On St. Maarten Time...

On St. Maarten Time...

Seriously, I cannot believe it is February already (ugh, and Valentine's Day), and the fact that this much needed trip was here (and now almost 1 week gone) already made it seem like time REALLY does go by so fast! The reason I say this is that my family and I planned this trip nearly 1 year ago as a gift to my Mom for her 60th Birthday. While we did celebrate in California last May - her "official" birthday is May 22nd - with my Sister's Wedding, we knew it would be way too much! Honestly, we thought it would be a whole lot better to go in the Winter (and post-Holiday season) vs. late Spring, early Summer. But that is just how we roll! Giving a quick shoutout to my Sister & Brother-In-Law who were not able to join in on the festivities. I mean, I was SO NOT a naughty Sister by sending a bajillion pictures, and tagging them all over Social Media. 

I have been to St. Maarten a few times but it has only been via a cruise. If you have never cruised before, generally, you get there in the early morning hours (I saw many "cruise" in) and then you have about 10 hours on the island to tour, dine, and, of course, drink like the locals. It is a great way to see multiple islands but I have decided that, after cruising twice, it's kind of not my thing. Trust me, though, there are some people who ONLY do that...and good for them! #travelhowyoulike

When some dear friends/clients of mine offered one of their weeks at their family's place, I jumped on the opportunity. They have been vacationing here for the past 30 years, and it has become one of their 2nd homes. I mean, just being on the island for 7 days I, absolutely, had to agree...it feels like HOME. Plus, I knew this would be something so completely different than what we have done in the past. We have been to both coasts of Mexico multiple times, as well as the Dominican Republic, Aruba (only I have gone), Florida and other warm(er) climates during the Winter months but this would give us the chance to really explore the island, try out the local drinks and cuisine, and not feel like we were on a time table. I say that because most of the places where we have stayed have been all-inclusive. And, just like cruising, I am kind of growing out of that scene. 

Well, 12 months later and WOW, I cannot wait to go back! More about that momentarily. 

While the airfare was a little expensive - again, I think it is all relative based on what your finances look like - we opted to go out of Philadelphia (a quick 1 1/2 hour drive from Baltimore at 5:00 am in the morning) for a non-stop flight. And, since we are with my Dad, he is all about the upgrades. Ha! I highly recommend this AND American Airlines was great, despite some of the non-great things I have heard. The extra leg room was wonderful, you got as many drinks as you wanted (for "free"), and the trip was 3 1/2 hours. Umm, it is longer to go from Baltimore to California! Needless to say it was seamless, and we were on the island by 2:00 pm. 

The only downfall - the island is still recovering from Hurricane Irma (although it looks really good despite the devastation) - and the airport is still under construction. This meant waiting over an hour in line for customs. No worries though; it gave me plenty of time to work on my filtered selfie game! 

Janine Filtered Selfie

All in all it was just fine! We laughed, talked about what cocktails we were going to enjoy, felt like everyone in line was recognizable, and we just lived in the moment. I mean, we left in the snow and, maybe, 10 degrees, and, now, we were in balmy 78 degree weather. Hello! We could have been in line for a whole 2nd hour and it would have been "just fine." Okay, maybe not so much! 😜 

Side Note: Hair did not look so great while I was here BUT, I was on vacation, and not trying to look super bougie for anyone except me, myself, my family, and ALL OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

It was authenticity at it's finest baby! 

After clearing customs, our bags were waiting, and we made our way over to grab our rental car. Prior to our leaving, we debated doing this but, after additional research, and people we chatted with, it was SUCH A GREAT decision. 

It really did allow us to see the island, not depend on cabs, and, frankly, probably saved a little money in the long run too. You know me, penny pincher! That's funny, right? 

Janine St. Maarten Airport

 

FINALLY, we had our independence and we were on our way to the beautiful, family-friendly Belair Beach Hotel. When I say it is like family, it is LIKE FAMILY! Everyone knew everyone, the same people come back every year, and the staff/guests were so incredibly friendly & accommodating. Our room was f-ing UNBELIEVABLE - 4th floor, beautiful view of the ocean and surrounding properties, family room, dining room table, all the kitchen essentials needed (i.e. coffee pot and wine opener), 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. 

