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Aug 16, 2004

ST BARTHS UNDER SEIGE

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Anyone who is visiting the island for the first time this summer must wonder what’s going on! The place is like one giant construction site, from one end of the island to the other. Starting in Gustavia, the harbor master’s office and the stage (where local events have taken place since time immemorial) have been torn down. This is to make way for a a new stage, as well as ritzy new offices for the port staff and even a reception room (all of which look quite nice on the architect’s renderings). The adjoining road that runs along the waterfront has been under construction for months, as well as the road called “Backstreet” on the far side of the harbor. This makes for difficult navigation around town, and when we left a party the other night we passed a car going down the same hill it had just come up, with the driver looking a little sheepish. Once you negotiate your way out of town, you’ll notice a steady stream of cars heading toward Corossol. That’s because the road at La Tourmente, the top of the hill near the airport, leading toward Flamands and Colombier, has been torn up for some much-needed repaving, and bringing it up to the level of the new little traffic circle. This creates another you-can’t-get-there-from-here situation, and trying to tell someone how to get to Flamands via Corossol requires much gesticulation, especially if two languages are involved. One lane, if not both, will be open temporarily on August 25 for the annual fete in Corossol, when hundreds and hundreds of people clog the roads on their way to and from the festivities and a one-way circuit is the only way to avoid major traffic tie-ups. Then there is the airport itself, which will close from September 6 through mid-October for paving and enlarging the runway. But by mid-August, large tracts of grass were removed and huge piles of sand and gravel were awaiting the major work to begin. A little further on in Saint Jean, all cars are obliged to turn right, off of the main road as it has been torn up to replace the water pipes. You have to drive by the fire station and the sports stadium, past the municipal swimming pool. The road is full of deep potholes (these have actually been filled in with cinders that blow around in the wind and create an unsightly mess) and speed bumps that make the entire experience rather unpleasant. You come back out to the main road at the Eden Rock hotel, where there is also major reconstruction (with everyone wondering what is going on behind those plywood fences?). There’s more demolition at Filao Beach (now part of Eden Rock) and Sereno Beach, as well at the Guanahani where a new spa is being built. Is there no end to the “improvement” of the island? And while it’s certainly harder to get from point A to point B at the moment, I’ve always said that Saint Barth is worth the detour!

More to come,

 

Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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