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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ST. CROIX RESTAURANT GUIDE BY ED BUCKLEY

(Ed. Note: Ed Buckley is assotiated with V.I. Divers, Ltd. (http://www.padi.com/vidivers.html)

This  is a fairly comprehensive list of restaurants on St. Croix that 
cater  to  our  visitors and locals alike. As the restaurant business 
is  always changing, I suggest that upon your arrival onto the island 
you  pick  up  a  copy  of St. Croix This Week (the pink sheet) which 
contains  an  up  to date listing of restaurants.  It's handed out on 
many of the flights here. 
________________________________________________________

Name of Restaurant           BLD       (Phone number)
                    (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
   Location
   Description of food
   "My comments are always in quotes"
   Credit Cards they accept.  None accepted if none listed. 

________________________________________________________


Antoine's in Anchor Inn       BLD       (773-0263)
   58A King Street, Christiansted
   Alpine Cuisine and Seafood
   AX, V, MC

Anything Goes Deli            BL        (773-2777)
   Gallows Bay, Christiansted
   Gourmet takeout and deli
   

Bombay Club                   LD        (773-1838)
   5A King Street, Christiansted
   Steak,  Chicken,  shrimp,  fish,  sandwiches,  and  several daily 
   specials.
   "Great roasted garlic and brie."
   Air conditioned dining in the bar or air cooled in the patio.
   AX, V, MC

Breezez                     BLD       (773-7077)
   Club St. Croix Condos
   Salads,  sandwiches,  burgers and pastas for lunch while seafood, 
   including their flaming rum lobster, is their dinner specialty.
   AX, V, MC

Cafe Du Soleil                D         (772-5400)
   Prince Passage on Strant Street, Christiansted
   Local fish, lamb, lobster, shrimp.
   "Great Sunday brunch.  Excellent place to catch a sunset."
   AX, V, MC

Camille's                     BLD       (773-2985)
   53B Company Street, Christiansted
   American, Steak, Seafood, Sandwiches, Salads

Cheeseburgers in Paradise     LD        (773-1119)
   East End Road
   "Wonderful  cheeseburgers,  burritos,  chicken,  pasta and daily 
   specials. 
   A real favorite hangout for the locals especially on weekends."
   Live music Thu-Sun
   MC, V

Columbus Cove                 BLD       (778-5771)
   Salt River Marina
   Continental  &  Caribbean  cuisine,  seafood,  and  pasta, steak, 
   sandwiches. Great home made deserts.
   
Comanche                      LD        (773-2665)
   Strand Street, Christiansted
   Seafood, Prime Rib, duckling, local fish, steaks
   Reservations Requested
   AX, V, MC

Company Street Pub            LD        (773-6880)
   Company Street
   Snacks, Sandwiches, salads, daily specials
   "French Dip and Curly fries are wonderful."
   Open till 4am

Cormorant Beach Club          BLD       (778-8920)
   Cormorant Beach Beach Hotel
   Continental  &  Caribbean  Cuisine  including  salads and gourmet 
   sandwiches for  lunch and a great Caribbean Night Buffet on Thursdays 
   with a floor show.  Good Sunday Brunch spot too.
   Reservations Requested
   AX, V, MC, DC

Cultured Pelican              LD        (773-3333)
   Coakley Bay Condos
   Pasta,  veal,  and italian dishes along with an excellent stuffed 
   lobster.
   Also a great Sunday Brunch.
   "One of the best views on the island"
   V, MC

Deep End Bar                  LD        (773-4455)
   Tamarind Reef Hotel
   Light fare, sandwiches, salads  

Down By the Bay               BLD       (773-2918)
   Chenay Bay Beach Hotel
   Continental & West Indian Cuisine
   Different  theme  night  every  night  including  two west indian 
   buffets weekly.. 

Duggan's at the Reef          LD        (773-9800)
   Teague Bay, East End
   Quiche,  flying  fish,  soups,  sandwiches and daily specials for 
   lunch, rack of lamb, filet, mignon, veal and lobster for dinner
    "Great  setting  at  the  east  end of the island.  Chicken verde 
   pasta and lobster putanesca  is excellent."
   Reservations Requested
   AX, V, MC

The Galleon                   D         (773-9949)
   Green Cay Marina
   French, Italian, lobster, chateaubriand, breast of duck.
   "The best rack of lamb on the island."
   Reservations Requested
   AX, V, MC

Greathouse at Villa Madeline  D         (778-7377)
   Teague Bay, East End
   International, Continental cuisine
   "Gourmet  dining  and  an  excellent  view  from  the  top of the 
   mountain"
   AX, V, D, MC

Harbormaster                  BLD       (773-2035)
   Hotel on the Cay, Christiansted
   Seafood,  burgers,  sandwiches and a Tuesday night Beach Barbecue 
   buffet with a limbo show, broken bottle dancer, fire eater, mocko 
   jumbie and steel band. 
   Reservations for the buffet.
   AX, MC, V

Harvey's                      LD        (773-3433)
   11B Company Street, Christiansted
   West  Indian cuisine including local fish, creole, ribs, chicken, 
   lobster and lamb stew. 

Hideaway                      BLD       (773-4042)
   Hibiscus Beach Hotel
   Right on the beach serving steak, seafood, sandwiches.  Wednesday 
   night barbecue  night  with live music and limbo contest.  Friday night 
   five course  dinner  and  show by the Caribbean Dance Company. Jazz on 
   Saturday night. 
   Reservations required for special nights
   AX, MC, V

Indies                        LD        (692-9440)
   55-56 Company Street, Christiansted
   Caribbean & International Cuisine, Seafood.  
   "This  is  the place I recommend first for seafood.  There's also 
   Sushi on Wednesday and Friday nights." 
   Reservations Suggested
   AX, V, MC

Kendrick's                    LD        (773-9199)
   King Street, Christiansted
   Dinner served on Friday and Saturday nights only
   "This   is  my  top  choice  for  fine  dining  on  the  island.  
   Contemporary & Nouvelle  American cuisine, including pastas, seafood, 
   duck, pork loin and a great wine list." .
   Reservations a must for dinner
   AX, V, MC

Lizards                       LD        (773-4485)
   1111 Strand Street, Christiansted
   Island-inspired dishes, barbecue
   Live music nightly
   AX, V, MC

Luncheria                     LD        (773-4247)
   6 Company Street, Christiansted
   "My  favorite  all  around  restaurant  for  their cheap and good 
   Mexican Food and  the  best frozen Margaritas ANYWHERE.  Their $1 
   margarita is extremely "tart"  to  cover  the vast quantity of tequila
   that gives it the kick of a mule.   Three  or four of these and you'll
   see things that aren't there!"

Mahogony Room                 D         (778-3800)
   Westin Carambola Beach Resort
   Fine Dining, Seafood
   AX, V, MC, D, DC

Mango Grove                   LD        (773-0200)
   Queen Cross Street, Christiansted
   Sandwiches,  burgers,  light  fare, and their specialty drink the 
   Mango daiquiri.  "Chicken fingers and fries make a great lunch"
   AX

Marina Bar                    BLD       (773-0103)
   King's Alley Yacht Landing
   Continental breakfast, light fare
   AX, MC, V, D

No Bones Cafe                 LD        (773-2128)
   Gallows Bay, Christiansted
   Seafood, grilled steak and chicken, homemade desserts prepared by 
   the self  proclaimed  resident  gypsy,  Chef  Tomas.   Great  seafood 
   chowder too.
   "My favorite is the Flying Fish and Chips with really really cold  
   beer (which  always  makes  a  place  rate  highly on my list).  Their 
   steaks are highly acclaimed" 
   Reservations Requested for dinner
   V, MC, D

Nolan's Tavern                LD        (773-6660)
   Estate St. Peters, Christiansted
   West Indian Cuisine
   Conch Specialties
   Reservations Suggested

Off the Wall                  LD        (778-2227)
   Cane Bay Beach
   Grilled  food,  pizzas, subs, mexican, all served in an extremely 
   casual atmosphere  right  on the beach with a great sunset view.  "Great 
   place to stop  in for a snack and a drink if you're out touring around the 
   island or after a day of diving at Cane Bay." 

Picnic in Paradise            D         (778-1212)
   West end of Cane Bay
   "Even though the name says picnic, it's because they used to be a 
   deli. It's  excellent  dining in a great seaside setting now with fresh 
   seafood, pasta, pork, and lobster." 
   AX, V, MC, D, DC, CB

Roget's Cafe                  LD        (772-1100)
   In the former Royal Dane Hotel, Frederiksted
   Fresh seafood and steak and nightly specials and a dessert
   special--flourless chocolate cake. 
   AX, V, MC, D

Saman Room                    BLD       (778-3800)
   Westin Carambola Beach Resort
   American,  West  Indian  dishes.   "Their  Friday  night Pirate's 
   Buffet including  an  Island  Show  and/or  Sunday  brunch are not to be 
   missed."

St. Croix Seaport             BLD       (773-6585)
   Hotel Caravelle, Christiansted
   Right  on  the  water  with a great view of Christiansted harbor.  
   Caribbean & Contemporary World Cuisine, Pizza
   AX, D, V, MC

Saloon                        LD        (772-BEER)
   Market street a block from the water, Frederiksted
   Airconditioned  bar with burgers, nachos, chicken sandwiches, and 
   salads.
   AX, V, MC

Serendipity Inn               LD        (773-5762)
   Mill Harbor Condominiums
   Soups, salads, sandwiches for lunch, fish pasta chicken, steak au 
   poivre for dinner.  Tuesday night-fried chicken, Wednesday night-Italian 
   night, Friday night-barbecue.  Sunday brunch.
   AX, MC, V

South Shore Cafe              D         (773-9311)
   Corner of routes 62 and 624
   Fine seafood and vegetable entrees featuring homemade pasta, also 
   prime rib, lamb, and daily vegetarian specials.