View

 

We quickly unpacked, threw on shorts and flip flops, and made our way down to the Gingerbread Cafe, Belair's on-site restaurant. Imagine this, we were STARVING. We did eat at the airport in Philly but that was almost 9 hours ago at this point, and we had been up since 3:00 am. Well, maybe that was ME being up at 3:00 am to get some last minute work accomplished. 

      Sunset   Cocktails

 

We introduced ourself to the fabulous staff, ordered cocktails, watched the sunset and cruise ships sailing out, then grabbed a yummy dinner. We started with mussels and Caesar salad, and then my Mom and I split the lobster tail and filet mignon, while my Dad had a burger. All was delicious and just what we needed! Unfortunately, my food pics were not very post worthy! Time to head back to the room, and crawl under the covers. Seriously, I think I was in bed by 8:30 pm AND they are one hour AHEAD of the East Coast.

Janine Bed

My motto: "Travel Day" = travel hard, play hard, need sleep! Yes, another filtered pic too. Don't I look like an angel in all white? 

Sunday morning arrived with a BEAUTIFUL sunrise and just needing to CHILL OUT. As much as I can chill, it takes me a few days. I think I am so tightly wound with work, working out, eating, etc., that when I start to deviate (and, by deviate, I mean giving my body a break and not worrying about every little sauce, dressing, etc. that I consume), I get a little anxious. 

I start getting in that feeling of "OMG, what is going to happen." I quickly try to snap out of it; I mean, I am consistent across the board (for the most part) and, honestly, I think this is what my body needs.

Deviating for a moment...I have been under so much stress - well for the last few months - I can feel it taking a toll on my body both physically and mentally. Oh, and guess what else happened. My lack of picking up my thyroid medication (I know, I know) took a toll on me when I was there too. The swelling I encountered, specifically at the site of my injured ankles, was quite the site to be seen. I have never experienced this before but I am pretty sure that was the culprit. Not to mention being out in the sun added to the mix. Needless to say, working out was not in the cards!

Back to Sunday! We had a small breakfast, got ready to go, and then headed down to our lounge chairs where we parked for most of the day. We sunbathed, swam, sunbathed, had amazing cocktails, and did this on repeat. This bathing suit 👙from Kate Spade got a lot of compliments too! 

Janine Bathing Suit

 

Speaking of cocktails, one of the island drinks is called the Guavaberry Colada - Guavaberry Rum (distilled in St. Maarten), blended with cream of coconut and pineapple juice. My Mom and I opted to simply do the rum on the rocks to give it a try. Omgosh, while sweet (and I am not someone who gravitates towards super sweet things), this was AMAZING! And, when in "St. Maarten," you drink as the locals do. Here is a fun new cocktail we "concocted" too: Guavaberry Rum with a splash or (more than a splash) of Prosecco or Champagne on top! Refreshing and, definitely, a cocktail I will serve as a signature drink at my next cocktail party. Who is coming over?!?!

Lunch was back at the Gingerbread Cafe where my Mom & I dined on Cobb salads and my Dad tried the Grouper Sandwich. All had been recommendations and all were excellent!

cobb salad

 

Post lunch, we hopped back onto our lounge chairs and got ready for a foot/back massage, oceanfront (because why not?)! Before we knew it, it was late afternoon and we were deciding on a "what's next" game plan?!?! My Dad went back to the room to chill, and my Mom and I headed to the resort next door - Divi Little Bay Beach Resort - where we walked around and then, you guessed it, grabbed a glass of Prosecco at the hotel bar, Gismo's. Talk about a beautiful view of the ocean! By the way, Gismo (the macaw) is REAL and does her own thing around the resort. No joke. I am not a huge bird fan so I was always a little weary seeing Madam Gismo perched somewhere, doing her own thing, if she was not wreaking havoc in their stock room. 

I think I failed to mention that Sunday was "SUPER BOWL SUNDAY" and, just like at home, it was a HUGE EVENT. Dear God! Sorry, just not my thing! I mean, some people had tables reserved all day so they could have front row seats to the blow up screens that were strategically placed all over the resort. Jersey's, hats, koozies, etc. were in full force! Since we knew dinner was going to be later, my Mom and I checked out the local mini mart at Divi and picked up some really yummy cured meats, headed back to our hotel mini mart and picked up some Gouda cheese (it is some of the best Gouda you will have; my Mom even bought a wheel of it), raw almonds, and another bottle of vino.

cheese and charcuterie

 

And, voila, a makeshift cheese & charcuterie board (okay, plate) was born! See, my talents can go anywhere! ;) Oh, and the GOUDA made its appearance A LOT throughout the course of the week too! 

