Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 116
July 15, 2001

Last Update 11 July 2001

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April 27-May 5, 2001                      

Our  second  visit  to Sans Souci, which we booked through Lance at Go 
Classy,  was  as  wonderful,  even  better in some ways, as the first.  
Now  that  Air  Jamaica  has  non-stop flights from Phoenix to Montego 
Bay,  getting  there  was  much easier.  In '99, flying from Tucson to 
Dallas  to  Miami  to  Montego Bay was more exhausting than taking the 
red-eye  from  Phoenix.   This  time, we arrived in Montego Bay around 
6:00  in  the  morning, took the SuperClubs bus to GLSS and arrived at 
8:00  a.m.   The  bus  was  one  of the small ones.  It wasn't a scary 
ride,  but a long, noisy, uncomfortable one.  The best part of the bus 
ride  was  meeting  Mark  and  Kim,  a  great  couple from Phoenix who 
happened  to  be  on the same flight.  We spent lots of time with them 
till they left the following Thursday, and they were so much fun.

When  we arrived at Sans Souci, we didn't get the champagne/Red Stripe 
greeting  because  the bars weren't open that early, but we checked in 
and  were  told  to  come  back  around  noon to see if our rooms were 
ready.   In  the  meantime, we were invited to breakfast at Palazzina.  
John  and  I  knew  the  way,  so  the four of us walked to Palazzina, 
enjoyed the breakfast buffet and were able to get our first Mimosas.

  After  breakfast we went to the spa office and made our appointments 
for  the  week.  The new Spa Manager is Karoline Smith, who used to be 
the  Front  Desk  Manager.   We  loved Karoline from our last trip and 
recognized  her  right  away.  We were totally surprised when she came 
around  from  her  desk,  gave  me  a  hug  and said "John and Judith, 
welcome  back."   The  managers  must  get  advance  information about 
returning  guests.   After  making  our  appointments,  we went to the 
salon  to  schedule our manicures and pedicures for later that morning 
since  we wouldn't be getting into our room till after lunch.  When we 
walked  in  the  door,  two  of  the girls pointed at us and said, "We 
remember  you.   You were here before."  Honest, we didn't do anything 
outrageous  on  our last trip.  The Sans Souci staff is just that good 
at customer service.

We  went  back  to  the lobby and made dinner reservations at Casanova 
for  three  nights.   No  problem.  With all the scheduling out of the 
way,  we  retrieved  one  of our carry-on bags, took it to the Balloon 
Bar  restrooms  and  changed  into  shorts.   We headed for one of our 
favorite  places,  the  Beach  Bar,  which  had  just opened and had a 
couple  of Pina Coladas.  Then, running out of energy, we went looking 
for  our  favorite hammock.  It's near A Block, just off the beginning 
of  the  path  to the c/o beach, a quiet spot except for the sounds of 
birds in the big trees all around it.  A nice place for a nap.

  We  got  into our room after lunch.  We were on the third floor in B 
Block,  which  is  beachfront  with  a nice balcony and an ocean view.  
Most  mornings we had Room Service breakfast on that balcony and could 
hear   the   flute  from  Palazzina.   We  loved  the  location.   The 
refrigerator  hadn't  been  stocked yet, so we called Room Service and 
asked  Kevan  if he could bring us some bottles of water and if he had 
any  bottles  of Red Stripe.  He said, "No, but I know where I can get 
you  some."   He  was  there  in a few minutes with the water, the Red 
Stripe and a big smile.

Besides   the   beach,   the   restaurants,  the  bars  and  beautiful 
surroundings,  it  was the employees like Kevan who made Sans Souci so 
enjoyable.   Our  housekeeper,  Karen,  always  had  a  smile.  Sunday 
morning  it  was  pouring rain and we realized our room was missing an 
umbrella.   We saw Karen outside the room and asked her where we could 
get  one.   She  came  in  to use the phone and had one sent right up.  
Later  when  she  made  up  our room, she left hibiscus flowers on the 
pillows.   We  told  her  how  much  we  liked them, and the next day, 
besides   the   flowers   on  the  pillows,  she  left  a  bouquet  of 
bougainvillea  on  the  coffee table.  One night while we were out for 
dinner,  one  of  the  housekeepers doing the turndown service spelled 
out Welcome Back in some kind of small blossoms across the sheet.

On  that rainy Sunday morning, we were eating breakfast on the balcony 
and  watching  one  of the Grounds employees raking leaves under a big 
tree  in  front  of  Palazzina.   They raked the leaves every morning, 
rain  or  shine.   He  was wearing a long, hooded raincoat and working 
hard  in the rain.  When he finished, he walked over to a couple under 
a  shelter  on the beach.  We couldn't hear what they were saying, but 
they  were  showing  him  something  and  pointing  to one of the palm 
trees.   He  left for a few minutes and returned with something to cut 
down  what  we  later  learned were coconuts.  He cut off the tops and 
handed  them  to the couple along with some straws.  As he walked back 
across  the  lawn  in  front of our building, I called down to him and 
asked  what  he  had.   He said, "coconuts, I'll bring you some.  What 
room  are  you  in?"  He brought us the coconuts, cut off the tops and 
gave  us  each  a  straw.  His name was Richard.  He and Karen told us 
coconut juice "washes your heart."  They brought joy to our hearts.

On  Saturday  at  the  Beach  Bar  I  started talking to a young man I 
assumed  was  another  guest.  He introduced himself as John Cadieaux, 
the  sous-chef  at Casanova.  When I told him we would be dining there 
that  night  and  two  more  times  later  in  the  week,  he  started 
describing  some  of  the  food on the Casanova menu.  As he described 
the  sauces,  I  almost drooled on the bar.  He told us to ask for him 
when  we  came  in.   We did, and he made suggestions, and a couple of 
times  even  prepared something that wasn't on the menu.  All the food 
we  ate  at  Casanova  was  to  die  for,  and our waiter, Lennon, was 
outstanding.   We  ate inside all three times, once upstairs and twice 
downstairs.   It  seemed  cooler downstairs, and we enjoyed being near 
the  piano.   I  know  some  don't like the jacket requirement, but we 
like getting dressed up when going to a nice restaurant.

Before  dinner on Monday night we went to the Manager's Cocktail Party 
by  the Main Pool.  If you are interested in learning about the resort 
and  want  to  meet  some  of the managers, try to work this into your 
schedule.   It  only  lasts  an  hour.  We visited with several of the 
managers,  including  the  General Manager, Pierre Battaglia.  We told 
him  how  impressed  we were with the staff and told him about Richard 
and  the  coconuts.  He suggested we put Richard's name on the comment 
card  prior  to  checkout  and  explained  that  the comment cards are 
reviewed  and  employees  who  are named are rewarded.  The management 
encourages  the  staff to interact with the guests, and the staff does 
a  good  job  of  it.   They  smile,  joke  with  you and still appear 
professional.   I've  read  where  some  guests  felt  they were being 
solicited  for  tips.   We  never got that impression and wonder if an 
employee's  desire to do his job well was being misinterpreted.  As in 
the  past,  the only people we tipped were the drivers and the airport 
baggage  handlers.   We  take  SuperClubs at its word that its resorts 
are all-inclusive and tips are not permitted.

Another  thing  we  complimented  the  General  Manager on was the new 
location  of  Bella  Vista, the Jamaican restaurant.  It used to be up 
on  the  hill;  now  it'  s down on the beach on the patio between the 
Beach  Bar  and  the  ocean.  We had heard it was his idea and that he 
wanted  it to be a true Jamaican experience.  It is.  There's a three-
piece  Jamaican  band,  good  Jamaican  food, and the trees are strung 
with  mini-lights.   It's  so  romantic  with  the candlelight and the 
sound  of  the  water washing up on the sand.  And when the band stops 
playing, you can hear the tree frogs singing.

We  didn't  use  the  clothing  optional  beach,  and since it is more 
popular  than  it  was  on our last visit, there were always plenty of 
lounge  chairs on the main beach, and it wasn't as difficult to find a 
shady  spot.  The beach was always clean.  Every morning it was raked, 
and  guys  were  out  gathering  up anything that had washed up on the 
sand.   We  went  kayaking,  John  went  out snorkeling (The boat goes 
twice  a  day.),  and  we  went  out on the water on the floaties.  We 
didn't  participate  in  the  activities  except  for  my reggae dance 
lesson,  but  we could hear the action and people having fun.  One day 
we  saw  a  guest  pick up Xavian, the Entertainment Manager and throw 
him,  fully  clothed, into the Main Pool while other guests hooted and 
cheered  him  on.  We didn't spend much time at the Main Pool, but did 
use the swim-up bar a couple of times.

