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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
April 1, 1994
America On Line Edition
Note to Readers: The publication schedule for the upcoming months will be the following: May 15 and July 15 returning to regular first of the month publication on Sept. 1.
CONTENTS FOR APRIL 1994
Antigua: Race Week April 24-30
Cancun: Atlantis Submarine Begins Operation
Puerto Rico: Vacation Package Announced
Turks and Caicos: Getting Married
4. Caribbean Journeys for April 1994
Anguilla: Coccoloba, Cap Juluca Restaurants by Robbie Vorhaus
Aruba by Jessiann McCarthy
Bahamas: Nassau, New Providence Diving by Jenny Darby and Phil Carta
Barbados: Coping with Drugs by Larry Powell
BVI: Peter Island Revisited by Lynn McKamey
Cayman Islands by Charlene Peterson
Grenadines: Sailing Expedition by Dennis Arner
Grenadines: Palm Island by John Rinaldi
Jamaica: Negril, Sea Splash by Louis Crossley
Jamaica: Negril Inn by Steve Engerer
Jamaica: Jamaica Jamaica by Fred and Paula Bate
Montserrat by Helene Jaillet
St. Barths by Andy Schwab
St. Barths by Lee Bagwell
St. John by Jack Kehoe
St. John by Liz Duffy
St. Martin by Bruce Fletcher
St. Martin by Michael Baggott
St. Martin Richard Giglio
St. Martin by Steve Siguaw
USVI Three Island Report by James Piwowarczyk
About our Contributors
In this month's edition, Jenny Darby and Phil Carta (Nassau) provide more travel information focusing on diving. They are associated with Caribbean Adventures and you can contact them at Caribbean Adventures, 2181 NW 99th Avenue, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024. (800-934-DIVE). The material is copyrighted and all rights are reserved so we thank them for allowing the CTR to use their material.
Lynn McKamey (BVI:Peter Island) is a published horticulture author, a member of the Garden Writers of America, and an assistant editor of the International Palm Society journal. Her favorite "hobbies" are writing articles about traveling and scuba diving in the Caribbean, and being an Assistant ScubaRT SysOp on GEnie.She is a travel consultant in South Texas.
In addition, Jim Cain provides the fifth in his continuing series on Anguilla. Please remember that Jim's work is also copyrighted and that he can be reached via INTERNET at PALM.DUDE@GENIE.GEIS.COM. This month Jim provides a detailed analysis of restaurants. Next month, in the final installment, Jim will cover entertainment, access to Anguilla, transportation, water sports, daytrips, beaches, shopping and services. Once again thanks to Jim for his great contribution.
1/ ANGUILLA PART V: CONTINUING SERIES BY JIM CAIN -------------------------------------------------
"There are more imaginative, picturesque dining spots per square mile on this island...than on any other one I can think of...except Manhattan" per Dan Wakefield, GQ, Dec. '92.
There are numerous restaurants on this tiny island, with a wide variety of prices and offerings. Obviously, diner selections impact costs but I've tried to give some idea concerning expected ranges where possible. A code is entered at the end of each reviewed restaurant for a typical dinner meal for two including a bottle of moderate wine (if available) and perhaps a cocktail each: VERY EXP > $100, EXP = $75-$100, MOD = $40-$75, INEXP < $40, and VERY INEXP < $25. If range not determined by the author then UNKNOWN is given. Credit cards known to be accepted are indicated as well as "credit cards not accepted" if appropriate. No entry, just means you should check before you go.
Editorial note: Several restaurants offer turtle dishes on their menu. Since Anguilla's sea turtles are on all major endangered species lists, I request that you do not order turtle. I've also purposely not listed dishes in this review, even when featured by the restaurant.
MALLIOUHANA (497-6111). Undoubtedly the top of the line and most expensive restaurant on the island, with a 30,000 bottle wine cellar (per Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) and exquisite French food. Menus are prepared by Michel Rostang (of the Michelin 2-star Paris restaurant). with execution by longtime chef Alain Laurent). A variety of light lunch selection are offered, including: crayfish and bacon salad; and salade de langoustes aux ravioles de Romans et basilic (lobster salad with tiny cheese ravioli Romans-style crowned with fresh basil). Dinner menu selections include: etuveE de langouste tiede au potiron et la salade de mache (a warm appetizer of lobster stewed with pumpkin and served with French corn salad); lobster ravioli in a carrot and lobster sauce; a delicate crayfish risotto; croustillant de crayfish aux pommes de terre (alternating layers of crayfish and thinly sliced crispy potato); medallions de langouste a la polente et son berre rouge (medallions of lobster in a red winebutter sauce served with dollops of seasoned polenta); sauteEd apple in phyllo pasty with apricot sauce; and, bitter chocolate tart. The restaurant caters first to Malliouhana Resort guests so reservations in season are not easy to obtain and are absolutely required. Located high overlooking Meads Bay. VERY EXP - can easily be over $100 per person.
COCCOLOBA PLANTATION (497-6871) - This is a very fine restaurant focusing on Creole food. The experienced newcomer chef, Paul Hackett, has introduced a more international cuisine. Menu selections include: Anguillan Lobster - Chef's Specialty which changes daily; Chilled Red Pepper Soup, flavored with Orange and Rich Cream; Lobster Bisque, served hot or cold; Cassoulet of Lobster, cooked in vermouth cream butter, seasoned with saffron and served with baby vegetables; Homemade Fusilli served with Garlic Cream sauce and infused with Squid and New Zealand Mussels; Caribbean Seafood Salad with baby artichokes and hearts of palm, marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce, chili and lime; Chargrilled Caribbean Octopus; and, Spicy Tiger Prawns in garlic, red onions and coconut butter. On Monday nights, try the "West Indian Night" - the best on the island in the opinion of Susan Pierres. [Possibly now rivaled by the new Casablanca Friday night West Indian buffet]. This is usually preceded by a poolside Manager's Party with complimentary drinks and West Indian entertainment. In addition to the a la carte menu, the restaurant provides a Table d'Hote dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights for $30 plus 10% service charge per person. Reservations are needed for any night. EXP to VERY EXP.
PIMM'S at CAP JALUCA, Maunday's Bay (497-6666 or 6779): Moorish appearing French Restaurant with a sophisticated style at the Maunday's Bay waterside. Try the light-as-a-feather lobster cakes or the lobster stuffed with spinach in a balsamic vegetable vinaigrette. Pimm's was winner of 2nd place in the 1993 Anguilla culinary competition in Fine Food Category. Open for dinner daily 710pm. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. VERY EXP
THE CAFE at COVECASTLES VILLA RESORT, Shoal Bay West (497- 6801): A small, intimate, elegant, yet informal restaurant in the center of a private villa resort. New Chef Patrick Goubier - French with recent Italian experiencefeatures French delicacies and Caribbean specialties. Considered by some to be among the best French restaurants in the Caribbean. Menu selections include: Lobster Fritters with a touch of sweet pepper; Pumpkin Gnocchi, Lobster Medallions with Ginger; Spaghetti with Lobster Medallions in a pesto sauce; Crayfish SauteEd in Garlic with Italian Green Sauce; Grilled Lobster in a Fennel and Pernod sauce; Veal Roast in a light Truffle Sauce; West Indian Chicken Stew; and, Fresh Pasta with Julienne of Vegetables. Open for dinner from 6:30pm-9:30pm. Very limited seating, primarily for resort guests, so call well ahead for reservations. AmEx accepted. EXP to VERY EXP
CAPERS, Meads Bay (497-6369): A new addition to Anguilla last year, located next door to Carimar, just down the beach from Malliouhana Resort. Filled with colorful Caribbean artwork and wooden sculptures, with an interesting bar made of a traditional Anguillan racing boat. Appetizers include Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Coconut Rum Shrimp grilled in their shells. Owner Bill Bove features beef but also offers local seafood and local free-range chickens in numerous offerings: Included are Broiled Lobster in lemon butter sauce, a warm Lobster Salad suitable for dinner, Sesame/Oriental Chicken Salad, Calamari Salad, Snapper, Mahi Mahi & Tuna seared, sautEed, or grilled to perfection. Dinner daily except Mondays. MOD to EXP
CHATTERTON'S at CAP JALUCA, Maunday's Bay (497-6666): An informal Mediterranean menu with many grilled specialties, open for both lunch and dinner. Also a good place to watch the sunset over drinks. Music and drinks served late into the night. Open for lunch, dinner and cocktails, noon to 11pm. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. EXP
CASABLANCA RESTAURANT at the Casablanca Resort (497-6999) on Rendezvous Bay, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner offers French cuisine. The chef hails from Paris. The restaurant has received mixed reviews. Some feel that the attempt to add exotic touches to the traditional French cuisine is misguided. On Friday nights (from 7pm) a West Indian Buffet provides a wide selection of Anguillan and West Indian cuisine for $25 (EC$65) per person, taxes and service charges included. Included in the price are Riunite white wine, sangria and/or Asti Spumonti Bianco and live musical entertainment poolside. A Sunday Brunch from 11am-3pm is also offered for the same price, with musical entertainment from 12:30pm-3:30pm. EXP to VERY EXP.
THE BLUE PARROT GRILLE, poolside at the Casablanca Resort (497- 6999), offers a very popular menu of grilled specialties and pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven in an informal atmosphere. Panoramic views of St. Martin across the lovely pool. MOD.
CAFE AMERICAIN at the Casablanca (497-6999). Specialty snacks and light mea ls are available along with liquid refreshments at the bar, with Frankie Rogers "Sam" is at the piano nightly from 7pm until midnight. MOD to EXP.
RIVIERA RESTAURANT FRANCAIS AND OYSTER BAR, Sandy Ground (tel 497-2833 or fax 497-3663. Also have VHF 16 for yachts). Your hosts are Didier from France and Jessica from Connecticut. Open since 1979 (making it the oldest restaurant in Sandy Ground and the second oldest on Anguilla), Riviera has been written up in New York Times/Gourmet/Gault & Millau/Forbes. This picturesque Caribbean- style restaurant with white gingerbread terrace overlooks the beach in Sandy Ground. Menu selections focus on specialities of Provence and fresh local seafood and include: Sashimi; French Cheese and Homemade Pate Platter ($7.50); Crayfish Bisque/Fish Soup; Emince of Snapper Julienne/Sashimi Tuna; Steak of Swordfish with red wine sauce; and Creme BrulEe/Fondant au Chocolat. Open daily for lunch and dinner. There is also a small boutique with beach things, etc. VISA, M/C, AmEx & DISCOVER accepted but with 5% surcharge. EXP to VERY EXP
RENDEZVOUS BAY HOTEL RESTAURANT, Rendezvous Bay (telephone 497-6751 or US 201738-0246). Focusing primarily on guests, the hotel restaurant serves West Indian and American cuisine including fresh fish and lobster (by reservation only). MOD
RIPPLES RESTAURANT, Sandy Ground (497-3380 or VHF Ch 16). Winner of Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Chef of the Year award for 1992-1993 and First Place for Fun Food Category. Run by Jacqui and Les, with chefs Alfonso and Emma. Offers a choice of A/C dining area or a table on the terrace. Located in an unassuming building behind the 3-Cs Supermarket near the main cargo jetty in Sandy Ground. Open with the award winning Lobster Fritters ($6.95) or a choice of other hot and cold starters ($4-6). Ripples offers a wide variety of fare from hamburgers ($7-8) to various intriguing seafood, meat and poultry dishes ($11-18+) with influences from a wide range of international cuisines (including Thai). Other interesting menu selections not mentioned above are Puffy Brie, Ripples Seafood Pasta, and a delicious Coconut Pie. Open 12-2pm for lunch (except Saturdays and Sundays) and 6pm-midnight for dinner. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted but with 5% surcharge. MOD to EXP
TOP OF THE PALM and COCONUTS CAFE at LA SIRENA HOTEL, overlooking Meads Bay, (497-6827). The poolside Coconut's CafE and the airy upstairs Top of the Palm dining room offer an innovative Nuevo American Southwest style of cuisine introduced by Peter and Frieda Holleran of the USA, who have since left La Sirena. The new elegant American Southwestern cuisine offers an interesting blend of flavors, often combined with local Anguillan products. Examples are: Lobster Quesadillas served with Guacamole and sour cream and Chicken Breast Pueblo, marinated and stuffed with a medley of poblano, jalapeno and bell peppers, cilantro and onions. Influenced by the Swiss owners, cheese and meat fondues are featured --don't miss the Fondue Neptune where succulent fresh seafood is cooked at the table in a hot pot of stock and dipped in one of 5 sauces. Other menu selections include Swiss specialties like Zurich Geschnetzlets and Filet Mignon Maitre d'Hotel. Every Thursday night La Sirena offers Anguilla's own Mayoumba Folkloric Group and a special poolside BBQ menu. The special Thursday night menu offers Pepper Pot soup or Papaya salad ($55.50), followed by various grilled fresh seafood and Black Angus beef entrees ($15.50-$33). Drinks are not included. Service charge of 15% added. Sunday morning brunch features live steel-band music. Open for breakfast (7-10 am), lunch (12-3 pm) and dinner (7-10 pm). MOD to EXP.
REEFSIDE GARDEN at SHOAL BAY VILLAS (497-2051) (formerly HAPPY JACK's) restaurant at Shoal Bay Villas: This is an open air, oceanside, romantic and friendly restaurant. Consistently serve what we consider among the best meals we've had on the island. Great taste! The wine list doesn't match up - but there are 3 -4 drinkable choices. Their Black Bean soup and Goat Soup starters are both absolutely delicious, as are a number of the main entrees. Main menu selections include: Blackened or Charbroiled Snapper; Lobster Thermidor, Lobster Salad, Grilled Fresh Lobster/Crayfish (lobster/crayfish in season), 10, 12, or 16 oz. Strip Sirloins (5 sauces); Reefside Conch Cakes; and, Reefside 1/2 pound Sirloin Burgers. Reefside Restaurant doesn't get as much publicity as some other restaurants on the island, but the food rates among the best. Open for breakfast (8-10:30 am), lunch (12-4 pm) and dinner (sunset - 9:30pm). West Indian BBQ served Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 12-3pm. VISA, M/C, DISCOVER & AmEx accepted. MOD
LA FONTANA (tel 497-3491, fax 497-3493) is a beachfront open air Italian restaurant located at the Fountain Hotel at the secluded west end of Shoal Bay East. Italian wines and fresh baked breads complement light pasta and seafood specialties. The Anguillan rastafarian cook, who was sous under the former Italian chef, continues with excellent Italian fare. Menu selections include: Porcini Mushroom Soup; Novita Fresca Verde (pasta with lobster, shrimp and calamari); Aragostina alla Signora Carol (chopped crayfish in salad with tomatos and basil in green olive oil; Focaccia al Clerici (as above in Focaccia bread); Rassa alla Zio Mario (duck breast, blueberries, barolo wine); Aragosta bell'Italia (a Mediterranean/Caribbean lobster dish with black olives, capers, lime, tomatos, herbs and white wine); Lobster Conte Panuss (marinated in fresh herbs, sautEed in white wine; and, a daily special Rasta Pasta del Giorno (pasta of the day). Open only to hotel guests during the summer, but open to public during winter high season. Hours are breakfast (8-10am), lunch (122:30pm), happy hour 5-7pm, and dinner (7-10pm). Saturday morning brunch from 10am-2pm at poolside with soft music. Closed from May 1 - Nov. 1, except for hotel guests. Closed Wednesdays. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. EXP.
LE FISH TRAP (497-4488) at Island Harbour: Although this restaurant won 2nd place in the 1992-3 Anguilla culinary competition for Fun Food Category in early 1993, this restaurant had the appearance of being shut up for good in June of 1993 -also no ads were found for the restaurant in current publications. Previously well known, you should check and see if it has reopened. A small French/Creole style restaurant with a quaint atmosphere in Island Harbour specializing in local fish, lobster, conch, and crayfish. Written up in a number of gourmet reviews. Try their tomato pie appetizer or creamy crayfish on a bed of leeks (if open). Looks out at Gorgeous Scilly Cay. EXP
HIBERNIA (497-4290) at Island Harbour: Don't miss this gem! One of Anguilla's leading French Restaurant in this West Indian-style house offers a lovely view of the sea from a bluff overlooking Island Harbour. (Relocated from Sandy Ground in 1989-1990). The food is French with Thai overtones and is excellent. Ambiance is among the best on the island. Chef/owner Raoul Rodriguez's travels with his Irish hostess/wife Mary Pat O'Hanlon in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and throughout Europe influence this stunning menu. Selected as "favorite Anguilla restaurant" by at least 3 reviewers (Margaret Zellers of Fielding's Caribbean; Susan Pierres of Caribbean Travel and Life, and yours truly. Menu selections include: Profiteroles farcis a la chair de crabe et de langouste (a puff pastry of lobster and crab meat at 205 calories); Lobster Medallions in CinnamonMustard Cream Sauce (590 calories); Grilled Crayfish with Vanilla in Ginger Sauce (590 calories); Mustard and Leek Tart (EXCELLENT!!!); Selection of "House"-smoked Caribbean Fish; Grilled Crayfish in Lemongrass Sauce; Tom Yam Taley, a spicy Thai bouillabaisse of lobster, crayfish, octopus, yellowtail snapper, and wahoo in a traditional Thai bowl (only 420 calories and absolutely delicious [it certainly was in June of 1993]; Grilled Snapper in Honey & Garlic Sauce; Pruneaux in Armagnac Chocolate Sauce with homemade Chestnut Ice-Cream. A mEx, VISA and M/C accepted. EXP to VERY EXP. Generally open for lunch (12-2pm) and dinner (7-9pm), but lunch not offered in summer of 1993. Closed Mondays and closed for the month of September each year. EXP to VERY EXP
BARREL STAY BEACH BAR & RESTAURANT FRANCAIS CREOLE (497- 2831) at Sandy Ground: Open since 1980 on the beach and decorated in a rustic style with old barrel stays - hence the name. French Chef Jean-Claude has 30 years experience. Food is French/Creole with several island specialties. Specialty of the house is Fish Soup (both Gourmet and Food and Wine magazines have requested the recipe). Other menu selections include: Crab Farci-CrEole-hot & spicy; Grilled Seafood; and, U.S. Prime "Black Angus" Steaks. Open 12-3pm for lunch and 7-10pm for dinner, with 6-7pm Sunset Happy Hour. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. EXP to VERY EXP
SMUGGLER'S GRILL, The Forest (497-3728): Built "in" the water with romantic atmosphere. The owner Marysa West of Paris, with chefs Roger Penno and Dexter Connor, offers French and seafood fare as well as "humongus" steaks. Menu mainstays for 1992-3 season centered on the local lobster - in 10 different dishes, including: Lobster Exotique in a sweet and sour sauce with pineapple, fresh ginger and bamboo shoots; Lobster Thermidor; Lobster Brochette with onions, sweet peppers and tomatos; Langouste a la ProvenCale with garlic and olive oil, flambeed in Pastis; Lobster a l'Indienne (curried in white wine sauce, raisins and yogurt; . A large and varied selections of wines will complement the ambiance. Other menu selections include: 14 or 25 oz. Prime Beef Porterhouse; patE maison; escargots; French onion soup; Seafood au Gratin featuring lobster, shrimp and mussels in a creamy white wine sauce and melted Swiss cheese; Fillet of Snapper in CrEole sauce; and, complimentary salad bar. Open for dinner only from 6:00pm-11pm.. Closed on Sundays. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. EXP
SHIP'S GALLEY (497-2040) at Sandy Ground: Situated on the beach with surprisingly charming atmosphere. Norita (in the Galley) prepares West Indian dishes while Mickey (in the bar) prepares his secret grogs. Music Fiesta on Sunday and Thursday nights with a live band. Menu selections include: Fresh local Lobster Ships Galley; Grilled Fillet of Red Snapper with Garlic Butter or Lemon, Stewed Whelks served with Sweet Potatos, Scampi Norita Style or Italian Style. Special local dishes also available on Sunday. Open 8:30-10:30 for breakfast, 11-3pm for lunch and 7-9:30pm for dinner, with Happy Hour from 56:30pm. Closed on Wednesdays. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. MOD
WEST END BY THE SEA (497-6327) at West End: Situated on the very west end of Anguilla, this beach bar/snack bar owned by Edgar Richardson provides fresh fish and island specialties for lunch and dinner is growing in popularity. Good view of the sea. Also has Sunset Happy Hour at the unique Boat Bar daily 4-6pm. INEXP to MOD.
