Grand Case: A Taste Of France In The Caribbean

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I was turned on to Saint Martin and, specifically, Grand Case a few years ago by a friend who’s visited the small French/Dutch island annually for several decades.  “It’s not for everyone,” he said one night over dinner, attempting his best reverse psychology to keep his secret paradise under wraps. “There’s nothing worse than having one’s vacation spot overrun by tourists.”

Often overshadowed by its luxurious cousin Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin might be somewhat understated but isn’t without its own extravagance. From the couture and jewellery shops of Marigot, the hustle and bustle of Phillipsburg, and the numerous gated communities and all-inclusive resorts that pepper the island – there’s something for all tastes and budgets. For my taste, Grand Case is the standout and where I now choose to vacation every year.

The small beach-side strip on the beautiful Baie de Grand Case has a personality all its own; a blend of high-end French dining mixed with authentic Caribbean character. One can spend a fortune on foie gras and fine French wine at Bistrot Caraibes or Le Pressoir and finish the evening singing karaoke with locals at G’s Snack across the street.

Taking food seriously, as the French do, many of the products are flown in from the motherland.  It’s easy to forget exactly where one is when shopping for groceries. The available cheese, charcuterie and wine make the idea of staying at an all-inclusive somewhat unappealing.

There are numerous cute boutique hotels that back on the bay – Le Temps De Cerise and the LOVE Hotel to name a couple. And for longer stays, Grand Case is also well equipped with apartments that rent out by the week/month.

A few must do’s while in Grand Case:

  • Well-known to tourists and locals alike, the Calmos Café is an amazing spot to party the night away. It has a raucous indoor bar and patio tables out on the beach. Twice a week they feature live music – reggae and salsa.  There’s nothing better than closing down Calmos on salsa night and stumbling home on the beach.
  • In my opinion, if one is vacationing in the Caribbean – one must be on the water. Venture away from the resorts and gated communities and book something with a balcony that opens up on to the beach.  There’s no better way to enjoy fresh coffee and French pastries in the morning than to the sound of waves.
  • One of my regular haunts is Villa Royale, a creole restaurant helmed by Chef Patrick Guillerm. The curry goat is not to be missed.
  • The Lolo’s are a strip of outdoor BBQ restaurants in Grand Case – follow your nose, you can’t miss them. When in town, I practically live off the BBQ ribs at Cynthia’s Talk of the Town.
  • Next door to the Aglio Olio pizzeria is a great local bar run by a man named Clive (everyone calls it Clive’s, although there’s no branding). This is a great spot to grab a beer and people watch. Clive once came to my table with plastic beer cups filled with a homemade goat stew – it was out-of-this-world.
  • Grand Case is also well known for its Mardis de Grand Case street festival, which runs on Tuesdays from mid-January until they “run out of money.” There’s all kinds of entertainment, street food and a great parade.
 The beach

The beach

 Sunset in Grand Case

Sunset in Grand Case

 Salsa night at Calmos Café spills out onto the beach

Salsa night at Calmos Café spills out onto the beach

 A $10 USD plate of food from The Lolo’s

A $10 USD plate of food from The Lolo’s

 Scallops wrapped in phyllo from Le Temps De Cerise

Scallops wrapped in phyllo from Le Temps De Cerise

 The restaurant at Le Temps De Cerise

The restaurant at Le Temps De Cerise

 Sometimes you just need a burger. And that burger needs to have brie. And it needs to be eaten on the beach.

Sometimes you just need a burger. And that burger needs to have brie. And it needs to be eaten on the beach.