A Travellerspoint blog

Day 3: Marigot Round

sxm11.gifThe obligatory squall passes through at 0600, waking us up in the process. We decided to head for Marigot for breakfast. We parked next to one of the marinas and headed toward the center of town. On the way we came across a tiny puppy that no one claimed and seemed lost. It followed us for a bit before heading towards the next prospective owner. A few minutes later the Admiral emotionally expressed her concern. As the male tough guy I pointed out that he seemed well fed and eventually his owner would claim him, but privately I shared her fear and throughout the day I’ve thought about him, hoping for the best.

SXM_2009_016.jpgSXM_2009_030.jpgSXM_2009_069.jpgSXM_2009_042.jpgWe had excellent croissants and coffee at a cafe next to the marina, then drove to the market area of Marigot. We visited some of the stalls featuring pareos, jewelry, and other tourist-focused “stuff” but bought only a couple of paintings from an artist and she bought a necklace from a jewelry store. Then it was the West Indies Mall, full of high end clothes and “stuff” for cruise passengers. Thanks, but no thanks. The beach beckoned. If you’re going to be hot, you might as well be hot on the beach, so we left Marigot in the rear view mirror and headed for the Bounty, a French deli on the road home. They made us sandwiches on fresh baguettes (for dinner at the villa) and we pushed on. A quick stop at the villa and we moved on to Orient Beach and our favorite yellow umbrellas. Home sweet home. We breathe sighs of relief. Orient was quiet compared to yesterday and Club O was even quieter. Swim, nap. Read. Nap. Swim. Time for lunch, this time at the Pirate Bar, where I satisfy my jones for ribs, which go very well with Carib beer. But then, doesn’t everything? Eventually it’s time to go home, where we can enjoy a bit of A/C and once again I think about the puppy.

Island life is hard.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 16:52 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

Day 2: We Get Oriented

Saint Martin 2009

sxm11.gifToday’s opening number was a quick squall passing through and pounding a loud tattoo on our villa for about 20 minutes. Then it was an oh-so-French continental breakfast around the pool at the L’Astrolabe, quite a contrast to my typical morning ritual at home. After a frustrating trip to Phillipsburg (it was Sunday and a big bike race had hijacked the main road) and a drive through Marigot, we went to Grand Case for a restaurant scouting trip. Having spotted some promising candidates we headed back to the villa. It’s beach time, baby.

Orient Beach curves from north to south in a gentle crescent that opens to the Atlantic trade winds. The narrowest portion is at the top and the surf here is much stronger than the lower part, which is in the lee of an island. The clothing optional portion (Club Orient) of Orient Beach is at the southernmost end. Guess where we headed.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Well, just stop it. “Clothing optional” is not the same as “nudity required.” Being French, Orient Beach is commonly, though not universally, topless. It was my impression that the younger crowd tends to frequent the northern end, which is narrower and crowded. Bathing dress ranges from tacky sequined bikinis clearly not designed for actual immersion in saltwater, to the occasional man-thong. (Note to self: instruct spouse to shoot me if I even contemplate a man thong.) Mostly though, visitors are normal folks and families enjoying the beach.

SXM_2009_132.jpgThe yellow umbrellas at Club O shield people at all levels of undress and they come in all shapes, sizes and ages, although they tend to be middle aged. The 20 and 30-somethings congregate north of Pedros, where you can have a fine lunch. Club O’s beach is remarkably quiet. No thumping music, not even much surf sound. People snooze, stroll the beach, read, drink a little wine, and chat. Visitors expecting a bacchanal will be very disappointed. By 4:30 people begin to pack up and head for home. The Caribbean sun can be brutal and many people have body parts that are turning pink.

We trudge back to the villa and wash off the salt and grime. The hunt for a viable wi-fi signal finally pays off at the villa, but requires sitting on the porch of the reception area. All things considered, that’s not a bad place to check email and surf the web a bit. Beats the hell out of my office at home.

Then it’s off to Pancho Villa’s Mexican Restaurant in Cul de Sac. The proprietor is very French and dresses the part of the bandito, complete with bandolero filled with shot glasses, a toy pistol, and a bottle of tequila in a holster. After a very good meal of fajitas he serves us tequila mixed with sprite. This was his idea. Neither of us care for tequila but it’s free alcohol. Hers finds it’s way into a nearby cactus but I manage to drink mine.

Tomorrow, off to Marigot.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 16:48 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

Getting There is Not Half the Fun

Saint Martin 2009

sxm11.gifI don’t usually mind air travel, once I remind myself not to think about certain things: the mysterious physics of lift, the prospect of being crowded into a narrow aluminum tube with 200 strangers, of whom several almost certainly have a communicable disease, and the likelihood of babies in distress who don’t mind sharing their feelings with the rest of us. Now the airlines have decided to share their pain with us through various charges for things that were once included in the basic ticket price, such as baggage and meals. The meals were never worth the hidden fee in the ticket and now airlines offer “snack boxes” and “lunch boxes.” We tend to bring our own food, more as a statement of independence than out of pickiness, although the latter is an issue too.

Believe it or not, there is talk of charging for carry on bags. I think that would be a very poor PR move for the airlines and they might face a revolt by their customers. They might as well advise us during the safety briefing, “in the event of an unexpected loss of cabin pressure, a mask will drop from the ceiling. Secure the mask on your face by placing the elastic band around your head. Insert four quarters into the slot next to your seat for the first 60 minutes of oxygen, and one quarter for each 15 minutes thereafter. Thank you.”

First impressions of Saint Martin: windy, humid and tropical. The neighborhoods we drove through off of the main thoroughfare were crowded and to the suburbanite eye, poverty-stricken. Yet the people walking the sidewalks were well-dressed, suggesting that the outside appearance of one’s home may not be a true reflection of who lives there. I have to remind myself to check my middle-class bias at the immigration desk and accept that I am a guest, don’t be the Ugly American. In truth, the economic picture is little different than places I’ve visted in the Caribbean in the past.

Once, while sailing in the Abacos, a woman who had moved there years before commented that, “Island life is hard.” Although we visitors see the palm trees, the sunshine and the beaches, we don’t necessarily see the grinding labor of the local people, the limited medical care, the expensive food, and the housing opportunities created by wealthy businesses who buy the best property for their resorts and hotels and leave the remainder to those forced to live cheek-by-jowl in dense neighborhoods. We shouldn’t pity them, but should respect them for their determination to raise their families in the conditions they’ve inherited. And, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that we wealthy visitors are sometimes targeted for petty crime. I need to keep that in mind if I become the target.

Today we explored the island a bit. Sunday is a good exploration day, with less traffic, although a bike race led to delays and confusion. Then we spent the day on Orient Beach and Club O, reading, swimming, drinking, snoozing, listening to music. And eating a cheeseburger in paradise.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 16:27 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

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