Stixx                         BLD       (773-5157)
   Pan Am Pavilion (Waterfront),Christiansted
   Seafood, continental cuisine, pizza, pasta
   AX, V, MC

Tivoli Gardens                LD        (773-6782)
   Strand @ Queen Cross Street, Christiansted
   Continental  cuisine  &  seafood like shrimp curry, coquilles St. 
   Jacques, and lobster. 
   Reservations requested
   AX, V, MC

Tommy & Susan's Taverna       L         (773-8666)
   6 Company Street, Christiansted
   Greek  with at least one island special every day like roast pork 
   or fresh snapper. 

Top Hat                       LD        (773-2346)
   52 Company Street, Christiansted
   Continental   cuisine,   Scandinavian  Specialties  including  a 
   smorgaasbord selection  of  hors  d'oeuvres and salad bar.  Black angus
   steaks and fresh local seafood. 
   Reservations Suggested
   AX, DC, V, MC

Tutto Bene                    D         (773-5229)
   2 Company Street, Christiansted
   Southern provincial Italian
   AX, D, MC, V

Waves at Cane Bay             D         (778-1805)
   Near Cane Bay at the Waves at Cane Bay Hotel
   Fresh  seafood,  steak,  pasta, chicken, and vegetarian specials.  
   "Great food, an excellent view right on the water" 
   AX, MC, V

Wreck Bar & Grill             D         (773-6092)
   5AB Hospital Street
   American Cuisine
   V, MC, D

ST. JOHN BY NANCY JECKEL

Hi  -  We  spent  a  week  on St. John in early March. Wanted to tell 
those  of  you who were concerned about changes at Caneel that all is 
well.  Although  the week had a shaky beginning due to luggage mishap 
with  American  Airlines  -  our  2  suitcases were lost for about 48 
hours  -  once  our  things  arrived,  we  were  able  to  breathe  a 
collective  sigh of relief and really enjoy ourselves. We didn't pack 
much  in  our  carry-ons (reading material, toothbrushes, camera) and 
have  now learned to take the possibility of delayed luggage far more 
seriously.  It  was a distressing way to begin a trip, but we quickly 
settled in once we had our stuff.

Now  on  to the nitty gritty... in our opinion, the children who were 
at  Caneel  with  their parents DID NOT detract from Caneel's overall 
ambiance.  As  a  matter of fact, they weren't even really noticeable 
except  at  mealtime.  And  even  then,  just  the  Beach Terrace was 
affected.  By  the  way,  the  Beach  Terrace is now a buffet for all 
three  meals,  though  a  menu  is available for breakfast and lunch. 
(This  may  only  reflect  the  larger  numbers of guests during high 
season.  )  The  buffets were very nicely prepared and presented. Due 
to  the recent renovations, the Beach Terrace is a much more pleasant 
place  to  enjoy  a  meal.  It  was always the most dated of Caneel's 
dining  rooms,  but  now  it  has  a more colorful and tasteful look. 
Turtle  Bay's  breakfast  and  lunch  buffets,  while  delightful and 
inviting  (particularly  the  succulent  grilled  swordfish at lunch) 
were  not  as  extensive as those offered at the Terrace. Having said 
that,  I must add that both sites presented many more "healthy" items 
than  we  remembered  from  earlier  trips.  And  the Grand Buffet on 
Monday  evening  was  less  opulent and excessive than in years past. 
Mind  you,  it  was a delectable and definitely expansive display (!) 
just  not  the "over the top" assemblage that we had come to know and 
love.  The regular evening buffet includes specialty pizzas and plain 
cheese  ones for the children. Our second night, one of the specialty 
pizzas  was  a  goat  cheese and pancetta combination that was to die 
for.  As  melodramatic  as that sounds, I can't think of a better way 
to  put  it.  This  was, quite simply, the best pizza I have ever the 
pleasure  of  eating and it spoiled me for the remainder of the week. 
Perhaps for life...

The  Equator  had  the  most  unusual  menu  choices - I had a lentil 
encrusted  salmon  that  was  sublime,  perhaps my finest meal of the 
week  (excluding  that pizza, of course). But their desserts fell way 
short  of  the  mark. My husband and several other diners ordered Ben 
and  Jerry's  Chunky  Monkey  for  dessert by default. (I was far too 
stuffed  to  even  consider  the  idea  of  more  food by this time.) 
Usually  at a restaurant like the Equator, people order desserts that 
are  more  unique  or  sophisticated  than  a  bowl  of  commercially 
produced  ice cream which can be purchased at home. But unfortunately 
the  Equator's  dessert  menu  lacked  any  appealing choices so many 
folks  were  left to close their meal with a dish of Ben and Jerry's. 
On  the  brighter  side, I suspect several people were like me - just 
so  full from an exquisite dinner that they wouldn't even have wanted 
to  bother  with  dessert  anyway.  Speaking  of  ice cream, I should 
mention  a  gingerbread  ice cream that was served at Turtle Bay. Now 
that was a treat! 

On  to Turtle Bay. It is as elegant as ever though we missed the live 
piano  music  that  we  always  enjoyed  from other Caneel trips. The 
piped  in stuff was a disappointment and lent the unmistakable air of 
elevators  and Muzak. Both nights we ate there, we were seated on the 
outer  edges  of  the room. And thankfully so, I might add because TB 
was  so  warm.  This  was  surprising since both evenings were on the 
cool  side and one would have expected the dining room to reflect the 
slight  dip  in  temperature.  A  few  of  the men in their requisite 
jackets   looked   a   bit   wilted,   but  no  one  seemed  terribly 
uncomfortable.   The  food  was  artfully  prepared  and  beautifully 
presented  but  unfortunately  service was slow. At times, very, very 
slow.  It's  possible  that  the  automatic  15% might be part of the 
problem  as  it  certainly  cuts  into incentive. I should qualify my 
comments  though.  Much  of the time, it seemed that the dining rooms 
were  simply understaffed and just adding another waiter or two would 
have  helped  tremendously.  We  did have some attentive servers, but 
too  often  that  was  not  the  case. Thinking back, I must make the 
point   that   the  food  and  view  generally  compensated  for  any 
discrepancies in the service.

The  grounds were in excellent shape. More rain than usual made for a 
lush,  colorful landscape. So much was in bloom which was a feast for 
our  eyes  after the dull grays, browns, and tans of wintry Illinois. 
It  was  hard  to  tell  that  a hurricane ever had blown through the 
property.

Snorkeling  was  good,  but  not  great.  We  didn't  see any turtles 
feeding   off   Scott   but   we  did  see  bunches  and  bunches  of 
magnificently   colored   fish  of  various  sizes  off  Turtle  Bay, 
Hawksnest,  and  Scott.  We skip Caneel, Little Caneel, and Honeymoon 
so  I  can't  tell  you  about them. And Paradise, well, we only read 
there,  didn't  get  into  the  water. One new touch is that a Caneel 
staffer  drives around to all the beaches every morning and afternoon 
with  icy  cold  bottles of water. In the past, we always brought our 
own  from  the  room, but it is hard to keep them half way cold, even 
in the shade. So this was a pleasant surprise.

We  were  on the Classic Caribbean package which basically meant that 
we  had  breakfast  and  dinner included in the room cost, plus a few 
other  perks.  One  was the Caneel sunset cruise around St. John. Our 
particular  cruise  had  only  8  Caneel  guests  plus  2  crew and 2 
musicians.  Our smaller group was really special and the 12 of us got 
to  know  each  other  fairly well by the end of the cruise. The crew 
was  gracious  and  full of history and general information about St. 
John.  The musicians were entertaining and friendly. Caneel put out a 
delicious  spread  (like we needed more food - the bowl of shrimp was 
enormous,  let  alone  the  other  munchies). Clouds rolled in so the 
sunset  was  quite  unremarkable, but no one minded. The island views 
were  memorable  and  the  company wonderful. Indeed, this was one of 
the  week's  highlights.  We  also  took  the  day trip to Little Dix 
(another  Classic  Caribbean  perk) and it was an enjoyable change of 
pace.  Even though Little Dix and Caneel are the same type of resort, 
they  have  their  own  distinct  character.  Had an incredible small 
world  experience at the customs dock in Virgin Gorda - we ran into a 
groomsman  from  our wedding over 20 years ago, hadn't heard from him 
in  maybe  10  years.  He  and  his wife had been on Tortola and were 
waiting  for  the  ferry  to begin their journey home! Still makes me 
shake my head...

One  last  Caneel  point  worth  mentioning.  The  average age of the 
guests  at  Caneel  seems  to  have  dropped  by  half.  Because  the 
established,  long  time,  "old  guard  Caneelians"  had  a  lock  on 
reservations  in  February,  the  younger  crowd had to spill over to 
March.  But  this  was  different.  I mean, we saw several couples in 
their  20s and 30s who did not appear to be on their honeymoons. That 
is,  they  chose  Caneel  as a regular sort of vacation, not as a one 
time  trip like a honeymoon. Paired with the increase in families, it 
felt  like Caneel had almost reinvented itself. And we mean that in a 
good  way.  After  all,  Caneel (along with other similar properties) 
must  the  facts.  One  important  fact  is  that many, many of their 
guests  from  years  past  have  reached  the  age where Caneel is no 
longer  a travel option. Caneel must appeal to the next generation(s) 
in  order  to  secure  it's future. From what we saw, Caneel has done 
that  successfully.  They  have  managed not only to accommodate both 
the  couples  (of  all ages) and the families, but to do it well. Our 
fear  of the place being overrun by little kids was unfounded. Caneel 
is alive and doing wonderfully after the hurricane and children! 

