Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 104
April 1, 2000

Last Update 29 March 2000

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JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL BY STEVE AND RUTH HERMAN

Trip 1/00

I  won't  bore  you  with all of the pre-travel details. We flew Air 
Jamaica  reluctantly.  We had a lousy experience with them the first 
time  we  went  to  Jamaica,  but  they  had  more  flights  out  of 
Philadelphia,  and  they  were cheaper as well. That morning was our 
first  snowfall  of  the season. The flight was delayed three hours, 
but  that  was  not  Air Jamaica's fault. On the way home, we landed 
about  10  minutes past our scheduled landing, which was incredible. 
Overall,  Air  Jamaica  was  pretty  good to us this time around (of 
course,  we  skipped  the  food on the way back and were happier for 
it).

The  flight  was three hours. We landed, got our bags, and proceeded 
to  the  Couples  desk.  My  wife  &  I had booked transportation to 
Negril  through  Air Link. It was $50 per person each way. We took a 
three-minute  drive  to  the  smaller  airport  which houses TimAir, 
AirLink,  and  Air  Jamaica  Express.  AJ  Express owned the largest 
planes,  but  they  fly only two or three times per day. As far as I 
can tell, Air Link and TimAir fly continually.

The  flight  in  our 8-seater was about 15 minutes, and very smooth. 
>From  there,  Couples  was  across  the  street, but we waited a few 
minutes  until  we could get an attendant to call the resort for us. 
A  car  was  sent, and we finally arrived at about 5:15 pm. I cannot 
stress  enough  how  great  it was to fly to Negril. We had done the 
drive  to  Ocho  Rios a few years ago. It wore us out to be on a bus 
another  two  hours  after  traveling all day. We were told that the 
trip  to Negril took closer to two and a half hours, and the road is 
terrible.  They even have t-shirts that say "I SURVIVED THE BUS RIDE 
TO  NEGRIL!"  for  sale in the gift shop. Even waiting a few minutes 
for  the  plane  (we had just missed one, so we had to wait for them 
to  fly  up  and  back), we were still there at LEAST an hour before 
the bus travelers.

Around the Resort

The  resort  itself  is  very nice. The second floor lobby overlooks 
the  main  part  of  the  resort. Standing in the lobby, you see the 
long  Couples  pool.  Beyond  the  pool  are  the palm trees and the 
beach. The view is magnificent.

The  pool is huge. It is very long, but only about 4.5 feet deep. At 
either  end  is a large Jacuzzi, and they were almost always in use. 
Along  part of the pool is a small waterfall spilling into a smaller 
pool,  with  the swim-up pool bar. Here we found the friendliest and 
best  bartenders  on  the  resort.  Be  sure  to  ask them for their 
"special"  of the day, and they'll make up something interesting for 
you. 

We  had a gardenroom. Nothing terrible, but nothing exciting either. 
A  king-size bed, small TV (not too many channels, but they did have 
Cinemax  & HBO). There was a decent sized balcony, and the bathroom, 
shower,  and  tub were all acceptable. There are six room blocks are 
on  either  side  of  the pool. By the way, what you have read about 
beach-view  is  true.  We  did  not  have an ocean view room, but it 
looked  like  most  of  them  did not really have a good view of the 
ocean,  and they weren't much closer to the beach. Unless you want a 
suite, save your money and get a garden view room.

The Beach

The  beach  is fantastic. All of the raves about the beach do not do 
it  justice.  To  explain, I hate beaches. Sand annoys me to no end, 
and  in general I get bored at the beach. However, I did not want to 
leave  this one. First of all, it is big. It is both long enough for 
a  nice walk and also wide enough to have a few rows of beach chairs 
and  not  feel  crowded.  The  sand is smooth, and the water is calm 
most  of  the  time.  The bay keeps the water calm, and you can walk 
out  pretty  far  and  still be touching bottom. It was very nice to 
lay  out  in  the  water on a raft. Although we didn't use them, the 
Couples staff walking around taking drink orders was very nice too.

One  suggestion:  There  looked  to  be about one raft for every two 
lounge  chairs.  Once  or twice we were unable to find an open raft. 
There  were  some  people  that put their books out on lounge chairs 
before  breakfast  (our  things  seemed to be safe even when left in 
one  spot all day). You may want to do this if you must have a raft. 
Chairs  themselves  were  never  a problem to obtain. Rafts are very 
nice,  since  the  water  is  usually very calm. We often spent some 
time floating out in the bay admiring the view.

The  nude  beach,  from  what  I  am  told,  used  to  next  to  the 
watersports  area.  It has been moved to the left side of the resort 
close  to  Grand  Lido.  It  is  basically  a fenced off area of the 
beach.  There  were  consistently about six to twelve couples on the 
nude  beach.  However,  there  is  nothing  to  prevent  people from 
walking  through  this  area,  and  it really is a clothing optional 
beach,  since no one enforces the au natural part. It is pretty much 
hidden  from  the  main  beach  unless  you want to go in the water. 
However,  it  is  directly  in  front  of one of the room blocks, so 
people  walking to and from their rooms sometimes walked through the 
nude beach. 

There  was  a self-serve drink area with soda and light beer on this 
part  of  the  beach.  From  what I have read, this feature does not 
come  close  to the au natural tower island in Couples Ocho Rios. If 
this  is an important part of your trip, you may be disappointed. My 
wife  and  I  were  there  twice,  but spent most of our time at the 
textile beach.

Other areas of interest -

There  were  two  souvenir  shops, along with a small newsstand that 
sold  various  sundries:  candy,  sun tan lotion, magazines, etc. We 
bought  post  cards  and  stamps  to  the states here. Interestingly 
enough,  they  had no post cards that said 'Couples' on them. Stamps 
were  $0.75 each, and a waste of our money, since we mailed them the 
second  day  of  our  trip,  but they didn't arrive for almost three 
weeks.  Very  anticlimactic  to  receive a post card two weeks after 
someone's return.

There  were  a  few  natural pools to look at. There were also a few 
swinging  benches  at  the  lobby, looking out over the ocean. These 
were very popular, especially around sunset.

Food

Food  was  pretty  good  overall.  The  food  was actually authentic 
Jamaican  food,  with  lots  of Jerk chicken and pork throughout the 
week.  Also,  the  soup  was usually delicious. One of our favorites 
was  the  broccoli  cream  soup. It was nothing like the thick milky 
cream  soup  we  get  in  the  States. It was more of a broth with a 
slight   creamy  texture,  and  plenty  of  fresh  broccoli.  It  is 
something  we'd  never  eat at home, but are really glad we tried on 
vacation.  There was a decent variety, with at least one beef, pork, 
fish, chicken, and pasta dish each night.

There   were   three   buffets   during  the  week  (Thursday  Night 
Mediterranean,  Saturday Night Welcome Back/Farewell, and the Monday 
night  Beach  buffet). On the sit-down dinner nights, it seemed that 
the  later  you  arrived to dinner, the longer your meal would take. 
We  did  have one night that we were waiting for a pretty long time, 
but  that  seemed  to be an aberration. Dessert was always a buffet, 
so  there was plenty of variety for those with a sweet tooth. We did 
notice,  however,  that  if  a  dessert  ran out, it was usually not 
replenished.  So,  if  you  see  something  that  you  must have for 
dessert, you may want to grab it during dinner.

Service and Staff

The  service  was  excellent throughout. We had no problems with the 
cocktail  service  at  dinner,  and  usually  had 1 or 2 drinks with 
dinner  without delay. Everywhere else in the resort, we found every 
staff  member  willing to go out of their way to make our vacation a 
great  one.  During our previous trip to Jamaica, we had pretty good 
service   at  the  Enchanted  Garden.  However,  there  was  such  a 
difference  in  attitude  at Couples. Everyone, and I mean everyone, 
was happy to help, and looked happy to be there helping. 

