Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Anguilla Local News provided by Bob Green December 15, 1998 - News Tidbits from Anguilla Straw Hat Re-Opened. As rumored in the last news, Straw Hat restaurant did reopen last week. They have totally remodeled the place after suffering significant damage from Hurricane Georges . The damage was not a surprise, considering their exposed position on a pier! Renowned chef Marc Alvarez has joined them and they have been crowded every night with fans of his and of the old Straw Hat. As might be expected, Marc has completely redone the menu. More details soon. Reservations: 1-264-497- 8300. Email: email@example.com French Suspend Ferries. The French government has suspended five of the Anguilla Ferry Fleet from landing in French waters. This has not left enough ferries to maintain the schedule of a crossing every 30 minutes. You should expect a ferry about every 45-60 minutes now. The dispute is over whether the boats should be equipped to standards for International waters (diesel water pump instead of gasoline, etc.) or for Coastal waters. "The Anguillian", a new paper. The island has a new weekly newspaper. Nat Hodge published the first issue on Friday December 4th, with stories about the Sombrero lease, Franklin Connor announcing candidacy for next election, Bishop Errol Brooks, Anguilla help to St. Kitts/Nevis in the aftermath of Hurricane Georges, and Valley Primary School winning the annual NBA Soccer tournament. The second issue of December 11th was also packed with news: the suspension of ferry service, a community meeting about confrontations between police and youths in Blowing Point, Karen Slater ending her tour on the Governor's staff, a religious march for righteousness, a public forum on Sombrero Island, and sports in Anguilla. For information on special startup subscription rates, telephone The Anguillian at 1-264-497-5190, fax 8706, Box 98, Stoney Ground, Anguilla. Ron Webster Wins Bartender Contest. Ron was named Bartender of the Year at the "Best of the Caribbean" event at America's Food and Beverage Show in Miami. Ron wowed the judges and crowd with his signature drink, the "Ron Agra". This continues Ron's Gold Medal tradition: double gold in 1997 and 1996 at the "Taste of the Caribbean" competition. In the culinary competition, Anguilla's team of Raoul Rodriguez from Hibernia Restaurant and Vaughn Hughes also did well; they won a silver medal. Nine Artists on Art Screen for Wallblake House Here is an unusual way to raise money for the Wallblake House Restoration . As part of the on-going effort to raise funds for the restoration of the Wallblake Plantation House, a group of nine island artists have been hard at work creating a unique 9- panel screen. It is actually 9 separate paintings, but combined on a folding mahogany screen measuring approximately 6 x 7 feet. While each artist painted in their individual style and palate, the overall effect is a harmonious blend of tropical hues and motifs. This exquisite collaborative effort of the artists of Anguilla will provide a stunning decorative focal point in any setting. Beginning on November 15, at the newly opened Loblolly Gallery in South Hill Plaza, the screen will be on display at various island locations until the evening of February 6th, 1999, when it will be auctioned at the annual Wallblake Cocktail Buffet (Inter Island Hotel, 6-9pm). Participating artists are: Louise Brooks, Melsadis Fleming, Lucia Butler, Weme Castor, Susie Graff, Peg Gregory, Iris Lewis, Margie Morani and Claudia Post. Initial drawings for the screen design were done by artist Lynne Bernbaum. Albert Lake donated the mahogany. Public Holidays in Anguilla The Anguilla Public Holidays for 1999 are as follows. (Holiday dates are courtesy of the Objective Observer .) Please note that the Queen's Birthday is Tentative (the real date changes from the tentative date every year): New Year's Day Friday, January 1, 1999 Good Friday Friday, April 2, 1999 Easter Monday Monday, April 5, 1999 Labour Day Monday, May 3, 1999 Whit Monday Monday, May 24, 1999 Anguilla Day Monday, May 31, 1999 Celebrating the Queen's Birthday Monday, June 14 (tentative) August Monday Monday, August 2, 1999 August Thursday Thursday, August 5, 1999 Constitution Day Friday, August 6, 1999 Separation Day Friday, December 17, 1999 Christmas Holiday Monday, December 27, 1999 Boxing Day Tuesday, December 28, 1999 There are often boat races on public holidays. Check the calendar of events . Upcoming Events in Anguilla The Anguilla Local News has an Calendar for the year showing events, holidays, and activities. January 7th-30th. African Beadwork Exhibition at the Devonish Gallery ,by Joyce Griffiths and Carrolle Fair Perry. February 6th, 1999. Wallblake House Cocktail Buffet to raise funds and auction the artist's screen. 