There  seemed  to  be  more  bar  service  on  the  beach  this  time.  
Waitresses,  usually  Connie  or Hopelyn, would come up to your lounge 
chairs  and  ask if you'd like something to drink.  If you see them on 
the  beach  or  at the Beach Bar, tell them you read about them on the 
Internet.   They both seemed shy, but they were friendly.  The food at 
the  Beach  Grill  is good but the service is slow.  One day I went up 
to  our  room  and  ordered  a  pizza from Room Service and brought it 
down.   We  grabbed  a  couple  of Red Stripes, and the guy next to us 
said,  "Well,  I  hope  you  brought enough for the whole class." It's 
nice to be in a place where everyone is in a good mood.

On  our  previous trip, we didn't have any rain.  This trip, it rained 
several  times,  but  we  had  some beach time every day.  The Tuesday 
night  Jamaican  Beach  Party  was  rained out and moved to Palazzina.  
Not  as  nice  inside,  but the show was good.  On Thursday we had our 
reflexology  appointments  scheduled  for  6:00  so we could watch the 
sunset  over  the  water.   The  rain  that  afternoon stopped shortly 
before  our  appointments.   They  were going to do our reflexology in 
one  of  the treatment rooms, but I begged Karoline. She went outside, 
wiped  off  the  chairs  with  some towels and said okay.  I think the 
therapists  were  friendlier  this  time.   While  we  were having our 
reflexology,  Monique  and Chris (friends from the Grand Lido Visitors 
Hangout)  walked up and we started talking.  The therapists thought we 
were  old  friends.  When we told them we met Monique and Chris on the 
Internet,  they  were  amazed  and  kept talking about it.  John and I 
enjoyed  all  the  spa treatments, especially the massages that we had 
together  in the Hideaway. You can request the Hideaway (a good reason 
to  schedule your appointments as soon as you arrive).  It's the round 
rock  hut  that has windows that look right out to the ocean, and it's 
the best!

We  spent  more time in our in-room Jacuzzi this time.  We took the CD 
player  into  the bathroom lit a bunch of candles that I brought along 
and poured champagne.  We always kept champagne in the fridge.

Almost  every night after dinner we went to the Balloon Bar.  It was a 
great  place  to  meet other guests.  The bartenders were fun, and the 
entertainment  was  good,  especially  the  Monday  night Fashion Show 
featuring  the  Entertainment  staff  as  models  and  a mock Jamaican 

If  you are a repeat guest, be sure to let Sans Souci know.  Del Fong, 
the  Public  Relations Manager gave us a questionnaire to complete for 
their  database  that,  among other things, asks your room preference.  
If  a  balcony  or an ocean view or a particular location is important 
to  you,  Del said they try to accommodate you on your next visit.  We 
also  got  a letter from the General Manager, offering us a free night 
on  our next visit, and a gift was delivered to our room.  Del invited 
us  to  a  lunch off property for repeat guests.  At first we thought, 
big  deal,  we  get  a  free lunch here, but we decided to go and were 
glad  we  did.   It was on the patio of a beautiful Italian restaurant 
only  about  five  minutes  from  Sans  Souci.   Besides  enjoying the 
wonderful  food and wine, we had a chance to visit with Del and Estria 
Richards,  another  manager  who  went  along, and other returnees who 
love Sans Souci as much as we do.

Since  we  were  at  GLSS  for eight days, we were there for two Grand 
Galas.  The  first  one  was  on  the lawn in front of B Block and was 
elegant  with all the candlelit tables and the canopied food stations, 
decorated  with  mini-lights  and big ice sculptures.  Our second Gala 
was  the  night  before  we left.  It had to be moved inside Palazzina 
because  of  rain,  so  we  decided to order dinner from Room Service.  
Kevan  brought  us  a  bottle of cabernet, Caesar Salad, Mediterranean 
Snapper,  Balsamic  Chicken  Breast and brownies for dessert.  We took 
our  dinner  and  some  candles  and  flowers  out to the table on the 
balcony.   Since  we  were on the third floor and only three balconies 
over  from  Palazzina,  we  could hear and see the Gala entertainment. 
After dinner we went down to the Beach Bar and said some good-byes.

We  didn't  have  to  check  out  until noon on Saturday, so we got up 
early  and  spent  a  couple  of  hours  on  the beach.  While we were 
packing,  Karoline called to say good-bye, and at noon we put our bags 
outside  the  door  and went to the lobby to check out.  Since our bus 
wasn't  leaving  until  2:00,  we went to the Beach Bar where we met a 
couple  who  had  just  arrived from Virginia.  The four of us went to 
Palazzina  for  lunch and then it was off to the airport.  And time to 
start planning our next trip to Sans Souci.

April                 '99                 Trip                 Report:


As  our  bus  made its way from Mexico City, we passed mile after mile 
of  shanty  towns, on both sides of the road, sprawled on hillsides as 
far  as  the eye could see. I was staring at these blights of the 20th 
century   when   the  voice  of  Jos‚,  our  guide,  boomed  over  the 
microphone,  "We're hurrying to make sure that we will not be late for 
lunch  at  the pyramid." A lady sitting next to me, looking perplexed, 
piped  up,  "Late  for lunch! But it's only ten o'clock." Jos‚'s laugh 
came  loud  and  clear,  "We have to get you ready atop the Pyramid of 
the Sun for lunch. You know! To be sacrificed to the gods!"

Almost  everyone  snickered  at  the punch line and this put us in the 
mood  for  the  day's  tour.  First  we  were  to  visit  the ruins at 
Teotihuac  n,  then  travel  to Pachuca and Real del Monte and end the 
day  with  a  meal  at  a  typical  hacienda,  converted  into  a huge 
restaurant.  In  this  one day we were to travel from Mexico's ancient 
Indian  past  to its modern age towns, then dine on the exotic food of 
the  state  of  Hidalgo about which Jos‚ continually spoke. For me, it 
sounded  like  an  exciting  agenda, especially as I looked forward to 
the feast at the end of our journey.

Jos‚  had  barely  finished his joke when we came to Teotihuac n, some 
48  km (30 mi) northeast of Mexico City. Entering the ruins, we passed 
a  sign  stating,  `Welcome to the city of the gods' - a name given to 
it  by  the  Aztecs.  For  visitors  like  us,  it  is  an appropriate 
invitation  to  Mexico's  most  popular  tourist  attraction  and that 
country's first true city.

The  34  sq  km  (13  sq  mi)  Teotihuac  n,  the  most  awe-inspiring 
archeological  site in Mexico, was the first major city in the Western 
Hemisphere.  Flourishing  between  500 B.C. and 700 A.D., it served as 
the  religious,  political  and  commercial mecca of Mexico, spreading 
its  influence  well into Central America. With 70,000 inhabitants, it 
was  the most advanced urban centre of its time until much of the city 
was  mysteriously burned in the late 8th century. We toured the Temple 
of  the  Sun, a massive 66 m (215 ft) high pyramid, the smaller Temple 
of  the  Moon,  the  Grand  Avenue of the Dead, edged on both sides by 
small   temples   dedicated   to  various  gods,  and  the  Temple  of 
Quetzalc¢atl  with  its enormous ornamental snake heads. After some of 
us  struggled  up  the steep 250 steps to the top of the Temple of the 
Sun,  we  surveyed the grand scene of the ruins from where the ancient 
priests  once  stood.  It  was  a  fantastic adieu to the ancient city 
where it is said `the gods were born'.

After  a  20  minute  drive from Teotihuac n, we found the road closed 
and  had  to  make a long detour. To keep us busy and forget the extra 
miles,  every  few  minutes  Jos‚  would  talk in glowing terms of the 
foods,  unique  to  the  State  of Hidalgo. By the time we had reached 
Pachuca,  some 63 km (39 mi) from Teotihuac n, my mouth began to water 
in anticipation. 

However,  as  we  entered this city of some 700,000, I soon forgot all 
about  the delights of the described dishes. I could hardly believe my 
eyes.  It  seemed  to  me  that we were entering a US or Canadian town 
located  in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Buildings, spreading 
to  the  horizon, appeared to be newly constructed, neat and seemingly 
built  in  an  organized  fashion.  "Am  I  in  Mexico?", I thought to 
myself. I could barely believe my eyes.

After  touring  the  town,  my  first  impressions were confirmed. The 
people  walking  the  streets  were  well-dressed and the old section, 
dotted  with  well-kept  gardens  and parks, was very attractive. Even 
downtown,  in  the  very  heart  of  old  Pachuca, its chief park, the 
Independence   Square,  was  immaculate  and  greatly  enhanced  by  a 
monumental  replica  of  London's  Big  Ben  -  a gift from Britain to 
Hidalgo  -  due  a  long  historic connection between Britain and that 

Pachuca   has   a   setting  that  is  spectacular.  Creeping  up  the 
surrounding  green hills, on a sunny day the town glitters as if it is 
a  pale-white  jewel  set  in a field of emeralds - and the sparkling, 
perhaps,  emitted from its soil. The silver which is still being mined 
today,  gave  the  town  the  label 'city with a silver soul' and drew 
adventurers from far and wide to seek their fortunes. 

