Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 98
October 1, 1999

Last Update 1 October 1999

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(Ed. Note: Elba also contributed reports from Isla Margarita and Puerto Plata in this edition.)

Although  a  Caribbean  island with semi autonomy, Puerto Rico is for 
all  practical  purposes the US. It is also primarily a manufacturing 
state.  Only  recently has Puerto Rico focused on tourism. Unions and 
sindicates  have kept tourism and services on the island at a premium 
rate.  For  this  reason  and  the  fact that minimum wages are at US 
levels,  the  island is a lot more expensive than any other Caribbean 
country;  and has less to offer. We visited my in-laws this Summer in 
PR.  It  was cheaper for my wife and me to fly to an all-inclusive in 
the  Dominican  Republic  for  a  week-end than staying at one of the 
Hyatt  or  Westin  resorts! Puerto Rico's resort are very upscale and 
for  the  upscale tourist with a good chunk of money. The best way to 
visit is with a package deal which includes airfare.

Only  recently  has  the  tourism board re-done the old part of town, 
Old  San  Juan  as  well  as  the  waterfront.  Therefore  you  still 
encounter  a  lot  of  the local problems such as beggars, dirt and a 
few  unsafe  streets  and  run  down buildings. The traditional areas 
where  the  main  hotels  are (Condado and Isla Verde) resemble Miami 
Beach  with  high rises and shops and chain food restaurants. In fact 
quite  a  few more food and hotel franchises have recently arrived on 
the island .

The  rest  of  San  Juan  is  anything but tourist oriented. Like any 
large   city  it  has  an  important  financial  center,  residential 
neighborhoods  which are fenced off, malls like any other US mall and 
a  lot  of  public  housing  and  of  course  the  worst traffic jams 
possible.  I  find  Miami  safer  to drive in as well as more tourist 

The  rest  of  the island is another country, small and winding roads 
with  little or no signage. No set destinations or places to actually 
stop  and  rest  and  eat,  except more malls and Kmarts and Walmarts 
spread  all  over  the  100x35  mile  island. The paradores or coffee 
plantation  inns  are  nice and romantic but with little to do unless 
you  are a honeymooner... Not cheap either; they run above 80 dollars 
a night plus food.

I  would catalogue it as a learning vacation like going to NY city or 
San Francisco more than a relaxing one like Bahamas or Jamaica.


Trip 2/99

This  was  our first trip to St. Martin and we loved it. We chose St. 
Martin  because  we  had  frequent flyer miles from AA. Our flight in 
was  pleasant  and  on  time!! We arrived at 9PM and were met by Glen 
our  bus  driver.  He  was a bit grumpy at first but after he dropped 
off  his  other fare (REALLY GRUMPY) he loosened up a bit and kept us 
amused  with  island gossip. We checked into the Hotel Beach Plaza in 
Marigot  and were very pleasantly surprised! We were supposed to have 
a  marina  view  room  but  instead were given a Caribbean front room 
(#276)  Our  room  was  nicely  decorated  and  was  spotlessly clean 
especially  the  white  tile  bathroom! By the time we got settled it 
was  11PM  and  we  were starving and we wouldn't get our rental till 
the  next day. We asked at the front desk and they directed us to the 
Marigot  Marina  and luckily the Brasserie De La Gare was still open. 
The  food  was  so  so  Grilled  Lobster  a  bit dry, tomatoes in the 
tomatoes  & mozzarella tasted like the tomatoes we get at home in the 
middle  of  winter.  Bill's  Caesar salad was good , but the ambiance 
made  every  thing  great it was really what we needed after a day of 

Day  2-  Got  up  fairly  early  8AM and went to the breakfast buffet 
downstairs.(included  with room $)Pretty good actually, GREAT COFFEE, 
fresh  fruit,  eggs(soft  boil  your own) or creamy eggs(a disgusting 
version  of scrambled eggs that should be called runny eggs)pastries, 
croissants,  meats,  cereals,  great jams and fresh juices. It's open 
air  overlooking  the  pool  and Marigot harbor. A really nice way to 
start  your  day.  After  breakfast we picked up our Hertz rental car 
and  decided  to  upgrade  to a Jeep Wrangler ( a bit of a hassle but 
well  worth  the  hassle  and  expense) Our jeep was red and only had 
about  400  miles  on it. We took off the doors , rolled up the sides 
and  took  off  on  our  adventure!  We  decided to check out all the 
beaches  and  then  pick  our  favorites. First stop was Orient Beach 
where  i  bought  a  thong and pareo, went topless and got right into 
vacation  mode.  We  also  checked  out  Anse  Marcel (ok but not our 
style)  and  friars  beach  (more  us, really laid back and beautiful 
calm  cove).  Hit  Match (thanks to all who recommended it) picked up 
some  supplies  and  grabbed  a  quick burger and fries at our hotels 
beach/pool  bar.  For  dinner we walked to the Marigot Waterfront and 
tries  Bar  de La Mer , GREAT Grilled Snapper for Bill and huge steak 
for  me.  Everything  is  really fresh and grilled right there on the 
sidewalk. Service was ok, they are very busy.

Day  3-  Still  touring  the  island. Stopped in Phillipsburg (had to 
check  out  jewelry, right?) picked up some stuff for the kids in the 
open  air  market.  Stopped  at  Dawn  Beach(we  loved  it) Guana Bay 
deserted  and  the  beach was dirty) P.S. the road from Guana to dawn 
is  VERY steep! Have a drink after you get to Dawn Beach. I had lunch 
at  Scavengers  ( beach bar run by American ex-patriots) Grilled Mahi 
w/  potato  salad  (GOOD)  then  hit  Orient Beach again. Bill ate at 
Pedros  (excellent) Dinner at Don Camillo ( I was a bit disappointed, 
food was ok and service was really sloooow)

Day  4-Checked out Baie Rouge, Baie Longue, and Plum Bay.(security at 
each  one  )Best  adventure  of the day was Cupecoy Beach.Ok, We pull 
into  the  area  where  you  park,  there is no security and trash is 
everywhere,  there is a big cement wall with barb wire on the top and 
no  one  else  in  sight  except a guy digging in a car trunk ( I was 
convinced  he was robbing it) Then this same guy sees us and comes up 
and  says  he will show us where the beach is. My first impression is 
to  say  no but my husband says lets go look. We follow him down this 
narrow  path to the 1 st beach, he says the beach used to be here but 
not  anymore  so  follow him to the next beach. We keep following him 
and  the  next  time  I  look back there is this big woman carrying 2 
shopping  bags following us. At this point I'm convinced we are going 
to  be  mugged  or  that  someone is ripping off the jeep. We finally 
come  to  another  beach  and  this  one is all naked men and truly a 
breathtaking  beach and cove. Then he tells you to keep following him 
that  there  is  another  beach. And there really is and it is also a 
beautiful  cove  filled  with  naked  men  AND  women.  OK so now the 
problem  is  that  we left all our beach stuff in the jeep because we 
were  just checking it out. He tells us not to worry because there is 
a  closer  place to park beside the sapphire Beach club? and he would 
meet  us there. Well anyway it turns out that it really is his job to 
show  you  where  the  beach  is and rent you chairs and the woman is 
Norma,  she  cooks you lunch . Cupecoy became our favorite beach. the 
water  and  beach  were beautiful and the people were friendly and it 
wasn't  as  commercial  as orient (though we love orient too) Had our 
best    dinner    that   night   at   La   Vie   Rose?   on   Marigot 
Waterfront!!!!!!!!!!!!  Tomato  Confit  w/crab  and avocado, Bill had 
Lamb  W/ foie gras and truffles, I had stuffed veal Loin, dessert was 
a  sampling  of  all the chef's special desserts. Absolute heaven!!!! 
Everything  was  excellent, beautifully presented, and we had a table 
for  2  on  the  balcony ($159 w/tip and cognac) Day 5-A great day at 
Dawn  Beach  snorkeling  and  being a beach bum. Lunch at Mr. Busbys, 
flying  fish  and  grilled  shrimp.  Dinner  was at the Bar de la Mer 
again,  this  time  we  had  French  onion soup, Grilled Lobster, and 
grilled  lamb,  dessert  was  at this little ice cream place just off 
the marina.

Day  6-Fortified  with cheese, fruit, bagguets. and beer we spent the 
day  at Cupecoy. The water was absolutely perfect and so was the day! 
Got  kinda fried on some sensitive areas but it was worth it. Went to 
Grand  Case  for  dinner. I can't remember the name something like la 
Abourgne?  Dinner  was  ok,  bill  had frog legs in garlic, we shared 
conch  egg  rolls  and  i had lobster thermidor. Even though the food 
was  not  the  best  we  had tasted the service was exceptional. Upon 
leaving  we  found  what  later  turned  out  to  be a very expensive 
parking  ticket.($54  US) Where in the world do you pay these things? 
We never did find out. 

Day  7-DRAGGED  Bill  to  Phillipsburg  for  jewelry  shopping. I had 
already  priced  around in Marigot and Phillipsburg so I headed right 
to  SHIVAS.  Haggled  a  little  more over the price and left with my 
treasures  (diamond  necklace,  diamond  and  platinum  earrings  and 
really  unusual  gold  choker)  The sales people were very attentive, 
bringing  you  a  chair,  cold beverage etc.. I was very surprised by 
the  pampering  especially  since my purchases were small compared to 
many  of  the  other  customers.  Back  to  our hotel to drop off our 
purchases  and  off  to  Friars Bay! You know, driving here is really 
not  that  bad.  Just  edge into traffic and they let you in (1 beep) 
more  then  1  beep  means  get  out  of  my way, and never hesitate. 
Walking  is  the  same,  step  off  the curb and they will stop or at 
least  slow  down  so  you  can  cross, but again, never hesitate. We 
really  liked  Friars  Bay!  The  water  was  so calm and clear. They 
didn't  have  grilled  snapper  at  any of the beach shacks so off to 
orient  Bay  and Pedros for a late lunch. Dinner was at Marios Bistro 
!!!!  EXCELLENT in every respect, We had a romantic table overlooking 
the  canal,  our waiter was very attentive and kinda flirty. Bill and 
I   shared   Mussels   Marinara(to   die   for)   I   had  Duck  with 
Ginger(excellent)  and Bill had veal w/ lemon capers( also excellent) 
dessert  was  Creme  Brulee (excellent again). I definitely recommend 

Day  8-Started the day at the outdoor market on Marigot's Waterfront. 
A  really  entertaining  adventure. Spent the day at Orient Beach. It 
really  is  a  fun  beach, even if it is touristy. We were tired that 
night  so  back  to the Bar de la Mer for Veal Normande (really good) 
and  grilled  shrimp(the  biggest I've ever seen) I think the waiters 
recognized  us  because  they  seated  us  right  away  much  to  the 
displeasure  of  some  of  the  other  guests still waiting. Met some 
really  fun  people from Argentina and smoked my first Cuban Cigar. I 
really  like  our  hotel.  The  hotel restaurant is not very good but 
everything  else  is.  The  staff  are  very  helpful  and give great 
attention   to  detail.  Every  time  I  looked  around  someone  was 
polishing  something,  the  maids  were  wonderful, extra towels? ,no 
problem,  our  room  was  spotless and they filled our ice bucket for 
us.  The  staff  will  arrange  any  kind  of  outing for you, scuba, 
snorkel,  fishing,  boating.  Our  view  was  beautiful especially at 
night with the boats anchored in the harbor all lit up.

Day  9-Our last day. We finish up our shopping in Marigot and head to 
Dawn  Beach  and then Orient Beach for a late lunch at Pedros. Dinner 
was  at  the Marigot Marina at a crepes place. I can't remember but I 
think  it  was the St. Germaine?? It hit the spot as we were not that 
hungry.  After  dinner  there was a parade of the locals and we had a 
fun  time  watching  them.  Then a nice stroll to Bill's favorite ice 
cream  place  just off the marina for mango ice cream and back to the 
hotel to pack.

Day  10-  We  are  so  bummed that it is time to go. St. Martin was a 
wonderful  vacation  and  we  are  already planning to come back next 
year. oh well. 


(Ed. Note: Elba also contributed reports from Puerto Rico and Puerto Plata in this edition.)

This  was  our  first  visit  to  an all inclusive and to the Allegro 
Resort Chain. With no expectations, we were thrilled by the service.

Arrival.   Connecting  in  Caracas,  Venezuela  is  a  pain  b/c  the 
international  and national terminals are not connected. Nevertheless 
don't  despair.  Local  airline, Avensa/Servivensa however could do a 
much better job in assisting passengers when arriving and departing.

Rooms  We  were  initially given a very small room in which a day bed 
had  been  squeezed  in  and no amenities. We asked for a larger room 
(we  have  learnt  that trick) and were relocated to the 3 floor to a 
suite  with  a  suite  with  kitchenette  and  a  separate bedroom, 2 
bathrooms, plus balcony.

Layout  The  resort  caters to guests and time sharers who lodge in a 
different  section.  The  bedroom  bldgs are built in a semi colonial 
setting  with  nice patios and very nice gardens. The facilities area 
is  large  and  open  aired. 2 large swimming pools. A dune separates 
the  beach  in  order  to fend of the strong winds from the ocean. An 
interesting  elevated  walkway  joins  the  beach  where  you  find a 
restaurant where lunch is served daily.

Food  the food was very good in the main restaurant as well as lunch. 
The  Italian  restaurant (they all have them!) was above standard. As 
always,  reservations  for  the  restaurant is tricky and seems to be 
controlled  by  the  Mafia.  You  cant reserve the day before yet the 
following  days  seemed  to  be  always  book.  Don't  take no for an 
answer,  persist  and then go talk to the manager. Miguel Vega is the 
GM and a really nice person and very helpful.

The  staff  They are the heart of the party. All Allegro resorts have 
an  entertainment  staff. This group was above par. The group of guys 
and  girls  join  you  at the dinner or lunch table, are friendly and 
entertaining,  not  to  mention  good looking! The nightly shows were 
also  very  good,  and  interactive  with  the guests. Beach and pool 
sports  are encouraged and well planned. The staff actually sets up a 
team  to  play  volleyball and other sports against guests. They also 
get  the  show going in the disco. They are always ready to challenge 
you  to  a  game  of pool or ping-pong. The rest of the staff is also 
quite  friendly  and  always  greets you. There is little time to get 
bored  and  enough  time  to  have  a quiet moment. A lot of European 
tourists  who  come  down  on  charter flights. Topless sunbathing is 
practiced  on  the  beach  and no one seems to care. A place I highly 
recommend and plan to return.

It  is  a  good  idea  to  rent a beetle VW for 20 bucks and drive to 
Porlamar  for the day. Nice shops and the cleanest and best Wendy's I 
have  seen  on  the  earth.  They don't take US dollars but there are 
several banks where money can be changed.

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

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