Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
July 15 1996
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We spent 12 wonderful days in paradise and boy did time fly!! Here goes. 5/9-left BWI at 8:04am arrived SXM at 1:30pm. Customs was a breeze since we were first in line, but had to wait for suitcase. Yes we had to bring one suitcase. Went to Hertz to pick up the car. Same car as last year but for less money. We were on our way to LaPlantation in the Orient cul-de-sac for 2 nights. We stayed at 3 different places this trip but there is a reason for it. Our room at LaPlantation was nice and the view was WONDERFUL. After getting settled in we headed for Orient beach. It was around 4pm so it was a nice time to just take a snooze without frying in the sun. Later that evening we went to the Food Center to get a few things came back to the room and crashed early. 5/10-woke up early and had a continental breakfast. It was warm milk, warm fruit, stale cereal and toast. Spent day at Orient at Coco beach. Cruise ship was in that day and there were about 50 people in just that one area. Waves were a little bigger than usual but nothing we couldn't handle. The water felt a little cooler than normal too. Had dinner at Surf Club South. The new location looks better than where it used to be. For some reason we were thinking that they took credit cards and turned out they didn't. We didn't have enough money and had to go back to the hotel to get some. They trusted us to do this. We let them hold on to our credit card to prove we would be back (smile). We walked around the cul-de-sac to work off that 500 calorie burger we had at surf club. What a burger it was too!! We notice that L'hoste hotel has a new look. The building is now pastel pink, blue and yellow. Looks tropical but funny. St. Tropez still has some roof damage and didn't notice any work being done to it. Mount Vernon looks pretty sad. 5/11-spent day at Club O. It was so sad to see the damage there, but good to see the work that has been done. I think it's going to look better than before. When Papagayo's is finished in October or sooner it will be really nice. Not many people on beach. It was a nice quiet relaxing day. Everyone just had a smile on there face (smile). They put new floating rafts in the water just off shore. Later in the afternoon we took the Kayak over to green key and did some snorkeling. Found some nice shells to add to my St. Martin shell collection. We then checked into LaVista over in the Pelican area for a week (timeshare exchange) Now the room was very small only slept 2 people and was very nice and clean. Only problem we had was it smelled horrible with cigarette smoke. We don't mind smoke but this was just awful. There was no cable due to the hurricane so this meant no TV for a week. We just like to have it on while we are showering and at night before we fall asleep instead it was just the radio. Then one day it was sprayed with bug spray that we didn't need. It made us sick with a headache. On top of that the electricity kept going off and on. So that night we went out to eat then to Food center to load up for the week. 5/11-HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY (not) It rained all day but that was the only bad day. We just stayed in our room and slept>>> That night we had dinner at Paradise Cafe. Very good food with reasonable prices. Looks like they suffered some damage as well. We went to the casino at the Pelican. We never win anything there and I don't recommend going there at all. Went back to room and crashed. 5/13-spent day at Cupecoy. The beach got crowded fast but we still enjoyed being there. That evening we met up with Bob and Jeana Pasino for dinner at the Grill and Ribs. We had a nice time with them and wished we could have met up again. 5/14-woke up and went to Baie Rouge. What a beautiful beach. The last time we were there was on our first trip. We didn't stay long because the beach was secluded and nobody was there. We did some snorkeling over in the area they call the devils hole. We discovered another beach that you can only get to if you swim or snorkel. Had a great time and got some nice pictures of tropical fish. We head back to our chairs to rest. We met Chris and Mary who we saw the other day on Cupecoy. I knew they were bringing there son and when I heard them say Chris I just couldn't help myself and had to walk over to them. We enjoyed our chat with them and little Chris was just as good as he could be (what a cute). Had dinner in room then went over to Mao. Went into one of the Jewelry stores there to look at T- shirts. I'm not big on jewelry but Dave got me a 14k gold heart ring for a bargain and he bought himself the Casio watch he's been wanting. Went to the Casino at Maho and won 30 bucks. 5/15- We went to Philipsburg in the morning not knowing a cruise ship was in. Turned out to be 3 of them!!!! WHAT A ZOO!!!!!!!! You couldn't walk 10 feet without having some type of flyer shoved in your face. I was ready to knock someone down! The main reason we went was to stop in at Touch of Gold. We never shop there but wanted to meet Heeru. The place was packed with people. We were greeted with friendly smiles. Everyone was very nice and helpful. As soon as I mention Heeru I had everyone's attention. They offer drinks on the house while you are looking. Heeru told me if there was anything I liked she would work out a deal for me as soon as she was done with her customer. I mentioned Hettie and she had a big smile and told me about some of the other prodigy people who came in that week. She was very busy so I didn't get to talk much with her. She gave us a great deal on a diamond ring that wraps around my diamond ring to dress it up a little (what do you call that) and a dress watch for Dave. The price was great but not at that time. We have other priorities at home. We will definitely go back and visit next year. The salesmen who was helping me was great. He explained why jewelry is so cheap there. I'm glad I went there. One salesmen told Dave he was very lucky I wasn't big on Jewelry (smile). After leaving there we went to Guana Bay. The surf was rough as ever and Dave had a blast body surfing and riding the raft. There were about 6 people on the beach. We have never seen that many people there. We like it there because it's very secluded. We had dinner at Pizza Hut. Dave wanted pizza sooo bad that night. We ran into some friends at the casino in Maho. We knew they were going to be on the island during the time we were. I won big on the nickel machine but at the end of our trip we broke about even or so. 5/16-Headed for Cupecoy again. We finally got that private spot in the cliffs with just enough room for us or so we thought. One French family came down and sat there chairs in the water, then another couple comes down and just about>> sits on top of us. So I gave them my look and we left. You have to have been there to understand. So we headed down to Cupecoy II again. Saw Chris and Mary again and had another nice chat. Lots of French people came there that day because it was a holiday. We finally left when one of the locals was doing something next to us that I don't care to mention. Just think about it! We had dinner at Cheer's with our friends and enjoyed listening to the band while this cute little blond hair girl danced around. She couldn't have been more than 2 years old. Went to the casino again but didn't have much luck. 5/17-Drove over to Club O again and spent the whole day being lazy. A cruise ship was in and the beach got pretty crowded. Don't people get hot when they walk the beach in polo shirts, shorts, socks and shoes? There were also a lot of people who hung around the Club O end who spent the day with their suits on under an umbrella and stared. Now last Friday when a ship was in it wasn't bad at all, but this day was something to remember (smile). This one group all sat there chairs up along the shore line to get a good view. The girl came up and asked them for money for the chairs so they did. Then they started asking about the sign that said no cameras. She set the rule straight and didn't see a camera after that. After putting out about 30 dollars for the chairs they left after an hour or so. When we rent chairs we stay all day long to get our 5 bucks worth (smile). I don't remember where we had dinner because we didn't write it down. We packed our stuff to leave for the French side again the next day. 5/18-We checked out of LaVista and while doing that the girl at the desk showed us pictures of the hurricane before and after. The surf at that beach by the resort was soo strong. We couldn't believe the pictures. She said they had 15 out of 24 rooms booked and 3 honeymoon couples. They moved everyone to the first and second floors. The day after they could believe what they saw. It was a mess and the pictures prove it. They had some water damage in some of the rooms. But you would never know that the place had any damage at all. She told us there were about 4 deaths that they are saying but could be covering up more. The staff at the Summit Resort just up and left their guest alone. Didn't offer any help or assistance. This is what the girl at LaVista had heard. I don't think I would want to stay at the Summit (smile). After that we headed for Orient again. Had lunch at Papagayo's (what's left of it). For dessert we got this banana chocolate chip cake that was sooooo good!!! If you go to SXM in the near future ask for this cake. It will blow your mind (smile). Later that day we checked in at The Sunrise. Christian was on vacation but Agnes did a wonderful job to make sure our stay was a great one. We had dinner at Hoa Mai. Very good food. We were the only Americans there and felt out of place. I was glad to leave. 5/19-spent the day over on Pinel Island. NEVER EVER go on a Sunday. The locals are off and the little island got crowded with all the French families who live on SXM (smile). Christian got new paddle boats for the hotel and they are really cool. Our son would have loved it. It is a much larger boat with 2 seats up front and a little platform for another person up in the very front. There are 2 seats in the back with a sliding board that slides right into the clear blue water. Only one had the sliding board the other one didn't. It was pretty popular with the French kids over on Pinel (smile). We had dinner that night at Bistro Caribe and WOW what a dinner. We never ate there and it was well worth the money spent. If you haven't tried this place GO! 5/20-The day we had to go home (sob) We woke up early and spent our last few hours on Orient. Dave took the single kayak over to green key and found me more shells. We went back to the Sunrise to shower and check out. We sat on the plane for a half hour in SXM before we took off. Customs at San Juan was a nightmare. Then we sat on the plane for 40 minutes before taking off because someone messed up with the paper work. The flight attendants kept going up and down counting everyone. I am a fun cheery little person who gets an attitude real quick! (smile) and all I wanted to do was go home. Now that I'm home and have seen my adorable 6 year old son, I'm ready to go back (smile)
