Sint Maarten- My Luck Runneth Over
I could quite possibly be one of the luckiest girls in the whole world. I was planning my birthday escape this year when I ran the idea of going to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to a close friend of mine. I had a free ticket on Delta that would get me there and it served as a destination I have never been (a prerequisite for my birthday escape every year). When she heard of my choice, she had an eery feeling that she couldn’t shake. She didn’t like the idea of me going there alone and solicited advice from her boyfriend on my choice. He agreed. In an effort to convince me to change my mind and choose an island they were more familiar with, he suggested I stay in Sint Maarten at a resort property that he was part owner in. Really? You want me to change my mind and stay at your beach resort comped? Well, that was an easy decision to make. The answer was yes! And he allowed me the whole month of May to stay!
I have been to Sint Maarten before so it didn’t really fall in line with my tradition of going someplace I’ve never been but I did have the whole month of May to explore the neighboring islands. I was happy to learn that Sint Maarten is strategically placed near Anguilla and St. Barths. Ooohhh lala!! Did you say St Barths?! Now you’ve got my attention. I have always wanted to go there. The fantasies were more than inviting.
I jetted off to my Caribbean adventure in late April. That would give me enough time to get situated before my birthday (on May 7th) and tour the island. Sint Maarten is divided in two. One half occupied by the French (Saint Martin) and the other half occupied by the Dutch (Sint Maarten). I would be staying on the Dutch side hence the reason I spell Sint Maarten the way I do.
As far as Caribbean islands go, Sint Maarten/Saint Martin is not the most beautiful nor is it the most glamorous. It should not be anyone’s first choice if dreaming of an island paradise. But it is strategically placed and very well-developed making it an important asset to its neighbors and an easy place to stay for an extended period of time. I was able to find everything I needed to make me feel at home.
The towns where the locals live are very run down. There was a time or two that I was nervous having to drive through some on my way to the beaches. The towns where the tourists stay feel more like a cruise ship than they do an exotic locale. There are numerous casinos on the Dutch side (none on the French side) and the main roads are littered with cheesy open-aired bars serving rum punch and playing calypso music. The crowds that filled the bars and hotels were taken right out of middle America and suburban malls.Of the few beaches worth going to, the most popular was Orient Beach on the French side. For $7 bucks, you can take a ferry from near Orient beach over to Pinel Island to spend the day in a different bay.
The biggest and most photographed attraction that I could find was the beach that lies at the end of the airport’s main runway. You can literally stand right under the wheels of the planes as they land and with a strong-arm actually hit a plane with good aim. One frisky kid did just that and threw a bottle at the plane. As the story goes, the pilot was so angry that he parked the plane, got out, walked back over to the beach where the boy threw the bottle and was able to ID him and have him arrested. Talk about close encounters!
The highlight of the month for me was exploring Anguilla and St. Barths. Both islands are absolutely beautiful and worthy of satisfying any dream of visiting Shangri-la. Travel to both islands was extremely easy with ferries leaving Simpson Bay on the Dutch side and Marigot and Oyster Bay on the French side. Round trip will run you $40 to get to Anguilla in about 20 minutes and 85 euro round trip to get to St. Barths in about 45 minutes. Don’t forget your passport! You will need them to get to both islands.
There are other islands close by, also. Saba and Stacia (St. Eustatius) are within an easy distance if you find yourself super exploratory while in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. I declined to make those trips since most of my time was spent catching up with my writing and updating the blog. May turned out to be an extremely productive month providing me with the peace, quiet and solitude I needed to write down all of the stories I have been wanting to pen.
I can’t wait to tell you the story of what happened to me in Anguilla! It was a real life fairy-tale on a modern-day fantasy island. That post will be coming very soon!