Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 96
July 15, 1999

Last Update 12 July 99 1900ET

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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MELIA BAVARO PUNTA CANA BY JIM HINSCH

Trip 5/1999

Summary.
The  Melia  Bavaro is a magnificent and lush tropical paradise located 
on  one  of  the  most  beautiful stretches of beach in the Caribbean.  
They  have  good  food  and a fabulous pool.  They offer a great value 
and  set the standard for resorts in the Dominican Republic.  In fact, 
all  3  of  the  Melia  properties visited on this trip (Melia Bavaro, 
Melia  Paradisus, and Melia Tropical) get the highest overall marks of 
any  property  I've  visited  in  the Dominican Republic.  I recommend 
booking  with the MAP plan (breakfast and dinner buffet, no drinks, no 
a-la-carte dining) and purchasing food and dining options as needed.

Punta Cana.
Punta  Cana area is relatively new to tourism.  It is in a remote part 
of  the  country, about 3 1/2 hrs drive time east of the Santo Domingo 
Las  Americas  International  Airport, along one of the most beautiful 
white  silk-fine  sand palm-studded beaches in the country, if not the 
entire  Caribbean  and  world.  10-12  years ago, a group of investors 
developed  the  area  by  building  about  5  or 6 mega-resorts and an 
airport.  For  example,  at  Bavaro Beach Resort, you can walk about a 
mile along the beach and still be inside the resort.  

Outside  the  resorts is mostly empty countryside.  The resort workers 
usually  live  on-site  in  resort-supplied  housing and come from all 
over  the  island.   Today,  there  are  dozens of big resorts on this 
beach  over  a  stretch  of beach about 20 miles long.  The Punta Cana 
area  is  the  most  beautiful  beach  area in the Dominican Republic, 
possibly  the  entire Caribbean, with its 20 - 30 miles of silky white 
soft  sand  and  thousands  upon  thousands  of  coconut palms.  It is 
absolutely  gorgeous.  The area has a mild surf and tends to be on the 
windy  side.   It  sits  on  the  East-southeast edge of the Dominican 
Republic.  

Because  this  area  is remote, people selecting this kind of vacation 
should  plan  on  spending  almost  all  their time at the resort. Any 
excursions  are  likely  to  be  distant  and  time-consuming  because 
everything  is  hours  away.   People  that  want to see the Dominican 
Republic  from  a  perspective other than a beach resort should not go 
to  the  Punta  Cana  area  but  instead  head  to  the  North (Puerto 
Plata/Sosua/Cabarete/Playa  Dorada  area) or South (Santo Domingo/Boca 
Chica/La Romana/Juan Dolio/San Pedro area). 

Getting to Punta Cana.
Getting  to  Punta  Cana  can  be  a  challenge.   The  only scheduled 
commercial  flights  from the USA are on American Eagle from San Juan, 
Puerto  Rico and only in the morning.  This means that for people that 
do  not  live in Miami, Chicago, or NY, where one can catch a non-stop 
to  San  Juan,  it  is not possible to fly into Punta Cana on the same 
day  you  depart.   You would have to connect and over-night in one of 
those  3  cities  in  order to arrive in San Juan early enough to make 
the  flight  to  Punta Cana.  Similarly, most would also have to over-
night on the return.  

The  alternatives  are the many charter flights that fly directly into 
Punta  Cana from a variety of cities in the USA.  The drawback is that 
charters  have  limited  schedules  and  the  tiniest problem with the 
aircraft  or  crew  can cause lengthy delays.  Delays of a day or more 
are  not  uncommon  on  charters  and  multi-hour delays are frequent.  
Another  option is to fly into La Romana airport, which is about 1 1/2 
hours  west of Punta Cana and there are regularly scheduled flights on 
American  Airlines from Miami (jet service) and flights from San Juan, 
Puerto  Rico  on  American Eagle.  A taxi from La Romana to Punta Cana 
runs about US$70 each way.  

Another  option  is  to  fly  into Santo Domingo and take a taxi 3 1/2 
hours  East  to  Punta  Cana.   This  may  seem  like an uncomfortable 
experience,  but  the  tour  buses  and  taxis  are  very  nice,  air-
conditioned,  plush,  and comfortable.  As a final option, flights are 
available  from  Santo  Domingo  or La Romana to Punta Cana and can be 
arranged  by  calling  Air Santo Domingo at 809-549-1005 or Caribe Air 
(809)550-2585 / 221-8076 / 542-6688.  Helicopters are also available.

Arrival.
The  Melia  Bavaro  is  located  on the East/Southeast coast of Bavaro 
Beach  in  the Dominican Republic, approximately 3 - 3 1/2 hours drive 
east  of  Santo  Domingo's  Las  Americas International Airport, 1 1/2 
hours   east   of   La   Romana's   Aero  Base  International  Airport 
(http://www.aerobase.com),  and  10  minutes  north-northwest of Punta 
Cana's  international  airport.  The easy choices for arrival from the 
USA were to fly into one of these 3 airports.

Except  for  charters, non-stop flights into Punta Cana come only from 
San  Juan,  Puerto  Rico  on American Eagle turbo-prop service.  Since 
there  were  not  any non-stop flights to San Juan from my originating 
city,  we  chose to fly into Miami and then on to La Romana to avoid a 
second  connection.   La  Romana's  Airport  is  a tiny airport with a 
single  gate  and  actually  crosses  the 18th hole of Casa de Campo's 
Teeth  of  the  Dog  golf course, where an armed guard sits in a chair 
all  day  letting  golfers  know  when  it  is  safe to cross.  At the 
airport,  expect  very little in the way of amenities such as food and 
duty free.  Taxis and rental cars are available on site.

Once  in La Romana, we decided to take a taxi for the 1 1/2 hour drive 
to  the  resort  instead  of renting a car.  Although there were signs 
most  of  the  way  to the resort, we were glad we took a taxi because 
there  were  a  couple of turns through the town of Higuey where there 
were not any signs and we surely would have gotten lost.

The  taxi  wanted  RD$1300  for  the trip, which we negotiated down to 
RD$1000  (about US$62.50).  The road from La Romana to Punta Cana is a 
two-lane  highway,  severely  pot-holed in spots with not much scenery 
and  many slow moving trucks and buses which were difficult to pass at 
times  for  10-minutes  stretches.   The  trip  took us 1hr 45min. and 
included two beer stops and two rest stops.

Melia Bavaro Hotel.
The  Melia Bavaro opened in 1991 and the second phase was completed in 
1994.   The  lobby  of  the  hotel is magnificent.  It includes a pond 
with  turtles and parrots at the entrance, giant ceilings supported by 
massive   marble   pillars,  and  lush  plant  life  throughout.   The 
perimeter  is lined with a variety of stores, including a decent sized 
grocery  store  where  wines,  liquors,  foreign  magazines, munchies, 
medicine,  suntan  lotion  (expect  to  pay US$20 for a good bottle of 
lotion), etc.

