Saint-Martin: Going to the French Side

Saint Martin Travel Blog

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Border Obelisk

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.

Border Sign
There is a large open-air market with street vendors. Overlooking the scene from a hill is Fort Louis (dating from 1789) flying the Tricolor. We spent some time here looking around and shopping the vendor stalls.

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.

Rue de la Liberte, Marigot
He explained that the Gendarmes are armed (as their name would imply) but the island Police are not. Gendarmes are rotated among the French West Indian islands every six months, which can make family life tough.

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.

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Border Obelisk
Border Obelisk
Border Sign
Border Sign
Rue de la Liberte, Marigot
Rue de la Liberte, Marigot
Rue de la Liberte, Marigot
Rue de la Liberte, Marigot
Fort Louis (1789)
Fort Louis (1789)
Esplanade in Marigot
Esplanade in Marigot
Baie de Marigot
Baie de Marigot
Market Square
Market Square
Street Vendors in Marigot
Street Vendors in Marigot
Marigot
Marigot
Marigot
Marigot
Baie de Marigot
Baie de Marigot
Political signs in French and Engl…
Political signs in French and Eng…
Roadside Advertsing
Roadside Advertsing
Lady Liberty monument
Lady Liberty monument
Grand-Case
Grand-Case
Grand-Case
Grand-Case
Grand-Case Beach
Grand-Case Beach
Grand-Case Beach
Grand-Case Beach
Grand-Case
Grand-Case
Creole Rock
Creole Rock
Creole Rock
Creole Rock
Red Coral
Red Coral
Diver with Sergeant Major and Blue…
Diver with Sergeant Major and Blu…
Diver working the reef
Diver working the reef
Corals
Corals
Corals
Corals
Salt Mill machinery display
Salt Mill machinery display
Dairy Farm
Dairy Farm
Dairy Farm
Dairy Farm
Pastel roofs near Orient Beach
Pastel roofs near Orient Beach