January 2, 2008

Helicopter ride over the Caribbean

I flew a McDonnell Douglas 520 all around St. Bart’s across the sea to Anguilla and back over St. Maarten, landing on the stern of the SKAT (my friend Charles Simonyi's wonderful ship!) We took the doors off the chopper to facilitate picture taking. That took a bit of getting used to. It feels very scary to be secured by just a strap seat belt like in a car!

This is Gustavia, the Port of Saint Barts.  Only a few great yachts can be "parked" here, and it’s in a first come, first served basis, in addition to large fees.


Industry and tourism vie for this bit of waterfront.


St. Barts, an island paradise, is part of the French Antilles. Known also during the high season as Manhattan Sur Mer, St. Barts is chic, expensive, beautiful, and varied topographically.  Great food, amazing beaches, superb villas, and a great vibe have always made St. Barts one of my favorite vacation spots.  It is small, eight square miles -mountainous and homogenous.  Originally colonized in 1648 by the French, it was traded to Sweden by Louis xv in 1784 and later sold back to France in 1878.  St. Barts emerged in the 1980's, when it became the chic island hideaway.  I have been coming here since the 1970's, visiting friends with villas and swimming and boating in the turquoise waters.  It is now the most popular gathering place for "super yachts" around Christmas and New Years.

The helicopter went from Gustavia to the west, clockwise around the island.  You can see many great yachts in water.

On to Colombier, which is a white sand beach accessible by sea or by a long walk


L'orient where I stayed in one of the "Visionary" Villas perched inconceivably on a rock cliff over the sea. Built in the seventies it was the prototype villa for many others and the architecture was in keeping with St. Barts tradition of pointed roofs, many small buildings, great under the house water reservoirs for collecting rain water, and infinity pools.


Anse du Grand Cul de Sac - for more water sports- This is where the famous Lafayette Restaurant was and where I learned to wind surf years ago.

Pointe a Toiny, located on the east coast, is exposed to dry winds and colder water.


Anse de Grande saline, which is one of the great beaches in the world. There are white sand waves and beach plum shrubs for thousands of feet.  The Grande Saline is an inland pond once used for obtaining salt.

Grand Pointe - the southernmost cliff of the island - Then north again to Gustavia Harbor and a good view of MY SKAT - the ship of Charles Simonyi and one last view of the harbor



Flying northwest over a small island on way to Anguilla

The long flat island of Anguilla, meaning eel - most northerly of the Leeward Islands, it is undergoing a massive tourist expansion as one can see best from the air.  Hundreds of construction sites are taking advantage of long beaches and great surf.



Flying a bit southeast over the Dutch/French island of St. Maarten/St. Martin - very populated very touristy, however, great beaches, great water sports, and great shopping.


More to come!!