Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 77
September 1, 1997

Final update 30 Aug 97 1300ET

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ST. BARTH BY R. BAILEY

My  wife  and  I  spent  a  week in early June on St. Barth; our third 
stay,  the  last  one three years ago. This report will summarize some 
of  our  impressions  and  generally low-key activities. Our beginning 
was  promising.  Our  flight  schedule called for a layover of about 2 
hours  in  St. Martin, but when we entered the in-transit area, Winair 
told  us  that they had a couple of planes out of service and we would 
be  going  over  on  an  Air St. Barth's shuttle. As a result, we were 
taking  off for St. Barth's 10 minutes after we got off the plane from 
NY.  An  advantage of carry-on luggage. However, Winair made up for it 
by delaying our return by a couple of hours, so I guess we are even. 

We  stayed  at  Village  St.  Jean hotel, where we have stayed before. 
This  is a reasonably priced, well kept hotel. We had a "cottage", one 
fairly  small room with a bed, 2 night stands, a stool and a table, an 
reasonably  large  storage closet and a small bath with shower. Basic, 
but  newly  redone, with air conditioner and ceiling fan, but the only 
luxury  item  an industrial sized hair dryer in the bathroom. However, 
it  also  had  a  large  patio,  partly roofed and partly covered by a 
retractable  awning, with a small but well equipped kitchen - all very 
private.  They  have  other  facilities,  some  simpler  and some more 
elaborate.  The  hotel  itself  has  a small but nice pool, Jacuzzi, a 
small  shop, and lending library, and plenty of hot water. Also a good 
supply  of  mosquitoes  that  were  a minor annoyance on the patio but 
could  be  kept  out  of  the  room  by  burning  a mosquito coil each 
evening.  St.  Barth  mosquitoes  are small, unobtrusive, bite without 
being  noticed,  and  then  you  itch  like hell for half an hour. The 
hotel  is an easy 5 minute walk down hill to St. Jean beach, but it is 
much longer coming back. We drive. 

We  picked up a Suzuki Swift from Turbe Car Rental. Mokes are popular, 
but  very  exposed  if  it  rains.  Jeeps  are  also  popular, but not 
necessary.  Roads tend to be narrow and hilly, but driving is not bad. 
They  are  very  well  signed,  something  I  am  not  used  to in the 
Caribbean.  The  main  problems in driving are the many motorcyclists, 
some  of  whom  must  have very good luck because they certainly don't 
have  very  good judgment, and the occasional local who, if he doesn't 
think  you  are fast enough, drives about 2 feet from your rear bumper 
until he finds a convenient curve on which to pass. 

Restaurants   on  St.  Barth's  tend  to  be  expensive.  We  are  not 
aficionados  of fancy, upscale haute cuisine no matter what the price, 
so  we  mainly  went  to the simpler ones, especially Creole. We found 
quite  a  few  restaurants  closed.  Presumably,  there  is not enough 
business  for them to remain open off-season. None that we ate in were 
anywhere  near crowded; perhaps 2 or 3 other tables. Reservations were 
not  needed,  although  we  sometimes  made them and this seemed to be 
appreciated.  By the way, there are booklets available for free drinks 
etc. at some places. 

Le  Patio,  at  Village  St.  Jean,  is a moderately expensive Italian 
restaurant,  but  a glass of wine, salad, coffee and shared pizza came 
to  under  $60.  Add another $20 or more if each person had an entree. 
Food  is  excellent, service leisurely but good. La Gloriette - on the 
beach  at  L'Orient;  nice  setting,  good service, the usual glass of 
wine, salad, main course and coffee for 2, about $70. 

Eddie's  Restaurant  in  Gustavia  (not  to  be  confused with Eddie's 
Ghetto,  which  no  longer  exists as such but is now Inez' Ghetto) is 
pleasant,  good  food  and  service,  similar price range. Seems to be 
quite popular. 

Chez  Domi,  a  Creole  restaurant  in  Gustavia,  had  very good food 
(octopus stew; Antillian fish stew) and service at about $60 for 2. 

Paradisio,  a  low  key  French restaurant in Gustavia, excellent food 
(including  a  few  pasta  dishes)  and  extremely  gracious  service, 
similar  price  as  Domi, depending on your selection. The vanilla rum 
cordial  is a nice touch. Le Repair, on the waterfront of Gustavia, is 
nice  but  we  did  not  find the menu as interesting as others. Can't 
complain about quality or service; price range again similar. 

We  generally  take  care  of our own breakfast/lunch with pastry from 
local  bakeries  and  tropical  fruit. There are 2 supermarkets at the 
airport  shopping  center, and a bakery there and also on the St. Jean 
shopping  center  that are convenient. We had one lunch at La Creperie 
in  Gustavia;  excellent food and varied selection of crepes and a few 
other things. Definitely to be tried. 

Generally,  service  is  included  in  the  bill,  but it is often not 
obvious  that  it  is.  If you ask, you may be told "it is up to you", 
which doesn't quite answer the question. 

For  drinks,  snacks  etc.  in  Gustavia  there  is  the famous bar Le 
Select,  or  across  the  street,  Bar  d'Oublie.  Everyone goes to le 
Select  because  of its reputation, but in my opinion the Bar d'Oublie 
is  more  pleasant. You can sip an espresso and watch all of St. Barth 
go  by  on  the  street  along  side.  Another nice little place is Le 
Creole  brasserie  in  the  shopping center on the road along St. Jean 
beach. 

Besides  beach-walking,  driving  around  taking photographs is one of 
our  main  activities,  and  we did a fair amount of that. Weather was 
pretty  hazy  a  good  part of the time, but not much rain. The island 
looked  much  browner  than on any of our previous visits. There seems 
to  be  many  more  buildings  in  place than I remember. A drive into 
Vitet  provides some excellent views but also shows how development is 
starting to take over. 

Corossol  is written up in all the guide books for its straw goods and 
quaintness.  In  fact,  it  is  not  much, and we saw only a couple of 
places  offering  the  straw work. It is very well done. The one thing 
in  Corossol  that  should not be missed is the Inter Oceans Museum, a 
seashell  collection put together by a local man. It is very extensive 
and fascinating. 

The St. Barth museum in Gustavia also is worth a visit. 

As  for  the  beaches,  they  are pretty much as expected. St. Jean is 
most  active, Saline and Gouverneur uncrowded and unofficially CO, and 
with  no  facilities  (the  way  a  real  Caribbean  beach should be). 
Flamands  seemed  to  be  in  good shape, but there is still Hurricane 
Luis  damage.  One  hotel  whose  name I have forgotten is still there 
with  most  of  its  seaward  wall  and  roof  missing.  Didn't get to 
Columbier,  but  the scenic overlook is nicely done. Petit Cul de  Sac 
seemed much better than we remembered. 

For  a  good view of Gustavia, try the hill with the tower and cannon. 
This  has  also  been fitted up with a viewing platform, but access is 
tricky;  there  are no signs. Park by the building on the road up from 
Gustavia  just  past the switch-back turn and walk up a kind of trail. 
A  driveway  goes  off to the left of the road at this building; don't 
take it; it will lead you into a private home. 

We  have  seen  reports that St. Barth is losing fashion as a high end 
destination  and  encouraging  more  mass tourism and cruise ships. In 
our  week  on  the  island there were only 2 small ships in port; even 
so,  you  could  see  a difference in the people in town. Some locals, 
including  those at our hotel, are concerned that larger ships cause a 
lot  of  problems  on  such  a small island. It is not yet spoiled (at 
least  not off-season), but it is getting close and may not retain its 
charm  for  much  longer. It will be a real pity if mass tourism takes 
over. 

SABA BY CATHERINE ALIAS

If it's Sunday, this must be Saba

From  St.  Maarten's  shores  Saba's  dramatic  cone-shaped outline is 
visible  on  clear  days.  The  island may seem familiar, since a long 
shot  of  Saba  is  used  to create the setting in the black and white 
movie  classic,  King  Kong. Rising majestically out of the sea, there 
is   no   shortage  of  poetic  pseudonyms  for  this  volcanic  rock. 
'Napoleon's  Crooked  Hat',  because  her shape resembles that of  the 
Emperor's  tricorn  hat;  'Bali  Hai',  in reverence to her mysterious 
beauty;  'Glocamora',  an allusion to a legendary land, and 'The Green 
Gumdrop',  though  she looks more like Hershey's Kisses from afar. She 
is  best known as 'The Unspoiled Queen', and in this day and age it is 
becoming increasingly difficult to wear such a lofty title.