>>From  among  these  were  the British silver miners who, in the 1800s, 
settled  in  the  nearby  town of Real del Monte. For many years, they 
kept  to  themselves,  hanging  tenaciously  on  to their Englishness. 
Strangely,  when  the  miners  died,  they  were  buried facing toward 
Britain.   The  miners  entire  life  revolved  around  British  ways, 
including  the  food  of  their  former homeland. A leftover from that 
time  in  Real  del Monte and Pachuca are turnovers made from potatoes 
and meat, known locally as pastes.

>>From  Pachuca,  we  climbed  upward  through  green hills, past a huge 
statue  of  Christ  overlooking  Pachuca,  until  we  reached Real del 
Monte,  6  km  (3.6  mi)  away - once a carbon copy of a British town. 
Crossing  this  town  known  for its great mining traditions, we again 
came  to  a  blocked  roadway.  "We're  jinxed!"  Jos‚ commented as we 
turned to retrace our steps. 

On  our  way  back to Pachuca to take another road for our rendez-vous 
with  our  Hidalgo  meal,  we  stopped in the heart of Real del Monte. 
Jos‚  stepped out but was soon back with a large box of pastes. Taking 
the  first  bite,  I  almost purred in pleasure. The English turnovers 
had  been  turned  by  the  Mexicans into gourmet delights. I sat back 
content,  thinking,  "If  the  Mexicans  could  do this to the British 
almost  tasteless  turnover  what  a  heavenly  gastronomic world must 
await us at the hacienda."

Soon  we  were  seated  in  the  Hacienda  Concepcion, located a short 
distance  from  Pachuca,  I  could  hardly  control  my  excitement as 
Manuel,  our  waiter,  announced in perfect English, "Tonight you will 
dine  on  the  best  food  in  our  state."  Listening to him, I oozed 

In  a  few  minutes,  bowls  of  consume de cabra (goat soup) were set 
before  us.  I  quickly  scooped  a  tablespoon  into  my  mouth. As I 
swallowed,  I  felt  sickened.  The  smell  and  taste of the soup was 
repugnant.  Thinking  that  I would make the soup palatable, I stirred 
almost  two  tablespoons  of  hot pepper sauce into my bowl. Alas! The 
goat smell and taste overpowered that of the hot sauce. 

Putting  the soup aside, I waited for the next dish, barbacoa de cabra 
-  barbecued  pieces  of goat meat wrapped in tin foil. Alerted by the 
soup,  I  put a tiny piece in my mouth. I was flabbergasted! The smell 
and  taste  were  much  more repulsive than that of the soup. I looked 
around  to find that I was not alone. All the members of our group had 
not  touched  their meat. It was apparent that no one was enjoying the 
meal.  The  culinary ensnaring promises of Jos‚ had come to naught. As 
the  saying  goes,  'one  man's gourmet joy is another man's 'culinary 
nightmare'.  I  whole  heartily  agreed with Tim, my fellow traveller, 
"The  people in Hidalgo might think of their food as great. For me, it 
is not to be found in their goat dishes."

That  evening  as  darkness  encompassed  us, during the 94 km (58 mi) 
drive  back  to  Mexico City, our day's journey floated back before me 
in  a  kaleidoscope of events and colours. Majestic Indian pyramids, a 
sparkling  new  city,  British heritage, and Hidalgo foods- a culinary 
dream smashed by reality. 



1)  If  with  a  group,  Julia  Tours  in  Mexico City will arrange an 
excursion  which would include Teotihuac n and Pachuca. If alone, rent 
a car or a taxi for the day. 

2)  Small  cars,  fully insured with unlimited mileage, rent for about 
$70.  per  day.  Beware!  It  is not easy to drive in Mexico City - it 
seems that all drivers continually drive in and out of their lanes. 

3)  The  official  Mexican currency is the peso currently trading at 9 
to 10 pesos to a US dollar.

4)  Tip  baggage handlers and bellboys $1.00 per suitcase; maids $1.00 
per day and 50 cents tip for washroom attendants is usual.

5)  The  people  of  Pachuca  are  hospitable and the city's touristic 
facilities  are  excellent.  The  city  is  safe.  The climate is very 
agreeable  -  clean  fresh  air flowing in from the forested mountains 
without pollution make life in Pachuca healthy and relaxing.

6)  Silver  prices  in  Pachuca and Real del Monte are more reasonable 
than in Taxco or any other place in Mexico. 

Sites to See:

In  Pachuca  -  the  Regional History and Photography Museums, housing 
photographic  mementoes  of the Mexican Revolution; the Mining Museum, 
telling  the  story  of  500  years  of  silver mining; the Mineralogy 
Museum,exhibiting  minerals  from  the  four corners in the world; the 
San  Francisco Ex-convent, defusing the splendour of a bygone age; and 
Orfebres  Real  del  Monte  where  one can purchase silver products of 
great  workmanship.  In  Real  del  Monte  - the British Cemetery; the 
Cantina,  an  old  drug  store;  the  barbershop;  and some of the old 
churches  will  give the traveller an idea of life at the beginning of 
this century.

Where to Stay in Pachuca: 

The  5-star  Hotels  La Joya - tel: 52(7)718-3010; fax: 52(7)718-4150; 
and  Hotel  Excelencia Plaza - tel: 52(7)718-2828; fax: 52(7)718-0009. 
The  4  star  Hotel  Fiesta  Inn - tel: 52(7)711- 3011; fax: 52(7)711-
3910;  and the 3-star Hotel Ciros - tel: 52(7)715-5408; fax: 52(7)715-
4083.  Prices  for all these hotels are very reasonable - for example, 
the  daily  price  for  the luxury Hotel Excelencia Plaza is about $65 
for double room.

Note: All prices quoted are in US dollars. 

For Further Information, Contact:

In  Canada contact the Mexican Government Tourism Office - 2 Bloor St. 
West,  Suite  1801,  Toronto, Ontario M4W 3E2. Tel: 416/925-0704. Fax: 
416/925-6061;  in  the U.S.A. - 405 Park Ave., Suite 142, New York, NY 
10022.  Tel:  212/755-7261; or Toll-Free Assistance, from US/Canada 1-
800-44  Mexico;  in  Mexico  -Secretary  of Tourism, State of Hidalgo. 
Tel: Toll Free 01-800-7156800. E-mail: 


The  air  was  heavy with humidity, but we didn't mind because we knew 
in  a  few  minutes  another Caribbean breeze would cool us off again. 
Checking  the  weather  back  home,  and  finding  out their heat wave 
seemed "permanent," we smiled even longer.

We  were  on  vacation  in the paradise island of Puerto Rico. After a 
few  days enjoying the capital of San Juan, we hired a car and motored 
south  through  mountainous area for 90 minutes to the other coast. We 
wanted  to  see  the city of Ponce, the island's second largest. Ponce 
recently celebrated the tricentennial of its first settlement.


By  the  beginning of the 19th century, Ponce as a commercial port was 
a  strong  rival  for San Juan on the 3500-square-mile island. Ongoing 
revitalization  of  Ponce's  historic district will soon make the city 
also rival San Juan as a magnet for tourists, said our guide.

Horse-drawn  carriages  and gas lamps enhance its streets, while phone 
and  electrical  wires are being transferred underground. Pink marble-
bordered  sidewalks are proposed. Those pretty gas lamps were imported 
from England at a high cost of $3500 each!

During  its  heyday  as  a  hub  of  the  island's  sugarcane, rum and 
shipping  industries,  Ponce  was  called  the pearl of the south. Its 
architecture  mixes  neoclassical, Art Deco and "Ponce Creole" styles. 
Facelifts   will   eventually   be  applied  to  over  1,000  historic 
sculptures  on  streets  radiating  from the stately main square Plaza 
Las Delicias (Plaza of Delights.)

On  the square are unusual laurel trees from India, trimmed into round 
shapes  twice  a  year by workers swinging huge machetes while perched 
high  on  ladders.  Such  workers  usually draw admiring crowds but we 
unfortunately missed their "act" by a few hours.


  Around  the  corner  is  Parque  de Bombas, the former firehouse now 
restored  as  a  museum.  The  colorful red and black striped building 
repeats  the  colors  of  Ponce's  own  flag.  Inside, you can inspect 
documents, photographs, antique tools and models of firemen's homes.

  Long  ago,  the  city could not afford to pay them salaries, so they 
were  given  free  rent  in identical homes all on one street. Ponce's 
current  firemen  are  paid and housed together in a structure next to 
the  new  station. Our guide escorted us inside La Perla Theater where 
we  marveled  at the rehearsal of a local dance troupe. Built in 1864, 
the  theater  collapsed  during the 1918 earthquake and was rebuilt in 
1939  with  a  magnificent  acoustic  system.  Lucky city dwellers and 
tourists  alike  can  enjoy plays, ballet, jazz, whatever, all for the 
low cost of $ 5 to $15 a seat.


  Inside  Casa  Alcadia,  the  police  station, you can look up to the 
second  level  where prisoners years ago were executed. They were hung 
with  iron  collars  right in their cells for crimes such as stealing. 
Death probably was welcome because slow torture preceded it!

