Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Caribbean Cruise - St. Maarten - Day 13 - 12/30/2012

Philipsburg, St Maarten is our first stop on the second leg of our cruise.  Early in the 17th century, the Spanish were forced off St Maarten by the Dutch and French.  These two countries divided the island between them.  The Dutch side is slightly smaller and is known for its casinos, night clubs, and shopping while the French side has excellent restaurants, outdoor cafes, and designer boutiques.  According to our tour guide, you lose your shirt in the Dutch casinos and lose your pants in the French nightclubs.  There are more juice bars and adult clubs on the French side.  Both side share beautiful beaches.

A reminder that it is the Christmas season.  Santa is scaling the building behind the Christmas tree.

Some of the island is picturesque.

But a lot of it is not.  I doesn't matter whether you are on the Dutch or French side, there is poverty and trash.  As is the case for most of the islands, the government is democratic socialist.  Taxes are high and government programs are the rule from education to health care.  I guess the people are happy but I don't think they have many options.  If your idea of a full life is drinking beer on the front porch and not being able to find a job, the islands are for you.....don't worry, be happy.  Unfortunately, tourism is about the only industry and source of jobs for the islanders.

What I don't understand is their penchant for throwing trash on the ground and then saying welcome to my beautiful island.  On the French side as we walked to our glass bottom boat, we passed by garbage cans over flowing and smelling with dead rodents laying  in the street next to the curb....and this was in the town square where the buses let the tourists off to shop.  To be honest, I have seen areas in the U. S. that weren't much better.  On the other hand, it is universal in the islands (with the exception of the resort areas).  I can't think of the islands as paradise given the poverty and poor living conditions.

We are on our way to our glass bottom boat tour on the French side of the island.

Now this glass bottom boat had great views....so much better than the Half Moon Cay ride we took.

Sea Grapes among the rocks.

All kinds of stuff here including Brain Coral.

A Spotted Sting Ray.

A diver from our boat feeds the fish.

A Star Fish.

Sea Turtle.

Small fish being prepared for cooking by a local man standing in the water beside the dock when we returned from the boat ride.

Time for shopping with a market full of stuff....but apparently no good T-shirts....at least we didn't buy any.

Locally grown spices.

We would have loved to get something to eat, but we only had time for a drink.

A Mango Smoothie.

Marigot, the French capital.

Our next island will be St. Lucia.

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