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Life’s Simple Pleasures at St. Barts

<i> Vickers is a Boulder, Colo., public relations consultant. </i>

This tranquil, beautiful island just 15 miles from St. Maarten is the current “in spot” in the Caribbean. Now we know why.

Quite simply, St. Barts is a little gem offering stunning views, glorious beaches and exquisite cuisine along with unsurpassed tranquillity.

You’ll lose yourself in its charm and slow-paced life style. You’ll return home completely recharged and planning a return visit.

Few Interruptions

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There are few phones, little or no TV, lovely beaches featuring endless numbers of readers devouring books that are left unopened at home.

Helping the island’s tourists are members of the Turbe family, which dates back to 1799, of Flamands at the northwest of the island. They are reaping handsome rewards for their hospitality and services provided for affluent visitors from France and the United States.

Guy Turbe operates the St. Barts Beach Club at Grande Cul de Sac and a car rental company at the airport. He has other interests as well, and is described as being “well-heeled.”

Our favorite Turbes are Annie Turbe Anges, one of Guy’s sisters, and Pierreute Magras, a daughter of Guy; she’s 21 and married to a young electrician.

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Annie, 32, earnest and energetic, is a ball of fire. She and husband Jean Pierre (formerly of Tours, France) have just opened a spotless nine-unit hotel, La Baie des Anges, on beautiful Flamands Beach. Coming to St. Barts in 1982 to work as a carpenter, Jean Pierre also found love and he and Annie were soon betrothed. They have a beguiling 15-month-old daughter named Elodie.

The hotel, built by Jean Pierre Anges, sits on 1,040 meters of land given to the newlyweds by Mama Turbe. Casual and family-oriented, the facility is first-rate in every respect. There are refrigerators in each unit, large airy rooms with spacious baths featuring showers and, of course, bidets. Two end units also have well-equipped kitchens.

A Good Travel Buy

The Anges Hotel is a very good buy for travelers who wish accommodations away from the glitter of the island’s more posh resorts. High season rates, Dec. 15 to April 15, are $70 single, $90 double. The rooms with kitchen are $80 single and $110 double.

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During the low season, rates drop to $40 single, $50 double and $70 with kitchen. Two new mini-mokes (open-air vehicles) are also available at $30 a day.

The enterprising Annie started her entrepreneurial skills earlier, launching Annie’s, a charming small restaurant featuring lobster and grilled fish. Renamed La Langouste (in honor of the featured clawless Caribbean lobster), the eatery, housed in a century-old building, rates three stars in many of the leading guidebooks.

We sampled the lobster and, though different from the tasty and tender Maine lobster, the grilled fare is just fine. The price is right, too.

Annie’s mastering of English underscores a fierce determination to excel. In 1975 she spent four months in Springfield, Ill., at the home of “surrogate parents” Lee and Tootsie Benanti. There she learned English and returned to her beloved St. Barts to grow further and prosper.

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Pierreute Magras, Annie’s 21-year-old niece, shows similar spunk. She rented us a mini-moke at her father’s rental agency at the airport. She also adopted us, giving us all kinds of generous help and hints about restaurants, shopping and directions.

Her charm, warmth and general demeanor far belie her tender years. She and her husband have built a duplex in Vitet, on a lovely hillside overlooking the sea.

She, too, learned English at the home of the Turbes’ benefactors in Springfield, Ill. She also studied in Canada.

A Landing Thrill

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Landing at St. Barts aboard a Virgin Air Piper Aztec (five passengers) is something of a thrill. The plane swooshes down over a small mountain to land on a narrow air strip between two hills that reach to the sea at beautiful St. Jean beach.

Despite the lack of phones, TV and the like, there’s lots to do. Rent a mini-moke for your stay. You’ll explore a rugged, hilly and utterly beautiful island with a host of wide, secluded beaches where most European women wear topless swimsuits.

You can tour the island, which is eight square miles, in half a day. Make notes on your map and plan return visits to selected spots.

The main centers are Gustavia, a town of charm and a beautiful harbor, and St. Jean, above a gorgeous beach, with elegant shops and restaurants.

