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JAMAICA: BRACO VILLAGE BY PAMELA HYMEN
My fiancee and I have just returned from seven wonderful days in the brand new complex - Braco Village Resort, located just outside of Falmouth, a one hour ride from Montego Bay Airport. Being the second week in December we were able to get the last week of off-season rates, which I am told go up for the winter season. The weather was constant 80's and intermittent rain showers - which dry up immediately.
The ADULTS ONLY resort has not been completed as of yet - the golf course will be finished in the spring of 1996, but the rest of the hotel is 100% ready.
Having never been to Jamaica, or an all-inclusive before, we did not know what to expect - but we had a great time! We stayed in an oceanfront room - (we got a free upgrade) but well worth the extra money for the beautiful beach and ocean views. The room was spacious with a large bathroom, dressing area, hair dryer, safe, cable t.v., clock radio, and a large balcony (ask for a second floor room - better views).
Our all inclusive package included all meals, food, alcoholic beverages, snorkeling, kayaking, and windsurfing and more. A free introductory scuba class was held in the pool and a dive and more training was available for US$75.00 a person. My fiancee did the dive and saw two sharks - he said it was pretty cool. The staff was extremely friendly and outgoing. By our second day, the waiters, chefs and entertainment staff knew us by name. Living in the NY city area, we tend to be hostile towards friendly peop le, not knowing what their motives are! The guests ranged all ages - from honeymooners to middle aged to elderly people. We met quite a few people from Canada and Atlanta. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
There were four full service restaurants to choose from. The main open air restaurant was located directly next to the pool and served a wonderful breakfast buffet and a lunch buffet. Dinners here switched from theme buffet (West Indian, Middle Eastern, e tc.) to a small a la carte menu. The main restaurant had entertainment every night - different bands and singers. A grill was set up on the beach at lunch time with hamburgers and hot dogs. There was a jerk chicken/pork restaurant open for lunch and dinne r, a pasta/ pizza restaurant which was open for lunch and dinner, a "fancy" restaurant open only for dinner which served a pretty extensive menu and a seven course dinner. We were astonished on how great the food was!! It was presented very nice, though w e never saw any ice carvings as in the brochure, they did have exquisite fruit carvings (watermelons, etc.). The only room service that was offered was for breakfast. I don't think we had the same dish for dinner the entire week.
There were 4 bars. A main bar where the games room was, a "Jamaican drink only" bar at the Jerk Pit, a very large swim up bar, and a bar in the disco - only open from 11:00 p.m. on. If you go you must try their specialty - the Hummingbird (strawberry syru p, rum cream, milk, banana and Tia Maria (Kaluha).
Every day an activities schedule was posted outside the main restaurant. Various exercise classes were held, bike tours off-premises, walking tours, drink mixology classes, watersports classes, free shopping trip to Falmouth, tennis clinics, staff vs. gue sts games were held (volleyball, Pictionary, etc.), karoke and mini-olympics with various relay races (winners received bottles of rum!). There were two pool tables and an area that had various board games to borrow.
The grounds are very pretty - about 70 acres I think, with bike paths throughout the campus. Part of the resort is undeveloped as of yet - with plans to build a family style resort right next to the adults only part. The hotel is actually owned by FDR res ort a family hotel. The beach was very big with a clothing optional section at the end. Some of the maintenance workers tried to sell you drugs but a polite "no" and they wouldn't bother you again. There were floats on the chaise lounges that you could ta ke into the pool or ocean. You can trade in your beach towels as you needed new ones throughout the day.
The maid service did a great job and turn down service was offered every night. It was nice to have two sets of fresh bath towels per day!
We paid for one off-premises trip to Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios and shopping in the market. The hour ride to Ocho Rios was very pretty but depressing - Jamaica is a very poor country that has a different standard of living than the United States. Dun n's River Falls is a waterfall that cascades into the ocean that you hike up with a guide holding your hand - aqua socks or old sneakers are necessary because it is very slippery against the current. The guide will hold your camera and take your picture ( bring a disposable water proof camera). The shopping in Ocho Rios was a mixture of craft tents and souvenir stores. The prices were much cheaper than the hotel shops!
Remember, Jamaica is on "island time" - very slow, no rushing. Activities usually didn't start on time and wake up calls were never on time. But we were on vacation with no worries about time.
Our experience with Braco Village was terrific and we definitely recommend it for couples or honeymooners. Great food, great frozen drinks, nice people and very relaxing. Please contact me with any questions you might have.
NEVIS: FOUR SEASONS RESORT BY LAURIE YOUNG
The Four Seasons Resort, Nevis, is a wonderful mix of Caribbean rhythm and American comfort. This is a great place to go and be happy, to get away from the harried aspects of everyday life. It caters to couples or families with children, without offending either. The resort offers an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, fitness room, and of course, watersports. If you enjoy good food excellently prepared, this is the place for you.
My husband and I have been going for Thanksgiving since 1992, and have reservations for 96 already.
The Resort has 196 guest rooms and suites, organized in two story bungalows. Some rooms have mountain view, some ocean front. The mountain view rooms are slightly less expensive, but not much. The rooms are beautiful and comfortable, with excellent large bathrooms, as well as screened porches (second level rooms) or lanais (first level rooms). Also included are well stocked mini-bars, color TV and VCR. Electricity is US 120V. Rooms have both fans and air conditioning--a big plus when the humidity is high.
Each bungalow offers the ultimate (to me) amenity--a free washer/dryer. This will significantly reduced your need to pack, as well as keep you presentable.
Pinney's beach is a long and beautiful beach that lost a significant amount of territory in Hurricanes Marilyn and Luis. The Four Seasons beachfront has been replaced by an extensive dredging effort this fall. The water is very warm and usually calm. The resort offers catamarans, ocean going kayaks, boogie boards, paddle boats snorkel gear, etc on the beach. No lifeguards, so kids shouldn't swim alone. Beach boys set up very comfortable chaise lounges with towels and stop by regularly with water, spritz a nd towels. They also make bar runs (try the Woo-Woo).
The pool is beautiful if you're a pool type. Right on the beach.