Arrived on May 5 on the direct flight from Baltimore. Summerset car rental met us at the airport and took care of the paperwork at the villa we rented on Baie Rouge (La Dune)What a fabulous place on the most beautiful beach in the world. Beaches visited include: Baie Rouge-seems wider since Luis and more raised. Still with food and drinks available at the easternmost end. (our villa was at the western most end-clothing optional). Orient-- MUCH wider, beautiful, work going on to rebuild the cottages, Papagayo's open on what is left of the kitchen floor (good drinks, Caesar salad OK, undercooked sausage), massage still available with ?Marta and ?Anna. Pinel--snorkeling was not as good but may be due to rough seas, lots of broken glass and trash on the nicest parts-- BE CAREFUL OF THE GLASS. Spiny lobster, shrimp kebab at the restaurant were excellent, GOOD BARTENDER. Cupecoy-not much change from pre Luis. Restaurants--this is the next most important reason to come to St. Martin. 10 pound weight gain is required for any trip to the island!!!! Thai Garden--consistent good food, be certain to ask for the face massage after dinner. Bistro Nu--somewhat of a letdown after all the good reviews on this board. Ants all over our table on arriving (needless to say we moved tables). Best escargot we had on the trip, lobster saute OK but nothing special, grouper dish excellent. Rainbow--changed menu, good but still not up to expectations. French onion soup was tasty, escargot fair, tenderloin cooked well, wine list fair. LeSantal--Very pricey but worth it. Chateaubriand for two was cooked to perfection. Service was first rate. Must get the Grand mariner souffle--out of this world. Go with friends and ask them to pick up the tab. Mario's Bistro--I will sing their praises to no end. Kitchen closed on Mon. when we has reserves. They tried to contact us for 2 days. Finally returned on Thurs. They apologized 3 zillion times for the inconvenience and gave us the best seat in the house. Super wine list (had 2 bottles of Caymus Special Selection 1991 cheaper than can be bought in us stores). Pork dish in Chinese sauce is delicious. Everything was perfect--DO MARIO'S!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shopping is the same as ever. Good cigar selection at New Amsterdam store as well as in Le Cigare in Marigot. Miscellaneous thoughts: mosquitoes were bad at the end of the week as the wind died down. Had an unusual weather pattern of clouds and rain during our stay. Luis took its toll but all in all the island is better than ever. The Belle Creole, Mount Vernon, Orient, Sheraton are all undergoing massive repair. One last restaurant I forgot was the Auberge Gourmand--order the filet in pepper sauce and the escargots you will enjoy. Hopefully this info is of benefit. I can't wait to return to PARADISE.
Betty and I arrived on SXM on March 30, 1996 after a 5 hour flight from Toronto on Canada 3000. Other than the cramped quarters (3 + 3), the flight was uneventful - a good thing for a 757 of late. We had both been maxed out in our jobs and were really looking forward to a relaxed couple of weeks on St. Martin. I should add that we had been to the island in 1995 and were extremely disappointed that we had to return home after only seven days. Believe me, two weeks is a minimum. On the flight path in to SXM, we passed over Tortola and Virgin Gorda which sparkled in the sun as we passed overhead. I think that we will explore these islands on a future trip. Perhaps a sailing vacation would be in order. In 1995, we booked a package with Air Canada Vacations and had a nice stay at the Golden Tulip in French Cul de Sac. It was an A-1 hotel, but lacked a good beach within walking distance. I'm not much of a pool person - well, I refused to go in one during the entire trip (in spite of continuous invitations from my wife). Neither of us were overly impressed by the excessive seaweed in the water in front of the hotel. The ferry to Pinel Island leaves from the dock near the Golden Tulip but it's $5 per round trip per person. We had researched the island extensively for the 1995 trip (via the Internet & CTR, of course) and compiled an impressive volume of 150 pages that proved invaluable in our travels. The revues and evaluations gave excellent guidance to kick start a truly wonderful vacation on SXM. For 1996, we looked for a package that had a smaller hotel on the French side to offer. During the period following hurricanes Luis and Marilyn, we kept pace weekly with reports from all the Caribbean sources to ensure that we fully apprised of current conditions. We chose L'Hoste on Orient Beach which was offered by Signature Tours and we were not disappointed. We were fearful that too many properties and restaurants would remain closed and make a vacation a nightmare, but we were relieved to know about which properties had reopened. The information posted on the Caribbean Travel Roundup is absolutely invaluable. SXM was well prepared when we landed on March 30, 1996. The updates and travel reports were just wonderful in preparing for what was available in spite of the extensive hurricane damage. The Car Rental We picked up our car at Budget - we had booked ahead at $162US/week. My advice would be to forget the booking and see what you can get from the group of anxious rental attendants that accost you outside the airport. Some folks we met got a similar car for $125US per week. On the upside, our car was a gray Mitsubishi and was far superior to the white Hyundai that we had in 1995. At least this time the glove box didn't fly open every time we hit a bump. The Hyundai in '95 also had a trunk (boot) that had been opened with a screwdriver, so I'm sure that anyone on the island could have opened it. I'd guess that someone had left it near the beach for a while and it had been forced open. The only problem with the Mitsubishi was a wad of plastic for a gas cap (replaced the next day by Budget, gratis) and the driver's side lock couldn't be opened with the key. On the upside, the door would actually lock. This type of minor difficulty seems to be pretty standard with rentals on SXM this year and we coped quite nicely - I'm sure Budget would have replaced it, if requested but we' re Canadians and as everyone knows, we don't complain about anything. All the rental agencies suffered a lot of damage during the storms. The Hotel We drove over to L'Hoste from the airport through Phillipsburg and east through Orleans and French Quarter. The hotel is accessible through the Baie Orient complex and is next to Orient Beach on the short divided road with two round-abouts. This is the only divided road I've ever seen on SXM, I suspect that it is the only one on the island. L'Hoste is one of four hotels in the group called Les Hotels de Vavina Baie. L'Hoste and Capri were in operation, St. Tropez and Boca Raton were still under construction (new roofs after Luis). If you wanted to sleep late, the hammers and saws would wake the most sound sleeper. L'Hoste was a treat - nice size room and balcony overlooking the beach. The restaurant was open air, under a roof structure and they served three meals a day (but we were only ever there for breakfast). Hint: we ordered a single continental breakfast and an extra coffee as that was all two of us could manage to eat. The staff were excellent - attentive and prompt. All in all, a five star treatment. The hotel is about 100 feet from the beach, we really enjoyed the proximity to the Orient. We'll be back. The Beach Orient Beach is wider and the general reduction in traffic from 1995 was nice but we realize that this is the bread and butter of SXM tourism. The last week we were there, I went snorkeling up at Club Orient early every morning (7am) and it was marvelous. The CO (pun intended) has much better snorkeling than the beach down by L'Hoste. The fish were interesting especially the barracuda. No, I didn't get too close to those guys! CO was very active with construction crews so I expect that they will be ready to reopen by fall. Orient has a lot to offer if you want to go parasailing, riding Jet skis, sailing a Hobie Cat or simply renting a chair and relaxing. Prices are high at all the water sports places - from $40 to $60 for each activity typically. One company (up near the rocks next to Club Orient) features parasail - bungee jumping where you go up on the parachute then jump off with a bungee cord tied to your ankles. No, we didn't try it! THE FOOD! If what you are looking for is an all inclusive, don't go to St. Martin! Many of the restaurants are world class and not to be missed. We availed ourselves of many great places and all I can say is WOW! The pick of the crop was Mario's Bistro (Bistro du Mario) which is located at the bridge near Sandy Ground. We dropped in at the end of the first week and got a table right away, which was a surprise. The best thing we can say is that on the way out, we made a reservation for the following week for our last night on SXM. Martine ensures that you'll have a wonderful meal. If you are lucky enough to have Didier for your waiter, you'll have a great meal and wonderful conversation. Please keep in mind, we reviewed the restaurant BEFORE we discovered that Martine and Mario are originally from Canada. The food at Mario's was fantastic. Well prepared, nicely presented and exceptional service. A telling factor was on our second visit, the restaurant next door was vacant until 9:30 pm while Mario's was packed from 7:30 until we departed at 10:00. Reservations are a must - you won't be disappointed. We sampled the ginger pork which was spiced but not hot although the order was responded to with a gentle warning about the 'hot' nature of the dish. All in all, delicious. I also tried some Halibut (as a special) with gnocci and leeks. What can I say - to die for. Other highlights were in store in Grand Case where we had a wonderful lunch at Le Tastevin (try the chicken salad), and marvelous dinners at L'Alabama, Il Nettuno and Sebastianos. In Marigot, La Brasserie de la Gare, La Croissanterie, La Brasserie du Marigot were favorites. We did manage to drag ourselves over to the Dutch side one evening for some burgers at Cheri's (same as last year, the atmosphere felt more like Miami than St. Martin) and a proscuitto sandwich with whiskey sauce for lunch at Good Fellas in Simpson Bay. There is a nice little restaurant near Grand Case called Bagdad's (that's the way they spelled it.) We had a very nice meal, Betty had a potato pancake and I had a grilled beef brochette that was exceptional. Add a couple of beers and we were our for less than $25. Out at Orient Beach, we tried Bikini Beach several times as the hotel is right behind the beach bar. Food was good and the cold beer was very refreshing after a hard day of lying in the sun. We also tried Kakao which was also good for lunch. We wandered down to Kon Tiki a couple of times but they were either too busy or nothing on the menu struck us at the time. We toured a little and discovered a nice little beach at Friar's Bay (between Grand Case and Marigot). We also took a drive up the valley to Columbier which was very pleasant. The valley is very green and not as dry as the rest of the island. One several occasions we drove over to other beaches, Baie Rouge was very crowded, Cupecoy was too rough the day we stopped and Baie de Prunes was OK. We still prefer Orient for the gradual incline and lower wave action. 