Upon  arrival  at  the  hotel,  we  checked  in,  which  took about 15 
minutes,  included a detailed explanation of what was included and our 
dining  options,  and  we  were  given  two  tiny  non-alcoholic punch 
drinks.   We  also  received  a  key  for  the room safe, a map of the 
resort,  and  plastic wrist bracelets which were to be worn throughout 
our  stay.  We  were taken to our room about 1/4 mile away via a golf-
cart  train  and  our  luggage was transported to our room separately.  
The  luggage  arrived  minutes  after  we did and the room was already 
reasonably cooled by the air conditioner.

Our Deal.
The  going  price  for a junior suite in a bungalow, which is what the 
majority  of the rooms are, including breakfast and dinner buffets but 
does  not  include  drinks  and does not including dining at the a-la-
carte  restaurants  (MAP  plan)  was  US$85  per person per night + 7% 
tax.   An upgrade to include beverages and limited dining at the a-la-
carte  restaurants  (once  per  week  at  any restaurant at any of the 
properties  of  Melia  Bavaro, Melia Paradisus, or Melia Tropical) was 
US$35 per person per night.

This  trip  was given to us complimentary on the MAP plan for 5 nights 
by  the  owners  of  the  DR1  Web  site (www.dr1.com) as an award for 
submitting  the  best  hotel  and property reviews in 1998.  They also 
arranged  for  us to upgrade to the all-inclusive plan at a discounted 
US$25 per person per night.

The Grounds.
The  resort is massive, forming a rectangular area about 1/8 mile wide 
along  the  beach  and  about  1/3  mile deep.  The grounds are lushly 
landscaped  with a wide variety of trees and plants.  This is the most 
lush  and  colorful landscaped resort I have stayed at anywhere in the 
Caribbean  so far and also the most beautiful, with plants and flowers 
right  next door to where my room was (in building 74) or on the other 
side  of  the  pool  and  also  at  the beach (buildings 1 and 2).  It 
appears as though they also have standard hotel rooms available.

There  was  a  ceiling  fan  over  the bed, a sitting area with a good 
sized  TV,  a  dining  area  with  4  chairs, a wet-bar, a mini-fridge 
stocked  with  various  beverages  and snacks, and a seating area with 
two  rattan  love-seats and a coffee table.  The wet bar had a lighted 
glass  rack  overhead  and  was stocked with a few drinking glasses in 
addition  to a few drinking glasses left on the counter and a stack of 
napkins in a napkin dispenser.

The  main  area  in  the  room  was  tiled  and  the sleeping area was 
carpeted.   The  room  was one of the nicer hotel rooms I've stayed at 
in  the  Caribbean  and  the raised sleeping area was charming, with a 
"love  nest" look to it.  Off the main seating area was a medium sized 
balcony  with  a  table  and two rattan chairs.  There was very little 
drawer  space.   The only drawers were a set of very slim ones mounted 
below  a set of glass shelves.  They were so slim that each could hold 
perhaps  1  pair  of  jeans  or  a  single row of socks.  I stacked my 
clothes on the glass shelves.

The  bathroom  was  separated  into  two parts by swinging doors.  The 
first  part had a marble sink, blow dryer on the wall, and a porcelain 
sink  embedded in a marble counter top.  Behind it was the closet with 
full  length  mirrors on the closet doors and a room safe inside.  The 
closet  was loaded with decent hangers as found in nicer hotels around 
the  world.   The  second  area  contained  the toilet, a bidet, and a 
porcelain  tub  with  shower  mounted  in  marble.  Water pressure was 
excellent  but  the  only way I could get an acceptably hot shower was 
to  keep  it all the way on hot, which was just the right temperature.  
There were loose flowers placed throughout the room.

The  air  conditioner  had  problems.  During our entire stay, despite 
multiple  calls  and  visits  from  the  air conditioner repairman, it 
never  cooled the room below 77F although it was on full blast all the 
time.   We had to turn it to low late at night because of the rattling 
noise  made  by  the blower motor.  At 77F, the room was borderline at 
keeping us comfortable.

The  bed, charming as it looked, was very uncomfortable.  The mattress 
was  so  severely  pilled  that  it felt like sleeping on fine bits of 
gravel  through  the  sheets and the pillows were very hard.  I called 
to  get  the  mattress  replaced.   They offered to move us to another 
room,  and when I suggested that it would be easier to swap mattresses 
than  to  relocate all of our stuff, I was told that all the beds were 
the  same, that new mattresses had been ordered for the resort but had 
not  yet  arrived,  and  that  nothing could be done.  Other guests we 
spoke  with  told  us  that  they  had  the  same complaint about hard 
pillows  and  a  severely pilled mattress.  The mattress problem could 
easily have been solved by adding a mattress pad.

Each  day, the mini-fridge was restocked.  With the all-inclusive plan 
we  had signed up for, beverages were free but snacks, cigarettes, and 
sun  cream  were  extra.   There wasn't any extra room to put a few of 
the items that we had brought with us and it didn't have an ice area.

The  room did not come with an ice bucket.  I asked at the bar and was 
told  I could not have one, but they gave me a plastic bag full of ice 
that  I  placed in the sink of the wet bar.  It melted after a day.  I 
called  the front desk and asked what I had to do to get an ice bucket 
and  they  sent  over  a  champagne bucket with ice, which also lasted 
about a day and wasn't any better for us than the sink had been.

The  room was decorated with terracotta lamps and vases.  The TV had a 
good  supply of English speaking cable stations.  I had brought my own 
music  and  candles.  On our second day, the maid brought us robes and 
management  sent  a  fruit  basket  to the room that contained a large 
pineapple  already  cut  up  and the pieces placed back inside.  Other 
fruit  included  a  couple  mangos, chinolas, chinas (like an orange), 
and  bananas.   Others  guests said that they did not receive robes or 
fruit  baskets.  The room also came with a large golf umbrella for our 
use, but luckily we never needed it

Overall,  the  room  was  one  of the loveliest rooms ever, in a prime 
location,   and   with   the  exceptions  of  poor  air  conditioning, 
uncomfortable  bed  and  pillows,  and no ice bucket, was great.  Next 
time,  we'll  bring our own pillows, a mattress pad, and a collapsible 
ice bucket.

Service.
Service  was  prompt throughout the resort except at the pool bar.  In 
fact,  they  seemed  to  have  a  follow-up procedure in place because 
whenever  I  placed a call about something, I always received a return 
call  shortly  after where the person calling wanted verification that 
my  concern had been properly addressed.  We even ordered room service 
one  night,  and  1/2  hour  after the meal was brought, we received a 
phone  call  asking  if everything had arrived to our satisfaction.  I 
was impressed with this level of service and follow-up.

The Pool.
There  were  two pools, but the smaller of the two was located way out 
by  the  reception  area  and  I never saw anybody use it.  The larger 
pool  was  a  massive free-form wading pool with a continuous depth of 
about  3 1/2 feet and a small offshoot with about a 2 foot depth.  The 
pool  had a swim-up bar and the entrances were gradual slopes.  It was 
kept  clean  and  was  gorgeous.   It  was one of the largest swimming 
pools  I've  ever  seen,  although it is hard to tell when pools start 
getting  that  big.  It was surrounded by beach chairs made of plastic 
with   a  nylon  material  suspended  over  them  so  they  were  more 
comfortable than plain plastic lounge chairs.  