Robert Trent Jones II 18 hole course. I can't find my last card, but it is a very challenging and long course. Beautiful holes, especially 9 and 15. This is a mountain course, so you'll never have a flat lie. Practice those side hill, below and above your feet lies before you get there. Also, balls tend to roll off the fairway a lot if you land in the center, so aim slightly to the mountain. Putting is incredible. Putt towards the sea and your ball is like lightning. Putt away from the sea and, unless you 're close, 3 putt. The eighth hole is only about 525 yards from the golds (I make my husband play the golds, I play reds, he gives me two strokes a hole), but it's all uphill. I mean like, straight uphill.
You can bring your clubs, they have an excellent pro shop (and pro), but the rental clubs are all Calloways, so why bother to schlep your own across the continent. Bring enough balls to get started (like a dozen or so). Then, you can buy back the ones you lost from the local kids who sell them at the end of the 10th hole. Bargain. It gets very hot on the course. Teeing off at 8:30 will have you out during the hottest part of the day. Early is best if you're a morning person. Beware of the type A singles p laying early to try and get 18 in before 9:30. Let them play through--it's not like they were going to stop for you anyhow.
Peter Burwash runs the tennis program and the pros, led by Chuck Fowler, are great. There are 10-12 courts (I forget), about 4 clay and the rest all weather surface. All the courts were just redone after the hurricanes, so they're in top shape. They have a great practice court set up with ball machine and ball retrieval system. Clinics and round robins operate regularly, and a play match board is set up in the pro shop. Some courts are lighted for night play, with improvements planned for that area. Tenni s is very popular here. If you're going during peak times, like Thanksgiving through April, you might want to call ahead to book lessons and court time. Best time to play is early (7-9am) or late (4-6pm or night). Too hot during mid-day, but some intrepid souls are always out there. Bring your racquet(s), though they always have some loaners available.
Try to remember you're on vacation. The fitness center has a new universal type weight machine with four or five stations, and a free weight rack with benches. Not lots of weights, but enough to keep you in shape. Several stairmasters (of course), treadmi lls and bikes. TV/radio while you work out. They have some type of aerobics class every morning outside.
Shuffleboard, croquet, horseshoes, beach volleyball, driving range, putting green.
Service in all areas is first class plus. Virtually all the employees are Nevis natives or Kittsians (from St. Kitts, next island over). Four Seasons has trained them very well, but what you'll appreciate in addition to their competence is their attitude. These are happy people trying their best to make you happy. I didn't even mind paying the bill (well, maybe I didn't mind so much). While this section is relatively short, don't be fooled. I can name several "first class" operations with equal or greater amenities and facilities, but what sets the Four Seasons Nevis apart from the rest is the attitude of their employees coupled with their capability. You go the first time for the facility, you come back because of the people.
Right, on to the good stuff. No vacation would be complete without wonderful food. Why have ok food if you can eat here? Meals are included in all room plans. Nevis does not have sufficient agriculture to support an operation the size of the Four Seasons, so much of the food is imported from the US and South American. Native food is used where available, and the Four Seasons is trying to encourage the island to grow more. However, when you see the island, you'll understand why local crops are never going to be enough.
Breakfast is a wonderful array of fresh fruit, fresh baked croissants, brioche and muffins, juices, coffee, eggs and omelets made to order, banana fritters and fish cakes. If you don't see it, just ask.
Lunch is light, since breakfast is served until noon. Most lunch is at the pool cabana, a casual spot with the world's best hamburger or grilled vegetable sandwich.
Dinner is either in the Grill Room, casual surroundings, or the Dining Room, slightly more formal surroundings. However, the menu in the Grill Room is available in the Dining Room, and vice versa. Food includes steaks, fish, pasta, and vegetarian dishes, with lots of Mediterranean and Asian influences. Continental specialties as well. Most food is not very heavy, more reductions than cream sauces. My favorite dinner was a rare duck breast with mushrooms and spinach.
Room service is always available, and specialty nights like a Caribbean night are held weekly by the pool.
Just play a lot of tennis and swim a lot, then enjoy.
Don't miss the Caona with Lennox, Fitzroy and Wayne. Remember to drink tonic on the way out, rum punch or Carib beer on the way back. Beautiful fish and coral, easy snorkel.
Saddle Hill & Water Source Hikes
It's hot. You'll sweat, but if you're in moderately decent shape, you'll be fine. Be prepared to bring water. If you have lightweight hiking shoes, bring them. The hikes are a great way to see the island and learn something about Nevis--as well as meet so me of your fellow guests.
It doesn't take long to go around the island, and it has some interesting art and history. The resort will put together tours.
Depending when you go, a varied lot. Mostly guests were from the US (all over), but a significant number were German or English. Some married couples, some "uncles and nieces", some families, some gay couples, virtually no singles. Everyone is generally l ow key. Most people here have some money (all this isn't cheap) and have traveled extensively, but even people on their first trip to the Caribbean will be comfortable here. Some older 60s & 70s type people, most guests tend to be 30s & 40s. Few people un der 30 without parents.
December Vogue had a story on places in the Caribbean to bring kids and wrote up the Four Seasons there, so check it out for more details. This trip, Nov. 95, we saw many more children than in past years. But if you don't have kids, don't worry, they aren 't intrusive. There is a good nursery and child care is available.
WHAT TO BRING
Men must wear long pants and closed footwear after dark in the Dining & Grill Rooms, so bring these. Neat khakis, pressed, are fine. There is a laundry service (same day) so you don't have to bring many pairs. It's hot, so a woven leather slip on is a goo d idea. Polo shirts are OK, but casual shirts, short sleeve is best, are better. This is an upscale place. Neat, chic sportswear is the rule. During the day, you'll mostly wear shorts and bathing suit. No ties, no blazers necessary, no alligator anything. Remember, there are washing machines and dryers in each bungalow! Soap is in the room--wash the clothes!
Women will need bathing suits--saw some thongs here, but with the influx of kids, they aren't very appropriate. Cover-ups for having lunch, sandals for to/from beach. A couple pairs of shorts and polo shirts will be useful. For dinner, I like long silk or linen tank dresses with sandals and chunky jewelry (no sequins or tiaras). Loose drawstring silk slacks with sleeveless tops are good too. Heels are unnecessary, as are suits or anything that is binding. It's hot here, even at night. You won't need a swe ater. Dining rooms have fans, not air conditioning. The loneliest item on the trip is my "just in case" sweatshirt.
