Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 87
September 1, 1998

Last Update 30 Aug 98 1900ET

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ST. MARTIN BY BRUCE FARRINGTON

Trip 7/98

Edie  and  I  have  returned  from  trip #18 to St. Martin. In a word:
Wonderful,  relaxing,  exciting, paradise found....Well one word never
seems  adequate when I describe this island <g>. I will try to get you
all  updated  on  all  of the news, gossip, weather and happening down
island...next stop...the friendly island.......

Weather

The  first  thing  you  notice when you get off of the plane..its hot!
The  locals  tell  me  several  record high temperatures have been set
recently..I  also  heard  on  the  radio  that the entire Caribbean is
about  3  degrees  warmer  than  normal for this time of year. Average
daily  highs were in the low 90's. The lowest temperature I saw during
our  10  day stay was 83 degrees late one night. Of course that steady
14  MPH  wind  makes it delightful especially at night. Overall we had
terrific  weather with only one day somewhat rainy. Brief rain showers
at night were only a welcome addition during our stay.

News

Every  trip  seems  to  bring  a story or three that grabs the islands
attention  and  amuses the tourist. This trip was no exception. Let me
tell  you  a tale of...tinting. Yes that's right... tinting as in cars
windows.  All  other  earthly  problems  pale  to  insignificance when
compared  to the evils of having a car with tinted windows. Well maybe
not  but  someone  in Holland determined that to be the case. At first
glance  the  logic  seems sound. People could be transporting drugs or
illegals  in  their  heavily tinted cars and the police cannot see in,
which  could  also pose a safety problem for St. Martin's finest. Also
the  drivers  cannot  see  out  as  well  causing  potential  hazards.
(Hmmmm...passing  5  cars  going  uphill  should  also be considered a
potential  hazard but that's another story!). Any hooo...the word came
down  from  Holland  (with  little  discussion) that as of July 1st it
would  be  illegal  to  drive a car with tinted windows on St. Martin.
The  first  day  this law went into affect over 200 drivers were given
tickets.  Gosh,  that  must  have  kept St. Martin's police force of 3
officers  and  a  bicycle  awfully busy <g>...Two problems immediately
arose.  First  there is the problem with the fact that the French side
of  the island has no such law and the French did not appreciate being
ticketed  when they drove 100 yards down the road onto the Dutch side.
Secondly,  when  locals  went  to  the car dealerships to get untinted
windshields  and  glass  for  their  vehicles...you  guessed it...none
available  mon!  Dealers were on the radio saying no one had consulted
with  them about this new law and that it would take several months to
get  them in stock. Meanwhile locals are getting ticketed everyday for
not  complying...soon  cars begin appearing with NO windshield or rear
view  glass  or  windows  being  spray  painted.  Your normal chaotic,
laughable  situation  on  my beloved island. Soon the government is on
the  radio  and  TV  amending  the law to only apply to heavily tinted
windows  and  giving  lightly tinted windows until September 1st to be
replaced.  Once  more  St.  Martin had done the unthinkable...made the
U.S.  government  seem  efficient  and  well  run by comparison! To Be
continued....

Restaurant Report

No  trip  to SXM would be complete without sampling the gourmet charms
of  the  island.  Here  are  some  of the places we visited during our
stay:

Cheri's  -  Not five star but always fun to people watch at. A chicken
salad,  cheeseburger  and  onion rings was only OK for $28. As was the
case all over the island, Cheri's was very unbusy.

LA  Croissanterie - You knew I'd go here for breakfast and croissants,
right?  The  owner laughed at my T-Shirt which proclaimed "Joan of Arc
is  alive  and  medium  well!"  Couldn't  get a free croissant for the
laugh though...

Tutta  Pasta  -  Had  a very good meal of Neopolitan Lasagna and Pasta
with  peas/sausages..Yummy at $31. Warren always the cordial host gave
us complimentary drinks

Talk  of  the  Town  - Had to take my son and a neighbor to experience
authentic  SXM  cuisine  at  this  popular  lolo.  A  dinner  of ribs,
chicken,  rice  and  peas,  crab,  johhny  cakes  for 4 came to a very
reasonable   $35.  The  ladies  now  call  me  Mr.  Bruce  so  I  have
transcended that boundary and have become a regular...

