The Princess Juliana International Airport in St, Maarten (Dutch side)
From the time of our spirited landing, literally landing within feet of the sun worshipers on the public Maho Beach, at the clean and modern Princess Juliana International Airport (on the Dutch side), where there are danger signs posted on the beach warning of being injured or killed by the jet blast blowing the sun worshiper into the water from aircraft taking off!
Maho Beach (the public beach) is well known for the low flying aircraft that make for interesting tourist photos!
The warning sign posted on Maho Beach on the fence at the Queen Juliana Airport
Beachgoers being blown towards the sea as a jet takes off at the Queen Juliana Airport
We cleared customs fairly quickly with ‘nothing to declare’ (there wasn’t much to buy in Antigua), jumped into a taxi and headed off to the Five-Star La Samanna Resort on Long Bay (on the French side). The hotel was gorgeous, located on a pristine beach with crystal clear blue water; so gorgeous that we didn’t venture of property but just a couple of times for dinner, and another time for a tour around the island with a hired taxi driver cum travel guide.
We pretty much had every breakfast, lunch and dinner at La Samanna, most of them served either poolside or beachside in our personal palapa. All we had to do was place our little blue flag in the sand at the end of our chaise lounges and within a few minutes a beach attendant was there to bring a liter of Evian for each of us, and take our food and beverage order. Why leave?
Like most luxe 5-Star hotels, the more European the people were, the smaller the swimsuit, and the older they were the larger the lips!
An Italian adult is reassured by his Floaties
Girls Lips gone wild
“Yachties” stopped by everyday, dropped anchor and launched their toys to enjoy the hotels semi-private cove and beach.
The French and Dutch have lived side by side on St. Martin/St. Maarten for hundreds of years—with no border patrols or customs between them. The French side has a more genteel ambience, more fashionable shopping, and a Continental flair. The Dutch tends to be less expensive, has 13 casinos, and more nightlife. There are 37 beaches.
On the day of our taxi tour, we drove over to Great Bay on the Dutch side which is home to Front Street and Back Street (yes, really, Front and Back Streets!), the boardwalk, and what looked like a mile of colorful beach cabana’s lining the beach on both sides of the pier, and duty free shops filled with tourists from the two huge cruise ships that were moored in the harbor.
Tourist flock from the two cruise ships that were moored in the bay
The pier in Great Bay
MC, Me, and Caroline being tourists!
Beach Cabanas line the beach on Grand Bay
An update to the local shopping: Many of the luxury shops on the French side of the island have closed their doors and either moved to St. Barth’s, or moved to the Dutch side of the island because of the onerous French employment laws including their minimum wage and national health care law requirements—you hear that USA and the State of California? Bvlgari (Bulgari), the uber expensive jeweler has moved from the chic French side of the island to the Dutch side next to the cruise ships, where most of the hordes of looky-loo tourists are more interested in buying tee-shirts that declare the wearer a “Classy Bitch”, or souvenir Conch shells instead of diamonds and gold. Hermes, the venerable French fashion house famed for its leather goods, silk scarves and ties has closed their doors and moved off island to nearby St. Barth’s.
Bvlgari moved to the Dutch side from the French side just to keep themselves competitive
Conch shells souvenir
Our island tour took us by the entrance to Loterie Farm, which we hadn’t known about and unfortunately had no time to experience. Loterie Farm, was a former sugar plantation that dates from 1773-1855, and contains protected plant and animal species, in addition to the islands only zip line through its tropical forests. There is a huge natural shaped multi-level pool with private cabanas.
The Pool at Loterie Farm
The Zip line experience at Loterie Farm
For my next trip to St. Maarten, there are three things I will do in addition to Loterie farm:
One: Tour historic Ft. Amsterdam Fort, built by the Dutch in 1631 (seized by the Spaniards two years later!). A tid-bit of history: Peter Stuyvesant, founder of New York (formerly New Netherland) lost a leg in a battle to recapture the fort for the Dutch.
Two: Tour the Sucker Garden salt factory on the Great Salt Pond built in the mid-19th Century, which was operational until 1962.
Three: Tour the Butterfly Farm (La Ferme des Papillons). See the photos below that were hijacked from the internet.
Photos above and below: Butterfly Farm
Regardless of the things I didn’t get to see or do, I am completely fulfilled by the things that I did, and didn’t do on the island.
The week in St. Martin ended as fast as it had begun, and we reluctantly headed for the airport for a business trip to New York.
Hello New York City
Stay tuned for a blow by blow account of the fantastic New York Now Show (formerly the New York International Gift Show).
Good night moon.