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Trip Report Trip report: St. Martin and St. Barts

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Wow! This is a late post for me! We were on the islands from June 26-July 6.
FLIGHTS: Flew Delta ff from RIC to ATL and ATL to SXM. Stayed until July 1. From SXM flew Winair to SBH and stayed through July 6. From SBH flew Winair to SXM then Delta ff through ATL and ATL to RIC. Mostly uneventful except for the return home and experienced delays due to summer storms. Scheduled to return to RIC at 11:29pm and landed at 1:20am. Luggage arrived in each location on time, but I did split our clothes b/n 2 suitcases and took bathing suits in carry on, just in case!
ST. MARTIN: 4th trip to the island on the French side. Stayed at Esmeralda on Orient Beach in an "oceanfront" room which has the biggest pool for 4 or 5 rooms in the "pod" to share. It is the closest to the ocean and is very spacious for 2. A continental breakfast was included and we received a 15% discount for booking early and online. Nice! Great staff! On the room account you can charge 5 other Orient Beach restaurants to your account. Since we had a kitchen, we visited Tap 5, the local grocery in Orient Village for lunch items, not being huge eaters. One day we did have lunch at Kontiki...very good tuna tartar and mahi burger with wine and beer, the total was $73. Great food, but a little pricey for me. Dinners were at the hotel's DELICIOUS restaurant, L'Astrolabe, not once but twice! We love the owners, Thomas and Amin and the food is wonderful. Not inexpensive, but you get what you pay for and the portions are perfect along with the after dinner rhum! Other dinners were at Il Netunno in Grand Case, Peg Leg Pub after visiting the casino on the property and La Bar de Mer in Marigot after jewelry shopping. Spent some time in Marigot looking at boats and shops. Dinners at Peg Leg and in Marigot were ok, but both are really for people watching. Service in all restaurants was excellent. Took cabs everywhere here. Having been to the island before, we didn't need to do excursions, but we did walk the length of Orient Beach several times a day.
ST. BARTS: I love this place! This was our second trip and while we visited 2 French islands, they are so different, but compliment one another, I think.
VILLA: With hotels being so expensive here, we decided to try a villa. Found an agency online: luxury villa rentals, or ICI&LA. Superb staff and very speedy communication. They even arranged the rental car for 35 euros/day and it was a Suzuki. Great for all of those hills! A rep met us at the SBH airport and we followed her to our villa in the hills of Pointe Millou and the villa is Marrekesh. Very nice. They really set the stage for arrival with the tv on, candles lit and the garden open. It felt like walking into someone's home. 2 bedrooms are well appointed with a huge bed, 2 closets, a/c and a generous bathroom. The kitchen is also a/c and fully stocked with everything you may need to prepare everything from coffee to dinner. The common area is awesome! It has a large dining area and a sitting area with a flat screen surround sound tv, DVD and cd player and off from that is a private plunge pool with 2 lounge chairs. There is also a screen above the lounge chairs that is controlled by the guests to adjust the amount of sun that is desired. Believe me, we only made it to Saline Beach once since the villa was so awesome and there were no waves to fight with the pool being right there. Amazing since DH is usually so hyper on vacation. We had lunch in every day but one and visited the local grocery store in L Orient, but went to Match for most of the provisions. We even cooked in twice which is unheard of for me on vacation as I cook a lot at home! Lunch out was extremely relaxing at Le Sereno overlooking the ocean and pool at this lovely hotel, but was VERY $$$$ for gazpacho, lobster bisque and 2 salads with wine and beer. Dinners out were at Bart' O and Andy's Hideaway (2 times). While we do need to branch out next time, and there will be a next time, Andy's is comfortable and the food is really good with portions being huge! We love interacting with the staff and chatting with the people at the adjoining tables. We tend to like "joints" at home and this fit the bill. We did miss Z this time. Cooking in by the pool was a pleasant surprise and very relaxing. Of course, we had to take several drives to discover new places and to visit the town of Gustavia. We started each morning with an hour hike up and down the hills near the villa. A great way to work off all that we had eaten.
SUMMARY: I really can't compare these 2 islands. They are great for different reasons and have so much to offer.

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