We had an exhilarating journey through the caribbean. Our favorite island that we have visited often is the dual nation island of St. Maarten. French on one side, Dutch on the other. These are not provinces, possesions, or territories. When you enter the French side, you are in France. Period. Do not assume otherwise. The same holds true for the Dutch side.
We started our island jaunt by taxiing to the French side. The rolling hills with cliff hanging vistas provided a nice segue into the town of Marigot, a town with split identities. The bustling French creole influenced part of town circles the chic harbor-wrapping playground enclave of the rich. Interesting contrast.
Fortunately it was market day, so we started our morning on the outskirts of town at the market. We stopped by the lolo/food kiosk section for something to eat. Think rustic outdoor food court. Individual stands and tables with their owners hawking their offerings. It was very early in the morning and all the workers had their faces buried in large ceramic bowls with spoons in hand sipping and slurping something that was very aromatic and steamy. I was intrigued.
We chose Rosemary's Place, a small wooden shed with a few tables covered in bright checkered tablecoths. We sat down and ordered cocktails. With no tomato juice on deck, I settled for a margarita. Michael had a screwdriver. I asked Rosemary what everyone was eating and apparently enjoying. "Curried Goat", she matter-of-factly replied. Pause. Alrighty then, I'll have curried goat with my strong margarita. At 9:00 a.m.. In France. The curry was brothy and not creamy as I had expected. More like curry water. Strong curry water with bits of shredded goat and scant vegetables. I slurped the broth, tasting the goat meat more as a flavoring element than as a breakfast meat.
We moved on to the textile section of the market. The colors were mezmerizing. Bright and bold. A sea of dresses, scraves,carvings, jewelry, and batik billowed in the wind everywhere.
We got sidetracked when a video producer shooting a music video asked Michael to join the beautiful local music star in the video. As she slid in and out of the scarves, hats, and dresses, she enticed Michael to buy stuff. As if he needed enticing. The music was heavy with steel drums and calypso rhythms. Michael felt the beat. Fun!
The fish market, with boats pulled up unloading fresh fish into blue and white tiled fish holding tanks, was next to the spice market. The aroma was intoxicating. I was in heaven. Spice stall after stall bursting with burlap bags filled with nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, cumin, annatto seeds, peppercorns, and allspice berries. The bags overflowed and spilled onto the wooden plankfloors next to fresh mangos, papayas, coconuts, bananas, vanilla beans, and plantains. We filled our bags and made our way down to the harbor.
We stopped at Belle Epoche, our favorite bistro on the edge of the water, and had cocktails. It was still early and their kitchen had not yet opened for croque monsieurs, onion soup gratinee', or escargot. Pity.
Instead of eating, we shopped at Cartier, La Occitane, and Hermes. Rough, let me just say. We really toughed that out.
Thoroughly and literally spent, we hailed a taxi for the 5 million dollar ride back to the Dutch side and the town of Phillipsburg. We played our usual trick and had the cab drop us off at The Holland House. After gallantly wafting through the lobby as if we owned the place waving to the staff, we made our way out to their beach with beach chairs, umbrellas, and bar service.
After perusing the beach menu, we ordered De Kwekkeboom Kroketten, Dutch croquettes. They were very crunchy on the outside and creamy smooth on the inside, flavored and laced with dijon, gruyere, and chanterlles. 4 croquettes arrived on the plate with 4 slices of bread and and a small salad. We weren't exactly sure how all the components on the plate related to each other, sowe sliced the croquettes and spread them on the provided toast points along with the lightly oil and vinaiger dressed lettuce leaves. It was fantastic. Rich, creamy, light, and tart. It was the perfect beach snack.
We each ordered Rum Punch from the beach attendant. They arrived looking different from any rum punch we had tried. We commented to each other that they seemed dark and cloudy. Cloudy on a sunny day. Odd. We each drank two.
The Green Faerie.
We woke up about an hour later flat out on our backs on our beach chairs in the blazing sun. Dazed. The sand was whiter than white. It was "whiter than the White Horse from the Book of Revelations", I said to Michael as he scraped sand from his burning eyes. White hot. Everything glowed. I stumbled halfway down to the water, plopped down on a pile of dried seaweed to rest, and then dragged myself by the elbows to the sparkling aqua teal blue water to cool off. Michael joined me. We stayed in the water forever, glowing.
The secret ingredient in our drinks turned out to be Absinthe, also know as "La Fee Verte" or the Green Faerie. After a ban of 92 years in the United States, absinthe was legalized agin in 2007. Apparently, it never went of favor on the islands. It is a very strong distilled spirit made from the artemisia absinthium herb. The qualities have been proven not to be dangerous or hallicinogenic, but the lore behind it is infamous. In the 19th century it was the toast of Europe, enjoyed by artists and painters to free their minds.Toulousse Lautrec, Van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde were huge consumers of absinthe. It can best be decsribed as a lucid drunkenness.
We thought, was the entire day a dream? Did any of it happen? Of course, it did. We had photographs, purchases, and spices in tow. The day was real. And fantastic.
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.
We can't wait to go back......to shop and to eat.
The Secret of the Faerie
The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second is when you begin to see monsters and crule things, but if you can persevere you will eneter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.