12 Metre Challenge On April 11th, we signed on for the 12 Metre Challenge which leaves from Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg. This is a race between two or more 12 Metre sailboats that were used in the 1987 America's Cup. They have Canada II (built in Nova Scotia), True North and Stars & Stripes. We ended up on Stars & Stripes which actually won the Cup for Dennis Conner. The breeze was 25 to 30 knots and we rode a 4 to 6 foot swell as we headed out to challenge Canada II. It was GREAT! The 12 Metre designation is a complex formula for calculating the sail area and a bunch of other parameters. The sailboats are actually about 70 feet long and we sailed with a crew of 14, including operator supplied captain, first mate and one crew. The remainder were just us tourists, many from a cruise ship that arrived that morning. Each of the participants gets a job to do and Betty got keep time - what a wimp! I was grinding the back stays (tightening the rear lines that hold the mast up). Advice: get any other job - this was exhausting. Every time you change direction (often), you have to tighten one and loosen the other. We actually won the race (full five legs just like the real thing). The adventure lasted about 3 hours and the cost was $60 each. One bonus, the operator has someone come out in a power dinghy to take pictures while you're on the water (prior to the start of the race) and they have some nice glossy 8x10s waiting when you return. Of course they have all the shirts, hats and other paraphernalia you could want - at premium prices. We got a picture and a T-shirt. This was a lot of fun and I'd recommend it, provided you enjoy sailing and don't suffer from motion sickness. It's a Small World Following the sailboat adventure, we headed over to Cupecoy but it was very rough. So we headed back to Orient Beach. We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and went straight to the beach. Imagine our surprise when we heard someone shout, Don! Betty! It was some folks from Nova Scotia that Betty went to high school with and were our neighbors for five years. Neither couple was aware that the other was going to be in St. Martin. They had come on the cruise ship and came to the beach for a couple of hours. We showed up as they we packing up to catch the taxi back to Phillipsburg. What is even more staggering is that they could have been at any one of seven beach areas and they were dropped off in front of our hotel. Verrry interesting... (Ed Note: Don invites readers to views some of his pictures about the trip at his WWW site: http://fox.nstn.ca/~dtrotter.)
A/ The Island B/ L'Hoste Hotel A/ The Island We booked our trip about six months prior to departure, but waited until just around 60 days prior to departure to purchase air tickets. Our patience was rewarded by being able to get a non-stop flight from BWI to SXM on USAir for $420 round trip. We left BWI on time at 9 AM and arrived a couple of minutes late about 1:15. Fortunately for us, we were the first plane in and we were about the 10th people off our plane, so we were through immigration in 5 minutes! What a miracle! We grabbed our two suitcases (Eric bitched for a week before we left home about taking two big suitcases of clothes to go to a nude beach!), and headed over to the Hertz counter at the airport. We stood in that line, then the Hertz people took us down to the lot where the cars are stored. We had reserved a car ahead of time with Jim Ruos for $150.00 for the week. The fellow who checked out the cars at Hertz rejected the first car, as the a/c wasn't working perfectly and the radio didn't work at all. According to this fellow--"You have to have TUNES, man!" Anyway, we were very happy with the car we ended up with, including the a/c and radio. After picking up the car, we attempted to head to Food Center to the grocery store, then realized it had been blown away. Unlike here in the states, there didn't appear to be a sign stating where we might find another Food Center, so we ended up going all the way past Orient to Marigot to Match. After picking up supplies for the week, we headed to the hotel and, even after the extra time of having to go to Marigot, were checked in by 3 P.M. After checking out the room and the view, we took a walk down the beach all the way to Club Orient, to view what was left of the place, which isn't much, of course. The beach, except for the lack of palm trees, is still beautiful. Eric liked it better than before. We checked on the nude cruises for the week, which according to the sign, were to be Wednesday and Friday. Of course, they said that for this week, Wednesday would come on Tuesday and the nude cruise would be on Tuesday. They suggested that we should come back by Monday to pay and we agreed to do so. Saturday night we headed to Grand Case for dinner. I wanted Italian. Unfortunately, my first choice El Nuttono was closed for vacation. I then wanted to go to Sebastiano's, but not having been there before, we missed the sign for the parking lot, and couldn't figure out where to park. In any event, we ended up at Portofino. We had eggplant parmesan appetizer, canelloni, mixed pasta and a bottle of wine for $55, including tip. The food was good but the service somewhat lacking. Since we had been traveling most of the day and had not had much sleep the night before, it was off to bed early this night, without any trips to the casino. Sunday morning started "the ballad of the coffee pot". When booking L'Hoste, we found out that there was no coffee pot in the room. Since I do not function well without my pot of coffee in the morning and because our favorite breakfast is coffee and croissant on a balcony overlooking the ocean, we determined that we would be happier and incidentally, save some money, by taking our own coffee pot. Even though we knew that French current is 220, we thought that we covered the situation by buying a converter to plug the coffee pot into. We even bought a metal carafe for the coffee maker, so that we didn't have to worry about breaking the glass carafe. We were feeling quite smug Sunday morning, as I made our pot of coffee. I plugged in the pot, which immediately started virtually SHOOTING the water through the grounds into the pot. Obviously, our converter did not work. Since we had already purchased croissant the day before in Marigot, and I had to have coffee, I went down to the hotel restaurant and paid $2 each for 2 cups of coffee. OK, so far we have spent about $30.00 and gotten 2 cups of coffee out of the deal. Pretty expensive coffee! Leaving worries of expensive coffee behind, we headed out to the beach for the day. For Sunday, we stayed at Bikini beach, right in front of L'Hoste. Eric asked the fellow that we rented the chairs from whether nudity was OK there and he replied in the affirmative, so we were happy. Throughout the week, there were many others who were nude on the beach in front of L'Hoste. On Sunday there were many locals on the beach, complete with all their various dogs. Since we're big "dog people", we enjoyed watching the dogs, as well as the people. Most of the women on the beach on Sunday were at least topless, and many wore only thong bottoms. There were several others nude, as we were. We ate lunch at Bikini. I had a sausage & mozzarella sandwich (only passable), Eric had a chicken guacamole sandwich (excellent!) and fries, plus we had 2 drinks each, for $23.50. Sunday night was our anniversary and that night we had dinner at The Greenhouse--great potato skins, ribs, filet mignon and iced tea for $46. Wonderful meal, great service and some good conversation with our waiter, as the place was basically deserted. Sunday night we headed to the casinos. I knew that some of the casinos were not open, but couldn't remember the names from our last trip. Therefore we headed to what was our favorite casino last year-- the Grand, to find, of course, it was closed. Casinos now open are the Lightning, the Casino Royale, the Atlantis, the Pelican and the small casinos downtown. I love roulette and love to play quarter roulette when I can find it. The Pelican was the only casino that had it this year. In fact, they had 3 tables going of $.25 roulette basically all the time. For the most part, the casinos were not busy at any time that we were there. Sunday night was no exception in this respect. We lost quite a bit of money and headed back to the hotel to live to fight again another day. Monday we headed to Marigot for breakfast. We ate at the restaurant right next to Le St. Germain, on the marina. La Brasserie, maybe?? Anyway, crepes with ham and cheese and (AMERICAN!) coffee for $16. It was wonderful. Lunch menu looked very good and a very decent price also. On the subject of coffee (G!!), we were not going to let that French 220 current get us down, so we decided to buy a 220 coffee pot in Marigot. It was a good price actually, at $16.00. We had some more shopping to do, to get ready to meet a $P$ friend on Friday, so we headed to Philipsburg. After much searching for Corona beers, which Eric said they didn't have at Match, when in fact they did!!, we finally rounded