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Monday, June 20, 2016

The "Boulevard de Grand Case: Part I - the Restaurants" Story

The quiet town of Grand Case along the Anguilla Channel.
It was an ordinary day.  Early morning and I'm walking the streets of Grand Case which is a small town on the French side of the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean.  Ever since Carol and I have traveled to St. Martin/Sint Maarten, we have enjoyed many visits to what is known as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean.  
My camera is busy documenting the early hours of the mile-long Grand Case Boulevard which lies along the waterfront.  Grand Case lies on the Anguilla Channel, on the west coast the island.  It was on November 11, 1493 that Christopher Columbus discovered the island that at one time was inhabited by the Arawak Tribe and later by the Carib Tribe.  The Spanish explorers were the first to arrive on the island, but the Dutch began using the land for harvesting the salt supply that was on the island.  
One of the two docks that are along Boulevard de Grand Case.
Eventually the Spanish left the island and were replaced by the French.  It was back in late 18th century that the town of Grand Case came to life with the salt pond giving an industrial feel to the community.  The salt pond, located on the south-east side of the town, allowed for the profitability of the salt industry.  Along the shore, the beaches were visited by the sailors and fishermen who frequented the town.  Eventually, in 1961, the salt pond ceased production with the final harvest creating 3,500 tons of salt.  In the mid-1900s the town had grown and extended along the shore and finally the salt pond was filled in to make more space for construction.  For years a large generator supplied the town with electricity until 1963 when electricity was finally supplied by the island electric company.  On my photo tour today I can see the results of some of the early to mid 1900s buildings along Boulevard de Grand Case.  In the mid-1930s cement was introduced as a building material and you can almost date the dwellings by that fact.  I parked my rental car in the public parking lot near the small bridge that ran over the sluice that at one time connected the salt pond to the Baie de Grand Case.  
Le Pressoir
As I looked toward the water I was first greeted by a property built in 1872 which carries the colors you would expect in a Caribbean house.  The property is now the Le Pressoir restaurant and is one of the oldest buildings in Grand Case bearing the traditional West Indian architecture.  It is naturally of all-wood construction with mortise and tenon joints using wooden pegs.  I found out that the house is known as "Miss Dolly's House".  
Le Tastevin
Sitting to the left of the restaurant is La Boutique du Pressoir which sells clothing, accessories and jewelry.  About 100 yards south-east at #86 Boulevard de Grand Case is a two-story home built in 1923 now known as Le Tastevin Restaurant.  It is the first structure using concrete, having the first floor of concrete and the second floor of wood.  
L'Auberge Gourmande
On the top floor is displayed Gingerbread wood- working.  On the land side of the boulevard stands a home at #87 now known as L'Auberge Gourmande Restaurant.  It was built in the second half of the 19th century and has a ground floor of stone with an upper floor of wood with a balcony decorated with friezes.  The second floor is a residence which can be reached by way of an external staircase.  Standing at #63 is a two-story cement building constructed in the 1930s.  
The Blue Martini
It is close to the old pier that was used to load and unload wares, food products and salt.  At one time the structure was the home of the French Police known as the Gendarmerie, but today houses the restaurant Blue Martini.  Both floors have a balcony with cement ornamentation, basket-handle arches pillars and cornices.  All openings on the front facade are covered with solid wooden shutters.  Well, I had traveled maybe half-way down the boulevard and have decided to head back to the rental car and continue on my drive in hopes of maybe seeing another example of the early architecture of this beautiful town along the Baie de Grand Case.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 


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