6-9pm. House of Chandeliers, Inter-Island Hotel. Updates and Feedback Update on Pirates Pier Joseph Maiorino ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes: This is in response to the article titled, "Pirates Pier" , Oct. 15, 1998. I am the former owner of the Seahorse, and I know about the pier. I don't mean to burst your bubble or quash any romantic ideas of swashbuckling pirates landing on Anguilla, but that pier was constructed in the 70's in a joint construction project of local islanders and the original owner of the Seahorse. It was washed away in the mid eightes (84 I think) when a water spout came in off of a major storm in the area. The spout also took out power from the island for over 2 weeks and destroyed the apartments by the beach of the Seahorse and ran a few of my boats up onto the beach. It was called Pirates Pier because there were no lights on the pier, and if a boat came to dock on it at night, it was joked that they where pirates, because one could not see them. That's the story. New: Loblolly Art Studio A new art art gallery has opened in the South Hill Plaza: Loblolly Art Studio. The gallery is a joint venture of five women artists: Marjorie Morani, Lucia Butler, Susie Graff, Georgia Young and Claudia Post. Rather than have 5 separate small studios, they have combined their output and resources to create one large and impressive studio. Stop and give them a look when driving past. They are conveniently located at the western end of the island, near the major hotels, on the main road. Telephone: 1-264-497-6006. Web Sites About Anguilla Fresh Produce. There is a new web page for Mrs. Webster's Fruits and Vegetables . It was created by a beginning student in the Computer Club's course on how to Create a Web Page . On-line Company Registration. The Offshore Finance office of the Government of Anguilla has started doing company registrations on-line. Read about it on their web site: anguillaoffshore.com Email address for Oliver's Restaurant: email@example.com Zara's Restaurant, 1999 Menu Zara's Restaurant on Shoal Bay is a favorite with visitors and residents alike. With the expert and friendly Chef Shamash in charge of the open kitchen, dinner at Zara's is delicious and enjoyable. Web page: Health canada online drug query Telephone: 1-264-497-3299. Directions: Starting in the airport parking lot, take the only exit and turn left on airport road. Drive straight past NAPA auto parts, National Bank of Anguilla and straight through the intersection with Barclays Bank and Albert Lakes Grocery. You will got through Stoney Ground and Little Dix village. In about 2 miles you will turn left on a paved road to Shoal Bay. Follow this road over a hill and down toward the beach. At the bottom of the hill, turn right on a gravel road that goes to Allamanda, Zara's and Serenity. Zara's is on the grounds of Allamanda Beach Club resort . Keep to the left on the driveway and park at the bottom of the hill. Here is the menu for the 1998-1998 season: HOT SOUPS Anguillian Pumpkin Soup ; $ 7.00 Black Bean Soup (served with rice & onions ) $ 7.00 Anguillian Chunky Fish Soup (Grouper or Snapper with chunky vegetables and served with garlic bread ) $ 8.00 CHILLED SOUPS Gazpacho ; ; ; ; ; ; (Shamashs recipe including balsamic vinegar, parsley & almonds ) $ 8.50 Roast Red Pepper Soup ; ; ; (Roasted red peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, & rosemary pureed then garnished with lemon & basil ) $ 8.00 APPETIZERS Conch Fritters ; ; ; ; ; ; ( served with Mild or Spicy Dip ) $ 8.50 Shrimp Pernod (tender shrimp sauteed in butter and shallots and served in a creamy pernod sauce) Golden Calamari ; ; ; ; ; ( calamari rings seasoned then deep fried until tender, served with mild or spicy dip & garnished with lemon ) $ 10.00 Marinated Grilled Vegetables ; ; ; (combination of vegetables marinated in an olive oil and herbs & served on a bed of lettuce ) $ 9.00 Mixed Toss Salad $ 7.50 Ceasar Salad ; $ 8.00 Conch Ceviche Salad ; ; ; ; ( Conch is delicately sliced & marinated in lemon juice & oil ) $ 10.00 Lobster Mango Salad ; $ 13.00 ENTREES PASTA Lemon Pasta ; ; ; ; ; ; ( Pasta of your choice, served in a white wine sauce flavoured with garlic, shallots, lemon & topped with parmesan cheese ) $ 15.00 Lobster Penne ; ; ; ; ; ( Lobster chunks, tomatoes, mushrooms & riccotta cheese in a pink marinara sauce with a hint of vodka & garlic. Served on a bed of penne pasta ) $ 21.50 Garlic Shrimp Linguine ; ; ; ; ( Shrimp sauteed with broccoli and mushroom in a garlic and wine sauce. Served with linguine pasta al dente ) $ 21.50 Spaghetti Bolognese ; ; ; ; (Ground beef in a tasty tomato & onion sauce, served on spaghetti with mushrooms, carrots & celery) $ 16.00 Pasta La Zaras ; ; ; ; ; (Lobster, shrimp & calamari cooked in a tomato sauce with shallots, white wine & olive oil. Topped with fresh basil & served on a pasta of your choice) $ 23.00 Chef Shamash Rasta Pasta (Chefs daily creation - see menu board) ENTREES Chicken Maria ; ; ; ; ; ; (Boneless breast sauteed with peppers & onions in a delicate white wine sauce) $ 17.00 Stuffed Chicken Bracio ; ( Boneless breast stuffed with ham and mozzarella cheese sauteed in butter, garlic and olive oil ) $ 19.00 ; Balsamic Grilled Chicken ; ; ; ( Boneless breast grilled with balsamic vinegar and served in a light marinara sauce with sauteed mushrooms and a hint of garlic ) $ 18.50 Rack of Lamb ; ; ; ; ; ; (Lamb marinated in mustard, honey and herbs then baked and served with a smoked apple sauce) $ 24.50 Steak Supreme (14 oz ) ; ; ; ( Grilled steak with sage butter & julienne vegetables ) $ 24.50 Chef Shamash Veal Special of the Day $ 22.00 ENTREES FROM THE REEF Whole Grilled Stuffed Lobster ; ; ( Stuffed with Shamashs secret ingredients & served with a lemon garlic butter sauce ) $ 36.00 Lobster Thermidor ; ; ; ; ; ( Lobster, mushrooms and onions sauteed in lemon & cream. Served in the shell topped with cheese ) $ 24.00 Shrimp Saffron ( Shrimp and shallots sauteed with garlic, saffron and herbs with a hint of brandy ) Shrimp Feta Cheese Casserole ; ( Battered shrimp, deep fried and flavoured with herbs, scallion & tomatoes then casseroled in a feta cheese sauce ) $ 21.00 Grilled Mahi Mahi ( served with a white wine, lemon and garlic sauce, then garnished with chopped tomatoes and fresh basil ) $ 20.00 Spiced Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaf ; ( Fish fillet spiced with turmeric, ginger and tamarind then grilled in a banana leaf ) ; $ 21.00 Oven Grilled Snapper ; ; ; ; ( Fillet of snapper lightly grilled then baked in the oven with pesto ) $ 18.00 Shamashs Crusted Snapper ; ; (Fillet lightly battered in flour, garlic, pan seared & served on a bed of oriental red cabbage in a lemon butter sauce ) ; $ 18.50 Anguilla Cracked Conch ; ; ; (Lightly floured conch pan seared & served with scallions in a creamy white wine sauce) $ 17.50
