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December 28, 2015 / oneworld82

Sint Maarten and Saint Martin – A Slice of Europe in the Caribbean

Sint Maarten is the smallest island in the World to be shared among two countries: the southern part is Dutch, while the northern part – Saint Martin – is French. Free movement is allowed between the two sides, which do feel though very different culturally, as the south speaks Dutch and the north, French.

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Our tour today brought us through the island to the French capital of Marigot. To get there, you need to cross into the French part of the island – St Martin; crossing is unregulated, and the border is simply marked by this milestone:

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Unfortunately it did not include a stop to Orient Bay – probably the best beach on the island, but it did include a fair amount of time in Marigot, a charming little town with great croissants and a nice Saturday market. The way to Marigot is very scenic, dotted by hills, traditional houses, endless beaches, and rum shacks everywhere.

Traditional house

Traditional house

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The marina here was very nice, dotted by shops and restaurants and reminiscent of the French Riviera. There are a lot of French eateries, serving delicious croissants and eclairs (among others!). The feeling that the town gave us was markedly French – what a corner of Heaven they created here!

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A couple of hours later, we were ready to board our catamaran to start the lagoon tour. The lagoon is pretty large (considering the size of the island), and it’s dotted by houseboats, sailboats, container vessels… The trip was very enjoyable, thanks to an excellent crew. All along we could see the developments along the coast – as you can imagine, both the French and the Dutch sides are a favorite place to retire for Europeans!

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After landing back in Sint Maarten and enjoying some planes taking off and landing (unfortunately not from its famous beach), we headed back to Philipsburg – the Dutch capital (Sint Maarten is one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, together with Aruba, Curacao, and Holland).

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Philipsburg is really nice – it has a long, sandy beach with a lively boardwalk dotted by restaurants and bar – definitely worth a visit. The center is well preserved and features some Dutch-looking buildings – overall it was a very charming town with very good shopping (after all, how could I leave he Caribbean without buying some rhum??).

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Like I said, we didn’t see all the most famous spots on the island – but nevertheless we enjoyed our day in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin a lot. This was decidedly the most European of all the islands we visited, and overall the landscape was gorgeous and the people very nice.

It was now time to go back to San Juan to end our fun cruise. While I do not recommend cruises to everyone, this worked out perfectly for us, as we just wanted something easy and relaxing to make sure we wouldn’t stress out too much during our preganncy.

One Comment

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  1. breeziejohnson / Jan 8 2016 3:08 pm

    Great photos! Especially love the one of the bird in flight. I’m an American expat on Sint Maarten. Fortunately for us, the official language is Dutch, but most people speak English as a first language. The schools here keep switching between using Dutch and English– poor kids. The upside is that most of them are biligual or trilingual.

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