The activities

The  resort  is  a  great place for active couples. We always try to 
stay  active  on vacation by participating in the activities such as 
beach  volleyball, aerobics classes, and the various couples' games. 
We  were  pleasantly  surprised  to see so many other active couples 
participating  as  well.  We  even  won a bottle of Tia Maria at the 
ring  toss game! They also give one-hour couples massage course five 
or six times a week.

The  water  activities  were  both  varied  and fun. Steve tried the 
resort  course  for  scuba  diving and thought it was wonderful. The 
course  started  at 8:30 am with instruction and practice in a pool. 
They  went  on  their  first  dive  by  11:30. For those thinking of 
trying  it,  participation  requires being able to swim 10 laps in a 
cold  pool, so be prepared. You can do the resort dive as many times 
as  you  would  like.  This is a wonderful way to try out scuba. The 
resort  will  also  give  you  the  full  PADI  certification  at an 
additional charge.

Since  we  are  avid snorkelers (we even have our own equipment), we 
went  snorkeling  3  times during the week, always at the same reef. 
We  saw  a  moray  eel,  needle  fish,  squirrel fish, sea cucumber, 
urchins,  lots of sergeant majors, and an anchor and a cannon from a 
pirate  ship. The staff said they could try a different reef only if 
the weather cooperated. Unfortunately, it never did. 

They  also  have  water skiing (or should we say "face skiing, since 
neither  of  us  actually made it up on the skis), hobie cat sailing 
(which  was  awesome), kayaks, and pedal boats. The staff was always 
friendly  and willing to teach you how to do any of these things. We 
highly recommend taking advantage of these activities.

Outside  activities included a sunset catamaran cruise (which is not 
to  be  missed)  and  a  trip  to  Rick's  Cafť.  The  sunset cruise 
consisted  of  70  people on a catamaran, taking an hour ride to the 
Pickled  Parrot. You have about half an hour to snorkel (if you have 
your  own  equipment). Also included at the PP was cliff jumping (30 
ft.),  rope  swing and a water slide (with a BIG drop at the end, be 
warned!).  Most  people  stayed  on  the  catamaran  and watched the 
adventurous  jump off of the cliff. Steve thought the jump was great 
and  highly  recommends  it.  On  the way back, keep your eye on the 
water  - we saw a school of flying fish. They also had a great party 
with  plenty  of  rum  punch,  a  live  Jamaican  band,  and a limbo 
contest.  We  never  went  to  Rick's,  but heard that it was a nice 
evening activity similar to the Pickled Parrot. 

 

Entertainment

Each  night at dinner there was a band playing instrumental American 
music.  Very  odd, but we heard very little Reggae while in Jamaica. 
After  dinner,  there  would  be a show lasting about an hour. There 
were  various  singers  and bands. Most were pretty good. Later each 
evening,  there were sing-alongs in the piano bar, but we never made 
it  to  them. There were also a few game-show events, such as copies 
of  the  newlywed  game. Make sure you don't miss these, as they are 
usually  very funny. We participated in one, came in first and won a 
bottle of rum. 

Minor Complaints

We  do  have a few minor complaints and tips, but realize that these 
are  being  discussed  for  the  sake  of the review. Truthfully, we 
would  be  really pressed to come up with any true problems with the 
trip.  My  wife  and  I were bothered that you needed to sign up for 
various  activities at different places. Reservations for the formal 
restaurant  (along  with  paid off-resort excursions) were made next 
to  the front desk in the lobby. Reservations for snorkeling and the 
catamaran  sunset  cruise  were  at  the  watersports hut at the far 
right  end of the resort. Scuba sign-up was in the scuba hut next to 
the watersports hut. 

This  watersports  hut  was also the place to exchange beach towels. 
We  were  given  two  towels  in  our  rooms, and we needed to get a 
receipt  from the watersports hut before we checked out. Whenever we 
needed  fresh  beach towels, we had to bring them to the watersports 
hut.  A  more  centralized  location  (such  as  the  lobby or pool) 
probably would've been more convenient.

The  daily  activities  were  posted  at  the Beach Grill, while the 
fitness  related  activities  were  posted at the aerobics room. The 
schedules  usually  didn't  match  the  listing provided in our room 
when we checked in.

Booking the Trip

  For  anyone interested (and, for anyone that actually made it this 
far  through  the  review),  I  booked through All-Inclusive Travel, 
based  in  Florida.( http://www.honeymoonmall.com/index.htm , 1-800-
536-3866  )  They  don't  handle  anything  else, but Tom Bukaty was 
incredibly  knowledgeable  regarding  All-Inclusives. He answered my 
many   many   questions,   and   was  happy  to  provide  additional 
information  that  I  did  not think to ask, spending a good deal of 
time  on  the  phone  with me. They also provided the lowest price I 
was  able  to  find. I have no affiliation with them, but if you are 
looking  for  an  all-inclusive, and you are obsessive about getting 
as  much  information  as  you  possibly  can about your vacation, I 
strongly stress you use this company. 

JAMAICA: SANDALS ROYAL JAMAICAN BY DEWEY AND KRISTA DILLARD

This  was  our  second trip to Sandals Royal. We we're there in 1997 
and  have  also stayed at Sandals Negril, Dunns River and St. Lucia. 
We  were  not  disappointed  at  all. Beautiful grounds, great food, 
friendly  staff,  watersports  and  clean beach. We love the private 
island.  We like the size of the resort, small. We did take the free 
bus  to  Montego  Bay(5 min. ride) for dinner. The only let down was 
the  Plane  noise.  Could have been the wind direction or the result 
of  booming business for Air Jamaica, but at times it was very loud. 
The  price  you  pay  for being ten minutes from airport. I got sick 
the  third  day and did not leave my room for 30 hours, when my wife 
called  to cancel our dinner appointment, she was asked why and told 
them,  within  an  hour,  dinner  was  sent to our room for her. The 
nurse  called the next day to check on me. Overall, a great vacation 
and a well run resort.

JAMAICA: SANDALS NEGRIL BY D. BORGES

Trip 1/00

My  husband  and  I were making a return trip to Jamaica following a 
17  year  gap  since  our  honeymoon there at Couples, Ocho Rios. We 
were  looking forward to it very much. Before our arrival at Sandals 
we  spent  3  nights  in  Manchester, Jamaica, touring and visiting. 
What and incredible experience that was.

We  were  traveling with another couple. Upon our arrival at Sandals 
we  were initially disappointed. We weren't quite sure why at first. 
We   soon   came   to   realize   that  we  found  the  resort  very 
"Americanized".  It  felt  as though we checked Jamaica at the lobby 
door  and  left her there. Had we not spent 4 days in the Manchester 
area  we  probably  wouldn't  have  felt  that  way.  Sandals  is an 
incredible  resort.  If you are looking for "the real Jamaica" she's 
not  at  Sandals.  Check  out  the  Jamaican  Tourism web site for a 
listing  of  true  Jamaican  hotels.  If  you're looking for an all-
inclusive,  extremely  sanitary, beautifully kept beach resort, then 
Sandals Negril is for you.

We  have  absolutely  no complaints about the resort whatsoever. The 
food  was  good-very  good,  the  accommodations  were very nice (we 
received   a  free  upgrade  upon  check-in),  the  facilities  were 
beautiful, the beach and sunsets a pleasure.

The  very  best part of Sandals Negril is the staff. The playmakers, 
the  restaurant  staff  and  maintenance  staff  are  wonderful. The 
playmakers  and  waiters and waitresses were a lot of fun. They made 
our  vacation  at Sandals very Jamaican. There is a point system for 
participation  in activities. Absolutely no pressure. It makes for a 
lot  of  fun  poolside  and  at  the beach volleyball court. Nicola, 
Mikaela,  Shelly,  Ian,  Shanelle and Sadiq are young, energetic and 
very personable.

We  enjoyed  the  atmosphere  that  the staff created so much, we're 
looking  forward  to  bringing our children to Beaches Negril in the 
near  future.  We  only  wish  that  our  friends from Sandals could 
transfer to Beaches to be there with us.

