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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Saint Barthélemy and Saint Thomas

Hello again! Although I'm back from my cruise I still have a few more islands to show you. Today, it's Saint Barthélemy and Saint Thomas!

Above: The main harbour of St. Barts, in the town of Gustavia.

Saint Barthélemy is an overseas collectivity of France just like the island of Martinique which I have previously blogged about. Often abbreviated to St. Barts in English, the indigenous people called the island Ouanalao.

Above: Shell Beach, a short walk from downtown Gustavia.

Above: You can see why it is called Shell Beach!

St. Barts is a small volcanic island fully encircled by shallow reefs, with an area of 13 square miles and a population of 8,823.

Above: A quaint street in the downtown area of Gustavia.

The capital, Gustavia contains the main harbour to the island and interestingly, St. Barts is the only Caribbean island which was a Swedish colony for any significant length of time.

Above: An old fort which sits at the edge of the harbour.

The language, cuisine and culture are distinctly French and the island is a popular tourist destination during the winter holiday season, especially with the rich and famous during the Christmas and New Year period.

During my brief time in St. Barts I took a speedboat ride around the island which took in a number of beautiful bays as well as a look at the airport.

Above: The speedboat - no seats, just restraints to lean against!

The runway ranked 3rd in the History Channel's 'Most Extreme Airports' show. The arrival descent is extremely steep over the hilltop traffic circle and departing planes fly right over the heads of sunbathers. This is a video from YouTube which demonstrates just how tricky it is to land!


Let's move on to Saint Thomas now. Along with the islands of Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island, St.Thomas is a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States.

Above: Spot my ship! A panoramic view over part of Charlotte Amalie port.

The territorial capital and main port is called Charlotte Amalie and the island has a population of 51,000 with a land area of about 31 square miles.

Above: An iguana sunning itself by our ship.

The Dutch West India Company established a post on Saint Thomas in 1657 but in 1666 the Danish conquered the island, and by 1672 had established control over the entire island through the Danish West India and Guinea Company.

Above: Magens Bay, located on the Atlantic side of St. Thomas.

In 1917 St. Thomas was purchased (along with Saint John and Saint Croix) by the United States for $25 million in gold, as part of a defensive strategy to maintain control over the Caribbean and the Panama Canal during the First World War.

Above: One of the many tourist buses at the Mountain Top Resort, home of the Banana Daiquiri (a banana and rum drink).

After the First World War tourism to the island began to increase. With relatively cheap air travel and the American embargo on Cuba, the number of visitors grew.

Above: A panorama of downtown Charlotte Amalie with more cruise ships docked to the left. Click here for a much bigger view!

Despite natural disasters such as Hurricane Hugo (1989) and Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn (1995), the island's infrastructure continues to improve as the flow of visitors continues. One of the most popular tourist spots is Paradise Point, a small resort located on a hilltop above downtown Charlotte Amalie.

Above: The 'SkyRide' that takes visitors to the top!

The view is quite spectacular so I'll leave you with a final shot of downtown Charlotte Amalie:


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