St. Martin, 2015

Distant sounds of young girl’s laughter is about the only thing I can hear besides the wind here; and, no, it is not windy, just quiet. I can see the stars, too. What was the last time you looked up at the sky and saw something other than the projectors tracing the cloudy sky, advertising a new strip club opening in the north west? Yeah, me too. I forget how awesome the sky looks; and only now remember that I wanted to bring a tripod to take night photos. Whoops. No worries, I have two cameras here: a tiny underwater video cam and my usual workhorse that’s been with me to hell and back, twice.

I travel to St. Martin relatively often—I’ve been here three times already (this be my fourth). This is a very quiet island with very few things to actually do. Perfect! I really did come here just to sleep and catch up on a bit of self-reflection that I’ve been meaning to do. No nightclubs, no bars, no loudness, and no women or other annoying distractions. If you wish to get away from the world, I think St. Martin is one of the better places to do so: you have all the pleasures of the “real world” (like a working shower) while none of the distractions (like wifi or a cell signal). Also, this would be a good spot for a vacation with someone you love—you get to spend all the time with each other, rather than running about, doing noisy stuff. On a bad note, the food here is really phenomenal (if you like French food that is)—I tend to gain lots of weight every time I come here and this time is no exception: I’ve gained 12 lbs in a week. Well, I’m off to gym while you take a look at these notes from the trip. Cheers.

These trips take little-to-no preparation: grab your wallet and passport, don’t forget sunscreen, and off you go, Jimmy.

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Philly airport (international terminal) made a big bird out of little birds.  Cute.

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Dang, how come I never saw these before?!  I really need headphones that also have speakers and look like Hello Kitty.  Apparently they also come with an enlarged-eyed-platinum-lady. I wanna I wanna!

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Sun is rising.  Why did I get a 7 am flight [on my vacation!]?!

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*Yawn*.  Here we are.  Home sweet home.

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Plantains in-the-flesh, right at the parking lot.

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Yep.  Somehow the palm trees signal for me “VACATION!!!”.  They’re not really native here but they fit right in.  I bet in a 100 years people will forget and consider them native to the island.

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This will be by view for the next week.  Sure beats center city Philly view.

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Let’s fire up iPhone’s panorama feature and view this… view… how I see it.  Yum.  Be jealous!  I am as I am writing this, back in rainy Philadelphia.

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Yay, we have a touchdown!

Going for a walk, satellite dishes are kind of blocking my view but I, somehow, don’t mind it at all.

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The view, mind you, is what I’ve been missing for many months.  I think I need to retire in a place like this.  Ocean is really majestic.

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So are the drivers here.  “Majestic” is a good description of how these people drive… nay, how they survive other drivers [like themselves].

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Yawn.  Nighty night.

Day 1

Only the first day and I’m feeling the strong transformation from the angry overworked self to the slightly-sunburnt not-give-a-shit’er—the best state to be in right now. I don’t even know where to begin here. Grab a beer? Take some photos by the beach? Go look at the parrots they’ve been telling me about? Sigh. So many important decisions to make here, I am not even sure how to go about all this overwhelming nothing-to-do-here thing.

Let’s just setup tent and see, shall we?

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This is what it’s all about here.  Most of the island is the beach.  It just keeps going!

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Windy today, sure.  But it’s 85F so you can enjoy the breeze.  Watch out though: wind is cooling you off so you don’t notice baking in the sun.  Ouch :-).  Also, note the clouds here.  They’re pretty amazing.

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Saint Martin 2015 d1 (7 of 32)

This is my major problem for today: dealing with the tide.  Oh my gosh, what will I do, how will I ever survive?!

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I mean, even the sand is being washed away!  Oh my, what trouble to worry about!  See, no problem, I can feel like I’m still at work dealing with major issues.  Now, whom do I notify about this major sand-washing-away disaster?!  Hmm.

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Found some kind of a starfish thing. Gosh, I really have no idea what these are called…

This be the resort.  I highly recommend them: Divi Little Bay.

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I’m in heaven.

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Of course, I have to find the area where beach is not monitored so I can go break my neck on something.

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Windy, indeed.

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Ah, settled here for a bit.  Please feel right at home in my temporary office.  I just need to let my bandana dry off and I can move right along, thank you very much.

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My office even has some plants.  I don’t even need to water them or nothing.

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View from my office window.  Nice, right?

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It’s just a little tough to get back to the coffee machine / bathroom.

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Yep.  It’s on the other side.

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Yawn.  Time for a coffee break yet?  You know, of course, what I mean by “coffee”, right?  It’s beer, just to be clear.

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Saint Martin 2015 d1 (23 of 32)

Went for a walk to find some parrots. Older ones, and big!

Yeah, none of the island is by any means skatable: too many hills and zero sidewalk.

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But I can get my car repaired at a place that doesn’t even have a sign.  Must be good, right?

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Mmm. Adult Toy Box.

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Better settle for some grilled something, right?

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This restaurant advertises fresh fish.  What they do is just throw food in the water and then catch the fish for today with a big net.  This is open ocean.  These guys can swim to anywhere they want but they choose to hangout here and wait to be eaten by me.  A little sad for them but shows the limits of the freedom we all possess: swim anywhere you like but the food is right next to where they are going to grill and eat you.  Of well.  At least I know the fish’s fresh :-).

