Monday, April 6, 2009

Our Parents' Visits in St. Martin

When Mark and I found out both sets of parents would visit us at about the same time in St. Martin/St. Maarten, Mark got a bit stressed and initially didn’t like the idea. How were we going to split ourselves up, spend enough time with everybody and not give the parents an overdose of each other on this first occasion they met? I promised him it would all work out fine and was excited about this great opportunity for all the parents to meet, the first opportunity in over four years!

My parents, Jacques and Agnes, arrived early March, a week before Carol and Stan (Mark’s parents) showed up. They planned to stay on Irie for a week and we all hoped to sail around the island and explore several anchorages along the way. Bad timing brought us a serious engine problem and just like that, the four of us (and Darwin) got stuck on Irie in Simpson Bay Lagoon. Luckily for us, we were anchored in a very safe, comfortable and convenient spot (with a beach for Darwin and stores for us), before we became immobilized. My parents and I, sometimes with Mark and Darwin, decided to do most of our explorations by bus and one day, we all rented a car to see the sights of the island.

Grand Case, the only other place in St. Martin we had taken the boat, was visited for a tasty lunch and my parents walked from there to Friar’s Bay and cosy, pretty Happy Bay. During their stay, we walked around in Philipsburg, the capital of St.Maarten and in Marigot, the

capital of St. Martin a few times.

We tried the beaches of Mullet and Maho Bay. The second one is famous for its setting, right at the end of the runway. Big planes take off from here, creating a blast that might throw you in the water and when a jet arrives right above your head, you instinctively take a few steps back, because it feels like the roaring machine will hit you. Exhilarating to say the least!

On our tour of the island, the five of us walked some trails on Pic Paradis, the highest mountain on the island with some spectacular views. We had lunch on Orient Beach where we made sure that the southern end of the beach is, indeed, full with nudist. This phenomenon is also noticeable at other beaches on the French side of the island, but never as prominent and publicly as here. In the afternoon, we checked out Oyster Pond and the ruins of Fort Amsterdam near Philipsburg.

By the time Carol and Stan arrived, my parents were settled in their comfortable hotel in St.Martin, bordering the lagoon. We focussed on Mark’s parents for a bit, doing very similar things than with my parents and visiting the same towns and sights. They stayed in a very roomy, self-contained condo at Simpson Bay, St. Maarten, where one of the most beautiful beaches on the island is located. Mark, Darwin and I enjoyed spending time with them and relaxing in the condo and on the beach. Once in a while, I, or we, would go over to my parents’ hotel to check in on them and their activities.

A big highlight was the meeting between the parents. The first time, we all had lunch on the French side and that went well. Everybody got along fine and more “appointments” followed. The whole family spent an afternoon on the beach near the condo, went sailing on Irie and concluded the visits with another lunch near Marigot. Mark’s parents had brought the new piece we needed for our broken engine and from the moment that was fixed, we arranged a day sail for everybody. It felt great to finally leave the lagoon! Mark manoeuvred Irie through the narrow bridge and before long, we glided through the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. We stopped at some rocks near Grand Case to snorkel and had lunch on the boat. My mum was still suffering from seasickness, so I brought her and my dad back to shore in Grand Case. The rest of us sailed a couple of hours longer along the north coast of St. Martin and back. On the trip, we crossed the “border” with Anguilla and gazed at the contours of Tintamarre and St. Barth. The weather was wonderful and the sailing awesome!

Mark’s parents left ten days after they arrived and my parents stayed for three weeks on the island. Everybody had a good time and it all worked out fine. We hope to get together again in the future. Mark and I both appreciate the effort of our parents to fly these long distances to see us and be with us. I guess we are a good excuse for a distant vacation and an encouragement for them to see different cultures and places. But, I’m sure, deep in their hearts they would like us to stay put somewhere, ideally within reach, and live a normal life…