KOALKEEL, The Valley (497-2930 or fax 497-5379): Located in a restored 18th century "Warden's Place Great House", one of the oldest two buildings in Anguilla. Features specialties cooked in the 100-year old rock oven or savory items smoked to perfection on the premises. "Eurocaribe" cuisine is accompanied by over 120 selections of fine wines. Recommended to me by several locals as having very good food and entertainment, but reputed to be somewhat expensive. Menu selections (prior to renovation closure) include: Anguilla Pea Soup; Fillet of Snapper on Couscous; Smoked Grouper on a bed of Leeks; 'Rock-Oven' baked whole Chicken for two; and, Lobster Crepes. Open for lunch (12-2:30pm) and dinner (7pm until ?). Closed June - Nov. 1993 for renovations. VISA, M/C & AmEx accepted. EXP to VERY EXP
MANGO'S SEASIDE GRILL, Barnes Bay (497-6497 or fax 497-6492): Sold recently by Bob and [Chef] Melinda Blanchard (described by Forbe's Magazine as a "passionate cook") to Claudine and Bill Dallam, who have retained the award winning cuisine with only very minor modifications. Claudine is a franCaise raised in Dakar, Senegal. Fresh seafood is graciously presented in a beautiful and serene seaside setting with a great view. There are only 13 tables so book days in advance to guarantee seating. Menu selections include: Caribbean Pumpkin Shrimp Bisque; Famous Barnes Bay Lobster Cakes with homemade spicy Tomato Tartar Sauce ($6.50); Sesame Swordfish or Snapper Marinated & Grilled with Toasted Sesame Seeds ($19.95); Mango's Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Lime and Coconut Milk Marinade served over grated Coconut ($24.95); Barbecued Port Tenderloin with Tequila Pepper Relish ($17.95); Lambada Chicken in a sauce of mangos and mustard seed; Blackened Grouper ($21.95); Pepper- Crusted Tenderloin of Beef ($24.95); Blackened Lobster ($30.00) [grilled to perfection, per Susan Pierres]; Dark Chocolate Rum Cake with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream ($6.75); and, Coconut Cheesecake with Tropical Fruit Puree ($4.50). Closed on Tuesday, two seatings per night on other nights. Also serves lunch from Dec. 11- Mar 30 from 12:00-2:30pm. VISA, M/C and AmEx accepted. MOD to EXP
PARADISE CAFE, Shoal Bay West (497-3210): Asian/French cuisine with a modern twist offered by Owner/Chef Michael Marciezyk and wife Pam. Good view of Sandy Island and Prickly Pear Cay. Follow angel fish signs from Cottage Hospital to this very informal hidden treasure. For lunch try "Beach Pizza" topped with crayfish, goat cheese or sun-dried tomatos. and Dinner menu selections include: West Indian Bouillabaisse (the house specialty) featuring all available sea creatures, piquant with crunchy croutons; Crayfish Medallions in Sauce Americain (actually a creamy French white wine and brandy sauce) served on a bed of Chinese Noodles; Ravioli Stuffed with Lobster Mousse in a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce; Indonesian Crayfish in Coconut Milk and Thai Red Chili Sauce; Duck Breast with Mandarin Pancakes; Sizzling Rock Fish with Tamarind/Hoisin sauce; Szechuan Beef with Ginger Root & Spring Onions; and, Butterfly Prawns in Coconut Milk. Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. VISA, M/C and AmEx accepted. MOD to EXP
ROY'S PLACE, Crocus Bay (497-2470): Roy and Mandy invite you to their popular informal beach front bar and restaurant. Draft Beers and tropical drinks served. Happy Hour every Friday (5-7pm) and Sunday Brunch serving Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. Regular menu selections include: Grilled fresh local Lobster; Yellow and Red Snapper; Pork in a CrEole Sauce; and, Charbroiled Steaks. Open for lunch (12-2pm) and dinner (6-9pm). Closed on Mondays. VISA and M/C accepted. MOD to EXP
THE PALM COURT at CINNAMON REEF (497-2727) - Award winning chefs, Didier Rochat of France (formerly of Malliouhana Resort) and Vernon Hughes of Anguilla, offer "New Caribbean" cuisine highlighting fresh local seafood with tropical fruits and vegetables with European elan. These two chefs are previous co-winners of Chefs of the Year awards sponsored by the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association. Light cooking complemented by delicate sauces. Example selections are: Marinated Chicken and Cucumber in Smoked Sesame Oil Sauce [sensational, per Susan Pierres]; Coconut Chicken Soup; an-Seared Fresh Red Snapper Fillet with Soy Berre Blanc and Okra; Grilled Lobster in Essence of Cilantro; Lobster Salad with Plantains and Baby Artichokes in a Peanut Sauce; Charcoal- Grilled Roasted Queenfish in phyllo with Saffron Angel Hair Pasta; Grilled Yellowfin Tuna in Tomato and Cinnamon Sauce with Raisins; and, Mango Puffs in Caramel Sauce. Don't miss the super after-dinner drinks such as Silk Stockings (tequila, white cacao, cream and pomegranate syrup) or the Peppermint Pattie (dark cacao and white creme de menthe). Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Winner of the 1993 Fine Food Restaurant award in the Anguilla culinary competition. The open air restaurant overlooks the sea. Dress is casually elegant, with men expected to wear long trousers in the evenings. VISA, M/C and AmEx accepted. EXP to VERY EXP
BEACH TERRACE at THE MARINERS, Sandy Ground, (497-2671): Loca ted on the beach at the end of Sandy Ground, with an accent on fresh local fish and Anguillan lobster with a Nouvelle Cuisine approach. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served daily, together with several special meal presentations each with musical entertainment. These include two $30/pp 4-course dinners: poolside barbecue on Thursday [with Joe and the Invaders], and West Indian night on Saturday [with Keith Gumbs]. Mitch Geisner provides music at 7:30 on Sunday. Menu selections include: salads including an excellent Lobster Salad, soups and hamburgers; Poached Snapper or Grouper in lemon butter sauce; Chicken baked with coconut and ginger; and, Lobster grilled with fresh basil butter. VISA, M/C and AmEx accepted. MOD to EXP
LUCY'S HARBOUR VIEW RESTAURANT, Back Street, South Hill (497- 6253): The oldest existing restaurant on the island, located in a converted home on top of a hill overlooking Sandy Ground, with a great view of Road Bay. Open Monday through Saturday, 11am- 11pm. Specializes in seafood and Anguillan cuisine. Menu selections include: split grilled local lobster in butter sauce; Shrimps in a Creole sauce; Whole Red Snapper (specialty of the house); conch fritters; and, Curried Goat served with fresh vegetables. Open for lunch (11:30am-3:00 pm) and dinner (7-10 pm). Closed on Sundays. VISA, M/C and AmEx accepted. MOD
LA PALMA, Sandy Ground, (497-3260). Located on the beach near Tamariain Watersports at La Palma Apartments. West Indian cooking. Major credit cards accepted. INEXP to MOD.
MID-ISLAND COUNTRY BAR AND RESTAURANT, Deep Waters, (497- 2916). Small local restaurant and bar. INEXP
PO' FOLKS, The Quarter, (497-5670). Small restaurant serving local dishes (conch, curried goat, curried chicken) at local prices. Eat in or take out service. Monday - Saturday, 11am-10pm. INEXP
MILLIE'S PLACE, Sandy Ground, (497-2591). Local cooking with a variety of Caribbean and Spanish dishes. Monday evening is Caribbean night, Tuesday is Spanish night. Closed on Wednesdays. Happy Hour 6-7:30pm. Every other Friday is Ladies Night with fashion show from Millies Boutique. INEXP
LUCY'S PALM PALM BEACH BAR AND RESTAURANT, Sandy Ground (497-2253): Located on the beach and featuring live music every Tuesday and Friday nights from 8-9pm by Megaforce. Open everyday except Saturday for lunch and dinner. Foods served are similar to that at the Harbour View plus burger, sandwich and BBQ specialties. Open daily 11am-11pm, except closed on Thursdays. MOD
UNCLE ERNIE'S BEACH BAR (497-3520): Ernie's is an unpretentious beach-bar of long standing with beach umbrellas and plenty of seats at the end of Shoal Bay Road, next to Shoal Bay Resort Hotel. They claim the "world's best Rum Punch". You can still get a Heineken beer for a dollar and local band plays all Sunday afternoon. A nice place to break from lying on the beach at Shoal Bay. Uncle Ernie's offers a nice tasty BBQ chicken or spare rib plate with French fries and cole slaw for lunch at $6.00 (healthy portions) or a combination for $8. Stuffed local snapper also served. How can you go wrong! Open every day from 10am - 8 pm (last food service around 7pm). INEXP
GORGEOUS SCILLY CAY (497-5123) just offshore at Island Harbour: Just stand on the small pier near the road and wave and a small boat will pick you up. It will take you back anytime you request. The island is leased and operated by a young couple (Sandra and Eudoxie Wallace) with two small blond boys. Sandra is from Atlanta and Eudoxie is a Creole islander descended from the first whaling family on Bequia. According to an article in Conde Naste Traveler, their broiled lobster ($35) and crayfish ($30) plate lunches in the shack on the beach are the best in the Caribbean. I can't argue! It's expensive, but worth it! The BBQ half chicken plate($20) is also quite tasty as are their rum punches ($5 each). A very pleasant place popular with the local yachting crowd as well. In addition, Eudoxie has installed a heliport and L' Habitation Resort now flies guests over for lunch from neighboring islands. As Sandra puts it, guests are welcome by land, sea or air! Recommended for Sunday afternoon (local scratch band) or Wednesday (talented composer/guitarist/singer Sprocka), since the music adds greatly to the overall atmosphere. It is possible to snorkel around the cay, although the water is pretty shallow. Closed Mondays and Christmas Day. No Credit Cards accepted. EXP
SMITTY'S (809-497-4300) serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seaside at Island Harbour. A great place to kick your shoes off and have local grilled seafood. Smitty's has a sand floor and is right on the water (looking out at Scilly Cay). The grilled lobster (under $20) and crayfish ($15) are a quite inexpensive and Smitty caters to both the local crowd and tourists wishing to mix with the local scene. Grilled BBQ chicken, fish and ribs are available at $10 each. The above prices include salad and French fries or curried rice. Hamburgers/cheeseburgers ($5 & $6) with fries ($2) are also available. A fond memory of Anguilla is sitting at Smitty's eating broiled crayfish and watching the 1991 U.S. Open Tennis finals on the bar TV. Live music is provided on Sundays [Ash Hodge and the Megaforce] from noon until ??, as well as on Thursday nights [The Rebels], nominally starting at 7:30pm. Remember, it's "island time" so the band may not actually start playing until 8:30-9pm. Major credit cards accepted. MOD
COCONUT PARADISE RESTAURANT & ENTERTAINMENT CENTER, Island Harbour (809-4974454/4150) catering largely to provision of an all-inclusive Coconut Paradise Day Trip from St. Martin. The restaurant serves international cuisine and live music is provided Sundays on the beach from 2 to 6 pm. MOD
JOHNNO'S, Sandy Ground (497-2728) is a very beachfront popular restaurant and bar, open since 1983. The inexpensively priced menu offers hamburgers, chicken, ribs, steak and local seafood favorites. Dance floor and picnic type seating accommodates up to 75 guests. Anguilla's "hot spot" with live music by Dumpa and AnVibes on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday nights and Sprocka on Thursday night. Popular both with local residents and visitors. Opens daily at 10am except closed Mondays. On Sundays, try Johnny Cakes early in the day or the afternoon BBQ. INEXP to MOD.
CORA'S PEPPER POT (497-2328) located near the bank in the Valley. This is a great place for a good Trinidadian Roti for lunchtime -- well made and full flavored, made of different meats on different days -- each for less than $5 with a Coke for $1. They also have available several other flavorful West Indian dishes. This is a local place with staff happy to serve the tourists. Good service and good food. I always stop here at least once. Credit cards not accepted. INEXP.
AQUARIUM BAR AND RESTAURANT, South Hill (497-2720) An open- air 2nd-level balcony restaurant on the main road. Aquarium offers good value in soups, seafood and local dishes including whelks, conch, lobster, mutton, lamp, pork chops, curried & barbecued chicken -- all served with rice and peas, homemade fries or potato and green salad. Open daily except Tuesdays from 8am-1:30pm and 6pm-9pm. Sunday nights in season. INEXP
CENTRAL BAR AND RESTAURANT & CATERING, South Hill (497-6777) An unassuming local restaurant and bar next to A & S Guest House. INEXP to MOD
CROSSROADS BAR & RESTAURANT, The Valley (497-2581) Offers local dishes in a very informal and local atmosphere. INEXP
ISLAND CAFE, The Valley (497-5090) Inexpensive local restaurant with home cooking and light entertainment. Serves 3 meals per day on the third level, across the street from Cable and Wireless headquarters. INEXP
HILL STREET SNACK BAR, Upper George Hill Road overlooking the airport (4972487) Raymie and Coralie are your hosts. Specializing in Stewed Goat, Conch, Spare Ribs, and all types of local dishes, Mauby and Fruit Punch. Numerous bargain dishes always available, as is takeout service. Open 10am-11pm MondaySaturday. INEXP
CHILLIE'S (??formerly ?QUE PASA ??) MEXICAN RESTAURANT (497-3171). Run by a couple of Anguillans, this is a fairly authentic Tex-Mex restaurant serving basic but good Mexican food with a Creole touch on the main street in Sandy Ground. Food is inexpensive and margaritas quite good! (coming from a Texan, that's not a bad review). The proprietor said he opened a Mexican restaurant because "the island didn't have one". Seems like a good reason to me. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Lobster Burritos and Enchiladas offer a unique culinary experience. Take out and delivery also available. AmEx, VISA & M/C accepted. MOD
GREAT HOUSE RESTAURANT at ANGUILLA GREAT HOUSE HOTEL, Rendezvous Bay (4976061). West Indian cuisine with International ingredients and forms of preparation. Open air restaurant overlooking the beach, sea grape and loblolly trees. Menu selections include: Squash and Crayfish Bisque; an Anguillan Antipasto of conch marinated in fresh vegetables; West Indian Snapper/Grouper sautEed with fresh tomatos, peppers and onions.; and, Grilled Lobster. Open daily for dinner from 7-10pm. AmEx, VISA and M/C accepted. MOD to EXP
ARAWAK BEACH RESORT JUICE BAR, Island Harbour (tel 809-497- 4888, fax 809-4974898). Health juice bar and restaurant. MOD
ARLO'S PLACE, South Hill (497-6810). Located inland at South Hill, Tom and Judi Stapleton serve your Italian favorites. Menu selections include: Fettucini in a tomato sauce with lobster; Scallops in a roasted red pepper and Vodka sauce on Angel hair pasta; Cheese Tortellini in an Alfredo sauce; and, homemade Lasagna. Open Mon- Sat, 7pm-10pm for dinner only. VISA and M/C accepted. MOD to EXP
FERRYBOAT INN, Blowing Point (497-6613). International menu with relaxed dining on open air terrace with panoramic view of St. Martin. Located on the beach 150 yards from Blowing Point ferry landing. Opened in 1984, the experienced Owner/Manager combines English, European and West Indian cuisine in a versatile menu. Selections include French Onion Soup and Lobster Thermidor considered to be among the best on the island (if not in the Caribbean) as well as Escargot Bourguignon, Entrecote Marchand du Vin au Poivre. Open for lunch and dinner, except Sunday lunch. VISA, M/C and AmEx accepted. MOD to EXP
THE OLD HOUSE RESTAURANT AND BAR, George Hill (497-2228), overlooking the airport, this informal Anguillan place offers good value (several different plate lunches for $5-$10. Menu selections include: Asparagus Old House; Anguillan fresh Pot fish; Stewed Conch; Famous BBQ Ribs or Beef in Old House Sauce; and, Fresh Grilled Local Lobster. Open for breakfast (7-11am), lunch (11am-5pm) and dinner (5-11pm). Take out orders accepted. VISA, M/C, DISCOVER and AmEx accepted. INEXP to MOD.
AMY'S BAKERY AND DINING ROOM, Blowing Point (497-6775). Enjoy authentic Caribbean cuisine home-cooked by Amy and served in her fresh airy dining room. Know for delectable baked goods and soups. Menu selections include: Quiches (Lobster, Chicken or Vegetarian), Conch Soup; Homemade Pancakes and Muffins; and, Pizzas and Sandwiches. Open 7:30am-6:30pm, with breakfast 7:30-10:30am and lunch 12:00-3:00pm. Phone in take-out orders in advance. Closed Sundays. INEXP.
VALLEY BAKERY, across from KoalKeel Restaurant, The Valley. Great Coconut Tarts. Strictly a take-out bakery, with breads, baked goods and soft drinks. VERY INEXP.
OLLIE'S BAKERY AND TASTY CHICK, at the light on South Hill. Can't comment on Tasty Chick side of the business, but bakery offers good fresh breads and baked goods. VERY INEXP.
LYNNETTE'S BAKERY, located just behind People's Market (same street) in The Valley. Excellent fresh-baked breads and rolls, and sandwiches employing same. Very popular with local residents around lunch time. VERY INEXP.
BROTHER'S CAFETERIA, North Valley Road (across from Methodist Church) in The Valley (497-3550). Catering to all the family, serving generous portions of West Indian food with friendly service and great prices. Menu selections include: Conch and Goat Stew; Chicken (Brother's-Style), Pork and Lamb Chops, Fresh and Salt Fish; Rice, Peas, Salads & Vegetables; Hamburgers and Hot Dogs; and, homemade iced drinks. Take out orders available. Open 11am-9pm Closed Sundays. INEXP.
SHORT CURVE RESTAURANT, South Hill (497-6600). A very attractively kept local restaurant on the curve in South Hill. Local food offered in pleasant atmosphere. INEXP
CURRY POT (take out only) in the J. B. Mini-Mall (mini is right!) (497- ????). Offers sandwiches and rotis to go. Great ice cream and Colombo frozen yogurt also available in the J. B. Mini-Mall also. INEXP
YABBA POT , The Valley (497-2820). INEXP
ORIENTAL RESTAURANT, The Quarter (497-2763). Provides inexpensive Chinese food, including food orders to go. INEXP
DINKY'S PIZZA, The Valley (497-4743). First stop past the People's Market, is a good place to go for pizzas and deli sandwiches. INEXP
J & J's PIZZA, South Hill (497-3215). Looked shut down in June 1993, but this may have been just an off-season break. INEXP
DIDI'S BAKERY, Island Harbour. New excellent bakery with great cinnamon bread and 5-inch individual pizzas. INEXP
FAT CAT GOURMET (TAKE OUT ONLY) on George Hill (497-2307). Features hors d'oeuvres, entrEes, salads and desserts to go. EntrEes individually wrapped and frozen, ready to heat and eat. Call ahead w/24 hour notice for special orders (picnic, special requests, birthdays, etc.). Party catering also available. Selections include: Crab Quiche; Chicken or Fish Salad Sandwiches ($3.50); Lobster Sandwiches ($8.50); Egg Salad or Ham and Cheese Sandwiches ($3); roti ($4); various Salads (Coleslaw, Shrimp Pasta Salad, Potato Salad, Tabouli, etc.) ($4-8); Carrot Cake or Banana/Walnut Bread ($3); and, assorted cookies. Open daily (except Sundays) 10am-6pm. AmEx accepted. INEXP
TRADER VIC's (497-2091). A lunch spot at end of Shoal Bay road. We had a lunch there and it was okay but not earth shattering. On weekends they have afternoon music as well. MOD
ROUND ROCK (497-2076) at Shoal Bay is known more for entertainment than for food, but West Indian BBQ and other local dishes are offered. Closed in summer of 1993 for administrative reasons. INEXP
OTHERS: There are many other restaurants on the island, and many of them may have very good food. Pick up the latest issue of the "WHAT WE DO IN ANGUILLA" Tourism Magazine published by the Anguilla Tourist Office in the Valley (4972451) and strike out on your own. Let me know what you find!
NOTE: Hotels and most restaurants charge a mandatory 10-12% service charge along with 6-8 % government taxes. Of this, the 10-12 percent service charge IS TO BE SPLIT UP AS TIPS AMONGST THE VARIOUS STAFF. The common practice in most Caribbean countries is to "conveniently" put the total under "taxes" and leave the "tips" area open on credit card receipts. Don't forget the surcharge does include 10-12 % tip or service charge, so tip more only if you want, don't feel that you have to do so!
