The Caribbean

By Lois M Gordon

My favorite island in the Caribbean is St. Martin/St. Maarten to which my friends in Toronto can easily fly Air Canada to Miami.

Then catch a short flight to St. Maarten where we will enjoy a relaxing week together!

This is the smallest island in the world to have been partitioned between two different nations.  It is shared by the French and the Dutch in neighborly cooperation and mutual friendship and has been for almost 350 years.

The border is almost imperceptible, people cross back and forth without realizing they are in a new country, testifying to centuries of peaceful cohabitation.

At the same time each side has managed to retain their own national culture.  The French emphasize comfort and elegance.  Beaches are secluded, resorts lavish and restaurants with fine dining.  When we were there we stayed on the Dutch side but drove to the French side for dinner.  It was a charming restaurant—our reservations were for seven p.m.  We arrived promptly to find no one at the restaurant!  We waited a few minutes and the chef arrived.  He ushered us out to a beautiful patio, sail boats in the harbor and the sun slowly descending, it was a beautiful sight.  We were immediately brought a delightful French wine and enjoyed the setting.

Both sides of the island offer good shopping, delightful small cafés with wonderful aromas: fresh croissants and pastries, spicy West Indian cooking, mouthwatering food.  Parts are very cosmopolitan while the whole atmosphere remains very relaxed.

The St. Maartin side is a busy port, bustling with commerce.  It is an active center for trade and tourism.  Much more informal than the French side with a very Dutch flavor and strong ties with fellow compatriots in the other Netherlands Antilles.  With the differences in cultures, vacationers are able to find almost every activity they might want.

Located midway through the chain of islands in the Caribbean, just as the Antilles begin to curve to the south, St. Martin is sunny and warm year-round, averaging 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and just 2 degrees cooler in winter.  The island is buffeted by cooling trade winds that keep things temperate all year long.  Rainfall is about 45 inches, which occurs usually in late summer and early fall.

So for a relaxing vacation, enjoy the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten.  Perhaps we will meet there one day.

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