(Ed. Note: Mike and Colette also visited St. Barths and Zovirax tablets ireland is also published in this issue of the CTR, 1/99)
Left for Anguilla from St. Barths on Friday morning, taking Winair via St. Marten. The connection is easy since no customs clearance is required in between. We took a taxi to the hotelsome of the hotels have stopped running shuttles to help the taxi business, it is about $20 to Cap Juluca. The owner of Connor taxi, car rental(ironically where we were to rent later), and villa rentals was our driver, and he gave us a great commentary on the island during the 25 minute drive. Anguilla is a drive on the left island, which took some getting used to; and it is more of a Caribbean feel, with unspectacular views versus St. Barths. It is also flat as a pancake compared to St. Barths and St. Marten. Arrived at Cap Juluca around noon. Our room was not ready, but Nigel took us to a temporary room and got us situated at George's, the casual dining restaurant. Lunch was OK, we had the buffet; but when our room was not yet ready at 3, we were a little annoyedfortunately Nigel saved the day and got us two 'Cap Juluca Specials' which went down very nicely. Our room was the standard fare, combined bedroom and sitting room which opened to a balcony with great sea view. Make sure you have an upstairs room here! The bathroom was nice, and it had a door to a walled patio to sunbathe nudehowever, it got very little direct light! No TV or Stereo in the roomwe like having our music so we missed that. Beach at Cap Juluca is nothing short of amazingcrescent shaped, with the softest white sand and the water like glass. Chairs and umbrellas are set up all along, and beach attendants are waiting to be summoned by the red flags on the umbrellas. The view of St. Marten is wonderful as well. Cap Juluca aspires to keep you on the property as much as possible, and we found that somewhat irritating, because we like to venture out and experience things. This is a gorgeous resort with two good (but definitely not great) restaurants and activities going on constantly, including water skiing, sailboarding, snorkeling trips, tennis, etc. There are movies in the main house every night and they will pick you up in a golf cart for movies or the restaurants. They just don't want you to leave, and if that is your style, you'll be in heaven here. Leave we did, and found Anguilla to be much better than we first expected. It is very difficult to find your way around at first, so be ready for a lot of trial and errorplease try to laugh when you get lost, don't fight, because that Mike person on the internet told you this would happen! We found our way (after almost an hour for a 30 minute drive) to Shoal Bay beach, which is a must seeit is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean, and we would agree. Raymond is one of the proprietors of the beach chair business there, and he charges $12 for two chairs and an umbrella for the day, and $10 every other day you come back. He is a nice guy and we didn't mind participating in his little racket, but what I wouldn't give for a piece of that biz! Shoal Bay is a great place to snorkel, and the reef is just a few steps from shore, no boat required. Raymond will of course rent you some equipment as well! The best snorkeling at Shoal is east of Raymond and Uncle Eddie's BBQ, a good cheap lunch spothave the rib and chicken combo. Just walk up to about where the curve is, you should see people in the water. Best outing we had on the island was not Scilly Caybecause we didn't go. It looked too 'touristy' to us and we weren't interested in getting wasted on this little island that we could swim to. (But we had no problem getting swindled by Raymond, you note. Well call me a hypocrite, but $12 versus $180 or whatever it was is a big difference. Plus we like to go out for big dinners. So there.) Our best day was a drive to Crocus Bay, where we met up with Calvin, who for $10 shuttles people on his little boat over to Little Bay for snorkeling, and you tell him when to come get you. Little Bay is only reachable by water, and is gorgeousour best pictures on Anguilla are from here. Calvin is a very very nice man who worked for the government for some 14 years before going out on his own, and we had such wonderful time that we vowed to get him as much publicity as we could. You have to bring your own snorkel gear, but your hotel should have ityou will not believe how tiny the beach is where he drops you! Had rain one day, and all the locals kept apologizingwe just got on the ferry over to St. Marten. Bring your passport, $10 each way that you pay on the boat plus $2 each departure fee each way. The trip is about 20 minutes, and the sea was angry that day, my friends. Don't go over on Sunday, like we didthe stores are all closed! Other days we stayed at the beach at Cap Juluca, but of course we were out for dinner every night! The first night was Mango, near the hotel, which is right on the water. Most places in Anguilla are right on the water, unlike St. Barthswe really liked that. Many of the restaurants are owned by Americans, and the cuisine is more typically Caribbean--Mango was no exception, and it was excellent. We