Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Postcard from St. Barths

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Postcard from St. Barths

Article excerpt

I swear we didn't schedule it that way but the week of Jan. 19- 24, the coldest in Pittsburgh's winter so far this year, my wife and I were on the Caribbean island of St. Barths for a music festival.

We had several reasons for going. First, neither of us had ever been to St. Barths, considered one of the most desirable islands to visit down there. Second, our daughter-in-law, Ana-Maria Vera, an internationally known classical pianist, best known to us as the mother of a rambunctious 6-year-old, would be performing. Third, the organizer of the 29-year-old festival is a friend, fellow Pittsburgher Frances deBroff.

St. Barths is perhaps unique among the Caribbean islands. It consists of 8 square miles of beaches, rocks, mountains, villages and some greenery. It is very French.

French is the language of the place, although English is widely spoken also and a few Russian billionaires have now installed themselves. One of the glossy publications, with photos of shockingly and barely dressed models, was in French and Russian.

The climate is perfect. We left 84 degrees there to return to 16 degrees in Pittsburgh. It rains a little each day to water the flowers and keep the island green.

There was a bakery right across the road from us with all of the French pastries, freshly prepared each day, and good coffee. There was also a shop with all the national newspapers in French, English and German, only one day late. (No Post-Gazette, though.) St. Barths has its own daily paper, "Le News." Full of ads for bathing suits and lost dogs.

Criticisms: It takes 14 hours to get to St. Barths from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh-Charlotte-St. Martins, then by boat, a 45- minute trip, to St. Barths. The roads are narrow, with lots of hair- raising hairpin turns. The car-rental people gave us a huge Jeep Wrangler, scary to drive on St. Barths' roads. I got used to it but finding our hotel in the dark the first night was an adventure.

There are charming touches. A mourning dove -- looks like a trim, brown park pigeon -- came to our seafront porch every morning to collect crumbs of food from the day before. …

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