Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 80
December 1, 1997

Last Update 27 Nov 97 2000ET

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JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BY MIKE AND SARA SCHARPF

GRAND  LIDO  FACILITIES  Location: Negril, Jamaica - One and one-half 
hours  West  of  Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport by car, 
15  minutes  by  air.  The property is nestled on the shore of Bloody 
Bay,  which  is located east of the seven-mile beach in Negril. Grand 
Lido  P.O.  Box  88  PHONE (876) 957-5010-8 Negril FAX (876) 957-5517 
Jamaica, West Indies 

Facilities:  Grand  Lido  has  200  sleeping  rooms  and two separate 
beaches  (one  traditional  beach, and one secluded clothing optional 
beach).  Meeting  facilities are available. Two new resorts are being 
built to the east of Grand Lido on the same bay. 

The  room:  In the junior suite, which is a standard room, the raised 
sleeping  area  is  set apart from the lounge area. The buildings are 
only  two-stories  high  and  rooms  are  accessible  by  an open-air 
hallway  on  the  non-beach  side, and on the beach side of the first 
floor  rooms.  Rooms  are tiled, and upholstery is pretty and in good 
condition. 

The  suite's  lounge  area  includes  a  love  seat and floor lamp, a 
coffee  table,  an  upholstered  chair,  and  a  stand  that  holds a 
(satellite)  television,  a  CD/cassette/radio  boom  box and a table 
lamp.  There  are  no  screens or glass on the two small windows that 
face  the ocean, only lockable louvers which allow the ocean and tree 
frog  sounds in at night. In between the two small windows is a patio 
door;  upstairs  rooms  have  a tiny balcony, downstairs rooms have a 
beachside  patio  (if  it  is  a beach-front or ocean-view room). The 
ceiling  fan  and  air  conditioner are located on the lounge side of 
the suite. 

The  sleeping  area of the room includes a bed with two bedside lamps 
and  a telephone, across from the bed is an attached wood vanity with 
upholstered  vanity chair and a lamp, and a full-length mirror. There 
are  more  than  enough  pillows  ,  and  they  are comfy, too. Hotel 
information   is  available  in  the  folder  found  on  the  vanity, 
including  laundry  information,  room  service  menu, in-house phone 
numbers, etc. 

Near  the  entrance  of  each  room  is a built in wood closet (which 
houses  a  mini safe), and a built in dresser with four small drawers 
and  three  shelves  -  with  a  lighted  mirror hanging above and an 
electrical  outlet.  There is a coffee/tea maker on the vanity there. 
A  dispenser  in  the  bathroom  tub/shower has shampoo, bath gel and 
lotion.  Towels  abound!  A  hair  dryer  hangs  on  the  wall in the 
bathroom,  next  to  the  sink and mirror. Louvered-glass windows are 
available to help air the humidity out of the bathroom. 

Daily  maid  service  includes full cleaning in the morning and turn-
down  service  in  the  evening. Improvements in progress: First, and 
most  notably,  all  of the hotel's public areas are being resurfaced 
with  beautiful  Italian  Marble  tiles  ...  The  marble  lobby, the 
lounge,  the  Terrazza, the walkways and the pool areas. It should be 
quite  stunning.  (We  were disappointed to know the old marble lobby 
would  be  covered, but upon careful viewing one could determine that 
the  flawed  Jamaican marble in the floor was crumbling, cracking and 
difficult  to  clean.)  The  fitness  area  is  now enclosed and air-
conditioned. 

An  aerobics  work-out  pad has been installed overlooking the ocean, 
near the main pool. 

A   spa   area   is  being  constructed.  It  will  include  massage, 
reflexology,  body  scrubs,  a  mineral plunging pool. Don't know the 
details  yet,  but it is going to be beautiful. The sales manager has 
told  us  that  these  services will be offered at an additional fee. 
Three massage huts have been built over-looking the ocean. 

The  clothing  optional  pool  bar  has  added  a  grill.  While  not 
operational  during  our  visit,  it  appears much nicer than the old 
pool bar building. 

One-Bedroom  Suites  and Executive Suites are being built on the main 
beach,  between  the first guest room building and the main building. 
Facilities include: 

The  main  building,  which  includes  the Terrazza, Main Bar, Marble 
Lobby,  Lounge,  Main desk, Piacere, LaPasta, Café Lido, Amici, Games 
Room,   Atlantis   Disco,  Video  Theater,  Library,  Salon  Delores, 
Boutique/Duty-free Shop and Gift Shop. 

The  Terrazza  -  Main  gathering spot for buffets, as well as lunch-
time and evening entertainment. 

Games  Room - Offering backgammon, board games, cards, dominoes, pool 
tables,  Ping-Pong,  and  a  small collection of slot machines. Video 
Theater  -  open  24-hours  a  day,  offers  a  big  screen satellite 
television  and  use  of  a  VCR  (tapes  available  from concierge). 
Library  -  Books,  magazines,  newspapers  -  limited  quantity  and 
selection  (guests  don't  return items). Boutique/Duty-free Shop and 
Gift  Shop  Marble  Lobby (being re-tiled) is home to a collection of 
art,  available for sale from Chelsea Gallery, Kingston. Eight Bars - 
the  main  bar  on the Terrazza, the Amici Piano Bar, Atlantis Disco, 
Three  clubhouse  bars,  the main beach bar, the nude beach bar. Club 
Houses  - Stone, Timber and Beach House - each offers a light menu, a 
bar, whirlpool and terrace. 

Fitness   Center   -   Newly  air-conditioned,  includes  treadmills, 
stairmasters,  stationary  bikes,  with  freeweights  and  resistance 
training  equipment.  Aerobic  classes and power walks are available. 
The  newly  constructed  aerobic  platform over-looking the ocean was 
not yet in use during our visit. 

Spa Area - to open soon. 

Three  massage  huts - each overlooking the ocean. Were not in use at 
the  time of our visit. But, if we return, I'll have a massage in one 
of these!! 

Four Tennis Courts - two are lit for evening play. 



Golf - is available, see the concierge. 



Large  pool/whirlpool area - adjacent to the Terrazza and directly on 
the ocean - the deck around it is being re tiled. 



Small  pool/whirlpool  area  with  beach bar on the clothing optional 
side  of  the  beach.  A  grill  has been added to this newly updated 
beach bar, and this pool deck is scheduled to be re-tiled, too. 



Water  Sports  -  housed  on  the main beach - includes wind surfing, 
sailing,  water skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, water tricycles, glass-
bottom  boat rides and instruction for each of these water sports. If 
para-sailing  is  desired,  let someone at water sports know and they 
will  call  over  a  non Grand Lido para-sail boat. There is an extra 
fee  for para sailing. (Mike went para-sailing on a previous trip and 
had a ball!) 



SCUBA  -  daily  dives  are  offered for beginners and PADI certified 
divers.   A   resort   course   is   available.   International  PADI 
certification is available at an additional cost. 


Yacht  -  The  M/Y  (motorized yacht ) Zein was originally given as a 
gift  from  Aristotle  Onasis  to  Grace  Kelly  and Prince Ranier of 
Monaco  ...  a  wedding  gift. Now owned by Super Clubs, the yacht is 
available  for  (almost)  daily  sunset  cruises  (reservations  with 
concierge  are  required).  This  is  a pleasant cocktail cruise that 
takes  all  aboard past Rick's Café and the Negril Light House on the 
West  End.  It  includes  entertainment  and  light appetizers, by no 
means  a  meal.  There is also a clothing optional cruise, usually on 
day  mornings,  but  check daily activity sheet to confirm date/time. 
If  the  Zein  is in dry dock or out for maintenance, another boat is 
contracted  by  the hotel to provide a sunset cruise. Guests complain 
about  the contracted boats, but there is no other boat so elegant as 
the Zein to hire, and the Zein does need maintenance. 