started out with a great conch chowder and lobster cakes with tomato tartar sauce. Entrees were Grouper in a mustard sauce and blackened tuna in the secret Mango mix of spicesit was very good. Dessert was an Apple Tart with vanilla ice cream. Great food, great serviceand the bumpy, dark road down to the restaurant made us think we had missed a turn, but just keep going! Price was about $150, and it shouldn't be missed. Next night was Straw Hat. It is not far from the airport, and you can follow the signs along the road with a brown straw hat on them! They glow in the dark, so you cannot miss them, and you must not miss this restaurant. The new chef was at Covecastles on the island, and at Aureole in NYC before that. The food is sublime, but call ahead and make sure they have the Maine lobster because you will be ordering it. We started with a Lobster Corn Chowder (I am the world's biggest fan of corn chowder) which was great and an Open Face Lobster Ravioli in a ginger sauce that I liked even better than the chowder. I had the spiced Grilled Tuna, which was excellent, and my wife had the Angry Grilled Lobster with Corn Relish and Pomme Puree. The lobster was the best thing we ate on Anguilla. We finished with vanilla and chocolate filled Crepes laced with Grand Marnier. The restaurant is on stilts over the water, with a view of the lights of St. Marten. The atmosphere is wonderful and the food is the best. We went back for dinner our last night there and had another wonderful meal. Wine list was good but limited. Price around $150. Pimms at Cap Juluca. I will be brief, because it reminded me of a hotel restaurant. The food was good, the setting right on the water was romanticbut it was not as good as the other places we ate, and maybe it was just our table but there was no breeze so it got very hot. Appetizers were Crayfish Bisque, very rich, and Lobster Spring Roll. Entrees were Salmon and Lamb Chop (not the puppet). Price was about $140. At night it was Blanchard's near Malliouhana. Best wine list on the island including tons of American selections. Portions extremely generous, but not the subtlety of Mango or Straw Hat. We had Lobster Cake and a warm Black Bean and Goat Cheese concoction that were good, then Jerk Shrimp which was not as spicy as we were led to expect (we like spicy!), and I honestly cannot remember what I had. We were too full for dessertunbelievable but true! Price was $145 with only a half bottle of wine. We liked Anguilla very much and as I said before, Cap Juluca can be great for people who don't want to do anything but wake up and walk out the door to a beautiful beach. I would go back and rent a house, although food shopping did not seem as easy and with as many selections as St. Barths. I felt like I did not get quite as much for my restaurant dollar as I did in St. Barths, but Straw Hat and Mango were excellent. Hope this has been helpful, and repays some of our debt to the others who contributed to the CTR. Thanks to Paul for creating such a valuable resource.
Leslie, Me (Ron), m y daughter and her boyfriend (25) went with us to Aruba Divi Resort. Found the rooms so-so, but we did get rooms on the ocean front away from the main area of the resort. It was very quiet, peaceful and enjoyable. We had a hut with grass[green stuff] in front of our room, very nice touch and the ocean not far from there. Bar for drinks was about 100feet from our hut[beach bar] there are two the main bar near the rest's and swimming pool and the 2nd bar near the south end. The resort in general was very good, with two pools 3 restaurants --construction on one of the restaurants due to be completed in 2 weeks. Believe that and you can pay for my next trip. Met the owner[from Upstate NY] --a very nice guy, he said it would be done within a month. I think it will open in a month ,but it will be longer to finish up odds and ends. The food and drinks at the resort were very good. Service was not bad, better than I thought it would be. We did all inclusive .,but went out to eat 3-4 times to other restaurant. Papiamento's -- very good, very pretty, very $$$,but enjoyed it very much. Pirate's Nest (on the beach) very pretty, food was about average, Lobsters were huge, shrimp came in 2nd . Had to do a high rise rest. We went to Ventanas Del Mar at the Hyatt, food was great, very pretty sitting outside near the falls. Mama mini in town sold out ands is going to open in 2-4 weeks but I'm do not know what type of restaurant it will be .We were very sorry to see it close, not only good food ,but a lot of great times in the evening, with local music. The weather was OK. Clouds and sun most of the week. The day before we were to leave, it rained for 6 hours with lighting and thunder -- around 3-5 inches of rain flooded the streets. All cars ,buses and taxis refused to move or could not. Never in our 9 visits to Aruba did I ever see anything like this.[kind of fun] Next Day Aruba was back to its normal sunny ways. Locals said its been over a year since it rained like that in one day Rented a jeep, low rates for old jeeps high rates for new jeeps Make sure you shop around for the best prices and make sure you ask for a newer jeep. Also be careful about dollars Vs florin, some shops and restaurants try to take people for a ride in overcharging. The rate us 1.00 =1.75 florin (approx.). They charge you florin rates wanting you to pay in dollars. Use credits cards wherever possible. I did notice it is done more on the young tourists. All in all we had a great time and will be returning next year. Whether you go to low rises or high rises, Aruba is a pretty safe and enjoyable island.
