Sneaking away to St. Martin

During the week of Labor Day, we hopped on a plane to St. Martin for a relaxing getaway. The trip started off on a good note when we were bumped to first class on our US Airways flight and had the most wonderful flight attendant (Judy) waiting on us on our 3.5 hour flight to SXM.

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Since the planes land on the Dutch side of the island (St. Maarten), we got a tour of island in our taxi ride to our resort – The Grand Case Beach Club. It was nestled between picturesque mountains and turquoise water right there on the beach (or two beaches: Le Petit Plage and Grand Case Beach).

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We had a stunning view of Creole Rock, and even spent one afternoon snorkeling there with some amazing rainbow parrot fish, eels, and about a gazillion more caribbean fish species. It was some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done.

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Our resort offered kayaking, sailing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and snorkeling right off the beach, too. We spent an entire morning exploring the gorgeous water in front of the hotel and just for the record, I only fell off my board ONCE. (Fact: SUP requires some serious balance and core strength, and your feet will hurt afterwards from holding on).

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Each morning we went to the restaurant on site for our continental breakfast. My favorite was of course the chocolate croissant. I actually took my Shakeology with me on this trip so that I could remain somewhat healthy (and I embarked on my attempt to be vegetarian for a month on 9/1). Listening to the waves was so tranquil and such a relaxing way to start our mornings.

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We ventured into Grand Case (the best culinary experiences on the island) for dinner most nights. Our favorite spots were Le Cottage and La Villa, although we also had a lovely creole experience where the chef was also the owner and took plenty  of time to come out and just chat with us. The food was nothing short of spectacular on this trip.

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We ventured out to Orient Bay Beach one day, which is the famous nude beach on the island. However, since we were there in September, it was the “off season” and all the nudists stayed home. We pretty much had the run of the place while we were there and dined at an excellent beach restaurant before setting up in some chairs just steps away from a bar for the rest of the afternoon.

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Our resort was totally gated and had security guards walking around at all times which made it feel very safe. We were upgraded upon arrival there to a suite style condo with bed/bath upstairs, and living room, kitchen and another bathroom downstairs. Our patio led right out to an overlook over the beach (the stairs were no more than 5 feet away). We also had an upstairs balcony which provided amazing views of the island. The pool at the resort was one of the prettiest set ups I’ve seen, just dreamy!

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While we’re talking safety, nothing happened to us while we were there but upon asking advice on a couple trips we were thinking of taking on our own, I was told, “Just don’t take anything with you.” There was also a “theft insurance” charge for renting cars on the island and parts of it were not very well lit. That being said, the locals left us alone. Only once (on Orient Bay Beach) were we asked if we wanted to purchase something. Philipsburg was more touristy and probably the least safe place we went for that reason.

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In Philipsburg, we had lunch before walking around. It was gorgeous on the water. The shopping area was your typical Caribbean shopping area which owners out front asking you to come in and a few peddlers on the beach asking you to purchase their items. We didn’t spend TOO much time there before we headed off to Maho Bay beach to see the planes land. Since Maho Bay is also on the Dutch side where the casinos are, we popped into one while we were there. My (risk adverse) husband won while playing poker and immediately quit playing, so we weren’t there for more than 45 minutes before we headed back to Grand Case.

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Their signature drink on the island is the Guavaberry Colada since they have a guava berry rum factory on the island. Each restaurant offered their own specialty after-dinner (or lunch) rum. Some of the flavors we tried were caramel, banana, coconut and a delicious mixture of coconut rum, grenadine and pineapple juice.

