Monday, June 2, 2014

Vacation, St. Martin: Shopping for Tsotchkes

Before I get into Shelley's shopping post, I would like to thank you all for your very thoughtful responses to my What To Do? post.  A number of you hit it on the head:  I'm afraid if I join this challenge, it will steal the joy and freedom I've found of late and I'm not sure I can keep all that separate in my head.  I'll admit I'm not losing much weight BUT I'm not gaining either and I'm finding peace there that I've never felt before. Yes Shelley, my head is full of nutritional information and I could honestly teach a weight loss class (in fact, I have) so perhaps I don't need what this coach has to offer... except I found out her specialty is stress reduction as it relates to eating.  (My doctor has been telling me for the last 5 years that I need to work on stress reduction.) So when Lori says the hard part is doing, I agree, because I know too well it's easy to overeat good, healthy food.  I think I'm also drawn to the fact that I could tell her that I'm hypothyroid and been trying to lose the same 40 pounds for 8 years now without lasting success.  I'm interested to see what she would come up with eating wise because for me at least, calories in/out doesn't always work.  And yes, the yoga is a great deal.  Right now the summer special is $300 for June/July/August.  I would get that 'free' for the $35 enrollment fee to the Challenge.  I have until Thursday to decide so I'll keep you posted as I'm still thinking hard about what I want to do.


So you know, there's a difference between shopping and buying, right?  Every single trip we've taken, I've done a lot of shopping but as the years have passed, I've become quite picky about what I actually buy. We've done and done again the whole t-shirt/hat/keyring thing - for ourselves and for other people too.  At this point, I'm looking for unique items - or things I just would never find here in the USA.  Perhaps because of that, I didn't buy as much as I shopped this year, but each purchase was really fun!

On our anniversary, one of the stops was at Le Ti Shop - one of my favorite shops and also favorite buildings in Grand Case.  They have things that cost 50 cents and they have things that cost 100 dollars but nearly all of their things are hand made.This year, the only thing I bought was a necklace for Mr. Helen.  He likes to wear things like this to beach so I knew he'd enjoy it.  Though I shopped a lot in Grand Case as usual, very unusally I did not buy anything at Sexy Fruits this year.

Here I am waiting a rain shower out on their porch - not a bad place to wait...

This is Mr. Helen's tsotchke - he loved it.

We also bought a few things from beach vendors.  As you sit sunning, people walk by and offer you all sorts of things from beach towels and hats to music.  It's crazy.  We generally ignore them, but this year we bought a few things.  If you're discriminating you can find some really good stuff at a decent price.

The sweetest vendor ever, Olivia, who lives in St. Martin with her daughter Zia, convinced Mr. Helen that this was the jewelry he should buy me this year.  I admit, I love it - very unique. Unique enough that the next time we go there, I'm buying a necklace. Olivia goes on buying trips to South America to get this jewelry so it's not island made. And again I feel like an American fool as this beautiful woman speaks fluent Dutch, English and Spanish, along with her native French.

Mr. Helen's new island girlfriend Olivia, modeling one of her necklaces.

I got earrings and an ankle bracelet

These earrings are in plastic because they will be a gift. But I bought them from another beach vendor.  The second photo is all the necklaces she had put out on my leg trying to sell me one - but I have one similar from a previous trip so I only wanted the earrings for a gift.

We went to Phillipsburg one day - that's the port where all the cruise ships come in so there are a bunch of stores. It is especially known for the jewelry stores and Mr. Helen bought me my diamond "engagement" ring when we went there for our 10th Anniversary.  There are also a lot of duty free liquor and cigar stores, table cloth stores (which sell the most gorgeous linens) and a whole section of Front Street is dedicated to designer stores like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, etc. Of course there are also touristy t-shirt stores and miscellaneous souvenir stores.  I bought this bag, that lists all the French beaches on one side and Dutch beaches on the other. Though it could be used as a beach bag,  I'm carrying it as an all purpose bag for work this summer.  I also bought this adorable change purse from one of the linen stores, also a gift.

Here are the purchases from the Marigot Wednesday/Saturday market.  There is actually a lot of touristy stuff here also - again, been there, done that.  I was looking for unique and sentimental things. In particular, I was hoping the lady who did the tiles was there.  I keep these tiles on my kitchen window sill, particularly enjoying them in the dead of winter.