  The  modern  city  is  safe  for  tourists  because  24  hours a day 
policemen  patrol  on  foot,  horseback  and motorcycles. A teen disco 
(without  alcohol)  is  popular  as  is  a  café  next  door for their 

  On  Vigia  Hill  above  Ponce,  you can climb inside a 100-foot-high 
concrete  observation  tower in the shape of a cross. Men once watched 
for incoming ships, friendly or otherwise, from that position.


  Next  to  that  tower, the Serrales Castle is a gorgeous multi-level 
Spanish  Revival hacienda with an elegant open courtyard, leaded glass 
windows  and  a  carved  wooden  dining-room ceiling. The city in 1986 
bought  the former home of Juan Serrales, founder of the company which 
makes  DonQ  and  other  rums, and converted it into a museum. You can 
watch  there  a short film in Spanish describing sugar/rum production, 
and  ask  your guide further questions. Don't miss the Ponce Museum of 
Art,  the  largest  in the entire Caribbean. Its eight octagonal rooms 
hold  European  paintings  and  sculpture  of the last five centuries, 
especially  late  Renaissance  and  Baroque works. The modern building 
was  designed  by  Edward  Durrell Stone, architect also of New York's 
MMA (Museum of Modern Art.)

  After exploring Ponce you will agree it deserves to be called "Pearl 
of the South."

  For more information, call Puerto Rico Tourism Co. in New York City, 
1-800-223-6530 or explore


Just  returned  from  our  seventh  trip  to St. Barths since we first 
discovered  the island in 1989. The six year lapse since our last trip 
('95)  has  produced  many changes. The population is now up to 7,000, 
twice  as  many as '89, and there are more cars on the road which does 
create  a  little  congestion  now  and  then.  The park at the end of 
Gustavia  port  is  nice,  as  are  the  new  streets with their fancy 
design.  Before  Hurricane  Luis hit the island we had stayed one year 
at  the  Flamands  Beach Hotel. All that remains today is the shell of 
the  building  which  apparently for some reason is not being rebuilt. 
We  looked  in at our old room and it was sad to see it in its present 

Today,  next  to the old hotel is La Langouste, a new restaurant/small 
hotel  which  used  to  be in Gustavia but moved to its new location a 
few  years  ago. "Madame" is very amiable and lobster, of course, is a 
house  favorite.  We  stayed  at  the  eastern  end of the island on a 
hillside  overlooking La Toiny. Each day we rotated our beachtime to a 
different  beach.  Saline  is still my favorite because it is wild and 
pristine,  and  no  civilization can be seen from the beach. For those 
of  you  who  do  not  care  to get a lot of sun, I'll let you in on a 
secret.  At  the  far  eastern  end of Saline there is a rock overhang 
which  produces  shade until about 11:00 AM. If you get there early as 
we  did  everyday (7:30 AM), it will be yours. The same applies to the 
East  end  of  Gouvenouer.  Of  course  if  you  have a beach umbrella 
(rarely seen), all of this advice is redundant.

You  won't get a bad meal on St. Barths. With the exchange rate around 
7ff  to the dollar, food was reasonable. I had a terrific rack of lamb 
at  Maya's  for about $30 which is what you may expect to pay in NY or 
S.F.  Everyone  who  goes  to  St.  Barths  always  has their favorite 
restaurants.   We   usually   go  to  what  we  consider  the  "value" 
restaurants.  Don't  miss  Le  Rivage for lunch, especially the Chef's 
Salad.  In  Gustavia, Le Repaire has always been a good value. One day 
we  stopped  for lunch and I had mahimahi in a buerre blanc sauce that 
was  outstanding.  Of the new restaurants, we liked Massai in Lorient. 
The  splurge  restaurants  are  Francois  Plantation,  Carl Gustav, Le 
Gaiic  and  Le  Sapotellier  where  all the little extras can be found 
(i.e.,  service and presentation). As we have done before, we splurged 
at  Le Gaiic on our last night and were not disappointed. The ambiance 
there is memorable.

For  those of you who may want to visit St. Barths in the future, here 
is my short list of DONT'S:

Unless  you  speak  fluent  French,  leave  your  high school or Steve 
Martin  French  at  home.  Almost  all  of  the  people you will be in 
contact with speak English.

Don't bother to ask for a table in the no-smoking section.

Don't  bother to ask the person at the next table if he/she would mind 
putting   out   their   cigarette   unless   you  want  to  create  an 
international  incident.  Remember,  you are in someone else's country 
and the French do smoke up a storm. 

Don't  ask  your  server to remove a cat or dog from a restaurant. The 
French like cats and dogs. 

Don't  drink  and  drive. The roads are difficult to traverse entirely 
sober  let  alone  under  the  influence.  At  night,  it is even more 
difficult.  During  our stay there were two fatal motorbike accidents. 
One  took the life of a mother while she walked down the road with her 
two  children.  She  was struck by an intoxicated motorcyclist who has 
been  charged  with  involuntary  manslaughter. Pulling something like 
that could really ruin your vacation bigtime.

Don't  try  and  drive  like the French. They have enough accidents on 
the scoreboard and do not need any more.

Don't  embarrass  yourself or others by bathing au naturale at beaches 
other  than Saline or Gouvenour. Currently, the aforementioned are the 
only two beaches that are unofficially clothes-optional. 

And  please,  don't  order  a "Coke" with dinner. If you've got enough 
cash  to  go  to St. Barths, for crying out loud, buy a bottle of wine 
(or even a glass). 

And  above  all,  if you are American be proud of that fact, but don't 
act  like  an  idiot.  I  have  seen  Americans  at  their worst while 
traveling and it is embarrassing

I  almost  forgot  to  add  something  about the airport at St. Martin 
(Juliana).  It is still a zoo but if you know the ropes in advance you 
can  pass  through  without  too  much  trouble. After you land and go 
through  customs,  pick  up  your  bags  and go to whatever airline is 
taking  you to St. Barths. With passport and boarding pass in hand, go 
to  the brown booth for a departure tax waiver. All of these documents 
will  get  you  into  the boarding area when passing through security. 
The same applies on your return trip if you are passing through.


My  wife and 4 young kids flew into St. Croix on a very small commuter 
plane  from  San  Juan  in  July  of 1990. We had reserved a 2 bedroom 
cottage  at  the Sprat Hall Plantation. According to literature we had 
read  it sounded like an ideal place for our family - Mansion built in 
the  1600's,  antiques,  walk  down  the  hill  to  a  private  beach, 
wonderful host, and near the quaint town of Frederiksted.

Upon  arrival  at  the  Sprat  Hall Plantation we met the owner, Joyce 
Hurd.  An elderly woman who had been born in the mansion moved away in 
her  youth,  and then bought the place a half century later to convert 
into  a vacation paradise. She was very sweet and friendly. She showed 
us  to  our  cottage  which  was  very private, but in a state of ill-
repair  (kind  of  like  a  50's  house  trailer),  and  not up to the 
cleanliness  standards  of  even  a  Motel  6. There really wasn't any 
security so my wife felt a little nervous.

The  walk  to  the beach turned out to be a walk down to a road, cross 
the  road and to a beach that had been washed away by hurricane George 
in  '98.  Frederiksted  was  completely dead. We couldn't find an open 
restaurant  -  we  ended  up  eating  the first night at the only open 
place  we  could  find - Kentucky Fried Chicken. On our way out we had 
to turn down a beggar who wanted a handout.

We've  been  to St. Thomas, St. John, and Jamaica and always found the 
natives  to  be  very  friendly and of a "take it easy" demeanor. This 
was  not  the case in St. Croix. There's a few large processing plants 
(Alcoa  and  an  Oil Company) that provide an abundance of jobs that I 
suspect  pay more than hotels and restaurants. I suspect the St. Croix 
natives  don't  feel  so  dependent  on  tourism  as some of the other 
islands,  and so they don't put on the happy face. One morning we went 
into  a  "Pastry  Hut" on Queen Anne's highway near Frederiksted. Most 
all  of  the  clientele  were  natives  and  the attendants behind the 
counter  were  quite rude and impatient. One fellow came in with a tee 
shirt  that  said  "Slavery  - African Holocaust." It's certainly very 
sad  and abhorrent that Africans were captured and sold to work on the 
sugar  plantations  of  St. Croix back in the 1700/1800's. Being faced 
with the lingering resentment was uncomfortable.

After  one  night at the Sprat Hall Plantation, we tried to move up to 
the  Carambola resort, which looked like a wonderful place tucked into 
a  beautiful  cove on the north shore. Unfortunately it was completely 
booked,  so  we  ended  up at the nearby "Waves at Cane Bay". It was a 
small  place  on  par  with  a  Motel 6, except with a kitchen and the 
whole  north  wall  was sliding glass doors looking out at nothing but 
the   ocean  who's  wave's  crashed  against  the  rocks  and  natural 
saltwater  swimming  pool just 10 feet from our deck. We felt it was a 
really  good deal at $70 a night, although not elegant like Carambola. 
They had a dive shop and the owner was really nice.