There  were  only 2 minor concerns--not complaints. There was a cold 
front  stalled  over  the  island for about 6 days. It was enough to 
lower  the  temp  of  the  pools significantly. Espee, the fit-shape 
instructor,  refused  to  give  aquacize classes. She doesn't get in 
the  water  while she's instructing, her concern was for the guests. 
She  believes  the  temp  should  be about aquacize for healthy aqua 
work-  outs.  We  weren't  even  close.  The sea was much warmer. We 
guests  asked  for  the  pool  heater to be turned on. No heater. Oh 
well,  we  became accustomed to jumping in and screaming at the same 
time.  By  the  end  of  the week the pool water had warmed up about 
5*F.  The  other  concern  was  the  lighting in the room. It wasn't 
quite  bright  enough  for  hair  and make-up. It really didn't have 
much  impact  on  the vacation. Just thought I'd mention it if great 
hair  and  make-up  is  important to you. You might find it a little 
frustrating.  I didn't really notice until we got our pictures back. 
(just  tell your friends and family that it was really humid--worked 
for me!) :)

At  Sandals Negril you can rest your bones on a deck or beach lounge 
all  week or go full speed into every activity you can fit in, as we 
did,  to  anything  in  between.  The  only thing missing is on-site 
golfing,  if  that's  your  thing. We were happily exhausted when we 
arrived home.

In-island  flying  or  bus ride? If you've never been to Jamaica try 
the  bus ride one way.. It's an experience you'll want to share with 
your  friends  and  family  back home. It's not that bad, especially 
compared  to the "roads" we traveled on in the mountains of Jamaica. 
Now  that  was  a  story. Air Jamaica was our option back to Montego 
Bay.

We  spent  the remainder of our last day at Sandals Montego Bay. The 
flight  was  nice, great views of the coastal areas. Sandals Montego 
Bay  on the other hand doesn't even measure up to Sandals Negril. We 
were very glad we didn't stay there.

We  loved  our  trip  to  Jamaica  and  wish  it didn't have to end. 
Sandals  Negril  gets  our  vote  and recommendation as a great all-
inclusive. Have fun.

JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL BY SHAWN SIROLA

Trip 2/00

We  arrived  on  February  13/00 for our one week honeymoon. When we 
arrived  our first impression was our accommodations were well cared 
for,  clean  and the house keeping staff did a fantastic job.  There 
are  a lot of special touches and details such as the wall hangings, 
the  furniture  and  local  artists  have  provided their own unique 
flare  with  wood sculptures etc. Things just kept getting better... 
the  resort was spotless from the front lobby to the beach. The pool 
was  crystal  clear  and  the  poolbar  staff  made  a wicked "dirty 
banana."  In  the  heat of the day a waitress would even bring you a 
Red  Stripe beer on to the beach to cool you down. (Now don't get me 
wrong  the one or two girls working the beach worked their tails off 
so  they  were not exclusively at your beckoned call.) The beach was 
clean  and  the  water  was  gorgeous.  They provided neat flotation 
pads  but  make  sure  you  reserve  yours  early.   We  found a few 
disposable  water cameras also proved to be a useful purchase. Bring 
your own because the gift store charges a small fortune.  

One  of  our favorite additions were the swings, hammocks and chairs 
for  two. What a great idea! The food was exceptional and the pastry 
chef  puts Martha Stewart to shame. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were 
amazing.  We  did  not  go  to  the  restaurants but heard wonderful 
remarks  about  them. However, we did enjoy the Jamaican buffet in a 
romantic,  quaint  candle setting around the pool. In the morning it 
was  an  absolute treat to have room service (@ no extra charge.) We 
enjoyed fresh fruit and pastries on our balcony. 

The  entertainment  was  top  quality  and  the added bonus of lunch 
entertainment  made  for an enjoyable atmosphere. We participated in 
the  nightly  activities  such  as  the  beach  games,  bonfires and 
dancing.  It  was  a  comfortable  mood  whether  you  choose to get 
involved  or  not.  We  took  advantage  of  the  many  great  trips 
included...  cataraman cruise, shopping, snorkeling, Rick's Cafe. We 
had  a great time, the staff was friendly and helpful. We especially 
liked the catamaran cruise on the day trip. 

On   account   of   being   honeymooners   we   greatly  appreciated 
complimentary  massages.  We  had never experienced such a wonderful 
stress & tension release. 

One  last  note,  we were warned about the bus trip from Montego Bay 
to  Negril. In all fairness we must warn others, although we did not 
find  it  that  bad.  Yes it is rough and bumpy but both ways we had 
great bus drivers and it was "no problem!" 

Relax, feel irie and fall in love all over again.  

MEXICO: VILLAHERMOSA APPEALS TO NATURE LOVERS AND HISTORIANS BY HABEEB SALLOUM

As  we  drove  into  Villahermosa,  capital  of the Mexican State of 
Tabasco  -  no  connection with the fiery Tabasco sauce said to have 
been  invented in the U.S. State of Louisiana -  it was like passing 
from  wild nature into tamed nature.  Well-tended parks and gardens, 
edging   spacious   tree-shaded  boulevards  which  spanned  flowing 
rivers,  gave  the  town a look of a domesticated countryside.  This 
flower,  greenery  and  water  in the sparkling new part of the city 
continued  until  we reached its historic spruced up core, dominated 
by  an  impressive  twin-spired  cathedral, only built in the 1960s.  
It  was  a short journey, yet, it reflected the story of this modern 
but,   at   the  same  time,  ancient  town,  founded  in  the  16th 
century.    


The  city,  the  heart of Mexico's oil industry, is a rambling urban 
centre  of  a  some  half million located on the banks of the mighty 
Grijalva  River  -  once  an  important  commerce  highway  for  the 
Spanish.   The town is surrounded on all sides by lakes and rivers - 
there  are  1200 rivers in the state.  Fed annually by the some 3000 
ml  of rain, these waters account for 60% of Tabasco's land mass and 
33%  of  Mexico's  water  supply.  Between the lakes and rivers, the 
land  is  covered  with  swamps,  jungles  and many banana and cacao 
plantations - a world of lush greenery. 


Historically,   Tabasco   is  famous  for  Malinche,  considered  by 
Mexico's  indigenous  people to be the greatest traitor of her race.  
She  became Cortes's mistress and greatly helped him in the conquest 
of  Mexico.   In  literature,  theatre  and  in  the  media,  she is 
remembered as the country's number one betrayer.  


For  centuries  after  the Spanish conquest, Villahermosa remained a 
small  provincial  town  until  Tabasco's oil wealth transformed the 
city  into  an  attractive and prosperous urban centre of high-class 
mansions,  cultural  centres,  theatres,  parks,  golf  courses  and 
shopping  plazas, like the newly built Tabasco 2000.  Today, besides 
this  petroleum  affluence,  the  town's  proximity  to the ruins of 
Palenque  and, above all, its Olmec and Maya past are helping in the 
creation of this prosperity. 


The  Olmecs,  one  of  the oldest and most important cultures in the 
Americas,  flourished   during the pre-classic period - 2000 B.C. to 
200  A.D.   Honoured  as  the  mother culture of Mesoamerica and the 
model  for future `Indian' civilizations, they invented the pyramid, 
ball  courts  and  the  numerical  and  cylindrical  systems  in the 
Americas.   Their  civilization  became  known as the culture of the 
jaguar  and  jade  due to the jaguar theme running through all their 
sculptures  and  a  collection  of  jade  found in their ruins at La 
Venta.   They  established  the  first  art  style  in  the  Western 
Hemisphere,  chiselling  their  monumental  works without the use of 
metal tools.   


No  remains  of their writings have been found and their history and 
lifestyle  remains  an  enigma.   However,  they  have  left  behind 
enormous  sculptures,  especially  those  found  at La Venta, one of 
their  once  important,  but  now  lost cities of earthen pyramids - 
some 100 km (61 mi) west of Villahermosa .       
    