up a 6 pack of Corona beers and a cheap styrofoam ice chest and headed home. We stopped by Orient to pay for our cruise for Tuesday ($50 PP) and finally got back to Bikini for some sun around noon. Around 5 P.M. we headed over to the Bikini Bar, sitting at the bar, listening to some live music and talking to a cab driver named "Happy Harold". We had several drinks, some of their fried jalapenos (HOT! HOT! HOT!!), and some cod fish balls. The latter sound gross, but they were very good. Our drinks, appetizers and Happy Harold's dinner came to around $30.00. We stumbled back to the room and passed out for a couple of hours, before getting up around 8 P.M. and heading to Lightning, then Casino Royale (not much happening either place), then to Cherie's for dinner--fried chicken and spaghetti and cokes for $26. Not the best meal of the week, but OK. Afterwards we headed to our favorite the Pelican, played for a while and ended up even for the night. Overall, a victory!! Tuesday was to be the nude cruise to Tintamar, but the day dawned cloudy and overcast. While casting an anxious look out the sliding glass door at the weather, I proceeded to make a pot of coffee in our new Marigot coffee pot. Well, the coffee pot seemed to work fine, until I picked up the pot to pour our coffee and couldn't figure out why I was making such a mess of trying to pour coffee into the cup. Then I figured it out--the carafe was cracked, all the way down the side next to the handle! Feeling cursed by this time, we poured the coffee into the carafe from the now defunct coffee maker. Of course the old carafe did not fit onto the warmer plate of the new coffee pot. We finished our breakfast and headed out to Orient. The cruise was supposed to leave at 9:30 and by that time, there were around a dozen people, including us, standing around looking askance at a very dark sky. Guillome asked us whether we all wanted to go or not. They were doing something with a jackhammer at Papagayo's and Guillome said "well, it's either the clouds or the jackhammer!". I replied "I don't mind five hours of clouds, but I don't want to sit in the rain for five hours!" No one was real strong in their feelings one way or another, so Guillome decided we would go. The decision to go for it on Tuesday was possibly incorrect. We had no rain until we reached Tintamarie and we were off the boat on the beach. Then, of course, it absolutely poured. And of course, you are never so cold as when you are stark naked except for the wet towel which you have wrapped around you while the rain pours down on you! Well, Guillome had brought along umbrellas (ostensibly to protect us from the SUN--no chance of that THIS day!!), and some floats to play in the water. So Eric, being the enterprising soul that he is, constructed somewhat of a fort out of the assembled umbrellas, plus making a wall behind us of the floats, so that our hindquarters did not get rained on. This, combined with downing the pina coladas and beers which Guillome had brought ashore, made us somewhat happier. However, we soon ran out of pina coladas. A couple from our midst swam back out to the boat, supposedly to order more booze to be delivered to the beach. We're no fools though. We figured out when they didn't return in a half hour and as the booze shortage became more critical, that those bastards weren't going to bring us more booze after all. Guillome eventually came ashore and asked us whether we wanted to go back "home" and offered to refund our money for the trip. We elected to stay and have them cook our lunch. This is the first catamaran that I have ever seen equipped with a charcoal grill! However, it cooked just as well as ours here at home and we dined on chicken sandwiches, which were excellent. Eventually, it did actually stop raining and some of us headed back over to the beach and I did a little snorkeling, which ended up being the only snorkeling I did for the week. Not a whole lot of fish, but we didn't pay anything extra for the equipment. By the time we arrived back at Club Orient, the sky was actually somewhat clear. Re-reading this report, one would think that we had a horrible time on the cruise. However, we had a really good group of people, who made lemonade out of lemons and we had a good time overall. About half of the people already knew each other prior to the cruise, which helped, I suppose. However, even those who hadn't known each other before, including us, got along really well also. Our group included a retired gentleman who used to write for the New York Times, a flight attendant (and his wife!!) who came to St. Martin for the weekend on a free flight (I hate them!!), a travel agent and her husband, and another couple who live about 20 miles from us. AND, through them, we met another couple who live about TWO miles from our home. Small world! Despite the weather, we had a great time on the cruise and we ended up speaking often to these people at Orient throughout the week. We talked about it afterwards and determined that this was probably about the best use of the day after all. If we had not been on the cruise, I would have been sitting in the room bitching about the rain all day. Take a suggestion, though--do go on the nude cruise early in the week, so that you can meet some people to talk to on the beach. We are not "joiners" on vacation, at all, but it really does make for a nicer experience to connect up with people on the beach. The combined effects of the open bar and late lunch on the cruise made us not in the mood for too much in the way of an elaborate dinner, so we opted for the Burger King close to the Pelican. Headed back to the Lightning for a while, then back to my favorite, the Pelican for the evening. Wednesday dawned with beautiful weather and we ate breakfast at Bikini Beach. Eric had a Spanish omelet and I had something unpronounceable (but good!) which was basically a casserole of scrambled eggs, ham, tomato, onion and green pepper. Breakfast, including COFFEE (g!!) was $20. As we were eating our breakfast, we were amused by the sight of an obviously honeymooning couple who had apparently never been out of the U.S. before. The waitresses at Bikini speak pretty standard English but, of course French is their first language. Well, after some discussion which I don't remember, we heard them asking the waitress about the baguettes on the menu. Swear to god--I wouldn't make this up--they said "Are those bagels plain or do you have other flavors?" The waitress was totally lost by this point. Eric leaned over and rescued them all, or I suppose we might have had the honeymooning couple arrested for not paying for their breakfast when they didn't get their raisin bagel! The young couple weren't ugly about the whole thing, but altogether too young to be let out alone. Actually, that reminds me of a story from OUR honeymoon, many MANY years ago. But you don't want to hear about that...... And so you thought that the saga of the coffeepot was over?? No way, Jose! Determined that we would reclaim our God-given right to a pot of coffee in the morning, on Wednesday after breakfast we headed out to Marigot to exchange our broken coffee carafe. Eric double-parked like a true Frenchman, and I went in and exchanged the pot with nary a whimper of protest from the shop keeper. We were again in the coffee business! I have to report that the (new) glass coffee carafe worked great the rest of the week and even made it home in the suitcase without incident. We have not yet begun the task of trying to find a metal carafe to fit the coffeemaker to take with us the next time we visit SXM. I don't quite have the fortitude yet to go looking. I am frankly not sure which day we met up with the newest "road hazard" in SXM. We were following behind one of the many, many trucks we followed over the course of the week, which was carrying a load of metal roofs on the back--debris from the hurricane. As usual, it would take too much planning or forethought to tie down such a load. Thankfully, we hanging back a bit from the truck when the six foot piece of metal came off the back of the truck towards us. Eric stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out, threw the piece of metal off to the side of the road and drove on. No problem, mon!! Except of course, that we got honked at and passed by another large truck for our trouble! Ah, the pleasures of driving in SXM!! After our latest trip to Marigot, we headed to Orient for the day, and met up with our friends from the previous day's cruise and enjoyed wonderful weather for the day If I were a petty person, I would feel constrained to point out that the sign said that the nude cruise was supposed to be Wednesday and Friday and that if they had kept it on Wednesday this week, we would not have gotten wet. But then, I'm not a petty person. As an aside, Guillome knows when he has a monopoly and doesn't necessarily have to compete one on one. This is in regards to the subject of beach chairs. In front of L'Hoste (for which chairs one still has to pay, which I think is crime as the hotel should provide them free for guests, even though the beach there is not part of the hotel), the beach chairs are white PVC with nice comfy pads and nice umbrellas that say Bikini Beach on them. Total cost for the day--2 chairs and 1 umbrella--$10. At Orient, cost for 2 plastic strap chairs (no pads at all) and an umbrella is $15. Of course, the guy at Bikini who brings out the pads and umbrellas isn't naked and doesn't have a body like Guillome. Guess Orient is not such a bad bargain after all! We had lunch at Papagayo's--one of the less memorable meals of the week. The restaurant is very much still under construction and will be much larger than the prior restaurant, and nicer. In the meantime, there is a concrete patio with several tables with umbrellas, and they are serving an abbreviated menu. It appears that their only cooking tool was a grill for frying. I had a very indifferent ham and cheese sandwich and Eric had a hamburger (not bad), both with soggy potato chips. With drinks, around $25.00. The bar is also a somewhat temporary fix--outside, on a couple of tables. Pedro's was not open, although it looked like it seemed finished from the outside. Speaking of Orient in general, there were almost no gawkers at all, on the days that we were there. We were not at Orient on Friday, when the Monarch of the Seas was in, and I think that Tuesday is the day that the Norway is in, and it rained that day, so that could account for some of it. Friday might well be a good day to check out a relatively deserted