Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 75
May 15, 1997

Last updated 13 May 97 1800ET

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JAMAICA BY JAMES GIBBON

We  have  just  gotten  back  from  a  lovely vacation in JAMACIA. My 
family   and   I   (two   kids)   spent   ten   days  at  the  Sombra 
apartments/villas  situated  just  outside  of Ocho Rios. The complex 
includes  4 buildings that each included 4 two bedroom villas 2 three 
bedroom  villas  (or  penthouse  villas  for a total of 24 villas. We 
stayed  in  a  three  room  villa that had a penthouse suite upstairs 
with  a  kingsize  (giant)  bed, another room with a kingsize and the 
last  included  2  twin beds. We had a cook/maid who cooked breakfast 
and  dinner.  She  made  excellent Jamaican cuisine and anything else 
you  requested.  There  was a mini-mart across the road that had many 
items and the rest you could find at the supermarket in town. 

Our  family  went with 16 other relatives on a annual family vacation 
and  we  filled  up  2  two bedrooms and 2 penthouses. The penthouses 
could  be  combined to form a 6 bedrooms super penthouse. The 2 cooks 
also combined and fixed dinner for the 13 of us. 

The  grounds  included a swimming pool, a gazebo, and a small private 
beach.  There was also a protected sandy cove right off the shore. To 
the  west  was  a  private house and to the east was Chibony's marina 
and  then  Sandals  Ocho  Rios.  There  were  only a few other villas 
occupied  until Good Friday when the owners came up from Kingston for 
the   long   weekend.   Then  it  became  quite  crowded  and  a  tad 
uncomfortable after living in almost complete isolation for 8 days. 

To  dispel  many  rumors about the natives of JAMACIA I want to say a 
few  words.  They  are  kind, considerate and helpful people once you 
get  to  know  them.  Yes, they drive very aggressively and there are 
people  who  push you into buying stuff (say no politely a few times) 
but  over  all  they  are  very friendly. We struck up a relationship 
with  the owners of the above mentioned mini-mart and one of the many 
boat  owners who cruise the shores looking for business. His name was 
Lipton  and  his  boat  was  the red La Zully. He took us to Paradise 
Reef,  up the White River and to Regaee Beach. If you are looking for 
a  good  charming  captain to take you somewhere look for him and the 
mention us, The Gibbon's. 

Over  all  the  trip  was  a great success. We had a great dinner one 
night  at the Almond Tree and saw many attractions like Dunns River's 
Falls,  Noel  Cowards  house,  The  Bob  Marley Masalium, and Harmony 
Hall.  I  would  recommend  Sombra for a relaxing place to spend some 
time. 

JAMAICA: COUPLES RESORT: OCHO RIOS BY LESLIE BURKE

  My  husband  and  I  spent  the week of April 6-13th at the Couples 
Resort  in  Jamaica.  We  found  this  resort  and the island to be a 
mixture  of  both  good  and  bad.  We  checked  in at Boston's Logan 
Airport  at  approximately  8:00AM. The actual flight time is about 3 
1/2  hours,  but  once  one arrives at Montego Bay Airport, there are 
very  long  waits  in various customs lines. Our bags were eventually 
taken  by  a  bag  handler  who  took  them to the bus designated for 
Couples.  The  baggage  handler stood at the door of the bus and made 
sure  you  gave  him  a  tip  before allowing you on the bus. The bus 
driver  was  friendly  and  pointed out many of the other resorts and 
hotels  en  route  to  Ocho Rios. When we arrived at Couples, the bus 
driver  asked  that  if  we  were  happy with our ride, that he would 
appreciate  a  gesture  of our appreciation. We felt that whenever we 
stepped  off of resort property, we were constantly asked for tips. A 
fellow  guest  put  it  perfectly when he said, "I've never tipped so 
much before in my life."

The  room  we  were  assigned  was  nice  and  very clean, however we 
instantly  noticed a buzzing sound. Upon going out to the balcony, we 
discovered  that  we  were  located  directly  above a very large air 
conditioning  unit. My husband knew that he would not be able to have 
a  restful  night's  sleep with such noise and we asked that our room 
be  changed.  It  took  a  few  minutes for the front desk to find us 
another  room,  and  we  were  very happy with our new room. It had a 
king  size  four  poster  bed and the room was accented with mahogany 
colored  furnishings.  Our  previous  room was a bit smaller, and the 
bed  was a bleached green color. Our balcony overlooked the ocean and 
had  a  very  nice  view.  The rooms on the other side of the hallway 
were  considered  mountainside  views.  There  were suites within the 
main  hotel  which  had  their  own Jacuzzis. For more privacy, there 
were  also bungalows which were set back from the main building. They 
were  surrounded  by  their  own  fences, and had their own Jacuzzis. 
These  units  weren't as close to the beach and had what was probably 
considered a mountain view.

The  grounds had several large Jacuzzis and two, two person Jacuzzi's 
located  in  the  resort's  jungle area. The jungle consisted of some 
lush  greenery  and  a  bird  aviary,  which  was  a large frame unit 
covered  in  some sort of wire fencing. There were quite a few of the 
same  white  bird,  1  peacock, some ducks, 2 macaws, some pheasants, 
and  some  other  birds  which  we didn't know the name of. There are 
various  hammocks,  and lawn games scattered throughout the property. 
Two  gazebos  (one  mountainview,  the  other  ocean  view)  were the 
favorite  sites  of  weddings,  which  were performed on property. It 
isn't  uncommon  to  see  many  brides  and grooms walking around and 
getting  their videos and pictures taken before, during and after the 
ceremonies.  Weddings  and  renewal  of  vows  were  very popular and 
included  within  price of the package. The Couples brochure showed a 
beautiful  pool bar, but we never saw it, since it was located on the 
clothing  optional  island.  It's  not really clothing optional but a 
nude  island;  the  watersports department runs a motor boat back and 
forth  to  the  island whenever anyone wants to go over or come back. 
There  is  also  supposed  to be a snack bar available to those using 
the island.