The  main  Olmec treasures found in this city have been transplanted 
to  the  superbly  designed  Parque  La  Venta - a world of tropical 
gardens  just  outside  Villahermosa.   In a small museum and amid a 
variety  of  animals,  lush  greenery, orchids and other flowers are 
now  located  these  Olmec ceramic figurines, mosaics, sculptures of 
jaguars  and  priests,  stelae,  tombs and ceremonial stone altars - 
reminiscent  of  those  of  ancient  Mesopotaina.  Topping all these 
ancient  treasures are three colossal stone heads - the largest over 
22 tons - carved out of basalt rock. 


>From  the  remains  of  the  Olmecs in this park, visitors enamoured 
with  history  can  travel 65 km (40 mi)  to the little-visited Maya 
vestiges  at  Comalcalco.   It is an easy drive to the site, but the 
best  way  to  see  the  handiwork of the Maya is to take one of the 
tours  offered  by  several excursions companies.  The tour includes 
visiting  a  colourful  church  at  Capilla, a picturesque hacienda, 
then   ending  at  Comalcalco's  Maya  ruins.  Today,  a  series  of 
scattered  pyramids,  temples and other minor structures remain from 
that  unique  Maya  city  which flourished between 200 and 1300 A.D.  
It  was  a prominent city in Mesoamerica's indigenous world - one of 
the  important  ruins  in the 25,000 archeological sites to be found 
in Mexico,   


Its  most  unusual feature is related to building materials.  In the 
early  centuries of its existence, the buildings were made by piling 
up  soil, shaping it, then plastering the whole building with stucco 
made  from  clay and lime - extracted from sea-shells.  Beginning in 
the  8th century, baked brick began to replace the soil.  The use of 
bricks  seems  to  have  been  due  to  the  lack  of  local  stone.   
Comalcalco  is  the  only  Maya city in Mesoamerica built of bricks.  
Hence, its name meaning `House of Clay Pans'. 


Most  of  the  brick  structures were erected atop artificial hills.  
The  landscape is flat and man-made mounds had to be created to give 
the  buildings  an  air  of  imposing  majesty.   The  most striking 
structure  is  Temple  I or the Pyramid, built entirely of brick and 
once  totally  stuccoed  -  today  little  of this covering remains.  
Vying  with  the Pyramid's splendour is the Great Acropolis, erected 
on  a huge platform atop an artificially hill.  Its temples, palace, 
sunken  courtyard  and Tomb of the Nine Chieftains make it the focal 
point of the ruins. 


Along  with  the  Olmec remains in Parque La Venta, these ruins draw 
many  tourists  to  the State of Tabasco - tourism is very important 
to  the  economy  of  the  state.  However, others come to enjoy the 
dense  vegetation  of  the  state - that is the ones who can contend 
with  the  swarms  of  mosquitos  and  the  heat,  along  with  high 
humidity.   The temperature year-round averages between 21 and 41 C, 
accompanied always with about 80% humidity.    


Nevertheless  these irritants are overshadowed by the historic ruins 
and  luxuriant  countryside, with its plantations, lakes and rivers.  
In  fact,  some travellers have called the state a `Garden of Eden'.  
On  the other hand a great number of tourists travel to Villahermosa 
on  their  way  to Palenque, the most famous ruins of the Maya, some 
149  km  (93  mi)  away.  These  attributes have made the capital of 
Mexico's  water state appealing to both nature lovers and historians 
alike. 

F YOU GO
Facts About Villahermosa:
1)  Villahermosa  has  a fine small airport with good connections to 
Mexico City, Mťrida, Acapulco and other Mexican cities.  There
are also good train and bus connections.

2)  Small cars, fully insured with unlimited mileage, rent for about 
$70.per day.  

3)  For  dining,  Zona de la Luz is the place.  Famous for its shops 
and  cafes,  it  is  the  part  of town         where one can people 
watch  while  enjoying  a meal or coffee.  For high-class dining try 
the
Bougainvillea at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. 

4)  Tour  operators  in Villahermosa offer a series of excursions in 
Tabasco  and the neighbouring           states.  Two that should not 
be  missed  are  the  ones  to  Comalcalco  and  Palenque.  Both are 
a            day's  tour and cost $65.  An excellent tour company is 
Viajes Villahermosa. 

Some  of the Sites Not Mentioned Which Should Not be Missed: Besides 
the  sites  mentioned,  travellers  to  Villahermosa should not miss 
seeing:  The  Museo  de  Historia  Tabasco,  features the history of 
Tabasco  from  pre-Columbian  times; Yumka Park, a piece of tropical 
forest  with  three ecosystems: jungle, savanna and lagoon and their 
wildlife;  and  Centro de Investigaciones de Culturas Olmeca y Maya, 
displays an expansive collection
of Olmec and Maya art.

Where to Stay in Villahermosa:
Villahermosa  has  hotels to satisfy all tastes.  In addition to the 
budget  hotels  there  are over two dozen top class abodes.  The top 
among  these  are:  Hotel  Hyatt  Regency  Villahermosa,  Hotel Best 
Western  Maya  Tabasco,  Casa  Real Villahermosa, Hotel Ceencali and 
Hotel  Calinda Viva Y Spa Villahermosa.   Cost of rooms in all these 
hotels $100 to $120.

Note: All prices quoted are in US dollars.    

For Further Information, Contact:
In  Canada  contact  Mexican Government Tourism Office - 2 Bloor St. 
West,  Suite  1801,  Toronto,  Ontario  M4W 3E2.  Tel: 416/925-0704.  
Fax:  416/925-6061;  in  the  U.S.A. - 405 Park Ave., Suite 142, New 
York,  NY  10022.   Tel: 212/755-7261; or Toll-Free Assistance, from 
US/Canada 1-800-44 Mexico.

ST. BARTHS BOB AND SUE CRONIN

Trip 3/00

  My  wife  Sue  and I are battle scarred veterans of the "How do we 
get  to  St.  Barth from here?" wars.  We just got back from our 8th 
trip  to St. Barth.  Like all the past trips it was perfect.  But... 
for the rookie traveler, the fun is just getting there!!  

We  left  Boston  via  American Airlines and had a routine no hassle 
trip  to  San  Juan.  (Here I digress, we usually go AA to San Juan, 
change  to a smaller AA flight to Princess Julia in St. Maarten then 
do  the  Winair flight to St. Barths but we figured we go to plan B)  
In  San Juan it was a direct Air Guadeloupe flight to St. Barth.  At 
this  point  the St. Barth flight was canceled and Sue and I with an 
additional  6 in our merry band found ourselves on a flight to Port-
a-Pitre  Guadeloupe  for  an  over  night.   Thus  began  a National 
Lampoon Caribbean vacation.  

The  eight  of  us were stiffed into a six person van and off to the 
hotel  by  way  of the scenic route.  (Scenery is better in New York 
City)   Once  secure behind the hotel's fence (I don't even know the 
name!!)  we had a great dinner and a promise of an early flight.  We 
got  a  call  at  midnight  that we'd get a wake up call at 4:15 AM.   
At  4:45 it was via bus to the airport and a guided tour of the back 
rooms  and hallways of a major airport.  The we opened a door and we 
were  on  the runway.  A plane was sitting in the pre dawn light and 
with  two  quick flashes of its landing lights as a signal we got on 
board  and  flew to St. Barth.  Of course our luggage never made the 
trip  from  San  Juan  so there were many "I love Guadeloupe" shirts 
being worn.
 
All in all we lost about 12 hours...not bad for Island Time.

Once  on  St.  Barth  (a  French  island  with a Swedish history) we 
settled  right  in  to our routine.  We stay at a funky little hotel 
with  one  of  the  best  views  that can be had on St. Barth.  It's 
inexpensive,  clean, fun and I'm not telling you where it is to keep 
it  cheap  and  fun (it'll always be clean).  A stop at Le Select is 
of  course a must and as one of the numerous stickers that adorn the 
walls  says  "I  only  hang out here to see what happens next".   Le 
Select  is  the  pulse  of  the island,  cruise boat commandos, mega 
yacht  owners and crew as well as the locals all rub and bend elbows 
here.   A great place to watch the world go by with cheap drinks and 
food.  

