When my friend Jenny and I cruised the eastern Caribbean in 2011, one of our stops was in the tiny town of Philipsburg in the divided island which is the Dutch Sint Maarten in the south and the French St Martin in the north.
I’d have liked to explore both halves of this fascinating place, which was named by Christopher Columbus and has been divided since the Treaty of Concordia of 1648.
But when you’re on a cruise you can’t afford to miss the boat.
So Jenny and I settled for refreshing cool drinks at the Fire House [https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g147347-d2618585-Reviews-Firehouse_Bar_and_Restaurant-Philipsburg_Sint_Maarten_St_Maarten_St_Martin.html], a shrine for emergency workers on holiday.
It sits on the Boardwalk, overlooking the beach and the beach-umbrellas.
But even the sunny, unassuming Philipsburg has history connections I can recognise.
One block in from the Boardwalk, on the Voorstraat [Front Street], stands Philipsburg Methodist Church, which at the time was celebrating its 160th anniversary.
I’m used to nonconformist churches in Britain having annual anniversary festivals, but I wasn’t expecting to see one in the Caribbean.
In fact, there seems to have been a Methodist presence on St Maarten since the mid-eighteenth century.
There has been a chapel on Voorstraat since 1851, hence the anniversary, though the present building, with its tile-hung façade, slim porch and stubby little tower, is a reconstruction of 1957.
There are images of its galleried interior at http://filipdemuinck-kristelpardon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/the-methodist-church-of-philipsburg-st.html.
I wrote this article, and last year’s article on Martinique, before the Caribbean suffered significant hurricane damage in 2017.