Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 69
November 1 1996

Updated 31 Oct 96 0030utc

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JAMAICA: SUPERCLUBS BREEZES, RUNAWAY BAY BY KREGG KLINGMAN

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.

ST. JOHN BY MARIANNE BAKER

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. 

ST. MARTIN BY SAM SILVERMAN

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. 

ST. MARTIN BY ANN SULLIVAN

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! 

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