Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tuesday 27th February

(French) Simpson Bay Lagoon
St. Martin

18 02.683 N
63 05.508 W

Once we were all out of bed and dressed we dinked into the French side marina and tied up, Gerry and Mark took off to hire a car for the day whilst Rose and I meandered after them browsing through the shore line market stalls until they found us again and hurried us along so that we could go sightseeing in the car. With Gerry driving and Mark navigating we took off to circumnavigate the island on roads which varied from very good (in the most touristy places) to goat tracks in the interior. We wound our way up the hills and at the top of one particular hill there was a lookout point which was a top spot for a photo or two of the Lagoon, then it was back in the car and more winding our way through both the Dutch and French sides of the island. Interestingly there are no borders to cross; you just go from one side to the other without having to do any of the customs stuff – that only needs to be done at the ports. The two halves of the island sort of meld together, apart from the restaurant fare, supermarkets stock and languages (French / English and Dutch / English) there seems to be very little difference between the two sides. We ended up in the Orleans Quarter of the French side as we wanted to visit the butterfly farm there. We missed the turning but a conveniently placed turn around lay by had us back on track (obviously a lot of people miss the turning for there to be this lay by in the middle of nowhere – maybe a big sign post would help). The farm was only small but well done, consisting of a netted enclosure with tropical plants, water features, quiet areas with benches, dirt gravel pathways and display areas for the pupa / chrysalis and caterpillar development. One of the farm operators gives guided tours which proved to be quite interesting, I now know the life cycle of the butterfly! Then of course there were the butterflies themselves, gorgeous colours and sizes flying around you as you walk through the enclosure. Mark had charge of the camera and took a million shots, some really good ones and some which were spoilt by the butterfly being unco-operative and taking off just as the camera shutter clicked. We were all quite enchanted by the place, until the rain began then it was time to duck for cover and have a beer. We bundled ourselves back into the car and set off once again to tour the rest of the island. The scenery comprised of hills, small townships, salt ponds, sea and lagoon views –it was a very pleasant drive. We found our way back to the French port and decided to go to one of the French boulangeries for a coffee and pastry. Unable to eat the food Mark went off for a short walk whilst the 3 of us indulged in wonderful French patisserie stuff. Waddling afterwards Rose and I headed back to the market for a further browsing session whilst Gerry and Mark went in search of Dale and Lorie, arranging to meet up with them at 17.30hrs for diner ashore. After a couple of purchases Rose and I met up with the guys and had a drink then Rose and Mark walked up to Fort Louis whilst Gerry and I went in search of a hammock. Having achieved our goals we all met back at the dock where Dale and Lorie joined us. The next problem was deciding where to eat – so many nice menus and casual style restaurants around the area, we eventually settled on one and enjoyed a very good meal there, helped down by some wine and a post dinner drink (Lucy, Katie and Matthew – you parents are leading us astray, you might have warned us that they were such drunks!) Finally it was time to return to the boat, we took Dale’s dink and they took ours – an arrangement that we had made previously as we needed a bit more room to carry the luggage to the airport in the morning. Yes, it was already the end of Rose and Marks’ stay, how time flies when you’re having rum! Back on our boat it was time to pack the bags, burn photos onto disks and become morose before bedtime. We set the alarm for 06.30hrs knowing that none of us would sleep very well.



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