St. Martin Everyday

This week we wrap up our island adventures after three weeks on St. Martin and a week in the BVI. We’ve really settled into a nice routine and are beginning to feel like part of the community. Each day is marked with routine plus something new.

The routine part of each day is going to Gymfit to work out. It’s a friendly place and we have enjoyed attending classes and using the fitness equipment. Even though almost everyone speaks French, a smile goes a long way. We have been hitting the gym for an hour or two every morning.

After the gym we seek out a new adventure each day. Some days this has meant going to a new beach. Friar’s Beach, the home of Kali’s Beach Bar was one of our favorites.

On another day we took the tour of Topper’s Rhum Distillery. Their rhum has won numerous awards and comes in a bunch of yummy flavors. We tried jalapeño peach, almond, popcorn, and several more flavors. In the end we bought a bottle of coconut flavored rhum, and we look forward to sharing it with friends and family when we get home.

We spent one day exploring the French city of Marigot. High above the city is Fort Louis, which was used in the 1700s to protect the port and surrounding areas from invaders and pirates.

Now the Fort is a decaying ruin that hints at the past and provides tourists sweeping views of the marina below. We could even see the catamaran on which we sailed to the BVI below.

Our visit to the Fort did satisfy one goal we have for every trip: climb to a high point!

Of course we have also checked out some of St. Martin’s culinary highlights. At Spiga, Steve enjoyed cioppino with fresh seafood.I loved the chicken with asparagus and sweet potatoes.

Another must-do while on St. Martin is a visit to Loterie Farm. High in the hills above Marigot, this former sugar plantation is now home to a tropical forest and a really cool place to spend the day.

We took a short hike through the hurricane-damaged forest to be rewarded with sweeping views of the Caribbean below.

After hiking, we settled into our poolside day bed and enjoyed the sun and fun. Steve watched World Cup games with locals and I read a book.

Lunch served poolside just added to the perfection.

A large group of very fit and very energetic young people arrived and it soon became obvious that they were all entertainers from the cruise ship that was docked on the island today. They kept us entertained most of the afternoon. Here’s a video that gives a sample of the fun

While the entertainers will probably not be there when you visit, we highly recommend a visit to Loterie Farm.

Our final day on St. Martin was spent at the beach in Philipsburg, trying to savor one more day of warm turquoise and warm sea breezes. We were almost out of sunscreen so we knew it was about time to head home.

We topped off the trip with a nice dinner at one of St. Martin’s best French restaurants. Bistro Caraibes is known for its lobster, which swims in a tank in the front of the establishment. Steve picked the lucky one, which was quickly turned into lobster thermidor, the best lobster he’s ever had.

We topped it all off with the most perfect crème brûlée ever.

St. Martin had treated us well. As we prepare to return to Prescott (for just a few weeks before the next adventure), we are looking forward to seeing our family, friends, and dogs.

Resilience in St. Martin and the BVI

When we first arrived to the islands, now over two weeks ago, it was difficult not to be overwhelmed by the destruction that still defines the island. On the morning of September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma’s center crossed the island when the storm was at its peak. She swept away entire structures, ripped trees out of the ground, and sent vehicles and debris scattered across the area. Irma killed four people and injured 50 just on the French side of St. Martin. Other islands and the U.S. saw loss of life as well. On the French side, where we are staying, as many as 95% of the buildings sustained damage and up to 60% were considered totally uninhabitable.

Then, two weeks later, Hurricane Maria hit the area, compounding the damage. To say St. Martin, the BVI, and surrounding islands have been to hell and back is an understatement.

Nine months later, the impacts of the storms are still very evident. And, we must admit, it’s easy to get sucked in and focus only on the scattered debris and missing roofs.

Yet, every day we see the beauty which has drawn people to St. Martin for so long. The water is warm and turquoise blue. The beaches and supporting beach bars have come back to life.

Everywhere you look there are workers on the roofs and painters refreshing exteriors. New restaurants and shops seem to be opening everyday. Even the gym we go to each day, Gymfit, is building and improving. And the best part is the people who just keep going. Despite great loss, the locals we’ve met are hopeful, future-focused, and positive. Almost daily we are thanked for coming to St. Martin and contributing to its rebirth.

We booked this trip two weeks before Irma hit the island. For a moment we thought about canceling. We’re glad we didn’t. You can’t help be inspired by the spirit and resiliency of the people who call the islands home.

One week in St. Martin

We’ve been on the island for over a week and it’s really beginning to feel like home.

Each day we’ve explored a different part of the island. One day we joined the hoards of cruise ship passengers on the beach in Philipsburg. Many days there may only be one or no ships in port as a result of Hurricane Irma. Twice a month St. Martin greets three ships in one day. This creates some energy around the island and we decided it was a good day to join in.

For $15-$20 you get two lounge chairs and an umbrella on most of St. Martin’s beaches.

Another day this week we joined our Swedish friends Nancy and Richard for a day on the beautiful beach Baie Rough. Like the other beaches, there is a great little restaurant on the beach, and we enjoyed a yummy lunch of grilled fish and chicken, accompanied with a chilled bottle of rosé.

One evening we went out for a nice dinner to say farewell to Nancy & Richard. They are headed back to Sweden and we all agreed we’ll cherish the memories of our time together sailing the BVI. The World Cup began this week and it’s evident across this international little island. Many cars and homes are adorned with country flags, which indicate the owner’s alliance. France 🇫🇷 Germany 🇩🇪 and Brazil 🇧🇷 seem to be the favorites. We even found fans watching a game in the supermarket. St. Martin can be expensive, especially when eating out. We’ve become fans of the local BBQ restaurants called lolos. These outside restaurants, found throughout the island, offer a plate of grilled fish, ribs, chicken, or lobster along with plentiful sides like potato salad, cole slaw, mac and cheese, and rice. Usually the cost is around $10-12. Beers are $2.

You know a lolo is good when a lot of locals eat there.

We finished up our week with a kayak out to Pinel Island. It takes less than 20 minutes to paddle from the main island out to Pinel, and once you get there, it’s like another world. Pinel is home to two beach restaurants and the warmest, calmest water around. We spent the day swimming, people watching, and just chillin’. We were even entertained by dogs that arrived by boat with other beach goers and enjoyed running free. The photo above shows a cute puppy playing on our kayak. Yes, another bottle of rosé was involved. It’s the thing to do.

Each afternoon the ice cream boat comes to Pinel and you can swim out for a frozen treat.

We didn’t partake but have plans to return to Pinel before we leave, so ice cream from the boat is still a possibility.

Yes, we have ten more days on St. Martin so we’ll have more updates to come.