St. Barts, French West Indies (Jan.18-22, 2004)

Dear Readers,

Hello and welcome to my first journal entry. I'm writing to you from the airport in St. Barts. I just spent the last four days on this beautiful island - and what a great place for my first entry!

In case you're not familiar with St. Barts, it 's located in the French West Indies portion of the Caribbean and is very small (only about 8 square miles). It's very chic, French-speaking, and pleasantly unspoiled by tourism and commercialism. It has a natural, rustic beauty that's pretty unique. Each January for the past 20 years, the St. Barts Music Festival has put on ten days of orchestral and chamber music concerts attracting musicians and audiences from around the world. It turns out they've never had a saxophone recital and I was fortunate to be invited to give the first.

I arrived on the evening of the 18th after about ten hours of travel. I was driven to a small outdoor restaurant where I performed an unaccompanied work for the festival donors. Afterwards, I checked into my hotel where I awoke the next morning to a glorious sight...my room was located on a cliff overlooking the sparkling clear blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea. Having a free day, I spent it visiting several of the island's beaches. The first, Saline Beach, was probably my favorite as it's the most secluded (it takes a short hike over sand dunes to get there). Another one I visited called Shell Beach was literally covered in shells. In the evening, I practiced a little until my pianist arrived and we drove to town to hear a concert.

The following day was my recital, so I spent much of the afternoon practicing on my own and rehearsing. The concert took place in a church with one of the most enthusiastic and enjoyable audiences I've ever had the opportunity to perform for. The hall was completely packed with chairs added in the isles and people standing outside. Our program included works by Ibert, D'Indy, Piazzolla, and a Rachmaninoff arrangement of my own. For an encore, we did another personal arrangement - Morricone's Cinema Paradiso. Afterwards, I signed autographs and hung out with audience members at a nightclub down the street.

I spent the next day exploring the island (mostly by foot, plus a little hitchhiking) and experienced its stunning views from atop the mountains, hiking over rocky cliffs and climbing through caves. I hoped to take a boat out for snorkling, but it was night before I knew it and here I am this morning on my way to Puerto Rico. I could go on and on but I better stop before this gets too long. Hope you enjoy my photos. Until next time...

Yours truly,
Ashu

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Flying as copilot, island approaches
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Boats near St. Barts
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Approaching a very short runway
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A stranded boat
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A quiet beach Houses nested in the hill

Lucky...raccoon tail??
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Waves hitting the rocks

Another beach down the road A tranquil day
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An iguana outside my window

View from my balcony Harbor in St. Barts
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Sail boats in the harbor

A small church Inside the church
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Shell Beach A cliff Self Portrait of feet

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The clear Caribbean water A crab enjoying the weather Banner for the festival

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View of the island My hotel from the distance

Another side of the island
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A lizard guarding the path

View from a mountain top Another view
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A secluded beach A very peaceful day Rooster crowing at sunset

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Colorful buildings on the beach

A view from above

Leaving the island

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