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The concrete roads are narrow, so be careful. Dinner that night might be scheduled at Maya, a seaside restaurant with varied menu and a good wine list. Maya is a native of Martinique. Her husband, Randy, is from Nantucket. Our grilled fish dinner with wine was $62.

Centers of Shopping

Go shopping, at least part of the day, in Gustavia and St. Jean. There are few bargains--perhaps perfumes, wines and liquors. But do try Samson’s, where my wife of 37 years (who still loves to shop) found two stunning multicolored jackets made in Bali. I found a most attractive hat (with soft bill) that also doubles as a small shoulder bag. I do hate to shop, though.

Afterward, wander to St. Jean Beach for an hour or so, then on to the Chez Francine where we found the best luncheon buy on St. Barts. There we had fish grilled and presented on a huge wooden platter with French fries, tomato and lettuce and cole slaw. With drinks and a single dessert, the tab was $31, including service. Not bad.

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That evening you might skip dinner or, if you insist, try Le Scala for pasta and a salad. It’s moderately priced.

Drive to beautiful Saline Beach (be prepared for the nude sun worshipers). Go late morning for an hour or so and on to nearby Tamarin, an outdoor eatery frequented by the locals. You’ll eat well in a community setting created by Katherin, a handsome Parisian, and her husband, Philippe. A complete luncheon with a fine bottle of wine will set you back about $65 for two.

With that, you’ll be serenaded by Paco and Teke, a couple of exotic birds. You may also take a turn at Philippe’s archery game. You also may encounter a Siamese cat, and a female Doberman who’s quite gentle.

After a nap and more reading, you’ll want dinner, of course, and that could be at Annie Anges’ La Langouste. You’ll be served by Annie and sister Elisabeth. A lobster feed for two with wine will cost $69. Vegetables, all imported, are sparse.

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Scenic Sailing

Try a six-hour sail with Andy and Pat Anderson aboard Haraka, a splendid 43-foot sloop. They’ll take you to an island for snorkeling and shelling, followed by a sumptuous lunch served by Pat. There’s plenty of wine, beer and cold drinks. Cost, $50 per person. Andy will give seasoned sailors a turn at the wheel.

Originally Californians, the Andersons now live in New Hampshire and St. Barts. Their French-built yacht was picked up in Marseilles a year and a half ago and sailed across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe.

Take a motor trip to Governeur Beach, still another beauty where you may see all of 10 people. Lunch back at St. Jean, or you may prefer a picnic--wine, a delicious French cheese, fruit and fresh bread from the bakery in Gustavia. The best French bread this side of France.

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For dinner, journey up the hill to fashionable Les Castellets for a fine meal, good French wine for a fancy figure. Another possibility is the equally elegant and widely heralded La Toque Layonmaise at Sereno Beach Hotel at Grande Cul de Sac.

An Elegant Finale

For an elegant final luncheon, visit the Lafayette Club on Grande Cul de Sac, a pricey beach club with a nice pool and good menu. Lunch for two with a fine wine and dessert could reach $80 or more.

Tiawana, up on Flamands Beach, is a similar place. Not as elegant, a mediocre lunch with wine for two will run at $85 to $100. Some observers term this place a rip-off. Beware!

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Our final dinner was at Brigantin, a charming place in Gustavia serving nouvelle cuisine. Dinner here of tasty lobster bisque, grouper for me, yellowtail for madam, yummy raspberry crepes, lots of attentive service in an elegant setting cost $71 with just a glass of wine. A good value. Do try Brigantin.

The trip to St. Barts from St. Maarten is only 10 minutes. A valid passport is required.

Hotel Baie des Anges, B.P. 162, Gustavia 97133 St. Barthelemy, F.W.I.

Temperature 72 to 86 degrees with nice breezes, about the same all year.

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To book a condominium or house, contact WIMCO, (800) 432-3222, or SIBARTH Real Estate, P.O. Box 55, Gustavia, St. Barthelemy, F.W.I.

Additional Information, French West Indies Tourist Board, 610 Fifth Ave., New York 10020.


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