Shell  beach  is  gone!!!   There  is  really nothing left but rock.  
Gouverneur's  beach  is  your  best  bet for an easy walk (get there 
early)  great  vistas  and  not much wind.   Remember it is clothing 
optional!!!  Saline is certainly a close second.  
  
New  and  a  must  is  "BouBou's"  for  lunch  at  the  Serino Beach 
resort.    Great  food  ,  dancing  and  grooving waitstaff a Berber 
motif.
  
St.  Barth  is  arguably  the  best  island  in  the  Caribbean  and 
sometimes  the  fun  is just getting there.  I'll leave you with two 
thoughts.....Winair  is  the way to get on island and the landing at 
"SBH" is an thrill ride to itself.   But that's another story!

ST. MARTIN TRIP BY JOHN C FRASER

Trip: Feb 19 to March 4, 2000 With :Pegi, Reg, Sandy and John 

Saturday February 19 


Flew  down  to  SXM  on  Air Transat from Toronto. Flight went well, 
landed  at SXM and a representative of Paradise Car Rental met us at 
the  Air Port. They have a booth to the left of the main door out of 
the  Arrival area. The Paradise Car Rental representative greeted us 
by  name and within a few minutes we were provided a shuttle over to 
their  offices.  On our arrival there our information was taken very 
quickly  and  at  times  we  had two people looking after getting us 
into a car and on our way. 


That  evening  we  went to Ricís Place for dinner. Reg and I had the 
Chile  Con  Carne;  Sandy  had  the Fish Sandwich and Pegi a Hot Dog 
with  Sauerkraut (she said the Sauerkraut was excellent). All of the 
food was very good and reasonably priced. 


Other  than  that  we  spent  a  quiet day enjoying a few drinks and 
unwinding  from the trip, watching the ocean from the patio at Guana 
Bay. 

Sunday February 20 


Shopped  in Philipsburg in the morning. Went to Cupocoy Beach in the 
afternoon. 

The  west  end  of  the  beach  still has sand with lots of room, as 
there  were not too many there this afternoon. The majority that day 
was  wearing  a  Bathing Suit or Topless. The long narrow stretch to 
the  east  was mostly washed out with a very small piece of beach on 
the  very  east  end.  The  terraced  area towards the center of the 
beach  also  had  some  sand  in front of it although not as much as 
before. 


About  3:30  pm  went  over to Maho Beach. We just missed seeing Air 
France  land,  but did see the Corsair 747 land. There were a lot of 
people  on the road at the end of the runway and at the Sunset Beach 
Bar.  Come early if you want to get near the Sunset Beach Bar it was 
packed.  We got two beers and 2 Pina Coladaís for $16. The west half 
of  the beach is almost non-existent just a lot of very large rocks. 
The east end does have sand but not as much as in the past. 


For dinner we got pizza from Dominoís that was very good. 

Monday February 21 


Around  noon  we  drove to Friarís Beach, which is a very nice beach 
with  three  beach bars on it. Today only two were open. We did some 
snorkeling  there,  which  was  nice.  There was lots of room on the 
beach  and  each  of the three beach bars had lounge chairs in front 
of  them  we  were  on  the  north end of the beach virtually alone. 
There were a number of boats at anchor in this bay. 


We  had  lunch  at  the Friarís Bay Beach Club, had bacon, tomatoes, 
onion  &  cheese  on  a  Baguette  (much  like  a  Sub bun). This in 
addition  to  5  mixed  drinks ($6 each) came to $74.00 US. This was 
not  good value and we were caught unaware of the conversion rate. I 
would  recommend  being  careful  when you purchase something on the 
French side as they often only list the price in Francs. 

Tuesday February 22 


It  rained  all day off and on. We shopped in Philipsburg today. The 
Timeshare folks were still pestering us. 


We  had  lunch at the Kangaroo Court, Pastrami on Rye was very good, 
Chicken  Caesar  was  also  very good with lots on the plate and the 
Fruit  Plate  was  good  value.  This is not the place for fast food 
folk  as  the  service is slow, but I think it is intended that way. 
Be aware that an 18% tip is already on the bill. 


Met  the new co-owner of Everyting Cool, Andy from Kingston Ontario. 
This  place  looks  like  fun but is not open evenings. The original 
owner was from Toronto; the manager is John who is from the USA. 


Went  to  Butterfly  Farm quite interesting however the rain made it 
impossible  to spend much time there. So we went to Orient Beach for 
a  look-see.  The  rain  kept  most people off the beach; just a few 
people  off the cruise ships were standing there looking around. The 
sign  at  the beginning of the Club O end is gone, a victim of Lenny 
probably. 


For  dinner we went back to Ricís Place because the food was so good 
and  the  prices  were fair. We had Hamburgers, which were excellent 
with  great  hot  sauce.  The  girls  had Tuna Salad, which was very 
good, and there was a lot. Again the meals were good value. 

Wednesday February 23 


During  the  morning  the  rain  was  pouring  down. The local radio 
station  Lazer 101 had storm information including road closures and 
washouts  and  school  closings  due to high water running down from 
the mountain. 


Went  to  Philipsburg in the afternoon, bought groceries and beer at 
a  little  shop  on  Back  street.  Some prices were higher and some 
lower than Rams Food World were we have shopped the most. 


Back  to  Ricís Place for dinner. Sandy had the Chicken Salad, which 
was  good,  Pegi  had  the  Fish Sandwich, which she agreed was also 
good,  and  Reg  and I had a Wet Burrito, which was excellent. Ricís 
has  quickly  become  the  benchmark  by  which  all restaurants are 
measured. 

Thursday February 24 


We  went  to  Plum  /  Prune  Bay  Beach which is a beautiful beach, 
however  there are no facilities which can be a problem so bring any 
food  and drinks that you want. There is nice parking but only for a 
few  cars  and  a  good path through to the beach. The beach is huge 
and  looks just like a post card. A high hoe was working on what may 
soon  be  a  resort  at about the center of the beach; this might in 
the future add facilities. 


We  went  to  Chez  Raymondís  on  Rouge  Beach  for  lunch.  We had 
Cheeseburgers  in  paradise  for lunch they were good and reasonable 
in  price, but not as good as Ricís burgers. They did have prices in 
both Francs and US dollars. 


For  dinner  the  guys  tried to impress the ladies with our cooking 
skills  by  making  dinner  at the unit. Must have been ok as nobody 
got hurt and nothing was broken. 

Friday February 25 

At  30  am  we  were  at  Indianaís  beach  to  take a dinghy to the 
Heineken  Catamaran  with  Bluebeard  charter. We went snorkeling at 
Prickly  Pear Island. This is an excellent way to spend the day with 
a  great  crew,  lots  of  cold Heineken, Rum Punch & Pina Coladaís. 
They  served  snacks  on  the way out and back which were made up of 
Bread,  Cheese  and Crackers. Lunch was served on the island and was 
BBQ  Chicken  Breast  or  Chicken  Leg and Ribs Or Vegetarian Plate. 
This  was served with Salad, Home Fries & Rice. There was a dynamite 
Hot  Sauce on the table which was made in Anguilla. The food was not 
hot  and I am not sure if it was intended to be that way or not. But 
it  tasted  really  good;  even  the Home Fries were good only warm. 
Snorkeling  was  quite  nice  in  the  morning but clouded up by the 
afternoon.  There  was a nice reef with lots of fish & coral. I took 
many  pictures  of  the  colorful  fish  and  the different types of 
coral. 

With  the  heavy surf that was coming in you had to be careful while 
traveling  over  the  coral as the rise and fall of the water as you 
hit  crest  or  trough of the wave could put you right into the rock 
or  coral  which  would not be good for you. There is a lot of power 
in them thar waves. Would definitely do this trip again. 

