The St. Maarten Insider

Complicated Grocery Shopping

One tiny island, two countries and many shopping options, also for groceries. One would assume that the prices for staple foods are pretty even considering the fact that it is so easy for consumers to compare.

But there are not! While prices for groceries increased dramatically during the past decades on Dutch Sint Maarten, the French side welcomed a major international supermarket chain and can offer prices compatible to mainland Europe.

Check out the photos below, which compare prices for essentially the same product. You will find more examples of these huge differences if you are shopping both on the Dutch and French side.

mozarella-dutch-vs-french-markt

Enjoying Local Caribbean Food on the Island of St. Maarten - St. Martin

Music, paintings and writings are suppose to give us deep insights into a culture. The Caribbean is not short of major achievements in any of these art forms. 

But today I give you the art of preparing food: to understand the daily life of people you’d like to learn more about, find out what they are eating!

You heard that St. Maarten is the Caribbean’s gourmet island and that the island is basically crowded with first rate restaurants. Does that mean local residents check for Michelin stars before they order dinner? What are the local families eating at home? Budgetary considerations aside, what are the dishes St. Maarten-islanders like to prepare for themselves?

Our island is the ultimate melting pot (yes, this is a pun): The Dutch side is influenced by the history of the Dutch Kingdom, which included far away places such as Indonesia with its own distinct cuisine. For starters, this is where the peanut sauce came from which is frequently appreciated in local cooking. Or take Suriname in South America, another part of the Dutch empire: among the exotic items they like to prepare ‘down there’ is alligator tail - and you can find this delicacy sometimes locally served on a stick with a variety of sauces. 

But what came from Holland, other than Gouda cheese (which you are going to find in quantities)? Now, we have to be fair: the Dutch never, ever planned to compete with the French in cuisine (and they would not have succeeded anyway). But they gave us some comfort food which would fit right into the appetizer menu of TGI Friday’s, like Bitterballen or Frikandell. And if you are a Sushi lover, go for the original: Matjes Herring! (Don’t be shy on the onions...)

You’ll find true local eateries all over the island: from the Lolos in Grand Case to the small local restaurants at the waterfront in Marigot, from the snack shacks in Simpson Bay to the restaurants on Philipsburg’s Back Street. Rice and peas with chicken, grilled snapper, barbecued lobster... the choice is yours...

Local Food St Maarten

Caribbean’s Feisty Flavors is a catering service, delivering delicious local food for (Friday lunch only at this time) to any location on the island. 

The Captain’s Rib Shack in Simpson Bay has attracted a huge following from both visitors and locals. Their menu items exceed the concept of a rib-BBQ by far with a broad selection of other Caribbean dishes.

The Melting Pot is a restaurant in Simpson Bay/Cole Bay - across the Atrium Beach Resort and Spa.

Summer Weather Has Arrived

There is no distinct difference between the seasons in the Caribbean for the casual visitor. It is more the island residents who notice: in Winter, the trade winds are a bit stronger and they tend to come out of the North East. During the Summer months, wind is light and expected to come out of the South East.

sunset-maho-beach-april

Day temperatures in Winter tend to be in the mid-eighties, while Summer might bring them into the nineties - but never as hot as the South of the US. If the thermometer in Winter dips into the upper seventies, this is considered very chilly weather indeed! Sweaters and jackets come out.

St. Maarten - St. Martin is still 1200 miles North of the equator, so it is noticeable that sunsets are wandering along the horizon with the seasons. The image published today has been shot at Maho Beach and it will be one of the last opportunities to see the sun setting in the Ocean from there for the next few months. Within a few days, the sun will be hidden by the buildings of the Sonesta Resort.

Seventies/Eighties Disco Night a The Dock in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

Remember the old wooden ship called 'Lady C'? Long time visitors and island residents have fond memories of this great floating party spot. Unfortunately, wooden boats don't stay above water forever and now, Lady C has been gone for a few years...

The-Dock-at-Pizza-Galley-St-Maarten--Disco-Night-8

The good news is that JP, propritor of renowned pizza restaurant 'Pizza Galley' and 'The Dock' brings the spirit of Lady C back to the waterfront - right at the very same spot! 'The Dock' even features memorabilia of the ship.

