Although the world has opened up it is important to check on travel restrictions and here is the Official link for St. Martin
Welcome to St. Martin – Two Countries – One Island by D.G.Kaye
Welcome to this month’s edition of my travel column here at Sally’s Smorgasbord. Today I’ve chosen to share some interesting facts about the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Martin, affectionately named ‘The Friendly Island’.
The island of St. Martin is shared between two countries – French and Dutch. The island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean to the west in the northeast of the Caribbean Sea, approximately 190 miles east of Puerto Rico. The whole island is approximately 34 sq. miles with the ownership of each side is usually said to be a 60/40 split, with the French owning approximately 20 sq. miles and the Dutch 13 sq. miles. Although smaller, the Dutch side boasts a heavier populated side than the French side.
History and Legends
The French call their island Saint Martin and the Dutch call it Sint Maarten, and no matter what you choose to call it, it’s one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean.
The island was divided back in 1648 after being taken over several times by various conquerors. The capital of the French side is Marigot and the capital of the Dutch side is Philipsburg. Legend says Christopher Columbus first discovered the island back in 1493.
After several take overs the Dutch built a fort to assert their claim and control access to the island. In the 18th century, a massive influx of African slaves, were imported to the island to develop the sugar cane plantations. On March 23, 1648, the kingdom of France and the Dutch republic agreed to divide the land and created what is still known today as The Treaty of Concordia
There’s an old legend that speaks about how the land was decided to be divided.
Apparently, the natives of each side were asked to choose a ‘walker’. The two walkers began standing back to back and were instructed to walk in opposite directions – no running! At the point where the two met up again was to be declared the dividing line for each one’s country. According to legend, the Frenchman walked faster because he drank wine before the race and the Dutchman drank gin, supposedly the gin was more tiring than the wine. But ultimately, the Dutch accused the Frenchman of running, which apparently didn’t seem to matter because the new perimeters were set with each country officially being deemed with their respective land official.
About the Island
Climate – The dry season with sporadic rain runs from December through May, and the hurricane season typically runs anywhere from June through November where one can also expect tropical storms, particularly in September. Daily annual temperatures typically range anywhere from mid 60s to high 80s throughout the year. Visitor guides will state that mid-November and December, and May and June are the best times climate-wise to visit the island. While November through May will cost more money to visit there, the price for hotels goes down considerably May and June and likewise for the summer/early fall months because of the unpredictable weather. Many hotels on the Atlantic side, in particular, close down during hurricane season.
St. Martin has been hit by several hurricanes through the years, namely, Maria in 2017, which was reported to damage approximately 95% of the French side and 75% of the Dutch side. I was stunned to hear that the island was re-opened for tourists shortly before Christmas of 2017, although it was still in need of major repairs.
Tourism – The main industry for the island relies on tourism. The Dutch side is best known for its beaches, duty-free jewelry, native guava berry liquors, casinos and nightlife. The French side is known more for its nude beaches, clothing, outdoor markets and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.
Languages – The two official languages spoken on the island are French and Dutch. But there are also French based, Creole and Spanish languages spoken from the emigration of natives from surrounding islands. Many other immigrants from the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, living there, speak their traditional Papiemento.
Shopping – You will find some of the world’s best prices on this duty-free island, especially for fine jewelry – gold, diamonds, watches, and just about every piece of jewelry you could possibly imagine for less than half of what you’d pay at home. Many of the jewelers are wholesalers and distributors, so as consumers, we bypass the middlemen retailers and resellers, and of course the import and export taxes.
Other items of note to be found on the island for some great discounts are liquor, tobacco, leather goods and many designer goods. To give you a rough idea of deep discounts, you can still pick up a carton of cigarettes there for $15 – $20! Liquor is ridiculously cheap. Before my husband was informed he can no longer drink alcohol due to his health issues, he enjoyed the odd glass of Johnny Walker Blue Scotch – the highest grade of that brand’s label. Here in Canada, that bottle would run close to $350 – I kid you not. But every time we’d visit the island he would pick up a bottle for approximately $115 US. A ring my husband once bought me for $2200, came in at $5500 dollar upon the appraisal I obtained once at home.
The main street – Front St. in Philipsburg, is located directly in front of Great Bay beach where the cruise ships dock. It’s a long street lined with jewelry store after jewelry store so it’s good to have a recommendation from someone where to shop for best value because it can become very overwhelming going into every store with all those sparkly trinkets beckoning your attention.
Currency – Although the Euro is used on the French side and the Dutch Netherland Antillean guilder used on the Dutch side, the whole island also operates with U.S. dollars.
