Saint Martin is an idyllic Caribbean island that has completely won me over during this visit. Things are a little complicated here, so let me explain from the outset this is the smallest land mass in the world to be split into two autonomous regions. The capital and the airport are within the Dutch Saint Maarten, and the northern half of the island is French and called Saint Martin. As far as the population is concerned, the Dutch part of the island comprises around 60% to 40% on the French side. However, this tiny Caribbean island has a little more French territory than Dutch. The Treaty of Concordia was signed in 1648 as both countries coveted this beautiful island, and neither was prepared to yield. Regardless, it is no drama whatsoever for tourists who come to visit, just bear in mind you will be paying with euros on the French side, and US dollars on the Dutch side. Now that's out of the way, it's time to tell my story. I chose to stay on the French side, as I've always had a special affinity with the French. I love their passion and joie de vivre!
The journal continues from
where we left off in Jamaica. Caribbean Airlines was the chosen carrier for the two hour flight east from Kingston, before we touched down at the world famous Princess Juliana airport. I will have more to say about that later. My visit to Saint Martin is the first time I have used AirBnB, and it was a wonderful experience. My host Sylvie and her husband have been almost overwhelming in their hospitality, and I have the luxury of a fully appointed room with a balcony in their gorgeous house on Orient Bay. The visit could not have got off to an easier start, as Sylvie arranged to meet me at the airport and drive me to her home. As you can imagine on this tiny island, getting through customs and collecting baggage was completed in no time, and Sylvie was there to greet me in the arrivals hall. Although the island is tiny, it was still around a thirty minute drive north before we arrived in Orient Bay. During the drive Sylvie was able to give me an introduction to what is on offer in Saint Martin, and helped get my bearings for the duration of the stay.
unpacking and getting organised, I went for an explore of the beaches and restaurants in Orient Bay. I quickly fell in love with the place, it's like a little taste of Europe in a caribbean setting. There is plenty of fine dining on offer, with gorgeous patisseries for a well deserved treat. The island is safe, clean, well organised, and for three days there was a strong sea breeze that was surprisingly refreshing, particularly in the evening. My first task after exploring the village centre was to scope out the beaches, and I have to say Saint Martin is absolutely sublime. The warm water is a gorgeous turquoise, and the sand a brilliant white. It's absolutely gorgeous here, and given the hospitality of my lovely hosts it's going to be difficult to leave. I spent a few days lazing around on the beautiful beaches, and enjoying good meals and Carib beers. However, I always had it as my main priority to get out to Princess Juliana airport, after seeing incredible pictures of planes landing right over the beach. I wonder, can this really be true?
There's only one way to find out, so I rented a car
from my hosts to explore. The island is tiny, and there is a main ring road the goes all the way around. I got to the Sunset Bar parking area without missing a single turn, and to think that this is another country! I'm only joking, but the airport is on the Dutch side of the island. They really have their thing going on at the Sunset bar, which is perched right above one end of the beach and on the coast, for perfect views of the planes coming in low to land at the airport. They even have the daily flight schedule written up on a mounted surfboard next to the beach. Within minutes I had ordered a Carib and was chatting with other customers at the bar. It's a thrilling experience waiting for the big jets to swoop in low over the beach, and everyone gets caught up in the experience. The first big plane I got to see was a big momma KLM 747, and I filmed the monster flying right over the top of me while I was standing on the beach. The sense of exhilaration as the jet roared above my head is hard to
describe, and I just couldn't get enough. There were plenty of other landings, and I retreated to the bar to get some panoramic shots of other jets landing right over the beach. To top it off the KLM plane was only in Saint Maarten for a one hour stop off, and we got the thrill of copping the jet blast as the 747 engines roared in to life just on the other side of the fence.
I was nearly knocked off my feet by the power of it all, and had to turn my back to cope with the spray of sand and the jet fumes. However, there are some crazy adventurers who go on the other side of the road right against the fence, and wrap their arms tightly around the poles while the 747 takes off. It's absolute madness, and the adrenaline of being near those powerful engines is akin to riding on white water rapids, it is genuinely a once in a lifetime experience. I talked to several people who had been to the bar several days in a row, and if I had a longer time on the island I would definitely have gone back
for more. I couldn't get enough of photographing and filming the planes coming in so low as they prepare to land right over the beach, it was simply mind-blowing. Wow, what an amazing experience I had that day in Saint Maarten!
My hosts have been absolutely brilliant, kind and friendly in the European way, and it's been a delight to share with them in their lovely house. I would venture down to the bars on the beach every evening for a few Caribs with lime, and excellent meals at reasonable prices. The refreshing sea breeze was blowing strongly every evening, and the locals up in Orient Bay are so friendly, relaxed, and welcoming. I loved the island, and it has everything that a person could hope for. My hosts went to Saint Martin for a vacation, and within a year had sold their house in Luxembourg, and relocated to this gorgeous Caribbean island for good. I think they made a wise choice, and it is obvious they are very happy with the move. Saint Martin is a dream destination, and I hope I can come again soon for a longer visit. Come to think of it, basically all of
you should be here now!
"Today the winds of hope blow through Latin America and the Caribbean." Daniel Ortega
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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