The best rule is loose, casual, chic, washable.
GETTING THERE & BACK
From the US, you need a passport or voter registration certificate and photo drivers license. Fly to San Juan and take American Eagle to St. Kitts. Four Seasons personnel pick you up at the airport and drive you to the waterfront in Basseterre. From there , you take the Four Seasons Launch to Nevis. On the way home, you have to claim your luggage in San Juan and drag it across the room (big room) to customs and then put it back on the belt. Be prepared to lug your own stuff. I've never seen a porter, and y ou may not have much time. Bring quarters for the luggage carts. Planes to St. Kitts are ATRs with plenty of room for luggage, so if you bring your clubs, chances are they'll get there with you.
Figure $600/day and up, inclusive of meals, for two. Then add about $100/day for liquor/wine/misc charges/gifts, etc. It's not cheap but it is worth it.
ST. BARTH BY KEVIN STRONG
St. Barth is in good shape. There has been an incredible amount of cleanup done since Luis. Things are improving even more as each day passes. I'd go back tomorrow.
OK - From the top... SXM Airport - same as always. Fewer flights, so delays aren't as bad. Carryon and the Transit Gate are the way to go unless you have a 2-hour connect time. New bar in the departure lounge. SBH Airport is the same as always too - with the exception of a trashed Cessna in one corner.
Restaurants - The Wall House was offering a 25% discount off of their wine list, and had taken 'service non compris' off of their dinner menu. (They'll be back to normal before long I'm sure...) The 'restaurant of the year' at L'Hibiscus hotel is called L a Mandala. Worth a visit. Eddy's New Place (across from Sapotillier) is doing well. Eddy doesn't believe in signs, so look for the gate in the stone wall. We ate there several times. The West Indies Cafe at the El Sereno is worth a visit. It and Le Rivage at the adjacent St. Barth Beach Hotel are the only beachfront restaurants open. Le Rivage is worth a visit too. Also ate at Au Port, Le Select (of course!), and Francois Plantation.
Disappointments - Marigot Bay Club is now targeted for 12/15, sooner if possible. Maya's is targeted for the week of 12/3-12/10. No estimate on L'Escale, La Marine, or Santa Fe. Chez Francine is open at L'Entrepont (Chez Francine by day, L'Enterpont by ni ght) but it's not the same without the beach.
Beaches - St. Jean is wider than it has been in years. Still some damaged buildings. Gouverneur - a little narrower, some rocks at the far end, watch for rocks under the water. Saline - a little narrower, but still great. Flamands - a LOT different. Most of the sand is gone, but the beach is still usable - more on that later. Colombier - gone - a few patches of sand have reappeared.
Biggest difference on the island - Houses and hotels are much more visible. A lot of brush is gone, opening up the views. I was amazed at how built up some areas really are.
Biggest annoyance - Black Moths at night. I've never seen them before. We had dozens in the open areas of the house each night. Many more of the Light Yellow Butterflies in the daytime too.
The island is indeed ready for visitors. As noted above, several of the popular restaurants on the island are not yet open, but you won't starve (g). The beaches are different, but usable. The island was much less crowded than a year ago, and I rather enj oyed that. (Fewer cruise ships too!) The local people have done an exceptional job cleaning up the island. (Look for the $20 Luis book with a post-Luis view of SXM and SBH. I found it in one of the shops at Le Creole.) I'd definitely go back tomorrow. (Ac tually, I'm looking into the possibility of a long weekend in January...)
ST BARTH BY LLOYD DEVIGNE
We got back from our trip last night. The bottom line is we had a great time and the island is ready and wants its visitors to return. Now the specifics, I'll try not to wander to or duplicate observations from Kevin, Tim or others:
The trip; USAir got us there from BWI right on time. We were scheduled to take Air St. Barth over to SBH but since we were the only couple scheduled to fly that flight, they somehow got 'delayed' so we got the Winair flight. I am going to stick with Winai r from now on. Rented a car from Aubin, the woman at the counter was very pleasant and remembered us from last year. First night was at the Yuana, a very nice small hotel on the hillside above Anse de Cayes.
First impressions- form the roads you can't really tell a storm had hit, but it is when you get to the beach areas that you see how tough it has been for this little island, the big coconut palms are coming back as is much of the shrubbery and trees, but it will take a while for a full recovery. Everyone seemed very focused on getting ready for the high season start on Dec. 15th. The beach areas most hit like Flamands and St. Jean had a lot of bulldozer/backhoe type machine pushing sand back into place an d beachfront hotels and restaurants were being rebuilt and tuned up. As an update, L'Escale reopened on Dec. 1. We spoke to Randy at Mayas and he said he hope to open this weekend or in a few days, The Marigot Bay Club told us the 12/12 or 12/15 was their target.
Since many favorite places were closed, we decided to try some new ones. One of these was New Born. Highly recommended by locals, it is a great place for seafood, brothers Francois and David are great fisherman in the day and restaurant hosts at night. Gr eat place for lobster or fish, we had tried grilled lobster and tiger shark, both very good.
On Sunday we drove to Flamands. It is nice at the ends but there is construction in the center. The beach was actually quite wide, but there was damage here, there is not activity at the big hotel in the middle, but much relandscaping and construction at the far end.
We drove to the observation point above Columbier. Many boats still use this as an anchorage and snorkel spot, but we did not take the hike to see the beach. We were told, however, that it is coming back!
Not many place open for lunch on Sunday, so we hung out with tourists and locals at Bar d'Oubli. An OK place to watch the passing scene.
Moved into the villa in the afternoon and stocked up with provisions for the duration at Match. Noticed that Match really carries mostly products more familiar to the French, so we also stopped at Unic to pick up some products that were more recognizable. It is fun, though, to not only to use a recipe to cook with, but also have your French-English dictionary available as well.
Monday- went to Saline beach, the surf was great, but the beach did lose some depth during the storm. For dinner we tried a new place for us that opened last May, the West Indies Cafe at the El Sereno Hotel. This is a great looking restaurant right on the beach at Grand cul de Sac. Very good food and service, price was less than I expected for a restaurant at a 4 star hotel.
