Posts Tagged 'Sint Maarten'

SXM: Out of goat

Since arriving here last Wednesday, Aaron has been talking about getting his goat on. Well, more accurately, I have been talking about Aaron getting his goat on. You see, Aaron really likes goat meat. It is his favorite thing to order at Chautara, when it is on the menu. And we were led to believe goat — specifically curried goat — would be served in a multitude of the island’s restaurants. But, you see, while goat is on a lot of menus, it is not easy to get it served to you. Aaron keeps ordering it, and he keeps being told, “We’re out of the goat.” So, with about 26 hours to go, it remains to be seen whether Aaron can get his St Maarten/St Martin goat on.

I want to do a post devoted to island fare because, holy bananas, the fare deserves it. I’m going to wait until we get home (sniff sniff) to write it, though, so that I can include pics. While the pics won’t do the tastiness justice, they’re at least an effort to highlight how great we have had it here.

Yesterday, we drove the car from our lovely cottage in Oyster Pond half-way around the island to Marigot and found a great parking spot in the marina outside the dock for the ferries that go to Anguilla and St Bart’s. We went to the ferry terminal, showed our passports (got a St Martin stamp!), got our boarding passes for Anguilla, filled out an immigration form and paid the $5 departure tax for each of us. We had arrived about 10:15 am, hoping to catch the 10:30 ferry, but were told that we’d have to wait for the one at 11:15. No problem. We found a table at Rosemary’s — right on the square across from the marina — and ordered coffees. We people watched and chatted and soon it was time to get in line for that ferry. We walked back to the dock and waited inside the special “passenger only” area. The boat came, we got on it (we had to sit in the hull part of the boat and longingly look out the dirty window at the sea), paid the crew $30 for two one-way tickets to Anguilla and…15-20 minutes later: poof! We were in Anguilla! Off the boat, through immigration, through customs and out to the taxi stand. We asked for a ride to Rendezvous Bay because The Rough Guide labeled it a highlight of Anguilla. [Shoal Bay East apparently frequently wins Best Beach in the Universe or some such award, but we decided to go with TRG’s highlight.] The cabdriver thought I was hilarious when I said I didn’t know *where* in Rendezvous Bay we wanted to go, which — in hindsight — is kinda odd since there are only two things there: (1) a super, super fancy hotel and (2) a super not fancy hotel. Anyway, we get in the cab and away we go!

Anguilla is so different from St Maarten/St Martin. First, it’s pretty much completely flat. Second, it’s incredibly quiet. The cab driver, Cesla (pronounced Ses-la), was fantastic. In addition to telling me that she thought the beach at Rendezvous Bay was better than the beach at Shoal Bay (thank you, TRG! And Kristin for giving it to us!), she had great celebrity stories. I had read the celebs love Anguilla so I asked her if there were any on the island that day. She said “not today,” but then impressed us with her stories of driving Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Mariah Carey (whom she deemed ‘paranoid’) and Michael J Fox (she couldn’t remember his name, so she called him “the man who shakes,” which Aaron figured out meant MJF, which was good because I was way off course thinking she was talking about Ricky Martin or some other dancer/singer). Her real thrill, though, came last December or January. She got a call to pick up a man and his wife, but wasn’t told who it was. She saw the man coming towards her car and knew she recognized him from the news. [This is where I was again super off-base. I thought she was going to tell me he was Brian Williams or something.] As he got closer, she realized it was…John Kerry! Hee hee. She said she did not let on, though, that she knew it was he. Cesla also told us that Ron Paul had been her favorite candidate in the last election, before the primaries. Fascinating!

