St. Maarten/St. Martin is an island in the West Indies, 18 latitude and 63 longitude and 150 miles south east of Puerto Rico. It is sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west. It covers 37 square miles, with Dutch Sint Maarten on the south spanning 16 square miles and French Saint-Martin on the north covering 21. The island is the smallest land mass to be shared by two separate governments.
The weather in December is between 66-89 degrees and in July it is between 72-89 degrees. The temperature at night drops so bring a light jacket or sweater.
St. Martin was discovered and named by Columbus in 1493. But the Arawaks were the first to inhabit the island and the Caribs eventually replaced the peace loving Arawaks and called the island Soualiga which means the “land of salt”. In the early 17th Century, the French and Dutch arrived, built small settlements and eventually drove the Spanish off the island. According to folk lore, Dutch prisoners and French refugees escaped from the Spanish before they left and decided to share the island between the Netherlands and France.
Shopping is a serious treasureland for those interested in duty-free luxury imports. There are also plenty of opportunity for embroidered linens, hand made ceramics, wood carvings, original paintings and liquor.
Guavaberry is the legendary Island Folk Liqueur of St. Maarten. It is still made in the heart of Phillipsburg, behind the ancient Guavaberry Emporium. The cedar house was built on the site of an ancient Jewish synagogue.
For travel, you will need a passport to enter the biggest little island in the world. Euros and U.S. currency are used but make sure that you understand the exchange rates for Netherlands Antilles Guilder and the Euro if you are using U.S. currency. The paradisiacal island has woven in the tapestry to two cultures and is sure to please. There will be surely enjoyment for all who visit. For more information, log on to www.st-maarten.com or www.stmartin.com.
This was printed in the November 21, 2010 - December 4, 2010 edition.