beach, as even Bikini Beach was mobbed on Friday. After a nice day on the beach, we took a drive up through Oyster Pond road, just looking around, then headed over to see if we could meet up with Chris and Christine Doney, from here on $P$, prior to our anticipated Friday night $P$ party. They had left the U.S. before the plans for the $P$ party had been firmed up and we had left a message for them at their hotel to tell them when the party was, but weren't too confident about their receiving the message. After an abortive stop at the Royal Palm, when it was supposed to be the Royal Islander, and figuring out that we were not going to find Room 4003 in a range of rooms from 400 to 428, we brazenly knocked on the door and Chris and Chris happened to be home!! We chatted briefly and made sure they had the message about Friday night and headed to Sambucca for pizza. Good pizza and a pitcher of Coke for $17. I can see why this restaurant is so popular. We headed out for our nightly trip to the casino to the Pelican and had our best 30 minutes by far of the trip, playing craps. There was only one other fellow at the craps table, but we walked up to play. The other fellow threw, and did OK, then Eric threw and could do no wrong. He made his point 5 or 6 times before finally crapping out. Both we and the other fellow at the table walked away several hundred dollars richer. Gambling is fun when YOU win, not the house. Speaking of gambling in general, unless one went to a timeshare talk, which we refuse to do, we didn't really see any match coupons available. We saw only a very few people playing them, and we didn't see any at all in any of the magazines, except the Atlantis did have some coupons for $10 in one entertainment guide. However, the one night that we went to Atlantis, I tried to play one at one of the blackjack tables, and they told me that I had to take it to one certain blackjack table (which was--coincidentally--- always full) and we got ticked off and left and never returned. Atlantis is so far out from everything else, plus you have to go over all those da__ed speed bumps, so it just wasn't worth it to go back, especially since they don't have $.25 roulette.. Thursday morning we decided to head over to Esmeralda to see if we could meet up with $P$ buddies Donna and Bob Shenesky. We decided to just drop in, but didn't have their room number, so had to go to the front desk. I guess the lady at the front desk thought we looked like terrorists, as she wouldn't give us their room number, but rang their room for us. Even though it was probably 9:30 by this time (!!) apparently Donna and hubby were sleeping in this day. They said they would meet us at the reception area in half an hour. We took a walk around the grounds, and ended up at the restaurant for some cokes, since we had had breakfast MUCH earlier in the day on our balcony. (G!!) Pretty soon Donna and Bob strolled in and they had some fruit and coffee as we chatted and they showed us around the resort and their room and we walked down to the beach. Donna promised to meet us Friday night at Paradise Cafe at 6 P.M., as arranged. I guess we will find out what her word is worth later in this report!! We then headed to Orient for the day and I worked on reading my fourth book of the week. Well, I sort of cheated, as I read the first book on the four hour flight from BWI to SXM. After "basting" ourselves for a couple of hours, I sent Eric off in search of what I thought turned out to be one of the best meals of the week. There are a couple of "chicken shacks" open up in the general area of where Pedro's used to be. Eric walked down the beach (clad appropriately for Orient, of course!) and got our lunch from one of these and brought it back to me. What a guy!! Anyway, lunch was grilled chicken breasts, with French fries and a tossed salad, for $5.95 each. It was heaven! I really missed Pedro's. Thursday night we headed to Marigot for dinner and ate at Le St. Germain. I think that we were early for them, as the restaurant was virtually empty when we arrived but fairly busy by the time we left. It started raining a little as we were eating, but it did not interfere with what ended up being a wonderful meal. Service was very attentive. I was somewhat shocked though, when I asked for a glass of burgundy wine and the waitress had no idea what I wanted. I told her to just bring me a glass of red wine. Burgundy is in France, no??? Anyway, we had a delightful meal, freshly prepared, a steak in a kind of mustard sauce for me and red snapper for Eric, with 2 glasses of wine and coffee, for $50.00. Great meal. Thanks to Le St. Germain, we have developed our own means of rating restaurants--by the number of dogs strolling by and stopping for a bite to eat! We are very much "dog people" and enjoyed the passing array of stray dogs coming by, looking for a hand-out. One of them was rewarded, as he took one look at Eric and took one look at me, and figured out without any trouble who the soft touch was. He sat quietly by my chair throughout the whole meal and ended up with the last of my steak, which was wonderful, but just too much for me to eat. Le St. Germain was definitely a 5 dog meal. Pleasantly full, we headed to the Pelican, played every game in the house--craps, roulette, Caribbean stud, blackjack and slots--and came out almost exactly even from when we came in. Three hours of free entertainment and free drinks!! What more could one want? Friday was a day that we had been looking forward to for quite a while, as it was the day that we had arranged to meet some friends off the Afloat BB in the morning and off the Caribbean BB in the evening. This was to be a full day! Since we had not been to Marigot or anywhere else to get any croissant on Thursday, I sent Eric down to Bikini to see if they had any croissants ala carte. No luck. So, I headed down to Madras (the restaurant at L'Hoste) and got two croissants and some pineapple, and we were in business for breakfast on the balcony once again! While at home, Eric had prepared a banner to greet our Afloat friends. Even though we had exchanged posts with them for a couple of years on the BB, we had never met, and they would be arriving off the Monarch of the Seas, which is one of the biggest cruise ships in the world. It was a strange and wonderful experience to be standing on the dock, seeing this whole MASS of humanity coming off the tender, as normally, we are part of that mass!! Anyway, our friends George and Linda Hall showed up right on time and we whisked them off to our waiting limo (well, really, it was a Hyundai, but the a/c worked great!!). Knowing that George loves Corona beer and that Royal Caribbean does not see fit to carry his favorite beer onboard, we had packed a cooler of Coronas (with lime, of course!!), and miscellaneous other assorted drinks, and headed out to give them a small tour of St. Martin. After a driving tour of the highlights of St. Martin, we headed to L'Hoste for a pit stop and to show them where we were staying. They were probably only being polite, as they are normally ship people, but they took a brochure from L'Hoste and we told them to check with Jim Ruos here for dates and prices!! Anyway, we decided to go down to Bikini for lunch and were shocked at the change in "our" beach. The beach was mobbed with people off the Monarch of the Seas. We had a wonderful lunch and Eric and George partook of a few "Bikini Beers". Linda wanted to do some shopping in downtown P'burg, so we took them back downtown. We double-parked in front of a jewelry store--sorry, didn't pay attention as to whether it was A Touch of Gold or not--and let them out. The proprietor came out of the store, thinking that we planned to actually park there, I suppose. We hugged George and Linda and sent them back onboard with the remainder of the Coronas. Two for the road, you know! Friday evening we were supposed to meet the $P$ Caribbean BB people at Paradise Cafe at 6 P.M. Of course, since the only times all week we had to be anywhere at a certain time was this dinner and for our flight back home, on both occasions traffic conspired to make us late. There was an accident on the road to Marigot, then of course we got to the bridge right at 6 P.M., as it went up. In any event, we were about 15 minutes late, and arrived to see Chris and Christine Doney and Steven and Miriam Mayer were there before us. Donna and Bob Shenesky never did show up. Donna sent me a note afterwards that Bob had met up with someone on the beach on Thursday and gotten rooked into dinner and the casino Friday night. OK, now who believes THAT story, that he has business acquaintances that he meets on Orient Beach?? Probably took the nude cruise on Friday, got liquored up and slept through dinner Friday night!! (GBG!!) Anyway, we had a wonderful meal and good company for dinner. We had the early bird specials, enchiladas for me and chicken & ribs for Eric, plus a couple of drinks for $40, including tip. Even though neither one of us really felt like it, we headed to the Pelican for a little bit, since it was our last night, but headed back to L'Hoste early. We wanted to get up early to get some sun in the morning before heading home. We basically packed everything on Thursday and Friday, so that we would have as much time as possible on the beach on Saturday. Saturday morning we awoke early, knowing that we had to get to the beach and soak up what sun we could for as long as possible. We ate our last breakfast on our balcony, complete with our last mimosas of the week, and finished up the remainder of some cheese and fruit to clean out our refrigerator. We then headed downstairs to the room of some friends we had met at Orient, to give them the remains of our liquor stock for the week. No reason to let it go to waste! They were properly appreciative, especially since one of them was going to be at L'Hoste for another 3 weeks. Bum. There was no one coming into our room after us, so the hotel had told us that we could stay as long as we wanted on Saturday, for which we had been very grateful, as it gave us the morning on the beach. We headed out to Orient and were in our chairs on the beach by 8:30. Not too many people on the beach at 8:30, by the way. It was probably an hour before the fellow came by to collect our money. We had a last few drinks on the beach and had them fire up the grill at Papagayo's for lunch before we headed out. Our flight was scheduled for 2:30 and we could not conceive getting to the airport 2 hours prior to the flight, but determined we would try to get there by 1. We left the beach around 