Stop it! Arrêtez-vous! Stop splurging your recreational dollars on midwinter jaunts to chi-chi, celeb-infested Saint Bart’s-and start buying American! Yes, it’s time to trade in the overpriced faux-bohemia of that Edith Piaf–sized French isle for the underpriced unpretentiousness of the Sunshine State. The trendy celeb-wattage of Saint Bart’s may be reaching an all-time high- alter kockers like Steve Martin, Barry Manilow and David Letterman are all geriatrically boogie-boarding on Saline Beach next to young Beyoncé and Jay-Z-but, for the price of that two-week Caribbean sojourn, you could underwrite the annual expenses on an all-American ocean-front C-O-N-D-O! (Yes, I know it’s one of the crassest words in the English language, calling to mind the gold-chain-wearing geezers of the Watergate era-but if you say it loud, there’s music playing; say it soft and it’s almost like praying: condo, condo! ) No, not sleazy Miami Beach: I’m talking Naples, Sarasota, Lauderdale or even Orlando.
Having recently bought a groovy 1970’s condo in Palm Beach (we used Sotheby’s realtor Alan Stenberg, 561-818-0095), my Jonny and I took a farewell trip to Saint Bart’s. Despite the gorgeous landscape and the turquoise waters, we didn’t have to try too hard to rationalize our new allegiance to Jeb Bush’s home state. And here’s why:
Les frogs et les Yanks. “You’re making a mess!” railed the disdainful vendeuse at the rustic little Villebrequin swim shop in Gustavia at a sweet American couple who just wanted the opportunity to pay $125 for a pair of swimming trunks. This interaction, which somehow neatly summed up the current geopolitical standoff between the U.S. and France, was far from uncommon. “Pah! Ce n’est pas possible!” countered the defiant Avis Rent-a-Car employee, when we requested a vehicle with a cassette player so we could enjoy our Best of the Bee Gees (longtime Florida residents) cassette tape. In Saint Bart’s, the Avis slogan should probably be changed from “We Try Harder™” to “We Try Harder to be Cunty.™” The hauteur of the French-in many ways the opposite of American customer service and Floridian good humor-was the easiest thing to which to bid adieu.
La peste : Dengue fever, that hideous viral complaint quite common in Africa, can now be yours courtesy of the Saint Bartienne mosquitoes. Upon arrival, I sprayed my entire body with Off! ($4.99 for six unscented ounces at Drugstore.com) and rushed to the sickbed of British real-estate developer and bon viveur Marc Arnall. “Most strenuously to be avoided” is how Marc described his exotic flu-like affliction, adding: “And my skin feels all papery, and I’ve got a horrible taste in my mouth like I’ve been going down on a metal bar.”
Les gourmets: Yes, the food in Saint Bart’s is still great. A simple repast at Maya’s (0590-27-75-73), devoid of the drizzling and nouveau shenanigans which taint so many New York dining experiences, is like a fabulously chic school dinner. But the nerve-racking drive home on those treacherous roads filled with inebriated vacationing moguls invariably leaves one prête-à-vomir.
Les chiens: French snottiness may be going full throttle in Saint Bart’s, but the legendary French laissez faire about dogs-one of the few positive Gallic traits-has come screeching to a halt. Irate, middle-aged French nudists hurled insults and handfuls of sand at our adorably patriotic dog, Liberace, when we ignored the ” Chien Interdit ” signs that now bedeck every beach except Flamands.
Le shopping: Gustavia now boasts a vintage boutique dubbed, imaginatively, Vintage. If you have $300, you can buy the proprietress’ 18-month-old Roberto Cavalli sun coverups. Meanwhile, for $300 in West Palm Beach, you can furnish your entire condo with vintage Karl Springer lacquered linen tables, Tommi Parzinger buffets and cheesy Lucite everything.
Les fruits: In Saint Bart’s, you’re more likely to die of scurvy than find a decent piece of fruit. If after reading this diatribe you are still intent on a Saint Bartienne vacation, for God’s sake, FedEx yourself a box of fruit ahead of time from www.giftfruitfromflorida.com.
Le corpulence: The slender French physique is still annoyingly ubiquitous in Saint Bart’s. This is officially attributed to the national reluctance to eat between meals but is, in actuality, the result of an astounding per capita nicotine intake. In Florida the entire populace, regardless of how many Salems they smoke, are so chubby that you-yes, even you-will feel slender by comparison. Au revoir , St. Bart’s; bonjour , Boca!
P.S.: Maybe if the French ate between meals, they would be less cranky and less anti-American.