Monday, May 19, 2014

Vacation: Grand Case, St. Martin

I have been trying to decide how to share some of the vacation photos with you as there are hundreds.  I finally came up with the idea that, rather than do a play-by-play of each day, I'd put them into groups and write based on that.

We have been going to St. Martin since 2002 when we went for our long awaited honeymoon... which also happened to be our 10th Anniversary.  We figured out we've had 9 trips in 12 years - not too shabby.

When you fly into St. Martin, you actually fly into Sint Maarten because this island is split into a French side and a Dutch side. If you're a history buff you can read here how that came to be.  We have always stayed on the French side because Mr. Helen had been there with his friend in 1973, but also because before we went in 2002 we heard that the French side was much less built up and had more of a laid back vibe than the Dutch side.  Even though over the past 12 years we have seen development on both sides of the island (you can come and go freely between the two - there is no border checkpoint), we find that this remains true.

In all of our trips we have stayed in a resort, in a villa and then an apartment owned by another friend of Mr. Helen's, and a guest house.  Just about every time I think I have it all figured out:  what to pack, how we'll eat, etc., we change where we're staying or how long we're staying and that changes everything.

This time, we were staying for two whole weeks (a dream come true for me!) in the home of Mr. Helen's best friend.  They built this home starting in the late 1980's with the plan to retire back to St. Martin where they are from.  Initially the first floor was built with 2 apartments (2 bedrooms each) and the money from renting those out allowed them to finish the upper floor, all of which is their space.  I'm sorry that I didn't get a front shot of the house, I kept meaning too but you know, vacation brain lol!

The house is located in the village of Grand Case, which used to be a fishing village but is now known as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean.  (An entire post dedicated to food will be forthcoming.) Whenever we drive from the airport, just as you come over a hill, you get a sweeping view of Grand Case with Creole Rock out in the sea.  The minute I see that, I feel like I'm home again.

Anyway, when we first arrived they were there with us for just a couple of days to show us the ropes as we are the first people they've had stay there.

First thing we saw was this absolutely beautiful front porch.  We spent every single morning for at least 2 hours out there (I had to wait for Stuart!) and many afternoons as well, once we'd come off the beach.  It was cool and soothing and almost as good as my patio.

The very first morning we were there, I could not wait to get out there with a cup of coffee and watch the neighborhood come alive.

In that palm tree just behind the coffee there was a dove sitting on a nest!!  Also, the little finches ate and played in that tree as well.  Our friend told us the dove's egg would probably hatch while we were there so we were on baby dove watch every day. Did you know doves mate for life?  We got to see the mom and dad switch out taking care of their little baby to be. Can you see the dove on its nest and the finch here?


But I digress.  The house is built very standard modern Caribbean with an open floor plan.  They have 2 bedrooms and a bathroom as well as a master bedroom with bathroom en suite. I'd say it's probably around 1500 square feet all together. Here is the living room, dining room, bathroom we used, and me in the kitchen because I did cook a bit while we were there!





Things like electricity and water are quite expensive in St. Martin therefore are conserved as much as possible.  The water into the house is provided by a cistern. There is a whole system that collects rainwater and funnels it there. Though treated to a degree that it's safe for bathing and cooking, we didn't drink it. There was construction going on next door (our friend's brother) and because they had been using the water in the cistern, they arranged for the water truck to come and make a delivery.  Something new I'd never seen!  They do have the ability to switch over to "city" water, but again, it's expensive so they try not to do that.

There were also lots of these guys around.  This fellow pretty much greeted us everyday when we went downstairs to get in the car.  At one point, one of his brothers was in the house with us but we let him be because they eat mosquitos!

The house is right across the street from the Grand Case airport.  This is a much smaller regional airport.  There is some noise but it's not annoying and it's shut down at night.  Several times we heard fireworks and found out from a local that they use them to scare off the birds. We enjoyed watching the planes from other Caribbean islands landing and taking off.  What might surprise you when you look at these pictures is the mountains.  The first time I went to St. Martin I was shocked that it wasn't flat!






I love this little village and the people in it... I'm always so happy to come "home" and generally shed a couple tears as our plane takes off to leave, I suppose because I leave a little of my heart here each time we go.

By the way, the egg hatched and after waiting patiently a couple of days, one morning we got to see the baby dove!

Coming up:  posts about the food, beaches, culture and we finally did a couple things we've been talking about for nearly 12 years!

18 comments:

  1. What a lovely and huge house that you have been staying in. I love the front porch too and can totally understand why you loved relaxing there.

    I get the fact that the French side is more laid back. Us Dutchies aren't that good at a laid back lifestyle, we always have to keep going.

    Look forward to the other posts.

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    1. Fran's "us Dutchies" comment made me laugh. Makes sense, look at their races - no slow runners there. ;)

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    2. It also has to do with more development over there and better exchange for the dollar to guilder vs. the dollar to euro. Lots of American prefer the Dutch side and we enjoy visiting and shopping over there for sure!

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  2. Beautiful. The French side has the fresh bakery delivery van!! ;)

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    1. Bakeries on the French side are like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts in the USA - one on every block lol!

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  3. How fun to watch the dove and get to see the chick before you left!

    I love staying in houses when I travel. Almost the same price as a hotel, and so much more room to spread out and relax. Looking forward to the rest of your travel adventures!

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    1. This was so much better than being in a hotel room, especially since we were there for two weeks.

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  4. How glorious to get TWO WHOLE weeks at your home away from home. Of course, you know I am going to be looking forward to the food post! :D And your vacation house is bigger than my real house!

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    1. I think if you took my whole house and laid it out flat it would be about the size of this place. It sure was nice to not have to climb stairs for two weeks.

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  5. Having that much time, plus staying in a house, makes it sound like you settled in so nicely...like you got beyond the initial "ahhh, vacation" phase and into the routine of relaxation, which sounds awesome.

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    1. I was so relaxed by the time I got home a friend almost didn't recognize me in the grocery store. She said my face was completely stress free!

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  6. It looks positively gorgeous there. I love travel stories. That front porch is so inviting. I think I would spend a good deal of time out there too. I'm glad you had a relaxing vacation. I look forward to hearing more about it.

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    1. The Caribbean is lovely in general. We are blessed to be able to go there!

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  7. It looks lovely. I would be on the porch all the time because I am not a sun baby and will burn under fluorescent lights!

    I have to admit that I quick skimmed through the post to see if the dove hatched because I was hoping you wouldn't leave us hanging LOL. Then I went back and reread :D

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    1. Lori, I have English and Irish blood. I burn at the drop of a hat. I can teach you lots of tricks to not burn - I love the beach so much I've learned them all! :)

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  8. What a divine trip! I've been watching 'Caribbean Life' on HGTV recently and dreaming. :)

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    1. I dream about being there CONSTANTLY. Our friends are very generous and have told us we can go any time we want but unfortunately it still takes money and time off from work, darn it!

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  9. Oh man, so so beautiful. I am jealous!

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