The  pool  was  also surrounded by thatch roof canopies, most of which 
had  small  tables  built  into their center support post.  There were 
plenty  of  chairs  and  canopies at all times of the day, even though 
the  resort  was  80%  full.  The pool area was so large that it never 
felt  crowded.   It  was  very  annoying at times when they decided to 
blast  music  while  we  were trying to relax, decided to MC a game of 
water  polo,  or yelled off bingo numbers in 4 languages poolside.  It 
was  very annoying and occurred in late morning and during much of the 
afternoon.   Also, there were occasionally chickens walking around the 
pool area.

There  was  no  pool service, so to get drinks one had to go to one of 
the  nearby  bars or restaurants, or swim up to the pool bar.  Service 
was  very  slow  at  the  pool bar.  It seemed it took the bartender a 
full  minute  for  each  and  every drink and then it was like pulling 
teeth  to get him to also have you sign for it so you could be on your 
way.   No  top  shelf  liquor was available anywhere at the resort and 
the  drinks  had  to be vodka, rum, whiskey, or gin based.  There were 
no  fresh fruit drinks available at the pool bar, or any other bar for 
that  matter,  anywhere  in  the  resort.   I  specifically  asked.  I 
ultimately  was  able  to  get  a banana drink at the snack bar, where 
previously  they had been out of bananas.  All other fruit drinks were 
made from concentrate from a can.

There  were  two  massage  tents  located  near  the  pool.   We  made 
reservations  for massages one day at 6pm.  When we arrived, they were 
not  ready  for us and after waiting until 6:30p, we decided to leave.  
They  kept  telling  us  it  would  be just a little longer but we had 
dinner  reservations  and  had  to  go get ready, so we left, somewhat 
upset.   I returned the next day and received an OK massage for 1 hour 
for US$45.

The  room  came  with two big blue beach towels and they were replaced 
every  day.  The first and second day, they did not take the old beach 
towels  so we had 6 towels by the 3rd day.  We never did use the beach 
towel  cards  they gave us at check-in, which we were supposed to have 
to  use  in order to get beach towels at the pool.  A sign at the pool 
indicated  that you must be present in order to reserve a lounge chair 
and  that  placing a towel on a chair and leaving meant that the chair 
was  subject  to  being used by others.  For that reason I had brought 
my  own towels as well, but I never had to use them because there were 
always plenty of open lounge chairs.

The Beach.
The  beach was as beautiful as beaches get.  It was wide and miles and 
miles  long.   The sand was a powdery white silky soft sand and it was 
completely  studded  with  palm  trees  along the back.  There were no 
stones  or  sticks  or  any  kind  of  debris mixed in.  The beach was 
covered  with  the  same  lounge chairs and thatch roof canopies as by 
the  pool  and  there  were  no  shortages  at  all.   The beach had a 
continuous  warm  stiff  breeze  and  the water had a mild surf, a bit 
small  most  of  the  time  for  body-surfing  but  too much for water 
skiing.   A myriad of non-motorized water sports were available for an 
extra  charge.  I snorkeled off the beach but never saw anything but a 
clean  soft  sandy  bottom.  For US$13, I took a snorkel tour out to a 
nearby  reef, which entailed a very rough 10 minute boat ride.  There, 
the  snorkeling  was  good  but not great.  I was a little miffed with 
the  water  sports  people  as  one  day  I  had  called  about  going 
snorkeling  and  was  told  I  could  go at 11am.  When I showed up at 
11am,  they  told me the boat was going to be used for a scuba tour so 
that  there  would  be  no  snorkel  tour  that  morning.  I was upset 
because  I already had other plans for the afternoon, which I ended up 
canceling  so  that  I  could  go  snorkeling.  They should really get 
their act together on that.

About  60-80%  of  the female guests were topless.  There were no nude 
sunbathing  areas.  The beach area in front of the Melia was among the 
cleanest  I saw and also among the most sparsely populated.  The beach 
area  between  the water and the part where all the palm trees started 
was quite wide.

I  took  a 5 mile walk along the beach to the North.  The beach seemed 
endless.   Along  the beach it was resort after resort, with virtually 
no  undeveloped  area until I reached the Riu, after which I could not 
see  the  next  hotel  but  didn't want to walk any further.  I took a 
taxi  back  because  my  feet  were  starting to hurt.  Looking at the 
resorts  along  the  way,  I  passed  briefly  through each.  They all 
seemed  virtually  indistinguishable from one another, with only minor 
differences  in  layout and accommodations.  They all looked great.  I 
did  notice  that  it was a lot more crowded at the other resorts than 
the  Melia  and they didn't keep their beach quite as pristine as some 
of  them had allowed bits of seaweed to accumulate along the shore.  I 
stopped  several  times  along the walk to buy beer and passed several 
kiosk areas where tourist goods were being sold by locals.

Overall,  this is one of the most impressive beaches in the Caribbean, 
if  not  the  world.   The endless stretches of soft powder white sand 
contrasted  by  the crystal blue waters and thousands of coconut palms 
is  the  ideal  picture  of  what  comes  to  mind when one imagines a 
tropical paradise.

Food.
Originally,  I  had  signed  up  for  the  MAP  plan,  which  included 
breakfast  and  dinner  at the buffets only.  Drinks were not included 
and  it  did  not include eating at any of the many sit down and order 
(a-la-carte)  restaurants.   For  US$35  per  person  per  night, they 
offered  an upgrade to include beverages and meals at any of the a-la-
carte  restaurants,  including  those at the Melia Paradisus next door 
or  the  Melia  Tropical  down the road.  We upgraded.  Later, I found 
out  that guests an the all-inclusive plan we upgraded to were given a 
different  wine  list  and  a different and significantly limited menu 
altogether  at some of the restaurants.  It turns out that the upgrade 
was not a good deal at all.

We  were unable to sample all the restaurants at all of the resorts so 
I  will  just  comment  on  the ones that we were able to try.  I must 
point  out  that  we had a very difficult time getting reservations to 
eat  at  the  a-la-carte  restaurants.   There  was  little  chance of 
getting  a  reservation  the same day.  Before I arrived, I had feared 
this  and  wrote  an E-mail asking if it would be prudent to make some 
reservations  before  I  arrived at the resort.  I was assured that it 
would not be a problem and to wait until I arrived.  

Wrong.   Reservations  can only be made at a service desk in the lobby 
between  the  hours  of  9am  and 3pm and we didn't even arrive at the 
resort  until  4pm.   I  complained  to a person at the guest services 
counter  and  she  (Carmen  Barral)  was very nice about it, made some 
phone  calls,  and  got  us  into the Gourmet restaurant Licey for our 
first  night.   On  the  second day, when we could not get into any of 
the  other  restaurants  that we wanted to try because they were full, 
we  opted  to eat at one of the nearby restaurants in the other hotels 
and  quickly  made  our  reservations  for the rest of the trip.  Good 
thing the Melia Bavaro was only 80% full.