12:30 and headed to L'Hoste for a quick shower and to throw the bags in the car. We were on the road by 12:45, which was when the trouble started. There was a rather serious accident at one of the street corners which was maybe 3 miles from the airport and it ended up taking an hour to get from L'Hoste to the airport. I was getting a little antsy by this time, as it was technically only 45 minutes till the flight left. Eric dropped me off with the bags to check in and took the car to turn it back in. By the time I made it through the short US Air check-in line and the much longer line to pay the departure tax (which incidentally is now $12, up from $10), Eric was back and they were boarding our plane already. An uneventful flight and back home to reality. B/ L'Hoste Hotel Last year we stayed at Green Cay Village, which is an absolutely first rate hotel composed of private villas with full facilities, including a private pool for each villa, VCR, tape player, CD player, full kitchen with microwave, ice maker, dishwasher, huge great room and deck.. Green Cay costs $1800 for a week for two people, although Green Cay can be rented out as either a 2 or 3 bedroom villa, if YOU find someone to share it with, for $2400 or $3000.00.. Having stayed at Green Cay, we were very much afraid that anyplace else would be a major let-down. (For our full report of last year's trip to Green Cay, as well as pictures of Green Cay, check out our home page at http://pages.prodigy.com/hilltrvlet) Having decided that we would travel back to SXM this summer, we determined that we would try to save a little money this time and, even though I would have preferred to book again at Green Cay, we talked to Jim Ruos about where to book and ended up at L'Hoste. We had narrowed our choices down to L'Hoste and Sunrise Hotel. Having visited Sunrise to check it out once we arrived there, we were very happy we had chosen L'Hoste instead, as Sunrise is not in nearly as attractive an area as L'Hoste and the view appeared non-existent. L'Hoste is one of four similar appearing hotels in the general area of Bikini Beach on Orient Beach and appeared to be the one closest to the water. L'Hoste is basically a hotel room, with the absolutely necessary refrigerator, but it is right on the beach and (for two people) half the cost of Green Cay. In a nutshell, L'Hoste is an clean, attractive small hotel on the beach which provides excellent value for the dollar. We booked room #304, which Jim Ruos said was the best room at the hotel, and Jim was correct, as usual! (G!!) L'Hoste is a three story hotel, with the rooms on the 1st floor the cheapest and 3rd floor most expensive. We paid $150 per night for six nights, with the seventh night being free. Rooms on the bottom floor are, I believe, $115 per night. We felt the view from the 3rd floor was definitely worth the extra money. The room itself, separate of the bathroom, was about 24 by 14, and included a king sized bed, wicker loveseat coffee table and chair and two other straight chairs with a table between. There was a TV with remote, with around 6 channels, including CNN, HBO, Cinemax and ESPN. There was A/C and ceiling fan. We surmised that the room had been vacant the week before, as the A/C was not cool at all the first day, but improved greatly after a day or so. The balcony was large, around 14 feet by 8 feet, with two white PVC chairs and a table, about 3 feet by 1 feet. The balcony had a waist high lattice work wall. Our balcony provided a beautiful view of the beach, with the water being about 50 yards away from our room. I could have wished for at least one chaise lounge and the balcony would have been perfect. Storage was much more than adequate for a week at Orient Beach, with 2 full length hanging closets, plus 2 sections of shelves, plus a desk, a 4 drawer dresser and two small end tables next to the bed. There was a (keyed) safe and an apartment sized refrigerator with plenty of room for drinks and a freezer area sufficient for a couple of ice trays, which were provided. We basically used the ice trays to make ice, as one had to go to the Bikini Bar to get ice. This was a couple of hundred feet walk and more work than we normally wanted to go to for ice. The refrigerator worked very well and the ice trays generally satisfied our needs, although there was an ice bucket in the room. There was also a water pitcher, which we generally kept filled with water in the refrigerator. The bathroom (which was apparently NOT the standard bathroom for L'Hoste--possibly just for the top floor rooms--was about 9 by 12, with a corner tub with a hand held shower (but no stand-up shower stall). It was mostly marble and very attractive, with indirect lighting and mirrored walls, a hairdryer, and a bidet! (Ah, those crazy French!!). Shampoo, body wash and hand lotion were provided and were replenished as used. Somewhat strangely, we never had any washcloths for the week--although I confess we didn't complain about it. Beach towels were provided, although one had to go to the front desk to request clean ones each day, as they were not delivered to the room. Otherwise, the maid did a wonderful job of keeping the room clean and neat and towels, etc., replenished each day. L'Hoste does not have any cooking facilities at all, and I did not particularly miss them, other than a coffee maker. Our preferred breakfast is two croissants, coffee and orange juice, or possibly a mimosa, if the urge hits, so we really do not feel like paying $10- !5 to go out to breakfast every day. After an "unfortunate experience" with a coffeemaker that we brought from home, along with a converter that didn't really convert 220 to 110, and our subsequent purchase of a 220 coffee maker in Marigot, our breakfasts on our balcony were a wonderful experience. Anybody care to rent a 220 coffee maker for their next trip to SXM?? Let's see, with the price of the converter which didn't work and the coffeepot which got fried and the new coffeepot, I figure we spent about $35 on coffee for the week (in addition to the $4 we spent the first morning on coffee from the hotel restaurant!!) What I do for the love of coffee!!! Other than bringing a coffee makerwhich many people would consider to be too much trouble--we brought along coffee, sugar and creamer, as well as a couple of spoons, a corkscrew, and a paring knife. One deficiency of the room, I thought, was that the only glasses were the very small water glasses provided by the hotel--no wine glasses or even highball glasses. Tough to make a rum and coke in a 6 ounce glass! If the pool bar had been open, one could probably scarf some wine glasses and highball glasses from the bar. Being a very small hotel, L'Hoste did not have some of the amenities of a large hotel, but it was certainly more than adequate for our needs. There is a restaurant called Madras which is shared by the four hotels. This restaurant was open only for breakfast during our stay, but apparently would be open for lunch and possibly dinner as of July 10. There were only about 6 of L'Hoste's 28 rooms being occupied when we were there, so I suppose that explained why the restaurant was not open more. There was a pool shared by the four hotels, which didn't seem to get much use. The restaurant was immediately in front of the pool, which had a swim-up bar. However, the bar was not open during our stay. During the season, having the restaurant open for lunch and having that bar open would, I'm sure, add to the population of the pool. There were free chairs by the hotel pool, but because of the lay of the land, one could not see the ocean from the pool, even though it was relatively close. Even though L'Hoste is right on the beach, the Bikini Bar is not part of the hotel. Even though one had signing privileges (to charge drinks and food to your hotel room), one had to pay for chair rental on the beach. Two chairs, white PVC with thick pads, plus one umbrella, were $10 for the day. By contrast, 2 plastic strap chairs (no pads) plus an umbrella, were $15 for the day at Orient. On the first two days we were in SXM, we went nude on the beach right at Bikini, along with several other people. On Sunday, especially, the beach was pretty crowded with locals and the crowd was mostly topless and many were nude. Apparently, nudity is much more prevalent now at Bikini Beach since the hurricane, although most nudists still go to Orient. Of the six couples we saw at L'Hoste, we saw 5 on the beach at Orient at one point or another during the week. If one is not interested in going nude at all, Bikini Beach is quite a wonderful beach, with some nice breaking waves. There are no rocks, stones, etc., in the water and there are plenty of toys to play with--jetskis, parasailing, sailboats, etc. We ate breakfast once and lunch a couple of times at Bikini, as well as spent some time at the bar. Great food and good service and good fun, right on the beach. One deficiency of L'Hoste for those (silly enough!!) not to rent a car, is that there really were not any places within easy walking distance which were open for dinner, at least during slow season. The Bikini Bar was open for breakfast and lunch only. Otherwise, Waikiki (in front of Esmerelda), was the next restaurant toward Mt. Vernon. I don't know whether it was open for dinner or not, although of course, the restaurant for La Plantation and L'Astrobe (SP??) were open. We didn't get down that way at night, but I think that Kontiki was open for dinner, although that is probably a half mile walk down the beach. Having spent a week in both places, I think that the only thing that we really missed from Green Cay was being able to cook in the evenings. We are not real gourmets, and my favorite meals here at home, frankly, are a grilled steak and a salad, with a nice bottle of wine. At Green Cay, we grilled out 3 nights for our evening meal, and we really enjoyed those evenings. Since we have not been to SXM enough times yet to have a huge list of "old favorite" restaurants to visit, we got kind of tired by the end of the week of hunting for a new place to have dinner each night. I suspect, though, when we head back to SXM next year, we will work on that list of favorite restaurants! Because Green Cay is the only other place that we have stayed in SXM, (even though we have visited SXM a half dozen times on ships) we often found ourselves comparing the two facilities, and FOR THE PRICE, L'Hoste definitely competed with Green Cay. Although it's a hard choice, unless we would find someone compatible to share Green Cay with, we will probably head back to L'Hoste next year.