One  of  the  best  tasks  of  travel  writing is finding the words to 
describe  splendid  natural  beauty. Saba is an ever flowing source of 
inspiration.  Her  imposing  mountain  side  stands  rugged and jagged 
while  the  waves  dance at her feet. As you ascend her heights, every 
turn  offers  another  breathtaking  view  of  verdant hills against a 
backdrop  of  sapphire  blue  seas. Soon you notice something amazing: 
there  is  not  a  speck of garbage or pollution here. Virtually every 
square  inch  of this blessed land is clean, well maintained, brimming 
with  tropical  foliage  and flowers, yet not overly manicured. On the 
contrary,  Saba is a testament to man's ability to co-exist in harmony 
with  nature.  Still  intoxicated by the sweeping views, you take time 
to  notice  the  details:  giant Elephant Ear philodendrons lining the 
roadside,  rare  wildflowers  such  as the delicate Eyelash Orchid, as 
well  as  Saba's  traditional flower, the Black Eyed Suzy. And the air 
is  perfect.  Citizens  of  the  cities  will appreciate breathing the 
luxurious  oxygen  offered  by  the abundant vegetation. Listen to the 
song  of  the  tall  grasses  swaying  as  you  hike,  or  just sit in 
contentment  surrounded  by  space  and  silence.  On  some nights the 
moonlight  is so bright you can drive without headlights. The tropical 
palms  are  outlined  in light shadows and the rain forest echoes with 
nocturnal  chants.  Along your journey, you may find  a black volcanic 
sand  beach,  if  it  is  the  right  time  of  year.  They are called 
wandering  beaches because the surf engulfs the sand most of the year. 
What  Saba  lacks  in beaches, she more than makes up for in sea life. 
In  fact,  diving is the keystone of the tourism industry. Saba Marine 
Park protects the pristine coral reefs.

Saba's  beauty  is  in  homage  to her inhabitants. The first settlers 
were  mostly  of Dutch, British, Irish and Scottish origins. Some were 
pirates  of  the  high  seas,  while  others  were  colonists  fleeing 
religious  persecution.  Saban  men  were renowned sea captains, while 
the  women  excelled  in  fancy drawn thread embroidery. The people of 
Saba  were  hardworking  and  tough by necessity. Before the advent of 
the  rainwater  cistern  around  1900, the only source of water was at 
the  base  of  the  island.  Buckets  had  to  be carried up the steep 
hillsides  on  foot  to  reach  the town of Windwardside  two thousand 
feet  up.  Donkeys  and horses were brought in only around 1925. Prior 
to  this  the  island  was  built  solely  on manpower. Although Dutch 
engineers  said  a road could not be built on the treacherous terrain, 
the  male  inhabitants  set  out  with  picks  and  shovels to build a 
concrete  road  which  is still in perfect condition. Lined throughout 
by  a  beautiful stone wall, it connects the four towns of The Bottom, 
St.  John's,  Windwardside  and  Hell's  Gate  (Hell's  Gate is at the 
highest  elevation.  It  derives  its  name  form the arduous climb in 
getting there). 

Life  in Saba has certainly become easier, yet the essential character 
of  her  people  has  not  wavered. Sabans are still a hardworking and 
friendly  people.  They  love  to  greet  each other on the street and 
always  find time for social amenities. This society is reminiscent of 
the  small  town  folks  of Bedford Falls in the movie classic "It's a 
Wonderful  Life"  with James Stewart and Donna Reed. Everyone seems so 
happy  and  well  adjusted!  Luckily,  the types of tourists attracted 
here  are  divers  and ecology buffs who are generally as amicable and 
wholesome  as the locals. Fans of model homemaker Martha Stewart would 
be  completely  in their element here. Sabans feel comfortable abiding 
by  tradition.  Ironically,  their  ancestry  is traced to pirates and 
rebels.  Their  heritage  shines  through with the gleam in their eyes 
and an easy laughter.

Sunday  in  Saba  is  a  good  thing. On Monday we take it easy on St. 
Martin's  dazzling  Rouge Beach. Tuesday we navigate to adventure on a 
catamaran   to   Anguilla.   Wednesday,  back  to  civilization  on  a 
sensational   shopping   spree  in  Philipsburg,  Dutch  St.  Maarten. 
Thursday  we  fly  to St. Barths to admire the holiday hideaway of the 
rich  and  famous,  where the real money gets spent. Friday we explore 
Statia,  a  lovely  Dutch  Caribbean  island  with  genuinely friendly 
locals.  Saturday,  how about a plantation safari on Nevis, St. Kitt's 
sister  island,  or  a  visit  to  Tortola, the other crown gem of the 
British  Caribbean? All these day trip excursions are a short distance 
from  St. Maarten, the gateway of the Northeastern Caribbean. Visiting 
the  major islands on a cruise ship can never be as intimate as island 
hopping  via  plane and sail. No cruise ship can approach any of these 
fascinating small islands, and that's how island dwellers like it.

ST. BARTHS BY JOE GAVULA

We  got  to  SBH  about  3:00pm  Tues.  6/3  on Windward Air - $109/pp 
roundtrip  from  Anguilla.  Rented  a  Diahatsu (sp?) Feroza - (better 
than  the moke we had last time) at the airport from Gumbs - $210/week 
summer  rate.  Very  friendly and helpful - gave us directions to Baie 
des Anges in Flamands and we had no trouble getting there. 

Traffic  was  lighter  than  our previous trip in Nov '94 but it seems 
like it moved faster too. Joe paid a lot of attention to his driving -
 we didn't want to have an accident and it would be very easy there. 

The  weather was hot and humid with rain about twice - it was hazy for 
a  few  days  too  but  there  was  still  a  cool  breeze  so we were 
comfortable.  The  island was dry and brown however, it looked greener 
after  the  rains, some flowers were blooming and it was still pretty. 
We were surprised at all the construction and work projects going on -
 lots of building particularly around Flamands and St. Jean. 

Not  a lot of tourists - few Americans, we found most of the locals to 
be  very  helpful  and friendly - more so than our last trip - I would 
like  to  practice  my French more next time. We noticed men in orange 
jumpsuits  cleaning up and working on the roads. The effort shows - it 
is too bad that Anguilla doesn't do more about trash and roadsides. 

Accommodations:  Rented Mon Plaisir through St. Barth Properties - the 
owner  Annie Ange runs Baie des Anges also - a hotel on Flamands beach 
-  she  is  very pleasant and nice to deal with. Mon Plaisir is in the 
hills  of  Corossol with a great view - we watched planes, boats, cars 
and  people  -  it  is a pretty villa with a nice 2 bed 2 bath unit on 
one  level  and  a  2  bed  1 bath apt downstairs with the pool on the 
lower  level.  The  villa shared a driveway with the house next door - 
not  really  a problem but you do lose some privacy. We never used the 
TV  except  to  watch  a  Hurricane  Luis tape on the VCR, there was a 
small  cassette player/radio - kitchen had all the appliances except a 
microwave. 

The  bedrooms  had  small  a/c  units  which we used when sleeping. We 
enjoyed  staying  there, it is close to town so we ate dinner out more 
and  loved  the  pool  - we actually spent a lot of time in it. We had 
maid  service  every  day  but  Sunday and she was very nice and did a 
great job. Summer rate for 2 persons for just the top floor and pool -
 $1500/week plus administrative fee $75 for SBP. 

Shopping:  We  aren't  big  shoppers  but  we do enjoy shopping in St. 
Barths  and  we  did  buy  some  shirts  at Black Swan in St. Jean for 
Father's  Day gifts, also bought some coffee at The Coffee Shop up the 
hill  from  St.  Jean  beach. Stopped one day at la Ligne St. Barth in 
Lorient,  bought  a  few  gifts  and  a  couple  of things for us, the 
saleswoman  was  very  good!  -  I  like the products too! I enjoy the 
different  food stuffs, etc and got a few groceries and liquor at AMC, 
Match  and  Unic  Plus,  didn't do any real cooking, we mostly ate out 
since  we  were  more familiar with the island this trip and closer to 
town.  Several  of  the  clothing  stores  at St. Jean had sales - the 
prices  weren't  that bad - $20 for light cotton shirts and dresses. I 
also  love  Nomades  in  Gustavia  for clothing, jewelry, gifts, etc - 
they have been friendly and pleasant each time we have been there.

Beaches  - We have been to SBH one other time Nov '94 before Hurricane 
Luis,  there  has  been a change in most of the beaches. The hurricane 
did  a  lot  of  damage and it still shows. The absolute best beach of 
all  we saw was Saline - truly wonderful and gorgeous, not many people 
on  it  while  we were there. All other beaches paled in comparison to 
Saline. 

St.  Jean beach is nice around the airport area but the beach in front 
of  Emeraude Plage looks bad - rocks are stacked to keep the sand from 
washing  away.  We  saw  the  most  people on St. Jean but that wasn't 
really  very many. We walked on Lorient beach one day to check out Les 
Mouettes,we  didn't see the beach close up on our last trip so we were 
surprised  to  find  it  a  rocky  beach, we did like Les Mouettes but 
probably would prefer a different beach to stay on. 

We  had a brief look at Colombier from the plane and it didn't seem to 
have  much  sand.  Gouverneur  was the next best beach, it looked like 
something  took a bite out of it but it is still beautiful - just more 
of an incline to the water. 

