Recommend August 2013 - (Page 46)
a tale of
t. Martin/St. Maarten packs a cultural punch. On the north
side, this dual-heritage, 37-sq.-mile island associates itself with
the French West Indies, while the southern portion, St. Maarten, is
part of the Netherlands Antilles. Where the south is lively and energetic
with its frequent cruise ship visitors, shopping opportunities, active
nightlife options and well-known North American eateries, the north is
a touch more laid-back, with quieter beaches, untouched reefs and
superb international cuisine.
Steve Wright, Grand Case Beach Club's general manager, says,
“On any given day, you can use three or four languages and eat culinary offerings from all over the world. Over 180 nationalities create a
taste so rich that it sometimes overpowers you...but if you can handle
it, there are few places on earth that can rival the diversity that we
St. Maarten, as it’s called on the Dutch side, gains much of its incoming revenue thanks to its cruise terminal, located in St. Maarten's
capital, Philipsburg, which means tourists are brought in almost daily.
Beaches here will almost certainly feature chaise longues and umbrellas for rent, with a bar no more than 15 steps away. Boutique shops
that sell real handcrafted and artistic treasures can be spotted among
neighboring touristy souvenir shops, and some vendors even sell their
wares while they walk down the sidewalk alongside you.
And the activity doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Nightlife
abounds on this side of the island, with some prime nightclubs including Tantra and Bliss. St. Maarten also lays claim to each and every
one of the island’s 13 casinos, the largest and most popular of which
is Casino Royale at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. “Our clients
appreciate the variety in St. Maarten,” says Laura Sangster, owner of
The Journey Group travel agency. “They love being able to spend
one night dressed up at the casino, and the next in shorts with their
toes in the sand at a rustic beach bar.”
As far as accommodations, Sangster adds, “Hotels tend to differ
slightly between the two sides. Where most of the larger resorts are
on the Dutch side, many of the French accommodation options are
smaller, more intimate hotels.”
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Grand Case Beach Club in St. Martin offers a laid-back vibe.
As far as water activities go, there are innumerable watersports
operators lining the beaches, offering various half- and full-day trips.
The Dutch side happens to lay claim to many of the islands 30+ scuba
sites, though the sites on the French side are just as incredible.
On the north side of the island, the national culture is much stronger
than on its southern side. Here, the French language is fairly prominent, the ofﬁcial currency is the euro, electronics will require voltage
converter plus, and often, cuisine is prepared in careful accordance
with French style...which can mean imported ingredients and freshbaked baguettes and croissants daily.
In fact, St. Martin is well-known for its excellent cuisine, with a bevy
of French restaurants lining the streets. Sangster agrees that dining on
the French side is a big plus to visiting St. Martin.
“What I love,” Sangster says, “is that the island offers cuisine from
around the world, but every menu shows evidence of the French
and Caribbean inﬂuences.” Citing one of her favorite cafes, she says
“Saraﬁna’s Bakery has some of the best pastries outside of Paris—all
of our clients rave about it. Addictions are formed there.” For a European market-style ambiance she recommends Bacchus, adding that
L’Estaminet is another popular, safe choice. And for a nice night out,
our favorite is the elegant and upscale eatery Pascal’s.
In addition to delightful meals, St. Martin offers exquisite shopping,
and the northern beaches are perfect for a quiet day in the sun, sans
vendors peddling henna tattoos and hair braids. However, before they
set out, you might want to warn your beach-going clients that things
here are done the French way, so they shouldn’t be surprised if they
run into any topless or nude sunbathers.
Known during the day for its beach, Orient Beach transforms during
the evening hours, when many of its restaurants, resorts and beach
clubs feature live music and entertainment. That’s when the beach
becomes a dance ﬂoor, and locals and visitors alike ﬁnd themselves
dancing to the sound of the steel drums.
And in Marigot, St. Martin’s capital city, open-air markets are held
twice-weekly, where shoppers can pick up all manner of fresh fruits,
meats and spices, in addition to home goods, arts and crafts.
7/23/13 7:55 AM
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recommend August 2013
Hotel Desk: Dan Hotels, Israel
Tour Talk: Jacada Travel
Cruising the Rivers of Southeast Asia
Girls & Guys Getaways in Las Vegas
Kimpton Takes Center Stage in San Francisco
South Africa: Bicycles, Horses & Wonderful Experiences
A French Twosome with SLH
Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta
Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto
Westin Grand Cayman
Grand Case Beach Club, St. Martin
Aruba Marriott Resort
Recommend August 2013