The  Melia properties seemed to have the best dressed dinner guests of 
any  resort  I've  been  to in the Dominican Republic, with many women 
wearing  long  evening dresses, many men wearing jackets and ties, and 
I  even saw some tuxedos, which I thought was a bit much.  Regardless, 
I  enjoyed  dining  with  an  elegantly  dressed  crowd  and the table 
settings and service matched.

I  must  note  that birds frequently entered the buffet areas and were 
not  always  chased  away in time to keep them from making a few pecks 
at the public food.

Hispaniola - Melia Bavaro.
This  was  always a buffet and was the main dining room of the resort.  
We  only  ate  there  for  breakfast.    As a breakfast buffet, it was 
decent.   There  were  cooked  to  order  eggs,  waffles, and pancakes 
available,  as  well  as  the standard array of breakfast foods served 
buffet  style.   Two of the days they served fresh squeezed juices but 
the  other  days, juices were from concentrate.  The buffet was not as 
big  as that of the Bavaro Palace hotel, whose dining areas where huge 
compared  to  that  at the Melia, but they made up for it with quality 
and great service.

Licey (gourmet) - Melia Bavaro.
The  Gourmet  restaurant  at  the  Melia  Bavaro takes place in an air 
conditioned  building  located  in the center of a pond.  The building 
is  windowed  from  floor  to  ceiling  on all sides and has a bar and 
disco  on  one side.  The pond has many pink flamingos standing around 
and  makes  for  a  very beautiful and romantic setting.  The food was 
pretty  good.   It  wasn't  until  after I had ordered my food and was 
unhappy  with  the  wine  list  that I asked if there was another wine 
list  available where I could buy the wine.  I was handed another menu 
that  had  a  fair selection of wines at reasonable prices but it also 
was  the  regular  dinner  menu.   Had  I  seen it first, I would have 
gladly  paid  for  my  dinner in order to get the rack of lamb, but it 
was  too  late.   Our meals were pretty good and service was extremely 
attentive.  The setting was elegant.

Mexican - Melia Paradisus.
The  Melia Paradisus is right next door to the Melia Bavaro.  In fact, 
from  the  beach side, you cannot tell where one resort begins and one 
ends.   The  food  was  very  good  at  the Mexican restaurant and the 
service  was  also  excellent.  I had the beef tip served farmer style 
with a tortilla soup.

Italian - Melia Bavaro.
A   small  restaurant  with  a  variety  of  pasta  dishes.   Veronica 
absolutely  loved  her  pasta  dish  but  I  don't like pasta much and 
ordered  the  veal marsala, which was quite good.  Their wine list was 
poor  but it was a lunch and we were generally happy with the meal and 
the service was excellent.

Chinese - Melia Tropical.
This  was  the favorite of our restaurants.  I'm not that big of a fan 
of  Chinese  food,  but  this  place  was magnificent.  The setting is 
grand  with  high cathedral ceilings and elegantly decorated.  Service 
was  very  attentive  and  they cook everything fresh in plain view of 
the  guests.   I've never tasted Chinese food so fresh.  Even the egg-
drop  soup  was  served  with shrimp crackers that were prepared fresh 
from  the  fryer.  The food was excellent.  I must make a special note 
about how everything was so freshly prepared. 

Snack Bar - Melia Bavaro.
Unfortunately,  this  was  the  only  restaurant  that was open during 
certain  key  hours, at least for us.  It seemed like whenever we were 
hungry,  this  was  the  only place open, such as after sleeping in or 
after  a  long  afternoon  at the beach.  It was the only place to get 
food   from  10am-1pm  and  from  4pm-7pm.   They  service  hot  dogs, 
hamburgers,  and  sandwiches.  It was nothing special, with service in 
an open air canopied patio at plastic tables and chairs.

Seafood Grill - Melia Bavaro.
This  was  our  favorite place to eat lunch.   It was also set up as a 
canopied  patio serving food to plastic tables and chairs and it was a 
buffet.   They served paella, peel-and-eat shrimp, pasta, salad, and a 
grill with steaks, chicken shishkabab, burgers, 

Chopin - Melia Bavaro.
This  restaurant  is  famous  for  providing a floating concert from a 
boat  in a pond outside the open air restaurant but unfortunately, the 
performers  were  taking  their vacation during the week we were there 
so  we did not get to see the concert.  Regardless, this restaurant is 
in  a  beautiful setting over a lush pond.  It is very elegant, yet it 
was  a  buffet.   It  was  a  very  good  buffet however and as usual, 
service  was  excellent.  We had fun tossing bread off the side of the 
table  into  the  pond,  which  was loaded with fish and took down the 
pieces  of  bread  like  piranha.   This  was one step above the usual 
Caribbean  buffet  and it seemed to me that they had too much food for 
the  number of guests attending.  This was the one restaurant that did 
not  make  a  reservation  for  a  specific  time.   A reservation was 
required,  but  guests  could show up any time between 6pm and 8:30pm, 
presumably  because  guest  typically would stay well after their meal 
to watch the concert.  This was the dressiest of the restaurants.

Room Service.
We  ordered  room  service  one night.  The asparagus was like it came 
out  of a can and the shrimp was very mushy.  Service was good and the 
hotel  even  made a follow up call to the room to make sure everything 
was  all  right.   I  thought  the  food was fair at best and the room 
service menu was very limited.

Bars.
I  found  the  service  to be generally good at all of the bars except 
the  pool bar.  None of the bars were stocked with top-shelf liquor or 
drinks  made with fresh fruits.  The hotel does not get high marks for 
its  bars.   One  notable  exception  was  the availability of bottled 
beer.   Most resorts serve beer on tap, and it is never as good as the 
bottled  beer.   Another  exception was the bar at the Melia Paradisus 
casino, which had a nice bar stocked with top-shelf liquors.

Public Restrooms.
The  public  restrooms  throughout  the  resort  were  not  only  kept 
immaculately clean, they were very nice.  

Getting sick.
I'm  no stranger to the Dominican Republic.  With over 60 trips around 
the  island  over  the  last  5  years,  I've  eaten  in every kind of 
establishment  from  fine  restaurants at big hotels and resorts, mass 
produced  food at buffets, small out of the way restaurants in obscure 
towns,  and even food sold by vendors on the street.  I brush my teeth 
with  the  tap  water  and I've almost never gotten sick.  Even when I 
have,  it  was  mild  and  never  lasted more than half a day.  People 
frequently  complain  that  they have gotten sick from the food in the 
Dominican  Republic  and  people are quick to point out that excessive 
drinking  and sun, not being use to the surroundings and bacteria, too 
many   piņa   coladas  and  fruit  acting  as  a  laxative,  etc.  are 
responsible. 

In  my  third day, I woke up vomiting violently and continued to do so 
through  most of the day.  I spent 24 hours in bed and could not move, 
very  weak  and  with a fever.  It was horrible and I can't really say 
for  sure  what  had  caused it but the last place I had eaten was the 
Mexican  restaurant  at the Melia Paradisus the night before and I had 
thoroughly enjoyed it.

