Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 112
February 1, 2001

Last Update 30 Jan 2001

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GUADELOUPE BY DAN BERGEN

Trip: Oct 14 21, 2000

Air  Canada  ran  a  discounted Aero plan points special for frequent 
flyers  to Caribbean destinations in September and October. It is not 
hard  to  figure  out  that  the  planes  are flying with empty seats 
during  hurricane  season;  hence the reduced points level for a free 
flight!   Flying  from  western  Canada,  we  had  to  over-night  in 
Montreal,  but  the  direct  4 hour flight to Guadeloupe the next day 
got us into paradise by shortly after noon.

This  was  our first trip to Guadeloupe, one of the larger islands in 
the  Lesser  Antilles chain. We selected Guadeloupe as both of us are 
enrolled  in French language training and we wanted an opportunity to 
practice  our learning. The first two things to hit us when we landed 
were  the  heat  and  the  fact  that nobody was speaking English. It 
looks like we came to the right spot!
Getting  through  customs  and  immigration was a breeze in the usual 
manner:  just  smile a lot and STAY BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE (actually, 
le  ligne  jaune)  until  called.  We  had  to hurry as we had booked 
flights  to  Les Saintes on Air Guadeloupe, leaving within an hour of 
our landing at Pole Caraibes Aeroport.

We  checked  in  at  the  Air  Guadeloupe  desk and again my passable 
French  got  us  through.  We  boarded the little 9 passenger, single 
engine  prop  plane for the short 30 minute hop to Terre-de-Haut, the 
more populated of Les Saintes archipelago.

There  was  only  one other passenger on the flight, a young man from 
Quebec  who  had  made  this trip several times before. The plane was 
straight  out of an Indiana Jones movie, a single row of wooden seats 
down  each  side  of the plane. This looked like an adventure without 
doubt.  The  flight  across  the open water was beautiful, but when I 
saw  Terre-de-Haut,  I started to wonder where we would land. Ah yes, 
there  was  a  tiny airstrip down there, nestled between the mountain 
and  the sea. Our fellow passenger told us we might want to close our 
eyes!!  No  way,  I  wasn't  going to miss this for anything. After a 
pass  over  the strip to ensure there were no goats blocking the way, 
our  pilot  turned  and  flew  directly  at  the mountain. As we just 
cleared  the  peak,  he  slammed  the  nose towards the ground and we 
virtually  dive-bombed  the  inland  end  of  the  strip. This was no 
gliding  onto  the  strip;  there  wasn't  room  to  allow  that.  He 
literally  flew  the  plane  into  the  asphalt. As the tires hit the 
pavement,  he  laid hard on the brakes and we stopped within a stones 
throw  of  the ocean. Due to the prevailing winds, the landing has to 
be made from the mountainside, towards the ocean.

When  we  got  off  the  plane,  we  thanked the pilot profusely; his 
response was that after 4 times a day, it became rather routine!

So  there  we  were, standing on the edge of the airstrip, surrounded 
by   goats   grazing   the   lush  grass.  We  hadn't  confirmed  any 
reservations,  but I knew of a little inn that had been written up in 
the  book  The  100  best places to stay in the Caribbean LAuberge de 
Petits Saints.

We  had decided to spend a few days on this little mountainous 3 mile 
long  island  partly  due  to  the  comments  we  had  read about the 
Auberge,  but  also  because many people compare Terre-de-Haut to St. 
Barths  before  the  rich and famous discovered it. The bay is ranked 
one  of  the most beautiful in the world, with a mini Pain de Sucre a 
la Rio, at one entrance to the bay.

When  we  arrived at LAuberge de Petits Saints, we could see it was a 
very  unique  little  hotel. The owner, Didier Spindler, is an artist 
and  collector, and the main house and bungalows were filled with his 
artwork  and  all  sorts of Caribbean collectibles very eclectic. The 
auberge  is high on the hill (the one the plane had to fly over), and 
has  a  tremendous  view  of the harbour and village below. Being low 
season,  Didier  put us into one of the villas, for the same price as 
a  room  in the main house. Our villa was approximately 1500 sq. ft., 
3  BRs,  with a huge wrap-around terrace which overlooked most of the 
island.  (certainly more than we expected or needed) We spent most of 
the first day at the pool.