ST. LUCIA: LE SPORT BY HENRY WHEATLEY

(Ed Note: Henry wishes to point out that the following is a set of very personal observations and not an adequate review such as you might find in a good travel guidebook, where, one assumes, the author will have done conscientious research. )

I  was  tired and under considerable stress when I decided I needed a 
relaxing,  away-from-it-all  getaway  for  about  a week. I had heard 
vague  but  favorable things about Le Sport on St. Lucia and a search 
of   the   Caribbean   Forum  libraries  yielded  generally  positive 
comments.  My  final decision was most influenced by a description of 
Le  Sport  in  an  article in the March-April 1997 issue of Caribbean 
Travel  &  Life.  The  magazine  --  accurately,  as it turned out -- 
described   "The   Experience"   as:   "An   all-inclusive   vacation 
encompassing  a  host  of luxurious spa treatments, as well as meals, 
drinks,  sports  and  activities,  in the rates." Also accurately, it 
went  on  to  praise the spa treatments and, on the other hand, point 
out  the  pitfalls of an all-inclusive which forces you to choose for 
dessert  between healthy fruit on the one hand and, on the other side 
of the table, delicious pastries. 

GETTING THERE 

There  are  two airports -- Hewanorra in the far south, about an hour 
and  a  quarter  by  road  from Le Sport, and Vigie, near the capital 
Castries,  about  20  minutes  from Le Sport. Most international jets 
land  at Hewanorra and that's the way I arrived from San Juan, Puerto 
Rico.  All  airport  transfers,  by  taxi arranged by the resort, are 
included  in  the  all-inclusive  rate.  A  Le  Sport  rep  meets all 
incoming  guests  as  you  come out of Customs. Some guests found the 
road  trip from Hewanorra uncomfortable and/or dangerous. My trip was 
uneventful  and  a  good  opportunity  to  see a lot of the St. Lucia 
countryside  and  some of Castries. The other couple sharing the taxi 
and  I may have been lucky in getting a good driver and the roads may 
have  seemed safe and comfortable to me because I live on St. Thomas, 
where  the  roads  are  far  more  difficult.  But  I  had an equally 
satisfactory  trip  back  at  the  end  of  my  stay with a different 
driver. 

THE RESORT 

Le  Sport  is  an  all-inclusive  resort that is truly all-inclusive, 
from  airport  transfers to accommodations, all meals (afternoon tea, 
too),  all  drinks  at all hours, all the usual water sports PLUS the 
spa  treatments,  all  included  in  the basic room tariff. 102 rooms 
overlook  a  beautiful  cove with an attractive sand beach. All rooms 
are   air  conditioned,  with  terraces.  You  can  stock  your  room 
refrigerator  from the resort bars or the little gift shop. Bathrooms 
have hair dryers. Most beds are king-sized four-posters. 

One  pool  sits  between the rooms and the beach. Another, mostly for 
pool  volleyball  and scuba instruction, is at beach level, adjoining 
the  Terrace  Bar.  Yet  another  is  up the hill at the Oasis, about 
which more later. 

All  meals  are  served in the restaurant, an open air terrace by the 
beach.  Breakfast  and  lunch are buffet with various offerings. Eggs 
to  order  for breakfast. Always fruit and salads available for lunch 
and  light  cuisine  available for lunch and dinner. But the truth is 
that  self-indulgence  is  easy to fall into at all meals because the 
richer  offerings  are  always there. This is not a fat farm. The in-
room  brochure  says:  "While  Cuisine  Le  Sport has lighter calorie 
leanings,  it  is  not  light  food  for  its own sake. Our aim is to 
produce  great  tasting food with an emphasis on quality ingredients, 
lighter   textures   and  natural  flavors,  avoiding  MSG  and  food 
coloring." 

Dinner  menus  were  imaginative,  the  entrees  well  prepared.  The 
desserts were nearly all tasty -- and fattening. But there were diet-
conscious  selections  although not many and not very good. Breakfast 
and  lunch  buffets  were much more casually prepared -- adequate but 
ordinary.  House  wines,  described  by wine drinkers as pretty good, 
are  available at lunch and dinner, as much as you like. You can also 
order  from  a  wine  list  at what I am told are moderate prices but 
connoisseurs say the list is too limited. 

Afternoon  tea  from  4  to  6  provides coffee, tea, herbals, finger 
sandwiches,  cookies  and  pastries. (It takes a lot of discipline to 
be conscientious at Le Sport.) 

I  was  surprised  that  very few people over-indulged in the alcohol 
offerings.  From  the  time the Terrace Bar opens at 10 a.m., you can 
get  whatever you want to drink, including champagne, until the Piano 
Bar closes, which is whenever the last customer calls it a night. 

The  only room service you can get is a Continental breakfast ordered 
the night before. 

On  the beach, if you don't have the energy to walk up to the Terrace 
Bar,  just  raise  an  orange  flag by your chaise lounge and someone 
will  come  to  take your drink order. Or if you wait a while, one of 
the attendants will pass by with a tray of refreshments. 

THE OASIS 

A  separate, 18,800 square-foot palace at the top of 80 steps up from 
the beach, houses all the spa treatments plus some of the other mind-
and-body  stuff.  This is The Oasis, two stories (plus a sun roof for 
nudists)  surrounding  airy courtyards and a pool for hydroaeroboics. 
After  a  nurse takes your medical history and your blood pressure, a 
computer  turns  out  a  schedule  for whatever number of days you're 
booked for. Typically, there are two scheduled treatments per day. 

This is what I did in a week, with some comments: 

Massage.  Three  thirty-minute  Swedish massage sessions. I had three 
different  massage  therapists  and  they  were all good but none was 
extraordinary  like  my  weekly therapist back in the Virgin Islands. 
And  thirty minutes is not really enough for me but it seems churlish 
to  complain.  It's  in  the  price  of  admission. There's a Clarins 
Institute  in  the  Oasis  Building  and  you  can buy an hour-and-a-
quarter  massage  from  them  for, I think about $40. Very few people 
choose that option. 

Foot  massage.  This  is  a  separate  treatment.  I  had  two -- one 
excellent,  one  indifferent,  the latter by the only therapist I saw 
who  seemed  unhappy with her work. Another guest who had her for the 
full massage also complained about her. 

Hydro  massage.  This  is  one of the thallasotherapies, based on the 
therapeutic  values  of  purified sea water. From about 10 feet away, 
the  therapist  directs  a  pressure hose at you. I was scheduled for 
one  and  talked  them  into  given  me  a second. I don't know if it 
really  reduces  cellulite,  stimulates  circulation  and breaks down 
adipose  tissue  but it feels really good. Some people complain about 
the  force  of  the jet so they're careful but I'd advise telling the 
therapist  soon after it starts whether you want it softer or harder: 
I  wanted  it  harder. If you like, it ends with a bracing cold fresh 
water rinse. 

In  the same area, there are two plunge pools to soak in, one hot and 
one cold. Try them; they're not scheduled. 

Salt  loofah  rub.  They'll  schedule this early in your stay, before 
the  sun  makes  your skin hypersensitive. Again, I loved it but some 
people  complained.  You  get rubbed, I think gently, with a piece of 
coarse  vegetable  fiber  dipped  in  sea  salt crystals suspended in 
massage  oil. It does good things to your skin and it feels great. If 
you're  uncomfortable,  don't  hesitate  to  tell the therapist to go 
easier.  You  rinse  off  the  salt  in  a  multi-jet  shower  stall. 
Wonderful. 

Algae  bubble  bath.  Twenty  soothing  minutes  of lying in a tub of 
warm,  purified sea water infused with seaweed extract, with numerous 
jets massaging your back and sides. 

Aromatherapy.  Several fragrant oils, supposedly combined for maximum 
effect  and  selected  for  what seems best for each client, are used 
for  a  50-minute  massage.  If  it  does  all  the  medicinal things 
promised,  consider  that an extra. The main thing is that just about 
everyone  who  had  the aromatherapy, myself included, came out super 
relaxed and in a happy haze. 

Reflexology.  A  foot  manipulation based on theories about points in 
the  foot affecting vital internal organs. It sounds like nonsense to 
me  but  you'll  feel good after having it. So go for it. This is not 
scheduled  and  you  should request it from the Oasis receptionist on 
the  2nd  floor as soon as you get your treatment schedule. They only 
have one reflexologist. 

Facial.  My  first.  This  is  done at Le Sport with a combination of 
plant  and  seaweed  extracts.  Good.  Very  good.  A  cool, relaxing 
experience and you really look better after. 

I  didn't  have  the  Seaweed  Wrap. After being wrapped in algae and 
plastic,   they   apply   a   heating   blanket.   Some  people  felt 
claustrophobic.  Others  found  the heat oppressive. Others were very 
pleased.  The  nurse  suggested  I shouldn't have it because I have a 
mild hypertensive condition. In retrospect, I wish I'd done it. 

The  Oasis  is also the location of the weights room, which has basic 
equipment,  fairly  primitive  by  today's health club standards. The 
aerobics studio is also up there on the hill. 

THE ACTIVITIES 

Nobody  assigns you to the other healthy activities. The schedule for 
each  day is posted from the evening before and you can plan your day 
around  your  scheduled  spa  treatments.  You have to supply all the 
motivation  and  I  came  up  short in that department. Mobilize your 
resolve  before  you leave home or you may have the kind of outcome I 
had,  gaining  five  pounds  over the week. My only real exercise was 
climbing  the  80 steps to the Oasis and a little light snorkeling in 
the bay. 

At  any  rate,  you  can  have  power  walks, easier walks, beginning 
aerobics,  intermediate  aerobics,  advanced aerobics, step aerobics, 
water  aerobics,  tone and stretch classes, cycling, tennis, archery, 
fencing,  scuba  diving,  sailing,  water skiing, tennis and I'm sure 
there's  more.  Oh  yes,  beach  volleyball. And Yoga and Tai Chi and 
stress  reduction  sessions. Golf either into four nets with a pro to 
guide  you,  or  free  golf,  transportation included, at a nine-hole 
course  five  minutes  away.  All  with encouragement and, if needed, 
instruction  by  a  corps  of  male  and  female,  mostly St. Lucian, 
"Bodyguards",  the  Le  Sport  equivalents  of the GO's at Club Meds. 
These  young folks are pleasant and competent and add a great deal to 
the spirit of the vacation. 