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Look at these guys swim.  Impressive.

I go for a lobster though.

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Yummy yummy lobster.

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With a view of the marina.

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Saint Martin 2015 d1 (32 of 32)

Day 2

Lots of shopping in a city that feeds on large boats—Philipsburg; but that’s later today.  First, let’s hang out at the beach, check out the local chicks.  This chick is a grown pelican.  Hot, right?

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And they always run away from me.  What gives?!

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Here, playing with water video.  I got a lot of footage here, all just about the same:

And you find some interesting random stuff down there, link an anchor.  How did that ever get there?!

In general, snorkeling here is pretty awesome.  I’ll edit the videos later and make another post; but here’s a sneak peek for ‘ya.

Yeah, back to the city.  We were just talking about service industry here and, look, an orthodontist’s office.  Right by the beach.  How does he/she get any work done at all?

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See, they’re one building away from the shore… Nice, right?

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Their neighbors got it pretty nice, too, don’t you agree?  I keep wondering to myself what would my life be like if I just up and move to the Islands? Or, perhaps, Hawaii?

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I’d be fixing this little corner up for myself, repainting the walls and such.

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I’ll definitely step it up a notch, for sure!

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And I can always get used DVDs and even CDs…  Remember those skinny things that “killed” vinyl?  Yeah, those.

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This store is about the loudest thing in this town, blasting old hip hop.

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Nice fire hydrants here.  They look brand new and I don’t recall seeing this style last time I was here, about 6 years ago.

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The rest of the place—like this fence—remains forever unchanging [on a decade-scale that is].

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This, I suppose, is an empty lot, perhaps even for-sale.  I wonder if it comes with the chicken or that’s separate charge.

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Now, would you look at this wondrous specimen?!

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It’s for sale! Next time I’m here I’ll inquire about the price, perhaps.

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Christmass is in full swing here as well.

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Palm trees and all.

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Speaking of the full swing.

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This is, by far, the most chill Santa I’ve ever seen.  USA’s Santas have a lot to learn from this fella.

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Trash can localization.

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And the aftermath of a party.  I bet this was a bet who can lift up the cannon and carry it three feet.

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Of course, the huge monster ships that feed the city are at the docs.

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And new bars are slooooowly popping up, too.

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Local security.  This actually makes me think the island is not all-that-safe to live on.

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But stealing electricity will be super-easy with connections like these…

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Here are the three generations of trash cans.  The rightmost one is the newest and has the Island’s branding on the other side.

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I thought I was on the Dutch side…

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Nope, not an optical illusion. The have oval tiny covers for the water lines.

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Safety first!

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Local church is, naturally, the fanciest building around.

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Also with the view of the ocean.

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And here are the regular houses locals probably occupy.  This is already 3-4 blocks from the beach—nobody’s interested in living that far from the water unless you have to work there daily.

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Typical house.

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And their typical back yard.

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And the typical city road.  Keep in mind, this is the town’s main super-duper-fancy road through the main shopping strip.

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Did I already take a picture of this?  I can’t remember—all the backyards look about the same here.  Just like this one.

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The island does come with daily amazing sunsets.  This is my view every evening; but only for a very short time as the sunsets here are rather quick.

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Three minutes later.

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OK. My first time betting on a crab.  Here’s a funny story.  I bet on #12 and my buddy bet on #15 (or something like that).  The promoter proceeds to tell us that #12’s name is “Lucky” and #15 is “BBC”.  I look at him and ask: “Why would you call a crab ‘British Broadcasting Corporation’?!”.  After about 5-7 seconds of blankly staring at me the promoter blurts out: “Big Black Cock! Number 15 is called Big Black Cock!”.  Yeah.  Good laugh.  I was laughing at his expense and he was at mine—I think we both parted with a happy smile.

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Look at these guys go!!

And what crab betting game can be complete without a grilled lobster?!  On the Islands they tend to make this dish called Lobster Thermidor.  I’m not sure I’m absolutely in love with it but it is definitely something worth a try.  Think lobster with extra extra butter, smothered in cheese.

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Lighting design at this resort is quite nice.

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And I do like the palm trees against the fading skyline.  Can’t see it here because the camera chooses to, well, be a camera.

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Day 3

Discovering the underwater city

French shopping

Basically spent the whole day soaking in salt water.  Kind of like this:

I shot over a 100 video clips underwater and a few overwater but those will take me a bit to process.  So, here we drove over to the French side for some food and stuff.

These monstrous things are all over the place here, just leisurely strolling along the roadside, looking for whatever iguanas eat.

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Driving is pretty fun on this island.

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The views and the roads are not something I see everyday [or ever], on my typical day.

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This is a gas supply system for the one, two, three, … looks like five or six houses.  Right there.  I can reach it from my car window and probably knock it off if I so desired.

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Saint Martin 2015 d3 (10 of 31)

Cows on the side of the road: the French side is rather far more agriculturally-inclined than the Dutch side.  I think since the beginning the Dutch were traders and the French the growers.

