Summer of catastrophe’s
I have had a tremendous summer of travel, but my head spins when I think about where I have been and some of the absolute sadness and tragedy that many of these places have had to deal with, and how lucky I’ve been to miss some of these awful events.
My summer started with a reasonably short trip from Miami to St Barts, part of the French West Indies, and an absolutely peach of an island, in equal parts uber chic and casual. It is tiny, just 9.7 sq miles in area and I was lucky to be there for my birthday, which was just before all the restaurants and hotels closed for a couple of months. They close they told us to avoid the hurricane season and to revamp the already perfect-looking hotels.
St Barts had not had a hurricane hit since 1999, but a couple of weeks after we left it was devasted by Irma, a CAT 5 hurricane, the strongest ever to hit the area. Photos of desolation were hard to look at. One restaurant we had an evening at, Bonito, which was high and very exposed was destroyed. The hotel we stayed in which should now be back open, won’t now be open until later next year. This French sanctuary is both resilient and has the financial faculty to bounce back. Other islands in the Caribbean won’t be so lucky.
We flew in and out of St Barts from Saint Martin. The half French, half Dutch divided island suffered mass destruction following Irma. The renowned tiny Princess Juliana International Airport, squeezed between a large hill and a beach, where we sat in a tiny waiting area for our twin turboprop airplane to take us to St Barts just a few weeks before was battered by 185mph winds and that tiny departure lounge was left in bit’s scattered across the runway.
After that trip we made our way to Miami for a few days, which then became the focal point for Hurricane Irma as it huge mass moved slowly up through the Atlantic. Miami pretty much escaped but instead Irma hammered the Gulf Coast. Both Tampa where we’d been on the same trip and Sarasota, where we have a house, suffered much damage and flooding. Fortunately our house just had a bit of water in and we lost a couple of big trees.
A week later I was in Barcelona, only for 36 hours, but the police presence was notable after a deadly terror attack saw a van plow into crowds on Las Ramblas a couple of weeks before. Since then we have watched how the city and the Catalonia region has been embroiled in an independence referendum, the signs of which were already visible when I was there.
So, that brings me to today. I’m in Las Vegas, the sight of the deadliest ever attack by a lone gunman two weeks ago yesterday. Writing that sends a shiver down my spine, just like it did last night when we drove past the Mandalay Bay Hotel after landing at the neighbouring airport. Each one of us perversely craning our necks to see if they had replaced the two broken windows. It takes a lot to put Vegas to sleep, but the famed Strip will never quite be the same.
I’m on a work trip which starts here and takes in Los Angeles, Burbank and San Francisco. The week ends like other years in Napa Valley. At least it is supposed to as this incomparable and beautiful part of the world comes to terms with the worst wildfires it has ever witnessed and which has killed 40 and devoured thousands of homes and small businesses.
Please don’t ask me for holiday suggestions….