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Sint Maarten

MAGICAL SINT MAARTE

Sint Maarten is one of the most stunningly beautiful and popular of all the Caribbean islands. Half Dutch, half French and totally alluring, it boasts a sinuous spread of long, low rolling hills in fifty shades of green, forming a magnificent backdrop to a series of blinding, powder white beaches that fringe the entire island like so many gorgeous necklaces.
Holland and France agreed to an amicable share of this thirty-seven mile long island many centuries ago. As a result of this, St. Maarten was spared most of the bloody clashes that engulfed its neighbours just over the horizon. It is now classed as part of the French West Indies.
This really is the entire Caribbean in miniature; a place where para gliders float like exotic butterflies across an amazing, electric blue sky, while jet skis race across the sparkling briny like maddened wasps. Pretty little sail boats dot the sparkling sea, while the main town of Philipsburg plays host to cruise ships the size of small cities.
Philipsburg itself has a laid back, sublime sense of charm and style. Clap board houses in vibrant shades of red, yellow and blue stand framed by gorgeous blooms of hibiscus, oleander and jasmine. Hammocks sway lazily in the breeze between rows of spindly, soporific palm trees. The sound of reggae and the smell of freshly cooked jerk chicken hang in the warm air like fine perfume.
You can take a water taxi across to the main beach, with its superb shopping for electrical goods, jewels and local handicrafts. Bars and restaurants are ranged along the length of it, with daiquiris to die for and an amazing, eclectic, feel good vibe guaranteed to put a smile on any face.
Just out of town, there are some intriguing salt flats that are worth a quick look. And, over on the other side of the island- the French part known as Saint Martin- the pace of life is slower, altogether more genteel.
The pretty, pastel shaded capital of Marigot is almost effortlessly French, with sidewalk cafes flanking the edges of the azure, sparkling harbour, and a definite feel of the Cote D’Azur, overlaid with the warm aroma of creole soul food. As the big ships cannot dock here, it feels a lot more intimate and old world.
Fun lovers can sail a genuine America’s Cup yacht here, while the more adventurous could visit the discreet nudist section of the world famous Orient Beach.

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