Nightlife observation echoes others, Eddies was real busy and Le Select was hopping, you could hear it from everywhere. Only one cruise ship in harbor this day. We found that a list is printed in the local paper that gives the expected ships and what day they are to arrive. We found it accurate for the week we were there. The most we saw was FOUR, but there were at least two each day after Monday.
Back to cruise ships, from where we stayed, we could see the cruise ship anchorage at Philipsburg on SXM. I don't think I saw more than one ship there on any day. As a result other islands are getting the traffic like SBH. One or two smaller ships seemed not too bad, but four was a lot, and you could tell it from the traffic in town and the relative 'crowds' at the popular beaches.
Tuesday-We went to Governuer, which turned out to be our favorite for this week. It was quiet and very clean. We later found out that the beaches are being cleaned 'professionally' but so far only Grand cul de Sac and Governeur have gotten this treatment, which explained the amount of storm debris still on places like Saline. I have to believe that all resources have been directed to get things ready for Dec. 15th, and that the rest of the beaches will be taken care of as a matter or course.
For dinner we tried Eddy's new Restaurant. A great place, found through a gate in the wall opposite Sapotillier. We tried grilled Wahoo and Yellowtail baked in parchment paper. Both were good even thought the parchment paper turned out to be tin foil!
Wednesday-(Two ships in the harbour). I can't seemed to get enough of the fabulous way the French bake bread, especially baguettes. It became a morning routine to drive to the Rotisserie for fresh croissants and a baguette or deux! (I am suffering baguett e withdrawl as we speak.) For dinner another new place for us, Vincent Adam. Not very picturesque during the day, but at night, quite nice. So far the absolute best food of the trip. They offer a prix fixe menu so the bill came to more than normal, but se emed worth it.
Observation--this was the third restaurant where we saw a guy come through and offer to take pictures of patrons. I did not remember this from last year, perhaps it is a new service.....Next observation, it rained every night, this does two things, it mak e the vegetation lush and helps it grow back more quickly, it also brings on the bugs. In addition to the moths mentioned by Kevin, we noticed a lot of mosquitoes. So it might be a good idea to pack your favorite repellent and a citronella candle or two f or your rooms.
Thursday--We went to the Cave for the first time. Wow, what a select of wines, especially if you really know French wines (which we don't), but we managed to blunder our way through and pick up a couple of interesting selections. But this is a great place for a wine aficionado. Did lunch at Le Select again and this time paid our respects to Marius, who looked as if he was being interviewed by a reporter at the time. Drove around the island again, lots of activity on St. Jean, Emeraude Plage is open and Fi lao will open on Dec. 15th. Back in the Lurin area, there is seems to be zero activity at Castelets, but Santa Fe was finishing putting on a new roof and looked like they would open soon.
Friday- For dinner we went to L'Escale, had a great meal, we were in the mood for Italian food served with a French flair and weren't disappointed .
Saturday--The trip home. There are fewer people traveling this year, this was not only obvious at St. Barth, but also at SXM. The terminal seemed empty. We did hear that American was going to re start its non-stop flight from NY in mid Dec. and increase t hem as the season goes along.
We did not mind the fewer crowds though. St. Barth remains a special place which will only get better with any luck. We can't wait to go back again.
ST. MARTIN BY LEO VALENTI
We returned last night after 7 days in St. Martin. When Continental canceled our flight from Newark after Luis we decided to go U.S.Air out of Baltimore. I would highly recommend to anyone within driving distance of BWIA to take this route. Non-stop Direc t 757 service in 3 1/2 hrs. We drove to Baltimore the night before and stayed at the Marriot with free shuttle to and from airport, free long- term parking for our car and huge buffet breakfast all for $79.00 For us it was well worth the 2 hr drive from S o Jersey to avoid changing Planes in San Juan or Miami. We arrived in SXM Saturday 11/25 at 1:30 and went through immigration in record time.
We than rented a brand new Toyota Corolla from Best-Deal for $150.00 for the week. We were very pleased with them They are located at the last window in the rental area. We arrived at the Sapphire Beach Club and were pleasantly surprised at how little dam age the resort received. We cannot say the same for Maho and Mullet Bay . The Maho Area was being repaired by work crews all week and making progress. The Royal Islander's Pool was being repaired, a Beach Wall was being built, windows and furniture was be ing replaced and was expecting to re-open for Christmas. The Casino-Royal was being worked on but I would be surprised if it could open that soon.
All the shops were open and just needed customers. The Paradise Cafe and The Brazilian Restaurant By the Disco opened 12/2. Cheri's was closed with no work being done that we noticed. Mullet Bay will be closed at least 1-2 years for refurbishing .This had put 600 locals out of work. A very sad situation with the owner promising to restore it and the ex-employees wondering when? Daily articles in the local Papers concerning this issue. The Atlantis Casino is now the most active with a new outdoor Cafe (The Salsa Cafe) set to open 12-15 and Pizza Mania with fresh pizza inside. They were giving free 5.00 bet coupons to get you in. These were not the Match type bets, but straight 5.00 dollar bets and you were allowed 2 of these per visit.
We spent most of our beach time at Orient as it is more beautiful than ever and a lot less crowded. Had lunch at Kon-tiki which was good. Most restaurants along beach are open , even Papayago's has re-opened near Club Orient.
Other Restaurants visited were Tuta-Pasta, Saratoga, The Boathouse, Turtle Pier, and the former Royal Brazil now with a new name La Gourmande or something . All were very good . They all need our support and pray for tourists to return.
The Conditions on the Island are fine and You should definitely visit and enjoy. The only problem encountered was no cable-TV. and that was a plus in my opinion. Very little Traffic. Any restaurant without a reservation. Very few Cruise ship Gawkers on Or ient Beach. A true Paradise. We had another GREAT week!!
ST. MARTIN BY SAM FUSCO
(Ed Note: Sam Fusco is the author / publisher of "The Value Guide of St. Maarten/St. Martin?" The Value Guide is an informational/discount coupon book on the island whose WWW URL is http://www.versanet.com/st.maarten.)
My wife Barbara & I returned from sxm on Saturday 11/25, here is our report.
