St. Martin/St. Marteen, Part 1
When we were trying to decide where we wanted to honeymoon, we had several must-haves. First of all, it had to be a place with fantastic beaches. Secondly, it had to be somewhere we had never been before, and lastly, it had to be fairly cheap. After going back and forth about several different places, we finally decided on the island of St. Martin in the French Caribbean. St. Martin/St. Marteen is unusual because half of the island is owned by the French (St. Martin), and the other half is a territory of The Netherlands (St. Marteen). The French half functions much like Hawaii is to the U.S., they consider themselves French, and are subject to France’s laws, etc. The French half of the island uses euros and dollars, and everyone speaks French and English. The Dutch side is a little more unusual, because they’re just a territory of The Netherlands, so they are somewhat free to govern themselves. For instance, even though The Netherlands uses the euro now, St. Marteen still uses the Dutch Antilles (and the dollar, and the euro), and again, everyone on this side seems to speak Dutch, French and English. The whole island is only 37 square miles, and boasts 37 beaches. The border between the two countries is fluid, so you can come and go across it as you please, with no border checks. Overall, it’s a very unique arrangement.
We stayed on the French side at a resort called the Grand Case Beach Club. The resort sits on Grand Case Beach, and just next to the resort is Petite Plage Beach, which was our favorite beach. A short walk from our hotel was what the locals call “Restaurant Row.” Restaurant row is a street of almost exclusively restaurants, and you can find cuisine from all over the world. There are the lolos, where you can get grilled street food, and there are a ton of French restaurants. But you can also find really good Italian food, French/Caribbean fusion foods, and tons of fresh seafood. Most everything has some French influence, but each place was really unique. The restaurants weren’t really cheap (except the lolos), but the quality of the food was better than what you would pay the same for in Paris. One weird thing about restaurant row is that you have this street full of 5-star restaurants, and yet during the day, nothing is open, windows are boarded up, stray dogs and cats are running rampant, there’s graffiti everywhere, and you could be in any ghetto anywhere in the world. It did not look or feel like a resort/tourist town by day…just a Caribbean ghetto. But at night, the boards came off the windows, everything was lit up, the shops opened up, and the streets became full of people. The rum flows freely, and just about everywhere we went we were given a free shot of rum with our dinner. Many of the restaurants open up towards the sea, so you can enjoy a fantastic view and warm sea breeze while you eat. The food was one of the best things about the trip!
That’s enough for now…but later I’ll tell you more about the Dutch side, our honeymoon friends, horseback riding in the ocean, and my experience of visiting a doctor in the Caribbean! Au revoir!