The  next  morning,  I  walked  downtown to the village of Bourg, and 
rented  a  2  passenger motor scooter. There are very few automobiles 
on  the island; only the business owners are allowed to own them. The 
scooter  was  perfect to see the island. We visited the Pain de Sucre 
end  of  the  island first, including the Bois Joli hotel and beach a 
spectacular  spot.  Other  highlights of the island were the beach at 
Pain  de  Sucre,  Crawen  Beach, Pompierre Beach, the heights of Fort 
Napoleon and the quaint peaceful downtown Bourg.

We  had 2 memorable meals on Terre-de-Haut: lunch at Bois Joli on the 
terrace  with  a  view  of  Pain  de  Sucre and dinner at LAuberge de 
Petits  Saints,  again  on  the  terrace  overlooking  the  town  and 
harbour.  We  tried  the  local delicacy accras, which are deep fried 
cod  morsels,  farcis  a mixture of crab, manioc and avocado, and the 
lambis, which are the meat of the conch shells.

After  2  days  on  Terre-de-Haut, we were ready to tackle Guadeloupe 
itself.  The  take-off  from  the strip was not nearly as exciting as 
the  landing!  We  got  into  Pole  Caraibes  aeroport just as it was 
getting  dark  and  rush  hour out of Pointe-a-Pitre was starting. We 
picked  up  our reserved Opel Corsa and navigated our way out of this 
very  busy  city  towards  Basse-Terre,  the  more  tropical  side of 
Guadeloupe.  The 36 kms to our resort LHabitation Grande Anse took us 
more  than  an hour on the dark windy roads, dodging both pedestrians 
and  the  ubiquitous  goats. We again managed to obtain a great suite 
without  having  a  reservation. Our room was huge and overlooked the 
pool,  and  further  down, the beautiful mile long arc of Grande Anse 
beach.  This  resort  is  located  just  outside  of  the  village of 
Deshaies,  where  Jacques  Cousteau  spent  many  of his later years. 
Highlights  during  our 3 day stay at LHabitation were, of course the 
beaches,  Grande  Anse and La Perle were both great. We drove through 
the  National  Parc  one  day  and  hiked into the Saut de Lezard the 
Lizards  Tail,  a  beautiful natural rock amphitheatre with a 50 foot 
waterfall  cascading  into  a pool at the bottom. This must be one of 
the  most  beautiful  and peaceful places on the planet. The icy cold 
water  of  the waterfall was very refreshing after the 45-minute hike 
in  through the steamy rain forest. The hike out was even tougher and 
we  arrived  back  at  the  road drenched in perspiration and covered 
with mud to our knees. (it is a rain forest after-all!)
The  most  enjoyable  meals we had while visiting Basse-Terre were at 
La  Note  Blue, an open-air restaurant on the water in the village of 
Deshaies.  The langouste fricassee and the langouste grillee were out 
of  this  world. Langouste is the local Caribbean lobster, similar to 
our Maritime lobsters but minus the claws.

After  3  days we moved on to the touristy side of Guadeloupe Grande-
Terre.  We  checked  out  hotels  in  Gosier  and Ste Anne, and ended 
staying  in  a  large  resort  just  outside  of  Sainte Anne, called 
Village  de  Pierre  et  Vacances,  a  French chain resort. This is a 
beautiful  place  with  all  the  facilities  you  would  ever  need. 
Although  the  resort is quite large, it never seems crowded as there 
are  2  pools  (the  main one is huge), and 2 beaches, and the suites 
are  basically  self-contained  apartments  with kitchens and cooking 
facilities.  It  appeared  we  were the only guests who were not from 
France.  The  staff also spoke very little English, so it was a great 
opportunity  to  hone up on the French! We spent 2 very relaxing days 
here.  We did make a side-trip to Le Moule and St. Francois. Le Moule 
is  a  very  interesting community, with many restored buildings from 
the days of colonial rule. 