Airport – Princess Julianna International serves the entire island, and people can pass freely with no border checks between the two countries. The airport hosts many major airlines and St. Martin’s short main runway is known for its specific location between a large hill and the beach, attracting many tourists to watch some spectacular landings and takeoffs flying just above sunbathers on Maho Beach. There is also a paid tour offered complete with cocktail on the beach to watch the low flying planes and listen live between the aircraft and control tower.
Beaches – St. Martin is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, and there are many of them. For an island of only 34 sq. miles, the island has 37 gorgeous beaches to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, parasail, you name it- your choice of watersport is there. On the French side, you will also find the famed nude beach- Orient Beach located on Orient Bay, known as the St. Tropez of the Caribbean, also known for its nude beach.
My first visit to St. Martin was over twenty years ago. I wasn’t quite adept at investigative research as the computer era had yet to hit. We were hoping to book an all-inclusive property, which back then was rare for that island, and we chose a hotel situated on Orient Beach. Little did we know after our first morning of walking that beach, that hub and I would feel a little out of place as we strolled with our shorts and bathing suits on while passing many sunburned bottoms and breasts taking in more sun. We ultimately decided that we’d still go for our morning walks on the beach but decided to sunbathe at the pool during the day with our swimsuits on.
Dining – St. Martin is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean with a variety of cuisine choices available. Besides the many delicious French restaurants in Grande Case on the French side, you will find many other popular restaurants and ocean side dining offering Dutch, Creole, Italian, Jamaican, Indian, Vietnamese. Japanese and American food. A true culinary experience to suit an array of palettes.
Sightseeing – There’s plenty to do in St. Martin if you’re feeling energetic and ambitious to get up off your beach chairs. This small island packs a punch of fun things to do besides visiting beaches and shopping. You will find tours to Rhum distilleries, ATV adventures, evening cruise sails with dinner, drinks and dancing, a wide array of water sports, jet ski rentals, swim with the dolphins, wine tasting, the double-decker bus tour. and even smaller group tours that will take you by boat to close-by neighboring islands – St. Barth’s and Anguilla.
This island also holds its annual Carnival celebrations complete with feathered costumes, reggae music and local bands performing on the streets. The French side celebrates during Lent and the Dutch side celebrates for 17 days and nights when the island comes to a standstill for over 17 days and nights. Locals prepare for this festive event by sewing costumes and preparing to party hardy. If you aren’t able to attend one of these fabulous celebrations, make sure to visit the Jump Up Casino in Philipsburg to see a display of photos and items from previous parades.
I love St. Martin for its beautiful beaches, the best shopping deals, their beautiful island temps, great food and one of the friendliest islands in the Caribbean. I’ve been there many times as I’ve been on many Caribbean cruises and never choose an itinerary that doesn’t include visiting that island. If I were to take a solo island vacation again, I would definitely consider going back to St. Martin for a winter vacation instead of just a day or two stop-over on a cruise ship.
Have any of you ever been to St. Martin?
©D.G. Kaye 2018
Another amazing article from Debby for the travel column and I know that she would love your feedback and questions on St. Martin or any other travel related subject.. I am sure she will have the answer for you.
About D.G. Kaye
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
“I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.”
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
Books by D.G. Kaye
One of the reviews for Have Bags Will Travel
This is such a hoot, what a laugh!
Have Bags Will Travel is such an entertaining read which gives you an insight into D G Kaye’s character, her shopping obsession, packing troubles, germaphobia, and brushes with airport security. Enjoy her recollections on the glamour and glitz, her love to travel and a nostalgic aspect to it all.
Her friend Zan shares her shopaholic tendencies too. The two of them together… can you imagine? A red head, blonde explosion of zaniness! I love the part when they end up at Buckingham Palace and chat to a Beefeater, the royal guard and after which… it gets funnier by the moment.
Have Bags Will Travel gives a historical account of how much easier it used to be to take overstuffed baggage through airports in the good old days. Now, it seems that D G Kaye will resort to anything to get her shopping home.
Zan and D G Kaye also travel to Paris and end up shopping for shoes!
There are manmade toboggan rides in Muskoka, Canada.
Trips to Venezuela: Margarita Island and Caracas with cousin Eileen.
Las Vegas, Then and Now – gambling/casinos, fond memories of the author’s love of the desert.
Have Bags Will Travel is just what we need right now, a good giggle! There is also a section at the back of the book with Helpful Travel tips.
A short, entertaining read. Highly recommended, especially for the shopoholics and travel enthusiasts in your life!
Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – follow Debby: Goodreads – Blog: D.G. Kaye Writer – About me: D.G. Kaye – Twitter: @pokercubster – Linkedin: D.G. Kaye – Facebook: D.G. Kaye – Instagram: D.G. Kaye – Pinterest: D.G. Kaye