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Saint Martin day 7: a guided bike tour and Le Galion beach

On Friday we went on a guided bike tour. We were the only people on the tour since it’s slow season. Our guide was enjoyable to chat with and showed us some great sites. We started in Simpson Bay and crossed over the large bridge, pausing at another border monument.   

From there we headed to Marigot and rode down along the bay. Apparently this ship was grounded in 1995 when hurricane Isaac hit the island. 

  

We continued west from Marigot on the small spit of land that goes by Baie Nettle. We paused to fill up on water.   

Our guide the took us off the beaten path to explore an abandoned resort.

  

Obviously we weren’t supposed to be there, but plenty of people had been there before us. The fancy bar:  

The entrance courtyard:

  

The view of the ocean behind some of the rooms.  

We continued around Simpson Bay Lagoon over near the airport. We took a break by the airport at Maho beach, the famous beach where giant planes come in so close you can almost touch them, or so I’m told, since I haven’t seen it happen  yet.  
  

We took in the view at Sunset Bar and Grill and enjoyed the beach view. Around that time we noticed that traffic around the airport was stalled. We quickly learned that there was a bomb threat at the airport, closing down the only road back to where we started.  

Our guide proposed a different route that involved pushing our bikes along Simpson Beach for a few hundred yards, past the airport runways. It was the hardest part of our ride, the bikes were super heavy in the sand and there was a very strong headwind working against us. 

  

But at least the view was good.   

We eventually made it back to our car. After a delicious and healthy lunch at Top Carrot in Simpson Bay we headed away from the airport to avoid the traffic jam and stopped at Le Galion, a kid friendly beach (obvious from the number of children in the photos). It was supposed to have snorkeling but we didn’t find it. Behind the beach club was some sort of abandoned building, something you see quite often on the island. 

    

That night we headed to dinner at the “most romantic” restaurant on Saint Martin, Sol e Luna. It has a restaurant and guesthouse on a road off of the route to Cul de Sac. The restaurant itself definitely had a lovely ambience. 

  

And our meal started off right with a delicious champagne mojito.   

The amuse bouche was a chilled asparagus soup with creme fraiche and the bread was lovely. 

  

Our starter salads were simple but good.  

My entree was surprisingly disappointing. It looked lovely, but the fish wasn’t good and the veggies weren’t anything special. 
   

Carl’s steak had a tasty mushroom topping, but the same veggies and a bit of potatoes. 

  

The dessert was amazing, strawberries with fresh whipped cream and layers of pastry.  

Unfortunately like many of the expensive restaurants here, the food didn’t match the price. We could have had super amazing dinners at some of our favorite Austin restaurants for the same or less money. 

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Saint Martin day 6: Ilet Pinel and sunset searching on Cupecoy Cliffs

On Thursday we headed to Ilet Pinel, a tiny uninhabited island off of the northeast coast of Saint Martin, not too far from where we are staying. You just go up the road to Cul De Sac and catch the ferry. We never saw a ferry schedule and just assumed it started early. Wrong. In the off season it starts at 10 am. Luckily we got there at 9:30 and didn’t wait too long. It’s only a 5 minute ferry ride and you can even kayak over if you’re so inclined. I wanted to take my DSLR, so the ferry was our best option. When we arrived, the beach was pristine and we had our pick of chairs at Karibuni beach club.  
We set our stuff down and headed for the hiking paths that would take us to all sides of the little island. First we went by the iguana colony. See grandma iguana surrounded by the younglings, even a tiny one to the right of grandma and behind the two juveniles. There were more… So many!

  We hiked over the hill to the Atlantic side beach, which was quite rough.  
Young me would have freaked out here because of the huge amount of broken up coral and shells. Big pieces! Someone constructed an artfully arranged pile on the beach. I still feel the pull to collect my favorite pieces, but it’s not allowed in a nature reserve like Ilet Pinel.

  

We followed the trails to each of the signs and had some great views of Pinel, Saint Martin and the surrounding islands. In this photo you see one of Pinel’s Atlantic side beaches, the thin channel separating it from Saint Martin, and then Saint Martin.   

A little peninsula jutting out from Pinel and Orient Bay of Saint Martin.

  

Pinel had the most lovely beach on the side towards Saint Martin.
After our hike we snorkeled where there used to be an official snorkel trail, but is now abandoned. 

 We had lunch on the beach at Karibuni beach club. Cod fish fritters, pork spring rolls, and a delicious fresh salad. Later I enjoyed a wonderful frozen mojito.  
   