Well guys, just returned from a great vacation as usual. The flight down was unusual, no screaming kids and we arrived a half hour early. Airport was still slow, so we ended up being on time. We checked into Sonesta Suites (the Rad still closed) for the first time and got a great room on 3rd flr, harborside. This worked out well, Kaaren got to shop till she dropped & we still got to spend the afternoons at Sonesta Island. This island beats DePalm Island hands down. Plenty of room, plenty of shade, plenty of BBSS. Snorkeling was really good. Now for the unhappy part...It seems the locals are not as happy as it would seem. Tuesday morn the Sanitation men were picketing in front of the Parliament. The government wants to privatize this, and the men are afraid of losing their jobs and any benefits, so they decided not to pick up garbage in certain areas and show their discontent. Thursday is when it really got interesting, but we didn't know what was happening for awhile. The parking lot for the Seaport Mall was barricaded all day and LG Smith was closed at around 4 PM. We were returning from Saventa and saw crowds of people carrying Aruban flags, banners and signs. Looked like some kind of protest, with the local News and TV covering it. By 6 PM there had to be at least 2000 people yelling and screaming in front of Parliament, demanding that Eman come out and face them. They tried this the week before, but Henny Eman ran out the back door to escape it. This time they had all the exits covered. A local druggist was interpreting everything that was being said because it was all in Papiamento. He said that AVP party did not have enough votes to swing the election, so they joined with OLLA, the party that had almost bankrupted the country in the 70's. Combined, they have been skimming and partying at everyone's expense. Trips all over the Caribbean and US while claiming that there is no money to pay the local bills. Eman's reply was that he didn't have time right now, come back tomorrow. At this point, everyone stormed the front door. (Still no violence, just a display of frustration). Finally, he agreed to meet with a delegation of 6 to discuss the issues, like not having enough money to buy batteries for Policemen's flashlights. Demonstration broke up around 8 PM, but we hear that there may be a general strike on the island. The last thing they want to do is disrupt the tourist trade, but the trickle down effects will still be felt if something is not resolved. Meanwhile, down the road at the hotels and timeshares, no one realizes that this is happening. If you speak to locals , they claim no knowledge, until you tell them that you were there at their demonstration. Then they feel that they can discuss what has been happening. (They really feel like they are being screwed, and the Dutch has not gotten involved, so far).
Trip 8\98 This trip report provides an account of our "holi-moon" (our holiday and honeymoon combined) trip to Barbados. In it, I have tried to give some insights into staying in a private apartment and what the associated costs were for the trip. I hope this report is of some use to fellow travelers. I recommend Barbados as a vacation (and honeymoon) destination and I would return tomorrow to the same beach, same apartment. What follows is a short(?) report on Jackie and Rob's "Holimoon" (Jackie's description -- she said we were too old for honeymoons!). Where did we go? Barbados obviously, St. James to be more precise, Paynes Bay -- about 10-min walk south from Sandy Lane beach -- to be even more precise. We wanted our privacy obviously and we also wanted somewhere close to the beach or on it at an affordable price. So out came the old favorite, Private Villa's magazine -- this magazine is a godsend for those who want to do it themselves and not pay the earth. The magazine is available bi-monthly in the UK. I can't say if it is available outside of the UK. We have used it on at least three occasions and not had any problems. Jackie and I had been to Barbados before, back in 1994, the year we met. We stayed at Newhaven Mansions, a property owned by Dr. Nelson, situated at Gibbs Beach (another place worth a visit) so we were pleased to find that Dr. Nelson also had 2 beach villas in St. James. Now you have the background let's get down to this year's "Holimoon." We stayed at the smaller of the two villas, Chandos Beach Villa, Paynes Bay, St. James. The villa is on two levels -- the upper level is a four bedroom apartment/ villa. I say this because although it is an apartment, it is huge. The living dining area runs the full length of the beach side of the villa. Jackie and I had the poor relations apartment on the lower floor, which was a 1-bedroom en-suite; again the living and sleeping areas were plenty big enough. The apartment did have its down side -- the plumbing was not very pretty, though it was clean and the food preparation area was definitely below standard. To be fair though Dr. Nelson had not had the villa long and not had much time to improve it. I did not go upstairs to our neighbours, so I cannot comment on the standards of the upper apartment. Anyway everything worked and we spent very little time actually in the apartment. Maid service was 6 days a week and a security guard is in the grounds during the night. The beach was fantastic -- just slightly to the right of the villa there was a coral reef you could walk into (from dry land to reef 3 feet). The only down side to this was that every Thursday a huge beach cruiser full of tourists pitched up and the beach heaved for about an hour. We just went for a beer and came back when they had gone. Sometimes Tiami, a forty foot catamaran, also visits the reef but there are not so many tourists on this and the beach can accommodate them easily. Jackie has got to have her sunbathing and, although sunbathing topless is still illegal in Barbados, Paynes Bay is so quiet no one is bothered if you do. When I could drag Jackie away from her sun god, we visited the Coach House Pub and Restaurant, which is directly behind the villa on the opposite side of the road. This is without doubt the liveliest place in Paynes bay, especially Thursday night, the food is good and reasonably priced. If you want more life then catch the little yellow buses to Holetown, 10 min away and the buses still cost $1.50!!!, the same as it was in 1994. Holetown has a multitude of restaurants from fast food takeaway to Olives a very upmarket place where the food and service are excellent. We only ate in the same restaurant once during our stay (Olive's). Another recommended restaurant is Angry Annie's, small but lively. The nightlife is also of a wide variety from Karioke bars to nightclubs. The best of which is the Casbah which is part of a restaurant/ beach bar complex called Bacu. Holetown has developed since we last visited and is still expanding but you can still walk from one end to other in 20 min. All in all we had a wonderful holiday, but then we knew we would, since we did the last time. We didn't do any of the touristy bits this time except one, the Shell Gallery. If you visit this get the bus and walk up the hill, see how the locals live and breath, but take a hat or you will get burned. After the Shell gallery walk along the beach to Mullins beach bar and restaurant another place worth a visit. Cost We traveled in August and flew from Gatwick at £589 each. The apartment cost $960 US dollars for 14 nights. We took about £1000 ($1500 US) and spent the lot -- and I gained 8lbs in weight. A marvelous holiday for 2 for under £3,000 and it is cheaper still outside of the school holidays! I hope this report is of some use to fellow travelers. I recommend it and I would return tomorrow to the same beach, same apartment.
