St Martin and Sint Maarten

Check out the 747 flight arrival times on the surfboard blackboard

There is an island in the Caribbean which has a few claims to a modest type of fame. 

Perhaps most notably, it is the smallest land mass in the world that is shared by two nations: France and The Netherlands (although it literally just became independent of the Netherlands, it remains a Dutch territory).

Measuring up at 87km2, it is divided with a wiggly line cutting across the island from East to West.  The Dutch side, Sint Maarten to the South, is a little smaller, and they seem to have ended up with a massive body of water off to the West side of their bit of the island.  At just 20 mins flying time from St Kitts, it was an easy decision to visit, especially since the idea of knocking off a French and Dutch Caribbean island all in one visit seemed rather efficient.

I think they mean us to be careful

Sint Maarten has not, apart from language and a few place names, much charm to it at all and largely caters to American tourists with loads of timeshares, condos and a Surfers Paradise-feel, as well as numerous casinos and strip joints.  St Martin, however, the French side of this island, clings fast to its European roots and French restaurants and boulangeries abound.  They even have different currencies: both the dosh and the power kinds, with the Dutch side taking US dollars and (so I hear) the Dutch Antilles guilder, and US electric outlets, and the Frencs side accepting Euros and using European electical outlets.

I am staying on the French side, but visited the Dutch side to both arrive (the bigger airport is there) and to visit a bar where the main sport is watching jumbos take off (blowing sand in everyone’s faces) and land over a tiny beach and creating serious photo opps.  The flight arrival times of the big planes is listed on a surfboard, and everyone gathers around, cameras at the ready, come landing time.

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1 Comment

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One response to “St Martin and Sint Maarten

  1. Clearly, this island (the French part) was named after Rui – whose last name in French is St Martin. I too would be staying on the French side to check out the boulangeries – I expect a post with photos on what you taste.

    Being a very amateur photographer, I would love to check out the surfboard time schedule and take a few shots of planes coming in. I used to do that with my Dad at a time when you could stand on the roof of Kingsford Smith airport.

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