Our  last  night,  we  decided  to  have  a special meal. We drove to 
Gosier  and  ate  at  a Vietnamese restaurant we both love Vietnamese 
cuisine  and  try  to  find  it wherever we travel. This small family 
operated  restaurant  provided  a  great  meal.  It was a nice change 
after eating Creole for a week.
The  next  morning  we packed up, returned the rental car and boarded 
Air  Canada for home. As usual, a week was too short, but long enough 
to  know  we would love to return some day. The weather was great all 
week  and thankfully, no hurricanes! The highlight was definitely the 
Guadeloupeen  people,  we  were  welcomed  with  smiles everywhere we 
went.  These people are very proud of their island and their culture, 
which  has developed over the past 350 years with roots in France and 
Africa.

Til next time 

JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL BY BONNIE EDLBECK

My  husband  Dale  and  I  visited Couples Negril for the second time 
from  Nov. 26 Dec. 2nd, 2000. We had been there in May and enjoyed it 
so  much,  that when we found a great deal; we couldn't turn it down. 
We  thought  that  there  would  be benefits returning so soon, as we 
would  already  know  the  "lay of the land". I decided to do another 
trip  report,  as  there  were  some  things we didn't experience the 
first time. 

We  booked  with  Go Classy Tours again, and as before everything was 
handled  without any problems at all. I faxed our flight details down 
a  few  weeks  before,  so  we would be able to get the complimentary 
flight from Montego Bay to Negril.

We  stayed  at the Hilton at O'Hare, the night before we left. It was 
very  handy  and  we  would do that again. I happened to find a great 
deal  on  the  Internet  and  it was so convenient being right at the 
airport.  We  just walked over to the airport in the morning. The Air 
Jamaica  flight  left  only  a  little  late,  but we had great seats 
again,  row  5  A&B.  We were one of the first off the airplane which 
comes in handy with customs and immigration.

This  time  because  of  the time difference, we arrived at 11:30 AM. 
Customs  and  Immigration  were a breeze. We were shuttled to another 
part  of  the  airport  and  in a few minutes we were in the small 6-
seater  plane  to  Negril.  When  we  arrived  in Negril there wasn't 
anyone  there  from  Couples  to pick us up, we just caught a taxi to 
the  resort. We were at Couples by 1 PM. We waited a little while for 
our  room,  but  that  seemed  to  be because they were waiting for a 
bellboy,  rather  than  the  room  not  being ready and while we were 
waiting  a couple buses arrived. We finally did go ask again and they 
called  someone  to  show  us to our room right away. This is the one 
thing  I  think  Couples  could  improve  on and when I completed the 
questionnaire  the  day  we  left, I mentioned it. The reception desk 
personnel,  are not the friendliest, they're almost standoffish. They 
may  be  very  busy, but the rest of the staff did not seem like that 
at all.