Trip: 12/98 Just returned from 4 days in Curacao. Great time, great island. We have traveled to a number of other islands and found Curacao(CUR) to be quite different and yet have a magic all of its own. Stayed at the Princess Beach Resort & Casino. It reminds me of a 1950ish hotel but yet was well kept and maintained. People at the hotel were all very helpful. We visited the Lions Dive Hotel, Holiday Beach, Sonesta. The Sonesta is very nice but very pricey. I think the Princess is next best. But we are glad we chose the Princess because of the large difference in cost. Most of the guests at Princess were Dutch. Very few Americans present. We really liked the international flavor of the clientele. I think the beach at the Princess is the best and the largest. But none of the beaches are considered to be outstanding. We visited Porto Marie and did a lot of snorkeling there. My son visited Cas Aboa beach and thought it was overrated. The island is very busy with very interesting Dutch architecture. Plenty of shopping downtown for the standard souveniers. No cruise ships were in port when we were there so there was not much traffic in town. I think downtown in a must visit just to get a good feel for the island and people(who are great). Dining: Ate breakfast at the hotel most mornings. Two different buffet choices $12 and $6 plus tax of 6% and service of 12%. Dinner at Fishermans Wharf(Great seafood). and Fort Nassau (very nice island with beautiful view overlooking the harbor)Dinner for four was $122. Visited the Seaquarium next door to the Princess. Worth the visit (admission $12.00). Rented a car for $43 per day (auto/air). Optional insurance is $8 per day. Even though the car rental at hotel was out of cars, she called around until she found us a car at a competitor. We drove around a lot a saw a good part of the island. We really needed about 3 more days to do everything. CASINOS: The Sonesta is the best with all of the popular table games. We went there every night. The Holiday has a big casino, the crowd seemed to be mainly locals. The casino at the Princess is pretty worn. All the table games were closed. We spent several hours playing the slots at the Princess and all we did was feed the machine. Very little payoff. We spent a lot of time just laying around the beach and relaxing. While the island is well developed, I found it pretty laid back. We felt very safe and found the people to be very warm and friendly. We would certainly go back. I wish we could figure out a way to avoid customs in MIA as that is a real zoo. We almost missed connecting flight. The Princess upgraded us to Ocean View and gave us a $50 food and beverage credit. We weren't expecting either. We had purchased the land portion as part of American Air Fly A Way vacation. While we only snorkeled, the Princess appears to have a pretty good dive operation set up. The breakwater in front of the Princess offers pretty good snorkeling. At the tour desk, there were some great all day sailing trips that we would like to have taken ($55 pp) but they weren't available every day and we missed them. The tour desk at the princess closed down at Noon every day. So you must book in the morning. All in all, we enjoyed the island very much. Reminds me a lot of Aruba without the Americans. The land is more hilly than AUA but the flora and fauna is the same. If you want something out of the ordinary I think Curacao may be the place.
