May 26, 2011

St. Martin, Caribbean Islands, My Experience

#2 of two posts on St. Martin's.

St. Martin's, approached from the sea, is exactly what I expected – bright-colored water dotted with the white sails of many yachts floating between outcroppings of hilly land. I stood towering over the island, coffee in hand, as our cruise ship slowly approached. This is not my preferred mode of travel, but effective, none-the-less.

Warm breeze through my hair, sun reflecting off houses dotting the hillside, this is the stuff of dreams and I was savoring every minute of it.

Typical of cruise ports, my introduction to the island was generic -- excursion guides, discount coupon books, shopping maps, mass crowds of consumers let loose on paradise and encouraged to stay within established parameters and lavishly part with their money.

We were a group of 6 eager to escape the crowds, get off the leash and explore on our own.....

Car rental dealers port-side were eager to shove us into a minivan, but we pressed on and asked for "Arthur."  We were graciously given a ride to Arthur's Rentals, a generous walk from the port. Arthur rigged us up with two jeeps – one, the traditional bright red; the other, white, both with tops down. Arthur gave us a map and highlighted a few good areas to visit.  We had a map of our own tucked away and had a few destinations in mind.

We climbed up a back road with little traffic 

and dead-ended at the ruins of what looked like a stone farmer's cottage overlooking the sea.
Our first stop was appropriately dream-like.

As we climbed out of the jeeps, we were surrounded by goats roaming freely along the hillside -- steep rocky hills leading down to the frothy, crashing sea.  Seriously. Unbelievable. This is what you read about & never expect to find.

My husband and I began following the goat herder's trail, we had to see what was around the corner. My nephew and daughter descended the cliff to a stony bay, swirled their toes in the water. Mom and dad, now in their 70s, (excuse me, mom. she is just "approaching" 70) stayed behind and enjoyed the view.

I did not expect free range goats on hilly fields parallel to the Caribbean sea. I did not expect the local we spotted down in the bay diving for oysters, resembling a sea otter with a dark, wet head bobbing above the water line periodically.  It was all surreal.

We spent the day driving all over the island, heads and hands thrown high above the jeeps, screaming, crazy hair in the wind.  

We lived large that day, certain we were figures in a movie, certain that Matthew McConaughey would come buzzing across the hill on a scooter any minute.

Our third stop, Dawn Beach/Oyster Pond, is where I found the red starfish in the crystal clear waters that reminded me of the ChinaMan's Hat waters of Oahu, Hawaii.  Picture, if you will, dipping your toes in the water, taking a step deeper and finding this view:

We arrived in the town of Grand Case on the French side at lunchtime. We found a shack, a restaurant, right on the sand, just yards away from anchored sailboats.  A back deck, open air, sun, breeze, local kids in the surf... y'know, more of the stuff dreams are made of.

 The restaurant, Zen-It, has become my favorite burger joint in the world.

Max, the dreadlocked, always smiling owner or manager, began it or began working there 6 years ago.  We sat on the back deck, the kids ate down on the sand under the umbrella. Both my daughter and I wanted to stay, just move there right now. I definitely could be a usual there – on the open deck – working on my laptop every day.

I noticed binoculars hanging on a hook in the kitchen.

Binoculars.  In a kitchen. With an open deck overlooking the Caribbean.  Max said "When I get an hour off, I go out on my boat and get a lobster."   Seriously, it's like 10 steps from his kitchen to his boat.

Grand Case has many restaurants right there on the main strip. Maybe a little shopping, I wasn't looking.

Continuing around the island, we went down into some neighborhoods where I suspect we really weren't welcome. Some local boys sitting on the patio yelled at us.  They were typical teenagers with too much time on their hands, maybe bothered by tourists on their island, I don't know. The back neighborhoods appear like third-world standards of living, very rough. I did not like buzzing through their neighborhoods like wealthy people looking at a display. I wanted out. I wanted to scream, “I'm not like that!” But of course on this trip, that's exactly who I was. I turned my face.

Circling around the airport which was, surprisingly, right across the street from a populated beach, we drove back to Arthur's and turned in our jeeps.  Arthur gave us a ride back to the cruise ship and told us to be sure and come back some day.  Oh, Arthur, I sure would like that.

If I could move to St. Martin's, I'd live over by Zen-It, in a tiny, wooden shack overlooking the sea, windows wide open, sweat pouring down my brow, perpetually barefoot , traveling only by foot.  Music would intermingle with the Caribbean breeze, unrepressed by its boorish cousin, the  TV.  And I would complain about the fat tourists crowding my beloved Zen-It.

1 comment:

mom said...

Great blog---------UNTIL you got to the FAT tourists, watch it I is one!!! I'd give anything for one of those burgers and that view right now, gotta go back and soon! What a fun day that was, I shall never forget it------even if I did have the dilapitated old jeep it was still fun. Just watching Marj and Jerry was worth it all.