Trip Report: Sint Maarten / Saint-Martin

A few people asked to see more pictures from our recent journey to the Caribbean, so here they are. This island is the smallest in the world to be governed by two different countries. Dutch Sint Maarten used to be part of the Netherland Antilles but that dissolved in 2010 and it is now a free constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch but everyone speaks English and because of tourism, it is very Americanized. Prices are either in Netherland Antillean Florin (NAF) or in tourist areas, American Dollars.

We'll begin our journey on the Dutch side since that is where most hotels are.

Princess Juliana International Airport is also on the Dutch side.

And the island's largest city, Philipsburg, is on the Dutch side.

It has a famous paved "boardwalk" lined with restaurants and bars. Many are still closed following Category 5+ Hurricane Irma in 2017 followed in 2020 by the covid19 shutdown.

Five cruise ships were docked in port here, awaiting the return of cruising.

Other than some street (straat) names and these bus stop signs, there sadly isn't a lot of Dutch to be found here.

Maho Beach is the most famous beach in Sint Maarten.

The beach itself is pretty but it's the danger that attracts everyone.

Landing planes fly right over the beach and people jump up to try to touch them!

Most spectacular are the widebody jets that land here.

The roar as they pass over is amazing. Sample landing video here.

Read that sign on the guardrail. When planes take off, you first see the exhaust blow dust on the runway behind it, then the grass begins moving, and then you feel the heat of the blast. If you're standing on the beach, you get sandblasted and pushed towards the ocean. This is the leading tourist attraction, especially the arrivals of the huge jets from Paris and Amsterdam. Is it actually dangerous? A couple years ago a woman watching a departure got knocked over by the blast, struck her head on the pavement and was killed. So it can be.

Across the sea, a view of the island Saba (NL). In the center is the potentially active volcano, Mt. Scenery. At 2,910 ft, it's the highest point in the Netherlands.

Unfortunately not visible in this camera shot but visible with the naked eye, the islands of St. Eustatius (NL) and the independent country St. Kitts.

Surviving the hurricane with minimal damage, Sunset Beach Bar is a famed hangout for planespotting.

In the foreground, Dutch Sint Maarten, in the midground French Saint-Martin and across the water at the rear, the island Anguilla (UK).

The roads that cross the Dutch-French border are unguarded but there are monuments with flags. The Dutch side has the Netherlands and Sint Maarten flags while the French side has the France and European Union flags.

The center marks the actual border.

And signs welcome you to whichever side you're headed.

If you're in Hawaii you're in the United States, right?. Like that, when you're on the French side of Saint-Martin, you're actually in France. The tags are French.

The flags are French.

The fort is French.

Many cars are French.

If you've been to France, you'll recognize their grocery chain Carrefour. There's also a Monoprix store jammed with French imports.

This particular Carrefour was on the Dutch side so prices are in NAF.. We always check out the Lay's products in foreign countries because they can be fascinating. Lay's Patatje Joppie is a Dutch favorite made with Joppie sauce. Lay's Poulet Roti is a French favorite, flavored as Roasted Chicken!

The post office is French.

The road signs are in French. The prices are in Euros. Since you're in France, you're in the European Union. On the Dutch side, you're not.

Nice view of Anguilla (UK) across the water.

Nice view of Saint Barthélemy (F) aka St. Barts to the south.

It makes sense that the countries that govern this island also provide provisions and transportation. Currently Air France from Paris flies in 6X per week.

While KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Amsterdam arrives 2X per week. Both airlines used to use the Boeing 747-400 which drew huge crowds at Maho Beach for landing and takeoffs.

My Boeing 757-200 was nowhere near as exciting but all too soon it was time to leave. A good time was had by all.

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