It was my first full day in St. Martin and it was packed full of activity. The tourism board for the Dutch side wanted to make sure that we had a good look at all of the island.
I started with a good night’s sleep and a great healthy breakfast from the buffet at the Westin Dawn Beach. I sat outside at the Ocean Restaurant to get my first glimpse of the Caribbean Sea before the rest of the group of journalists came down and we piled into the van.
We took a scenic ride to Orient Beach on the French side. It was one of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches I have seen and also includes a nude side for those who are so inclined. We had about a half hour to gaze at the turquoise water and I enjoyed every moment of it (along with the near 80 degree weather).
We stayed on the French side for a while and got to walk around the town of Marigot, which included stores, French style cafes, and a great market. The market went for miles and sold jewelry, clothes and even a selection of native spices. Also in Marigot is the ferry that can take you right over to the islands of Anguilla and St. Barth for a day trip.
On the way back to the Dutch side – an easy transition since there is no patrolled border – we drove through the picturesque town of Grand Case, followed by a quick look at Porto Cupecoy. This new development houses the only Dior Spa in the Caribbean and will soon include a large mall filled with designer stores.
Lunch was in the Simpson Bay area at a local place called Clo’s Hot Spot. We had a choice of Honey Barbecue Chicken, Seafood or Goat. I enjoyed the chicken with some Passion Fruit Juice while Chef “Berdy” Charles told us about the island he has made home and how it differs from his native St. Lucia.
After lunch we went to the center city of St. Martin, Phillipsburg. The streets were lined with stores (mostly fine jewelry), but we only made one stop. It was the Guavaberry Emporium that I had been looking forward to all day. I had heard a lot about this spirit and how it had led to a variety of flavors that people came from all over to purchase.
I was able to taste the Guavaberry products, all of which are rum based. The distillery is actually in the back of the shop and uses fruit that comes mostly from Dominica. Deita, who came to the island from New Jersey 30 years ago, led us through the tasting.
The original Guavaberry rum is slightly sweet and very flavorful. It is often used on the island in a Guavaberry Colada, a delicious version of the Pina Colada. The Passion Fruit and Lime Flavors were alright, but the Mango, Orange and Almond were really great. Although I didn’t like the Vanilla that much on their own, Dieta pointed out how delicious it is for baking, with a truer flavor than vanilla extract.
The Guavaberry Emporium also makes Republic Rum in five year old and eight year old versions. It’s a much different taste from rum I am used to.
After the tour, one of the other journalists and I went to the Hibiscus Spa back at the Westin. I enjoyed the steam room before heading into one of the nicest relaxation rooms I have seen at a spa. It was huge and had plenty of teas, water and fruit. There was also a menu of light fare if you wanted to spend more time there. I had an excellent body massage with Donna and really appreciated the finish with a eucalyptus facial massage.
I had a little bit of time to relax before dinner at Westin’s Aura Restaurant. At first I was concerned that there wasn’t much for me to eat with the heavy seafood menu, but it turned out that I had more than enough. While the group devoured the Shrimp Cocktails, Tuna and Crab cakes, I enjoyed an Onion Soup Au Gratin (with a Bertrania Sauvignon Blanc-Pinot Grigio blend).
The Pork Chops were pretty good, but it was the side dishes that we all raved about. The Potatoes Au Gratin, Asparagus Hollandaise and Truffle Macaroni and Cheese were all so good that we ordered more. We were all so full that we hardly touched the desserts.
We ended the evening with a bottle of Prosecco as we met a group from New Jersey who had come down for the week. We couldn’t stay out late, though, because we had another busy day in St. Martin ahead of us.