By Linda O’Keefe
After a morning of hiking the beautiful hills above Gustavia, we intend for me to shop part of the afternoon. Mistake! Many shops in town are open only from 10 am to 1 pm, then reopen from 4 to 7:30 pm.
With the last tender back to the Maasdam departing at 4:30, that didn’t leave much time to check out the upscale, exclusive shops in much detail.
A few stores were open, including Goldfinger, a jewelry store recommended by the ship. When I walked in to take a look around and no one said a word. Not “bonjour,” “hello,” “go jump in the water.” They completely ignored my presence. With my fanny pack and Nikon, I am obviously from the cruise ship or another tourist group. That is fine with me, since no prices are visible on any of the diamonds or the Rolex or Tag Heuer watches. All tags intentionally are turned over. If you have to ask the price of an item, Goldfinger is not for you.
Next, I make my way to the Cour Vendome which I believe means the place of shops or maybe the place of spending. This is where the most impressive shops were but the renovated mini-mall is an unimpressive location for shops such as Hermes, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari and Ralph Lauren.
As I approach the Robert Cavelli store, I hear a man inside say, “I don’t mind spending the money but this is ridiculous!” The entry door is suddenly discreetly closed by the sales clerk. I am intrigued and interested is what is happening.
As I enter the store and begin looking around, I overhear a “May/December” couple and the sales clerk having a three-way exchange. The man is furious that his wife wants a dress costing 700 Euros. The clerk tries to convince him what fine material the dress is made of. At this point the man lolls his head back and rolls his eyes, saying, “Oh brother!”
The young trophy wife stomps her foot and complains, “But I really like it! And I can wear it Palm Beach, too!”. The husband counters, “You could buy the same dress for $100 in Palm Beach. This is crazy”!
Trying not to laugh, I continue to look through the clothes. For 400 Euros, I can purchase an off-white cotton eyelet halter sundress. With the exchange rate (US$1 = 1.40 Euros), that’s almost $600. For the rest, you can figure out the exchange rate easily by simply increasing the price 40 percent.
In Robert Cavelli, a cute white cotton ruffled white shirt that would look great with jeans goes for 700 Euros; a silk floral tank top is 840 Euros; a sweater with tags of material like fringe 1,180 Euros; with a matching tank top for 700 Euros.
Stuart Weitzman Shoes is closed but Lolita Taca is open. There, I can buy the same cotton eyelet dress for 350 Euros (50 less than at Robert Cavelli) but a beach cover up robe goes for 450 Euros! Lolita Taca does have a stunning sequined halter cocktail dress I like, but not at 690 Euros.
At You and Me, a shoes and purse store store, I find a black straw bag for 130 Euros. It looks like something any of us would find for $30 at Target in the States.
A man’s bathing suit catches my eye at Vilbrequim. It appears to be a child’s size because it is so small. Instead, it turns out to be a man’s large. That brings up unpleasant images of how squeezably tight it must be on the average guy. Still, because it’s a white bathing suit with little blue turtles, it really looks better suited for a boy. It’s 300 Euros, big boy’s prices, while kid’s suits start at 280.
In a state of shock, I stumble into Edgar, a store for young men. Just their T- shirts range from 145 to 180 Euros, jeans 285 to 510 , base price for baskets (Converse-style tennis shoes) 295. Men’s sports coats average 1,000, ties 240, pants 290 upward and shirts start around 240. Please realize these not extraordinary pieces of clothing. Just basic black pants, white pants and gray shirts. All very Gap-like in quality.
At Louis Vuitton, I locate a nice carry-on tote for 1,390 Euros and a pair of Jackie O sunglasses from 285 Euros.
Finally, I end up down the block at Tom’s Shop, The Funny Store where I’m greeted by Zoltar (the mechanical fortune teller in the Tom Hanks movie “Big”). They have a large variety of things, from beach mats for 14.57 Euros, towels, shot glasses and mugs to pirate flags, magic cards and ice cream. We actually buy something here: a pirate Christmas ornament for our tree.
St. Barts is a good day of fun, shooting pictures, exploring and laughing. Now, on to Martinique.