Orient Bay, on a drive around the French side of the island
Day #1 - Well after the loooong flight, with stops in Minneapolis and Charlotte, I finally arrived in St. Martin! After picking up our teeny tiny rental car and squeezing all of our (mostly my) luggage into the back seat, we were off in search of our hotel. The maps have no street names, because the streets have no street signs. You find your way around by mainly guessing. But, as promised by the guy who rented us the car, we would know our way around by the end of our trip. The road to our hotel wasn't long and would have been a quick trip if we hadn't gotten caught in the "draw bridge traffic". A couple times a day, both of the island's two draw bridges raise to let the big fancy yachts in and out. So if you don't time it right, you may find yourself in some heavy rush our traffic.
Little Bay. The view from our hotel room. The beach was only a few feet away. Can't beat that!
My advice, find a bar to wait it out in, have a guavaberry colada, and then be on your merry way. So we reach our hotel, being mindful to dodge the many stray dogs that seem to prefer the Dutch side of the island, check into our room and unload our luggage. By this time it's only around 7pm and we set out in search of dinner. As it turns out, unless there is a cruise ship in the harbor, everything pretty much closes up by dark. We drove though the streets looking for signs of other tourists like ourselves... and we drove... and drove.... and when we found ourselves going though an industrial area and then into a residential area, so we decided to turn around. The very first place that looked open and looked like it had people was Chesterfield's.
Palm tree outside of our hotel room. On a rare sunny moment.
It was nice, right on the water, quiet music playing, friendly people. Aside from the batch of rain that seemed to dump on us sideways, it was a nice dinner.
Day #2 - We spent most of the morning lounging on the beach at our hotel. The water was the perfect swimming pool temperature. Crystal clear and refreshing. After a few hours, and a quick shower, we decided to take a drive over to Marigot, on the French side of the island. Not only was the language different on the French side, but everything else was too! They actually had street signs! And paved roads! And no stray dogs! Although I did see the occasional stray goat, but it didn't seem so bad. We parked our little rental and took a strole though the town. We sat down for a plate of fries (they are just fries when you are in France) and a couple beers.
Welcome to the Dutch side!
Caught a glimpse of a rainbow after a sprinkle and then set out again to see the sights. As another rain cloud found us, we found a tiny little cafe and stopped for crepes. Delish! After the rain had cleared we managed to find our little rental car again and made our way to Bamboo Bernies. By far the best sushi I have ever had! There were so many yummy rolls to choose from it was hard to decide! I could have gone back every day of our trip and had something different to eat. So good! And the bathroom artwork was quite entertaining!
Day #3 - We got up early for our snorkle trip around the island with Eagle Tours. It's nice, because they pick you up right at your hotel and take you to the dock. The only downside is the catamaran was pretty full, and it was the off season, so I can only imagine how full it might be in the summer time.
And welcome to the French side!
So we set sail for our day trip. The weather was a little rough, and the water was too choppy to snorkle. There wouldn't be anything to see with the visibility the way it was, so our snorkle trip turned into more of a swimming trip/booze cruise, which was fine by me. Although, I am still convinced there wasn't any actual RUM in the rum punch! I was quite impressed with myself when I swam all the way to shore, not once but twice! The rest of our group floated on noodles and sipped heinekins, which was fine too, but not for me. So after we had some lunch in a little French beach-side cafe, we made our way back to shore and back to our hotel. We decided to go all out for dinner tonight, since St. Martin is supposed to be one of the culinary capitals of the Carribean.
Standing on both sides of the border.
We went to La Vie En Rose in Marigot, on the French side. I was actually able to order our entire meal IN French, from appetizers to dessert. I was quite pleased with myself, and our waitor humored me so that was nice of him. If you make it to La Vie En Rose, you MUST have the creme brulee. You get four different flavors to try, and they are all divine! To top it all off, the waitor will bring you a rose to take home at the end of your meal. Some may find that a bit too much, but I was wrapped up in the romance of it all so I didn't mind.