2/ ST. MARTIN AND ANGUILLA BY PAUL GRAVELINE, EDITOR ----------------------------------------------------
When Joe Canty of Jean's Travel of Medfield, MA told me during the December New England Chapter CTO's Christmas party that I could get a studio sized room just one block from St. Martin's famous Orient Beach for only $77 a day I became very interested. When he added that the room came with an efficiency, pool and continental breakfast thrown in, I decided that I had to seize the opportunity. The property being recommended by Joe was called La Plantation and he had just returned from it the week before. It proved to be quite a bargain.
This was my fourth visit St. Martin and the first since 1988. It was the first time that I stayed on the French side. I'll provide details about La plantation later. I also briefly visited Anguilla but first some comments about St. Martin this time around.
My initial impressions was that island seemed busier and far more developed since my last visit six years ago. This was especially true of the French side. In fact traffic was horrendous and many of the taxi operators with whom I spoke lamented the traffic situation and how it prohibited them from getting around on the inland. It should be pointed out that this was the high season and apart from Christmas week, possibly one of the busiest in the entire year.
After registering at the La Plantation, I walked down to Orient Beach which had undergone a complete transformation since my last visit. Clearly the beach has lost its quaint character in favor of a more St. Tropez type atmosphere. Almost the entire length of the beach from Club Orient to the Mt. Vernon is occupied by some type of commercial establishment from watersport vendors to boutiques. Immediately noticeable was a strong wind which was to blow continually and even fortify at times during my entire stay making the beach somewhat unpleasant on some days. I do not recall so much wind at Orient Beach during my previous two February visits. Bathers taking advantage of the clothes optional nature of the beach were clearly clustered more toward the CO section and their presence gradually diminished as you approached the Mt. Vernon end of the beach.
I briefly spoke with Reint Brink, the proprietor of Club Orient, who told me that he was full and that even during the summer the CO runs around 50% occupancy. That's an amazing number in these days of economic difficulties. His restaurant has been expanded and I ate there three days for lunch. It still seems one of the best deals on the beach in my opinion: good food at competitive prices for the Orient Beach area.
The beach must clearly rank as of the premiere locations for people watching in the Caribbean.
At the opposite end of the beach is the Mt. Vernon Hotel which also seemed very busy when I strolled around it during breakfast one morning. It's certainly not going to win any awards from Architectural Digest but seems less obnoxious than other properties which I have seen. There were some small convenience type shops on the premises. Some object to the extensive building on the beach which is a result of French tax incentives over the last few years. (The island has gone from 2600 room to 8200 rooms in the past 7 or 8 years according to Mr. Brink.)
Other smaller hotels like the St. Tropez and L'Hostia are situated virtually on the beach itself. The Esmeralda Resort is sort of a private affair with each small residential complex provided with its own pool. Security is tight as there is a guard to let vehicles pass and it's patrolled by a dog at night. However, I personally felt secure while walking the streets around Esmeralda and La Plantation at night although I would not have gone on the beach alone at night.
The Esmeralda complex houses a restaurant called the L'Astrolabe. I ate there twice and would recommend it. I'm not the gourmet type so one night I ordered steak which I was told came from Argentina -- it was excellent. (To my knowledge the only other time I've had Argentine steak was at Club Med Cancun and it also was excellent.)
The La Plantation property is built on the side of the hill up from the end of Orient Beach opposite from CO. It was a real deal. The studio room included a double bed, futon type bench, efficiency with coffee maker and refrigerator, cable TV, a/c ( except 9-4:40 during the day), in room safe with key, a 25 by 8 ft. veranda with four pieces of wicker furniture, daily maid service and ceiling fan. All this cost $77 per night. Oh yeah, they also threw in a continental breakfast each day.
The majority of the clientele spoke French and the staff were mostly French speaking young people. However, I did not encounter any of the problems which have been reported at other St. Martin properties regarding their attitude towards non French speaking guest. In fact, the staff was always willing to converse in English and were very attentive to make my stay enjoyable. I would say that the staff on duty that week was a definite plus for the hotel.
The only negatives were some small insects which inhabited the bathroom but I've encountered far worse in other Caribbean properties.
All in all this place looks like a real winner -- especially considering the very reasonable price structure for the rooms.
Marigot: Like my impression of the entire island, Marigot ( the French side capital) appeared to be very busy and somewhat cleaned up since my last visit. It seemed to be more prosperous although taxi drivers related that last year had been a tough year but things were going better this year. It also seemed more touristy this time around. My previous impression had been that the serious shopping was done in Philipsburg but it seemed like Marigot was making a more determined effort to garner the tourist buck. The Vin et Rose Cafe on the corner was doing a booming lunch time business.
Philipsburg: The Dutch side capital, like Marigot, seemed more commercial this time around. There were plenty of vendors hawking t-shirts at the pier. Interestingly enough, their prices were quite reasonable -- $10 for three nicely designed and colored shirts. This was the same price being extracted by Orient Beach merchants. I'm certainly not a shopper but to my eye the available merchandise seemed less exotic and more run of the mill this time through. More VCRs and portable phones etc. with less emphasis on the more expensive goods imported from Europe such as jewels and perfumes although they certainly were there for those wishing such items. Although Front Street was very busy with three ships in port, Little Switzerland seemed almost deserted. Other tourist with whom I spoke seemed to think that there was a lot of looking and little buying going on, especially for the higher priced items. However, a friend of mine whom I met at the airport on the way back, had purchased a Movado watch for his wife on the island. I really do wish they would ban KFC, Burger King and the like from these islands. It certainly takes away from the foreign flavor that used to be prevalent.
One night I took advantage of the free bus service to the Grand Casino on the Dutch side. Despite the large amount of visitors on the island that week, there were many machines not being played. The highlight of the evening was the bus ride back to La Plantation. The guy must have been trying to emulate the luge runs at the Olympics being shown each night on TV.
Anguilla: One of the Caribbean islands to which I had not been was Anguilla. So I paid a brief visit to this small but rising Caribbean destination. I was somewhat upset to find out that Queen Elizabeth had been there three days earlier and neglected to wait for my visit. Considerably less people ( three or four cab drivers) greeted me than the Queen. They erected a plaque in her honor in the capital, The Valley.
I embarked on the usual $40 two hour two of the island by cab. Easily the most impressive sight was Shoal Bay which is frequently ranked as one of the best beaches in the region. I'm frequently asked how one can tell if a beach is the one of the best in the Caribbean and my standard answer is that if it doesn't immediately hit you that this is one of the prettiest spots you've ever been to, then it's not one of the best beaches. My impression of Shoal was similar to my first reaction to Trunk and Cinnamon on St. John.
I then got a quick driving tour of the exclusive resorts on Anguilla including Cap Juluca and Malliouhana. I opted not to walk in and ask for a tour of the facilities. The prices are extreme. According to the Gold Book they range anywhere from $300 to 500, apparently per person per night since a honeymoon couple can get a deal for $3500 for a week excluding air fare. They may be worth the price but Palm Island in the Grenadines is less expensive and you get a very secluded property. People with big bucks frequent these Anguillan hot spots but whether they are worth the money might be a valid question.
In short, I think if I wanted to get away to a quite place with a great beach, I probably book something like Shoal Bay Villas and veg out on a beautiful beach.
Visitors to Anguilla would most likely want to rent a car as there is no central area where all the action is.
It's easy to see why St. Martin remains one of the most popular Caribbean destinations with its' beaches, casinos and day trip opportunities. I'm considering a return visit to La Plantation this summer. They are going to reduce the room rate and probably offer a seventh night free after staying six. This would be a very good deal.
3/ FROM THE TOURIST BOARDS --------------------------
Antigua's 27 Yacht Week April 24-30,1994 ----------------------------------------
Yachtsmen and women as well as racing fans are preparing for the 27th annual Sailing Week, taking place April 24-30. Courses for the international regatta's five races, ranging from 26 to 16 miles in length, are set in the beautiful Caribbean waters surrounding Antigua. Landlubbers can watch much of the race action from shore while charter yacht race watching boats off others a closer look at the spinnakered competitors.
The schedule is:
4/24 Dickenson Bay Race - 28 miles
4/25 Olympic Type Course off Dickenson Bay - 16 miles
4/26 English harbor race - 28 miles
4/28 Jolly Harbor Race -- 26 miles
4/29 English Harbor Race - 24 miles
Back on land, beach parties take place at the end of each race, and there is plenty of time to enjoy Antigua's lush scenery, historical sites, local cuisine,and, of course, the duty free shopping.
Preceding Sailing Week is the Guadeloupe to Antigua Yacht Race on April 21 from Des Hayes in Guadeloupe to Antigua's English Harbor.
The Race Week culminates on April 30 with a "Dockyard day" of fun and games for all, the presentation of prizes in Nelson's Dockyard and the grade finale Lord Nelson ball at the Admiral Inn, also in Nelson's Dockyard.
Antigua: Wedding With or Without Bells
Long stretches of sandy beaches running into the blue Caribbean, well-appointed hotel, excellent restaurants, points of interest, shopping,gold and nightlife...these are among the reasons sister islands Antigua and Barbuda have been popular for years among honeymooners.
Today, more and more couples are opting to combine their wedding with a honeymoon trip. The happy duo may not want the hassle that is often part of a wedding held at home, or it might be a second trip down the aisle for the pair that wants to start their new life a little differently. Some couples go by themselves, others take along the wedding party as well as family and friends to witness the exchange of vows and to celebrate afterward.
It's easy to get married on Antigua and Barbuda. Couples can have a traditional wedding with church bells and rice or simply tie the know at he Registrar's Office. Hotels and resorts also provide romantic settings for a wedding ceremony; under a gazebo, at the docks, amid lush gardens, or on a secluded beach.
Jumby Bay offers three locations, including a spacious beach pavilion. Blue waters Beach Club has a number of wedding sites including a gazebo overlooking pools, gardens and the Caribbean Sea. Couples exchange vows at St. James Club to the accompaniment of classical steel pan music. Hotels and resorts are happy to make arrangements from securing witnesses to cake, champagne, flowers and photos, several have special wedding / honeymoon packages.
To apply for a license, either the bride or the groom must be on Antigua or Barbuda for a minimum of the business days. The license, obtained form the Ministry of Legal Affairs in the capital city, St. John's, cost $100 payable in Antigua postage stamps, a custom dating back to English rule. Both parties must be of legal age and must show proof of citizenship and legal marital status. If previously married, a divorce decree or death certificate of the departed spouse is required. Both parties must attest to being unmarried by swearing an affidavit before an Antiguan notary public or layer. The cost is approximately $30.
The ceremony is performed at the Registrar General's office or at a location selected by the wedding couple. The Registrar's fee are approximately $50 and certificates are issued at a cost of $10.
Those marrying in a church should determine in advance if their denomination is represented in Antigua. A letter of reference from the couple's pastor should be sent with a letter requesting a church wedding to the local church authority in Antigua in sufficient time to satisfy any special pre-nuptual requirements. Among the resorts with wedding / honeymoon packages are the Admiral's Inn, Blue waters Beach Hotel, Club Antigua, Curtain Bluff Hotel, Galley bay, Jumby Bay, Pineapple Beach Club, Rex Halycon Cove, St. James' Club, Sandals, and the Yepton Beach Resort.
Cancun: Atlantis Submarine Begins Operation
Cancun Mexico: Atlantic Submarine proudly announces its newest operation which will begin service off the coast of Cancun in early 1994
Until now only those donning a mask and SCUBA tank could view Cancun's vibrant, dynamic subsea world - a marine garden where swarms of tropical fish flitter above glistening ripples of pure, white sand. But soon, young and old , diver and landlubber will discover the mythical marine scenery surrounding this famous resort development. ...
Powdered by battery, the 48 passenger, $3.5 million Atlantis sub will be entirely pollution free. Thus , like all Atlantis vessel, it will create no threat to the fragile marine environment.
During the 50 minute undersea tour, passengers will relax in air conditioned comfort of the subs' cabin, which maintains sea level pressure throughout the entire deep-sea journey. Meanwhile, quiet electric thrusters propel the 65 foot, 80 ton vessel at a leisurely one and a half knots fro optimum viewing.
Puerto Rico: Inn and Around Puerto Rico Package
Yvette Gonzalez, Regional Director of Sales and marketing for H.I. Development Company announced Holiday Inn and Thrifty Car Rental's new Inn Credible vacation package called "Inn and Around Puerto Rico".
This very affordable package offers a 6 night 7 day stay in Puerto Rico's most important tourist destinations: San Juan, Ponce and Mayaguez with a Thrifty Car Rental economy car for the incredible price of $399 per person in a double room. The package includes: 2 nights stay in an ocean view room at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel and Casino in San Juan, welcome drink,$5 casino match play coupon;2 nights stay at the Holiday Inn Ponce, free admission to the famous Hollys disco in Ponce, 2 welcome drinks and assorted native sweets from Ponce; 2 night stay at the new Holiday Inn Mayaguez, assorted sweets from Mayaguez and 2 wwelcome drinks.; an economy car for six days from Thrifty with free courtesy pick up from Aguadilla and Ponce airports and shuttle bus to then car rental pick up area at San Juan Airport.
The visitor has the convenience of designing the "Inn and Around" week based on their preference. There's a discount booklet for area attractions in each city and children under 19 years of age are free when staying in the same room as their parents with a maximum of two children per room. All room taxes are included. This is a land only package not including air fare. Prospective visitors are urged to contact their travel agents for more details
Turks and Caicos: Getting Married
From the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board:
He wears white ducks, a teal colored silk shirt; she a floral print wrap skirt with matching top. Both are bare foot in the sand. Before them stands the minister, and behind them are friends and relatives from up north. Returning sailboats are silhouetted against the sun, now a red disk lowering in the sky. Another beach wedding on Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
She is in body hugging lavender sheath, he in white jacket, white bow tie. Surrounding them is a garden of cactus and hibiscus; a trellis woven with bougainvillea. The parson is reading from the Good Book in the Grand Turk version of nuptials.
In the Turks and Caicos a couple also could opt for the traditional exchanges of vows, complete with church bells, champagne on ice, decorated vehicles and stretch limo. But in any and all cases, one thing is for certain: "just marrieds" won't have to travel far to the honeymoon.
The Turks and Caicos are a group of islands just an 80 minute flight south of Miami. The islands offer more than 200 miles of white sand beaches, a reef systems 65 miles across, crystal clear turquoise colored water, bright blue skies, gentle breezes, friendly people and a range of accommodations from small guest houses to luxurious resorts.
Activities range from a walk on the beach to some of the most spectacular diving found anywhere. Visitors can go shelling, snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding, flats or deep sea fishing, swimming, sailing, windsurfing. Other activities just right for a twosome are golf, tennis, bird watching or stopping for a picnic on a small cay.
Cuisine varies from seafood to continental, Italian to Oriental. pizzas, pub far even Mexican. Nightlife includes casino gamine, dancing to pop music, or swaying to the beat of local rhythms.
Weddings can be arranged in church, at the courthouse, in a parsonage, at a hotel, in a garden or on the beach.
To apply for a marriage license, visitors must be residents of the Turks and Caicos for at least 24 hours. There is a two to three day waiting period once the couple applies for the license which costs $50. Certain age and relationship requirements apply.
Local hotels will help and prepare for the wedding ceremony and can arrange for flowers, still photography and video taping.
4/ CARIBBEAN JOURNEYS FOR APRIL 1994
Anguilla: Coccoloba,Cap Juluca Restaurants by Robbie Vorhaus
I just returned from one week in Anguilla.
I stayed at Coccoloba. Beware! They are billing this as a world class resort, and it isn't (anymore). Have gone through several management changes, and hotel is now being run by a 22-year-old Italian who barely speaks English. Ownership is unclear. The brochure is beautiful, but the property is in dire shape, and it's clear very little money has been spent on maintenance. It's a shame. Many people are very angry after they get there. Several people tried to get their money back, but with no luck. I could go on, but this is a warning: If you're looking for a special property, don't go here. The Anguillans are wonderful people, the staff is very sweet and kind (although not trained as professionals), and the location is extraordinary. You can have a good time here if you simply want a cheaper rate than Cap Julaca (about $500+ per night) and Malihouhana (sp?), which is similar to Cap Julaca. Coccoloba has a $1,960 (plus 18%) rate, with two dinners for two, plus breakfast, for seven days.
Paradise Cafe: great, informal find. Super for lunch, lovely for dinner. The food is upscale, although not plentiful, with a comfortable feel to the place. You'll make this one of your "we must go back again."
Koal Keel: getting better and better. French-Caribbean. Expensive (but what isn't on Anguilla.)
Hibernia: Many people think this is Anguilla's best restaurants. It's certainly one of the most expensive. Comfortable with a trace of brilliance. We would have enjoyed a lot more had we not been so tired. Another "must go."
Pimms: at Cap Julaca. Also getting better weekly, and also very expensive. This is where I'd recommend that special, one-time, romantic dinner.
The Palm Court at Cinnamon Reef: Surprisingly wonderful. Great presentations, real flair for vegetable inclusions and preparations, including a carrot and ginger soup that will blow you away.
Fun lunch: Uncle Ernie's (on the beach at Shoal Bay). Good burgers and dollar beers. Great people watching and bring your snorkel gear and head up the beach. You'll remember this day.
Tips: if you see an Anguillan walking on the road, give them a lift. They will appreciate it, and you will get some good stories. By the way, crime is almost non-existent on the island. I'm not kidding, it's wild. You won't see the police, people don't lock their doors, and there's almost no crimes against the person. Also, it's best to rent a car, because cabs are very expensive.
Aruba by Jessiann McCarthy
We just got back last night from a wonderful vacation in Aruba.
My husband and I and our two children (ages 12 and 14) stayed at the Divi Divi and WE LOVED IT. We were so glad that we chose that area over the high rise area although I know some people prefer that district. Everyone has their own taste and Aruba seems to have something for everyone which makes it so nice.
We found the Divi's slogan, "Barefoot Elegance", to be exactly true. My kids thought it was great not to have to wear shoes anywhere at the resort. For those of you who are staying there, you do not need to put on shorts to go to the restaurant, a cover-up is all you need. It is a beautiful place and certainly is there to cater to your every need...especially if your need is just to kick back and relax.
We usually spent our days on the beach, although my daughter and I did go into town one morning to shop. Lots of nice shops and I found the store clerks to be very friendly. It's a pretty little town, we had a good time.
At night, we ate at some of the wonderful restaurants in Aruba. I thought the best food was at the Chalet Suisse and Talk of the Town. Service was very good and the food was wonderful.
The kid's favorite was the Buccaneer with the aquariums. It looks like you are inside an old ship....you just can't beat it for atmosphere.
Tuesday nights, the Divi has a Carnival Bar BQ by the pool which was a lot of fun. They have dancers wearing costumes that were worn in the Carnival parade. It is quite colorful and the whole event was a great way to spend the evening. You do not have to stay at the Divi to go, but you do have to make reservations.
We took the kids to play miniature golf at Adventure Golf. A wonderful place for kids and kids at heart. Besides miniature golf, there are paddle boats and bumper boats.
For our last day we took a 4 1/2 hour snorkeling trip on the Mi Dushi. It is a sail boat that was made in the 1920's. Lots of fun, but I think next time we will take one of the catamarans. The Mi Dushi was quite cramped, no place to lounge, not a lot of room, but still a lot of fun. They served a wonderful lunch on board and their snorkeling gear was good. They were not especially friendly to the children, not rude at all, but pretty much ignored them. We have been on other trips where the crew made the kids feel very special. I think they missed that on the Mi Dushi.
We went one night to the Alhambra Casino. Not what I go to the islands for but it was fun and we came out about $80 ahead so we had a little extra bounce in our step back to the hotel...we usually lose.
Bahamas: Nassau, New Providence Diving by Jenny Darby and Phil Carta
I can't claim it was the most awesome dive I've ever had, but it comes close and is definitely in the Caribbean Adventures Top 10. My first day in Nassau (New Providence island, actually) I joined Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean for one of the Shark dives that they are famous for.
Twelve miles out, just at the edge of the wall the Tongue of the Ocean, nurse and reef sharks awaited their afternoon meal. [Although they know where to find a juicy meal, these creatures are by no means tame, and I have no personal problem in attracting them for this type of experience.] We jumped off the boat into 50 feet of water; looking down there already were 2 medium sized reef sharks and at least 3 huge grouper awaiting the 9 of us and 2 divemasters.
I could easily spend this entire review describing that one dive, including the huge grouper that stole the divemaster's spear, but there remains much more to tell about Nassau and its diving. Suffice it to say that it was a thrill to see and study up close a dozen of these beautiful animals, a fright when they brushed up against me, and a letdown when time and air dictated a return to our own world. It was also quite safe and I would have no problems with novice divers experiencing this fantastic event.
