Check schedules for departures of the big planes. KLM. Air France and? Go to the Sunset Bar at Beaco Hill at departure time. When you see the big jet headed towards the water, run to the fence and hang on! As the jet turns on the ramp for its take-off you will get blasted with warm gritty air. Be careful. Glasses and cameras are likely to be blown away. Not advised for children. Then have a drink on the beach.
Don't even try to speak dutch or english. It's no use. Try spanish instead. Most of the people here do learn to speak Dutch, because The Netherlands Antilles used to be a colony of The Netherlands (This is also why lots of citynames are Dutch). Now the Antilles have their own government, but the Dutch government still has a lot of influence. Also the law at the Netherlands Antilles is quite the same as in the Netherlands because of this. It's a kinda strange situation, I think.
Some cultural tips: Cultural Caribbean Carnaval festivals -that are very nice to see- are most of the times held around february.
St. Martin is a duty-free port. Cruise ships dock here so that its passengers can stock up on jewelry, perfumes, cigars and designer goods. The savings on luxury items is amazing. For example, if you purchase a Cartier watch you can save between 15 and 20% off the price you would pay in the states. Crystal too bears a 20-30% off savings.
My only advice is to be alert and observant as to local culture. If you aren't sure about something, ask. Most of the vendors you encounter, especially on the street, are more than happy to bargain with you on prices. This is a picture of one of the side streets just off the main beach at Phillipsburg, on the Dutch side.
'The Sign of Jonah' by Boeli van Leeuwen
Rich with symbolism and filled with historical and philosophical references, van Leeuwen's short novel uses the fluidity of dream and fable in an attempt to jury-rig an accommodation between the Old (European) and the New (colonial) worlds.
Told by an elderly curmudgeon known as ''the professor,'' events are set primarily in Willemstad, the vibrant and culturally diverse Caribbean port capital of Curaçao, a Dutch-speaking island of the Netherlands Antilles. The narrative is disjointed, but that seems to be appropriate for the professor, an idealistic alcoholic who is haunted by death and pontificates on issues ranging from power-hungry Latin American dictators to the beauty of Barbra Streisand. The professor rescues a fabulously wealthy businessman, Juan Carlos de Altamario, who in return invites the narrator onto his yacht and, from there, to his surreal estate on the fictional island of Balboa.
In this fantasy section, the professor tours the magical island and meets its inhabitants, who include Leo Tolstoy, Nazi war criminals and priapic dwarves. Eventually, he has a falling out with Carlos and returns to Curaçao, where he celebrates with the island's poor and spends a night in jail. Van Leeuwen throws every mythic trope he can think of into this rijsttafel of a novel, from the biblical horsemen of the apocalypse to the great white whale of Moby-Dick. But he mixes it all up with such evident gusto that it doesn't, in the end, matter how much articulated sense he makes: for the book is animated less by the Old World's need to impose order than by the New World's desire for a carnival.
My notes: I've devoured all his books and to my joy one of them is translated so he can be read by a wider audience. His books combine the steamy Caribean culture with Dutch protestant calvinism. And all this with much humanitarian love and tenderness (if you care to see it).
Don't stare and take pictures of the nudes on the beaches. As you may guess- this is considered very rude. Many of the beaches are topless and those with nudes are very discreet-usually at the far end away from other bathers. Some tourists are realy gawky- as if they have never seen someone nude before. We were on a snorkeling trip and one woman came back from the beach talking about all of the pictures that she took of the nude people-how rude!
Unique cultural feature: they are happy people. I have never seen so many friendly and happy people. Even the registration plate states 'St Martin - The Friendly Island'
Tip the taxi driver if he offers to take you on a little tour of the passing town on your way to the hotel. Tip the vallet parking attendants.
Say 'Bonjour' back when greeted on the street. This is the main genuin local friendly creole culture at its best.
Picture: Local Market in Marigot.
Take a visit to one of the old Landhuizen. There are several of them on the island.
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