There  are  5  dining  areas  in  the resort. The restaurant built on 
stilts  above  the  water  was for pasta. The entrees there consisted 
basically  of  several  sauces  available for several types of pasta. 
There  wasn't  a lasagna or manicotti option, for example. There is a 
salad  and  dessert  bar  there.  On  a  scale  of 1-10 with 10 being 
excellent,  I  would  say  it rates as a 6. There is an outside grill 
located   on  beach  level  which  served  French  fries,  hot  dogs, 
hamburgers,  chicken,  and  maybe  an  occasional  rib  eye steak. My 
husband   said  the  chicken  was  good,  the  hamburgers  were  good 
sometimes,  other  times  they either tasted gamy or of lower quality 
meat.  We  didn't  try  the  hot dogs because they were of suspicious 
color.  The breakfasts were dismal. Served buffet style each morning, 
we  found  the  menu  never  changed. Each morning the scrambled eggs 
looked  very  runny(worries  about salmonella poisoning), the made to 
order  omelets were okay. The breads tended to be good, and there was 
usually  a  nice  selection  of  tropical  fruits:  papayas, mangoes, 
pineapple,  melons,  etc..  The  waffle iron was broken while we were 
there  and  there  seemed to be little urgency in repairing it. After 
the  first  couple  of mornings, we opted to have a continental style 
breakfast  served  in  our room. Lunch was also buffet style and also 
not  so  good.  The  dishes  would  vary a little bit, but much of it 
seemed  to  be  the  same  old  stuff,  just  prepared  in a slightly 
different  way.  There  is  a  continental restaurant and Le Gourmet, 
which  along  with  the restaurant built on stilts, were only open in 
the  evenings.  The continental restaurant is okay. There is a guitar 
player  who  comes  by  each  table  to serenade biggest influence is 
country  music.  Le  Gourmet was the best restaurant, the service was 
more   polite  and  the  dining  room  was  lovely.  A  piano  player 
entertained  on  a  grand  piano.  The menus at the three restaurants 
gave  4  or  5  selections  for  entrees,  but  the menu only changed 
weekly.  There  was  one  daily  dinner special, however. We couldn't 
recommend  the food highly. We may have been spoiled by the cruise we 
took  last  fall...  the  food  on  board  in  the  dining  rooms was 
excellent.  Several  people  we  knew,  including my husband were not 
feeling  well  by  midweek. We aren't sure whether to attribute it to 
the  food,  drink,  or  both. There were two bars... the one poolside 
and  the piano bar. The poolside bar was always open, and only served 
Red  Stripe  beer,  plus  other  frozen and mixed drinks. I found the 
frozen  drinks  to be unlike the ones we have at home. The strawberry 
daiquiris  tasted  like icy punch, the pina coladas didn't taste like 
there  was  any  pineapple  juice  or Coco Lopez in them... they were 
very  milky tasting. The piano bar was more quiet and located inside. 
It  often  smelled very musty in there, was open only during evenings 
and also was the only source of an alternate beer... Heineken.

We  took  advantage  of  the  activities that were offered to us. The 
horseback  riding  was  brief  (1/2 hour rides), but good. We avoided 
going  on  Monday,  Wednesday,  and Friday because craft vendors were 
allowed  on  property  and  they  were  camped  out  en  route to the 
stables.  It  was  kind of a bother when they try to stop you to show 
off  their wares. Definitely take the sunset catamaran cruise. It was 
good  fun;  the people who ran it were very pleasant and for the only 
time  on  our  trip  specifically  told  us  that  tips  would not be 
accepted.  There  was  snorkeling and water-skiing sometimes, but the 
water  was often choppy, and was often canceled due to the rough surf 
conditions.  There  were  scuba diving clinics in the pool and if you 
aren't  certified,  you  can get certification for the length of your 
stay.  Only  problem  was  we  heard that the scuba trips to make the 
actual  ocean  dives  were  canceled  several  times  for no apparent 
reason.  We did find out that one of the days it was canceled was due 
to  the fact that the instructor decided to ditch his obligations and 
go  out  with several people who had chartered a fishing boat for the 
morning.  There  were  also water kayaks, sailboards, hobie cats, and 
sunfishes available for use.

The  evening  entertainment  often  started at 9:30PM. It ranged from 
decent  to  unusual.  The  local  acts  that  we  saw  were  bands, a 
contortionist,  fireeater,  etc.  We  heard very little reggae and no 
steel  drum  music... maybe they have a low budget for entertainment. 
We  found  the  few Jamaican people we met outside the resort as well 
as  employees  within the compound to range in personalities. I think 
1/3  are generally nice, warm people who are genuine in their concern 
for  the  tourist,  1/3  were perhaps accommodating to you in person, 
but  were  generally unfriendly and insincere with their hospitality, 
1/3  weren't nice at all, displaying hostility or perhaps unhappiness 
at  being at the beck and call of tourists. We heard that the Couples 
resort  had recently been undergoing a change in management. We could 
see  proof  of  this in the somewhat disorganized schedule of events, 
the  openly  unhappy  countenance of the workers, etc. We met several 
couples  who  had made many return trips to this resort, perhaps even 
their  seventh,  and eighth. We also met many people who have decided 
that  it  isn't  the  place  for  them.  Although Jamaica can be very 
beautiful  with  it's  ocean  and  beaches, and mountains, it is also 
very  poor  and  evidence of that is everywhere. An Englishman we met 
while  on  vacation  had actually visited 4 years before and believed 
that  the  country  is  back  sliding rather than improving. We don't 
think we'll return to Jamaica anytime soon. 

JAMAICA: SANDALS DUNNS RIVER BY VICKY LARMOUR

My  husband  and  I  spent  our honeymoon in Sandals Dunns River so I 
thought I'd write up a brief report.

First  off,  the flight (from the UK) wasn't too bad, except that the 
plane  stopped  in  Kingston  on  the  way to Montego Bay which added 
another  hour and a half to our already long (9.5 hours) flight time! 
The  bus  ride to the resort wasn't half as bad as we had been led to 
believe  but  we  did  pass one nasty smash on the way. Once we'd got 
used  to  the  Jamaican  tradition  of  a)  tooting  the  horn as you 
overtake and b) overtaking *anywhere* - we were fine!

Arriving  at  Sandals  we  were greeted by happy, friendly faces; our 
luggage  was  taken  from  us  and we were given a glass of champagne 
each.  We  waited  while  the receptionist went through the paperwork 
and  were then taken to our room by one of the bellboys. The room was 
fantastic  -  the  only  problem  was  the  view  (wed upgraded to a 
"Luxury  Oceanview"  which  turned  out  not to have much of an ocean 
view  at  all  unless  you  hung  off  the  balcony by your toenails! 
Anyway,  we  asked  to be moved to a better room and the receptionist 
was  really nice - she had no better rooms in our category or the two 
categories  above ours available until the next day. So, the next day 
we got moved into a better room!

The  restaurants there were wonderful - the Teppenyaki (oriental) was 
definitely  the best but the International, Italian, and Windies were 
good  too.  It  took  us a while to get used to not having to pay and 
just  getting  up  and  leaving,  but  then  we soon cottoned on that 
equally,  we  could  ask  for  *two*  appetizers,  or  have  "one  of 
everything"  from the dessert trolley! :-) It was great having drinks 
freely  available too - working our way through the cocktail list was 
a major feature of the holiday!

The  facilities  were  amazing  - we were worried that there might be 
big  queues  for some of the activities, but the resort seems to have 
been  very carefully planned with this in mind - we never had trouble 
finding  a  lounger,  swapping in our beach towels for clean ones, or 
doing  any  of  the  activities  we wanted to. We tried tennis, table 
tennis,  pitchnputt,  pool, snorkeling, wind surfing, water-skiing, 
aquatrike-ing,  swimming,  and  of  course  just  lounging around. We 
liked  the  way  the  playmakers (which we thought sounded alarmingly 
American!)  didnt  even  slightly force you to join in to the "team" 
activities if you didnt want to. 