Spent  the  afternoon  lazing  on  the  beach, followed by even more 
lazing  on the boat on the way back. The trip back was a little less 
rough  than  the  trip over in the morning. Or maybe it was the fact 
that  there  was  more sun and this was a little less rude a time of 
day. 

As  I  write these notes the next morning I could swear the table is 
moving  with  the  pounding of the surf I hear through the open door 
of  the  patio.  This  evening  we made calls home using Phone Cards 
from  Antelecom.  We  learned  that you must use their phones on the 
side  of  their  building and that not all phones are created equal. 
Kind  of like us guys on the beach. Some seem to reach out real well 
and  others  just  give  you  static. The phone connection seemed to 
keep  cutting  out  but  we  quickly  learned  that  these  must  be 
satellite  phones  or  at  least  a  radio type hook up and only one 
person  can  talk  at  the same time. There is a slight delay in the 
switch. Once you get use to this it is ok. 

There  are  phones  down  on  the docks but we could not get them to 
work  with  any  of  our  cards.  They  seem  to  be  based with USA 
companies  and  maybe  their  calling  cards  will  work but not our 
Canadian  ones.  We had used our credit cards in 98 and learned that 
is  a  much more expensive way to do it. A $20 Antelecom card got us 
through  all  the necessary calls we needed to make. There was a big 
Street  Party  set up on Front St. and we were told they do it every 
week.  There  were  bars set up along the street with food available 
and live bands. We saw one rock style band and a steel band. 

We  made  our  way  down to the Greenhouse bar and there was a large 
crowd  there  in  preparation  for the finals of the Hawaiian Tropic 
Bikini  Contest  later  that  evening. Oddly enough they had a bingo 
game going as we passed. We did not stay for the evening. 

Saturday February 26 


We  woke  up  this morning feeling sorry for the folks who came down 
on the Air Transat flight with us who would be flying home today. 


Today  was  a  beautiful day, probably the best so far with hardly a 
cloud in the sky. 


Naturally,  started  the  day  shopping  in Philipsburg. We actually 
wanted  to  drop a ballot off to win another trip back. We found the 
ballot in one of the magazines they give to us tourists. 


The  ballot  said  to  drop  it  off  at  either  Guavaberry Shop or 
Everyting  Cool  on  Front  St. We went first to the Guavaberry Shop 
and  they  did  not  know anything about it there. So bought Sandy a 
Guavaberry  Pina  Colada to fortify her vitamin C and walked down to 
Everyting  Cool  and  it  was  still  closed  at  11:30 am. We later 
learned that they do not open on Saturday. 


There was no ship in today so down town was fairly quiet. 


Went  to Cupocoy and parked by the wall. Beach had more people on it 
than  last  time but still enough room to find your own place in the 
sun.  A  large  piece  of  narrow beach to the east had no one on it 
except  at  the  far end ďWhere the boys areĒ that had about a dozen 
folks on it. 


Just  past  this  area there is a nice little cave eroded out of the 
stonewall  by  the  surf. At this point the beach now ends, the rest 
having  been washed out by the storms. The good part of the beach is 
now  not  as wide as before Lenny. But not as bad as different posts 
on the Internet said. 


There  is  actually  one  little  private chunk of beach down at the 
east  end  but  access  would  be a little challenging and the beach 
area is only large enough for two or three couples. 


The  guys  being  bolstered  by our previous culinary success cooked 
dinner  again.  We  see  a future of employment on the island in the 
restaurant  business  and  have already developed a staff dress code 
for our wives. Sunday February 27

Began  day  in  Philipsburg. Went to Fed Ex / Mail Boxes location on 
Front  St, west of Court House on north side. The office is upstairs 
and  they  charge  $5  per  half hour for computer time and $.20 per 
minute  for  phone  time to Canada & USA. They use Internet Explorer 
ver.  4.0  with  only 40-bit encryption. We had been to Cyber Nation 
Cafť  at  Simpsonís  Bay  just east of the bridge and the airport on 
the  ocean  side.  They  charge $.20 per minute for computer and use 
the  same browser. Cyber Nation has the ability to send e-Mail which 
Fed Ex / Mail Boxes could not. 


They  had  a  general power failure in Philipsburg at about 10:15 am 
and everything basically shut down. 


We  went  back  to  the  car  and  off  to Orient Beach. The general 
opinion  among  the  ladies  was  that Orient Beach was not the best 
beach  on  the  island.  If you like lots of people and an amusement 
park  type  setting  Orient  will be right up your alley. There were 
lots  of  people today. To the Club Orient side there appeared to be 
more  chairs  and  umbrellas  than on our previous visit a year ago. 
But  I  donít  know  if  that  represented  more  people or just the 
pushing  out  of  the  independent  chair  guys  by Club O. We broke 
tradition  this trip by not walking down toward Club O or being able 
to take our pictures at ďThe SignĒ. 

The  sign appears to have been destroyed during hurricane season and 
not  replaced.  I  think  it  should  be because having your picture 
taken there is quite an event for a lot of people. 


One  tradition  that  we did not break was to get Donna to put beads 
in  the  girlís  hair.  We  talked  to  her  about  her  family  and 
remembered  that  her  youngest  of three kids had a birthday on the 
day  we  met  her  which was March 11. This year she will be 3 years 
old. 


To  the north of the where the sign was there are a lot more chairs, 
bars  and  shops.  Today  there was a lot of water activity with Jet 
Skiís,  Parasailing, and Windsurfing & Ski Diving. You will never be 
bored on Orient as there is always something happening. 


About  1  pm  it turned cool and the wind picked up considerably, as 
the  girls  were  not  really  enjoying themselves we decided to see 
Anse  Marcel.  This proved to be an interesting trip over a mountain 
road.  The bay is very quiet but still cool with the wind blowing in 
from the north. 


We  decided  to  venture  back  to  Philipsburg  and  try  to see if 
Everyting  Cool  was  open.  It was but just barely. We got there at 
3:30  pm  and  were  told  that the kitchen closes at 4 pm; they had 
last call for the bar at 4:15 pm. 


We  had  BBQ  Pork sandwiches, which were good. Pegi had a Maui Maui 
sandwich,  which  she  did  not  like  at all. However a passing dog 
seemed to really enjoy the unexpected treat. 

Everyting  Cool  is  a  good  place for someone off the ships who is 
looking  for  a  little beach, drink and party. This really seems to 
be  the trade they are after. However the food would have to improve 
a  lot  to  beat  Ricís Place and their hours really are set for the 
cruise ships. 


Much  later  in  the evening we stopped by the Greenhouse for drinks 
and a snack. We had the Black Bean Soup, which was very good. 

Monday February 28 


We  drove  to  the  east  side of Cupocoy Beach to a sort of private 
Beach  area. Private because of its small size and the difficulty to 
get  down  to  it.  It  is  the area of the old east end of Cupocoy, 
which  is  now  separated by stone from the west end. This is a nice 
sandy  section  of  beach  big enough for a couple of couples. There 
was  one  couple  there already so we did not impose. But noted that 
we  would  have  to  get  an  earlier start if we wanted to get this 
little beach for ourselves. 


We  went  over  to  Long  beach.  This was probably once a very nice 
beach.  But  the recent storms had made it all but impossible to get 
into  the water without climbing over rock just below the surf line. 
There  were  also no facilities on this beach that we could see. The 
beach  itself  is  very  long and has a nice arc to it and is fairly 
wide with sand. 


We  returned  to  the  west  end  of Cupocoy and spent about 3 hours 
there until the surf got pretty rough. 


We  then  went  to Maho Beach to spend some time at the Sunset Beach 
Bar.  We went there to take some pictures of the planes coming in to 
land  at  the  airport. Air France which flyís a 747 into St Maarten 
was  supposed  to  land  at 3:00 pm but came in at about 3:30 pm. We 
got some good video and pictures of the approach. 

We  had  a  burger  while  we  were there. The burgers were good and 
about  the  same price as Ricís Place which has become the benchmark 
for  food.  Reg was not sure it was as good as Ricís. I thought they 
were  just fine but then I am pretty easy to please when it comes to 
most food. 


