St. Maarten

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Sunday night after a 30 minute delay at the airport we departed on our first flight to JFK. After landing at 6:30am, we grabbed some muffins and got in line for our next flight to St. Maarten. Before we could take off, three drunk passengers were removed from the plane for “harassing other passengers on the jetway”. After they, and their bags, were removed we headed out onto the runway. We were ready to take off when the pilot made an announcement that one of the drunkards had left one of their bags onboard, and for safety, we would be returning to the gate to hand it over. You have to appreciate vacationers so drunk at 9am they can’t keep track of their luggage or common sense.

Our landing into St. Maarten was cinematic. The plane almost clipping the tops of the tall palm trees lining Maho Beach, where tourists stand in hopes of being knocked off their feet by the jet blasts. Apparently this makes for a pretty great Youtube.

Customs took 15 seconds, I don’t even think we went through immigration, and we were quickly in a cab on our way to Grand Case on the other side of the island. St. Martin is split in two halves, the Dutch side (where the airport and cruise ships land) and the French side (where our hotel was). Our cab driver, Tony, upon hearing it was our first time to the island, berated us with with “What is wrong with you?” not accepting our typical excuses of “we’ve never had the time!” and “it’s far from where we live!” until we gave up and told him we were just dumb, irrational people. This answer he accepted.

We pulled onto Grand Case Boulevard, a beautiful road sprinkled with idillic restaurants, tiny bodegas, and local clothing stores. The buildings, once brightly colored, were beautifully faded and patinaed by the weather.

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Our hotel, The Love Hotel (when we were booking this name made me cringe, but by the end of our stay I began to, well, love it) was a perfect small beach-front property. With white walls and dark wood furniture, it stood out to us as the gem of the beach. It was modern, unpretentious, and relaxed. One of the owners, Muriel, showed us to our cozy room, separated from the beach by only a tiny rickety staircase. Open the large sliding exterior door and the beach was right there.

We spent the next few days taking walks on the beach and exploring Grand Case. We would go to the hotel’s beach front bar most mornings for breakfast, in the afternoon for happy hour, and occasionally for dinner. We visited the local BBQ shack “The Talk of the Town” twice, dined in two upscale french restaurants (Grand Case is the culinary center of the island) and on our last night ate the best pizza I’ve ever had at a beach-front diner called Bulldog.

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Patrick enjoyed bottles of Carib, the local beer (brewed in Trinidad and Tobago) which describes itself as “…a balanced, full-bodied and distinctively smooth lager that takes ‘refreshing’ to another level.’” I sampled a number of strange “house made rums” which as far as I can tell were made by locals put rum into a bottle, adding some other ingredients and then calling it “house made”. The strangest of all being Guavaberry Rum. A local legend, made on the island, from oak aged rum, cane sugar, and wild guavaberries. It does not taste at all like berries, but instead is kind of woody and bitter, like grapes mixed with Fernet.

We explored the Dutch side of the island, which felt like a cuter version of Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco, and hiked to Happy Beach, a beautiful secluded beach 30 minutes from our hotel. We had drinks in Friar’s Bay, at a beach bar where I could have easily spent the entire week.

St. Martin was beautiful, picturesque, and relaxing. It was the perfect way to start the trip, and I definitely want to go back.

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