Salon  Delores  -  offers  manicures  and pedicures (complimentary of 
course).  Their  employee walks the beach to offer authentic Jamaican 
hair  braiding to guests ($4 per braid) - your hair can be done right 
on  the  beach. Many brides use Salon Delores to have their hair done 
for their big day. 


Laundry  and  Dry  Cleaning  - available from your room at no charge. 
Make  sure to allow 48 hours (for sure) for return of clean clothing. 


DINING GUIDE 

Gran Terrazza - 

Daily Breakfast, 8:00 - 10:30 AM 


Buffet   Menu:   Hot  items  like  sausages,  bacon,  eggs  Benedict, 
scrambled  eggs,  breakfast  fish, corned beef hash, French toast and 
pancakes;  Bread  items like bagels, muffins, English muffins, banana 
bread,  whole wheat bread, multi-grain bread and white bread. Toaster 
and  bread  condiments  (like  marmalade,  jam,  jelly, butter, cream 
cheese,  locks,  etc.)  Made-to-order  omelets.  Fresh  fruit. Cheese 
display.  Yogurt.  Sweet  rolls.  Juices,  coffee,  tea, soda, mimosa 
(etc.) served at the table. 

Attire: casual, cover-ups must be worn over swim suits. 

Daily Lunch, 12:30 - 3:00 PM 


Buffet  Menu:  Hot  items  differ  from  day  to  day, usually ethnic 
cuisine  is  featured  (Mexican,  Jamaican,  Italian,  Oriental). Hot 
soups.  Huge  bread  display featuring European-type breads, Jamaican 
coconut  rolls,  traditional  white/wheat  dinner  rolls,  and  pizza 
bread,  as  well as traditional breads. Build-your-own sandwiches ... 
including  meats,  cheeses,  condiments,  tuna, etc. An array of cold 
salads  are  offered  each  day,  salad bar, and on some days a salad 
chef  is  available  to toss a special lettuce/Caesar salad. Desserts 
are  incredible  ...  full  dessert display and ice cream sundae bar. 
Wine,  coffee,  tea,  soda,  juices  and bar drinks are served at the 
table. 


Attire:  casual,  cover-ups  must  be worn over swim suits. Wednesday 
Night - Island Buffet, 7:30 PM 


Menu:  More  food  than one could imagine - all displayed beautifully 
with  ice-  cheese-  and  fruit-carvings  and  sculptures.  Hot items 
include  regional  favorites  like curried goat, rice and peas, white 
fish   cakes.  Also  included  on  the  hot  food  line:  vegetables, 
potatoes,  fish,  beef,  chicken,  pork  and  shell fish. Salad chef. 
Bread  bar.  Fresh  fruit  galore. Sushi. Crudite of fresh vegetables 
and  dips. Cheese display. And more. Desserts are abundant ... cakes, 
pastries,  brule,  tiramisu,  biscottis,  cookies, pies, cream cakes, 
and more. Wine, bar and coffee service is available at the table. 



Attire: spiffy causal to semi-formal 

Friday Night - Grand Gala Buffet, 7:45 PM 



Menu:  Everything that is listed above ... and way more! Usually more 
seafood  (lobster  or langouste, prawns) and red meats. Wine, bar and 
coffee service is available at the table. 



Attire: spiffy causal to semi-formal 

Club  Houses  -  Each  of  the  "Houses" is a bar, plus a place for a 
quick  meal.  Open  24-hours  a  day.  "Stone House," "Timber House," 
"Beach  House."  Menu: Tossed salad, soup du jour, club sandwich with 
fries,  grilled  baby  lamb  chops  with  peppered  jelly,  pan fried 
snapper  sandwich,  "build  your  own"  sandwich  on  a torpedo roll, 
Mexican  potato skins, hamburger with fries, chef's salad, vegetarian 
garden  burger  with  fries,  hot dog with fries, ice cream, seasonal 
fresh  fruit  plate, chocolate brownie, ice cream with bananas foster 
and whipped cream. Also available, popcorn. 



Attire: casual 

24-hour room service 



Menu:  Same  as  the  Stone,  Timber and Beach Houses (listed above). 
Also  available,  continental  breakfast  ...  Hang  the  order  card 
(available  in  your  room)  on  your door before 2:00 a.m. and order 
from  a  limited  continental menu that will be delivered at the time 
you  request  (between  6:00  and 10:00 AM). Breakfast menu includes: 
cereal,  toast,  bakery  basket,  assorted yogurt, fresh fruit plate, 
cottage  cheese,  Blue  Mountain  coffee,  decaffeinated coffee, tea, 
mango nectar, a large variety of juices, and milk. 

LaPasta  (Italian  Cuisine),  open daily from 3:00 PM - 2:00 AM Menu: 
Appetizers,  salads and soups are available to get one started. There 
are  four  or  five sauces offered, along with four or five pastas to 
choose   from.   Each  of  the  sauces  is  different,  ranging  from 
traditional  red  beef  sauce,  to  seafood  in  a  cream  sauce,  to 
vegetables  in  a  red  sauce,  etc.  If you don't see just what will 
settle  your  palate, ask for a deviation from the menu (i.e. a plain 
red  sauce  or  "no mushrooms"). LaPasta's staff tries to accommodate 
special  requests.  (The  menu  at LaPasta changes every four or five 
days.)  Three or four desserts are displayed on a cart near the front 
of the restaurant. You may dine inside or outside. 



Attire: casual 

Café  Lido  (Continental  Cuisine),  open daily (except Wednesday and 
Friday) 6:30 - 10:00 PM 



Menu:  Three  or  four  appetizers,  two or three soups, two or three 
salads,   and   six  or  seven  entrees  are  offered.  The  meal  is 
accompanied  by  a  basket  of  bread.  Full wine service. Dessert is 
listed  on  the  menu  and  includes  a  selection  of  five  or  six 
tantalizing  items.  The  menu  here  is  just  as  impressive as the 
Piacere,  although  the  environment is not as formal and there is no 
sorbet/  palate  cleansing  course.  (If  your a Plane-Jane eater, go 
ahead  and  order  without  sauces, herbs, seasonings, etc. They will 
try to comply, and usually do.) You may dine inside or outside. 

Attire: dressy to spiffy casual 

Piacere  (French  Nouvelle  Cuisine),  open  daily  6:30  -  9:30 PM, 
reservations  with  concierge are required for seating Menu: Three or 
four  appetizers, two or three soups, two or three salads, and six or 
seven  entrees  are offered. Again, full wine service and a basket of 
breads  accompany  your  meal.  The  service is impeccable and white-
gloved.  Although  the staff is prepared to be as formal as one would 
ever   desire,   the   staff  will  warm  to  you  if  you  encourage 
conversation,  and  because  of  that  the service doesn't have to be 
"stuffy",  but  can  be  FUN. The menu here is as good or better than 
we've ever experienced anywhere in the United States. 


Attire:  Formal/  Semi-formal.  Men must wear leather dress shoes and 
jackets,  although  no  ties  are required. Women usually dress quite 
formally.  The sales manager has told us that Grand Lido is likely to 
open a Jamaican Cuisine Restaurant on property in the near future. 

DAILY  ACTIVITIES  -  see  the daily activity sheet available through 
the  concierge  or  at  the  front  desk for activities while you are 
there  ...  the  ones  listed  below  are "daily standard," but by no 
means include all activities
AM
8:00 - Power Walk, meet in front of gym
8:00 - 11:00 Audio/Video Library
8:15 - Bicycle Tour (reserve with Concierge)

8:30  -  11:30  and  3:30 - 6:30 Tennis Pro on duty 9:00 - 4:00 Water 
Sports  available  on  main  beach  9:30  - Morning Announcements, on 
Terrazza
10:00  and  5:00  - Formal Orientation, meet outside of Amici 10:30 - 
Beach Volleyball
PM
12:30  -  Lunch  Time  Band performs (except Sunday, the One Man Band 
plays)
1:30 - Lunch Time Announcements, on Terrazza
2:30 - Lunch Time Activity, on Terrazza, different activity each day
3:30  -  Evening  Cocktail  Cruise,  departs  from pier (reserve with 
Concierge)
4:00  -  6:00 - Afternoon Tea in the Marble Lobby 6:00 - 2:00 - Amici 
Piano Bar
9:00  or 9:30 - Evening performance on the Terrazza, a different show 
each night

10:30  -  either  Laser Karaoke or Resident Pianist Performs in Amici 
Piano Bar
10:30 - Atlantis Disco
***A  wide  variety  of  daytime  outings  and tours are available by 
contacting the concierge. Additional charge.