The  burgers  are  cooked  on  a BBQ that is made out of a stainless 
steel beer keg and cooked over charcoal. 


The  Sunset Beach Bar has a sign behind the bar which says ď Topless 
women  drink  freeĒ while they had pictures to prove that was so, we 
did  not  see  any  women  drinking  for  free  or at a reduced rate 
either.  Even  though  we  encouraged our wives to help reduce costs 
these normally price conscious women opted to pay full price. 


We  went  back  to the west side of Cupocoy to take some pictures of 
the  girls with the surf in the background. We figured that later in 
the  afternoon  there would be fewer people using the beach to worry 
about and with the sun in the west the lighting would be better. 


Cupocoy  may  be the best beach anywhere for the photographer types. 
With  the  surf  rolling in and at times rolling into nice breakers, 
the  colorful sandstone cliffs, the mini caves and even the clothing 
optional  designation  make it possible to take pictures you may not 
get  anywhere  else  in  the  world.  With  the beach looking mostly 
south,  but  slightly  to the west, in the morning and at sunset you 
will  get  interesting shadows on the rock wall. Throughout the rest 
of  the  day  you will have lots of light to work with, even natural 
reflected light off the rock wall. 

A  Special  Note: Bring your own Model / Subject, people on clothing 
optional  beaches donít always want their picture taken. At the very 
least  ask  first. I always try to direct the camera away from other 
people  and  through  body  language or the direction I am facing to 
the  subject  let  the rest of the beach users know they will not be 
in the picture. 

Tuesday February 29 


Got  a  reasonably  early  start  this  morning  and  drove  to  the 
Butterfly  Farm  for  9:00 am. This is their opening time and a good 
time  to  take  a  tour  and  see  the  new butterflies. We ended up 
getting  an  almost  private  tour  through the farm. There were the 
four in our group plus a gentleman from the states and his driver. 


I  did  not  think  a  tour  through  a Butterfly Farm would hold my 
attention  for  more  than a few minutes or that there would be much 
for  the  guide  to  tell  you other than the names of the different 
types  of  Butterflies.  Wrong  on  both  counts.  There is a lot of 
interesting  stuff to know about those little critters and the young 
lady  who  led  the  tour  and  another  fellow  who  answered  some 
questions  earlier  before the tour really know their stuff. We were 
there  for  just  over  an  hour.  I had read via the Internet to go 
there  in  the mornings, as the butterflies donít move as much later 
in  the  day  when it gets hot. The guide said they get their energy 
from the sun and seldom sit still so there you go. 


The  farm  itself  is  a  tube metal frame with netting over it. The 
whole  farm might be 100feet by 200 feet. Inside the netting are all 
the  plants  that the butterflies need to live and it is set up in a 
garden  sort  of  thing  with  a  footpath  through. There is also a 
little  bridge  over  a pond with fish in it. All of the butterflies 
are free to roam around inside this area. 


would  recommend that you take the tour because if you donít you can 
be  sure  you  will  miss  some of the stuff going on in that insect 
jungle. 


Next  we  went  to  Pic  Paradis,  which is the highest point on the 
island.  The  road up the mountain (1400 ft) is pretty much straight 
up.  It  is  only about a car and a half wide and not in great shape 
until  you  get  to  where  you turn off the paved road then it gets 
worse.  From  this  point  on  either  you walk or take a four-wheel 
drive.  Frankly  I  think  I have more respect for a vehicle than to 
take  it  up  that road, four wheel drive or not. The road from here 
on  had  long  ago  washed  away. On foot it is not a bad climb or a 
long  one  taking  about  15  minutes.  However  you  want  to be in 
reasonable  shape  as  you  are going uphill the whole time and wear 
decent footwear. 


The  view from the top is breathtaking or was it the walk. No it was 
the  view,  after a few minutes. The top is not an organized viewing 
station  like  I thought it would be but a series of paths that take 
you  to  different  point  were a good view is available. It is well 
worth  a  look  at  least  once,  but  you should note that there is 
nothing in the way of facilities at the top. 


We  then  went  to  Happy Bay. We parked at Friarís Beach and walked 
the  trail  over  the  hill into Happy Beach. We picked up the trail 
behind  the  snack  bar at the north end of Friarís Beach. You begin 
by  climbing  a  good-sized hill and decent footwear would be a good 
idea.  During  the  walk you need to watch for two strands of barbed 
wire.  We  took  the  trail to the left that brought us out beside a 
new  development. Now we figure they must have a road into this soon 
to be a resort but donít know where it is. 


This  will  be a really nice resort when it is complete. And it will 
no doubt increase the amount of traffic on Happy Beach. 


Happy  Beach  is like being on a deserted island. When we arrived at 
the  beach  that  is approx. 1,000 ft long there was a couple on the 
south  end and a fellow and two ladies on the north end all where Au 
Natural.  We parked ourselves in the middle, which still gave us all 
lots  of  privacy. Due to the way the sand is deposited on the beach 
when  a  person  laid  down they were often not visible to the other 
beach  users.  About  two  hours later for a half hour or so we were 
alone,  the  whole  beach  to  ourselves.  If you ever thought of an 
Oceanside  romance  this  may  be  just  the place, until the resort 
opens anyway. 


While  Happy Beach has many pluses, there are two problems. You need 
to  carry everything you need in with you. Please also carry out all 
the  garbage,  sadly  not  everyone does. A beach bar may be opening 
soon  as  there  was a building down by the beach that looks like it 
would  serve  that purpose. And there are lots of ankle biting rocks 
in  the  surf.  This is a tricky beach to get into the water at. The 
rock  line  and  angle  of  the  sand  creates a lot of being pushed 
around  in  the  water  and  some  sore  ankles,  but  there  is  no 
noticeable  undertow.  On  the  south  end there is an area of rock, 
which  lends  itself  to  some really nice pictures and also natural 
surf fed whirlpools in the rock for good photo opportunities. 


On  the  way  home we stopped at Indianaís Beach Bar for a drink and 
to  look  at all of the boats parked in the bay with the sun behind. 
This location has good sunset picture potential. 

Wednesday March 1 


Went  to  town to get film. Then drove over to Cupocoy Beach. In the 
two  days since our last visit the sand below the surf line has been 
washed  away  exposing  a  line of rock that would have made getting 
into the water to swim pretty difficult. 


So  we  went to Dawn Beach via the road to Scavengers Beach Bar. The 
road  itself  is  quite  an adventure; it has a couple of hills that 
you  would  not  think  a  car  would climb over. When we got to the 
beach  it was very nice on the north end. The waves were not so high 
as  on  the  south end. The waves of either end were easily swimable 
with no noticeable rock line. 


We  went  snorkeling  and  saw a number of fish. There were a lot of 
different  fish  to  see  but  the  water was murkier with sand than 
Prickly  Pear  so  taking  pictures  was  more  difficult. There was 
strong  surf  coming  from  the  northeast and Dawn Beach was fairly 
protected. 


The  beach  itself is fairly flat to the water and there was lots of 
room.  Had  a  burger  from Mr. Busbyís Beach Bar that was very good 
and reasonably priced. 


Went  back  to  Ricís Place for dinner. The guys had to get one more 
of  those  Wet  Burritos.  Sandy  had a Chicken Salad and Pegi had a 
Greek  Salad,  both reported it was good. The guys just reported. We 
also  had  Nachos  Grande,  which was supposed to be enough for two, 
but  we split it as an appetizer for four. It was very good as well. 
So far Ricís canít be beat. 

Thursday March 2 


We  went  to Philipsburg for the last souvenirs, and then we went to 
Cupocoy  Beach  and  got  the private beach for about 2 hrs. We took 
some  pictures  of  the  Corsair  747  coming  in  from our perch of 
Cupocoy  Beach.  We  were  on  the  east end and there were a ton of 
shells  on  this  end.  We  then  moved  to the west end for another 
couple  of  hours  and  to  catch the 747 from Air France. Today you 
could  only  swim  on the east end and from in front of the terraced 
rocks. 


