Our first port day! So excited, and after a late night, morning came way too early! We, along with Mum and Dad, didn't have plans. I was hoping to find a geocache, to put a travel bug in. I wanted to take the kids along the main strip. And find a beach. None of us were booking anything (Lou did her own thing), so we headed into port to figure out what to do.
Like many of the ports, this area has been totally re-done for the cruise ships. No different than any other port, so please get out of there quickly and head anywhere else. The main strip of Philipsburg is similar, store-wise, to most ports, but the "flavour" is Dutch, so at least most of it is still quaint.
We found the bus/taxi staging area and talked to the guides about which beach is best. I did want to see the "airport beach" Maho Bay, and the guide/driver said another great beach is only a 6 minute walk from there.
So we PACKED into the taxi van. I think there were 13 of us. She insisted kids had to be at the very back, and Mum and I joined them (yes, five in the back seat). Rob somehow got the passenger's seat, I believe. This wasn't the last time!
Up some more!
We arrived at Maho Beach, and got dropped off at the south-east end, near the Sunset Bar and Grill. It's interesting to read a bit about this beach, how the hurricanes and jet blasts have eroded the beach significantly. There was only a tiny strip to walk along, with cars right at your elbows. I was especially worried for Hugh, after having been hit once by a car. I'm not sure how the Google satellite image shows this beach totally empty, because it's very, very busy. As soon as we could, we hopped off the roadway and onto the "beach". What little there is. It's not a sunbathing beach! It's very steep!
here! You can see the steepness, and the business is closer to what we saw. Once we got on the beach, we thought it'd be easier to walk, but it was so packed, we headed towards the water, not realizing how steep it was. It was also very wavy! As soon as he stepped down there, Hugh got hit with a wave that got his shoes wet. He bent over to take it off, got hit again. Got the shoe off, another wave came and knocked the shoe out of his hand!
Saba Island in the distance. It's quite a long ways off! 28 miles, actually. Winair has five flights there daily, just 12 minutes, for about $105 roundtrip.
We decided, since there was no shade and no where to really sit and relax, to continue on the "six minute walk through the two tall hotels and over the bridge to the golf course" to Mullet Bay. Now, the taxi driver did look to be a fit, athletic woman, but I don't know that you could even drive there in six minutes. Check it out on a map. We started out at the "top" end of Maho Beach, had to backtrack to the road because we couldn't go through the resort (or rather, we didn't want to try and then have to backtrack anyway). We set our sights on the passageway between the two tall hotels, "Sonesta Maho Beach Resort" and a hotel in front of the Royale Casino. There were shops all along here, including Subway, which I was hoping we'd stop at, but no...once through there, we couldn't see a little bridge or golf course, but there was no where else to go, so we continued along Rhine Rd, even though it felt like we were going away from the water. We came to Amazone Rd, and the area up ahead looked like a golf course, and there was something that sort of looked like a bridge. We headed that way. We were really going on faith by this point. It was definitely a golf course, and there was taxi service on the road, and there was another couple walking ahead of us. But it was also a little eerie. There seemed to be foundations of old buildings, little driveways to broken up concrete pads. We followed the main road, pausing for shade and the last of our water, and to check out the little lizards. We came across one road, but it didn't seem "right". Shortly after was another little road that seemed quite busy, so we headed down it. Then another fork in the road, and we chose the one the taxis were going down. We finally came to a parking lot!! I don't know how long it took, but even if we didn't have the kids, six minutes would not have been possible. I'm not sure even sixteen minutes would have been enough. If you're interested in doing this, I'd recommend just getting a taxi. Or, be prepared with water, sunhats, and good shoes. It was fun, and not really a hard walk, just hot for us northerners!
There were a couple food stands, but Rob didn't want to get any food. The kids did get pop/juice and he got a beer, but we were hungry!
The girls loved the shell collecting (I didn't think it was all that impressive, but it was their first time, so they were thrilled). Hugh loved crashing in the surf. This boy once screamed so loudly around water that we stopped going to the pool and splash pads. Now, he plows right in, but when he's done, he's done. At one point, we realized that none of us knew where he was. I headed up the beach, determined to go to the end, though I realized quickly that without my glasses, I wasn't much good. One of the girls joined me though, but we still couldn't spot him. We got back to where they had been swimming, and still no sign. Went back to our rest spot, and there he was with Granddad. Not sure how we missed seeing him head back there, but oh well. This isn't the first time he's gone "missing" at a beach, and I try not to get worried, but I see how he drifts down the beach from where we started, and worry that he might go too far out too. When you're standing on shore, some of the swimmers look like they are really far out, but when you're out there yourself, it doesn't seem all that far at all.
The 13 of us in the taxi had agreed upon a meet up time for the return trip, but we were ready to go before then, so we wasted a bit of time. But eventually we were done. We headed to the parking lot and stood around. A taxi driver asked us if we needed a ride. No, we had one arranged. Okay, but if we change our mind....and isn't this beach lovely? Etc....after a few minutes, and a check of the price, we decided to just head back with him.
These condos were under construction and had sold out, at bout $300 000 each. I think it's between Cole Bay and Cay Bay, at what's labelled Indigo Green Development on the map. We were told by both taxi drivers that the people of Sint Maarten own the land, so when they buy a house, they don't pay property taxes. We weren't too sure how this all worked, but they were both quite proud that average citizens could afford these large, beautiful, stuccoed homes (not the ones above, they were for tourists, the homes below were typical for locals).
Somehow, the conversation turned to hurricanes, and we found out a bit more about the roads and foundation pads at Mullet Beach. It's really sad, in a way. If Canada ran the country, they probably would fill in Mullet Bay Pond and part of Simpson Bay Lagoon, expropriated all the land around Airport Rd/Amazone Rd, and built the airport on a diagonal....
It was interesting to hear about the financial toll the hurricanes took on the residents, think of everyone who worked at the resort would be out of a job, the loss of tourists would affect the neighbouring businesses and taxi drivers...thankfully they have that fancy new cruise ship port! ;)
We got back to the cruise port (after watching a transport try to get out of the port, taking up the entire road...I can't imagine driving there!). While I like the modern port areas, not being near the downtown was disappointing. When Rob and I went before, things were under construction. These next nine pictures are from our first trip there, in October 2007.
A nice shot of the port area. It felt like forever to walk over to the yellow building with red awnings, which was the main info building.
According to the Daily Compass, the "Love and Marriage" show was on at 10pm. It was a good one, did not get too racey, but perhaps not quite as funny as other times either. So much just depends on the couples!