Nearby  was  Cane beach. A fairly nice beach that got very crowded the 
day  the cruise ship pulled into Frederiksted. We had really delicious 
grilled  hamburgers  and  beer  at  the  Boz Beach Bar and Grill which 
looks  over Cane Bay. We also ate at Off the Wall Beach Bar and Grill, 
which  was very reasonably priced and outdoors right on the beach next 
to Cane Bay.

We  visited Christiansted which was neat - a lot of historical places, 
a  fort, and a couple old picturesque churches. The rain forest on the 
west end of the island was lush and pretty.

We were glad we went to St. Croix, but I wouldn't go again.



My  wife  and  I spent a week in St Lucia in March. This was our fifth 
vacation  in  the  Caribbean  -  we  have  previously been to Antigua, 
Grenada,  Tobago  and  Barbados.  Our  last visit - Barbados - was our 
least  favorite  due  to  the commercialism and built-up nature of the 
island, so this time we decided to find something more unspoilt. 

My  research  indicated that the majority of the tourists who visit St 
Lucia  go  to  the Northwest of the island, near the capital Castries, 
and  this  was  where  most  of the development has been. However, the 
most  interesting  area  of the island appeared to be around Soufriere 
and  the  Pitons  - two peaks that rise out of the sea. In this region 
there  are  several  relatively  exclusive  resorts and a selection of 
smaller  places  to  stay.  As  we like to be on the beach, our choice 
narrowed  and  we  settled  on  the  Hummingbird  Beach Resort, on the 
outskirts of Soufriere town. We were not disappointed.

The  main  airport is at Vieux Fort, in the very South of St Lucia. We 
had  arranged  to hire a car, and our drive to Soufriere took a little 
over  one  hour  on  the tortuous road which pretty much encircles the 
island.  Your  first  view  of  Soufriere  is  when  you round a bend, 
several  hundred  feet  above  sea level, and there is the bay and the 
town  below.  We  found  the  Hummingbird  at the far end of town. The 
"resort"  consists  of a main bar/restaurant building with a couple of 
basic  guest  rooms,  and  two  further buildings comprising eight en-
suite  rooms with balconies, most having splendid views of the bay and 
the  "Petit  Piton". The compact grounds include a small swimming pool 
and  sundeck  and a beach bar. The rooms are built in Caribbean style, 
with  lots  of  Jalousie  (louvered)  windows  to  allow the breeze to 
circulate.  There are ceiling fans and mosquito nets. A nice touch was 
the fresh petals which the maids spread around the room each day.

The  beach  at  Soufriere  is  nothing  to write home about, but it is 
pleasant  enough,  and  almost  deserted  except  at weekends when the 
locals  come  out  to  play.  The "black" volcanic sand shelves fairly 
steeply,  but  the  sea  is  calm  and we enjoyed swimming there. Each 
evening  several  yachts  take  advantage of some strategically-placed 
palm  trees  to  anchor for the night, local boat-boys taking a stern-
line  to  the  palms  to  stop  the  boats swinging on their moorings. 
Farther  along  the  beach  the local fishing boats are drawn up under 
the  trees.  They  mostly  seem  to  fish at night, their return being 
heralded by much dog-barking and cock-crowing!

We  arrived at the Hummingbird in time for happy hour at the Beach Bar 
followed  by dinner. Normally one of the pleasures of a holiday for us 
is  seeking  out  different  places  to  dine, but thinking the choice 
might  be limited around Soufriere we had arranged to stay on MAP plan 
(breakfast,  afternoon  tea  and  dinner)  and  we  didn't  regret our 
decision.  There  was  a  reasonable selection on the dinner menu each 
day,  including  plenty  of  fresh  fish,  and all the meals were well 
prepared.  The service was friendly, though occasionally a little slow 
if there were a lot of visiting "yachties". 

Soufriere  itself  doesn't  go  out  of its way to pander to tourists. 
There  are  a couple of inexpensive restaurants in town, but for finer 
dining  there  are several alternatives nearby including the expensive 
Jalousie  Hilton,  Ladera  Resort and Anse Chastanet Resort as well as 
some less pretentious places in the hills either side of town. 

Tourists  do  pass  through  the  town  each day, however, having been 
disgorged  by  several  large catamarans which sail down from Castries 
or  Rodney  Bay.  They are swept into taxis and taken to see the local 
sights  - Sulphur Springs (the steaming remains of St Lucia's volcanic 
past),  the  Botanical  Gardens  and Morne Coubaril Estate - where you 
can  see  how  coconuts  and  cocoa beans are processed into copra and 
chocolate.  These  are  all  places  worth visiting, but it is best to 
make  your trip early or late to avoid the crowds. You can also take a 
trip  up  into  the  Rain Forest and visit several mineral springs and 

For  tee-shirts  and other tourist shopping you have to head North. We 
drove  up  one  morning, past Marigot Bay, dominated by its marina, to 
Castries,  which  is often dominated by cruise-ships. I can't tell you 
about  the shopping here because we couldn't find anywhere to park(!), 
but  I  understand there is the typical Caribbean Duty Free selection. 
We  continued  on  past  Castries  to Rodney Bay, where several of the 
island's  main  beach  hotels  are  situated.  This  is  the  sort  of 
Caribbean  resort  we  like to avoid - full of package-tour sunseekers 
from  North  America  and  Europe. There is a long white-sand beach, a 
number  of  restaurants  to  choose  from and a shopping mall, but the 
countryside  is  scrubby,  unlike  the lushly forested mountain slopes 
further  south.  Even  further  North is a Golf Club and an associated 
luxury housing development.

By  common  consent the best beach on the island is Anse Chastanet. It 
is  reached by a very rough two-mile road from Soufriere, but once you 
get  there  you  find  a very pretty bay backed by palm trees and with 
the  excellent  facilities  of  the  Anse  Chastanet Resort if you get 
hungry  or  thirsty.  There  is  also  a  Dive  School.  Sunshades and 
loungers  are  (according  to the signs) reserved for hotel residents, 
but  if  you  go after the sun has lost some of its severity you won't 
need the former, and the sand is quite soft!

There  are  many great views to be enjoyed around the St Lucia, due to 
its  mountainous  terrain.  You  need to keep your wits about you when 
driving,  as the roads are windy and steep, but you will find a number 
of  "lay-bys"  where  you  can  stop  and  take  in  the vistas. For a 
memorable  sunset  drink,  try  the Ladera Resort perched high up on a 
ridge between the Pitons.