The-Dock-at-Pizza-Galley-St-Maarten--Disco-Night-1

Every last Saturday of the month is 70/80s Disco Night, with a DJ featuring anything from ABBA to the Village People. The recent party we visited was a huge success, with a cosmopolitan crowd where some even dressed the part.

St. Maarten - St. Martin's Second Airport

Princess Juliana International Airport is an amazing hub - especially considering the tiny size of Sint Maarten. With frequent flight to the USA, Canada, non-stop trans-Atlantic flights to Paris and Amsterdam and connections to all of Latin America, this airport has developed into the second busiest after Puerto Rico (with its huge capital of San Juan). SXM (as is is code) connects to all other Antillean islands as well.

But did you know that French St. Martin has its own, small but competent airport? With connection to Europe, the USA and other countries?

L'Esperance Airport in Grand Case

L' Esperance Airport is located next to the town of Grand Case. Most flights connect through Guadeloupe, which is only a short hop away. If you can't find reasonable priced air fare either coming from North America or Europe to Princess Juliana International Airport, search alternatively for connections through Point-a-Pitre (the capital of Guadeloupe). We have seen instances where the airfare was HALF of the rates for SXM!

L'Esperance Airport Check In

L'Esperance Airport

 

Understanding Island Dogs

Meet ten week old Lola - a puppy of unknown pedigree, who was almost killed by four sadistic teenage boys and rescued at the last moment.

Puppy Lola

Lola was lucky, because she found a foster home and is now safe, loved and well cared for. (Any body looking for a sweet puppy out there?) Her story is a good starting point into the amazingly complex topic of 'island dogs'.

Visitors to St. Maarten/St. Martin often voice concern over the many stray dogs they see, assuming they are homeless. But it's not that easy...

First: Dogs here have more freedom to roam about. Part of this relaxed attitude is the island's European background, where dogs traditionally are given more independence 'to do their thing'. Dogs which are accustomed to be unleashed are getting quite mature regarding the freedom granted; they learn to go about their business and return home reliably. They don't get in too many fights, don't bother people and watch out for traffic.

Here on the island is also the uncared-for dog: this dog might believe that it has a home, and some person actually asserts to own this dog, but this owner is utterly indifferent to the well being of the animal, doesn't feed it enough, no medial care, not much attention given to its needs. And most certainly never, ever allowed into the house. Frequently, these dogs are on a chain. They live the saddest live.

Finally we have the true street dogs: they grow up wild, they have no neural imprint to accept or search for human contact and live their live in packs, spending much of the days in the bushes and roaming about mostly at night. Food doesn't seem as much of a problem to them as fresh water and this is the reason they like to hang around villas with pool, so that they can sneak in at night and drink. These dogs are very shy; some run away at the sight of a human, some allow a distance of 10 meters, others a bit closer - but never close enough to be touched. They are not aggressive; yet if captured, they usually can not be turned into a pet. They are uncomfortable to be confined to a single property, even if somewhat 'tamed', they will run away at the earliest possibility and join their pack again. It is fascinating to see that even their litters will not accept humans: puppies with only 4 weeks of age use their tiny teeth and all power they have to fight from being taken.

St. Maarten/St. Martin has an active scene of volunteers assisting animals. The Animal Welfare Foundation is doing fantastic work, by trapping wild dogs, having them spayed or neutered - the procedures performed for free by the islands veterinarians. Even medical emergencies are handled without charge on injured 'wild' dogs! Understanding the nature of these independent animals, they are released back into freedom to live their lives as they prefer - as long as they don't multiply. Food is provided for these animals on a daily basis.

The concern of the Animal Foundation is not to remove dogs from the street and to domesticate them, but to ascertain that their uncontrolled breeding stops. They have succeeded in limiting the growth of the population, but they need everyones support to continue their good work.

http://sxmanimalwelfare.org

https://www.facebook.com/StMaarten-Animal-Welfare-Foundation-270373812975726/