The Other Side of St. Martin/Maarten

Not a bad office, eh?

For the second time in just a couple of months, I find myself on the island of St. Martin. I use “Martin” as opposed to “Maarten” because for the first time in four visits I am staying on the French side of this split-in-two Caribbean jewel. I usually stay aboard a boat over on the Dutch side, the Sint Maarten side, with friends, and I will join them again shortly, but I wanted to experience a different side of this island. And by “side,” I don’t just mean nationality.

Over here, I’m staying in a small, comfortable home befitting the tropics: stucco walls; high, framed ceilings; a veranda surrounded by a bushes exploding in red flowers, a few coconut palms, and a cactus or two thrown in for good measure. There’s a breeze blowing from the sea below as I sit on that veranda, shirtless and wearing only shorts, typing and taking in a view from Tintamare to St. Barth over the colorful roofs of the village below. If I close my eyes and imagine having talent, a big barrel chest and a good, stiff drink in front me, this could almost be Cuba and I could almost be Hemingway in my own version of Finca Vigia. Alas, it’s not and I’m not. But it’s a damn good substitute.

A finch-sized version of a meadowlark just alighted on the bush beside me. It pains me to be so uninfor

When I’m staying in the marina on the Dutch side, it’s somewhat like being in a border town in Mexico: garish lights, lots of Americans and a whole lot more hustle and bustle. Over here, things slow way down, and not just because my school-level French is so atrocious. It’s a resort over here as opposed to a town, so even the locals making a living on this side are doing so within the context of vacationland. Over in St. Maarten, it’s business as usual in a town that just happens to be on a Caribbean island so there are scores of tourists wandering around. That, and I’m usually working with my friends on whatever yacht they’re running at the time.

No surprises, then, that I prefer the vibe over here. Hard to believe I’d prefer sitting in the breeze looking out over where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet to scrubbing the grime and barnacles off the bottom of an inflatable dinghy or sweating in the interior of the boat as I wipe antibacterial solution over all the walls.

This, too, shall pass. Tomorrow, as a matter of fact. I’ll check out of this sleepy, hillside community with a view and taxi back over to the Dutch side of things. But no complaints. It will still be paradise and I’ll still be tan and we’ll still be preparing for a passage to Bermuda in a few days. La vie est belle.
med on the local flora and fauna, but that comes with time, I suppose. And it’s time that seems to have been created just by taking a taxi over to this side of the island.

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