St Martin, one of the French West Indies islands, and Sint Maarten, an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, make this island the world’s smallest landmass shared by two countries.
ST MARTIN, LEEWARD ISLANDS, CARIBBEAN
November 8 & 9
The island is the world’s smallest landmass shared by two countries … St Martin, one of the French West Indies islands and Sint Maarten, an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Landing in Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island, we caught a bus to Orient Bay. Buses here, as in most places in the Caribbean, are minivans which are licensed to carry 16 passengers. Once the ‘regular’ seats are full, passengers start pulling down the jumps seats … starting with the one at the back and moving forward filling up what was once a narrow aisle. If someone at the back needs to get out there is a great deal of shifting, evacuating and reloading that has to be done. At a full 16 it is a tight squeeze … adding back packs, groceries, children and unidentified miscellaneous items makes for an interesting ride. Unlike the bus system we in North America are used to, these mini buses are proprietor owned and run when the owner/operator wants them to, which often means … not until they are full. They pick up passengers who flag then down and drop off passengers whenever they call to the driver to stop.
The driver was able to drop us off within 100 metres of the L’Hoste Hotel.
Our ground floor room was large with a patio but little view. We were not paying the price of the view rooms and found pleasant diversions just steps away at the hotel’s pool and a touch further through the La Playa bar, with its Asian zen atmosphere, and onto the beach.
The hotel rate included complimentary beach umbrellas and lounges plus an introductory drink.
We climbed the stairs to one of the bar’s lookout platforms, ordered our complimentary drink, a tasty shrimp caesar salad, watched the parasails and surveyed the beach scene below.
The bar has a loose dress code; the beach is European topless optional with many women of different ages and body types, with or without children, enjoying the freedom, quite at ease. We observed one middle-aged woman flaunt for a camera and then pull her top back up.
It was time for us to change into swimsuits … modesty prevailing … and spend the rest of the day … and the following day … doing what most tourists do while visiting the Caribbean … as little as possible … until the horseback riders returned along the shore at sunset.
Prices at the restaurants in this tourist location are high, but there is a grocery store with a deli which does a roaring business.
Breakfast was included with our room rate, salads at the bar were delicious (recommend the shrimp caesar highly) and for dinner we purchased from the deli and took advantage of our room’s kitchenette.
We caught an early morning bus down the east coast of the island, crossed into the Dutch side, skirted its capital of Philipsburg where our bus ‘magically’ turned into a taxi which delivered us to the (no-bus-zone) Juliana Airport for our WinAir flight to Saba.
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