Trip: 12/98 Pronounced "do-meen-EE-ka", probably betraying its French origins although English and a local patois are spoken, Dominica is a lush, volcanic island situated between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south. One doesn't go there for the beaches, but it's hiking - through unspoiled rainforests, to a boiling lake, to sulfur springs, magnificent waterfalls, etc. - that attracts most tourists. I spent an afternoon touring the island, but no serious trekking. Of course, I devoted time to checking out the diving. Castaways is a resort located about midway on the western side of the island between the major cities of Roseau at the southern and Portsmouth at the northern end. It's a self-contained operation offering rooms, bar, restaurant, and a fine dive operation, Dive Castaways. I dove twice a day for five days and was the only diver for three of those. Dive Castaways didn't hesitate to provide a boat operator and divemaster for me alone. The only restriction arising from my uniqueness was diving local sites; I thought this reasonable since the northern and southern sites are 10 or 15 miles - and a lot of fuel - distant and the reefs at the local sites were interesting and healthy. I spotted two reef fish I'd never seen before - a spotted snake eel and a lesser electric ray - and observed a small goldentail moray stalk, attack, and devour a large arrow crab. The long legs and feeler sticking out at all angles from the eel's mouth was a weird, but temporary, sight! A batfish and a sharptail eel were other unusual sightings. Most of the reefs were relatively deep, beginning at 45 to 60 feet. Apparently there's not a significant wall near Castaways; while I once went a bit deeper than 100 feet, I could see sand at the base of the reef 50 or 60 feet below. Hard corals thrived; the only bleaching I noticed was scattered and affecting only one species of encrusting coral. Lots of big barrel sponges, anemones with symbiotic varieties of shrimp and crabs, and an ample representation of soft corals. The odd thing I noted, though, is the strange distribution of fish species on the reef. I saw no groupers at all, no adult angelfish, few parrotfish or butterflyfish, and very few other large fish of any kind. On the other hand, I can't recall ever having been able to see so many trumpetfish and squirrelfish within view at any given moment on the reefs. I can only conjecture that the use of fishtraps by local fishermen has caused this. On every dive we usually encountered two or three of these large chicken wire cages with their indiscriminate catch of large speckled morays, parrotfish, a few butterflyfish, and an occasional puffer inside. The manager of Dive Castaways mentioned that he had not seen a Nassau grouper for four years. Castaways is an old, but well-maintained resort overlooking the sea with gorgeous gardens and a black sand beach. Sunsets are spectacular! My room wasn't air-conditioned; I found the ceiling fan more than adequate to keep me comfortable at all times. The common rooms - one with a large-screen TV, a bar and lounge, and dining room are attractive, spacious and airy. Breakfast and lunch offerings were varied and those I sampled consistently good. While the dinner selections were diverse, I found the quality inconsistent. My first evening there I had a beautifully prepared red snapper filet, but several nights later the same item was badly over-cooked and flavorless. A pork dinner was tasty; a tuna filet almost inedible. Cost? About $1800 for the week - round trip air fare, transportation from and to the airport, room, meals, drinks, and diving - typical for the Caribbean. Will I go back? Possibly, but I'd certainly condition myself for some serious hiking before returning and spend more time exploring the natural wonders of Dominica.
Booking. Before I visit the Dominican Republic, and even before I buy my plane tickets, I like to have a confirmation in writing, as I've had problems before at various hotels, where they had no record of my reservation upon my arrival. I had already toured the resort on my last visit and inquired on prices but since Richard of TA Tours was a representative and frequent poster on the DR One message board, I thought I'd give him the business. Although he was able to get us a better price than I was able to get on my own (about $65 vs. $75 per night, per person, all-inclusive), it took lots of phone calls over about a month and it was like pulling teeth before I actually received a written confirmation stating my arrival and departure dates, the type of accommodation, and price. Richard indicated he was having troubling obtaining such a written confirmation from the resort. I took more calls and e-mails over about another month to finally get a written confirmation that the room had been prepaid. It was very frustrating to call and never be able to talk to a live person when I called. Instead, I always had to leave a message, many of which were not returned, at least within the several days I'd wait before calling again. Next time, I'll save the stress and book direct. Arrival. We arrived via Puerto Plata Airport and paid RD$150 (about US$10) for a taxi to the hotel. We were handed punch drinks immediately in reception and check-in was quick, except they had not given us the room type that I had confirmed, a first floor room. They changed us to another room, and we had to hang out a bit in the lobby while they confirmed the room was ready (it was 4pm). We walked down to the room, but there wasn't any way to lock the safe in the room, so it was back to the front desk. I was a little annoyed they hadn't offered this at check-in. The safe key cost an extra US$3 per day, so I just paid in cash. We were given papers about the various restaurants at the resort, but it was not very informative. There wasn't any information about the 9am-1pm reservation time requirements, nor much about the resort at all. Knowing that the a-la-carte restaurants are usually of a bit higher quality than the buffet, I wanted to make a reservation for any one of them. No way. You have to make a reservation between 9am and 1pm, so those who arrive the first day have no choice but to eat at the buffet. The Room. The room was a standard sized hotel room but lacked some very basic amenities. There wasn't any remote for the TV, no tables, no ice bucket or water pitcher, and even the balcony had no table. The TV had about 6 channels, 3 in English. The dresser, which held the TV and a lamp, had 3 drawers, so with 2 guests there wasn't enough space to put our stuff. This meant keeping most of the clothes in our suitcases and there wasn't a suitcase stand. With no table, there was very little space to place things. There wasn't even a chair, so TV watching had to be done from one of the two queen sized beds. The beds were comfortable but the pillows were inconsistent. Two were nice and comfortable and two were like rocks. The room lighting was inadequate. The lampshades were black opaque covers, so with all the lights on, we could only obtain a dim glow. We improvised by removing the shades. It was better to have some light and stare at the bare bulbs, which I estimate were 40 watts. The balcony had two plastic chairs. Drinks had to be set on the floor because there wasn't a table. The air conditioner worked very well. The sliding glass door locks were broken so we could not lock the room. I reported it right when I checked in, and 