Our  room  was exactly like the last one, although I asked for a room 
on  the  north side of the resort this time and got one. We enjoy the 
water  sports,  and  we  thought  it  would  be more convenient to be 
closer  to that area. I also asked for a first floor room and we were 
on  the 3rd floor, but the stairs were good exercise. Our room was in 
the  3rd  room  block,  overlooking  the spa area. We were very happy 
with  this  location and would ask for it again. We noticed that they 
weren't  putting anyone in the 5th block, close to the new RIU resort 
construction.  I  did not hear any construction noise whatsoever from 
our  room.  We  did  not  bother  to  attend  the  orientation  as we 
remembered  pretty  much where everything was. I also remembered that 
there  was a listing on TV of the various activity times. It was nice 
knowing  where  to  go and we started signing up for things we wanted 
to  do  the  next  day.  It  was almost like we had never left. I had 
planned  out  ahead of time that we wanted to do the sunset cruise on 
Tuesday,  and we didn't go to Rick's Café in May, so we planned to do 
that  this  time. They have trips to Rick's on Monday, Wednesday, and 
Friday,  so  we decided to go on Wednesday. We had gone shopping last 
time,  so we didn't do that again. Dale wanted to get a few dives in, 
so things kind of fell in to place.
We  did  not  attend the returning couple's dinner on Monday evening. 
We  went  in  May,  and  enjoyed  it,  but  we remembered that it was 
Caribbean  night  on  Monday.  They  had a Caribbean buffet and steel 
drum  band.  We  really  didn't want to miss it again. The management 
left  us a bottle of rum and bag of Blue Mountain coffee in our room, 
a nice surprise.

We  ate  at  all  of  the restaurants again. On Friday night they had 
lobster  in  every  restaurant.  As  before  the food and drinks were 
excellent. 

One  of  the  things  I  had  heard about on the Internet, was a make 
shift  tent  on  the  other  side  of the RIU construction and Negril 
Cabins,  just  off  the beach. Some young guys have an out door grill 
and  will  cook  a  lobster dinner. If I hadn't heard about it on the 
Internet,  I  would  have  been  afraid  to  go  exploring,  but many 
different  people  said  if you want a great lobster dinner, look for 
this  tent,  called the "Office of Nature". We did manage to find the 
tent  the  first  day.  We told them we'd be back, and on Tuesday, we 
had  lobster  for lunch. It was a great lobster and we got to talk to 
some  of  the  Jamaicans who don't work at the resort. These guys all 
live  in  Orange Bay and are characters, but very friendly. We talked 
to  the  guys  for  quite awhile. The lobster cost between $10-15 for 
each  dinner,  we spent $40, which included both meals and drinks for 
everyone.  We  also  made  friends  with  Christine, who has a vendor 
stand next to them. 

I  had  read  about  bringing  gifts  for  the  staff  on some of the 
Caribbean  bulletin  boards. Of course it's difficult to know what to 
do,  but  they especially suggest school supplies as all schools need 
just  about  everything. I brought several things along this time and 
gave  many  of  them  to  Christine's  daughter who attended a nearby 
school.  I also brought some things for little children and gave them 
to  our  housekeeper. When we return I'll bring more school supplies, 
things that we take for granted mean so much to them. 

We  enjoy  water sports and we took the Hobie cats out again a couple 
times.  We  also went for a long kayak ride. Dale went diving several 
times.  It was no problem to ride along on the dive boat. I brought a 
book  along  and  read during the dive. We went snorkeling again this 
time.  The reef is not as nice as many other places in the Caribbean, 
but we saw several colorful fish.

We  heard  from  someone  that Couples would give you a pass to Swept 
Away  for  the  day, as they are under the same ownership. We decided 
to  ask  about  this,  as we thought that we might like to stay there 
some  time  in  the  future.  I  talked  with  Dwight  at  the  guest 
relation's  desk  and  it  took some checking with him a couple times 
but  he  set it up for us to visit for lunch on Friday. A Couples van 
brought  us  over  and picked us up a couple hours later. When we got 
to  Swept Away, they gave us bracelets and then let us walk around on 
our  own. We spoke with some of the water sports staff and looked the 
whole  resort  over. Everyone was very friendly and the guests seemed 
to  be  having  a  good time. The fitness center is awesome. We had a 
delicious  lunch in the Feathers restaurant. The restaurant, spa, and 
fitness  center  were  across the road. They had other restaurants on 
the  beach  side  too.  The  rooms  looked  very  spacious with large 
patios.  The  taxi  from  Couples showed up right on time to bring us 
back. 
On  Tuesday,  we went on the sunset cruise, because we had enjoyed it 
so  much  in  May.  There wasn't any sunset, it was a cloudy day, but 
the  cruise  was  fun. On Wednesday, we went to Rick's Café. The trip 
wasn't  anything special and the drinks were expensive but we enjoyed 
watching  the  cliff  jumpers  and  listened  to  the  music.  It was 
interesting  to  drive up to the cliffs and see the other resorts and 
bars. 