OUR  TRIP  -  everyone  has  unique and special things happen to them 
while  on  vacation ... Out trip report will not go through a minute-
by-minute  account  of  our  vacation (we don't want to bore anyone). 
However,  we  would  like  to  point  out a few of those individuals, 
activities  and  items that made our trip exceptional in some way ... 
or,  information others may find useful. day, October 16 - "We arrive 
at   our   destination   luggageless."   The   trip  started  out  as 
uneventfully  as  one could possibly hope for. We flew out on Midwest 
Express  (all  seats  are  first class on this airline) to Milwaukee, 
then  on  to  Atlanta.  We had a three and a half hour lay over until 
our  Air  Jamaica flight took off for MoBay. We arrived as scheduled. 
Immigration  lines were not horrendously long (about 20 minutes), and 
we  were entertained by a local folk dance group while waiting to get 
through. 


Upon  arrival in the baggage claim area, we immediately realized that 
our  luggage  did  not arrive quite as uneventfully as we ... in fact 
it  did  not  arrive  at  all. There were five other couples who flew 
into  Atlanta on Midwest Express whose luggage did not arrive either. 
We  began  the  business  of  filing  lost  luggage claims at the Air 
Jamaica  counter.  While  the  women  working  were trying to be very 
helpful,  they  did  not  react  to the urgency of the situation and, 
understandably,  Mike  soon  became  exasperated ... We were at their 
mercy.  I took over the paperwork. The women could not identify where 
our  luggage  had  been  lost,  when  it would arrive in, if it would 
arrive  in.  They did, however, want us to give them combinations and 
keys  for  our luggage so they could take our luggage through customs 
upon  its  arrival  in Jamaica. As their printer was broken, I had no 
receipt  of  the  claim  we had filed, just a claim number. Remember, 
nothing  is  ever  a problem in Jamaica, and our lost luggage was "no 
problem"  to  the Jamaicans trying to help us. Quite on the contrary, 
we  thought  our  lost  luggage was a problem. Although they were not 
helpful  in  terms  of providing the information we are accustomed to 
receiving  under  these  circumstances,  the women at the Air Jamaica 
counter  were  very  friendly  and  they  were doing their best to be 
helpful. 

After  getting  our  customs  form  pre-signed  for  Air  Jamaica, we 
proceeded  through  the baggage claim area to look for the Tim-Air (a 
chartered  flight  provider)  desk. Before we had spotted TimAir, the 
TimAir  porter  spotted  us,  remembering  us from our last visit. He 
took  the  one  carryon  we  had  with us and walked us to a bus that 
would  take  us  to the FBO. TimAir used to be accessible through the 
airport  but  has  recently  relocated  to  a facility outside of the 
Sangster  airport building. We had made flight reservations from home 
but  paid  the  $240US round trip (for both of us) with a credit card 
at  the  TimAir office. The pilot and co-pilot were ready for us, and 
we  got into the four-seat airplane immediately. The 15-minute flight 
was  beautiful.  It  rained  on  and  off,  and  that  was - with the 
exception  of  a  few  raindrops  on the following Friday -- the only 
rain  we  saw  during  our vacation. A taxi was awaiting our arrival, 
and  we  were immediately taken from the Negril Aerodrome (across the 
street from Grand Lido) to the resort. 

Check  in  took  five (5) minutes ... barely enough time to drink the 
beverages  we  were served upon arrival. We were escorted to our room 
by  the  Sales  Manager,  Christopher Johnson, who took us on a short 
walking  tour  of  the  improvements  being made at Grand Lido. After 
cleaning   up,  we  stopped  in  at  the  returning  guests  cocktail 
reception  ... it was a pleasure to see many old friends, waitresses, 
waiters, managers who had helped make previous stays enjoyable. 




We  had  our  first dinner, at LaPasta, where we saw many old friends 
who  waited  on  us.  Ah,  Jamaican  coffee tastes better in Jamaica! 
Dessert,  chestnut  cake  with  peach brandy ice cream, hit the spot, 
too!!!!  We  stopped  down  to  the  whirlpool for a half-hour before 
stumbling  off  to  our  bed.  The  tree frogs and waves lulled us to 
sleep.  Friday, October 17 - Is there anything more grand than waking 
up  in  Jamaica?  Yes,  ordering a pot of coffee and having it arrive 
within  10  minutes  (room service consistently took between five and 
ten minutes when we ordered coffee or coffee and Pepsi). 

We  spent  plenty of time trying to track down our lost luggage. Mike 
was  on the phone with Montego Bay and the U.S. Getting nowhere fast, 
it  was suggested he talk to the concierge.... Shelia, the concierge, 
proved  to  be sweet and quite helpful, too. She helped us to get our 
bags,  and  helped  Air  Jamaica to open our bags to get them through 
customs  (our  bags  are  locked  with  a  full-size  MasterLock: try 
explaining  over  the  telephone,  to  a  Jamaican, the technique for 
opening  a  MasterLock!!!).  At  5:15  our  bags arrived. Luckily, we 
carried  an  extra  set  of keys to our luggage, as the keys were not 
returned  with the luggage. Everything was intact, nothing taken, and 
we could change our clothes!!!!!! 

We  went  to  the  Grand Gala Buffet at 7:30 - as usual, the food was 
everywhere!!  Huge  prawns were my favorite. Mike liked the "death by 
chocolate"  pie.  There  were  new  performers  on stage: a funfilled 
staff  fashion  show (Mike loved the swimsuit portion of it!). A very 
talented female vocalist, Judy Emanuel, took the audience by storm. 




At  10:30 we hit Amici Piano Bar for Karaoke, and later hit the disco 
(Friday  is a good night to watch all of the Jamaican employees dance 
...  and they can dance!). Saturday, October 18 - I made reservations 
for  the  French  Restaurant  (Monday),  A  Massage  for Mike (Today, 
Saturday),  and  a  Pedicure/Manicure for me (soonest appointment was 
Tuesday).  For  the second day in a row, the weather was delightfully 
hot and sunny. 

We  went  to lunch at the buffet. Hot items featured Mexican cuisine. 
We  were  introduced  to  Zein  Issa (SuperClubs VP of marketing) who 
joined  us  briefly.  Apparently, she has had the opportunity to read 
the  AOL  travel  board and she carefully considers the criticisms of 
the postings, and how to correct the situations/problems. 

For dinner, we went to Café Lido. Mike 
ordered  minestrone  soup and a sirloin (without the sauce described) 
...  his  request  was  "no problem." I had pumpkin soup, something I 
crave  when  I  am not in Jamaica, and a grilled tuna steak. (A Grand 
Lido  chef  once  told  us that domestic pumpkins are quite different 
from  Jamaican  pumpkins,  and  therefore  ours are not much good for 
making  soup.)  We  both skipped the other courses. Although Saturday 
is  traditionally  a  great  night for entertainment on the Terrazza, 
Reggae  Explosion  Night,  we  were too tired and hit the sack early. 
Sunday,  October 19 - I woke up without the alarm in time for a Power 
Walk.  Met  Donovan, the temporary gym instructor, outside of the gym 
facilities  at 7:55 AM. (He is always prompt.) There were three other 
walkers,  and  we  took  off down the beach. It was hot at 8:00 and I 
sweat  like  a pig! We walked on the beach of Bloody Bay, going east, 
until  we could go no further because the jungle takes over the beach 
...we  then  turned toward the road, and once we arrived at the road, 
we  walked  back  to Grand Lido. 35 or 40 minute walk (3 miles???). I 
needed  water.  At  least  I could say I exercised while on vacation. 
Mike  and  I  went  to  breakfast at 9:30 - something we rarely do on 
vacation.  Mike  had  eggs Benedict and I did too. I also indulged in 
Grand  Lido's  awesome  banana  bread. Then, off I went to lay in the 
sun  and  soak  up all those harmful UV rays. - Again, it was hot and 
swimming was a necessity. 


