TRAVEL THERE: HAVE MORE FUN CRUISING WHEN YOU SHOP LOCAL
So I’ve told you all about our be-jeweled shopping experiences, but when you’re in the islands, don’t forget the local markets. We didn’t shop in any jewelry stores in St. Maarten. Perhaps if we did, my Diamonds International bracelet would have another charm. In Marigot, St. Martin, on the French side, we enjoyed a local arts and crafts market.
Shopping Local in Marigot
You’re always at a disadvantage at your first port of call. Though we weren’t in jewelry stores, there was some lovely jewelry in Marigot. The difference was that it was all handmade from natural materials, like shells, wood and natural beads. Had I really known then what I know now, I would have picked out a trinket for my mother there, but I wasn’t as well educated then. The prices were great. We got a cap for Bill that said, “Bad to the bone,” for $5. Debbie bought the first part of my birthday present, a sundress for $20 dollars. The jewelry that I liked ran from $40 up to a whole lot. We saw some beautiful wood carving, but we weren’t in the market for it. All in all a pleasant and affordable shopping experience.
We didn’t get a chance to shop with the locals in St. Thomas, because we were too busy getting free jewelry, but there was what appeared to be a very active market near the main shopping district in Charlotte Amalie. If we’d had more time there, I think we would have enjoyed it.
Nassau’s Straw Market
If you’re looking for something made out of straw, though, I’d say Nassau’s Straw Market is the place to go. We passed through it on our way to find a taxi to take us to Atlantis and were overwhelmed by the experience. That’s not my favorite kind of shopping. The first thing that assails you as you enter the market is the sheer number of items for sale. The aisles are narrow and there is no degree of separation between the booths. What’s more, the goods are stacked up almost to the high roof. This is not a place for the claustrophobic.
After Atlantis, I came back to the Straw Market, because I was desperate. I remembered fondly the natural handmade jewelry in Marigot, but that’s not what they have at the Straw Market. They have straw.
My mom is not the sort that you can just give the first thing you happen upon. She has very discerning taste, and it’s complicated by her arthritis, her un-pierced ears and her indifference to scarves and shawls. She doesn’t wear hats either and purses have to be of just the right size.
The Bahamian natives are not bashful. If you so much as glance their way, they start trying to bargain with you for whatever they think might have caught your eye. If you don’t glance their way, then they’re going to say or do whatever they need to do to get it. Well, anything is a bit of an exaggeration. I have been places where they are more aggressive No one grabbed my arm to stop me or cursed me out for not shopping with them.
Still, I was was happy when I saw an attractive straw clutch offered by someone who seemed more interested in their phone call than my American dollars. Deb and I considered the pros and cons of her offerings and she eventually got off the phone.
“Twenty dollars,” she said.
“American?” I was getting good at this.
“For you, yes.” I considered her offer while Deb and I compared similar clutches at her booth. People nearby started waving handbags of all sorts at us. “Seventeen fifty,” the lady said.
“Fifteen,” I countered. It was well worth the twenty, but I wasn’t about to pay the first price. I had the feeling I could have gotten her down even further by playing the walk-away game, but I felt sorry for her stuck in the loud crowded market all day and pulled out my money.
Success! I’d found something for Mom. It wasn’t really enough, but I corrected that problem with some costume clip earring that I found a few door down from the Straw Market.
When it comes to shopping local, first be sure to know what currency you’re bargaining in. Then be sure to bargain. Some prices are set, but usually you can get a little off, even if it’s just to get Euro prices for American dollars. If you see something you like, buy it when you find it. That goes for local shopping and jewelry shopping. The boat was not going back to St. Maarten, so I couldn’t get Mom one of the cool bracelets I saw there.
There’s not much of the cruise left, but come back next week and hear about dinner at La Cucina.