I  noticed  there  weren't  as many weddings during the week. When we 
were  there  in May; it seemed like there were several weddings every 
day.  We  saw a few, but not many. For the week after Thanksgiving, I 
really  noticed  the lack of Christmas commercialism. We saw very few 
Christmas   decorations   anywhere.  Maybe  when  it  got  closer  to 
Christmas  there  were more. It was kind of nice to get away from all 
the commercialism for a week. 

It  started  raining  about  mid  morning  on the day we left. We had 
decided  to  take  the  bus back, as it works good for us to take the 
commuter  plane there and then ride the bus back. We were told on our 
last  trip  this  is  a good way to do it, as in the afternoon storms 
can  come  up  fast  and  the plane ride could get rough. It happened 
that  the  commuter  flights were all canceled because of bad weather 
and  our bus was late leaving the resort. Several people came back to 
the  resort  and  they  needed  to  find  transportation  at the last 
minute.  By  the time we got going it was raining harder and we had a 
full  bus.  One  guy  in  particular  was  a  complete idiot. He kept 
telling  the  driver he was going to miss his flight so he wanted him 
to  drive  as  fast as possible and not stop anywhere. He kept asking 
him  how much farther it was to the airport and all in all acted like 
a  complete  jerk.  The  driver really did a good job, the roads were 
completely  flooded in some areas and it was pouring. The simple wood 
frame  houses  of  the  poorer  people  looked  especially bad in the 
pouring  rain.  We  made it to the airport in 1-˝ hours and of course 
every  single  flight  was  delayed.  We  needed to be bused from the 
terminal  to  the plane and it seemed like they only had 1 bus in the 
whole  airport!  We  finally  left  and got into O'Hare about 2 hours 
late.

This  was  our fourth visit to a Couples resort; we have also been to 
Couples  Ocho Rios twice. Both resorts are excellent and we would not 
hesitate to return to either one.

ST. LUCIA: SANDALS ST. LUCIA GOLF RESORT AND SPA BY MENASHI MASHAAL)

The  travel  reports  posted  by  all  the  people on this newsletter 
helped  us  so  much  that  we  felt  it  was  only fair to share our 
experience with others.

This  was  our  first  trip to the islands, but hopefully will not be 
our  last.  We  decided  to spend our honeymoon on the lush island of 
St.  Lucia,  and  more  specifically  at  the  Sandals St. Lucia Golf 
Resort and Spa.

The  day  we  landed (Christmas Eve 2000), it was pouring rain. I had 
read  that  it  rained  often in St. Lucia, but I thought it was just 
rain  showers.  As  it turned out, this would be the only rain we saw 
except for 2 five minute showers during our 2 week stay.

Immediately  after  passing  through  customs  (which  took all of 90 
seconds),  we were greeted by the Air Canada Vacations representative 
who  gave  us  an envelope and our "suite concierge" voucher. and led 
us  to  our  taxi.  The drive was about 1 hour on rather windy roads, 
but  really  wasn't  as bad as a lot of the other reports make it out 
to be.

When  we arrived at Sandals, we handed our suite concierge voucher to 
the  bellman  and  were whisked away to the suite concierge while the 
others  on  our  taxi  were  forced  to wait in line at check-in. The 
suite  conciere  building  was well-appointed and air conditioned, we 
were  greeted  with  some  champagne  and  moist towels. We were also 
explained  about  the way the resort works (all inclusive, no tipping 
etc...)  We  were  then  told  that  our  original reservation (a one 
bedroom  oceanview  suite)  was  upgraded to a sunset bluff oceanview 
one bedroom suite.

