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Trip Report St. Martin trip report, May 7-15 (long!)

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Bonjour! And merci beaucoup to everyone who has helped me along the way in planning this trip. We booked it about a year ago! (I’ll explain the French in a bit.)

I’m going to post this in sections over the next couple days to break it up. It’s long ;)

Some quick background about our travel style if you haven’t read my past trip reports. I’m a bit (okay a little more than a bit) obsessed with Caribbean travel. We pretty much always rent a villa, usually with friends, and like to get out and explore the island and mingle with the locals. Our most recent trip was to Long Island, Bahamas last year. I thought and thought on where to go after Long Island. Although we loved Long Island (my husband actually wants to go back and purchase land there), I wanted something more built up for the next trip. My husband just wanted something with a direct flight. The strange thing about our decision on St. Martin is that although it wasn’t necessarily our favorite island we’ve been to (my top 3 favorites so far are St. John, St. Lucia and Virgin Gorda), we really missed the amazing food and French culture, and I felt like we hadn’t explored it as much as I would have liked. Not to mention you get more “bang for the buck” on villa rentals in St. Martin than on most other islands we looked into. I also wanted to see Anguilla. We spent most of our time at the villa we rented on Baie Rouge 6 years ago, with only visiting Orient and Phillipsburg for day trips. So we decided to go back.

Funny story on how this trip came to be. Kristen1206 on this forum and I started emailing aside from fodors, as we had been in touch on the forum for a few years, have daughters the same age, and have the same travel styles. Turns out we also live nearby, and so we decided to do a trip together! Kristen and I had so much fun planning this trip. It was great having someone as detailed and interested in research as me, so we had a great year of planning! It paid off because we really got out each day and explored the island. And everyone had so much fun! It was Kristen and her husband and kids (14, 11 and 5), our friends Jay and Liz (they went to St. Martin w/us 6 years ago and then to Long Island last year), and my husband and I (Brooke is now almost 5 and Austin almost 2). After a few issues trying to find a villa that would allow small kids, and a few rental companies, we finally found the villa Happy Bay through the rental company Caribbean Days. The villa is located above the beach Happy Bay, and about a 5-10 minute drive to Grand Case.

Upon watching airfare to book our flights, we realized that for us to fly direct from PHL to SXM it would be much cheaper to fly out Friday instead of Saturday, so we opted to do that and stay at Grand Case Beach Club for the first night and then check into Happy Bay on Saturday. Kristen and her family flew in on Saturday as they weren’t coming from PHL.

Okay, now I’ll start the trip report! Enjoy!

Day 1: PHL-SXM, Grand Case Beach Club
Getting there was relatively smooth. We didn’t have to be at the airport until 7:30 which was a huge help with 2 little ones so we didn’t have to interfere with their sleep schedule too much. We met Jay and Liz at the airport, grabbed breakfast, and off we went! I had high hopes for Austin to sleep and watch a movie on the way down, but he did neither. He was a bit of a handful but at least he didn’t scream. He just thought the floors were really cool. The plane was pretty much empty which allowed us room to spread out. The whole back section was completely empty!

Upon our 1:30 arrival we were greeted with really, really good Jumbie rum shots, my favorite being the pineapple (we brought 2 bottles of that home with us!). We then met our Unity car rep who already had a car seat installed for us for Austin (a really nice, new Britax car seat rented from Island Nannies). We brought a butt booster seat for Brooke with us. A short 5 minute drive and we were at Unity car rental where the Island Nannies rep was waiting for us (they’re across the street from each other which was very convenient) with the pack’n’play rental (the pack’n’play had extra padding which was really nice, and they threw in a huge soft cooler for free too-I was very happy with Island Nannies). We squared up and headed to GCBC through the road that cuts through the center of the island, which we hadn’t been on before. We had nice views of the mountains on the way. About 30 minutes later we were checking in to GCBC, recommended to me by a friend and by people on this forum. We settled in and spent some time walking around checking out the property. I’m not one for hotels, but if I had to stay in one, this one is my style. It’s pretty small, well maintained, very cute with beautiful landscaping. Very charming. We rented the 2 bedroom 2 floor unit for $300 for the night. Split 2 ways it’s not bad! We were all pretty hungry (okay I was starving) by 4 so we headed to the Sunset Café at the hotel. Unfortunately it was closed until 6 (we were between the lunch and dinner crowd) so we walked down the street to the restaurants. I must say, I LOVE Grand Case. It’s my new favorite Caribbean town. Think Duval street in the Keys, but with more of a french islandy botique feel. The first restaurant we came to was Le Shore, so we went there and bellied up to the bar. The bartender didn’t speak a word of English so it was interesting trying to order a mixed drink. I noted then that I needed to learn French, and quickly! We all actually really enjoyed trying to pick up on the basics of the French language over the course of the week. What a beautiful sounding language! My daughter is enjoying speaking the basics of it now that we’re home-it’s very cute! Anyway, back to Le Shore. So they were technically closed as well (apparently everything is closed at that time) but they let us drink anyway as long as we promised to stay until 6 when they could open their cash registers so we could pay, so we hung out there until about 8 enjoying the drinks, dinner and cool loungy areas in the sand. We weren’t really planning on swimming, but Brooke and Austin made their way down to the beach (the restaurant is beach front) and I was officially on island time so I let them swim in their clothes. Plus it kept them happy and content for the next couple hours! Of course I ended up mostly in the water with them so we ended up eating our gourmet dinner there wet, but no one seemed to mind, maybe because we were the only customers there. The food there was AMAZING, but expensive. I actually took a picture of our dinners the presentation was so nice. Brooke enjoyed swimming at the pool there, and we watched them set up for the dinner crowd that started rolling in (all dressed up) as we were leaving around 8. It’s a good thing we left when we did as it seems like a pretty dressy/classy place for dinner (definitely not good for 2 wet sandy kids)! While we were on the beach we strolled next door to Calmos Café which looked really cool and we made a mental note to check it out the next day, plus were huge fans of the tv show “3 Sheets” and they had just done a show on St. Martin and were at Calmos in the show so that was a must do for us.

We headed back to the hotel, put the kids to bed, and Jay and Liz hung out at Sunset’s bar while Kurt and I hung out on the top deck with our complimentary bottle of wine. Jay and Liz met up with us and we had a great time chatting until the wee hours on our first night of our trip.

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