We  didn't  really  see much sand at Marigot Bay, mostly rocky, we had 
considered  staying  on Marigot but we liked Mon Plaisir better. Found 
Shell  Beach  in  Gustavia  and  liked it - nice busy little beach but 
parking  is  limited - lots of local kids the day we visited. Flamands 
looked  the  worst of all we saw - pretty messy and the whole area has 
lots of construction going on. 

Overall  the  beaches  don't  look  as good as before Nov '94 but they 
were  still pretty and uncrowded. It didn't matter as much to us since 
we had a pool at our villa. 

Bars/Restaurants:  we  ate  out  a  lot and enjoyed all our meals - we 
didn't  get  to  a  couple we wanted to try because they were closed - 
Marigot Bay, Mayas, Escale, Newborn, etc. oh well, maybe next time! 

Le  Select - without a doubt, our favorite bar with great burgers - we 
love  to  sit and enjoy the goings on. We met Marius Stakelborough our 
first  day  there  -  he  spoke  to  us  and asked if we were enjoying 
ourselves  -  he  spoke  to  the  other  two  tables  around us - also 
Americans  (one  from  Texas  ,  one  from  Arkansas  and  we are from 
Oklahoma).  What  a  nice man, so gracious and well spoken, we saw him 
again  a  couple  of  days later at Le Select and he remembered us. It 
was  strange  because we saw him one night in front of Eddy's going to 
a  private party and then again when we ate dinner at Le Patio, he was 
with  a  large  group having dinner. We found that we saw a lot of the 
same people over and over. 

Le  Repaire - stopped for after dinner drinks our 1st night and sat in 
the  back  and  watched the kitchen - they were busy and woring hard - 
it  smelled  great.  Had  breakfast  one  morning, omelettes and fresh 
orange juice - yum! We would like to try dinner here next time. 

La  Saladerie  -  on the water at Gustavia, drove to Escale but it was 
closed  so  we  walked  down to La Saladerie and had salads, beer, and 
thin   crust  pizza  -  very  good  and  reasonable  priced,  lots  of 
mosquitoes at dusk but ask for "off" - it's avaiable. 

La  Marine - on the water at Gustavia, went for dinner and it was good 
but not great, we probably wouldn't go back - just not impressed much

Le  Creole - stopped for drinks and lunch on one of the hottest days - 
had sandwiches while it rained, very good food and service. 

Le  Rivage  - went for dinner, my lobster bisque was not very good and 
the  accras  were overcooked but Joe's lobster and pasta was great and 
he  had  plenty of it! The best part of the meal was the complimentary 
homemade  vanilla  rum  after  dinner - it was delicious - we would go 
back  just for it. Eddy's - in Gustavia, the interior is wonderful and 
very  soothing,  we  had the best grilled Mahi Mahi ever!!! Absolutely 
wonderful  and  the  accra  were excellent also. Highly recommend this 
restaurant - we went twice it was so good. 

La  Mandala  -  in Gustavia, went for drinks before dinner and watched 
the  sunset  -  we  loved  this  place  and the view - great decor and 
music,  wonderful  rum punch and spicy marinated olives, we want to go 
back for dinner next time. 

La  Langouste  -  the  owner  of  the  villa  we  stayed  in owns this 
restaurant  at  Baie  des Anges Hotel on Flamands - she told us it was 
the  best  lobster  on  the  island  and she was right!! I had a whole 
grilled  snapper  that  was very tasty and Joe's lobster was terrific. 
It has a pretty setting by the pool and the waiter was very friendly -
  we  were  the  only  table  that night too. This was one of our best 
meals along with Eddy's - highly recommend. 

Le  Tom  Beach  -  ate  lunch on Sunday, it was excellent and we loved 
sitting  by  the  beach, try to speak French - they acted a little put 
off  by  English  -  great  beach  restaurant  though.  Le Patio - had 
dinner,  pizza  was very good, very pretty decor and friendly service, 
although  it  was  a  little  slow  -  it  was  the busiest of all the 
restaurants we saw. 

We  had a fabulous time and were glad we went to St. Barths - I had to 
drag  Joe  kicking  and  screaming to the plane - guess I will have to 
plan  a  trip  back  next year! We had a great time in Anguilla and it 
feels  like home to us now but going to St. Barths makes you feel like 
you  have  really  been on holiday. We noticed that most of the locals 
we  talked  to encouraged us to visit in June or off season - everyone 
said  it  is  a  mad  house  during  winter season. It really was less 
crowded  then  our  last trip and we didn't see any large cruise ships 
all week, just a Windjammer and smaller. 

ST. CROIX BY MIKE AND SUZANNE COMER

Just  returned from eleven wonderful days in Paradise. We had the best 
weather  we  have  ever  had  and that is saying a lot since St. Croix 
weather  is  always  great.  The  island  looks good. It is green with 
splashes  of  blooming  red flamboyant everywhere (at least I think it 
was  Flamboyant  -  I can't seem to remember one plant from another -- 
but it was beautiful. 

The  Banana  Bay Club, later St. Croix Seaport at the Caravelle is now 
Wahoo  Willies  (honest).  The  food is pretty good and the setting is 
excellent.  Suzanne  gave  it  the  highest  praise  by  admitting its 
hamburgers  were  better  than  Cheesburgers  in  Paradise  (very high 
praise  from someone who insists on our first lunch on the island each 
visit  be  at  Cheeseburgers  on  the first day we arrive). Scalliwags 
(formerly  Oskars)  is  already out of business. Breezez (formerly the 
Blue  Marlin) at Club St. Croix, does a wonderful job. Bombay Club had 
a fire and is closed for a while but will be back soon. 

The  new  Kings  Alley  looks great and there are some very nice shops 
there.  Sadly,  Dick  (the  owner of Commanche) died shortly before we 
arrived  but the restaurant is open again being run by, I believe, his 
ex-wife.  The  same high quality was present the evening we had dinner 
there. Most of the staff seems to still be there.

A  wonderful  mural  now surrounds Government House as renovations are 
supposedly  underway  to  revive  this  historical  gem. Unfortunately 
rumors  are  that the money for the renovation has been spent on other 
things  so  it may take a while. What a shame. This building, parts of 
which  were  built  in  the  1700's could be a tremendous resource and 
wonderful tourist attraction. 

We  did some great diving with Dive Experience. The wall at Salt River 
is  not  to  be missed. Sam, Michelle, Rosey and the others do a great 
job.  Next  time  we're  planning  to  do  the  fish  feed  -- another 
experience not to be missed if you are a diver. 

One   restaurant   I   forgot  -  we  tried  the  new  Chop  House  in 
Christiansted.  A  nice  spot  and  the  food  wasn't  bad but we were 
expecting  more.  At  least  they  have  beer  on draft (as does Wahoo 
Willies if you like Bass or Newcastle Ale). 

The  economy of the island still needs help although there were plenty 
of people around considering it is mid summer. 

A  plug  for Sugar Beach. Massive renovations are underway including a 
new  roof,  repainting  of  the  entire building, a new pool deck, new 
landscaping,  a  newly  furnished  and  decorated  club house and lots 
more.  Everything  should be done very soon. Drop by to have a look if 
you get a chance. 

The  tourist office has changed its location but I found it anyway and 
have  gathered lots of literature if anyone is interested. There are a 
few new things which look pretty good. I'd be glad to send packages. 

ST. MARTIN BY ANDREW O'HEARN

***Restaurants****  

The  following  restaurants  all  offer  great  food for a price that, 
while  high,  is a much better value than comparable establishments in 
New  York  City,  San  Francisco,  and  other  great  U.S. "restaurant 
cities".   Many,  such  as L'Hibiscus, also offer dishes you might not 
find  on  other island menus.  Combine fresh island catches of the day 
with  local  spices,  French  flair and Asian/Nuevo Latino influences, 
and  you've  got  yourself a memorable meal.  Aperitifs after the meal 
(flavored  rum, in many cases) were a nice surprise.  We recommend the 
Sancerre wines from Henri Bourgeois (Chavignol, France).  

We  hit  L'Alabama  (93  Grand  Case; 590-87-81-66) and Mario's Bistro 
(Sandy  Ground; 87-06-36) twice, plus Le Pressoir (GC; 0590-87-76-62), 
Bistrot  Caraibes  (81 GC; 0590-29-08-29), Le Chanticlair (Marina Port 
La  Royale; 0590-87-94-60), Le Piccolo Cafe (Cul-de-Sac; no sign!; 87-
32-47),  and  L'Hibiscus  (GC;  0590-29-17-91).  All were outstanding, 
particularly the first two and the last one.     