We  went over to Sandals Ocho Rios one evening, with the intention of 
eating  there,  seeing what it was like and then maybe spending a day 
there  later  on.  However, that one evening was sufficient for us to 
see  all  we  wanted  to  see of the resort - its a lot smaller than 
Dunns  River,  and a lot more sedate and relaxed seeming (Dunns River 
was  quite  upbeat and lively). We were glad wed chosen Dunns River, 
but  obviously that wouldnt be everyone's preference! The restaurant 
we ate at (Tex Mex) was nice.

We  did  the Mary Ann cruise trip ("The Booze Cruise") to Dunns River 
Falls,  which  was  another  great  experience.  Make  sure  to  take 
disposable  underwater  cameras!  We  used a total of 8 (!) films, of 
which two were disposable underwater ones. 

We  spent  more  money  than  we  thought  we  would  given the "All-
inclusive"  nature  of the resort, but didnt ever feel we were being 
charged  for  things  that  should have been included. Things we paid 
for were: souvenirs (we bought five t-shirts!) and postcards; a half-
hour  massage  each;  I  got  5  braids  put in my hair; the Mary Ann 
cruise;  and  three photographs from the resort photographer. Talking 
of  postcards  -  we  sent our postcards the day after we arrived and 
they arrived in the UK the day after we got back!

I  dont  think theres much else to say except to say that it really 
was  the  holiday  of  a lifetime - we would heartily recommend it to 
anyone  wanting  a  really luxurious, every-whim-catered-for holiday. 
And definitely try the "Sex on the Beach" cocktail! :-) 

Vicky (wishing she was back there now instead of at work!)  

JAMAICA: BOSCOBEL BY MARC AND DONNA MCINTOSH

The Ultimate Guide To Boscobel Beach



Went  to  Boscobel  in  May,  1996  and  loved it! Went back again in 
April,  1997  and  had even more fun. My kids (girls) are now 4 and 7 
and they can't wait to go back.

There  is  an  "unofficial"  web  page  for  Boscobel  (and the other 
SuperClubs)  at  www.superclubs.com  which  will  give  you an fairly 
accurate  overview  of  the  resort.  Be  aware  that  this  site  is 
sponsored by a travel agency, not SuperClubs. 

While   two  trips  cannot  qualify  us  as  experts,  here  is  some 
information  that  you  might find helpful in deciding on Boscobel or 
getting the most out of your trip. 

GETTING THERE:

The  bus  ride  from  the  airport  is  2 - 2 1/2 hours, depending on 
traffic.  It's a two lane road and the drivers tend to be aggressive, 
but  in  6 trips to Jamaica we've never seen a major accident. All in 
all,  it's  not  a  bad ride and gives you a good introduction to the 
island.  This  is  a  third-world country and there is a good deal of 
poverty,  but  there  are  also  many beautiful homes (our bus driver 
told  us  that  this  is  where the "doctors, lawyers, and smugglers" 
live.)  The  road  roughly  follows  the coastline and you get to see 
lots of clear, blue water. 

Make  sure  that everyone uses the bathroom first as there is usually 
only one stop along way. 

The  mid-point  stop is at a small shop/bar where you can grab a Ting 
(grapefruit  soda)  or  a  Red  Stripe (the only beer in Jamaica) and 
begin  your vacation! You may want to also to try the meat patties, a 
Jamaican specialty. 

You  can  catch  a  commuter  plane from MoBay to Ocho Rios but it is 
expensive ($75pp each way) and you miss the bus experience.



Check-in  at the hotel is relatively painless. You are greeted at the 
entrance  with  a  glass  of  champagne  (this  is new this year). We 
arrived  at  about  1  pm and had to wait 1/2 hour for our room to be 
ready. Some others had to wait until 5:30.




YOUR ROOM:

The  brochure  for  Boscobel  is fairly accurate, and, as is usual in 
brochures  of this type, the rooms are photographed with a wide-angle 
lens to make them look larger than life.

Both  times  we  stayed  at  BB  we  had the "Junior Suite" which the 
resort  has  more  of  than  any  other  room  type.  These rooms are 
relatively  large,  with  a oversized sliding glass door, a king size 
bed,  and  a two single beds which double as couches. The two singles 
are  separated  by  a half-height wall and are one step down from the 
main  level  of  the  room. There is a large bathroom with sunken tub 
(not  as  glamorous  as  it might sound). The room is equipped with a 
blow  drier,  iron  and  ironing  board, a small refrigerator, coffee 
maker,  and  a  color  television (all of the nets plus Disney, ESPN, 
CNN,  HBO,  and  others). The closet is adequate, but drawer space is 
scarce.  The  rooms are relatively clean but very humid. We found the 
air  conditioner  to  be overpowering even at it's lowest setting and 
kept it off at night.

On  a  quality  scale, the rooms are more along the lines of an older 
Holiday  Inn than a Hyatt. Remember, this is third-world country! The 
accommodations  are  no better or worse than we've seen at other all-
inclusives  we've  been  to  in Jamaica. If you're like us, you won't 
spend much time in the room anyway!




EATING AND DRINKING:

The  food  at  BB is good, not great, but just what we expected. Food 
is  available  just  about any time you want them and there is plenty 
of variety. There are five places to eat...



1.  The  Terrace: This is the most popular eating area. It is a large 
covered,  but  open air terrace situated next to the pool. Breakfast, 
lunch,  and dinner are served here buffet style. Breakfasts include a 
variety  of  fruits, pancakes, eggs, breads, cereals, etc. The coffee 
is  great!  Lunch  includes  salads,  fruit,  sandwiches,  pizza, and 
several  hot  dishes.  The dinner selections vary from night to night 
(themes   include  Jamaican,  Chinese,  American,  etc.)  and  always 
include  salads,  fruit,  and an assortment of hot entrees and sides. 
At  lunch and dinner there is a large variety of desserts, this being 
one area where we saw a marked improvement over our previous visit.



2.  The  Pavilion:  This  is  a  "sit  down"  open-air restaurant for 
families,  with  food  selections from a menu. We found that the food 
selections  were  similar, if not the same, as in the Terrace. A good 
choice  only if you want a change of atmosphere, we found the Terrace 
had a better variety and was more efficient.



3.  Allegro:  This  is  a  small,  "adults  only"  restaurant with an 
Italian  theme.  Reservations  are  necessary  and can be made at the 
front  desk  at 9am on the day you wish to dine. Reservations fill up 
quickly!  This  restaurant requires slacks for men (the only time you 
will  need anything other than bathing suits or shorts.) The food, on 
average,  is  a  couple  notches  above that in the Terrace (and they 
serve  better  wine!). Service is very good. While the restaurant was 
a  quiet change of pace from the rest of the resort, it strives to be 
too  "American".  Personally,  we  would  have liked to see more of a 
Jamaican flavor to the menu.



4.  Bar-B-Que  Park:  Located near the pool, this is typical cook-out 
fare,  with burgers, dogs, and fries, along with some fruit and salad 
items. Popular with the kids.



5.  Beach  Bar:  This  is  the resort's "secret" place to get a great 
lunch.  In  addition  to  burgers  and  dogs, they serve jerk chicken 
starting at about noon. Be aware, the chicken goes quickly.