Admittedly I was on New Providence island to inspect and evaluate dive operators and hotels. And, before arriving, I had heard both good and bad about each of the dive operations I was to visit. So I think that my basis of opinion was more or less equal.
My first day was spent with Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean, located at the Ramada South Ocean, at the southwestern end of the island.. I was pleasantly greeted by Shannon and Bubbles, Stuart's friendly Blue & Gold parrot, and invited on the shark dive. I also dived that night, both on the 40-foot, 25 knot Stenella. Tanks were waiting and all fills were at least 3000 psi (I had 3100 and 3420). The Stenella is a conventional dive boat with large dive platform and exit stairs, and no obstructions amidships except the ladder to the bridge. The staff, led by Richard, was courteous, friendly, safe and professional.
Although told that they usually dive tables (with preplanned dive profiles) and only let divers use computers when everyone in a group is doing so, we were allowed to dive our personal profiles on the night dive. Richard brought us to a mooring within yards of both the Wreck on the Wall and the Jaws 4 Wreck. In between was a terrific reef and there was plenty of time to explore everything. I took an intermediate skill diver on his first night dive and we saw an amazing collection of animals. In addition to the usual night suspects, we saw giant arrow crabs, gargantuan sea cucumbers, shrimp, big lobsters, urchins and many interesting tube worms - plus we got to play with a 200 pound jewfish on the Jaws wreck.
The next day I dived with Bahama Divers. Located both on Paradise Island (at the Holiday Inn) and in downtown Nassau, MacGregor showed me that there is plenty of good diving on the north side of the island including the Lost Blue Hole, the most unusual dive site in the Bahamas. This natural hole in the ocean floor is about 200 feet across and 200 feet deep, with coral reef surrounding it. It always attracts large schools of giant southern stingrays, sharks, grouper and large reef fish. Other excellent sites include the Ana Lise (150 foot freighter in 100 feet of water) the De La Salle (a 100 footer upright in 70 feet) the Miranda (90 foot wreck in 55 feet of water) all of which are simply teeming with fish, both reef and many pelagics.
Back to the south side of New Providence then, I dived with both Dive! Dive! Dive! and with the Nassau Scuba Center. Both were excellent and safe operations with shark dives and wall dives being their mainstays. And air fills on both boats were at least 3000 psi. I was particularly impressed by the spaciousness and comfort of the Nassau Scuba Center boats. In fact, this was the first boat I've ever been on that prominently displays decals identifying the location of oxygen and first aid supplies.
The wall of Nassau, located along The Tongue of the Ocean is quite interesting. The first time I saw Razorback Wall was by a unusual approach. We were anchored in sand about 100 yards inside the wall and swam at about 60 yards until we came to a large barrier: a sudden wall of coral going straight up to within 20 feet of the surface. On the other side it plunged to thousands of feet with some of the most beautiful coral and sponge formations anywhere. Not being a drift dive, there was plenty of time and visibility to explore nooks and crannies as well as to safely pull back and observe this sight from a nice distance. There even was some black coral as shallow as 78 feet.
Other dives over the next few days included several more on the wall and an interesting selection of wrecks, including a Cessna 310 and boats deliberately sunk for the James Bond movies. The Nassau Scuba Center reasonably lets buddies use computers, keeping to the 130 foot limit. However, in the shallows, I discovered several new (for me) species including sand tilefish and a wonderful little family of Pederson shrimp.
Arriving on a typically beautiful Bahamian morning, I took a taxi to the Ramada South Ocean, which was to be my home for several days. This Caribbean style resort hotel offers almost anything the sun and fun worshipper needs: beaches, watersports, tennis and a beautiful 18 hole golf course, plus the scuba diving. My second floor British Colonial style oceanfront room had air conditioning, but the cooling breezes coming in through the large balcony made it unnecessary. The tile floor removed all guilt about tracking in sand and sea water, the beds were firm and comfortable and the Miami TV channels let me follow events back home. The large Jacuzzi made up for the only shortcoming: the doors on the armoire containing the TV didn't fold back nor slide in, and so they stuck out into the room whenever the set was on. Fortunately, aside from the evening news, there wasn't much need for the television.
The standard rooms are a 5 minute walk from the dive shop; the wonderful and romantic oceanfront rooms are as close as 90 seconds away. The food was excellent and the staff was typically Bahamian friendly. I can really see people who love diving and golf having a blast here. And for honeymooners, what better way to start out.
Another exceptional hotel was the Orange Hill Beach Inn. This small (40 room) and intimate bed and breakfast type inn is nestled among what used to be an orange grove on a hill overlooking the ocean. Except for some wicker furniture, I could have sworn I was in a comfortable New England style inn. The family inn is operated by the personable Judy and Danny Lowe, two fine folks who claim a personal interest in the satisfaction of each and every guest. Unless you try real hard, there's no way any guest is a stranger here.
Rooms are varied, from large rooms overlooking the sparkling pool to rooms with kitchenettes with ocean views from the top of the hill. And then there's the restaurant! Ingeniously placed in an old and renovated barn this is the place for the best food I've had in a long time (at least since Cozumel!). Judy's private recipe for Grouper in Banana Rum Sauce is simply out of this world.
Nassau (and New Providence Island) really have two sides. There's the glitz of Paradise Island and Cable Beach and the gambling. And then there's the out island ambiance of the Orange Hill and the Ramada. In truth, something for everyone, divers and non-divers alike.
Barbados: Coping with Drugs by Larry Powell
Visitors to the beaches of Barbados face a growing and open hazard - drug dealers.
"The drug dealers are easy to recognize," says David Fee, cruise director for Carnivale's Festivale cruise ship. "They're the only people on the beach who carry briefcases."
But government officials on this Caribbean island, afraid of damage to the island's tourism industry, are trying to fight the problem. At the very least, they want to move illicit drugs away from the island's beaches.
Nearly 40,000 tourists visit Barbados every week on one of the ten cruise ships that stop at Bridgetown. Many come for the beaches - white and pink sands which border Caribbean waters with an average temperature of 77 degrees.
But Barbados is only 90 miles off the coast of South America, making it a convenient early stop for drugs smuggled north. Dealers, under the pretense of selling coral jewelry, roam the beaches looking for customers.
The police, unable to stop the retailers, have instead focused on the buyers. One tourist from Wisconsin recalled this conversation with a Harbor Policeman.
"I asked him what the guys with the briefcases were selling, and he said coral jewelry. But then he snickered and said they arrest people every day for buying drugs."
The problem led the U.S. State Department to issue a strong travel advisory early in 1992, but Barbados tourism representatives labeled it "harsh and severe." The U.S. released a revised, milder version later in the year, only mentioning the penalties for drug arrests.
Still, the message reached many tourists. "I saw people on the beaches with briefcases, but I avoided them," a Detroit tourist said. "I didn't want anything to do with them."
The fear that tourists might avoid Barbados entirely has prompted further discussion by the government. The most commonly mentioned solution is to ban all vendors from the beaches.
That move would at least eliminate the sham coral-jewelry peddler.
BVI: Peter Island Revisited by Lynn McKamey
The following material is copyrighted by Lynn McKamey and is appearing in all editions of the CTR at her request.
Revisited? Why not search for new places to go? We do, but are drawn back to Peter Island each year since we've yet to find another dream destination which can surpass this one.
For many of us, vacations give us precious time away from the grind, the rat race, the routine. They provide a place to relax, see and experience different surroundings, enjoy leisure time and activities, sample wonderful food, and perhaps try some island sports not available at home. Most people expect first rate service and also want good value. High expectations ... something we all have when setting aside time and money to play for a few days.
During our travels throughout the Caribbean, many other resorts have come close to Peter Island, but not quite close enough to offer all that we want to see and do on a tropical vacation. We like gourmet food, gorgeous beaches with coconut palms swaying in the breeze (just like on the postcards), comfortable rooms near the water with a fabulous view, friendly natives and staff, and a wide choice of activities. A place to enjoy, relax, and not have to worry about any little thing. We prefer four or five star resorts that are neither pretentious nor presumptuous. To us, cocktail dresses, coats and ties, and a suitcase full of accessories do not belong on a relaxing Caribbean get-away. Casual resort wear for evening plus a couple of bathing suits, shorts and tshirts for day wear - all of which can be packed in two carry-on bags - is perfect!
Peter Island is a five star resort, a member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide, one of Sterns 100 Greatest Resorts of the World, and has food and beverage comparable to some of the finest restaurants in New York. But don't let this scare you away. Compare the rates to many of the other five star destinations, and Peter Island offers an excellent value for a few glorious days in paradise. Unlike many hotels which often line the same seashore, this one resides on it's own 1800 acre island and has two of the most outstanding beaches in the Caribbean. The resort is relatively small, only accommodating 100 guests, meaning lots of personal attention if you so desire, and plenty of open space without mobs of other vacationers and tourists vying for the same activities, spot on the beach, or a dinner table only an elbow away.
Peter Island offers several types of accommodations - all with telephones, ceiling fans, and air conditioning for those who prefer it. Each room also has a mini-bar, coffee-maker, clock radio, hair dryer, and bathrobes. Ocean View rooms, four to each A-frame structure, are near the yacht harbor and main reception/dining room, and overlook a lovely garden, free-form fresh water pool, and Tortola in the distance. These modern rooms with tropical decor are quite large with full bathrooms (shower/tub), two twins or king bed, lots of closet space, a long counter top with desk, and sitting area with two chairs and a table. Lower units open onto a patio and the pool garden; upper units have a balcony with an impressive view, especially at night when the lights of Road Town twinkle in the distance. Beach Front rooms are located a short distance away on Deadman Beach - a mile long curving strip of stunning white sand dotted with palms, thatched sun shades for guests, and colorful tropical plants. Nearby is the seaside bar & luncheon grill and water sports hut. The Beach Front rooms are very spacious with a king bed, large walk in closet, desk, sitting area with sofa and chair, and a huge bathroom with long counter top and deep tub/shower. First floor units open onto gardens a few steps from the beach; second floor units have balconies with a fabulous view of the bay and the islands beyond.
Families or couples traveling together may prefer one of the villas. Three Hawk's Nest Villas are clustered on a hill with a sweeping vista and offer various sizes and price ranges of two bedroom/two bath accommodations with living rooms, kitchenettes, and sun decks. The Crow's Nest Villa which accommodates up to eight guests is atop a higher hill with a private pool and a panoramic view of the neighboring islands.
Dining at Peter Island is a pleasurable experience. Early birds will find coffee and Danish pastries in the reception area at 6:30 am. Breakfast is served from 8:00 to 10:00 in the main dining room and offers a juice - fruit pastry buffet, plus a full breakfast. Lunch from 12:30 to 3:00 is in the beachside grill and has a huge salad bar, freshly baked breads, and many hot selections of fresh fish, specials of the day, and yummy desserts including some of the best chocolate chip cookies and key lime pie ever. Dinner is the highlight - a sumptuous five course menu is offered each night, changes daily, and includes an excellent wine list. One of my favorite dinners started with a char grilled honey glazed quail, followed by Caribbean pepper pot soup, Caesar salad, and lemon poached salmon with shrimp mousse, ending with a sinful dessert! The elegant Saturday night Caribbean/continental buffet is not to be missed, nor is the managers welcome party and buffet at the beachside grill on Monday evenings! Sportswear such as shorts and T-shirts or bathing suits with cover ups can be worn for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, most ladies wear sundresses or comfortable summer pant suits, while men don casual slacks and collared leisure shirts. Cocktail dresses, coats and ties are optional.
The island is large and beaches are abundant. New guests should sign up for a complimentary van ride around the island to become familiar with the many hiking, biking trails and beaches (don't forget your camera to snap stunning panoramas of all the surrounding islands of the BVI and St. John, USVI). Sprawling Deadman Bay skirts the main beach and water sports center which includes every kind of equipment imaginable with complimentary lessons to guests. Windsurfers who meander out may see turtles along the way, and snorkelers will find a vast array of tropical fish and marine life. At the end of the bay is Honeymoon beach which has one thatched hut, two chairs and lots of privacy - first come, first served! Big Reef Bay, about a 1/2 mile over a hill on the east side of the island, has a health fitness trail and a lovely tropical palm forest. Best of all is the long sparkling "secret beach" on White Bay which can be reached by serious hikers, bikers, or a short complimentary van ride. Those who plan to spend some quiet time at White Bay, can have a picnic lunch packed and arrange a van ride to take and pick up at whatever time requested. What a wonderful way to spend the day - almost alone in paradise!
So, what is there to do on Peter Island besides eat, swim, relax on the beach, sail, windsurf, bike or hike over 15 miles of tropical trails, snorkel, play tennis, take horticulture or guided tours around the island? How about island hopping? One of the Peter Island Ferries makes 8 daily trips to Tortola if you'd like to visit Road town, capital of the BVI, or for a nominal fee, you can sail around Peter Island on a 19' Squib, do a day or sunset sail on a 48' Catamaran, take the Peter Island air conditioned yacht to St. Thomas for a day of fabulous shopping or golfing on Tuesday, or for a day on Virgin Gorda on Thursdays! Dive BVI, perhaps the best scuba operation in the British Virgins, has a full service dive shop conveniently located in the yacht harbor and offers 2 tank morning dives, 1 tank afternoon dives, special snorkeling trips, and scuba lessons for those wanting to become certified. They also provide complimentary snorkeling equipment to guests. [See my related articles about diving the BVIs in the Scuba Library]. The Peter Island fleet of yachts and boats also offer personalized sailing, deep sea fishing, whale watching in season, or custom cruises of the islands. Enough to keep someone busy for days, if not weeks!
For those who are a little jittery about being too far away from the "real world", a condensed FAX version of the New York Times is waiting on your breakfast table each morning and includes just enough news to keep you up to date, but not ruin your vacation! A large library adjoins the main reception area and holds current magazines, newspapers, and reading material, plus a meeting room has a movie each night and carries satellite television.
So, what do WE do when visiting Peter Island now that we've tried many of the activities? Relax mostly, snorkel, scuba dive, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and lovely atmosphere. The staff is outstanding and many have been with the resort for decades. General manager Jamie Holmes can be seen "everywhere" quietly making sure that guests are having a great time. Jean Peters, the breakfast and luncheon hostess, has a smiling efficiency that's hard to beat. Everyone from the van drivers to the gardeners is friendly and delighted to help make your visit enjoyable. One staff member, in particular, really helped "save the day" for me on our last trip. We travel with a laptop so that I can do "live on-line" trip and dive reports to several computer networks. We checked in, unpacked, and set up the computer. When the modem was hooked up, it sighed and died (guess it had been on far too many trips...). The next day, I wandered down to the office and found Eric, Peter Island computer and telecommunications whiz. After a short discussion of our problem, he and Jamie offered to let us use one of their extra modems! Now, how many resorts in the Caribbean could solve a problem like that? As usual, there are few predicaments beyond the solution of the gracious Peter Island staff!
The little personal unexpected extras also set Peter Island apart from many others. It is one of the few resorts in the British Virgin Islands which has its own ferries and can provide prompt, effortless travel to and from the Beef Island airport on Tortola, no matter what time planes arrive or depart. Most other BVI resorts are at the mercy of public ferry boats which run only during the day and at odd schedules, or their guests are advised to fly into the Virgin Gorda airport which is not served by a major airline at this time, nor has night landings. Because my husband and I must make several airline connections from South Texas, we usually arrive on the late Beef Island flight after 9 P.M. After a long day of travel and tasteless airline food, we are delighted to find a lovely sandwich tray with beverages and a bottle of welcome wine waiting in our room upon arrival! Want a sailboat lesson? Just ask for help at the beach hut. Need an extra roll of a certain film? If they don't have it, they will try to bring it on the next ferry run from Tortola. Don't want to walk over the hill to reach the restaurant? Call for a van. On the last day of a seven day visit, a bottle of Pussers Rum magically appears with a "Sorry you are leaving us - come back soon!" farewell card. Wonderful people; exceptional resort; outstanding vacation. One you won't soon forget!
Daily rates from January to April 3, 1994 for two people including many complimentary amenities and use of sports equipment is $350 per day for Ocean View Rooms; $475 per day for Beach Front Rooms. Meal Plans are available for $65 per day per person (breakfast and dinner) or $85 per day per person (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Rates are subject to additional daily service charges and government tax. Weekly rates are also available.
A summer special "Paradise Now" from May 1 to September 30, 1994 for two people including amenities, all meals, taxes, service charges, and airport transfers is $399 a day for Ocean View rooms and $499 a day for Beach Front rooms.
Many four and seven night specials are available year around such as Aqua Adventures for scuba divers; Ashore/Afloat Combinations, and Island Romance packages.
For more information, contact your travel agent or call PETER ISLAND RESERVATIONS: (800) 346-4451 or FAX (616) 776-6467
Cayman Islands by Charlene Peterson
During our ten days we had just about perfect weather, except for couple of hours of rain on a couple of days.
We dove lots and lots with Ollen Miller. Great dives - never thought I would be brave enough to be swimming through tunnels and coral formations at 100 ft., but it was great!
The big excitement was the visit of the Queen of England! She arrived on her yacht, the Brittania, where she stayed over the weekend that we were there. Her motorcade drove past our condo (Plantation Village) on her way up to West Bay. I have a picture of her car, but all I can make out is her husbands hand, waving. You knew for days what her route would be because the paint brushes were out, flowers were being planted and flags were being hung. At night, with the Queen on the ship, the Maritime Band played in Georgetown and then spectacular fireworks lit up the sky.
It was kind of fun! There was a frigate that accompanied the Brittania, and later I heard that there were also crews of scuba divers keeping watch below her yacht as well as a small submarine located just off the wall. What security!!
We didn't eat out much this time, so I can't report on any new restaurants. We ate at Lone Star - great, spicy fajitas!, and at Crows Nest (always wonderful) and at Jamin (a disappointment). Jamin had become one of my favorite restaurants, so I was really disappointed when we had extremely slow service and overcooked Jerk Pork. They said that they had received a number of complaints, so they took one of the dinners off the bill. I still would recommend them, but I was just disappointed on that particular night.
We spent a wonderful lazy lunch one day up at Rum Point.
I had my favorite Rum Punch on the island - its still the best! We were caught in a downpour while we were snorkeling at the public beach just east of Rum Point. Speaking of snorkeling, we followed advice and tried the beach across from Indies Suites. It was just perfect for my Mom, who only feels safe if she can stand up (despite wearing a vest). My favorite snorkeling spot is still the Cemetery - its like swimming in an aquarium!!
We rented a Daihatsu mini-van from Avis. It was just a kick! Basically just a metal frame with 3 seats and steering wheel. Seriously, no extras in that car. I was really proud of how well I did driving a stick shift car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, therefore the shifting had to be done with the left hand! I did great!
We went over to Treasure Island to listen to Earl LaPierre on the steel drums, as well as his high school group which performed on the weekend. We also went up to dance to the Barefoot Man a couple of times at the Holiday Inn. We enjoyed it as much as always except that his breaks seemed to be longer than I have ever remembered.
Ollen Miller took my husband and my Dad out fishing one day, but they didn't catch anything, but I guess they had a great time. Ollen is a very successful fisherman as well as a divemaster, but he doesn't have much time to fish anymore cause he's so busy diving!
My tan is fading.
Grenadines: Sailing Expedition by Dennis Arner
Herein lies a condensed version of the log of the "Six Amigos International", a sailing group out of Southeastern P.A./Delaware, pertaining to their bareboat vacation in the Grenadines from February 22 to March 4, 1994. "Six Amigos International" was founded in 1985 and has made 12 sailing excursions to the Caribbean since that time. Members sailing on the event described below include Walter (Skip) Hurleman, James (J.B.) Hicks, Dennis(D.A.) Arner, Fred Quercetti, Dave Yost, and Ron Alarie.
The charter was booked through The Moorings and began at Secret Harbor, Grenada. We arrived on February 22. The first two days were spent on the Island of Grenada, touring the island and enjoying the Moorings very private Secret Harbor Resort, which would remind one of the Petite St. Vincent Resort, but not quite so upscale. Grenada was a unique experience among all the islands we have ever visited. It is clean and well maintained by island standards and the people were very friendly. Milo, a Moorings related cabdriver, took us on a 6 hour tour of the island. There does not appear to be one square foot of level terrain! San Francisco is flat and Lombard street is straight in comparison.
The first night we dine at the Red Crab which is reached via a short taxi ride. Excellent food at island prices. We have dinner with three women we met at the Moorings' bar who are circumnavigating, a process which has thus far taken 5 years. They are Sue, Nancy, and Pat. There experiences make for interesting conversation. They are holed up here while waiting for a new part to repair their self-steering system.
