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Friday, January 16, 2015

The "Orient Beach May Lose It's Flair" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading on gobeach.com/sxm, the Friendly Island Forum, about the beach which has grown to be the favorite Caribbean beach for Carol and me.  We have been traveling to St. Martin/Sint Maarten since the early 2000's and have probably made a dozen or so trips to the island.  Our favorite location to stay on the island is along the coast known as Orient Bay.  We have stayed in a beachfront resort as well as a variety of villas on the hills above Orient.  This spring we will return once again to a small condo located steps away from the world famous Orient Beach.  Google Orient Beach sometime so you can see for yourself why it has been picked by various magazines and websites as one of the best beaches, if not the best, in the world.  Sand is pure white and the water is so crystal clear you can see the bottom no matter what the depth.  A short distance from the shoreline of Orient Beach stand a variety of beach bars, restaurants and shops.  
A few of the shacks and huts that line Orient Beach.
Some are more elaborate than others, but the variety of places is what makes the place so special to us.  The top 5 beach restaurants are known as the "5 Stars of Orient" and include Kontiki, Kakao, Bikini, Waikiki and Coco Beach.  These are the mainstays of the beach, but others such as Orange Fever, Aloha, Ethnic, Le String, Palm Beach and Andy & Cheryl's all fill the beach with shacks to more modern designed restaurants.  
This is an older photo of Andy & Cheryl's
Baywatch restaurant.  The rafters are lined with
license plates from all over the world.  I have
2 plates hanging there and will see if they will
be lost if the building is demolished.  Will try
and get them back if that is the case.
The variety is what gives Orient the charm and originality that we have grown to love over the last 20 years.  But recently, in mid-October, hurricane Gonzalo hit the island and did a tremendous amount of damage to the entire island.  Many of the beach restaurants and shops sustained major damage.  But, most have since rebuilt and are back in operation again.   A few days ago, while reading a post by "Norm" on gobeach, he mentioned that major changes are coming to Orient Beach.  The French government is preparing to replace all the food shacks and huts with concrete stalls/buildings, build a sea wall to separate the beach, improve the parking area and to lease the stalls back to the existing owners or to new people.  He went on to say it is to start in the summer of 2015.  
This is some of the damage that was done recently when
Hurricane Gonzalo hit the island.  This is probably what
the French Government wants to try and stop if possible.
The information came from a French side Rotarian who knows people who are in charge of the project.  Then Philippe, another member of gobeach said that the 'lolos' (shacks and huts) are not in the legal limit of the 50 meters from the wave breaking line and are not built to the norms imposed by the French and European legislature.  Therefore the state has decided to level everything and rebuild new facilities up to the norms and lease them back.  The buildings will be further back from the water where they were before Hurricane Luis struck in 1995.  Carol and I know nothing about the island before Luis struck, but only hope that the concrete structures will not take away the Caribbean feeling and atmosphere that is now part of Orient Beach for many who have discovered the island since 1995.  Carol and I will be returning this spring and will hopefully get one last look at the way we remember Orient Beach before they spoil it.  I know it is for the safety of everyone, but change is hard to take sometimes.  Then again, the summer of 2015 sounds like soon, but that date is on "island time" and in the Caribbean "island time" could mean almost any year.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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