April  in Paris? No…John and I prefer April in the French West Indies, 
St.  Martin to be exact. We made our eighth trip there this spring and 
turned  it  into  a visit not just to one island but to three islands, 
each different from the others.
The  vacation  began  with  the  usual American flights with the usual 
connection  in San Juan. For the most part, the journey was uneventful 
and departures on time.
As  we  flew  closer  and closer to SXM, the clouds became thicker and 
grayer.  Rather  than  making  a  direct approach to Juliana, we found 
ourselves  in  a  holding  pattern  for  some  20 minutes. At first, I 
believed  this  delay to be caused by the weather, but once we were on 
the  ground,  I  realized  we had most likely been waiting for the Air 
France  flight  to land. Of course, that big 747 got priority over our 
little American Eagle turbo-prop!
We  stepped off the plane into a nasty, chilly drizzle. Wait a minute, 
this  is what I left Chicago to escape! “Don’t forget,” I kept telling 
myself,  “a  rainy  day  in  SXM beats any kind of day in the office.” 
However,  this  set  the tone for a wetter visit to the island than we 
had  experienced  in  some  time,  and  certainly the wettest for this 
normally  dry  time  of  the  year. Up until our arrival, SXM had been 
experiencing  a  drought,  so  the  moisture  was much needed, but the 
island welcomed the rain a lot more than we did!
We  hurried to immigration to find ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder with 
the  500  or so passengers who had just come off the 747. American had 
failed  to  pass  out  immigration  forms  on  board and no one in SXM 
seemed  to  have  any on hand. Finally, a supply of forms appeared and 
by the time we got ours filled out, the immigration lines had abated.
Though  the  lines  had  abated, the rain had not! We got to the Hertz 
office  in  the  middle  of a downpour. The car they gave us this time 
was  unique  compared  to  anything  we’ve  rented  before: a Daihatsu 
Terios…sort  of  like  a  small minivan, but not quite. Because it was 
different  than  what  he’s  used  to  driving,  John wanted to find a 
parking  lot to familiarize himself with the handling, especially with 
it  raining  so  hard.  The  closest  lot  I could think of was at the 
Caravanserai  Hotel  next  to  Sunset  Beach  Bar,  so off we went. Of 
course,  we  had  to  stop for a drink at Sunset and there we ran into 
our  friends  Sari  and  Jeff  (a.k.a.  Whalema). We hadn’t explicitly 
planned to meet them there, but somehow I think it was just instinct!
Our  first night on the island John and I stayed at the Pavilion Beach 
Hotel  in  Grand  Case.  What  a  little  gem this place is! It’s very 
small,  only  13 rooms, with the intimate feel of a bed and breakfast. 
The  room  itself is rather basic, but had an outdoor, covered kitchen 
measuring  about12x12  feet  square,  adjoined by a landscaped private 
patio  with 2 cushioned lounge chairs. Beyond the patio are simply the 
sand  and  the sea. Continental breakfast is included and all for only 
about  $100 a night, thanks to the current favorable exchange rate. If 
I  was  looking  for  a  place  to stay an extended period of time and 
write  a  novel  or just be a bum, I think Pavilion Beach would be the 
place.  This little inn is quiet and comfortable, and at the same time 
felt both secluded and convenient to everything in Grand Case.
The  following  day  it  was  time  to move into our home for the next 
week,  a  villa on Baie Rouge called La Mission, which we were sharing 
with  the  Whalemas and others. Wow, what a property! For our party of 
seven  (three  couples and one single) the home had 4 bedrooms with en 
suite  bathrooms;  a  spacious living room/dining room; fully equipped 
kitchen  and  all  the extras to make a beach vacation comfortable: TV 
and  stereo,  private  pool  that  went  from  zero depth to 8 feet, a 
spacious  deck  with  plenty  of  lounge  chairs,  gazebo, beautifully 
landscaped  grounds, housekeeper, caretaker and gated security. And it 
was  all directly on the beach, with the surf crashing just yards from 
the  edge of the deck. So how do I get rich enough to buy my own house 
like this??? The “win the Lotto” strategy just isn’t working!
If  there’s  a  downside  to  staying  in  a villa, it’s that if “sand 
gravity”  is  a  strong force, “villa gravity” is even worse. A couple 
of  days,  we  didn’t even leave the villa till dinnertime. On the one 
hand,  that  was  very  relaxing,  but I think John got a little antsy 
that  we weren’t going over to Orient Beach or other places around the 
island.  In  fact,  we only made it over to Orient once the whole week 
and  even then not till late in the day. It felt strange to spend nine 
days on SXM without spending a good portion of them at Orient!
That’s  not  to  say  we  never  got  off our duffs at all. During the 
course  of  the week, we visited the zoo, where I handed over a couple 
of  boxes  of  toner  and  supplies  for  their  office  copier. These 
supplies  had  been  generously donated by Arlington Sales, one of the 
vendors  with which my employer works. Hats off to Arlington for their 
support of the zoo!
We  also  visited Loterie Farms, having much curiosity about the place 
after  seeing a segment about it on a Travel Channel show. The primary 
activity   here   is  hiking  mountain  trails  up  Pic  Paradis.  The 
proprietor,  BJ  Welch,  took one look at us and advised us to try the 
easier-level  hike.  Let  me  tell  you, it was anything but easy! The 
brochure  had  said  to  “be  prepared for mild exercise.” I guess I’m 
even  more out-of-shape than I thought! Still, it was worth every drop 
of  sweat  because the view from the top of the trail was gorgeous and 
at the end, I really felt like I had accomplished something.
After  our  mountain-climbing  adventure,  we  went  to The Old House, 
located  between  Orient  and  Orleans. This is an old home that dates 
back  to  the  Napoleonic  era.  The owner, a direct descendant of the 
original  family,  is  there  to share a little slice of history about 
the  area  and  about  the  evolution of rum. Several artifacts are on 
display as well.
Another  day,  we  boarded  the ferry out of Marigot for a day trip to 
Anguilla.  This  was  as much about exploring another beach on another 
island  as it was about giving myself a sense of closure after reading 
the  Blanchard’s  book  “A  Trip  to the Beach”. Art met reality as we 
were  waiting  to  board the ferry. John struck up a conversation with 
one  of  the  other  passengers,  who happened to be an Anguillan taxi 
driver  and  arranged  for  him to be our driver. Turns out the driver 
was  none  other  than  Nell, one of the characters in the Blanchard’s 
Once  on Anguilla, I was struck by how completely different it is from 
SXM.  In  some ways, it seems almost desolate…flat and wind-blown with 
a  few  houses, a few businesses, a few hotels. It’s a great day trip, 
but  seems  a  little too peaceful and quiet for a city lover like me. 
As  much  of  a  pain  in the neck Marigot’s traffic and Philipsburg’s 
crowds  can  be,  I  truly  appreciate  that there is so much activity 
available on SXM.
Our  Anguillan  destination  was  Shoal  Bay – perhaps one of the most 
beautiful  and powder-soft beaches in the world, with wonderful close-
to-shore  snorkeling in a clear, calm bay. A snack bar called Elodia’s 
takes  care  of  all  your needs for food and drink. Down the beach is 
the  famous  Uncle  Ernie’s,  but  Elodia’s  had everything we needed, 
including  some of the best cole slaw I’ve ever had, anywhere. We made 
arrangements  with  Nell  to pick us up four hours later…and before we 
knew  it, there he was, beeping the horn to take us back to the ferry. 
Nell  had  taken  care  of  getting our return tickets and clearing us 
through  the  exit  process so all we had to do was board the boat. He 
was a good indication of the gracious nature of the Anguillan people.
Another  highlight  of  the  week  was  the TTOL / AOL get-together at 
Sunset  Beach  Bar.  It was a chance to reacquaint ourselves with some 
old  friends  and  meet several new faces, travelers and locals alike. 
Afterwards,  some  of  us went over to Jack’s (MrSXM) place at Pelican 
to cook ribs and chicken and watch some good ol’ American TV.
Dinners  –  as  always  –  are very enjoyable on SXM, and this trip we 
managed  some  return  visits to old favorites, as well as trying some 
new places:
Sabastiano’s  –  good,  but  expensive  for  pasta.  Managed to snag a 
seaside  table  when one of the couples moved because they said it was 
too  cold by the window. I thought the light breeze felt awfully good! 
Pumpkin  soup  was the hit of my meal and gets me hungry just thinking 
about it.
Talk  of  the  Town – good, homemade food at low, low prices (so maybe 
that’s why it’s called a lo-lo).
Thai  Garden  –  my  meal  wasn’t  as  flavorful  as the Thai food I’m 
accustomed  to  at home, but most everyone else in the party seemed to 
enjoy  theirs.  Appetizers  were good, but in general I would say this 
restaurant  can’t compete with the depth and quality of stateside Thai 
Restaurant  du Soleil – one of our perennial favorites: classic French 
dishes  with  the  twist  of  Caribbean  spicing; excellent as always. 
Staff  is  very  friendly  and would make this place shine even if the 
cuisine didn’t.
La  Main  en  la  Pate  –  good Parisian-style pizza; thumbs up for an 
inexpensive meal in the Marigot Marina.
Kakao  – Vietnamese and French menu: lots of interesting and flavorful 
choices at reasonable prices. Nice setting right on Orient Beach.
Sol  E  Luna – My favorite restaurant on the island; rather expensive, 
but  the  atmosphere  makes  it  entirely  worth it. We left the table 
groaning  from  the  quantity of food…it’s so good we had to eat every 
Our  dinner  at  Sol E Luna really was our farewell dinner because the 
next  day  it  was  time to leave SXM. But for John and myself, it was 
simply  time  to  move  on  to  another  island: after our week in the 
villa, we spent two nights in San Juan.
I  had  always  wanted  a  closer look at this city than just the view 
from  the  plane  and  I  wasn’t  disappointed. San Juan surprised me, 
pleasantly,  in  how  clean  it is, how friendly the people are and in 
how much there is to see and do.
If  Puerto  Rico  has  one  failing,  it’s  how expensive it can be to 
travel  there.  Even  though  we  were  going  off-season,  my initial 
research  only  found  hotels  that  started  at about $285 a night. I 
persisted,  and in the end found a room at the Tanama Princess Comfort 
Inn  in the Condado district for $119 a night. I wouldn’t want to stay 
in  this  small, view-less room for a full week, but for the amount of 
time  we  spent  in  the  room  over  our  two nights, it was perfect. 
Continental  breakfast  was also included. I was delighted to discover 
it  was  right  across  the  street  from Ajili Mojili, a restaurant I 
really  wanted  to try. This eatery serves Puerto Rican cuisine with a 
modern  twist  to  the  preparation  and spicing. John, as a chef, was 
inspired  and  has been experimenting with his own versions of what we 
ate ever since our return home.
Staying  in  the  Condado  area  proved to be very convenient overall. 
Also  across  the  street  was a city bus stop, where for 25 cents you 
can  catch  a bus to the entrance of Old San Juan, right at the cruise 
ship  pier.  From  there,  you  can  hop  on a free trolley to get all 
around the Old San Juan area.
We  took  the  trolley  to  El  Morro,  the 16th century fortress that 
helped  the  Spanish  defend their emerald isle from other conquerors. 
It  gave  us  quite  a  sense  of history, along with some great photo 
>>From  the  fort,  we  walked all around the old city, exploring shops, 
bars,  classic  hotels  like  El  Convento and a couple of hospitality 
houses hosted by the rum producers.
Along  the  waterfront, we came upon “La Rumba”, a tour and party boat 
that  was  recruiting  passengers  to take the sunset cruise. For $12, 
this  was  a  good  opportunity  to  hear  some  of the background and 
history  of  the city and to see the fortress and other buildings from 
a different angle.
That  evening,  we dined at La Isla Bonita, a traditional Puerto Rican 
restaurant next to the beautiful Wyndham Hotel.
Our  whirlwind  visit  to  Puerto Rico served to just whet my appetite 
for  more. Someday, we would like to return and visit Ponce, El Yunque 
and  more  of  the  dynamic  city of San Juan. Perhaps someday I’ll be 
able  to  live out my dream of spending leisurely months on end in the 
Caribbean.  But  for now, it’s back to work, for I must get started on 
paying for the next trip!