THE GUESTS 

The  week  I was there, would estimate about 50 percent Americans, 30 
percent  British and the rest mostly German and Canadian. Many repeat 
customers.  The  Europeans  are  usually there for two weeks or more. 
The  Americans  and  Canadians  were  more  likely to be one-weekers. 
Nearly  everyone thought a week was not enough. I agree but a week is 
not  bad.  You  can  get  in  a fair number of spa treatments in that 
time. 

Fitness  and  body types ranged all over the spectrum. There were the 
very  fit,  who  pretended  to  be suffering in the advanced aerobics 
classes.  There  were  couch potatoes and other sluggards. Some of us 
made  an  effort to improve our ways. Others just relaxed and soothed 
our consciences with pina coladas. 

ENTERTAINMENT 

The  Piano  Bar is open every night with someone at the keyboard from 
7  p.m.  The bar only closes when there are no more drinkers. There's 
music  in  the  dining  room every night, ranging from a single steel 
pan  to,  one  night  I  was there, St. Lucia's leading band and most 
popular  singer.  Some  kind  of music for dancing every night at the 
Terrace  Bar,  from 10 to at least 12. A highlight of the week is the 
Staff  Show,  with some very talented amateur talent. The ambiance of 
the  Terrace  Bar is unsophisticated and the entertainments there are 
very  casual. This is not the kind of activity to keep many guests up 
very late. 

EXCURSIONS 

Excursions  to all parts of St. Lucia are available. Most popular are 
trips  by  road or sea to Soufriere, site of a mildly active volcano, 
and  the  Pitons,  Gros  and Petit, magnificent double peaks near the 
sea close to Soufriere. I took a delightful sunset cruise on the 140-
foot  Brig UNICORN. You have to decide what you're willing to give up 
at  Le Sport in order to see more of St. Lucia and it's a hard choice 
because the resort is beguiling and St. Lucia is a lovely island. 

CONCLUSIONS 

Like  most  of the guests when I was there, I fully expect to go back 
to  Le  Sport  and  probably  for  more  than  a week. But it's not a 
classic  health  spa.  I  see  it  as more an all-inclusive Caribbean 
resort  with a good spa component to dip into as you please. Although 
I  haven't  been  to other spas, I suspect the therapists at Le Sport 
are  not  as  professionally  skilled as you might find at some other 
better  known spas. The resort is attractive and very comfortable but 
it  isn't  a  super  luxe  establishment.  But you don't pay top luxe 
prices, either. 

The  rates are from $225 to $295 per person per night, all inclusive. 
With all the spa treatments included, that's a terrific bargain. 

I hated leaving and I can't wait to go back. 

ST. MARTIN BY BRUCE FARRINGTON

Edie  and  I  just returned from trip #13 to St. Martin/Sint Maarten. 
If  I  was  the  superstitious  type,  I'd have been somewhat nervous 
about  it  being  the 13th trip. However, after having our house burn 
down  and going through the eye of a hurricane from two recent trips, 
one  learns to take things in stride. Happily, I can report that this 
trip  was  the  most  enjoyable  trip  yet! Let me share with you our 
experiences.  Sit  back  and enjoy, no need to fasten those seatbelts 
or  stow  that  tray  in  the  locked  upright position, for there is 
nothing but a smooth ride ahead..... 

Saturday  4/12  -  With  all  the  recent  reports of late flights or 
airplane  problems  with American Airlines, I'm almost embarrassed to 
say  our  flight  down was very uneventful with the exception that we 
arrived  on  the island over 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Little did 
I  know that this would be the way the whole vacation would go. While 
we  were  waiting  in line to get through immigration, the folks from 
Unity  Car  rental  flashed  a  "Welcome  back  to  St. Martin, Bruce 
Farrington!"  sign  through  the window. These folks are the greatest 
and  it  really  makes  you  feel right at home. I guess its just one 
more  reason  that  makes this island my favorite. Within 15 minutes, 
we  were through immigration, had our luggage and rental car and were 
driving  out  of  the  airport.  Life  is good! After stopping off to 
order  my  traditional 3 dozen johnny cakes from Clair at the Highway 
grocery,  I  was  pleased  to  see  that Clair is open again at Sweet 
Sensations  next  door  (next  to  Lynettes).  Great  place  for deli 
sandwiches  as  well  as  ice  cream also. We then drove on to Orient 
Beach  and checked into Green Caye Villas. What can I say about Green 
Caye  Villas  other  than it was love at first sight! Our villa had a 
breathtaking  view  encompassing  all  of  Orient  and  Coconut Grove 
beaches.  The  large  deck  has  a small built in pool that we put to 
frequent  use during our stay. The management even provided 3 blow up 
rafts.  The  villa  itself  has  3  beautiful  spacious bedrooms with 
connected  bathrooms  and  closets.  It  even has a guest bathroom as 
well.   The  kitchen  was  well  furnished  with  an  ice  dispensing 
refrigerator  so  necessary  for  filling those frequent requests for 
pina   coladas.   The   living  room  has  cable  TV  as  well  as  a 
CD/cassette/tuner  sound  system.  You  also  had 2 dining areas: one 
facing  the  beach and one facing the garden area. Daily maid service 
was  both  efficient  and  unobtrusive. First day supplies, a welcome 
bottle  of wine and a complementary breakfast were also provided. All 
in  all  a first class operation. At under $1000 per couple per week, 
it  is  fairly priced. I can give it no higher praise then this: This 
is  where  I want to stay whenever I visit the island. After settling 
in,  we  were  soon joined by friends that live only a few miles from 
us  (who  ironically  we  met  on  a earlier trip) and Mike and Linda 
Hill.  Mike and Linda wanted me to say "Howdy, Texas style" to all of 
their  friends. They are doing fine and send their love. We ended the 
first  night  by  having  dinner  at  Papagayos. While listening to a 
local  band  that played a mixture of music, I had an excellent salad 
with  warm  goat  cheese,  a good French onion soup with melted Swiss 
cheese  and  Edie  had  a  so-so  Cheeseburger. With a couple of diet 
cokes,  it  came  to $22. A good way to start a vacation. As I sat on 
our  balcony that night, looking at the lights along Orient Beach and 
listening  to  an ENYA CD on the stereo, I once more reflected on the 
fact  that  if  I  only  had one day left to live, that this is how I 
would  want  to spend it. Another outstanding aspect of this trip was 
the  weather.  Unlike  our  February trip, the weather was beautiful. 
Mostly  sunny,  warm,  with  light  breezes.  As a matter of fact the 
breezes  were  almost  too  light on several occasions. This was good 
for  the  daily  volleyball  games  we  enjoyed but required frequent 
breaks  between  games  and  you can imagine how hard it is to resume 
play  once  folks frolic in those deep blue waters. But I digress, on 
with the story..... 

Sunday,  4/13...  Enjoyed  our  complimentary breakfast at our villa. 
The  staff  sets  the table, prepares the meals, picks up afterwards, 
does  the  dishes...you  get  the  idea. I looked over at Edie during 
breakfast  and saw a dreamy, far away look in her eye. I whispered to 
her  not  to get used to this...That morning we spent lounging around 
the  pool,  reading, and absolutely contributing zero to society <g>. 
God  it was great! Finally, around 2 PM we got up the energy to drive 
over  to  Club  Orient  where we played Volleyball for an hour before 
our  massage  at the hands of Martha. Martha, Milan and Emily are all 
doing  fine  and  send  their  love  to  all their online friends. If 
you'll  looking  for  that  special  tip  for  Martha  after  a great 
massage,  may  I  suggest  a VCR tape full of Sesamee Street episodes 
for  Emily.  They  can't  get  it  down  there  and  they  were  very 
appreciative  of Emily having this learning experience. Edie, being a 
kindergarten  teacher,  was  only  too happy to oblige. That night we 
went  to the Rancho Argentinean Grill. Its worth the trip inside just 
to  look up at the impressively high thatched ceiling. Unfortunately, 
the  musician  who  plays Salsa music was "sick" that night. A little 
known   aspect   of  Caribbean  musicians  is  their  unusually  high 
incidence  of  sickness which averages about 30%. Modern science has, 
as  of yet, no explanation and more information can be obtained under 
"Island  Fever"  in  your  medical dictionary <g>. At any rate, I had 
Tenderloin  Tip  (good),  fired  plantains  (OK) and Edie had grilled 
Salmon  (excellent)  for  $38. The service was also good. We also hit 
the  Pelican and Atlantis casinos where we won a few bucks by playing 
the  match  play  coupons.  Afterwards,  it  was  back  to  our  deck 
overlooking  the  lights of Orient to enjoy the view, the cool breeze 
and  a  pina  colada or three. With the soundtrack from "Somewhere in 
time"  playing in the background, the cares of the world drifted away 
with the gentle breeze off the ocean.... 

Monday,  4/14 - We began a tradition that with three couples was very 
enjoyable.  Each morning, one couple made breakfast for the others. A 
typical  breakfast  was  eggs,  toast, croissants, fruit (pineapples, 
mango,  bananas,  oranges  and  grapefruit), cereal, juice and coffee 
and  flowers that grow around the villa. Each day, we tried to outdue 
the  previous day. It was a delicious way to start the new day and it 
was  as  much fun to create as it was to eat. The rest of the day was 
pretty  much  getting  into  a  pattern.  Laze around the pool in the 
morning  and  go  to Orient Beach in the afternoon for volleyball and 
catching  some  rays.  That evening we had dinner at Braisserie De La 
Gare  and  had  Pizza  and  Red  Snapper  (both  good) for $30. After 
dinner,  it  was  back  to  our  deck  for  drinks  and conversation. 
Curiously  enough,  even  with  3 couples, we often just gazed at the 
lights  below  and  from  some  of  the nearby islands without saying 
anything  for  10  or  15 minutes at a time. For 6 people all know to 
have  a  gift of gab this is quite a trick, but the Caribbean will do 
that to you..... 

