Well hello, St. Maarten!

23 Apr

So after a stop in Puerto Rico and another in St. Thomas, we made our way on to the Dutch West Indies…courtesy of St. Maarten!

Welcome to the Dutch West Indies!

So, what’s the deal with St. Maarten, you ask?  Please, allow me! 🙂  ‘Discovered’ by Christopher Columbus on the same 1493 voyage as St. Thomas, the original draw to St. Maarten was the abundance of salt beneath the island’s 34 sq. mile (yep, it’s tiny!) surface.  After more than a century of territorial struggle, the French and the Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands) agreed to divide the island between their two nations- thus forming the oldest such peaceful treaty still in existence today.  (You can see the red divide line on the map above- there’s no border control at all; just some rickety signs letting you know when you pass from one side to the other.)

It’s actually pretty cool how it feels like there are two separate ‘countries’ in such a small space- and that, like our last stop, so many folks (90,000!) can live in such a small space!  Another shocker?  More than 1 million (BOZINGA!) tourists visit the island every year!  Here’s a little comparison:

Dutch Side: speaks Dutch; uses the US Dollar; has roughly 60% of the island’s population; known for its nightlife, rum-based liquors, casinos; duty-free jewelry shops and beaches; also has a reputation as being ‘less friendly’ and ‘less pretty’ than its counterpart

French Side: speaks French; uses the Euro; has roughly 40% of the island’s population; known mainly for its nude beaches,but also for clothes, shopping and gourmet restaurants; also has a reputation as being ‘more friendly’ and ‘more gorgeous’ than its counterpart

OK, on with the fun stuff!!  So, we decided to really shake things up here in St. Maarten and split up for the morning.  The boys opted for a SCUBA diving adventure and the girls, well…let’s tackle the dive first. 🙂  They had a blast!  Despite a light rain drizzle and slightly chilly (78F!) air on the boat ride out to the dive sites (they did two dives- the natural reef and a shipwreck), once underwater, all was perfect…Bright colors, huge sea life, barnacled artifacts…See for yourself!

An old ship's porthole...

The reef...

Making friends...

CHEESE!

Best Buds 🙂

So how did our Girls’ Morning measure up?  You betcha!  Feeling like we’d really missed out on some of what St. Thomas had to offer the day before, we did the only logical thing we could do to avoid a repeat…we rented a gnat- er…- a car!

Our silver chariot 🙂

And where did we go?  Everywhere!  Looking at the map at the top of this page, we started at our dock in Pillipsburg (the Dutch capital), took a right out of the parking lot and spent the next 3 hours making our way around the whole island!  Such a fun adventure!  And without the boys along for the ride, so laissez faire!  Sure, we took some wrong turns, got lost a time or two and stopped as frequently as we wanted to- but isn’t that the point?!  We had a blast!

Typical road...Yes, that's a goat. Sipping water from a puddle. 🙂

Oooh, here's a gorgeous beach. Let's stop, shall we?

🙂

Rollin', rollin', rollin'...on the French side...

A must-stop on our morning adventure was Orient Bay, what many consider to be the most beautiful beach in all of the Caribbean.  It’s the most developed, the most popular and the busiest beach on St. Maarten, for sure, and is known as much for its natural beauty and setting as it is for being the island’s foremost swimsuit-optional beach.  Yep, it’s a nude beach!  Nope, we didn’t partake, but just wanted to take a gander! 😉

Orient Bay

Orient Bay

I know, I know...Gotta keep this a 'suitable for work' site! Ha!

Our next must-stop was the French capital, Marigot, known for being the ‘quintessential Caribbean town’ with its gingerbread houses, open-air market and sidewalk bistros.

Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, traffic on this part of the island is a B!*#H!

Marigot

Actually driving ourselves around the island really gave Mom and me the chance to experience the real St. Maarten.  What a unique place with alot of quirky mixes going on.  Dutch and French, old and new, rich and poor, pristine and in disrepair…Two things that remained constant?  The laid back island lifestyle…and positively horrendous traffic!  That being said, we made our way back to the other side of the island to meet the boys to spend the afternoon exploring Philipsburg, the Dutch capital.

Rounding the southwestern end of the island with Philipsburg in the distance...

Beachfront lunch = All smiles 🙂

Shopping and eating on Front Street...And yes, you're reading that bar's name correctly.

At least the shops are air conditioned, right?! For all of you who followed along with our European adventures last year, you know that we're power/electrical nerds! Just imagine how nerdy it can get when we've got John AND Dad! Ha!

How cool is this?! Chucktown made the cut!

Yep, I’m really 30.

Who knew that the islands had gorillas? And yep, I'm really 30.

~LOVE~

Downtown Philipsburg

And with warn-out feet, sunkissed faces and pleasantly full bellies- OK, maybe slightly more than ‘pleasantly’ considering we passed a Haagen Dazs (hello, dulce de leche!) AND a Canadian pub that specialized in one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE delicacies, Poutine (more on that in the upcoming foodie post 🙂 )- we made our way back to the ship once again…Only this time it was a tad bit more depressing as in days past, I suppose because we knew that the next time our feet touched dry land again it would be back on the mainland.  Oh well, no need to give that a thought now, right?!  Hell no- 2 more days of fun in the sun to go! Don’t. Mind. If. We. Do.

We came. We saw. We lived it up.

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