St Maarten - Carnival 2013
St Maarten Carnival Parade
It's May 1st and therefore the May Day public holiday in the Dutch/French island of St Maarten/St Martin, as it is in many places around the world today, so most businesses are closed and people are enjoying time with friends and family.
There have been a series of public holidays in St Maarten since we arrived here last Friday sailing from the BVI. Yesterday was the St Maarten Carnival in celebration of the Dutch Queen Beatrix's 75th birthday. She is actually the former queen since she abdicated yesterday and her son Prince Willem-Alexander is now king, so the celebration continues for new reasons.
There was a big parade for the St Maarten Carnival in Philipsburg, the capital, so we met up with Canadian friends, Dave and Alex from SV Banyan, at St Maarten Yacht Club at 9:00 a.m. and caught one of the little buses that runs along the main road in front of the club to go and see the parade.
The little local buses in St Maarten are great. You can just flag them down anywhere along the road and for $2 US a person make the 15-20 minute trip into Philipsburg from where we are located near the Simpson Bay Bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon. The buses are vans that seat about 8-10 people. Just look at the license plate. It says BUS followed by a few numbers. Taxi vans say TAXI on the license plate followed by a few numbers. When you get on the bus it is courteous to say “Good Day” to everyone on board. Tell the bus driver where you want to get off and he'll stop there for you. You can ask to stop anywhere along the route. Everyone is very helpful if you're not too sure where the best place to get off is.
We'd been told that the parade would start at around 11:00-11:30 a.m. and that we should get to Philipsburg early since they'd be closing the road but when we arrived the streets, and even the usually crowded waterfront promenade, were pretty much empty. There were a few people setting up stands who told us the parade didn't start until 1 p.m. but that was further out of town and it wouldn't get to Front Street, where we were now, until around 2 or 3 p.m.!
Well, no problem. It was a beautiful morning so we strolled along the promenade and then Paul, Dave, Alex and I went for brunch at one of the pleasant waterfront restaurants. Some of the shops were open too, since Front Street in Philipsburg is a tourist zone and home to many duty free electronics shops, so we were able to pick up an additional computer drive that we needed as we wandered in and out of the stores filling time until the parade started.
It was well worth the wait! I think more people living in St Maarten participated in the parade than were watching it - and there was a good crowd!
The live bands on floats and troupes of fantastically costumed dancers were amazing!
People of all ages participated and since the parade route was so huge everyone attending could get a front row position to watch it somewhere along the streets.
The parade went on for over 2 hours. Wow! What a day!
These are just a few photos. The highlights are on video and will be included in a new episode of the Distant Shores sailing TV series.
Alex on SV Banyan is a really good blogger so check out her story and photos as well at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/banyan/
Happy Carnival, Everyone!
Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Simpson Bay Lagoon
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