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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Feel a rush of pure adrenaline as you power through St. Maarten’s pristine waters aboard a two-man Rhino Rider. Afterwards, relax beneath a swaying palm or snorkel among colorful fish at the reef in Happy Bay.

Travel along the French coast to Orient Beach. Bask in the sun, lounge beneath a coconut palm, and cool off in the cerulean sea. Then head to the beach bar for lunch. On the way back, stop in Philipsburg for some leisurely shopping.

Boat over to Grand Case, known for rich gourmet cuisine and culture. Experience the French village atmosphere, explore shops, galleries, and the local nightlife. Savor delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks at one of Grand Case’s restaurants.

Hop aboard the double-decker boat for a fun-filled, narrated cruise along Simpson Bay Lagoon. Enjoy complimentary drinks and lively music on your way to Marigot. Discover the charming village of Grand Case, the beach of Orient Bay, the Rum Factory, and Fort Louis.

Visit the Simpson Bay Lagoon fish market with the onboard chef to source fresh-caught ingredients. Enjoy a cooking demo and travel to Marigot to uncover spices, herbs, and produce at a Caribbean market. Journey to Grand Case for a restaurant meal, then join the chef for a tour of the ship’s galley, followed by a dinner inspired by island flavors.

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