Later,  Mike  and  I  walked  the  beach  and talked with some of the 
"Beach  Friends" we have made over time. (We enjoy spending time with 
the  Jamaican  people,  on and off property.) So, we exerted a little 
energy  before  lunch.  Lunch notes: Pumpkin/chicken/vegetable soup - 
awesome!!  In addition to all of the regular items, today is Jamaican 
Day  on  the  hot  buffet  line  ... Akee and Salt Fish (the Jamaican 
national  dish),  peas  and rice, curried goat, to name a few. Again, 
we  went  to  swim.  And  later we left to go to Sandy Bay (community 
about  15  minutes away) to visit a friend. We returned to have a cup 
of tea at Afternoon Tea and were joined by Social Director Ted. 

Monday,  October  20  -  Note:  this  day  is  National Heroes Day in 
Jamaica,  a national holiday commemorating the gifts five men and one 
woman  made  to the people of Jamaica. This is the first time, in all 
of  our seven visits, that a Jamaican holiday was celebrated in a big 
way. 

We  told  the  new  Entertainment  Manager, Floret, that we enjoy the 
attention  called  to  Jamaican  holidays and heritage. We are, after 
all,  guests  in  their  country. It does us good to understand their 
culture,  and  this  information  is interesting, too. - First things 
first, we ordered coffee. 


(Although  there are coffee makers in the room, I much prefer to have 
room  service  deliver  coffee  in  the  morning. In my book, that is 
luxury.)  Called  in  laundry,  something you have to do before 10:30 
AM. 




Lunch  buffet  featured  hot  pasta, made to order on the buffet line 
grill.  Another  soup  favorite  of  mine  was  served  today,  conch 
chowder.  Grand  Lido  has  really  wonderful soups, and the European 
breads  to  accompany them. Mike built himself a respectable sandwich 
nearly  every  day  for  lunch  - cold cuts, cheeses, lettuce, onion, 
tomatoes ... all the fixin's! 

We  took  advantage  of  the  clear, hot windy weather and went for a 
walk  and  a  sail  on  a  sunfish.  Mike  was  able to get that boat 
cranking  and  we  had a great time. Again, as in previous visits, we 
noticed  that  the Water Sports guys keep a serious eye on all of the 
vacationers  who  take out equipment. They went out to help a guy who 
was  having  a  lot of trouble with his sailboat. Later in the day we 
saw  them  go to help out another sailor, preventing him from washing 
up  on the rocks. We had reservations for Piacere at 7:00. We dressed 
typically  fo  this  restaurant: Mike wore khaki pants, a white shirt 
and navy jacket, I wore a simple black dress. 

We  were  greeted  by the host and seated immediately. Wine first, we 
selected the Conch y
Toro  Cabernet/Merlot  blend  -  one  of  the better tasting wines on 
property  -  and  the  menu  selection began. I began with crab cakes 
(appetizer)  ,  we  both  ordered  tomato salad, Mike ordered sirloin 
steak  (and  asked  for  it  without the special sauce) and I ordered 
salmon  steak.  We  skipped  the other courses. We enjoyed each item, 
but  wished  the  tomato  salad  were  less complicated - it included 
eggplant   goat   cheese   rolls   embellishments,   and  some  other 
unidentifiable  stuff  -  but  for  the adventuresome diner, it was a 
great   salad.  Mike's  steak  was  wonderful,  and  the  salmon  was 
incredible,  too. We ended up in the Amici Piano Bar enjoying the Jim 
Beam and Wine. We left, all smiles, two hours later. 

Tuesday,  October  21  - The first slightly cloudy day we've had, but 
still hot and muggy. A great day to lay by the pool. 




Notable  lunch items: stew, rice and vegetables, grilled chicken, red 
pea  soup  (excellent), and the usual array of everything else. I had 
a  manicure/pedicure  -  enjoyable,  and  she (Trina) did a nice job, 
too.  We  had  received  our  laundry by 4:00. Went to the beach and, 
later,  to  the  afternoon  tea.  We  received  an  invitation to the 
returning-guests  cocktail  party that is held on day evenings and we 
RSVP'd  immediately that we would attend. This is always a great time 
to  let the management know how your stay is and how they can make it 
better next time. 


The  M/Y  Zein  returned  from  dry  dock  and  we reserved a spot on 
Saturday's  cruise.  The  "lady"  was  given  new German engines, new 
piping,  new  electrical,  a  facelift and is essentially a new boat. 
From the shore, all lit up at night, she is beautiful. 


Decided  to  hop  into  the  whirlpool before bed, but it was not hot 
enough  ...  I  had  the  goose bumps. But there were a lot of people 
chatting  and  drinking  around  the hot tub by the time we left! (We 
later  spoke  to  Byron  "The  Hardest  Working  Pool  Man  In All Of 
Jamaica"  and  he  said, once again, he just can't please guests. One 
guest  says  it is too hot, one guest says it is too cold. The policy 
for  temperature is 100 102 degrees F. He said, engineering was going 
to  put  a  lock on the door to prevent guests from entering the pump 
house  and  changing  the  temperature themselves. Later in the week, 
Mike  and  I overheard one guy bragging about taking matters into his 
own  hands when he thought the whirlpool was too hot - he said he had 
turned  the heat off in the pump house the night before -- so we know 
it happens.) 

Wednesday,  October  22  -  We  slept in again and vowed to go to bed 
early  tonight!  We were in the sun by 11:30 AM but had to chase down 
towels,  a  chaise  for each of us, and seat cushions. We sat out for 
about  an  hour  -  I  put  sunscreen  on, Mike did not and he burned 
badly.  The  volleyball  crowd  was in the pool (day three or four of 
all-day  volleyball  games  ...  made it unpleasant for me to be near 
the  pool  ...  if I wanted to swim, I could not ... one guy (who was 
quite  raunchy,  although  not everyone who was playing was the same) 
liked   to  shout  out  comments  about  the  appearance  of  certain 
individual's  body  parts ... tacky and tasteless. We later talked to 
Donna,  the  resident  manager  about him - she said if an individual 
gets  too  out-of-hand,  Grand  Lido  will  ask them to leave for the 
enjoyment  of  the  many.)  After  lunch,  we linked up with some new 
friends  and  went  across the street to the "shops" and had fun just 
looking  and  watching our friends try to get pricing down. The shops 
resemble  small one-room wood shanties. Each houses a menagerie of T-
shirts,  carvings, beaded jewelry, shells and paintings. Nothing here 
is  too  expensive, although the first price you are given is usually 
double  what you actually need to pay. A guy by the name of Christmas 
Man  (a  Rasta  guy) took us under his wing and attempted to keep the 
"hagglers"  away  from  us.  Relentless salesmanship here is annoying 
unless  you  learn  to politely, but convincingly, say "no." Shopping 
made  us  very hot, so we decided to take a dip in the pool (after we 
got  through  chatting  with  a  few  people  on  our way through the 
lobby).  The volleyball-ers were pool-side, not actually in the pool, 
so we were able to swim. Refreshing! 


