Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 114
April 1, 2001

Last Update 30 March 2001

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CUBA: SOL CLUB CAYO COCO BY D LAPKIN

Trip 2/01

  We  booked  through Conquest at the last minute and because all the 
flights  were full, we had to take a crazy route through Halifax with 
a  stop in Moncton before reaching Ciego de Avila. We left Toronto on 
February  19th  at  11:30 a.m. and didn't arrive in Cuba until around 
8:00  at  night. There's nothing like the feeling of walking down the 
stairs  from  the plane and feeling the warm Cuban air hit your skin. 
Everyone  was  joyous,  even while waiting in the long line up at the 
airport.  Once  through, we picked up our luggage and headed outside. 
Unlike  what  other people have mentioned, we didn't find the baggage 
carriers  to  be  pushy at all. A gentle, "no thank you" sent them on 
their  way  and  there  was  absolutely no pressure or harassment. In 
fact,  if your bags are heavy, let the guys carry your bags - they do 
a  great  job  and  deserve  whatever  tip  you give them. We met the 
conquest  rep  right  away,  grabbed our info packet, put our bags on 
the  bus  and  found seats together. We had a fabulous guy on our bus 
who  talked  with  everyone the whole way and provided us with drinks 
of  beer  or  rum  and coke - beer was $1 and r&c was $1.50 but don't 
worry,  that's  the last time you'll pay for drinks on your vacation! 
The  bus  ride  was  pretty  long  and since it was night time, there 
wasn't  anything  to  look  at. The driver did tell us when we got to 
the  causeway.  We  dropped  a  couple  off at Melia and then reached 
SCCC.  By  the time we got off the bus (only 2 other people got off - 
the  rest  were  going  to  TRYP)  we  were  already a little tipsy - 
woohoo!

First Impressions

Off  the  bus  and  into  the huge open-air lobby - we thought we had 
died  and  gone  to  heaven.  Clusters of comfortable couches grouped 
around  a  huge  fountain with a wall waterfall behind it. Plants all 
around  and  of  course  the gorgeous lobby bar. We could already see 
the pool beyond the lobby - everything was breathtaking.

Check in

Was  a breeze! Juan at the front desk greeted us with a huge smile on 
his  face,  gave  us a room key and said that if we had any problems, 
we  could  come  to him. A porter was waiting right there and carried 
our  heavy  suitcase up 2 flights of stairs and down the hall to room 
2411.

The Room

Was  incredible.  We  walked  in,  dropped our bags, went over to the 
window  and admired our stunning view of the pool, pool bar and ocean 
beyond.  From  our  room we faced north (I think) so we could see the 
whole  beach  in  the  direction  of Tryp. We had two big comfortable 
chairs  and  a table on our balcony. The beds had nice covers on them 
and  the  floors  sparkled.  The bathroom was big and extremely clean 
and  had a nice sized tub and a bidde (not sure how you spell it). We 
also  had a vanity and a mini-fridge. As other people have mentioned, 
there  are  only  2 shallow, tiny drawers which are hardly big enough 
to  hold  a  couple  of shirts. However, in the closet, there are two 
deep  shelves  under  the  safe  and  tons  of hangers so putting our 
clothes  away  really  wasn't  a  problem.  There  were  also two big 
comfortable  chairs  by  the  window  and  a little table where every 
morning  they  placed a fresh bottle of spring water and two glasses. 
I  did  use  the  hairdryer  but  if  you  typically use one, I would 
suggest  bringing  your  own with an adapter (220 voltage) because it 
was  pretty  weak  and  sort  of just blew my hair everywhere - not a 
complaint though, at least there was one in the room!

Of  course after we checked out our room we headed back downstairs to 
the  24-hour  lobby bar where we met our first friends. By the second 
day  we  had a group of about 15 friends including the two people who 
were  on the bus with us. We spent all week with them and became very 
tight.  Our  trip  wouldn't  have been the same without them but more 
about that later. Back to the bars!

The Bars

If  my  count  is right, there are 4 bars including the disco bar + 1 
if  you count the bar at the amphitheater which is open during shows. 
We  didn't  spend  much  time  at the beach grill bar but service was 
wonderful  the  couple of times we were there. We gave the bartenders 
a  run  for  their money at the pool bar, lobby bar and disco. All of 
the  bartenders  were  quick,  efficient and their drinks were great. 
Only  complaint  I have is that as the week went on, the drinks got a 
lot  stronger - sometimes to the point that I couldn't drink them but 
some  people  like  them that way I'm sure. Either way, it's probably 
our  own  fault  because they realized that we drank a LOT and by the 
end  of  the night usually enjoyed our drinks strong ;) Unfortunately 
I  don't  remember  their  names but all the bar staff get a big hats 
off  from  us since quite often they'd have to prepare 15 drinks at a 
time!  One last comment - our first night there I didn't know what to 
drink  and  asked  for  the  "house  specialty", the bartender at the 
lobby  bar  made  a  delicious fruity drink which everybody tried and 
which  then  became a staple for the rest of the week. If you want to 
try one, they call it a rum punch mmmm.

The Food

Unfortunately  we  never  made it to breakfast (ahem) but some of our 
friends  did  and  they  had  mixed  reviews.  The  only place to get 
breakfast  is  at  the  buffet and from what I heard they had lots of 
bread,  fruit,  cereal  and  omelets.  Most people that we spoke with 
weren't  too impressed but that was a general feeling when it came to 
the  food  at  the  buffet.  However, a few people really enjoyed the 
breakfast  some  of the days. I really can't give an accurate account 
since like I said, we never tried it.

For  lunch, you can eat at the beach grill, the poolside grill or the 
buffet.  Once  again,  we never ate at the buffet for lunch since the 
food  at both the beach and poolside grills was awesome! We ate twice 
at   the  beach  grill.  As  others  have  mentioned,  the  steak  is 
phenomenal.  A  few  people tried the fish which arrives as an entire 
fish  so  you  have  to  figure  out how to get into it to eat it but 
everyone  said  it  was  amazing.  The  beach grill also has a buffet 
where  you can get cold salads, olives, pickles, tomatoes, warm pasta 
(usually  spaghetti  from what I could see), etc. At every restaurant 
there  is  self-serve  ice  cream  which  is really good. Some of the 
flavors  were  so-so  but  if  you  get  a  chance, try the chocolate 
hazelnut  -  it  tastes  just  like  a  ferrero-rocher chocolate! The 
poolside  grill  serves  incredible  individual-sized pizzas. I think 
they  have about 6 different kinds. I tried the romana, the margarita 
and  the  cuatros  estaciones  which were all amazing. They also have 
hamburgers,  hotdogs and French fries. Also there's a little stand in 
the  middle  of  the  seating  where  you  can  get  pickles, olives, 
crackers, etc. The bread everywhere was really good and fresh.

Dinner  is  served  at the buffet only and was definitely better some 
nights  than others but no major complaints. Some of the buffet foods 
are  a little bit unrecognizable but they always have something yummy 
on  the  grill and the local vegetables are great! They also have hot 
pasta  (different  every  night),  cheeses, veggies, and lots of good 
breads.  We  heard  the  most  complaints about the dinner buffet but 
rest  assured,  there's  something  for  everyone  and even if you're 
picky you can always find something to eat.

Unfortunately  we never got up on time to make reservations for the a 
la  carte  and  when  we did it was booked L We have some friends who 
went  though  and  they  said  the presentation was awesome. The menu 
looked  really  good  and the tables are very pretty. I'm sure it's a 
great  atmosphere  and  I  would really recommend that you try it. We 
were upset that we didn't go.

The  Lobby  Bar  always has ham and cheese sandwiches and usually has 
some  sweet buns in the morning. We discovered that they have a grill 
and  the  ham  and  cheese sandwiches melt in your mouth when they're 
grilled.  We  often  had  a  large gathering in the Lobby Bar and ate 
sandwiches  early in the morning (after partying). A few in our group 
didn't   eat  ham  but  they  just  picked  it  off  and  had  cheese 
sandwiches.

The weather

The  weather  was  excellent.  It  was  definitely windy but the wind 
provided  relief from the hot weather. The first few days were cloudy 
and  it  did  rain  a few times but only for a few minutes, sometimes 
only  seconds.  It  was  a  bit windy by the beach and the waves were 
pretty  high  but  if  you  walk  to  the end of the beach, where the 
volleyball  net  is  and  continue  just  past it, you can go over to 
another  beach (if you walk along it you'll get to Tryp) and we found 
that  the  water  was  much  calmer there and there was less wind. We 
really  didn't spend much time on the beach but it's only because the 
pool  was  so beautiful. They've managed to completely block the wind 
so  it's  always  hot hot hot by the pool. We got a little bit chilly 
at  night but nothing to complain about. Most people were comfortable 
in  t-shirts  and  we  spent a lot of time outdoors at night. I guess 
some  people  are  really  concerned with having constant sunshine so 
they  can  get a perfect tan but we just took it as it came and had a 
great  time  no  matter what. Do make sure you wear lots of sunscreen 
because  the  sun  is  very strong and a bad sunburn can really wreck 
your vacation.

The pool

The  pool is beautiful and huge! We found that the pool is really the 
place  to  be  during the day - there's always lots going on and tons 
of  people  around. They have activities organized all throughout the 
day  both  in the pool and around the pool and they also have a ping-
pong  table  and  foozball beside the club house. Lots of kids showed 
up  our  last  couple  of  days and they had a blast in the kids pool 
which  is  part  of the regular pool but off to the side so it really 
doesn't bother you if you're in the deep end.

The Beach

The  beach  was  okay.  The  view is spectacular but the beach wasn't 
very  wide  and was a bit rough. If you walk down a bit towards Melia 
the  sand does get softer but it's not soft, white powdery sand. Like 
I  said,  we  didn't  spend much time on it but we walked up and down 
quite  a bit and it was nothing to complain about - If you expect the 
most  gorgeous beaches, you probably won't be too happy but we really 
had  no  expectations and didn't have a problem with it at all. There 
were always lots of people on the beach.

The property

The  entire  property is beautifully landscaped and quite big but not 
so  big  that  it's  ever  a pain to walk anywhere. We had no problem 
finding  our  way  around  after the first day and truly enjoyed just 
walking  around  the  resort. All the rooms have nice views of either 
the  pool  and  ocean or the gardens and ocean. Some rooms are garden 
view  only  but  the gardens are very pretty so I'm sure those people 
were  happy.  The entire building is open air so all the hallways are 
open  and  breezy  - very, very nice! The amphitheater was great with 
plenty  of  seating  and  everyone  had a clear view of the stage. We 
absolutely  loved  the  feel and look of the resort and got more than 
we  ever  could  have asked for. The resort is beautiful and I'm sure 
you won't be disappointed.

The Bugs

Just  a quick blurb about the bugs which I'm sure varies depending on 
time  of  year.  The bugs really weren't that bad - they usually came 
out  between  5-7  pm.  Nobody  got  bitten  too badly but I wouldn't 
suggest  leaving the sliding door open in your room as they will come 
in  and  bite  you  during  the  night. The strange thing is that you 
really  don't  feel the mosquitos bite you, I think a lot of the bugs 
aren't  even  mosquitos  because  they  are  tiny - almost like fruit 
flies.  The  bugs  are  worse  around  the vegetation but they really 
didn't  bother  us much. I would suggest that you bring bug repellent 
though and afterbite - really came in handy.

The Animation/Day-time activities

The  animation  staff  is  amazing!  They  go-go-go all day long with 
activities  all  over the resort for people of all ages. They get you 
involved  and  keep it fun but they're not pushy unless they know you 
like  to  have  fun! There's really something for everyone and if you 
don't  want to participate, you can have fun watching. I think Doreen 
and  Bert  among  others  mentioned  how  well  the  staff  treat the 
children  -  we  found this to be incredibly true! The kids seemed to 
adore  all the staff and were kept busy at all times with tons of fun 
activities.  We frequently saw little happy faces all over the resort 
and  we  could  tell  that the staff truly enjoyed spending time with 
them,  entertaining  them and being entertained by them! We also made 
our  own  activities since there's plenty to do at the resort - beach 
volleyball  was  one  of  our favorites and playing dominoes (you can 
buy gorgeous hand crafted ones at the market) in the pool grill.

The Entertainment

Wow!  Wow!  Wow! I hardly know where to begin. The nightly shows were 
incredible!  The  entertainment  staff  do 14 shows in 14 nights - we 
were  there  7  nights  and  had  an amazing time every single night. 
There  were a couple of dance shows, one was a Cuban dance show which 
was  amazing.  the  entertainers  are SO talented! The third night we 
got  a  special  treat  because  although the show was indoors at the 
disco  (that  day was a bit rainy/windy), it featured the guys in our 
group  who  were asked to participate! The show was a kind of cabaret 
where  guys  from  the resort (most of them were from our "group" but 
there  were  a couple of others) had to dress as women. They borrowed 
dresses  from friends but the staff did their makeup which was great! 
I  haven't  laughed  so  hard  and  so  much  in  ages.  the show was 
incredible!  The  guys  (or should I say gals J) were given a name, a 
country  and  a  profession  and had to dance on stage, then choose a 
guy  from  the audience and dance with them. The best part though was 
what  they  called  "kamasutra"  where the "women" had to rush at the 
men  on the opposite side of the dance floor and pop balloons between 
their  bodies - hard to explain but was so much fun! The best show by 
far  was  Disney's  Fantasia.  This show really displayed the staff's 
incredible  talent  and the guests were given a special treat because 
the  Lion  King  part featured a little boy (guest at the resort) who 
got  a standing ovation for his incredible performance! This show was 
up  to  par  with something you would see in a Toronto theatre if not 
better  due  to  the  amazing dancing abilities of the staff. I won't 
get  into  all  the  shows  but the entertainment was fantastic every 
single  night  and  we  were  sure not to miss a single show - what a 
perfect  way to relax and have fun before partying the night away! As 
I  mentioned  before, we realized the extent to which the staff spend 
time  with  the children at the resort when we caught the tail end of 
a  show  put  on by the kids. These kids couldn't have been "trained" 
for  more  than  a  few hours that day but their show was incredible! 
The  kids  had  really challenging roles that they knew perfectly and 
everyone  had  a great time watching them. What a tribute not only to 
kids  who  really  do learn fast but to the wonderful staff who, even 
with  language  barriers,  were  able  to  teach them so much in such 
little time.

The Disco(s)

We  were  at the disco every night after the show until it closed and 
although  there  weren't always many people there, we had a wonderful 
group  and had an amazing time every night. Our friend, Lloyd, got to 
DJ  a  couple of times and added to our fun! The dance floor is small 
but  spacious enough and a few nights the staff (Alex in particular - 
what  a  great dancer!) would get up on stage and teach us new dances 
which  we  loved!  The  drinks were great and the atmosphere was cozy 
and  fun.  I  have  to  mention  our  good  friend Jalily (sorry if I 
spelled  it  wrong),  one of the entertainment staff, who is the best 
dancer  any  of  us have ever seen! She loved our energetic music and 
picked  up  moves like you wouldn't believe (not to mention the moves 
that  we  learned  -  or  tried to learn - from her!). She was at the 
disco every single night and we had a fantastic time with her.

We  did  go  to  the  beach  disco  one night. This disco is near the 
volleyball  net and does require cover (usually $5 each I think). The 
disco  is  very  nice  with  good  seating,  a nice dance floor and a 
beautiful  balcony  right off the dance floor but really wasn't worth 
the  money  while  we  were there. The place was empty and though our 
whole  group  went  which  livened  it  up, it was no better than the 
disco  on  the  resort save the fact that it's open later. There is a 
bar  there  as well where locals (?) were doing karaoke but we didn't 
really  pay  much  attention  -  to be honest, we were already pretty 
tipsy when we got there!

Some  of  the  staff  from  different  resorts live in a place called 
Villa  Azul.  They have their own disco there which you can get to by 
bus  ($5  return). The bus leaves after the resort disco closes, from 
what  we  could  tell.  The  first time we went, we went by a kind of 
open  air  trolley  which was loads of fun but the ride took a while. 
We  had  a fabulous time since lots of us went from the resort and it 
wasn't  too  busy.  All  the  people  there were very friendly and we 
danced  it  up  until  about 3:30 am when the trolley left to take us 
back  to  the  resort.  We also went on Saturday night which I do NOT 
recommend.  Some  of  the  staff  from SCCC went and encouraged us to 
come  but  the place was absolutely packed and somewhat intimidating. 
If  you  like  that  environment then you'll probably have fun but we 
found  that  it  was  too  much  and  spent  most of the time outside 
waiting to go back to the resort.

Activities and excursions off the resort

Unfortunately  we  didn't really leave the resort for any excursions. 
We  found  that  we lacked total motivation to get up on time to book 
anything  and preferred to spend time at the resort with our friends. 
However,  I  would  strongly recommend looking into the day-long jeep 
safari  which costs only $63 US and looks like a lot of fun - you get 
to  drive  your  own jeep and visit a tobacco factory! We did however 
take  the  2-hour  snorkeling trip which I highly recommend! In fact, 
if  we  had taken this trip earlier in our stay, we surely would have 
gone  again.  We  met at the dive hut on the beach, paid $18 each and 
boarded  two  separate  speed  boats  (we  were  a  large  group). We 
traveled  on  the  boats  for  about  20 minutes until we reached the 
(supposedly)  most  beautiful  (and one of the largest) coral reef in 
the  Caribbean  -  I  believe  it! We put on our gear (the driver was 
extremely  helpful  for  those  who had never been snorkeling before) 
and  got ready to jump but not before the driver told us to stay away 
from  the  yellow  coral,  "look  but  don't  touch!"  ahhhhh. we all 
freaked  out  a  bit  but got a good laugh when he told us to, "watch 
out  for  the  sharks,  now get off the boat!" A tip: if you have the 
opportunity,  put  on a life jacket. makes it much easier to look and 
take  pictures  if you have an under-water camera. The reef was a bit 
scary  for  some of us as it is massive and in places the coral grows 
up  to  the  surface of the water and proves very painful if you bang 
into  it. If you get stuck in an area with lots of high coral you can 
get  hurt  pretty  badly  so be careful. Once you're in an open area, 
unless  you're  really  adventurous,  stay there and admire the view! 
It's  like  being  in  a  different  world. the fish were incredible. 
There  were caves filled with thousands of them and if you stay still 
for  a minute, before you know it, swarms of fish come up around you. 
We  saw  colours we've never seen before - what an experience! We got 
to  snorkel  for  about  an  hour  before  they called us back to the 
boats.  They then took us to a beach right out of a story book. as we 
approached,  the  water  turned crystal clear and still revealing the 
pure  white  sandy  bottom.  The beach was totally protected from the 
wind  and  had  tons  of  soft white sand. We relaxed for a while and 
then  met quite possibly one of the best magicians ever! A Cuban came 
over  to  us (he spoke no English) and performed true magic - there's 
no  way  he  could have tricked us! He turned lined paper into dollar 
bills  (wish  I  could  do  that!)  and  many, many other feats which 
completely  astounded  us.  We  gave him a handsome tip and he let us 
take  a  picture  of him! After, I went horseback riding with friends 
Tk  and  Alison.  We paid $3 for a 20-minute ride down to the far end 
of  the  pristine  beach.  The horses did look a bit worn down but we 
had  a  fantastic  ride  and  got  to  see  part of the beach that we 
wouldn't  have otherwise. Back to the boats for a fun trip back. what 
an experience!

We  also booked horseback riding at the resort. We met the man at the 
club  house and walked down to the Melia. Here we paid $7 for an hour 
long  ride. The horses were in better condition and we had an amazing 
time  galloping  along  the  beach. Once again, we got to see part of 
the  beach  that we wouldn't have otherwise (unless we wanted to walk 
a  long  way!) Once again, something I would have done more than once 
had I done it earlier in the trip.

Miscellaneous comments

Do  bring  a  lot of cash. We had to go to the TRYP to get more money 
because  it goes really quickly. You have to put a $15US deposit down 
for  each  beach  towel and all off-resort activities/excursions cost 
you  money.  Plus,  you'll  want  to tip. We have no idea how much we 
spent  in  tips  but  we were really happy to do it - the staff earns 
every  bit  of  it!  The  market  is  also  great with lots of really 
inexpensive  souvenirs. I would recommend buying things at the stands 
as  opposed  to at the resort shops because the prices are better and 
the   stuff  they  have  is  usually  of  amazing  quality  and  very 
reasonably  priced.  We  left  little gifts for our maid(s) every day 
and  a  tip  and she left us a beautiful note (in wonderful English), 
nestled  between  two  towel-swans  thanking  us  before  she left on 
vacation.  Quick tip: If you want to tip the staff, do so discreetly! 
We  noticed  some  people waving money at them and they really didn't 
seem  to appreciate it. From our understanding, the staff only get to 
keep  about  5% of their tips (usually the money goes directly into a 
jar)  and  we  were  under  the  impression that tipping is about the 
gesture for them, not the money.

The  TRYP  has  a  bank which you can use if you run out of funds. We 
found  this  out  from Juan at the front desk when we ran low on cash 
and  hopped  in  a  taxi  for a $3 ride to the TRYP. You have to take 
your  VISA  and  passport  but once you're there, the process is easy 
and  the bank tellers were very pleasant. We really weren't impressed 
with  the  TRYP.  The  resort  seemed  way too big for us and we much 
preferred  the  intimacy  of  SCCC and the fact that we actually knew 
where  everything  was  there  and who everyone was! We did find some 
nice  spots  at  TRYP  but the idea of walking a long way even to eat 
didn't  appeal  to  us  - especially because we suspected it would be 
tough  to  meet  up  with  people  more  than once unless it was pre-
planned!  That  said,  if  you  want a go-go-go kind of vacation with 
tons  of  stuff to do then I'm sure TRYP is the place. We walked back 
to  SCCC  on the beach and even the stretch of beach in front of TRYP 
is  massive.  it  went  on  and  on  and on. There are some positives 
though  like  lots of stores and stands to buy stuff, a photo shop, a 
tobacco  shop,  etc.  I think it's worth walking over to take a look. 
Some  people  mentioned  having  difficulty  walking around TRYP with 
their  SCCC wristbands but we didn't experience any problems and lots 
of  staff  noticed  us  and  where we were from. I would imagine that 
they  like having people tour around to see what the resort's like as 
long as they don't take advantage of anything.

I  also  walked  over  to  the  Melia and was unimpressed. The lagoon 
rooms  which  looked  so  beautiful  from  a  distance  were  a  huge 
disappointment  as  the  lagoon is just murky water (probably lots of 
bugs  around  there  too) and the view is not of the ocean but of the 
mainland.  The resort is laid out in a big circle of little buildings 
and  everything seems pretty spread out. The main thing we noticed is 
that  this  place is quiet. The pool wasn't spectacular and the ampi-
theatre  was nice but nothing overly special. The beach is attainable 
only  by  first  crossing  a kind of brush which completely separates 
the  beach  from the resort. We didn't like this at all and all of us 
thought  the  resort  would be much nicer if they cleared out some of 
that  brush  and  had  the resort open to the beach. The one thing we 
really  liked  was the lobby which is huge and beautiful. Overall the 
Melia  seemed  very,  very  quiet  -  nice, but not 5* in our opinion 
(though  we  didn't  try  the  food  which  we've  heard great things 
about).

I  will  mention  a  few  tiny complaints about SCCC just so that you 
realize  that this place is real and so that you are convinced to go! 
We  found  that there really weren't enough lounge chairs by the pool 
(or  anywhere  on  the  property for that matter). We also found that 
people  got angry with us when we ate or sat in large groups anywhere 
on  the  resort.  c'mon  people,  it's  time  to  relax and be happy, 
there's  room  for  everyone! Some of us found that there should have 
been  food  offered more frequently since there were large gaps where 
there  was absolutely no food other than ham and cheese sandwiches at 
the  lobby  bar  which  aren't great for those who don't eat ham. The 
only  other  complaint I can think of, and one that I hate to mention 
(sigh)  was  the  French Canadians. I truly am sorry because I'm sure 
there  are  many,  many  French  Canadians  who  behave impeccably at 
resorts  but  we  had  really  bad  experiences  around them and were 
ashamed  because  we felt they gave all the Canadians at the resort a 
bad  name.  We  saw  them  on  several  occasions  (a  few  groups in 
particular)  treat the staff and guests horribly and they were always 
pushy  and rude. I really don't want to generalize here, but it was a 
common  complaint so I feel I should mention it. Anyway, enough about 
all that!

We  had  the  most  incredible  vacation  ever  and  SCCC  definitely 
deserves  its  4  star  rating.  We  would  recommend  this resort to 
anyone.  People of all ages had an amazing time. As others have said, 
if  you  go  with  really  high  expectations  and  have  a  negative 
attitude,  you  can  probably find things that you don't like, but we 
really  don't  know how anyone can have serious complaints about this 
resort  because  it  was  top  notch.  Our  trip  was absolutely made 
incredible  by  the  fact that we met such an amazing group of people 
right  off the bat. In order of appearance: Lorne, Lloyd, Joanna (and 
your  sister),  Carla,  Dino,  Pedro  (Dino's dad), Nick, Tk, Alison, 
Derek,  Marsha,  Amy,  Dave  and  others  (Vanessa,  Avo,  to  name a 
couple!)  -  you guys MADE our vacation fabulous - thank you! We miss 
you!  Not  sure if we got special treatment but the staff were out of 
this  world  -  we  couldn't have asked for nicer people to spend our 
week  with and we can't wait to go back and see them all again. There 
are  too many to mention but "Hola!" and take care - we miss you too! 
Between  the people and the place, this resort is a true paradise and 
I  can't  think of a better place for a vacation, whether you want to 
party  or  relax.  I have to mention that I think we got lucky though 
because  after  most  of  our  friends left, the resort did feel more 
subdued  even though there were more people. Lots of families arrived 
our  last  couple  of days and the feel did change though I'm sure we 
would have had an amazing time no matter what.

JAMAICA :HEDONISM III BY ERIC AND CAROL HILL

This  is  our resort review and trip report from our February 1 to 6, 
2001  trip  to  Hedonism  III  in Jamaica. Before we left for HIII, I 
searched,  mostly  in  vain, for a trip report which talked about the 
details  of  the  resort,  as  opposed to who screwed whom in the hot 
tub.  As  a  result,  this report will focus much more than my normal 
reports,  on  details of the resort itself, as opposed to what we did 
on  our  particular  trip.  For  a  bit  of background on us, we have 
traveled  extensively throughout the Caribbean for the past 15 years, 
with  twenty-some  cruises  under  our  belts  (all  but  one  in the 
Caribbean),  4  other  previous  trips to Jamaica, including trips to 
Hedonism  II,  Grand  Lido  Negril and Grand Lido Braco, plus several 
trips  to  other  islands  including  our  favorite,  St. Martin, and 
various  other destinations, including Aruba, Cancun, and Antigua. We 
have  been nudists for over 10 years, for whatever that means. To us, 
that  means  that  we  enjoy sunbathing nude. It DOESN'T mean that we 
are  in  to  swinging  or  open sexual activity. Nudism has NO sexual 
connotation  to  us,  and  I  think  that's  where  we  and HIII part 
company,  early on. We also own and operate www.traveltalkonline.com, 
which   is  a  computer  bulletin  board  which  focuses  on  travel. 
Currently  we  have sections featuring St. Martin, The British Virgin 
Islands, General Caribbean, Jamaica, and Nude Resorts.

Here'  s  the  short  version  of  the report for those of you with a 
short attention span----

 WHAT WAS GOOD 

  Service  was  the best of any all inclusive that we have stayed at, 
including  better  than  Grand  Lido Negril and Grand Lido Braco. The 
water  slide  through  the  disco is an absolute hoot! You have to do 
it, several times! 

  The  site  of the Jamaican restaurant is the absolute best physical 
site  of  any  of  the  SuperClubs that we have been to. I understand 
that  San  Souci  Lido  has some wonderful views, but we haven't been 
there.   The  Jamaican  restaurant  has  a  wonderful  view.  It's  a 
beautiful  place  to sit and enjoy the sunset. I just wish management 
would capitalize more on the wonderful location.

  The  food  and  service  in the Italian restaurant and the Jamaican 
restaurant  are  great. By reports of others, the Japanese restaurant 
is also great, although we didn't eat there.

  NOLA!!  She is a bar waitress/bartender on the nude beach. This gal 
is  the  absolute  best worker that I have seen in a Jamaican resort. 
She  is happy, she is pleasant, she works hard, she makes your trip a 
joy.

 WHAT WAS BAD 

  Both  beaches,  but  more particularly the nude beach, are not very 
good.  The  nude  beach  is EXTREMELY small, the water has many small 
rocks  on  the  seabed.  The prude beach is not much better, as it is 
also  relatively  small  compared  to Grand Lido Negril or Grand Lido 
Braco,  but  around  the  same  size as Hedonism II, although largely 
unused, as most folks hang out on the nude beach.

  The  resort  allows,  and  in  many  cases, encourages, open sexual 
activity  that  makes  many  folks uncomfortable. I think in the long 
run  that it will cost the resort in terms of long term acceptance of 
the  resort,  as  my  understanding  of  the theme for Hedonism is "a 
little wild", not "Caligula".

  I  personally  would  not book HIII again and pay brochure rate, as 
there  are other resorts that much more closely fit my personal style 
than  HIII,  but  we  certainly  felt  like we got good value for our 
money, since we booked it on a SuperSurprise.

SuperSurprise--

We  booked  this  trip  as  a  Super  Surprise Plus through Go Classy 
Tours,  paying  $105 per person per night (land only). By the way, as 
far  as price, we didn't really check around through the internet for 
pricing,  going through Go Classy Tours as we always do with trips to 
Jamaica,  as  we  have been happy with their service for years and do 
not  necessarily always need to check out internet agents incessantly 
in  order  to  book  the  absolute  cheapest  price. I have seen some 
travel   agents   that  advertise  SuperSurprise,  claiming  that  it 
required  a  minimum  booking  of  7 nights, but we booked through Go 
Classy  for  five nights, and I believe their minimum stay was 3 or 4 
nights.

For  those  of  you  unaware of the program, SuperClubs has a program 
called  SuperSurprise  (and  SuperSurprise  Plus,  and  coming  soon, 
SuperSurprise   Plus  Plus).  We  booked  SuperSurprise  Plus.  Super 
Surprise  is  a  program  whereby  you  pay  one price and SuperClubs 
assigns  you  to  the resort you are supposed to get, one week before 
your  departure.  The  clubs  that  they can choose from are ONLY the 
ones  in Jamaica. That is--Grand Lido Negril, Grand Lido Braco, Grand 
Lido  San  Souci,  Hedonism II, Hedonism III, Breezes Montego Bay and 
Breezes  Runaway  Bay.  You  can  tell  somewhat  the  quality of the 
various  resorts  if  you  look at the prices charged for the various 
resorts  if  you  book  the  resorts  directly.  In general, from the 
cheapest  to  the  most expensive, it is Breezes Montego Bay, Breezes 
Runaway  Bay,  Hedonism  II,  Hedonism  III, then the 3 Lido Resorts. 
Super  Surprise  Plus allows you to eliminate ONE of the resorts. The 
cost  is normally around $10 per person per night, in addition to the 
Super  Surprise price, so it is very reasonable. Most folks eliminate 
Breezes  Montego Bay. If you are interested in a nude beach, BMB does 
not  have  one.  In  fact, BMB does not even have a private beach, as 
it's  beach is accessible to the public, including small children. It 
is  also  fairly  close to the airport and you can get quite a bit of 
airport  noise.  Until  somewhat  recently,  SuperClubs  also managed 
Boscobel  Beach,  which  is  a resort which caters to children. Then, 
one   had  to  decide  whether  to  eliminate  Breezes  or  Boscobel. 
Fortunately,  Boscobel  is no longer a problem, since it is no longer 
managed  by  SuperClubs.  After  we  returned from Jamaica, we got an 
email  from  Go Classy which announced the creation of Super Surprise 
Plus  Plus,  which means that you can eliminate TWO resorts now. Most 
folks  would  probably  either  eliminate  the Breezes Resorts or the 
Hedonism  Resorts. If I had my choice now, I would probably eliminate 
Breezes  Montego  Bay  (for the reasons mentioned above) and Hedonism 
III.  The  reasons  would  be that we haven't been to Breezes Runaway 
Bay,  and  therefore  wouldn't eliminate them, and the grounds looked 
fairly  attractive, and I would frankly rather be at Hedonism II than 
Hedonism  III. HII is in Negril, which we love, and the beach is much 
better at HII than HIII. 

SuperClubs   also   has   a   program   called   Lido  Lotto,  which, 
unfortunately,  as  of  now, is available ONLY for folks who FLY from 
Canada.  You do NOT have to be a Canadian citizen to book Lido Lotto, 
but  you  do  have  to  fly  from  there.  Lido  Lotto is the same as 
SuperSurprise,  in  that  SuperClubs  assigns you the resort, but you 
are  guaranteed  one  of the Grand Lido resorts. The Lido resorts are 
quite   a   bit   above  the  others  in  terms  of  quality  of  the 
accommodations,  food, services, 24 hour room service, etc. The price 
for  Lido  Lotto  is  not  that much more than Super Surprise. If you 
live  in  Canada  or close to Canada, that it makes sense to fly from 
Canada,  Lido Lotto is an excellent deal, as it guarantees one a Lido 
Resort,  at  a  price  not  that  much more than Super Surprise Plus. 
Anyway, ON to HIII!!

Trip to the resort--

As  usual,  we booked our air through Air Jamaica, which has a direct 
non-stop  flight  from  Baltimore-Washington International to Montego 
Bay.  We spent the night before at a hotel at the airport and were up 
bright  and  early to check in around 7 AM at the airport. Of course, 
the  flight  was  delayed in Newark and we ended up leaving Baltimore 
over  an  hour  and a half late. The flight was otherwise uneventful, 
except  for  the  fact  that  we didn't get any champagne. Anyhoo, we 
arrived  at  MBJ  around  1:15 and waited forever for our luggage. We 
finally  left  the  airport  at  2:00,  along with a relatively large 
group  of  folks,  all  except  us headed to Breezes Runaway Bay. The 
driver  stopped  once for drinks and would have stopped again, except 
for  howls  of  protest. BTW, especially if you are with a relatively 
small  group  of  folks,  get together with your bus mates before you 
leave  the  airport and ask the driver to please NOT stop anywhere on 
the  way to the resort. Tell him you'll make it worth his while if he 
doesn't.  In case you didn't know, the bus driver gets a cut from the 
little  restaurant/bar where he stops on the way from the airport for 
everyone  who  buys a drink. Once we arrived at BRB, since there were 
about  15  people  getting  off there, we hopped out of the bus while 
they  were  unloading  people's  luggage  and  took a peak around the 
lobby  area.  Frankly, we were pretty impressed, as the lobby area at 
BRB  we  thought  much  nicer  than  the one at HIII, which is fairly 
unimpressive.  If  we  had not had the stop at Breezes, the bus would 
have  taken  about  an  hour and a half to get to HIII, including the 
stop  for  drinks.  As it was, it took around an hour and 45 minutes. 
We  finally  arrived  at  HIII  around  3:45,  much later than we had 
hoped,  after a long day of traveling. We had requested a room on the 
nude  side  by  email,  which  request  had  gotten  screwed up. They 
attempted  to  put  us  in  the "Quad area", which I refused, so they 
changed  our  room to the nude side, without too much trouble, and we 
ended up in room 712.

The layout of the resort 

  The  resort  is  laid  out  in  a  pretty compact space overall, as 
compared  to  some  of the other resorts, including HII. There really 
is  not  too much space between any place in the resort and any other 
place.  The  general  look  of the place is somewhat similar to Grand 
Lido  Braco,  in  that  the  buildings  are  similar  looking  to the 
buildings  at  Braco,  although the rooms themselves are not similar. 
The   resort  features  the  main  restaurant,  Japanese  restaurant, 
Italian  restaurant  and Jamaican restaurant. It is laid out somewhat 
different  than  some of the other SuperClubs properties, as the only 
actual  beachfront  rooms  are  the  ones  that front out on the nude 
beach.  I  am  still  looking  for a url of a site that has a map, so 
that  it  can be better described, but failing that, basically, there 
are  buildings  5,  6, 7, and 8 which line the nude beach, building 9 
between  the  nude  beach  and  the  Jamaican  restaurant,  but which 
doesn't  have  a beach in front of it, although it is ocean view, and 
buildings  1,  2,  3,  and 4, which are four buildings which surround 
the Quad pool and hot tub. 

The rooms 

The  room  numbers are pretty easy to figure out. The first number is 
the  building  number,  second  number  the  floor  number, then your 
actual  room number. Basically, all the rooms at HIII are exactly the 
same  except  the  "suites", which really are not much of ones. There 
are  225  rooms  altogether  including 15 suites. All rooms have air- 
conditioning  with  tiled floors, mirrored ceilings, 1 king or 2 twin 
beds,  television  with  VCR, tea and coffee making facilities, small 
seating  area,  iron  and  ironing board, marble bathrooms, including 
Jacuzzi  bath  tub, shower, clock radio, cd-player, safe deposit box, 
and  hair  dryers. Although there are several different categories of 
rooms,  there  really  is no reason in my mind to book any particular 
room,  as  all  are the same, except for the view, and except for the 
very  few  suites.  I don't think the suites are worth any additional 
money,  as  they  only  have  a  loveseat and a mini refrigerator, in 
addition  to  the  regular rooms. Since there are no balconies on any 
of  the rooms in the whole resort, there is no real reason to request 
anything  but  a ground floor room, so that one can walk right out to 
the  beach  or  pool,  etc.  The  ground floor rooms in the quad area 
(which  is  basically  four buildings which surround a swimming pool, 
hot  tub  and  bar)  are billed as "swim up rooms", which is really a 
little  deceptive.  There  is  only a step or two between those rooms 
and  the pool, yes, but you can't really LITERALLY swim to your room. 
All  rooms  throughout  the resort have a funky, special effects type 
mirror  above  the  bed, and one above the jacuzzi. The bathrooms all 
have  large  windows right in front of the tub in the bathroom, which 
most  folks  seem to ignore when taking a shower or whatever. Some of 
those  same  folks  wouldn't  go out nude by the pool, but seem to be 
oblivious  that  they  are  taking  a  shower  for  all  to  see.  Go 
figure.....  There  is  a  shade in the bathroom that you can pull to 
cover  the window, but you have to be standing IN the tub to do that. 
In  what  we  considered to be a cheap move, the fan and the light in 
the  bathrooms  are  on  a  single switch, so that you can't have the 
light  on  unless  the fan is on. This wouldn't be such a big deal if 
the  fan  in  the  bathroom  wasn't so _amn loud that it rattled your 
teeth. 

  There  was an ice bucket in the room, but no glasses except the two 
in  the bathroom and the ice bucket was never filled by the maids. If 
you  wanted  to fill the ice bucket, there was a 24 hour soda and ice 
machine  right  by  the  nude  bar.  There  was a shampoo/conditioner 
dispenser and a body soap dispenser in the shower, which was nice.

  The  key  to  the  front  door is one of those plastic jobs, and it 
opens  both  the  front  door and the french doors, if you are on the 
ground  floor.  Folks  on  the  upper  floors had a large window that 
opened  out,  where our French doors were. Some folks poked a hole in 
their  key  so that they could put it on a string around their necks. 
The  safe  is a keyed one, unfortunately, so you have to carry around 
the  key  with  you, either in your pocket or on a string around your 
neck.  There  is  no reason to carry much extra money here anyway, as 
if  you  don't  leave  the resort, as we didn't, you literally do not 
need  to  spend  ANY money. We spent $3 in the airport for a souvenir 
for  a  friend, plus some drinks in the airport on the way home. That 
was  it! We put our tickets, passports, money, wallet and good camera 
in  the  safe when we arrived and basically didn't take them out till 
we  returned  home,  except  the  camera  to  take  some pictures one 
morning.  In  all,  the rooms are somewhat small but functional, with 
very  bright  colors, and not intended for one to spend a huge amount 
of  time in. There were several channels on the TV, including Playboy 
and  one  that  showed  live  shots  from  the  disco  late at night, 
although  we  had  the  TV  on for a total of about 5 minutes for the 
whole stay.

What we did every day 

Normally  in  these  reports, I go into more detail as to what we did 
each  day. However, on this particular trip, we really didn't do that 
much  different  from  day  to  day,  which  is  to  say  not much of 
anything!  G!!  We  woke  each  morning  around  8  to  8:30, went to 
breakfast  in  the main dining room, went to the nude pool/beach area 
until  lunchtime,  when we either went to the Jamaican restaurant, or 
had  a snack from the nude bar and grill. Almost every day we went to 
the  Jamaica  restaurant for sunset, cocktails, and usually some live 
music.  Then  we  usually went back to the hot tub for a while before 
dinner.  We  ate  in  the Italian restaurant two nights, and the main 
restaurant  the  other  nights.  After dinner, it was back to the hot 
tub  for  a while, and several nights, over to the slide for a while, 
and  the  hot  tub  by the slide, then back to the nude hot tub, then 
bed.  A  very  exhausting  schedule overall. We didn't participate in 
any  water  sports,  watch  any  of  the  entertainment, or go to the 
disco,  or  leave  the resort. Sorry, folks, we took this vacation to 
veg out and that's what we did.

The crowd 

The  resort  was not full when we were there, and it seemed like half 
of  the  folks  that  we talked there, were there on a Super Surprise 
package.  The  crowd seemed to hang out for the most part on the nude 
beach/hot  tub/pool  area during the day. The main beach and the quad 
pool  area  seemed  to  be pretty deserted during the day. The age of 
the  folks  seemed  to  be  around  our age (mid 40's), or a tiny bit 
younger,  at least on the nude beach area. The folks that hang out on 
the  prude beach seem to be a lot younger in age. One day, there were 
a  couple  of  "Vinnies"  hanging  out  in  the  nude hot tub, but in 
general,  there  really  was  not  much  spectating  going on, as the 
guards  were  fairly  strict about folks walking around clothed. That 
was  the  ONLY thing that the guards seemed to care about. We smelled 
a  lot  of  ganja,  although  we  never  actually SAW anybody use any 
drugs. 

Dining facilities 

  Breakfast  is  available  on the buffet in the main dining area, as 
well  as continental room service breakfast There is no hot breakfast 
available  from  room  service.  The  main dining area serves typical 
buffet  fare,  with a decent selection of fruits, plus bagels, toast, 
nut  breads,  etc.,  pancakes,  French  toast,  bacon, (mystery meat) 
sausage,  oatmeal, grits, fried potatoes, carved ham (some mornings), 
scrambled   eggs,   and  an  omelet  station.  Standard  fare  there, 
certainly  nothing to complain of as being obviously missing. The one 
morning  we  had  omelets,  the  gal doing the cooking wasn't exactly 
proficient  and  we  ended  up with something more closely resembling 
scrambled  eggs  with stuff in it, but it didn't ruin our day. We ate 
breakfast  in  the  main  dining  room  every morning and service for 
breakfast  was  absolutely  excellent. Whenever we sat down, within a 
couple  of minutes and sometimes within a minute someone was there to 
offer  us coffee, juice and water. One morning I wanted a mimosa. I'm 
on  vacation,  after  all! G!! The main bar was not yet open. Despite 
this,  the waitress, without a murmur, went somewhere and procured my 
glass  of  champagne,  in  a  very prompt fashion. Another morning, I 
mistakenly  went  to  sit  down  at  a  table that had not been fully 
cleared  or  set  up  from  the  previous  diner.  I started to go to 
another  table  when  I recognized my mistake but a waitress appeared 
and  insisted  that  I  stay  put and brought clean cups and glasses, 
etc.  Service  in  the main restaurant was MUCH better than we got at 
either  Grand  Lido  Negril or Grand Lido Braco. The main dining room 
served  continental  breakfast  starting  at 7 AM, then hot breakfast 
from 8 AM to 11 AM. 

There  is  no room service except for breakfast, so you don't need to 
worry  about  what  to  order  for  room  service lunch. G!! Lunch is 
available  in three venues the main restaurant (buffet), the Jamaican 
Restaurant  (table  service,  no  reservations)  and the nude bar and 
grill.  We  spent  each  day on the beach, so I really don't have any 
idea  what  they  served for lunch in the main restaurant, but assume 
there  was  a  selection of luncheon meats, soups, hot dishes, fruits 
and  desserts.  Luncheon is served in the main dining room from 12:30 
to  2:30.  Dinner is served in the main restaurant from 7 PM to 10 PM 
and  apparently  there is a different theme every night, ranging from 
BBQ,  Asian,  Italian/Greek,  Gala, American, Jamaican and French. We 
ate  in  the main restaurant for dinner three nights, and had nothing 
particularly  memorable, other than a stir fry dish, which wasn't bad 
at  all. Otherwise, offerings were standard buffet, nothing exciting. 
There  is  a  midnight  buffet  from  midnight  to  3  AM at the main 
restaurant,  and some type of snacks at the front desk from 3 AM to 7 
AM, but we didn't take part in either.

The  Jamaican  restaurant  deserves  a  page all to itself, so I will 
give  it  one.  They served meals and drinks there from 11:30 A.M. to 
7:00  P.M. We felt it was by far the best venue in the resort and the 
most  underutilized.  The  Jamaican restaurant has the most beautiful 
view  in  the  resort, being situated right on the water, with a view 
off  to  the  left  of  the mountains and down toward Breezes Runaway 
Bay,  with a decent sunset view, with only the last little bit of the 
sunset  cut  off from view by the mountains. The restaurant is fairly 
large  and  has  two levels, each being open air. They serve Jamaican 
jerk  chicken  (good,  but  strangely not spicy enough even though we 
asked  for  it to be spiced up the second time), jerk pork (good) and 
jerk  sausage,  meat  patties  (GOOD! Order two!!), fries, coco bread 
(Just  regular  bread  but  really good!), different salads each day, 
and  a  different  soup  each day, and some other main dish specialty 
each  day. Of the soups, we only had the chicken vegetable, which was 
excellent,  and  wished  we  had  the time and inclination to try the 
Jamaican  pepper  pot,  the gumbo or the pumpkin soups. Each day they 
also  had  a different selection of desserts, although we did not try 
any  of  the  desserts, as we did not try any of the salads. Eric had 
the  curried  goat one day and it really wasn't bad, although I'm not 
a  big  fan  of goat, in general. Each evening around 5 to 5:30 (time 
is  all  relative  here!!)  they  had  some  hors  douvres, usually a 
chicken  and  maybe a beef or goat hot appetizer and some cheeses and 
crackers.  Most  nights  although  I still dare you to figure out the 
schedule  there  was  a live band playing around sunset sometime. The 
printed  schedule  said  that  there  was  happy hour at the Jamaican 
restaurant  (actually, the real name is The Scotch Bonnet, which is a 
type  of hot pepper), at 5:30 P.M. However, on Thursday night, we got 
there  around  5,  and  the  band was already playing and played till 
around  6:20  P.M. There was no music there Friday night. On Saturday 
night,  we  got  there  a  few  minutes after 6, and they had already 
finished  playing  and  were  putting the instruments away. On Sunday 
night,  we got there around 4:30 and a different band than we saw the 
other  times was already playing. They played till 6:30 or so. Sunday 
night,  we  got there at 4:30 and they didn't begin playing till 5:30 
and  played  almost  till  7:00.  As  we went in February, sunset was 
right  around 6 P.M. I theorized that, during the summer, when sunset 
is  more  like  7  P.M. or later, that they begin playing at 5:30 and 
play  till  7  or  so,  or around sunset, and that the resort was too 
disorganized  to  reprint the schedule for the winter, to account for 
the  earlier  sunset.  Regardless, other than some "background music" 
type  stuff  that  they played in the main dining room around dinner, 
it  was  the  only  live  music  we heard for the whole time, and the 
times  when the band was playing there were just too unpredictable to 
figure  out.  I  know  that  they did play live music later on in the 
main  dining  room some nights, but it wasn't until 9:30 or so and by 
that  time  we had finished dinner and were back over in the nude hot 
tub.  There  was  also  some  live  music  played one day at the main 
stage,  but  we were not going to put clothes on in the middle of the 
day just to listen to some music.

We  talked  to several people sitting at the Jamaican restaurant, who 
felt,  as  we did, that the site was seriously underused. The view is 
outstanding  and  they  could  make  the  venue into something really 
outstanding,  by  having  the  restaurant  open  in the evenings, and 
serving  a  more  elegant  meal  there.  The view is outstanding, and 
combined  with  the  sunset,  and  an  occasional cruise ship gliding 
across  the  horizon,  what  more could one ask for? I would say that 
the  menu wouldn't even have to be that much more extensive than what 
they  serve  now,  but  if  it was open until 10 PM or so, a lot more 
people  would eat there. It would be a lot more complicated to expand 
the  menu  significantly,  because of lack of cooking facilities, but 
it  could  be  done.  We've  been to HII, Grand Lido Negril and Grand 
Lido  Braco,  and there is NO restaurant in ANY of those resorts that 
could  compare  to  the  location  of the Scotch Bonnet at HIII. With 
that  view,  you could make that site of the Jamaican restaurant into 
a  truly  outstanding evening restaurant. If you had live music there 
through  the  dinner hour good music, like they played at sunset some 
oldies,  some  Caribbean  tunes, etc., etc., you could make it into a 
really  memorable evening. Heck, make it reservations only after 7 or 
so.  Or,  possibly,  to  go in another direction altogether, make the 
upper  level  only,  maybe, a c/o restaurant, so that one didn't have 
to  put  on any clothes to go there. Based on where the restaurant is 
within  the  resort,  one could do that without any problem, as folks 
can  get  to the Jamaican restaurant by going on the walkway right by 
the  water  and  not approaching the rest of the resort at all. Those 
types  of  changes  would  add  tremendously  to a very underutilized 
asset.  One  caveat  with  the  Jamaican restaurant, for some reason, 
when  you  come  down  the  stairs  from the upper level to the lower 
level  of  the  restaurant,  the stairs are VERY slick, especially if 
you're  not  wearing  shoes.  Eric and I both just about went sailing 
one afternoon and we weren't even (particularly) drunk.

We  ate  in  the  Italian  Restaurant  two evenings. I can't find any 
printed  material  that  I  brought  home  that has the hours for the 
Italian  restaurant,  but I believe their hours were 6:30 PM to 10:00 
PM.  Seatings there are by reservation only, but from our experience, 
apparently  a lot of folks make reservations and don't show up, as it 
was  pretty empty both nights we were there. Service is at tables for 
two  or  four,  plus  some  larger tables, if you booked it that way. 
They  do NOT place you with someone else there. Food and service were 
very  good,  although  a  little slow, I suppose. They served quite a 
selection  of different pasta dishes, including several with seafood. 
The  first  night,  Eric and I both had the minestrone (very good!!), 
he  had  the  shrimp,  mussels and clams with fettucine (good!) and I 
had  the  fettucine  alfredo,  which  I  asked  them  to prepare with 
chicken,  which they cheerfully did. We both had tiramisu and coffee. 
The  tiramisu  seemed  a little soggy and was a very small piece, but 
suited  our  purposes.  The  second night Eric had conch soup and the 
beef  tenderloin  and I had the spaghetti carbonara. Both main dishes 
were  excellent.  For  dessert, we both had something so missable, we 
don't  remember  what it was. Portions of the main dishes were large, 
but  the  waiter  did not whine either night when I didn't finish the 
whole   thing  and  still  ordered  dessert.  G!!  Even  though  they 
purportedly  offer  pizza there, I got the impression that they don't 
REALLY  want  you  to  order  it. The first night we were there, they 
said  when  we  came  in  that there would be no pizza available till 
after  7:30  (we  had  had  to take a 6:30 reservation to get in that 
night),  and  the  second night we went, even though the menu clearly 
indicates  that  you can order pizza as an appetizer, the waiter told 
me  that  I  would  have  to order a whole pizza (12 inch, I think he 
said)  and  wait  20  minutes for it. I decided to pass. They have an 
antipasto  bar,  which  a  lot of folks like, I suppose. I would have 
preferred  the  option  of  a regular salad bar also. Both nights, we 
had the red wine, and it seemed pretty decent to us.

We  did  not eat in the Japanese restaurant, but I believe it's hours 
were  similar  to  the  Italian  restaurant, again, 6:30 to 10:00, by 
reservation  only.  It is set up similar to Braco, in that the tables 
are  for  8,  and  if you make a reservation for 2, they will put you 
with  up  to  6  other  folks,  of their choosing. When we ate at the 
Japanese  Restaurant  at  Braco, we had a group of 6, plus two lonely 
folks  (who  happened to be from the prude side, and we were all from 
the  nude  side),  and  those  folks were miserable during that meal, 
while  the  rest  of us had a great time. That memory told us that we 
probably  didn't want to book there at HIII without knowing the other 
folks  at  the  table,  so  we  didn't  attempt to make a reservation 
there.  Those  that  did  eat  there  said  the food and service were 
excellent.

Dress  code  for all the restaurants was the same basically there are 
no  long  pants  required anywhere throughout the resort and no silly 
rules  like  GL  Negril  has  about  no  sandals, etc. A nice pair of 
shorts  or  slacks for the men and shorts or dresses, etc., were fine 
for  the  ladies. The Italian restaurant and the Japanese restaurants 
are  the  only  ones  with a/c, but it was certainly not particularly 
cold  there.  Some folks did wear slightly more dressy clothes, but I 
didn't  really  see anybody wearing a suit jacket. The first night we 
arrived  was  toga night, which the resort provided colored pieces of 
material  in  the  room  to  make togas out of, not traditional white 
sheets.  However,  we  were beat from traveling and no sleep and just 
wore  our  regular clothes and got a few things to eat, then went off 
to  bed.  The  percentage  of folks "participating" in the toga night 
didn't  really  seem  that high, at least as compared to our previous 
experience  at  Hedonism  II. Again, unlike HII, I didn't see a great 
number  of ladies coming to dinner in "slutty" wear, but we ate early 
most evenings, so perhaps missed the most of such going's on.

Bar service 

Bar  service  throughout  the resort was generally prompt, personable 
and  extremely  accurate.  We  had most of our drinks at the nude bar 
area,  which  was  always  extremely busy, but always extremely fast. 
For  the  most  part,  during  the day there were always at least two 
folks  there  and  they  hopped  to  make  sure  everyone  was served 
promptly.  Otherwise,  I  guess we only had drinks at the main bar by 
the  restaurant, and service there was also prompt and efficient. One 
night  we  were  sitting there and observed a fellow make five drinks 
(of  the same type) in a blender at the same time. He poured them out 
into  precisely  five  full drinks, no more, no less. These folks are 
professionals....  The  SuperClubs  serve  premium brands of liquors, 
for  the most part, and almost all drinks are served "heavy hand", if 
you  know  what  that means i.e., don't spare the liquor. You can get 
Tangueray,  Absolut,  Jack Daniels, Grand Marnier, whatever you want, 
except,  unfortunately, what I drink, which is Bacardi rum, generally 
Bacardi  Black or Anejo. SuperClubs serves only Appleton Rum, which I 
find  disgusting, sweet and undrinkable. Appleton is made in Jamaica, 
you   understand,  therefore,  that's  all  they  serve.  I  believe, 
although  I  don't  drink  beer,  but  I  believe that HIII also only 
serves  Red  Stripe Beer, which is the Jamaican beer. I tried to make 
them  pay  for  their  lack  of  Bacardi  rum  by  drinking only Jack 
Daniels,  champagne,  wine and Absolut vodka. I did drink a couple of 
foo-foo  drinks  from  time  to  time  (those mudslides were actually 
pretty  darn  good  on  the  beach). By the way, if you want Absolut, 
don't  order  vodka.  It's  like  any bar in the states, if you don't 
ORDER  the  good  stuff, they won't give it to you. Don't be upset if 
the  bartender  doesn't  automatically  give you the good stuff, like 
this one lady we saw--order it!! DUH!!!

 Entertainment 

I  can't  really  tell you too much about the organized entertainment 
at  the  resort  from personal knowledge, as we didn't really partake 
in  it. During the day time there are lots of water sports, including 
sunfish  sailboats,  sailboards,  kayaks,  snorkeling,  scuba diving, 
water  skiing,  rides  on  a  small  catamaran  with one of the water 
sports  guys, plus circus workshops and several off-resort excursions 
(which  were  for  an  additional fee). I have the sheet for the off-
resort  excursions,  if  anyone  wants  to  see  it. There was a band 
playing  on  the main stage at lunch time some days, although we were 
never there at lunch time, so don't know how often that took place. 

In  the  evening after dinner, there is a disco and a piano bar, both 
of  which  do  not open till later, with the piano bar opening around 
10:30.  There  was  the  deadly  Kareoke playing there, so we weren't 
interested.  The  disco  got  started  something  like 11 PM and went 
until  LATE.  I can verify for sure that the disco went until 4 AM on 
Friday  night/Saturday  morning,  as it kept me aware till after 4 AM 
on  Saturday  morning,  with  the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of the base. We 
were  in  building  7,  which was pretty close to the disco. However, 
some  friends  of ours who were staying in building 5, all the way at 
the  end  of  the nude beach, said that they heard the thumping also, 
so  I'm  not sure there is a place to escape it in the resort. Sunday 
night  and  Monday  night,  the  thumping seemed to stop much earlier 
than  Friday,  so that was a blessing. In my humble opinion, the most 
entertaining  thing  about  the  whole resort was the WATER SLIDE! It 
was  a  bundle  of  fun! The water slide goes through the side of the 
disco  and  it  is  a different experience when the disco is open and 
the  flashing  strobe  lights  are  going  in the disco. It's fun any 
time,  but more fun when the lights are going. The best way to do it, 
of  course,  is  naked at midnight, but if you have to wear a bathing 
suit,  it's  still  fun, I suppose! It is really fast, especially the 
end,  and  best appreciated about 4 times in a row, sandwiched around 
soaks  in  the hot tub right by the stairs going up to the slide. One 
of  what  I  found the most contradictory things about the resort was 
that,  even  if you're going down at midnight, if you're going naked, 
the  water  sports  guys are supposed to stand there with a towel and 
greet  you  when  you come out of the pool, ostensibly to wrap you up 
quickly  so  that  folks won't see you're naked. Based on some of the 
activities  led  by  the  entertainment coordinators on the nude side 
during  the middle of the day, I found it somewhat puzzling that they 
would be concerned about some folks seeing other folks nude. 

The beaches 

Frankly,  neither  beach  nude or prude was very impressive. For sure 
the  nude beach, and I think the prude beach, are man made. The prude 
beach  is  pretty  short,  maybe  1/3  the size of the prude beach at 
Braco.  There  is  some  shade  there,  and  appeared to be plenty of 
chairs  there for fo
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CUBA: SOL CLUB CA
on  the  prude  beach.  We  did not go in the water there, so I don't 
know  what the condition of the seabed was, but I suspect that it was 
not  much  different  than  on  the nude beach, which is to say, very 
rocky.

Nude beach, grill, pool and hot tub 

I  don't  know  if  there  was any other way that the nude area could 
have  been  laid  out,  but  the  way  it  is  laid  out  seems  very 
inconvenient  to  me.  As  you are standing in building 6 on the nude 
beach,  looking  toward  the  ocean,  directly in front of you is the 
nude  grill,  then the nude bar, then off to your right, the nude hot 
tub  and  pool,  then  further  to  your  right  and DOWN a flight of 
stairs,  you  come  to  the nude beach. The nude beach sand area is a 
decent  size,  and has an upper level, which is sand and lots of palm 
trees,  and  then  the  lower level down at the water level, plus two 
levees  extending  out on either side into the water. The upper level 
of  the beach area is down a set of stairs from the nude pool and hot 
tub.  Then,  there  is  another set of steps down to the water level. 
Thus,  there  are  two flights of stairs between the actual ocean and 
the  level  of  the  hot  tub  and  pool, making trips to the bar and 
bathrooms  there quite a truck. She can't help you with the bathrooms 
(G!!),  but there is an angel by the name of NOLA who takes drink and 
food  orders  and  serves drinks in a hurry with a smile and a lovely 
attitude,  and  who made our trip so much the more wonderful. Nola is 
truly  a treasure. Anna Marie is the other nude beach drink waitress, 
and  she  is  lovely  also, and we enjoyed watching her razz the male 
bartender  one day at the bar. However, for pure personality, Nola is 
your  gal!!  If you like a quiet, shady place, the upper level of the 
nude  beach  is  wonderful.  We  spent  our  last  two days there and 
enjoyed it immensely. 

The  nude  beach  is  extremely  small,  as far as the section in the 
water  is concerned. The sand is very coarse. Also, you can only walk 
out  just a few feet before rocks, etc., appear, and make it somewhat 
difficult  to  walk  around.  When they were in the water, most folks 
used  the  many  floats  which  had  been  left  behind  by  previous 
Hedonists  and  didn't do much walking around. The nude beach area is 
virtually  enclosed by a rock wall, closing it off from the ocean. Be 
aware  that  there  are sea urchins on the back wall. A friend we met 
at  the  resort ended up with one in her arm, as she got too close to 
the wall. A very painful experience. 

Due  to  a  combination  of the distance from the bar, pool, hot tub, 
bathrooms,  etc.,  and  the  fact that the beach wasn't that great to 
begin  with,  most  folks  hung  out in the pool area. The pool was a 
decent  size,  maybe  half  the  size  of  the one on the a/n side at 
Braco,  the  hot tub very small, maybe about 12 feet in diameter. The 
nude  bar,  like  the  bar  in  the  quad  area  at HIII, is designed 
extremely  poorly.  It  has  about  10  swim up bar stools, which are 
great.  However, there is no place to walk directly up to the bar and 
order  a  drink if you are NOT in the pool. The nude bar is open from 
around  10  AM  until  the last person goes to bed at night. The nude 
grill  is  located  right  beside  the nude bar, and there is a place 
that  you  can  walk up there and order your food. The nude grill was 
open   from   about   11  AM  to  6  PM  and  served  hamburgers  and 
cheeseburgers  (MYSTERY  MEAT!!  avoid at all costs), a fish sandwich 
(grilled,  not  fried,  with a hint of jerk seasoning GOOD!!), a jerk 
chicken  salad  (GOOD,  but  small), hot dog or chili dog (what can I 
say,  it's  a  hot dog!!), nachos with chili or cheese sauce (not the 
same  as  you  get  in  the  states,  but  if it's the same as in the 
states,  why  go??)  and popcorn. The popcorn and the nachos (without 
any  sauce)  were  available  round the clock. If you get there early 
enough  in the morning, they have coffee, OJ, Danish and fruit by the 
nude  bar.  I'm  not  sure what time they brought it out maybe around 
7:30 or so, but usually most everything was gone by 9:30. 

SERVICE 

Service  throughout  the  resort,  from  the  main  restaurant, where 
service  was  especially  prompt and good, to the Italian restaurant, 
to  the  nude  beach  bar  and grill, to the Jamaican restaurant, was 
excellent  better  than either Grand Lido Braco or Grand Lido Negril. 
One  bad note, though, as on Sunday, they did not arrive to clean our 
room  until  4:30  P.M. We said no thanks, just leave us some towels, 
since  we  were  already  back  in  the  room from the day's sunning, 
taking  a  shower. Another item which bothered Eric more than me, but 
you  had  to  be  extremely vigilant about getting towels on the nude 
beach,  as  the  box  where the towels were kept was routinely empty. 
When  we  would  see  that  there  were towels there which there were 
every  day,  just  not  necessarily  when  we  wanted them we got our 
towels  and  usually  put a couple of clean ones back in the room for 
the  evening's  hot tub revelries, as there were usually no towels at 
night at all.

SEX 

This  is  the  topic  that  you all have been waiting for and the one 
that  is  the  most difficult to address. First, I should address our 
point  of  view. We enjoy being able to sunbathe, sit in the hot tub, 
etc.,  nude.  For  us,  nudity  has  nothing  whatsoever  to  do with 
sexuality.  Our  favorite  place  in the world is Orient Beach in St. 
Martin.  We  have  been  to  Orient  Beach countless times and do not 
recall  EVER  having  seen  any public displays of affection like the 
ones  that  routinely happen at HIII. Nudity and sexuality seem to be 
the  same  concept  at  HIII.  My personal opinion, without any facts 
whatsoever  to  back  it  up,  is  that  the  management of HIII have 
determined  that  they need to build up their client base, which they 
don't  have a lot of at this point, since the resort is pretty new, I 
believe  opening  in  September  of 99. The management feels that the 
way  to  get  a  lot  of folks wanting to come there is to build up a 
reputation  of  out-  Hedoing Hedo II, that is, allowing anything and 
everything  on  the  nude  side.  My  theory is that, once they get a 
clientele  built  up,  then  they  can  cut  back on some of the wild 
stuff.  As  I  said,  I  have  no  facts  whatsoever  to back up that 
assumption.  Maybe the management is in favor of everything that goes 
on.  If  that  is so, frankly I think that they will chase away folks 
like  us, which frankly, I think are the vast majority of nudists. We 
enjoy  sunbathing nude, that's it. We're not interested in having sex 
in  front  of  other folks or having sex with three other people that 
we never met before that day.

I'm  not  sure  that  it  is  particularly  appropriate to discuss in 
intimate  detail  sexual  matters that we observed, but I feel like I 
have  to  give  some detail in order to give some context. However, I 
will  say  that,  if  you stay out of the nude pool and hot tub area, 
and  out of the disco late at night, you most likely will not observe 
any  sexual  activity and you will want to know what all the shouting 
is  about.  There  is  quite  a bit of what I would call normal clean 
nude  fun,  like folks going down the water slide nude, day or night. 
So,  you could be sitting in the main restaurant and see someone come 
out  of  the  pool  from  the slide nude, most any time day or night. 
There  is,  of course, toga night, when folks will wear their toga in 
most  any  fashion,  covering up whatever portions of their body that 
deem  fit.  Then, there is the PJ party, when folks can and will wear 
most  anything,  leather or lace. If just seeing someone nude offends 
you,  you  should probably stay away from HIII altogether, but that's 
not  what  I'm talking about, in terms of sexually explicit behavior. 
I  think  what  I  objected  to most, really, were the games that the 
resort  coordinators  began,  and  then what happened sometimes after 
the  coordinators  left,  and the way that the sexual activities were 
happening  in  the  middle of the day, and between folks that did not 
appear  to  be  couples  even.  The resort coordinators played a game 
called  "dirty  dice". The problem that I had with this game was that 
it  was  kind of like Spin the Bottle, and folks that played ended up 
performing   a  sexual  act  on  a  stranger  out  of  it.  When  the 
coordinators  were  there, it was somewhat tamer, and more in the way 
of  erotic fun, but no actual sexual activity, but they left the dice 
in  the  hot  tub  and  folks got even more involved after they left. 
This  was  around 4 PM in the afternoon. Also, they have another game 
called  Body  Shots,  that  basically  folks  would  lick a drink off 
either  their  partner  or  possibly  a  stranger,  in  full  view of 
everyone,  in  the middle of the afternoon, by the nude pool. When we 
first  arrived on Thursday, when we first walked up to the nude pool, 
virtually  the first thing I saw was two gentlemen licking one lady's 
breasts,  which  we  assume  was a continuation maybe of one of those 
games,  but  it  is  very  disconcerting to just walk up and see that 
happening.  The  folks involved appeared to be fairly intoxicated. We 
saw  two ladies take turns on each other in the hot tub around 5 P.M. 
We  saw  a  lady  have herself smeared with a cake, all over, and she 
invited  everyone  from  the  hot tub to come up and lick it off her. 
This  was  also  around 5 P.M. One day, the coordinators tried to get 
women  to  sign  up  for a game to get their p_ssies shaved. That was 
how  they  were  screaming  it  over the microphone. Now, the week we 
were  there,  they  did  not  actually get anybody to sign up to have 
that  done,  and I'm not sure that they EVER actually get somebody to 
do  that,  but  I  find it somewhat offensive that this was what they 
were  even  SAYING  they were trying to do, on the nude beach, in the 
middle  of  the  afternoon.  What  they  actually  ended up doing was 
putting  either  shaving  cream  or  whipped  cream  on the important 
areas,  and  then running over and going down the slide nude, which I 
really  didn't  any  problem  with,  other  than  the concept of that 
shaving  cream  floating  around  in the pool. Ick! We never actually 
saw  any  men  and women actually having missionary style sex. We did 
not  actually  see it, but a bunch of folks were headed back from the 
slide  about  2  AM one morning and were headed for the nude hot tub, 
when  they heard that there was a group of 9 men and 3 women going at 
it in the hot tub. They elected to go to the Quad hot tub instead. 

THE TRIP HOME

We  had what we thought was a 5:40 PM flight home on Air Jamaica. The 
normal  checkout  time  for  the resort is 12 noon. We got a paper in 
our  room  the  day before we left that said that we had to check out 
at  12  noon  and that if we wanted a delayed checkout, that the cost 
was  $100.  Frankly,  we thought that was excessive. Since the bus to 
leave  for  the  airport wasn't to leave until 2 P.M., we went to the 
front  desk  to  ask  for  a  late  checkout,  without paying such an 
exorbitant  sum.  They  grudgingly  agreed  to  give us until 1 P.M., 
without  paying  extra  money.  Wow, thanks guys, especially since it 
was  fairly  obvious  that  the  resort  was not full. Anyway, we had 
packed  up  almost  all our stuff the night before, except for a very 
small  bag  that  we  kept  for our camera, money, credit cards, etc. 
Eric  set out the suitcases as required by 12, then went to check out 
a  little  before  1,  turning  in  our  keys.  However, based on our 
previous  experiences, we figured that the maids probably wouldn't be 
by  to  clean  the  room  till  after  2  PM  anyway,  so  we cleaned 
everything  out  of  the  room, but left the French door to the beach 
slightly  ajar, so that we could get back in. As we figured, they had 
not  been  to  the  room by 1:30, when we had decided to pack up (and 
put  clothes  on  (BOO!!!!)  to leave. So we were able to get back in 
our  room  and took a real shower prior to leaving. We took our drink 
cups  to  the  main bar and got 2 Purple Rains for the road, and took 
our  (sad)  place  in  the bus to the airport. When we arrived at the 
airport,  we  discovered  that  the "regular" time for our flight was 
now  6:10,  not  the  5:40  we thought. By the way, folks, if you are 
flying  Air  Jamaica,  I  believe that they have changed their policy 
now  so  that,  on ALL tickets, you have to prepay the departure tax, 
which  is  what we did. However, when we got to the check in counter, 
the  agent  demanded  that  we  pay  it  again. I told the lady in no 
uncertain  terms  that we had already paid it. She said, no I hadn't. 
I  said,  yes I did. Eventually, she just kind of shut up and gave us 
our  paperwork.  After  we got home, I called Go Classy and they told 
me  that  is  a  common  problem  with Air Jamaica, that their ticket 
agents  can't  read  the  code  on  the  tickets that states that the 
departure  tax  was  in  fact  already paid. Apparently, it is a real 
problem  to get the money back from Air Jamaica afterwards if you end 
up  paying  it  twice,  so  stick to your guns and tell them that you 
already  paid  it.  The  flight  left exactly on time. We enjoyed the 
complementary  movie  "Remember  the Titans" and a decent enough meal 
(for airplane food) and arrived at BWI around 9:50. 

MEXICO: ARAB INFLUENCES IN THE CULINARY ART OF MEXICO BY .HABEEB SALLOUM

During  this  century,  the  Arab  emigrants  from the Middle East to 
Mexico  were  surprised  to  find  a  number  of foods which were not 
strange  to their culinary taste. These dishes, with the exception of 
hot  peppers  as  an ingredient, could have easily been cooked in the 
kitchens  of  their  homelands.  A  few  years  ago, when visiting my 
relatives  in  Mexico  City, I realized this fact when we sat down to 
an  Arabic  meal,  Mexican  style.  The food was Arab, yet it had the 
touch of Montezuma's land.

What  are the connection between Mexican food and the Arab lands? How 
did  the  victuals  of  Baghdad  and  Damascus  become  a part of the 
Mexican  cuisine?  The  story  of  this  culinary  interaction  is  a 
fascinating tale.

When  the  Arabs burst out of the Arabian Peninsula at the end of the 
7th  century,  they carried with them not only their new religion but 
also  the  products they had inherited from the ancient civilizations 
of  the  Middle  East. As they spread out from their desert homeland, 
they  did  not  destroy  the  cultures of their predecessors. Rather, 
they  absorbed,  then  utilized  them  as  a  base for the rich Arab-
Islamic  civilization  which was to be the catalyst of world progress 
in the ensuing centuries.

Moving  steadily  westward  through  North  Africa,  the Arab-Islamic 
armies  brought with them new industrial and agricultural products to 
the  newly  conquered  lands. In 712 A. D., after having occupied the 
whole  of  the North African shore, the Arabs began their conquest of 
the  Iberian Peninsula. Here , they found few of the foods which they 
had  been  accustomed  to in their homeland. In that era the cuisines 
of  Spain  and  Portugal  were  simple  and frugal. According to G.C. 
Booth  in  his book The Food and Drink of Mexico, when Mulai el-Krim, 
the  Moor,  rode proudly into Spain, he sneered at the sparse food of 
the infidel land.

This  sparseness  was  soon to be remedied by these sons of venerable 
civilizations  in  the  Middle East who loved fine food. During their 
stay  in  Spain,  they  introduced  a  great number of vegetables and 
fruits  into  the  Iberian  Peninsula.  Even  today, almost all these 
eastern   plants   still  carry,  in  Spanish,  their  Arabic  names. 
Berenjena,   eggplant,   is  from  the  Arabic  bãdhinjan,  alcachofa 
(artichoke:  al-khurshãf), alubia (kidney-beans: al-lãbiy~), chirivía 
(parsnip:

jiriw§ ya), espinaca (spinach: isb~nakh), albaricogues (apricots: al-
barqãq),  caña de azãcar (sugar cane: sukkar and gana), limón (lemon: 
l~ymãn),  naranja  (orange:  n~ranj),  sandías  (melons: sind§ ), and 
zafaris (pomegranates: safar§ ).

These  were  only  a few of the Arab introduced vegetables and fruits 
utilized  in  the  many dishes which Mulai el-Krim longed for when he 
set  foot  in  Spain.  The  rich Moorish-Spanish cuisine of the later 
centuries  could  not  have  come  into  existence  without  the Arab 
introduction of new legumes and fruits.

To  better  grow  their  dozens of vegetables and fruits never before 
cultivated  in  the Iberian Peninsula, the Arabs of Spain, who in the 
subsequent  years  were  named  by  the Europeans Moors, introduced a 
widespread  system  of irrigation. Although known and employed in the 
Middle  East  for  many centuries, this system of watering plants, en 
mass,  was  unknown  in pre-Islamic Spain. The lush irrigated gardens 
which  the  Moors bequeathed to the Spaniards were, in the succeeding 
centuries, to make Europe and later the Americas, bloom.

When  the  Spanish Conquistadors landed in the New World they brought 
along  with them a rich kitchen inherited from their Moorish past. An 
appreciable  number of these Conquistadors were themselves of Moorish 
stock  and  thus, for generations, were accustomed to the exotic food 
of  the  Moors.  G.C.  Booth  suggests  that  one  of Mulai el-Krim's 
descendants  was  among  these  Conquistadors and was responsible for 
introducing some of the Moorish-Spanish dishes into Mexico.

In  Arab  Spain,  the  Moors had developed a number of foods based on 
the  cuisine  of  their former countries of origin in the Middle East 
and  North  Africa. The utilization of fruits, olives and nuts in the 
soups  and  stews  of  the  Iberian  Peninsula  are as Moorish as the 
language  of  the  Koran. By the time the Spaniards had conquered the 
New  World,  much  of  the agricultural and industrial talents of the 
Moors  had  become  part  of  their  heritage. Hence, the sweet stews 
introduced  by the Conquistadors into the Americas have their origins 
in Spain's Moorish past.

Estofado,  a  meat  stew,  is  a  dish the Arabs picked up in Central 
Asia,  then  carried  it  back to the Iberian Peninsula. Here, it was 
refined  and enjoyed by the gourmet-loving Moors. After their defeat, 
it became a Spanish dish which was later introduced into Mexico.

Albóndigas,  a  meat  ball recipe, is another food which has a strong 
connection  with  the Middle East. It was brought by the Muslims from 
Baghdad  to Andalusia, then passed on to Mexico by the Spaniards. Its 
name  derived  from the Arabic al-bundug (hazelnut) firmly attests to 
its  origin.  Like estofado, the same type of dish is still a part of 
the North African cuisine.

Many  will  be astonished to know that the famous Spanish gazpacho is 
a  Moorish  soup  developed  in  the  hot lands of North Africa. P.S. 
Feibleman  in  his book The Cooking of Spain and Portugal derives the 
name  gazpacho  itself  from the Arabic khubz mushrib (soaked bread). 
In  the  hot  summers  of  southern  Spain,  its refreshing taste and 
simple  ingredients  made  it  an  ideal  soup  for  the hard working 
peasants.  The  dish  became  so  popular in that former Moorish land 
that  it  became a symbol of Andalusia. WHEN the Spaniards brought it 
to  the  New  World,  the Mexican cooks just added a few extra savory 
ingredients.

However,  the  introduction  of Moorish food into the Spanish kitchen 
is  not  entirely  a  pleasant story. In the same year that the Moors 
were  defeated  in  Spain,  America  was  discovered.  In  that epoch 
religious  fanaticism was rampant. Moorish traditions were banned and 
many  trials  were  held  for  converted  Muslims who broke this law. 
However,  the  judges  of the Inquisition had an insurmountable task, 
since  much  of the Moorish ways of life had become as Spanish as the 
judges themselves.

A  case  in  point  is  the  renowned  Spanish dish, paella. When the 
defeated  Moors were forced to convert to Christianity, anything with 
a  Muslim  connotation  was  forbidden.  Among  the  banned items was 
Arabic  food.  The  once  proud  Moors  who loved their many types of 
couscous,  a  wheat  dish  which  is still the main food of the North 
Africans today, devised ways to make similar victuals.

Rice,  the  Spanish arroz from the Arabic al-ruzz, a plant brought by 
the  Arabs  into  the Iberian Peninsula, was not banned. Substituting 
rice  for  wheat and altering their method of preparing couscous they 
invented  paella.  This Spanish dish, invented by ones who longed for 
their  couscous,  was  enhanced  by  a  few  extra  ingredients after 
becoming part of the Mexican cuisine.

The  introduction  of Moorish-inspired Spanish foods into the Mexican 
kitchen  was  effected  in  various ways. The Moriscos, Muslims newly 
converted  to  Christianity,  were not allowed to emigrate to the New 
World.  It  was  believed they were still Muslin in secret and hence, 
might  teach  the  Indians  Islam,  and  thus undermine the Christian 
faith.  On  the  other  hand, for Muslim slaves it was another story. 
They  were  in  demand  for  their  skills  and were brought into the 
Americas  on  a  steady  basis. With them they brought their secretly 
preserved food which had been banned in Spain.

At  the  same  time as the slaves were transmitting their dishes into 
New  Spain,  which  included  Mexico,  others  were  introducing  the 
culinary  arts  of the Moors in a different fashion. During the years 
of  the  Reconquista  (Christian  reconquest  of Spain) a part of the 
opulent  Moorish  culture  had  become more Spanish than the Catholic 
faith. 

The  Moorish effect on Spanish life permeated all aspects of society. 
Spanish  mosques,  which  been  converted into churches, inspired the 
architecture  of  Spanish religious edifices and the Spanish language 
had  been  impregnated with thousands of Arabic words. Above all, the 
Moorish  influences  in  the  foods  of  the  Iberian  Peninsula were 
overwhelming  and  these  elements  in  the Spanish culinary art were 
transmitted into the New World, including Mexico.

The  first  viceroy  to Spanish America, Antonio Mendoza, who himself 
was  partly  of  Moorish  blood,  grew  up  in the Moorish palaces of 
Alhambra   and   was  accustomed  to  Arab  dress  and  food.  Hence, 
unintentionally,   he  was  instrumental  in  setting  the  pace  for 
introducing,  in  a  number  of  fields, including the culinary arts, 
Muslim traditions into New Spain.

When,  today,  a  Mexican  sits  down  to  eat  a  satisfying dish of 
zanahorias  rellenas,  stuffed  carrots,  he is in fact consuming the 
food  of  the  Moors.  Stuffed  vegetables  were,  and  still  are, a 
speciality  of  the  Middle  East.  There  is  little doubt the Arabs 
introduced  them  into Spain. This, with the word zanahorias, derived 
from  the Moorish/Arabic name for carrots isfariníyah, makes it quite 
certain  this  tasty dish was first served in the Arab lands. When it 
came to Mexico, the Mexicans, of course, added the hot peppers.

Almond  sweets  of  all  types,  which are common in Spanish-speaking 
countries,  including  Mexico,  are of pure Moorish origin. They were 
developed  in  the Middle East and as were other products consumed in 
these  lands,  carried  to  Spain, then transferred to the New World. 
The   Mexican  sweet,  almendrado  (almond  pudding)  which  although 
modified  somewhat  by  gelatine, is still basically a dish which was 
enjoyed in Moorish Spain.

Yet,  no  matter  how much the Arabs contributed to the Spanish, then 
Mexican  cuisines,  this inheritance from the Moors forms only a part 
of  the  culinary  art  of  the  Spanish-speaking  world. The Mexican 
kitchen  today is a collection of cuisines. It rests, in the main, on 
the  pre-Spanish  dishes  of  the Aztec and Mayan Indians - a copious 
cuisine  which  included  many  fruits  and vegetables unknown in the 
Europe  of  Columbus.  Among these were avocados, chilies, chocolate, 
corn,  papaya,  peanuts, pineapples, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes 
and  vanilla.  When  this rich inventory of food was blended into the 
Moorish-inspired   Spanish  kitchen,  the  result  was  a  delightful 
Mexican  cuisine.  Without question, the exotic mouth-watering dishes 
of modern Mexico reflect this historic evolution.

However,  this tasty world of Mexican cooking is virtually unknown to 
the  outside world. Many people when they think of Mexican food think 
of  beans,  tacos, tamales and tortillas. Little do they suspect that 
there  is  a  vast  Mexican culinary world which excites the passion, 
seduces  the  body,  then  sends one into ecstasy. In the picturesque 
haciendas  of  the wealthy, or the adobe and reed peasant huts, there 
exists  today,  one of the most diversified kitchens in the world. No 
one  who studies history will question the fact that in the formation 
of this cuisine, the Moors had a hand.

I  will  never  forget a beautiful tourist guide in one of Acapulco's 
numerous  travel  agencies telling me, "Of course we are proud of the 
Arabs,  and  why  should  we  not be? Here, many of us in Mexico say, 
'Our  fathers  were  the  Spaniards  but  our  grandfathers were- the 
Arabs' ".

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