Saint-Martin: Going to the French Side
Saint Martin Travel Blog› entry 10 of 14 › view all entries
The road turned in from the coast and before long we crossed the border. St. Martin has been divided into Dutch and French territories since 1648. An obelisk at the border commemorates 300 years of peace in 1948.
Saint-Martin is distinctive from Sint Maartin. It's less built up for one thing. But there are still contradictions. Although I didn't see fast food as I had in Philipsburg, a large Harley-Davidson shop appeared at the outskirts of Marigot.
Marigot is the principal town of the French side. The streets gave off a French colonial air as we drove into town. Downtown Marigot is primarily restaurants and bars rather than shops. A parking lot takes the place of a square, but the Baie de Marigot displays the same azure waters found on the Dutch side.
From Marigot, our driver took us on a road tour. We saw the French airport, used for inter-island flights, and dairy farms. Agriculture is more pronounced here than over in Sint Maarten. Our driver said he was from French St. Martin and told us something of life on the island. He was a truck driver before becoming a tour bus driver and guide. Parents may elect to send their children to school in either the French or Dutch territory. (French, naturally, is the language of instruction on the French side.) His father is a Gendarme.
The next destination was the village of Grand-Case. There is a lovely beach here, too, but our objective was the Atlantis Submarine ride. Not a true submarine, but a special boat with a lower level underwater observation area. The boat took us out from Grand-Case to Creole Rock to observe a Caribbean reef and its marine life. From the obsrvation area, colorful Sergeant Major and Blue Tang fish, a barracuda, Fire Coral, Fingered Coral, and Fan Coral could be seen.
Aside from the beach and aquatic activities, there is a historical display in Grand-Case. The machinery from a 19th century a salt mill (moulin a sel) is on display in a landscaped circle. Salt was mined and milled at Grand-Case beginning in the 17th century and traded to France and North America until the 20th century, an interpretive marker tells us.