While St. Martin is mostly known for its gorgeous white sand beaches, visitors shouldn’t overlook the town of Marigot on the island’s western shore. Once a sleepy fishing village, Marigot became St. Martin’s capital during the reign of Louis XVI, who built a defensive fort on one of the town’s surrounding hills. Here is a list of the top things to do and see in this largely off-the-beaten-track Caribbean capital.
One of the best ways to get acquainted with Marigot is to simply wander down its winding streets and shop as you go. Beautifully restored St. Martinoise-style houses often are home to boutiques specializing in luxury clothing, jewelry and cosmetics brands. Cheaper souvenirs are also available for purchase at the West Indies Mall, located right on the water next to the Fort Louis Marina. As a bonus, all merchandise sold on the island is tax-free. So go ahead and splurge a little!
For a true taste of French West Indian culture, head over to Bistro Nu, located on the small, flower-lined Allée de l’Ancienne Créole. After re-opening under new management in June 2014, this hidden gem of a restaurant serves dishes that draw from both French and Créole cuisines, all served alongside expertly selected wines. Créole cuisine itself is largely influenced by its strong African roots, so expect the likes of bulots (tiny sea snails) and coq au vin next to old-style boudin noir (blood sausage).
For those visitors who desire to forgo shopping for luxury brands and truly immerse themselves in the local culture, check out the Marigot Market. This open-air market is open everyday, but truly comes to life on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Dozens of stalls run by locals offer a wide selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, meat and fish to those lucky enough to have access to a kitchen during their stay on the island. Besides fresh produce, visitors will also find kiosks manned by artisans selling everything from artwork to flavored rum. Don’t forget to try Mauby, a local infusion flavored with bark that tastes somewhat like root beer.
Commissioned by royal governor Jean Sebastian de Durat, Fort Louis was built in 1789 on a hill overlooking Marigot Bay to defend the harbor warehouses where expensive exports were kept, mainly coffee, sugar cane, rum, and salt. Since being built, the fort has been abandoned and fallen into ruin twice. Recently, the Hope Estate Archeological Association and a unit of the Guadeloupian military service have undertaken a third restoration of the site. For visitors, the unobstructed views of Marigot and Anguilla from the top are well worth the short hike it take to get there.
Dexter Boat Charter
If you ever need a getaway from your getaway, checking out the Dexter Boat Charter, headquartered on the outskirts of Marigot, is a good place to start. Besides the option to go deep-sea fishing, Dexter Boat Charter also offers day trips to smaller, tranquil islands just off of St. Martin’s coast, such as Prickly Pear Island, Tintamarre Island and Anguilla. Each offers new beaches and marine environments to explore. However, there is always the possibility to design your own trip, while the charter also includes snorkelling equipment and floating games, so bring the kids!
Rue Lady Fish, Collectivity of Saint Martin, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, +590 690 49-0713
Roland Richardson Gallery
For the past 45 years, Sir Roland Richardson, a native of St. Martin, has showcased the beauty and diversity of West Indian culture through his artwork. A master of several mediums, including printmaking, watercolor and oil painting, Richardson has earned respect internationally for his skills. Some of his patrons included Jackie Kennedy, Senator Edward Brooke and the Getty family to name a few. A continuing exhibition of Richardson’s work is on display in his family’s recently renovated ancestral home six days per week, and is certainly worth a visit.
Roland Richardson Gallery, #6 Rue de la République, Marigot, St. Martin, +590 590 87-3224
La CroissanterieLocated right on the water at Marina Port La Royale, the splendid views from La Croissanterie make it the perfect place to enjoy breakfast or brunch while in Marigot. This quaint café features both American and French-style breakfasts on its menu. For only 10 euros, the traditional Parisian-style breakfast comes with two croissants, jam, butter, coffee or tea, and freshly squeezed orange juice to boot. Extras like eggs, bacon, sausages, or ham can be added on for a handful of euros extra, while croissant French toast offers something a little more fancy.
La Croissanterie, Marina Port La Royale, Marigot, St. Martin, +590 590 29-2266
By Nicole Link
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