Thursday, February 21, 2008

Laurie G. - St. Martin Fun

St Martin is a great place to vacation in the Caribbean and have a reasonable European experience at the same time. Legendary beaches of course and beaches where even your Malibu Strings might have you overdressed. And while Orient Beach is known for clothing optional you'll find the whole island, French or Dutch side, is quite open to skimpy swimwear. The nice thing is the attitude - enjoy the beach, the sun, the water, wear what you want or not and don't worry about it. A lot less staring occurs here than anywhere else we've been. That is until and if the cruise ship tour bus shows up, then just smile, wave and send some lucky gawker home with the best vacation photos he's ever taken (and possibly and angry/jealous wife?). Then enjoy your sunset on the beach while he's heading back to his cruise ship.

If you like good food and great dining, this is the place. We all know the French can cook; no doubt about it. Now take that culinary skill, influence it with local flavors, preserve that French flair for presentation, relax the atmosphere to island level while maintaining the French sophistication and you are going to have some of the best dining experiences of your life.

Not all the dining is so fancy. Outdoor barbeques are common, casual, cheap, and delicious.

Our favorite area for dining is Grand Case. A one way street lined with restaurants of all styles and price ranges. Restaurants on one side have dining rooms overlooking the beach; the other side tries to make up for lack of beach view with customer service and perhaps a few Euros cheaper.

You can't go wrong either way and every restaurant has their menu posted outside so you can stroll the street looking for that perfect mixture of ambiance and menu selection.

Plenty of restaurants will even give you a 1 Dollar to 1 Euro exchange if you pay cash, don’t be afraid to ask.

Beyond the beaches, St Martin has huge pitons that rise right up out of the ocean. The largest is Pic Paradis at 1,492 feet high. I haven’t yet taken in the view from the top but enjoy just looking up from the beach at what we call mountains where I come from.

Having a car in St Martin is well worth the expense and let’s you visit multiple beaches, dine on the French side one night, the Dutch side the next, or just take a drive and explore the island. The island is easy to navigate with just a tourist map. One beach we recently discovered for ourselves is named Le Galion Bay.

It has the calmest water, a beach restaurant, and chairs/umbrellas for rent. It’s also a learning place for windsurfing and kite boarding due to the calm water caused by the reef at the bay inlet where the reef stops the waves but lets the strong Caribbean trade winds flow through. It’s easy to spend the day watching kite boarders soar through the air across such calm water.

à tout à l'heure …

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Stacie - St. Martin

My husband and I have traveled to St. Martin five or six times now. The island is owned half by the French and the other half by the Dutch, so the island has two distinct personalities. The French side has a more European flavor with fine restaurants, boutiques, pristine topless and clothing optional beaches. But be prepared to pay the price. The French side uses the Euro, and the current exchange rate is 1 Euro = 1.47 us$. The Dutch side is more Americanized with lots of bars, fast food, more conservative beaches and a more outgoing nightlife. The Dutch Guilder is at a fixed rate with the US dollar so there is no devaluation.

We always stay at Le Flamboyant Hotel, on the French side at Baie Nettle. The hotel is located on Simpson Lagoon, the largest natural lagoon in the Caribbean. It is not necessary to speak French but it is helpful to have some knowledge of the language. Most of the French people we meet enjoy trying to help us speak their language better. A three minute drive from the hotel is Baie Rouge, one of our favorite beaches. This beach is very long and offers soft sand, blue surf and two local restaurants. All of the beaches on the French side are topless and a few (Baie Rouge & Orient) are clothing optional.

Just over the border on the Dutch side is our other favorite beach, Cupecoy. This is the only clothing optional beach on the Dutch side. Johnny and Danny offer drinks and cook the best barbeque chicken and ribs on the island.

After sunning in the mornings we usually head over to the Sunset Beach Bar. This unique beach bar is located at the end of the Queen Juliana Airport (SXM). 747’s and other jumbo jets pass just 50-75 feet over your head! Photographers flock to this bar to capture photos like none other in the world.

Since there are so many great restaurants in St. Martin, all-inclusive hotel packages are not recommended. Marigot (capital of the French side) has a beautiful marina with plenty of wonderful water-side dining and shopping. Grand Case is renowned for its fine French restaurants. Simpson Bay on the Dutch side offers a more relaxed, causal international dining experience. Our favorite is Bavaria, an authentic German restaurant; be sure to get the potato soup!

If you ever get tired of St. Martin, trips to Anguilla, St. Barts or Saba are only a 1-2 hour boat ride away.

Thanks for all the great emails when I post photos on Malibu Strings. I hope to have my new website up very soon. Until next time…

Malibu Stacie

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