A Nation Under Two Flags

Today the Ventura docked in the port of Philipsburg, the Dutch capital of St Maarten.  St Martin/Sint Maarten is half French and half Dutch so it is one of the Caribbean’s most interesting and diverse islands.  We had been here once before in 2005, on a cruise on the Arcadia, so instead of going on one of the organised excursions, we decided to do our own thing.

We disembarked the ship and decided to walk into the town.  As ever, it was a case of fighting our way through the throngs of taxi and minibus drivers who all wanted to take us on a tour of the island.  No sooner had you said “no, thank you” to one of them, another one would approach.  It was a wonder any of them could make a living when they were all in competition with each other.  At least they didn’t follow you along the road, or tug on your sleeve, the way they do in some countries.

We made our way down to the beach and I took off my shoes and walked along the shoreline, with the gentle waves lapping at my bare feet.  There were quite a lot of shells and I took my time to look at them to see if they’d be any use to me, as one of my hobbies is creating hand-made jewellery.  It was lovely walking along in the wet sand, listening to the relaxing sound of the sea and the birds.

After we’d walked for about half a mile, we came across a lot of interesting little shops, souvenir stalls, cafés and bars.  One bar had tables and chairs practically set out on the beach, under a thatched cover, so we decided to sit and have a cold bottle of Carib beer each.  We enjoyed it so much we actually ended up having another two each!  But it was just so pleasant and relaxing sitting there, without a care in the world, watching the people go by.  This is what being on holiday is all about 🙂

Some groups of people were going along in these sort of motorised scooters; like kids’ scooters that you stand on.  They looked like a good way to get about 🙂  However, we definitely needed the exercise that the walking gave us, so we were quite happy to use our own two feet.

There were lots of shops selling jewellery, clothing, hard-crafted goods and other souvenirs.  I spotted a shop selling humorous T-shirts and was amused to see one entitled “Schitt’s Creek Paddle Company” with a picture on the back saying don’t get caught up Schitt Creek without a paddle in St Maarten.  I just had to go in and buy it 🙂

We also bought some more cava and a selection of miniature rums and other liqueurs.  The we took a slow stroll back to the ship in time for lunch.

I would say that, so far, St Maarten has been my favourite port of call; a very pretty island.

After our usual sitting-out-on-the-balcony and our afternoon nap, we got showered and ready for dinner.  However, I decided not to go down to the Bay Tree restaurant tonight until the coffee stage; it is just far too easy to eat too much and I could feel my clothes getting tighter already.

As they were putting on a pantomime tonight, “Cinderella”, in the theatre we didn’t really fancy it, so instead we hot-footed it along to the Havana lounge where they were showing a good comedian, Steve Tandy.  Wonders will never cease, we actually managed to get a good seat tonight 🙂  Steve was a really brilliant impressionist and his show was excellent; we enjoyed it a lot.

After the show we decided to go up to the Metropolis bar again; this time the city skyline was Sydney.  We still hadn’t managed to find our favourite little niche on the ship, nor had we made any particular friends this cruise.  The Ventura isn’t the biggest ship we’ve been on (that honour goes to the Queen Mary 2) but it has the most passengers, over 3,000, so it is just too big and impersonal.  You could meet someone, have a good conversation with them, then never see them again for the rest of the cruise; such as our table companions who we’d only seen once, on New Year’s Eve.

And so ended another day as we made our way back to cabin B238 for another good night’s sleep.

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