  The last ferry leaves Pinel at 4, so we decided to try to walk along Cupecoy beach to look at the cliffs and see the sunset. We knew the beach would be thin, but apparently when we were there the beach was mostly gone so we ended up walking on the cliffs and settling down for the sunset. The cliffs had wonderfully colorful strata.
  

We enjoyed some wonderful strawberry infused sparkling wine picked up at Bacchus.  

We were able to see the sun near the horizon, but then it was obscured by clouds. Unfortunately the sky did not light up in wonderful colors.

 

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Saint Martin day 5: a tour of Marigot and and afternoon at Baie Rouge

Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days in Marigot so we decided to take our walking tour of the city then. We walked along the water front and explored the colorful stalls, eventually buying some interesting infused rums from a vendor.   

One end of the market area has nice buildings that house a fish market on some days, just not this day.

  

After walking around on the main streets of Marigot, we took the 92 steps up to Fort Louis. Don’t worry it was not near as strenuous as it sounds. The fort was built in 1789 by the French. It has not been well maintained, but it is free to walk around on and has great views.

  
    

The colorful tents are the market:

  

After walking the town a bit more we headed to Baie Rouge for lunch, beach lounging, and snorkeling. I like the large smooth rocks on the edge of the surf. We had a lovely fish sandwich on fresh bread from chez Raymond.  
 

We snorkeled around a rock outcropping that had a residence that seemed abandoned. 

   On the other side we found a small little beach and a swim through rock cave that we didn’t actually swim through because the tide was a bit too low at the time.

  

  

For dinner we headed back into Marigot’s La Marina Royale to La Belle Époque. The food was more reasonably priced then some places we’d been. It all was good, but the fish and steak were perhaps a bit over cooked.
 My starter salad was enormous. 

My dinner had both Mahi Mahi and Salmon. 
  

Carl had steak.  

We finished with a delicious and large serving of creme brûlée.

 

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Saint Martin day 4: Happy Bay Beach and an afternoon alone

On Tuesday we woke up and headed to the secluded Happy Bay Beach, accessed by Friars beach. When we arrived we were almost alone as we walked to the end of friars beach.   
  
Happy beach was very secluded and only populated by a nude couple when we arrived. Don’t worry, I didn’t take any photos of them.

There was a bit of snorkeling along the edge of the bay, but the current was strong and the water murky.

Apparently there used to be a food stand on this secluded beach.

   
    
Around lunch time we packed up and headed back to Grand Case for Carl’s scuba trip and my plans to lay on the beach and get a massage.

First I dropped Carl off at octopus diving.

 
Then I walked down the main beach in grand case until I settled in at a beach club for some relaxation, reading, and guavaberry cocktails.

   

  
 After a massage, I met back up with Carl and we headed back to Orient Bay. On the way we stopped at Bacchus for good bottles of wine, French cheese, and a fresh baguette. We spent the evening on our porch enjoying those things.  

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Saint Martin day 3: Philipsburg and little bay beach

On Monday we started with a walking tour of the cruise ship port, Philipsburg, which is on the Dutch side of the island. It has an old courthouse on Wathey Square. It is the shopping capital of Saint Martin and a bit overwhelming.

We started on the boardwalk and enjoyed a view of the lovely blue water.

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Saw some great examples of caribbeann architecture including this church:

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The shopping was nonstop on front and back streets:

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We stopped in the Guavaberry Rum store for some samples and purchases.

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We had lunch on the boardwalk at Taloula Mangos and started with Guavaberry coladas. Look how pink!

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After lunch it was time for beach lounging at little bay beach, accessed from the Divi beach hotel.
The beach was lovely. The snorkeling was OK.
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After our afternoon of lounging and snorkeling we headed back to the French side of the island to go back to our apartment and stopped at the monument commemorating the friendship of the two sides of the island.
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For dinner we headed to Grand Case, the culinary capital of the Caribbean. After perusing the menus along the main avenue, we settled on Le Cottage.
We first had a delicious amuse bouche of sweet potato, carrots, and ginger chilled soup. omg, so good! Carl ordered the creole seafood tasting and I had soup and an eggplant dish.
The first plate that came out as part of Carl’s tasting menu was cod fritters with sweet and spicy sauce. I neglected to get a photo of that plate. The second plate was fried white and black sausage with a side of fruit slaw.

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My first plate was French onion soup, because, you know, I love that stuff. Just look at that presentation!
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Then, the magic happened. Carl got a crazy tasting plate with a number of seafood items that he actually enjoyed! It was awesome.
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Here he is eating some raw fish on a toast!
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I got my eggplant dish at the same time, beautifully plated.
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We closed with bananas flambé, which I was so excited about that I didn’t take a photo. It was delicious. And we got the traditional shot of house infused rum at the end of the meal. Carl said his food was great, and so was mine. Nothing to jump up and down about, but still very good.

