The Friendly Island

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We had just gotten married, it was February, and about to snow in Knoxville. But not for another night or two. The first few duties of married life for me included moving out of my old place and shampooing carpet. For all you at home - just hire a guy to shampoo it rather than doing it yourself. Time is money. Give someone else money for the time you would otherwise spend shampooing carpet.

Anyway, we took off for our honeymoon a few days after the actual wedding, for beautiful St. Martin! Or Sint Maarten, depending on how you want to say it. The island is one of the few in the Caribbean that are split nationalities. Haiti and the Dominican Republic make up Hispaniola, and on St. Martin the island is split 60/40 between France and the Dutch. It's also much friendlier - reflected in the car tags, too, which read "The Friendly Island."

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Our destination would be the Grand Case Beach Club, a few rows of condos behind gates on the French side of the island. Cocktail hour happened almost straight upon arrival - strong rum punch and snacks like crudités, ceviche and olives and fruit.

Most of the crowd was not what you would consider much younger than middle-aged. But we were there for other purposes, being on a honeymoon and all. We were chasing the obvious (and the beds are comfortable and quiet, yes), but also some sun, a beach and good food. Fortunately the hotel is located walking distance from a foodie's dream row in Grand Case - what they self-proclaim as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean.

 Seating by the water at L'Effet Mer   

Seating by the water at L'Effet Mer

 

On our first night we ate at Le Pressoir, in an old house across from the salt press - hence the name. I had a vanilla-crusted tuna steak that was out of this world. The meaty richness and light ocean flavors paired well with the charred vanilla exterior. I'd fly back just to have it again. Also - my French is not good, but I try.

On night two, it was L'Effet Mer, on a patio over water. The most striking part of that place was having the water roll in under our chairs on the patio that hung out over the sea. We also watched a couple of people smoke a joint on the dock nearby and down some tequila. Another exceptional meal, and the open-air, beachside seating is unique. The place was somewhat warm, but fans kept the air moving. And yes, the food was well-prepared French cuisine with special attention to the flavors of the tropic and fresh seafood.

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We also checked out Orient Beach. We saw naked people. (There's one in the background of the picture at left - check the sideboob.) I downed Presidente beer under an umbrella and watched the white, and really tan nakey folks walk by. Here's the thing, though: The people you actually would want to see naked never get naked. Bummer. And I kept my shorts on because nobody wants to see that.

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Here we're at the Grand Case resort again, on a short boardwalk over water. They have plenty of places to sit outside and let the ocean spray hit you while you read, draw or just let life roll by. Truly relaxing. One of my happy places is the morning I hung out in a hammock with a magazine in 80 degree temps with a little breeze rattling the palm trees overhead. A pretty paradise - but that's what the point of a resort is, right? That bruise on my arm is from the doggone carpet shampoo machine.

The final day of our stay took us up to Phillipsburg. We had a time to kill before boarding the ship, so we shopped. I bought duty-free rum at a dockside stores and Lauren picked up a pair of sunglasses. Her shades were knocked off by a giant wave at the nude beach. It's pretty hard to look at naked people when you don't have shades. Not that she would do that, anyway. Or me, either. No way. Not at all.

 The view off the Blue Bitch Bar balcony (see what I did there?)

The view off the Blue Bitch Bar balcony (see what I did there?)

We dropped in to have some lunch at a place where I didn't expect much from the food. I was mistaken. This Blue Bitch Bar looked inexpensive and quick, and it was both of those things. The name was corny, but it's the beach, and you let some things go. So we dropped in for a quick bite. Then there was the curry.

This curry was coconut, and spiced but not spicy, unlike any curry I've had before.  I wanted to lick the plate. Afterward we asked for the recipe and were nearly laughed out of the place. Service was neither slow nor quick, even as we sat somewhat apart from the rest of the people during some kind of off-hours in the afternoon.

The curry wasn't heavy, as some curries tend to be. I could put this on an old shoe and I'd chew on it like a puppy all afternoon.

The waitress told us that it was a Dominican recipe. I have no idea what that meant.

Later I would find out more about how to make it at home. The secret? Some damn ketchup. How about that? There's got to be something else to it.