I had read about Front Street in Phillipsburg, and was anxious to get there, but what I found is not what I expected. When you turn onto Frontstreet, you are confronted by a number of people trying to give you a ticket which gets you a discount at a diamond store. They are pushy and they don't back off. This doesn't stop. The diamond stores are one after the other, and the people handing out tickets tell you that they don't get paid unless you turn their ticket into the store. This is a very low-class way of introducing you to very high priced merchandise. it seemed completely out of place to me. My wife and I went into a few of the diamond stores to see what they are like. They are not all the same. There are the "big name" stores like Tiffany. These stores are more reserved. Then there are an almost uncountable number of diamond stores which do not have known names. They offer you alcoholic drinks for free. That is quite an interesting way to loosen you up for a sale. I don't think it is a classy approach, but it is interesting.
The day we were in Frontstreet, there were six ships in port, and things were humming. Lots of shoppers everywhere. My wife and I are 65+, but many of the shoppers seemed much older than us. I was surprised at the little groups of older gentlemen standing in front of a diamond store while their wives (I assume they were wives), were shopping. It was interesting to see some of the shoppers who were really haggling over price.
I guess you can tell that my wife and I are not "diamond people", and shopping for diamonds was not a priority. There was one place on Frontstreet where we did have a good time and do some shopping - The Guavaberry Shop. Great spices. Good prices. Lots of fun.
The diamond district does not seem to fit with the city of Phillipsburg. Just looking at Phillipsburg, I would say that the city is a fairly "low class" place. There are no beautiful buildings. There seems to be a lot of poverty. Once you get off of Frontstreet, things seem to get a bit grungy quickly. My wife and I decided to leave Phillipsburg and do somewhere else to eat. But while walking along the road next to the shore, we saw an Italian ice cream shop, which looked inviting. It had sensational, authentic Italian gelatos and ices.
All in all, Phillipsburg was very disappointing. It does not begin to compare with the other city on the island, Marigot, the capital of the French side. Marigot is much more inviting, has great shops and excellent restaurants.
You may think, from reading this review that I am a negative person. I don't think so. I have written a number of reviews for places on St. Martin, and all but two have the highest rating possible. Phillipsburg and Maho Beach were disappointing to me. Overall, our week on St. Martin was fantastic. Most of the beaches are top notch, and there are great places to eat.
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