Cohabitation on this island goes back to 1631 when Dutch planters settled in the south, two years after French colonists had settled in the north.
Two years later, the Spanish woke up, invaded the island and deported the 128 settlers. The Dutch tried in vain to take the island in 1644 but the Spanish left on their own in 1648 leaving the way open for the return of the Dutch and the French who competed for control of the island until the current boundary was fixed in 1817.
After the abolition of slavery the plantation economy declined and so did the population that fell to a total of only 1500 in 1950. Since then the development of tourism has reversed the trend and the population has risen to 32 000 on the Dutch side and 27 000 on the French side.
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It was dark when I reached the Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten but I was fortunate to find an honest taxi driver who took me directly to the inexpensive José's Guesthouse that corresponded exactly to my needs.
Cruise ships are here of course as everywhere else in the Caribbean.
If it were not for these big boats, Philipsburg would be a miserable village for the salt flats that once made it prosper have not been exploited since 1950.
They come in all shapes and sizes.
Including six storied catamarans.
According to the numbers published by the World Tourism Organisation, the Netherlands Antilles rate a high Tourist Saturation Index (TSI) of 1.13 but that includes St Eustatius, Saba, Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Philipsburg is so saturated that I suspect it would rate many times that index if separate numbers could be found.
Downtown Philipsburg is so much like downtown Charlotte Amalie that if you were emerging from an alcoholic binge in one, you could easily think you are in the other.
Those of you who have never "emerged from an alcoholic binge" can try to use their imagination to see what I mean.
This famous, and expensive, French restaurant, L'Escargot, could be anywhere in the Caribbean. It tries, and succeeds, to present the perfect stereotype of what tourists expect of a French restaurant.
Seafood Galley is just one of the many Sint Maarten restaurants and bars.
Click here for a live view of the Sunset Beach Bar on Maho beach near the airport.
Philipsburg does have a great beach and there are a few others nearby.
Things are more quiet in the the western end of Philipsburg for few cruise ship tourists venture past the pink Seaview Beach Hotel.
This is José's Guest House, at the extreme western end of Philipsburg, where I rented a small but decent room for 21 $US a night.
I liked Sint Maarten much better than the Virgin Islands because of José Rovelet and his wife Joanna who were real people with defects and emotions and not stereotypes of the calculating "servant of tourists" predator that I now recognise a mile away (sometimes, a mile away is still not enough to give me a chance to flee),
I also loved José's place because Annika Johansson was also staying there.