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"On March 1st, 2015, Barbara and I would have been married 40 years. Unfortunately, she passed away January 26th, 2015. We were together for 42 years. She was a wonderful person; a great wife; and, my best friend!"

We had marvelous times. In the early years, we visited Aruba, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Mexico, Canada, and the Bahamas each once or twice. We have also been to Europe approximately 40 times visiting our favorite countries/destinations including Italy, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, Spain and Portugal. So, I guess you could say we enjoyed traveling and saw a good part of the Western World.

So then, what makes St. Maarten/St. Martin so special that we came back so often several times each year for periods of just a few days to more than five weeks twice a year? Although the beaches are pristine and inviting, it's not the most beautiful place in the world. It doesn't have great churches or ruins dating back thousands of years. There are no snow-capped mountains to take your breath away. You cannot visit buildings or monuments where the history of the world was established or view cities that have seen the creation of the world's great religions. So, what is it that attracted us to this tiny little island these many years?

As you may have already read in our book or previous articles, Barbara and I first visited St. Maarten/St. Martin in 1978. Over the years, we guesstimated we had been to the island more than 70 times. We also guessed that we know about 300 people on island and since there are only 70,000 people on St. Maarten/St. Martin, that's probably more than average considering that we weren't born there and do not have family on the island. So, what's the attraction?

For one thing, just looking at the magnificent sunrises and incredible sunsets on the horizon are mystifying. Every day, they seem to rise from and fall into the waters of the Caribbean. Each is beautiful, each is unique and each is breathtaking. Likewise, as you ponder the straight line of the horizon, you can undertstand mankind's thinking prior to Columbus that the world was flat and indeed those ships that ventured far enough into those unknown waters would fall off the edge of the earth. That said, take a thousand pictures of each sunrise and sunset and no two will be identical. Then again, if you live in a city, you may not have seen a sunrise or sunset in years, but there may be beauty of equal magnificence in your city. 

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In a climate whose average temperature is 80+ degrees every day, the flowers and plants are constantly in bloom and the different colored pedals of the bougainvillea, hibiscus and other flowers are always pleasant to see and smell. When was the last time you cut down a coconut from a palm tree, broke it open, drank the milk and ate the coconut fruit? Barbara and I did it several years ago. It took me 40 minutes to tear the protective skin off the coconut and to crack open the shell. I haven't worked that hard in years and we had a bunch of laughs doing it. Later, I found out from a local friend that there is a right way to break open a coconut; and, of course, I did it the wrong way. By the way, it's the only time we have ever cut down a coconut from one of the plentiful palm trees around the island.

Finding the right beach is like shopping for shoes; it must be a perfect fit. The beaches of this island paradise are all appealing with each providing charm, character, and hidden pleasures. Yet, in common, they are all fabulous. Some are little secluded crescent shaped patches of sand nestled between rocky cliffs with cottony white rolling dunes and rock formations jutting into crystal clear blue/green water of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Others offer gentle waves that caress the shoreline with peace and solitude; and, some have raging exciting waves, great for surfing.

There are also some beaches where bathers strolling in the nude will keep you laughing and maybe provide a little envy. No matter what you seek, the 37 beaches of St. Maarten/St. Martin will satisfy your desires. Although, hotels and resorts occupy several beaches on both sides of the island, the public has access to all beaches. Remember, topless bathing is optional everywhere, even at most resorts, and nude sunbathing is a common practice on the island.

Note: Keep in mind that the surf on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island is rougher than on the Caribbean side. In addition, remember that rip tides or rip currents can occur anywhere and are dangerous, so it might be wise to research them and learn how to swim out of them without panicking.

CoupleOnBeachRLying on the beach reading a book as the waves tickle your toes is therapeutic. Watching the waves can lull you to sleep and watching the Pelicans in the sky forage the waters for their meals is an education. The wonderful island sun not only warms your body, but also your soul. It satisfies your brain; and, within a few moments, the business worries, job stress, family concerns or other headaches from home seem to disappear. Your brain, like the great computer that it is, begins to relax and goes into vacation mode. Thinking about island activities, the fun and the laughs with friends, the great meals that lie ahead, and the challenges that await you at the casinos as you dance around with "Lady Luck" can be euphoric.

Sitting in a restaurant on the lagoon having lunch, while three foot long Tarpons (fish) casually glide through the shallow waters only two feet below, is fascinating. Much smaller fish swim alongside with them and they all seem to get along just fine. Occasionally, one of the large silvery Tarpons jumps out of the water creating lots of attention. Was he swimming away from a larger rival seeking his lunch or was he just saying, "Hey, look at me!"

One of the strongest assets of St. Maarten/St. Martin is its people. They are friendly to everyone! Even strangers will usually smile and say, "Hello!" Island friends usually offer hugs and kisses, and people that we've met several times at businesses or friend's homes will usually say, "Welcome home!" Bartenders at our favorite casinos, bars and restaurants will have our favorite drinks ready as soon as they see us enter. World politics and the problems of the world are never discussed, but the local people do have strong opinions about their own government as people generally do in most cities, towns and countries of the world.

Smile at people on St. Maarten/St. Martin and they smile back. It's infectious! Visit the island several times and they'll treat you not as a tourist, but as someone who belongs; and, little by little, this island paradise will become your second home. Then, you'll understand   "Why we love St. Maarten/St. Martin!"