The boat is a Moorings 445 that is practically new. Ample room for six persons in three cabins with an adequate common area and a HUGE cockpit. Refrigeration, VHF, GPS, and an excellent cassette/CD player are included. We brought much frozen food and staples and had no trouble getting it through customs, but must acquire the necessary perishables before we depart. Among these items is an entire hank of about 60 bananas we purchased while on our tour of the island for about $3 U.S. We had met a member of the staff the night before our planned departure and explained our intent to make it to Carriacou the first day and she agreed to assist us in expediting the check-out processes so that we can get underway as soon as possible. We are off by 11:20.
We motor carefully out through the reefs and markers then set the sails. YES..IT IS HAPPENING FINALLY!!! Those of you familiar with the experience will understand. We take the obligatory leeward route around Grenada experiencing strong winds that require one reef in the sails to keep the toe rail slightly out of the water most of the time. The open water passage from the north point of Grenada to Carriacou is what one expects in the Windwards - good winds and a fairly good ground swell out of the East. This is sailing! We drop the C.Q.R. in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou at 17:30. Hillsborough Bay, just around the next point, has more potential for night-time activities, but we have chosen Tyrell for the better protection it affords, and spend the night on the boat. Dinner is veal over angel hair pasta ala Fred.
Up at 7:30 and off to Sandy Island after clearing out at Hillsborough. The winds are still very strong, much stronger than our last trip to the Windwards. Sandy Island is approximately 200 yards long and 30 yards wide at it's widest. It is typical of the other "Sandy Islands" of the Caribbean, of which there are many. Palm trees and sand surrounded by a coral reef for your snorkeling enjoyment. After lunch and more snorkeling we head to Union Island. A large turkey provided by Ron has been in the oven for hours serves as our dinner tonight and will provide the basis for sandwiches for several days.
Union Island airport provides a special trill for harbor guests. The planes must bank and dive almost kamikaze style to set down "on the numbers" of the runway. God bless the passengers unaware of or unprepared for this requirement! A few years ago it was even more exciting, but they have extended the runway and moved the "touch down" part a few hundred yards further away from the mountains.
We head to shore at Anchorage Yacht Club to listen to the steel band, then its over to Lambi's Bar and Restaurant. Not much happening tonight - kind of like visiting two Bingo parlors during slack hours, so we go back to the boat and amuse ourselves. Three of The Moorings' top shelf 76' crewed boats are here. I never thought I was the type for a crewed boat, but I can smell the decadence from here...and it is GOOD.
We clear customs in the morning and head out to Mustique. One tack takes us just west of the island, at which point we drop the rags and motor in. Basil's Bar and Restaurant and the excellent char-broiled lobster we had here on our last visit are the reasons we have returned. True to the island style, the staff at Basil's is not immediately what one would even loosely call "accommodating". It has been our experience that until you establish some sort of rapport with the staffs of many of the establishments in the islands you are treated as just one more leaf the wind blew in that they must put up with until you blow out again. The service charge being customarily added to the check has no doubt had some influence on the development of this attitude. Our way of dealing with this is to get to know the staffs names and leaving "a little extra" on the table. It is amazing what an effect this has.
After happy hour we are back on the boat for Chateau Briand with secret sauce, followed by Bananas Foster, prepared by yours truly. A few after dinner libations,then its back to Basil's. The place sets on the beach and partially out over the ocean facing the sunset. The staff is more accommodating and the guests are friendly - a mix of 75% locals and 25% from everywhere. We meet a group of four from Germany who speak very good English. They are Soren, Marion, Waltraub, and Elke. More about them later.
The next day we tour the island and play on Macaroni beach, which is on the Eastern shore and has a good surf. Homes we see belong to Mick Jagger, David Bowie, a princess from somewhere, and others. They rent for from $3500 to $17000 U.S. per week including staff. Yes, they are magnificent. Its ice cream cones back at the small village near Basil's then back to the boat for shrimp over pasta. Nationalities represented here in Britannia Bay include the U.S.A., Japan, Mexico, Italy, Norway, Germany, England, France, Finland, and Norway, on as many boats. A small black bird with yellow eyes and bill eats peanuts out of our hands while sitting on same. After dinner its Basil's again. We meet up with the good folks from Deutcheland and exchange addresses and phone numbers. Possibly will see them again at the Tobago Cays tomorrow.
Now about these Germans. Soren made seaworthy a sailboat that had belonged to his father, but had spent the last few years on blocks in the backyard. It is 34' in length with sloop rigging. Soren and two friends had sailed it from the water way near the North of Germany to the Caribbean, where he was joined by his lovely girlfriend Marion and then various family members and friends from the Fatherland at different stages along the way. Waltraub and Elke were with them at this time. These are great people. Friendly and fun to be with. Soren had attended shipbuilding school and upon gradation embarked on this excursion. He will return home starting in May to begin employment at a company that builds large custom sailing vessels. We all wish him much success. There are several things about this young man that tells you he will be successful in his endeavors. Competence and charisma, and a non-stop smile are among them. I speak to Waltraub (his mother - also known as "Angel") about how children give there parents gray hair with adventures such as Soren's. My cross country motorcycle trips were a walk in the park compared to what her son was doing. She is worried.
The next day we are up early and arrive at the Tobago Cays by 12.00. We snorkel before lunch, which for most of us is BLT's but Jim defers to sardine sandwiches on Chips A'Hoy cookies. The famous French designer Paul Arnault which we have read about in the cruising guide stops by our boat. He now has a nice size catamaran, and not the red boat mentioned in the guidebook. We are given an impressive presentation of his wares and purchase at least $800 worth.
If you go to the Cays you will not have to look for him, he will find you. You will buy. You will not be disappointed. His line is known as "Boreal".
Here come our friends!! They have caught two barracudas on the way and share some with us. Dinner is N.Y. strip steaks, Garlic potatoes, prepared by J.B. and I am called upon to make bananas foster again, which I agree to if someone else agrees to clean up. At 19.30 our new friends come over to socialize. I am the only one with any German language experience and proceed to abuse the language to their amusement. It is amazing what you forget 20 years out of school. I will miss these wonderful people.
Next day - snorkeling on the horseshoe reef at the Cays. Excellent! I have brought along my SCUBA gear sans tanks and weights as I had done in years before. The idea being to do rendezvous dives with local shops. I still prefer SCUBA to snorkeling but snorkeling has its advantages. Its cheap. It does not require all that equipment. It can be done at will. It can be enjoyed by all. Visibility is 80 - 100 feet. We find the cut and go outside the reef. After we feel we have seen enough we head in. Our new friends are waving to us from across the water. We join them in some more snorkeling inside the reef, which it ends up is even better than outside. Back to the boat for shrimp and fresh barracuda salad sandwiches,prepared by Dave and Skip, after which the rest of the crew goes snorkeling again while I just sit on the boat and vegetate, mesmerized by this entire experience. No matter how many times one does this the Caribbean is always SPECIAL. Dinner is char-broiled porkloin and fresh green beans, prepared by Dave. The after dinner ritual is continued. xx The next morning its off to Salt Whistle Bay, a well protected bay on the north end of Mayreau. Good place. There is a hotel which appears very nice but is off limits to all but guests, and a beach bar that is special. We then head down to Saline Bay off the west central coast to get some provisions from Dennis' Hideaway store. The plan is to attend the "Jump up" later that night at Dennis'. The crew we send ashore returns absolutely disgusted by the place. We have raised the anchor and made way before I realize what has happened. It appears what I have been told by others and what is indicated in the cruising guides is the result of varying degrees of subjectivity. As related to me by my crew members the famous Dennis' Hideaway is not a place you want to go. It is small, filthy, and over looks the local garbage dump. This may be heaven for some, but not a desirable place to spend the evening to others. I am quite disappointed. I was looking forward to some good live reggae/steel band music. One must adjust.
So we head to Palm Island. Good place. There is again a very nice private hotel and a "Yacht Club" for the cruising crowd. The yacht club is clean and well maintained. We join in a volleyball game on the beach with a few uninhibited females. It is difficult to concentrate. Back to the boat for cocktails then dinner at the club. It is excellent. A huge lobster tail and fresh local vegetables followed by ice cream and drinks.
We rise early and head for Union Island to clear customs, then have a good sail down to St. Georges. The last few days the wind has calmed to what we are accustomed to in this area. The "Iron Jib" assures our arrival at St. Georges Harbor before sundown. St. Georges, Grenada is on the list of places we would not recommend. It has the dirty harbor ambiance one is hoping to escape in the islands. No one takes a "Caribbean Bath" here. It would have been better to go further down island. We know better next time. In the morning we clear customs at Grenada Yacht Services and head out for Secret Harbor. The trip takes about 1.5 hours. We are depressed. It is all but over. Conversation is forced. Yes, we have credit cards to extend the trip, but we also have responsibilities. xx The Moorings' staff was excellent as was the boat. But it was a new boat. Other boats we have chartered from the Moorings' and other vendors were of a condition that was in direct proportion to their age and use. This is not to say that they were not in proper working order, but 30 weeks of use by 30 different parties will take its toll. Multiply this by a few years and you will get the picture.
It was an excellent experience, one which, the good Lord willing, we will attempt to emulate next year. If I can be of further assistance to anyone, please allow me.
Grenadines: Palm Island by John Rinaldi
I'm just got back from the Palm Island Beach Club which is in the Grenadines about two miles from Petit St. Vincent. This is a "Fantasy Island". The beaches are breathtaking. Sand is pure white with pink coral specs and the water is as clear as air. There are 24 cottages most of which are about 50' from the beach. Each has a patio where tea is served each afternoon. John Caldwell and his family own the island. The island is about 2 sq. miles and Caldwell put in a trail called highway 99 which goes around the entire island. Mary Caldwell will have you over to her home for cocktails and John will gladly spend time with you telling you about his sailing adventures and how he came to Palm Island.
The resort has two 50' sailboats and you can take day sails to neighboring islands. We went to the Tobago Keys to snorkel and then had lunch by a secluded beach. The water was the most beautiful that I have seen. We then sailed to Petite St. Vincent to check out that resort. (Palm Is. is a much better deal.)
If you are looking for a secluded island that is a private paradise then this is the place. The sand is thick and clean and the water is every shade of blue that you can imagine. Leave your shoes and fancy clothes at home. The Island is a great getaway if you just want to relax as there is essentially no entertainment.
All meals are included and are served in an open air restaurant overlooking the beach. The food was very good considering you are not on a major island.
We had a great time.
Jamaica: Negril, Sea Splash by Louis Crossley
I just returned from Sea Splash Resort in Negril, Jamaica. I enthusiastically recommend it.
Sea Splash is not one of the all-inclusive resorts available in Negril. Instead, it is a 15 suite facility located in the heart of the Negril 7- mile beach. Each of the 15 suites has a bedroom, bathroom, living room area, dining area, kitchenette and patio. The suites are very spacious.
There is a swimming pool and jacuzzi just off the beach, and they are all next to the beach bar. A fantastic, outdoor restaurant is also on the property.
I have stayed at five other properties in Negril over the years and Sea Splash was definitely the nicest. The rates in mid-February were $ 199.00 US per night.
Watersports are arranged by the staff at Sea Splash (ask for Elvis or Ozzie) or can be found by just walking down the beach.
While the restaurant at Sea Splash was very good, you should not miss dinner at the Charela Inn, about a ten minute walk down the beach. I have stayed at the Charela Inn, and while the restaurant there is a little nicer than the one at Sea Splash, the rooms at Sea Splash are by far better.
Sea Splash is in my view, the much better, and less expensive, way to go to Negril).
Jamaica: Negril Inn by Steve Engerer
This report is from a May 1993 visit.
There have been many reports about Negril and its all-inclusive resorts such as Hedonism II, Grand Lido, Sandals, and Swept Away. The Negril Inn is a smaller, less expensive all-inclusive resort on the beach in Negril that has received less attention, and may be of interest to those who are on a tighter budget.
The cost for a round trip from Chicago via Apple Vacations was $1039 per person. This includes airfare on a charter jet, transfers from the airport to the hotel, seven nights at the hotel, all meals, all bar drinks, and watersports including sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. For comparison, the prices for the other all-inclusives for the same week from Apple Vacations (same airplane) were:
Hedonism II $1459
Grand Lido $1739
Swept Away $1499
Much has been written about the hour and a half bus ride from the Montego Bay airport to Negril. We have made this ride three times and the best thing you can do is try to enjoy the scenery, which is actually pretty interesting. I know that several people on the Travel Forum prefer taking the short plane ride instead, but the main reason to go to the Negril Inn is to save money. If we could afford to spend a couple hundred dollars to save ourselves two hours of bus ride, we could afford to go to Swept Away!
The Negril Inn is much smaller than the resorts mentioned above, with only 46 rooms, and a relatively narrow beachfront (about 50 yards). The smaller beachfront is not a problem because 1) It's big enough for the smaller number of people staying at the hotel and 2) The whole beach is about five miles long so it doesn't really matter how much of it "belongs" to any one hotel. More about the beach later.
The buildings are two story (as is everything in Negril, by law) with eight rooms per building. Each room has a patio or balcony that is big enough for a couple of people to sit on or, more likely, to dry bathing suits and towels. The rooms are small, but adequate for our needs. The air conditioning worked, the hot water worked, the maids kept the place reasonably clean, considering all the sand we tracked in. Some of the rooms are more desirable than others. Our patio was against a fence next to an alley. We probably could have switched to a "nicer" room, but it would not have been worth all that effort.
The areas between the buildings are all sidewalks or gardens, which are well kept up. There is not enough room for lawns. There are lots of flowers, including most of the standard Caribbean ones and a few unusual ones. Between the rooms and the beach is a small pool with a bar at one end, then the open air restaurant, which opens on one side to the pool and the other side to the beach. There is also a small hot tub next to the pool, and a game/TV room. Above the kitchen is a disco, and a deck with tables and chairs.
It's a short walk to the beach from any room. There is a wall with a gate between the hotel and the beach, which provides good security for the hotel but also cuts down the view of the beach from the restaurant. My guess is that it is because the hotel is all-inclusive and they don't want non- guests coming in and getting free food and drinks. Swept Away, Sandals, Hedonism, and Grand Lido all have guards stationed at both ends of their beaches for the same reason. Towels can be picked up at this gate and keys checked.
Breakfast and lunch were buffets with a good variety. Breakfast could also be ordered in the room, but we did not try it. Afternoon tea was cookies, cakes, and cheeses. The evening meal alternated between a buffet and a limited menu (choice of three selections). At each meal, there were one or two things that we thought were really good, and some that were mediocre. The beef was the typical Caribbean type, tough and fairly tasteless. There was generally a tasty ice cream and some good pastries for dessert. All in all, it was satisfactory, but not outstanding.
The evening entertainment is one of the strong points of Negril Inn. The house band (4-5 pieces) began playing during dinner and had a nice variety of reggae and American songs. After dinner, the band was often supplemented with a lead singer and some additional musicians. Each night had a theme like reggae, nostalgia, native dancers, etc. It was the best evening entertainment we've had in the Caribbean.
Negril has long had a reputation as a nude beach. We first visited Negril in 1982, and there were a lot fewer hotels then, and long stretches of deserted beach. Most of the current hotels didn't exist, including Grand Lido, Swept Away, Poinciana, Negril Inn, and many others. Sandals was then two separate hotels named Sundowner and Coconut Cove, and Treehouse was a restaurant that really was in a tree. (We ate dinner there one night and the owner came to our hotel and picked us up in his own car!) Hedonism was then called Negril Beach Village and was known for wild drunken orgies (I guess some things don't change. Topless sunbathing was common everywhere on the beach and nudity was indeed possible along most of the beach, away from the hotels at the southern end. If you walked along the beach most of the women you met were topless and you would occasionally meet someone wearing only a backpack.
This has changed a lot. The empty stretch of beach has been reduced to about a mile on the north side of Swept Away. Nude sunbathing on the main beach is permitted only in a small area north of Swept Away and on the nude beach of Hedonism. There are also nude beaches on Booby Cay (an offshore island by Hedonism), at Grand Lido, and on Bloody Bay, which is another beach by Grand Lido.
The topless sunbathing has been reduced as well. We asked several hotels, and the answers ranged from "It's illegal" to "A few people do, but not many" to "Sure, everyone does it". The last response was from Negril Inn, and it is one of the hotels where topless sunbathing still occurs. The amount varies during the week, depending to some extent on how many Europeans are at the hotel. Some of the American women also go topless. It ranges between 10% and 50% overall.
The southern half of Negril's beach is quite crowded, with small hotels, restaurants, gift shops, cottages, stands selling things, and occasionally private homes, all stacked one next to the other for about two miles. In this area, you will be approached often by vendors, musicians, etc. offering items for purchase, hair braiding, various watersports, food, and of course illegal drugs. (I never talked to one long enough to find out just which drugs were available.) I have never had to say anything more than "No thanks", so I don't describe this as being "hassled", although others might. This is something else that has changed since 1982. Back then a lot of the vendors were selling fruit or soft drinks. Money changing was common, and there were a lot of locals asking to BUY stuff. (Sneakers and Walkmans were most often requested. If I had brought a dozen Sony's or Nike's I could have paid for my vacation!)
We did hear of one case on this trip where someone came up to a sunburned woman and smeared aloe on her back and then asked for $20. She didn't have any money with her then and they came back several times asking for the money. Just remember that nobody on the beach does something for nothing (aloe, sing, etc.) and say "no thanks" before they start, or at least ask "how much" so you know what you are getting into.
Lie on the beach. Read paperback books. Watch the people walking by (there are a lot of people walking up and down the beach.) Get up occasionally and go into the water and float around on a raft. Talk to the other people out in the water. Get out of the water and go lie on the beach some more. Relaxing is a big part of our vacations. We also like to walk on the beach. We wake up early and go for long walks (for which Negril is ideal, since the beach is about 5 miles long), stopping periodically at gift shops, or to put down our blanket and lie in the sun for a while, then walk back. Sometimes we walk up to the empty stretch of beach past Swept Away, take off our suits and go skinny dipping. Life doesn't get any better than this.
When we want to be more active, there is sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, volleyball games in the afternoon, and scuba diving, all free of charge. (Noncertified divers were required to take a resort course with a moderate ($50 ?) charge. The scuba diving is a little way down the beach at the Negril Scuba Centre, and they will come to the Negril Inn to pick you up and bring you back when you're done. There are morning and afternoon dives, and the depth on our dives ranged from 30 to 70 feet. We never had more than 6 or 8 divers, and we thought the divemasters were very good. There are plenty of nice coral reefs to dive in the Negril area.
The hotel also schedules a picnic at Booby Cay once a week for snorkeling and barbecue. They shuttled about 30 of us to the island in power boats and provided snorkeling equipment. The snorkeling is best on the back side of the island off of the "nude" beach. No one else on the trip seemed to know about the nude beach, and none of them went nude. We all snorkeled for a while, then returned to the main beach to eat (barbecued chicken, potatoes, salad, etc.). My wife and I went back to the nude beach and snorkeled some more after lunch, and had the whole beach to ourselves.
The hotel also has bicycles available for guests to use, and we went riding twice. One time we rode up to the north end of the beach that was beyond our walking distance and looked at Hedonism, Point Village, and Grand Lido. The other time we rode into the village for shopping.
There are other activities available for extra charge from vendors right next to the hotel, such as jet skiing and parasailing. We didn't do either of these so I don't know the cost.
The only negative about the trip was that it rained several days, but the hotel can't do much about that. We did a bit more reading than we normally do, and didn't get in as many activities as we would have liked. We did go scuba diving twice, bike riding twice, to the picnic and snorkeling, and spent a lot of time on the beach. My wife also enjoyed checking out the gift shops.
Overall, the Negril Inn is a very good value. If we had the money, we might go to Swept Away, but the two of us can go to Negril Inn for $2000 or Swept Away for $3000. This way we can go 50% more often. It's smaller, the rooms are simpler, the food is simpler, but it's the same sun, the same beach, the same coral reefs for snorkeling or scuba diving, and the same ocean breezes for sailing or windsurfing.
Jamaica: Jamaica Jamaica by Fred and Paula Bate
My wife and I went to Jamaica Jamaica this past July/93. We had a great time. Jam Jam is in Runaway Bay, east of Mo Bay but not as far as Ocho Rios. It took about 1 hour by the free hotel bus.
We left on a Sunday, departing Toronto at 1:15P.M. and stopping at Turks & Caicos to pick up Club Med vacationers. We finally arrived at Montego Bay at 6P.M., clearing customs at 7:15P.M. Don't try to rush through the lineups. All the buses wait for the last person before departing to the hotels -- and there is no way of speeding up the customs officials. They are on "Jamaican Time". No Problem.