We departed last Thursday afternoon and by the time we got to the Ocean Club and all checked into the room it was about 4:30pm. We were a group of 4 which were having a reunion. For the first evening we first went to see the beach which was absolutely beautiful. The sand is so white and soft. Then just hung out at the pool bar & had snacks & drinks. Then back to the room to get cleaned up. Went for a late dinner at Geicko's which is at the Ocean Club. Food was good but we didn't care for the atmosphere of the restaurant. Friday we had appointments to see two hotel (we are all travel agents). First we went to Club Med then to Grace Bay which is where we had lunch. Grace Bay was lovely, and the food was good. Then the Manager took us on a full tour of the property.....really nice all suites. My favorite thing about lunch was the homemade ice cream. It was out of this world. Prior to going to these hotels we rented a car (jeep) and did a little touring of the island. After Grace Bay 2 of our folks went back to the Ocean Club and myself & one other gal took the jeep and did some more sightseeing. We stopped everywhere from all the shops, restaurants, the mall, etc. just to look around and talk to everyone we could. We wanted to learn as much about the island as we could. It was quite interesting to talk to everyone. The island is really growing....alot of new business, beautiful houses, IGA grocery store, etc. going up. I suspect in 5 years this island will be quite popular. That night we really didn't eat dinner as we had such a large, late lunch. Early in the evening we decided to go to the casino at Turquoise Reef (which used to be Ramada). The casino is very small. We got there about 7:00 and there was only about 10 people there....a very quiet casino! After a couple hours of that we decided to see what happens on the island on a Friday night. Went to a place called Alfreds which has a local band and attracted a nice mix of locals and tourists. We also stopped at the Erebus Inn just to see what the menu was like as we considered eating there the next night. We didn't find it to interesting. Saturday morning was the first time we were able to snorkel. We went over by the white house which was really nice. There were some other people there but not alot. After that we went back to the Ocean Club and had lunch at the pool area. Then we decided to tour the island some more. We went to the sapodilla bay area which is where all the new beautiful houses are being built. Really nice. We then stopped at a restaurant called Pub on the Bay because we heard that is where Dick Clark goes when he is visiting (he has a house in the Sapodilla Bay area). We just had something cold to drink. This little place was spotless and I can see why he goes there and it overlooks the water. Then back to Ocean Club to relax for a while at the pool. That night we went to dinner at a restaurant called Terraces. It was really good....service was also good. And the best part of all...they had homemade ice-cream also!! Can you tell I like ice cream??!! After dinner we went to the casino for a little while then back to our hotel. Sunday morning we just relaxed and drove around the island some more. Went to lunch at Banana Boat. Then it was time to turn in our car and finish packing to go home. We had a great time. Didn't get to snorkel as much as we wanted as they had alot of rain that weekend which I understand was really unusual.
My husband and I just returned from five days on Provo (4/19-4/23) in the Turks and Caicos islands. The weather was perfect every day except for one morning of rain which lasted only ^Qtill 10:00 a.m. We stayed at the Turquoise Reef, but would not necessarily recommend it. The only passable service was at the pool bar (not at the tables- only at the bar). The front desk handled matters all right, but in general, the staff was friendly but non-committal with the usual "Islands" pace. The beach (Grace Bay) is beautiful, it has the most gorgeous colored water we^Rve ever seen. The snorkeling is great, just off shore in front of the Turquoise Reef Hotel and two and one- half miles down the beach in front of "The White House" - you can^Rt miss it, a very modern and beautiful house (which is also for rent- by the day or week). The Grace Bay Club is a stunning Mediterranean hotel (mostly villas) with lush, tropical grounds where hammocks sway and chairs rock and double swings move with the constant light breezes. The restaurant at The Grace Bay Club (Anacoana) was great - tables under thatched roofs - food prepared and presented so well - the service was good and prices are up there! Other restaurants where the food and service are good are: - PRESTANCIA-Turkish food, pretty setting, good service - COCO- BISTRO- Continental menu, under palm trees, friendly and attentive service - LONE STAR-Average Tex-Mex, reasonable prices, T.V.'s showing current sports - THE TERRACE-Food very good, service very bad We found the prices in most restaurants a bit steep. Taxi service, however, was okay. Usually $2.00 per person for local rides. Ask for Riggs Taxi, he's a very nice man. My husband and another couple went bone fishing one morning for a more reasonable price than on other islands. He says the flats are beautiful with plenty of bones, barracuda and tarpon. They paid $200.00 for a day (8:00am till noon) excursion with Black Diamond Tours and Earl was their fishing guide. Earl was very friendly and provided transportation to and from the hotel as well as refreshments on the boat. He also played golf one morning at the only golf course on Provo. The "Prove Golf Club" provided 18 holes of semi-challenging golf with a $90.00 green fee including cart. The course offers four sets of tees and plays to a total of 6560 yards from the tips with a slope rating of 124 and 4979 yards for the ladies with a slope rating of 116. Although the tee shots visually seem tight the landing area are quite generous. Trade winds can make for a long day if you ignore them. Each hole included 100/150/200 markers in the fairway and was well groomed. The clubhouse included nice locker- room facilities, a grill/bar and a small pro shop. The services were accommodating. We never made it to Club Med although it was just down the beach, but we could hear their music and nightly games-sounded like they were having fun. Sandals just took over Royal Bay-but won't be completely ready till October. It is still open for business though. Parasailing and skydiving are available right on Grace Bay Beach. All in all, our vacation was great because of good weather, good water (beach) and good food. We also met great people and had a lot of fun with them. We would go back (but not to Turquoise Reef). The Island is quiet and relaxing with no shops to roam, no sightseeing to deter you. It's a great place to unwind.
