Scintillating St. Martin
On St. Martin, French and Dutch cultures merge to create one of the most cosmopolitan islands in the Caribbean. The two nationalities have been living in peaceful coexistence since 1648. After a breakfast of croissants and café au laits in Marigot, walk along the winding alleys behind the harbor and soon the seaside village starts to feel like a town on the French Riviera. Boutiques, restaurants, and small markets line the streets. On Rue de la Liberte, the latest French fashions can be found. A must stop for all foodies is the Gourmet Boutique on Rue de l’Anguille, to snack on Brie and Camembert cheeses, Godiva chocolates, fresh baguettes, and the tastiest jambon (ham).
Blink and you might miss the fishing village of Grand Case at the northern tip of St. Martin. This is the St. Martin of yesteryear, where ramshackle houses intermingle with more than a dozen French seafood restaurants, many overlooking the bay. Ask for an ocean view table and watch the waves roll ashore as you’re served fresh lobster or red snapper Provencal under candlelight. Dutch Sint Maarten is where everyone goes to work off their French meals. The open-air dancefloor at Cheri’s Cafe is located in Maho Bay. Next door is Casino Royale, one of the handful of casinos on this half of the island.
The French Rivera flavor extends to the Orient Express resort, La Samanna. Walk out of your two-story whitewashed villa onto Baie Longue, home to some of the finest pearly white sands in the Caribbean. If you choose the right suite, you can sun bathe atop your terrace or around a private plunge pool. Perched on a hill overlooking the curve of the beach, the restaurant is known for its collection of over 10,000 bottles of wine. Also indulge in the new spa, nestled in a quiet courtyard of palms.