Tuesday,  4/15  Breakfast  at  our  villa  again.  Eggs,  croissants, 
grapefruit,  toasted  baggetts,  oranges,  banannas. Gosh, this could 
become  addicting. I'm just a tad guilty about going off my diet like 
this.  Fortunately, the guilt goes away quickly about the same time I 
bite  into  my  first  croissant  (curiously  enough!) <g>. Spent the 
morning  taking  our  friends  up to see the view from the top of PIC 
Paradise.  They  agreed  it  was  the  most  breathtaking view on the 
island.  It  was a good thing since they didn't get much of a view on 
the  way  up with their eyes closed like that! They ask me on the way 
down  about  what happened in my life to give me a "death wish". They 
really  did  not  appreciate  me  whistling  on the trip down <g>. Oh 
well....That  afternoon  it  was back to Orient Beach for volleyball. 
For  our  evening  dinner, we chose Hoa Mai located in the French Cul 
De  Sac  area  near  where  Mark's  Place  used  to  be.  This French 
Indonesian  restaurant  was not only eloquent inside but produced the 
best  meal  of  the  trip.  I  had  Pork  in curry sauce and Edie had 
sauteed  chicken  with cashews. Both dishes were outstanding for $30. 
I  learned  that  this  restaurant will soon be moving to Marigot and 
will  be  renamed  "Macadam".  It will be situated somewhere near the 
French  Can  Can.  I highly recommend a trip to this place. You won't 
regret it! 

Wednesday,  4/16  We  broke  our tradition of eating breakfast in for 
one   day   to  make  our  pilgrimage  to  the  holy  of  holies:  Le 
Croissanterie.  For  those  of  you  who  have  read my previous trip 
reports,  you'll know that I could not miss this place for breakfast. 
As  always  the  croissants  were  delicious and the rolls are out of 
this  world. Its always hard for me to know how many croissants I can 
order  before  I  make a public spectacle of myself. I do believe the 
staff  is  getting  suspicious  that  I,  in  fact,  am  not ordering 
croissants  for  the  entire  St.  Martin  4th  grade  as I have been 
telling  them  <g>.  That  evening  we  had dinner at the Cloud Room. 
Unfortunately,  a  tour  bus had preceded us and they were out of all 
of  their meat dishes. Darn! We did have Bolonaise and a Ceasar Salad 
which  were  OK for $22. That evening, on the balcony, with drinks in 
hand,  we desperately tried to come up with a "get rich quick" scheme 
that  would  allow  us to continue this life of opulence. I suggested 
selling  Edie  into  white  slavery.  I  cannot  repeat  her  counter 
suggestion except to say it was anatomically impossible <g>

Thursday,  4/17  Breakfast  served  in  again  this morning thanks to 
Chefs  Mike  and  Linda.  True  to his Texas style (OK he was born in 
Indiana!),  Mike  Hill  serves us "Grapefruit - Canjun style"!!! What 
the....!  Linda  proved  to be a great cook for the rest of the Eggs, 
fruit  and  croissants, however. Here is where the trip report begins 
to  get  strange.  Actually a few nights earlier at HOA MAI when Mike 
Hill  ordered  a  diet coke and I had a rum punch, I thought it could 
get  no stranger <g>. On this day in history, Mike Hill swallowed his 
Texas  pride and was talked into going to the Butterfly Farm with us. 
The  mandatory  grumbling  soon  turned into a picture taking frenzy. 
Upon  leaving  the  Butterfly  Farm,  Mike  admitted  that  he really 
enjoyed  the  experience.  He  asked me never to tell a soul since it 
would  destroy  his  image.  Of  course, I would honor such a request 
<g>.  Seriously,  for  those  of  you  who  have  never  been  to the 
Butterfly  Farm  and  may think its sounds dorky, give it a try! That 
evening  we  had  the  usual  excellent  meal  at  Yvettes located in 
Orlean.  Pork,  ribs,  chicken combination for me and Red Snapper for 
Edie  (both excellent), plantans, johnny cakes, and rice and peas for 
a  very  reasonable  $28. For great authentic St. Martin cuisine, off 
the beaten track, this place is a must. 

Friday,  4/18 Our last full day on the island. If only 7 days at work 
could  go this quickly and enjoyably. One more delicious breakfast at 
our  villa  overlooking  beautiful Orient Beach. I wish someday to be 
able  to  take  a  picture that will do the view justice. I can never 
quite   get   the  blue  just  right.  Ironically,  ENYA  is  singing 
"Caribbean  Blue"  in  the  background.  I  wonder  if  she  got  the 
inspiration  for  that  song  in  St.  Martin? More volleyball on the 
beach.  We  don't  keep  score  and  no one seems to mine. People are 
still  laughing  at  my  suggestion  that we be the "skins" team even 
after  hearing  the  same  dumb joke for 6 straight days now <g> That 
evening  we  try the "all you can eat" buffet at the Atlantis Casino. 
$11.95  per person with a coupon. Not terribly great food but OK. The 
Flam was good for dessert, though...

Saturday,  4/19  Last  day in paradise! After our normal great eat-in 
breakfast  at  our  villa,  we  laze around our deck and pool, trying 
desperately  not  to think about leaving our second home. I leave our 
two  lounge chairs next door for some of our friends who are arriving 
today.  Ah yes..the lounge chairs, now that an interesting story. You 
might  recall that we were on the island in February and would return 
in  only  7  weeks.  Since I didn't want to carry the chairs back and 
forth,  I  put  them  in  garbage  bags and buried them on a deserted 
beach  (no  I  won't  tell  you which one!) in SXM. Suffice it to say 
that  NO  ONE  goes  here  and I thought it might be fun to have some 
"buried  treasure"  when  I  came  back. Upon my arrival this trip, I 
returned  to  dig  up  my  "booty".  Upon  driving at the location, I 
couldn't  believe that someone had build a beach shack (complete with 
cement  foundation)  over  where I thought I had buried the chairs. I 
still  have  no  idea  why  they  built  here! As it turns outs, they 
missed  the  chairs by about 2 feet and never knew they were there! I 
wonder  if  pirates  ever  ran  into these kind of problems? Anyway I 
digress.... 

At  noon  we  said  good-bye  to our friends and left to pick up my 3 
dozen  johhny  cakes  from Clair. Clair, the perfect island lady that 
she  is,  is  nevertheless  curious how I managed to go through the 3 
dozen  johnny  cakes  that she supplied from just 7 weeks ago. I told 
her  I was feeding my wife's kindergarten class. I don't think anyone 
on  the  island  is falling for this line and I welcome creative lies 
that  anyone  may  be  able  to  give  me <g>. Anyway we flew home on 
American  and  once  more  had a very routine flight. As we got home, 
walking  up  the terminal (almost a year to the day that we found out 
our  house  had  burned  down),  Edie  had a premonition which really 
bothered  her.  Happily  this  time  the  house was fine and only our 
Daughter  greeted  us.  This  in itself was a happy ending to a great 
vacation........ The End 

ST. MARTIN BY BARBARA CONNELLY

Just  returned  from 10 days in SXM....once again it was perfect. The 
weather  on 4/5 when we arrived was 79...a bit cooler than usual. The 
weather  was  also  a  bit  humid and quite windy. From what everyone 
said  it  was  better than the end of the previous week when they had 
clouds and a day of rain. 

I  think  some  of  our N.E. weather ran over there and messed things 
up.  It  also  cause the beach in front of Sapphire and Ocean Club to 
vanish.....I'm  talking  NO  BEACH.  There were huge as well as small 
rocks  and  I  can't  imagine how long it might take to return. There 
was  enough  room  for a lounge chair or two by Sat though. The beach 
all  went  to the Cliffside end. It is beautiful down that end and is 
so  pretty  sitting  at  the bar there. I think the beach on that end 
has  been  gone  a  lot this winter so it was nice to see it back for 
them..  The  weather  remained  windy for two days and you could have 
worn a light sweater the first few evenings. 

Everything  at  Ocean Club was about the same except for the addition 
of  a  bar  by  the pool. The bar is run by Robert who owns the water 
sports  at  Copecoy  and Turtle Pier. It was nice to have a drink and 
talk  to  other  owners.  The  Ocean Club is so casual and everything 
seems  so  relaxed,  Check in takes minutes and that's about the only 
time  you see anyone. Nice we got over the first two days the weather 
was  great.  it  stayed  about  84 to 88 and very little humidity and 
clear sky. 

The  island  looks  much  neater  than  a year ago and they have made 
great  progress  in cleaning up. I don't think except for a few boats 
and  places  like  Mullet that you would realize the destruction that 
took  place.  Sapphire is adding a building so the construction noise 
was  there  every  day.  Royal Islander area was busy and Cheries was 
hoping  each  night.  I  think  overall  though it was quieter on the 
island  than  I  have  ever seen it. The next week beginning the 12th 
seemed  busier,  None  of  this helped the traffic or maniac drivers. 
Ate  at  some  of  the same places. The MIni Club on the French side. 
It's  Wed  and  Sat  buffet  is  incredible. All you can eat lobster, 
prime  rib,  salmon,  pork,  duck etc. Everything is excellent. Great 
soups,  salads etc. They also include as much wine as you care for. I 
think  it's  $40.00  each  but  that is everything...taxes tip etc. A 
wonderful evening with entertainment also. 

Laguana  across  from  the airport is still great. It's quiet and the 
food  is  terrific.  A nice meal is about $100.00 a couple with a few 
drinks....maybe  a  bit  higher.  Cheries  had  some good burgers and 
Pasta  primavera...also  great  Veal parm one night. Prices are still 
about  $7.00  to  $18.00.  We enjoyed a meal at Ren and Stimpys. Very 
quiet  and  slow  if  you  are in a rush. They had great pasta meals. 
Prices  were  around  $18.00.  Think dinner ran about $75.00 a couple 
with  extra  salads and a drink or two. We never did make Marios that 
most  people  still  raved  about. A lot of people also said to go to 
Don Camillios which we never made. 

The  breakfast  at  the  boathose was still good, and the Turtle Pier 
and  some  people  ran  to  the  Superette by the Summit......a great 
breakfast  for  $2.95.  I  actually  never  heard any complaints from 
anyone  about  their  food.  Most people did Lynettes, CocCocnuts, Da 
Livio  etc.  Everyone  seemed  please.  Some  really  like  a seafood 
platter at coconuts. 

