My sister Lauren and her boyfriend Charlie are currently traveling in Europe. Have a great trip, guys!
I am extremely lucky to have a job that takes me to places like St. Maarten. Recently, I spent 4 days on the Caribbean island for a work conference and also had enough free time to get out and enjoy myself also. I went on a sunset sail on a catamaran, drove a rhino boat, snorkeled, and celebrated Mardi Gras on the French side of the island in Grand Case. Not bad for a work trip.
St. Maarten (the Dutch side) has legalized gambling so there was a casino right past the entrance of my hotel. St. Martin (the French side) has a clothing-optional policy for all of their beaches, which is a little awkward when you are traveling with people you work for.
I love to run outdoors when I travel as a way to both get some exercise and explore a new place, so one day when I had some free time in the afternoon I followed a route recommended by the hotel. Immediately, I realized that this particular run was not for beginners. For starters, the island roads weave through hills. Really, really, really steep hills. The roads are narrow and there are few sidewalks, so I turned off my iPod Shuffle so I’d at least hear the car coming around the blind turn that would kill me. Coming down the steepest hill, I slowed down until I was barely moving, watching where I placed each foot to ensure that I wouldn’t slip on loose gravel and roll down to my demise. There were also lots of stray dogs roaming around, some of them eyeing me suspiciously as I ran past. After I made it back to the hotel alive, I decided to stick to the indoor gym.
Someday, I would love to revisit the island.
Last September, I spent 6 days in Montréal, Québec, for a work conference. It was my first time visiting the French Canadian province, and I was struck by how much more foreign it felt to me than anywhere else I had been in Canada. French was the default language, so I often found myself smiling politely and shaking my head when I could not understand what someone was saying to me.
Local Cusine sampled: poutine, French food, smoked meats
Arts/entertainment: I was lucky enough to be in town during an arts festival and saw Arcade Fire perform a free show to a large promenade packed with thousands of people. They are one of my favorite bands and I have seen them perform live many times, but it was especially exciting to hear them play to their hometown crowd.
Timing also worked out for me in that the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit was on display at the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Montréal Museum of Fine Arts).
Old Montréal made me feel like I was in Europe, with its narrow cobblestone streets and cafés. I would recommend visiting, and if you do, have an icy cold Labatt Blue for me.