Anyway, Cesla dropped us off at the non-fancy hotel on Rendezvous Bay and asked the woman at the desk if we could walk through the hotel to the beach, which she said we could. Out on the other side was, without a doubt, the most amazing beach I have ever seen. The sand was white, which everyone talks about, but the water…it was breathtaking. It was a light bluish-green and when you walked into it, you could see straight through to the white sand underneath. No matter how far out we went into the sea, we could see through the crystal-clear water. Amazing. It took us over an hour (which included time for lunch at the outdoor hotel restaurant) to figure out where to sit on the beach. See, in St Maarten, the beaches have lots of restaurants on them and they all seem to rent beach chairs and umbrellas. On Rendezvous Bay, this is not the case. The beach is 2 kilometers long, but there are, like I said, really only two things on it. It did not look as though Super Fancy Hotel rented out their beach chairs. Non-fancy hotel did, but there were two problems with this (1) most of the chairs were occupied by The Boat People and (2) there were no umbrellas. Due to Aaron’s lobster-like qualities, an umbrella seemed necessary. [The Boat People were people that had taken an organized trip on a catamaran from St Maarten for the day]. Finally, after lunch, we found two unoccupied, broken beach chairs. Aaron moved his under the shade of a palm tree (the 2 km beach had about 15 feet of shade) and I laid down on mine in the sun. After The Boat People left, we were able to find working chairs and a feeling of total bliss came over me. I read my book in the sun, popping in and out of the glassy water, listening to the Germans chattering next to me while also hearing some locals talk about how they’d never seen the beach so crowded (there were probably 30 people on the whole beach at the time). It was divine.

Eventually, it was time to go. We asked the woman at the hotel desk to call Cesla and within ten minutes, we were back in her cab, enroute to Blowing Point to catch the return ferry. This time, we paid our $5 a piece tax and $15 a piece ticket on land. Everything went quite smoothly, despite not recognizing the immigration woman’s pronunciation of ‘Katherine,’ which led to her and Aaron sharing a joke over how ridiculous I am. All in all, a great day.

[Brief guidebook-type entry on taking a day-trip to Anguilla from St Martin. It’s not cheap, but that beach is so worth it. It costs $40 round-trip per person to take the ferry (that’s $15 for the ticket each way and $5 for the departure tax on each side). The cab ride was $14 each way from Blowing Point, the ferry terminal in Anguilla, to Rendezvous Bay. Rendezvous Bay is much closer to Blowing Point than any of the other beaches on the island, so I figure this is the least expensive option. We paid about $25 for a mediocre lunch. So, that’s about $133 plus tip for the cab driver.]

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SXM: The guidebook

AO announced today that he thought we should write a guidebook to this fantastic island. I agree.

Weirdly, there is a dearth of truly useful information about how to get around this island, where specific restaurants or ferries or anything you hear about really are, what to expect when driving, how to actually find any of the 36 or 37 beaches that the island boasts. So, that’s where Kate & AO step in.

Here are a few highlights from the to-be-published guide (Kristin, let’s talk):

  • We keep joking about this particular phrase, “It is steep by American standards.” That is how someone reviewing the cottage in which we are staying described the hill on which the cottage sits. Holy bananas. Understatement of the universe. Roads here are crazy steep. By anyone’s standards. Apparently, a different  species of engineer designed St Maarten’s roads. True for St Martin, too. This morning, for example, I stopped the car before going down a hill to ask AO if he thought the road was kidding. I wanted to make sure no one was playing a joke on me before proceeding.
  • Even the stairs in your rental cottage are set at about an 87% grade.
  • You can get to the public part of Orient Beach by pretending to go to the private part. Don’t be scared. Just keep going and finally you will come to a sign that directs you to the public portion. And the public part is way awesome.
  • Do not stop on the side of the road for someone who appears to be a damsel-in-distress. She really just wants you to play her scratch-off card scam and will pretend you have just won $1000 if only you follow her in your car and participate in some sort of 90 minute timeshare presentation.
  • Parking is crazy hard to find. Crazy hard.
  • The two bars on the beach on the edge of the airport that everyone goes to and says are really cool are actually really cool. And there’s free parking.
  • It has rained every day since we arrived. But there’s also been awesome sunshine.
  • The hike to Chewbacca in the Loterie Farms Park is just as steep as everything else on this island. But the view? Amazing. Anguilla and its snow-white beaches were taunting us.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow? A ferry to Pinel Island!

SXM

I feel like there is a rule that forbids a blogger from blogging on their honeymoon, but as I sit waiting for Aaron to get ready to leave the cottage, that rule seems rather silly to me so I am breaking it. It’s almost 11:30 am on our first full day in Sint Maarten and it is pouring out. And it has been for two hours. And everytime I look up something online about rain on this island, I read about how it never rains for more than a few minutes a day. Hmm.

Off to explore! In the rain.


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