The  resort pharmacy recommended a pill called Sertal-Compuesto, which 
I  bought  and  took along with some Pepto-Bismol, but it did not seem 
to  help  at  all.  I thought I was going to die as I hadn't been this 
sick  in  10 years.  It took almost two days to completely recover and 
I  still  don't  know  what it was.  I did not have diarrhea.  So, who 
knows  what  it  was.   A  Dominican  doctor  has  since  told  me the 
following (paraphrased):

Sertal  Compuesto  is  on the order of Lomotil or Imodium AD. When one 
is  vomiting  and  no  diarrhea,  it  can  be  a symptom of intestinal 
obstruction  of  a  high  degree.  A  very dangerous thing that can be 
fatal.  I would not trust a pharmacist to recommend anything and check 
with  a  physician.   Obviously  you  did  not have obstruction or you 
would  be  in  more serious shape now.  My first thought is Staph food 
poisoning  due  to the rapidity of onset and the rapidity of recovery. 
Staph  food poisoning usually affects the upper GI tract and you don't 
get  to  the  diarrhea  stage.   Another  possibility  is  E.coli food 
poisoning  but  you  usually  have  diarrhea with this and it is quite 
debilitating.   At  the  bottom  of  my  list  is  the myriad of viral 
intestinal infestations such as the so called 24 hour "stomach flu".

Mosquitoes.
Most  trips  to  the  Dominican  Republic,  I get some mosquito bites.  
Sometimes  I  get  eaten  alive, and sometimes I just get a half-dozen 
bites,  but  amazingly,  I  didn't  get a single bite on this trip.  I 
never  even  saw  a  mosquito.   One  of the reasons this amazes me is 
because  this  is  the lushest resort I've ever been too and they have 
ponds  and  standing water everywhere.  Perhaps it has something to do 
with  the  thousands  of  birds that walk around freely throughout the 
resort  or perhaps they just do a terrific job of fumigating, which if 
they did, I never saw it.

Excursions.
We  never  got  around  to  taking  any  excursions.  This was in part 
because  I had already toured most of the island and wasn't into booze 
cruises  or  jeep  tours of the countryside.  But they were available.  
One  of  the  most  heavily advertised excursions that did not require 
hours  to  arrive  at  was Maniti Park, an ecological water park where 
one  can  swim  with dolphins.  Entrance cost is US$21 (US$10 if under 
12)  with  an  extra  US$65  to  swim  with the dolphins (reservations 
recommended).  Tours can be arranged from the hotel or by calling 809-
552-0807  or  809-688-0729  (fax  at 809-552-0810).  Transportation to 
and  from  the hotels is included in the admission price and they have 
a  colorful  bus  that  goes  around  to  all the hotels.  The park is 
located about 20 minutes from the hotels in the Punta Cana area.

Casino.
The  Melia Paradisus, located right next door to the Melia Bavaro, has 
a  casino.   You can either walk to it since the resorts are connected 
at  the  beach, or they have a free shuttle bus to take you across the 
service  road  connecting the two properties at the front.  The Casino 
was  clean  and  unexciting with just a handful of tables and a couple 
of  rows  of slot machines.  When you see pictures of this casino, you 
are  looking  at  2/3  of  the  entire  casino in the picture.  I must 
comment  that  it  was the most well air-conditioned room I entered in 
the  whole  resort  area  and  that  their bar (not included) was well 
stocked  with  top-shelf  liquor.  We sat there for about an hour just 
to  enjoy  the  air  conditioning,  people watch, and savor some prime 
drinks.   I  liked  that  fact  that I could actually serenely sit and 
listen  to  music instead of the constant binging and banging of slots 
and  electronic poker that is so prominent in large casinos.  Gamblers 
were all elegantly dressed.

Plaza Bavaro.
On  my  first  night  out,  I  went  to the disco at the Melia Bavaro, 
starting  out  about  11:30pm.   There  wasn't  a  single guest in the 
disco,  so  the  staff  directed  me to a more lively place which they 
said  was  located  just  around  the corner outside of the resort.  I 
hopped  in  a  cab and 30 seconds later I was there.  Yes, 30 seconds.  
It  literally  was right around the corner and if I had known, I could 
have  walked the 500 yards.  Around the corner from the hotel entrance 
is  Plaza  Bavaro.  At night, there are 4 bars to choose from.  Rincon 
Salsa  is  a shoe-box of a bar that is jam packed with Dominicans that 
work  at  the  local  resorts.   It was too crowded for my taste and I 
didn't  like  the  style of music so next I went and had a beer at one 
of  the  two  outdoor  bars in the plaza across the street.  These are 
open-air  bars  and  the  one was playing Bachata, my favorite kind of 
music.  

There  weren't  but  a few other people around so after I got bored, I 
went  into  Cocos's  Disco,  which  had a short line to get in and was 
charging  RD$60  (US$3.75)  cover  charge.  They said the cover charge 
included  a  free  drink but I never got mine the first night.  Inside 
it  was large and modern with carved out coconuts for ash trays.  They 
had  a  good  sized  dance floor and it was about 75% tourists and 25% 
locals,  mostly  young  Dominicans  hanging in groups, more women than 
men.   It  was  casually  elegant  but  the Dominicans were dressed in 
nightclub  wear.   Outside was a nice deck with a romantic setting but 
after  having a taste of that air conditioning, I opted to stay inside 
and there wasn't anybody else outside anyway.

There  was a bit of a crowd hanging out in the street as I was leaving 
so  I  spent  my  last half hour talking with locals that were hanging 
out,  most  trying  to  sell  something.   There  were  food  vendors, 
motoconchos  (taxi  by  motorcycle as is common for short distances in 
the  Dominican  Republic),  a  few beggars, etc.  I walked back to the 
hotel,  as I had been advised that if I were to use a motoconcho to go 
back,  they could only take me as far as the hotel entrance (about 200 
feet)  and I'd still have to walk the long grand entrance way of about 
300  feet  to enter the hotel.  I only considered it because I was hot 
and  knew  that once I reached the reception of the hotel, I still had 
about 1/4 mile walk through the resort back to the room.

During  the  day,  Veronica  and I want back out to the plaza to check 
out  the  stores.    There  was  a bank, a pharmacy, a couple of small 
grocery  stores,  but  mostly  it was filled with dozens and dozens of 
tourist   type   stores  selling  everything  from  bathing  suits  to 
paintings  to  wood  carvings  to  Caribbean  jewelry.  Each and every 
store  front and 1 or 2 people in front heckling us to come in an look 
at  their  stuff.   It  was  a  most annoying walk and we left.  Also, 
Veronica felt the presence of armed guards was intimidating.

Checkout.
Checkout  was  speedy  and  uneventful.  My bill was correct the first 
time.

