I found writing part 2 of my St. Martin trip tips to be extremely difficult!! The cold snap we just had here in the South has me daydreaming of 84 degree days spent on white sandy beaches by turquoise water, while washing buttery croissants down with a café au lait. C’est la vie.
When traveling to St. Martin, advanced planning for a car rental is a must. I think ours ended up being like $150 for a week. The cars are the size of shoeboxes and people drive a little bit crazy. You have to figure, there are all sorts of cultures with all sorts of different driving rules smashing (hopefully not literally) together on this island from all over the world.
I navigated and The Hubs drove. THANK GOODNESS, because I curled my toes, closed my eyes, and pumped my imaginary break on the passenger’s side on many of our daily trips through the roundabout to Grand Case! They do not have stoplights, only roundabouts, where driving with cajones (or plain old East-side Deetroit driving) comes in handy. Also, streets are not very well marked, so if you didn’t opt for the additional cost of the garmin navigation, instinct and the crappy map they’ll give at the car rental place works best. The island is only 35 miles round, let’s face it, you can’t get THAT lost.
I mentioned in the last post that you shouldn’t bother with a big American breakfast in a restaurant. We found we preferred not to bother with lunch in a restaurant either, saving all our pennies for the savory but pricey French dinners in Grand Case. The island is dotted with grocery stores, some large, some small, where gourmet lunch fixin’s can be purchased and a crusty French baguette is always available at the check out line.
The “Friendly Market” down the road from Grand Case had an amazing selection of French bread baguettes, artisan cheeses, and cured meats. This is the part in the post where I would urge you to refresh your high school French, particularly if there was chapter on purchasing cheese and meat. The butcher himself was organizing the salami in the meat case and he started firing at me in rapid French, telling me about the differences between all the meats (I think). After clumsily explaining to him I didn’t speak French (zuhay nay pare-lay pass fran-say!), he mercifully found I knew what “herbs” meant and I quickly decided upon the herb encrusted salami. When a French man says the word “herbs” it is like he wraps his whole mouth around the word, rolling it around a bit before uttering “air-bis” aloud. Brush up on your French phrases, the locals appreciate it and it makes purchasing charcuterie easier.
If you aren’t in the mood for braving the grocery store but also do not want to spend a ton on lunch, we found the lolos in Grand Case were a good option. A lolo in St. Martin is an outdoor restaurant close to the ocean that serves local fare. Your first instinct will be to head for the lolos closest to the ocean for the breathtaking view, but we found the best ones in Grand Case were closest to the street, mainly Talk of the Town and Sky’s the Limit. For $20, two people can enjoy local Caribbean cuisine; conch stew, BBQ ribs or chicken, and spicy creole shrimp with sides like red beans with dirty rice and fried plantains. Our favorite lolo we found was Enoch’s in Marigot. I’m not 100% positive it is a lolo, as it was a bit more expensive than the lolos in Grand Case, but it was outside and we ate local fare.
As a reformed former picky eating person, I ate all sorts of crazy food at Enoch’s! Conch stew, check. Oxtail stew, check! The best thing, however, were the ribs. Sugary glazed crust on the outside, with tender meat falling effortlessly off the bone. The hubs enjoyed the ribs immensely!
The oxtail stew looks intimidating and a little bit scary, but the meat was tender and flavored with beefy rich bone marrow.
The conch was not my favorite, mostly because of texture. The flavor was good, curry, onions, cumin, and coconut, but I couldn’t get past the rubbery, slimy texture.
We washed down the island food with many Carib beers. Garnished with a lime, Carib is sort of like Corona but has a higher alcohol content (5.2%!) and more flavor. It’s a crisp, refreshing lager that was very easy to drink while lounging ocean-side. We noticed the French tourists drank a lot of El Presidente pilsner from the Dominican Republic. I tried the president and didn’t like it as much as the Carib, probably because it is not served with a lime.
Lastly, we did do one touristy thing… we visited the Butterfly Farm just north of Orient Beach. I am deathly afraid of bugs, (yes, even butterflies as they are still bugs with pretty wings). To be enclosed in a net where the bugs fly freely at your face was something for me to bravely endure. I knew the colors would be good for photo ops, and here are some of the best results.
Overall, we learned a lot more about the island this trip. Croissants and café au lait for breakfast, grocery store cheese, meat, and crackers for lunch with a side of French baguette, and fancy French it up for dinner. Next year we also want to try Pinel Island. We simply didn’t make it there due to all the relaxing and Carib-drinking. Salut!