Eastern Caribbean Stories and Tips

A Quick Tour of Two Countries.

 Heavenly View over Marigot Bay Photo,

Columbus is said to have discovered the island on Saint Martin’s day in 1493 and claimed it for Spain. No Spanish settlers were sent but French and Dutch settlers arrived in early 1630. The Northern part of the island was settled by the French and the southern section the Dutch, however you can travel between the two without restriction.

There are a wide variety of ships tours offered at this port, prices range from $450 for Harley in Paradise {6hrs} to St Maarten Island tour at $23.{3hrs} We have visited many times always by ship and have never taken a ships tour. Beaches and shopping are easily accessible. Because our daughter had not visited this island before we opted to take a taxi tour {$10 pp. 3 hr tour} and then spend the afternoon at the closest beach.

The Arawak Indians named this island the isle of salt because of its proliferation of salt ponds. Salt was its mainstay until the 1900’s and the French part of the island continued to export salt until 1967. The salt pond in great bay Phillipsburg is still there but no longer in production. Today tourism is the islands main source of income; it is indeed a lovely place.

Our tour started in Phillipsburg the Dutch capital. There were four in our party and we waited about ten minutes until four others joined us. The taxi prices are well posted at the pier and several taxi tours are offered at a much-reduced rate than those of the ship.

We drove through pretty countryside past hurricane homes, that had been funded by French and Dutch governments and are presently social housing estates. They sat slightly further off the road designed less to please the eye than persuade it to look elsewhere, squat and unremarkable. Yet many were well kept and freshly painted suggesting that occupants took pride in their small homes. Our taxi driver informed us these homes were only meant as temporary shelter.

At the top of the hill outlined against the sky was a white obelisk monument signifying both countries, a small garden surrounded it and the view over the bay was remarkable. We continued onward through the district of Orleans once the capital of the French side. I must say traffic was bumper to bumper, as we crawled along inhaling the aroma of diesel fumes we had lots of time to check out the surrounding country; Old sugar mills, pastel toned European style villas perched atop hillsides surrounded by dense bush with its mosaic of color; the orange flamboyant trees, red hibiscus and magneta bougainvillea suggests quiet tranquility and a yearning to actually sit on those terraces. Our next quick photo stop was at Orient Bay with its spectacular view over Orient beach, Pinel island, and St Barts.
In the village of grand case we viewed the pretty Creole buildings and art galleries, Grand Case has the well-deserved reputation of being the gourmet capital of the island and I can guarantee from past visits that is the case

Marigot on the French side is an attractive port town housing sidewalk cafes and markets. Overlooking the bay is imposing Fort St Louis, the last time we were here we made the steep climb to the summit and I can tell you the panoramic view was well worth that climb. There are also several high-end shops offering West Indian souvenirs, art, jewelry, and perfume. I purchased perfume that I was unable to obtain when in Paris. Okay it’s old, I’m old but not redundant, will need to go back for a refill!
Marigot market is a lively place filled with the aroma of spices. Fresh fruit and vegetables abound plus a pretty impressive array of local arts and crafts and beautiful batik wraps.

I always enjoy this French town with its pastel colonial buildings and friendly people. The pretty harbor is a fine place to enjoy a quiet moment and watch the lively crowds. It is also the pick up and drop off point for taxi’s and tour groups. We stopped at several scenic lookouts and I do recommend this tour to orient you to this beautiful island

Following lunch we spent the afternoon in Phillipsburg at the beach closest to the ship Great bay. We rented a lounge chair and umbrella, {$10 all day} jet ski rental and other water sport activities are available but it is not a good place to snorkel.
If you like shopping you won’t be disappointed nor will you get lost. It is a pretty easy place to navigate. The two main roads are named Front St and Back street! They connect by a myriad of narrow passageways. At the eastern end of the town Wathey square is a busy hub and there too you will find the tourist office and the impressive white wooden courthouse. {now the post office} There are tiny courtyards leading from some of the alleys and I loved the characteristic pastel coloured west Indian buildings around this town.
From the ship you can walk into town but most people take the water taxis


Taxi fares from the cruise terminal. One way per person.

Mullet Bay $16.
Marigot. $12.
Dawn Beach. $15.
Orient Beach.$18.
Divi Little Bay. $8.

Getting to Town.

Water Taxi to town pier. $5. unlimited transport all day.

Land Taxi to the courthouse. $3. per person one way.

Great bay Beach is conviently located at Phillipsburg where cruise passengers disembark the tender. This beach is within walking distance from the tender.

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