The  room  was magnificent, just as described in the brochures and on 
the  website.  we  had  a large sitting area, a large bedroom, marble 
bathroon   with  jacuzzi,  mini  bar  (with  full  bottles  of  booze 
(replensihed   everyday)  and  two  TV's.  Our  view  was  amazing  - 
especially in the late afternoon when the sun was setting.

The  restaurants were all great. The only problem was that my wife is 
petrified  of  cats and three of the restaurants (which are open air) 
have  cats roaming around all the time, so we could not really eat in 
peace.  Our  favorite  food was at Arizona's, but there were two cats 
there,  so  we  had  to  get our food and eat somewhere else. All the 
restaurants  were good. We went to the Pier restaurant at Halcyon one 
night but the food was not so great.

The  activities were fun, the playmakers are a blast, they really get 
you  into  the activities. One of them, Patra is 100% pure energy. We 
preferred  to  relax  for  the most part of our two week trip and the 
playmakers   were   understanding,   they   don't   pressure  you  to 
participate. The motto over there is "No pressure, no problem".

The  sports were great. I golfed about 8 times, you have to pay for a 
caddy  which  costs  $5  for  9  holes, plus a tip if you were happy. 
Rusty  was  my  caddy, a great kid who can read any putt. He was also 
very  patient  when  my  wife  played. She's a beginner and he really 
took the time to help her out with her swing.

We  went  snorkeling,  waterskiing  and kayaking, all of which were a 
lot  of  fun. We also took a day sail called the "soufriere day sail" 
which  takes you down the west coast of the island to the Pitons, and 
a  town  called  Soufriere,  where  you board taxis which take you to 
sulfur  springs (the drive in volcano) and the botanical gardens. The 
trip  costs  $80  US per person, you get an open bar on the catamaran 
and  a  buffet  lunch  in Soufriere. We also stop on the way back for 
about  an  hour  to snorkel and swim. I thought it was well worth the 
cost.

As  for  the  spa, we did the "couples massage" ($140 US) and my wife 
had  an  "essential  oil body wrap" ($60 US). The massages were good, 
but  not  the  best we've ever had. As for the body wrap, my wife was 
very  disappointed and addressed her complaint to the spa manager who 
reversed  the charges and offered her another complimentary body wrap 
treatment  the  very  next  day.  As  a  word  of  advice, before any 
treatment,  ask  the  MANAGER  what the treatment should entail. Then 
make sure you get what you were told!

Shopping  is  a  complete waste of time, unless you are into the wood 
carvings and such. the duty free shopping is not worth the effort.

We  spent  most  of  our  time at the Sunset pool which is the second 
largest  pool  and  is  located  on  the bluff. it's much quieter and 
there  are no cats roaming around. The swim up bar is also a lot less 
crowded up there.

You  wont  need  to  exchange US dollars to EC dollars, everyone will 
quote you a price in US dollars event the street vendors.

The  nightlife is just OK, the bands were pretty good but i found the 
"showtime"  stuff  rather  dry,  except  for  Friday  night which was 
talent  night,  where  guests  would  get  on stage and display their 
talent.

We  were  late  eaters  so we missed most of the shows which was fine 
with  us.  it  also  gave us a chance to rest after frying in the sun 
for the day.

Staying  on  the  bluff  was great. We didn't have to put up with all 
the  loud music in the evenings and late night. The only drawback was 
that  we  would  have to get a shuttle to take us back and forth from 
the main pavillion and our room.

I  would  rate  this  island  a 10 on 10 and the resort a 9 on 10 (it 
lost the perfect score because of the cats)

The  official  The  Caribbean  Travel  Roundup  World Wide Web site is 
http://caribtravelnews.com.  The  CTR  is  also  available  on America 
Online.  Contact:  Paul  Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-
1408   USA   :Home   (Voice   or   Fax)   978-470-1971.   E-mail   via 
editor@caribtravelnews.com or CTREDITOR@aol.com

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