THE AIRPORT and SURROUNDING AREAS
TURTLE PIER RESTAURANT & BAR is open but remodling. They expect to have the pier rebuilt and ready for boats by mid January. Two boats are sunk right near their pier.
LADY MARY DINNER CRUISE is okay and open for business. Told us of the 1,400 boats brought into the lagoon for safety, 1,300 were either damaged or sunk.
THE RESTAURANT BOAT in the lagoon across from the airport entrance has been destroyed.
PARADISE CAFE has extensive damage. Wokmen were cleaning up and repairing the place. Couldn't find Byron, but I assume it will be open soon.
THE ROYAL ISLANDER lobby was under repair with scaffolding and painters and workmen were repairing the lower and upper roofs.
CHERI'S was destroyed, but workmen are rebuilding it and it will open soon.
MAHO HOTEL RESORT the old section is devastated. The roofs are missing and the gazebo by the pool is destroyed, the restaurant on the beach has extensive damage. Two of the shops in the Maho promenade were damaged and plywood covers the windows.
CAFE TOSCANA RISTORANTE is open.
RISTORANTE LAGUNA is open.
LE PERROQUET RESTAURANT is remodeling and should open soon.
BOATHOUSE RESTAURANT & BAR is open.
NEWS CAFE is open.
CASINO ROYALE is closed and boarded up, but may be open by December 15th.
MULLET BAY is totally closed, the shops are closed, the road to the casino is closed, thje golf course is open. Many of the roofs are damaged. The bougainvillea is growing great. The old casino building on the beach has extensive damage and is semi destro yed. The palm trees are heavily damaged. The beach restaurant is damaged and building #21 on the beach has walls broken.
THE TOWERS AT MULLET are in great shape. No damage at all. The pool bar has roof damage and a sailboat in the lagoon is sunk near the pool. The hotel across the lagoon from the Towers pool has extensive roof damage.
TREASURE ISLAND has roof damage to its buildings. CUPECOY has roof damage.
ATLANTIS CASINO looks great has a new sign and is open.
ARBOR ESTATES has roof damage and painting going on. The pool area looks find, the ground needed some new foliage.
SAPPHIRE BEACH CLUB looks great, no damage & is open.
LA SAMANNA is closed, but should open by March.
THE ROYAL PALM BEACH CLUB is opening Dec. 15, in great shape
THE ATRIUM is open, no damage.
FELIX RESTAURANT is open.
PELICAN RESORT has extensive damage to some buildings, but is open.
CROCODILE CAFE, ITALIAN CONNECTION & PELICAN REEF are open.
The Simpson Bay Yacht Club, the red tile roofs are damaged and workmen were replacing them, the buildings lookfine and the marina is okay.
GOODFELLAS and TUTTI PASTA are open. SARATOGA has some roof damage and expects to be open 11/25.
LE PAVILLION is out of business, building semi destroyed.
LA LANTERNA RESTAURANT has been closed.
SAMBUCA is closed, roof semi gone/2nd floor boarded up.
MAMBO is closed, replaced by RANCHO steakhouse.
LYNETTE'S has roof damage, but is open.
OLD ROCK CAFE is out of business.
LIGHTNING CASINO has been expanded & is open for business.
PORT de PLAISANCE is closed, until Oct. 1996. GM said they have extensive electrical damage from the salt water.
On the back road to Marigot much of the foliage on both sides of the road is brown and dead from the high winds.
LA BELLE CREOLE-closed, a fallen tree blocks the entrance.
SAN MARCO HOTEL is closed.
RESTAURANT LAFEYETTE is closed.
THE MARINE HOTEL looked closed.
The hotel with the pink wall is closed, a lot of damage.
LA DOMAINE BAY NETTLE is closed. Gated wall broken.
THE FLAMBOYANT looked closed with damage/roof all over.
HOTEL LAGUNA BEACH had people but looked closed.
HOTEL ROYALE BEACH has extensive roof damage & is closed.
THE THAI GARDEN is remodeling.
LE SANTAL is remodeling and should be open Dec. 15th.
Sad to say, LE MOUETTE RIEUSE Restaurant is gone.
In general Marigot is in good shape but the rooftops have extensive damage. The shops are open and people were shopping. The waterfront has been expanded. They reclaimed land from the sea & have added about a 100 feet to the waterfront. The new promenade will be a mile long and should be beautiful.
LA VENTURE near the waterfront is closed.
LA VIE EN ROSE is remodeling & should open soon.
LA CALANQUE is closed. The roof is gone and remodeling. The Marina in Marigot is in great shape except that the concrete promenade in front of Le Plaisance Restaurant is sinking into the water and will have to be replaced.
JEAN DUPONT RESTAURANT is open and in great shape.
TROPICANA is open. In fact, all the restaurants and shops in the marina are open except for Les Cocotiers which was sold and closed for something new.
SURF CLUB SOUTH is gone. The front building remains, the deck and bar are gone.
CALIFORNIA RESTAURANT & PIZZERIA is open, no damage.
THE GRAND CASE BEACH CLUB is devastated. Two roofs are totally missing, the buildings are vacant with construction going on. Most of the buildings are damaged & closed. CAFE PANARAMIQUE is gone and the wall on the beach is broken and fallen down.
HOTEL L'ESPLANADE CARAIBES is open & looks fabulous.
LE TASTEVIN, II NETTUNA & FISHPOT are remodeling/open 12/15
SEBASTIANO is open.
Sad to say that KEY LARGO is closed, heavy damage.
HOTEL BELVEDERE RESORT is closed.
L'HABITATION & LA DOMAINE have roofs damaged. Many houses in the north side have roof damage.
Had a bus load of tourists, beach chairs, restaurants doing business and a fella playing guitar. Local people were selling shirts, hats, soda, etc. out of the trunk of cars.
COCO BEACH RESTAURANT is open with lots of activity.
KONTIKI is open with a limited menu. The lobster tank is gone. Their boutique is open. Men remodeling and CHRISTINE giving massages on the beach for $45 per hour.
CLUB ORIENT looks like a bomb exploded. Buildings standing without walls or roofs. Main building semi gone. Looks like a war zone, palm trees are devastated, a bull dozer was knocking down the buildings and trucks were taking away the debris. The water an d waves looked great and there were people on the beach.