The  old  Felix  place  is  now  Indys.  ...looks really cute and has 
entertain.  Highly  recommended  by  Robert  the water sport guy. New 
bagel place by Pelican road has great bagels and sandwiches. 

As  for  the beaches....mullet is open...you buy a sandwich for $2.00 
and  they throw in a chair and beer....beach was clean and there were 
rest  rooms  and showers open. Copecoy is great at Copecoy beach club 
end.  It  is  also  fine around the corner from Ocean Club. They were 
selling   beer   and   renting   chairs  also...$5.00  plus  $2.00  a 
beer.....mostly  nude  this  year.  Orient  was  very  windy  and not 
crowed.  It  appears pretty much reorganized and most things are open 
and  running. Maho beach was very small and seemed to alter each day. 
There  is a sunset bar down the far end that was pretty. Bar offers 4 
free  drinks  for topless....jello shots at $1.00 Maho has new Harbor 
Pointe  place,  The  man  owned  the  Harbour  Point  on  Cape Cod in 
Barnstable  I  think.  Had  a nice barbecue and everything was really 
nice.  Seems  as  if he'll do well as there are different things each 
night....nice place. 

All  else seemed the same. Prices seemed to vary more this year...one 
store  would  have  soda  for  $l.90  a  bottle and the next $3.00 or 
cranberry  juice  ranged  from  3.00  to  6.10  The liq also was very 
different.  Never  made it into Philipsburg but the rest of the group 
did. Guess all is the same there. 

VENEZUELA: ISLA MARGARITA BY DIMITRI VANNIEUWENHUYZE

**Airport ( Porlamar - Caribe )**

 Exchange

You  can  exchange  money  at  a fair rate at the airport (on the way 
out,  on  your  left)  Exchange rate on April 29th was 465 Bs for one 
dollar.  They  do  accept  TC.  WARNING:  check immediately the money 
given -- it's not always accurate.

 Airport

It's  a very small airport under extension. Quite less organized than 
known  but  the  people  are  very friendly. Customs are very gentle. 
Waiting time is okay. 

**ISLA MARGARITA**

 BEACHES

Disappointing.

North:  Playa  El  Agua. It is really a nicer beach than those on the 
South.  We  were  told that there was nothing to do at evening/night. 
Transfer from

South  to  El  Agua:  1200  -  2000  Bs  by shuttle bus. Beach at "La 
Restinga"  is  nicer. If you take a jeep safari or your own car drive 
on  the  west  coast,  beaches  are  "natural". There are though some 
strong under currents -- be cautious especially with children.

South: Beaches are small and (very) dirty. Even Bella Vista. 

Pampatar beach: Not really cleaner but nicer, because more local.

Note:  We  were told there are no private beaches. Some are just made 
almost inaccessible to not-guests.

 EAT & DRINK

Eat  and drink can be from more or less free up to very expensive. On 
an average in tourist sections : 

water (agua) : 200 Bs up to 250 Bs

beer (polar) : 200 - 250 Bs

club sandwich : 1000-2000 Bs

hamburger : 1000 - 2000 Bs

shakes : 500-1000 Bs

It's  much  cheaper  when  not  walking  among the "gringos". Food is 
nice.  Tip  is  or not included in the price. Check for it. Sometimes 
you  pay  the  tax above the price or in other case it's a tip -- can 
be confusing at the beginning. 

Nice  place for quick food: Main Street Cafe on Santiago Marino. Nice 
prices.  Delicious.  Normally  friendly service. Eating outside. Open 
24h.

We  tried  the  recommended El Chipie. Prices are okay, food is okay, 
but we had a terrible service. We never went back.

 EXCHANGE

Hotels  do  give  less  than cambio/exchange houses. At a time we got 
455  Bs/$  at  the  hotel  while at the cambio we got "effectivo" 467 
Bs/$  but  don't forget you have to go there, so if you do not intend 
to spend your money outside the hotel, change at the hotel.

 HOTELS

We  stayed  at  the  Margarita  International  Resort in Porlamar but 
checked  some other places to see where they are for an eventual next 
time.

>Margarita International Resort<

Pool  and  garden  are  great.  Rooms are spacious (2 double rooms, 2 
small  bathrooms  with  shower,  kitchen and eating place, TV corner, 
balcony). 

BUT  --  We quit that hotel after having killed cockroaches (50 first 
night,  30 the second and 100 - we stopped the third night in another 
room  other  floor). Hotel is nice but not very clean and not so good 
in  shape anymore. We do not recommend the 6th person to sleep on the 
coach -- the sleeping mattress is really dirty. 

Kitchen  is  useable  but not in a very good shape. That's okay. KEEP 
THE  FOOD  IN THE FRIDGE (cockroaches). Unfriendly to very unfriendly 
reception  desk.  We  immediately asked the cleaning lady to clean up 
the hunting mess with a good tip. 

We  asked  our  tour  operator  to  be  transferred  to another hotel 
Margarita  International Village. Same owner just one street further. 
We  had  a much smaller room without all the facilities but we didn't 
have to face the feared cockroaches hunting nights. 

We  stayed  in  Village  II.  Really  great.  Those places are really 
organized  for  ALL  INCLUSIVE  guests. However, pizza's are nice and 
cheap  and  the  restaurant  La  Cigala  does  serve good food at low 
prices.  We  tried the all inclusive for two days but got kind of un-
well  from  the  food.  All  inclusive  for one day: 25 US$ a day per 
person.  Taxis  to  center: 1000 Bs - 2500 BS depending where you go. 
All inclusive guest can take the free but schedule limited shuttle. 

Other hotels we have recognized from the book (didn't stay there):

Coconut  Villas:  We didn't stay there but it seems really located in 
an abandoned area and next to a power plant or oil plant (?). 

Bella  Vista:  Big  hotel  next to the center and shopping area. Good 
beach though not that nice. 

Aguila Inn: Budget hotel. In the center. 

Isla  Bonita:  High  luxurious hotel with "private beach," as long as 
you  like  golf  and luxe I guess it's okay. Outside the hotel, there 
is nothing to do in close access range.

 SHOPPING

For  Belgians:  Prices (tax free) are higher for imported goods there 
than  prices  in Belgium. Avenida 4 Mayo and Santiago Marino are much 
more  expensive than the Mercado and Plaza Bolivar area but shops are 
nicer.  VISA  is  accepted  almost  everywhere  but  you can expect a 
discount  (to  10  %) if you pay cash. Sometimes you get a price when 
using Uncle's money. Just ask and be ready to bargain.

 SPANISH or ENGLISH

We  found  our  way  very  easily  with English. Unable to understand 
Spanish  that's  the  only  way.  Inside  the  island it's quite less 
obvious.  Sure  that  knowing  Spanish you'll have really great talks 
with the locals.

 TOURING AROUND

Isla  Margarita  is  nice to be discovered. Everywhere there are some 
"special  places".  It's not the cultural place of the world however. 
It's  more  a  do-not-do-too-much-holiday place. If you want, you can 
"book"  one  day  a  taxi  (libre, pirat): 20000 Bs. We didn't rent a 
car. Just took shuttles and taxis. 

Tour  operators  have tours and excursions. They're okay but you miss 
the good places.

ex  :  Highlights  of  Margarita  from Q-International (Joy Tours) we 
drove  in  a big air conditioned bus a small day and spent more times 
on beaches or at souvenirs shops or restaurants.

e.g.  prices  (free  open bar and lunch included): Highlights: 60 US$ 
Jeep Safari: 50 US$ Snorkeling : 45 US$

La  Restinga nature park: 10 US$ for transport, add 10.000 Bs for one 
boat (up to 4 people on board) and 500 Bs unknown tax. 

 WEATHER

It  was  about  30  deg  C  and dry. It cools off at night but we can 
still forget jackets -- bermudas and T shirts are enough.

YUCATAN: MAYAN RUINS BY SAM LEUNG

We  went  to  Yucatan  peninsula on the week of March 15-22, 1997, to 
see  the Mayan ruins. We picked these days because the spring equinox 
falls  on  that  week.  Spring  equinox  is a very important day in a 
Mayan  year as they charted their calendar based on the solar system. 
I  imagine  it equates to our new year's day. The tour covers hotels, 
transportation,  admissions,  guide,  breakfasts,  some  lunches  and 
dinners.  The  weather  was nice during the whole week. Day time high 
was  32-34  celsius (too hot for me to handle). After the sunset, the 
temperature  dropped  down  to  mid  20s. We got shower once while we 
were traveling.

Day  1  We  cleared the immigration very quickly. The officer did not 
talk  to us nor even look at us. When I said *buenas noches*, he just 
nodded.  I  guessed  he  already  figured out that my Spanish was not 
adequate  to  make  a  conversation.  Outside the airport, we met the 
guide, Manuel and the bus driver, Salvador.

Our  hotel  is  Club  Tropical  Mayan, located at the top stem of the 
digit  *7*  of Cancun island. Check-in was very slow because only one 
person  was  at  the  front  desk  and he processed one couple at one 
time.  It was very warm at the front desk. I stayed at the court yard 
until  Manuel  called me in. After I filled the form, the guy checked 
the  details  very  carefully  and  told  me to wait for the bellhop. 
Finally  the  bellhop came and led me to the villa room. The room was 
hot.  The  A/C  was  not  working.  The bellhop told me that he would 
arrange another room later.

We  headed  to  the restaurant which was on the beach. The gale force 
wind  from  the Caribbean (east) immediately cooled us down. The meal 
was  buffet  style.  Food  was  edible  but far from good. We met our 
group  and introduced each other. A few couples from B.C., a few from 
Ontario.  We  are the only couple from Calgary. Two couples also said 
that  the  A/C were not working. We ate our supper in 15 minutes. The 
bellhop  found  us  and asked if we wanted to swap room. Since it was 
windy  on  the  beach  and  cool, I told him that it was OK. It was a 
mistake.  As  soon  as  we  walked away from the beach, the wind died 
down.  We  felt  muggy again. Strange enough, we bumped into the same 
bellhop.  He  suggested  that we should get a fan and brought us one. 
We  did  not  get  a good sleep that night. Both beds sagged and were 
not  comfortable.  We  also  noticed  that we got bitten by some tiny 
bugs.

