Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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My wife and I spent a week in early June on St. Barth; our third stay, the last one three years ago. This report will summarize some of our impressions and generally low-key activities. Our beginning was promising. Our flight schedule called for a layover of about 2 hours in St. Martin, but when we entered the in-transit area, Winair told us that they had a couple of planes out of service and we would be going over on an Air St. Barth's shuttle. As a result, we were taking off for St. Barth's 10 minutes after we got off the plane from NY. An advantage of carry-on luggage. However, Winair made up for it by delaying our return by a couple of hours, so I guess we are even. We stayed at Village St. Jean hotel, where we have stayed before. This is a reasonably priced, well kept hotel. We had a "cottage", one fairly small room with a bed, 2 night stands, a stool and a table, an reasonably large storage closet and a small bath with shower. Basic, but newly redone, with air conditioner and ceiling fan, but the only luxury item an industrial sized hair dryer in the bathroom. However, it also had a large patio, partly roofed and partly covered by a retractable awning, with a small but well equipped kitchen - all very private. They have other facilities, some simpler and some more elaborate. The hotel itself has a small but nice pool, Jacuzzi, a small shop, and lending library, and plenty of hot water. Also a good supply of mosquitoes that were a minor annoyance on the patio but could be kept out of the room by burning a mosquito coil each evening. St. Barth mosquitoes are small, unobtrusive, bite without being noticed, and then you itch like hell for half an hour. The hotel is an easy 5 minute walk down hill to St. Jean beach, but it is much longer coming back. We drive. We picked up a Suzuki Swift from Turbe Car Rental. Mokes are popular, but very exposed if it rains. Jeeps are also popular, but not necessary. Roads tend to be narrow and hilly, but driving is not bad. They are very well signed, something I am not used to in the Caribbean. The main problems in driving are the many motorcyclists, some of whom must have very good luck because they certainly don't have very good judgment, and the occasional local who, if he doesn't think you are fast enough, drives about 2 feet from your rear bumper until he finds a convenient curve on which to pass. Restaurants on St. Barth's tend to be expensive. We are not aficionados of fancy, upscale haute cuisine no matter what the price, so we mainly went to the simpler ones, especially Creole. We found quite a few restaurants closed. Presumably, there is not enough business for them to remain open off-season. None that we ate in were anywhere near crowded; perhaps 2 or 3 other tables. Reservations were not needed, although we sometimes made them and this seemed to be appreciated. By the way, there are booklets available for free drinks etc. at some places. Le Patio, at Village St. Jean, is a moderately expensive Italian restaurant, but a glass of wine, salad, coffee and shared pizza came to under $60. Add another $20 or more if each person had an entree. Food is excellent, service leisurely but good. La Gloriette - on the beach at L'Orient; nice setting, good service, the usual glass of wine, salad, main course and coffee for 2, about $70. Eddie's Restaurant in Gustavia (not to be confused with Eddie's Ghetto, which no longer exists as such but is now Inez' Ghetto) is pleasant, good food and service, similar price range. Seems to be quite popular. Chez Domi, a Creole restaurant in Gustavia, had very good food (octopus stew; Antillian fish stew) and service at about $60 for 2. Paradisio, a low key French restaurant in Gustavia, excellent food (including a few pasta dishes) and extremely gracious service, similar price as Domi, depending on your selection. The vanilla rum cordial is a nice touch. Le Repair, on the waterfront of Gustavia, is nice but we did not find the menu as interesting as others. Can't complain about quality or service; price range again similar. We generally take care of our own breakfast/lunch with pastry from local bakeries and tropical fruit. There are 2 supermarkets at the airport shopping center, and a bakery there and also on the St. Jean shopping center that are convenient. We had one lunch at La Creperie in Gustavia; excellent food and varied selection of crepes and a few other things. Definitely to be tried. Generally, service is included in the bill, but it is often not obvious that it is. If you ask, you may be told "it is up to you", which doesn't quite answer the question. For drinks, snacks etc. in Gustavia there is the famous bar Le Select, or across the street, Bar d'Oublie. Everyone goes to le Select because of its reputation, but in my opinion the Bar d'Oublie is more pleasant. You can sip an espresso and watch all of St. Barth go by on the street along side. Another nice little place is Le Creole brasserie in the shopping center on the road along St. Jean beach. Besides beach-walking, driving around taking photographs is one of our main activities, and we did a fair amount of that. Weather was pretty hazy a good part of the time, but not much rain. The island looked much browner than on any of our previous visits. There seems to be many more buildings in place than I remember. A drive into Vitet provides some excellent views but also shows how development is starting to take over. Corossol is written up in all the guide books for its straw goods and quaintness. In fact, it is not much, and we saw only a couple of places offering the straw work. It is very well done. The one thing in Corossol that should not be missed is the Inter Oceans Museum, a seashell collection put together by a local man. It is very extensive and fascinating. The St. Barth museum in Gustavia also is worth a visit. As for the beaches, they are pretty much as expected. St. Jean is most active, Saline and Gouverneur uncrowded and unofficially CO, and with no facilities (the way a real Caribbean beach should be). Flamands seemed to be in good shape, but there is still Hurricane Luis damage. One hotel whose name I have forgotten is still there with most of its seaward wall and roof missing. Didn't get to Columbier, but the scenic overlook is nicely done. Petit Cul de Sac seemed much better than we remembered. For a good view of Gustavia, try the hill with the tower and cannon. This has also been fitted up with a viewing platform, but access is tricky; there are no signs. Park by the building on the road up from Gustavia just past the switch-back turn and walk up a kind of trail. A driveway goes off to the left of the road at this building; don't take it; it will lead you into a private home. We have seen reports that St. Barth is losing fashion as a high end destination and encouraging more mass tourism and cruise ships. In our week on the island there were only 2 small ships in port; even so, you could see a difference in the people in town. Some locals, including those at our hotel, are concerned that larger ships cause a lot of problems on such a small island. It is not yet spoiled (at least not off-season), but it is getting close and may not retain its charm for much longer. It will be a real pity if mass tourism takes over.
