Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |
We are a real young 40 & first timers to Jamaica. We've been to resorts in Marco Island, FL; Hilton Head, SC; Las Vegas and to the beaches of , Panama City, FL & Navarre Beach, FL. But in reality, this was our first vacation together, alone, (since kids) in 20 years of marriage. We've gone to most of these other resorts as part of a business meeting. So Jamaica was very much our second honeymoon. I decided on an all inclusive, as a surprise for my bride on our 20th anniversary. #1 consideration was I wanted something very nice, very romantic and it had to be on a beach. The next biggest consideration, in going all inclusive, was no decisions. After 20 years of penny pinching, and raising kids, (she stays home) I didn't want her to look a menu, & worry whether to go for the hamburger or the lobster; or have to ask "how much is another one of those purple drinks". And I didn't want the stress of a cruise where you have to be in certain places at certain times, or packing & unpacking, or signing up for this or that. Most of all I wanted to make my bride happy, and make her want me for 20 more years. This decision was a no-brainer and it was a no brainer vacation too. Mission accomplished ! JamJam attacks all of your senses at once, completely overwhelming you: The sights; beautiful grounds, candlelight, tropical plants, the blue ocean & white sand. The sounds; Soft music at dinner, waves lapping on the beach, mild chatter & glasses tinkling. The smells; Sweet flowers everywhere, gourmet food, suntan lotion, perfume and liquor. The feel; of the humid tropical breeze, the sun beating down on nearly naked bodies, and a cool skinny-dip on a hot day ! Needless to say our trip was a big success all the way around; physically, mentally and spiritually. JamJam changes your attitude and gives you permission to let go, let loose and have fun. Here's the details of our trip: THE FLIGHT Departed Atlanta, around 1:00 p.m. to Montego Bay via Air Jamaica on Skybus 310 wide body 250 passenger jet. 2 hour & 15 minute flight. Flight was only 1/2 full. Excellent service and flight, to and from, Jamaica. Complementary wine, beer and champagne is available throughout the flight. Choice of entree; chicken or red snapper. I got the red snapper, wife got the chicken, both were surprisingly good. I have flown a lot, but never on an airbus. Great plane. I noticed that it is quieter than a comparable 767. We were seated over the wing. THE AIRPORT The Mobay airport is small & old, 1950's vintage. Runway runs parallel to the beach. Landed & deplaned, claimed baggage. No trouble going through customs/papers what so ever. Took about 15 minutes. All of the resorts on the island have a desk at the airport. You just have to find yours. There are many people at the airport to offer you assistance. Went to SuperClubs desk (all were sort of run down) & waited for about 15 minutes for our "taxi". THE RIDE FROM HELL (Mobay to Runaway Bay) It's true what they say about the ride from hell ! Fortunately we had a decent driver and Toyota Corolla 1992 station wagon...........with air ! Driver was courteous & quiet. 1 hour 15 min ordeal. It appeared to us that everyone on the road was out to kill us (and themselves). Roads are awful, 2 lane, no shoulders, sedimentary rock mountains on your right, ocean\swamp on your left. Alternatingly beautiful, breathtaking views and desolate squalor. We saw a lot of 1/2 built buildings. Driver said that Jamaica was devastated & not fully recovered from Hurricane Gilbert a few years ago. We stopped 1/2 way for break. Got two red stripes for $ 5.00. Offered to buy the driver something, he refused saying that he gets complimentary food & beverage at this rest stop. He left with a big jerked pork sandwich & a coke. Driver inquired as to whether we smoke...........we said no.........he meant ganja, but was not pushy. Said that if we did pick up anything, make sure not to accidentally bring it back to the airport. Thanks mon. CHECK IN / THE ROOM Whew! Thank God. Seems like we pulled in there about 7 p.m.. Beautiful gardens at the entrance. Checked in at desk. Bell boys carried luggage to our room. No Problem. I'm starting to like No Problem. Nice, clean, chilled, down room. We were in room 2118 facing courtyard & pool. Marble floors, walls, vanity, & sink in the bathroom. Huge mirrored closet in bath. Nice big oval mirror on wall in the bathroom that my wife wanted to take home. King bed, phone, clock radio, love seat/sofa, couple of night stands, 20" color TV remote, very comfy. Wife was disappointed that there was no deadbolt or chain on the door. Resort is crawling with security though. Sliding glass door opened to ground floor cement deck with 2 chairs overlooking pool and lush tropical gardens. Small dresser is almost useless as it does not hold much stuff. Huge closet held all of our hanging up, plus room to spare, but we definitely overpacked. We couldn't get into room safe. Went to front desk. They said No Problem. So I put our valuables, travel documents and wallets in the safe at the desk & they gave me a key. This is the last time I needed my wallet. ORIENTATION It really isn't necessary to go to orientation. Lasts about 45 minutes. They don't tell you too much stuff, mostly crack a lot of jokes & merely allude to what is in store for the week ahead. Instead of attending orientation, you can ask almost any guest or JamJam group leader and they'll fill you in. All of the guests and JamJam people are very helpful. Folks in the front office are sweet. All activities & times are posted on a board in the main lobby. Check here daily before noon for activities. After noon, the following days activities are posted. Activities are also continuously scrolled on the TV. There are very few if any activities that you have to sign up for. ROOM SERVICE I'm mentioning this because it may be as important to others as it was for us. Strong hot coffee in the morning at bedside is a basic necessity. I went several mornings down to the lobby for coffee & brought it back to my bride. Found out that you can order coffee & Danish delivered to your room early every a.m., at no charge ! They didn't tell us this at orientation. You must place your order with the desk before going to bed each evening ! We found the Jamaican coffee (to our delight) was very similar to the French dark roast that we drink and love at home. DINING Three buffets/day are available in the pavilion; breakfast, lunch & supper. They last 2-3 hours each. You may dine alone, or join in at a table with others.........your choice. Always music, (live in the evenings), a nice breeze, candles, flowers on the buffet; very romantic. From the buffet is a gorgeous view of the beach and the Caribbean. I enjoyed eating all of the different Jamaican foods much more than the bride; Pepperpot soup, casava (they call it yams), jerked pork & chicken, fish escovitch, calloulou, fried bami to name a few. Also, we hadn't had papaya or mango before. Fell in love with mango & ate it at most every meal. Papaya was too perfumy for us. Lots of great breads too, try the sweet brown loaf. I'm a fish lover, so got the fish offering at least once a day. Sometimes it tasted like red snapper, other times I couldn't tell what it was, but was always good; usually got it grilled or broiled. There was always a nice selection of salads, soups, breads, desserts, veggies, entrees & fruits. Choice of red or white wine & champagne is available at every meal. The wine stewards hardly ever allow your glass to empty. The buffet was always decorated with fresh tropical flowers, gorgeous pastries, food carvings & artistic desserts. If you are a dessert lover, you'll be in heaven. Was disappointed that we had no shrimp, conch chowder, lobster or crab dishes available. If you want to eat low fat, there are lots of options available (veggies, breads, fresh fruit, salads & grilled food. At breakfast, they'll cook your omelet to order. Besides the usual bacon, sausage & eggs, there is cereal, yogurt, fruit, & muffins. We were pleased with the prompt, attentive but unobtrusive service rendered by the buffet waiters. Swimsuit & barefeet are acceptable attire at the buffet, but guests usually dressed a little better, especially for supper. I'll make a brief mention of the beach grill that is available from about 11:00am till 4:00pm. Hamburgers, sausages and jerked chicken are available on bun with condiments. We both love hot & spicy food; and