Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sint Maartin/Saint Martin: Part 1

Steve and I love to explore new islands in the Caribbean, and next up was this Dutch/French combination.  We stayed on the Dutch side of Oyster Pond, but driving over the border to the French side was no big deal.

In the past we have chosen to island-hop via cruise ship so we knew where our next meal was coming from.  (Some islands are downright sketchy once you leave the port or your hotel property, and I like to know where my next meal is coming from.)  We love to eat and St. Martin is loaded with fabulous restaurants.  French restaurants.  OMG.  Part of me wants to post every picture of every meal we ate, but I think I might lose half of my six readers just for that.  So here are the highlights intermingled with other stuff we did and saw this week.

After reading about rental cars on Trip Advisor I came to 2 conclusions: 1) We should rent a car because it's cheaper than taking cabs everywhere, and 2) We would probably get hosed by the car rental people.  I went with a local rental agency and they were polite and courteous, but 10 minutes away from the airport Steve already hated driving our car, and then we had this.

Note the hub cap held on by zip ties
Yes, I am mostly telling you this story to help soften the blow when you see the view from our hotel room, but also to give credit to the car rental company who found us and brought a replacement car very quickly, especially considering we weren't sure where we were (terrible maps!) and it was Easter Sunday.  The new car worked great the rest of the week.  Rental cars: hit or miss.

We checked in to our room...

...and sat down by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.  The local spirit is guavaberry liqueur, so I ordered a guavaberry colada which tasted like a pina colada.

We walked over to Big Fish for dinner.  (Links to restaurants and activities are to TripAdvisor in case you ever want to go to St. Martin yourself and you want to see the latest reviews and photos. What a beautiful dining room!)   We sat outside on the patio because we could.  It was in the thirties when we left home, after all.  While we waited for our food we were given slices of baguette with a green olive tapenade, something new to me and delicious.

Being on a French island I had a quandary at dinner each night... Something French or something Caribbean?  Sometimes it was a mix of both, as was my dinner this night: Salad Niçoise with seared ahi tuna.  Steve had grouper with lobster sauce.  I never know how to eat a food sculpture such as this.

Geez, I'm still on the first day.  So here we go with less talk and more pictures.

Monday, Day 2
Pains au chocolat

Caution: Iguana crossing

Watching kite surfers at Orient Bay Beach

A croque monsieur for lunch, then back to this...

Infinity pool
Some of the best restaurants on the island are clustered in a beachfront strip called Grand Case.  On Monday night we ventured there for the first time, going early to find good (well-lit) parking and walk around to scope it out.  We had reservations at La Villa, which is currently ranked #1 on TripAdvisor, perhaps because of their complimentary cocktail du jour, amuse buche, and house rum after dessert.  I had the roast duck (one of those menu items that usually trumps everything for me) served with a citrus sauce, and Steve chose steak with a fois gras sauce as his entree.  Everything was delicious the whole week wherever we went, so I'm just going to stop telling you that if I can help it.

I started by putting French phrases in italics, but it's occurring to me that so many French phrases have become so part of our language that they're not really foreign any more.  In general I loved just how French St. Martin is (at least the French side) and it was fun listening to it spoken so much.  I took high school French so I can understand signage and basic conversation, but I still think it's fun to listen to them prattle on in French having no idea what they're talking about.  

Tuesday, Day 3
Drove to Marigot to check out Sarafina's.  In English we would say it's a bakery, but we don't really distinguish those that sell bread and those that sell pastries.  This was a boulangerie and a patisserie, the latter being the more treasured of the two kinds of bakeries in my book.  I love sweets.

Cheesecakes, layer cakes, pear tarts, I could go on...

Even the sandwiches were beautiful

Coconut layer cake, vanilla macaron, freshly squeezed
orange juice, and Steve's cappuccino and cream pie

Not needing much for lunch (ahem), we headed back to the hotel and split an order of the best fish tacos I've ever had.  Grouper, grilled/griddled (not battered/fried).  I want to learn how to cook fish like this.

For dinner we checked out Ti Bouchon in Cul-de-Sac, wanting to avoid the Tuesday night crowds in Grand Case.  The owner, Momo, was very friendly.  My salad was my favorite part; mixed greens with goat cheese Napoleons (very lightweight creamy concoction in rosemary puff pastry).

I also had lobster and crab ravioli, which were served in a broth kinda like wonton soup.  Steve had lobster bisque and one of the best steaks he can remember eating, and we shared a vanilla crème brûlée. Memorable moment: watching one of the kitchen staff selecting leaves from a tree to use for garnish.

This is getting long, so I'm going to finish in a separate post.  Thanks for sticking with me!

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