Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dining in Grand Case..c'est magnifique!

The dining scene on St. Martin is well-known for being one of the most impressive and famous in the Caribbean. The island is considered by many food experts as being the food capital of the Caribbean. Although the island is just a mere 37 square miles, there are an astounding 400-plus restaurants to choose from! 

Although there are restaurants located all over the island, there is one town in particular that receives more accolades and dining praises than any other, which is Grand Case. This charming seaside village has been thrown into the international spotlight from its famous "restaurant row" where dozens of high end dining establishments line Boulevard de Grand Case. 

On a Tuesday evening during high season (January to April), we traveled by taxi to Grand Case after the Marigot Carnival parade. Boulevard de Grand Case was closed off to traffic due to the weekly Harmony Nights festival which involved a parade, musicians, street food, and local vendors. Tables for dining were set up along the streets for parade and people watching.

We ate at one of the local "lolos" or rib shacks.  All types of food is served. From BBQ ribs and chickens to grilled lobster, there is something to please every palate.

LA and I carefully checked out the menu and decided on BBQ ribs and chicken.

 And beer, or course. 

After dinner, we walked down the street and did some serious people watching. The French police made their presence known, but the crowd was very well behaved.

This street vendor sold homemade salad dressings, flavored vinegars and custom liquors in brightly colored hand-painted bottles.

Jewelry was a big attraction. This vendor was selling blue larimar pieces from the Dominican Republic.  I wasn't tempted as LA had already bought two pair of larimar earrings for me when we visited Puerto Plata in the DR.

French Crepes for dessert! Local ladies had a booth set up and it was a popular place. I waited in line for 20 minutes to get my order, Grand Marnier crepes.  I was determined to have authentic French crepes.  They were definitely worth waiting for! 

After visiting Grand Case during carnival, we definitely wanted to return to try one of the fine dining establishments on "restaurant row".  We secured reservations at the number one French restaurant on the island,  L’Auberge Gourmande. Located in the center of restaurant row in Grand Case, L’Auberge
Gourmande serves authentic French cuisine in an intimate dining room in one of the oldest Créole houses on the island. Lovingly remodeled in subtle browns and yellows, the wood and stone of the old house was a charming place to have a memorable night of dining.

We wondered how these restaurants obtain such fine food on a small island in the Caribbean. The trump card is a modern international airport well served by lots of direct flights from Europe and the United States. “So chefs here lack for nothing,” says Pascal Narme, owner and chef of L’Auberge Gourmande. “What was in the market in Paris in the morning can be here in the afternoon and on the table that night.”

We were seated inside the restaurant and served a complementary glass of champagne to begin the evening.  It was a lovely intimate atmosphere with local Caribbean art on the wall.  The friendly staff provided excellent service and recommended suggestions for our meal and wine. Freshly baked french bread and homemade butter complemented the meal.

The food...superb. LA had rack of lamb and I had apricot-pecan stuffed pork tenderloin. It was presented on lovely china specially made for the restaurant. 

Dessert was a sublime lemon tart with homemade mango sorbet. 

What a fabulous dining experience! We can see why this restaurant receives such high ratings! ...c'est magnifique!  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Happy in Sint Maarten!

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Down at the Sunset Grill...a thrill awaits!

Sunset Grill is one of the most popular beach bars in the Caribbean.  Why the thrill? Airplanes! Airplanes? Yes, airplanes!
Most people come to a Caribbean island to enjoy beaches, sun, drinks, and peace and solitude.  Sunset Grill on the island of St. Martin has a different kind of paradise waiting.  Yes, there's a beautiful white sandy beach (Maho Beach), sun (plenty!), drinks (think.. Jet Blast!), but definitely NOT peace or solitude.

Sunset Grill is one of the most unique beach bars in the world. No place in the world can people get so close to planes that they can almost touch the fuselage as the planes fly over the beach and come in for a landing at the Princess Juliana International Airport. Thrill seekers and aviation enthusiasts flock to the beach to drink, catch some rays, and feel the exhilaration of being in the shadow of a jumbo jet landing only 50 feet overhead. 

Near the end of the runway, the Sunset Bar and Grill is packed with people. We got there early (about an hour before lunchtime) so that we could get a good seat on the deck to watch the action. The bar starts filling up a little after noon, and that's when the fun begins.

The flight schedule for the day displays on a big computer screen near the bar. Anticipation builds as the crowd awaits the next landing.  We timed our bathroom breaks so we wouldn't miss a thing!

At first, we watched a few small prop planes arrive. No big thrill there...

And, we had a few drinks... 

and a few more...

We watched as bigger planes started landing and the crowd rushed to the beach, drink in one hand, camera or iPhone in the other. 

We were here to see the highlight of the day...the huge 300-ton KLM 747 jumbo jet arriving from Holland. Looking off into the distance, we saw it approaching! There was a palpable excitement in the crowd as people left the bar and streamed to the beach. Everyone wanted a photo of this!

The Thrill of the Day! Duck!

Camera ready, I snapped several sequential pictures to get the perfect shot. The KLM jumbo thrilled the onlookers on the beach coming in at 150 mph, only 50 feet over their heads.  Many people started ducking their heads out of excitement (or fear)!

But that’s only half the thrill. What comes down eventually has to go up! Every flight that lands, takes off within an hour. Here's the big KLM coming down the short runway (only 1.3 miles!) to begin its' takeoff.  

Doesn't anyone READ anymore??

However, only a thin, two-lane highway separates the beach from the runway, and that’s the real danger. There is a big warning sign near the fence, but no one seems to pay much attention to it.  

We watched from the safety of the deck as the more adventurous (or drunker) of the crowd hung on the fence, only 150 feet away from the tail of the airplane, waiting for take-off. anyone remembering that "extreme bodily harm and/or death" part of the sign?? Obviously not.

The massive jet engines started.  IT WAS SO LOUD!!!! The engines can easily produce winds of more than 100 mph. We saw the jet blast blowing people and sand into the water. 

This activity is not for the faint-hearted (or smart, in our opinion!). This gives a whole new meaning of going to the beach and getting sand in your bathing suit and...your eyes...your ears... and who knows where ELSE. Have fun, honeymooners!

The big KLM lifted off to the friendly skies of St. Martin heading back to Amsterdam...

Ready to return on another day and thrill the crowds once again!

This is LA and Susan, reporting in from the beautiful island of St. Martin. Sometimes, it's just fun being a tourist in paradise! 

More landings of the day... Until next time, y'all!