Brasserie  De  La  Gare - Had a disappointing (semi burnt) goat cheese
pizza.  The  evening  was somewhat rescued by a creme carmel flamed on
top at our table which was really excellent. $30.

St.  Germain  -  located  next door to the Le Crossanterrie, we had an
excellent  breakfast  of  apple crepes and French toast for $16. Its a
nice  way  to  start the morning, reading the chronicle and the French
coffee  is  guaranteed  to  wake  you  up Don Carlos - one of the best
meals  this trip. Believe it or not even after 17 previous trips, this
was  my  first  time  at  this  restaurant. A very pleasant first time
experience.  The  Cuban black bean soup was perhaps the best I've ever
had.  The  chicken  Caesar salad and snapper in lemon butter were also
excellent. At $30 this place is a definite keeper.

Yvette's  - Located in Orleans, I have never had a bad meal here. This
trip  was  no  exception.  The curried goat meat and Chicken Stew (St.
Martin style) were up to Yvette's normal excellent standards.

Le  Bistrot  NU - Located on a back street in Marigot, this was also a
first  time  restaurant  experience  for  us.  Edie  and I give it two
thumbs  up. The curried chicken was good and the grilled tuna was very
good  at $32. The French owner was beside himself as France won a very
close  world  cup  match  to  advance. I hope the poor fellow survived
France  winning the world cup a week later. Needless to say the French
were  (rightfully)  extremely proud of their team and talked of little
else. Viva La France!!!!

Indiana Beach

Edie  and  I  ended  our  eating Odyssey with a dinner of French onion
soup,  goat  cheese salad and spaghetti bolognaise which was only fair
at  $31. The service was slow but because it was our last night on the
island, we had ample time to enjoy the view across Pelican bay.....

Snorkeling

There  seems  to  always  be  3  spots that are favorite locations for
snorkeling  on  SXM.  Green Caye, Pinel island and Bae Rouge. Having a
couple  of "rookies" along on this trip, Bae Rouge won hands down over
the  other  2  sites. The snorkeling near the Rock "arch" on the North
side  of  Bar  Rouge was the best I have ever seen it over the last 10
years.  Calm  waters  and  extremely  clear  conditions  made  this  a
highlight my son and our neighbor will always remember.

Twenty Something Report

Normally  a  report  of this nature is about 20 years out of my league
but  I not only had two twenty something boys with me on this trip but
also  we were visited by my twenty something Niece. She dropped in for
a  couple  of  days  from  St.  Kitts  where  she  is studying to be a
veterinarian.  Curiously  enough,  she  took  the  opportunity  on the
island  to  go  to  McDonalds,  Pizza  Hut,  etc.  to get caught up on
American  fast  food which is not available on St. Kitts. I found this
very  ironic  to  say the least. Anyway the twenty something crowd did
some  serious  research  on where the best places to hang out and meet
other  singles  on  the  island  are located. Their favorite place was
Indiana  Beach  because of the number of other people their age group,
best  music and ambiance. Coming in second was Sunset Bar located next
to  Millenium  on the beach in front of the airport. Curiously enough,
they  did  not  like  Music News Cafe not only because it was dead but
also  because  they  thought  it  was not a "safe" atmosphere. Another
thing  missing  in  St. Martin was the all night coffee shop that they
are  used  to  in  the  U.S.  They did find a bakery shop somewhere in
Marigot  that  was  open  until  3  AM but did not catch its name. One
other  comment: the two guys were impressed by the gal/guy ratio which
favored  the  guys.  The fact that my son is fluent in French, German,
Italian,  Spanish  and  Portuguese was also a big plus especially with
the French ladies<g>.

