Tuesday, January 20, 2015

St. Maarten, Wednesday 11/19/14

Today was our day in St. Maarten! With the pretty much perfect day we had in St. Thomas, could this day compare? Keith and I had been to St. Maarten a few years back on the Eclipse cruise, but I felt like on that day we didn't really get a good feel for the island. We did a land/sea type excursion. I think it was one where you drive the jeeps and then drive the little speed boats and maybe snorkel? I know we had a blast! And while we did drive across the island, I don't feel like we "saw" the island! I'm pretty sure that time we did have some short beach time, which I'm sure was great - but this time, I wanted to actually get a feel for St. Maarten/St. Martin itself! I'd always been intrigued by this two country little place!

So, I booked an island tour with Bernard's tours. I picked the one that had some time in Marigot as well as about 2 hours at a beach. Originally the scheduled beach was supposed to be Orient Beach, but this was shortly after the hurricane and I think the beach and the bars or area around it just wasn't the standard that Bernard's tours wanted to take us to. 

It was again, another early morning and today, Megan just didn't feel well, she says. Honestly, I think she wanted to sleep in. Or maybe it was just a bit too much Qsine last night! There really was a LOT of food! So, after a long discussion Keith decided he would stay back on the ship with her - he was actually looking forward to a day with most people off of the ship and relaxing...and Alex and I would go to St. Maarten by ourselves. I was a bit disappointed, but Alex and I really have a great time when we travel together. As far as the four of us in our family, Alex and I probably have the most similar vacation styles when it comes to exploring, touring, types of vacations....that type of thing - so I knew we'd have a pretty great mom/son day!

We got off the ship and were to meet our guide as early as possible to start the tour. 

We walked by the St. Maarten sign and found where the private tours were meeting

And were given a sticker to indicate which tour we were on....the 1 hour beach or the 2 hour beach, and then went to wait for everyone to arrive. Interestingly everyone was actually on the same tour. So if you did the 1 or 2 hour beach, the rest of the tour was exactly the same. The only difference was the beach time. It seemed to me in reading the descriptions there were other differences, such as the amount of shopping time...but no big deal, the tour was still good! Alex again, felt like it was a "grown up tour"....Here we were docked right next to I think the Oasis...and not one family with kids was on our tour! There was a family with some older teens, but everyone else was adults. And I think it made him a bit uncomfortable since there is free flowing beer and whatever they call their island punch being passed about. Of course there's water, and it was by no means a "party" atmosphere, but I think he may have felt just a little out of place. Had Megan come, he may have felt a little more comfortable. That being said, it's odd because he does tend to relate a bit better to adults than kids at times, so go figure!

Anyway....I didn't take notes, so I don't remember the name of our guide, but he was very good and we all piled on our little bus. Maybe 25 people or so. We started driving and he told us about the island and the history and just talked freely about what we were seeing and his life. I like a talkative guide. To me, it helps to get to know the place you are visiting.

He told us about crossing freely from one country to the other, as we crossed into the French side

And we stopped at one point to take some pictures at a higher point on the island with nice views

Next we stopped at what might have been Oyster Pond??? I'm not sure. I'm just looking at our itinerary now and guessing. But it was a beachy area. Before we left the port our guide told us we would have the opportunity to see some sea "creatures"...like urchins, star fish, things like that. That he has someone on the beach that we can visit with and he will show them to us. This should have been that stop. When we got off the bus, I know the guide said something like "oh, I don't see xx down at his spot"...

Now, it was a really pretty area, with a look out platform. We stopped for about 5, maybe 10 minutes. Took some pictures and got back on the bus.

You may be able to see up there on the hill...there's a goat - I don't know if it was a random goat, or if there was a farm of sorts, but there were a few up on that hill.

Looks like a better picture of the goats!

So, I took this picture from a distance, didn't really know what I was taking a picture of, thought it was "picturesque"...

Anyway....at a later stop, I ask our driver when we'll get to see the sea life? he says...oh, that was back at the scenic beach. Calvin was there, you had to go find him and he would show you all kinds of things. REALLY???? Well, first, maybe he could have told us about "Calvin"...instead of just mumbling something when we got off the bus. And then while we were there, if Calvin was really there, maybe he should have called us over. I know it sounds a bit petty, but if he was going to mention it when we got on the bus to start the tour - and really, he talked it up! Then when we get to Calvin and his sea creatures - please tell us! First, as I may have mentioned...I love all things ocean. And second, this would have been a teen friendly part of the tour for my teen who had now been sitting in a bus while the adults were passing a jug of some rum punch around! 

So, if there was one minor complaint about the tour, and it really is minor - that would be it. I felt a bit of lack of communication there.


Next we drove by some iguanas...they used to take their tour to an iguana farm, but that is no longer part of the tour. I've heard it's under construction or also that it's in bad condition. So the replacement is to do an "Iguana Drive By"....kind of funny. 

Both Alex and I are reptile fans- imagine that! Animal lovers that we are! Alex actually has a pet Chinese Water Dragon. Sounds more ferocious than he is. He's actually a very friendly, not too big lizard - much smaller than an iguana. So, we like the lizard stops - but it was kind of funny to actually pull over on the road to take pictures - when they are found almost everywhere in the Caribbean!

But they did have the cool orange ones!

And another picture stop...not the prettiest view, but it was a "sweeping" view!

And a shipwreck in the ocean

We definitely were enjoying our morning so far!  Next we'd be stopping in Marigot, the French Marketplace.....

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