If it's Sunday, this must be Saba From St. Maarten's shores Saba's dramatic cone-shaped outline is visible on clear days. The island may seem familiar, since a long shot of Saba is used to create the setting in the black and white movie classic, King Kong. Rising majestically out of the sea, there is no shortage of poetic pseudonyms for this volcanic rock. 'Napoleon's Crooked Hat', because her shape resembles that of the Emperor's tricorn hat; 'Bali Hai', in reverence to her mysterious beauty; 'Glocamora', an allusion to a legendary land, and 'The Green Gumdrop', though she looks more like Hershey's Kisses from afar. She is best known as 'The Unspoiled Queen', and in this day and age it is becoming increasingly difficult to wear such a lofty title. One of the best tasks of travel writing is finding the words to describe splendid natural beauty. Saba is an ever flowing source of inspiration. Her imposing mountain side stands rugged and jagged while the waves dance at her feet. As you ascend her heights, every turn offers another breathtaking view of verdant hills against a backdrop of sapphire blue seas. Soon you notice something amazing: there is not a speck of garbage or pollution here. Virtually every square inch of this blessed land is clean, well maintained, brimming with tropical foliage and flowers, yet not overly manicured. On the contrary, Saba is a testament to man's ability to co-exist in harmony with nature. Still intoxicated by the sweeping views, you take time to notice the details: giant Elephant Ear philodendrons lining the roadside, rare wildflowers such as the delicate Eyelash Orchid, as well as Saba's traditional flower, the Black Eyed Suzy. And the air is perfect. Citizens of the cities will appreciate breathing the luxurious oxygen offered by the abundant vegetation. Listen to the song of the tall grasses swaying as you hike, or just sit in contentment surrounded by space and silence. On some nights the moonlight is so bright you can drive without headlights. The tropical palms are outlined in light shadows and the rain forest echoes with nocturnal chants. Along your journey, you may find a black volcanic sand beach, if it is the right time of year. They are called wandering beaches because the surf engulfs the sand most of the year. What Saba lacks in beaches, she more than makes up for in sea life. In fact, diving is the keystone of the tourism industry. Saba Marine Park protects the pristine coral reefs. Saba's beauty is in homage to her inhabitants. The first settlers were mostly of Dutch, British, Irish and Scottish origins. Some were pirates of the high seas, while others were colonists fleeing religious persecution. Saban men were renowned sea captains, while the women excelled in fancy drawn thread embroidery. The people of Saba were hardworking and tough by necessity. Before the advent of the rainwater cistern around 1900, the only source of water was at the base of the island. Buckets had to be carried up the steep hillsides on foot to reach the town of Windwardside two thousand feet up. Donkeys and horses were brought in only around 1925. Prior to this the island was built solely on manpower. Although Dutch engineers said a road could not be built on the treacherous terrain, the male inhabitants set out with picks and shovels to build a concrete road which is still in perfect condition. Lined throughout by a beautiful stone wall, it connects the four towns of The Bottom, St. John's, Windwardside and Hell's Gate (Hell's Gate is at the highest elevation. It derives its name form the arduous climb in getting there). Life in Saba has certainly become easier, yet the essential character of her people has not wavered. Sabans are still a hardworking and friendly people. They love to greet each other on the street and always find time for social amenities. This society is reminiscent of the small town folks of Bedford Falls in the movie classic "It's a Wonderful Life" with James Stewart and Donna Reed. Everyone seems so happy and well adjusted! Luckily, the types of tourists attracted here are divers and ecology buffs who are generally as amicable and wholesome as the locals. Fans of model homemaker Martha Stewart would be completely in their element here. Sabans feel comfortable abiding by tradition. Ironically, their ancestry is traced to pirates and rebels. Their heritage shines through with the gleam in their eyes and an easy laughter. Sunday in Saba is a good thing. On Monday we take it easy on St. Martin's dazzling Rouge Beach. Tuesday we navigate to adventure on a catamaran to Anguilla. Wednesday, back to civilization on a sensational shopping spree in Philipsburg, Dutch St. Maarten. Thursday we fly to St. Barths to admire the holiday hideaway of the rich and famous, where the real money gets spent. Friday we explore Statia, a lovely Dutch Caribbean island with genuinely friendly locals. Saturday, how about a plantation safari on Nevis, St. Kitt's sister island, or a visit to Tortola, the other crown gem of the British Caribbean? All these day trip excursions are a short distance from St. Maarten, the gateway of the Northeastern Caribbean. Visiting the major islands on a cruise ship can never be as intimate as island hopping via plane and sail. No cruise ship can approach any of these fascinating small islands, and that's how island dwellers like it.
We got to SBH about 3:00pm Tues. 6/3 on Windward Air - $109/pp roundtrip from Anguilla. Rented a Diahatsu (sp?) Feroza - (better than the moke we had last time) at the airport from Gumbs - $210/week summer rate. Very friendly and helpful - gave us directions to Baie des Anges in Flamands and we had no trouble getting there. Traffic was lighter than our previous trip in Nov '94 but it seems like it moved faster too. Joe paid a lot of attention to his driving - we didn't want to have an accident and it would be very easy there. The weather was hot and humid with rain about twice - it was hazy for a few days too but there was still a cool breeze so we were comfortable. The island was dry and brown however, it looked greener after the rains, some flowers were blooming and it was still pretty. We were surprised at all the construction and work projects going on - lots of building particularly around Flamands and St. Jean. Not a lot of tourists - few Americans, we found most of the locals to be very helpful and friendly - more so than our last trip - I would like to practice my French more next time. We noticed men in orange jumpsuits cleaning up and working on the roads. The effort shows - it is too bad that Anguilla doesn't do more about trash and roadsides. Accommodations: Rented Mon Plaisir through St. Barth Properties - the owner Annie Ange runs Baie des Anges also - a hotel on Flamands beach - she is very pleasant and nice to deal with. Mon Plaisir is in the hills of Corossol with a great view - we watched planes, boats, cars and people - it is a pretty villa with a nice 2 bed 2 bath unit on one level and a 2 bed 1 bath apt downstairs with the pool on the lower level. The villa shared a driveway with the house next door - not really a problem but you do lose some privacy. We never used the TV except to watch a Hurricane Luis tape on the VCR, there was a small cassette player/radio - kitchen had all the appliances except a microwave. The bedrooms had small a/c units which we used when sleeping. We enjoyed staying there, it is close to town so we ate dinner out more and loved the pool - we actually spent a lot of time in it. We had maid service every day but Sunday and she was very nice and did a great job. Summer rate for 2 persons for just the top floor and pool - $1500/week plus administrative fee $75 for SBP. Shopping: We aren't big shoppers but we do enjoy shopping in St. Barths and we did buy some shirts at Black Swan in St. Jean for Father's Day gifts, also bought some coffee at The Coffee Shop up the hill from St. Jean beach. Stopped one day at la Ligne St. Barth in Lorient, bought a few gifts and a couple of things for us, the saleswoman was very good! - I like the products too! I enjoy the different food stuffs, etc and got a few groceries and liquor at AMC, Match and Unic Plus, didn't do any real cooking, we mostly ate out since we were more familiar with the island this trip and closer to town. Several of the clothing