The View
from Here:
  Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline, and when she's not organizing the St. Barthelemy film festival, or supervising the local volleyball league, or writing for various magazines, she turns her sharp eye upon local happenings.
  April 2001
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  Some Good Old Times
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  Easter is one time of year when the people of St Barth traditionally camp on or near the beach. While not exactly legal under current French legislation, this Pascal camp-out is an island tradition that is as old as the hills and "tolerated" by the authorities. Tents pop up everywhere. Brown ones and striped ones and blue tarps to provide shade from the hot tropical sun. My husband started camping on the beach in St Jean, to the left of what is now the airstrip, with his fellow altar boys from the Catholic Church. Under the guidance of their local priest, Father Belec, the boys enjoyed fishing, boating, playing cowboys and Indians. The priest also had an old Volkswagen Beetle and he gave these 11 and 12 year-old boys their first off-road driving lessons.
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   The tradition continues and this year there were campers everywhere, taking advantage of the long Thursday afternoon to Monday night holiday. It's like the good old times with whole families and friends getting together to sit around the campfire. Or Weber gas grill. But the effect is the same. Lots of camaraderie and good food, wine and champagne, kids running around underfoot. After lunch, a swim than a nap in the hamac. After dinner, the guitars and accordions come out of their cases and everybody starts singing along. From French drinking songs to popular Creole airs, such as Ba Moin An Ti Bo (Give Me A Little Kiss), this can go on late into the night. Games are also popular, especially the card game belote (similar to pinochle) and dominos, played by men in cafes all over the world.
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   I'm not one much for camping out by we often spend part of the Easter weekend with friends who have a place on the beach in Flamands. They can sleep about 15 people in their St Barth-style beach shack by stringing hamacs side by side. If there is one free, you're welcome to spend the night. I tried it once by it got so hot I started out toward my mother-in-law's house but got only as far as our car, and curled up under a beach towel. The fresh air was invigorating and I sleep soundly out under the stars. This year we took a few friends along and we roared with laughter as we tried to learn the nuances of playing dominos. Clearly there is more to it than matching up the numbers, but even as novices, a good time was had by all. This kind of evening with friends and family is a real throwback to another lifestyle, away from the stress of the modern world. Everyone seemed to leave their cell phones at home or turned off, although it would be useful to call from campsite to campsite and see who had the best dinner cooking on the grill. The rule of thumb seems to be the more the merrier, with large groups communing with nature once a year.
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   I look forward to next year, but in the meantime I'm going to get out my dominos and try to learn to count them as they are played. But like this year, when the last domino is played, I'll head for home to sleep in the comfort of my own bed and leave the extra hamac for someone else.

  More to come,

  Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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