Can  you  believe,  no more Le Poisson D'Or?  Also recommended but not 
visited   this  time:   L'Auberge  Gourmand  (GC;  0590-87-73-37);  Le 
Cotonnier  (Cul  de  Sac;  near  Le Piccolo Cafe; 87-44-56); Tropicana 
(Marina  Port La Royale; 590-87-79-07); Le Tastevin (86 GC; 590-87-55-
45);  Le Cottage (97 GC; 29-03-30); Le Bistro Gourmand (Cupecoy; 5995-
77184);  Rainbow  (GC;  $35  summer  menu);  Le  Jardin  Creole (Sandy 
Ground); La Rhumerie (Columbier).  

For  lunch,  you  may  want  to  try  Harbor  Lights  in  Philipsburg; 
L'Epicerie  (follow  the  delicious  quiche  smell!   10  Rue Kennedy, 
Marina Port La Royale; 590-87-17-69), Restaurant du Soleil (GC; 87-92-
32);  Papagayo  (2-for-1  happy hour 5:30-6:30; look for the beautiful 
Aussie  bartender  Dawn--and, eat/drink in the buff if you want!)  For 
Italian  ices/gelato,  try  the  place  near the parking lot on Marina 
Port  la  Royale  (Glaces  Italianes?).   For  fresh  croissants,  I'd 
recommend  Zee  Best  nearby--but  be forewarned:  they're on vacation 
from July 1 to Sept.1.  Porto's in Grand Case is good also.  

****Best Massage****  

"Hands  down"  .  . . it's Martha at Orient Beach (look for her gazebo 
behind  Papagayo's--and  sign up ****early****.  Can't beat the price:  
$25-30  for  a  1/2 hour; $45-50 for an hour--and you may never have a 
better massage).  

****Best Cigars****  

WARNING:   The  former "best" place, Le Cigare, is no longer under the 
same  management.   YOU  want  to  go a few doors down, to La Casa del 
Habano,  71  Port  La Royale (590-87-58-94; fax:  590-87-02-99), where 
you'll  get the world-class selection and service from Jean-Pierre and 
Carole B.  Tell them Andy & Eve sent you.  

****Best Place to Buy That Tag-Heuer Watch****  

See "Lucky" at Goldfinger Jewelry, Front Street #11, Philipsburg (011-
5995-24661).   He's  an  AUTHORIZED  dealer  (one  of  only two on the 
island),  will give you a great deal . . . and maybe even share a cold 
beverage  with  you,  if  you  are serious about purchasing something.  
Check    out    the   tanzanite   items,   especially--beautiful   and 
distinctive.  

****Worst Rental-Car Deal****  

Ironically,  it's CALLED "Best Deal."  The rate isn't so bad--but once 
you  sign the rental agreement certifying that you have a full tank of 
gas,  don't  be  surprised  when  you  soon notice the level below 3/4 
full.   Rectifying  that  can  cost you up to $15, plus a lot of nasty 
gum-flapping  from  the  Fagin-trained  staff.   My advice: don't sign 
anything  until you are inside the car itself, and have eyeballed that 
fuel gauge.  

****Best Place to Buy Hard-to-Find French Wines****  

Le  Gout du Vin, Rue de l'Anguille, Marigot; 590-87-25-03; fax 590-87-
40-07.   As  with  La  Casa del Habano, an awesome selection and truly 
knowledgeable and considerate service.  

****Best Place to Buy T-Shirts****  

Low   (not   lowest)  prices,  but  decent  to  good  quality--a  hard 
combination  to find, as you'll discover.  Sona Gift Shop II, 30 Front 
Street  (alley behind Palais Hindu; 5995-26259; fax 5995-25975).  Find 
out  what  days  the  cruise  ships are due in--and visit on the other 
days.    

****Best Beach (especially if you hate to wear a bathing suit)****  

Orient  Beach,  by  far.   If  it weren't for the occasional swarms of 
"cruise-ship   people"   gawking,   this   might  be  paradise.   Good 
restaurant/bar  nearby,  Grand  Case  a short drive away--why not just 
STAY  at  Orient  Beach  Club?   Think of how much less packing you'll 
need  to  do!  Also, ***check out*** the Butterfly Farm down the road.  
Very  peaceful--go  early  in  the  morning with your camera; the tour 
guides are quite helpful and upbeat.  

***But If You Have to Wear a Swimsuit, Ladies . . . ****  

Pick  one  up at C'est Fou! C'est Fun!  Marina Port La Royale; 590-87-
87-15; 590-87-04-88.  

***Or, If You Need to Look Better in Your Birthday Suit . . . ****  

Work  out  at The Gym Work Out Center at Royal Palm Beach Club.  Marci 
Cooke,  the  manager  there,  is  a professional bodybuilder, and will 
help  keep you motivated.  Phone:  43737; fax extension is 4027.  Cost 
is about $8/day, or $30/week (closed Sunday).  

****Other Information You Might Want to Know BEFORE You Go****  

Some  of  the timeshares on the Dutch side apparently have a cockroach 
infestation  problem.   Bring  traps, foams, etc. in a plastic baggie, 
just  in  case you find out, too late, that a few interesting souvenir 
"eggs"  are  headed  back  with  you  to  your  home in the States (or 
wherever).  

Many of the Dutch-side speedbumps are GONE!  Yay!  

Yep--the  weather  patterns  HAVE  changed.   Windier, and sad to say, 
more  cloudy  and  even  rainy  (brief  spells) days.  Blame it on the 
Montserrat  volcano  eruption, after-effect of Hurricane Luis in 1995, 
or  fate  .  .  .  but a little trip insurance might not be a bad idea 
(or,  do  the cheap way:  schedule your timeshare tours + giveaways on 
the crummier days).  

The  movie  "Speed  II" was partially filmed in Marigot.  If you think 
it looks familiar . . . it does.  

The  Food  Center on the road to Philipsburg is more modern than ever.  
Stock  up  your  refrigerator  with  Buckler  non-alcoholic brew, some 
French  rolls,  and Gouda cheese--then let the natural heat of the sun 
melt  the  slices  of Gouda into the rolls as you catch rays on Orient 
Beach.  

If  you  DO  decide to buy a timeshare, ask for Patrick J. at Sapphire 
Beach  Club  in  Cupecoy.  He's a busy guy, but knows the island quite 
well and is always good for a laugh or a smile.  

There's  more,  but  this  should  be enough for a 10- to 14-day stay.  
Please  keep  the  trip-report tradition going:  even if each person's 
taste  is  different, at least one or two good tips could be the thing 
to save a trip from mediocrity (or worse).    

ST. MARTIN BY HETTIE MAIDMAN

Just  back  after  a  week that flew by. We were at Royal Islander and 
found  everything just as we left it in Dec. except that the beach was 
much  bigger and the gardens were fuller and prettier. Our weather was 
near-perfect  and not too humid until late in the week. There was only 
one  brief  shower  the  whole  time we were there ! We also found the 
traffic  to  be much lighter than we expected, based on recent reports 
from others. Tourism was not near its capacity anywhere. 

Lack  of crowds made dining a pleasure. We did dinners at La Rosa, Don 
Camillo's,  La Residence, Brasserie DeLa Gare, Da Livio, Saratoga, and 
Mario's,  in  that  order. I will go into more detail but could safely 
recommend  all  of  those  restaurants. We didn't do lunch anywhere to 
speak  of. We did drop by to see Nina and Frank at Cliffside Bar where 
I   enjoyed   the  best  Pina  Colada.  My  shopping  was  kept  to  a 
minimum...and, yes, I did see Heeru but, did little damage there!! 

On  a  general  note,  the island is now attracting many visitors from 
South  America  due to heavy advertising in that part of the world. We 
heard  lots  of  Spanish  spoken  everywhere  we  went. Hopefully, the 
island will profit from this new influx of tourists. 

Cruise  ships were hardly evident. There was one major ship on Monday, 
a  few  on  Tue.,  not  sure  about Wed. On Thurs. and Fri. there were 
none.  This was a big concern for merchants in P'burg. We also learned 
that  St. Kitt's is building a major port to attract the larger ships. 
This  will  probably  draw  some of the traffic away from SXM as well. 
For  those  planning  to  visit the French Side, the dollar is gaining 
strength  every  day against the franc. We charged in francs on credit 
cards  wherever  possible.  Some  prices  seemed  a little higher as a 
result. 

Our  car  rental was $148.00 for the week. That seemed to be the going 
rate  no  matter  which  company  we  checked. We rented from the only 
company  that  insisted  we  use  the  "Club"  every  time we left the 
vehicle.  We  never  saw  another  one anywhere so it made finding our 
white car very easy. I'll talk about the food in my next report. 

Our  first  meal  was at La Rosa 2 in Maho. My Veal Regine was as good 
as  ever  and  Mike's  grouper was excellent. We were surprised to see 
the  tables  filled  as  the place had just re-opened the night before 
after  being closed for vacation. This is always a consistent place to 
dine  and  we  look  forward  to  it  at least once every visit to the 
island.  Plan  to  spend about $70.00 per couple including a drink and 
tip w/o appetizers or desserts. 

