Gustavia, Saint Barthelemy
Tiny St. Barts, as it is commonly called, lies 125 miles northwest of the French island of Guadeloupe, of which it is a dependency. Its geographic features include steep, green, once-active volcano hills, deep valleys, and beautiful beaches. Founded by the French, ceded to Sweden then returned to France, the toy-scaled capital of Gustavia is built around the harbor on the island's southwest coast. Many of the island's inhabitants are descendants of settlers from Brittany, Normandy and Sweden. Today they operate small inns, cafes, restaurants and boutiques that are housed in old buildings of Swedish colonial and French Creole architecture. Too small for most cruise ships, Gustavia's harbor is a favorite layover for sailing yachts, and with prices well beyond the means of the masses, visits are mostly limited to a few hours of day-trippers from nearby St. Martin/St. Maarten. The majority of visitors staying on the island still come from among the privileged who treasure the laid-back atmosphere and small-gem perfection of St. Barts.