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We very much enjoyed our trip to St. Martin and would recommend the French side to anyone going to visit. However, if you’re still deciding where to visit, our vote is Aruba. Aruba is still our favorite island. The friendliness of the people is unmatched (and they’re all so incredibly intelligent). Not for one second on the island did we feel unsafe, even when we walked or biked the .75 miles back from the high rise area at night. While Aruba has a desert climate and St. Martin has a tropical climate, we didn’t mind the heat and no humidity in Aruba. It never rains in Aruba (it only rained on us once in St. Martin). Aruba had happy hour which we loved, St. Martin did not. The food was amazing in both places but Aruba holds a special place in our hearts. If we had a free trip back to either of these islands, we would undoubtedly choose Aruba.

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…

A while back I mentioned our honeymoon dilemma of WHERE to go!? With so many options and a trip we’ll only take once in our lives, we wanted it to be absolutely perfect. We had considered the entire globe at first and narrowed it down to 5 specific areas – but they were still VERY spread out.

Tahiti was GORGEOUS and a friend had recommended it, as well as another friend who just traveled there and had incredible pictures – but a 20-hour flight? And jet lag on my honeymoon? Plus the price tag on each flight matched the entirety of the stay. It just didn’t quite make sense to us.

Hawaii is also amazing, and we figured out which islands we wanted to go to if that’s where we chose. But again, the flights and the jet-lag outweighed the idea of hiking, beaches and potential great-white shark swimming. Oh wait, nothing outweighs the idea of swimming with great-whites for me, but I figure we have the next 60-70 years of our lives to do that so I’ll just keep it on my bucket list.

We had also discussed the Greek Isles, Seychelles, Curacao and like I said before, a multitude of other places. We decided that the Caribbean made the most sense flight wise, since we could get direct flights that were short, to most places. I spent an afternoon making a spreadsheet that included resort names, location, activities available, flight times/costs, cost of resort for 8 days/7 nights and any other “helpful” information, and then I passed this info over to my beau for his fabulous decision-making skills.

We’ve never had a bad trip anywhere, so I totally trust his ability to choose the right place. I know some people keep the honeymoon a secret but not us! My darling groom emailed me just to say that there were no flights departing on the 8th day like I had wanted, so he went ahead and booked it for 11 days and 10 nights! Oh, and we are staying in the most adorable hotel that Aruba has to offer!
ARUBAThis bride-to-be is so excited to be relaxing on white-sand beaches with the man of my dreams, and with an extra-ring on my left hand!

Happy May, and happy just-over-three-months-until-“I do!”

Honeymooners

I thought today’s post would be about food, especially since we were both starving after talking about food with our caterer. Y’all get ready, our wedding food is going to be DELISH! But today… I’m going to talk about our honeymoon.

We have been ALL over the place with where we want to go… I started with a hut in Bora Bora which was countered by Europe/Greece from my sweet Fiance. Then, I compromised with 2 islands in Hawaii (Maui & Kauai) so that we could do the exploring that he wanted, along with the butt-in-the-sand time that I wanted, and was countered with several options in the Caribbean. With it being August, I’m hesitant to visit ANYWHERE in the Caribbean, even though my favorite co-worker tells me Aruba is far enough out of the hurricane belt that I shouldn’t have to worry about anything. We both LOVE the idea of the Galapagos Islands (flora + fauna + GREAT WHITES, oh my!) but it appears to be next to impossible to find lodging there.

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We have ruled out Jamaica, Bahamas and anywhere in Mexico since we’ve traveled there before. Although each of them have their pretty and near perfect spots, we don’t feel the need to revisit any of them.
37423_640368798943_6875587_nLuckily, we still have time to make this decision. A timeline in Carolina Bride magazine recommends booking 4-6 months in advance. Our countdown is at 6.5 months and I’m not feeling TOO much pressure on this issue. Now that we’ve knocked out the catering, our next task is the flowers. And your next task is to vote for us to win this trip to the Caribbean from Wedding Paper Divas + Sandals. If we win, you will have helped select our honeymoon destination – but we need your help to win! All you have to do is click here, “like” Wedding Paper Divas on Facebook, and then click “vote” once a day for the rest of the week. Got it? Ok, go! (and thank you in advance!)