In   addition,   continental  breakfast  is  available  through  room 
service.  Room service is ordered the night before by hanging a order 
card  on  your  door. We heard that, more often than not, these cards 
were  not  picked  up.  In  fact,  our  only experience with the room 
service  was being brought someone else's order. Our advice is to not 
bother. 



There  are five bars, and you can get just about anything you want to 
drink  any  time  you  want  it. Premium brands and more types of rum 
than  you  ever  thought  existed.  Strategically  placed  soft drink 
dispensers are a hit with the kids.

Here  is  one  surprising experience shared by a couple we met: Their 
first  night  at  BB  was their wedding anniversary and they tried to 
get  a  bottle  of champagne to celebrate. Their waiter quoted them a 
price  of  $65.  Seems  somewhat  petty  to  be able to get unlimited 
drinks from the bar, but not a bottle of champagne.




SPORTS/ACTIVITIES:

There  is a relatively large pool (certainly not Olympic sized as the 
brochure  claims)  in  the  center  of  the  property that is open to 
everyone.  There  is also a smaller pool and Jacuzzi for adults only. 
There  are  tennis  courts (never used them) and golf is included but 
the  course  is  off  property (again, never used it or even ran into 
anyone who did.)

Snorkeling,  as well as other water sports including kayaks, sunfish, 
banana-boat,  etc.,  are available right from the beach at no charge. 
The  snorkeling  is  fun for beginners but there is not a lot to see. 
SCUBA  diving  is  also  included and seemed quite popular (never did 
it.)

  Snorkeling and SCUBA require advance sign-up, and the day before is 
recommended.  The  trips  tend  to  fill up more quickly in the later 
part of the week (when guests have figured out the procedure.)



"Showtime"  is  the nightly activity on the Terrace (sometimes on the 
beach.)  Each  night,  a  different  show is presented. The shows are 
primarily  geared  toward  adults;  however,  the  show  on the beach 
included  Jamaican  dancers,  fire-eaters,  etc. and was popular with 
everyone.  There  is  a disco which is open from 10pm until "the last 
guest  leaves".  My  guess  is that most guests are exhausted by this 
time (we never made it.)




THE KID'S ACTIVITIES:

There  are  four  different  centers  for  kids,  with one center for 
infants  through  age  3,  one for 4-7, one for 8-12, and another for 
teens.  These  centers  offer a variety of age-appropriate activities 
for  kids and operate from 9am until 10pm. We typically kept our kids 
out  of  the  centers  during  the  day  but  checked them in for the 
evening  activities;  however,  it  is entirely possible to keep your 
kids in the activities all day.

In  addition, private "SuperNannies" are available 24 hours a day for 
$2.50  per  hour  (for  up to three kids). We never used this service 
but it seemed to be popular.

There  is a small playground and a "zoo" which is nothing more than a 
few caged small animals.

A  daily  schedule  of events is available on the chalkboard near the 
entrance  to  the  Pavilion,  and printed versions are available near 
the front desk.




DOING BUSINESS:

Want  to buy souvenirs, crafts, or t-shirts? Want a driver to go into 
town?  Need  anything? Talk to John Wayne. He is a friendly local and 
he  knows everyone! John Wayne, and his "co-workers" set up shop just 
outside  the  Boscobel  property.  To  find him, walk from the resort 
toward  the  beach  and  turn right. Head toward the scuba office and 
walk  onto  the  dock.  There is a fence on the far side of the dock, 
and  John  Wayne  can  be  found  just over the fence. These are hard 
working,  appreciative  people.  Please  tell him that Donna and Marc 
from Virginia sent you!! 



This  is also the place for you and your kids, especially if they are 
girls,  to  get  their  hair  braided.  Everybody  does it, including 
adults.  Don't  have  it done on resort, as it costs too much ($60 vs 
$25 off property) and the quality isn't that great. 



You  can take a shopping trip into town; however, for the same amount 
of  money,  John Wayne will arrange a cab and driver. Have the driver 
take  you  into town and be sure to stop at a "jerk pit" for the best 
pork and chicken you have ever tasted (try the Double V.)




OTHER RANDOM TIPS:

You  do  not  need  money  at  the  resort as there is no tipping and 
everything  is  included.  A  couple  of  people have posted messages 
stating  that  they  were  pressured  into  tipping,  but  we haven't 
experienced  this  in  two  visits. You will, however, need tip money 
whenever  you  leave  the resort - Make sure that you leave home with 
plenty of ones and fives (change is hard to come by.) 

Don't  waste  time  converting  your  money in to Jamaica dollars, as 
U.S. dollars are accepted (and preferred) everywhere.

The  Straw  Market  in  Ocho Rios is quite an experience. Picture row 
after  row  of  vendors,  each  selling  basically  the  same  thing. 
Although  the  vendors  will leave you alone if you say no, you might 
find  them to be a bit aggressive. If you want hand-crafted souvenirs 
without  enduring  the straw market, several vendors are brought onto 
the  BB  property on Wednesday evenings. Their offerings are the same 
as you see at the straw market.

When  you  are off of the resort there are many people trying to sell 
you  things  (including  ganga, or marijuana). The Jamaicans are very 
nice  people; however, and if you are not interested you just have to 
say   so.   When  making  purchase,  remember  that  the  prices  are 
negotiable - they EXPECT to bargain.



Don't  miss  Dunn's River Falls, where you climb a 900 ft. waterfall. 
It  was  a lot of fun! The falls can be fairly intense in places, but 
our  athletic  4  and 7 year old girls did not have a problem. At the 
conclusion  of  your  climb  you  must  navigate  through  a group of 
"vendors"  before getting back to your bus. Walk quickly ... we found 
these  vendors to be VERY aggressive! There is a charge for the falls 
trip;  however,  it is included with some packages (if it is included 
in  your  package  you  will  need  to  go through a manager to avoid 
paying.)

In  addition  to  the  falls,  there  are  several  other  excursions 
available from the tour desk. All are at an additional fee.

We've  been  to  Jamaica several times and have never needed anything 
other than summer clothes - It's warm all the time. 

The  only time you'll need anything other than shorts and swimwear is 
if  you go to the "adult" restaurant, and then you'll only need "nice 
casual" attire.

"SuperCents"  are given as prizes for many activities. The kids get a 
kick  out of collecting these over the course of the stay. SuperCents 
can be traded in for small prizes.

Nobody  moves  very  quickly  in  Jamaica,  which takes some time for 
"city  folks" to get used to (we're from the Washington DC area). But 
just relax, grab a drink, and say "no problem, mon"! 

PROVO BY MARYELLA DONLEAVY

Spent  the  first  10 days of April on Providenciales with my husband 
and  2  daughters.  I think we have finally found the perfect island. 
Weather  was  warm  &  sunny and mid humidity. We stayed at the Ocean 
Club  in a 1 bedroom deluxe. It was huge with full kitchen, a/c, w/d, 
and  screened in balcony on the 3rd floor where we watched the sun go 
down  over  Grace Bay every night. The hotel was great, island people 
super friendly, and the beaches the best we have seen in the world. 