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Saint Martin vacation days 1 & 2

Arrival Day

Lots of flying but we made it. Crazy airport, of course, and slightly scary driving.
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After finding our cute little apartment on Orient Bay, we hit the market for some essentials (like wine) and then had dinner at Le Piment, a short walk from our apartment. The salads and pizza were amazing. Check out the plating on Carl’s Salad!
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Day 2: Sunday driving tour

On Sunday we woke up early and took a stroll down Orient Beach, which is about 100 yards from our apartment. Unfortunately, this is the time of year where high winds blow in off the Atlantic so the surf on our beach is quite rough. The walk was nice, we saw the other place we considered staying and are glad we picked this apartment. We also found the nude beach. Yep. People were walking on it. Nude (older) people.
View of Orient beach from the north end, after hiking up the hill a bit:
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After deciding that it was too windy to stay at our beach, we took a driving tour of the island. The first stop was at the north end of the island, Anse Marcel. We quickly learned that driving on Saint Martin is scary, with very narrow and extremely hilly roads. It didn’t help that our rental car has no power and is laughable trying to make it up the really steep sections.
Anse Marcel is a little sheltered beach, with only a few hotels. The water was calm and gorgeous:
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Our next stop was Grand Case, the culinary capital of Saint Martin. We walked the length of the town and then had lunch at Talk of the Town, a “lolo” which is a street side stand supposedly, but seemed like a restaurant to us. I had some rum punch ( of course) and a whole smoked red snapper. Head and all. It was amazing!
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The beach at Grand Case:
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We then headed to Marigot, but just drove through because the tourist office was closed.
Our next stop was Baie Rouge, an amazing beach that we will definitely return to lounge and snorkel.
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We next looped around by Mullet Beach and Simpson Beach, but parking near both was overflowing so we didn’t stop. However, we were able to stop at Little Bay Beach, where I took my first iguana photo. The beach itself was very nice so we decided to come back.
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We entered the beach through a hotel. The flags show you the wind:
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And in Philipsburg we ran into the PwC building!
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Our last stop was at Dawn beach, but we basically walked out, turned around and walked back to the car. We then returned back to our apartment and rested up for dinner.
There are a number of interesting restaurants right down near the beach where we’re staying so we opted to go there for dinner. We ended up at Cote Plages, a French restaurant. Everything is so wonderfully plated here, but I neglected to get a photo of the starter, which was a mushroom and spinach pie with a salad and cold soup.
Carl had a duck shepherds pie for his entree and I had a creole mahi mahi dish. We finished with a dessert called pineapple carpaccio, which we came to realize later is quite common here. All of my dinner photos aren’t high quality because I used my phone. Flash photography with my Canon DSLR in a restaurant is beyond my skills.
Creole mahi mahi (Good flavor, but not enough spice and the fish was a bit overdone):
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Carl’s Shepherd Pie with duck – he says it was good:
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Pineapple carpaccio:
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We also learned that its customary for restaurants to give you a digestif of house infused rum to finish your meal. This place gave us passion fruit and strawberry, and passion fruit was the clear winner.
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I made friends with the restaurant cat, giving her little bits of my fish.
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New Sweden Church

Bike training: June 6th & 7th

My bike training updates will skip weeks here and there due to a bunch of travel I have coming up, but I definitely will fill you in when I get out to ride! On June 6th I rode 66 miles mostly east from home, on a lovely day. It was my first really hot ride of the season, and the last ten miles or so were rough. I was beginning to get heat exhaustion, based on the goose bumps I had while riding and my red face when I got home. Our cooler than normal spring hasn’t helped me acclimate to our typical level of heat. Regardless, the ride was nice and I was able to average 16.4 mph.

On Sunday June 7th, I rode 32.5 miles in an out and back route on loop 360 to get in some hill training. My GoPro has been having battery issues and it immediately turned off on my Sunday ride so I wasn’t able to get any photos :(

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Not too far from home, some sort of horse competition arena. No idea what those things are really called.

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It always makes me sad to see dogs in the middle of country roads.

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Railroad bridge with debris from flooding underneath. 

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Railroad tracks along the road

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Littig road is one of my favorites to ride out east

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Bridge hidden in the trees

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Old farmhouse

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Intersection of Hog Eye Rd and Ingrid Dr. Hi Ingrid!

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Pretty views

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So many old cemeteries, this one is Littig Cemetery

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I believe this is a dog racing track, with the long skinny pens

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Another cemetery, this one in Manda TX.

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The old Manda schoolhouse, now a community center.

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Best country church ever, the New Sweden Church