Decided  to  hit  the  Amici prior to dinner ... the M/Y Zein Captain 
Wynn  Jones and his wife Linde were there, along with another Captain 
Laurie   and   a   judge   from  Westmorland  Parish  ...  The  jokes 
overfloweth.  Christopher  Johnson found us as we reached the Terrace 
for  the  Wednesday  night  buffet ... we found a table way up front. 
Dinner   was   excellent  ...  I  had  a  few  regional  "delicacies" 
(whitefish  stuffed  with  caliloo,  and  white  fish  cakes). We all 
enjoyed  several  death-bychocolate desserts. Entertainment consisted 
of  a  guy  named  Fox  who eats fire and does a balancing act, and a 
unicycle  guy named Slinky. There were folk dancers who performed and 
led  a interactive Soca dance routine ... entertaining. 10:30 Karaoke 
... up too late again!!! 

  day,  October  23 --Nothing outrageous on this day. We did however, 
order  room service for dinner. We Ordered Mexican Potato Skins and a 
brownie  for dessert - drinks included Pepsi and coffee. Room service 
took  only  a  half  hour  to  arrive  (as  they said it would when I 
called).  They  have changed their potato skins since our last visit, 
but  they  were  still  very good - you have to make changes here and 
there, I suppose. 

Friday,  October  24  --  We  had made plans to go out to the country 
with  some  friends,  and  for  fear of ruining our private escape, I 
will  not disclose where we went. Although I will tell you, there are 
so  many  beautiful  areas  in the hills. And the Jamaican people are 
equally  beautiful.  Mike and I believe our most wonderful excursions 
have  been  with  individual  Jamaican  friends  to  their  homes and 
stomping grounds. We departed at 9:20 and returned at about 6:00. 

We  were  excited  about our day, and although we were tired, decided 
to  go get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. We enjoyed dinner 
in  LaPasta,  they had a basic red meat sauce Mike likes on the menu. 
I  tried  a  vegetable/pork sauce and it was O.K. We met up with some 
new  friends,  who  in  turn  introduced  us to their new friends ... 
another  night  of  smart talk and beverages. Stopped in Amici on our 
way  to our room. Ike (the talented resident pianist) was there ready 
to  play piano, and requested that Mike tell a few jokes to the crowd 
of a dozen that was there. He did, and we left them laughing. 

Saturday,  October  25  - We had a lazy day by the pool planned. Mike 
is  not one to sit, so he went off to talk and joke, and to find some 
coffee  to  bring  home  (Me?  Addicted???).  I went down to the pool 
(endured  one  more  game  of  volleyball)  and searched for a towel, 
chair  and cushion. Couldn't find a towel, so I went back to the room 
to get one there. 


An  old friend came to visit us after lunch, and then we prepared for 
the evening cocktail cruise. 


Captain  Laurie  welcomed  us  onto  the  bridge,  and we enjoyed the 
cruise  immensely.  We  all watched for the flash of green light that 
is  supposed  to be seen just as the last speck of sun dips below the 
horizon  ... no one saw it. We did have a great time. Again, we dined 
in LaPasta - the seafood was excellent! 

Sunday,  October  26  -- Our last full day. Got up early, but lounged 
about  and  enjoyed  the  last Jamaican-time morning we had together. 
The  Jamaican  coffee  was exceptionally good. (Mike always brings 30 
cans  of  classic  Coke  with  him when we go to Jamaica, because the 
Pepsi  and  Coke on the island are so yucky! He had quite a few left, 
so  he  enjoyed  a  few CocaColas while I savored the coffee.) I swam 
and   read,   Mike   joined  in  a  sea-side  backgammon  tournament, 
orchestrated  among  a  couple  of friends. I had my finger nails re-
painted  at  Salon  Delores,  then  I got Mike for lunch. Some of our 
friends,  who  are  in management at Grand Lido, invited us to go jet 
skiing  on  their new machine ... off we went. Oh what terror, I mean 
fun!  We made our way over to the Hedonism beach, and returned later. 
Our  last afternoon was spent having beverages by the main beach bar. 
We  swam  and  chatted and enjoyed the hot tub. I went up to the room 
to  pack,  and the notice of return-flight confirmation had been slid 
under  our  door.  We  were  to  depart at 8:15 AM, and have our bags 
outside  the door at 7:15 AM. We called Christopher Johnson to see if 
he  had  dinner plans, he did not so we agreed to meet him for dinner 
at  the main bar. There was a wait for tables at the Café Lido, so we 
each  had  a  beverage,  and  chatted with some return guests who had 
just  arrived  in. Dinner was lovely (Chris suggested I try the capon 
taco  appetizer, I did, and they were great). I needed one last Grand 
Lido  chocolate  fix, and there was no chocolate on the dessert menu, 
so  the  waiter  kindly  went  over  to  LaPasta  and got a chocolate 
dessert  off of their cart. Our last stop was at Amici, where Karaoke 
was in progress ... great crowd and great fun. 

Monday,  October  27-- It was a sad day. We got our bags out in time, 
Mike  gave  away  his  remaining  Coca-Cola  to a fellow Coke Classic 
Addict,  and  everything was like clockwork getting home ... bags and 
all. 

OUR OWN TIDBITS 

Grand  Lido  really  is  an  all  inclusive  resort  ...  no tipping. 
Although  it  is  sometimes difficult to believe, because the service 
can  be so good, employees are not working for a tip - they will tell 
you  they  just  want  you  to  have a great time so you will return. 
Prior  to  this  trip we had read one posting in the AOL Travel Board 
(Grand  Lido  section) describing employees as "rude and surly." Upon 
our  arrival, and then at the Friday night grand gala buffet, we made 
a  special  effort  to review to service and demeanor of the waiters, 
waitresses,  and  bartenders.  Our  findings:  while  service  is not 
always  perfect,  on  the  whole  the Grand Lido employees are always 
trying  to make your meal enjoyable and your stay pleasant. There was 
never  a  behavior we could classify as unfriendly, much less rude or 
surly.  Quite  contrarily, we have found the workers at Grand Lido to 
be more than pleasant, entertaining and enjoyable. 

As  we  have  said,  we've  been  to Grand Lido many times. The first 
time,  in  February  1995,  we  found  the service impeccable and the 
staff  quite  friendly.  The  next  visit, following a labor dispute, 
service  was lacking, although employees were trying, they simply had 
not   yet   been   trained  properly.  In-between,  we've  seen  some 
improvements,  but  never  a  return to the impeccable service of our 
first trip ... until now. Grand Lido's service is back. 

I  am not a great connoisseur of wines, although I enjoy a glass here 
and  there.  I  prefer  dryer,  full-bodied  reds  and have found the 
Chilean  Conch  y  Toro  Cab/Merlot to be consistently pleasant. This 
trip,  there  was  also a red French table wine that was pretty good. 
Also, the new Jamaican red wine is all right, but not great. 



There  is  a  wonderful  non-alcoholic  beverage  ...  called a Fruit 
Punch,  it  is  a  blend  of  ice,  fruit  and  fruit  juices. Highly 
recommended by both of us. 



Jamaican  Coke  and Pepsi are not the same as beverages with the same 
name  and  logo  in  the  U.S.,  or anywhere else. Ting - a 7-up type 
beverage  with  grapefruit  juice  in it - is quite good. Floret, the 
new  entertainment manager, has brought a high level of entertainment 
to  Grand  Lido.  There  is great improvement from our last visit, on 
the  part  of  the shows and on the part of the activities directors. 
It  is  a  good  thing  that  the  resort is re- tiling so much area, 
because  the  place  was beginning to look weary ... this may be just 
the  face  lift  the  place  needs. The only other facility boosts we 
could  recommend  are:  1  new  tile  in  bathrooms,  and 2. A larger 
clothing optional pool with more of a pool deck to go along with. 