stores at St. Jean had sales - the prices weren't that bad - $20 for light cotton shirts and dresses. I also love Nomades in Gustavia for clothing, jewelry, gifts, etc - they have been friendly and pleasant each time we have been there. Beaches - We have been to SBH one other time Nov '94 before Hurricane Luis, there has been a change in most of the beaches. The hurricane did a lot of damage and it still shows. The absolute best beach of all we saw was Saline - truly wonderful and gorgeous, not many people on it while we were there. All other beaches paled in comparison to Saline. St. Jean beach is nice around the airport area but the beach in front of Emeraude Plage looks bad - rocks are stacked to keep the sand from washing away. We saw the most people on St. Jean but that wasn't really very many. We walked on Lorient beach one day to check out Les Mouettes,we didn't see the beach close up on our last trip so we were surprised to find it a rocky beach, we did like Les Mouettes but probably would prefer a different beach to stay on. We had a brief look at Colombier from the plane and it didn't seem to have much sand. Gouverneur was the next best beach, it looked like something took a bite out of it but it is still beautiful - just more of an incline to the water. We didn't really see much sand at Marigot Bay, mostly rocky, we had considered staying on Marigot but we liked Mon Plaisir better. Found Shell Beach in Gustavia and liked it - nice busy little beach but parking is limited - lots of local kids the day we visited. Flamands looked the worst of all we saw - pretty messy and the whole area has lots of construction going on. Overall the beaches don't look as good as before Nov '94 but they were still pretty and uncrowded. It didn't matter as much to us since we had a pool at our villa. Bars/Restaurants: we ate out a lot and enjoyed all our meals - we didn't get to a couple we wanted to try because they were closed - Marigot Bay, Mayas, Escale, Newborn, etc. oh well, maybe next time! Le Select - without a doubt, our favorite bar with great burgers - we love to sit and enjoy the goings on. We met Marius Stakelborough our first day there - he spoke to us and asked if we were enjoying ourselves - he spoke to the other two tables around us - also Americans (one from Texas , one from Arkansas and we are from Oklahoma). What a nice man, so gracious and well spoken, we saw him again a couple of days later at Le Select and he remembered us. It was strange because we saw him one night in front of Eddy's going to a private party and then again when we ate dinner at Le Patio, he was with a large group having dinner. We found that we saw a lot of the same people over and over. Le Repaire - stopped for after dinner drinks our 1st night and sat in the back and watched the kitchen - they were busy and woring hard - it smelled great. Had breakfast one morning, omelettes and fresh orange juice - yum! We would like to try dinner here next time. La Saladerie - on the water at Gustavia, drove to Escale but it was closed so we walked down to La Saladerie and had salads, beer, and thin crust pizza - very good and reasonable priced, lots of mosquitoes at dusk but ask for "off" - it's avaiable. La Marine - on the water at Gustavia, went for dinner and it was good but not great, we probably wouldn't go back - just not impressed much Le Creole - stopped for drinks and lunch on one of the hottest days - had sandwiches while it rained, very good food and service. Le Rivage - went for dinner, my lobster bisque was not very good and the accras were overcooked but Joe's lobster and pasta was great and he had plenty of it! The best part of the meal was the complimentary homemade vanilla rum after dinner - it was delicious - we would go back just for it. Eddy's - in Gustavia, the interior is wonderful and very soothing, we had the best grilled Mahi Mahi ever!!! Absolutely wonderful and the accra were excellent also. Highly recommend this restaurant - we went twice it was so good. La Mandala - in Gustavia, went for drinks before dinner and watched the sunset - we loved this place and the view - great decor and music, wonderful rum punch and spicy marinated olives, we want to go back for dinner next time. La Langouste - the owner of the villa we stayed in owns this restaurant at Baie des Anges Hotel on Flamands - she told us it was the best lobster on the island and she was right!! I had a whole grilled snapper that was very tasty and Joe's lobster was terrific. It has a pretty setting by the pool and the waiter was very friendly - we were the only table that night too. This was one of our best meals along with Eddy's - highly recommend. Le Tom Beach - ate lunch on Sunday, it was excellent and we loved sitting by the beach, try to speak French - they acted a little put off by English - great beach restaurant though. Le Patio - had dinner, pizza was very good, very pretty decor and friendly service, although it was a little slow - it was the busiest of all the restaurants we saw. We had a fabulous time and were glad we went to St. Barths - I had to drag Joe kicking and screaming to the plane - guess I will have to plan a trip back next year! We had a great time in Anguilla and it feels like home to us now but going to St. Barths makes you feel like you have really been on holiday. We noticed that most of the locals we talked to encouraged us to visit in June or off season - everyone said it is a mad house during winter season. It really was less crowded then our last trip and we didn't see any large cruise ships all week, just a Windjammer and smaller.
Just returned from eleven wonderful days in Paradise. We had the best weather we have ever had and that is saying a lot since St. Croix weather is always great. The island looks good. It is green with splashes of blooming red flamboyant everywhere (at least I think it was Flamboyant - I can't seem to remember one plant from another -- but it was beautiful. The Banana Bay Club, later St. Croix Seaport at the Caravelle is now Wahoo Willies (honest). The food is pretty good and the setting is excellent. Suzanne gave it the highest praise by admitting its hamburgers were better than Cheesburgers in Paradise (very high praise from someone who insists on our first lunch on the island each visit be at Cheeseburgers on the first day we arrive). Scalliwags (formerly Oskars) is already out of business. Breezez (formerly the Blue Marlin) at Club St. Croix, does a wonderful job. Bombay Club had a fire and is closed for a while but will be back soon. The new Kings Alley looks great and there are some very nice shops there. Sadly, Dick (the owner of Commanche) died shortly before we arrived but the restaurant is open again being run by, I believe, his ex-wife. The same high quality was present the evening we had dinner there. Most of the staff seems to still be there. A wonderful mural now surrounds Government House as renovations are supposedly underway to revive this historical gem. Unfortunately rumors are that the money for the renovation has been spent on other things so it may take a while. What a shame. This building, parts of which were built in the 1700's could be a tremendous resource and wonderful tourist attraction. We did some great diving with Dive Experience. The wall at Salt River is not to be missed. Sam, Michelle, Rosey and the others do a great job. Next time we're planning to do the fish feed -- another experience not to be missed if you are a diver. One restaurant I forgot - we tried the new Chop House in Christiansted. A nice spot and the food wasn't bad but we were expecting more. At least they have beer on draft (as does Wahoo Willies if you like Bass or Newcastle Ale). The economy of the island still needs help although there were plenty of people around considering it is mid summer. A plug for Sugar Beach. Massive renovations are underway including a new roof, repainting of the entire building, a new pool deck, new landscaping, a newly furnished and decorated club house and lots more. Everything should be done very soon. Drop by to have a look if you get a chance. The tourist office has changed its location but I found it anyway and have gathered lots of literature if anyone is interested. There are a few new things which look pretty good. I'd be glad to send packages.
