What I have always loved about this job is, despite the loneliness of being in some of the world’s most beautiful places alone, you usually meet other solo travelers and for a brief moment you are able to connect with people who completely understand how comfortable it feels to be anywhere but home.
After debarking in St. Maarten, I was able to tag along with a couple of friends I have made along the way in this biz. They were renting a car and driving around the island with no real destination in mind. The point was to just see.
It’s easy to rent a car from the cruise terminal – a station is literally right at the pier. So we made our way, sans GPS and new-fangled technology (just a shitty little road map) all the way around the island, stopping periodically to gape at the water – a perfect gradient from aqua to sapphire. But anyone who has ever been to the Caribbean admires the water, so for me the real joy was having no plan whatsoever, tooling around the island’s dusty back roads with three other victims of wanderlust.
St. Maarten is divided in two: the French side and the Dutch side. The cruise ships and the main airport are both on the Dutch side, but it is less than a half hour’s drive to make your way over to the French area, which is much more beautiful and charming. On your way around the island you will pass through Oyster Bay, which is quite trafficked as you come upon it, but slowly becomes more and more desolate the further you go down. Stop by Boo Boo Jam (yes…that is the name) for an ice cold Presidente beer and a few glimpses of the topless lades (because, yes, that is allowed on St. Maarten).
Stop for lunch in Grand Case, a tiny community flanked with beach-side restaurants serving up the local catch and grilling ribs on giant outdoor racks. We stopped at The Rib Shack and for $9 each sucked on juicy ribs and devoured plates of side dishes. A beer is also a lovely $1.50. (Prices are in Euro and Dollars, but the ratio in St. Maarten is one-to-one, so it’s favorable to pay in dollars.)
Unfortunately my companions had to embark back on the Oasis of the Seas to finish up the conference we were covering. I hung back in St. Maarten for the night and I’m writing to you from my balcony at Simpson Bay Resort & Marina, bottle of wine, loaf of bread and cheese at my side. I need to be well rested for my early flight to the British Virgin Islands tomorrow, where I will give Richard Branson a run for his money in the meaning of luxury. On to Villa Aquamare.