Next  dinner  at Don Camillo's in Marigot was equally as good. "M" had 
a  pasta w/ shrimp and I had sauteed veal. Our friends enjoyed similar 
dishes  and  we  did  have appetizers and desserts. Price about $90.00 
per  couple.  We  (4  people)  went to La Residence in Marigot for our 
next  adventure.  The  setting  is  the  romantic rooftop of the hotel 
called  La  Residence.  The complementary Kir Royales were a good sign 
that  the  food would be up to our expectations and it was. It pays to 
go  for  the  $28.00  per  person  full-  course dinner. It included a 
choice of appetizers, main courses, and excellent desserts. 

The  four  of  us  were  off  to Brasserie De La Gare on the harbor in 
Marigot  for  a  light  meal  the next night. We enjoyed great pizzas, 
pastas,  and  salade Nicoise. It was thoroughly enjoyable. It's always 
fun to go there and dine directly on the waterfront. 

Here  we  go  again,  the hungry four, off to Da Livio in Phillipsburg 
where  three  of us loved our giant veal chops and the rebel loved his 
fish.  Daniel  is  a  gracious  host and treated us like family. Cost, 
about  $100.00  per  couple, nothing spared from appetizer to dessert. 
On  Thursday,  "M"  and  I  went to Saratoga in Simpson's Bay; another 
must  on  our  list  of  regular  haunts.  I had a great chicken dish, 
something  I  would  not  normally order but it sounded so good on the 
menu.  I  was  not  disappointed  !  "M" had pasta with grilled shrimp 
which  was  offered  as  an appetizer but no problem getting a dinner-
sized  portion  upon request. He loved it. We were very impressed with 
the  house  wine  list consisting of 183 wines by the bottle, numerous 
excellent  wines  by the glass, and a volume of specialty cordials and 
other  drink  concoctions  that were exotic in name (and probably very 
intoxicating  to taste). We chatted with the owner, John, and promised 
that  we  would mention his passion for wine-collecting in our report. 
Our  last  meal  was at Mario's. It was the first night that they were 
open  after  being closed the whole month of June for vacation. It was 
worth  the  wait  (until  our  last  day). What a great way to end the 
vacation;  sitting  on  the  water  overlooking  4th of July fireworks 
enjoying  some  of  the  best  food  on the island. Martine greeted us 
warmly  and  checked with us frequently about the meal, etc. The whole 
staff  was  attentive but not obtrusive and each course was delicious. 
Duck  is  a  specialty  and  as  good  as  ever. The four of us traded 
"tastes"  so  everyone  shared  the opinion that this was an excellent 
meal. Desserts are not to be missed, even to share one is a treat. 

As  you  can see, we chose our six dining spots with great care. We're 
on  the island enough and can always go back to a favorite or cross it 
off  the  list  for  the  next  time.  All  of  these  restaurants are 
"keepers" in our opinion. Bon Appetite.

ST. MARTIN BY BRUCE FARRINGTON

What's New? 

The  island  is  GREEN!  Perhaps more so than I've ever seen it on any 
previous  trip. Their is a fair amount of meteorological evidence that 
the  recent  eruptions  on  Montserrat  are  resulting  in  more  rain 
condensing  on  the  dust particles. On one recent eruption early last 
week,  SXM got a little dust coating that was visible on your car as a 
fine  white  residue.  Club  Orient  -  construction  of  new  chalets 
continues.  L'Orentique  is being expanded along with a new deck being 
added  to  Papagayos.  Martha wanted me to tell everyone "Hi" and that 
Club  O  will  be  soon  opening a new massage area that will have two 
people  giving  massages. This should accommodate the need much better 
than  in  the  past where you had to sign up several weeks in advance. 
Millenium  -  The former Caravansari was bought by a West Indies group 
and  has just opened as a new resort called Millennium. When completed 
it   will  have  118  Deluxe  Suites,  1  bedroom  suites  and  Deluxe 
Bungalows.  It  will  feature  a  restaurant with a 360 degree view, 3 
swimming pools, 3 whirlpools, 2 tennis courts, a casino and theater. 

Mullet  Bay  -  The owners of apartments at the resort filed a lawsuit 
against  SUN Resorts that owns Mullet Bay resort. The judge in the New 
York  Court  agreed  with the apartment owners and ordered that all of 
the  insurance monies received by Sun Resorts, totaling US$ 39 million 
(of  which  US  $21  million had been spent without rebuilding) be put 
into  Escrow.  On  April  28th,  1997, Sun Resort filed for protection 
under  the  bankruptcy  laws  of the Netherlands Antilles. The case is 
scheduled to be heard 8/25/97. Stay tuned. 

La  Belle  Creole - Still closed. The sticking point still remains the 
rehiring  of  the  former  employees  let  go after hurricane Luis. In 
recent  negotiations, the owners offered to rehire 50 former employees 
from  the  total of 166. The owners would like to re-open in December. 
Stay tuned. 

One  less  traffic jam - The heavy traffic jam near the Food Center in 
Phillipsburg  seems  to have been eliminated with a new traffic circle 
replacing the traffic light. This is a welcome addition. 

Less  litter  -  The  program  to  make SXM the cleanest island in the 
Caribbean  is  having  a positive effect. I definitely saw less litter 
along  the  roads and the government had workers trimming the brush on 
the  side of the road with weed whackers (God, you just gotta love the 
way  they  do  things!).  More work is needed however on the remaining 
litter and I still believe more waste receptacles are badly needed. 

Crime  -  Unfortunately,  while I was down there, a security guard was 
murdered  trying to apprehend a thief. The unfortunate man was Haitian 
and  because  the  last  several muder victims were also Haitian, some 
people  are  wondering  if  this  group  is being targeted. One of the 
things  that  I  love about SXM is the fact that so many races, ethnic 
groups  and  religions  mingle together, normally so well. I pray that 
this is merely a coincidence. 

I'll  now switch to a day by day account of our trip 'cause that's the 
way my notes read... 

Sunday,  8/10  Flight  down  from  Toronto  on  Canada  3000  was very 
uneventful.  Left  on  time and got their 5 minutes ahead of schedule. 
For  a  charter flight, Canada 3000 is consistently punctual and has a 
very  reasonable  rate usually about 2/3 of American. Need I say more? 
Took  about  25  minutes  to  get  through  immigration, picked up our 
luggage  and  met  Michael from Unity Car Rental. Our first red rental 
car!  The  car was in great shape and within 5 minutes, we were on our 
way.  This  was the 3rd time, I have rented from Unity and the service 
and  cars  have  always been top notch. Drove over to Jeff's condo and 
said  "Hi"  to  Warren  and  Delores.  They  send  their love to their 
prodigy  friends.  As  usual, we really enjoyed Jeff's place and would 
like  to publicly thank Jeff for letting us rent it on 4 day's notice. 
I  should also note that the entire vacation went off without a single 
problem  which  is  pretty  amazing  since  we  put  it  together with 
slightly  less than 4 days preparation before we left. I suppose since 
our  house  burned  down  and  we  went through the eye of a hurricane 
during  last  year's  trips, we were over due <g>! For our first night 
out,  we  went  to  La  Brasserie  De La Gare. Edith had pizza (fair), 
Michelle  had Pasta (good) and I had the red snapper filet (good). For 
dessert  we  had  the Creme Carmel which was very good. The bill was a 
very  reasonable  $45.  The  Marina  is  in  the  process  of having a 
boardwalk  put  in  over  the  cement  to  give it "class". Our French 
waiter  did  grimace when I told him it reminded me of Myrtle Beach. I 
know  it  was mean but after all he WAS French <g>! Driving around the 
island  that  first  day,  I noticed many locals out near Orient Beach 
picking  guavaberries.  I  also noticed that the roof is almost on the 
new  Food  World  grocery  store  near  Philipsburg. They seemed to be 
making  uncharacteristically  good progress on its construction during 
our  week's  stay.  This is just the sort of thing that could ruin the 
St. Martin workers reputation <g>! 

Monday  8/11:  We  drove over to the Coconut Grove beach which is next 
to  Orient.  This  is my daughter's favorite beach for snorkeling. The 
water  is  very  shallow, calm and about 90 degrees this time of year. 
It  is  a  very  popular  beach for the locals as well. I always get a 
kick  out  of  watching  the  local  families  having a fun day at the 
beach.  A  young  couple were there who were flying a kite with a wing 
span  of  about  8  feet. I was astounded to watch them have this kite 
put  both  of  them through the water at about 20 miles per hour. This 
really  looked  like  fun and I had never seen it done before. Driving 
back  to the Dutch side my daughter and I listened in vain for the one 
song  they invariably seem to play over and over on the radio stations 
down  there. No luck this trip. We were amused to hear them play "Push 
your  bottom  in, push your bottom out" several times during the week. 
My  daughter  and  I spent several Island drives discussing the social 
meaning  of  this  song. Edie's only contribution was rolling her eyes 
and  doing  her  Marge Simpson imitation! Oh well... That night we ate 
at  Cheri's.  The  Cheddar  fries, chicken salad and cheeseburger were 
typical  Cheri's  cuisine  but  the meal was ruined by many flies that 
descended  on  the  patrons that night. I've never had this problem on 
any  previous trip. By the way, I am happy to report that the clock in 
the  tower  across  the street is still faithfully staying at 5:35 and 
is  correct  twice a day. This record consistently beats the political 
parties  on  the  island  <g>! That night we went to the casinos which 
proved  to be a real hit with my daughter who is now over 18. By using 
the  match  play  coupons,  we  would win enough to play the slots for 
several  hours and still break even. My daughter's favorite sound soon 
became...Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching..... 

