The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 12, 1999 · Page 678
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 678

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 12, 1999
Page 678
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ST. MAKTIN Marigot St. Martin French is spoken here, baguettes baked, and sunbathing is 'au naturel.' Philipsburg S T. M A A I? T I . N tal, for lunch and duty-free shopping, then back to the French capital of Marigot for dinner at a bistro. A 20-minute ride on a public bus from Philipsburg to Marigot costs a couple of dollars. In St. Martin, visitors will find brasseries, little pubs just like the ones in Paris; creperies such as those on the Left Bank; French stores from the modestly priced Naf-Naf to the trendy Marithe & Francois Girbaud and elegant Yves St. Laurent. Shop owners and customers speak French, and bakeries sell croissants and baguettes, the classic French bread. And, just as in Cannes, St. Martin's beaches are topless Orient Bay beach is bottomless, as well. The scenic French capital is quieter than Philipsburg on the Dutch side. Cruise passengers generally don't make it this far on their shore excursions. Marigot is the place to spend a two-hour lunch at a brasserie in the new Marina Royale complex downtown. Or to window shop on Rue du General de Gaulle and Rue de la Liberte.That's what you would do in Paris. By Cheryl Blackerby MARIGOT, St. Martin The southern half of this island is Dutch, but the northern half is strictly la belle France. While you sunbathe au naturel (yes, that means naked), or dine on French cuisine at outdoor cafes, you'd swear you were on the Cote d'Azur. Very few countries have a border this easy to cross. One minute you're on Dutch soil, and before you can say "Bonjour," you're in French territory. The border was not decided by a war. In a friendly walking contest in 1648, a Frenchman paced off the larger half, outdistancing his Dutch opponent. And so the boundary remains today. Neither passports nor ID's are needed to cross from one side to the other. Photos by Cheryl Blackerny SHOPPING CENTER: Marigot, in St. Martin, offers French Colonial architecture and designer boutiques. There is no customs office or border patrol, not even a fence. A concrete monument, built on the 3()0th anniversary of the 1648 treaty that established the border, is the only marker on the main highway. But considering the proximity of the two countries and the open border, each side surprisingly retains its distinct character. It's easy to go to a French beach, duck over to Philipsburg, the Dutch capi Twins, but not identical St. MartinSt. Maarten: The larger top part of the island is French (St. Martin), the lower part Dutch (St. Maarten). Personality: Sophisticated, high-rolling. Moneyed French and Dutch landowners rub shoulders downtown with thousands of cruise-ship passengers who arrive at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. Languages: Sexy Francois in St. Martin, Dutch in St. Maarten, but everyone speaks English. Diversions: Gamble in the casinos (there are eight in St. Maarten); Money: You'll need lots. The U.S. dollar is accepted most places, but the currency in St. Maarten is the Dutch florin, and in St. Martin, the French franc. Resorts: The most famous resort in St. Martin is La Samanna (800-854-2252), a sprawling beach-side resort with every amenity, including a spa. The historic Pasanggrahan, formerly a governor's house, is next to Philipsburg harbor beach. You can't get closer to shopping and casinos. (Call 800-223-9815). Information: For St. Maarten, call (800) ST-MAARTEN. For St. Martin, call the French Government Tourist Office, (212) 838-7800. BOAT PEOPLE: Cruise ships bearing tourists enter Philipsburg's harbor in St. Maarten. shop in the 500-plus duty-free stores in Philipsburg and designer stores in Marigot, .St. Martin; dine in fine French restaurants in Grand Case. Page 5

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