Reveling at Harmony Night on the Caribbean Island of St. Martin

Harmony Night Dancer square

On Harmony Night, dancers in the parade wear elaborate costumes (photo by Laura Byrne Paquet c 2011)

A tropical village that holds a street party called Harmony Night every Tuesday evening, all winter long, is my kind of place.

Tiny Grand Case, on the French side of the island of St. Martin, is also home to a few of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, a perfume lab, a gorgeous beach and a grocery store selling a decent array of imported French foods.

Really, what’s not to like?

In Your Bucket Because…

  • You want to dance to Caribbean music under the stars.
  • You love great food, particularly with a French flavor.
  • You enjoy browsing for quirky jewelry, art and clothes.
  • Good for: music lovers, people watchers, foodies, shoppers.

Foolishly, I started my Harmony Night adventure by strolling into one of the village’s popular restaurants without a reservation. No problem most nights, but that night Le Tastevin–a classic French spot overlooking the beach–was packed to the rafters. So was The Cottage. I finally snagged a table near the door at La Villa, a French/Italian place across the street from the waterfront, and enjoyed a tasty bowl of three-cheese penne for €19 (roughly US$25). I got lucky, but a word to the wise: book your Harmony Night dinner at least a few days in advance if you want a fancy meal.

Vendors attract crowds of shoppers on the main street of Grand Case, St. Martin, on Harmony Night. (photo by Laura Byrne Paquet c 2011)

Vendors attract crowds of shoppers on the main street of Grand Case, St. Martin, on Harmony Night. (photo by Laura Byrne Paquet c 2011)

The party starts around 6pm on the village’s main street, which is closed to traffic for the festivities. Boutiques and street stalls selling jewelry, gifts and clothes stay open all evening, and I happily meandered among them for an hour or two. A steel drum band had set up on a small stage near an ice-cream stand, and down the street, two guitarists and a singer were grooving outside G’s Snack Bar. Street-side chefs were making fresh crepes to order and grilling marinated chicken brochettes.

A memorable sunset in the French Caribbean

Kids chased each other through the crowds of shoppers as the sun stained the sky orange and the few street lights came on. Beer and wine flowed freely on beachfront patios overlooking a cluster of moored sailboats.

Thirsty shoppers head to beachfront patios in Grand Case as the sun sets on Harmony Night (photo by Laura Byrne Paquet c 2011).

Thirsty shoppers head to beachfront patios in Grand Case as the sun sets on Harmony Night (photo by Laura Byrne Paquet c 2011).

Then the parade arrived.

Yes, every Tuesday night, there’s a full-fledged, village-scaled parade. No floats, mind you, but a steel drum band and an assortment of spectacularly dressed dancers, looking as though they’ve just arrived from Mardi Gras in Rio. As soon as they showed up, just about everyone from toddlers to octogenarians started dancing — or at least swaying to the infectious music. Many spectators followed the parade along its entire route, like children in thrall to the Pied Piper.

Harmony Night Grand Case music

Musicians provide the raucous soundtrack to the Harmony Night parade (photo by Laura Byrne Paquet c 2011).

By 10pm, things started winding down. Sleepy kids snuggled into their parents’ shoulders, and vendors started packing up their tables. Full of penne, beer and a newfound sense of rhythm, I sauntered down a quiet lane to my nearby hotel, the Grand Case Beach Club. For me, it was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime event. For Grand Case, it was just Tuesday as usual.

Remind me again why every town doesn’t have a weekly dance parade?

Practicalities

  • Harmony Nights run on Tuesdays from 6pm to 10pm, from roughly mid-January until mid-April. The latest information (mainly in French) is available on the Harmony Night website.
  • If you don’t have a restaurant reservation, don’t worry–you can easily cobble together a great meal from the street vendors and lolos (casual barbecue stands) along the parade route.

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