June 19-29,2001

We  came  to  St.  Martin  from Tortola on June 19 for what has become 
our   annual  visit,  arriving on a  Winair flight with only a handful 
of  people on  it, and since we were later than the larger planes from 
the  US  and  San   Juan, no problem with lines at immigration. We had 
reserved  a  car  with  AAA,   which  has  given excellent service and 
prices  in  other  visits. Alain's  representative was waiting for us, 
and   we  were  on our way to Grand Case  Beach Club with just a short 
stop  at the Cole Bay food center for a  few  things. The new security 
gates  and  surveillance cameras at GCBC made quite  a contrast to our 
hotel  on  Tortola, where there were no locks on the doors.  Our later 
experience further emphasized the difference between these islands.

To  get  the  bad  things  out  of  the  way,  on  our first  night we 
experienced  directly  some of the crime that  others have  complained 
of  from time to time. We didn't feel like going far to eat the  first 
night,  and  were  walking between L'Amandier and Calmos Café in Grand  
Case  around  8:30  checking menus. As we passed a couple of people by 
a   parked  car, one of them grabbed a hand purse my wife was carrying  
and  took  off down an alley to the beach. There were a few dollars in 
the  purse,  but   no  credit cards or other valuables, and no one was 
hurt.  A  police  car came  by just a few minutes later and we flagged 
it   down. They responded quite  properly, took descriptions, and when 
a  local  said  he saw a couple of guys  going down the beach took off 
to  try  to  find  them.  Of  course  we  didn't   expect  them  to be  
successful,  but  they were serious about trying. We did  notice a lot 
of  security  people  on  the street during the rest of our stay,  but 
the  northern  end  of  the  street  where this happened tended not to  
have   much  activity; it is an area where you need to be more careful 
than   we  were.  In  talking  to  people, we  got the impression that 
things  like  this   happen  in  Grand  Case  from  time  to time when 
security  gets a   little lax  and someone comes in to take advantage. 
Now,  having  established that crime  actually exists on St. Martin, I 
want  to emphasize that this incident did  not wreck our vacation, nor 
will  it deter us from  returning, and does not  make us conclude that 
St.  Martin  is  more dangerous than most  highly  touristed areas. It 
does  make  us  more  alert to the fact that a  dangling purse coupled 
with a bit of distraction is an invitation.

We  had  dinner  the  first  night  at  Calmos  Cafe.  They were  very 
solicitous  about  our  experience,  and  the    food very good of its 
type  for a reasonable cost.

Wednesday  morning  went  to Marigot to look for a  replacement for my 
wife's  purse,  then  to  Food  Center  and  Match  for  supplies  for 
lunches,  snacks,  sodas,  etc.;  otherwise  stayed at the Grand  Case 
beach.  Dinner  at  Bistro  Nu in Marigot, one of our favorites. Tried  
kangaroo  a substitute for beef and rather   tasty at that.

Thursday  morning  was  mostly  at  Grand  Case with the  afternoon at 
Orient  near  Papagayo's. This end of  the beach is still  holding up, 
but  the  jet  skis have migrated south of Pedro's and the area up  to 
the  Club  O  sign,  which  used  to  be  pretty empty, is now full of 
rental   chairs and jet skis. We had heard of the beach erosion in the 
area  of  Pedro's, but were surprised at how ugly the beach just above 
Pedro's   has   become. Not only is the sand steep and narrow, but the 
buildings   crowded together look pretty ratty. We only glanced at the 
rest  of  the  beach during this trip; it looked OK further up but the 
extensive  new   construction  immediately  behind  the  beach  is not 
promising;  a  local  referred to part of it as a housing development. 
They  are well on their way  to ruining the beach as we have known it. 
(Some  of  us who  knew it in the  early `80's might say they did that 
10  years  ago.) I really think that the  overbuilding that has ruined 
the  Dutch  side  for  many  stay-over  visitors is  now infecting the 
Orient  area.  Dinner  was  at  Poulet  D'Orleans.  Very local  style; 
tenderest  conch  that  I  have ever had, and very good creole fish. A  
family  run  place;  our wait staff were the 2 sons about 12 years old 
and   their  teenage  brother. Got to sample their mother's hot pepper 
and mango  preserves.

Friday  went  to  the Old House museum, which has been set  up and run 
by  a  descendent  of  one  of  the  early families of the area. It is  
definitely  worth a visit by anyone with an interest in history, or in 
rum.   Try  to avoid a time when school children are going through. We 
had  lunch at  Belle Epoch at Marigot  marina, and spent a little time 
at  the Le Galion  beach. This is very nice, and attracts families and 
children.  Dinner  at   Mark's Place. Excellent conch stew for both of 
us.  Not  as  atmospheric  as   when  he was in Cul de Sac, but in our 
opinion  you  can't  beat  the  quality  for the price, (at least, the 
Creole   dishes, which is what we always have)  and with the way it is 
now screened from the parking lot, not  unpleasant  surroundings.

Saturday  went  to  Marigot  market  for  some fruit (a large  papaya)  
they  have  really  pushed  the  produce market out of the way to make  
room  for  more  Tshirt  stands.  The afternoon was at Dawn Beach  the 
south  end  (furthest from Oyster Bay, which was Oyster Pond before it 
became  upscale   and  became  the Radisson) with lunch at Scavengers. 
This  is  a  nice  beach in  a quiet area; in my view one of the  best 
places   on  the  island  in  that   respect.  We  didn't  go  to  the 
Busby's/Ms.  B's  end,  but  almost half of  that  end of the beach is 
now  covered with white umbrellas from Ms. B's. Judging  from the size 
of  the  operation,  she seems to be taking over. Saturday  dinner was 
at  Shiv  Sagar,  an excellent Indian restaurant in Philipsburg;  good 
vegetarian  selections  as  well  as  chicken and meat dishes, and the 
best   condiments  and  nan  that  we have ever had. We had no problem 
parking  at   night  on Front Street right across from the restaurant, 
but  you  might  have   trouble  further  along.  We  did  not  go  to 
Philipsburg  in  the  daytime.   Although  it  has  been "improved" in 
recent  years,  it  has  lost  a  lot of its  attractions for us as it 
becomes more and more oriented toward the cruise  ship trade.

Sunday  we  hoped to go to Don Carlos for lunch  kind of  a tradition. 
However,  they  were closed  some signs of remodeling, but don't  know 
if  it  will  still  be  Don Carlos. Went to Turtle Pier instead.  The  
afternoon was spent at Orient again.

Monday  was  spent  checking  out the Ma DouDou factory and  some more 
food  shopping,  espressos  at  l'Ile  Flottante, the little bakery at  
the  foot  of  Grand  Case,  the  Grand Case beach, and a beforedinner  
pastis  at   La  Vie en Rose. Then dinner at Yvette's, another Orleans 
restaurant  with  great local foods  (another version of stewed conch, 
kingfish  for  my  wife).   Had  our  annual  "fix" of johnny cakes  a 
favorite of my wife's.

Tuesday  morning was spent at Orient, and when we had  enough sun went 
back  to  our hotel for lunch, then drove around a bit.  Looked at the 
new  cruise ship pier, but you can't go into the facility.  Dinner was 
back  at  Mark's  so  my  wife  could  have another conch stew; creole  
chicken for me was good too.

On  Wednesday  we  took  the  ferry  to Anguilla. Rented a  car at the 
ferry  dock  (the cars you get here are generally pretty beat up,  but 
we  have  always found them to run well enough). We had lunch at Shoal  
Bay,  not at Uncle Ernie's, which gets all of the publicity, but at Le 
Beach   Bar,  which  has  the advantage that you can park right behind 
it   it  is  a few  yards to the right along the beach. Also went into 
the   Heritage Collection  museum that is an interesting and well done 
collection  of  Anguillan  relics  and a  survey of the history of the 
island.  Dinner  back  on  St. Martin was  at La California. They have 
Bretonne    style   crepes  that  are  delicious,  as   well  as  more 
traditional meals. Also a free afterdinner flavored rum.

