Marigot - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Marigot


French at heart, but cosmopolitan Caribbean in style, St Martin's capital city of Marigot is cluttered with traffic, shops and people in a small area that is only four streets wide. The town stretches along Marigot Bay, its main focus the harbour at the bottom of Rue de la Republique from where ferries depart to surrounding islands and fishing boats come and go. The main shopping centre at the southern end of the town is near the harbour and is a paradise for shopaholics, with elegant stores carrying the latest designer fashions and jewellery, all tax-free. Marigot's buildings are largely colonial, sprinkled with several smart cafes, bistros, pastry shops and luxury boutiques reminiscent of real French market towns.

Information & Facts

Dutch and French are the official languages, but English is widely spoken. Locals commonly use a language known as Papiamento, a mixture of Portuguese, African, Spanish, Dutch and English.

On the Dutch side the currency is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder or Florin (ANG), where one guilder is divided into 100 cents, but US Dollars are also widely accepted and prices are usually quoted in Dollars as well as Guilders. On the French side of the island the Euro (EUR) is the local currency, although establishments will also accept US Dollars. There are numerous bureaux de change and banks throughout the island and ATMs in the main towns in both national sectors; travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted.

GMT -4.

Next to the Marina Port la Royale on the southern end of Marigot is a worthwhile museum, dedicated to preserving St Martin's history and culture. It houses numerous exhibits, including a variety of pre-Colombian treasures excavated by the Hope Estate Archaeological Society. There is also a reproduction of a 1,500-year-old burial mound and ceramics dating from 550 BC. The island's more recent history, before tourism took hold, is encapsulated in some evocative black and white photographs of quiet streets populated with a handful of children and donkeys, and of labourers toiling in the salt industry.

St Martin's largest historical monument overlooks Marigot. Fort St Louis was built according to plans sent from France by Louis XVI in 1767 to guard the settlement from invaders. The ruins sit atop a hill, which is worth the 15-minute steep climb for the panoramic view of the island afforded from the summit.

Fronted by a sweeping curve of beach the little fishing village of Grand Case, at the northern tip of St Martin, is famed for its fine foods and distinctive style of architecture. The small wooden houses are decorated in gingerbread style and painted pastel colours. Numerous good restaurateurs have chosen to congregate in the town's main street, which has become one of the finest dining centres in the eastern Caribbean.

On the north coast of St Martin are the tiny hamlets of Anse Marcel and Cul-de-Sac, from which operate boats ferrying passengers on a two-minute hop to the uninhabited offshore islet of Ilet Pinel. Anse Marcel features some large hotels, a marina and a sandy beach, while Cul-de-Sac boasts St Martin's mayoral residence. Ilet Pinel is pristine and offers calm waters for bathing, and excellent snorkelling opportunities.

The largest and most popular beach on the island of St Martin, Orient Beach, is bursting with facilities for watersports, shops, restaurants and beach bars. The southern end of the beach has been reserved as a nudist resort. Prune Beach (or Plum Bay) is frequented by surfers while Rouge Beach offers great snorkelling and is regarded as the island's most beautiful. Long Beach is on the border with Dutch St Maarten and has little shade and generally no breeze, so it is known as a hot spot. Le Galion Beach is the island's best windsurfing beach and has shallow, calm waters. Anse Marcel in the north is usually quiet and favoured by French tourists. Friars Bay just north of Marigot is backed by a lagoon containing various waterfowl, and just north of Friars is Happy Bay, beautiful and peaceful because of its inaccessibility. Reaching Happy Bay requires a 10-minute uphill walk from Friars.

Paradise Peak, St Martin's highest point, rises from the centre of the island to a height of 1,390ft (424m), crowned with a communications tower. Visitors can climb through thick woods twisted with vines and full of colourful birds to reach the summit, where there are two observation decks providing spectacular views of the island. *Note: Following several incidents of muggings and theft from tourists and parked vehicles, visitors are advised to be cautious with their belongings when visiting the area.

Marigot's open-air public market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday at the base of Fort St Louis along the harbourfront, and provides a colourful spectacle for visitors, though bargains are few. Wares include home-grown produce, tropical fruits and spices, fresh fish, souvenirs, woodcarvings and a host of other goods. The pace is lively and the food well worth sampling.

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