prepare it at home. I have a saying, that if your nose is running, the food's just right. But believe me the jerked chicken is terribly hot ! DINING (con't) There is a very good Italian restaurant, that unfortunately, we ate at only once. It is opened in the evenings and you order a la carte. You must make reservations a day ahead of time. Attire is shoes, long pants & shirt with collar for gents; shoes & slacks or dress for ladies. Food, service & atmosphere is impeccable. Very romantic. Choice of cocktails, wine, beer or liqueur is served. Open salad bar (or they will serve house) & very heavy antipasto bar..........this was great, I can't even begin to name all of the antipasto selections. They wait on you hand & foot. Choice of soup, several entrees & dessert. I got a lamb dish, & bride got a marsala. The Italian dessert we had was especially good, taramisu (sp?), and I'm not a big dessert person. Topped off supper with a nice little flute of Frangelica. If you're going to eat here for supper, eat a light or very small lunch, and enjoy! What an evening ! This meal easily would have been $ 100.00 minimum in the states; and you can eat here every night ! Met an Italian American couple from New Jersey. They said they ate here every night, & testified to the authenticity of the food. THE BEACH This is a very active resort. Too bad this is where we stayed most of our trip. Wore out a path to the beach bar & back to the chaise lounges daily. Errol, (our favorite and the best beach bartender) really took care of us and everyone else too. He was most attentive, observant and efficient out of all. After the first day, he remembered what we wanted, & would be in the process of having our cocktails prepared as we approached the bar. He's bucking for a managers position, and I think he deserves it......Yah MON. The beach is in excellent shape and is white sand with palms and the bluest water that I have ever seen; ........very sexy. Though not sugar white like Panama City, FL, it is very attractive & clean. Water is very clean, very clear, no rocks, grass etc, and a nice sandy bottom. We spent all of our time on the prude beach closest to the nude side. There were several topless sunbathers & some in thongs & men in speedo's. People seemed not to care (or stare) and were very relaxed at JamJam. We found this end of the beach to be less crowded and had less foot traffic because it was away from the beach equipment check out stand. To my brides delight, our chaise lounges were parked near an Italian Fabio thonged look-alike who was camped out here with his topless, thonged (and slightly pregnant) lover. They kept to themselves and were fun to watch as they, argued, played & teased in and out of the water. The bride & I had fun laying out, swimming, people watching, chatting (actually talking) & making runs for something cool to drink. I don't think either of us read much of our paperbacks. We enjoyed swimming from the prude beach over to the nude swimming area, for a skinny dip, several times............... bride said NO PROBLEM ! We stayed together all week on the beach, just us two; half drunk; soaked in suntan lotion and our favorite libations..........................Needless to say, we fell in love all over again................ THE BEACH (con't) On the prude beach you'll find lots of chaise lounges and a few small low tables. Also there were a couple of beach "huts" if you wanted lay out in the shade. Most of the beach guests were to be found on the prude beach. The nude beach had about 12-20 persons/day. I walked over to the nude bar looking for some bottled beer one day because the draft was hot. Found that the nude side has a self serve bar, ice, three rum punches, no beer & only a few soft drinks. Nude beach has a nice Jacuzzi & outdoor shower for washing off. The prude beach had available for recreation; catamarans, kayaks, catamaran rides, snorkeling, wind surfers, sunfish sailboats, water skiing and unlimited scuba (if you have your C-card). PADI C-cards are available if you take & pass the course offered by resident resort instructors. Three mornings classes for $ 250.00. BEACH TIPS: 1) Breeze kicks up about 10:30 daily. If you are going to kayak or sail, keep this in mind. Current was running east to west and breeze was blowing from the north east to west. It makes it hard if impossible to kayak after 10:30, cause you can't paddle against the current & wind. 2) Also after 10:30 a.m., sand kicks up as well sometimes. If you are on the soft sand, it will blow into your drink & face. Move your chaise lounge onto the hard sand near the water. 3) Apply lots of spf 30 sunscreen, several times/day. We did, & stayed out all week on beach & never got burned; even on previously unexposed areas. 4) Pack several bottles of sunscreen with you. It costs about $ 15.00/bottle U.S. at the resort. 5) Bring huggers and/or insulated mugs with a top, to the beach. We found that our drinks got hot, especially fast. 6) Pack a collapsible insulated icechest (you've seen them with the carrying straps). Load it up with ice from your hall & take it to the beach. You can keep bottled water (sold in the gift shop) & ice down in it. 7) A raft, float or mattress (with an anchor) would have been nice to lay out on in the water. THE POOL I believe it was on our last day that we realized that we had never gone swimming in the pool, and we never did. It's just that I guess we're beach people and never got around to it. The pool is large & inviting. There's lots of sun & shade around for everyone. It seemed to be a very popular place for sun worshipers & the newlyweds. It's also only a few steps from the beach bar. There's a variety of trees surrounding the pool on one side, palms & almond I think. Nice chaise lounges (better than the beach) with thick yellow foam rubber/vinyl mattresses to lay on. PARTIES Orientation party was on Sunday night. This is a good party, don't miss it. You'll get to know some people & have fun. Hor'douvres and cocktails are served in the disco lounge. Music in the disco is mostly rap, Jamaican/rap & loud- though great bass if you like thumping. There are a few games & contests too (icebreaker type stuff), with fifths of liquor and tee shirts as prizes. Lots of fun. The disco is opened every night too. Went to the pajama party held in the disco. Bride was up for this too! Jams, cutoffs, shorts and gymshorts are not admitted. Nightshirts, briefs, boxers, babydolls & p.j.'s are acceptable. Open bar again. Here I am, 40 years old, dancing to "Mr. BoomBasstic" in my boxers! We enjoyed the party briefly, but got run out by all of the smoke (we're non-smokers). We found that there were many Italians at the resort and boy did they smoke! They were joined though, by many others on the dance floor with lit cigarettes. We didn't stay too long. But No Problem Mon; going to bed early here is not a hardship. You really need your rest. I'll bet there were a lot of negligees about half burned down the next morning!!! They were really going at it when we left. As a result of our P.J. party experience, we didn't go to the toga party the following night. ENTERTAINMENT There's something going on every night at Breezes. On consecutive nights there were live band/singing acts in the lounge (this is different from the disco) a couple of nights. Local Jamaican talent. One night reggae music, dread locks & all. The next night they brought in another entertainer; Bride thought that he sounded just like Tom Jones. He did and he was great. You know, you kind of expected to be disappointed. I was thinking they'd have something like Bill Murry's parody of a nightclub act on SNL. But both nights were great. These people were really talented; lot's of good dance music, not as loud as the disco. Pretty mellow crowd too. There's a great variety show on stage at the pavilion near the beach. We were presented with a fire eating act, a troupe of fantastic Jamaican dancers, a father & son gymnast team and the famous "crab man". The crab man limbo's under about under a series of poles on fire, about 1 foot high. This guy & the fire eater is unbelievable. We sat at a big table together with some other couples that we met and had a good time. There's a little bit of audience participation involved in each act and a lot of laughs. Don't miss this show. One night as we were preparing to go to the dinner buffet, (we were at the beach bar again), we heard what sounded like Garth Brooks coming from the pavilion. Walked by the stage & it was a Jamaican guy doing a ballad that was a dead ringer for Garth. He continued for about an hour as we listened and enjoyed another romantic supper at Breezes Jam Jam. GAMES & CONTESTS As I said, we didn't do much more than stay on the beach, but there are all sorts of games & contests going on all day long. Usual prizes are liquor, tee shirts & caps. I got into the men's beer drinking contest (how fast, not quantities). Got into the finals so only had to drink two ........really chugged them down ! No Problem ! We were never pressured to participate, got asked a couple of times though, & it's fun to go along with the crowd now & then. TOURS Several tours are included with the package. Horse & buggy ride (with wine), shopping trip to Ocho Rios, hike of Dunn's River Falls, catamaran cruise, & glass bottom boat ride. We took the glass bottomed boat ride & this was enjoyable, 1 hour max. Saw lots of fish, coral, rocks and a sea turtle. The hike of DRF includes a 1/2 hour scenic bus ride from jamjam to the top of the mountain where DRF begins. The bus lets you out and (as a group) you walk down the mountain on a paved walkway to the mouth of the river where it spills out into the Caribbean. As you hike, you and your group are being videoed. You have the option to purchase a copy for $ 45.00. The guides lead you literally up the falls (holding hands), all of the way back to the top of the mountain where your bus, many higglers (vendors) and thank goodness a Redstripe or two await. DRF are set in a tropical mountain jungle, and there are many opportunities for photographs. Bring a disposable camera rated for underwater. As you would expect the vegetation is lush & green with many flowering shrubs & trees. It is very enjoyable and scenic and there are lots of laughs, chills & spills. But you should be very careful climbing the falls. DO NOT GO if you've had more than a couple of beers. You'll need all of the agility that you can muster. We saw one woman fall down one ten foot boulder then another six footer and into a pool of water. She walked away, although gingerly, but I don't know how. There are many places to exit the falls on your way up if you want to return to the paved walking path & back to the bus. Do bring an old pair of sneakers or tennis shoes to hike in, or you'll have to "rent" some slip on's before they'll let you go. I wore a pair of Tevas sandals & the velcro kept coming undone from the stress of climbing and rushing water. We didn't have any spare money to go on the shopping trip, but talked to some couples that went. They said they got some real bargains on jewelry, & they seemed to be excited. I understand that if you are in the market for watches, jewelry, perfumes & other fine items, that you can really get some deals......especially if you're willing to negotiate. The tour only brings you to "SuperClubs sponsored & approved" shops. Our friends said that approved items & vendors carried the SuperClub stamp of approval. OTHER OBSERVATIONS We were absolute beach bums, so didn't golf or tennis, but Breezes has outstanding facilities for both. Met a gentleman from CA at the bar who had been golfing. He said the course was in great shape. Golf is unlimited and of course all inclusive, but you must use a caddy, (about a buck a hole), and he brings the beer. Said he had a great day. There is a real nice weight room, stair climber, treadmill, aerobics, are all included too. There are three jacuzzi/hot tubs. One is in the gardens between the east and center wings, very secluded but it was too cold. Another is on the nude beach (bride wasn't ready for this one yet). And the third one is near the lobby bar in the center courtyard. It's seems to be the largest and nicest. I was all ready to get in one day after a jog & there were two bees and a big lizard swimming around. So I stayed out & let them enjoy. OTHER One morning I awoke at 5am & couldn't get back to sleep for some reason. So rather than tossing and turning and taking a chance of awakening sleeping beauty; I got up to go for a jog on the beach. Upon walking out of our wing, I was amazed to see the number of workers busily cleaning up and preparing the resort for the day's activities.... cleaning the pool, trimming shrubs, raking the beach, wiping down tables, beach lounges & hosing sidewalks. There must have been 50 people at work! I jogged eastward down the beach, past the fence & the guard shack toward the public area. Got about 300 yards down there & here's some Rastafarian looking dude, dreadlocks & all, busting up a joint at 6 o'clock in the morning! Offered to sell me some ganja; I said "No thanks Mon" & ran on past him. I finally ran to the end of the beach, turned around & headed back to the resort. Ran past the "ganja man" a second time. This time he held his fingers to his nose, sniffed, & asked if I needed something for my head. Once again I said "No thanks Mon". Jogged past a third & fourth time & he was wanting to sell me some hand carved wooden art items etc. He was persistent, but not overbearing. I finally got tired running, picked up a couple of cups of coffee in the lobby & delivered them to my grateful bride. With the possibility of drugs, and numerous round-the-clock open bars; we were really surprised that we did not see one, openly drunk person ! Not one! No one got out of line, stumbled, staggered or got obnoxious; & believe me, there was a lot of drinking and partying going on. All of the liquor I saw poured were call brands. No cheap or watered down liquor here ! First class all the way ! A word of caution if you're staying on the ground floor. We left a few wet items out to dry overnight on our patio. No problem, they were there the next morning. Newlyweds next door, left a pair of Air Jordans to dry (after DRF trip) & they were gone the next a.m. Moral of the story is; don't leave name brand articles out like Nike, Chicago Bulls, Reebock or anything made of bluejean. These articles are very popular in Jamaica, and bring a nice price. OTHER If you're staying in the 2000 wing (center wing) and ground floor. Make sure that you get a room that is closer to the beach than it is to the lobby. The disco (near the lobby) can get loud some nights. There is a gift shop on the premises. It's got about everything that you could want for souvenirs & toiletry items, postcards and Jamaican coffee. Prices are better here for coffee than the airport. Liquor is cheaper at the airport. The only good deals on liquor that we saw was for stuff made in Jamaica, like Jamaican rums and Tia Maria. All of the other liquor costs almost as much as it does at home. Wait to buy your four, duty free liters of liquor at the airport, and you won't have to pack it or haul it from the resort. The airport liquor store will pack it for you free, in a nice carry on cardboard container. There's a little building on the beach, at Breezes, that houses a variety of things that's worth a visit. In here are artworks and fine crafts such as wood carvings and handmade woven baskets and bead necklaces. You will also find here, a lady that does hair braiding. Wife got two braids, buck a piece, done in five minutes. Also inside, posted are professional photographs of guests, taken at dinner. Find yours, and you are free to purchase them if you wish. CLOSING REMARKS That's about it. . The last two days of our vacation were spent at Reeding Reef Club in Montego Bay. This was truly a vacation of a lifetime; and we can't wait to go back.