At  times,  there  was a lack of available towels, chaises and chaise 
cushions  (floats)  on the beach. This became a real negative. At the 
very  least,  once  you  get to the beach, you want to be able to sit 
down  on a cushioned chair and have a towel available, too. The Grand 
Lido  will  have  to  work  on  this  problem. Part of the problem is 
people  going down to the beach in the morning, marking a chair and a 
cushion  with  two  towels,  and  then  leaving  ... other guests are 
afraid  to  use the chair and cushion because it is reserved, and the 
two  towels are towels that cannot be used by anyone else. If you are 
going,  enjoy  the  use  of  your  chair/  cushion/towel ... but when 
you're  done  pick  up after yourself and put the towels in the dirty 
towel  bin.  If  everyone did that, there would be no need to reserve 
chairs  for  the  day  either,  because not everyone is always on the 
beach.   In   short,   if   you're   not   going   to   be   using  a 
chair/towel/cushion, pick up so someone else can use them. 


Another  thing  to  remember  ...  The  Jamaican  life-style is a bit 
slower  than we are used to here. Don't let is frustrate you, let the 
slowed pace relax you. 

ST. MARTIN BY DIANE WOODARD

O.K.  I  have  to  admit, there are some advantages to growing older. 
The  kids  are nearly grown, and busy enough with their own lives, to 
afford  us baby boomer parents an opportunity to plan elegant escapes 
for  a  week  here,  or  a  week-end  there.  My husband Steve, and I 
recently  returned  from  a  week  on  the  Dutch-French  island  St. 
Maarten/St.  Martin. We had such a wonderful time, I didn't even mind 
going back to work on Monday morning. 

Funny  how  quickly  you forget you've been up since 4AM, standing in 
lines  at  airports,  squeezed  into totally full airplanes, when the 
pilot  makes  a  circle  of  a  beautiful  island  with  rugged green 
mountains,  inviting  stretches of beach, and those breathtaking neon 
blue  waters  and  sets down. We picked up what we soon began calling 
"the  Cadillac of Caribbean rental cars," a Toyota Corolla from "Best 
Deal  Rental  Cars."  Apparently  the  coupon  from  some St. Martin- 
related  web  page (don't ask -- I probably could never find it again 
and  there  area  sooooo  many!) entitled us to this gem of a car for 
$150/week  unlimited  mileage.  Seemed like a good deal, whether that 
was  true  or  not,  and we were exhausted. Plus the guy even told us 
how to find our condo complex, Simpson Bay Yacht Club. 

We  belong  to  a  vacation  club,  Med  Resorts  International. This 
property  is  their location in St. Maarten, and while not on a beach 
turned  out to be perfectly fine for us. When we set up this vacation 
week,  the reservations clerk apologized for the fact that it is only 
a  studio  apartment  -- very small -- she warned us. While it wasn't 
nearly  as  large as the two bedroom apartment we'd stayed in Cancun, 
nor  the  one  bedroom we'd had in Hilton Head, or the delightful two 
story  place in the Poconos, this was a comfortably large studio with 
a  kitchen w/all appliances (coffee maker, microwave, electric range, 
refrigerator,  freezer  with  ice-maker,  etc.)  large  bathroom with 
excellent  storage,  dining  area,  queen-size  bed  (with a terrific 
mattress)  living  area  w/sofa  two  chairs,  Cable TV, clock radio, 
overhead  fan  and  air conditioning. The floor was ceramic tile, the 
ceiling  strikingly  varnished  mahogany,  and  apparently,  superior 
soundproof  white  plaster  walls!  The  exterior has a Mediterranean 
look,  stucco  with  ceramic  tiled  scenes  on  garden walls and red 
roofs.  Lots  of  interesting  roof  lines,  mini turrets, odd shaped 
windows and terraces. 

Someone  in  CompuServe Caribbean forum once told me it wouldn't be a 
first  choice  if one were paying for it -- and I might agree because 
if  I were paying I'd probably prefer something in Grand Case, Oyster 
Pond  or  Baie  Orient.  But on the other hand, we had lighted tennis 
courts,  two  pools and a Jacuzzi. While cars were parked in front of 
many  of  the units, we only saw three or four other guests using the 
pools  --  which  were  beautifully incorporated into the marina area 
with  tiled  walls,  walkways and gorgeous multicolored flora, ferns, 
etc.  We  often  returned  from a fab dinner to change into our suits 
and  hit  the  Jacuzzi  and  have  the entire pool area to ourselves. 
Tennis  lessons  could  be  arranged.  Having  packed  our rackets on 
several  previous  trips  to the Caribbean only to realize it was way 
too  hot  to  consider  playing, we would have loved to have had them 
this time. We will know better next time!

The  security  gated  entrance  was  staffed  24-hours, and while you 
could  operate  the gate with a keycard, they knew who we were by our 
car and never failed to greet us coming or going. 

The  island  is  easy  to  explore  by  auto  -- I can't imagine just 
staying  in one place the whole time when there is so much to see and 
do.  We  liked the map provided by the info booths on the French side 
better  than  on  the  Dutch  side.  As a matter of fact we liked the 
French  side  better  that  the Dutch -- but with our location it was 
just  as  easy  to  head  to  Marigot  or  Grand  Case  as  it was to 
Phillipsburg. 

Unless   one   is   on  vacation  to  shop,  I'd  avoid  Phillipsburg 
completely.  It  isn't  particularly  attractive.  We paid as quick a 
visit  as  possible on Sunday morning. A cruise ship had just arrived 
and  many  people  were  cruising  for  bargains. We were looking for 
someplace  that  sold sunscreen. (Hint, best place to find toiletries 
are  the  pharmacies -- which are clearly identifiable by bright blue 
neon  crosses. By the way, there may be more neon on this island than 
on Time Square in NYC) That found, we hit the road for Dawn Beach. 

The  island  seems to have almost completely recovered from Hurricane 
Luis  in  1995.  There  are two places where storm damage and related 
legal  problems  are  still  noticeable.  What  was  once  probably a 
charming  resort  of  tiny  villas  on  Dawn Beach is still in ruins. 
Later  in  the  week,  we  heard  from  someone that it was more of a 
scandal  that left that place in ruins. The husband had left his wife 
and  young  children  and  took  off  with  a  girlfriend and several 
million  from  the  insurance  company.  If  our  "source"  is  to be 
believed, the guy is currently serving a three year prison term. 

There  was  a  neat  little  beach bar/restaurant, Mr. Busby's. And a 
beautiful  hotel  on the point. One of the guides says the owners are 
planning to turn it into a time share. 

We  came  to  dread  the  concept  of timeshares throughout the week. 
Touts  are  EVERYWHERE,  offering you free sailing trips to Anguilla, 
St.  Barths,  or  Saba.  Or $100 in casino chips. Or a weeks vacation 
(guess  where!).  And  free  t-shirts. Finally we just told people we 
were  already owners. Or it was our last day. Personally, we just had 
too  much to do to waste any of our time touring someplace we have no 
reason to want to stay or buy. 

While  we don't do casinos, and were more into having fun doing stuff 
than  shopping,  we  found  it  easy to make massive contributions of 
cash  to  the  local  economy. I'd been feeling guilty having spent a 
week  in  New Orleans in business and having to leave my husband back 
home  in  Maryland. I'd gotten to eat at wonderful places, and he and 
I  have always enjoyed eating out at great restaurants. Well, I guess 
we  more  than made up for that on this trip. This island has to have 
more  fine  dining  establishments  per  capita  than  any other I've 
visited.  All my pre-trip research indicated we would find nirvana in 
Grand  Case.  We did. Sunday afternoon we'd made it around the island 
to  Grand Case, and checked out menus for ideas about where to go for 
dinner.   Reservations  in  early  October  clearly  don't seem to be 
necessary  -- which made this a real bonus. We decided upon L'Alabama 
and drove back to change and stop at an ATM. 

Dollars  seem  to  be  the  preferred  currency, although you'll find 
prices  marked  in  francs  and  dollars  (and  guilders on the Dutch 
side).  Language  is  not  a  problem on either side, either. My high 
school  French  is  pretty rusty, so while I could greet and agree en 
francais,  it  was  easy  to  get along without even that. (Sometimes 
just a little is plenty enough to show you care!)