***Restaurants**** The following restaurants all offer great food for a price that, while high, is a much better value than comparable establishments in New York City, San Francisco, and other great U.S. "restaurant cities". Many, such as L'Hibiscus, also offer dishes you might not find on other island menus. Combine fresh island catches of the day with local spices, French flair and Asian/Nuevo Latino influences, and you've got yourself a memorable meal. Aperitifs after the meal (flavored rum, in many cases) were a nice surprise. We recommend the Sancerre wines from Henri Bourgeois (Chavignol, France). We hit L'Alabama (93 Grand Case; 590-87-81-66) and Mario's Bistro (Sandy Ground; 87-06-36) twice, plus Le Pressoir (GC; 0590-87-76-62), Bistrot Caraibes (81 GC; 0590-29-08-29), Le Chanticlair (Marina Port La Royale; 0590-87-94-60), Le Piccolo Cafe (Cul-de-Sac; no sign!; 87- 32-47), and L'Hibiscus (GC; 0590-29-17-91). All were outstanding, particularly the first two and the last one. Can you believe, no more Le Poisson D'Or? Also recommended but not visited this time: L'Auberge Gourmand (GC; 0590-87-73-37); Le Cotonnier (Cul de Sac; near Le Piccolo Cafe; 87-44-56); Tropicana (Marina Port La Royale; 590-87-79-07); Le Tastevin (86 GC; 590-87-55- 45); Le Cottage (97 GC; 29-03-30); Le Bistro Gourmand (Cupecoy; 5995- 77184); Rainbow (GC; $35 summer menu); Le Jardin Creole (Sandy Ground); La Rhumerie (Columbier). For lunch, you may want to try Harbor Lights in Philipsburg; L'Epicerie (follow the delicious quiche smell! 10 Rue Kennedy, Marina Port La Royale; 590-87-17-69), Restaurant du Soleil (GC; 87-92- 32); Papagayo (2-for-1 happy hour 5:30-6:30; look for the beautiful Aussie bartender Dawn--and, eat/drink in the buff if you want!) For Italian ices/gelato, try the place near the parking lot on Marina Port la Royale (Glaces Italianes?). For fresh croissants, I'd recommend Zee Best nearby--but be forewarned: they're on vacation from July 1 to Sept.1. Porto's in Grand Case is good also. ****Best Massage**** "Hands down" . . . it's Martha at Orient Beach (look for her gazebo behind Papagayo's--and sign up ****early****. Can't beat the price: $25-30 for a 1/2 hour; $45-50 for an hour--and you may never have a better massage). ****Best Cigars**** WARNING: The former "best" place, Le Cigare, is no longer under the same management. YOU want to go a few doors down, to La Casa del Habano, 71 Port La Royale (590-87-58-94; fax: 590-87-02-99), where you'll get the world-class selection and service from Jean-Pierre and Carole B. Tell them Andy & Eve sent you. ****Best Place to Buy That Tag-Heuer Watch**** See "Lucky" at Goldfinger Jewelry, Front Street #11, Philipsburg (011- 5995-24661). He's an AUTHORIZED dealer (one of only two on the island), will give you a great deal . . . and maybe even share a cold beverage with you, if you are serious about purchasing something. Check out the tanzanite items, especially--beautiful and distinctive. ****Worst Rental-Car Deal**** Ironically, it's CALLED "Best Deal." The rate isn't so bad--but once you sign the rental agreement certifying that you have a full tank of gas, don't be surprised when you soon notice the level below 3/4 full. Rectifying that can cost you up to $15, plus a lot of nasty gum-flapping from the Fagin-trained staff. My advice: don't sign anything until you are inside the car itself, and have eyeballed that fuel gauge. ****Best Place to Buy Hard-to-Find French Wines**** Le Gout du Vin, Rue de l'Anguille, Marigot; 590-87-25-03; fax 590-87- 40-07. As with La Casa del Habano, an awesome selection and truly knowledgeable and considerate service. ****Best Place to Buy T-Shirts**** Low (not lowest) prices, but decent to good quality--a hard combination to find, as you'll discover. Sona Gift Shop II, 30 Front Street (alley behind Palais Hindu; 5995-26259; fax 5995-25975). Find out what days the cruise ships are due in--and visit on the other days. ****Best Beach (especially if you hate to wear a bathing suit)**** Orient Beach, by far. If it weren't for the occasional swarms of "cruise-ship people" gawking, this might be paradise. Good restaurant/bar nearby, Grand Case a short drive away--why not just STAY at Orient Beach Club? Think of how much less packing you'll need to do! Also, ***check out*** the Butterfly Farm down the road. Very peaceful--go early in the morning with your camera; the tour guides are quite helpful and upbeat. ***But If You Have to Wear a Swimsuit, Ladies . . . **** Pick one up at C'est Fou! C'est Fun! Marina Port La Royale; 590-87- 87-15; 590-87-04-88. ***Or, If You Need to Look Better in Your Birthday Suit . . . **** Work out at The Gym Work Out Center at Royal Palm Beach Club. Marci Cooke, the manager there, is a professional bodybuilder, and will help keep you motivated. Phone: 43737; fax extension is 4027. Cost is about $8/day, or $30/week (closed Sunday). ****Other Information You Might Want to Know BEFORE You Go**** Some of the timeshares on the Dutch side apparently have a cockroach infestation problem. Bring traps, foams, etc. in a plastic baggie, just in case you find out, too late, that a few interesting souvenir "eggs" are headed back with you to your home in the States (or wherever). Many of the Dutch-side speedbumps are GONE! Yay! Yep--the weather patterns HAVE changed. Windier, and sad to say, more cloudy and even rainy (brief spells) days. Blame it on the Montserrat volcano eruption, after-effect of Hurricane Luis in 1995, or fate . . . but a little trip insurance might not be a bad idea (or, do the cheap way: schedule your timeshare tours + giveaways on the crummier days). The movie "Speed II" was partially filmed in Marigot. If you think it looks familiar . . . it does. The Food Center on the road to Philipsburg is more modern than ever. Stock up your refrigerator with Buckler non-alcoholic brew, some French rolls, and Gouda cheese--then let the natural heat of the sun melt the slices of Gouda into the rolls as you catch rays on Orient Beach. If you DO decide to buy a timeshare, ask for Patrick J. at Sapphire Beach Club in Cupecoy. He's a busy guy, but knows the island quite well and is always good for a laugh or a smile. There's more, but this should be enough for a 10- to 14-day stay. Please keep the trip-report tradition going: even if each person's taste is different, at least one or two good tips could be the thing to save a trip from mediocrity (or worse).
Just back after a week that flew by. We were at Royal Islander and found everything just as we left it in Dec. except that the beach was much bigger and the gardens were fuller and prettier. Our weather was near-perfect and not too humid until late in the week. There was only one brief shower the whole time we were there ! We also found the traffic to be much lighter than we expected, based on recent reports from others. Tourism was not near its capacity anywhere. Lack of crowds made dining a pleasure. We did dinners at La Rosa, Don Camillo's, La Residence, Brasserie DeLa Gare, Da Livio, Saratoga, and Mario's, in that order. I will go into more detail but could safely recommend all of those restaurants. We didn't do lunch anywhere to speak of. We did drop by to see Nina and Frank at Cliffside Bar where I enjoyed the best Pina Colada. My shopping was kept to a minimum...and, yes, I did see Heeru but, did little damage there!! On a general note, the island is now attracting many visitors from South America due to heavy advertising in that part of the world. We heard lots of Spanish spoken everywhere we went. Hopefully, the island will profit from this new influx of tourists. Cruise ships were hardly evident. There was one major ship on Monday, a few on Tue., not sure about Wed. On Thurs. and Fri. there were none. This was a big concern for merchants in P'burg. We also learned that St. Kitt's is building a major port to attract the larger ships. This will probably draw some of the traffic away from SXM as well. For those planning to visit the French Side, the dollar is gaining strength every day against the franc. We charged in francs on credit cards wherever possible. Some prices seemed a little higher as a result. Our car rental was $148.00 for the week. That seemed to be the going rate no matter which company we checked. We rented from the only company that insisted we use the "Club" every time we left the vehicle. We never saw another one anywhere so it made finding our white car very easy. I'll talk about the food in my next report. Our first meal was at La Rosa 2 in Maho. My Veal Regine was as good as ever and Mike's grouper was excellent. We were surprised to see the tables filled as the place had just re-opened the night before after being closed for vacation. This is always a consistent place to dine and we look forward to it at least once every visit to the island. Plan to spend about $70.00 per couple including a drink and tip w/o appetizers or desserts. Next dinner at Don Camillo's in Marigot was equally as good. "M" had a pasta w/ shrimp and I had sauteed veal. Our friends enjoyed similar dishes and we did have appetizers and desserts. Price about $90.00 per couple. We (4 people) went to La Residence in Marigot for our next adventure. The setting is the romantic rooftop of the hotel called La Residence. The complementary Kir Royales were a good sign that the food would be up to our expectations and it was. It pays to go for the $28.00 per person full- course dinner. It included a choice of appetizers, main courses, and excellent desserts. The four of us were off to Brasserie De La Gare on the harbor in Marigot for a light meal the next night. We enjoyed great pizzas, pastas, and salade Nicoise. It was thoroughly enjoyable. It's always fun to go there and dine directly on the waterfront. Here we go again, the hungry four, off to Da Livio in Phillipsburg where three of us loved our giant veal chops and the rebel loved his fish. Daniel is a gracious host and treated us like family. Cost, about $100.00 per couple, nothing spared from appetizer to dessert. On Thursday, "M" and I went to Saratoga in Simpson's Bay; another must on our list of regular haunts. I had a great chicken dish, something I would not normally order but it sounded so good on the menu. I was not disappointed ! "M" had pasta with grilled shrimp which was offered as an appetizer but no problem getting a dinner- sized portion upon request. He loved it. We were very impressed with the house wine list consisting of 183 wines by the bottle, numerous excellent wines by the glass, and a volume of specialty cordials and other drink concoctions that were exotic in name (and probably very intoxicating to taste). We chatted with the owner, John, and promised that we would mention his passion for wine-collecting in our report. Our last meal was at Mario's. It was the first night that they were open after being closed the whole month of June for vacation. It was worth the wait (until our last day). What a great way to end the vacation; sitting on the water overlooking 4th of July fireworks enjoying some of the best food on the island. Martine greeted us warmly and checked with us frequently about the meal, etc. The whole staff was attentive but not obtrusive and each course was delicious. Duck is a specialty and as good as ever. The four of us traded "tastes" so everyone shared the opinion that this was an excellent meal. Desserts are not to be missed, even to share one is a treat. As you can see, we chose our six dining spots with great care. We're on the island enough and can always go back to a favorite or cross it off the list for the next time. All of these restaurants are "keepers" in our opinion. Bon Appetite.
What's New? The island is GREEN! Perhaps more so than I've ever seen it on any previous trip. Their is a fair amount of meteorological evidence that the recent eruptions on Montserrat are resulting in more rain condensing on the dust particles. On one recent eruption early last week, SXM got a little dust coating that was visible on your car as a fine white residue. Club Orient - construction of new chalets continues. L'Orentique is being expanded along with a new deck being added to Papagayos. Martha wanted me to tell everyone "Hi" and that Club O will be soon opening a new massage area that will have two people giving massages. This should accommodate the need much better than in the past where you had to sign up several weeks in advance. Millenium - The former Caravansari was bought by a West Indies group and has just opened as a new resort called Millennium. When completed it will have 118 Deluxe Suites, 1 bedroom suites and Deluxe Bungalows. It will feature a restaurant with a 360 degree view, 3 swimming pools, 3 whirlpools, 2 tennis courts, a casino and theater. Mullet Bay - The owners of apartments at the resort filed a lawsuit against SUN Resorts that owns Mullet Bay resort. The judge in the New York Court agreed with the apartment owners and ordered that all of the insurance monies received by Sun Resorts, totaling US$ 39 million (of which US $21 million had been spent without rebuilding) be put into Escrow. On April 28th, 1997, Sun Resort filed for protection under the bankruptcy laws of the Netherlands Antilles. The case is scheduled to be heard 8/25/97. Stay tuned. La Belle Creole - Still closed. The sticking point still remains the rehiring of the former employees let go after hurricane Luis. In recent negotiations, the owners offered to rehire 50 former employees from the total of 166. The owners would like to re-open in December. Stay tuned. One less traffic jam - The heavy traffic jam near the Food Center in Phillipsburg seems to have been eliminated with a new traffic circle replacing the traffic light. This is a welcome addition. Less litter - The program to make SXM the cleanest island in the Caribbean is having a positive effect. I definitely saw less litter along the roads and the government had workers trimming the brush on the side of the road with weed whackers (God, you just gotta love the way they do things!). More work is needed however on the remaining litter and I still believe more waste receptacles are badly needed. Crime - Unfortunately, while I was down there, a security guard was murdered trying to apprehend a thief. The unfortunate man was Haitian and because the last several muder victims were also Haitian, some people are wondering if this group is being targeted. One of the things that I love about SXM is the fact that so many races, ethnic groups and religions mingle together, normally so well. I pray that this is merely a coincidence. I'll now switch to a day by day account of our trip 'cause that's the way my notes read... Sunday, 8/10 Flight down from Toronto on Canada 3000 was very uneventful. Left on time and got their 5 minutes ahead of schedule. For a charter flight, Canada 3000 is consistently punctual and has a very reasonable rate usually about 2/3 of American. Need I say more? Took about 25 minutes to get through immigration, picked up our luggage and met Michael from Unity Car Rental. Our first red rental car! The car was in great shape and within 5 minutes, we were on our way. This was the 3rd time, I have rented from Unity and the service and cars have always been top notch. Drove over to Jeff's condo and said "Hi" to Warren and Delores. They send their love to their prodigy friends. As usual, we really enjoyed Jeff's place and would like to publicly thank Jeff for letting us rent it on 4 day's notice. I should also note that the entire vacation went off without a single problem which is pretty amazing since we put it together with slightly less than 4 days preparation before we left. I suppose since our house burned down and we went through the eye of a hurricane during last year's trips, we were over due <g>! For our first night out, we went to La Brasserie De La Gare. Edith had pizza (fair), Michelle had Pasta (good) and I had the red snapper filet (good). For dessert we had the Creme Carmel which was very good. The bill was a very reasonable $45. The Marina is in the process of having a boardwalk put in over the cement to give it "class". Our French waiter did grimace when I told him it reminded me of Myrtle Beach. I know it was mean but after all he WAS French <g>! Driving around the island that first day, I noticed many locals out near Orient Beach picking guavaberries. I also noticed that the roof is almost on the new Food World grocery store near Philipsburg. They seemed to be making uncharacteristically good progress on its construction during our week's stay. This is just the sort of thing that could ruin the St. Martin workers reputation <g>! Monday 8/11: We drove over to the Coconut Grove beach which is next to Orient. This is my daughter's favorite beach for snorkeling. The water is very shallow, calm and about 90 degrees this time of year. It is a very popular beach for the locals as well. I always get a kick out of watching the local families having a fun day at the beach. A young couple were there who were flying a kite with a wing span of about 8 feet. I was astounded to watch them have this kite put both of them through the water at about 20 miles per hour. This really looked like fun and I had never seen it done before. Driving back to the Dutch side my daughter and I listened in vain for the one song they invariably seem to play over and over on the radio stations down there. No luck this trip. We were amused to hear them play "Push your bottom in, push your bottom out" several times during the week. My daughter and I spent several Island drives discussing the social meaning of this song. Edie's only contribution was rolling her eyes and doing her Marge Simpson imitation! Oh well... That night we ate at Cheri's. The Cheddar fries, chicken salad and cheeseburger were typical Cheri's cuisine but the meal was ruined by many flies that descended on the patrons that night. I've never had this problem on any previous trip. By the way, I am happy to report that the clock in the tower across the street is still faithfully staying at 5:35 and is correct twice a day. This record consistently beats the political parties on the island <g>! That night we went to the casinos which proved to be a real hit with my daughter who is now over 18. By using the match play coupons, we would win enough to play the slots for several hours and still break even. My daughter's favorite sound soon became...Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching..... Tuesday, 8/12 : We went to Carl & Son's bakery for breakfast. The baked goods here are consistently good and reasonably priced. It is located on a side road in the Cole Bay area. From here I drove Edie and Michelle over to the St. Martin Zoo. It has been rebuilt since Hurricane Luis and now features a bat cave. Did you know that SXM has 5 different varieties of bats? Just one of the interesting things they learned at the zoo. While they were at the zoo, I paid a visit to Modern Business Machines in Philipsburg. They are partnered with IBM (yes IBM now has a Caribbean branch). I talked to the owner about computer consulting opportunities on the island and where the resorts stand on solving the Year 2000 computer problem. Needless to say, this visit made Edie nervous since she knows how much I want to move down there. Probably 5 - 10 years away...sigh.....We spent the remainder of the day shopping in Philipsburg and catching some beach time at Simpson Beach. For an interesting experience, try this: Fall asleep on the beach about 50 yards from the runway and have the Air France 747 take off. Edie does not laugh at my jokes but she does laugh at me when I'm not trying to be funny....grrrrrrr That night we went back into Philipsburg at ate at Ric's Place on Front Street. We at the nachos, cheeseburger and a chicken salad. The food is typical American, meaning large proportions and reasonably priced. Bill came to about $30. We then walked over to the theater off of Front Street and caught a movie. Everytime my daughter comes down to the island, we go to at least one movie. She likes the cultural experience of Reggae music before the movie begins, cigarette commercials and people drinking beer in the theater. Wednesday, 8/13 : For those of you who have read previous trip reports of mine, you know what's coming. Yes be still my heart, for today I had breakfast at La Croissanterie. God may have created the world but the French created the croissant and I will forever be in debt to them for that most wonderous of creations. Even now my hand trembles at the thought of the (still warm from the oven) chocolate croissant being hand delivered by the owner who smiles at my appreciation for his work of art. Vive La France! I politely inquire of the owner if he is planning a bed and breakfast arrangement but alas it is not to be... From there we drive to Orient Beach, where Edie and Michelle have scheduled a massage at the hands of Martha at Club Orient. I have made the ultimate sacrifice and forgone my normal massage so that Michelle could have her first professional massage. I was pleased she enjoyed it very much. For dinner that evening, we went to Tutta Pasta and had a very good meal of Spaghetti and Meatballs, Lasagna and Pasta Mediterranean for $44. A complimentary bottle of wine was offered by our host which was very much appreciated. That night my daughter and I played slots at the various casinos using Casino (match play) money for several hours. It proved to be a fun, inexpensive amusement on most nights during the trip. I only hope I haven't created a monster <g> Thursday, 8/14 : For breakfast we visited our friend Claire at Hiway D'Lite next to Lynnettes near the end of the runway. I just can't stay away from Claire's Johnny Cakes which are baked unlike most other Johnny Cakes which are deep fried. Delicious! Hiway D'lite has many baked good now also. As we were leaving, Claire gave us a (still warm!) fresh out of the oven loaf of French bread. Claire epitomizes the "genteel" old fashioned St. Martin friendliness and is always such a pleasure to chat with. Afterwards we ate fresh tree ripened mangos on our balcony and enjoyed the cool SXM morning breezes. All in all, it beat the best day at work by a good country mile! We spent the afternoon on the far beach of Cupecoy. I was actually quite surprised that the beach was quite large this time of year. I should also mention that it rained quite hard on 4 occasions during this trip, but the "friendly island" accommodated us by only raining at night. The locals tell me that most heavy rain storms do occur in the evening which jives with my personal experience also. I'd be curious to know if this is connected to the temperature dropping. Perhaps one of our meteorologists could help us out here with an explanation. That evening we all went to the Konga Cafe in Cul De Sac for the best meal of the trip. Edie had an Hawaiian Sandwich, Michelle had a Veggie Pita with Cuban Black Bean Soup and I had the Currie Chicken Salad. All of the food was simply excellent and the price was $25 for the 3 of us. Incredible! I am sorry to report that Vince (the owner) is thinking of going back to Aruba. This would be a severe loss to reasonably price fine SXM cuisine.
After much research our family of three decided on a Friday-to- Friday, 4-11 July 1997 stay at Sandal's Beaches all-inclusive resort, formerly Royal Bay. Royal Bay was built in 1995; was acquired by Sandal's in late 1996, and converted to one of two Sandals properties allowing families in April 1997. My wife and I are 40 and we have an 11 year old daughter. Our criteria included: beautiful, easily accessible, pristine, beaches suitable for long walks; excellent nearby snorkeling; water activities; upscale but not ostentatious facilities/ accommodations; suitable activities for a pre-teen; good food; friendly staff; and reasonable travel requirements from the US east coast. We did not originally require the resort to be all- inclusive, but found that a plus--since we were less apt to "hold back" in partaking of activities/meals. Overall, I give the Beaches Resort an Excellent rating and believe it will become an even better destination once two more restaurants currently under construction (seafood and Japanese) and a block of new rooms on the western side of the property are opened in September 1997. Our week started with a larger guest contingent because of the 4th of July holiday; but thinned out on 6 July when the New York Beaches shuttle crowd left. In both cases, facility was very comfortable. Age group included some honeymooners, and some extended families (kids, moms/dads/grandparents); most in the 30-45 age group with some kids. Comments for improvement can be classified as quibbling, the pluses far outweighed the negatives. We would definitely go back; maybe after we have stayed at other resorts, such as Cap Juluca in Anguilla. Travel: Flew via Philadelphia's very early morning American flight to Miami to make the 1:20PM Boeing 727 connection to Provo. Unfortunately, the 3 hour lay-over in Miami is the only option. Arriving at 3PM, Provo's airport was minuscule and tattered, but not unexpected in the Caribbean--roll with the punches. Beaches contracts with a bus to get you to the property; 15 minute ride over dusty roads. Reception was pleasant and since we stayed in a Jr. Suite, special handling via the "Suite Concierge" hostess made things nice. We were in our room and on the beach by 4:30PM. Provo is one of the few places we researched which had jet service to the island. Check- out time was Noon, easily extendable to 1PM; shuttle to airport left at 2PM; $15/adult exit tax at airport (under 12 free) payable at ticket counter. Dress cool--little A/C at airport. Weather: About 90F during the day and ~75F each evening. Ever-present trade winds kept things more comfortable than summers in Philadelphia. Ocean water and pools at ~85F. Because of the breeze, it was never overly humid; I do not think I actually used a towel to dry off once at the beach or pools. Sunny every day--sometimes early morning overcast skies were always blue by 10AM, due to the wind. It became really windy only one afternoon--requiring the watersports shack to beach the sailboats. Otherwise OK. We brought insect repellent but never used it. Clothing: Really only need multiple bathing suits and suitable beach cover-ups during the day. The day restaurants are pretty liberal, but we felt more appropriate with cover-ups. Long pants with polo shirts are appropriate for the 2 nights at Sapodilla's; women wear sun dresses. Otherwise, not much need for dressy clothes. Evenings at the other two restaurants; nice shorts/sun dresses. We brought too much clothes, thinking we would have to "dress" for lunch. Lunch at Arizona grill can be in a bathing suit. One small item--you are required to sign up for beach towels when you arrive and can turn them in anytime for dry/clean ones. There is a $15 charge if you do not turn in the same number of towels at weeks end. Not a problem. Bring flip-flops to the pool deck; mid-day sun makes walking on deck hot! Bring lots of sunscreen and a hat--you will need it. Accommodations: Our Junior Suite (#325) was nice enough, large (~800 sq. ft.), if a little sterile--only 9 Junior Suites exist on property out of 220+ rooms. All main building rooms face bay. Our suite was located on the eastern edge of the property on the 3rd floor of the Main Building. Tile floors--good for sand clean-up; pull-out sofa for our 11-year old daughter and 1 king sized bed. No privacy, if that is important to you. Adequate bathroom. Changed in-room towels twice daily. In-room mini-bar stocked as part of Suite Concierge package; 2 cloth robes; daily 10-page summary of NY Times news. Satellite TV-- not used much. In-room safe. Good A/C. Since we left our room at 8AM and did not return until 6PM and then again at 10PM, we found that the room itself was not as important as we had originally thought. The 1BR villas are all closer to the pools; we understand they are nice but not luxurious. Resort itself: Very nicely landscaped--no small feat on this arid, dusty island. The main attraction, is the absolutely spectacular beach on Grace Bay. About 12 miles + of talcum-powder fine sand, very warm, very calm, turquoise-colored water. The shore itself is a national park. Beaches is fairly isolated from the other major resorts to the east (Grace Bay, Club Med); never did we see more than about 20 people on the entire beach. Snorkeling near the White House is a slow 10 minute walk from Beaches. Two major pools with swim up bars plus a toddler wading pool and small playground (away from the main pools). We preferred the newer of the two pools, integrated with the Arizona grill restaurant, right next to beach. It was prettier, deeper, had a whirlpool (hot!), and overhead waterfalls made for great lazing about. All room buildings are a pleasant soft-pink and white stucco, with the Arizona restaurant a southwestern tan. The two new restaurants under construction look like they will be nice; in particular, the seafood restaurant is right on the beach with a porch- front view of the bay. Lot's of daily maintenance on grounds. By the way, I happened to look into the reception area at the Club Med during our drive to reach a J&B tour and was struck by how tired Club Med looked. Dining: we realized with an all-inclusive that there are trades to be made. Three restaurants; the least formal (Arizona) was the one integrated with the newer pool. It tended to cater to blander American tastes during the day--buffet hamburgers/grilled cheese/hot dogs/salads/pizza/grilled fish, chicken. At night it converted to a served-meal Mexican restaurant that was not bad. The bay view from the restaurant is very nice. Only complaint was the need to clear tables quickly. The second restaurant (Reflections) was nicer, located in the main building; good breakfast and lunch buffets with plenty of variety. Omelettes nice. During the evening it was served- only meals with good quality. The premier restaurant, just around the corner from Reflections, is Sapodilla's (after a native tree); small, pretty, and needs reservations at least a day in advance. Closed on Sunday, no kids under 16; excellent presentation and on par with good US restaurants. We prefer seafood and our entrees were excellent. We understand that you are limited to 2 nights at Sapodilla's, but with everything else to do, did not find that too restrictive. Our daughter joined in with the Kid's club from 7-9PM, so child care was no problem. Overall, one will not go hungry or thirsty; from 7:30AM onward. Availability of drinks/libations was plentiful everywhere--we are not heavy drinkers but found the ability to order better brands easy (e.g. Myers rum, cognac). One small recommendation--they could provide cold bottled water near the pools (we had in our in-room mini- bar only). On two nights there were international and BBQ buffets near the original pool; nicer than we had expected. Activities: we wanted low key, high quality, and were not disappointed. Water sports were great: hobie cats, peddle boats, sailfish, water tricycles, snorkeling and available diving. We did not dive, but understood from others it was plentiful and great. The snorkeling exceeded our expectations--nearby White House reef (30 feet offshore!) was as if we had jumped into an aquarium: beautiful coral, fans, parrot fish, queen angelfish, sea turtles, a small barracuda (~18"), etc. Bring some disposable underwater cameras! Be sure on Tuesday at 9AM to sign up for Wednesday afternoon's free 3- hour sail cruise (only takes 40 people)--a real highlight, including snorkeling near a different reef to the northeast. We took a 3 hour J&B Beach cruise one morning for $42/adult, $23/child--iguana island, snorkeling, island tour, shelling--well worth it. Again, snorkeling was fantastic. What struck us about the week was the quiet peacefulness--so much so that the 4PM American Airlines flight over the bay draws attention. No water skis at Beaches, no jet skis, only the occasional comings and goings of the dive boat. One day on the hobie cat it got windy enough to tip the boat--but did not prevent full enjoyment of the beach. Evening entertainment consisted of some local bands that were surprisingly good, but no one seemed to join in much--probable too tired from the day! We never made it to the 10:30PM+ disco in Arizona's. Some entertainment got kids involved-- limbo, etc. Kids club activities were geared to the 10 and below set, but my daughter joined in for an evening VCR movie as a "helper." My impressions of the kids club was well-supervised, lots of swimming, etc. They could use a program for 11+ year olds--not a problem with us since our family had the same interests. No spa that we could see. Massages available for $75/hr. or $40/hr. in your room. Service is pleasant, if a little slow--remember you are on vacation and everything will be fine. Staff is friendly, warm, and a little shy--a smile and conversation does wonders. Summary: Just what we were looking for--spectacular beach; excellent nearby snorkeling; easy water sports; calm, protected waters; hot but not oppressive; low- key, peaceful, quiet. Friendly atmosphere; private if you wanted it. An excellent resort which will only get better as Sandals continues to improve on an already very nice resort.
The Turks and Caicos Islands in the Providenciales Colony of Greta Britain in the Caribbean are 575 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, directly east of Inagua, at the south tip of the Bahamas chain just a bit north of Hispaniola. If that don't work for you, let's just say they're in between Collins Avenue and Caracas. The two Turks and Caicos groups of islands are separated by Turks Island Passage, which is 22 miles long and 7,000 feet deep. If your catamaran goes down in the middle you will have trouble recovering it. But don't fret -- the Titanic is in 13,000 feet water, and they got to that. Also, for comparison, Runway 13-31 at JFK airport in New York is 14,537 feet in length, and the average human intestinal tract is something like seven miles long I believe. Only eight of the 40 islands are inhabited, officially. I think that sex freak island in that Dan Akroyd/Rosie O'Donnell movie was probably somewhere around there too. And who knows who else is living here and there. Spectre headquarters would likely be found in a place like Turks and Caicos. The 'belongers', or residents, live mostly on Turk and Salt Cay. Most others live on the larger islands to the west, like South, Middle and North Caicos, and Providenciales, or 'Provo', for short. Pine Cay and Parrot Cay are resort islands. People there live to be 1797. East Caicos Island is a forbidding place full of mosquitoes and wild horses. It was on East Caicos that Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones found inspiration for the hit song, "Wild Horses". His private jet had ditched in the water off the leeward shore of East Caicos, and while waiting for rescue he saw all the wild horses runing around. They used to mine bat shit on East Caicos. There are caves full of it. They call it 'guano'. West Caicos is nothing but crabs and cactus and gay flamingos. The Providenciales are a friendly place, except on Provo sometimes, because of how people on vacation can get sickening if you know what I mean. But mostly the belongers are nice, unless you drag a key across the paint finish of their car or something. It's like that everywhere, if you think about it. The islands have a history. Taino Indians and stuff. Nobody really cares about it though. Today, it's all about banking and scuba diving and drunken menage-a-trois sex in gently swaying jumbo beach hammocks. There is also a government and an economy, plus a flora and a fauna and sports and festivals and stuff. How long were you figurin' on stayin'? Grand Turk is the second largest population center and the seat of the government. The big place is Cockburn Town, because that's what can happen to an unmindful feller sleeping nude in the beach. Everything in town of any significance is either on Duke or Front Street, except the donkey sanctuary. The island's airport is nearby. You can catch a little plane to or from Provo, where the colony's big airport is. There's no bus service on Grand Turk. If you get a guide book you'll see there are hotels and whatnot, and places to eat. Salt Cay is seven miles south of Grand Turk. TCA flies there. It takes five minutes aboard a little plane. More donkeys here too. They had to put up a fence around the airport to keep 'em out of the way. Couple of hotels. Real intimate-like, basically. South Caicos and Middle Caicos are fishing and diving meccas. Cockburn Harbor is the rundown center of things on South Caicos. It was the basis for the Jerry Garcia song, "Wharf Rat", according to rumor. Middle Caicos has no town to speak of, but there's an airstrip and some inns. And that's it for the Turks and Caicos, excpetin' all the stuff on Provo and Parrot Cay, Dellis Cay, Pine Cay, Little Water Cay, and French Cay. And, oh yeah -- West Caicos. The official currency is the almighty US dollar. Clothing is informal. The big hospital is on Provo. Laundry is done on Wednesdays. Helmets are not mandatory. If you bring her, your curvacious girlfriend will get a delicious glowing tan and you won't be able to stop layin' yer paws all over her. Visit the Turks and Caicos today!
Just returned from the best vacation I can remember! 21 days at the Turquoise Reef, which I liked very much, and didn't want to come home! Went to the White House beach three times while I was there, and loved the reef, and spent hours snorkeling there and even took some video of the reef with my video camera in a water casing. Took a tour of the house and my daughter fell in love with it. We are already planning to rent their terrace unit, which is under the main house, right by the pool, next year, around June or July, for 3 to 4 weeks. I loved everything about T and C and can't wait to go back. I spent hours every day in the ocean, the weather was perfect almost every day, and almost everyone at the hotel and everywhere else was extremely helpful. I liked the Turquoise Reef very much, but would prefer the White House because of the reef and the quiet also. Both beaches, however, were wonderful. I have been to several islands in the past 10 years, but have never found any better, including St. Thomas, which up until this year has always been my favorite, because I have been able to enjoy the ocean more, since I'm disabled and can do only minimal walking, and St. Thomas is difficult in that respect. (However, the views from St. Thomas' mountain roads can't be found in T and C and are still unmatched) But I have come back from this vacation feeling stronger and better than ever, and that's what's most important for me. During every other year I had to spend a lot of time in the room because I was tired, and could only go in the ocean for 1 to 1 1/2 hours a day, and had a hard time getting in and out of the ocean. I don't know what is so different about this island, however, because right from the first I felt better and stronger, and except for one day when I slipped in the room and hurt my arm and back, and spent most of the day in bed, I spent every other day out, rented a car for 4 days, spent 2 to 3 hours a day in the ocean, and had very little trouble getting in and out of the ocean. Whatever it was, I have every intention of going back many times. We also tried several of the restaurants around the island, and enjoyed them all. My daughter specially liked the Gecko, next to the Ocean Club, and the Italian restaurant at our hotel. I liked them all, but preferred the Caicos Cafe, across from our hotel, and we ate there several times. I loved their lobster and also their Mahi Mahi, although I would have liked it a little less spicy. That was the only thing we had a little problem with. The food was too spicy, even for my daughter, who likes spicy food. Also, some of the roads are not in great shape, and some actually impassable without a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a lot of nerve!! Well, can't ask for everything! Another thing we particularly enjoyed was the night time sky. I had never seen so many stars in my life and we spent part of every night there enjoying the view. One day, when I was taking video of a beautiful sunset, I even got the chance to video tape a falling star with the most beautiful orange tail I'd ever seen!! It lasted all the way down until it disappeared into the ocean! I also got up in time to video tape a sunrise one morning (we are usually very late sleepers, and never even make it to breakfast, as we stay up late at night) and saw the most beautiful sky and cloud shapes and colors! My daughter is already planning next year's stay at the White House and planning for her cousins and friend to stay a week at a time with us (I don't know if that's going to be as much of a vacation for me, though, cooking for all those teenagers, but I won't have to worry about her getting bored just hanging around with me) Well, it's a long, long way until next year, and I'm going to be counting the days. The only thing is, if you are looking for night life, this is not the place for you, but if you are looking for the best ocean and reefs, you will enjoy it very much.
Just back from 8 days in Provo. Stayed at the Ocean Club, our usual spot. Very enjoyable, our 8 year old never got out of the water except to go from one pool to the other pool to the ocean. We went to Grand Turk one day to sight-see; booked on SkyKing but were actually flown on TCI (the islands are always a surprise) and back about 1-1/2 hours late on SkyKing. But we met two guys from England while waiting, ended up going to their villa for a lemonade and having a great time. Grand Turk is a surprise, after Provo, it is more the Caribbean style we are used to. A true town, and traditional architecture. Sure seems like it is going downhill though. Very little activity there. We dove once with Dive Provo, just out to Grace Bay reef (cathedral). Nice enough dive, not the best. The dive master hardly paid us any attention. Never turned around or checked on us. We are used to a bit more attention than that. As casual divers, we like to know someone is keeping an eye on us. JoJo came while we were diving, but I missed him, till we got up and he played with the boat for quite a while. Fun! (JoJo is a resident dolphin who likes to visit people swimming and diving). Had dinner mostly at Gecko Grille, which has improved since we were there in January. Great chicken if you get tired of fish! Had one dinner at Coco Bistro, nice meal, but lots of bugs. This is set in a coconut grove, inland, and not as breezy as Gecko. We had one incident that was unpleasant; hired a babysitter one day for the young'un, who turned out to dislike the sun and the beach, and spent all day in the room with him. I also was mysteriously missing a new lipstick, nightgown and sandals. Disappointing, as most people on the island are more than pleasant and enjoyable.
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