St Maarten: Free in every way. Duty-free, history-free


View from the top of the hill atop which sits Fort Louis (Photo by Rashmee Roshan Lall)

Now that I’m here, sitting in St Maarten, hair blown into unmanageable clumps by strong Caribbean gusts of wind, it is easy to see why this is tagged ‘the friendly island’.

Because it is.

Full stop.

They don’t seem to have any ‘attitude’ to parse. No sociology of which to be mindful. Or history to distract. As an example, it was hard to find the road up to Fort Louis, an early 19th century artillery bastion to repel the English as they tried to denude the islanders of their coffee beans! (I have mostly been in places that revel in their history, trumpet and celebrate it.)

One of the more interesting aspects of this beautiful Caribbean island – 37 square miles altogether, divided between two European, former colonial powers – is the effort put into making it a fun place. There are 300 restaurants, every bit of tat possible, fine duty-free jewellery, spirits, tobacco. There are 150 nationalities here, spending their time making yours worthwhile. And helping to part you from your money.

On St Maarten, one realizes, it’s possible – and liberating – to deal with history little or not all. Sometimes, the present is enough. Quite enough.

I’d come back.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac