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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
April 1, 1995
| Contents CTR April 1995 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |
St. Barts by John King
My wife and returned last night from what is becoming an annual trip to St. Barth. We have gone the last three years as an anniversary present to each other and enjoy the island more with each trip. On our return flight last night we made plans for next ear!
As with many trips to SBH ours was a little too eventful. We were traveling on AA AAdvantage tickets from DCA to RDU to SXM, at least that was the plan. The 727 out of National didn't want to fly (it's always better to find that out on the ground) so we ending up going through MIA and getting in too late to make to SBH. We spent a very short night at the Le Flamboyant in Saint Martin and then caught the 0700 flight to SBH the next morning. AA and Winair no longer have a transfer agreement, so you must check your bags to SXM and then recheck on WN to make the short leg. We were the only people on the plane, but we had to wait until they loaded several surfboards in seats 1B&C to 10B&C. We sat in the extreme back and had a smooth flight and landing.
We arrived so early the gendarmes had not come to work yet so we enjoyed a cup of coffee and "cleared" customs after they decided to show. Our hotel van arrived after the coffee and we were off to the Sofitel Christopher. Along with free first-class AA tickets we were enjoying American Express Membership Miles hotel accommodations at the Christopher.
For 20,000 miles per night we got the best room at the Christopher including a continental breakfast. The hotel is the newest on the island and is located on Pointe Milou at the surf, but lacks a beach. They have an enormous pool that, when viewed from the deck chair, appears to blend with the sea. The service, room quality and location are outstanding. We didn't eat there, other than breakfast, choosing to do the standard St. Barth tour de plat.
We rented a Suzuki jeep from EuropCar right at the hotel (300ff per day) and began our standard assault on the island immediately. Our routine became breakfast in the room fairly early and then off to the pool or beach du jour. It was very windy so we skipped the beaches for the first two days and enjoyed the oversized pool.
For lunch we conserved funds and calories by picking up fresh bread, cheese, sardines and making a light lunch in the room or on the beach. The first stop with the jeep was the Supermarche by the airport to buy 2 6 packs of 1.5 liter waters, beer, wine and assorted other stuff to munch on.
Dinner was a varied event -- night one we did our favorite place Le Sapotillier. Adam the owner is a great restaurateur and everything is always just right. I had the sea bass and it was wonderful. We had tried to get to Francois Plantation for the last two trips and never made it. This was the time and the evening was wonderful. Bring your AmEx (remember every dollar you charge is another mile for next year). This is a quality place and worth the even higher than normal tariff. Next stop was L'Escale on a windy and rainy evening. Pasta fruits de mer was my choice and my wife had veal -- both excellent and the people watching and atmosphere was great. We ordered the bananas flambe and didn't suspect a thing when the lights were lowered and the rum flames appeared at our table. I love a cheering crowd!
Now I know I said that we ate our breakfasts at the hotel -- I lied! The last few days we went into Gustavia early (eightish) and had the 30 ff continental breakfast at the Bar de l' Oubli. This is the way to start the day on St. Barth.
The town comes to life and everyone drives by to see and be seen. When the cruise ships are in the taxis are queued up and exactly at the nine the "patchers" -- those little Dramamine spots behind the ears -- arrive en mass. We really enjoyed this part of the trip! Back to dinner -- the next night was Eddy's new place across from the Le Sapo. This find was based on a posting that said they were opening in December. As it turned out they didn't make it until February due to the furniture being delayed.
The decor is very comfortable and we really enjoyed the evening. The food is great and the service is superb. My wife said the waitress flirted to pump the tip -- I said she did a wonderful job and deserved the 20% tip! Eddy's is one of the few that don't include service.
Next stop was Le Toiny. My advice is to forget it. It was expensive and lacked the charm of Francois Plantation. There was not a thing wrong with the food or the service -- I just felt I could have been in NYC. Lunch the next day we violated the sardine and bread rule to have a Cheeseburger in Paradise at Le Select.
My wife has a thing about real "joints" and has avoided Le Select until this trip. A combination of a very hot day (the shade there is heavenly) and hunger (Le Cheeseburger is delectable) has converted her over for life. Now breakfast at Bar de l' Oubli and lunch ten feet away at Le Select is the plan of the day!
We also had a great lunch at Chez Francine on the beach at St. Jean. This place is not to be missed for a nice lunch. The people there are just wonderful. My secretary is named Francine and I asked for two Chez F. tee shirts to be added to the lunch bill.
The waitress asked if the shirts were gifts and I told her the connection. When the bill came she told me she had only charged me for one shirt -- the other was gratuit.
The last night we made reservations to go the cabaret show at the Guanahani, but at the last minute canceled. We have stayed at the G the last two years and truly love the property. But since we had seen the show before we decided to give Marigot Bay Club a try. Again this was based on advice. We were not disappointed. In fact I consider the herbed red snapper I had there to be the best meal of the trip. After two years of driving past the place (it's next to the Guanahani) we finally stopped, enjoyed and will return. Now you might think that all we did was eat .
We did Grand Saline beach and enjoyed the natural views. We drove everywhere on the island as fast as possible. We watched sunsets in Gustavia. Played with the hotel dog. Envied surfers off of Pointe Milou. Bought $12 Sunday New York Times at the pharmacy at. the Villages St. Jean. Smoked some great Cuban cigars. Went to mass at Lorient and were the only English speaking people in the church. All this and became closer as a (long) married couple. As my very wise wife says --"These trips to St. Barth is the best thing we ever did". She's right.
St. Croix by Joel Wiesen
Hints/thoughts from a St. Croix Trip
This island is a wonderful place to get away from it all in serene, sunny, warm environs, w clear skies, and clear turquoise waters
Here are some thoughts and hints from a 1 week visit which just ended. (It's hard to believe that just yesterday my wife and i were looking at a rainbow while the gentle breezes touched us.) 1. Snorkeling is wonderful (and diving, so we are told) Many good locations including Canes Bay, and especially Buck Island.
a. Wear foot coverings in the water. The corral is sharp! (I tore up a toe during first swim. Luckily not much disease lives in sea water.)
b. By law any person has access to any beach. Hotels on a beach can take your names/addresses, charge for parking, lawn chairs, etc., but cannot deny you access to the beach.
c. If you are very nearsighted, buy prescription snorkeling mask before trip. Else wise, only your companions will see much!
d. Lonnie, the marine biologist at Aquarium in Frederiksted gives snorkeling tours at $20/hr ($25 if just one person). Leave at 4 p.m. and arrangements must be made in advance (just call museum, 772-1345).
d. Most beaches are unguarded.
e. There are large and small tour boats to Buck Island. We went with a small tour boat, the Diva, which leaves from Green Cay marina (about 15 minutes east of Christiansted, tel: 809/778-4675). Captain, Francis Waters, is a good conversationalist and very helpful. The small boats take up to 6, the larger boats 25 and more. The larger boats often get a younger, unmarried crowd. Cost $40/person. f. Coral is everywhere and is sharp. Use foot coverings when swimming at all but the most groomed beaches. Don't step on the live coral- it tends to kill the coral.
2. Guided Walking tours of salt river, rain forest etc. are $20 for a nominal 3 hours (773-1989). They are variable in quality and length (ours lasted 3 hrs and our guide was unenthusiastic and of spotty competence).
3. There is theft on the island. Many houses have wrought iron bars on doors . and windows. Many houses have dogs. The stores in the main town of Christiansted close at nightfall (though the restaurants stay open). The main streets seem safe at least until 10 p.m. (when we started to turn in).
4. The roads typically are two lane and do not have room for walkers/joggers, but the passing cars are generally careful when passing folk.
5. Driving on the left is not too hard to do, but it is easy to forget, especially when first getting onto a deserted road. Reactions are wrong in emergency and even common situations (e.g., parking lots).
6. A tour of the local rum factory (free) takes perhaps an hour, as does nearby Whim plantation, and botanical garden. The botanical garden guided tour is very worthwhile but tell your guide you do not have a tour or taxi waiting for you and the tour will be more leisurely. Otherwise it will be 30 minutes.
7. We stayed at The Waves at Cane Bay ($130-145/night for a delightful, large room, with private screened in porch and kitchen or kitchenette). The proprietors were extremely hospitable (especially Suzanne), suggesting things to do and helping us to up arrangements.
The restaurant at the Waves was a fixed price of under $20, there were 5 menus for the five days of the week the restaurant operates. A vegetarian options is available here and in many restaurants. 8. The Indies restaurant in Christiansted has a deserved reputation for excellence. It also has a veggie pasta dish.
9. The few roads marked scenic are worth taking at least once, but not all are well paved.
10. It takes an hour to get from Christiansted to Canes Bay, even though it is just 15 miles.
11. We rented from Hertz, and the car had bald tires, one of which went flat on us. Hertz said we had to bring the car to the airport to get it fixed. When the hotel owner called, they sent a person with a new tire to the hotel. 12. Sunsets range from very nice (one out of seven) to very unimpressive. We saw 2 rainbows, one magnificent 180 degree going from seat to sea lasting more than 15 minutes!
13. There is little to do if it rains, but there is little rain.
14. The local 2-year branch of the University of the virgin Islands had a library with some newspapers. Newspapers are scarce and sell for 2 or 3 times their price in the states.
15. Connecting a computer to a phone is problematic. I was unsuccessful several times at 9,600-14,4000 baud, but got through on the 2,400 baud line . After connected, it was just a matter of time before losing the connection. Short updownloads are ok, large files are almost impossible. The local computer folk are aware of the problem and it will take at least several years to fix. After Hurricane Hugo the system which was put in place was hurried and of poor design or quality. Alex of Computer Solutions in Gallows Bay (in Christiansted) is very knowledgeable and helpful.
16. Electricity goes out perhaps weekly, so take a flashlight.
17. The island is not lush, since rainfall is generally not plentiful and now they are into the second year of a drought. The islanders gather rainfall into cisterns, and when that fails buy water from the states for about a penny a gallon. 18. Being near the equator the tides cause a difference of less than a foot. So if you find a nice place to snorkel, it is always ready for you.
19. The service is very gracious. (This is not New York!)
20. The gentle breezes are a delight. Only shorts, short sleeve shirts and sandals are needed. Dress code very casual, but tops and foot coverings are expected in town.
21. The sun is strong. I used sun block 50 and still showed some effects of the sun (but I am unusually sensitive).
22. There is one synagogue on the island, "non-denominational" and meets Friday nights.
23. Duty free liquor is available at reasonable prices at the Woolworth on the island.
24. There are 3 supermarkets on the island, with prices on most things just 20% higher than the states. Milk was more than twice as costly.
25. The people on the island all post-date Christopher Columbus. None of the original (pre-Columbus) tribes remain, but some of the original "Caribe" Indians exist on other islands, we were told. The island was owned by various European nations and some of the overseers and military stayed here. There was a slave trade which brought blacks to the island.
For our taste, a week was long enough to see/do much of what the Island has to offer and it was a wonderful, slow, relaxing, pleasant stay. But we will probably not go back to this island, but we met other visitors who have been coming to the island yearly for many years, and still others who have relocated here.
St. John by William Steffes
My family and I were fortunate enough to spend the last week in S t. John. My wife, Catherine, and I had spent a day on this beautiful island while on a cruise over 10 years ago and we finally got the congruence of sufficient money and time to go back, this time with our three kids, Noel, Bill, and Bob, ages 16, 13, and 8. As anyone who has been there will surely attest, if you want to relax in beautiful, informal surroundings, snorkel in crystal clear waters, and generally pass a good time, St. John is the place to go. Although it is pretty expensive, a vacation in St. John is worth every penny.
For the reader's convenience, I've divided this narrative into sections so you can simply skip those that in which you have no interest: PLACES TO STAY, PLACES TO EAT, BEACHES, CHARTERS and MISCELLANEOUS, and TRIP JOURNAL. The last is simply a brief account of our experiences each day and is included since I think it does give some idea of how much we enjoyed the various beaches, restaurants, etc. Since our experiences ranged from no less than good to extraordinary, I don't think my comments can offend anyone ...at least I certainly hope not.
General thoughts on St. John are as follows. It's a very small island with several beautiful beaches and snorkeling areas... rent an utility vehicle of some kind and try to visit as many as you can. By all means, make sure that you snorkel since the reefs are truly beautiful and easily accessible even to mediocre swimmers. Most of the restaurants were good and not really much more expensive than those in other resorts. Make sure that you use sun screen...my son and I didn't (tough guys) and paid the price! Finally, if you get the chance, go!
PLACES TO STAY
Destination St. John
P.O. Box 8306
St. John, V.I. 00831
Tel: 18005621901 Fax: 18097766969 Alt: 18097766969
Notes: Villas, Condos, houses, etc. in St. John, V.I. Debbie. These people handle Stone Ridge on Centerline Road. Rents fro $500/night during high season. Can sleep 5. 3000 square feet. Pool, Jacuzzi, etc. The view was spectacular, overlooking Caneel Bay and St. Thomas in the distance. The house was purchased by its current owner for $1.2 million a few years ago. Just an outstanding setting.
Caneel Bay Resort
Cane Garden Bay
P. Box 570
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 00830
Tel: 18009288889 Alt: 7766111
Notes: Very pricey - $625/night during high season for beach side rooms that sleep 4.
St. John, V.I. 00831
Notes: Villas, Condos, houses, etc. in St. John, V.I.
Cinnamon Bay Campground
P.O. Box 720
St. John, U.S.V.I. 00831-0720
Tel: 18005399998 Fax: 18097766458 Home: 18097766330 Alt: 18096935654
Notes: Cottages, Tents and bare sites 5/1-12/14- ($15/day to $61/day);12/15- 4/30- ($15/day to $95/day); we didn't stay here but we looked at the facilities and they seemed clean and O.K. if you like cold communal showers.
Mr. Al Crocker
P.O. Box 37
St. John, U.S.V.I. 00830
Tel: 18097766922 Home: 18096935041
Notes: Horizons renthouse near Coral Bay- $1100/week from 12/1-4/30; $750/ week from 5/1-11/30; $25/day for each additional person.
St. John Properties
St. John, V.I. 00831
Notes: Villas, Condos, houses, etc. in St. John, V.I.
St. John, V.I. 00831
Notes: Villas, Condos, houses, etc. in St. John, V.I.
St. John, V.I. 00831
Notes: Villas, Condos, houses, etc. in St. John, V.I.
PLACES TO EAT
Chez Bordeaux Restaurant
St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: Little place on top of mountain with a beautiful view of Coral Bay. Food was good. Pretty expensive and not for kids.
Centerline Road St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: Good stuff!
St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: Didn't get to eat there but everyone said it's one of the best restaurants, especially for grilled lobster.
St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: It was pretty good family fare... prices were a bit less than many other places and it has a kids' menu. O.K. for family meal. It also has a deli and we were able to buy bread and milk for breakfast the next day.
St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: Menu was pretty good but a bit steep. Food was fresh and good quality but somewhat bland (albeit by our Louisiana Cajun standards). Desserts were homemade and pretty good.
The Fish Trap
St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: Everything was pretty good (Lobster, Shrimp, Burger) and desserts were homemade and great.
Notes: Didn't go but beaches are open to everyone- supposed to be very nice. All facilities.
Notes: Very pretty beach but, because of campground, pretty crowded. All facilities - bathrooms, food, etc. Very calm and good swimming but snorkeling only good on east end.
Notes: Somewhat hard to get to but worth the trip. Great snorkeling close in to beach. Kids saw barracuda. Not much beach and no facilities.
Notes: Very nice but can be a bit choppy. Snorkeling is good and coral is very close in and shallow. Not too crowded. No real bathrooms and no concessions.
Notes: We didn't go. This may be one of the nude or topless beaches which are illegal but apparently do exist in St. John
Notes: On south side of island. We didn't go and it's pretty tough to get to but supposed to be nice. Warmer water and bigger fish. Leinster Bay
Notes: Very secluded and no facilities. Pretty much need a jeep to get to. Down a long, bumpy, muddy road and then you have to walk another 1/4 mile or so to snorkel. Boy is it worth the effort. You snorkel across to Watermelon Cay and then around the Cay
which is ringed by coral reefs. Beautiful and lots of different fish. Kids saw a stingray and starfish.
Maho Bay St. John Beaches
St. John, U.S.V.I
Notes: Small and not too good for snorkeling but very well protected and calm. Limited facilities. Salt Pond beach
Notes: On south side of island. We didn't go.
Notes: Very pretty but very crowded (by St. John standards) since many tours go here from St. Thomas and cruise ships. Has the underwater marked snorkeling trail. Good snorkeling. Has real restrooms and concession stand.
CHARTERS and MISCELLANEOUS
Mr. D. Bazile
Charlotte Amalie, U.S.V.I.
Tel: 18097795403 Home: 18097768673 Cell: 18097714837
Notes: Best taxi driver on St. Thomas - Guaranteed 100% - Just ask him! Actually, seems to be very reliable. Taxi TP0001
Cruz Bay St. John, U.S.V.I.
Notes: Charter boat rentals etc.; This place handles several charter boats including Al and Nan Crockers' Sunset Sue from Coral Bay
Captain Al Crocker Sunset Sue
P.O. Box 37
St. John, U.S.V.I. 00830
Tel: 18097766922 Home: 18096935041
Notes: Sunset Sue (a 36' two-master) charter from Coral Bay- $70/person for full day sails - we had a wonderful trip; Al and Nan are very informative and entertaining; took us to a great snorkeling area that is only accessible by boat.
Little Switzerland Store
P.O. Box 930
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. 00804-0930
Tel: 18097762010 Fax: 18097764434
Notes: Crystal, Jewelry, etc.- about 1/3 or more cheaper than U.S. prices
St. John Car Rental
St. John, U.S.V.I 00831
Tel: 18097766103 Fax: 18096938711
Notes: Nice cars. Montero rents for $80/day. Use American Express card to avoid having to buy collision waiver.
Arrived a bit early at St. Thomas airport. No one to meet us so we just got a cab (van) to Red Hook for Ferry. Cab trip was $35. We got to ferry dock and had to wait for 5 p.m. boat (ferries run on the hour). Ferry was $14 total. John, of Destination St. John, met us in Cruz Bay. St. John Car Rental was closed and the place across the street (Cool Breeze Car Rental) let us use a little 4 door utility vehicle for free that night.
We went to the house (Stoneridge) which is on the side of a mountain over looking the Caneel Bay resort with St. Thomas in the distance. The view was spectacular. Just an outstanding setting.
All of us ate supper at the Mongoose restaurant. It was pretty good family fare...prices were a bit less than many other places and it has a kids' menu. O.K. for family meal. It also has a deli and we were able to buy bread and milk for breakfast the next day.
2/27/95- Finally got started out at 10:30. Stopped at store for soft drinks, and drove through Cruz Bay and down north shore road. Weather was iffy...it rained on and off all day. Stopped at Hawknest's beach first.
Not crowded and has picnic tables and outhouses very close to beach. Beach is right by parking and coral is right off beach in shallow water. Snorkeling was very good.
Next, we went to Trunk Bay..very pretty setting but beach is pretty crowded. Have real bathrooms, concession stand, etc. We ate our lunch here. This is the underwater trail beach. Good snorkeling.
We then went to Cinnamon Bay. Another pretty beach with concession stand, bathrooms, etc. This is the Park Service Campground beach. Snorkeling was not good but we were told that good snorkeling was on either end of the beach. We then drove and looked at Francis and Maho beaches... pretty small but snorkeling is supposed to be O.K.
Finally, we went to Leinster beach which involved a long drive down a narrow, potted, muddy dirt road... and then a long walk to the protected snorkeling area nearest Watermelon Cay. It was worth it. All of us swam out to the Cay... about 1/6th mile. We then snorkeled around the Cay and saw many spectacular coral formations, fish, etc. Water was very deep and one other diver described it as "Bryce Canyon underwater." Not quite but definitely nice. Bill saw a sting ray on the north side of the Cay.
Mom and Dad ate at Chateau Bordeaux. Little place on top of mountain with a beautiful view of Coral Bay. Food was good. Mom had tuna steak, dad had steak with some sort of shrimp sauce. Pretty expensive but not bad.
2/28/95- Sailing Trip to BVI Norman Island was scheduled on the Sunset Sue from Coral Bay (Al and Nan Crocker). Started of poorly since we forgot IDs! Captain Al decided that we could just do a day sail and snorkeling instead. It was a beautiful day for a sail with strong winds from the ESE, some chop, but nobody got ill!
Al took us to a protected cove on the NE side of St. John only accessible by boat. Bill, Bob and Dad went snorkeling...probably the best place so far. Bill saw a barracuda and we all saw several very large and colorful fish and beautiful coral formations.
We also saw several large sea turtles...very graceful. We enjoyed a good lunch of stewed chicken, rice, apple salad, and bread; Mom and Dad also split a bottle of Andre' champagne. The sail back was more or less downwind so a lot smoother than the sail up. Most everyone napped until we got back into Coral Bay Harbor.
Overall, everyone enjoyed the sail and Al and Nancy were very nice hosts. Al is from Mass. and Nan is from Columbia S.C. They have lived in St. John for 14 years now. In addition to the Sunset Sue, they also own a rental unit located on a hill overlooking Coral Bay. We got info and prices.
After boat trip, we stopped at Colombo's Yogurt on way back to house - good stuff. Tried to eat dinner at the Lime Inn in Cruz Bay but got there too late... too long of a wait. So we ate at the Fish Trap around the corner. Everything was pretty good (Lobster, Shrimp, Burger) and desserts were homemade and great. Dad and Bill suffered through the night with severe sunburn.. didn't use sun screen!
3/1/95- Everyone slept kinda late today. Ate breakfast at Mongoose. Later, Dad and kids went to beaches, Mom stayed at house by pool. We went back to Hawksnest. It was a bit more crowded and somewhat choppy. So we went off to Francis Beach which is more remote. Water was very calm and snorkeling was excellent. Kids saw 2 barracuda!
As we were leaving Francis Beach, a woman with a hurt hand and her husband asked us if we could take them to a doctor. They were on a sailboat and had no transportation. We took them to the medical clinic by our rent house. Assume she was all right. Husband was named Roger and they were from Salmen, Idaho...didn't get last name.
Mom and Dad had dinner at Paradiso. Menu was pretty good but a bit steep. Food was fresh and good quality but somewhat bland (by Louisiana standards). Desserts were homemade and pretty good.
3/2/95- Got up and finished packing. Managed to return jeep to St. John Car Rental and catch 10:15 ferry to Charlotte Amalie. 35 minute ferry trip around St. Thomas. Pretty boring. Ate lunch at Hard Rock Cafe, got souvenirs and did some quick shopping. Taxi driver, Mr. D. Bazile, stored our luggage and then harangued Dad to be nice to Mom all the way to the airport. Bazile claims to be "best taxi service on island - guaranteed 100 %!" He was pretty good.
St. Lucia by Randall Cobb
I spent a glorious eleven days on St. Lucia two years ago in 1993 . I don't know how much it's changed since then, but I can give you a few notes of what I remember to be the highlights.
I'm guessing that you are going to be staying somewhere near Castries, the capital, in the northern part of the island. I rented a small cottage in the southern part of the island, on the road near the Anse Chastanet resort just outside of Soufriere, the other main town.
Even if you are staying in the north, I strongly urge you to take the time to tour the Soufriere area, for that's where all the scenery you see in the postcards is -- primarily the breathtakingly beautiful Pitons, but also the "drive-in" volcano, the botanical gardens, the mineral baths, and the rain forest -- they all are in or near Soufriere.
As far as I remember, the main tourist attractions near Castries are the Pigeon Point park and some of the nicer beaches at Rodney Bay. This isn't to say that the Castries area isn't beautiful, too, because it certainly is, but you shouldn't leave St. Lucia without seeing the whole island.
One good way to see the Pitons is by boat. Several of the resorts run day trips between Castries and Soufriere, by boat, and they will most likely take you to see the Pitons. Better yet, if you are the adventuresome type, hire a guide in Soufriere (the tourist information office in town can help) and climb the Petit Piton (it's called Petit, even though it's actually the taller one, because it is less massive)! I did this, and although it was not easy, and at times even quite scary, it was an experience I will never forget. The views are indescribable.
You can also hire a guide in Soufriere to take you through the rain forest (it cost about $35 two years ago) for a four-hour hike. It's the only way to really see the interior of the island and perhaps catch a glimpse of the elusive St. Lucia parrot. It's not nearly as humid or mosquito-y as you would think a rain forest would be.
One general word of caution about getting around the island - the roads, once you have left the vicinity of Castries, are the worst you will ever drive on in your life. I cannot adequately describe how horrible they were (and I doubt that they have been improved in the last two years) except to say that they were more like an unending series of potholes connected by thin strips of blacktop. And the drivers (driving is on the left, incidentally) are maniacs -- and I say that, living in Boston, where driving is a life-threatening experience.
Your two options for getting around the island are either to take a taxi, which is generally expensive and leaves you feeling somewhat at the mercy of your driver, or renting a jeep, which is also expensive, but if you are not afraid of the roads, I think that is the better way to go, since it leaves you more independent. You should allow at least two full days in the Soufriere area to really see all there is to see down there.
The best beaches are in the Castries/Rodney Bay area, but the best snorkeling is near the reefs just off the Anse Chastanet beach in the south.
The Pigeon Point historical park, at the extreme northern tip of the island, is well worth a few hours' trip. The views of the island are magnificent, and you get a good sense of the history of St. Lucia as well. An even more magnificent view of the entire island (if you don't want to brave the Piton climb) is from the lighthouse at the extreme southern tip of the island.
I was only in Castries for one day, but it struck me as a very pleasant, sort of bustling, Caribbean market town, with some nice restaurants, a little bit of local flavor, and a pretty little central square. As I recall, the only duty-free shopping is at a mall called Pointe Seraphine, which seemed to be just an excuse for the placement of higher-priced stores. Some more local, authentic St. Lucian things to buy on the island are the beautiful cloth prints made by the Bagshaws studios, and local spice baskets to hang in your kitchen.
Oh, yes, if you have time, do make a trip down to Marigot Bay - it's only about a half-hour drive south of Castries. It's famous for being where the movie "Dr. Doolittle" was filmed, and it epitomizes the cozy, serene, Caribbean cove, a haven from tropical storms, if you will. It is very pretty and they have a couple of nice lunch spots there.
As far as restaurants, I can only really make one recommendation, and I don't even know if it still exists. It is the dining room at the Ladera Resort, which is on the road about five miles south of Soufriere, nestled right between the two Pitons. The view was unparalleled, and the food was superb. I would stay away from the restaurant called the Hummingbird on the waterfront in Soufriere. The food was mediocre, and I actually got violently ill one night there (and the owner blamed me for drinking too much!). The dining room at the Anse Chastanet resort was good, but not great. Another local place worth trying for lunch is The Still, also in Soufriere, on the way to the botanical gardens. Good authentic local cuisine. That's all I can recommend regarding food, as I usually ate dinner in my cottage. One thing I can say, though, is that most restaurants are fairly expensive - we spent an average of $80-$100/dinner for two on those nights we did go out. In fact, in general, St. Lucia is an expensive island. But if you're staying at an all-inclusive resort, you won't have to worry much about that!
Sorry to drone on and on. Have a great trip! St. Lucia is startingly beautiful almost anywhere you go on the island, and the local inhabitants are very friendly. You may also notice that they tend to be quite good- looking, too, both women and men. I've read that peoples who live on mountainous islands are by necessity in better physical shape than their lowland counterparts, and it shows!
St. Lucia: by Daniel Bereskin
(Ed Note: Daniel also contributed a file on Martinique. See above.)
The next stage of our journey took us from Martinique to St. Lucia. We chose St. Lucia fundamentally because it was the easiest way to get back to Toronto, as there is a non-stop Air Canada flight from St. Lucia to Toronto every Sunday. If I had it to do over again, I would have bought a return excursion between Toronto and St. Lucia, by-passing Guadeloupe, and it is not inconceivable that we might have been able to get a charter as well that would have been quite cheap. The problem is that the international airport is at the south end of the island, near a town called Vieux Fort, whereas the small, inter-island airport, which services places like Martinique, is at the opposite end of the island, near the main town of Castries.
The roads in St. Lucia, unlike Martinique are, in general, bad, and it takes about an hour and a half to go between the two airports and the cost is not insubstantial. It might be possible to share the cost, though, or find a bus (mini bus) for the journey. Even so, it probably would have been a better bet to have done this than to have done what we did, as we would have been saved the unpleasant stay of 5 hours at the airport in Guadeloupe, between flights. I had flirted with the idea of taking a sailboat charter between Martinique and St. Lucia. The trouble is that the regular boat only travels on Fridays and Saturdays between Martinique and St. Lucia. The distance isn't far, roughly 20 miles, but we wanted to spend more time in St. Lucia. I needed to spend two days, in fact, to get my diver's certification for open water. In the end, the boat charter possibility fell through.
A few inquiries made it clear that none of the boat operators in Fort de France, Trois Islet, were interested in taking one way passengers. There is an operator, though, in St. Anne, who also operate a submersible, that said that they might well be in a position to help. In the end, we decided to do the simple thing, which is to take a one way LIAT flight.
We returned the car to the Budget location, which only took about a l/2 hour for the checkout ceremony, but unfortunately the LIAT counter did not open until an hour before the flight, so we had to wait around the airport for quite a while. The appointed hour came and no employee showed up. About a l/2 hour before the flight departure time, and when I was getting apoplectic, the LIAT employee finally showed up only to be shocked to see my bicycle. She explained that the airplane was far too small to take my bicycle. I told her, in my fractured French, that the bike could be taken apart if necessary, but she was emphatic. I told her I had traveled around the world with this bike, in tiny airplanes, and I was not about to have the bike go separately. She finally agreed to let them give it a try.
Surprisingly, the flight part of the journey itself was very good. In the first place, the pilot spoke perfect English, and told the baggage handlers how to stow the bike. They were able to put it on board without even taking it apart. We took off, actually 5 minutes before scheduled departure, and were soon on the ground at Vegi Airport in St. Lucia. This was good, because I had made arrangements with the hotel, Anse Chastanet, to have us transported to the hotel from Castries by boat.
This is by far the best way. It only takes about 35 minutes by boat, and they don't charge, as this is the return journey of the "dive" boat, which travels to Castries in the morning to pick up guests from other hotels, who wish to dive at Anse Chastanet.
The dive boat was to leave Jimmy's Restaurant at 4:30, hence we had to be there on time. In the end, we arrived about an hour early and had a nice drink on the terrace. It was wonderful speaking English again!
Jimmy's Restaurant is only about a 5 minute cab ride from the Vegi Airport, in fact one could probably walk, but we opted for a cab in view of the amount of luggage we had. The boat arrived on the dot, and although the boat stopped a few times for supplies and this and that, we eventually made it to the hotel. From the boat, people materialized to look after all of our possessions, and we were taken to a deluxe beachfront room, which was wonderful in every respect.
I will not explain Anse Chastanet in any great detail, but will try to summarize it as follows. The place is located at a rather secluded cove, that is some distance away from other resorts. Mostly, the resorts in St. Lucia are concentrated near the northwest end, and all of them seem to be on the Caribbean (west) side.
The principal attraction of the Anse Chastanet, in addition to its scenic beauty, is the diving. It is reputed to have the best beach dive in the Windward Islands. Walking out from the beach, you soon find fabulous reefs full of an enormous variety of tropical fish. In fact, you can see a tremendous amount just snorkeling and skin diving.
In addition to a lovely beach that seems to be about 400 metres long, the Anse Chastanet hotel sits on about 500 acres of property, including a former plantation. From the beach, the land rises quite steeply. In a normal hotel establishment, the entire beachfront would have been developed. Instead, what the owners here did (some 25 years or so, I gather), was to build the hotel up the side of the hill. By doing so, they have preserved to a much higher degree, the natural beauty of the setting. The price they paid for this, though, was that there are l00 steps from the beach up to the restaurant level! You have to go to the restaurant for breakfast and for dinner, so there is quite a lot of climbing.
Anse Chastanet is not a place for people with small children, nor is it a place for people who are frail. For this reason, most of the guests seem to be relatively fit, although by no means were they all young. There seemed to be quite a variety of age groups, although people in their 30s and 40s seemed to predominate. There were a few seniors there, who didn't seem to mind the climbing. Although we were very well satisfied with our accommodation which was very large and well equipped, we were offered, but declined, a "premium deluxe" room at the very top of the hill, which we later looked at and saw had a fabulous view. Of course, the higher up you go, the better the views. Some of the rooms had showers that were in the open air, and one of which had a tree growing right through it! The privacy is such that you can have showers that are open to the outside. By the way, St. Lucia does not permit topless bathing!