Melia Tropical.
I  had  arranged  to eat at the Chinese restaurant at 8pm at the Melia 
Tropical   earlier   and  we  were  told  to  meet  our  complimentary 
transportation  at  the reception area at 7:30p.  We arrived at 7:20p, 
but  by  7:40p,  no  transportation  had  arrived.   One  of the guest 
services  people  actually  then called a cab for us, drove in the cab 
with  us  to  the resort, and paid the cab drive.  She also told us to 
just  call  a  cab  when we were ready to come back and that the Melia 
Bavaro  would take care of the fare.  That's what we did and they paid 
the fare upon our return.  That was good customer service for sure.

The  Melia  Tropical  opened  in  December  of 1998 and is still under 
construction  in  some  areas.   While  there,  I met a retired travel 
agent,  Pat  Patterson,  who was delighted with the resort and offered 
to  show  me his room.  It was a very nice room, although not quite as 
nice  or  nearly  as  large  as  the  one at the Melia Bavaro.  It was 
however  newer  and  more modern and his air conditioner was excellent 
judging  by the blast of cold air I felt when I entered his room.  His 
room  overlooked  the  pool.   The pool at the Melia Tropical was even 
more  magnificent  than  the  pools  at  the  Melia  Bavaro  or  Melia 
Paradisus, if that is possible.

The  Melia Tropical covers only a small slice of the beach compared to 
the  Melia  Bavaro and Melia Paradisus and their foliage still needs a 
bit  of  time  before it grows in well, but the resort landscaping and 
walkways  were similar to the other Melia properties.  They had a more 
modern  transport for moving guests around the resort in that they had 
a  golf-cart type train but the front car was actually modeled to look 
like  a choo-choo train and the trailing cars had fluorescent lighting 
and were wired with music.

The  new  and  modern Melia Tropical is also a grand resort.  I was so 
impressed  with  the  styling and beauty of the lobby restrooms I took 
pictures.  

Melia Paradisus.
The  Melia  Paradisus  is  an  all-inclusive  property adjacent to the 
Melia  Bavaro.  I thought that the grounds were virtually identical to 
those  at the Melia Bavaro.  In fact, towards the beach, the sidewalks 
carry  you  across  the  property  lines and you cannot tell where one 
resort  ends  and the next begins.  The pool at the Melia Paradisus is 
slightly  nicer than the one at the Melia Bavaro.  We will have a hard 
time  deciding whether our next stay will be at the Melia Paradisus or 
the Melia Bavaro.

Last night pastries.
On  our last night, early in the evening, a hotel staff member came to 
our  room to deliver a complimentary tray of small pastries.  It was a 
very  nice touch.  I asked if they did this for all the guests and was 
told  they  didn't  so I'm not sure what made me so special to receive 
such service. 

Conclusion.
Overall,  we  had  a  great  time.  It was really a first class resort 
located  on  a  gorgeous stretch of beach.  It had some minor problems 
but   overall,   we   were   happy   with   the   food,  service,  and 
accommodations.   I  was a bit bored at times but for an all-inclusive 
vacation  where  the prime objective is to relax by the beach and pool 
and  enjoy  good  food,  it was the best.  Veronica generally does not 
favor  the  resorts  in  the  Dominican Republic but this time she was 
eager  to  plan  our  return.  We will recommend it to our friends and 
will be back

GRENADA BY R. BAILEY

Trip 5/99

My  wife  and  I spent 11 days on Grenada in mid May. This is a report 
on  our  trip,  our  4th  visit; the last 3 years ago. The travel from 
Albany  NY  was  uneventful,  but AA has certainly made the schedule a 
lot  less  convenient  than  it used to be, as well as more expensive. 
Very  smooth  through  the Miami airport, with no delay at all through 
customs.  Previous  trips  have  been  in  June, the rainy season. The 
island  was  noticeably  browner  in  spots,  but we had no showers to 
contend with. Essentially perfect weather.

We  stayed  again  at Blue Horizons, for the 3rd time. We arrived near 
9:00  pm  and  could  have  gotten  food at the restaurant, but we had 
managed  with  the  airline offering. Welcoming drinks were brought to 
the  room,  however,  which  was a nice touch. This is a cottage style 
hotel.  Rooms  consist  of  a  sleeping  area  with two beds partially 
separated  from  the  living  area  which  has  sofa, TV, table with 4 
chairs  and  fully  equipped kitchen including full size refrigerator. 
Bathroom  has  tub/shower,  and  there is a hair dryer. All is in good 
repair.  Beach towels come with the room; no hassles with housekeeping 
or  a watersports desk, no tickets or dire threats of what you will be 
charged  if  they are not returned. We took them with us the first day 
and  they  left  a  second  set. Our unit at the top of the hill had a 
good  view from the balcony toward St. George's; those at lower levels 
would  not have a view, but the grounds are well kept. There is a good 
pool  with  lots  of  chairs;  however, there is not much shade except 
near  the  bar  and  a  shortage  of  umbrellas. Staff and service are 
great.  It  is  a short walk from the beach. (Hint - if you have a car 
and  don't  want  to  walk,  you  can  drive to Camerhogne (sp?) Park, 
entrance  just  south  of  the traffic circle on the beach-front road, 
and  park  by  the  beach.  Alternatively,  you can drive to a disused 
jetty  just  south  of Spice Island and just a couple of hundred yards 
from  Blue  Horizons.)  Blue Horizons is a sister property to the more 
expensive  Spice  Island,  and you can share some of their facilities. 
The  manager's  coctail  party  the night after we arrived was a joint 
affair  (elegant)  held  at  the  owner's  home,  to which guests were 
bussed. The hotel is a first class operation.

We  rented a car from David's, which was delivered pretty much on time 
the  morning  after our arrival. We normally would pick this up at the 
airport,  but  with  an  8:30 pm arrival this did not seem to be worth 
doing.  Cars  are  expensive on Grenada; we were charged $330 per week 
for  a  fairly  new  VW  Polo  with  right hand drive. Many people are 
reluctant  to  drive  on Grenada, and it can be a challenge, but it is 
not that bad when you get used to it. A lot of the roads are being re-
surfaced  and  widened. Driving is on the left, which may bother some, 
but  I  find  one  adapts  quickly.  For those who are uncertain about 
driving, let me give a few details. 

The  road  from  the  airport  to Grand Anse is no problem. From Grand 
Anse  to  St.  George's  the  road  has  been  rebuilt;  good surface, 
reasonably  wide  2-lanes.  It  does  have  a lot of traffic and as is 
common  in  the  Caribbean,  vehicles may be parked anywhere along it. 
However,  it  should  offer  no  real  problems. Construction is still 
going  on,  and  there is (was?) a detour into St. George's that could 
be  a problem if you don't know the town, but that should be done with 
in  a  few  weeks,,  giving a straight-forward drive to the waterfront 
where  there is usually ample street parking. You can walk around some 
of  the  old  streets  where there are some interesting old buildings, 
walk  to  the market, Fort George, etc. A good time to do this for the 
first  time  to  get  your  bearings  is  Sunday, when it will be very 
quiet,  but  of  course  the shops will be closed. Returning is not so 
easy  because of narrow one-way streets; study the map first. You will 
be   looking   to  turn  right  at  Rudolph's  Restaurant,  and  again 
immediately.  These  streets  are  narrow and have a feature common to 
many  in-town  as  well  as  country  roads:  vertical  sided drainage 
channels  right  at  the edge of the pavement. You need to be slow and 
careful.  Do  not  drive  in  the market area, or anywhere else in St. 
George's that you don't have to. 