The other shops and restaurants around Kontiki are all gone. Three foot tall palm trees have been planted.
LES HOTEL DE VAVINA BAY has extensive damage, eight units with roofs completely missing.
GREEN CAY VILLA HOELS has very little damage.
There is alot of damage to houses and buildings on the road to Philipsburg. Palm trees are damaged and look terrible.
GREAT BAY HOTEL will be closed a year. The upper floor and roof are gone, the lobby was being remodeled.
DIVI LITTLY BAY & CASINO INTERNATIONAL closed for a year.
TOWNHOUSE VILLAS have roof damage, but may be open. Building next to it is boarded up.
DA LIVIO RESTAURANT is open.
THE SEAPALACE on Frontstreet is closed and boarded up.
L'ESCARGO-workmen repairing/building painted/should be open.
THE CHURCH in the square is missing a window.
TOUCH OF GOLD & TOUCH OF GOLD II are open.
ROUGE & NOIR CASINO & COLISEUM CASINOS are open.
RICK'S PLACE is open.
THE COURTHOUSE has been freshly painted & looks great.
HORIZON VIEW HOTEL has some boarded up windows.
HOLLAND HOUSE HOTEL is open. The shops are open & Frontstreet looks great.
GUAVABERRY SHOP is open.
PASANGGRAHAN ROYAL INN is open.
THE SEAFOOD GALLEY is open & Bobby's Marina is in great shape. You would never know they had a hurricane by the looks of the marina.
On the other side of the salt pond in Philipsburg, the houses in the area were badly damaged. THE OLD TOWN has extensive damage. Extremely bad! One wall of a major building is down. All the buldings have window, door, roof and/or wall damage.
PUB 1950's is out of business with extensive damage, hopefully they will rebuild.
In the lagoon, approximately 36 boats are still sunk. Sounds depressing? The good news is their rebuilding St. Maarten/St. Martin and it will be better
ST. MARTIN BY JEFF MILLER
(Ed Note: Last month the CTR carried some faxed reports relayed by Althea Bogdan from Jeff Miller. Here are the ones sent in December as well as a report filed by Jeff himself on his return.)
Saratoga restaurant opened a few days ago. Rams Food Store: very heavily damaged during the storms opened yesterday in its same location - renamed Food World.
BTW, Food Center in Cole Bay is now open on Sundays from 9AM to 2PM as is Match in Marigot. Both are open 8AM to 8 PM the other days.
Front St. Philisburg: virtually all shops are open. There was a cruise ship in when Jeff was in town yesterday and downtown was very busy. Both downtown casinos are open and jewelry stores all bustling.
Angelique: jewelry now has a store downtown. Her Maho store will not reopen till mid December.
Antoine's is rebuilding in a new location about 300 yards from previous location on Front St.
La Riviera has not reopened.
Among those open are Ric's Pace, DaLivio's, Darios, Seafood Galley, Greenhouse and Passangrhan. Jeff had lunch at Passangrahan, about half the rooms at the hotel are open now.
Boolchands was open five days after Luis.
There is a McDonald's being built on Front St. It is being built in the style of West Indian House and so it is not too garish.
L'Escargot will open next week-they have a whole new front on their building which is just beautiful.
LaSantal-They hoped to open this weekend but are now taking reservations for next Tuesday.
Amenesia Disco formerly LaLuna Disco located near LaRosa II in the Maho/Mullet area opened two nights ago.
Gypsy musical revue slated to open on Dec., 20 in the upstairs of Casino Royale and can be hear practicing in the casino each afternoon.
Bel Air Beach Hotel: Jeff spent some time with Jerry Rosen, director of Bel Air, who gave him a tour of the property. There were over 100 workmen on the job. The hotel is getting a total refurbishing. They are now open with a few rooms ready. Bel Air regu lars will be pleasantly surprised with the hotel.
Patrick Turner watersports at Le Galleon: Patrick is on the job, although his trimaran sits on the beach in much need of re airs. The watersports and beach bar/cafe are doing just fine. This beach was very busy on Sunday.
Le Perroquet: This restaurant lost it's roof. re airs are underway and it should open soon.
Seafood Galley: Jeff stopped in here for a drink and they reported that they have been open for a long time. Chesterfields is closed for re airs until Dec. 15 and so Seafood Galley has been busier than usual.
Tome & Lisa at the Dive Shop : located near Chesterfields are back in operation in a temp . location out of a shipping container while the dock area is being rebuilt. They weathered the storm on their sailboat in the lagoon & are back to doing two dives p er day. Their cellular number at Tradewinds Dive Shop e is 011-5995-75176.
Most dive shop s on the island are back in business. The charter boat Gabrielle will be back in the water next week.
Kontiki Restaurant: on Orient Beach will be the location for Thursdays joint meeting of French and Dutch side Rotary clubs so Jeff is sure that they are open. Jeff will check out the Orient Beach area next and a report on that will follow in a few days.
Great Bay Hotel: will reopen 150 of its 250 rooms on or about Dec. 15, according to Robert Dubourg, General Manager. They have brought in large palm trees for the beach and things look like they are getting close to completion.
Casino Royale: According to Romano Albertano, GM of the casino, they will not quite make their hoped for opening on Dec. 20th, but they should be very close to the date. The Comedy Club & LaCage: Will reopen at the same time as the casino.
LaSamana: will not reopen until March, 96. Long Beach in front of the hotel is back to normal, but they have decided to do a general remodeling. The roof structures at La Samana are concrete & so they suffered damage mostly to restaurant & porch areas.
LaBelle Creole: Jeff has not been able to get into this area. The guard at the gate says "one year". Not a great source of information.
Privelege: at Anse Marcel has its restaurant open and the hotel will open this week or next.
Le Meridian & Le Domaine: will open in late December.
Le Perroquet: Jeff spoke to Pierre there. Their kitchen was not damaged but the rest of the building was quite destroyed. They will no reopen till around the 20th of Jan. The other restaurants in which they share ownership , namely Spartaco in Orange Grov e & Cafe Toscana in the Maho Plaza are open now.
Paradise Cafe: had their OFFICIAL grand reopening on December 2, which coincided with Byron's birthday.
