According to a sign at the restaurant where we ate breakfast, we were only 2,270 kilometers from home:
Of course, as a stupid American, I have no idea what a kilometer is, and I don’t really care.
I began my meal with a plate of scrambled eggs . . .
. . . and finished with the largest crepe of all time, filled with Nutella, banana, and coconut:
I needed all those calories to get me through our morning hike at Loterie Farm. Here’s what it looked like as we drove onto the grounds:
The hike began as more of a walk . . .
. . . but took us up into the hills . . .
. . . where the path became quite steep:
In the photo above, that’s my mom in the black hat. I can’t reveal her age because she’ll disown me, so let’s just say she gets on the bus for half-price. I’m pointing this out so you’ll appreciate how impressive it is that she plowed her way up the mountain. You know how some middle-aged folks act like senior citizens? My mom is the opposite. It’s beautiful.
Our hike took us to Paradise Peak (or, as the French call it, Pic Paradis). It’s the highest point on St. Martin, and the view is exquisite:
In the photo above, that’s me on the rock in the lower right corner. And guess what? That wasn’t even the highest point. After reaching that spot and spending too much time (according to my half-sister, Martha) having my picture taken, we still had to climb up the most challenging part of the trail:
It was like hiking up a staircase made of boulders, some of which were slightly loose. Thankfully we found a gentler path on the way back down, and when we made it to the bottom, we chugged ice-cold bottled waters in a relaxing open-air lounge:
Our next stop was on the Dutch side of the island. (FYI: the Dutch side is basically the party side. It’s crowded and touristy and tacky — the spot were people get off their cruise ships and lose money in casinos. The French side, where we stayed, is extremely mellow and charming.) Thanks to several folks who suggested it on Twitter and here on my blog, we went to Maho Beach, which is located right next to the airport:
Why would anyone want to go to a beach in a spot like that and risk their lives?
To check out the airplanes, of course:
In the photo above, that plane was turning around to face away from the beach in preparation for takeoff, and when it DID start revving up, the continued blast of air was so intense that it felt like a hurricane. Thankfully I turned away from the plane just in time to prevent my eyeballs from getting impaled with sand. Several people’s hats and various other beach items blew 100 feet away into the ocean, but no one got hurt.
Amy, Martha, and my mom enjoyed the spectacle:
We didn’t plan to stay long — just for 20 or 30 minutes to see a few planes taking off and landing.
There was a huge crowd at the restaurant at the end of the beach:
And then it happened. A plane started making its approach . . .
. . . and buzzed the beach:
Hot damn! I don’t consider myself a plane enthusiast, but it *was* pretty cool.
After watching a few more planes, we headed back to the beach near our condo. Martha, Amy, and my mom lay down and read:
I wandered toward one end of the beach . . .
. . . where something odd was poking up out of the sand:
At first I thought it was a tent, but it turned out to be a boat, tipped on its side and covered with graffiti. Here’s a closer look:
I walked past the boat and headed out onto the rocks:
It was *so* nice to be alone there. I enjoyed looking out at the water, letting my mind wander, and taking the occasional photo. Here’s the crevice filled with smaller stones:
Here’s a tree atop the hill:
On my way back, I played with the sand:
Eventually I handed off my camera to Amy and jumped in the water:
This was the scene at sunset:
It was our final night of the trip, so we splurged on a fancy dinner in perhaps the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to. Here’s what it looked like inside:
Take a look at my appetizer and try to guess what it is:
It was seared tuna wrapped in bacon with “teriyaki whipped cream” and other oddities, and IT WAS GOOOOOOD. Everything at the restaurant was bizarre and delicious; Martha had an appetizer that contained goat cheese ice cream. I tried some, and it was great. Sometimes I eat total crap like this, but other times (especially when other people are paying), I enjoy pretentious high-end food.
This was my main course:
To quote the menu, it was “pasta with shrimp, candied garlic, and crispy chorizo,” and by the way, the orange swirl was a carrot puree.
At some point late in the meal, Martha started acting like a six-year-old, which brought out my inner five-year-old, which made us both hysterical. Here I am laughing so hard that I was crying:
I can’t blame our antics on sugar because we hadn’t yet ordered dessert. We ended up sharing a chocolate sampler plate:
I won’t bother listing every item in the photo above. Instead I’ll just tell you about the most unusual one. See the two spoons? Those contained chocolate mousse topped with Pop Rocks. Who the hell thinks of that?!
Finally, we each received a complimentary “tiramisu shot,” which had Kahlua and some other creamy thing and cocoa powder sprinkled on top:
Despite eating like a madman for the final two days of the trip, I lost a couple of pounds. How often does THAT happen on a vacation? It had never happened to me before. Back in 2005, I gained 10 pounds on a two-week trip to Paris and Israel, which, looking back, is disgusting. That was the old me. The new me is trying to exercise more and eat sensibly.