The  island  itself  is not very pretty (flat & dusty)but the beaches 
more  than  make  up  for it. There are only 8 major hotels on the 12 
miles  of  Grace  Bay so the island is VERY uncrowded. Every beach we 
tried  we  were      the only ones on it. Snorkeling was good but not 
great. 

Restaurants  were  very  good with a lot of different dining options, 
many  within  10  minutes  from  hotel.  We  tried  Gecko grill, Coco 
Bistro,  Caicos  Cafe,  Anaconia,  Sunset Bar & Grill, Tikki Hut, The 
Terrace,  and  the  barbecue  buffet  at Le Deck. All were super, all 
outdoors  in  different  settings.  Prices  for  my  family  of 4 was 
approximately  $100.00  including  a bottle of wine, dessert, tax and 
tip.  There  are many day sail trip options to snorkel and have beach 
barbecues on deserted islands. 

We  sailed on "Two Fingers" and had a great day. Stay away from Ocean 
Outback  Trips-they  left  us  standing  in  front  of the hotel on 2 
different  days.  The  hotel  told  us  they had bumped people before 
without  notifying  them.  In  addition  to Grace Bay try Jack Cooper 
beach  (only  at low tide) Long Bay Beach, and Taylor Bay (where Dick 
Clarke  has a house), and Malcolm Road Beach. Each one is better than 
the  last.  Only  bad  point  was  pesty  mosquitoes  at night at the 
restaurants by Grace Bay. The kids got eaten alive. 

We  also checked out Beaches Resort. Nice pool with waterfall but the 
rooms  didn't  have  a  lot of privacy, and the atmosphere around the 
pool  reminded  me  of a cruise ship---a lot of noise and kids. Grace 
Bay   Hotel  of  course  was  incredible--no  kids  allowed  and  the 
restaurant was superb! 

PUERTO RICO BY KATHY BARAKS

Mon., Mar 31 

Just  before  our  plane  landed  in  San  Juan for our sixth trip to 
Puerto  Rico  we  watched  a  beautiful  sunset at 36,000 feet. As we 
landed  about  7:25  p.m.,  we  rolled  past  the  replica  of Amelia 
Earhart's  plane  piloted by Linda Finch the Texas business woman who 
is  reenacting  the historic flight. It had landed at 7:00 p.m. and I 
felt very honored to be there where history was being made. 

It  was  partly cloudy over PR when we landed and stayed that way for 
several  days,  although  after  just  arriving from the land of ice, 
snow  and  36  degrees we were thankful for the small relief from the 
intense  Caribbean  sunshine this provided. By the second day we were 
both  red  skinned though we used a lot of creams. Our first night we 
stayed  in  San  Juan so we could do some sightseeing in Old San Juan 
the  next  morning.  We  rented a car at the airport and drove to the 
Radisson Normandie. 

Tue, Apr 1 

We  awoke  early so even with a two hour time difference we were able 
to  drive  into  Old  San Juan easily, find parking, and were waiting 
for  "El  Morro" one of the oldest forts in the new world to open its 
gates. 

Puerto  Rico  was  discovered  in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on his 
second  voyage  to the new world. It had become a vital passageway to 
the  riches  of  the  Americas  so this fort was built in 1539 by the 
Spanish  to  protect  the territories it had claimed from attempts by 
England, France, and Holland to take them over. 

It  was  really impressive to explore this six level fort overlooking 
a  beautiful  view of sand beaches, palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean 
and  dream  of  the days when real soldiers stood on these same walls 
and  fought  against  pirates and marauding nations. The museum there 
is filled with stories of its history. 

Next,  we  strolled over to the "Casa Blanca" museum a beautiful 16th 
century  house  built  for Juan Ponce de Leon explorer, colonizer and 
first  governor  of Puerto Rico. However, while it was in the process 
of  construction  he  died  in  Cuba.  His family lived there for 250 
years  and  today  it  is  a  museum  with many authentic articles of 
furniture from that era as well as beautiful gardens. 

After  a  tasty meal at our favorite "La Bonbonera" a bakery/cafe, we 
headed  for  Fajardo  a  city on the eastern coast of PR, to drop off 
our  rental  car  and  catch the ferry to Vieques, pronounced (bee AY 
kase),  affectionately  dubbed  by  a  famous  Puerto Rican author as 
"Isla  Nena"  or little girl island, as it is a small island owned by 
PR  just  about  9  miles  off the east coast. It is about an hour by 
ferry and tickets cost just $2 one-way. 

The  sea  was calm and the trip was scenic, as there are many islands 
dotting  this  side  of  PR.  When  we  arrived  a cab took us to our 
Parador  "The  Crow's  Nest."  A  jeep  was  waiting for us, so after 
settling  in  to  our  nice  three  room  suite with a bedroom, bath, 
kitchen,  dining  room  and both inside & private outside porches all 
for  a  mere $75 per day, we had a very tasty evening meal and headed 
out with map in hand to explore the island. 

Wed, Apr 2 

We  spent  most of the day on two dives off the southern coast of the 
island  in  the  green waters of the Caribbean sea. We saw the hugest 
lobster  we  had  ever  seen  in our lives with front pinchers longer 
than  Jim's  arms  and a body about 9 inches across. We also found an 
area  where  fisherman  discarded  the  shells  of  conch  after they 
removed  the  meat.  We  brought several of them up into the boat and 
took  them back to our quarters to clean them up for souvenirs. After 
soaking  them  in  a  solution  of  bleach  and  water all night they 
cleaned up beautifully with a brush. 

Thu, Apr 3 

Exploring  the  island.  Vieques  is  a sleepy island full of natural 
resources  and history. It is an island where the US military has had 
a  controversial  role  since 1947 when it expropriated two-thirds of 
the  island  for  military  use  and  relocated  large numbers of its 
residents  on  the  US  Virgins. The population was forced to live on 
only  one-third of the island. Today, the Navy and Marines open their 
areas  to  the public, unless they are conducting exercises there. In 
some  ways  this  has  been good as it has prevented land grabbing of 
the  island's  unspoiled  beauty,  but there are many who believe the 
military presence will be scaled back. 

I  sat next to a Puerto Rican woman, while waiting for the ferry, who 
is  an  urban  planner. She told me that there were already plans for 
the  development  of  the island in the event that the military lands 
are  given  back  to  the government of Vieques. Many of the paradors 
and  restaurants  are  owned by Americans from the mainland, but this 
influence  is not as prevalent as on Culebra, PR's other small island 
off  its  northeastern  coast.  Generally, they are not as amiable as 
the Puerto Ricans. 

The  island  has  large numbers of wild horses everywhere dating back 
to  the days of the Spanish. As a vessel was sailing to the new world 
with  a cargo of horses, the ship was damaged in a terrible storm and 
was  ready  to  sink  so  the horses were set free, to save them from 
drowning.  They  swam  to the island and today are everywhere. Anyone 
who  wants  a  horse  and  has  the  room to care for one can own one 
easily,  so  there  are  many  cowboys too. Many times we had to slow 
down or stop our Jeep for them. 

