Charleston Style and Design

FALL 2015

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L E I S U R E T R A V E L My husband and I had just taken our seats on a small commuter plane on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten when the woman next to us asked, "Are you ready for an exciting landing?" I had no idea what she was talking about. All I knew was that this 19-seat twin-engine de Havilland Otter was about to carry us to Saint Barthélemy (St. Barth for short), an exclusive island in the French West Indies. Ten minutes later, the tiny island came into view, a knuck- CARIBBEAN JOIE DE VIVRE at cheval blanc, hospitality effervesces like fne champagne STORY BY MARY K. LOVE led mass of steep, green hills surrounded by turquoise water. From my seat near the front, I enjoyed a pilot's-eye view of the approach. We few in low over the red roofs of Gustavia, the island's picturesque capital and port, until a short airstrip appeared below us. It was book- ended by a steep hill and, at the far end, by the sea. Suddenly, the plane took a nosedive towards the hill. Did the pilot intend to slide down that slope? Squeals erupted from a group of teenagers at the back of the plane. Adults gasped. But before I could say a prayer, we had leveled out and were rolling to a stop. We would learn that heart- stopping landings were not un- usual for St. Barth, which boasts the second shortest runway in the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus dis- covered the island of St. Barthélemy in 1493 and named it after his brother, Bartolomeo. Since the mid-17th century, St. Barth has been owned by France, except for a brief spell when it came under Swedish rule. Gustavia's three forts, bell tower and charming stone-and- wood buildings date to this period. In the mid-20th century, Rémy de Haenen, a French adventurer and aviator, fell in love with St. Barth. He landed the frst plane here in 1946 and, in 1953, built the legendary Eden Rock hotel, which still welcomes guests. With an eye to tourism, 166 CSD 1 3 2

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