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Much cleaner on the French side.

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And the attention to detail is there.  People seem to enjoy life more on this side and live in more prosperity.  I am sure it is the taxation system… but the difference is only a 15-minute drive away.

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If you are able to drive that is.

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Rejoice!  Euro and dollar are equal here.  Unless, of course, you are paying with credit card; in which case you will be charged in euros.

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Ah, the French…

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Saint Martin 2015 d3 (17 of 31)

Sun is beginning to set and I caught it on a palm tree.

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Note: Urgent Medicaments delivery truck just blocks the major road and causes a mile-long buildup.  No worries, man, it’s the Caribbean way, man.

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Saint Martin 2015 d3 (20 of 31)

French/Dutch border.

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You think these Dutch folk stocked up enough Heineken?

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Lovely balcony here—my dream balcony.  Maybe, indeed, I should think about moving to here, yeah?

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Oh! Yeah, right here.  I can design my own house, too.

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And this will be my daily evening view.  What do you think?

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Day 4

Supposedly a lazy day here.

Well, not for these ladies.  These are our wonderful cleaning crew. Every single one of them is typecast: all look the same, speak with the same accent, and clearly represent a cast of people living here. I don’t approve of such hiring practices [since they tend to create this “cast system” but this is the way of the Islands].

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Oh, found a huge cock. These are kind of all over the place here. :-) [this is kind of an inside joke, sorry; but some of you will get it]

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Saint Martin 2015 d4 (4 of 41)

So, there used to be a Dutch fort here, controlling the island.

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Funny thing, all the cannons are pointing at the tourist ships.

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And overlooking pelican nesting. So many of them!

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This be the main building at the port.

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Russians were here, obviously. I mean, is there anything else a true Russian would write on a wall? anywhere?!

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Nice view, though, right?

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Saint Martin 2015 d4 (13 of 41)

I wonder if these are the direct descendants of the original wild chickens that were brought here by the Europeans? Very well may be.

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See what I mean about the cannons and the cruise ships?

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Original work.

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Same here.  The fort has only a few decades left before it fades into nothing; unless the resort makes it into an attraction and starts fixing it up.

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But I bet a set of living quarters would make for a better business right here; I mean, look at the view.

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OK, I’m so totally printing this one and handing it somewhere in my place.  Clouds are pretty intense here.

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Saint Martin 2015 d4 (40 of 41)

Day 5

More shopping—YAY!

Plus happy hour.

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The Rotary International is very prominently here, too.

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Gas prices are pretty steep.  We’re talking close to $2 per liter… that’s close to $8 per gallon.  Ouch!  Yesterday I filled up for $2.46/gallon (and I use premium).

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Typical evening on the beach.

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Day 6

Beach all day. French ending.

The Island is constantly under construction and these are everywhere.

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Last swim :)(

Oh, and apparently these guys don’t need a leash…

The French Marina at Marigot is an excellent [although tourist-filled] spot for a French-style dinner by the water.

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I rarely take food pics but this escargot is… well, it’s not something I can get in the States and expect the same quality and richness of taste.

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Ten seconds later…

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Saint Martin 2015 d5 (17 of 17)

Day 7

Travel back with some longcuts through the old and familiar terrain.

Leaving the Dutch side to swing by the French side to go back to the Dutch side for the airport.  It rained yesterday so every car has at least one wheel in the puddle.  Note: this is a parking lot of an expensive and famous resort—this is a good summary for St. Martin.

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The countryside is awesome here.

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Full of character, so-to-speak.

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The views… sigh

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And more construction.

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Complete, with stairs-into-nowhere.  I suppose there will be something up there in the distant future…

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Even the dogs are French on the French side.  His name is “Ugly”. Yes, that’s his official name.  Why do you think he is so happy?

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Lovely art for sale.  I only took this to remind myself to make one just like.  All I need is a model now.

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Very different here, from the Dutch side, right?

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These are “flat” palm trees.  I wonder how “they” do this?

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See?

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Ah… The French Caribbean… I need to come here more often, methinks.

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Even the beach is different. Although, the silliness is the same: the locals are doing water exercises with the fat tourists.

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France!

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France…

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Bathroom to the left, this is a smoking area.  Dang, I need something like this at home!

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Or a silver [fake] iguana under my coffee table.  This is definitely an idea!

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I forgot to mention the number of cats here: they are all over the place.

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Let’s take a moment and soak in the vastness of iguanas here.  One.

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Two.

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Three.

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Two more steps. Four.

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And I mean FOUR!

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Five, six, seven (if you can spot them).

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Eight.  This one’s right outside of the room…

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And we’re off.

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The airport is, again, flying the French flag (even though we’re on the Dutch side).

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And we have to walk to the jet, trying to avoid being hit by trucks.

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And I’m off to go home and reflect on all my notes from the trip.  Let me tell ‘ya… this was long overdue and much-deserved break from work.  Although I did bring my laptop I barely even checked email [due, mainly, to crappy wi-fi signal]. These breaks are good for the soul and I urge you to take one as well.  Grab your loved one and book tix to St. Martin or elsewhere equally relaxing.

Toodles.

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