Commercials

The  locally  made commercials on the St. Maarten cable station are an
absolute  "must  see"  TV.  This  may  sound  crazy but all of us were
rolling  on the floor watching them. They are absolutely hilarious and
I   highly   recommend   them.  We  especially  liked  the  commercial
advertising  the  local  lottery which has three winning lines: Big D,
Middle  D  and  little  D. Big D was a muscle bound guy who flexed his
physique.  Middle D was an average guy who shrugged and little D was a
wimpy  guy  who  could  only  give  an  anemic thumbs up sign. My kids
wanted  to go to the local cable station and try to get an autographed
poster,  but  we  ran out of time. Another interesting aspect of local
TV  was  watching  the  local  news.  Basically  it was someone with a
camcorder  supplying  the  footage  most  of  the  time.  If you get a
chance,  check  out  the  local  St. Maarten cable station for a cheap
nights  entertainment.  To  emulate  Little D, Edie and I give it "two
thumbs up"!

Butterfly Farm

As  always  we  visited  the  butterfly  farm to get our usual dose of
tranquillity  and  to  learn  new  facts  about  these  most beautiful
creatures.  John once more supplied new and informative information in
a  very  humor  laden English style. We were amazed how much the flora
has  grown since April which now requires daily trimming to keep it in
check.  Edie  and  I  always  recommend  this stop for people who love
nature.

Other News

Another  item  of local interest is the stories that LaBelle Creole is
paying  former  employees  various  sums  of  money  to  end the labor
dispute.  Claims of "hush money" being given surfaced several times in
the  local  paper.  Whether or not this is true remains to be seen but
the  good  news  is that it appears that the impasse at LaBelle Creole
appears to be heading toward some sort of resolution.

The  other  local news that was the subject of discussion was the fact
that  tourism  is way down this summer from normal levels. The news on
the  street is that the local St. Martin department of tourism did not
advertise  enough  this  year in South America to pull that market in.
Additionally,   the   outrageous  prices  that  American  Airlines  is
charging   is   really   hurting   American  tourism  to  the  island.
Considering  that  the  Tower  airline  deal  to St. Martin has fallen
through  many  locals are again voicing their discontent with American
Airlines stranglehold on competition to the island. Stay tuned!

Well  that's  about  it.  Another  10 days spent in paradise. We did a
lot,  met a number of friends, made new ones and generally had a great
time.  What  else  could  one  ask of a vacation? Perhaps another one?
Let's  see  who  may  days till Edie's February school break?...Better
give our travel agent a call pretty soon.....

ST. MARTIN BY DAVID LOW

Trip 5/98

  After  we  cleared customs and picked up our luggage (both were fast
and  no  problem)  our  Conquest representative greeted us by name. We
were  impressed but later discovered that we were the only couple with
pink  Conquest  tags  (Le Flamboyant bound) so I guess we were not too
hard  to spot. The bus driver took our bags and led us to the bus. The
trip  to  the  hotel  gave us our first indication of the state of St.
Martin  vehicles.  Even  the new ones are in bad shape. First gear and
turning  off the air conditioning was needed to climb the only hill on
route, and this was with a total of four people on the bus.

 The Hotel

  The Flamboyant has a lot going for it. The grounds are beautiful and
well  maintained.  Every  morning  we saw staff grooming the beach and
gardens  to  remove any garbage or wind blown debris. The beach on the
lagoon  is not bad. The hotel supplies beach towels and chair pads and
there  are  many  cabanas  for shade. The lagoon is a good spot to try
water  sports  that  many  of  us  could not master on rough seas. The
hotel  has,  tennis  courts,  kayaks,  wind  surfing, small sailboats,
paddle  boats, and snorkel equipment at no charge. Water skiing, scuba
diving,  and  wave  runners  are  available at extra cost from the Sea
Dolphin dive shop, which is on site at the hotel.

The  hotel  also has two pools. One is by the bar, and seems to be the
centre  of  activity at the hotel. It has large speakers playing a mix
of  good but loud music and is constantly interrupted by announcements
from  the  hotel  staff. The other is identical but more secluded, and
also  has  a Jacuzzi. We rarely spent time at either of the pools, but
the  beach  was  good  for  short  term  lounging. There are scheduled
activities  for each day, but we preferred to be on our own. The hotel
staff  were  always friendly and helpful, and seem to work long hours.
Entry  to  the grounds is controlled by a security guard who activates
a  railroad  type  gate  to  allow  vehicles  to pass. We also noticed
security cameras throughout the grounds and on the beach.

