St. Martin, At Last | St. Martin

Posted by on May 29, 2007

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and you really need one these days in air travel. Another wonderful saying is that old bromide about danger and opportunity being the same word in Chinese.

At the end of last month’s fiasco story, we were back home after a failed attempt to fly to St. Martin on Saturday, after that horrendous Friday storm.

We set out once again for JFK airport, on Monday morning, leaving even earlier than we had on Saturday, since Monday would be a high traffic day in to the city and to the airports.

We arrived way too early for the 11:40 flight – but were greatly cheered when the very same Sky Cap who had greeted us on Saturday came up to us as we alighted the car, saying “What are you two doing here AGAIN?”  (It’s nice to be remembered!)  We told him our tale of woe, and when Jim tried to give him a very nice tip, he said, “Oh, no, thank you, this one’s on me.”  (Who said New Yorkers aren’t friendly?)

By now we knew exactly what the drill was, so we got through the check in and security lines fairly easily, with the usual shoe removal and wanding, (I have an artificial hip, so I’m resigned to it.)

Off we went to the Admirals’ Club, again thanking myself for having had the smarts to get a lifetime membership many moons ago, when it was really cheap to do so.  It’s a great place to wait out the flight announcements, and especially when it’s a long time.

Here again we met people with horrendous travel stories to tell. All were hoping to get to the Caribbean before the end of the season. I recognized one couple who had been St. Martin bound on Saturday, and, like us, willing to try again.

In addition, we met a very nice man who owns two villas on the island, who regaled us with all the inside scoop on what’s happening there.  This was a real education on the current politics and economics of these two different countries (St. Martin and Sint Maarten.) It added a lot to our current understanding of the plight of the local people, and the huge boom on the Dutch side of the island.

We also met a diamond dealer who travels to St. Martin often, and who had other sorts of insight, and a whole lot of “dish” about the jewelry trade.

All in all, I was delighted to be getting this education as a good foundation for the short week of rest and relaxation on the island, where we hadn’t been in about five years.  Delighted, that is, until the announcements started – the ones about flight delay and then the possible cancellation of our flight.

OH, no, not again!!

Well, as you can imagine there were many cries of chagrin among those waiting, several more announcements over the loudspeaker, several irate passengers lined up at the desk, et cetera. Things were starting to get dangerous.

I am happy to report that in the end the plane did fly, although it was three hours late in leaving, but at least we did NOT spend the time in the plane on the tarmac.

When we arrived in St. Martin, the sight of a brand new airport greeted us: huge, white, and air-conditioned – just like a cruise ship.  This was a far cry from our last trip, when we dragged our luggage thru the dust and dirt to a tiny entrance hall.

We spent only five days at our very spacious timeshare at the Towers at Mullet Bay.  But every one of those days was filled with sun and fun. Well, with a couple of minor exceptions.  Jim’s suitcase had been badly damaged in transit, and despite phenomenal talent as a fixer-upper, he decided he needed help from a hardware store.

Due to our lengthy meeting and visit with the aforementioned villa owner, we had learned that the “go-to” place in St. Martin is the Ace Hardware Store in Phillipsburg.  Now, no one who really knows anything about this island EVER wants to go to Phillipsburg, with its dozens of cruise ships, and more dozens of diamond shops, and endless traffic, but off we went, because, of course, the torn suitcase had to be mended. (Never mind the waiting pools, beaches and maitais.)

Of course, there was a traffic jam on the way to Ace Hardware, but I will have to say that once we got there, it was a haven of cool, efficient people. One very nice middle-eastern man who seemed not to speak much English managed to fix the broken suitcase after several minutes of what looked to me like sign language.  Meanwhile, I roamed the isles of island furnishings, daydreaming about furnishing a villa of my own. After one half hour, luggage repaired, no charge (they refused all payment) – we left – delighted once again with human beings.

We discovered some new and delicious dining places on the Dutch side of the island, while gaping sadly at all the new construction.  There are several much too big high rises being built, and there is one new gigantic Westin resort that has taken over the entire lovely and (formerly) deserted Dawn Beach. It really is a terrible shame – all in the name of progress. Let’s hope that at the very least, this building progress brings jobs to the local people.

We saw some old friends, and enjoyed the weather. We did get some good rest, and I read a couple of good books, but I have to say that it is such hard work trying to travel in these days of tight airline seats and post 9-11 security – that I wonder if it’s not just a better idea to turn off the phone, the television, and the computer and hide out at home.

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