Island Holidays

In addition to going home to see the family, the annual Christmas/New Years holiday trip took me once again to the Caribbean and specifically to the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. The half-Dutch, half-French territory is quite different from last year's destination, Barbados, but also quite similar in many ways.

We stayed on the edge of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island. Some online guides I had read led me to believe this town was where all the action was on the island. That's true, if by action you mean tons of duty-free shops that cater to passengers of the cruise ships that dock at the port each day and close at sundown. Otherwise, there's not much to do around there.

The French side of the island was the place to go for good food, as well as decent service compared to the slightly more surly folk on the Dutch side (who reminded me of Barbadans). Restaurants in places like Marigot, the French capital, and Grand Case were the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable if relaxing trip.

Only on our last night did we find what passes as the island's center of nightlife — basically a cluster of newer resorts with a shopping mall, casino, nightclub and a few restaurants and bars. Soprano's piano bar provided a decently entertaining evening on a trip during which most nights involved going to bed early like old people!

Another highlight was a one-day sojourn to the nearby island of St. Bartholemy. This French island was packed with the rich and famous who celebrate the New Year in style in this otherwise sleepy, secluded getaway. The yachts in the harbor and in a parked flotilla off shore were a sight to behold.

And we had a long layover on the way home, providing an opportunity to take a look at the old town in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan has a wonderful quaint European feel to it, with bustling shops and some cafes and restaurants although I thought it could use more of the latter. I'd like to visit again sometime and take more time to see the place so adding Puerto Rico to my list.

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