The Room

Our  unit  was  a "lagoon view junior suite" on the second (top) floor
of  a four unit building. The room was fairly large with one king size
bed  and a 10" or 12" television. Who really cares about the TV, but a
larger  one  would  have  been  appreciated on those rainy nights. The
kitchen  was  outside  on  the  balcony. It had a two burner (with one
knob)  hot  plate, a small bar fridge, a dishwasher, a coffee maker, a
toaster  oven, and a toaster. The lagoon view units come at a premium,
but  the other units could give you a nice view of the gardens, or the
parking  lot,  or  the  road.  So, if you don't get a lagoon view, ask
specifically,  what  the  view  will be from your particular unit. The
room  was  a  little  run  down.  Nothing  major,  just  some dents, a
difficult  to  flush  toilet,  and generally showing its age. The room
was fine, but probably due for a renovation.

Hotel Food

It  was Sunday, and we got settled in at around 2:30 p.m. only to find
that  the  restaurant  did not reopen until 7:00 p.m. All we had eaten
that day was breakfast on the plane, so we were STARVING.

Everything  nearby  was  closed.  We  were waiting at the gate for the
restaurant  to  open  at  7:00.  The  food  was  fine but not close to
anything  else  we had on the French side. For breakfast buffet is the
only  offering.  It  was once again ok. but grossly overpriced at 88f.
We  preferred  to  have  toast and coffee on our balcony, but may have
eaten  there occasionally if a lower priced a la carte alternative was
offered.  They  do  offer  various  meal  plans that help get the cost
down,  but the real problem was that we wanted a lighter breakfast and
did not want to eat at the hotel too often. Monday

After  the  previously  mentioned breakfast at the hotel, we picked up
some  supplies  (water,  soft  drinks,  beer  etc.)at  the strip plaza
nearby  and  lounged  on  the  lagoon  beach  until lunch. Lunch at La
Parilla  across  the  road  from  the  hotel.  Very good food and nice
atmosphere,  friendly  staff  and  complimentary  rum  liqueur  after.
Having  now  eaten  twice  on the island I asked if there was a reason
why  we  never  received  the  bill  until  we  asked  for  it. It was
explained  to  us  that  the  bill is produced as soon as you indicate
that  you  are  finished  ordering, but it would be considered rude to
try  to  rush  you  out  by  giving  you  the  bill. From then on some
indication  that you wish to leave, such as a simple nod to any of the
wait staff, would bring the check.

Dinner  at  Jardin Tropical beside the Texaco near the hotel. Since we
had  a  large lunch we ordered individual pizzas. These were large and
we  used  the  leftovers  for  lunch the next day. They were different
than  the  pizza we are used to in that the cheese was very strong and
rich tasting. They were still very good pizzas. Tuesday

Breakfast  at Le Swan. Juice, coffee, croissant, and French bread. Car
Rental  -  Checked out some nearby car rentals and found the best deal
at  Executive  Car  Rental  at the hotel. The car came equipped with a
security  device  needed  to start the car and "the club". We are glad
that  we did not arrange the rental in advance. This way we got to see
the  car  and  check it over before renting it. Some (most)of the cars
are  wrecks. On the next Saturday we saw several broken down cars that
were  probably just rented by new arrivals. Having a bad car forced on
you  is  not  a  good way to start your vacation. Gus rentals tried to
tell  us  that  the  insurance was compulsory, which of course, with a
gold  card is not true. Prices seem to vary widely, so if you have the
time,  shop and negotiate the prices on everything you want, including
liquor and day trips.

