Saint Martin: A Simpler Life

by Faye Ratcliff

For the very first time in our lives, but I hope not the last, my husband and I took a two-week vacation to the half-French, half-Dutch island of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin in the West Indies, aptly named “The Friendly Island.” This used to be a somewhat undiscovered destination, but its popularity is growing rapidly!

Like many others, my work involves the pressure of constant deadlines, and a stress-relieving vacation was something I both looked forward to and needed. At the time of our visit, this 37-square-mile island had a total of three stoplights, two of which did not work. Now, can you imagine the chaos if two-thirds of our city lights [Charlotte, NC] didn’t work? Traffic there halts to let a sow and her piglets cross the road. Locals’ cars often stop for the drivers to talk and exchange pleasantries. The honking of a horn is used almost exclusively for greeting acquaintances and is not meant as a discourtesy.

While dining in one of the many gourmet restaurants in Grand Case [rhymes with moss] on the French side, and due to a slight misunderstanding concerning kilos and pounds, my husband was served the largest lobster I’ve ever seen. He’s now known there as “the man with ze beeg lobster,” as the French waiter described him.

These unique people can teach us a lesson with the peaceful co-existence of their two countries for nearly 350 years. And the life is a simpler life. The people spend most of their time outside, so their priorities are centered more in that area than in the upkeep of homes. Another interesting fact: There are no homeless here!

Although we visited in the season that Americans are in a frenzy to buy, buy, buy, we saw no holiday decorations or trees. This is a major cruise ship port with shopping galore, but it was easy to forget what time of year it was, especially with temperatures averaging in the mid 80s.

When leaving, we stood in line at the airport for over an hour, but not because of anything the islanders did; the airlines’ new computer system had a glitch. Upon returning home, I was plunged into mega-stress due to more computer troubles. Well, back to reality! In the United States, we take so many conveniences for granted until we’re without them; we’re spoiled. Truly, we found this cultural potpourri fascinating and the simpler life there refreshing — a real vacation.

Faye Ratcliff is a travel agent and ther owner of
~ SEABREEZES ~ Personalized Travel in Denver, NC. She can be reached at 704-489-8444 or 888-244-5906.