The  road  to  L'Anse  aux  Epines,  where  there are other hotels and 
restaurants,  as  well  as  other roads in the Grand Anse - Pte Saline 
area  are narrow and may be pot-holed, but are not a problem to drive. 


The  road  up  the East coast through Grenville to Levera and Sauteurs 
is  also  being rebuilt. It is very good in many places (even curbs to 
keep  you  out  of  the  drainage  ditches) but there are stretches of 
gravel  where  construction  is going on, and occasional one-lane bits 
around machinery. 

The  West  coast  road  is  narrower;  not  too  bad,  at  least up to 
Gouayave,  but  you  will have to be careful getting to it through St. 
George's.  Going  via  the inland side is tricky; know the street map. 
You  can go via the Sendal tunnel; more straight-forward, but a lot of 
traffic and the return can be confusing. 

The  road  over Grand Etang is narrow, full of steep hills and hairpin 
turns,  and  here  is  where the knuckles may begin to turn white. The 
surface  is  in  good  condition,  however. Sunday is a good choice to 
avoid  some  traffic, especially trucks. I think the Grenville side is 
easier. 

Other  main  roads in the South are narrow and often pot-holed and are 
best takem after you have some experience. 

In  all  cases,  besides the ditches and parked vehicles, you may find 
large  numbers  of school children on the roads in the afternoon. Some 
minibus  drivers  are  maniacs,  but they also do this for a living so 
presumably  have  adequate  survival  skills.  Most other drivers seem 
quite  reasonable.  On the positive side, speeds are by necessity much 
slower  than  you  will be used to (even if they don't seem that way), 
so  there  is  more  time  to  react. As to whether you need a 4-wheel 
drive  jeep,  if you are a first-timer, you will not go anywhere a car 
will  not  go (although you might not take your own car there), so the 
only  reason  for a jeep is psychological. My suggestion is to get the 
smallest  (narrowest)  vehicle you can; it is helpful when you have to 
pass  a  truck  on a one and a half lane road. A final point - road or 
street  signs,  both  in  town and in the country, are infrequent, and 
the  car  rental road maps they are using now are pretty poor. The map 
in  the  tourist  magazine  is  much better but too small. By studying 
them  both, you can find you way, and people are very willing to help. 
If  you  stray  from  the  main  road, it becomes obvious within a few 
yards from the width and/or pavement.

Restaurants:  Grenada  is  not  big on 5 star gourmet restaurants a la 
St.  Martin,  but it does have some good ones and opportunities to get 
local  food.  Most  restaurants  add a 10% service charge to the bill. 
Here  are  the  ones we ate in and some comments. The order is roughly 
the order in which we went.

Nutmeg  -  in St. Georges, which will be pretty quiet at night; if you 
drive  to  any  St.  George's restaurant you will be able to park very 
near.  It  has local food - stewed and curried lambi (conch) is always 
good  here.  They also have decaf, which many places do not. Vegetable 
roti  at  lunch  was  excellent with lots of spicing. Also try the sea 
moss,  a  local drink similar to a milk shake. Nutmeg is on the second 
floor  and  a  nice  overlook  of  the  harbor if you can get a window 
table.

The   Boatyard   -   in  L'Anse  aux  Epines.  Considerably  different 
(improved)  from  3  years  ago, but the price seemed high for what we 
got when compared to other places.

Aquarium  -  past  the  airport on the beach. Semi-up-scale; very good 
food and service. On the recommended list.

Brown  Sugar  -  in  Grand  Anse.  Upscale,  with  a  menu inspired by 
traditional  Grenadian  cooking,  but  limited  and a little too cute. 
Appetizers  and  main courses are on different menus, they do not have 
decaf  and  when  we  said  we didn't want regular coffee they made no 
offer  of  dessert  - just brought the bill. Food was good but overall 
this restaurant was a little disappointing.

Rudolph's  -  St.  George's.  A little more upscale than Nutmeg, still 
with a local flavor. Also good lambi, among other things.

Portofino  -  St. George's - Italian; went for a pizza which was good; 
not expensive. Pastas have been good on earlier trips.

Tropicana  -  approaching St. George's - has very tasty Chinese dishes 
as  well as local food, and a real budget-balancer. Has been uniformly 
good over several visits.

Mama's  -  on  the  road  into St. George's from Grand Anse. This is a 
legendary  establishment  that  seems not to be getting much attention 
recently.  You  get  18 or 19 different dishes, except for the soup to 
start  and  the  fruit  plate  dessert all presented at once. Some are 
unusual,  all  are traditional Grenadian dishes, and if you don't like 
one  or  two,  there is plenty of food so you will not be hungry. This 
year  it was better than ever (we've been on every trip). Reservations 
are  suggested  so  that  they  know  how  much  to cook. Don't expect 
"decor".  You  get  plastic table cloths and mis-matched metal chairs, 
but it seems fitting. 

True  Blue  Bay - at the hotel of the same name east of the roundabout 
on  the airport road; used to be Indigo's at True Blue Inn. Owned by a 
Mexican/English  couple  who have put together a fairly wide selection 
that  includes  authentic  Mexican  dishes as well as other things. We 
thought  this  was  exceptional  and if we had found it earlier in our 
stay we would have gone back.

La  Belle Creole - at Blue Horizons. A very upscale restaurant and the 
most  expensive;  not  a  large  menu selection but excellent food and 
just  right service; attentive, but not stuffy. Very willing to modify 
the  menu  items.  Meals  are  listed at a prix fix $35 US, but if you 
don't want all of the courses they will charge a la carte.

La  Boulangerie  -  in  the  Marquis shopping center on the Grand Anse 
road,  a  short  walk  from  the  hotel. A French bakery/cafe where we 
regularly  had  an  excellent espresso; a nice place to sit and relax. 
The  baked  goods  there  are  good;  the  cinnamon  rolls easily beat 
anything similar we have had on St. Martin, which takes some doing.

Except  for an occasional lunch, we mainly use restaurants for dinners 
and  make  our  own  breakfast/brunch.  There is a good supermarket in 
Grand  Anse,  a  short drive or moderate walk from the hotel. There is 
also   "D"  Greengrocer  closer  for  local  fruit  and  a  surprising 
collection  of other groceries. Carib is a standard beer, but also try 
Piton from St. Lucia. Heineken is ubiquitous.

Beaches  Grenada  has a lot of beaches. Here are descriptions of a few 
that we actually set foot on this trip.

