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Monday, May 16, 2016

The "My Take On The New Orient Beach" Story

New parking area which is an improvement.
It was an ordinary day.  Parked the rental car behind the row of new wooden buildings on Orient Beach and walked across the pathway towards the water.  
Walking through the new wooden construction toward the beach.
Very stark and uninviting.  The construction is too sterile and stark.
It was last year at this time that I wrote a story about the row of restaurants and shops that had suffered storm damage and were going to be replaced by the French Government in St. Martin.  These old beach haunts, which had lined the south end of Orient Beach ever since Carol and I had began traveling to the island in the early 2000s, were scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt as soon as we left in May of last year.  
What it looked like last year at this time.
I wasn't sure how well I would like the new construction so as soon as I arrived this year I made an early morning stop to view exactly what had replaced some of my favorite restaurants and shops.  As I stood along the water's edge, looking from south to north at the new structures, I was first struck with how much they all looked the same.  
What it looks like this year. Even the puffy clouds have disappeared!
Didn't have the distinct Caribbean flavor as the old row of structures which only a year ago stood at the same location.  Granted, there was more space in front of the buildings which allows for more rows of beach chairs, but the aura that was Orient Beach just isn't there.  
Monique stands in from of his new restaurant "Brothers".
Monique was standing in front of his restaurant, Brothers, raking the sand, as I approached him.  Carol and I had eaten in his restaurant for years and loved the unique Caribbean vibe that you got when you walked up those brightly colored steps.  Walked over to him and began to ask a few questions.  He told me that he closed the beginning of June last year, thinking he would be able to get into his new restaurant right after Thanksgiving.  
Interior of Brothers.
He finally was able to open in February, almost 8 months after closing.  Missed the entire "High Season" that brings in so much of his yearly income.  Told me that he used to pay 600 Euros in rent while he now has to pay 2,200 Euros.  "So I raise the price of my drinks and food to make up the difference.  But then no one comes back again, so I had to keep the prices the same.  Just had to cut the staff.  
The Sun Beach Clubber has added some creativity to their place.
What else could I do?" he said to me.  "The old places all had to have solid concrete kitchens; Government regulations you know.  So they went and built all these new places and they're all wood.  What happened to the regulations they used to have?  I have a plastic propane gas line running on the floor of my kitchen now," he continued.  I asked, "So what happens when you drop a knife on the floor and it cuts into the line?"  "Exactly!!" he responded.  
Gonna miss the old license plates that covered the ceiling at Baywatch.
"Gonna be tough for a while, since I missed 'High Season' this year.  Just have to wait and see what happens."  I looked at the total wooden structures and asked what's going to happen when the next storm hits.  "We'll see," he said.  I feel bad for all those who had to start all over again with rents that more than tripled.  Another favorite of Carol and mine was Andy and Cheryl's Baywatch Restaurant which made the best mussels on the island as far as we were concerned.  
A few more of the new restaurants and shops.
They displayed license plates from all over the USA on their roof beams, including a few from us.  Cheryl, who remained the owner after Andy died a few years ago, decided she didn't want to be part of the new construction.  We will miss her friendly smile, hug and "air kisses" every time we walked up her steps into Baywatch.  Many of the other owners have remained the same, but with a new look. A few of the new owners have taken it upon themselves to add that Caribbean flair to their new places, but not the same as it was at one time.  Maybe with time they will be able to gain the customers they once had as long as the wooden construction can withstand a major storm.  We'll see!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

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