Use it or lose it – or so they say
“Use it or lose it.”
Many human resource departments sent out a directive about holiday time to employees around Bermuda.
With very few people travelling because of the pandemic, thousands of Bermudian employees have been racking up countless holiday days.
So much so that companies are now actively encouraging employees to take their holiday days before the year ends. Subsequently, quite a number of my co-workers have been taking much needed holidays.
For me, it was a no-brainer, and I looked online for ticket prices.
I am not sure why; however, I was extremely grateful to be able to get a one-way ticket to New York for $150 and a one-way ticket to Sint Maarten for $100.
That's a total of $250 to get to Sint Maarten from Bermuda.
One island, two nations
Sint Maarten is on the Dutch side in the southern part of the island, and French St Martin is on the island’s northern side.
There is an open border between the two nations with flags of France and the Netherlands indicating the demarcation points.
The island itself is a total of 37 square miles. The population of the Dutch side is roughly 60,000, with a size of 16 square miles. To the North, the French side has approximately 39,000 spread over 21 square miles
So in total, approximately 100,000 persons are living on the island.
On the French side, the currency used is the euro. On the Dutch side, the US dollar is used.
Languages spoken include Creole, Dutch, English, French, and Spanish.
The Taino and Arawak tribes initially inhabited the island out of South America.
Since the 17th century, both sides of the island had several hundred plantations that enriched the Dutch and French empires.
Crops are grown by enslaved Africans included sugar, indigo, mangoes and livestock.
Present day, the island serves as a melting pot of cultures, perhaps one of the most culturally diverse islands in the Caribbean. One can find persons from every Caribbean island with a significantly large proportion of Europeans and persons of East Indian heritage.
The Friendly Island
On both sides of the island, the primary industry is tourism. Pre-pandemic, they had more than two million visitors per annum, inclusive of cruise and air arrivals.
Negative PCR tests and travellers’ insurance have to be purchased before arrival. Once on the island, no further tests are required. Unfortunately, there have been 125 Covid-related deaths.
Hotel accommodations range from Airbnb to five-star resorts. One can get a perfect hotel room/suite with water views and beach access in the price range of $150 to $250 per night.
We were fortunate to get a suite for $130 per night at the Flamingo Resort, where the staff — Katherine, Bryan, Deondre, and Marie — treated us like family every step of the way.
Rental cars can be had for roughly $50 per day for an almost-new midsize SUV.
Restaurants range in cost, depending on whatever one wants to eat. There are fast-food franchises, European eateries, as well as many places offering local dishes.
One will never go thirsty, as you cannot drive for five minutes without seeing a roadside bar.
Wherever you go, you will find amiable people willing to serve you, and language is never a barrier. If you happen to go off the beaten path, you will see just as friendly livestock slowly roaming the road.
St Maarten also serves as a hub for several nearby islands.
Affordable, fast ferry services are available for short trips to nearby Anguilla and St Barthélemy (St Barths) .
Regional airlines such as Air Caribes, Winair, Inter Caribbean, and SXM Airlines fly out of Princess Juliana International Airport daily to other islands such as Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Saba, Statia and St Kitts & Nevis.
There are international flights from the United States, Europe and Latin America.
So If you are looking for somewhere to go that you can feel relaxed, well served and not break your pocket, you would love a trip to the Friendly Island.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com