Grand  Anse is a world class beach with a number of activities but not 
too  many.  Most  of  the  activity,  and  the  area where cruise ship 
passengers  are  deposited,  is  toward  the  center.  For  those  not 
familiar  with  it,  the  Flamboyant  hotel  is on the South end, with 
actually  a  rather  small  stretch  of sand before a rock outcropping 
occurs.  This  can  be fairly easily crossed if you want to walk. Past 
this  and  in  front  of  the  Spice Island hotel, the beach is pretty 
quiet.  About half way along, at the Cot Bam Bar, another rock outcrop 
blocks  passage. This seems more prominant this year than in the past, 
when  it was much easier to walk over. Not good if you like long beach 
walks,  but  it  does keep this end of the beach less crowded. Most of 
the  water  sports activities etc. are just along from here. The north 
end again becomes much quieter.

Morne  Rouge  -  just  along  from  Grand  Anse  - smaller, very nice, 
quieter  except  when  a  boat  load  of  cruise  ship  passengers  is 
deposited.  There  is  a  bar  at which you can get refreshments and I 
think they have beach chairs available.

Pink  Gin  -  Point  Saline on the west side of the airport - no doubt 
renamed  to  appeal  to  the  tourist;  another map calls it Pingoulin 
Beach.  The  Aquarium  restaurant is on one end, and you can get beach 
chairs there. The Rex Grenadian hotel is at the other the other end.

La  Sagesse  -  a  little  way up the east coast. A quiet and peaceful 
beach  with  a restaurant, although we haven't tried it. Also a nature 
sanctuary,  although  we  have not taken any of the trails - never had 
time there to do much besides stroll the beach.

Levera  - in the national park at the northern end of the island; very 
pretty  and  very  few  people. Driving in you will pass Bathway Beach 
which  is  very popular locally. There is a visitor's center here, and 
just  beyond  it a new restaurant (Grenadian Culture) with a menu that 
looks  fascinating,  but  again  we  only  stopped for a drink. Levera 
beach is reached by continuing on the gravel road.

Antoine  Bay  -  unsurpassed  for  a long, deserted, clean and totally 
unspoiled  beach  backed  by  the  traditional  palm trees. Fine, firm 
black  and  brown sand that is perfect for long beach walks. Water may 
be a bit rough for swimming.

Points  of  interest  Grenada  has  a lot of things to see as a change 
from beaching. Each trip we take in a few more. 

Grenville  market.  This  is a local produce market supplemented by T-
shirt  and  other  vendors,  but  a  much  more  low  key  and  a more 
pleasurable  experience than the St. George's market that gets all the 
publicity.  However, you have to get to Grenville on Saturday morning. 
Lots  of  local  fruits  and vegetables, some straw products and other 
things.  Very  low  pressure  -  one  or two people asked if we wanted 
something,  but  no  pushiness. We bought some fruit and local candy - 
prices  asked  seemed  too  low  to  even consider bargaining (e.g., 4 
mangos for $1EC).

Dougaldston  Estate  -  the  decaying  remains  of  a large, old spice 
plantation  that  is  still  operational (just). You can see something 
about  spice  processing  and  of course buy samples. It does have the 
feel of history.

Laura  Spice  Garden - a modern variant of Dougaldston, where you will 
get a good tour of growing herbs and spices. 

Clark's  Court  sugar  factory - actually a rum distillery, since they 
no  longer  produce  sugar.  Fascinating  for anyone interested in 150 
year  old  steam  driven machinery that is still in operation. You can 
get  a tour for which you tip the guide as you wish. You can taste and 
buy samples of their products, which are very good.

Bay  Gardens - a botanical garden (actually a commercial nursery) that 
in  previous  visits  has  afforded a nice walk through topical plants 
and  flowers.  This  time  there  were not many flowers, and it seemed 
overgrown and uncared for. Can't put it on our recommended list.

Mount  Gado  -  there  are brochures touting a new rain forest reserve 
with  marked  trails  and  a  lookout  for viewing a large part of the 
island.  We tried it. The road in is 1-lane rock/gravel/dirt; passable 
with  a  car but interesting when you have to pass another vehicle (we 
had  to  once).  However.  the  place  was closed, the trails were not 
obvious  (at least their starts weren't) and there were no directions. 
It  has possibilities, but if you want to try it, find out if they are 
really open and be prepared for the road in.

Flyin'  Fish  glass  bottom  boat  - a 11/2 hour trip over the reef at 
Grand  Anse  that  is  quite  good. Captain Wally comes into the beach 
just  north of Cot Bam around 10 and 2 mornings and afternoons. He has 
a sign on the beach, and there may be a brochure in your hotel.

Tourist  hassles  We see complaints from time to time about aggressive 
beach  vendors  on Grenada. We did not find any. There are a number of 
vendors  selling  T-shirts  and  coverups along the back of the beach, 
but  they  seemed  quite  passive  -  if  you  approached  and  looked 
interested,  they  would  make  their  offers.  A  few others walk the 
beach;  a  couple  of  them approached us but a simple "no, thank you" 
was  enough.  We  did  see  one  vendor  berating  a  couple  of women 
tourists,  however. Not sure why, but the impression was that they had 
promised  to  buy  from  him  and  then  told him they had bought from 
someone  else.  We  have  heard  that  there  are one or two obnoxious 
vendors  who  give  the  rest  a  bad  rep. A vendor's market is being 
built,  and  reportedly all vendors will have to be based there in the 
Fall.  Grand Anse is patrolled by local police. Didn't spend much time 
in  St. George's. A couple of taxi drivers offered their services, but 
were  not  pushy  about it and seemed not at all upset when we said we 
had  our  own  car.  There  is  one  panhandler  who  has  worked  the 
waterfront  for years; he can be a pest, and is best handled by saying 
"no"  firmly  and  then ignoring him. Don't give him money to make him 
go  away;  then  he won't. Two people at our hotel said that they were 
harassed  to the point where they left St. George's before they wanted 
to,  but  I  don't  know  to  what  extent  they  invited  it by being 
hesitant.  At  any  rate in our 4 trips we have never had a problem on 
the   beaches  or  in  St.  George's  (except  the  annoyance  of  the 
panhandler).

Other  The new Texaco service station and mini-mart on the Grand Anse-
St.  George's  road is the current winner of the "Most Garish and Out-
of-Keeping-with-its-Surroundings" award.

You  can drink the water (at least we have never had a problem at Blue 
Horizons),  although  we have heard that it may not retain its quality 
in all parts of the distribution system.

U.S.  money  is accepted readily, but prices are in $EC and it is more 
convenient  to  use  EC  in  smaller  places.  Also, you don't have to 
wonder  what  exchange  rate  you  are  getting.  Grenada  is  not for 
shopping,  although there are some good local products. There are some 
tourist-oriented  shops  in  St,  George's, but if serious shopping is 
your  thing,  forget  it. Local jams and jellies and hot pepper sauces 
are  good, but the supermarkets are as good a source as any. They also 
have pretty good liquor selections. 

The  sun is very hot but the constant breeze keeps things comfortable. 
Do not forget to use sunscreen.

Very few bugs - I saw one mosquito. Expect more in the rainy season.

A  very  satisfactory  vacation  in a very nice place - it will not be 
our last visit. 

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