In March we made reservations at the Hyatt on St. John for the last week in May. It seemed that after all the delays they might really make the May 1st opening date. At the end of April they called to tell us they would not be open and would we like to stay in Puerto Rico instead. We declined that offer and started back through the tour books and travel reports on the forum. We finally decided on the Sapphire Beach Resort, and it turned out to be a good choice. We arrived on Saturday, May 25th, and I think we got the last rent car available at the airport. Fortunately we had made reservations. The Sapphire Beach Resort: The Sapphire is at the east end of St. Thomas not far from Red Hook and, after looking at many of the other hotels and resorts during our stay, definitely has by far the best beach. The rooms are actually condos and arranged in six buildings with all but the last having a beach view. The last building overlooks the marina. The rooms go through from one side of the building to the other starting with a very large bathroom, sleeping area with writing desk, sitting area with complete kitchen and ending with a large balcony overlooking the beach, the Caribbean and several islands including St. John, Jost Van Dyke and Tortola in the distance. The ground floor rooms have a patio instead of a balcony. The rooms are air- conditioned but also have screen doors at both ends if the breeze is cool enough. There is a raised pool right at the edge of the water with a bar and grill serving drinks and burgers and sandwiches. We tried most (all) of their specialty drinks. I can recommend the Painkiller while Fran liked the Bushwhacker. It was really nice to go snorkeling and then come back, rinse off and jump into the non-salty pool water with a refreshing drink or cold beer. Unfortunately the pool bar seemed to close around 5 o^Rclock which is usually when we got back from our activities. There is also a beach bar which stayed open late, the Sailfish lounge for those addicted to large screen TVs and the Seagrape restaurant. The water sports center lends snorkeling equipment, sun fish type sailboats, wind surfers and a paddle boat, but again, they close at 5. There wasn^Rt much activity going on at night except on the weekend when there was a band at the beach bar. Unfortunately the amplifiers and huge speakers seem to have survived the storm. It was way to loud for us so we can^Rt vouch for the quality of the entertainment. According to a local paper I saw, the company managing the Sapphire and several other resorts is having financial problems so some of the scheduled activities such as the Manager^Rs party never took place. Also the pool bar was supposed to open as an outdoor steak house in the evenings but that didn^Rt happen either. The beach is super though. On our last day we went snorkeling just one more time and saw more and a greater variety of fish that morning than at any of the other sites we had been to. Fantastic. They also allowed us to check out late without any hassle which was greatly appreciated since our flight didn^Rt leave till about 4:00 PM. (You go through customs leaving St. Thomas so allow some extra time on catching the return flight.) Getting Around / Car Rental We had made reservations with Budget and I think we got their last vehicle, a really well used Suzuki Samurai. It appeared to be on its last legs but never let us down. There is a company called ABC Rentals which rents what appear to be very new Suzukis and Jeeps, all red. They might be worth checking on for rent cars, although when we returned our car the rental car lot was full and most of the Budget cars appeared to be much newer than the one we had. On St. Thomas I really don^Rt see the need for a four wheel drive type vehicle. The main disadvantage we discovered was the fact that there was no lockable trunk. So going into town or out to the beach there was no way to leave anything in the car, although some of the beaches do have lockers for rent. It is an absolute no- no to take your rent car on the ferry to St. John so we rented a car on St. John for the one day we really toured that island. Having learned our lesson we rented a small sedan with a trunk. ($45 at Conrad Car Rental). Round trip on the car ferry is $50 so it^Rs actually cheaper to rent another car. The traffic in Charlotte Amalie was bad the few times we were in town. We drove in one day for obligatory shopping and sightseeing. After we saw the parking lot it took another 15 minutes of going around one way streets to get to the entrance only to find a "Lot Full" sign. But since we had just seen a car leave we drove in anyway and were able to park. The roads outside of town are all two lane curvy, hilly and bumpy with many signs still missing. But if you stick to the main roads you eventually get to where you are going because there aren^Rt that many roads to start with. St. John was easier to get around on because there are only about 3 or 4 roads once you get out of Cruz Bay. Driving on the left, once you are out of town, isn^Rt too bad until you have to turn and that sometimes requires some concentration to stay on the right (left) side. The drivers seemed generally friendly, stopping to let you into a line of traffic. Some things to watch for are cows, goats, chickens and construction zones. While we never actually saw a cow on the road, some were grazing very close to the edge. We did have to dodge goats and one hen escorting her two chicks across the road. Construction zones are interesting because they use only one flagman and since the roads are very curvy and hilly he usually can^Rt see both ends of the constructions zone. So no matter how vigorously he waves you on, be prepared to meet a truck coming around a corner or over a hill which he couldn^Rt see. In one such case the car behind us almost got nailed by a large delivery van which we barely avoided. Restaurants We tried the SEAGRAPE at the Sapphire on two evenings and for Sunday brunch. The food was good but not outstanding. Tried TICKLES one time and had very good fish and chips. MIMS (dinner) was a disappointment. The food was only fair and the service was none existent. The waitress got involved telling stories at one table and we finally got up and went to the hostess stand to ask for our check. Breakfast at the TAVERN ON THE BEACH was good. Great view. Best dinner by far was at ROMANO^Rs Italian Restaurant not too far from Eunice^Rs Terrace. It took us two days to find it but the search was well worth it. Fantastic food and service. Worst dinner experience was at the AGAVE TERRACE at Point Pleasant Resort. They had some travel writers or food critics eating there the night we went and the whole staff was apparently busy serving them. Twenty minutes after we ordered cocktails they finally arrived with our salad. The meal arrived shortly thereafter and we were not once given an opportunity to order another drink or glass of wine to go with the meal. Neither was our water ever refilled. We were totally ignored until we were finished when Executive Chef Joseph Sassine made the rounds, to impress the VIPs no doubt, and we told him how disappointed we were. He offered a free drink or desert but at that point the meal had been ruined and we saw no reason to stay any longer. The steel drum band featured that night consisted of two of the most totally unenthusiastic players I have ever seen. The food was not particularly good either. A great disappointment. Lunch at CUZZINS on Back Street, if you happen to be in town, was good. The last day we had lunch at EUNICE^RS TERRACE. Very good food and service. One of the items on the menu was Kallaloo. When we asked what that was, instead of trying to explain it, the waiter brought us a cup to sample. Similar to gumbo, very good. I had liver and onions and it was some of the best liver I^Rve had since our last trip to Switzerland (where I had it three days in a row). Dinner at the BLUE MARLIN (Red Hook) was also very good. The fish was good but the bread and deserts were fantastic. Very good service and nice atmosphere. On St. John we tried SEYCHELLES for lunch and were disappointed that the only choices were three different sandwiches. But we had one the best ham and cheese sandwiches on fresh crunchy French bread. Very good. Breakfast at the MONGOOSE JUNCTION CAFE was also very good. Sights and Activities: Two of our most memorable days were spent aboard the schooner True Love and the power boat Stormy Petrel. After a continental breakfast on board, the True Love sails from the Sapphire Marina and heads out towards Jost van Dyke and then turns towards St. John for some snorkeling before lunch. A very tasty lunch is served on board (with gold plated flatware, no less, and champagne) after which she sails to another snorkeling site. The breakfast, lunch, an open bar and snorkeling equipment are all included in the price. The crew, Captain Max and First Mate (only crew member, bartender, galley slave, etc.) Robin are very friendly, knowledgeable about the area and make sure everyone has a good time. The day we went there was only one other couple, another couple canceled due to overexposure to the sun the previous day, so we had plenty of room to lay around. Highly recommended. The Stormy Petrel, being a power boat, has more range than the True Love. It left from the Red Hook marina and headed around the north side of Tortola to Virgin Gorda to clear customs. Then we anchored off The Baths and snorkeled in to the beach for a tour of The Baths. Very impressive. After that we stopped at Cooper Island for lunch. Very pretty setting, good lunch and super rum custard flambe. After lunch a stop off Peter Island for more snorkeling and feeding the fish. They are not at all bashful and will eat right out of your hand. The return trip from Virgin Gorda to Cooper and Peter Islands is through the Sir Frances Drake Channel to the south of Tortola. A very good way to see a lot of the islands. The trip included an open bar and snorkeling equipment. The crew, Chris and Joan, were very good at pointing out sights, explaining the rock formations at The Baths and making sure everyone had a good time. The Stormy Petrel trip was not as peaceful as the True Love but we did cover a lot more distance. One thing to be aware of is that both trips, and maybe others as well, required payment in cash or traveler^Rs checks. We normally try to use credit cards as much as possible to keep from having to carry a lot of cash so when we got back we had just barely enough money to get our car out of the airport parking lot. We spent several late afternoons at Paradise Point to check out the sunsets. The clouds never cooperated but the view was still worth it. The cable cars only seem to operate when there are cruise ships in the harbor but it is a very interesting drive to the top once you find the right turn. Very friendly service. Another view worth checking out is Mountain Top, overlooking Magna's Bay. The banana daiquiris make the trip worth while also. St. John: We spent one day driving around St. John checking out the different beaches and the Annaberg ruins. In the process we ran across the Chateau Bordeaux at the east end of the island. We stopped for a drink and to enjoy the view from the outdoor bar. The restaurant looked very nice with the tables set with lace table cloths, candles and flowers. The waitress told us that if you make dinner reservations they can have a taxi meet you at the ferry if you are coming from St. Thomas and then also take you back to the ferry after dinner. While waiting for the ferry we stooped at the Texas Cafe for a beer and some nachos. Friendly service and a good view of the area around the ferry dock. (The nachos were no too bad, they even had jalepenos.) Snorkeling: The snorkeling at TRUNK BAY was pretty good, there is a marked underwater trail with pictures of the fish so you can identify them. The snorkeling at CINNAMON BAY was unimpressive. As I mentioned above, the best snorkeling, after PETER ISLAND, was the last morning right at Sapphire Beach. If you wear glasses, a mask with prescription lenses is very handy. They can be rented at Chris Sawyers Dive shop in Red Hook. Be sure to call ahead with your prescription and they will hold them for you.
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), and Delphi. Selected features appear on Prodigy. Contact: Paul Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810- 1408 USA :Home (Voice or Fax) 508-470-1971.
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