Heading to St. Maarten for the Heineken Regatta (psst….and the shopping)

I am heading to St. Maarten again, this time for the  32nd Annual Heineken Regatta, being held March 1 – 4, 2012.  I hadn’t been to a regatta before May of last year when I thoroughly enjoyed the regatta in the British Virgin Islands, so I really can’t wait to get into the thick of the sailing action again.

I wish I could bottle the excitement of sitting in a catamaran , watching hundreds of  sailboats loop around the starting buoy, competing against other international teams. I so envied the physical ability, team cooperation and sheer determination that I saw time and time again.

I’m hoping to meet up with some of the sailing teams I met in the B.V.I’s, that will most likely be competing in the Heineken regatta.

I love visiting markets anywhere I go, and Marigot Marketplace (the French side of the island) is a winner for me.  Bartering along way, I picked up gorgeous handmade jewellery, such a good deal that  I ended up Christmas shopping months early.  I bought a beautifully hand-made sun hat but my favourite purchase was a gorgeous white linen tunic that comes with me on every Caribbean trip.

Along Front Street, stores range from Tiffany to Tommy Hilfiger. The Sint Rose Shopping Mall on the boardwalk by Front Street features Cartier, Lalique, and Faconnable. The capital, Philipsburg, is the epicenter for shopping with boutique stores lining Front Street, which stretches for over a mile. Old Street, situated off Front Street, is highlighted by 19th century houses which contain specialty shops. Maho Plaza (located by the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort) is another area for name-brand stores.

St. Maarten offers great buys on jewelry, a perennial favorite among shoppers, with jewelers offering everything from loose stones to original designs. If you are looking for a new watch, or something sparkly for your ears, this is the place to go, but you do have to know your prices ahead of time.

No surprise that the island of St. Maarten recently  received an award from Porthole Cruise Magazine as theBest Caribbean Shopping Experience’.  Prices are as much as 50% less than other countries and are quoted in U.S. dollars saving the confusion of sorting out the exchange rate.

I try to stick to snorkeling, sailing, sunning, and slumping by the pool with a good book, but when you know that items such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren can be found at reasonable rates, as well as fine leather goods, ooooh, and top-of-the line cosmetics, I try to carve out at least one afternoon for a session of controlled power shopping. Having a list in hand of exactly what I am looking for helps keep me in line, or so I tell myself.  Did I mention the shopping is all 100% duty-free?

A bit about the island:  St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair. As “the culinary capital of the Caribbean,” St. Maarten offers an incredible diverse array of cuisine for foodies with more than 365 restaurants.  That’s a lot of options for such a small island, suiting every palate and budget.

Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, the island’s 37 square miles has 37 breathtaking beaches to catch some sun, or take in some fabulous snorkeling in clear turquoise waters.

Watch for my blogs and articles coming out mid-March reporting on the Heineken Regatta, sailing, snorkeling, dining, and the most difficult part…..searching for the island’s best margaritas.

I’ll be on assignment for Canadian Yachting Magazine, http://www.canadianyachtingmagazine.ca and Travel and Escape, http://www.travelandescape.ca.

For more information on St. Maarten visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau at www.VacationStMaarten.com.

For additional information on the Regatta, visit www.heinekenregatta.com.

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About The blog of travel & lifestyle journalist Melody Wren

Melody is a freelance writer because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. She writes about travel, food, lifestyle and green living. Melody loves staying in a place long enough to get acquainted. Local customs, markets and traditional cultures are magnets for this writer. When not writing she’s either on the road, in the air, or savoring something tasty. Most of her travels feature outdoor adventures of some sort, although she typically avoids sleeping on the ground. She is an ordinary person that enjoys challenging and pushing herself, facing fears with an eye on experiential travel. She needs to do it, feel it and see it so she can write about it. Her hope is that her stories encourage readers to get out there and do the same.
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