We arrived the hotel after 9P.M. (stopping at a few hotels along the way for other passengers). We finally found the dining room at 9:30. Even though they had started to clean up for the evening, we were welcomed a served a delicious meal. After our long trip, we decided to walk around the grounds and see what was happening.
There was a mix of singles and couples both young and old. The grounds are very big so there was room for both quiet times and active games. Mostly couples were a little older than the singles.
The pool during the day, and the piano bar and disco at night were the most active spots. They have entertainment (excellent) every night including a beach party and local entertainers. You might want to practice for talent night with both staff and guests. Monday's entertainment was the best of the week. The "Crab Man" who could limbo under about 6 inches, Jamaican dancers, and a fire eater were the highlights.
Tuesday morning, we rode horseback up the mountain and saw some new homes under construction. One was enclosed in a compound, and the house surrounded an inground pool! These were owned by both foreigners as well as local Jamaicans.
The day turned hot quickly so we looked for the pool. It is huge. There are lots of floaters and a portion of the pool is used for volleyball. On the grounds there are hammocks, croquet, and other slower things to do. The games room has ping pong and billiards. There are also 3 whirlpools; 1 near buildings 1 & 2, another in the main building, and one at the nude beach. We found the temperatures to vary -- too cold or too hot. After an exhausting search (requiring another drink), we found the heater. They are about 50 ft away from the whirlpool in a little white picket enclosure. You might want to adjust it to your liking.
You can play tennis (4 courts) on the grounds and it's just across the road to the SuperClubs golf course. The driving range is free but you must rent a cart or use a caddie to play golf (extra charge). By the way, proper dress is requested - no swimsuits.
The meals are terrific. You have the choice of buffet or 5 course dinner each night. They don't serve large portions -- but we found them just right and not too filling. Breakfast is buffet and so is lunch. There is a wide selection so you won't go hungry. There is also a beach BBQ for hamburgers, hot dogs and jerk chicken.
After lunch on Tuesday, we went on the catamaran sail. One hour out and one hour back in about 5 ft. swells. Very relaxing though -- take a hat and sunscreen. A hot sail deserves a drink!
There are several bars. The beach bar opens about 10am to 7P.M. The lobby bar is from about 3P.M. to late, the lounge bar is open when there is entertainment, and the disco is open until everyone leaves. There is also a self serve bar on the nude beach.
Wednesday I went diving while Paula relaxed in the pool and planned some more activities. We are in our early 40's and tended to opt for the quieter activities and the trips to Ocho Rios, horseback riding and the buggy ride. That afternoon we went on a horse & buggy ride through the neighborhood. This is a great way to relax after a full day and we especially enjoyed the complimentary wine on the trip.
Thursday after my dive we went river rafting on the Martha Brae. It as great about 1 and 1/2 hours slowly drifting down the river with a Red Stripe and a guide. You can stop at several craft and beer stands along the river and the guides make and sell crafts.
I am a certified diver and only dive in the Caribbean -- too cold in Ontario and now I'm spoiled. Although the water around Jamaica is a little more cloudy than other places, probably the current on the Atlantic side, I enjoyed it.
The staff are _very_ cautious. You will have to fill out a waiver, health form and list your diving experience. Since it was a few years since I was last out, I was invited to the beginners session in the pool, and then on the shallow dive.
After that I was allowed on all the dives. All diving is FREE at Jamaica Jamaica. If you have been to other resorts you know how much that saves.
The equipment is good. I took my own reg, fins & mask. They have up to date BC's and regs if you need them. My reg free-flowed a bit and the dive master fixed it for a small fee. No problems with it after that.
Their dives are not deep (most 80') nor far away (about 10 minutes by boat). Unlike the Jamaican government, they are concerned about the coral in the area and are very protective of it. Don't look for souvenirs.
The only complaint I would have is that they try to keep the group too close together. With about 12 people that means you are bumping into each other. If you are an experienced diver, you could/should talk to them about pairing with someone to explore a bit.
In any case, I really enjoyed it.
We found all equipment to be in great shape. This was especially important when scuba diving - don't want anything to break down there. I dove in Cuba once with (rusty) steel weight belts and baby jars of air. Didn't give me a lot of confidence in the resort.
There seemed to be lots of equipment for everyone. We were there in July and the resort was almost full. My wife said you could golf almost anytime, and the tennis courts were empty most of the time. There were enough windsurfers and sailboats for all.
By the way, take a walk up to Runaway Bay along the beach. There are T- shirts and craft stands up there. Nice walk about 20 minutes.
Friday Paula went to the driving range while I dove. The beach is protected by a reef, so you had to go around it to get to the open water. That means its more windy too. We just snorkeled off the nude beach most of the time. Then we went shopping in Ocho Rios.
By the way, you have to look hard to find any activity to pay for. Most of it is all free.
Cost of tours varied:
River Rafting on Martha Brae (1.5 hours) $37.50 Bus tour of mountains and towns $ 22.00 Prospect Plantation Tour (1.5 hours) $ 27.00 Shaw Park Gardens $ 15.00 Negril Day Tour (Negril Tree House) $ 42.00 Dunn's River Falls $ 5.00
Free Stuff: snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, glass bottom boat, catamaran cruise, scuba, volleyball (pool & beach), tennis, golf (carts extra), horseback, horse & buggy (with wine), bike tours, arts & crafts, reggae classes, aerobics, nautilus gym, backgammon, bingo, entertainment, games room, tv room, gym, etc....
Saturday, our last full day we relaxed. We had another great dinner in the dining room and enjoyed the Amateur Hour (guest and staff) entertainment that evening. Special note of the Pointer Sisters (one with a mustache?!) who were great.
On Sunday, our last day, we hit the beach early. We said good-byes to our new friends and exchanged addresses.
After lunch it turned cloudy and rained. We didn't care and stayed out anyway. Nothing was going to spoil our last day. We departed the resort about 4P.M. and left Jamaica on our 7P.M. flight.
A week went by very quickly.
Montserrat by Helene Jaillet
Montserrat - No Glitz, Just Charm!
Travel dates: January 2, 1994 - January 16, 1994
Montserrat is a lovely, quiet island with very friendly people located about 27 miles southwest of Antigua. My husband and I have for some time been considering various Caribbean islands as possible retirement spots. This trip, while a vacation, was another one of our reconnoitering trips. Consequently, our reactions to the island was with an eye to the long term and not just a vacation destination. We concluded that for a relaxing quiet vacation, the island would be nice; as a possible retirement spot, the food limitations were probably our biggest negative.
Getting there: If you're not on the East Coast, getting anywhere in the Caribbean can be very time consuming. Even on the East Coast, the two major US airports having any direct service to Caribbean airports are New York and Miami.
Since Montserrat doesn't have an international airport, you need to fly to Antigua. If you're in Florida, Miami has direct flights to Antigua making the trip much less of a hassle. Other Florida starting points have fewer connections. For example, Orlando to San Juan is 2 1/2 hr., then 1 hr. to Antigua then 15 min. to Montserrat. With layovers however, this can take you all day. After this last trip, we've decided that, on our next visit to the Caribbean, we will seriously consider staying overnight in Miami versus doing a lot of unnecessary island hopping which only serves to take time away from your trip.
As of this writing, there is no ferry from Antigua to Montserrat. So if you miss the last flight out of Antigua to Montserrat, you have to spend the night on Antigua. If travelling over holidays, book early (no later than Sept. for Christmas) because the inter-island flights are on small planes and these fill up early. Another alternative would be to charter a plane from Antigua to Montserrat. This runs around $300 one way for up to 6 passengers.
Where to stay: Virtually all of the developed land is on the leeward or west side of the island. This is the more tropical side. The windward side, which is much drier and whose scrub brush reminded me of parts of California, is virtually uninhabited. The airport is on the east side as well as a few homes, but essentially no services of any kind. Consequently, any lodgings, whether hotel or villa, will be on the west side.
There are really only about 2 (maybe 3) hotels on the island: the Vue Pointe, Montserrat Springs, and the Belham Valley Restaurant and Hotel. The latter's lodgings must be few and/or tucked away because we didn't even see them when we went to their restaurant. They are located across the road on the hillside from the Vue Pointe. Although we didn't see their accommodations, if they are anything like the restaurant (which we very much liked - - see Restaurant section below), they are probably quite nice.
The Vue Pointe overlooks the 11-hole golf course and the tennis courts near Old Road Beach. It's not very big, maybe 10 rooms and 10 rondavels which are detached bungalow type accommodations. The 1994 winter rates for the rooms was $126 and $166 for the rondavels. The summer rates, which start April 15, 1994, are $90 and $105, respectively.
We did not get rates for the Montserrat Springs Hotel but believe they are roughly comparable to the Vue Pointe. This hotel is built in the more traditional hotel room arrangement which is to say it looked like a TraveLodge. They are located about a 10 minute walk (on the beach) north of the Vue Pointe.
The other option, which is the one we chose, is to rent one of the many private villas on the island. You can go from the fairly simple to some grand homes. There are several agencies who can accommodate you. Two of them are Neville Bradshaw Agency (809-491-5270) run by native Montserratians and Tradewinds Real Estate (809-491-2004) run by a Montserratian and his Canadian- born wife and her mother.
Alternatively, you can pick up a copy of "Caribbean Travel and Life", "Islands Magazine", or any other of the magazines which cater to travel in the Caribbean and look in the ads section for rentals. This is what we did and found several offerings by various agencies as well as by the homeowners themselves and called for brochures and rates.
In the high season (December to April), you can expect rates to run from $750 per week on up; in the summer season these will drop to around $500 per week on up. A three bedroom, three bath with swimming pool in Isles Bay (which is considered the upscale area) is around $1500 per week in the high season. One thing to be sure about: when you're agreeing on a rate, inquire whether it is inclusive or exclusive of the Montserrat hotel tax which, at this writing, is 7% -- not an insignificant addition to a two week rental at $1500/week.
Maid service on villa rentals is usually included as part of the rate but, if it is optional choice at an additional charge, my advice is to take it. For some reason, most of the rental homes do not have dishwashers. So unless you feel like cleaning up after yourself, doing laundry, etc. just like at home (what kind of vacation is that!, the maid service is well worth it. And don't think, well you can just leave things laying around because you can't -- ants and other bugs will troop in...which is one of the drawbacks of the leeward side. It's more lush and prettier than the windward side because of the higher humidity but, as a result, it's also buggier.
Weather: Our trip was from January 2 through January 16, 1994 and the weather was very nice. Temperatures were in the high 70's, not too humid (maybe 60% or so), always a bit of a breeze, but the sun is very hot. You get little shower squalls from time to time, but it brightens again almost immediately.
We were told by the locals that in the summer, the leeward side gets _very_ humid (as in 90%+). Yet there is always some breeze to cool things off a little.
It is perhaps because of this constant little breeze that a curious thing occurs, namely, the pools never really warm up. In the two weeks we stayed at the villa, I never once was able to swim in the pool...and this is coming from a person whose own pool with solar heating never gets above 74 degrees in summer (we live in the San Francisco area which isn't exactly in the tropics!) and yet I use our pool all the time in summer.
We thought it was perhaps the house we were in or its location, but when we talked with a realtor, she told us that no, because of the little squalls, the little breeze, and the temperature dropping at night which makes sleeping comfortable, the pools never really have a chance to heat up naturally. Strange...
I found swimming in the ocean much more to my liking. The water is very clear and just the right temperature to cool you from the hot sun. On another trip, I think I would look for a house on the beach and forget the pool.
Restaurants: Vue Pointe Hotel -- we had two dinners here: one from the regular menu and the Wednesday night barbecue which is a specialty of theirs. The meal from the regular menu ($63US including drinks and wine) was OK -- good but nothing extraordinary. Our main course was chicken parmigiana done with American cheese instead of mozzarella which I thought was a bit unusual.
The Wednesday night barbecue is well attended and seemed to be one of the weekly events for the expats living on the island. With a total of 11,000 people on the entire island, it's not unusual to keep running into the same faces. The steel band starts around 8:30PM. Dinner which offers barbecued beef, fish, or chicken plus various salads and desserts was $50US; extra for drinks and wine. It was nice, but for the money we enjoyed the Friday night barbecue at The Emerald Cafe better.
The Emerald Cafe which is located in Plymouth serves both lunch and dinner. We had lunch (grilled ham sandwiches, salad, beer) for around $20US. The Friday night barbecue is $154EC or about $60US including drinks and wine and we thought better than the one at Vue Pointe. Mainly, this has to do with the fact that the fish at Vue Pointe was frozen and the one at Emerald Cafe was fresh. It could be that on another night the fresh/frozen fish would have been reversed but who's to say? (See the section on Food later).
We had a very nice lunch at the Blue Dolphin in Parsons. This was a very pleasant surprise. It's not much to look at, but the food was very good. For lunch, they serve "regular" meals which is to say no sandwiches and such but a full lunch. The meal we had can best be described as home cooked: not fancy, just plain good cooking. We had pan fried wahoo with a sweet/sour sauce, boiled potatoes, _delicious_ pumpkin fritters, carrots, and green beans. The whole meal cost less than $21US for both of us.
Our nicest dinner was at the Belham Valley Restaurant. Their menu and wine list was more extensive than the Vue Pointe's and the setting is also nicer. We had conch fritters for appetizers and my husband had fettucine alfredo as his main course which was good except a bit sweet tasting. We guessed that probably due to the inadequate dairy supply on the island (see Food section) maybe they had used a sweetened powdered dairy product. On the other hand, maybe they wanted it slightly sweet!
I had heard about the mountain chicken -- a large frog native only to Montserrat -- and decided to try it. If you've ever enjoyed frog legs anywhere else, it tastes the same except it's bigger. Our dessert was a tropical fruit ice cream sundae. With drinks and wine, the total came to $83US.
Getting around: To see the island, you really need to rent a car. Even for avid walkers, the island is very hilly and, with the heat, it would be a strain. On the other hand, the islanders seem to walk everywhere! They are very friendly and every gives every one else a ride if they see them on the road. You should, too, to make some island friends during your stay. You can expect to pay somewhere around $25 - $30 per day for a car like a Toyota Tercel, less if you want one of the little open jeep cars. Some polite negotiating can reduce these prices.
What to see/to do: The two main attractions that you'll hear most people talking about are the Great Alps Waterfall and the Galway Soufriere, the latter being the steaming volcano on the island. It is dormant yet it still sends out steam and sulphurous gas. The hike to the waterfall (you need a local person to go with you so you don't get lost in the jungle) is about an hour each way.
Since we've seen a number of waterfalls, a live exploding volcano, _and_ the main reason for our trip was to evaluate the island as a possible retirement spot, we skipped these two visits and instead drove all over the island to discover its villages, people, culture, etc.
There are about half a dozen beaches on the island and one of our favorites was Fox's Bay mainly because there were shady spots where you could escape the hot sun. Another nice beach is at the northwest of the island called Little Bay. From here, you can snorkel around Rendezvous Bluff over to Rendezvous Beach which is only accessible by water. It is safe to swim on this (west) side of the island. We were told that the windward side has some very strong undercurrents and that it's better to avoid swimming on that side.
If you're looking for live music, you might try the Yacht Club or the Sugar Mill Inn on Friday and Saturday nights, both on the outskirts of Plymouth but don't expect things to get going until about 11PM. Otherwise, the island is pretty quiet. Wednesday is a half day so businesses are closed in the afternoon.
For birders, there is a bird sanctuary at the south end of Fox's Bay. Because of the lushness of the foliage, you may have trouble spotting birds though you can hear them all around. The most exciting thing on our walk through the sanctuary was when we surprised a 2 and 1/2 foot iguana who promptly took off!
If you're renting a villa equipped with a VCR, there are two video rental stores in Plymouth. We frequented the one owned by a lady named Valerie -- I can't remember the name of the store but it was right next door to QuenchIt owned by Gertrude who sells wonderful island fruit juices. The video store had all the current titles and was generally well stocked.
QuenchIt was a delightful little booth on the street where you could sample tamarind (a little tangy), soursop (delicious!), sorrel (a red fruit native to Montserrat available only during Dec./Jan.), and other more well known juices such as orange. She also sold cucumbers and a tasty cheese filled pastry as snacks.
For golfers, my husband said the 11 hole course on the island was surprisingly more challenging than he had anticipated. You play 7 holes twice and 4 holes once. If you're staying for a week, get a week's pass. It costs roughly $60US and entitles you to play as often as you want each day for seven days.
Being away from the big city lights makes the stars of the universe appear that much brighter, so if you like stargazing bring your constellation maps and enjoy all the ones you never get to see at home.
Another natural beauty which brought home fond memories for me were the fireflies. Perhaps we just haven't been in the right places recently, but I don't remember when was the last time I saw fireflies in the US. When I was growing up in New York City, I remember in the summertime in our backyard, my sister and I would count how many fireflies we saw. By the time I was entering high school, they were gone. To see them again one evening in Montserrat was really quite special.
Food: The largest supermarket on the island is Ram's in Plymouth. It is pretty well stocked for most things but that's not saying much.
In general, whether you're cooking at home or eating out, food is very disappointing. The further you get away from a main island distribution point such as St. Maarten or Curacao, the less available various food items become.
For example, in Montserrat fresh milk is not available at all; you get powdered or canned. There is a limited variety of frozen cold cuts available for sandwiches. Virtually all meat, which is mostly chicken, turkey, or ham, is frozen as is whatever fish is available. Bread is also frozen.
Although you can get some produce in the supermarkets, your best bet is the public market in Plymouth. The Montserratians grow their own pumpkins, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, green beans, and a certain amount of corn and other vegetables. Of course, most fruit such as papaya, bananas (both available virtually year round), and mangoes (in May) grow on the island and are very good.
To get fresh fish (tuna or wahoo), you need to see Danny Sweeney who can usually be found around The Nest -- a beach bar at Old Road Beach. He is one of the more well known local fisherman who may have some fresh fish or else some frozen tuna or wahoo.
This whole business about being on an island in the middle of the ocean and not having fresh fish was very puzzling until we went to the Kitchen Table, a seafood retailer, located in Cork Hill. They, too, sell frozen seafood and we finally found out the reason. It seems that the pelagic fish, such as wahoo, tuna, shark, etc., are safe to eat but fish which eat near the reef are not.
There's a naturally occurring toxin which, as it moves up the food chain, becomes concentrated in the reef-feeding fish including barracuda. The toxin is poisonous to people and there is no cure. Consequently, most people avoid these fish and stick to the ocean fish...which finally solved the frozen fish mystery since, given they're size, these usually end up frozen. Curiously, Montserrat lobsters are completely safe to eat though no one knows why. The island has no crab as we know it.
One bright spot in the food department is the bakeries, our favorite being the Economy Bakery in Plymouth where we bought bread pudding, some turnovers (which the islanders call jam pots), and a "big bun" which was a type of sweet bread with raisins. Bakeries are very popular and you'll often see long lines in the stores as people buy things on their way home from work.
Miscellaneous: Telephone service is excellent. If you're renting a villa, there will probably be a block on long distance calls even those charged to your credit card. Your agent will give you a code which, when activated, will remove the credit card restriction. This, however, still poses a problem for anyone wanting to use a notebook computer to communicate since your computer obviously can't speak to the live operator who comes on requesting the card number.
The way to solve it is to let the rental company take a credit card imprint to which they will subsequently charge the cost of any long distance calls you make when the phone bill comes in. Then they will ask the phone company to completely remove the block for the duration of your stay.
This is what we did and it worked out fine. One thing which amused us but which is also typical of island life was the method the agency chose to effect the change. After they took our card imprint, they said it would take two days for the change to take effect. Today was Tuesday so we wouldn't be able to make any long distance calls from the house until Thursday. I didn't understand why it would take so long until the lady explained that if she mailed the letter requesting the change today the phone company would receive it tomorrow (Wednesday) and they would process the change that night making the service available on Thursday.
What we found funny was two things. First, if she'd simply picked up the phone and called them, it could have been processed that night and/or secondly, even if written authorization was necessary, she could have walked _next door_ to the phone company and handed it to them versus mailing it! But things move more slowly in the islands, so plan ahead.
Although on vacation, there are always folks who like to keep abreast of what's going on in the world. CNN is your best bet. Forget getting any kind of world newspaper. If knowing what's happening in the financial markets is important to you, bring your computer.
Other than that, plan on having a very quiet, relaxing trip!
St. Barths by Andy Schwab
We just got back from 8 days in St. Barth and will try to in this report fill you in with most of the things people ask - primarily restaurants, car rentals etc.