Thursday   our  last  full  day,  alas.  Spent some of the  morning on 
preliminary  packing,  then went to Orient again. This time had  lunch 
at  Papagayo's;  quite  alright, but a bit expensive for what you get.  
Dinner  was  back  to  Bistro  Nu again, this time for their excellent 
creole plate.

Departure  on  Friday  was  uneventful.  We  checked  in  at  American 
midmorning  (no significant line) and had lunch (breakfast) at  Rick's 
on   Simpson   Bay.  The  Caribbean  French  toast  with  bananas  was  
extremely  good.  Then  turned  the car back to AAA. Flight to Kennedy 
was   routine  and comfortable; the  flight to Albany was the expected 
hourplus   delay,  but  otherwise  no  problem,  in  contrast  to  our 
problems getting to  Tortola at the beginning of our trip.

   A  few  idle  comments  restaurant prices seemed to be a  bit lower 
than  heretofore   better  exchange   rate?  The  easiest  way  to the  
Marigot  waterfront  is the newish road past the industrial area. Maho  
is   being  further  built up with a new time share for which they are  
removing  a hill. Roads are generally in  good shape, and well signed, 
but  traffic accidents seem to be getting more frequent.

And now we are counting down to spring 2002!


  The  Caribbean paradise of Tobago is the brother-island to Trinidad, 
long  renown  for  its’  tradition  of  Carnival,  and  maintenance of 
African  culture.  That  includes  remnants  of African Religions like 
Yoruba  and  other  cultural  aspects  that have influenced everything 
from the Calypso music to Politics on the two island nation. 

This  expose  lays out the background and my motivation for doing this 
type  of  research.  What  I  wanted  to  do was draw some connections 
between  African  descendant  people,  such as my grandmother's Gullah 
ethnic  group,  (South  Carolina  Sea  Island), with Tobagonians (West 
Indies)  and  Senegambian  (Western  African)  people,  in  a  sort of 
reverse  Middle  Passage  triangle  from  America  to  Africa. Sort of 
connecting  the cultural dots that invisibly link us together. What we 
would  call  a SANKOFA move. Sankofa is an AKAN word from West Africa, 
which  means,  "Looking  to  the  past in order to move forward." In a 
sense,  that's  exactly  what  I have attempted in doing this research 
study.  I  wanted to look to this ancient herbal wisdom of the past to 
see  what insights might be gained to help our community treat some of 
the  illnesses  we're  suffering today. Secondly, another objective of 
the  Study  is to create a Student Xchange program that would allow me 
to  take  two  youth  (KAOS  Network/USC  Film  Students) to Tobago to 
actually  shoot  the  Video  Documentary.  They  would  be involved in 
collecting  samples,  interviewing  respondents,  compiling  data  and 
footage,  etc.  This  will  provide these youth with an opportunity to 
not   only   travel   outside   of  the  hood,  (i.e.-  South  Central 
L.A./California/USA),  but  to  also  do  something  constructive with 
their peers in Tobago.

The  SANKOFA Study, Ethnobotanical Research Project is a compendium of 
herbal  and  plant  medicine research that looks at the indigenous use 
of  herbs  (bush  medicine) on the island of Tobago in the West Indies 
and   intends   to  make  correlations  between  Tobagonians  and  the 
aforementioned  groups  in  the U.S. and Africa.  I traveled to Tobago 
last  year to do the initial research for the study, laying the ground 
work  to  return  to  shoot  a  Video Documentary about the phenomenal 
information  revealed to me during the numerous interviews I conducted 
while living there (January - June 2000). 

In  terms  of  the  society,  it's a small island with a population of 
50,000  people.  During the six months that I lived there, what I came 
to  see and know about the people and this great wealth of information 
on  medicinal  herbs  was  far  beyond anything I had ever expected to 
obtain.  They  are  a  strong,  proud  people, whom I found to be very 
generous  and  courteous. In "Bago", there's a basic harmony and order 
to  life.  Tobagonians are also very close to the land, and have owned 
it  for years, so their sense of pride is genuine in all respects. The 
Folk  Medicine  ways  are  stronger in Tobago, than in most areas I've 
visited  in  the  U.S.  because  the population is predominantly (97%) 
African  descendant  and,  the  linkages to African ancestry are still 
very  much  in  tact  in  many  respects. This is also revealed in the 
transactions  with  the  people, as youth and elder alike greet you as 
you  pass  them  on  the  street.  If  you're lucky, you might even be 
asked,  "Who  you belong to? It's much unlike life here in the states, 
especially  those  areas  that  are losing a sense of community, where 
you're almost afraid to speak to people you pass on the street.

I  made  contact  with a wide cross-section of people, from the locals 
to  the  highest  of  Government  Officials  in  the  Tobago  House of 
Assembly.  On  this  journey,  I  went to every possible place I could 
think  of  to  locate information. I went into the Marketplace, to the 
Beach,  old  sugar  mills,  museums  and the bush, to name a few areas 
where  I  was  able  to  make  contact  with  Herbal Practitioners and 
conduct  my  research.  I spoke to everyone I encountered. In addition 
to  Elders;  Students  and  numerous  others  I  met along the road, I 
interviewed   Shamen;   Professional  Herbal  Medicine  Practitioners, 
Rastas;  Spiritual  Baptists;  Health  Food Store clients & owners. My 
hope  was  to  find  treatments  for some of the bio-genetic illnesses 
these  African  descendant  herbal  healers  have  a  long  history of 
curing,  like  Sickle  Cell  or High Blood Pressure. I found out about 
numerous  indigenous herbs; such as, Slippery Elm or Naked Boy as it's 
known  locally.  It's an expectorant and works well to ease coughs and 
sore  throats.  Then  there's  Dandelion,  also  known as, Shado Beni, 
which   is   febrifugal   and  helps  sinusitis  and  other  bronchial 
conditions.  Lastly  Noni  Fruit or Monkey Apple, the common name used 
for  it  in  Tobago,  which  has been sited in the use of HIV/AIDS and 
Cancer.   I  even  did my own experimentation with Noni and it worked. 
Those  were  just  a  few  of the more than thirty-five (35) medicinal 
herbs/plants I catalogued from Tobago. 

To  my  surprise,  I  found people all over Tobago who were willing to 
spend  time  with  me  and give me the information I needed. These are 
some  of  my  encounters.  Interviewing  a  Rasta man, who's providing 
Herbal   Steambaths  at  Castara  Beach.  Meeting  with  the  foremost 
Herbalist  from  Trinidad. Buying a book on local Herbal medicine from 
a  sister at a Scarborough Health Food store. Going into the bush with 
my  brethrin  in  Mt.  St  George.  Interviewing  several  people  who 
approached  me at the Marketplace once they found out what I was doing 
in   Tobago.   And   lastly,   speaking  with  numerous  Healers  from 
throughout  the  island  (from  Mason Hall to Palatuvier), who told me 
about  their  herbal  home  remedies. It's amazing to me… Even though, 
we've  been  made to believe there's a fine line between mythology and 
fact,  when  you  see  how herbal medicine (bush or folk medicine) has 
worked  here  for  Centuries,  it makes you stop and think twice as to 
what  is  true  medical  science?  Is  this  not  a form of scientific 
medical  practice  because  Africans,  and  African  descendant people 
throughout   the  Diaspora  have  pragmatically  worked  with  it  for 
Millennia?  I  can recall fond childhood memories of my mother picking 
peppermint  from  the  yard  to make herb tea for us when we had upset 
stomachs,  or  my Gullah grandmother teaching me how to tell time from 
the sun. These ethnic customs are directly traced back to Africa.

I  want  to  connect  the dots… I'm presently compiling the volumes of 
data  so we can return to Tobago to shoot the Video Documentary.  When 
complete,  The  SANKOFA  Study,  Ethnobotanical  Research Project will 
provide  a  comprehensive  Educational  Resource,  including  Hardcopy 
Data,  CD-ROM,  Website,  and  a  Coloring  Book,  that  will  help to 
preserve  the  folklore  and provide a much needed database for use by 
African  descendant  people of all ages. Our hope is for this resource 
to  be  used  by  Africans  from  throughout  the Diaspora, as well as 
others  interested  in  the  field  of  Wholistic  Medicine and Herbal 
Healing, in particular. 

Sufia  Giza  is  a  Media  Activist  from Los Angeles who produces and 
hosts  the  popular  Wholistic  Health  oriented  Cable  TV  talkshow, 
SANKOFA  Times TV. She uses TV/Radio as a tool to educate and heal the 
urban  community.  Ms.  Giza is also a consultant, teaches Spanish and 
conducts   two-week   Tobago  Herbal  Healing  Tours.  For  additional 
information contact 323-231-2810 or

The  official  The  Caribbean  Travel  Roundup  World Wide Web site is  The  CTR  is  also  available  on America 
Online.  Contact:  Paul  Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-
1408   USA   :Home   (Voice   or   Fax)   978-470-1971.   E-mail   via or

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