St. Maarten or St. Martin
depending on which side you are on!!!
Our last port of call!
We were interested in this island because we knew that 1/2 the island was Dutch and 1/2 was French. The story is the dutchman and the frenchman walked the island down the middle and whoever walked fastest got more of the island. True story!
The port where we landed at was very nice and you could tell the buildings were more European style and high dollar than some of the other places we've visited.
Our driver from St. Lucia called his buddy driver in St. Maarten and he was waiting for us when we got there. Nice!
Again he showed us around and told us about some of the history of their island.
Here is a monument to the ending of slavery....
Here are some statues celebrating the Salt Pickers
(I found out that they had a lot of statues and monuments to things)
You can see that the streets were wide and the buildings upkept...and they drove on the right side of the road.
Then we crossed over to the French side which had a different feel.
The roads here were more crowded and narrow...
And the license plates looked like they were from France.
Narrow side alleys
On the way back to the Dutch side he brought us to a lookout point.
This one didn't have any monkeys but it did have an interesting store with political statements on the back wall.
Another fort...don't worry guys we aren't going to stop. ;)
Our driver dropped us off at a local bazzar. It was interesting but we had already probably bought most of what we wanted by that time, though Jeff bought some T-shirts.
(Notice good big brother Taylor carrying Ashley because she was tired of walking)
The local kids were very interested in Jeff and Ashley. They were playing and zooming cars right in between our legs but they weren't too sure when Jeff actually went up to talk to them. (Their mothers were probably selling stuff there)
Since it was so hot outside we didn't shop much but we bought a smoothie and were ready to head to the beach.
The waves were bigger here and it was a small beach, the snorkeling wasn't great and it was rocky on the sides...but it ended up being their favorite beach.
Because it was the famous beach thats right next to the airport!
We've seen Utube videos of people being blasted from the fence to the sand from the jet blasts. Once we were there we realized that there is a street with cars driving between the airport and the beach so they were being blasted across the street and then on to the beach!
Of course there were signs warning visitors of the dangers.
I guess there hasn't been any deaths so far, which surprised our driver as he tsk tsked the visitors that were crazy enough to mess around with it.
This didn't stop "people" from trying it out.
You can't come to the beach and not experience it right??
Here comes another one.
(The bars next to this beach had a schedule for when the planes would be coming so you could stay and make sure to wait for the big ones)
It was funny to watch people start to get blasted by the jet stream and have their hats, stuff and kids start flying and then realize maybe it wasn't such a good idea.
Taylor said the sand hitting you felt like being pelted with an air-soft gun.
No thank you!
After our beach excursion it was time to head back to the boat.
Goodbye St. Maarten
That night we enjoyed the ship for one last time.
The balcony was a favorite hang out spot for the kids. In fact one day we found 3 of the boys out there making rap songs about themselves :)
Ashley's documentation of our last night.
She went to the kids room for the farewell party.
This guy is the mascot for carnival...Virginia and I thought he looked a bit creepy.
Our final dinner.
Frog legs for appetizers.
And a goodbye from our staff.
As we got to meet these guys we found people from every country...former Russia, Philippians, Peru, Africa and all over but hardly anyone from America.
These guys work 7 days a week, without days off for like 7 months. Their only break is when we are at port and they don't get to see their families until their 7 months are up. Their rooms are small and they share them with another person and sleep in shifts. They have 2 months to visit family and then they are back.
Why do they do it?
Their pay is often more than what doctors and lawyers make in their countries, but so much less than what we are used to in America so there aren't many Americans willing to work their hours. We found all the staff to be friendly and helpful and we enjoyed everyone we met.
After we got off the cruise ship we had one more night in Puerto Rico since it was cheaper to stay one more night than it was to fly home on a Sunday.
We stayed at the Hilton Caribbe and I would highly recommend it if you ever want to visit San Juan.
For one thing it had beautiful gardens
with swans, turtles, turkeys, coy fish and huge lizards.
We had a great view of San Juan...
Our own private beach with great snorkel and scuba diving rentals. Jeff and Joel, Jacob and Taylor ended up doing some great snorkeling here.
And of course some great pools.
It was a resort and a great way to end off our trip.
Since we yet again missed our church times while waiting to get off the boat we hit another church at the end of our trip.
This was an old Catholic church in the downtown old San Juan and we decided to attend a mass.
You can see how thrilled the kids were.
The church was hot but fans were blowing throughout, but then it made it hard to hear the speakers.
It was all in Spanish anyway so we couldn't really understand anything. So we had everyone hang out for an hour and then we went on our way.
We walked through some of the streets of Old San Juan and Joel told us about the blue cobblestone bricks that lined the streets. I guess the ships coming from Puerto Rico were loaded with gold to bring back to Europe but to weigh the ships properly they loaded them with the blue bricks on the trip back. Soooo they paved the streets with them.
At the end of a narrow road we came to this little chapel built to celebrate the healing Christ.
I guess a youth was having horse races and ran too fast down the street and fell off the cliff. Since he didn't die they considered it a miracle and a church was built in honor of the event.
Around the corner from the church was a Pigeon Park.
For one dollar we bought feed that we all used to be covered in pigeons.
Jacob acting too cool for the pigeons
The miracle in this was that we didn't get pooped on in the process.
Though Jacob did find a spot on his shorts later.
Afterwards we went to get some food to eat.
(Picture courtesy of Ashley)
Enjoying our hotel pool.
The next day we were sad to go but happy to be getting home again to enjoy the last few days before school started (actually to frantically do wash and get ready for school to start)
Our only regret was we left from the hotel so quick we didn't say goodbye to the Olesons thinking we'd see them at the airport.
It wasn't until we were through security that we realized that we were at different terminals.
Anyway we had a great vacation with you Oleson family!