Day  2  The breakfast was buffet style and simple. Instant coffee was 
dispense  from  a  countertop  machine.  After  breakfast,  we walked 
around  the  property. I noticed that there was a plaque on the hotel 
entrance  indicating  this  was a historical site (my Spanish is very 
limited).  It  said  something  like providing 25 years of service to 
the  community. The hotel was built in 1971. Cancun island was mostly 
sand  dune  in  1970.  I told myself *what a louse place to start our 
vacation*.  We  knew  this  trip  was  not  a  luxury  relaxation. We 
prepared for the worst.

We  had 9 couples. A couple brought their 2 teenage children, another 
couple  brought  their  son for a total of 21 tourists. On the way to 
Xcaret,  Manuel  showed us the surrounding landmarks. He also told us 
that  he  was  a Mayan with trace of English blood. A middle age man, 
he  maintained most of the Mayan features, short, high cheek bone. He 
said  that  he, as in all Mayans, had 2 lumps on the skull. Obviously 
it  would  be  very  rude to ask him about the lumps. I couldn't help 
laughing  as  I  related it to the Bug Bunny Show that Bugs asked Sam 
*how  many lumps?* He spoke fluent English with heavy accent. To make 
the  matter  worst,  he  had  an automobile accident that smashed his 
face  to  the bus windshield and lost a few front teeth. I had to pay 
a lot of attention in order to get all his words.

Salvador  loaded his cooler with drinks, $5 for a pop, $7 for a beer, 
$10  for  a  bottle of water. Since I don't like carbonated liquid, I 
stuck  with  the  most expensive drink. By the way, *$* in Mexico now 
means  new  peso.  They  don't use *P* or *NP* any more. The exchange 
rate  was  $7.5-$7.9  for  US$1. You'd get much better rate in Cancun 
than  the interior. At the airport, they would buy your pesos back at 
$8.3. Most shops at Cancun use $8 for merchandise to lure customers.

We  arrived Xcaret at 10:30. It is called an Eco-Archaeological park. 
It  has  aquarium,  aviary,  caves, Mayan huts, butterfly farm.... We 
explored  the  underground  river.  Everybody must wear a life jacket 
(provided)  and  float  with very gentle current. Some people brought 
along  snorkel  or rented one at the both. There were two underground 
rivers  (salt  water).  We  picked  the longest river and started our 
journey  in  the cave. The natural light was adequate inside the cave 
because  there  were  quite  a  few  ceiling  holes. There were signs 
indicating  how  far  to the end and where were the exits. Some exits 
would  get  you  out  of  water,  some would lead you to a lagoon. We 
really  enjoyed  the  river.  We also watched the *swim with dolphin* 
show,  listened  to  the  Mexican  music in the amphitheatre. I saw a 
ruin,  a  pyramid  of no more than 5 meters high. At the beginning, I 
thought  they  were replicas. After close examination and reading the 
very  brief  description,  I  found  that  they  were real. I started 
getting disappointed.

We  got  back  to  the  bus  by 5. Manuel told Salvador to go through 
Playacar.  A  new  developing  district  for  the  rich  and  famous. 
Security  guards were at the front gate. Roads were wide and divided, 
with  flowers  in  the  middle,  paved with interlocking bricks. Many 
houses  were still under construction. I noticed that every so often, 
there  was  a  tree  planted right in the middle of the road. The bus 
must  loop  around  the  tree.  I  guess they use it to slow down the 
traffic.

We  arrived  Condotel  El  Tukan at Playa del Carmen shortly after 6. 
Manuel  got  a  bunch of keys from the front desk and assigned one to 
each  couple.  The  bellhops  marked  the luggage immediately so that 
they  could  send  it to the right room. What a nice way to check-in. 
Since  then, we all checked that way. This hotel is quite new. It was 
built  in a jungle environment and preserved most of the trees. There 
was  no  A/C  in  room.  We didn't need it anyway because the evening 
temperature was nice.

We  had complementary dinner at the hotel restaurant which was across 
the  street.  We  had  chicken  soup,  which was just clear soup with 
added  chicken  meat,  deep  fry  shredded  taco and some green stuff 
floating  on  top,  sided  with  lime.  I lapped to the bottom of the 
bowl.  Rick,  from Vancouver sat next to me, tried the taco dipped in 
salsa.  As soon as he took the first bite, he screamed for water, yet 
the  only  liquid  in from of him was soup. Dinner was chicken breast 
with salsa (no chilly), avocado and bean paste.

After  dinner,  we  strolled  on  the  street. The beach was a couple 
blocks  away. Since it was dark, we decided to walk towards downtown. 
The  town  mainly catered to tourists* need, such as, merchants, bars 
and  restaurants,  and  many on street merchant stalls. We walked all 
the  way to the pier. I saw an artist used spray paints to paint, but 
he  lit  the spray can with cigarette lighter to blow torch the paint 
on  picture.  It  was an extremely danger act and I was not sure what 
he  tried  to  achieve,  made the paint dry faster? While I walked on 
Playa  Del  Carmen. I noticed that the air was much drier than in the 
Caribbean islands.

Day  3  Hotel provided a litre of purified water. I told my wife that 
we  should  use bottled water to rinse mouth after brushing teeth. We 
went  to  Tulum  passing  by  Xel-Ha.  Tulum  was  built  on  a cliff 
surrounded  with  walls  on  3 sides. The only walled city the Mayans 
built.  I  guessed  the  perimeter  was about 1 Km by 400 metres. The 
height  of  the  walls was less than 2 meters. Manuel gave us a brief 
lecture  before  walking us to the ruins. I found the structures were 
built  quite  sloppy.  The  stones were quarried with rough edges and 
uneven  shapes,  patched with cement. The ruins were low rise, mostly 
roped  off  for climbing. I spotted a huge iguana resting on top of a 
temple.  I  pointed to Bob from Toronto. He took many pictures of it. 
I  started  to worry more about the ruin scene and told Bob that this 
site  was  just  a  pile of rocks. He had seen other ruins and agreed 
that  this  was  not  a  very  impressive  site.  There  were plaques 
everywhere  on the ground describing major structures in 4 languages, 
you  probably  could  self  tour without a guide. We went down to the 
beach.  The  ocean  was  rough.  A  few tourists were practicing body 
surfing.

We  probably missed the Papantla show (Indians dance on top of pole). 
I  didn*t  know  when was the ceremony. As we have seen it before, we 
don't  feel a big loss. We ate lunch and went to Xel-Ha, another Eco-
Archaeological  park.  There were big signs in all Eco-Archaeological 
parks  indicating  *do  not  use  sun  tan lotions*. Manuel said that 
lotions kill fish and wild life.

Xel-Ha  was  built  around  an  underground river delta. Water in the 
lagoon  and  rivers  were  so  clear  that  we  could  easily see the 
colorful  fish several metres below. Manuel bought fish food from the 
dispenser and threw it to the water. The fish did not respond.

There  are  caves  along the river mouth. Since we didn't snorkel, we 
did  not  visit  the caves. We walked along the river bank, crossed a 
couple  bridges  and  walked to the other side of the mouth and back. 
The  path  was  about 2 metres wide. Every a few hundred meters, they 
planted  small  trees  in  the  middle  of  the  path,  just  like in 
Playacar.

Later  afternoon,  Salvador  took  us to Coba. We stayed at Club Med. 
William,  from  Vancouver  pulled  me  aside and said, *All hotels no 
good!*.  He  is  a Korean speaks very little English. I told him that 
in  small  towns,  nobody  would  build  a luxury hotel, for economic 
reasons. He kept bobbing his head. I was not sure he understood.

Actually  the  hotel  was not bad. It was built by a lake of about 10 
hectares  (25  acres).  Manuel said that swimming in the lake was not 
allowed  because  the  lake was infested with alligators. I immediate 
pulled  out my binoculars and checked for the longest time. There was 
not  even  a  dead  log  floating. The entrance was a typical Spanish 
construction.  Rooms were in a 2 story building that wrapped around a 
centre  court  yard  which  had  bar  and  swimming pool with tables, 
chairs and launchers around the pool.

After  sunset,  a  few  couples  stayed  at the gazebo on the lake to 
enjoy  the  gentle breeze and the lake view. We still could not see a 
dead  log. Rick pointed out a few fireflies on shore. Amazingly, they 
flashed quite bright.

We  ate  dinners  at  the  Club Med restaurant. Soup was lime/chicken 
soup.  Dinner selections were limited, strip of beef, barbecued pork, 
chicken  or  fish.  I  picked  the bbq pork. It was served like stew. 
Desserts were simple.

Day  4  The  entrance of Coba ruins was less than 2 Km from Club Med. 
After  Manuel  bought  the  gate admission, he saw Bert, from Nanamo, 
carrying  a  camcorder.  He  told us that all archaeological sites in 
Mexico  levied  a  surcharge of $30 for each video camera. Since Bert 
was  the  only  one  who  carried a camcorder, he paid the surcharge. 
After  we  got  in the gate, Bob said that he also paid the surcharge 
because  he  only heard the word camera. He donated extra US$4 to the 
site.

Coba  ruin  was  getting  somewhat  interesting.  We saw ball courts, 
sacrifice   stones  (chopping  boards  for  human  heads  <g>),  huge 
vertical  slabs (stone trees) with hieroglyphic engravings describing 
events.  The  events  could  be  sacrifice,  ball  game, child birth, 
coronation,  etc.  Finally we came to Church Pyramid. It was about 30 
metres  high.  The stones were quite rough but at least, they were in 
uniform  shape.  We  went  up  to  the  pyramid.  It  was the tallest 
structure  within  the  eye sight. Everything that touched the ground 
were under our feet. The back of the pyramid was a pile of rocks.