I  won't  give  a  blow  by  blow  of  every  meal we had, but I must 
recommend  L'Alabama  as  a  marvelous  place. The owners, Pascal and 
Karen,  along  with  their handsome waiter were charming, helpful and 
whomever  was responsible for the kitchen was masterful. We went back 
on  our  last  night, for a second meal. Some American tourists think 
French  restaurants are stuffy. They've never been anywhere like this 
one.  It  is  not  on the ocean side, but is spacious and open to the 
street  on one side and a lush garden on the other.  Ceiling fans and 
breezes  keep  it  extremely  comfortable.  You can order wine by the 
glass,  but  the  wine  list  had  so many great choices, we picked a 
delicious  white  Grave  on Sunday and an equally good (red) Medoc on 
Friday.  I  don't  know  if  it  is  as  common in season as out, but 
everyone  was  offered  after dinner drinks "at no charge, from me to 
you,  whatever  you  wish."  Before we left on Sunday, we told Pascal 
we'd  be  back  later  in  the week, and asked his recommendation for 
other  restaurants.  He  listed three on the back of his card, one of 
which L'Hibiscus, we visited on Thursday night. 

While  L'Alabama  was excellent (I'd describe their menu as South-of-
France  chic),  I  have  to  say  L'Hibiscus provided one of the most 
extraordinary  meals we've ever had. It has only been open two years, 
and  is  in  a  tiny West Indies style cottage at the end of the main 
street  in Grand Case closest to the hotel L'Esplanade. There was one 
waiter/maitre  `d/master  of  your dining entertainment: Francois. He 
is  a  tall,  thin,  gray-haired gentleman who was the only person we 
saw  wearing  a  tie  during  our  whole  week.  The  menu  is French 
Caribbean.  This meal I will describe in total because it was so very 
special. 

We  choose  a  "simple" mixed green salad as appetizers, as we wanted 
to  save  room  for  dessert. Steve ordered a West Indian goat curry, 
and  I  picked  roast  breast  of  duck in a Tamarind sauce. Francois 
suggested  that  we  consider  a  special  dessert -- which had to be 
ordered  along  with the entrees as it took time to prepare, so Steve 
decided  to try it: A "sweet tomato" -- sounded pretty intriguing. We 
chose  our wine for the dinner, a Margaux which worked well. While it 
"breathed,"   and   before  our  salads,  Francois  served  us  small 
complimentary  servings  of  a  crustacean  soup.  It  was smooth and 
buttery  and  tasted  like  lobster  and wonderful and garnished with 
delicate  tiny tasty leafy greens. Wow, what a start. The salads were 
terrific,  at  both  L'Alabama  and  L'Hibiscus vegetables are carved 
into  tiny  wonders  -- clearly it makes a little go a very long way, 
but  it  also  makes  you  appreciate  different  flavors of carrots, 
cauliflower,  broccoli,  zuchini,onions  and  mushrooms. Our entrees, 
especially  the  duck,  were  incredible.  I've never had such moist, 
tasteful   and   interestingly  sauced  duck  in  my  life.  And  the 
vegetables  served  with  it  were equally extraordinary -- onion and 
potato  grated  very  finely  in a light bed beneath the sliced duck, 
and  bites  of  sweet  potato  that  seemed  to  have been wrapped in 
spinach (or maybe some local green). 

Something  else  quite  special  about intimate restaurants like this 
one  are  that  you  can  smell  whatever's  being  concocted  in the 
kitchen.  Steve's special dessert was one of those delightful scents. 
I  ordered something much lighter, assorted sorbets, which turned out 
to   be  delightful  and  perfect  melon-sized  balls  of  about  six 
different  tropical  flavors.  With  our  dessert, Francois served us 
(complimentary,  again)  a  charming  dessert  wine in chilled fluted 
glasses.  While  I  don't  care for sweet wines, this was quite fine. 
And  of  course,  the  sweet  tomato.  It  was,  as billed, amazingly 
different  and  delicious.  I  think  it  was peeled and poached in a 
liquor,  and  stuffed  with a caramelized mixture of nuts and fruits, 
with  puffs of ice cream on the side.  After coffee, Francois wheeled 
up  his  cart  of flavored rums, offering your choice of about six -- 
yes,  complimentary  again. The best of the two we chose was flavored 
with fennel, of all things. 

The  bill  for  this  two-and  a  half-hour (at least, I sort of lost 
track  of  time)  dining experience was $101. We added a sizable tip. 
Such  a  meal  in  NYC or even Washington DC would have cost at least 
$200.  And  I doubt one could find such uniquely perfect combinations 
of tastes, scents and ambiance anywhere else. 

Not  that  we  spent ALL our time eating. We loved people-watching on 
Orient  Beach, snorkeled around Pinel Island, were terrified by rough 
waves  on  the  otherwise  beautiful  and  famous  Cupecoy Beach, and 
traveled  to  Anguilla  for  snorkeling  and beach exploration twice. 
Once  we  parked  at  Marigot and took the ferry across -- met a taxi 
driver  who  took  us to gorgeous Shoal Bay for the day, and returned 
to  get us back for a 5 o'clock return ferry. On our last full day we 
took  a  catamaran  daytrip  where  we snorkeled a reef off Cove Bay, 
then  traveled  to  Crocus  Bay  for  lunch  before the return to St. 
Martin.   We  enjoy  snorkeling  and I'd compare these locations with 
Akumal,  on  the  Yucatan  coast. We saw many more interesting corals 
around  Anguilla,  and  I saw a stately spotted ray cruising over sea 
grass beds in Cove Bay. 

Maybe  my  perfect vacation would be to have my own sailboat to spend 
days  on  Anguilla  and  nights in Grand Case. Ha! If asked where I'd 
like   to  stay  on  the  island,  I  think  I'd  seriously  consider 
L'Atlantide  in  Grand  Case,  or  Le Petit Hotel Residence (it looks 
tres  $$$)  and I've heard nice things about L'Esplanade. Mont Vernon 
and  Esmerlda  look  charming  in  the  Orient Beach area, and Oyster 
Pond/Dawn  Beach  looked  to  have  some  lovely villas and hotels as 
well.  I  don't  think  I'd enjoy the big resorts like Pelican or the 
huge places in Maho Bay on the Dutch side. 

One  of  the  most  depressing sights is the Mullet Bay resort condos 
decaying  after the storm destruction. Apparently court cases between 
developer  and  owners  have indefinitely delayed any reconstruction. 
The  result is scary.  The Friday night before we arrived, a Canadian 
couple  who  had thought it would be lovely to take a late night swim 
from  secluded Mullet Bay Beach were attacked by two gun men. She was 
raped,  they  were  robbed,  and  it  was truly ugly. Especially when 
authorities  admitted  there  had been five previous incidents in the 
vicinity.  Visitors  were  advised  to avoid the beach after dark, to 
lock  car doors traveling over the roads through Mullet Bay at night, 
and not to stop for anyone. 

So  paradise requires one exercise common sense. Hard to do when your 
senses  have  been caressed and pampered and thrilled to such natural 
beauty  all  day  long.  I'll  not  forget driving up and around some 
corner  to  see  one of those picture postcard views of sand, sea and 
lush  greenery.  Nor  will  I forget the extremely friendly people of 
the  island. (Although I'd like to forget those persistent time share 
hawksters.)  This was a delightful vacation. We will probably go back 
in the next year or two. 

Next  time,  however,  1:  We will take only direct flights. 2: Bring 
our  tennis  rackets.  3: Try to make it two weeks instead of one. 4: 
Find  a place to spend several days on Anguilla. 5: Remember that the 
shops  in Marigot close between 11am and 3pm, and at 7pm at night. 6: 
Change  my  voice  mail  message at work before I leave! (I never did 
find  a  phone  where  I  could  use  my  MCI  international  calling 
card.)    

