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St. Maarten/St. Marten
Late February 2016, my wife and I went to St. Marten in the Caribbeanh. It is a friendly island with 2 nations governing it: the French in the North and the Dutch in the South. Our trip put us in the North or French side of the island at the all inclusive Riu (formerly the Radisson Blu) in Anse Marcel for 4 nights. Driving up to the resort by car, we traveled the only Main Road along the coast through little towns and villages that we would later visit.
The Riu resort was in a bay with sailboats from various country, and offered a tranquil scenic vision of rest, relaxation and indulgence. Our room was located on the marina side of the resort, with boats laxily moving in and out of their moorings, making it easy to forget the cold and snow of Chicago.
Our first night there we had a lovely dinner with friends and then walked out to the cabana bar by the water to listen to a Samba band and have a drink or two. The evening was a perfect 80 degrees and a good way to end our first night. Our second day started early with breakfast, which was great with homemade croissants, fruit, cheese and some of the freshest eggs (flavor wise) that I've eaten. The buffet was large and had all kinds of food for every taste. After breakfast, we settled in at the pool for several hours. Sand, warm sun, cool drinks. . .why would we go anywhere else?
The following 3 nights we enjoyed the 3 specialty restaurants, that featured steaks, seafood, and gourmet French Cuisine, all paired with delicious French wines. When eating French food you have to remember always, to leave room for dessert. They can be as memorable as the Entree. Our stay at the Riu was pleasant, friendly and thorougly enjoyable. We left with good feelings about our stay there, and would recommend it highly to anyone looking to visit the island.
Putting our bags in our car, we headed off for the other side of St. Marten to Orient Beach, Esmeralda resort, which is not all inclusive. Again, a friendly welcome (typical of the whole island) as we were escorted to our spacious accommodations for the next 3 nights. A small apt. size four units share a pool, but no one really uses it, because the beach is where you really want to be. Cushioned chaise loungers, beach service, and a great restaurant make Coco Beach idyllic. The ocean water was beautiful and warm as well as splendid scenery.
We had dinner in Grand Case one night (about 15 minutes from our resort) and the choices were plentiful. Great Food seems to be the way of these small towns, with restaurants overlooking the water and a shimmering moon overhead. Impeccable service. Huge lobsters for dinner and a splendid wine list made this one of our dinners to remember. The entire area has fine restaurants, boutique shops and entertainment with a French flair about them. Relaxed, laid back. . Yeah. the French way.
All in all this side of the island offers a European style of vacationing with friendly people, great beaches, and wonderful little towns to visit. I rate it 4.5*. Next time, we'll have to visit the Dutch side, and take a ferry over to Anguilla.
- Jack Scott March 2016