Tuesday,  8/12  :  We  went  to Carl & Son's bakery for breakfast. The 
baked  goods  here  are consistently good and reasonably priced. It is 
located  on  a  side road in the Cole Bay area. From here I drove Edie 
and  Michelle  over  to  the St. Martin Zoo. It has been rebuilt since 
Hurricane  Luis and now features a bat cave. Did you know that SXM has 
5  different  varieties  of  bats?  Just one of the interesting things 
they  learned  at  the zoo. While they were at the zoo, I paid a visit 
to  Modern  Business  Machines in Philipsburg. They are partnered with 
IBM  (yes IBM now has a Caribbean branch). I talked to the owner about 
computer  consulting opportunities on the island and where the resorts 
stand  on  solving  the  Year  2000 computer problem. Needless to say, 
this  visit  made Edie nervous since she knows how much I want to move 
down  there.  Probably  5  -  10  years  away...sigh.....We  spent the 
remainder  of  the day shopping in Philipsburg and catching some beach 
time  at  Simpson Beach. For an interesting experience, try this: Fall 
asleep  on  the  beach about 50 yards from the runway and have the Air 
France  747  take  off.  Edie  does not laugh at my jokes but she does 
laugh  at me when I'm not trying to be funny....grrrrrrr That night we 
went  back  into Philipsburg at ate at Ric's Place on Front Street. We 
at  the  nachos, cheeseburger and a chicken salad. The food is typical 
American,  meaning  large proportions and reasonably priced. Bill came 
to  about  $30. We then walked over to the theater off of Front Street 
and  caught  a  movie. Everytime my daughter comes down to the island, 
we  go  to  at  least  one movie. She likes the cultural experience of 
Reggae  music  before  the  movie  begins,  cigarette  commercials and 
people  drinking  beer  in the theater. Wednesday, 8/13 : For those of 
you  who  have  read  previous  trip  reports of mine, you know what's 
coming.  Yes  be  still  my  heart,  for  today  I had breakfast at La 
Croissanterie.  God  may have created the world but the French created 
the  croissant  and  I  will  forever be in debt to them for that most 
wonderous  of  creations.  Even now my hand trembles at the thought of 
the  (still  warm  from  the  oven)  chocolate  croissant  being  hand 
delivered  by  the owner who smiles at my appreciation for his work of 
art.  Vive  La  France!  I  politely  inquire  of  the  owner if he is 
planning  a  bed and breakfast arrangement but alas it is not to be... 
From  there  we  drive  to  Orient Beach, where Edie and Michelle have 
scheduled  a  massage  at  the  hands of Martha at Club Orient. I have 
made  the  ultimate  sacrifice  and  forgone my normal massage so that 
Michelle  could have her first professional massage. I was pleased she 
enjoyed  it very much. For dinner that evening, we went to Tutta Pasta 
and  had  a  very  good  meal  of Spaghetti and Meatballs, Lasagna and 
Pasta  Mediterranean  for  $44.  A  complimentary  bottle  of wine was 
offered  by  our  host  which was very much appreciated. That night my 
daughter  and  I  played  slots  at  the  various casinos using Casino 
(match  play)  money  for  several  hours.  It  proved  to  be  a fun, 
inexpensive  amusement  on  most nights during the trip. I only hope I 
haven't created a monster <g>

Thursday,  8/14  : For breakfast we visited our friend Claire at Hiway 
D'Lite  next  to  Lynnettes  near  the end of the runway. I just can't 
stay  away  from  Claire's  Johnny  Cakes  which are baked unlike most 
other  Johnny  Cakes which are deep fried. Delicious! Hiway D'lite has 
many  baked good now also. As we were leaving, Claire gave us a (still 
warm!)  fresh  out of the oven loaf of French bread. Claire epitomizes 
the  "genteel"  old  fashioned  St.  Martin friendliness and is always 
such  a  pleasure  to  chat with. Afterwards we ate fresh tree ripened 
mangos  on  our  balcony and enjoyed the cool SXM morning breezes. All 
in  all, it beat the best day at work by a good country mile! We spent 
the  afternoon  on  the  far  beach  of  Cupecoy. I was actually quite 
surprised  that  the beach was quite large this time of year. I should 
also  mention  that  it  rained  quite hard on 4 occasions during this 
trip,  but  the  "friendly  island" accommodated us by only raining at 
night.  The locals tell me that most heavy rain storms do occur in the 
evening  which  jives with my personal experience also. I'd be curious 
to  know if this is connected to the temperature dropping. Perhaps one 
of  our  meteorologists  could  help  us out here with an explanation. 
That  evening we all went to the Konga Cafe in Cul De Sac for the best 
meal  of  the  trip.  Edie  had  an  Hawaiian Sandwich, Michelle had a 
Veggie  Pita  with  Cuban Black Bean Soup and I had the Currie Chicken 
Salad.  All of the food was simply excellent and the price was $25 for 
the  3  of us. Incredible! I am sorry to report that Vince (the owner) 
is  thinking  of  going  back to Aruba. This would be a severe loss to 
reasonably price fine SXM cuisine. 

TURKS & CAICOS BY MARCUS URIOSTE

After  much  research  our  family  of  three  decided on a Friday-to-
Friday,  4-11 July 1997 stay at Sandal's Beaches all-inclusive resort, 
formerly  Royal  Bay.  Royal  Bay  was  built in 1995; was acquired by 
Sandal's  in late 1996, and converted to one of two Sandals properties 
allowing  families  in April 1997. My wife and I are 40 and we have an 
11  year  old  daughter.  Our  criteria  included:  beautiful,  easily 
accessible,  pristine,  beaches  suitable  for  long  walks; excellent 
nearby  snorkeling;  water  activities;  upscale  but not ostentatious 
facilities/  accommodations;  suitable activities for a pre-teen; good 
food;  friendly  staff; and reasonable travel requirements from the US 
east  coast.  We  did  not  originally  require  the resort to be all-
inclusive,  but  found  that  a  plus--since we were less apt to "hold 
back" in partaking of activities/meals. 

Overall,  I give the Beaches Resort an Excellent rating and believe it 
will  become  an  even  better  destination  once two more restaurants 
currently  under  construction  (seafood  and Japanese) and a block of 
new  rooms on the western side of the property are opened in September 
1997.  Our  week started with a larger guest contingent because of the 
4th  of  July  holiday;  but  thinned  out on 6 July when the New York 
Beaches   shuttle  crowd  left.  In  both  cases,  facility  was  very 
comfortable.  Age  group included some honeymooners, and some extended 
families  (kids,  moms/dads/grandparents); most in the 30-45 age group 
with  some  kids.  Comments  for  improvement  can  be  classified  as 
quibbling,   the   pluses  far  outweighed  the  negatives.  We  would 
definitely  go back; maybe after we have stayed at other resorts, such 
as Cap Juluca in Anguilla. 

Travel:  Flew via Philadelphia's very early morning American flight to 
Miami   to   make   the   1:20PM   Boeing  727  connection  to  Provo. 
Unfortunately,  the  3  hour  lay-over  in  Miami  is the only option. 
Arriving  at  3PM, Provo's airport was minuscule and tattered, but not 
unexpected  in the Caribbean--roll with the punches. Beaches contracts 
with  a  bus  to  get  you  to the property; 15 minute ride over dusty 
roads.  Reception  was  pleasant  and  since we stayed in a Jr. Suite, 
special  handling  via the "Suite Concierge" hostess made things nice. 
We  were  in  our room and on the beach by 4:30PM. Provo is one of the 
few  places  we researched which had jet service to the island. Check-
out  time  was Noon, easily extendable to 1PM; shuttle to airport left 
at  2PM;  $15/adult  exit  tax  at  airport (under 12 free) payable at 
ticket counter. Dress cool--little A/C at airport. 

Weather:  About 90F during the day and ~75F each evening. Ever-present 
trade   winds   kept   things   more   comfortable   than  summers  in 
Philadelphia.  Ocean  water  and pools at ~85F. Because of the breeze, 
it  was  never overly humid; I do not think I actually used a towel to 
dry  off  once at the beach or pools. Sunny every day--sometimes early 
morning  overcast  skies were always blue by 10AM, due to the wind. It 
became  really  windy  only  one  afternoon--requiring the watersports 
shack  to  beach  the  sailboats.  Otherwise  OK.  We  brought  insect 
repellent but never used it. 

