A Taste of French St. Martin

May 01, 2014 No Comments
Market at Marigot Harbot St. Maarten Market at Marigot Harbot St. Maarten

Marigot is the charming capital of French St. Martin. It’s about 15 minutes by car from Philipsburg, but the quiet village seems worlds away from its bustling Dutch sibling. The streets are lined with restored French-colonial buildings with colorful facades and rust-colored roofs that have retained much of their architectural authenticity. The town, founded around 1769, owes its name to the many swamps, or marigots, that once covered the area. The town grew rapidly throughout the 18th century thanks to the island’s thriving sugarcane industry.

Throughout Marigot, restored traditional Creole houses have been transformed into luxury boutiques. French designer shops line the town’s main street, Rue de la République, while the Marigot Market offers a variety of produce, spices, and crafts. Marigot also has many outdoor cafés that serve classic French dishes.

The town’s top attraction is the historic St. Martin Museum. The exhibitions showcase a journey through 5,000 years of the island’s history, highlighting the geography, marine life, and colonization. It all culminates with the collection of historic scenes from the early 20th century. Overlooking the Marigot Bay harbor sits Fort St. Louis, which was constructed in 1750 by the French as a defense against the plundering of Marigot’s warehouses for sugarcane, rum, and salt before the goods were exported. Though little remains of the original fortress, the views from the top are breathtaking.

To get a taste of the small island’s gastronomical highlights, visit the French-side town of Grand Case. It’s about 10 minutes by car from Marigot. Known as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean, Grand Case presents a veritable buffet of authentic French cafés and brasseries.

From casual lolos (small barbecue shacks along the beach where locals grill lobster, chicken, spareribs, and other meats) to five-star establishments, Grand Case’s restaurants serve fine French fare infused with island flavors.

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Discover the island’s history and landmarks during the scenic ride to Marigot, where you can explore the shops, quaint streets, and cafés at your leisure. The double-deck boat ride affords views of luxury villas and mega-yachts while enjoying music, live entertainment, and complimentary tropical drinks.

An inflatable motorboat is yours to command. Maneuver through the lagoon to Marigot and Fort Louis, overlooking the bay. Continue along the coastline toward Happy Bay for hiking, snorkeling, or relaxing on the beach.

Sail past St. Maarten’s picture-perfect seashore in a sleek catamaran, then snorkel in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Enjoy a pampered catamaran excursion to an unspoiled St. Maarten beach, reaching speeds of up to 20 knots. Swim, sun, and snorkel. Recharge on the return to Philipsburg with sandwiches and cold drinks served by the friendly crew.

The first stop: Cole Bay Hill for picturesque photo ops. Next, cross the border to Marigot and stroll through the quaint French capital. Continue through Grand Case to Orient Beach to enjoy a welcome drink, barbecue lunch, and lounge chair at the beach.

Relax on a guided tour to top attractions like the old French Quarter, Orient Beach, Grand Case, and Marigot. Stop at the international lookout point for photos. End in Philipsburg to explore the Dutch capital and shop, then continue on to the dock to return to the ship.

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