Sint Maarten/St. Martin and St. Barts
Many of us have never heard of Sint Maarten/St. Martin or where they are located.
The Islands of Sint Maarten/St. Martin comprise an area of 37 square miles and are the smallest land mass in the world that are divided between two governments, the Dutch and the French, who have ruled these two islands for over 350 years. They are located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago.
On November 11, 1493 Columbus, passing by the island and acting on behalf of Spain, claimed the Island, even though he never set foot on them.
The Spanish practically abandoned the island and in 1631 the Dutch, needing an outpost between their two colonies of Brazil and New Amsterdam (now New York), decided to occupy the island. This did not sit too well with the Spanish and in 1633 they in turn recaptured the island and expelled the Dutch who moved onto Curaçuao.
Ultimately, the Spanish decided they did not need a base in the Caribbean and the island was divided between Holland and the French who had sailed over from St. Kitts. Today, they exhibit distinct characteristics. The French side emphasizes elegance and comfort while the Dutch side is a haven for cruise ships.
St. Barts, formerly known as Saint-Barthélemy can be reached by ferry from Sint Maarten/St. Martin and is part of the French West Indies. It is located in the northeast corner of the Caribbean Sea and is fifteen miles southeast from Sint Maarten.
If you intend to visit these islands it would be very helpful to familiarize yourself with the history, culture, tradition and customs of the inhabitants. An informative guidebook packed with detailed information and published by Ulysses entitled St. Martin St. Barts and authored by Pascale Couture perhaps will fill your needs. I found the book an excellent source of information particularly pertaining to the history and geography of the islands. The thirty-five page section dealing with St. Barts is more than many other guides devote to this island.
The portrait section of the publication provides the reader with interesting information pertaining to the flora and fauna as well as the history, economy and politics of these fascinating islands. The French part, known as Saint-Martin, and the Dutch side, known as Sint Maarten, are dealt with separately. Both sections provide us with information concerning attractions, beaches, accommodations, entertainment, and restaurants and finding our way around the islands.
A great help are the driving directions that are clear and concise. There is nothing more confusing than to drive in unknown neighbourhoods and not know where you are going! The outdoor activity section furnishes the reader with a very helpful beach and trail guide particularly as it pertains to St. Barts.
The only criticism I have is that there should have been more references to Internet sites that would have complimented many of the sections dealing with accommodations and restaurants. However, perhaps the author did not want to over-emphasize these topics.