Day #4 - Since this was our last full day in St. Martin, we set out with a plan. Shopping in Philipsburg, a drive to Orient Bay for lunch, and a sunset horseback ride to finish off the day. The shopping in Philipsburg is quite good.
Make sure you check out the illustrations in the bathrooms! Trust me!
Everything is reasonably priced, although not cheap. There are also a few outdoor markets selling Carribean style clothing and beach wraps. I was more interested in the jewelry stores. I had my eye on a mystik topaz ring, but it was not meant to be, so I settled for an opal necklace and earrings. Can't complain about that! We also spent some time at the Guavaberry Emporium. Not only can you purchase beautiful painted bottles of guavaberry, the local rum, they also sell t-shirts AND will mix you a guavaberry colada to take on the road. Walking in public with alcohol is allowed, so this suited us just fine. The only thing that can be tricky is the parking, make sure you park where other people are also parked. There may not be a sign posted, but that doesn't mean your car won't be towed away! Fortunately this did not happen to us.
After dinner at Bamboo Bernies. I definitely wanted to go back! Best sushi I've ever had!!!
We then made our way around the east side of the island to Orient Bay, home of kite surfing. If you have never seen someone kite surf, it's really pretty neat, although it looks like a lot of work! We had lunch at Bikini Beach, a little pricey, but so is every other resteraunt on the French side. The kicker here is that you have to rent the lounge chairs on the beach, even the ones right outside the resteraunt that say "Bikini Beach" on them, even after you just ate there. So instead, we were happy to lay on the sand. The afternoon passed quickly and we needed to get to Lucky Stables for our horseback ride. Just a tip, you really should wear tennis shoes if you go on this tour. The guide takes you up a pretty steep hill through trees, shrubs, and cactus.
After multiple bottles of really good wine... you let cute French guys give you a smooch on the cheek
And remember to lean back on the way down the mountain. At the end of your ride you get to take the horses out into the water for a swim. The water was nice and warm (since we were just outside of the power plant) but the horses wanted nothing to do with it. After a few attempts to get them out in the water, we decided to head back to the stables. It was a fun ride, although I would have liked to ride more on the sand and less up a mountain. Since it was our last night, we wanted to go out with a bang. We went to Mario's Bistro, a resteraunt on the French side that I had read about on the plane ride to St. Martin. It's near the draw bridge, so you can sit over looking the channel that the yachts use into the harbor. It's Italian food, but run by French people so call it what you will.
There's that yummy wine!
All I know is it was fantastic! The gnocchi were to die for! The service was outstanding. They were attentive without being overbearing or pushy. We hardly even noticed them refilling our glasses, but they were never empty either! After dinner and dessert, we figured more wine was in order. Back at the same area where we had accidentally found the little crepe cafe on the second day, we found Le France. It's also a little cafe, and when we ordered only a bottle of wine, they welcomed us like we were truly French! The waitors even posed for photos with us! I wish we had stopped there earlier in our trip.
Day #5 - Since my travel buddy's plane left early in the morning, I had the day to myself. Now I know why people travel by themselves.
And there are those cute French guys! They certainly approved of our wine only dinner!
It was the most relaxing day of the whole trip. I parked my little rental car at the beach where the airplanes land, had some breakfast, and watched a little show from two locals who clearly took the "clothing optional" mentality to heart. As the sun rose and the day became warmer, I went back to my hotel and lounged on the beach one last time. It was amazing to be able to do that in the middle of december. After I checked out of the hotel and crammed my somewhat larger suitcase back into the rental car, I made my way to town for lunch. I stopped at Pineapple Pete's since I had heard good things about it from our horseback guide Danny. I had my last guavaberry colada with my lunch. I must have looked at home because my waitor asked if I lived in St.
Goofing off in Philipsburg
Martin. That was a little ego boost to the tourist in me. After lunch, I just couldn't pass up the gelato place a little ways down the road. It was right near the marina where the really big yachts dock, so I took some time to wander around and take some photos. The time had come to return my rental car and say goodbye to St. Martin. And flirting with a cute stranger from Philadelphia at the airport was just a bonus at the end of a pretty great trip to paradise.