Saint Barthélemy (French: Saint-Barthélemy), officially the Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy (French: Collectivité de Saint-Barthélemy), is an overseas collectivity of France. Also known as Saint Barth in French, or St. Barts in English, the collectivity is one of the four territories among the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean that comprise the French West Indies, and is the only one to have historically been a Swedish colony.
Saint Barthélemy was first claimed by France in 1648. It was sold to Sweden in 1784, which sold it back to France in 1878. The Swedish period left its mark in the names of many of the streets and the town (in honor of King Gustav III) and leaving its national arms, the Three Crowns along with the Maltese cross, the Fleur-de-lis, the mural crown, as well as two pelican birds and the island's supposed amerindian name "OUANALAO", in the island's coat of arms.
Located approximately 250 km east of Puerto Rico, Saint-Barthélemy lies near the islands of Saint Martin, Saba and Anguilla.
Gustavia, which is the main town of the island, was named after King Gustav III of Sweden, and remains as a reflection of the Swedish period.
The oldest settlement still remaining is the village of Lorient (or L'Orient), although scattered in every cemetery on the island can be found Swedish grave markers. Lorient's sister village on the French mainland is the city of Lorient on the southern coast of Brittany.
Of the 20 beaches on the small island, several are considered especially inviting. On the southern side of the island, Grand Saline is a pristine beach with no development. On the western edge of the island is Colombier beach, which is only reachable by boat or a hike. St. Jean, Flamands and Grand-Cul-de-Sac beaches are also popular and attractive beaches which have hotels and other establishments on them. Shell Beach is popular for families with kids as it has little surf.
St. Barths has a tidal difference of only 8–15 cm. The beaches vary according to ocean currents — the weather travels onto the island following the sun from the East. One of the main surfing beaches (Toiny) is known for its riptide, while Grand Fond is one of the island's only non-swimming beaches. Although tourism doesn't allude to it, there are a small variety of warm water sharks in the Caribbean. So, swimming at dusk and dawn or in murky waters is not recommended. Otherwise, scuba and snorkling are a great way to see the nurse sharks, lobsters, conch and green sea turtles that abound in the waters surrounding St. Barth.
The beach of Grand Cul-de-Sac is the easiest beach in the Caribbean for learning sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing as it has a reef which closes off the entire bay. The current that passes outside the reef here also carries the migrating whales and dolphins.
St. Barth has long been considered a playground of the rich and famous and is known for its beautiful pristine beaches, gourmet dining in chic bistros and high-end designer shopping.
St. Barth has about 25 hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer, and the largest, the Guanahani has just 70 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe.
Villa vacations are extremely popular and there are hundreds of villas terraced into the hillsides throughout the island as well has many beachfront locations. Villas here by definition can range from one-bedroom bunglalows to large luxurious homes.
This island is also home to the rare scorpion Centruroides barbudensis, characterized by an overly large tail.
Wording Courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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