Now it was time for a shower, messy hair, no make-up, and the start of the Super Bowl FUNl. See, I can go with the flow. After about the 1st quarter, we headed back to Divi to check out their hotel restaurant - Pure Ocean. Luckily, my Dad had a decent vantage point of one of the ginormous screens so he could keep his finger on the pulse amongst the "cheering" and "booing" of the game. Enough about that - dinner was FABULOUS! My Mom and I split the "Paella for 2, and my Dad enjoyed the spaghetti with grilled shrimp. We paired all of this with yummy red Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Mondavi and it was EXACTLY what was needed. My Mom and I talked about how we never had a true, authentic paella like the one we shared. So f-ing yummy and, DEFINITELY, something I want to recreate! 

Paella

 

From there we walked home and it was time for BED! Go me, it was a little later than the night before! :)

Monday brought another beautiful sunrise and WARM weather! We leisurely got up, had ALL the coffee, I did some work, then went back to Pure Ocean for a late breakfast of ALL the protein.

breakfast

 

Then, it was back to the lounge chair - seriously, why did I bring my athletic wear - for working on the crazy tan lines and swimming. Another quick day and, before we knew it, it was almost 3:00 pm! Since we had dinner reservations at a fabulous Italian restaurant on the French side (our hotel was on the Dutch side, right outside of Phillipsburg), we didn't want to rush. I made some cocktails - this time, the Guavaberry Rum with Prosecco on top - and the cheese and charcuterie came back on out! While still on my anti-makeup kick since being here, I did make sure my hair was a little more on-point. P.S. Loving my new hair straightener from DryBar! I threw on one of my FAVORITE dresses from Love Shack Fancy (which I call my "Hunt Cup Dress" but that is for a different post), earrings, a fun necklace, dressy flats because vacation and ankles hurt like a motha, and we were on our way!

Janine Spiga

 

Thank God I was not driving - my Dad is a Saint, loves to drive, and had a lot of fun with the locals! After a 10-15 minute drive, we arrived at the super cute, and super classy, Spiga. It was recommended by so many people and it surely did not disappoint. Next time, we will head over to this side of town - Grand Case - EARLY since the shops were all closed. That's okay; it saved my wallet.

We started with the Decoy Cabernet, and followed that up with some more cured meats, fresh burrata, and a delicious beef carpaccio. Then came the delicious dishes of short ribs, lamb chops, and ravioli. OMG - AMAZING!

beef short rib

 

We left satisfied, laughing at the most ridiculous of things, and drove back to our place. Interestingly enough, we had some wine leftover which we finished off on the balcony, then said goodnight! Ooh, and it was 10:00 pm; YASSS, a little more of an adult hour!

castle

 

Tuesday brought an early morning walk to Fort Amsterdam which you could see from our room. It was a nice walk, although, as I mentioned, my body did not feel great. You will be happy to know I did get some education in during the trip. The fort was built by the Dutch in 1631. Located near Great Bay and Little Bay, it was soon captured by the Spanish who occupied it as a military post until 1648. In that year the partition agreement was signed by the Dutch Republic and France. The island, and therefore the Fort, changed hands many times between the Dutch Republic, England and France {Wikipedia}. 

I thought you would appreciate this attempt at getting all 3 of us in for a selfie. Still a work in progress! And my Dad is, finally, getting his 3 seconds of fame! LOL! 

Family

 

We had a late breakfast back at Pure Ocean, hopped in the car and toured/checked out the AMAZING new grocery store on the island, picked up some essentials, then came BACK and, wait for it, went to the beach! I also hopped on a conference call with my web development/marketing team back at the hotel because you know, GIRL BOSS! 

After a little bit of a longer day staying at the beach, we came back to the room, got ready, and headed out to dinner at another highly recommended local restaurant, Chesterfields; a waterfront restaurant and bar that had an amazing selection of fresh fish! Still trying to figure out their menu cover...🤔 We started with a glass of Decoy Chardonnay and a dish of grilled shrimp in a spicy sauce & sautéed calamari with pepperonccini appetizers. What an amazing spin on the calamari! 