Dinner  at  La  Parilla.  We  had  steak  and  shrimp  that  was again
excellent.  Creme brulee for desert was fabulous, but one each was too
much. (We ate them anyway) Wednesday

Now  that  we  had a car we went into Marigot and had breakfast at Zee
Best.  The  owner  is  from  Montreal. This is a very popular spot for
breakfast  and  it is easy to see why. The owner really makes you feel
welcome and the food is perfect.

We  took  a  drive  up  to Grand Case area to see our second and third
choice  hotels,  the  Alezia  and the Grand Case Beach Club. Our first
and  continued  impression  of the drivers on this island is that they
are  BAD,  they do not know how to drive or park, and show no courtesy
whatsoever.  We  will probably stay at the Alezia next time. It is not
on  the  beach, but now that we know our way around, the location will
not  be  a  problem.  The Grand Case was also nice, but the Alezia was
luxurious and very quite (dead) on both of our visits.

Lunch back at the hotel on our balcony.

Dinner at Le Swan. Burgers, fries, and beer. Thursday

Split  the day between the lagoon beach and Baie Rouge. Baie Rouge was
our  favorite  and we returned there many times. It has two beach bars
and  pretty good snorkeling. You can rent chairs and umbrellas, but at
$5  each,  we  bought  a  beach umbrella that came in handy at beaches
with  no  facilities. Next to Orient beach, this was the only one that
had  more  than  a  couple of people on it. It was not crowded, but it
was  nice  to  see  some  other  people  around.  The parking here was
patrolled  by  security  guards. We never saw or experienced any crime
while  on  the  island,  but  it  looks like there must have been some
problems, and they are taking the action to protect their visitors.

Dinner  at Tatoo right outside the hotel grounds. Oriental Chicken and
by  far  the best fajitas that I have ever had. We liked this place so
much  that we returned there for our farewell dinner. Oriental chicken
again  and  Prime  Rib  on the barbecue. For desert, we shared a creme
brulee  made  with  coconut milk. While scouting places during the day
for  dinner later that evening, Tatoo and others appear boarded up and
out  of  business. Not true, later you may find that they are open and
actually  quite  nice  inside.  Also,  there seems to be no schedules,
places  are  closed  some nights and open others, so don't assume they
are out of business just because they are closed one night. Friday

Made  the  trip  into  Phillipsburg.  Do not attempt to drive on Front
Street  or Back Street. These streets should be for pedestrian traffic
only.  We  parked  by  the  Great  Salt  Pond and walked from there. A
cruise  ship  was  in  and the streets and stores were very busy. Note
that  by  now  we  consider  ourselves "true islanders" and resent the
"cruisers" invading the leisurely pace of our vacation.

Had  lunch  at Everything's Cool. The owners are from Toronto and will
take  Canadian  dollars  at  par  (we did not bring any). The food was
fine  and  they  also  have a nice beach. Phillipsburg seems to be 80%
jewelry  stores, and 10% T-shirt stores. The place was a bit of a zoo,
with  people  at  each  storefront trying to lure you in with discount
flyers  and  sales  pitches.  It  should  be  experienced  if  only to
contrast  the  laid  back  and  relatively  tranquil atmosphere of the
French side.

Dinner  at  Messillana  in  Marigot, was very good. The balance of our
vacation  was  more  of the same (lounging and eating). We checked out
several  beaches  but  only  sunbathed  and  swam  at Baie Rouge, Baie
Longue,  and  Grand  Case. A special treat for me was scuba diving for
my  first  and  second  time. The first dive after some instruction in
the  pool  was  at Creole Rock off Grand Case (30ft. deep). The second
dive  was  at the wreck of the Greogory II off of Cupecoy Beach (60ft.
deep).  Thierry  at  the  Sea  Dolphin  dive  shop  was  a  very  good
instructor  and  made  me feel comfortable and safe. Dawn beach looked
to  be  very good for snorkeling, but was too rough on the day that we
were there. We settled for beers at Scavengers Beach Bar.