This is the original tile I bought two years ago during our 20th anniversary,  I just love the gold flecks on the tiles.  This one is called "love birds."  Do you see the people holding hands right in the center?

The two tiles I bought this year are a depiction of the sunset at Grand Case with Creole Rock in the background and the beautiful roofs in Orient Village looking out to Orient Beach.

I also found this beautiful hand made glass necklace which will go with so many of my summer outfits!

I also bought a couple of these cute wind chimes - one to put up to enjoy on our patio and the other I gave to my neighbor as a thank you for watching over our house.

My last market purchase was the bag of Colombo from one of the spice vendors.  It's a type of curry that I've only ever found in St. Martin and I love it.

I thought that was going to be it for my buying but one day towards the end of the trip when it was raining off and on we decided to do our annual drive around the whole island.  Around the corner from where we stayed there is a small group of shops and a restaurant called Paradise View.  We've driven by it for years but this time I asked Mr. Helen to pull in.  It's too bad it was raining because the view is beautiful and rain tends to dull the colors but it's the same view from one of my tiles!

There are only 3 shops and a restaurant there but I looked around a bit and saw these adorable bird houses. I didn't buy one but next time I will get one of those for my neighbor.

I did however find another set of earrings, made from abalone shell and perfect for summer. They also go well with my starfish necklace.  Interestingly enough these were half the price of the ones I bought from the beach vendor, so guess where I'm buying earrings next time?

And my final purchase was exactly the one you hoped I'd get Shelley - one of the hand painted rum bottles. They sell them in glass and plastic so I chose the plastic since I planned to travel with it.  No I didn't drink it there, I wrapped it up tight and put it in my checked luggage and brought it home.  One of these summer nights we'll crack it open after dinner and have a small shot of it, reminding us of fancy French meals and our beautiful vacation!

Passion fruit flavor


  1. The jewelry is really cool!!!!!!!

  2. Hurray, a shopping post on my birthday! What a treat!! Love what you ended up buying and I absolutely get being more discriminating with what you chose. I think that bag will be so fun for you all summer, and might (MIGHT) make going into work less humdrum, as you carry that bag in. Love those earrings (both pairs) and yeah, you might have paid a little more on the beach, but where else does someone lay out their wares on your body?? LOL

    So glad you got a painted bottle to bring home...even better that you can still taste the island with a shot of rum every now and then. :)

    As far as that challenge, if the woman offers good stress management/diet tips, you might get something from it. If it ends up stressing you out, you can quietly drop out of that portion (just mention that's your version of stress management, haha) and keep going to the yoga. But don't let it mess up the good vibe you've got going with your balancing life right now.

    1. Well then consider this a birthday gift LOL!

  3. I don't own a lot of jewelry, but I LOVE those earrings in all the shades of blue - my favorite color!

    And while I don't buy much either, I love "shopping" - looking at stuff, touching it, etc. Happy Monday Helen!

    1. I'm funny about shopping when not buying - I really have to be in the mood for it. But I always seem to be in the mood on vacation :)

  4. LOVE that jewellery, and the fact Mr. Helen has an "island girlfriend". Fun!

    1. He was captivated by her, it really was funny. But good for me because that means next time a new necklace will be mine bwhahahaha!

  5. I love the tiles - the colors are gorgeous! I am like you with shopping. I really like to get stuff that is local and unique to an area and not so touristy.

  6. Vacation shopping is so much fun! You got some really nice things. I also love the tiles!

  7. Love all the things that you bought! Especially the colors, so bright and joyful.

    Your other post and the first paragraph got me thinking last night and today and ended up in me cancelling my WW subscription per July 3. The WW @work lasts till July 15 and I'm going to finish that but paying for keeping track is useless if you do that 3 days a week and the other 4 you don't and you still lose a little weight every week. I thought about your approach and came to the conclusion that I'm already doing that too and it works.

    1. I'm glad whatever I wrote helped you think it through Fran. It's a constant commitment to try and figure out what works, isn't it?

  8. My sister and I bought earrings from the vendor on the beach with the necklaces (on your leg) in May. She was so incredibly charming, and is originally from Paris! I wish she had necklaces the day we were there.