ST. MARTIN BY HARVEY SANDERS

Departed  Atlanta  on Sunday (10-12) at 8:40 am on American Via Miami 
and  arrived in SXM at 2:20pm (on time finally). We proceeded through 
customs,  picked  up  our  luggage  and  checked  in  at RI within 15 
minutes  of  landing. We surveyed the property which was as beautiful 
as  ever.  However the beach which comes and goes was just about gone 
when  we arrived. We got a car at RI from Ambassador @ $ 150 per week 
proceeded  to  do  some shopping at the Food Center and returned back 
for  our yearly 4:30 get together for happy hour at the lobby bar. We 
met  about  20  other  people,  had  some  cool  drinks  and  renewed 
acquaintances. It was like we never left. 

We  had  been advised that the Island was receiving some of the after 
effects  of  the  Hurricane  in Mexico. Sunday night there was a down 
pour  and  we also had some rain on Monday. The water were very rough 
and  it  was very windy for a few days. The weather although fine for 
our  stay affected air and cruise traffic. All ships coming into port 
on  Monday  through Wednesday turned around without stopping in port. 
The  rough  waters  did  not  enable any transportation to shore. Air 
traffic  by  major  airlines were canceled on Tues. and Wednesday. By 
Thursday  everything was back to normal. Ships docked and air traffic 
was  busy  as  usual.  Although  the  winds  and seas caused incoming 
traffic  problems  the  only  day that was not a "real" beach day was 
Monday. 

Our  first  night's dinner was very casual with a group of friends at 
the  Pizza  &  Pasta  (Trottoria)  in back of Sheri's and next to the 
Royal  Casino. Food was good very good and we all enjoyed reminiscing 
the past year. 

Since  Monday  was not a beach day my wife decided it was therefore a 
SHOPPING  day  in  Phillipsburgh. We did the town and then stopped at 
our  (really  hers)  favorite  jewelry  shop (Little Europe) where we 
talked  (Nina & Heru-owners) about the past year. They explained that 
business  has  not  been  good  over  the  past year, a fact that was 
evident  when  we  walked through town and observed quite a number of 
vacant  stores.  After  talking  for  about  a  hour my wife made her 
yearly  selection (this year a Tennis bracelet) and we headed back. I 
had  not  yet been to a casino and I was already substantially in the 
"RED". 

Monday  Dinner  at Mary's Boon, one of our favorites. Monday's choice 
was  either  Chicken Cordon Bleu or Lobster Creole. Since chicken has 
not  been  a  big  favorite  a second choice was provided. This was a 
first  since  there had only been one dish available on all nights in 
the past. 

For  interested  the  rest  of the week was Shrimp Provencale (Tues), 
Veal  Dijonnaise  (Wed),  Roast Duck (Thur), Lobster Creole (Fri) and 
Beef  Tenderloin  (Sat). All meals have a set charge of $ 30 or $ 35, 
include  three  vegetables,  dessert and coffee as well as seconds if 
anyone  is  interested.  Prior  to dinner there is an honor bar where 
you  can  relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. For those of you who 
know  Carla  & Mark (new owners since hurricane) they had their first 
child (Adam) on the following Monday. 

After  dinner  we  headed to the Royal Casino where they have updated 
and  refurbished  their casino. First night was not to good, although 
we played for about 2 hours. 

Just  a  note  about  Monday. The owner's breakfast on Monday morning 
and  the welcome party on Monday evening were both forced indoors for 
the  first  time  ever.  In spite of this, a good time was had by all 
attending. 

Tuesday  was  Marigot  time since it was still overcast and rainy and 
we  did  some  more  sightseeing  and  shopping. At least my wife was 
having  a  GREAT  time. We had dinner at Cheri's enjoyed a light bite 
which  included  the  very delicious French Onion Soup and some great 
wine  and  deserts.  Doe's  sound  so  "lite"  now.  Note: By Tuesday 
morning  the entire beach was gone from the Royal Islander to the old 
Caravansarri. 

A  couple  of notes of interest. Effective January 1997 there was a $ 
24.50  per  week tax assessed upon each timeshare week you own. There 
is  also a 3% turnover tax assessed on purchases made, no matter what 
the  purchase  and  the  Departure  tax  is  now  $ 16 per person. In 
addition a couple of "FUNNY" notes at RI. 

#1.  If  you have breakfast at the Palms restaurant make sure you and 
your  wife  are  both  in agreement as to a breakfast or a buffet. If 
you  choose  a  buffet  and  your  wife  chooses a regular breakfast, 
management  will  not let you sit together. We had breakfast with our 
son  and daughter-inlaw. My son wanted the buffet and had to sit at a 
separate table. 

#2  Information  book  in rooms states if you run out of toilet paper 
before  maid  service  on  Thursday  "your  on  your own". Are things 
getting PETTY or what? 

Back to the trip. 

Wednesday  was  beautiful  and sunny but there were rough waves which 
three  of  us  ventured  out  into,  and had quite a bit of fun and a 
great workout. 

Wednesday  dinner  at  Don  Carlos.  Food  was  fair  and service was 
TERRIBLE.  After dinner we ventured over to the Pelican Casino, which 
needs  a major uplifting. At one time this was the "In Casino" but it 
now  had  only  a  small gathering. The Pelican resort seems to be in 
much  better  shape (ownership) this year and there is quite a bit of 
cleanup  and building being done at both the Pelican & Flamingo which 
appear  to  share  a portion of the same complex. Pelican casino also 
proved to be a wash for me at the tables. 

Thursday was a very relaxing day. It was hot and sunny. 

All  air  traffic was back to normal and we just sat at poolside with 
friends  for  the  day  sipping coladas. Dinner Thursday at Sambuccas 
restaurant.  Food  and  wine was good. We sat on the deck overlooking 
the bay. 

Friday  was a replay of Thursday, sunny & hot, poolside, coladas etc. 


On  Friday  our son & daughter-inlaw wanted to go back to Marys Boon. 
They  enjoyed  the  lobster  Creole  SO  much, they wanted some more. 
Again another excellent dinner. 

Saturday  again  sunny  and  hot as was the rest of the trip. Weather 
was back to normal and the beach was about 1/4 of the way back. 

On  Saturday  night we dined with the Kids and friends at RANCHO. The 
kids  were  leaving  on  Sunday  and  they  were in the mood for some 
Argentinean  Steak.  The  food  (Churrasco  steak)  and  drinks  were 
excellent and there was live music, which was enjoyable to all. 

After  dinner  we headed to the Atlantis Casino which is on the other 
side  of  the  Mullet Bay complex which is still in limbo. Casino has 
been  updated  and  you  can  also get a gamblers card and accumulate 
points  for  gifts like most USA casinos. I watched ballgame while my 
wife played some slots and hit a $ 200 pot. 

On  Sunday  we  had  a going away buffet breakfast for the kids. This 
was  the only way we could all sit together. We had a nice meal, they 
finished  packing  and  sat  by  the  pool.  Their flight departed at 
2:00pm  and  we  were ready to start week #2. The entire 2nd week was 
sunny  and  warm.  We  had  dinner with friends at La Vie en Rose and 
Residance  in Marigot, both very good. We also dined at Chesterfields 
in  Phillipsburg  (excellent)  and  at  La  Rosa  Too (very good). On 
Saturday  night  we had a very casual dinner with about 16 friends at 
the  Trottoria.  We  had  the entire rear room and had some very good 
food  and  drinks.  But  more  important  we were all saying farewell 
until  next  year,  since most of us were leaving on Sunday. From the 
restaurant  we walked next door to the casino. FINALLY a big win. Got 
back  about  60% of my old money. Why did they have to wait until the 
last night? Wait till next year!! 

We  departed  SXM at 2:40pm and arrived back home in Atlanta at 11pm. 
WHY did the time go sooooooo fast. Only 362 more days to return. 

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