Manuel  told us that this site was the largest ruin in the peninsula. 
What  we  had  walked was only 1%. 90% of ruins were still waiting to 
be  unearthed.  Mayans  built  their  structures  on  top  of the old 
structures.   The  Church  pyramid  was  built  on  top  of  3  other 
structures.  Mayans  never  lived  in  the  structures. They used the 
structures  for ceremony purposes. After the ceremony, they all left. 
Some  site,  such  as  Tulum, they might station a few people to look 
after  the  place.  But  those  people  would  stay  outside  of  the 
perimeter  and  lived  in  their own hut. Mayans believed that a life 
cycle  was  very  long.  From birth to death was only a small part of 
their  life  journey.  After death, they would move to another cycle. 
Since  they  were  not  afraid  to  die,  they  were  the most fierce 
warriors.  Violence  showed in many cases, such as, a loser of a ball 
game might be sacrificed.

We  left  the ruin and went to a small restaurant for lunch. Menu was 
beef,  pork  or  chicken  wrapped  in banana leaf. I saw a dog calmly 
lying  in  the sun not even panting. It was 34 degree in shade. After 
lunch,  we  headed  to  Valladolid. The road was so narrow that could 
barely  accommodate  2 cars. There were no centre line nor shoulders. 
We  crossed  from  Quintana  Roo state into Yucatan state. A group of 
guards   guarded   the   state  line.  All  traffics  must  stop  for 
inspection.

Salvador  made  us  to  Valladolid  safely.  Valladolid  was once the 
capital  of  Yucatan. It was quite a large town. The hotel was an old 
governor  house.  Our  wing was new, we could smell the mortar. Rooms 
were  OK  and  comfortable but not luxury. William was very upset now 
and  got  Manuel  to  find  a better hotel. I didn't think that there 
would  be  a  better  hotel in this town. Peter and Sheryl's children 
got  a room with TV. We were so busy everyday that I didn't miss it a 
bit.

Day  5  We  went  to  Chichen  Itza early. At the gate, Bert got very 
upset  that  he  had to pay another $30 to bring his camcorder in. He 
argued  with  Manuel  that  admissions  were  included for this trip. 
Manual   suggested   that   he  could  leave  the  camcorder  at  the 
gatekeeper.  Finally  Manuel  offered  to  pay  the levy from his own 
pocket. Bert felt bad and paid the ticket.

The  pyramid is the most famous in the peninsula. During the equinox, 
the  sun  and  shadow  will create a *serpent* body along the edge of 
the  pyramid  that lines up with the carved stone serpent head at the 
bottom.  The  morning sun strikes dead on one side of the pyramid. We 
missed  the equinox by 2 days, however, we could see the effects. Two 
sides  of the pyramid had been collapsed and unsuitable for climbing. 
There  were chains anchored along the steps for weak climbers. I felt 
sad  because  the  chains  rubbed  the  stones  constantly and etched 
obvious marks.

We  saw  the biggest ball court, the observatory (looked exactly like 
our  modern observatory), group of thousand columns, the nunnery, the 
market,  the  steam bath (Mayans liked sauna too), the priests graves 
(only  a  few  ruin  sites  that  have  dead buried). Everything were 
magnificent.  The  stones were carefully quarried, refined and carved 
with  no  metal  tools.  Straight  stone roads at least 5 metres wide 
lead  to  other Mayan communities, such as Coba and Uxmal. Some halls 
measured  5 by 10 metres with stepping outclining stones, defying the 
law  of  gravity,  to form a roof. Amazingly the roofs were so strong 
that  support other structures on top. Well, some roofs did collapse, 
and  so  as  the  structure  on  top, and became ruins. I asked Al, a 
civil  engineer  from  Ottawa,  how  to  build  such strong roofs. He 
scratched his head and said, *Use very strong glue.*

A  few  workers  excavated  the  lesser known ruin using crowbars and 
shovels.  I  guess that their job was to get the stones out from soil 
and  let  the experts identify the puzzle. Some workers were patching 
the  lawn  and  chalk lines around the pyramid. Manuel said that they 
were preparing the ground for Pavarotti concert on April 19.

After  lunch  in  Chichen Itza, we headed to Uxmal. We stayed at Club 
Med  which  looked  identical  to  the  one at Coba. There supposed a 
Light  and Sound Show at 20:00 inside the ruin. The show was canceled 
due  to  another  concert  for that night. 5000 tickets had been sold 
out.

After  dinner,  Manuel asked if we would try to sneak in the concert. 
Some  of  us  said *"Si"*. He took us to the gate and talked to a few 
people.  Apparently  Manuel  had  talked  to  the  big  boss  in  the 
afternoon  that  he  brought us all the way from Canada to attend the 
concert  and could not get the tickets. The big boss told him to show 
up  exactly  20:00  to  let  us  in, but the big boss was no where in 
sight.  The  other  gate  keepers  let us in, by naming the big boss. 
After all, Manuel knew just about everyone at Uxmal.

The  concert  turned out to be the Mexico National Symphony Orchestra 
playing  classical  pieces  composed  by  contemporary Mexicans. As a 
serious  classical  music  lover,  I  enjoyed  every  minute  of  the 
concert. I particularly like the pentatonic piece.

Day  6  This  morning  we went to Kabah first. The bus climbed up and 
down  a  hill of a few hundred metres, through a winding road. Manuel 
said  the  hill  was the highest in the Yucatan. Kabah ruin was small 
in  area  and  was  built  on a plateau. Buildings were enriched with 
veneer  masonry.  The  site mainly honored rain god who had a curl up 
nose.  Most  rain  god masks are in 3-dimensional shape. There were 2 
large  circular  rings  of  7 meters in diameter, flush on ground, in 
front  of  the  temple.  Manuel  said  those  were the reservoirs. We 
stayed for about 15 minutes and headed back to Uxmal.

Uxmal  means  thrice  built. The slope of the Grand Pyramid is steep, 
once  again,  anchored  with  chains for weak climbers. Two thirds of 
the  way  up,  there was an entrance leading into the pyramid. I went 
in  a  bit, and saw stone posts holding up the ceiling. A bat flew by 
my  face  and  went  out.  It  was  smelly and damp, I decided not to 
explore  further.  Other  structures  were  similar to what we saw in 
Chichen  Itza  but  more  majestic. The Magician's Pyramid is in oval 
shape,  that  was  unique  in  Yucatan pyramids. Manuel said that all 
round  shape objects represented female. The Governor's House was the 
most  elegant.  On spring equinox, from door of the Governor's House, 
one  should  be  able  to  see  the sunrise on the back of a 2-headed 
jaguar.  The  stones  were  carefully  selected  and carved with fine 
details. There were a few mounts yet to be discovered.

In  the afternoon, Salvador took us to Merida. We encountered rain on 
the  way.  I did not see any river (other than the underground ones), 
lake  (other  than  in  Coba)  on  this  trip. It showed that Yucatan 
Mayans  were  living  in  a  very  harsh  environment.  Merida is the 
capital  of  Yucatan  and is probably the largest city. In Merida, we 
checked  in  Hyatt, the most luxury hotel in this trip. William ought 
to  be  very  happy.  The hotel was new. Every features met the Hyatt 
standards.  There  was no bottled water provided in rooms, that meant 
the  tap  water  perhaps  fit  for drinking. We did not drink the tap 
water.

Day  7  Today was the spring equinox, it was also a holiday in memory 
of  a  certain  civic hero. In the morning we walked around the hotel 
vicinity.   There   were   several  statutes  and  monuments  in  the 
neighborhood.  We  walked  to  the  museum  as part of agenda. It was 
closed  due  to renovation. Manuel took us to the market via the city 
bus.  We  borrowed  $4 from Sheryl to pay for the fare. My wife and I 
did  not  stay  around the market long and decided to walk back. Next 
to  Hyatt  is  the  Holiday  Inn,  Across  from  Hyatt  is the Fiesta 
Americana which has a shopping arcade.

The  evening  dinner was the farewell dinner. It was the best dinner. 
I  had two bowls of conch soup. Other food was typical Yucatan style, 
beef,  pork,  chicken  and  fish. Dessert was very nice, I had triple 
servings.  We  also had a good cup of tea. In the past 6 days, he had 
tea that looked and tasted like muddy water.

Day  8  After  I  had  breakfast,  Manuel showed me the Yucatan style 
breakfast.  I  had another breakfast. Salvador's bus was used to ship 
people  to and from Chichen Itza on equinox. The news paper said that 
there  were  50,000 people gathered by the pyramid in the morning. We 
loaded  the  bus  and  headed  to Izamal. Izamal was a small city and 
once  was  the  capital, probably in the 1700. The attraction was the 
Franciscan  monastery,  where Pope John Paul II performed a mass here 
a  decade  ago.  The  monastery was build on top of a Mayan ruin. The 
settlers  help  themselves  to  the  existing stones from the ruin to 
build  the  monastery.  As we walked around, we could see some stones 
with  Mayan  hieroglyphic.  There was an un-excavated pyramid next to 
the monastery. It was tall but not exciting.

After  lunch, we visited a henequen process plant. Henequen is a very 
slow  growing  plant with sharp thorns at the edges of the leaves. It 
may  take  10-15  years  to  harvest  the first leaf. This is a dying 
industry  because  the  synthetic  fibre replaces the coarse henequen 
fibre.

Most  of  the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan area were excavated only few 
years  ago,  we  could  see  a  little  bit  about  the ancient Mayan 
culture,  habitat  and  technology.  Sites that were built during the 
classic  period  (Chichen  Itza  and  Uxmal)  show the glory of Mayan 
history.  Sites that were built in the post classic era (Xcaret, Xel-
Ha and Coba) are not that impressive. 

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET and is distributed internationally through the facilities of America Online, GENIE, The Travel On Line BBS (Lake St. Louis MO 314-561-4956). Selected features appear on Prodigy.

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