The  weather  was  perfect  for  the  first  week, but the second week
brought  rougher  seas and nightly storms. We had scheduled a day trip
to  Anguilla,  but  the  trip  was  canceled due to a problem with the
boat.  (I  think  we  were  relieved.)  The sometimes severe storms at
night  made  us  reluctant  to  drive  to Grand Case to try the highly
rated restaurants there. Other places we ate included:

At the marina in Marigot: Jean Dupont Les Cocotiers Le St. Germaine

Other Marigot: Le Charolais

Grand  Case  LoLo  (rib  shack #2) All of our meals on the French side
were excellent.

Dutch  Side:  Sambuca  deserves  a special mention (a BAD one). Dinner
was  very average, about on a par with the Olive Garden. We went there
for  breakfast  one day and had the worst, rudest waitress that I have
ever  encountered.  Wouldn't  you know that this was the only place we
ate  that  added  a 15% service charge to the bill. It is probably the
only way they would ever get a tip.

  Cheri's  was  not  very good. We ate early and on the weekend, so it
may  be  better  at night when there is more action. They are near the
airport,  and on the weekend the smell and taste of jet fuel was quite
strong. Tips and suggestions

A  boat  trip  around the island and lagoon may be the best way to see
all of the beaches.

Try  a  four wheel drive vehicle if you plan to travel off of the main
paved road.

Time  Share  salespeople  can become irritating. We seemed to get them
in  bunches  a  few  times.  They  usually  start  with  "Do you speak
English?  How  are you enjoying your trip?" If you reply, "I am really
enjoying  it  except  for all the people trying to sell me timeshares"
and  experience  a  stunned  look  or prolonged silence, then you have
probably  ferreted  out another salesperson. They will promise you the
world  if  you  just  sit  through  their  45  minute presentation. My
vacation time is too valuable for whatever they are offering.

ST. MARTIN BY ALTHEA BOGDAN

Trip 7/98

Just  returned  from 3 weeks and 2 days in paradise. We left our house
at  4AM on June 30 in order to make a 7AM flight out of Philly. We had
to  change  planes  in Miami. We left Philly on time and arrived early
in  Miami.  However,  the  flight out of Miami was delayed over a hour
due to heavy air traffic in NY, which the flight originated.

When  we arrived in SXM I was impressed. An airline employee met me at
the  bottom  of  the  stairs  with my wheelchair and escorted Ed and I
through  immigration. We went to the head of the line and were through
there  in  no  time.  When  we  reached  the  baggage area, one of the
baggage  handlers  who  works  there came over and told me to identify
our  luggage and he would take it out to our car. I told him we had to
find  our car and he said he already knew where it was parked. Service
like this is nice <g>.

We  arrived  at  Pelican  just  before 4PM. We were supposed to have a
studio  unit,  but  because  of  my  handicap  the staff put us in a 2
bedroom  unit  in  the D building. It did make it easier for me to get
to  and  we were able to park right in front of the unit. The unit was
lovely.  The  kitchen  was  NOT equipped very well and had no toaster.
Sylma  (our  island friend) came to our rescue by lending us a toaster
oven,  which  we  used  for  the  duration  of the trip. This unit was
really  very  nice  and  just  across the street from a pool. After we
settled  in  Sylma came by and brought us all the stuff we keep on the
island,  i.e.  my  hair  dryer,  beach  towels,  etc.  along with some
groceries  which  she  always  gets  for  us  to have upon arrival. We
settled  into this lovely unit and spent the next 5 days there. We did
NOTHING special, but spent the whole day doing that <g>.

I  am doing this report in parts so that I can report on each place we
stayed at, the restaurants and shopping, and some personal comments.

Each  Friday  during  our  trip  Sylma would arrive in the morning and
take  all  our  dirty laundry, which she did, then returned it cleaned
and  folded  the  next  day after we settled into our next unit at our
next  resort.  This  trip was an adventure and really quite enjoyable,
even if we were like criminals on the run <g>.

On  Saturday,  July  4  we  checked  out  of Pelican, Sylma stored our
freezer  and  fridge  stuff,  as  well  as  our luggage. We spent each
Saturday  between check out time at one place and check in time at the
next place, hanging out at Frank & Nina's house.

