When I was ten, we moved from Maryland to Trinidad in the West Indies, where we lived for approximately four years. During that time, I had the opportunity to see many of the Windward and Leeward Islands, and as an adult I have slowly ticked off my list the ones I wanted to visit, but I had never set foot in Saint Barthélemy. In early 2016, I decided it was time to see the Leeward isle and made plans for a late-November trip.
From Texas, there are two direct ways to reach the island—Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) to St. Barth’s via Miami and St. Maarten, or DFW to St. Barth’s via San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I checked flights, I chose the Miami route. Strange as it may sound, it had been a long time since I had flown into Miami International Airport and even longer since I had the pleasure of a prolonged stay at MIA. I say the latter with tongue in cheek.
Years ago, many overseas flights flew out of Miami only twice a week. On one such occasion, while flying from Oregon to Los Angeles, I found both the Oregon and LA flights delayed by hours, causing me to miss my connection in Miami for Rio de Janeiro. With two nights to spend in Miami, waiting for the next Varig flight to Rio, I stayed at the Miami International Airport Hotel and filled my time studying for college finals. Call it nostalgia, but I wondered what the hotel looked like today and was slightly curious about the airport as well. In hindsight, I haven’t missed much in all these years and Puerto Rico may have been a smarter choice.
The DFW terminal on the Friday after Thanksgiving was busy, but nothing compared to the two days leading up to the holiday. Contrary to what I’ve heard people say, DFW is not the busiest airport in the US but the fourth busiest; in order they are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Los Angeles International, O’Hare International in Chicago, and Dallas/Fort Worth International. At one time, with returning to the US for college and my parents still living overseas, I’d had the pleasure of being stuck for hours in all four because of flight delays.
The two-hour plane ride from DFW to Miami was uneventful—the best kind of flight—and the Boeing 767 landed on time at Concourse D, a short walk to Concourse E, where the hotel was located. The irony of our room number wasn’t lost on me—747.
I had overlooked the fact that with no boarding passes—they wouldn’t be issued until the following day—we couldn’t leave the secured area for the non-secured section where most of the best airport restaurants were located. But we found a Chili’s and ordered prime rib tacos. They were good, so no complaints. With time to kill, we shopped and each bought colorful beach shirts at Havana Nine.
Our flight from Miami departed on time and we landed early at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten. At the terminal to greet us was the charter crew for Windward Express, and they breezed us through customs. Twenty minutes later, we were airborne and on our way to St. Barth’s, less than a fifteen-minute flight in a STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft, i.e., a puddle jumper. But I’d known what I was in for when I made the reservations and the only other way to reach the island is by ferry. I hadn’t planned to book a charter, but a mix-up with the villa reservation left me no alternative. All the daily flights to and from the island were entirely booked.
Prior to leaving the US, I had mentally braced myself for landing on two of the scariest airstrips in the world, and I’d be doing both in the same day—Princess Juliana International (SXM) and Gustaf III Airport (SBH, and also known as St. Jean Airport). I told myself I had seasoned pilots on board and there was no reason to worry. Besides, what could happen during a ten- to twelve-minute flight? In truth, after all the flights we’d taken during our Down Under vacation—eleven aircraft in all, from an Airbus 380 to a four-seater helicopter—I had become more daring.
The moment we touched down in St. Barth’s, the Windward Express desk contacted Welcome Car Rental to tell them we had landed early. A short while later, a flustered-looking man hurried toward us. He identified himself as being with the rental service and apologized for not being at the airport to greet us. We assured him the wait had been minimal.
As he grabbed our carry-on bags, a woman approached. She introduced herself as Montana from Ici & La, the property management company for the villa we had rented. With our bags loaded into the hatch of a Suzuki Jimmy, we sped away from the airport, following close behind Montana’s vehicle. “The island is small,” she had said before we departed from St. Jean, “but visitors get lost every day. You have 24/7 concierge services. If you need us, do call.”
In my next blog post, I will go into more detail about Villa Rose Dog—the villa we rented in St. Barth’s. When you reserve a property via the Internet and only have photos and reviews to guide you, you can never be sure if the rental will live up to your expectations. Villa Rose Dog exceeded them.
October 4, 2016—St. Barth’s 2016: Villa Rose Dog