                                    chesterfields    calamari

 

I followed this up with grilled Mahi Mahi, roasted potatoes, and vegetables, and even brought most of my potatoes and some veggies home for breakfast the next day. Portions were generous, and I like to EAT! 

mahi mahi

 

Wednesday was pretty much on repeat of what we have been doing, with the exception of breakfast at our place - bacon, eggs, and dinner leftovers - and then back to the beach. My Mom and I walked up and down the beach before we chilled in the gorgeous salt water pool. Most of the time, it was just her and I, and the most crowded it became was 1 or 2 additional people who, in St. Maarten fashion, were so unbelievably friendly. When trying to decide what to eat for dinner - most days, we just ate breakfast and had a late snack, although today we hopped into the Gingerbread Cafe for salads - we gave the well-known island restaurant, Skipjacks, a call to see if they were open/get a reservation. They had been closed since the hurricane and, with our luck, they had just opened the Monday prior to our coming! Another restaurant with an amazing view of the Simpson Bay lagoon - and a great place to watch GORGEOUS yachts. Oh, and their seafood was pretty fabulous too. Plus, they are known for their lobster in which you, literally, pick out of the tank.

lobsters

 

My parents both choose this option, and had it Caribbean style (grilled), while I tried the seafood kabob with rice and veggies. And, yes, I did sample lots of the lobster too! 

lobster

 

kabobs

 

Thursday was filled with another morning of coffee, conversation, work, and, you know, just watching the waves and the cruise ships come in!

cruise ship

 

We decided to take a break from the sun - we went down to watch the sunset in the evening - and we made our way into the town of Philipsburg for shopping, shopping, and more shopping.

     phillipsburg

 

We popped into 2 different jewelers to check out some bling - did you happen to hear that I have a new boyfriend, and his name is David Yurman?!?! 🙏🏻❤️ I am looking to build my collection and I had been wanting a (simple) diamond necklace that I could wear on a daily basis. This was the PERFECT fit, and "Fit4Janine," plus a reminder to myself to keep trusting the process (and not turn my back on LOVE). Additionally, my Mom and I are in the market for diamond earrings but that will have to be for a later point in time.

After ggreek salad with chickenrabbing some gifts, and peeking in and out of the fun clothing stores and "duty free" shops, we scooted in to The Greenhouse Restaurant to cool off and grab some grub! Another yummy salad was in store - this time it was Greek Salad with Chicken - and then we made our way over to Maho Beach.

Did you know...it is a beach on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Saint Marteen. It is famous for being adjacent to the Princess Juliana International Airport, and is a popular site for tourists and planewatchers who visit the beach to watch aircraft on final approach landing at the airport, passing only a short distance above their heads {Wikipedia}.

Prosecco

 

Okay, we, definitely, did not get THAT close but it was such a thrill watching them come in! After some Prosecco and jet watching, it was 5:00 pm before we knew it! We made our way back to our place (traffic and all) to get to the beach to watch the beautiful sunset. It was, then, time for a rousing game of cards on the deck as we watched the cruise ships sail on to their next destination. We had dinner at the Gingerbread Cafe - meal was on repeat from our 1st night - and we called it a night! 

Our last day was spent on what felt like our own private beach! We soaked up the sun, chatted with all the people whom we had met, AND we did a little celebrating too! Remember how I said I could not "wait to come back?" Well, my family purchased 3 weeks at this lovely "beach club" to come back to every year! Yes, we have booked our trip for next year, then the following year, and then the following year, etc.! It really will feel like our 2nd home...and I am so freaking excited! Don't you worry, there was LOTS of Prosecco to go around! :) Here I am at lunch - Gismo's this time - where I took more filtered selfies and had a lovely Cobb salad! Bacon was on repeat too last week.

                                          janine selfie   janine selfie

cobb salad

 

After a long day in the sun, we headed back to our room, started the packing process (luckily our flight was not until the afternoon on Saturday), and continued our on-going "500 Rummy" card game. From there, we scooted back over to Divi for our final dinner! We started with fresh burrata and tomato, along with a Caesar salad, and then I had a delicious Osso Bucco adorned with a medley of veggies. I wish this was a little prettier of a picture! In any event, a PERFECT way to end the day and an UNFORGETTABLE week!

osso bucco

 

Needless to say, I cannot wait to go back for 2 weeks next year and for many more years to come! What a place to make memories, meet new friends, and just live a life that is FIT4YOU! And, just in case you wanted to see, here is a picture of my new "boyfriend."

Janine David Yurman

 

Until next year St. Maarten! 😘☀️🌴

xoxo

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