Went  to  the  Harbourview Restaurant for dinner and had Stewed Beef 
which  was  very  good, the Vegetarian Plate which was excellent and 
Grilled Chicken was also good. 


This  is  a family operation that has been around for about 9 years. 
A couple of sailing crews were also there. 


We  ended the evening by going to the Greenhouse to see the Heineken 
Regatta Party, which was very crowded. We did not stay there long. 

Friday March 3 


Began  packing  this  morning  for  tomorrow. Went to Philipsburg to 
check  for  any  last, last minute items. One final walk up and down 
Front  St.  For lunch we went to Everyting Cool. They were busy with 
the  cruise  crowd,  but  were greeted right away and seated. When a 
table  near  the  beach  became available we asked to be moved there 
and were. 


There  was  a  beach  volley ball game happening that kept the girls 
entertained  because  the teams were all guys and mostly young guys. 
Almost  the  entire  beach was being used for the whole time we were 
there. 


Lunch  was  good  and  the  drinks  were cold but the Everyting Cool 
folks  have identified their market as the people off the ships. And 
they  do  well  with  them.  About  3:30 pm when people had to start 
catching their rides to the ships the place emptied quickly. 


Had  dinner  at  Maryís  Boon,  they served Lobster Bisque which was 
very  good.  They serve dinner family style and costs approx. $35.00 
with  everything  included  except  drinks  from the honor bar. They 
have  a  nice location that is very well laid out with a beach and a 
pool with swim up bar. 


Plan  to  make  an  evening  of  it because they take all evening to 
serve  dinner  and this is the way it is planned to be. This evening 
is  not  for  folks  who like to eat and run. Make your reservations 
early  in  the week because they can only take a few people and fill 
up fast. 

Saturday March 4 


Arrived  at  the  airport  3  hrs prior to flight, there was already 
quite a line up. It took about an hour to check in. 


Reg  took  the  car  back  and  everything was handled well and very 
quickly.  He was back to the airport in approx a half hour including 
travel time. Paradise is definitely the company to rent from. 


We  took  a  walk  to  Maho  Beach  for  one last look. The walk was 
further  than  we  thought  but  it  gave  us  one last chance to be 
pleasantly  surprised  by  the  people  of  St  Maarten. We had just 
started  our  trek  back  to  the airport when a lady in an Explorer 
type  vehicle  stopped just ahead of us. With our carry-ons over our 
shoulders  it  must  have been pretty obvious where we were heading. 
She  says  she  is  delivering  a  pizza for Pizza Pasta in Maho and 
would  we  like  a ride because it was too hot to walk that far. She 
was  right  about  the  heat  and  we  were very happy to accept her 
offer. 


Hope to get back soon. 

ST. MARTIN BY DIANA AND RICHARD SHAFFER

Was  on  the  island  from March 4-11. I was very impressed with the 
way  everything  looked.  Yes, the vegetation needs to grow back and 
some  of  the  roads  are  not  good,  but  all  in all, I would not 
hesitate  to  go  again  tomorrow  if I could (and take advantage of 
that  $199  roundtrip  charter  airfare from Detroit). Stayed at our 
timeshare  at Divi. I wholeheartedly agree with a previous poster on 
the  condition  of  the  resort. I almost think it looks better than 
last  year  and  when  the last few buildings are open and the beach 
decides  to  come back, what a beautiful place this will be. As some 
of  you  may  remember,  we  upgraded our unit last year and I was a 
little  worried  (because  of the hurricanes) that repairs would not 
be  done  that  were  promised  and  wondering  if  we  made  a good 
decision,  but  it  looked  great  (Building  12,  Unit  707  - last 
building  on  top  of  the hill). It was freshly painted throughout, 
new appliances in the kitchen and very clean. 

Ate  dinner  and  a  couple of breakfasts at Chesterfield's which is 
located  just  past  Bobby's  Marina. I don't see them mentioned too 
much  -  you  should try it, their food is excellent. Also at dinner 
at  the  Boathouse  and  Rancho  Steak  House.  Both  very good. Had 
breakfast  and  lunch (different days) at ZeeBest. Even brought home 
some  of  Danny's  pastries. Place really looks good redone. Went to 
Princess  Casino  a  couple  of  times - big place. Had their buffet 
dinner  one  night;  was  not  impressed.  Ate  at  Don  Carlos  for 
breakfast  and  a lunch. Free internet service for 20 minutes if you 
eat  there.  Had dinner one night at the Pelican Reef. Their stuffed 
lobster  was the best I have ever had. Visited our friendly jewelers 
at  Touch  of  Gold  Too.  Great deals as always. It is nice to walk 
through  town  with  no cars or timeshare hawkers. The drive through 
Mullet  is  just  a  horrible  mess.  It looks like a war was fought 
there.  I  never  saw  it  before  Luis,  but  I  can imagine what a 
showplace it must have been. 

For  those  of  you  Divi  people out there, I have various pictures 
that  I  am scanning of the new buildings and beach with no sand. If 
anyone  would  like  a  copy of the scans, please e-mail me with the 
format  you  would  like  and I'll get them to you. Only 50 weeks to 
go! 

TOBAGO BY LENI HERR

Trip 1/00

I  just  had  to  write  and let you know how wonderful Tobago is. I 
traveled  to  Tobago  at  the end of January with 2 good friends for 
our  annual  "Girls'  Trip to the Caribbean". Although I hesitate to 
tell  the world about this beautiful island, there is plenty of room 
yet for visitors.

One  of  the  first  impressions  I  had  of  Tobago, other than its 
beauty,  was  how  up-to-date  a  lot  of  people are on the island. 
Everywhere  we  went  we  saw constant reminders of the internet! It 
seems  that a lot of local businesses all had email addresses and/or 
web  pages,  listed  on  billboards,  signs, business cards, and the 
local  island  magazine.  There were cyber cafes and roadside stands 
where  you could get your computer fixed or sign on to the internet! 
It  was  also the easiest time I had researching the island ahead of 
time  on  the  internet,  finding  a villa to stay in, and renting a 
car.

The  beauty  and peace of the island are everywhere, with flowers in 
bloom,  the mountains falling into the ocean, and uncrowded beaches, 
even  during  high  season.  The  people  are  friendly,  the prices 
affordable,  a  large  assortment  of  fruits, vegetables, and fresh 
fish, and a constant tropical breeze.

Although  I  can't attest to the snorkeling, I have heard that it is 
good.  During our one week stay, the water was too churned up to see 
anything.

I  can  tell  you  that  one  week  was not enough time to enjoy the 
island.  (When  is  one week ever enough in the Caribbean?) Although 
Tobago  is  only 16 miles long and 5 miles wide, it can take up to 2 
hours  to  travel  from  the southwest corner of the island near Mt. 
Irvine  to  the northeast corner at Speyside. The roads were decent, 
but twisty and turning, and a lot of up and down the mountainsides.

TURKS AND CAICOS: BEACHES BY LINDA BAILEY

Trip 3/00

We  recently returned from a trip to Beaches in Turks and Caicos and 
were  VERY dissapointed in our stay at this property. The resort was 
badly  in  need  of  repairs  and painting, the walls outside of our 
room  were  covered  in  mold  and mildew as were most of the patios 
that  we say. Stray animals romaed the grounds seaching for food and 
trash  that  was  left  unattended  for days at a time. There was no 
pool  service offered, and if you wanted something to drink, you had 
to  go  inside,  stand in line, and wait to be served. The staff was 
unattentive  and  rude,  and the food offered was poor in appearance 
and  quality.  The  buffett  had  the names of food written in magic 
marker  on  plates that were set in front of the food! Reservations, 
which  are  required at most restaurants, were impossible to get. We 
cut  our  trip  short because of the entire experience. The photos I 
took are testament to the overall conditions at this hotel. 

We  travel  extensively,  and  were  truly  disturbed  at  what  was 
supposed to be an "ultra all inclusive" resort! 

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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