1st Night Le Bouff Petite (sp)- New restaurant recently opened We got in late and got to our villa in Pointe Milou. Le Bouff Petite is a small place offering inside and outside seating about 100 yards from where we were staying. Really nice people. We got there about 7:30 and we were the only ones there. I had a medallions of beef entree served with a mustard sauce; Dot had a Creole plate; both very good. We shared a shrimp appetizer served in a calypso sauce. They gave us a complimentary appetizer of something that resembled conch fritters but was not. Also good. Wine and a creme caramel dessert all for about $58. Overall the lowest price dinner we had in St. Barth and really good quality. No credit cards but some relief for your wallet. Another good thing about this restaurant is that they offer a pastry shop and being 100 yards away, I was there every morning.
2nd Night Comme en Provence. A lot of people recommended this place but we were not fond of it. It recently was taken over by a new owner and I don't know if that was the problem. Surprisingly they did not take credit cards. I was beginning to wonder if I brought enough money. The bill for a langouste casserole, a shrimp dish, dessert and wine was $78. I wouldn't go back.
3rd Night Le Patio I originally made the reservation as a change of pace from french food and thought that we were hitting some high priced places later and thought I'd conserve some money. Believe me you can spend a lot if you don't watch what you order. I had a tortellini dinner (3 types) and Dot had ravioli with basil. We started with a shared calamari appetizer and ended with a delicious tiramisu dessert. We shared a bottle of wine and the bill came to about $100. I wouldn't go back.
4th Night Le Gaiiac at Toiny. Probably our best meal. We sat out on the patio overlooking the pool. Very nice elegant place. I had Gaudelopian prawns with a horseradish sauce and a herb salad. Dot had a Peppercorn steak in some type of Coffee sauce that she thought was one of the best steaks she ever had. We shared a bottle of wine and dessert and felt it was reasonable (comparatively) at $100 for what we got.
5th Night Marigot Bay Club (our Anniversary) Very nice. We got to sit at table 7(?) by the water. I had the whole snapper. Dot (a little tired of all the sauces) had a chicken dish. Both of us though they were very good. Shared a bottle of wine and dessert. This plus other drinks and appetizers made a nice memorable evening. About $115.
6th Night Maya's-- My second favorite restaurant. I had a great tuna sushima appetizer. Dot had the Kale soup. I had the Quail and Dot had the Mahi Mahi type fish. Both great! With desserts and a bottle of wine and drinks about the same as Marigot Bay Club.
7th Night L'Escale for Pizza and spaghetti a nice change of pace for wallet and food. Last night of Mardi Gras so we got to see the parade of torches.
8th and last Night L'Marine for Mussel night. They bring it in from France every Thursday. They give you a lot and they are delicious. If you like Mussels don't miss it. Also it's great for people watching.
Villas, car rentals, beaches, shopping etc.
We rented our villa through St. Barths Properties. Peg Walsh was very helpful. She provided a lot of info on restaurants, things to do, beaches, etc. She also arranged our car rental through Matthew Aubin.
Our villa was at Pointe Milou. It was high on a hill and the blurb on it said nice and breezy I'll say it was BREEZY. The wind kept us up most of the first night until we got used to it. The pool was the focal point of the entire villa with a separate area for the kitchen and dining areas. The entire villa had three bedrooms of which we had access to only one. There was also a library on the lower level and an area which we never saw that was for the caretakers of the villa. Maid service was provided; but besides Sunday she didn't show up on either Tuesday or Thursday at least. Towels and sheets were only replaced once. Overall the view was beautiful and the location was convenient to where ever we wanted to go.
As I mentioned before, our car was rented through Matthew Aubin at $360 a week and $57 dollars a day (we were there for eight days). It was a Hyundai with automatic, a/c and AM/FM Cassette. We had no trouble making it up the hills with it.
Shopping - We didn't really do a lot of it. Dot liked a fragrance shop in Gustavia called Free Mousse and bought a lot of baby clothes for the first grandchild but complained on how expensive everything was. Bought the obligatory Sweatshirt from a shop on one of the strip shopping centers in St. Jean. We found out the hard way how expensive newspapers are $5.00 for a USA Today. And smoked my mandatory Cuban while reading it.
Beaches - We didn't spend a lot of time on them mainly because the chairs we brought along were lost by the local airline. That's a story in itself. But our favorite was Saline. We went snorkeling at Marigot Bay but was really disappointed compared to St. John.
For Breakfast - We mostly ate at our villa with croissants bought from the local Patisserie and cereals that we bought along. Once we ate at Eden Roc but at $28 for 2 orders of scrambled eggs, etc. a little high for our blood. I do agree with those who thought the Bakery across from the airport was special.
Lunch - Also had our obligatory cheeseburger in paradise but probably was not in the right frame of mind for the ambience. Also ate at Chez Jo Jo. But mostly just fended for ourselves with food from the supermarket to save money for dinner at night.
Overall, I really liked having a villa with its own pool, the French Ambience, the food and the scenery. For Beaches and snorkeling I preferred St. John in the USVI. But it was a great vacation and both Dot and I were glad we went.
St. Barths by Lee Bagwell
Our great nine-day vacation in St. Barths has sadly been over for a couple of weeks now.
There is not a whole lot that's new and different! It is indeed a wonderful island to visit, and we had a fabulous time! We found the French warm and friendly in all cases, and both understanding and helpful as we struggled with our freshman college French grammar, and our ever-present French phrasebook actually they seemed to appreciate our efforts! Our rusty French began to reappear!
St. Barths seemed to us, in comparison to several of the other Caribbean islands we've visited, extremely clean and well-maintained, and we had a definite sense of personal security, which has not always been the case elsewhere. The people were warm and friendly. Although things, groceries and such, were expensive, they were not exorbitant, and the so-numerous restaurants were not as pricey as we had expected. I should note here that we are from the Metropolitan N.Y. area, so that may influence our reaction to the restaurant prices! We avoided some of the more expensive places, perhaps. I had read several references to a possible mosquito problem, and was apprehensive on that score, but we weren't bothered at all. Ceiling fans in our bedrooms may have been the secret!
We found Gustavia to be a lovely, picturesque harbor town, with its pretty redtiled roofs. It is charming, and even fun on the days when big cruise ships are in and have disgorged their passengers for a day of sight-seeing and shopping! There is a feeling that this is "where the action is!"
The notorious airplane landings are truly a remarkable thing! We loved to watch the planes appear out of nowhere, just skimming the tops of trees as they dove for the runway! Great subject matter for snapshots and conversation! They seemed to arrive with only a minute or two between, some days! Amazing! I will make a comment or two about beaches and restaurants later, but I want to tell you that the wonderful supermarket Le Match (right across from the airport) had the best exchange rate we found on the island - always 6 FF to the dollar, and your change in Francs. Elsewhere, at the time, the rate ranged between 5.65 and 5.8 FFs.
One important caveat: it is really important to be aware that EVERYTHING, including such places as gas stations, closes down in the middle of the day either between noon and 2:00, or even noon and 3:00! We knew about this vaguely ahead of time, but often were taken aback by the locked doors! You must plan accordingly! We finally learned to!
We stayed at Village St. Jean, which we loved. I highly recommend it to anyone.
Our rental car was a 4-wheel-drive Ferozza; great for the four of us comfortable, and we could go anywhere. And did! It was also a good choice as it provided good protection from sudden short downpours! Cost: 320 FF for 8 days. -
I'm not really sure I have managed to get this next part in sequence with the what I said earlier, but here goes! I have already mentioned some general thoughts about the island - all positive. However, in reading back, I made one GLARING error, to be corrected immediately; I quoted the rate for our rental car as 320 FF for 8 days - WRONG!!! Happy thought, but not true! The rate for the Ferozza was 320 FF PER DAY. We rented it at that rate (at the airport) for seven days, and then got the eighth (extra) day free. Sorry for the confusion.
As I mentioned before, we stayed at comfortable and attractive Village St. Jean, and were very pleased with it. It is well-run, and well-maintained, by the nice, friendly Charmeau family. It is nicely furnished, in good taste, and is extremely clean. We thought the rates were reasonable, even with the addedon 10% service charge, which was clearly stated in advance. There were four of us, and we shared Cottage #5, which was great. The upstairs bedroom and bath were superior to the downstairs - view, size, etc., etc.- so that was a factor. We did hear someone complaining about having a room or a cottage there that was so close to the road that they were bothered by street noises. The (small) swimming pool, and adjacent jacuzzi, are really magnificent! The view there is breath-taking - you feel as if you are on top of the world - and there couldn't be a more serene, relaxing place to spend an hour or two - maybe three or four! - reading, relaxing, dozing. It's wonderful.
Beaches: Salines was lovely, but no shade. We really loved Marechal the best it is a gem. A small crescent-shaped beach, ringed with palm trees, it is beautiful and quiet. It is hard to find: it is near Marigot, but you have to enter the grounds of the Guanihani Resort, park behind the resort office, and walk down a public, but totally unmarked, path to this tiny, unique beach. It's worth the search. We also loved Colombier, but made a mistake in our approach to it. We parked our car up by the not-to-be-missed lookout, way above Petite Anse, and then scrambled down the STEEP and difficult path to Colombier. Do not do this, as the return back up would be virtually impossible. We were incredibly lucky to find a young lady who had parked in the better place - on the small road past Flamands, and just overlooking Petite Anse - and she led us back the much better, and beautifully scenic, ridge path to her car. She then drove one of us back up to where we had left our car. We were saved! The ridge path is spectacular - about 20-25 minutes of superb views. Bottled water and sure-footedness are recommended for the trip to Colombier, and it, along with the high-up lookout, is not-to-be-missed.
Two great activities which we enjoyed: both are out of Marine Service on the opposite side of Gustavia harbor. One is the one-hour glass-bottomed boat trip, which takes up to eight people out to view coral reefs, fish, and even the hull of a 200 ft. private yacht sunk during Hurricane Hugo. Also- an all-day sail on a large sailboat, which included 2 scenic snorkeling stops (one at Colombier) and a truly gourmet lunch. Yoyo, our Swiss skipper, was great!
I never thought I'd have so much to say, as I wanted only to dwell on different aspects of St.B. I was mentioning briefly the wonderful all-day sail we took (arranged at Marine Service, Gustavia). It was spectacular in every way and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I don't remember the per person cost - it wasn't cheap, but was worth every penny. It was a big sailboat (50 feet?), and comfortably held the ten passengers. We were all compatible, and had a nice day together. Our lunch was a true gourmet feast, not at all like the sandwich-type picnics we've been served on other sailboat excursions. YoYo, our wonderful Swiss skipper, couldn't have been nicer, and it turns out that he is also a local artist well-known in his field. He and his wife spend every available hour hand-painting individually (NOT silk-screening) unique, colorful, artistic tee-shirts that YoYo has designed. They are top quality, and therefore found in the more-boutiquey shops, such as the Black Swan in St. Jean. Look for YoYo's trademark signature on each shirt. We were able to find his small studio near the Manapany Hotel, and watched them paint the shirts. We also got the "wholesale" price there, and consequently bought several!
A few thoughts about restaurants: much has been said before, so I will be brief. We, along with everyone else, loved Maya's in Public - made a reservation a couple of days in advance and had a lovely waterside table. Food and service were great. We never made it to Marigot Bay Club - that will have to wait for next time! We had an excellent dinner at L'Ananas one evening perhaps the best meal of all. It is a small place high on a hillside in Gustavia, and we had a lovely table on the porch. Service, food and an entertaining piano player made it a memorable time. We thought the food and ambience at Le Patio (on the grounds of VSJ) earned high marks, yet agree with others that it is a bit pricey. Yes, the taramisu is fabulous! We went to La Marine in Gustavia for the famous Thursday night mussels feast, and they were superb! BUT, you must make your reservation well in advance- even a week ahead! We watched many groups turned away, and we got the very last, and least desirable, table in the place by reserving three days ahead! Eddy's Ghetto: it is indeed very hard to find, as there is no sign at all! It is around the corner, and up a bit, from Le Select in Gustavia, and hidden behind a tiny art gallery. It is closed Sundays, and they take no reservations. Because the prices of the moderately-good food (a limited menu) are CHEAP!, you must get there early. We arrived when it opened - at 7:00 - and by 8:00 there was a line to get in, and by 8:30, a 1 1/2 hour wait! A colorful place! A couple on the sail with us, whose opinion I would value, highly recommended Le Tamarin in Saline. Next time! We heard that the most elegant, and most expensive, dinners could be had at Le Gaiac Restaurant at Le Toiny Hotel, but didn't try.
For lunch, Le Select was crowded, noisy, yet colorful! Our cheeseburgers were so-so. But we adored the intimate outdoor terraced niches at Eden Rock, overlooking the entire St. Jean beach, for delicious, inexpensive, casual lunches- the BEST.
St. John by Jack Kehoe
We just returned from a great week on the St. John. The beaches were absolutely the best we've seen out of several Caribe and Hawaiian beaches. Also the snorkeling was super. We liked Hawks Nest Beach the best. All were clean, calm, and not crowded. One couple that was with us went scuba diving every day and several nights and they were very pleased with dives and The Cruz Bay Co.
We ate at Pussers, Lime Inn, Caneel Bay, Cafe Roma, Ellington's and Lucious Licks. Ellingtons was the tops, good menu, service, view, and atmosphere and not noisy. The Caneel Bay lunch buffet was extremely good. Others OK. Cafe Roma didn't do it for us. Long Wait to get in , slow service, crowded, noisy and average food but it might be better If we had arrived earlier.
We did a day sail on the Hirondelle with Cap't Neil Newhard. The boat holds 6 plus the Cap't. No motor so its pure sailing and those who wanted to assisted in sailing. He will take you almost any place you want and you can snorkel to depending on the wind. It was a great experience. The scenery is great every where you look. Hope this will help those who visit this island.
St. John by Liz Duffy
Hitchcocks is now Woody's Seafood Palace- they were having problems with their liquor license when we were there. Seychelles, a Mediterranean style cuisine, is where Wendy's used to be. It looked lovely, but I question the wisdom of putting an elegant outdoor restaurant next to Larry's Pool Hall there at Wharfside.
Rumor has it that Chateaux Bordeaux is opening a second location on the hill overlooking Cruz Bay in the building near the National Park's housing. We had great meals at Tamarind (Crunchy-Spicy panfried grouper),Morgans Mango and the Fishtrap.
After being away twelve years things certainly did look different. Coral Bay was the biggest shock...in the old days you couldn't even buy groceries there, now there are five restaurants there! Found out that the Chef at DonCarlos is someone I worked with in Key West! At the Back Yard there are a few pictures I took still on the wall ! Time DOES stand still in some places.
I was amazed at how congested Cruz Bay was! Thankfully, Mooies was still there. Although I've never even been in the place, it HAS been there forever, a constant! Fred's was the same, as was Mongoose Junction. The real thrill however was heading out to the beaches the first time back. Those vistas are permanently etched on my brain! I guess the trip had the intended effect ... we're in the process of negotiating a lease on a restaurant right there. I can't disclose the location until it's a "done-deal".
St. Martin by Bruce Fletcher
I just returned from a wonderful week on St. Martin. I Left Detroit on Friday 2/11 during the ice storm out east. Our flight to Raleigh was cancelled and had to rush from American to NW to catch a flight to San Juan then a 6 hour layover to get our flight to SXM.
I got there about 10P.M. and was met by our Apple Tour person to take us to L'Habitation arriving there about 12:30. The road is something not to be believed. Glad we didn't have to drive it ourselves that night. Because of the closed airports up and down the east coast, the hotel was full and we were put in a so-so room with two double beds...not what we had reserved.
We stuck it out for the first night and tried to get it changed the next day.
No such luck...the people heading back to New York still couldn't leave. We pleaded with the people at the front desk and were finally switched to Le Domaine the next day. Much better!
L'Hab is a beautiful hotel but the new Le Domaine is much nicer. We had a second floor room overlooking the gardens and a short way from the pool and beach (the most beautiful on the Island as far as we're concerned.) Approx. 80% of the guests at L'Hab were french so we had fun practicing what little we knew.
Saturday: We had delicious breakfast at Le Veranda at the hotel and spent most of the day unwinding on the beach and next to the pool. Then we took our jeep up to Le Priviledge for a drink and beautiful view. (Recommendation: If you want to enjoy SXM, rent a jeep. Give Vincent a call at Summer Set car rental and he'll have your jeep waiting for you at your hotel (brand new Dihatsu). He left the keys for us at the desk and told us to give him a call in a couple of days and he'd come out and do the paper work. Only $230 for the week!) We skipped lunch and made reservations at Le Tastevin in Grand Case. Fantastic restaurant with fantastic service and a table right on the water...mussel and saffron soup, seafood in puff pastry, veal chop, scallops, shrimp, raspberry creme brule, chocolate mousse and great bottle of white bordeaux = $130. Can't recommend this restaurant enough! Perfect way to start off our weeklong gourmet tour.
Sunday: Decided to do some exploring and drove all around the island stopping at some of the other hotels we were originally looking at, Mt. Vernon (nice but too far a walk to the beach), La Belle Creole (decent but didn't like the location), Esmeralda (OK but wasn't impressed with the small pools and the distance to the beach), Oyster Pond (beautiful place but no beach!), La Sammana (now this is my kind of place! plush surroundings, the most beautiful beach on the island, not crowded, but still not sure it's worth the added price over L'Hab.
We went to Mullet Bay, Long Bay, Orient beach and several others. Orient beach was too crowded and noisy and too much wind and very much overrated. Long beach was great...not crowded, great snorkeling ten feet off shore.
We got back to the hotel in time for a swim and then off to Marks Place for dinner. The most fantastic red snapper in garlic sauce I've ever tasted. Good service and cheap!!
Monday: Couldn't pass up the chance to get to Marigot and have breakfast at Cafe Mastodona and did some shopping and then back to L'Hab for the day on the beach and snorkeling some more till dinner time. Then, off to L'Auberge for a 9:00 dinner. We had late dinner at L'Auberge Gourmand. Enjoyed every bite but the service and wine list were terrible for such a high rated restaurant. Only thing that saved it was the 3 chocolate dessert! Total bill = $130. Good restaurant but there are better ones for the price.
Tuesday: Back to Zee Best for breakfast in Marigot then off to Baie Long for some sun and swimming for the day. Stopped at a Stop and Shop near the airport and had them make sandwiches, lobster salad and drinks for us to take to the beach. We took a look at the beaches and hotels along Mullet Bay and Pelican-not impressed.
We got back to the hotel (by this time the drive over the mountain seems like nothing) then off to Marigot for pizza at Brasserie de la Gar! Great food (try the salad caribe) great service, good prices, and a lot of fun with the waiters. Don't make a trip to Marigot without going to this restaurant.
Made our rounds to all the casinos and was totally unimpressed! What a waste! Most are small, dirty, crowded, full of old outdated slot machines, only a few blackjack crap and roulette tables. Dropped some money in the video poker machines and left. Only one that is halfway decent is the casino at the Sheraton. If you've ever been to Vegas or Atlantic City, the St. Martin casino will be a big disappointment.
Wednesday: Caught a Catamaran out of the harbor at L'Hab for a day sailing trip to Sandy Island on the other side of Anguilla. Perfect day, 2 1/2 hour sail there, 4 hours of great snorkeling on the reefs (along with a very close confrontation with some barracuda!), lunch of ribs and chicken and a nice 2 1/2 hour sale back. Only 6 other couples on the boat and well worth the cost of $70 per person. There were good winds coming back so we all got wet!
We had the most romantic and delicious dinner of the week that night at the Rainbow in Grand Case. The table was right next to the water (make reservations at least 2 days in advance), light wind, moon shining on the water, and the best beef filet with garlic basil butter sauce I've ever had. Veal for Sue, nice bottle of wine, gaspatcho for appetizer, and baked carmel apple for desert = $130! DON'T MISS THIS RESTAURANT!
Thursday: Stayed at L'Hab the whole day and ordered room service for dinner. Great shrimp in saffron sauce and cheesecake with rasperry sauce for desert.
Friday: Last day on this fantastic island. We went back to Brasserie de la Gar for lunch (lobster fettuchinni with light cream sauce) then on to the airport. We now know why so many people return to this island over and over again.
OBSERVATIONS: Beaches were the nicest and cleanest we've ever seen. Roads were the worst we've ever seen. Poverty of the locals is overwhelming and ruins the appearance of the island. Then French side of the island was by far the best.
We saw no evidence of drugs and felt very safe anywhere we went. The service at the restaurants and hotel was the best we've ever had (except at L'Auberge).
