Pleasure is barefoot and time stands still. That is the mantra at the Grand Case Beach Club in French St. Martin. Across the sea from Anguilla and sharing an island with Dutch St. Maarten, St. Martin covets romance like it does a frothy cappuccino and a croissant fresh from the baker’s oven.
With a user-friendly website and honeymoon packages to beat the band, the seaside hotel is a seashell away from the village of Grand Case that is celebrated for its many fine restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries. An array of amenities include an on-site restaurant, postcard-perfect beach, watersports, swimming pool, boutique with an artisanal array of jewelry, clothing and souvenirs, Cybex gym, hilltop massage gazebo where Gina excels at après-sun rubdowns and a boardwalk that stands guard over the ocean and is ideal for wedding and anniversary parties.
For couples who like to cook, kitchens are in all seventy-one suites along with a flat screen satellite TV. Room rates include a divine continental breakfast of pastries baked fresh every morning, non-motorized water sports equipment and a bottle of vino on arrival. For those who enjoy tennis, a grass court is lit for night play with loaner rackets available to those who did not pack their own. “Our clientele is not the all-inclusive crowd,” says Stephen Wright, general manager, “they come here not only for the comfort and appeal of the property but also for the proximity to Grand Case. In fact, our guests do quite a bit of pre-trip research about the restaurants that they want to try in the Village.”
Wooing the romance crowd, the “Honeymoon Magic” package includes a one day car rental, en suite floral bouquet, picnic basket pour deux, beach bag and vouchers for casino play on the Dutch side of the island where gambling is legal. Three and seven night packages are available through December 22 and the popular “Fifth Night Free” offer is good through December 18. “Honeymooners are big business for us,” says Stephen Wright, general manager, “June is our busiest month but we welcome couples year round.”
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Sunset Café is one-stop-shopping for a scrumptious meal, light bite or piquant cocktail made from local rum. Server extraordinaire Laurent Fanget caters to every culinary whim as he recommends what he’s convinced each guest will enjoy. “How about a café glace?” he says referring to his specialty iced coffee drink , “a bowl of gazpacho or a light sandwich would go very well with that,” he adds with his ooh-la-la French accent. Chef Alex is a master in the kitchen grilling local fish so fresh they’re still mad, whipping up delightful salads with fresh tuna and suggesting a molten chocolate lava cake to-die-for. At night, the Café is candle-lit for fine dining as the green flash of the sunset illuminates up the sky.
At Ti’ Provencal on the Grand Case strip, Chef Herve Sageot’s grilled lobsters are adored as the best on the island. Popular for creative menus, the delightful eatery dishes up awesome views of Grand Case Bay and specialties from trunkfish salad Creole style and creamy scallop soup with a dollop of Noilly Prat and a swirl of truffle oil to linguine with basil, and shrimp. Exotic fish like le capitaine and la baliste royale are brought to the table and then cooked to order.
With restaurant experience in Miami under their chef’s aprons, Sophie and Oliver welcome diners to Spicy, a new French cuisine eatery also on the strip. With a vast selection of fresh fish, the sea bass is the true taste experience.
Stylish and sultry in Grand Case, Le Shore lures with live jazz on the weekends and epicurean delights every night. An oasis of tranquility, the seaside bistro exudes French-Caribbean panache par excellence and is spot-on for a romantic dinner for two.
Beach shack chic is de rigueur at Calmos Café as party goers leave their attitude at the door in favor of a chaise lounge on the sand. Tapas to burgers compliment reggae and salsa on Thursday and Sunday nights.
Aptly named, Baie Longue is not only the longest beach but one of the most exclusive where the ocean meets a brilliant strip of limestone. Clothing-optional, the sandy strand is peppered with pricey real estate including La Samanna, the swishy resort frequented by A-list celebs.
Turn left from the main road in Marigot to Friar’s Bay to find one of the coolest beaches under the hot sun. Pack sneakers and sprint past Kali’s Beach Bar where the high-octane full moon parties reign supreme and then continue up the hill to another beach that lives up to its name. Happy Bay is a sweet spot with a lone Lolo run by a happy guy named Danny who is the only reminder of civilization on this sublime stretch of sandy solitude.
Set up along the wharves in front of the ferry pier and surrounded by gingerbread houses, quaint galleries and busy sidewalk bistros, the Marigot Market is a lovely spot on a sunny afternoon and a quick drive from the Grand Case Beach Club. Busiest on Wednesday and Saturday, tourists and locals come to shop, snap photos of the scenic vistas, people-watch from the benches along the perimeter and enjoy a gourmet meal at one of the cafes that serve midday lunch specials. Note to shoppers – best deals are in the early morning as the first sale of the day means good luck for vendors. Practice your French, sharpen your bargaining skills and be sure to leave a little extra room in your suitcase.