La gourmande

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Remember how I said that I had one more post I wanted to do related to my St. Maarten trip with my mom? Yes, that was a long time ago and many things intervened along the way. Also, it has been so terribly cold that it was just making me sad to think about such a warm, happy place.  Here I am now, finally catching up.

One of the reasons that I love the island of St. Maarten/ St. Martin is because I love the feeling of an island with some French influence.  Although my French language skills are subpar these days, I love being around the French language. So does Mom, as she was actually a French major at Wake Forest, before she transferred to Carolina for the rest of her undergraduate degree. So, we like the French.

We spent some time in Marigot on the French side of the island the morning we decided to nix our trip over to St. Barth (it was raining that morning, and neither one of us felt like driving to the ferry and dealing with uncertain weather in St. Barth).  Marigot as a substitute was just fine for me. Many of the shops I wanted to hit in Gustavia were available in Marigot, and all without the underlying snootiness that pervades St. Barth. Marigot was quaint and friendly.  Unfortunately, major road repairs on the primary road that circles the island meant that traffic in Marigot was terrible, but otherwise, I really liked that little town.

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We ate at a little café for lunch that apparently had a live Cuban cigar roller.  It just made me think of the episode of Seinfeld, because you can never be too sure those Cubans aren’t actually Dominicans.

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This brings me to my other point about why staying on a French-influenced island can be so great – the food.  The food on St. Maarten/St. Martin is incredible on both sides of the island. Sure, top marks frequently go to the restaurants on the French side, but there is some good food to be had on the Dutch side too.

Here are a few of my favorites we tried.

Mark’s Place in Cul de Sac on the Dutch side – This place has great local flavor and is known for having some of the best barbeque in the Caribbean. They were having all-you-can-eat ribs on the night we visited, but we opted for some local seafood instead.  It is reputably a favorite among locals.

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Big Fish  in Oyster Bay: This place has amazing, fresh fish. We actually ended up here because we met the head chef who was at our hotel earlier in the day. The fish that we had that night was caught earlier in the day. The restaurant owns a charter fishing ship, and when they go out and catch the fish, they use it at the restaurant that night.  I love the clean, white modern décor too.  Their al fresco dining was just about perfect.

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Here I am breaking my rule of no food pictures by taking a picture of my stuffed mahi mahi:

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Speaking of great al fresco dining, another great spot in Oyster Bay (on the French side) is La Planteur, which has an absolutely spectacular view of Oyster Bay.

One night we stopped for pizza at Mama’s Pizza in Oyster Bay which was surprisingly delicious, and a nice change of pace.

The restaurants at The Westin were surprisingly good as well (aside from the daily breakfast buffet). We decided to do the pirate’s buffet one night. The buffet was surprisingly light on pirates, and there really were not a lot of pirates in the evening’s entertainment either.  However, there were plenty of awkward interactions with performers since we were sat directly next to the stage. That is the worst possible place for an introvert to sit. So we had some up close encounters with dancers and this guy who walked on glass and nails.

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Sure, it was bizarre, but the food was delicious at least.

Of course, the Grand Case restaurants are what the islands are best known for.  We ate at two – one on our sail around the island and the second on our last night.  It was called Le Shambala, and it was out of this world fantastic. In addition to the great food, we absolutely savored every moment of our meal.  The setting was perfect (I have mentioned the beautiful sunset before) for our last night.

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Finally, no international trip is complete for me without a trip to McDonalds. If we are visiting a country with a McDonalds, you know I have to eat their once because I love comparing the cultural differences between McDonalds in different countries. The St. Maarten one actually was a carbon copy of an American McDonalds, so not much comparison to do there, but the fries were delicious.

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