Sunday, June 22, 2014

Marigot: The French Capital of Saint Martin: Hiking and...Wine?

Map Credit: Wikipedia
On March 23, 1648, the Treaty of Concordia established the terms of peaceful co-existence between the French and Dutch settlements of St. Martin/St. Maarten, with the French colonizers maintaining the Northern two-thirds (Saint Martin), facing Anguilla, and the Dutch, the southern third (Sint Maarten).

Supposedly, this is how the Dutch and French partitioned the island:  The two groups held a contest. Starting at Oysterpond on the east coast, they would walk westwards -- the French along the northern edge, the Dutch along the southern -- and where they met they would draw a dividing line across the island. The French set off, having fortified themselves with wine, the Dutch with gin. The ill effects of the gin, however, caused the Dutchmen to stop along the way to sleep off their drunk; consequently, the French were able to cover a much greater distance. 

Quite a story, isn't it? Well, I'm not so sure about this! Some of our cruising friends are Dutch, and I must say that I would put them up against any Frenchman in the drinking category!

L. to R.: John Hoedemakers (Dutch), Stacy Foree (American), Rene Foree (Dutch), LA, Susan,
and Jolanda Geerdink (Dutch) having a night out on the town celebrating Rene's birthday

In truth, though, the French had a large navy just off shore at the time the treaty was being negotiated, and they were able to win concessions by threat of force. The treaty was signed on top of Mount Concordia in 1648, but despite the reputation for peaceful cohabitation, the border was to change another 16 times until 1815 when the Treaty of Paris fixed the boundaries for good.

The capital city of Marigot is perhaps the most French in spirit of all the cities in the Caribbean. Colonial houses stand beside smart caf├ęs and bistros, pastry shops and luxury boutiques, and in many ways it looks just like any of the French market towns you might expect to find on the Continent.  

The village of Marigot appeared towards 1689 on the initiative of a few merchants who used the bay to load their ships with agricultural produce on the French side. Originally, the area was a marsh surrounded by mangroves where one could get many crabs, even in the streets. The town was baptized Marigot, from the word "maricage" meaning ponds and marshes in Old French. 

Experiencing rapid growth the first half of the 18th century due to the introduction of sugar cane plantations, the little village became capital to different governors succeeding each other to develop and organize the colony. Batteries of canons and modest fortification guarded access to the port until 1789 when Fort Louis was built.

We visited Marigot several times during our stay on the island.  The last visit we made, we finally climbed the steep hill to visit Fort Louis.

Fort Louis remains the largest historic and only military monument in St. Martin. The plans were sent over directly from Versailles at the order of the ill-fated French King Louis XVI, who soon lost his head in the French Revolution.

The tricolor flag of the Republic of France might wave over the fort these days but you can still see the formidable walls and cannons which protected the colonial settlement from other European powers as well as pirates. The primary purpose of the fort was to defend the warehouses at Marigot port, where goods such as salt, coffee, sugar cane and rum was stored.

The steep climb up to the summit provided a panoramic view of the island and the sea surrounding it, and the view was stunning. We could see all the way to neighboring Anguilla.

The most beautiful and colorful views were the town of Marigot and the surrounding harbor. The hill in the background is called "The Witch's Tit" and the surrounding waters are the anchorage next to the Causeway Bridge on the French side. The red flowering tree in the right foreground is the Flamboyant Tree.

Behind us is Marigot Bay, a popular anchorage during the high season.  Although many cruisers have moved on, there are still a lot of boats in the anchorage.  The water is clear and beautiful. 

We reached the summit! 
The view... spectacular!

Locked in jail! We had fun playing at the fort!

What a great day we had hiking in Marigot!

There was one other place we wanted to visit in Marigot. An authentic French Wine shoppe! Our friend and wine sommelier Rene Foree introduced to us this little treasure during the Heineken Regatta.

Le Gout du Vin, "A Taste of Wine", has a great selection of more than 800 fine liquors...wines from all over the world, top brands of Champagne, and fine alcohols. It's a classic little French wine shop and it was fun to check out all the different wines.

Open since 1991, Le Gout du Vin sells to individuals, yacht provisioning services, and to the many fine restaurants on the island. The store clerk was very knowledgeable and LA enjoyed chatting with her about her recommendations for several French wines in our price range ($10-$20/bottle).

There was no shortage of choices.  From the very expensive to moderately priced wines, there was something to fit every budget.  We wished that Rene Foree, was with us for this visit!  He has introduced us to many fine wines in our price range. 

French wine is produced all throughout France, in quantities of 7–8 billion bottles. France is one of the largest wine producer in the world. French wine traces its history to the 6th century BC, with many of France's regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times. The wines produced range from expensive high-end wines sold internationally to more modest wines usually only seen within France.

France is the source of many grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah) that are now planted throughout the world, as well as wine-making practices and styles of wine that have been adopted in other producing countries. Although some producers have benefited in recent years from rising prices and increased demand for some of the prestige wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, the French wine industry as a whole has been influenced by a slight decline in domestic consumption.

Here are some of our favorite wines:

If there is one thing that most French wines have in common, it is that most styles have developed as wines meant to accompany food.  Good food, good wine...two of the finer pleasures of life!

Our FaVoRiTe partners in "wine" crime... Rene and Stacy Foree!

Especially if one of them happens to be a wine sommelier!
Love ya' Rene!

We love wine!
Photo Credit: Pinterest

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