Sint Maarten: Low Flying Planes, Imaginary Husbands and Fashion Faux Pas

“Yes I’m married”, I lied to the taxi driver.  “He didn’t want to come to Marigot, he just wanted to stay by the pool.”  Gosh!  My made-up-husband is dull!  My imaginary husband has spent more time staying in the hotel room than anywhere else.  As a solo female traveller it’s always easier to say I’m married, not only from a safety point of view but from a cultural one.  Imagine a country where everyone is married, and only the outcasts or the weird are unmarried; this is most countries outside of the western world. This little white lie just makes me look more normal in stranger’s eyes.

I changed the subject, as I wanted to try and understand the dutch and french sides of Saint Martin.  This taxi driver, who had picked me up from the french side capital: Marigot, was from the dutch side, and he seemed more interested in trying to flirt with me than having a conversation.  I stayed polite, I knew he was harmless, but all the same my guard was up.  I’m sure my outfit wasn’t helping matters.  I was wearing short shorts and a cream top, with the disastrous faux pas of a black bra underneath.  I’m sure it wasn’t showing (much).

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Whilst in the adorable capital of the french side, one of the older women had told me that I was a sexy lady.  The older women on the island  certainly knew how to laugh.  They had so much warmth and they glowed with happiness and kindness.  This was a stark contrast to the younger ladies, who may have been happy but certainly hadn’t informed their face about it and would limit how much they spoke to me.  I’m sure this was nothing to do with my outfit, as the island was plagued with plenty of tourists.

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There was a good reason for my outfit mishap.  I’d learnt many years ago, from a random TV show that it was always good to put a pair of shorts and t-shirt into your hand luggage in case your luggage got lost.  I do it out of habit. I threw in the things that will take up the least amount of space, without really thinking it through because luggage never goes missing these days.

Famous last words.  The afternoon before I had been stood at baggage reclaim watching all the suitcases go around the carousel.  Gradually as people collected their baggage and left the airport and there were less and less items going around, and less and less people.  It suddenly felt like I was in a bad comedy.  I should have realised my luggage wasn’t going to make an appearance that day, as I’d needed to rush across Charles de Gaulle airport to catch my connecting flight.

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For my only full day on the island, I had two choices: stay by the beach, or go and explore in my random outfit.  There was another option, but I refused to spend $100 on a god ugly dress, from the only clothes shop I could find near the hotel.

So there I was happy having visited the very pretty french side, returning to the more touristy dutch side to see the famous low flying airplanes over the beach.  This island wasn’t like the other Caribbean islands I had visited; it felt like their more touristy poorer sister and rough around the edges.  I wanted to visit as it is the smallest inhabited island divided between two nations, and that sounded interesting.

I don’t think my two night stay was enough to understand the island dynamics, although I wonder if as a visitor to the island you would ever understand.  This island, the south dutch part at least, seemed to be about sunbathing and drinking for the middle aged tourists.

I sat in the bar, had a drink, watched a few planes fly in and jumped in another taxi back to the hotel, in the hope that my case was on the Paris flight that I’d seen arrive.  When the hotel receptionist took me around to the storage area, it was like seeing an old friend I’d not seen for years, when I set eyes on my bright pink holdall.

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The next morning I headed back to the airport, for my flight to the British Virgin Islands.  Whilst I was checking my luggage in, I pleaded “please don’t lose my luggage, I’ve only just got it back”.

The airport was quiet as it was all the small, local flights in the morning and the international flights didn’t seem to arrive until later in the day.  I headed to the right gate and sat and started to read my book.  To my surprise one of the airline assistants came over and asked which flight I was on, I told her and she went back behind her desk.  A short time later she brought over to me all the documents I needed to complete.

When we were ready to board the plane, we were called to the gate and then I was asked to wait at the bottom of the stairs.  I was starting to wonder where all the other passengers were, as I got on the bus to transfer to the plane, with another airline assistant, I asked “am I the only one, on this flight?”  Expecting him to tell me they were already on the plane or something.  Turns out not.

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I boarded the very small propeller plane, with about 12 seats in total.  The pilot and co-pilot joined, and with just me as the passenger we started to taxi to the runway.  I’m scared of heights, and whilst I’m fine on a jet plane, I’m nervous on these little planes.  It was a novelty being the only passenger, like having my own private plane but it was also nerve racking.  Especially as the plane got to the end of the runway without taking off and headed back to the terminal.  Was something wrong with the plane?

As we got closer I saw there was a luggage truck, and on it was my bright pink holdall.  Looks like they’d forgotten it the first time, but at least I didn’t leave the island without it!  Then we headed off on a flight I will never forget.

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