Clothing:  Really  only need multiple bathing suits and suitable beach 
cover-ups  during the day. The day restaurants are pretty liberal, but 
we  felt  more appropriate with cover-ups. Long pants with polo shirts 
are  appropriate  for  the  2  nights  at  Sapodilla's; women wear sun 
dresses.  Otherwise, not much need for dressy clothes. Evenings at the 
other  two  restaurants;  nice shorts/sun dresses. We brought too much 
clothes,  thinking  we  would  have  to  "dress"  for  lunch. Lunch at 
Arizona  grill  can  be  in  a  bathing  suit. One small item--you are 
required  to  sign  up  for  beach towels when you arrive and can turn 
them  in  anytime  for dry/clean ones. There is a $15 charge if you do 
not  turn  in  the  same number of towels at weeks end. Not a problem. 
Bring  flip-flops  to the pool deck; mid-day sun makes walking on deck 
hot! Bring lots of sunscreen and a hat--you will need it. 

Accommodations:  Our  Junior Suite (#325) was nice enough, large (~800 
sq.  ft.), if a little sterile--only 9 Junior Suites exist on property 
out  of  220+  rooms.  All main building rooms face bay. Our suite was 
located  on  the  eastern edge of the property on the 3rd floor of the 
Main  Building. Tile floors--good for sand clean-up; pull-out sofa for 
our  11-year old daughter and 1 king sized bed. No privacy, if that is 
important  to  you.  Adequate  bathroom.  Changed in-room towels twice 
daily.  In-room mini-bar stocked as part of Suite Concierge package; 2 
cloth  robes;  daily  10-page summary of NY Times news. Satellite TV--
not  used  much. In-room safe. Good A/C. Since we left our room at 8AM 
and  did  not  return  until 6PM and then again at 10PM, we found that 
the  room  itself  was  not as important as we had originally thought. 
The  1BR  villas  are  all closer to the pools; we understand they are 
nice but not luxurious. 

Resort  itself:  Very  nicely  landscaped--no small feat on this arid, 
dusty  island.  The  main  attraction,  is  the absolutely spectacular 
beach  on Grace Bay. About 12 miles + of talcum-powder fine sand, very 
warm,  very  calm,  turquoise-colored  water.  The  shore  itself is a 
national  park.  Beaches  is  fairly  isolated  from  the  other major 
resorts  to the east (Grace Bay, Club Med); never did we see more than 
about  20  people on the entire beach. Snorkeling near the White House 
is  a  slow  10 minute walk from Beaches. Two major pools with swim up 
bars  plus  a  toddler wading pool and small playground (away from the 
main  pools). We preferred the newer of the two pools, integrated with 
the  Arizona  grill  restaurant, right next to beach. It was prettier, 
deeper,  had  a  whirlpool  (hot!),  and  overhead waterfalls made for 
great  lazing  about.  All room buildings are a pleasant soft-pink and 
white  stucco, with the Arizona restaurant a southwestern tan. The two 
new  restaurants  under  construction  look like they will be nice; in 
particular, the seafood restaurant is right on the beach with a porch-
front  view  of the bay. Lot's of daily maintenance on grounds. By the 
way,  I  happened  to  look  into  the  reception area at the Club Med 
during  our drive to reach a J&B tour and was struck by how tired Club 
Med looked. 

Dining:  we realized with an all-inclusive that there are trades to be 
made.  Three  restaurants;  the  least  formal  (Arizona)  was the one 
integrated  with  the  newer  pool.  It  tended  to  cater  to blander 
American  tastes  during the day--buffet hamburgers/grilled cheese/hot 
dogs/salads/pizza/grilled  fish,  chicken.  At night it converted to a 
served-meal  Mexican  restaurant  that  was not bad. The bay view from 
the  restaurant  is  very  nice.  Only complaint was the need to clear 
tables   quickly.  The  second  restaurant  (Reflections)  was  nicer, 
located  in  the  main building; good breakfast and lunch buffets with 
plenty  of  variety. Omelettes nice. During the evening it was served-
only  meals with good quality. The premier restaurant, just around the 
corner  from Reflections, is Sapodilla's (after a native tree); small, 
pretty,  and  needs  reservations at least a day in advance. Closed on 
Sunday,  no kids under 16; excellent presentation and on par with good 
US  restaurants.  We prefer seafood and our entrees were excellent. We 
understand  that  you are limited to 2 nights at Sapodilla's, but with 
everything  else  to  do,  did  not  find  that  too  restrictive. Our 
daughter  joined  in with the Kid's club from 7-9PM, so child care was 
no  problem.  Overall,  one will not go hungry or thirsty; from 7:30AM 
onward.  Availability of drinks/libations was plentiful everywhere--we 
are  not  heavy  drinkers but found the ability to order better brands 
easy  (e.g.  Myers  rum, cognac). One small recommendation--they could 
provide cold bottled water near the pools (we had in our in-room mini-
bar  only).  On  two  nights  there were international and BBQ buffets 
near the original pool; nicer than we had expected. 

Activities:   we   wanted   low   key,  high  quality,  and  were  not 
disappointed.  Water  sports  were  great:  hobie  cats, peddle boats, 
sailfish,  water  tricycles,  snorkeling  and available diving. We did 
not  dive,  but understood from others it was plentiful and great. The 
snorkeling  exceeded  our  expectations--nearby  White  House reef (30 
feet  offshore!)  was  as if we had jumped into an aquarium: beautiful 
coral,  fans,  parrot  fish,  queen  angelfish,  sea  turtles, a small 
barracuda  (~18"),  etc.  Bring some disposable underwater cameras! Be 
sure  on  Tuesday  at 9AM to sign up for Wednesday afternoon's free 3-
hour  sail  cruise (only takes 40 people)--a real highlight, including 
snorkeling  near  a  different reef to the northeast. We took a 3 hour 
J&B  Beach cruise one morning for $42/adult, $23/child--iguana island, 
snorkeling,  island  tour,  shelling--well worth it. Again, snorkeling 
was   fantastic.   What  struck  us  about  the  week  was  the  quiet 
peacefulness--so  much  so  that the 4PM American Airlines flight over 
the  bay  draws attention. No water skis at Beaches, no jet skis, only 
the  occasional  comings  and  goings of the dive boat. One day on the 
hobie  cat  it  got  windy enough to tip the boat--but did not prevent 
full  enjoyment  of the beach. Evening entertainment consisted of some 
local  bands that were surprisingly good, but no one seemed to join in 
much--probable  too  tired  from  the  day!  We  never  made it to the 
10:30PM+  disco  in  Arizona's. Some entertainment got kids involved--
limbo,  etc. Kids club activities were geared to the 10 and below set, 
but  my  daughter joined in for an evening VCR movie as a "helper." My 
impressions  of  the  kids club was well-supervised, lots of swimming, 
etc.  They  could  use a program for 11+ year olds--not a problem with 
us  since our family had the same interests. No spa that we could see. 
Massages  available  for  $75/hr.  or $40/hr. in your room. Service is 
pleasant,   if  a  little  slow--remember  you  are  on  vacation  and 
everything  will be fine. Staff is friendly, warm, and a little shy--a 
smile  and  conversation  does  wonders.  Summary:  Just  what we were 
looking  for--spectacular  beach;  excellent  nearby  snorkeling; easy 
water  sports;  calm,  protected  waters; hot but not oppressive; low-
key,  peaceful,  quiet. Friendly atmosphere; private if you wanted it. 
An  excellent  resort  which will only get better as Sandals continues 
to improve on an already very nice resort. 

TURKS AND CAICOS BY DAVID SOMMER

The  Turks  and  Caicos  Islands in the Providenciales Colony of Greta 
Britain  in  the  Caribbean are 575 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, 
directly  east of Inagua, at the south tip of the Bahamas chain just a 
bit  north  of  Hispaniola. If that don't work for you, let's just say 
they're in between Collins Avenue and Caracas. 

The  two  Turks  and  Caicos  groups of islands are separated by Turks 
Island  Passage,  which  is 22 miles long and 7,000 feet deep. If your 
catamaran  goes  down  in  the middle you will have trouble recovering 
it.  But  don't  fret -- the Titanic is in 13,000 feet water, and they 
got  to that. Also, for comparison, Runway 13-31 at JFK airport in New 
York  is 14,537 feet in length, and the average human intestinal tract 
is something like seven miles long I believe. 

Only  eight  of the 40 islands are inhabited, officially. I think that 
sex  freak  island  in  that  Dan  Akroyd/Rosie  O'Donnell  movie  was 
probably  somewhere around there too. And who knows who else is living 
here  and there. Spectre headquarters would likely be found in a place 
like Turks and Caicos.

