The northern part of this twin-nation island is 20 square miles of French territory with a strikingly French way of life. The two parts of this popular resort island have some things in common - the weather is excellent, as are the beaches, hotels and restaurants.
In St Martin visitors know at once that they are in the Gallic Caribbean. The currency, the language, the goods in the shops, the escargots and frog`s legs in the restaurants and the pastries and breads in the bakeries, the cars, the fashions and the sheer style - it’s all unashamedly French.
At the centre of a spectacular bay in the small capital town of Marigot there are no fewer than 50 restaurants, and as many shops where you can take advantage of the town’s tax-free status. You can save 25-50 per cent on American prices when you buy perfume, china, crystal, jewellery and European clothes. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, stalls selling local art, crafts and food fill the squares.
There are other settlements to explore and enjoy. Grand Case, for example, has French, Italian, Vietnamese and West Indian restaurants that have made the town one of the gourmet centers of the Caribbean
Away from the busy towns, visitors will find a wide choice of breathtakingly beautiful beaches and bays, some of them popular and lively, others quiet and secluded. Some can only be reached by boat.
Entertainment comes in the form of organized parties at some of the larger resorts, and discos at some of the restaurants, but mostly you’ll find music - in the form of reggae bands and piano players - in the bars and bistros.
Scuba divers, anglers, sailors, surfers and hikers are all catered for, though gamblers are not. There are no casinos in French St Martin but that’s not a problem - if you want a turn at the tables, take the short trip, in courtesy cars provided by the hotels, to the Dutch side of the island, which has 12 of them. Vive la difference!