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St. Maarten/St. Marten Dec 17

Two is the key number for St. Maarten. The island has a Dutch and a French side. The port in St. Maarten (note the two “a’s”) Has two piers and they are working on doubling its capacity. They even have two tourist areas. The port, of course, serves those who don’t want to go anywhere, just show me the shops, but a pleasant half-mile walk along the road with shipyards on one side and a mountain on the other takes you to the capital with its two-street shopping area. With two ice cream stores.

St. Maartin rewards the curious shopper. The two main streets are connected by clean, crowded alleys, full of interesting shops. here are two: A little cigar and sundry shop, called Juggie’s Place. The motto on his door is “We don’t do fakes,” and it’s run by a somewhat intimidating-looking but friendly fellow. His claim to fame is that he advertises “You can use clean restrooms, free!” Apparently the islond gives you two restroom choices—be a customer, or use an uncared-for facility. He said he suddenly started getting people into his store when he offered this third alternative. He has this guy outside his door:

Rasta Claus

Rasta Claus

The watchword for this guy is the vaguely sinister admonition that you need to watch out for what he might bring you for Christmas.

The other remarkable business is an excursion available from your ship, called Snorkel Safaris. “Safari” might be a bit of an overstatement, but the two young guys (mid-20′s) who run the operation have fixed up a pretty good underwater park (scuttled some wrecks, built an underwater walkway) a few minutes by water from the port. They have a nice, well-equipped pontoon “island” equipped with a grill and coolers for beverages. They serve the best hamburger I had on the whole cruise. You get some training and gear, and spend as long as you want poking around the bay. When you’re done, they’ll drop you off in town or at the port. Money well spent. I can’t find the photo of the very photogenic couple who was with us, or I’d share it. Maybe my wife deleted it. :-)

We saw two retired America’s Cup sailboats on the way to town. St. Maartin is the only island to offer a ride on one, and you get to pick between them.

America's Cup racers

America's Cup racers

The town has a reputation for good shopping— the price one place offered on a Nikon camera body was really tempting. But the town has a million jewelry stores—at this point the theme of two breaks down.

Have you been to the French side? Tell us about it.

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