Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

This lighthouse towers above Gustavia, capitol
of the Island of St. Barts, where visitors
are required to check in.

My mama spoiled me.  Birthdays, among other holidays, were never “just another day,” but a big deal.  One of the earliest birthdays I remember, –my fifth? — there was a magician at the party, performing for a dozen or so of us.  At the very least, there was always a birthday cake, a special dinner.

After I flew the coop, I deliberately tended not to remind anyone except my partner it was my birthday.  But if it was overlooked, I felt hurt.  That little kid who secretly loves to be cherished is still alive and kicking inside.  I wear a smile for the outside, but inside, I pout. Once, two months after my birthday, I quietly (I hope) melted down in a grocery store with my partner, asking, “It’s been two months and we still haven’t celebrated my birthday.  Can we do it… now?  Sometime this year?”
Wayne, my husband, understands birthdays are a big deal to me, even though they’re not to him, or at least so he says.  He does his best.  We’re not much into presents; they don’t mesh well with a relatively small boat and a smaller budget.  “Tell me what you want,” he says.  “It’s your day.”  I know he means it.
These carved stone steps are part of what
made this trail one of my favorites on
the trip.  Only Guadaloupe, another French
territory, had nice trails and a more
vibrant, tropical rainforest terrain.  No
surprise Guadaloupe is my favorite island
since we started in September.

I take into account where we are at the moment, lovely Columbier Bay, St. Barts.  It’s a glitterati island where if you’re lucky, you might find a burger for $12.  There is no internet closer than a dinghy ride and a mile walk or more.  It’s a rainy morning, a windy day.  I know if I asked to be someplace else for my birthday, Wayne would’ve obliged, but I’d rather go where the wind takes us, and fill in what’s missing, later. I needed to get away from St. Martin, where we spent the last month, and especially the cesspool known as Simpson’s Lagoon.  No one swims in the lagoon, and for good reason.

I ask for a massage (Wayne is wonderful).  Romance (ditto).  A hike. Hanging out on the beach.  A snorkel after the hike. Not doing dishes.  A rain check for a dinner out.
What I want for my belated birthday dinner is not fancy white tablecloths, but a special fresh local meal “on the cheap” like a BBQ lobster at a casual beach BBQ café, eaten at one of the picnic communal tables in Grande Case, St. Martin’s “gastronomic capital.”  While I prefer crab, I’ve only eaten lobster a few times in my life. It’s in season now and I’ve never had it barbequed. If we don’t drop back to St. Martin before continuing on to “the Virgins” I’m willing to trust serendipity for a great “I’ll know it when I see it” rain check birthday dinner, much like getting our haircuts in Nevis (click here to read about that).

hese signs cracked me up.  We didn’t see any iguanas, 
but we did see a tortoise.

On my St. Barts birthday, while it rained, I made bread. We’d been out of bread for a couple days, and weren’t close to a grocery or patisserie (bakery).  While the bread rose, Wayne gave me a massage … and more (aka “romance followed”).  The rain stopped.  We went on our hike.  It was a gorgeous trail, clambering through hills, steps cut into stone, panoramic ridge crest views of and long, sandy beaches, and aquamarine waters dotted with rocky islands.  Morning doves and butterflies flitted by.  We encountered a tortoise, and saw a handsome rooster, though it will be tough to beat Wayne’s experience with the one on Stacia (click here to read about that).  We walked along then hung out on the beach.  Back at our boat, we ate good stinky French Camembert on the bread baked that morning.  We snorkeled.  Turtles surfaced, repeatedly, near our boat.  Dinner was tasty, a red beans and rice dish with chunks of BBQ chicken from the night prior.  Wayne did the dishes, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a good day.

Tortoise on his way to grab a piece of grass.  We encountered
him on the Columbier Bay to Flamands Beach trail.

Truth is, as much as I love our sailing travels, as wonderful as my husband is about making it my day, what I want most for my belated birthday is to hear birthday greetings, voice to voice, from my Mom, my Dad and my brother. Getting a voicemail “Happy Birthday” duet from my parents at work when I moved too far to celebrate in person is still one of my most treasured birthday moments.  Mom’s singing voice is great, Dad’s… not (sadly, I take after Dad in this respect).  But the duet brought loving tears to my eyes.  I saved the voicemail until the voicemail system was replaced, enjoying stumbling over it when it was time to review saved voicemails.

View of beautiful St. Barts Flamands Bay, taken hiking the
Columbier Bay trail.  Note the prevalence of cacti.  Not sure
 if they’re native or not, but they’re sure happy here.

Phone calls to my loved ones, along with the rain check dinner, will come.  Don’t know exactly when or where, but it will be great when it happens.  In any case, this year still beats the heck out of my last birthday, a cold, January day, “between jobs” spent mostly alone and between jobs in Everett Washington.

Wayne, who makes a mean sammy sometimes but otherwise doesn’t cook much, even offered to bake a cake. I didn’t yet take him up on that, yet.  

P.S.  Ate my belated birthday lobster dinner in St. Martin Jan 30th and just noticed we were charged ~$16 more than the bill we signed for.  More about that in a future post.