St Martin-A Piece Of Europe In The Caribbean
There is no place in the world like St Martin (or St Maarten if you’re from the Dutch side of the island as opposed to the French). This fascinating little island is the smallest island to have ever been divided between two different nations. St Martin has been shared between the French and Dutch for 350 years and both sides have continued to live in harmony and friendship since their divide. Despite the island being split into two halves, the border is almost entirely unnoticeable and most people cross over without ever noticing the difference. Each side has however, managed to retain much of the distinct characteristics that make each national culture unique.
Before You Go…
Surprisingly, St. Martin is in fact considered to be part of the European Union so EU members do not require a visa to visit. Similarly, it’s also important to take your EHIC card with you as you will be entitled to free or reduced cost healthcare, as you would if you were visiting any other European country.
The French Side
The French side is considered to be the more refined and sophisticated, boasting an array of fabulous fresh seafood restaurants and high class shopping. The beaches on the French side of the island are world-class; fine white sands and crystal clear waters surrounded by palm trees and dotted with lo-lo’s. A lo-lo is a barbeque restaurant tucked away into shaded beach corners and hey offer fabulously authentic food cooked by locals at great value. The currency on the French side is the Euro, making it one of the most affordable of the Caribbean islands. While most people speak English on the island, the French side does tend to choose to speak French first.
The Dutch Side
The Dutch side is considered to be livelier than the French, due to its abundance of nightclubs, bars and casinos, particularly near Maho and Simpson Bay. A must- visit on the Dutch side is Maho Beach, where you can stand among the crowd and watch the planes land above your head- a truly exhilarating and somewhat terrifying experience! This side of the island is far more westernised and there is a distinct American influence (St Martin is a very popular destination for America’s and Canadians due to the close proximity of the island to them). Philipsburg, the capital of St Martin, is situated on this side of the island houses a massive port and much of this area heavily caters to the cruise ship industry.
The beautifully eclectic nature of St Martin makes it one of the most exciting of all European destinations, particularly due to its exotic climate and impeccable food and beaches. Its nickname, ‘The Friendly Island’, certainly rings true as all visitors go home having fallen in love with the island and it’s genuinely kind and happy population. Whether you love dancing and fantastic nightlife or a food fanatic who would rather be slurping on fresh coconut juice by the sea, St Martin will have something for everyone.