We  went walking on the man-made US Navy Mosquito pier and afterwards 
along  the  beach  there we found many shells. Most of the conch were 
broken  and  we  already  had  several  so we picked up other smaller 
shells,  sponge,  corals  and  a starfish. Angie is teaching learning 
disabled  children  this  year so asked us to bring postcards and sea 
shells.  We  could  have  filled  suitcases  with  all  the shells so 
limited  ourselves to the best and sturdiest as we would have to drag 
them around for the next week. 

Fort  Conde  de Mirasol, built in the 1840s was the last Spanish fort 
to  be  built  in the new world. It houses a museum rich with stories 
of  the  Igneri & Taino Indians, Spanish, Danish, English, French and 
U.S.  influences  on its history for those who are lucky enough to be 
able  to  read  Spanish. The Indian artifacts found on the island and 
in  archeological  digs there are some of the finest evidences of the 
earliest  occupants  of  the  Caribbean  islands.  I  met  one of the 
archeologists  of  PR  there who had discovered some of the artifacts 
that were on display. 

Many  of  the  spices  of the Caribbean are made on Vieques where you 
can  buy  them for a song, but since our luggage was full up with sea 
shells,  we  had  to  pass  on  this trip. The island has hundreds of 
beaches,  some  with  easy  access but many are very secluded and are 
seemingly  impossible to get to. This helps to keep them gorgeous and 
unspoiled. 

Towards  evening  a very light mist began and we were afraid that our 
planned  trip  to  Mosquito  Bioluminescent  Bay  would  be canceled. 
Fortunately,  this  only  added  to  the  splendor of one of the most 
magnificent  excursions  we  have  ever  had on PR. A couple of years 
ago,  we  visited  the  Phosphorescent Bay in Parquera, PR but of the 
three  spots  in  the world where this phenomena exists, Vieques is a 
thousand times more brilliant. 

We  appeared  as  golden  ghosts, as we swam in the water where there 
are  almost  750,000  luminescent organisms per gallon of water. When 
you  cupped  your  arms  together  the  water  running down your arms 
appeared  to  be  filled  with gold dust. Everyone was laughing as we 
swam  together.  When  we returned to the boat our swim suits glowed. 
We  enjoyed  this experience so much and will certainly go back again 
when we are able. 

Fri, Apr 4 

We  knew the ferries were not running on Thursday, but hoped the seas 
would  quiet  down  by the time we had to leave. But I understand why 
they  don't  run  when the seas are rough. I have heard of times when 
virtually  everyone  on  the  boat  was vomiting from seasickness and 
with  a potential load of 400 people that could be a pretty big mess. 


Anyway,  we  drove  early  to the ferry and after learning it was not 
operating,  drove  to  the  airport. That was a fun experience of its 
own.  Tickets  were  only $15 per person but because of our amount of 
luggage,  including all our Scuba gear and seashells we paid an extra 
$25.  Still  not bad for the experience. It was a small plane about 8 
passengers  and  a low flight that took only 15 minutes. The view was 
tremendous. And in no time we were again in Fajardo. 

We  called  the car rental to get us and after renting another Toyota 
Tercel  we  headed  out  for the west of the island. I wanted to take 
the  easy  route  through  Carolina since I am the navigator and know 
that  route well. I also wanted to stop and see the new museum at "El 
Yunque"  their  world  class  rain  forest,  but  for some reason Jim 
didn't  want  to  go  through  the  rain  forest but rather wanted to 
travel  along  the  southeastern  coast  which  we  had  never before 
traveled.  I  knew  it  was  the  only  part  of the island perimeter 
without  a  good road, though they are working on completing one, but 
since  it was Jim's birthday I decided to humor him and go along that 
route. 

"Ruta  Panoramica"  was really better named "Ruta from Hell" Jim told 
me  later,  if  he had only known we would have gone the way I wanted 
but  it  was interesting nonetheless. We were nearly run over head-on 
by  a  huge sugarcane truck rambling down the mountain and we saw the 
funniest  thing  we  have  ever  seen at an intersection stoplight in 
Humacao. 

There  were  five  young  bulls  or steers standing at the cross walk 
with  no  human  being in sight except those in the many cars at this 
busy  light. One of the steers started to step down in the cross walk 
but  stepped  back  up  when  a car gently nudged him. So they waited 
patiently  and  when  the  light  turned green all five walked single 
file  in  the cross walk and up onto the narrow sidewalk on the other 
side  of  the  street  and  continued  on  their  way as if they knew 
exactly  where  they  were going. Truly this would have won the prize 
for the world's funniest videos if it were submitted. 

We  were pretty exhausted from the winding and turning mountain roads 
by  the  time  we finally reached our destination in Joyuda. We had a 
tasty  meal  on  a  pier restaurant named "Vista Bahia" overlooking a 
beautiful  bay  in  the  Caribbean  Sea,  ran into Mayaguez for a Rex 
Cream,  made  a  few calls, then relaxed in our suite for the rest of 
the  evening.  When we opened the curtains the sea was right in front 
of  our  window.  It was really awesome. Scott, our son, surprised us 
by calling us that evening and wishing Jim a Happy Birthday. 

Sat, Apr 5 

We  found  the  Bella  Vista  Adventist  Church  without  a hitch and 
enjoyed  the  SS  class in English, while Jim wore headphones for the 
church  services.  After  church we went to the Mayaguez Plaza in the 
town  center  to  meet  some  friends.  The  plaza  has  a  statue of 
Christopher  Columbus  in it as they believe that he landed there. We 
spent  a  few hours visiting with them in their home and they made us 
feel  very  welcome  and comfortable. We ate a very nice meal of rice 
beans and some other native foods and fruits. Mmmmm!! 

After  we left them we went to visit a second family of friends and I 
learned   to  make  tostones  and  sururillos,  native  Puerto  Rican 
appetizers.  We  had a good time visiting, mostly in Spanish, but Jim 
found  a  good  friend  in  Ricky  who  nearly talked his ear off and 
showed him many of the things he had made and colored. 

We  finished  the  day at the Rex Cream with ice cream made of frozen 
fruit  whirred  with sugar. Mmmmm!! I think we stopped there at least 
once  every  day  we were on this side of the island. I have not seen 
this  kind  of  ice  cream  invented by the Chinese in any other city 
except Mayaguez. 

Sun, Apr 6 

We  were  leaving  for  Maricao  this  day, but since our room wasn't 
available  until  2:00  p.m.,  we were looking for something to do in 
the  morning.  We had gone diving last year with Jose, whose boat was 
slipped  in  at the Joyuda harbor just up the road from where we were 
checking  out, so decided to drive by and see if there was any chance 
we  could  go  on  a  dive with him. We had called another couple who 
offer  dives  to  Desecheo  as soon as we arrived on Friday, but they 
had  not  returned our call and I thought that with the seas so rough 
in  the  north  they  probably  weren't  going out anyway. So we were 
surprised  to find that Jose was there and luckily two divers were no 
shows so he had room in the boat for us to go. 