Our room was one of four units in a complex of three buildings on the beach. We were the upper of two levels. The "walls" were made of mahogany louvers, so were open to the air night and day. Conversations can quite easily be overheard between units, and
insects as well as birds have free access to the rooms. In fact, we saw a bird in the room only one day. Insects were a problem at night. Mosquito coil and some other appliance that you plug in were provided, but what we should have used, and did not think to do so until the last night, was the mosquito netting suspended above the bed. This proved to provide perfect protection against insects, and was rather nice as well, giving the feeling of a tent. Our room, and its outlook, was very romantic, and we'd go back in a flash.
I took my open water dive certification at the PADI 5 star dive facility that is located right on the beach. I'm not sure whether it is owned by the hotel or not, but obviously they have strong association with the people who run it. It's called Scuba St. Lucia.
The first day I skindived, I enjoyed it so much that I managed to develop a serious burn on my back. You had to be very careful when skin-diving to wear a t-shirt or otherwise cover up. Sun block can't be depended on if you're in the water long enough, because of course it will eventually wash off. After the first day, I started wearing a t-shirt, and had no trouble. All of our dives took between 30 and 40 minutes, and I found that I was not cold even without any form of a wet suit.
The food at the Anse Chastanet was Modified American Plan, and was excellent. The breakfasts were very substantial, and the evening meal was so extensive that, the first night, we thought the MAP plan was the left side of the menu only! It turned out, you got to order from both sides of the menu, and so whatever ideas I had of losing weight this trip, rapidly went out the window! Although the quality of the food varied a little, in general we were very well satisfied, and indeed found the quality of the food to be much better than anything we had experienced in Martinique. One night, I ordered a filet of steak, with a little trepidation, but the meat that was delivered was very tender, tasty, and perfectly done.
They have a very high ratio of staff to guests at Anse Chastanet, and everything seems to run more or less like clockwork.
In all, we spent four nights at Anse Chastanet, and thought it was wonderful. The climate of course is perfect, and on Radio Canada I kept getting reports that the temperature was minus 5 or minus 7deg. C. As I write this, I'm looking out over our balcony at the lush gardens, palm trees, and water. The music of a steel band is in the background, entertaining luncheon guests. The taxi is coming to pick us up in another hour, all of the arrangements having been made by the hotel, and the cost of the taxi was conveniently added to our hotel bill.
There is a departure tax that has to be paid in EC funds, so this is something to think about before you leave. You need to make sure that the hotel has given you enough to be able to pay this.
In general, this was one of the best vacations we have ever had, and I would certainly consider combining St. Lucia and Martinique again.
St. Martin by D.J. Muse
This was our first trip to the Caribbean, so most of what we expected out of our trip was based on what we had heard from friends, and a healthy dose of information (greatly appreciated I might add) who had been kind enough to post similar reports to the Caribbean section of the travel forum.
Rather than repeat a significant amount of the information I know presently is available to subscribers in other files and uploads, I'll assume readers have taken the time to read all the other postings on SXM, and rather than chronological order, I'll summarize by area of interest/concern.
We purchased an "air and lodging" package from our travel agent. We did so based on the brochures they handed to us when we stopped by their offices and inquired. We knew we wanted to go to SXM before we talked to the agent. Unfortunately, the agent didn't know a whole lot about SXM, so we were on our own to research, etc.
Our tour package was through TNT Travel out of Boston. We live in eastern Ohio and so were looking for something out of either PIT, CLE or CMH. TNT had a seven night lodging and air package out of PIT, departing on Sunday, returning the following Sunday. Our decision to make this trip was sort of last minute, so our choices for lodging was somewhat limited. We purchased, and confirmed, lodging for the Great Bay Hotel two weeks before we were to leave. Of interest to some - the price we paid for this package was about 30% less than what was in the published, promotional literature we had received from the agent. Obviously a pleasant surprise. I think it ended up about $800 each for air and seven nights.
Sure enough, about four days before we were to depart, TNT calls the travel agent who calls us. The Great Bay overbooked and was bumping us to a better grade of hotel - The Maho Beach Hotel. I was concerned and worried - mostly because I wasn't sure it in fact would be of comparable or better quality, and because I knew the Maho was right next to the airport. I figured the airport noise/traffic would be a real irritant. Short story - we agreed to the bump, and got a breakfast package thrown in for doing so.
Flight went off without a hitch, and we arrived in SXM about 1 pm AST. Our return flight at the end of the week picked left SXM and proceeded on to Antigua where that week's Antigua passengers were let off. All passengers deplane in Antigua so the plane can be refueled and serviced. Unfortunately, those of us "in transit" had to sit in the currently being remodeled Antigua terminal for about an hour. Transient movement is restricted, we couldn't even go outside the terminal.
Our stay at Maho Bay Hotel and Casino was thoroughly enjoyable. Very nice, clean and modern facility. Later in the week we visited the Great Bay Hotel, our original, intended lodgings. We certainly got the better end of the deal by being bumped to the Maho. It seems a much nicer facility overall. Having seen both facilities, I can't imagine I'd opt to stay at the Great Bay in the future.
While on the island, we also had an opportunity to look at Le Meridian at Anse Marcel on the French side. Looked to be quite nice, however, see Anse Marcel comments in BEACHES below.
CAR / DRIVING
While it appears that public transportation via taxi or bus is as easy as mentioned in postings from others, I have the typical American aversion to not being able to go where I want, when I want, so we rented a car. With insurance (I didn't bother to figure out whether I was covered even though I used my AMEX card), the rental ran about $300 for a full week with unlimited mileage.
I had reserved a car at Budget, so we skipped the "included" transfer to the hotel and took the Budget bus to their airport lot. We ended up with a Mitsubishi Lancer with about 19000 km on it, lots of nicks, dents, scratches and a busted tail light, all which Budget duly noted at the time of our rental. The existing damage wasn't a problem for me if Budget didn't have a problem with it. The car served us well, and we had no problems with it or with returning it to Budget when we were done with it at the end of the week. Even though the car didn't have a lot of "miles" on it, the front end was just about shot. Rattled like you wouldn't believe. I suspect the rentals all get beat up pretty badly on the rough roads, particularly with the speed bumps all over the island.
Roads are narrow, heavily traveled, mostly paved and in general curvy and hilly, if not mountainous. DRIVING ON THE ISLAND IS NOT FOR THE TIMID OR FAINT OF HEART, particularly in downtown Philipsburg, the capital on the Dutch side. Defensive driving is an absolute must, as well as a healthy dose of patience. You simply cannot count on other drivers, pedestrians or cyclists doing what you expect them to do. Be extremely careful, take your time, and, if you're the driver, don't plan on being able to sightsee from behind the wheel. Study and plan your trips with a map carefully before you leave. Having a patient understanding navigator (like my wife) is a big help.