MLT: The airline charter company based in Boston, announced they will begin charter flights to SXM once again in Feb. according to local news a per reports.
American Airlines: is scheduled to bring 150 travel agents and wholesalers to SXM tomorrow (Dec. 7) for a final tour of the island. There is a shortage of flights to the island right now.
The Rest Of The File Is From Jeff Himself Upon His Return
We are back after 3 weeks in SXM-
Heineken Regatta will be held first weekend in March as scheduled.
Talked with Eva Ahnandsburg of Le Bec Fin- she plans on re-opening on or about Dec. 20. Restaurants-
New laces- Mario's Bistro near the bridge in Sandy Ground- originally opened in June and reopened a few weeks ago- fabulous, fabulous food. Reservations suggested.
Le Cottage in Grand Case- new menu, new female chef-great food and service- chef formerly worked in France and on the island-including Le Tastevin--
Le Bar de la Gar in Marigot has their 3 legged dog back....
Felix Restaurant near Pelican haven't eaten here in 10 years. A wonderful setting right on the beach and the food and service were first rate.
The Old Captain in downtown Burg- it is billed as a Japanese Sushi house, but they have Japanese, Chinese and Italian food. While this sounds like a strange mixture, the food here is wonderful. A great lace for a group of 4 to six who like to share.
Other laces visited Tutta Pasta-still one of the best deals on the island. BTW- had the veal
Regine at La Rosa Too, and "Hurricane Luis" special menu he is now using has lower prices by about 20%.
Grand Cafe- has live entertainment just about every night with usual good food and service.
Bistro Nu in Marigot- we were able to get in here this year for some of their usual great stuff- unable to eat here last year be- cause they were always full and we did not think far ahead enough to make reservations.
Le Belle Epoque in Marigot still has one of my all time favorite pizzas- their Mexicaine as well as great salads-other stuff on their menu always looks good, but you can't beat French pizza.
Beaches- visited Cupecoy area early in our visit and again a few days ago. Beaches are making a noticeable comeback on a week by week basis. The airport beach probably grew by one third during the time we were there. Reports by others have talked about th e good conditions at Orient and I spent last Sunday consuming about 112(by actual count Mount Gay/Cokes at Boo Boo Jam and was unable to function much on Monday.
KonTiki has gone so far as to import palm trees etc.(as are other laces around the island.) Cable TV- 3 weeks without cable makes one realize that we normally s end too much time watching TV, even in SXM.
I will be glad to be back in SXM come January. I have vowed to watch less TV where ever I am. However, for general info purposes -the cable TV people on SXM are stringing new cable by the truck load. The satellites are in lace and they have crews on the i sland from their other operations in the Caribbean who are helping them. News reports indicate that subscribers will be asked to come in for cable boxes on an area by area basis very soooooooon.
Finally, for those of you who are SXM regulars- do not change your plans about going to SXM this winter-go, go, go- for all practical purposes the tourist sector is back to normal- a very few of your old favorite laces may be closed, but that kind of thin g happens every year. Newcomers that go to SXM this winter will discover why the island is such a wonderful lace.
The areas which will take a long time to get back to normal are the recreational marine industry which was devastated- boats are being rebuilt everywhere. However, dive shop s are back to normal. Housing for locals in SXM has always been a problem and thi s remains a very serious one due to emphasis on getting tourist sector ready for the season.
Many, many locals lost nearly everything, but the mood is very buoyant and optimistic. The government is doing quite a bit at this time to help with temporary housing and is working on developing permanent housing, but it is a long process. Schools were h ard hit on the Dutch side
ST. MARTIN BY KEVIN MORAN
Just back from 82 degree Juliana Airport to 16 degree Long Island! We had a ball!! Here's my impressions as a first-time visitor to St. Martin.
We stayed at the Esmarelda on Orient. Very nice accommodations. Very quiet and private, very little damage (all repaired by now). Other Orient hotels were hit pretty hard. L'Hoste is open, but St. Tropez still has the ubiquitous blue tarps and no lights a t night. Expect buzz saws and hammering if at L'Hoste! CO looks like a bomb (or a class 4 hurricane) hit it. The new and improved Papagayo's should be open in a month or so. Still operating out of the temp. quarters described elsewhere. Coco Beach, Boo Bo o Jam, Kon Tiki, Kakao, Bikini Beach all open. Waikiki was still working on roof but was open as well. Mt. Vernon closed.
On the cul-de-sac, Hoa Mai open, Mark's and Drew's closed. Went to Anse Marcel and looks like Le Privilege is open but all else closed, expecting to open by 12/21 or so (MANY workers). Security kicked us out as we strolled around Le Meridien.
In Grand Case, both Le Cottage and L'Alabama were PACKED Friday evening. we got turned away and slummed it at the Fish Pot. Also ate at the Bistro Caraibes and Creperie du Soleil. Cha Cha Cha looked closed, as was Le Testevin. Not sure where Rainbow is/wa s (no signs), but hear it's still closed.Il Nettuno lost their terrace and expect to be closed until February 1996.
In Marigot, La Vie en Rose is still closed, as is Little Switzerland below. They're rebuilding the road from the circle part La Bar de la Mer, so you have to take a little detour through the area where the market is held. At La Residence and saw the 3-leg ged dog mentioned elsewhere near the Marina. Most marina restaurants open, though there's a chunk of sidewalk that looks a bit skewed!
Atlantis, Pelican and the two P'Burg casinos were open (yes, we made our donation!) Port de Plaisance still closed. Cole Bay Food Center open and pretty well stocked, though a few bare spots on the shelves (not sure if this is par for the course).
P'Burg shops mostly open. Finding a working ATM is a bitch, though. Repeated trips and persistence enabled us to extract a few more $$$ to spend on Frontstreet!!
Took the White Octopus to St. Barths. Nice day trip with picnic and snorkeling on Shell Beach.
USAir flights and immigration./customs on both ends were fine (recall multiple rescheduling on USScare, first from 11/5-12 to 12/3-10 to 12/2-9).
Ended up buying at the Divi, mostly sight unseen from their temporary sales HQ at the Greenhouse Restaurant in P'Burg.