I am just back from nine wonderful days on St. John. This was my second trip. Last year my husband and I went to St. John and were married on tiny little Waterlemon Cay. Last year's trip was a magical fairy tale come true, pampered by the staff at Caneel Bay. This year I wanted to be more independent and self reliant, besides, both resorts (Caneel and the Hyatt) are still closed. This trip was actually rather sudden. I found a great air fare, and a great rate at the Cruz Views condominiums through Caribbean Villa's and Resorts (1-800 338-0987). So I rationalized that this past year has had more than it's share of tribulations for me and that I NEEDED <g> to spend some time on St. John refreshing my body and mind. I mean, what other place on earth can refresh the body and mind better than St. John? My husband and I decided I would venture out by myself, leave the kids and husband at home and enjoy some peace, quiet, solitude etc.. Of course while I was planning my peaceful holiday in paradise I was being interrupted with "Mommmmmmm, you promised that if I got good grades..." by my 13 year old daughter. Okay, so a 3.96 GPA can not really be argued with. After much pleading on her part, I agreed to let her accompany me. On the night of Tuesday, July 23rd we headed to SeaTac airport for our red eye flight to O'Hare, onto Miami and then St. Thomas. We were greeted by a very nice driver (Raymond), sent by my dear friend Julianna, to meet us at the airport and transport us to the Marina Market in Red Hook. Raymond gave us a wonderful tour of St. Thomas on the way, pointing out sights of interest to Sara and me. Once we arrived at the Marina Market, Julianna was on hand to deliver hugs, kisses and a care package to get us through our first night on St. John. We ran into the market, picked up some juice and milk and then bought our tickets ($3.00 each) for the ferry to St. John. As we walked off the ferry, onto the dock in Cruz Bay we were met by Curtis from Caribbean Villa's and Resorts. He gathered us into a cab (safari truck) and we followed him up to the Cruz Views Condominiums. It only took one trip up the hill for me to realize that we were indeed going to need a vehicle. I had thought that we could walk down the hill and cab back up, but those ideas were quickly revised once I saw the steepness of the hill. Curtis called Parris Car rentals and reserved us a vehicle for the next day. They would deliver it to the condo in the morning, I just needed to give them a call and let them know when I was ready. Cruz Views is quite nice. They have 10 units there. We were in unit #3 (to begin with). It is in a section of three units that over look the pool and have glorious views of Cruz Bay. The only problem we had was that the screen door had been damaged during hurricane Bertha and so had been removed. Because unit #3 is a middle unit, it does not get much in the way of cross breezes, something that is VERY important in the Caribbean. As the sun began to set, with our sliding glass door open, the bugs began to get the better of us (in spite of the bug spray we used, that I found out I'm allergic to). Being over the pool did not help matters I'm sure, as the bugs love standing water right around dusk. I called CV&R the next morning (they have a local office in Wharside Village) and they had an exterminator come that day as well as having the screen door repaired and returned (thank you Sonny!). So now we have our Suzuki Sidekick, Sara is fully instructed to remind me to drive on the left, we're slathered in SPF 50, and we're ready to hit the beach! We stopped at St. John Watersports in Mongoose Junction and rented snorkeling equipment for the week (you get two days free when you rent it weekly rather than daily), then went into the Mongoose Deli and ordered some sandwiches to take with us to the beach. Fully prepared now, we drove off to Trunk Bay and Sara's first snorkeling lesson. She took to it in no time at all. Almost immediately we saw a graceful stingray fluttering by us. She loved the colorful parrot fish with their big teeth gnawing away. The reef/underwater trail at Trunk Bay looked as beautiful as I remembered it a year ago (which was before Marilyn blew through). In fact, because St. John has had a fair amount of rain lately, everyone was talking about how green the island was. It was incredibly green, and that comes from a person who lives in Seattle, I know green! For dinner that evening we went to the Mongoose Restaurant. I had chicken parmesan, which was very good. Sara had a chicken sandwich. She said it was "okay". I believe that it was Thursday night when the power out. We were in a little convenience store picking up a gallon of water when "zap", the power was gone. We made it back up the hill in the darkness with the aid of the Sidekick's headlights. Once back in the condo, we lit a citronella candle and sat on our deck/balcony playing gin by candlelight. It was warm and with the power out, we couldn't use any water, but we managed through the night without too much discomfort. I spent a considerable amount of time wondering what it must have been like for St. Johnian's to have been without power or water for three months in the aftermath of hurricane Marilyn. At about 8:00 a.m. the next morning the power came back on as suddenly as it had gone out. Fan's were once again whirring, breezes blowing, and ice freezing as Sara and I raced to see who would be first to the shower. After shower's and cleaning up, we drove to Mongoose Junction to meet my friend Anne Marie for lunch. We had a delightful lunch at Luscious Licks. I was so impressed with the black bean soup, that I bought a spicy black bean soup mix at Island Hoppers (at Wharfside) so I can give it a try myself. Lunch was followed by some shopping at Mongoose Junction. For anyone thinking that a shopping trip to Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas is a necessity while visiting the USVI, I've found that everything I could want to buy is easily found on St. John. During this trip, art was what I was most interested in. I found wonderful prints at Wood, Wicker and Shells in Mongoose Junction. For dinner Friday night we went to the newly opened Crash Landing across from Wharside Village. What a delightful restaurant. The decor alone is worth a visit. I can well imagine that when the miniature golf course is finished it will be a big hit! I had prime rib which was wonderful. Sara had a pasta dish that was both wonderful and huge. Dinner was quite reasonable there and we had plenty to take home in doggie bags! Saturday we had to call CR&V again to tell Diane that the toilet was not working properly. In no time at all a plumber was at our door to fix the problem! Once this minor problem was taken care of we headed off to Hawksnest beach. Hawksnest is a beautiful beach, full of shade and great swimming. It wasn't the best spot for snorkeling, but we had a wonderful time swimming and sunning. We arrived back at the condo early, where I ran into Sonny who was preparing the unit next to ours for the next guests that were arriving that day. Sonny was nice enough to ask us if things were better now that the screen was fixed. While talking to him I noticed that the corner units had much better breezes. He took me to see unit #1. It was beautiful. On the hill, with a spiral staircase, larger living room, more ceiling fans, GREAT breezes. Once again I called Diane at CV&R and she had no problem at all with our moving units, since no one was scheduled to be in #1 and we still had another week to go. I can not say enough about how accommodating they were at CV&R. A million thanks to Diane, Curtis and Sonny for their courteous and prompt service to us. We were waiting for a phone call from our friend Julianna, who was on St. John photographing a wedding. While one of us would wait by the phone, the other one would move our belongings into unit #1. When Julianna called, I went down the hill to pick her up. We all hopped into the Sidekick and she took us on a mini tour of the north shore roads. We drove all the way to Leinster Bay where the road was washed out by Marilyn. Being a bit on the tired side from the move, we decided not to hike to Waterlemon Beach (I'll save that adventure for the next time I return with my husband, sentimental reasons and all). When we drove back to Cruz Bay we were all famished so we stopped and had dinner at Lime Inn. Three cheeseburgers with baked potatoes. For dessert we all shared a warm brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Yum! The service at the Lime Inn was excellent. Where a refill on a pop was charged for at Mongoose, it was not at Lime Inn. I had the definite feeling that they were much more interested in providing us with a fun and tasty dinning experience than padding every dollar they could to the bill (as they did at Mongoose Restaurant). After dinner I took Julianna back to the ferry dock. Back at the condo, Sara and I had the best night's sleep since arriving. Sunday we wanted to do some shopping. Sunday is not the best day to go shopping as many of the stores were closed. I would imagine that this has something to do with it being low season. Monday we went to Cinnamon Bay. Sara really seemed to enjoy all of the action that was going on at Cinnamon. We watched the wind surfer's, snorkeled a little bit and generally had a nice time. Cinnamon has full facilities, which is nice. We really needed those showers afterwards! For dinner we just wanted something light, so we headed to Mongoose Restaurant for appetizers. You would think I would have learned after last year when my husband ordered jerk chicken and it was SO hot that neither of us could eat it, and they did not/would not take it off of the bill, but no...Sara ordered some chicken wings. I asked the waitress how spicy and/or hot they were. She said they were not too spicy or hot. Sara could not eat them. I could not eat them, and I love hot, spicy food. We ordered her some fried cheese sticks instead. Again, they did not remove the inedible item from our bill. I guess they figure we are tourists and they don't have to worry about our repeat business. Well, I suppose they are correct, since I will not have dinner there again. I did hear later from a local that they treat the locals the same way. I can't imagine that $7.00 is worth losing a future customer over, but they run their business as they see fit. Tuesday we went to Maho Bay beach. Maho may have been my favorite of all of the beaches we went to. It is the closest beach to the road in St. John. Parking is available right beside the beach, or there are a few spots right across the street. Maho is in a protected cove, so the water was absolutely calm. It is the perfect beach for floating in the water on a mat. Sara did quite a bit of this. I did some snorkeling, saw some shrimp, a few fish. Being that Maho has more of a sea grass bottom, I was hoping that we would see a turtle, but it wasn't to be. For dinner we stayed in and feasted on left- overs and soup. Wednesday was sailing day! We met our captain, named Wit, along with Tammy, his crew, and a couple on their honeymoon at JJ's at 10:00 a.m. We boarded his beautiful boat (Cam'rita) and headed out for a delightful day of sailing. We stopped at about Mary's point to go swimming/snorkeling. The fish were beautiful and we were able to take lots of underwater photo's. Afterwards we had lunch. Wit made a pasta salad, fresh fruit and banana bread. Sara and I were sitting on the bow of the boat eating when I spotted a sea turtle coming up for a breath of air. Last year I was fortunate enough to come across a turtle while snorkeling. It was an amazing experience, one that I hoped Sara would be able to partake. When I saw him off the bow of the boat I was *SO* tempted to jump into the water, but of course I didn't have any of my snorkel gear handy, and I know I wouldn't have been able to get Sara into the water that fast. In the end everyone just watched as he came up for air another two times before diving down and heading back out to where ever he was going. At about 4:30 in the afternoon we returned to Cruz Bay. We went back to the condo to clean up and rest for awhile. For dinner that night we went back to the Lime Inn for their all you can eat shrimp feast. It was wonderful. It was also the last night they were going to be open (It was July 31), as they close for the month of August. They said that many of the restaurants are closed for the month of September, so they close in August instead. I can't say enough good about this restaurant. The food AND service was the best that I experienced on the island. At one point Sara dropped her knife. The waitress didn't "see" what had dropped, but had heard something, so she immediately appeared at the table with a complete set of silverware to replace whatever was needed! THAT is GREAT service!!!! Thursday we returned the snorkeling equipment, did some more shopping and then met our friends Wolf and Julianna. We went on a lovely drive to Coral Bay, stopping along the way to take pictures. Once in Coral Bay we stopped at Don Carlos for a light lunch that was very good. On the way back we stopped at the Cinnamon Bay ruins to take a few pictures. After a wonderful day with our friends, we dropped them off at the ferry (they live on St. Thomas) and Sara and I headed back to the Cinnamon Bay ruins. Sara is quite a history buff and wanted to explore even more. When her quest for history was satiated, we went back to Bamboula's to meet our friend Anne Marie. We had dinner at Paradiso. Dinner was delicious. The portions were huge. Sara and I actually shared an entry and it was more than enough. The desserts were to die for. DO try them! After a leisurely dinner with our beloved friend, lots of hugs and kisses good-bye we drove back to the Condo to begin packing. On our way through town we were stopped by a good sized crab that was making his was across the street. I pointed out to Sara that this was a St. John stop light. Why is it that you never have a camera at these times! Friday morning it was pouring. Not a little rain, but buckets and buckets of torrential rain. We were soaked trying to load up the Sidekick. We dropped off the condo keys to Caribbean Villa's and Resorts, bought a new t-shirt for Sara to wear (the one she had on was just too wet), and then topped off the gas tank and drove to Parris Car Rentals. As John drove us to the ferry dock, he told me he had seen me driving around town and that I looked so comfortable, just like a local! I was delighted by his compliment (I had been so nervous about driving there). We boarded the ferry and as she pulled away from the dock, waved good-bye to St. John (hopefully not for long). Once we arrived at Red Hook, Julianna was on hand to give us hugs and kisses good-bye. She had been at the lab processing the photo's she had taken for us. As usual, they were splendid. She had a driver waiting for us to take us to the airport. Every time I return from a Caribbean Island I feel renewed, calmed, more at peace with the world. I find myself wistful afterwards. It's a good feeling. I hope it will sustain me until I can return to St. John again.
My wife and I, having both had an extremely stressful year at work, decided to take a vacation, just the two of us, during a week when both of our teen- age children would be away. What we really wanted to do was to lay on a beautiful beach, eat great food, and maybe see a few sights. After some careful research and a lot of help from the Caribbean Travel Forum, we decided on St. Martin. Based on Forum recommendations, we stayed at THE GRAND CASE BEACH CLUB on the French side. We decided to keep a log of what we did and what we saw in our week on SXM and upload it to the SXM Library. Liberty Travel set us up with airfare from NYC, transfers to and from the hotel and 8 days/7 nights at the Beach Club for about $780 each. We were originally looking for 7 days/6 nights, but if we took the extra night, 2 nights were free! A rental car (Daihatsu Feroza - 4x4, 5 speed standard, rag top, AM/FM) for 5 days was $200 more. After some transportation hassles with American Airlines at JFK(40 minutes in traffic just to get past the construction to get to the terminal and then 1.5 hours waiting on lines to check in) we got to SXM after an OK 4 hour non-stop flight. The St. Martin Sightseeing Booth had a sign with our name on it and efficiently provided a van which took us out to the hotel. Less than an hour later we were there. The hotel was lovely. Our room, which was on the first floor of a two story building, was about 25' x 12'. One side was a bathroom (shower, sink, toilet, medicine chest, hair dryer) and a kitchenette (sink, refrigerator, electric stove & oven, toaster, coffee pot, dishes, glasses, pots & pans, silverware, etc.) The rest of the room had two double beds, a table and chairs, large closet, dresser, A/C, color TV [HBO, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, USA and maybe some more], direct dial phone and a small safe. Sliding glass doors opened on to a patio with two chairs, a table and a view of the ocean. The hotel has two small beaches - both delightful, quiet and scenic. There is a gift shop that rents out floats, has snorkeling equipment and takes care of the beach towels and beach chairs/lounges (no charge for chairs for hotel guests). A negative - The Panoramique restaurant on the grounds of the hotel burned down and the recent hurricane trashed the outdoor restaurant that replaced it. The hotel worked around the problem reasonably well. Every morning we found on our door a bag containing 2 croissants, 2 rolls, a filter of coffee, butter, jam and cream. We would sit out on our patio, watch the ocean and have our breakfast. This was actually nicer than having to get dressed to go to the restaurant for our morning caffeine. Starting about 10:00 or 11:00 AM the concessionaire who ran the gift shop set out a barbecue grill offering chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs. Very good quality and reasonably priced ($4.00 to $6.00 including pasta/rice/salad and bread). They also offered wine, beer, pina coladas, strawberry daiquiris etc. Happy Hour saw Heineken at $1.00 and Daiquiris at $3.00. With all the great restaurants in Grand Case and breakfast provided on our door, the lack of a restaurant was only a minor inconvenience. What was missing was a bar that would serve as a gathering place for the guests who want a place to hang around after dinner, have a few drinks, listen to music, socialize, and then not have to drive those lousy roads to get back to their room. The beach barbecue with the happy hour served that purpose for the early evening but there was nothing for the night. Still, we were very happy with the hotel and would recommend it. The staff at the hotel could not have been any nicer. Actually the same applied to EVERYONE we met on the island, but the people at the hotel were just delightful and extremely helpful with everything. Guests at the hotel were about 25% American, 70% French, 5% "Other" (British, Australian, German). The walk to Grand Case is abut 1/4 mile to the close side, and the main strip is probably 1/2 -3/4 mile long. It was a perfect walk, especially after a big dinner! (Bring a flashlight if you don't like walking in the dark. While most of the way is lighted, there are a few dark stretches.) I can't say enough about the restaurants at Grand Case. The town has the reputation of having the best concentration of fine eateries in the Caribbean, and I wouldn't doubt it. While we didn't eat in all the restaurants, we ate in a few and I'll list what we found. ALL the restaurants had fabulous attentive staffs. The decor in some was nicer than others, and some had views of the ocean, but all in all, we didn't eat in even a mediocre place. All were very good to excellent. A few notes - 1) Very few of the restaurants have Air Conditioning. Most have ceiling fans and are open to the tropical breezes, but on hot nights, it was hot. Luckily no dress code of any kind was required. Shorts and t-shirts were acceptable, though we usually wore slacks and shirts. 2) The "better" restaurants had "better" (higher) prices. Surprise. Average price for a fairly lavish meal (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 coffees, one dessert) was about $50-70. Add wine, drinks and tip and the price went to $90 -120. We drank wine in the $20-30 price range. Prices for wine ran from about $15 to about $60 and higher. 3) The standard 15% service charge found in may French restaurants was generally NOT included in many of the establishments at Grand Case. 4) Most of the bill of fare was fish or seafood. There was always a beef (usually steak), a pork, a chicken and sometimes a lamb dish on the menu, but seafood predominated. L'ALABAMA: We ate here twice, because it was so good the first time we absolutely had to go back. The first time we had Scallops Madeleine, a soup of red cabbage with bacon and Szechuan peppercorns, Swordfish Brochette, and Grilled Fillet of Pork. We had a very nice bottle of wine, shared a desert of bananas with rum raisin ice cream, coffee and an after dinner drink. Cost was just under $100. The second time we had a mixed salad, a salad of Greens and Goat Cheese, Mahi Mahi in a Curry Sauce and Monkfish. With desert, two drinks and a bottle of wine the bill again came to about $100 before the tip. The staff here was extremely attentive and delightful. The first time we were there, the owner refilled my after dinner drink on the house and offered my wife a cordial. The second time we went in (a week later) they not only recognized us, they remembered what we liked, and after dinner they left the bottle on the table. Our recommendation - if you eat at only one fine restaurant on St. Martin, L'Alabama should be it. IL NETTUNO: Unusual in that the cuisine was Italian (most of the other places are French Cuisine) An excellent place with a dining room overlooking the ocean. Also the most expensive meal we had on SXM. We had Grilled Portobello Mushrooms, Mussels Casino, Bracciole and Penne with Seafood. With a bottle of wine and no desert or drinks it ran us $110 before tip. L'AUBERGE GOURMAND: Very good food, very large portions. Chicken Livers with Bacon in Balsamic Vinegar, Fillet of Sole stuffed with vegetables in a Saffron Sauce, Grilled Mahi Mahi. About $70 before the tip. THE FISH POT: Another excellent restaurant. Onion Soup, Crudites, Snapper Fillet, a really wonderful, huge pot of Boulliabaise. A few glasses of wine and no dessert. About $100. L'HIBISCUS: Nouvelle French Cuisine with Caribbean Spices. Very interesting and very different. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Worth trying and when it was good, it was quite original. PORTOFINO: A wonderful place. A bar-restaurant offering inexpensive pizza, pasta and Italian dishes. Nice atmosphere - you can comfortably bring kids. A big selection of very delicious Pizza. The owner is very friendly and is into Music Videos. He has a whole collection which he pipes through a large projection TV and the stereo. Offered us a choice from a directory he put together. We stayed half the night drinking beer and watching/ listening to Ray Charles, Tina Turner and the Neville Bros. Well worth the visit! RESTAURANT DU SOLEIL: Very nice place for lunch. Crepes, salads, etc, over- looking the ocean. Salad Nicoise and a Salad with Chicken Livers with two sodas and two Heinekens was about $30. We also had drinks at two other places in town: SURF CLUB SOUTH: This place is Wild. Live music on Sunday nights. I probably would have loved it if I was still in my 20's but it was too loud, very crowded and we had trouble getting served. We gave up and left. ROCK & ROLL BAR: Much quieter but still lively. More French. Nice music (a lot of Rolling Stones the night we were there). Food and Booze outside and inside. Three big old Cadillacs outside converted into booths. A mix of French and American cuisine. Non-Grand Case places we ate at included: CHERI'S PLACE at the MAHO BEACH HOTEL, very nice American style food (Burgers, salads, excellent Onion Rings), BAR DE LA MER in Marigot, very French, good food and drink, pool tables. Good place to bring kids, RIC'S SPORTS BAR in Philipsburg, very American. TVS showing sports, conveniently located near all the shopping, beautiful view of the harbor. This was our first trip to St. Martin and we really weren't sure which side of the island to stay on - French or Dutch. The discussions on the Forum almost reminded me of the Disney debate (whether or not to stay in a Disney hotel). The Dutch side is more "American"; it's more lively, has more nightlife, has casinos, has little or no topless bathing, most of the tourists are (or seem to be) American etc. The French side is quieter, more laid back, has finer food, topless bathing is normal, and it's just more ....French. We are glad we stayed on the French side - it felt more like we went to a foreign place. The Dutch side, while beautiful, could have been Florida with casinos. Every place has some negatives and St. Martin is no exception. The French side seemed plagued with daily, short (average 15 minutes) power outages. Nothing horrible but it could get annoying. Telephone service would also occasionally fail for short periods. If I was in the middle of downloading a 3 mb file and the lines kept failing I would probably be hysterical, but being as I didn't look at a computer all week it was OK. A note about power - On the Dutch side, it's American standard 120Volt. The French Side is 220V and converters are a necessity if you're bringing appliances. Our hotel said that they had some available and actually had some rooms wired for 120V, but we didn't need any. Another negative - The road(s) on St. Martin. Basically there is one, two lane road that girdles the island with a few off shooting branches. The island is fairly hilly and some of the hills are in the 10-15% grade range. Makes for interesting/scary driving, especially if you haven't driven a standard transmission in 15 years! We decided to make the drive to L'HABITATION which is supposed to be a beautiful resort on the North end of the island. The drive is not bad till you get to this ludicrous hill. We made it up to the top of the hill (10% grade, twisting road, no guardrails) where we could look down on the bay and the resort. I looked down the road to the bay (it looked about as bad as the road up was) and thought about going down the hill, back up the hill and then down the hill again. We turned around and went back. While the place looked beautiful, any ideas we might have had about staying at L'Habitation on a future trip went out the window. We thought about driving out to OYSTER POND, but the guide book called the drive down the hill "a white knuckle experience". If the run up to L'Habitation was not "white knuckle" I wasn't about to experience one. A note about driving and the absolute wonderfulness of the people of SXM. In the middle of Marigot (Capitol of the French Side), on the main street, in the middle of a traffic circle, my Daihatsu Feroza stalled and would not start. Plenty of battery, but no starter at all. Three people jumped up to give me a hand pushing it over to the side of the road. OK, nice, but even in NYC people do that all the time. There was a young security guard watching a pile of lumber right where we broke down (They were preparing to film SPEED II and he was guarding the construction material for the sets). He asked if we were OK, I said yes, I was just going to call Hertz and get us a tow. "You know you need a phone card here" he said. "No problem" I said, I'll buy one." "You'll have a problem," he said, "the new shipment hasn't come in from France yet, and none of the stores have them. Here, borrow mine!" Now, New Yorkers are nice (bad publicity not withstanding), and many would give a poor broken down tourist a quarter for a phone call, but I don't know any that would give one their phone card! End of the story - I called Hertz from the Tourist Bureau, they came within 15 minutes, got the car started (shorted out wire on the starter), asked me to please drive to the nearest Hertz office (about a 10 minute drive) where they apologized profusely and upgraded me to a larger jeep, with an automatic and power steering and a full tank of gas! Another note - I had no problem talking to lots of people during my "adventure" with the car breaking down. While Dutch and French are the official languages EVERYONE spoke English. My French is of the high school variety and 30 years old so I bought a couple of Berlitz books before we left and practiced a little. While everyone spoke English they were appreciative if you made an effort. While we didn't spend as much time on the Dutch side, I really can't say I ever heard Dutch spoken anywhere and even the street signs were in English. Currency is also something that it might pay to talk about here. On the Dutch side the official currencies are Guilders and US Dollars. On the French Side, it's Francs and US Dollars. Needless to say EVERYPLACE took American Dollars. We even saw French tourists who carried only US$, just to make it easy to go back and forth between sides. Speaking of money we went to three casinos, one on Front Street in Philipsburg, another at the Maho Beach Resort and a third, the Atlantis at Cupecoy. We found them nice, pleasant and very quiet. Most tables were playing with a $5.00 minimum and no one said a word if you stuck to $5.00 bets. I made a small donation to the island's economy and left quickly. Still speaking of money, shopping was OK. SXM is a duty free island, but duty free these days is not like duty free was 25 years ago. Maybe because we were coming from NYC where most electronics are dirt cheap (relatively) and many other things (by the sheer competitiveness of the market) are inexpensive, we didn't find shopping that great. Perfume was cheap, Jack Daniels cost the same as it did in NYC, but Absolut Vodka was a real steal at $4.50 for 750 ml. We bought some handicrafts and tee shirts (and two bottles of vodka) and that was about it. The guide books mentioned that several beaches were particularly beautiful. We drove around the island and, frankly, some beaches were hard to find. The signs were not great and it wasn't always clear how far to go to get to the beach or where it was OK to park. Orient Beach by the Esmeralda Hotel was especially nice. It is a long wide beach with parasailing, scuba diving and rentals on skidoos. It is also has a C/O (clothing optional) section. Our beach at Grand Case was T/O (tops optional). The beach at Cupecoy was not C/O. It was C/P (clothing prohibited). To each their own... We had a great time on SXM and will certainly go back.
Paul and I returned early last Tuesday morning from 24 wonderful days on SXM. Naturally we just HATED to leave our favorite island! The flight down from Hartford to San Juan left right on time (AA) but I guess the pilot did not like to drive fast <G> as we were 45 minutes late getting into San Juan. Of course we had to rush from one end of the terminal to the other to make our connecting flight and then the darn thing was late leaving! We were about an hour late getting into SXM. Got our rental car and checked into the Pelican. That place is the pits! Went to the Food Center in Cole Bay to stock up on soda, beer, and other stuff. We planned on going to Tutta Pasta for dinner but they are closed, so went over to Ren & Stimpy's and they are closed. Saw a new BBQ Pit on the way to Food Center so thought we would try that, but it is only take-out so we ended up at Sambuca. First time there but we had a pretty good pasta meal, not as good as Tutta Pasta but it was not bad either. We had glorious weather for all 24 days! Of course little periods of rain but who cares about that. Every day was a beach day. We thought we would spend the first couple of days at the Pelican beach and then do some beach hoping. The beach at the Pelican has really improved since the hurricanes and there are huge palapas to sit under. That I like as I'm not one to sit in the hot sun for hours at a time. We really vegged out for most of our time there. On our tours of the beaches we stopped at Mullet first as that is the beach we have always spent most of our time on, but it was so full of debris that we did not stay. Inspected Baie Longue, Baie Rouge, Baie dux Prunes, and Friars beach and Friars was the only one really that had much assess to the water. Oh then of course we rode by Maho beach several times and the boulders are from the wall down into the water. Orient Beach was very, very crowded but we did not stay there either. There was a few feet of seaweed leading into the water and there is hardly free sand space there what with the jet ski, and all the other concessions. We drove in by Club Orient and where there used to be a fairly large packing lot is all pavillions now. Nothing in them as yet but they do take up the whole lot. There is very, very little parking there. Beach chairs with umbrellas are lined up in a row that reminded me of a cruise ship and deck chairs! I did not see one nude person there, in fact there was NO toplessness at all. I guess they were all over at the Pelican as there was a lot of toplessness there. All in all the beaches are really in very poor shape and I do hope they come back soon. We only went to the beaches between Pelican and Orient. The ones after Orient to P'burg might be in better condition. The island itself is very green and a lot cleaner that it was last May. Spadaro (owner of Maho hotel and Great Bay hotel) is very upset about the beach at Maho and wants permission from the Dutch government to build a walkway from Maho to Mullet Beach. He also wants the owners of Mullet to clean up the beach! I hope he doesn't hold his breath waiting for the owners to clean the beach up as they haven't started cleaning the resort yet! Contracts went out to bid for that about 3 weeks ago. Hadn't been awarded when we left. Supposedly Mullet will be ready to re-open Dec. of 1997. The sale of the Caravanersai (sp) went through but not sure when work is supposed to start. There is a beach bar at the end of Maho near the Caravanersai that has become very popular. Can't remember the name of it. Airport authorities have proposed a fence that will completely fence off Maho beach so that gawkers can not stand anywhere near the current airport fence to watch take-offs and landings. A 3% turnover tax will be going into effect 1 Jan and there is a bit of an uproar about that! Wholesalers will pay 3% of their gross sales, then the middleman will be pay 3%, and then the retailer. That will surely drive prices up! A 20 cent gasoline tax will be imposed and a few other things which I can't remember right now. Mont Vernon employees went on strike about a week before we left, not sure if they went back or not. Seems that the hotel hired two new employees from out of the country and there was the employees got very upset about it. Can't blame them. Pelican has mega problems and I'm not going to mention them here as I'll be putting them on the timeshare topic. There is a meeting scheduled for October 15 in Houston, Tex concerning the Mullet Bay Resort. The Lt. Gov., and three of the commissioners will be meeting with an ambassador from Sun Resorts, owning company of Mullet. Since they are meeting with just ONE person I should think that it would be better if that person went to SXM. Oh well.... The team will be getting a detailed presentation of the plans for the reconstruction of the 600-room hotel, including the guest facilities and the casino. Went to the Butterfly Farm but it was closed due to damage from Bertha. It should be re-opened now though. Maybe I'll finally get into it next spring! Stopped in to say 'hi' to Heeru at Touch of Gold and bought a pair of earrings from Touch of Gold, too. The new Food Center has opened and that is some place! It is a small mall complex. Telem moved in a couple of weeks ago and I'm not sure how many other stores there are for rent there. The Food Center is huge, bright, and freezing! The Executive Center complex is supposed to be re-opening in December but I don't see how they will ever do that as it looks as if they just started working on it since Luis destroyed it. The Food Fair is being rebuilt and that will be quite a large place. Never got to Match. Marigot has really lost the Wednesday and Saturday markets. A whole bunch of buildings and pier and whatnot is being built for the movie Speed 2 and that takes up most of where the market was. What a sad thing! Supposedly allowing the building of the movie set was to help the French economy but it has not done that as local help and/or supply centers were not used. Eats!!! We have been to SXM in September before but have NEVER found so many restaurants closed as were this trip! More were closed than open. Some were closed for renovation, some for vacation, and some just closed for good. Grand Case was almost a Ghost town! Auberge Gourmand and the one just before it, something Caraibes were open but that's about it. Fish Pot and LeTastevin opened the first of October and Il Nuttuno was re-opening the 9th. I THINK Rainbow might have re-opened on the 1st also but not sure. We had two great meals at Auberge Gourmand. Paul had the Beef with Roquefort sauce both times. I had the Beef with pepper (and I mean pepper) sauce the first time and the most fantastic Snapper with Lemon and Curry. It was wonderful, the fish just melted in your mouth. Christine is still running around there and she showed me picture of her two children. They are adorable. In case anyone does not know, she had a baby girl last June. The boy I think is two or so. I had snapper (again!) at Da Livio's. Paul had Antipasto (as usual) and one of the night's specials was Sauteed Calamari either as an appetizer or main course. He had it for the main course and it was really great. Came with pasta. Livio has retired and we were told that the new host, Daniel, is Antoine's son. Lionel is partial retired and our favorite Everett was on vacation when we were there. La Rosa, Too was a big bust. We have always gone there for the Veal Chop Regine but this time is was not anywhere near their ordinary standard. We really don't care for that restaurant that much but we always loved the Veal Chop so we would go there. Mine was mostly fat and there was no taste to the meal at all and it was stone cold. We had a couple of meals at Sambuca and they were pretty good. It was very, very hot in there though. But, thankfully, we sat by one of the doors to the back deck. We had several very good lunches at the Riviera in P'burg. I had snapper most of the time. About the only time I have that is when we go to either SXM or Cancun so I get my fill of it! Last trip we had a great lunch at LaParilla so we thought we would go there for lunch one day. Big mistake! I had snapper (again) that was so tough I had to practically saw it! Surf Club South was only opened Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Owner said that business has been very bad but he hoped it would pick up soon and would be opening the other days of the week. One of the daily specials was ribs so I thought I would have it, they were out of them. Paul had Fish & Chips and I got a hamburg with fries. That is another place we wish we had not gone to. As I was eating my fries I pulled out a big long black hair. Needless to say, my appetite went out the window! Had a great hamburger at Turtle Pier. They really have great ones there. And I just love their cole slaw. I've never heard of putting raisins in it but they really give it a great taste! Had our last meal on the island, Monday's lunch, at LeTastevin and we both had a very good snapper. Was glad that they had re-opened before we left as we always have at least one lunch there! Mario's Bistro!! That is the greatest place, not just the food but the ambiance, the hostess, Martine, and the nice personable young men that are the waiters. We went there twice last spring and when we got back this time the waiter remembered what kind of wine I drank! Paul and I went there alone the first week we were on the island. I had the grilled chicken and garlic mashed potatoes. It was out of this world! Paul had a tuna dish that was great. The second week on the island we took Warren (of Tutta Pasta) and his wife, Delores to Mario's. We all had another great meal. I had a grilled shrimp with mustard pickle and some kind of couscous, not sure (should have taken notes!). Paul had a Shrimp Jambalaya, Delores had Duck and Warren a steak. We were all very pleased with both the meals and service. Third week we took Love and Milan of the Gold Mine to Mario's. Another great evening! Milan is a vegetarian and she had the Gnocchi, Paul had tuna again, can't remember what Love had, and I had the chicken again. I LOVE that meal! Love and Milan go to Mario's quite frequently, we told them about it to begin with. Generally Love tells us about the newest places to try. I can't say enough about how great the food and service is there. Make sure you have reservations as this is about the most crowded restaurant on the island. Wish we were going there for dinner this evening!!! <G> Almost forgot one place we went that was fabulous. The chef that used to be a LeCottage (closed for good) has moved to Chanteclair in the Marina Royale area. This is a very small restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. Paul had a delicious Conch Stew for an appetizer, it was chock full of conch and very, very good. We both had snapper with garlic mashed potatoes. A great meal and very reasonable, can't remember the price though. Good service also. I can't remember if Paul had dessert or not, I never do. He usually has something with chocolate. Restaurants closed for good: Grill & Ribs (last June) Pizza Huts (last June) Le Cottage - Grand Case Taco Bell Felix Ren & Stimpy's that's all I can think of now but there are probably more. Almost forgot...Dick Miller's show got the ax! The trip home was for the birds! Flight was supposed to leave at 3:44 P.M. and we had a connecting flight at 5:55PM in San Juan. We got into San Juan about 5:30 and after getting through Immigration and customs were hurried to gate 2 for our flight. Looked at the monitor and found that the flight was not leaving until 7:45! We shared a turkey sandwich and then just waited and waited. Around 8:15 or so we boarded our flight. At 9:00 we were told that we had to get off the plane. It seems that the crew had been on too long and another crew had to be flown in. Flight was re-scheduled to 11:15pm. We are all getting pretty tired by that time. We were fed some lousy cold sandwiches and warm soda while waiting. Got into Hartford just before 3:30AM and found that Hertz (we were renting a car to get home) was closed. Oh boy, now what??? Paul went to one of AA's workers and told her the story. Thankfully, she got in touch with someone from Hertz and they picked us up and brought us to the rental. We finally got home at 5:30AM. Boy was THAT a long day!
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.gobeach.com/ctr/ or http://www.slmtravel.com/~slm. E-mail via CTREDITOR@aol.com, CTREDITOR@prodigy.com, email@example.com : On Prodigy - MKWC51A: Travel Online BBS firstname.lastname@example.org.
| CTR Home | << Back | Part 1 | Part 2 | Search |