So, we've arrived on St. Maarten/St. Martin, the half-Dutch, half-French island in the Caribbean, just south of Anguilla and east of the British Virgin Islands. We Island Runaways are out exploring this gem of a tropical isle. People say that Baie Rouge or "Red Bay" is one of the most beautiful beaches, but sometimes people exaggerate. So, keeping this in mind Zickie and I didn't have overly extravagant expectations. In fact, the place was difficult to find, because the sign for the only obvious public access point was blocked by road construction. So we drove by once, twice, and finally on the third attempt, voilà! Success! Down a narrow road, a small, unpaved parking lot awaited. Down a set of concrete steps you discover this:
(The public entrance to Baie Rouge. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
The three of us, including our littlest Island Runaways member, stopped collectively as we stood in place and absorbed the color of the water. The fact is that many photos on travel websites are manipulated and saturated with electronic color. But this photo -- and this view -- haven't been manipulated in ANY way. The ocean truly appears this surreally blue.
(An almost unreal blue ocean. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
The sand felt as soft as silk beneath our feet and was gorgeously clean. Despite this stunning tropical scenery, very few people were out on the beach. I think this is due to the fact that most of the beach is fronted by exclusive villas, and there's only a small public entrance with not all that much room for parking. You could walk along huge swaths of sea and sand where there was no one around.
(Not a crowded beach...at Baie Rouge. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
We had read that the waters here weren't too rough, although on this particular day the sea worked up a decent swell. Zickie and I, as water babies, are big believers in the mantra "always respect the ocean," so we didn't venture out far into waves. The three of us splashed around, and savored the fresh feel of the ocean. On another day, Baie Rouge could be as calm as a bathtub. We can't control nature, can we? You just take what you get. It's actually one of the aspects of island travel that I love: Islands will dictate what you do. We can't dictate to islands.
(A vista of Red Bay, St. Martin. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Another aspect we enjoy when traveling abroad is cultural difference. We welcome the chance to expand our boundaries beyond the familiar and the known. On Baie Rouge, wow, did we find our expectations challenged. Since it was a French beach, we expected a bit of topless sunbathing, but we hadn't quite prepared for the FULL MONTY! Yes, my island runaway friends, there was a group of folks in their 60's soaking up the sun in the buff. Needless to say, Zickie and I did not take a photo! Give them their privacy, right?
So, our first impressions of St. Martin/St. Maarten? A shoreline of incomparable island beauty. People who have been very friendly and helpful. An ocean that literally glows with shades of aqua blue. Sand that caresses the bottom of your feet.
Are we happy to be here?
(One happy camper. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Zickie and I feel incredibly fortunate to be exploring this intriguing half-French, half-Dutch isle for our fellow island runaways. The mood here is mellow and relaxed. You can use dollars, euros...and communicate easily, if you're an English speaker. From airport to our apartment rental took all of a 10 minute drive. Yes, this is one island runaway that doesn't require a lot of complication. Just relaxation!