02 Apr St Martin – the Beginning of Our Caribbean Adventure
Sint Maarten/Saint Martin (Dutch and French territories) is part of the set of islands we know as the Caribbean, set off the south-east of Florida. Flying from Atlanta to St Martin via Miami, we went from icy cold (and unseasonal) winter, to gorgeous balmy weather. From snow jackets to swimwear basically.
St Martin was a shock because we have no direct experience of cyclones, and cyclone Irma (September 2017) was a truly vicious beast. Most of the islands have been trashed, and perhaps St Martin one of the worst affected. Boats still lay smashed up in the harbour, most of the hotels were smashed up, and of course homes. Looking at hillsides you see mostly sticks – the remains of trees that have had every leaf and most branches stripped, that’s if they remained standing at all. Sea containers, roofs, pieces of buildings, became flying bombs that have created warzone-like scenes.
Nevertheless there is stunning beauty, friendly people who are looking out for one another, and welcoming of tourists who can pour in much-needed revenue for rebuilding.
We stayed 2 nights on top of a mountain on Pic Paradis. This AirBnB was a beautiful mansion with views that our cameras completely failed to capture. This home had everything one could possibly need, especially in terms of a well-equipped kitchen for gourmet cooking, pool, washer/dryer, etc etc.
Two restaurants we really recommend, though they are world’s apart in just about every way you could think of, are Tropicana (the best French cuisine without the French prices) and Cito’s (Lago One Cito’s Place), which is a true local joint owned by Cito and sister Elise, with local goat done Creole style. DJ Ruby sat with us and shared a drink before the show, telling us about his experiences in the French army, then living in New York, and of course what it was like to go through cyclone Irma. We wish we were younger and could have stayed to belt out some karaoke.
Everyone knows about Tropicana and it’s easy to find – just make sure you book because it’s a tourist mecca. Cito’s on the other hand is not in the phone book, has no sign because Irma destroyed it, and is really hard to find. So here’s a Google map to make it easier. There’s no address – it’s the location pin. Pretty much opposite the lagoon near the French airport.
St Maarten (the Dutch side) has a world-renowned airport, reason being the plane landing shots that are all over the net. I can’t tell you what a buzz it was to stand in front of a jet plane landing straight over the beach. A tip though in relation to planes taking off away from the beach. The air from the jets literally blasts across the beach, blowing everything into the surf and wind blasting everyone at the same time. Last year a woman was killed when the wind flipped her onto a concrete strip. While landings are great fun to see close up, takeoffs are best viewed from a distance.
Of all the islands we visited, I think St Martin remains our favourite, and we would definitely stay at Pic Paradis again.