By Nori Evoy
GRAND CASE, St Martin -- Who would guess that one narrow seafront street could be packed with so much life and diversity?
Grand Case, set on St Martin's north shore, is one locale that stands out as distinctly "St Martin." On the island's French side, between Orient Bay and Marigot, it's a favorite for locals and tourists in the know.
The main strip, Boulevard de Grand Case, runs parallel to the area's calm, sandy beach. Two crammed lanes, this street funnels down to one lane by the road's end. Lined with small European cars, low hanging electrical cords, colourful Caribbean buildings, eateries of all kinds, French shops, boutique hotels and a quaint church reminiscent of those in Mediterranean countries, the sights are plenty. Step onto the beach and you can even see little Anguilla in the distance.
Speaking of "things to see," Grand Case is home to one of the top sunset spots on the island. Best enjoyed from the Grand Case Beach Club, perched on a hill overlooking the area's stretch of sand, from here, the sunset shines wide across the Caribbean Sea before dipping behind the horizon. Set back from the beach, but with luxury rooms and modern finishings, Hotel L'Esplanade is another hotel with an optimal location for taking in the spectacular sunset.
Smaller hotels, such as Le Petit Hotel, scatter the shoreline in town. It's here, in the heart of it all, where you find the essence of Grand Case, especially on a Thursday night. To say "it comes alive" is putting it lightly. With a plethora of bars and restaurants serving a variety of food at different price points, St Martin's blend of cultures lives here.
First, you have your "lolos," the term the French use for Caribbean BBQs. Centrally located in Grand Case, Sky's The Limit is the one most talked about. What's on the menu? Think local. Johnny cakes, BBQ chicken, ribs and rice. Everything is homemade, and prices won't break the bank.
On the opposite end of the dining spectrum are the likes of Le Pressoir and Le Cottage, some of the finer French restaurants in the area. When it comes to service, food preparation and quality, and wine pairings, a night in one of these dining rooms makes it clear why St Martin is widely considered the fine dining capital of the Caribbean. They do it right!
In between the high and the low are plenty of gems such as Cafe Calmos. Quiet on the outside, it's a different story when you greet the locals hanging around the entrance and head inside to the bar. A wooden building, the main area is all shoulder to shoulder on Thursday nights, their "Loco Salsa" evening. A few more yards and you're right on the beach. Row upon row of picnic tables and they are all packed. Brimming with French locals, it is THE bar to drop into for a good meal, drinks, dancing and a true slice of French Caribbean life.
Republished with permission of Caribbean Travel