Cheeseburger in Paradise – Our St Barthélemy Vacation, Part 2


Even the landing is an adventure

    Even the landing is an adventure

Continued from Part 1, last week

Un autre avion?

Ok, at least they understood that.  Hopefully I didn’t just ask them where the aviary was.  They looked at me and just sort of shrugged their shoulders in a ‘who knows’ sort of fashion.  There was no way to reach her.  I just had to sit and fret.  Finally, around six, the sun looked like it would soon be setting.  This really worried me because there are no lights at the St Bart’s airport – it shuts down when the sun goes down.

Just when I was about to lose hope, I spotted a small Cessna style airplane off in the distance.  I thought to myself, that can’t be the Delta flight.

It was the last flight of the day and as I saw it coming in for its landing, (I was maybe only 200 yards from the strip), I could see right into the small cockpit.  No, it can’t be…..but it was – I saw a pilot and Kim, right up there in the cockpit.  What the heck?

 

Kim’s story
For whatever reason, Delta had accidentally cancelled her flight from St Thomas to St Bart’s.  WTF!  It’s our anniversary, how the hell am I going to get to St Bart’s?  They told her she’d have to wait until tomorrow or else charter her own flight.  And that’s what she did.  She found a pilot willing to fly her there.  The cost was $1,000 (a lot of money for that short flight).  They didn’t have much time, the pilot told her that if they got going, they could land just in time before they closed the airport there.  Kim claimed it was the most beautiful flight of her life, just her, the pilot and the tiny airplane up in the clouds and blue sky.

 

View from breakfast/lunch

         View from breakfast/lunch

Crisis over though. Let the romantic anniversary begin.  The first thing we did was to get directions to Le Guanahani resort.  As it turned out, directions were easy.  The island was only 8 square miles large (small) and most of the roads were on the exterior part of the island.  The hotel was only a few kilometers from the airport.  I was a little disappointed that our rental was an automatic because my preference is for a manual transmission.  Besides, I knew the rental company provided the automatics for the spoiled Americans, (which I did not want to be – spoiled, I’m good with being American).  The drive there was beautiful but uneventful, though it was along this ride that we spotted our very first Smart Car.

We found the entrance driveway to the hotel easily enough, got checked in and were escorted to our beautiful suite.  We were to find that this service, this getting escorted was just the tip of the iceberg for the level of service we were to experience as for the entire trip, the high level of service is one of the things that still sticks out for me today.  But anyway, the room was fabulous with a double-door patio entrance, beautiful hardwood flooring and a fantastic view of the white beached ocean.  We could tell from the onset that this was to be a vacation of a lifetime.

Guanahani Room

Guanahani Room

Each day was like the rest in that every day was fabulously relaxing and romantic.  We would start each day with breakfast by the infinity pool.  Soon after that, we would hit the beach.  Le Guanahani had its own private beach.  Typically we would have only 2-3 other neighbors on the beach with us.  We’d spend the morning and most of the afternoon lounging, reading and enjoying the surf and the occasional wind surfer.  I don’t know what it’s like today, but back then there were no motors on the ocean near us and no kids; (Webster’s definition for peace and relaxation).

The only unusual occurrence was really not an occurrence at all, but an unusual sight.  On one morning, my wife nudged me and said, don’t stare, but get up and then look to your right.  Ok, I need to go the bathroom anyway.  So I got up.  Low and behold, lying on the beach about 20 yards from us was a young lady, topless.  This wasn’t the unusual part though.  I could easily tell by the lady’s face that she wasn’t ‘young’ at all.  She had to be 65-70 years old.  Her breasts, however, were those of a 20 year old.  Obviously very proud of them, (and why not, she obviously paid big bucks for them), she had them out for full display.  You live long enough and you get to see everything.

Bon Appetite!

      Bon Appetite!

 

Towards dinner time we’d typically go to the room for a shower before heading out to explore the wonderful restaurants.  Most evenings we’d head into the capital city of Gustavia.  The first day in Gustavia we walked all over the city.  It was small, easily covered in a long afternoon, checking out the expensive designer shops.  And the restaurants, ah, the restaurants.  They were all French.  They competed for business alright, but not on price.  No, they competed with the food itself.  Everyplace we ate in Gustavia was a seven course meal, every course a delectable delight.  I’d never had a great French meal before this trip and they were so wonderful that it spurred my wife to buy a French cookbook when we got back home, (she even cracked it open once to make a French meal).

Meals were very expensive.  I seem to remember the cheapest we got off with on that trip was something like $185 for dinner.  Talk about extravagance – lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Every meal was an experience.  I even tried eel one night (yuk, the only thing on that trip I didn’t care for).

 

Downtown Gustavia

             Downtown Gustavia

One night we decided to stick to the hotel and try their own chef’s cuisine.  It too was delicious but I’m not sure the young couple next to us cared too much for their steak tartare.  Kim and I had ordered that ourselves a few years earlier, didn’t care for it and knew what the couple was in for.  We whispered and laughed when we heard their order and wondered if they knew what they were in for; they did not.  🙂  Like any good tartare, a chef came to their table with all the ingredients, a big bowl and a show.  He chatted them up while he prepared their meal.  The young couple watched in awe, surely expecting any moment to see a portable stove or at least a George Foreman grill being wheeled around the corner.

