As for the Caribbean Island of St Martin, for me, there is only side, the French side. If you read my piece on Pinel Island, I am sure you know that about me by now. The first time I came to “the friendly island” we already knew we were going to stay on the French side. We like all things French. We are regulars in Quebec City, Canada, and we have toured the South of France. But that’s another story and not for this blog, since HERE we deal with the Caribbean.
I did my research before coming to the island. My wife Jaci and I are “foodies”, and I read all about Grand Case. The first thing I found was everyone calling it the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean. And there is a good reason why. The main street in Grand Case is called Grand Case Blvd. There are some hotels and B&Bs on and near the street. But the thing you will notice first are the number of restaurants lining both sides of the street. As I said, “both sides of the street” and on the ocean side you get the extra added benefit of an ocean view while you eat. Anything in the Town of Grand Case that is along the beach is RIGHT on the beach. Not a walk to the beach, but right on the beach. And in St Martin as in most Caribbean islands, no beach is private, they belong to everyone.
Our first time on the island we stayed at a place called the Atlantide. This is a smallish building, three stories, and three units on each story. Back then, they were all like hotel units, but over the years have been purchased privately and they get rented out by the owners on Airbnb and other travel booking sites. The first photo is from our terrace. We had the middle unit on the first floor. And again, when I say we were RIGHT ON THE BEACH that’s what I mean. You can’t get any closer. And you don’t pay a fortune for this luxury. We have returned again and again. The second is a shot from out in the water, what a great place to stay.
So, you like good food? So do we. Breakfast was simple and NOT so gourmet but so authentically French. Just down the street from our room was a small place only open for breakfast and lunch. The menu was simple but oh so French. And the price was always right. Café au lait, croissant, and French baguettes.
After breakfast it was off to our beach to enjoy the sun, sand and water. On most Sundays there is a boat race in Grand Case. This race is done by locals who all own their own boats. They go to the beach, prepare their boats, then off they sail to the Island of Anguilla which you can see from the beach on Grand Case. Watching them get ready was more fun than watching them sail.
On our first trip to St Martin, we didn’t know what to expect, not really. And when we found the Atlántide and parked and then started walking, after seeing buildings like this one, we didn’t know what to expect. And thought, “Maybe this island stuff isn’t for us.
It didn’t take long to notice places like this. These were not the norm, and as of this date, places like these in Grand Case are few and far between. The renovation boom has hit the town. The rest of the town was wonderful. And the people really were friendly as the name implies, The Friendly Island.
Grand Case Blvd is narrow, very narrow, and cars park on both sides. Luckily there is only one way traffic, at least most of it is. The main part, through the center of town, for sure is. You learn to weave in and out of parked cars to let the traffic go by. You wave, they wave. You learn the rhythm of the island very fast.
The beach is a small one. Shallow water, sandy bottom, and warm as you would expect. Not really much of a surf, but that’s ok. If you want surf, got to Orient Beach.
Ok this was about food wasn’t it? You have your pick. French, Seafood, Thai, Italian, Creole, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese, Tapas, and of course, Caribbean. There is a sort of Island barbecue type place with oh so traditional island food called a Lolo. There is one in Grand Case. Do not expect luxury. Plastic forks and knives and paper plates. But the food is great and you cannot beat the price. When we were there last it was New Year’s week and the Lolo had entertainment, a steel drum band. They were VERY good and the music went oh so well with the food.
On New Year’s Eve that year we did the restaurant crawl. We had a pre-dinner drink in one establishment. Then on to another for an appetizer. We left and found yet another for our entree. As if that wasn’t enough, we found our last restaurant for dessert. We really learned how to ring in the New Year that day in Grand Case.
And if the restaurants are not enough, there are great bakeries to bring things home for a snack.
So at the end of the day, what is it you think of? After dessert I mean. SUNSET right? Grand Case has wonderful sunsets. You can sit on the beach to watch the sun do down, or you can watch it from your table at your favorite restaurant if you are lucky enough to get one on the beach side of the street.
Last but not least, at the end of your stay, before you pack your bags and head for the airport, you MUST go to Tijon Parfumerie & Boutique. Here you can get a lesson in making perfume. The owner who is very knowledgeable about scents, guides you through the formula of making your own personal scent. You take one of these kind, one of that kind, one of the other. He mixes it for you and catalogs it. YOU give it a name and the formula is saved. When you come back, you can have more made. Or you can contact him through his website and re-order your own special scent that NO ONE else in the world has but YOU.
I hope you enjoyed this short tour of Grand Case, on the French side, St. Martin. It really is a delightful town to stay in. You have many choices and types of places to stay; from resorts, to B&Bs, hotels, condos, you name it, and you can have it. If you want to know more about Grand Case, let me know, email me at email@example.com and I will be happy to tell you more or answer your questions, or even make some more detailed suggestions for you for dinner or a place to stay.
Oh..one more thing – I forgot to tell you about our very favorite restaurant, that if we eat nowhere else we eat there. It’s Le Pressoir. It’s at the end of the street, well beyond the rest. There is a large salt press across the street from the restaurant. You can’t miss it. Worth the walk down the street. Get a table on the porch. It’s not beach side, but it is still our favorite. If you like Pâté de Foie Gras get the sampler. “C’est très bon.“