Meaningful and useful maps are hard to come by, I found referring to a couple of different versions to be very helpful.
I'm not suggesting you not drive, in fact I'd rent a car for the full week if I visit again, and probably drive even more. But, it does take a while to get your bearings, etc., although it really isn't possible to get lost for very long.
We didn't visit them all, but those we did visit, we enjoyed.
Maho - Very nice, Dutch side off the west end of the airport. Air traffic not a negative at all, in fact provides an occasional diversion. Wasn't ever too "crowded." Nice surf for swimming. Maho Beach Hotel, Royal Islander Hotel both "on the beach." Infrequent partial nudity.
Cupecoy - North of Maho and North of Mullet Bay on the western side of the island. Hard to find, but see GREAT directions in another posting. Beautiful beach - primarily nude. Did not swim here. Essentially undeveloped (no services, chairs, etc.)
Mullet Bay - Immediately north of Maho, and larger than Maho. Heavier usage. Didn't swim here either, but appeared to be significantly less surf, probably due to breakwall on the south end of the beach. My guess is primary use by visitors to Mullet Bay resort. Family beach as far as we noticed.
Red Beach - French side. A nice, large beach, although somewhat rocky compared to the others we visited. Since its on the French side, there were several nude and partial nude bathers. Less "developed" than Maho or Mullet Bay. Nice surf. Primary public access seemed to be a narrow walkway through a private residential area. Appeared to be some snorkeling at the northern end of the beach. Nice rock outcroppings/formations at northern end.
Anse Marcel - French side - however appeared to be a very family beach. Access primarily through the Le Meridian facility. Very hilly, narrow, steep and winding roads lead to this area of the island. Extremely limited surf (almost none), would be ideal for very young children. The bay is well protected.
Orient - French side - Very large beach on the Atlantic side of the island. More surf than we experienced at any other beach. Access at several points off the road that runs North and South along the eastern side of the island. Several nude and partially nude bathers. Many "facilities" including bars, restaurants, para-sailing, jet skis, etc.
Great Bay Beach - in Philipsburg. Busy, crowded and hard to get to, what with all the traffic in the area.
Since there are over 30 beaches on the island, I'm certain we may well have missed better beaches - but we got plenty of enjoyment out of these.
Several charter trips, etc. are available, I'm certain many of them great. We opted for a half day sail (morning) on the Laura Rose, a two masted sailboat. (Sorry, I don't know my boats). Great time. Left Great Bay marina (on the Dutch side) and sailed up the Atlantic coast (which apparently is the roughest part of the day's sail, due to the stronger surf.) A very nice experience. Our crew was obviously quite experienced. Sailed to Pinel Island (French side) and snorkeled. The kind folks doing the booking for the Laura Rose arranged bus transportation back to the hotel and/or marina for the half day sailors. Talked with a couple who were on the same excursion we were on, but for the full day. They indicated the afternoon was much calmer and the snorkeling much better on the afternoon leg of the trip.
Note: I strongly suspect if you book your own day or half day junket (as opposed to having the hotel book it) you can save as much as 20 percent of the cost. There are plenty of advertisements, etc. around the island. Next time I think I'll just go to either of the two primary marinas in Philipsburg and look around for a trip. The Laura Rose is moored at the Great Bay Marina.
We most always went to a restaurant to eat (as opposed to going there to dine). Didn't have a "bad" or even a "poor" meal the whole time we were on the island.
For those of you who are not looking for a dining experience or for gourmet foods, we can highly recommend the Paradise Cafe at Maho (walk up the narrow, winding road just immediately to the right of the Maho Beach Casino - it's a pleasant stroll). Food, service, atmosphere all were great.
For inexpensive, quick and simple, there's a little Italian place (name starts with a T) also stuck in behind the Maho Resort Complex on the left rear side of the Maho Beach Casino. It isn't very well marked, and it's small, but the prices were noticeably lower than the nine or ten restaurants connected with the Maho resort.
Cheri's is an American cuisine restaurant at Maho. Good food, plenty of it at reasonable prices. Entertainment.
Lunch at Chesterfield's at the Great Bay Marina in Philipsburg is worth the effort as well.
There is more of it on the Island than I cared to take part in. I'm satisfied you could spend a whole week shopping and not hit all the spots. Practically all the prices are "negotiable." MAHO HOTEL AND CASINO:
Great staff , great facility. When we were there, there were few US visitors, guests seemed to be primarily Italians and Brazilians (have yet to figure that out, it's the peek of their summer in February). The hotel seemed to always have a shortage of towels however. On three occasions I had to phone housekeeping to get them to bring us the towels the maid had "forgotten." Every time we had to wait on them to be retrieved from the laundry before they were brought to the room. And, they had obviously come to us straight from the dryer when they were delivered!
I'm ready to go again and will the first chance I get.
St. Martin by Michael Devaney
Lisa and I stayed at Green Cay Village on a recommendation . We were more than happy with our accommodations. Each villa has three bedrooms (large), a spacious living room area, a modern kitchen and a private pool with a wonderful deck overlooking Orient Bay. What more can you ask for?
The service was excellent. One of the great treats we indulged ourselves in was having breakfast delivered to our villa each morning. When we woke up there was a table set for us on the level outside our living room overlooking the bay. Our meal was waiting for us in the kitchen. The refrigerator was stocked with juice, milk, etc., and the coffee was hot. After we finished the table was cleared and the dishes washed and put away in the kitchen. All this cost us an additional $8.00 per person per day.
It was great to live the life of luxury if for only a week!
The bedrooms are air-conditioned, but with the cool breezes at night we hardly needed it. You have to walk down a flight of stairs to get into the bedrooms, so we felt it wise not to come home at night too tipsy (at least without the light on.)
Each morning after breakfast we would take a refreshing dip in our pool. Each villa is secluded from the others by tall trees and plantings (which were quite pretty.) You do not have to worry about anybody seeing onto your pool deck (unless they really made a great effort at it.) We were quite comfortable sunning and swimming nude when we were at our villa. Even if the maid should walk into the villa, they are very used to guests going au natural around their pool.