He  wasn't  going to Desecheo, but rather to the southern part of the 
island  where  it  was more calm. We dove a wall dive off Parquera at 
125  feet,  the deepest I had ever been. We had great visibility, but 
the  long  boat  ride had left me a little sea sick and I had to hang 
over  the  back  of the boat for the whole trip back to Joyuda. After 
losing  all  my breakfast, I made Jim take me back in to Mayaguez for 
a Rex Cream which would make my stomach feel better. 

While  there  we  encountered  a  Bike-a-thon for the Adventist Radio 
station  and  hundreds  of  bikers  trapped  our car in the center of 
town.  I took some photos of Ricky on his little bicycle at the front 
of  the  pack. He is very photogenic and seemed delighted to have his 
pictures  taken.  After talking with some friends for a while we were 
given  a  police  escort out of town so we could continue our journey 
to  Maricao  where  we  would be staying at an old coffee hacienda in 
the mountains. 

At  supper  on the verandah of the hacienda, I told Jim how blessed I 
felt  to be there and how good God had been, to keep us safe 125 feet 
under  the  sea  and then to end the day on this mountain top. It was 
so  peaceful  and  tranquil  after  enduring  the seasickness and the 
intensity  of  the  dive. I was feeling a little weak and worn out so 
really  appreciated  being  away from TVs, telephones and was looking 
forward  to  going to bed early and getting a good night's rest which 
was  impossible  in  the sad excuse of a bed we had in Joyuda. Little 
did I know then how wrong I was. 

After  the  meal was finished I asked if we could see the comet Hale-
Bopp  from  there.  I  had been looking forward to seeing it from PR, 
but  every  night  there  had  been a cloud cover in the northern sky 
that  prevented  me  from  seeing it. "Oh yes," they said and took me 
over  to the side of the porch where Hale-Bopp was clearly visible. A 
brother  and sister own the hacienda and the brother told me "It will 
bring good luck to those who see the comet." 

Jim  and  I went to our room which had an old plantation style window 
with  wooden boards that folded out to open. It had four doors two on 
top  and  two  on  the bottom which when all were opened extended all 
the  way from the ceiling to the floor. Because we were trying to dry 
our  Scuba  gear,  we  had  all  four flaps open and there was only a 
little X railing to keep one from falling out. 

Our  room  was  on  the  second floor and I was so excited to realize 
that  lying  in  bed I had the most awesome view of Hale-Bopp sitting 
right  next to a huge palm tree. It was brighter than I had ever seen 
it.  It  was  so dark in the mountains with no city lights and I just 
laid there silently praying and watching the comet. 

Jim  had  just  fallen asleep when suddenly directly across the small 
stone  road  from  our  room  a  man  came  running  out  of his room 
screaming  very  loudly.  "HELP  ME!! I USED COCAINE AND I THINK I AM 
HAVING  A  HEART  ATTACK!!  HELP  ME!! HELP ME!! SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP 
ME!! 

When  I first began to hear his cries for help, I was kind of shocked 
and  thought,  "Would  someone do this for a joke?" But immediately I 
realized,  "NO,  this  is for real." I said to Jim, who was beginning 
to  wake up and heard the man yelling for help, "Did you hear what he 
said?" He hadn't. I was the only one to hear the man's words. 

Jim  got  up, got on some shorts, told me to stay in the room, and he 
went  to try to find someone to help. I was watching the man from the 
window.  He  ran  to  the  office  screaming all the way. When he got 
there  it  was closed and boarded up. I saw him sit down and begin to 
have  tremors  and  then he began to convulse violently. He laid down 
and his body was stiff and jumping 3 or 4 inches off the porch. 

I  looked  the  opposite  way  down  the road and saw two men walking 
towards  the  office.  I  called  out to them, telling them a man had 
used  cocaine  and was dying. They were Germans and one was a doctor. 
He  ran down to try to help the young man and I left the room to come 
down  to  help  too.  The doctor needed some things like a flashlight 
and towels, which I ran back and found in my room. 

The  two Germans began giving him CPR and artificial respiration. The 
doctor  said  if he had a certain drug it could counteract the effect 
of  the  cocaine, but of course he didn't have it. Meanwhile, Jim had 
found someone to call with a cellular phone for an ambulance. 

Little  did  we  know  then that there are some bureaucratic problems 
going  on  right  now  in  PR with ambulances and hospitals. It seems 
that  there is a battle for the management of hospitals to be removed 
from  governmental  control and given to private interests. Anyway, a 
hospital  that  was  5  minutes  from the hacienda refused to send an 
ambulance  since they closed at 8:00 p.m. and they got the call about 
8:30. 

Every  time  we  saw  flashing  lights  we  thought  it  would  be an 
ambulance  only to see one, two and finally three police cars arrive. 
The  owner  told  me  as  I  sat next to him with both of us silently 
praying  that  there  was  no good explanation for this no show of an 
ambulance.  He  also  said,  "We  are very lucky that you were here." 
because I heard the man's words. 

The  police  tried  calling the next city over in Las Marias but were 
told  it was not their jurisdiction. After 45 minutes and the Germans 
near  exhaustion there was still no ambulance. Finally, after several 
calls  an ambulance appeared, although it was nothing more than a van 
driven  by  someone  untrained  in  life-saving skills. He handed the 
Germans  an oxygen tank, which was of no value without a pump to keep 
the man breathing. 

The  Germans  were exhausted and said without any equipment it is all 
over  for  this  man.  They folded his arms, helped to put him on the 
stretcher  and  sent him off in an ambulance for God only knows where 
since  the hospital was closed. His body was still twitching a little 
and he still had life in him but we all knew he wouldn't make it. 

The  two  Germans  and Jim and I turned away incredulously, while the 
three  Puerto  Ricans there, other than the three officers, seemed to 
accept  it  much  easier.  If  only  I  had  known,  there was a good 
Adventist  hospital  in  the  next  town  over  about 35 minutes from 
there,  but  we  assumed  that when the hospital was called that help 
was on the way. 

The  first officer to arrive asked me many questions in Spanish since 
I  was  the only witness to the man's words. I was thankful that I am 
able  to speak it and understand it enough to be able to help. I told 
him  though  that the man had cried out totally in English. The three 
officers  other  than searching the room and asking me questions just 
stood  by and did nothing. I was incredulous that they had absolutely 
no  training  in  emergency life saving measures. xNeedless to say, I 
got  almost  no  sleep  that night. I kept seeing the young mans eyes 
and  face struggling to live and hearing his cries. It was terrible!! 
I  had  never  watched anyone die before and such a violent death was 
very  hard  for  me to deal with. Also, like Jim said this could have 
been  our own son. About 2 a.m. I heard a car drive up and the sister 
owner  let  three  men  into  Hector's room. One was his father and I 
heard  him  sobbing  his  heart  out  for his son. I heard him say in 
Spanish that "He was only 24 years old. 