The  'belongers', or residents, live mostly on Turk and Salt Cay. Most 
others  live on the larger islands to the west, like South, Middle and 
North  Caicos, and Providenciales, or 'Provo', for short. Pine Cay and 
Parrot Cay are resort islands. People there live to be 1797.

East  Caicos  Island is a forbidding place full of mosquitoes and wild 
horses.  It  was on East Caicos that Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones 
found  inspiration  for  the  hit song, "Wild Horses". His private jet 
had  ditched  in  the  water off the leeward shore of East Caicos, and 
while  waiting  for  rescue  he saw all the wild horses runing around. 
They  used  to  mine  bat shit on East Caicos. There are caves full of 
it. They call it 'guano'. 

West Caicos is nothing but crabs and cactus and gay flamingos.

The  Providenciales  are  a friendly place, except on Provo sometimes, 
because  of  how people on vacation can get sickening if you know what 
I  mean.  But  mostly  the  belongers  are nice, unless you drag a key 
across  the  paint  finish  of  their car or something. It's like that 
everywhere, if you think about it.

The  islands  have  a  history. Taino Indians and stuff. Nobody really 
cares  about it though. Today, it's all about banking and scuba diving 
and   drunken   menage-a-trois  sex  in  gently  swaying  jumbo  beach 
hammocks. 

There  is  also  a government and an economy, plus a flora and a fauna 
and  sports  and  festivals  and  stuff. How long were you figurin' on 
stayin'?

Grand  Turk  is  the  second largest population center and the seat of 
the  government.  The  big place is Cockburn Town, because that's what 
can  happen  to  an  unmindful  feller  sleeping  nude  in  the beach. 
Everything  in  town  of  any  significance is either on Duke or Front 
Street, except the donkey sanctuary.

The  island's  airport  is  nearby. You can catch a little plane to or 
from  Provo, where the colony's big airport is. There's no bus service 
on  Grand  Turk.  If  you get a guide book you'll see there are hotels 
and whatnot, and places to eat. 

Salt  Cay  is  seven  miles  south  of Grand Turk. TCA flies there. It 
takes  five minutes aboard a little plane. More donkeys here too. They 
had  to  put up a fence around the airport to keep 'em out of the way. 
Couple of hotels. Real intimate-like, basically.

South  Caicos  and  Middle  Caicos  are  fishing  and  diving  meccas. 
Cockburn  Harbor  is  the rundown center of things on South Caicos. It 
was  the  basis  for  the Jerry Garcia song, "Wharf Rat", according to 
rumor.  Middle Caicos has no town to speak of, but there's an airstrip 
and some inns. 

And  that's  it  for  the Turks and Caicos, excpetin' all the stuff on 
Provo  and  Parrot  Cay,  Dellis  Cay, Pine Cay, Little Water Cay, and 
French Cay. And, oh yeah -- West Caicos.

The   official  currency  is  the  almighty  US  dollar.  Clothing  is 
informal.   The   big  hospital  is  on  Provo.  Laundry  is  done  on 
Wednesdays.  Helmets  are  not  mandatory.  If  you  bring  her,  your 
curvacious  girlfriend  will get a delicious glowing tan and you won't 
be  able  to  stop  layin'  yer paws all over her. Visit the Turks and 
Caicos today! 

TURKS AND CAICOS BY CLARA ILLAS

Just  returned  from  the best vacation I can remember! 21 days at the 
Turquoise  Reef,  which  I  liked  very  much, and didn't want to come 
home! 

Went  to  the  White  House  beach  three times while I was there, and 
loved  the  reef,  and spent hours snorkeling there and even took some 
video  of the reef with my video camera in a water casing. Took a tour 
of  the  house  and  my  daughter fell in love with it. We are already 
planning  to  rent  their terrace unit, which is under the main house, 
right by the pool, next year, around June or July, for 3 to 4 weeks. 

I  loved  everything  about T and C and can't wait to go back. I spent 
hours  every  day  in  the ocean, the weather was perfect almost every 
day,  and  almost  everyone  at  the  hotel  and  everywhere  else was 
extremely  helpful.  I  liked  the Turquoise Reef very much, but would 
prefer  the  White  House because of the reef and the quiet also. Both 
beaches,  however,  were  wonderful. I have been to several islands in 
the  past  10  years,  but  have never found any better, including St. 
Thomas,  which up until this year has always been my favorite, because 
I  have  been able to enjoy the ocean more, since I'm disabled and can 
do  only minimal walking, and St. Thomas is difficult in that respect. 
(However,  the views from St. Thomas' mountain roads can't be found in 
T and C and are still unmatched) 

But  I  have  come back from this vacation feeling stronger and better 
than  ever,  and  that's  what's  most  important for me. During every 
other  year  I  had  to  spend a lot of time in the room because I was 
tired,  and could only go in the ocean for 1 to 1 1/2 hours a day, and 
had  a hard time getting in and out of the ocean. I don't know what is 
so  different about this island, however, because right from the first 
I  felt  better and stronger, and except for one day when I slipped in 
the  room  and hurt my arm and back, and spent most of the day in bed, 
I  spent  every  other  day out, rented a car for 4 days, spent 2 to 3 
hours  a  day in the ocean, and had very little trouble getting in and 
out of the ocean. 

Whatever it was, I have every intention of going back many times. 

We  also  tried  several  of  the  restaurants  around the island, and 
enjoyed  them  all. My daughter specially liked the Gecko, next to the 
Ocean  Club,  and  the  Italian  restaurant at our hotel. I liked them 
all,  but preferred the Caicos Cafe, across from our hotel, and we ate 
there  several  times. I loved their lobster and also their Mahi Mahi, 
although  I would have liked it a little less spicy. That was the only 
thing  we  had a little problem with. The food was too spicy, even for 
my daughter, who likes spicy food. 

Also,  some  of  the  roads  are not in great shape, and some actually 
impassable  without a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a lot of nerve!! Well, 
can't ask for everything! 

Another  thing  we  particularly enjoyed was the night time sky. I had 
never  seen  so many stars in my life and we spent part of every night 
there  enjoying  the  view.  One  day,  when  I  was taking video of a 
beautiful  sunset,  I even got the chance to video tape a falling star 
with  the most beautiful orange tail I'd ever seen!! It lasted all the 
way  down  until  it disappeared into the ocean! I also got up in time 
to  video  tape  a  sunrise  one  morning  (we  are  usually very late 
sleepers,  and  never even make it to breakfast, as we stay up late at 
night) and saw the most beautiful sky and cloud shapes and colors! 

My  daughter  is  already planning next year's stay at the White House 
and  planning for her cousins and friend to stay a week at a time with 
us  (I  don't know if that's going to be as much of a vacation for me, 
though,  cooking  for  all  those teenagers, but I won't have to worry 
about her getting bored just hanging around with me) 

Well,  it's  a  long,  long  way  until next year, and I'm going to be 
counting  the  days.  The  only thing is, if you are looking for night 
life,  this  is  not the place for you, but if you are looking for the 
best ocean and reefs, you will enjoy it very much. 

TURKS AND CAICOS BY PATRICIA MANNING

Just  back  from  8 days in Provo. Stayed at the Ocean Club, our usual 
spot.  Very  enjoyable,  our  8  year  old  never got out of the water 
except to go from one pool to the other pool to the ocean. 

We  went  to  Grand  Turk  one day to sight-see; booked on SkyKing but 
were  actually  flown  on  TCI (the islands are always a surprise) and 
back  about  1-1/2  hours  late  on  SkyKing. But we met two guys from 
England  while  waiting,  ended up going to their villa for a lemonade 
and having a great time. 

Grand  Turk is a surprise, after Provo, it is more the Caribbean style 
we  are used to. A true town, and traditional architecture. Sure seems 
like it is going downhill though. Very little activity there. 

We  dove once with Dive Provo, just out to Grace Bay reef (cathedral). 
Nice  enough  dive,  not  the best. The dive master hardly paid us any 
attention.  Never turned around or checked on us. We are used to a bit 
more  attention  than  that. As casual divers, we like to know someone 
is  keeping an eye on us. JoJo came while we were diving, but I missed 
him,  till  we  got  up and he played with the boat for quite a while. 
Fun!  (JoJo  is  a resident dolphin who likes to visit people swimming 
and diving). 

Had  dinner  mostly  at Gecko Grille, which has improved since we were 
there  in  January.  Great  chicken  if you get tired of fish! Had one 
dinner  at  Coco Bistro, nice meal, but lots of bugs. This is set in a 
coconut grove, inland, and not as breezy as Gecko. 

We  had  one  incident that was unpleasant; hired a babysitter one day 
for  the  young'un,  who  turned out to dislike the sun and the beach, 
and  spent  all  day  in  the  room  with him. I also was mysteriously 
missing  a new lipstick, nightgown and sandals. Disappointing, as most 
people on the island are more than pleasant and enjoyable. 

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