It appears that Dario's restaurant in P'Burg was trashed and won't be reopened. Another party is looking to rebuild there.
Still some homes without lights in the hills around the French Quarter. Saw some pretty intense dominoes by candle/lantern light while driving by.
Driving on SXM sure is fun, especially when the dump truck behind me passed both me and the stopped school bus in front of me!!
Heard that before Luis, the Mullet Bay owners had the property on the block for $68 mil. but ended up getting a $88 mil insurance settlement. Speculation is that they will keep the towers and golf course and sell off the (now empty) other buildings.
I'd like to second the favorable comments about Mario's Bistro in Sandy Ground. We had a wonderful dinner there. We dined relatively early (7pm - hadn't yet figured out that dinner time is more like 8:30!), and had 4 people waiting on us! Though it got qu ite busy by the time we left, the hostess (Mrs. Mario?) still followed us out the door to say goodbye. I'd recommend them without qualification!
In conclusion, we're glad we went and will be back!!
TOBAGO BY MARY ANN GERBERICK
Tobago, a beautiful hilly to almost mountainous green and lush island was well worth the extra flight time and connections to get there.
We took the American Airlines flight out of Miami into Trinidad. Arrived at 2:00 am on Trinidad because we lost a generator and had to return to Miami and board another plane. Customs was slow and I was a little annoyed with American Airlines for advising us to only fill out one customs form for the whole family as it turned out each passenger needed one so we were quickly filling out three more forms, a much unwelcomed hassle at 2:00 am.
Spent the night or I should say about 6 hours at the Trinidad Hilton, it was about a 30-40 minute taxi ride from the airport. Check-in at the hotel was smooth, the service was excellent and the hotel very beautiful and comfortable with very good facilitie s. Received our wake-up call as planned at 9:00am and had a nice buffet breakfast. Check-out was a smooth as check-in and the prompt staff had our taxi waiting and luggage loaded and off we went back to the airport for our flight to Tobago scheduled at no on.
The Air Caribbean flight was about 20 minutes.
Arrived Tobago and were greeted by our Thrifty car rental rep and were provided with a car and a jeep, we were two families traveling together and had reserved two cars so the jeep was a welcomed upgrade. Since we seemed so pleased with the jeep the Thrif ty rep offered to provide us a second jeep later in the week at no extra charge. The Thrifty rep then offered to escort us to the Tobago Villas Agency rental office, I was absolutely floored by this service. This type of impeccable service continued throu ghout our stay on Tobago, from the car rental rep, the villa agent and our caretaker and maid at the villa to the local guides we hired along the way.
The villa was beautiful with 4 bedrooms and bathrooms and A/C with each. It had a lovely gazebo and private swimming pool overlooking Buccoo Reef located in the Mt. Irvine area. An excellent bargain for lodging and what a house! It was not only less than a hotel per night but we escaped the hefty 20 to 25% tax that hotels charge too. The next morning, Thanksgiving day, was slow rising from much needed sleep and enjoyed our wonderful surroundings and dips in the pool. We stuffed the turkey we brought with us and chucked it in the oven and took off for Mt. Irvine beach for some romps in the sea and sand while the turkey cooked. Not impressed with Mt. Irvine beach, it had an unpleasant smell and the water was dirty, we quickly left there and drove to the nex t bay towards Plymouth. The beach was much nicer and water much cleaner. We were approached by some of the locals to warn us about the water conditions, not hazardous but they had some words of warning about the sudden drop off, again very nice and friend ly people.
Day #3 was another semi lazy day, we checked out Pidgeon Point beach and facilities, admission charge was $10.00TT each, very nice clean white sand beaches and calm clear water. Great snack bar there with food and drink at very reasonable prices. The seco nd jeep arrive as promised later that day.
Day #4 was very vigorous, a drive around the island was planned with our caretaker as our guide. Began at Mt. Irvine and drove clockwise around the island stopping at Fort James in Plymouth and an old water mill. Continuing on up the coast towards Bloody Bay was beautiful and the road was good. After Bloody Bay and onto Charlottville was a narrow treacherous dirt/mud road that hugged the cliffs with switchbacks perched over deep ravines, a very scary drive and not recommended for those without 4wd experie nce. Arrived Charlotteville, a quaint little fishing village, topped the tanks off with gas and continued onto Speyside, stopped at the old mill and observed the Blue Waters Inn, nice hotel and a very quiet area, a lovely view of Little Tobago and other s maller islands, this was the place to be on Tobago...very picturesque.
Continuing from Speyside to Scarborough was good road, it reminded me much of driving the coastal road on the French Riviera, tight switchbacks with jagged cliffs and lovely views of the sea with many little villages along the way. A small European sport s car would have greatly added to the pleasure of driving this section of road, but the jeeps did fine. Made a pit stop on Bacolet Point at Fort Grumby, not really much of a fort it was mostly picnic grounds and a great seaside location. There was a nice bar/restaurant there with very clean bathrooms.
Continued onto Scarborough, had to skip Fort George as it was getting late in the day. Our focus at this point was getting some fresh fish and heading back to the villa. Went to the docks in Scarborough in search of fish but we were too late in the day fo r it. There was a great market place there with lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
Day #5 was a drive back to Speyside via Scarborough, this time we were primed for the road and made record time. In Speyside, we had arranged through Viking Dive a snorkeling/dive trip to Little Tobago. On Little Tobago, part of the group went diving whil e we enjoyed snorkeling in the bay, excellent snorkeling, many large schools of fish and lots of coral. We had hired a guide who came with us to take us through the bird sanctuary and tell us about the birds and a lot of the history of the island, a very knowledgeable guide though I can't remember his name, but I'd recommend just asking around Speyside for the guy who knows all about the birds on Little Tobago. Great excursion, this shouldn't be missed.
Day #6, our last full day was spent enjoying the villa and pool again, finishing off the case of Carib beer (good beer!) and lazily packing for the trek home.
Day #7, depressing! We had to leave to come home. Flights went smooth with no major delays this time. I highly recommend Tobago, it was one of our most enjoyable trips to the Caribbean. We plan to return to Tobago, but for a much longer stay next time. As the trip coordinator, the group asked me where we were going on the next Caribbean trip and how could I top Tobago. That will be a real thinker!
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