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Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor




Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 66
July 15 1996

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ST. MARTIN BY CASEY LIPSHAW


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) 

ST. MARTIN BY BYRON JENNINGS


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.

ST. MARTIN BY DON TROTTER


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.)

ST. MARTIN: ISLAND AND L'HOSTE HOTEL BY CAROL HILL

 
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.

TURKS AND CAICOS: PROVO BY KATHY PARISE


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. 

TURKS AND CAICOS: PROVO BY JAN AND MICHAEL POLIKOFF


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. 

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS ( STT,STJ) BY BOB AND FRAN HORN


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.

WORLD WIDE WEB SITES:
http://www.slmtravel.com/~slm or http://www.best.com/~paradise/ctr/.

E-mail via CTREDITOR@aol.com CTREDITOR@prodigy.com 74007.3434@compuserve.com : On Prodigy - MKWC51A: On GENIE-P.Graveline: On Travel Online BBS paul.graveline@travel.com. 1996


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