But soon the ‘steak’ was ready to serve.  The chef divided it up onto the fancy plates and gently slid them in front of the lady and gentleman, all the while with a great big smile.  Bon Appetite!  And he walked away.  We watched…..while they just stared at their food, open jawed, chuckling and laughing to themselves.  Given that they were poking their food and making mooing sounds, we could tell that they were experiencing their very first steak tartare, most likely to the tune of a hundred dollars or more.  Bon appetite indeed!

breakfast and lunch views

breakfast and lunch views

 

On one afternoon, we decided to go cheap.  Going cheap wasn’t really the overriding goal.  No, experiencing a cheeseburger in paradise was the goal.  We found the one place on the island that served cheeseburgers and was the inspiration for the classic song of the same name, written and sung by Jimmy Buffet.  We both ate our $20 cheeseburgers, drank our beers and enjoyed the surroundings; paradise indeed.  As we were sitting there chatting, one of the things Kim remarked about was that she found it unusual that there weren’t any prices on the menus of the French restaurants we had dined at.  I just looked at her and smiled – it’s old school, they’re on my menu only.  🙂

All of the service personnel we encountered were at least bilingual, English being one of the mandatory languages for the staff.  They appreciated though when at each place, I’d spring a little French here and there.  Luckily, I didn’t mess any of them up as badly as when Barney Fife went to a French restaurant and pointed at menu items so as to not look like a hick.  Andy ended up with a nice steak and potato while Barney’s pointing led him to snails and brains.  There was this one other incident on our island visit, one where I got to demonstrate my amazing command of languages….

pics from our beach

pics from our beach

We had been there on our island paradise for several days and hadn’t really been out in the crystal clear blue ocean all that much.  We had spent most of our beach time lounging and relaxing, (and checking out the doctor’s handy work on the 70 year olds), when Kim suggested we go out into the ocean.  I said sure, let’s do.  We hadn’t gotten maybe 20 yards when, OW!  Oh, man…I stepped on something, that really hurt.  I tried to continue our walk, but something didn’t feel right.  Each step I took with my right foot hurt increasingly.  I said I needed to get out because my foot was killing me.

As soon as I stepped onto the white sand, it instantly began to turn red, sort of like Moses parting the seas.  My foot was bleeding rather profusely.  I had stepped onto something very sharp, something which had sliced deep into my heel.  To make matters worse, I was on Coumadin at the time; a blood thinner.  My doctor had prescribed it after I developed blood clots in my injured left leg (link).  It took a little bit of time and pressure to get the bleeding to stop.  I had hobbled over to one of the public beach foot showers to clean it up.  The amount of blood coming out looked fairly serious.  This wasn’t a typical scrape.  While I was doing that, my wife walked up to the admitting desk to request some bandages.

 

When she returned, the first question she asked wasn’t ‘how’s your foot’ or ‘are you doing better’ – no, her first question was, “are we really paying $400 a day here?”

Me – “um, no…that’s 400 Euros, (more than dollars, honey).  Can I have the bandage please?”

 

I had gotten the bleeding down to a minor trickle so I told Kim that I was going to drive down the road because I had seen a place with the word “pharmacie” as its sign.  I drove there and walked in.  I was the only customer for the young lady who greeted me.  The first thing I asked was if she spoke English.

Me – “Parlez-vous anglais”?

She – “No”.

Me – “hmm en francais puis”. (Hmm, in French then)

I began thinking about all the lessons I had listened to in my car.  I wanted to tell this lady that I had cut my foot and wanted some antibacterial ointment.  I remembered how to say ‘walking by foot’ (marche a pied).  Then I recalled another lesson about ‘cut the meat’ (couper la viande).  So I put them together to see if I could say cut my foot.

Me – “coupe mon pie.”

She – ah, oui!

Ok, now, how do I say antibacterial ointment.  To say I need in French is “j’ai besoin”, (pronounced ‘je bayzwan’).

Me – “j’ai besoin……….(five second delay)….antibacterial ointment“.  I blurted it out, didn’t have a clue how to say those two words.  But what I heard from my pharmacy helper was a big “oui!” with a big smile.

She walked me around the store to show me the ointments and the bandages.  I easily found what I needed, (with her help), shelled out my mega bucks, (much cheaper than our meals), and off I went wearing my pride like a victory flag.  I had once again demonstrated my amazing command of foreign languages.

Evidently, Poseidon was giving me warning to stay out of his pond.  So much the better as I’m not much of a swimmer.  The cut on my foot gave me a temporary limp, especially for the rest of the day since I wanted to make sure I didn’t bleed out into my shoes.  I made it back to the hotel without wrecking the car, Kim bandaged me up and the rest of the vacation was without incident.  I stuck to the land and beaches.

Ultimately, the end of the week and our romantic anniversary vacation came to a close and it was time to say goodbye to St Bart’s and the wonderful staff at Le Guanahani.  We figured up a few tips in envelopes to hand out to the staff that had helped to make our stay memorable, packed our bags and made our way back to the airport.  We took our separate flights out of Bart’s, (this time Kim had to fly with other people), and hugged again at CVG in Kentucky.

Thank You for bringing your American dollars

Thank You for bringing your American dollars

 

Our St Bart’s vacation was the point in time I graduated from cheapskate to just being wise with money.  All told, I think I spent about $10k on that trip in 2003 but it was well worth the expense and I’d highly recommend a special trip there for any of you wanting to do something lavish and romantic.  Who knows?  Maybe someday my 70 year old wife, (future),  will be there showing off her 20 year old boobs.  Bart’s is the place to do it!

Oh, and I still have my French tapes. I recorded them into MP3 files where I can listen from iTunes or burn to cd so if you ever cut your foot in a French speaking country and just need to tell someone, feel free to call me – I’ll walk you through it.

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