Mon, Apr 7 

The  first thing in the morning I talked to the sister owner. She had 
not  slept  all  night  either.  She  said  that  she was going to be 
writing  a  letter  to  the mayor and governor. She told me that they 
found only a few bottles of beer and no drugs in Hector's room. 

His  father  said  he had lived in the U.S. but was living in PR now, 
he  didn't  use  drugs,  but  that  he  had  been despondent over his 
marriage.  Hector  had  one  son  and had tried three times to commit 
suicide.  They  found  crack cocaine at his home in Yauco. That could 
explain  why  he came alone to the mountains and why he called out in 
English.  But it was obvious that after he realized that he was dying 
he  wanted to live desperately. And it was such a pity because he was 
so young and strong and HE DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE. 

Anyway,  I  am  still  trying  to sort out why I happened to be there 
just  that night, directly across the way, with my windows flung wide 
open.  Was  it  providential or circumstantial and what is the lesson 
that  I  should  learn  from this experience? This has made Jim think 
very  seriously,  about  my insistence upon living near the Adventist 
hospital.  It  has  also  made us aware of the need to carry the name 
and  telephone  numbers of a doctor from the area and the Bella Vista 
hospital  when  we  travel  into  the  interior  on  that side of the 
island. 

We  went  back  into  Mayaguez  to  pick  up  something  for  stomach 
indigestion,  as  I  had emptied our bottle the previous night. While 
we  were  there  we  went  to  talk  to  a  pastor  friend about this 
experience.  I  was  tired  and depressed and would have just as soon 
returned  to  the  U.S.  mainland that very day. He tried his best to 
cheer me up and encourage me to continue with our vacation. 

We  then  headed  to  Parquera  a  resort  area that really caters to 
tourists.  It  turned  out  to  be  a very good move although I don't 
usually  like  touristy  places.  We walked around the shops, checked 
out  boat  rentals,  had a very nice meal, and fell into bed early. I 
slept  good  that  night  only  waking  up a couple of times thinking 
about  the  experience  of  the  previous  night.  Jim  thought about 
setting  up  a  dive the next day, but I told him I just wanted to be 
alone with him not with a boat load of strangers. 

Tue, Apr 8 

We  rented  a  little  boat  for  4  hours  and  headed out towards a 
protected  bay  where  we  could do some snorkeling. With such a vast 
area  it  was  hard  to  decide  where  to put down our anchor but we 
finally  stopped in about four feet of water and began snorkeling. It 
was sunny and calm and it had a great effect of cheering me up. 

After  Jim  had gone back to rest a little while in the boat, I found 
an  incredible  field of starfish, just over an edge, where the water 
was  maybe ten feet deep. I yelled at him to come and join me. It was 
so  fun  because  you  would  see one then another and another. There 
were literally dozens of them of varying shapes, sizes and colors. 

We  found  some that were dead, that the salt water had preserved and 
tried  to  take  a few. We found sea urchin skeletons and a beautiful 
large  conch shell. We were like kids in a candy shop. I had more fun 
with  just  Jim  and  I in this little rental boat, than I did in the 
big  fancy  dive  boats. After four hours of snorkeling, our skin was 
over-baked  even  though  we used creams, so we escaped in our car to 
explore again. 

In  San  German  we enjoyed talking with a little souvenir shop owner 
and  then  went  to  Sabana Grande for some "comida typica" or native 
food.  It was great and the price to fill us both up, was $7. Next we 
headed  back  to Mayaguez to give one of our friends one of the conch 
shells  she  had  been  admiring  since  we  had  found  another  one 
snorkeling  and  already had one for each of our kids. And of course, 
this  would  give me the chance to get one last Rex Cream as we would 
be leaving the next morning for the central part of the island. 

Wed, Apr 9 

We  drove  out  of Parquera towards Ponce, the second largest city in 
PR.  We  must  have  hit a high school event as cars on the autopista 
had  teenagers  hanging out of the windows, flying down the road with 
#1  signs  and  writing  on  the windows. Finally, we got to the town 
square  where  there is a nice walking tour. After having a couple of 
"piraguas,"  or  Puerto Rican snow cones to cool off and setting down 
in  the  plaza near the beautiful Lion's fountain, we set off to find 
the  "Parque  de  Bombas"  a strangely painted red and black building 
which was used as a fire station for many years. 

The  building  was  originally constructed for a fair and was painted 
red  & white to attract attention, but when it began to be used for a 
fire  station  the  firemen  changed the colors to red and black. Red 
was  to signify the color of fire and the valor of the men who fought 
it,  while  black  was  the  color left where the fire had burned. We 
spent  some  time  in  the Fox-Delicias Mall looking at souvenirs and 
Jim  got a few T-shirts. Then we said goodbye to Ponce and headed for 
our destination of Coamo. 

Coamo  has  springs  from  within  the  mountains of 110 degrees. The 
water  is  full  of  minerals  that  are  very good for your skin and 
health  and  has been visited by Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas 
Edison  and  even  Juan Ponce de Leon himself. He probably thought it 
was the fountain of youth he so earnestly sought. 

The  road to the springs almost always has people jogging up and down 
it,  as  the  people are very health conscious and many who live near 
it,  visit  it  3  or  4 times weekly. Jim and I went in for a while, 
left  and  went  back again later. It was very relaxing and I felt my 
skin  was  so  soft  the next morning. We had about 50 channels on TV 
that  night so I went to sleep after watching a movie with Jim to the 
sound of M.T.V. in Spanish. 

Thu, Apr 10 

We  awoke early and packed everything in our luggage as best we could 
so  we  could  bring  all our sea shells home. Then we headed for Old 
San  Juan  to  do  some more sightseeing before going to the airport. 
Our  flight  out wasn't until 5:50 p.m. so we were able to visit many 
interesting sights before leaving. 

We  visited  the Las Americas museum -- a wonderful collection of art 
from  countries  throughout  the Americas. It brings together the art 
forms  influenced  by the three major races that together created the 
new  race  of  the Caribbean people. The cross and religion art forms 
brought  by  the  Europeans,  the musical rhythms of the African race 
and  many  of  the  Indian  art  forms  of  pottery,  boat building & 
weaving.  It  even included some examples of our early North American 
art such as the quilt and weather vanes. 

There  were  several  exhibitions of artists there also. We visited a 
display  of  the  early  Indians that inhabited the island before the 
Spanish  arrived in the Museum of Puerto Rican Culture across from El 
Morro.  It  was  very  good  and  added  to  the knowledge that I had 
already acquired at Ponce and Vieques. 

At  the Museum of Art & History there were several displays of modern 
art  that were really interesting and unusual. We stopped and visited 
the  Museum of Pablo Casals, the world famous cellist whose influence 
did  much  to  bring a love for classical music to his beloved Puerto 
Rico. 

After  visiting  several  stores,  picking  up some cards with Puerto 
Rican  art and having a sandwich on "criollo" bread, a native kind of 
french  bread,  we  headed out to Carolina to drop off our rental car 
and  go  to  the  airport. As we lifted off the ground, I looked back 
and said farewell to Puerto Rico once again. 

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