We had rented a car from Hertz for the week. Since we were getting in late at the airport, we had them bring it to the villa the next morning. I would highly recommend having a car on the island. There is a lot you can do and see outside the hotel or villa. It is worth being able to get around with a car. From where we were at Green Cay the walk to Orient Beach is possible, but not necessarily easy. Since Green Cay is situated up on a hillside the walk coming BACK from the beach could be an aerobic workout! We did not venture to find out. We drove our car to the parking lot next to Club O, and walked down the beach from there. It lets you out right next to Pedro's, so the walk is short. It is also an interesting spot to be. The area around Pedro's is a gathering place for shoppers, tourists and taxis and buses. It's really fun to watch the cruise ship people stand on the rocks next to the beach in front of Club O. They aren't quite sure whether to gawk or act like naked people walking in front of them does not affect them. They are usually there with video cameras and photo cameras. But to their great detriment if they venture onto the beach in front of Club O with their camera equipment, they will be quickly and firmly asked to leave. In fact, it was really funny to watch this scenario. When we were there a security guard would use a loud whistle to get the attention of the offender. This, of course, would not only get his attention, but that of most of the beach! Needless to say, the cruise ship person was greatly embarrassed.
Other than the gawking tourists on the beach, the area in front of Club O was wonderful. The people there are quiet and friendly. We met some great people and became friends easily.
We did our obligatory shopping in Marigot. You can tell I like to do that! There are some nice shops there, but I would rather be on the beach. Lisa even got me to go back a second time to buy a dress she wanted. That's not something that came without a price (the second trip that is.) One thing we found out while shopping in Marigot that we did not know from the last time is the shops close for "siesta" from about 2:00 to 3:00. (At least it gave me an excuse to go back to the beach!)
Every other day was spent in front of Papagayo at Club Orient. For those who have not spent time on that part of Orient Beach - here are some Important Safety Tips: <G>
1) Don't look too nervous at the thought of taking off your clothes in front of dozens of total strangers.
2) When you finally do shed your clothing - act naturally. You don't have enough hands to cover all of your body parts anyway.
3) A dip in the rather cool ocean may bring about some unanticipated bodily reactions. If you are concerned - see #2.
4) If you simply MUST scope out the scenery on the beach wear dark sunglasses. That way nobody will know what you are doing (unless of course you fall off your beach lounge trying to strain your neck looking around.)
5) If you see others who are obviously newcomers to the clothing optional experience, and are having a hard time deciding on just what course of action they will take (you can always tell the type because they walk up and down the beach three or four times before they settle on a spot only to move five minutes later) it is probably not a wise idea to offer assistance by helping them to undress. It is also probably not a wise idea to share with them how you overcame your first clothing optional experience by tearing off your clothing and yelling I'M FREE (especially if the female in the party has her hand over her eyes all the while you are sharing the benefits of the nude and natural lifestyle.
5) After a few days of total freedom from the restrictions of clothing you may start to lull yourself into the belief that all normally clothed activities can now suddenly become au natural experiences. Important safety tip - DO NOT INCLUDE ACTIVITIES SUCH AS WINDSURFING, PARASAILING, JET SKIING, OR ANY OTHER PHYSICAL ACTIVITY WHICH MAY INCLUDE JOSTLING, BOUNCING AND/OR SHAKING! These may cause either extreme embarrassment, excruciating pain, or both!
6) When making eating a clothing optional experience - strategically place a napkin and/or towel on any areas of your body not used to food or beverage being spilled on them. If you do happen to forget this tip please try not to make a scene by jumping up and yelling "WOW, THAT'S COLD!"
7) PLEASE! PLEASE! don't forget the sunscreen - especially on parts not normally accustomed to seeing artificial light let alone direct sunlight! Also, when you put lotion on those "sensitive" areas, make sure you totally cover them. A misplaced handprint on a body part may become permanently branded on you because you simply "slapped" some lotion on. Also, while reapplying lotion on the beach - remember what your mother taught you about playing with yourself!
8) Don't forget to put your clothes back on when leaving the beach (although this will become difficult.) Other tourists, hotel clerks, waiters or passers-by may not know you have just been on a clothing optional beach.
9) MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL - RELAX AND ENJOY!!
More to come
Lisa and I went on the nude cruise to Tintamarre Island. We went on it last time we were there, and it was delightful once again. You sail to the island and sunbathe or snorkel while the crew fixes a gourmet meal of swordfish or steak, champagne, wine, after dinner cordials (yes, there is a slight bias toward the liquid part of the meal!) If you have not done this trip, it is highly recommended. The only bad part was that we no longer could go on the large, nice beach because there are now large catamarans bringing 100 or more "prude Americans" to that beach. Apparently, they complained enough about those "terrible naked people" from Club O to get our boat to anchor on the other side of the island. Unfortunately, the beach in not nearly as nice. Oh well, we had a great time anyway. The crazy group of people who went on the next trip apparently had a wonderful time with the cheesecake dessert. They said they never knew cheesecake could be used in such a manner! Too bad we missed that trip.
Our dining experience was great also. If we wanted to go "beach casual" we just walked down the beach to any number of the beach restaurants. We had a charge through Green Cay at Kontiki, Coco's, Bikini and others. We did not have to carry a lot of money with us on the beach. We wanted to go to Grand Case a couple of times during our stay. Last time we were there we went to Chez Martine. It was fabulous. This time we went to L'Nettuno which is a fun, casual Italian restaurant on the waterfront. The owner is a cut-up. He tries to steal all the women coming in from their spouses. We had a good dinner and the service was entertaining. We also went to Le Testavin. We had connected with a couple from home who were staying at St. Tropez. The garden theme on the
waterfront was great, and the food was wonderful. (Sorry, I am not a very good food critic. If you want detailed descriptions of the food - refer to the many restaurants found on the island. We have found they are pretty accurate.) One thing we wanted to do this time was venture over to the Dutch side. (Don't worry - my heart will always be on the French side!) If you really want to treat yourself to a marvelous dining experience go the Le Sandel (sp?) in Sandy Ground (which is just passed Marigot.) According to the restaurant guides, this is THE place to go for a true French dining experience. Please be aware that you think you are driving into the worst deteriorated part of the island. Right in the middle of shacks is this restaurant with valet parking from young gentlemen in white jackets. When you walk into the restaurant you will be taken back by its beauty. Try to sit at a waterfront table. These tables are actually sitting farther out over the water. The service was marvelous as was the food. Lisa had th
St. Barts by John King
----------------------------------< investigation the waiter came back to tell us it was from Illinois! Maybe we could have saved a few bucks by bringing our own. Oh well, it was just great. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
I just HAD to go to one of the casinos while we were on the island. We went to Mullet Bay. I am an avid craps player so I was itching to play the tables (or maybe it was my sunburn.) Lisa in not terribly excited about craps, but she felt more attracted to it after I won $500. It was about midnight so we drove back to Green Cay. You do have to know pretty much how to get around at night if you drive from Mullet Bay to Orient Bay. There are a couple of turns which are not marked very well. It was a good experience for us, and we did not have any problems.
In closing, I have to say our trip to Green Cay on Orient Bay was just what we expected - GREAT! We are already planning our next trip. Can't wait.