We weren’t sure what we wanted to do in Gustavia, the second port of the cruise following San Juan a day earlier. It’s the little main town of rocky, hilly small Saint Barthelemy, usually abbreviated to St. Barths or St. Barts, and a favorite of mega-millionaire yachters and lay-about Eurotrash working on whittling down the family fortune. Yes, I mean it’s expensive.
Even with the prices, it’s our favorite island too, intensely French in all ways, including the unreasonably good food, smoky bistros, and haughty attitudes that can put off some, but not us. It’s also a difficult place to navigate, all up and down on narrow roads, with cove beaches scattered between rocky points.
We’d been here several times before, both off cruise ships and twice to stay at small tony hotels, the aptly named Le Toiny, a 20-minute scooter ride from Gustavia, and Emerauld Plage, on the long beach of St. Jean Bay. This is where I suggested we go, not only because of the topless windsurfing, but because it is a short taxi ride from town, the swimming is terrific, and Le Plage at Tom Beach is one of the best beach restaurants in the world. Silver Shadow wasn’t to sail until 11 at night, so there would be no need to rush back to the ship. Even with $30 beef tartar, I figured we could have a nice long afternoon of swimming and some food and rose’ for $100. Okay, maybe $200. But it would be worth it—if we could squeeze our way in without a reservation in high season.
On the other hand, we’d always liked to walk around the harbor around to tiny Shell Beach, which almost nobody knows how to find and is never crowded. Getting there is a 15-minute stroll around the harbor, along the way gawking at the multi-million-dollar yachts tied up in a stunning display of arrogant wealth, turn left on Victor Hugo, then left again at a little school, and there it is. It doesn’t cost a Euro, and we could tender back to the ship for a nice lunch on deck.
That’s what Patti wanted to do, mostly because her friend Vicky was on the island and they had arranged to have a drink around six and L’Oubli, a smoky open air bar in the heart of Gustavia. Her point: Multiple 20-minute tender rides might take all the fun out of the day.
That’s what we did. Tendered in after the tours had left to swim and snorkel at Shell Beach for an hour or so, and a walk back to the quay to catch a tender for an alfresco fish lunch onboard. On the way back we noted that L’Oubli was exactly where we remembered it, and even sent a picture of it to Vicky so she would be sure where to meet later. Once again, we shook our heads in wonder at the size and magnificence of the yachts, until I noticed a tall, blonde young woman with full, violently red lips and clad entirely in white slowly walking her way toward us with a beatific smile on her face. I looked at her as she passed us in the other direction and she gazed languidly at me gazing at her. Then she was gone.
“She looked like ScarJo to me,” I said to Patti.
“Who,” she said.
“You know,” I said. The actress. Scarlett Johansen.”
“Well, I suppose it could be, with all these yachts and money around,” she said.
I thought she looked exactly like her, except she was quite tall, and I never imagined ScarJo tall.
We had lunch on the ship and went out again around four so we could poke around the chic shops that lined the quay, and the even more chic people who hopped off scooters and raced around as the French tend to do. We got to our open-air bar a little early, ordered a beer and a rose’, and did some serious people-watching from our table next to the intersection of Rue de la Republic and Rue de la France.
Then, there she was again—our tall young blonde young all in a white—but a different outfit—strolling with her languid walk and firetruck-red lipstick, walking past and pleasantly but vacantly gazing at those she passed. It was too perfect and too perfect a mystery. Would ScarJo keep walking town smiling at passersby? All day?
“It can’t be her,” Patti said.
And I agreed.
“Could it be that she’s modeling for a boutique?” I said.
“You mean some kind of subtle French advertisement,” Patti said, considering.
“We haven’t seen her handing out any cards or doing anything to lure people to a store,” I said.
Extremely subtle,” she said.
“Should we follow her and see if she leads us to an explanation?” I said.
“We’re meeting Vicky,” Patti said. “Remember?”
I might have sulked a bit, but only a bit. But we had lazily sipped as the French do, making our drinks last an hour or so, and Vicky had not shown. And it was already past six.
“Should we have another drink?” I asked.
“I guess so,” Patti said. “Vicky is always punctual, she has a car, and she’s coming from just a few miles away. She’ll be here. She can’t miss us here, right on the street in the center of town.”
So we got another beer and a wine. But half an hour later Vicky hadn’t shown, it was almost dark, and we decided to give up on her. And then there she was again, the ScarJo facsimile floating past, in yet another white outfit, smiling beatifically through lips redder than ever at everyone she encountered.