3 more times over the next two days but it wasn't until midway through the 3rd day of our 4-day trip that they actually fixed the locks and we could lock our room. The Resort. The resort was quite beautiful. It was set along the shore, part of which was beach and part of which were rock cliffs. Winding throughout the resort and through the rock cliffs were cement sidewalks. The rock cliffs were substantially wide and contained numerous cement platforms at various levels with beach chairs spread throughout. The layout of the resort basically consists of 2 buildings, each set in a horseshoe shape with the opening facing the water and a giant pool in the center. We stayed in the new building, which was the one closest to the reception. The older building was closed and being renovated but we preferred to hang out by its pool, which was a bit nicer. The Pools. There where actually 3 pools, but one was real small. The other two were gigantic and beautiful, with plenty of beach chairs. With so many guests hanging out along the cement platforms of the cliffs or on the beach, the pool areas were never crowded in the least. Some of the beach chairs around the pools were comfortable (about 1/3) and the rest were the uncomfortable cheap plastic kind. With half the resort closed, we never had trouble finding free chairs of the comfortable type and never had to get up early and to reserve them with beach towels, but if the resort ever were to fill up, I predict major shortages. One thing about the pools was that both were 4 1/2 feet deep throughout, with no shallow end, so for those of short, your only choice is the staircase or the long platform that slopes down into each pool. I found the platforms dangerous, as they were slippery and steep enough such that I almost wiped out a couple times as I carefully negotiated them into the pool. None of the pools had a beach bar or any means at all to get a drink. If you wanted a drink, you had to walk over to one of the two beach bars, which weren't real close. There weren't any tables anywhere around either pool (or out on the cement platforms), so your stuff and your drinks had to go on the floor. Around the pools, there wasn't any type of service at all. Even the towel exchange was a good walk from the pools. The Beach. The beach is one of the better in the area. The sand is a coarse dirty/golden brown so it isn't very pretty. This is typical of this part of the island. The beach area of Casa Marina is deep and wide, with a heavy surf crashing onto it. Snorkeling was non- existent here. I took my snorkel stuff out into the water there, which was difficult with the waves crashing in, and saw nothing but sand. It gets deep fast. Within 10 yards, the water was about 20 feet deep. On one day, the waves were as high as 12-foot and averaged about 6-foot. I had a great time playing in the waves but some of them were too big even for me, and I was slammed down a few times and got some sand scrapes. Not too many people seemed to go into the water. There was only a single boat for the resort and when I wanted to water ski, it was either out with scuba tours, or scheduled to go out. I inquired about jet skis, but was told it wasn't allowed in Sosua anymore. I believe them because I never saw a jet ski out anywhere in the area for the whole trip. Instead, I walked over to Sosua beach where I hired a boat for some water-skiing. It was bad because we couldn't find a smooth area and the boat was too slow, but I enjoyed it anyway. We just about capsized when he dropped me back off at Casa Marina as the boat almost got thrown over sideways by the surf. Note that the surf seemed a bit stronger than when I visited in July. Sosua Beach. Sosua beach is a 15-minute walk from the resort and is much bigger and public. The back of it is lined, wall-to-wall, with shacks selling every possible trinket, with some tiny bars and eateries mixed in. It is one of those areas where the tourist cannot just walk by without being hassled every few feet to buy something. The beach is wide enough though that you can walk it and be clear of the shacks. The beach is in the shape of a big half-circle, with cliffs at either end. There are no hotels or businesses of any significance on Sosua beach. The only bathrooms are the public ones at one end of the beach, which was OK, but they had signs up saying it cost 5 pesos (about US$0.33) to use. Nobody ever charged me. There were also some shack porta-potties behind some of the shacks, but they were really disgusting. Food. The food at the Casa Marina buffet was severely limited and not too good. In fact, the food at the $30 a night hotel next door (Sosua by the Sea, from my visit a few months prior) was superior. I've eaten at a lot of places in the DR and the buffet here ranks among the worst. I could have gotten by, but Veronica was disgusted by it. Service was non-existent as well. We decided to eat at the place next door called the Waterfront. This place was not part of the resort but one can walk literally from the resort into their restaurant. In a word, the Waterfront gets 4 stars, stars which I don't give out easily. It was beautiful, set along the rock cliffs overlooking the water and coastline, had tremendous attentive service, a great menu selection, and the food was excellent. Everything from atmosphere, presentation, taste, top shelf liquors, fabulous coffees, etc. was on par with what I would expect from a top notch resort. It was too bad it wasn't part of the resort. In the morning, there is only one place at Casa Marina open for breakfast and that is the buffet in the main dining room. It was bad. There weren't any cooked-to-order eggs available. Instead, one had to settle for severely under-cooked scrambled eggs with do-it-yourself toast using stale bread. The juices were all from a mix. There was only one selection of meat per day, such as bacon one day, a resemblance of sausage the next. I opted not to try it. The breakfast buffet for this whole massive resort consisted of about 6 pans of food. There was fruit that consisted of unripened watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, and papaya. There were trays of lunch meat and cheese too. To top it off, each morning we arrived at about 9am and we, along with some other guests, were left wondering around because there weren't any tables available. The place was overflowing. I don't know what they do when the place is full. Lunch wasn't much better. The next night, we decided we'd try the Italian restaurant, which I reserved early the second morning. It was real bad as well. Only a few wines to choose from (extra cost), several pasta dishes, and pizza. No meat of any kind was available. I had the ravioli. It was fair. Veronica has some other pasta dish but said the sauce was awful and couldn't eat it. After these experiences, we decided to skip food at the resort for the rest of the trip, with the exception of some light snacking around lunch. The 3rd night we also ate at the Waterfront and had a repeat experience. Great food, great atmosphere, and great service. It was priced accordingly. We averaged about US$50 per person per night, including appetizers, drinks, dessert, etc. Their desserts and after dinner drinks were wonderful tableside productions. I can't say enough about the Waterfront restaurant. It ranks in the top 5 places I've ever eaten at in the Dominican Republic. The last night, we decided to try the German place 1/2 bl