus or taxi are also easily arranged.
Please click here for a directory of local tour resources.
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