Fran Tarkenton spent more than a decade playing quarterback in America’s National Football League,
breaking several records that held for many years after he left the game in 1978 – quickly becoming a popular TV commentator and host. By 1986, when Tarkenton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he had already emerged as an early and successful software entrepreneur, and he continues to run a stable of successful businesses. A fan of Eden Rock, he has been returning to St Barths every year for more than 30 years.
Fran Tarkenton and his wife Linda on vacation on St Barths
A convivial lunch with friends on the island
How did you discover St Barths?
I first visited St Barths 31 years ago. I was dating Linda, the woman who is now my wife. And I’d been to lots of places in the Caribbean and I hadn’t really liked them. So I asked this guy who I’d just done a big deal with. I said, “I’ve got this girlfriend who I’m going to marry, so where should we go?” And he said, “I know the perfect place for you: St Barths.” I’d never heard of it, but I made a reservation, and we went there for a few days – and I’d never seen anything as beautiful as that island. The beaches were incredible, the weather was amazing – and that’s the way it’s been for 30 years now.
What do you remember about that first visit?
We’d pack everything into our days there. We’d get up in the morning and go for a run – and the runs were hilly and challenging, which we enjoyed. And then we’d go back and put some food together to take to the beach, and buy a couple of bottles of wine. And we’d just stay on the beach all day long. Then we’d head back and watch the sunset down in the little village, and then go back and clean up and then go out and have a great dinner. For us, it was the perfect day.
How often do you go there now?
We used to go for four or five days, and that first year we went around three times, and then we decided we needed two weeks. We always go in February, and the extraordinary thing is that we’ve been going for 30 years, and I really don’t recall losing a day to rain in all that time. Maybe a drizzle here and a drizzle there, but there’s sunshine every day – and it isn’t humid, ever.
The harbour at St Barths
And when did you discover Eden Rock – St Barths?
When I first started going there, Eden Rock had the best location and the best beach, but it hadn’t been developed. Then David Matthews came along and made it into the single best resort I’ve ever been to in my life. Only it’s not really a resort – it’s more like a home away from home. He’s a genius at making everything perfect. It’s extraordinary.
What’s so special about it?
Well the service is impeccable. And the rooms are built out of the rock – they’re all different and when you walk into them you think, wow! And whenever I’ve brought new people with me they always have the same reaction, because you’re sitting on top of the beach; I can walk ten steps from my room and I’m stepping on sand. And the sand on the beaches on St Barths is hard-packed sand, which I like, because I love to take a long walk along the beach – to get a bit of a work-out while taking in the blue sky and blue-green waves.
What do you like to do on the island?
The food is incredible. The lobsters are the best in the world, and I like a red snapper – and they’ve probably caught them at 6am that morning, so they’re really fresh. The extraordinary thing is, we eat these big lunches that last from noon to 3pm because they’re social, and later we go out for cocktails, then dinner, and we eat French fries, because this is a French island, and we eat desserts. But this last trip I lost five pounds. You can do that because you’re eating lots of fresh seafood and you walk the hills and the beaches every day.
Who do you spend time with when you’re on the island?
It’s the prettiest island in the world. That’s why the best travellers in America I know see this as a must-do trip; they all make time for St Barths every year. These days Linda and I know 20 couples from all around the world who we’ve met there on different occasions, but often come around the same time of year. So it’s become that type of trip. And the nice thing about is, none of us wears a jacket or sport coat, and certainly not a tie. We spend the day in bathing suits; at lunch we wear shorts; and at dinner we put on a linen shirt and jeans. It’s totally relaxed – we’re all in a completely different state of mind. We travel a lot – to London, the Amalfi coast, California’s Wine Country, or Pebble Beach for the golf. And there’s nowhere that gives us the feeling that St Barths does. It leaves us feeling invigorated and relaxed.