I felt a bit like a mad scientist, dressed in a white lab coat, bent over tubes and droppers, concocting my signature perfume scent.
"Add four drops of oil into beaker No. 1," instructed John Berglund, owner and founder of Tijon Parfumerie & Boutique, a family-run business in Grand Case, St. Martin. "Add two drops of the second oil into the same beaker."
The author concocts her own fragrance, which she called Flowers on the Beach, at the Tijon Parfumerie & Boutique in St. Martin.
An hour later, I held a 3.4-ounce glass bottle of my very own fragrance, a mix of four oils that I dubbed Flowers on the Beach.
Tijon opened in 2007, but its idea began years earlier with Berglund's dream to leave corporate chaos behind and live in a tropical paradise.
Tijon offers classes in perfume making. The Mix & Match one-hour class is offered three times a day on weekdays and is priced at approximately $92 per person.
The Perfume Class 101, which is two to three hours long, is offered twice daily on weekdays for $140 and includes a detailed history lesson on perfume making.
Everyone leaves with a bottle of their own fragrance, and the recipe remains on file when refills are needed.
"We get a lot of bridal parties here as well as wives whose husbands are out fishing or diving for the day," Berglund said.
I certainly was not part of a bridal party, but I'd opted to forsake my chaise lounge and the sun, sand and service at the Grand Case Beach Club on St. Martin to explore some of the island's activities and attractions, which happily had brought me to Tijon.
The menu for the beachfront restaurant at the Anse Marcel Beach Resort, with an array of seafood, salads, soups and meat dishes. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers
Experiencing the Caribbean from the seat of a lounge chair is a big mistake.
From Tijon I transitioned from perfumes to pastries for my next stop at Sarafina's for a croissant and cafe au lait before tackling Marigot's open-air market in the town square.
The market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a venue awash in colors, Creole conversations and vendors selling handicrafts, produce, hot sauces, seashells and clothing.
Later that day, I sampled grilled mahi mahi at the beachfront restaurant at the Anse Marcel Beach Resort and then crossed the border to the Dutch side of the island (no passport needed, no stop at customs) to join hundreds of crazy tourists gripping the cyclone fence at Princess Juliana Airport as an approaching JetBlue aircraft blew exhaust in our faces.
It was close to dusk when I stopped at Scooby's rib shack overlooking the water in the village of Grand Case for an ice-cold Heineken (when the French drink beer on this island, it's the Dutch brew).
The nearby "lolos" were firing up their grills for the dinner crowd. Lolos (the letters stand for "local, low cost") are roadside or beach barbecue grills fashioned from metal oil barrels cut in half lengthwise and fitted with a rack for cooking.
"Grand Case has wonderful restaurants, but sometimes the grilled chicken or fish hot off a lolo can't be topped," said Elsie Marishaw, U.S. market representative for the St. Martin Tourist Office.
She had choreographed my fast-paced sampling of the island that day and was quick to point out that I had only begun to scratch the surface.
At Grand Case Beach Club, stylish simplicity
The resort has an old Caribbean vibe, pomp-free and authentic. Read More
I dined that night with Steve Wright, general manager at Grand Case Beach Club, at Le Tastevin on Boulevard Grand Case, 10 minutes from Wright's hotel.
"There are dozens of fabulous restaurants lining this narrow street. They serve a variety of cuisines, not just French. I have a few favorites, but each one of them is outstanding," Wright said.
"I encourage my guests to leave the hotel and try them out. It's part of the St. Martin experience."