The Casinos not worth the time to go to. If you want peace and quiet, stay on the french side of the island. Philipsburg is the pits (I'm sure the people getting off the cruise ships there are disappointed!). We never got hassled for timeshares. Don't be afraid of driving anywhere on the island, even at night, if you have a jeep. Make sure you bring a POWERFUL electric converter with you if you stay on the french side. If you like to snorkel, bring your own equipment.
Plan to spend $150 per day per couple for food (well worth it). Stay away from Orient beach unless you want a Coney Island atmosphere, high high winds, expensive drinks, be hassled for money for a beach chair, and a constant stream of gawkers with telephoto lens on their cameras.
St. Martin by Michael Baggott
Sandy and I arrived in St. Martin in early February, along with three other couples. We stayed in a private apartment in Grand Case for the first 5 days, and then moved to Orient Resort for the rest of our stay.
Since this was our fifth visit in four years, and since we don't like change, our trip was much like the previous one's. Get up in the morning, walk down to the bakery at the south end of Grand Case for chocolate croissants, take a dip in the bay, and then head for Orient. Lunch is at around 12:30, at any one of the restaurants on the beach - remember when there was only Pedro's or Papaguoyos, only four years ago, and then back to the apartment around four to get ready for dinner. Cocktails on the veranda, and then off to one of the fine restaurants for dinner. Back to the porch after dinner for more cocktails, and to bed about 1:00 A.M.
Our first night on the island, we tried a new restaurant in the Cul Du Sac, as a favor to Robert of Orient Beach, a less then memorial experience. After that night, however, we were on a roll. Ate at Mark's, Papaguoyo's, Taestevin, L'auberge, Spartico, L'escapade, and Canne de Sucre',(sp) and new, very good restaurant in Grand Case. Spartico was the first time in five visits that we ate dinner on the Dutch side, and it was truly worth it, and a nice change from French cooking.
Live music at Papaguoyos on Saturday night was great. The band played American type music with a Caribbean flavor, and the female singer was superb. While management frowned on our use of camcorders on the dance floor, we did record her after the band quit, singing without accompaniment.
The usual crowd was at Orient, and every year we meet new guests. It's amazing the same guests are at Orient every year at the same time. I believe we know the occupants of at least 12 cabins who arrive around the first Friday of Feb.
Took Patrick's Trimaran to flat island for snorkeling and lunch. Patrick, from La Gallion, was a gracious host and sailed out of the bay with no problem. I slashed my foot against some coral while trying to sailboard at La Gallion, resulting in four stitches in the bottom of my foot. There is a fine doctor located on back street in Grand Case, behind the pharmacy, named Dr. Bloch, if anyone is ever in need.
One a sad note, one of our traveling partners, who was scheduled to return a week after us, came down ill after we left, and ended up in ICU in a San Juan hospital. While, at one point, we thought we had lost her, she is now starting to improve and hopefully, will be moved out of ICU shortly. If anyone is near Orient, tell Ray Brink that Jackie appears to be getting better. We'll keep him posted.
Trip reports are tough when you don't do much, but that's why we go to St. Martin. Sand gravity aptly describes our visit to the island, and our only responsibility is to make sure that the groundskeeper at Orient empties our trash barrel daily, so that the Heiny bottles don't overflow.
St. Martin Richard Giglio
I just returned after our sixth annual trip to St. Martin. The weather was perfect while it was snowing at home. The food is as good as ever. The following is a synopsis of our trip.
We traveled our usual way which is Delta to San Juan, then connect to American. We used Hertz this time. From what I was hearing from others trying to negotiate rates, we got a good deal. The only problem was there is now a smaller car than before. The little four door with no trunk just wasn't going to work for four people and luggage for 10 days. We upgraded and got the usual car, an econobox. I think it was the same ugly yellow Suburu we got last time and it still runs like you know what.
We stayed at Nettle Bay, our second try at this place, mostly because we were a group of four and their two-bedroom villa would work out fine. Well, would you believe they pulled a fast one and wanted to put us in a one-bedroom garden suite. After our strong insistence on a two-bedroom, they placed us in two onebedroom units for two nights until a two-bedroom unit was available and charged us half price for the entire stay. The hotel is about the same as when it first opened. If they would just take a little time to make a couple of minor improvements, they would have a great hotel. They had a couple of units that looked liked they never completed construction. This doesn't make sense when you have near capacity occupancy. If you stay there, you want to make sure you're near the water and not the road. Boy, can it get noisy.
The hotel is great for being close to Americanville and Marigot. Since we found ourselves heading to Grand Case and Orient Beach everyday, we had to contend with the traffic. The trip to Phillipsburg is even worse. If you can try to avoid this problem, stay at Orient and eat at Grand Case. Even the trip to Philipsburg is less of a problem.
Some of our highlights. We did a day trip to St. Barths on Quicksilver. Yes, we did the timeshare thing at Sapphire and got the free tickets. We had enough time to have a nice lunch, spend a little time on the beach, and see the island from our rented Moke from Avis.
We also chartered a 51-foot sail boat for the day from Sun Sails. This boat had four bedrooms and baths and a complete kitchen, certainly good enough for an overnight stay, but this was only for the day. Thanks to our Captain, Martin, we had the best day of our lives. We left at 10am and returned at about 7P.M.
We packed food and drinks and sailed for part of the time, and got in the water for a swim or two, or just relaxed on the boat the rest of the time. When coming back, we even showered and brought a change of clothes for evening activities.
Now on to the good stuff, the food. I can't say we had a bad meal anywhere. The ones we tried are as follows: Ul'Nettuno - best Italian food anywhere, make sure you have Jarad as your waiter. It was so good we went twice and we were remember from last year. Rancho del Sol - simple menu, but good Mexican food. Mark's place - still good, but Mark needs to freshen up on his personality. I thought he was just having a bad day last year. Maybe he's having a bad year. We won't return for a while. Don Camillo - also good Italian food. California good food, but probably the least liked meal of the whole trip. Papagayo - great for lunch and dinner. Most of us had great swordfish for dinner one night. Cafe Mastradani - still zee best for breakfast. Danny made sandwiches for our boat trip. Ric's Place - yes, this is American food, but the best place to stop for lunch while shopping in Philipsburg. Once in a while a good cheeseburger and onion rings sounds real good. Rick and Kathy have moved their place from Old Town to a spot on the water on the other side of the courthouse. This couple visited St. Martin regularly until about 4 years ago when a visit prompted them to buy the restaurant. Glad to see them doing well. Cheri's - a good place for food and music and a little nightlife whether it be the disco, casinos, or some more shopping. I usually save dessert for next door. Try the oreos, kahlua, and baileys concoction with ice cream or yogurt. Royal Food Mart - no, not a restaurant, but a great place to buy those 7-11 items you need. It's located in Nettle Bay. We visited several times a day for bread, sodas, booze, suntan lotion, ice, ice cooler, etc.
What about beaches? Orient is still our favorite. Yes, it's become very crowded, which has all but eliminated its clothing optional status except for at Club Orient. There were a few brave souls who ventured away from the Club. No sign, however, of the enforcement banning clothing optional activities. For entertainment, as if you needed it, you can watch those fools, I mean, persons bungy jumping from a parasail. We also visited Cupecouy. What happened to the beach near the cliffs? It's about gone. In addition, we also hung out at Baie Rouge, which is a personal favorite of mine.
All in all, we had a great trip, got a great tan, missed two snowstorms back home, and got fat. In the future, we will probably stay near Orient to avoid the traffic. Whenever we stay over at Nettle Bay, we don't seem relaxed when we get home. My personal favorite hotel is L'Hoste. I have recommended it several times with great results. I stopped by and thanked Pierre and Marie for accommodating my friends so well.
St. Martin by Steve Siguaw
St. Martin/Sint Maarten in the Off-Season
The following is how to enjoy this paradise and afford it without selling the kids nor getting a second mortgage on your home:
The off-season in the Caribbean is generally the more reasonably priced time to get to know this truly wonderful paradise. Hotels, meals and even air fare is far more reasonable in the months of April-Dec. (15th) than during the high season of the prime winter months. My wife and I returned from our third visit to St. Martin last November and we came back more impressed after each visit and with the knowledge that it is affordable if you try.
Car Rental (La Boiture)
We always get a car. Budget Rent-A-Car has a weekly rate of $144.00 for a compact car and will deliver the car to your hotel or there is an office one block from the airport. We found Budget to be the cheapest when booking in advance. There are also several local rental companies as well as the other big rental firms at the airport and around the island. Check your prices before you rent!
Hotels (Ou sejourner)
The French side of the island is much more quiet than the Dutch side. We have stayed at the Pelican Reef on the Dutch side and the Grand Case Beach Club on the French side. The Pelican is lively, has a nice small beach and caters to a primarily American clientele. It is near the airport and within walking distance of several nice restaurants and bars (more about this later). Room rates vary from $125.00 to $205.00 depending on the type of accommodations you wish. This resort is also a very large time-share facility.
Grand Case Beach Club (our second time there) is very quiet, friendly and has an international mix of guests. It is located a short walk from the village of Grand Case and has its own beach. The rooms are very clean, offer nice views of the sea and are like most of the other rooms in hotels on the island. Prices vary from $95.00 per day to $150.00 per day depending on size (again, keep checking as the rates for all hotels on the island vary-). Continental breakfast is included in the price.
Another hotel we would recommend is the brand new L'Esplanade Hotel in Grand Case (very near the Grand Case Beach Club-look up the hill!). We toured the rooms and they are incredibly nice. They offer studios and 1 bedroom lofts; all with views of the sea. Prices range from $95.00 per day to $180.00 per day depending on the number of people. A 10-15% discount is offered if you book directly with the hotel.
There are many other reasonable and some very cheap places to stay on the island. Some examples are: The Sea Breeze Hotel (Dutch Side) for $55-$85 per night; The Pasanggrahan Royal Inn (downtown Philipsburg) for $68-$88 per night; and the Heva right in Grand Case. Of course you can always ignore your gray matter and stay at La Samanna if you intend to get that second mortgage on your house in order to pay for your stay!
Another item to consider in your hotel cost is the government tax. The Dutch side will charge a 5% daily tax on your room. In addition, a service charge of 10-15% may be levied by the hotel. Watch out! The French side charges $3.00 per person/day and the service charge is not common on the French side (neither Grand Case Beach Club, L'Habitation, Mt. Vernon, nor Club Orient have a service charge).
Beaches (Les Plages)
There are some 37 accessible beaches on the island. The most popular are Maho, Mullet Bay, Orient Bay (clothes optional), Dawn Beach and Bay Rouge. All beaches are topless. To make you feel more comfortable, I'd estimate that over 75% of the women are topless (the exceptions are some of the American women; yet many do get up the courage to "pop their tops" and find that it really doesn't matter to anyone!). Approximately 50% of the women and about 35% of the men wear 'thong bottoms'.
The less popular beaches and the least crowded beaches are (don't tell anyone though): Cupe Coy (clothes optional), Long Bay (clothes optional to the right), Grand Case Beach-northern end and Plum Bay. Bring your own food and water (except for Cupe Coy which has refreshments from an island native). If you want to be seen, these beaches are not for you. If you want solitude, just walk down the beach for 5 minutes and you'll be alone.
Running is one of the highlights of a trip to St. Martin. The Sint. Maarten
Road Runners are very active. They meet on Wednesday's at the Sports Complex (near the hospital on the Dutch side) at 5:00 P.M.-approximate 10K run;
Friday's at Maho near the convenience store at 5:00 P.M. to run on the golf course; and they have a long run (20km or more) on Sunday from the Royal Palm Beach Club at 6:30 am to Marigot on the French side. After this long run, they usually eat breakfast and a truck returns the runners to the Royal Palm. Stop in at Tri Sport near the bridge at Royal Palm Beach Club and talk with Malcolm Maidwell about these training runs and any possible races while you're visiting. Malcolm is the Caribbean Champion in the triathalon for his age group and an excellent runner! He also owns Tri Sport.
The highlight of our trips to St. Martin has been running with these local runners and even entering one of their races. In addition, you will get first hand experience about how to run against their most interesting traffic!
Many of the road runners also compete in triathalons and have practice triathalons prior to the long Sunday training run. The biggest triathalon for St. Maarten takes place the first weekend in December on the Dutch side and it attracts a very competitive field.
There are also swim competitions held for all levels. Again, stop in at Tri Sport (mentioned above) and ask for details.
Wind surfing is the best at Orient Beach. The trade winds can really kick up on this side of the island making the surfing great.
Hobies, Jet Skies, and Sunfish can also be rented at Orient Beach as well as some of the other popular beaches mentioned above.
Yacht races are frequent on St. Martin. When we were there, they had a race around the island (2 day race) with an overnight stop at Tintamarre. Inquire at Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg.
Snorkeling is popular in most all places. The best places I have been include north of Grand Case Beach Club, Green Cay (north end), Dawn Beach (south end) and off Pelican Reef (Pelican Resort). Ilet Pinel is also rumored to have great snorkeling. Scuba trips can be arranged through many of the hotels if you're certified.
Cycling is another sport that is enjoyed on the island. The triathaletes train daily and it is easy to join up with a partner for your ride. Again, contact Malcolm at Tri Sport for information.
Moderate (Prices are for two people)
1. Bistro Nu in Marigot (ask for directions from your hotel). L restaurant with excellent food. We had a lobster salad appetizer, cornish hen, squid and dessert for $69.00. Some unique items on the chalk board menu when we ate there were: alligator, wild boar and rattlesnake. Not on the tourist list of restaurants.
2. Il Nettuno in Grand Case. Great Italian food with a fantastic water. We had gnocchi's (wow!). Total cost was $64.00 (appetizer, main course and dessert). Very romantic.
3. Cha-Cha-Cha's in Grand Case. Excellent mango daiquiris and a menu, especially the night's specials. Total cost $67.00 (appetizer, main course and dessert).
4. L'Auberge Gourmande in Grand Case. The most incredible meal had. Total cost $68.00 (appetizer, main course and the chocolate sampler for dessert).
It doesn't get any better than this. Everything on the island is duty free. No import nor export taxes. Please, barter for everything. Some great deals can be made if you come prepared with a knowledge of what you want and its cost back home. The shops on the Dutch side get more tourists than on the French side (the cruise ships dock on the Dutch side!). The French shopkeepers are genuinely happy that you want to buy something. Local handicrafts can be obtained in Philipsburg from the Shipwreck shop and the new Island Craft Shop (walk toward the Marina from the pier and it is on the beach side of the street). A nice new mineral found in the Caribbean is Larimer-pale blue in color which perfectly matches the Caribbean sky. The art galleries feature local artists such as Minguet (best deals are at his studio in Rambaud) and many unknown artists as well. Lithographs can be purchased from $10.00 on up in Philipsburg or Marigot.
What to Avoid (Du Hasard)
Please avoid being an ugly American. You are in a foreign country (actually 2 foreign countries). Your culture is very different than either of theirs. Respect and a nice smile goes a long way here. Above all, enjoy your visit to the real (and inexpensive) Caribbean. A long forgotten author once wrote, "Qui vit sans follie, n'est pas aussi sage qu'il croit." (Whoever lives without folly is not as wise as he thinks.)
USVI Three Island Report by James Piwowarczyk
My wife and I have recently returned from twelve days in the USVI, visiting St. Thomas (STT), St. Croix (STX) and St. John (STJ). We fell in love with STJ and would like to move there some day. In fact, we are planning another vacation to STJ for two weeks next year. We are looking at places that we could rent near Maho Bay. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
We beat some nasty weather out of the midwest (American Airlines was most accommodating during our entire trip.) and landed on STT. Wanting to spend some of our time as close to the people as possible, we spent our first night at Hotel Le Petit. Our second night was spent at Emerald Beach resort. Since each of us traveled with only one duffle bag, we found moving around to be no big deal. On STT, we met some interesting taxi drivers, hotel employees and restaurant staff. We had some cool ones at Fat Tuesday's and dinner at Panchita's.
Since this was our first visit to the Caribbean, we took the mandatory taxi tour of STT. The traffic and tourists were wall to wall. At Emerald Beach, all of the rooms overlook the water, and despite its proximity to the airport, it was an enjoyable hotel with a fine beach and an open air restaurant.
We flew to STX and our first impression of Frederiksted was not positive. Its main downtown section has a way to go to attract tourists. The people on STX were most hospitable. We stayed at Cottages By The Sea and we did have acquaintances (now friends) to visit with. We stayed at the Cottages' cactus cottage and were greeted our first night there with an ice cream social. Our friends invited us to a Valentine's Day dinner/dance at the STX yacht club. We also were invited and attended a 50th wedding anniversary party of the previous owners of Cottages. My wife and I were just bowled over by the warmth and consideration of all the residents and long time guests at the Cottages, although this was only our first time in the Caribbean.
We went on Big Beard's catamaran ride to Buck island and did some great snorkeling. We had lunch in Christiansted at Tivolini's. We ate many of our meals at the Cottages, while enjoying the warmth and restfulness of the sun and the water.
We spent a morning shopping and touring Frederiksted, including the aquarium and we lunched at Pier 69. When we were not enjoying the pleasures at the Cottages, we rented a jeep and toured the rain forest including the many impressive views of the shoreline of STX. We had burgers at Cane Bay. We drove out to Sandy Point and on this particular evening had a great time at Pat and Mac McFees 50th wedding anniversary party at the Cafe de Solied (sic).
The following day we had lunch at Cheeseburgers in Paradise. While Cynthia was doing some shopping in Christiansted, I drove the jeep up to Point Udall. The views were breath-taking and I located a deserted beach just around the bend from Point Udall. There was so much to see and do on STX, that sometimes I felt I wouldn't get it all in.
We visited the Whim Plantation, which gave us a better appreciation for the history of the island. Our friends, the Wenniger's, who live just behind the Cottages, had us over for dinner on our last night on STX and we met some of their friends and Cynthia and I felt a real connection to the wonderful people of STX.
We then flew from STX to STT, caught a taxi to Red Hook, then caught the ferry to Cruz Bay on STJ. After a quick walking tour of Cruz Bay, and a quick lunch, we checked into the Inn at Tamarind Court. The STJ chemistry was already beginning to affect Cynthia and I. We checked a few rental car agencies, and despite it being their busy season, we rented a car and took off to explore the island. No more than two minutes out of Cruz Bay, we came across the string of beaches and bays of Solomon, Honeymoon, Caneel, Hawknest, Trunk, Cinnamon and Maho, to name a few. We sunned, swam and snorkeled at Maho Bay. Over the next few days, we found far fewer people at Maho Bay and it became our destination of choice. The rolling hills, the beaches and the sparkling clear turquoise waters all combined to make us feel as if we had entered a fairy land. We continued our initial tour of STJ to the east end.
That first day on STJ, we had dinner and immediately made a few phone calls which allowed us to extend our stay on STJ for a couple of more days than planned. The following morning, while Cynthia did some shopping a Mongoose Junction, I explored the hiking trails out of Cruz Bay and spent some time enjoying the sun, wind and water at Solomon beach. We spent the afternoon at Cinnamon Bay and had dinner at Mongoose Restaurant.
The following morning, by prior arrangement, Cynthia and I met some friends on STJ. We exchanged some unpleasantries about "snow" back home and then settled down to talking about really important stuff, like what beaches each of us were going to hit that day.
Cynth and I had brunch at Woody's and met the owner - Todd. He does have a strong resemblance to Woody on "Cheers", hence the name of the restaurant. He's a young fellow, following his dream. Cynth and I wish him the best.
We moved over to Gallows Point and enjoyed the view from the balcony. Cynth did more shopping and I strolled back to Solomon beach. We picked up a couple of orders of barbecued ribs and chicken at a corner lean to in Cruz Bay and had dinner in the condo that evening. Great ribs, chicken and sauce!!! We laughed when I suggested that we were dead - and landed up in heaven. We had our morning coffee and yogurt on our balcony over looking Pillsbury Sound. We continued our snorkeling off of the beach at Gallows Point and also out at Maho Bay.
We toured Maho Bay Campgrounds and took a look at the new Harmony units, which were built with recyclable material and using solar powered tools. The units are off of the power grid and are powered totally by wind and solar power. We hope to stay at Harmony sometime next year. Back at Cruz Bay, one of our favorite spots for refreshments or a meal is Luscious Licks (LL). Our last evening on St. John found us back at LL for some Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I took a final swim in the turquoise waters on the morning of our departure from paradise. Cynth and I promised each other that we would try to maintain some of St. John's warmth in our hearts as we continue our every day life in Wisconsin. Aside from vacations, perhaps some day we will be able to call ourselves residents of St. John.
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