The  Pelican  is  nice,  but  my  only complaint is that it is a hilly
property and not easy to negotiate in a wheelchair.

If  it's  Saturday,  it  must  be  moving  day  <g>. We checked out of
Pelican  at  10AM.  Sylma  arrived  promptly  at  9:30  AM, stored our
luggage in her car promising to deliver it to us at our new "digs".

We  spent  the time between moves visiting Frank & Nina at there home.
This would become a weekly ritual.

Around  4PM  we  checked  into Divi Little Bay. I must comment at this
point  that  each  resort  did whatever was possible to accommodate my
handicap.  None  of  the resorts are truly handicap friendly, however,
each resort did go out of their way to help me.

At  Divi  we were assigned a lovely one bedroom unit just opposite the
pool.  The  living  room  faced Great Bay and the bedroom faced Little
Bay.  All  the  units  here  have been rebuilt after the storm and the
resort  is  lovely.  The  unit  had  a  bathroom plus a half bath. The
bathroom  in  the  master  bedroom  had  a jacuzzi tub plus a separate
shower.  My only complaint here was that the kitchen was a galley type
and  not  too  wide  so I had a bit of a problem rolling through in my
wheelchair.  However, this property was perhaps the nicest kept of all
we  visited.  Each  morning the gardeners were out with hoses watering
the  vegetation.  The  hoses  were  not  the usual garden variety, but
rather more like a fireman's hose. The grounds were lovely.

One  cute  and  funny incident. When we checked in I was informed that
they  had  2  hadicapped parking spots and they gave me a photocopy of
the  universal  handicap  sign.  However, the spots we always taken by
cars  without  any  handicap  indication. I figured that since I got a
photocopy  of  a  sign,  the  cars  parked  illegally  probably  got a
photocopy  of  a  parking  ticket  <g>. The security at the resort was
VERY  good  and  no one was allowed to visit us without the front desk
calling  us  first.  Also,  since the parking spots were not generally
available  to  us  the guards had us park right in front of the office
so  the walk to our room was short. They also permitted Ed to drive me
to the door.

Most  days  were  spent by the pool for me and in the ocean for Ed. It
was also a nice spot to watch the cruise ships come in and leave.

The units were nicely furnished and pretty well equipped.

At  this  point  we  had been on the island since Tuesday and not been
food  shopping  yet.  Sylma  did  see that we had milk, coffee, bread,
butter  and  a  few  other  things. For the most part we just ate out.
This  is  the  first trip that I cooked only ONE meal. Annie was right
about the kitchens.

July  11.  Well,  if  it's  Saturday  it must be moving day <g>. Sylma
arrived  promptly  at 9:30 AM, cooler in hand, and took all our fridge
and  freezer  stuff,  along  with our luggage, promising to meet us at
our next location at 4PM.

We  left  Divi  around 10AM and did a rather quick shopping trip. Went
to  Gold  Coin,  my  store  of  choice on the island. I don't buy much
jewelry,  but do add to my Swarovski collection rather regularly. This
trip  I  did  want  a  new watch. I need a watch with a black face and
gold  hands  because my vision is not too good. I found a lovely Seiko
that  I  like and got it at a price I felt was good. While I was there
I  did  add to my crystal collection and also bought my friend a piece
for her upcoming birthday.

We  also  stopped  at  the  Windmill shop and bought the grandkids tee
shirts.  I  also  bought  some  for  myself.  Where else can I get tee
shirts  3  for  $10. I wear them when I'm home and if I get a stain on
one I just throw it out.

After  our  short  shopping  trip we again hung out with Frank & Nina.
They are good friends and we really enjoy their company.

Around  4PM  we  headed over to the Flamingo Beach. We were originally
supposed  to  get  a  one  bedroom  unit on the second floor. However,
Sylma's  sister,  who  is  also a friend of ours, works there and said
that  the  elevators are forever breaking down and we should request a
ground  floor  unit,  which I did. The person at the registration desk
was  very  nice  and  did give us a ground floor unit, apologizing for
the fact that it was a studio and not a one bedroom.

This  unit  was  LOVELY,  The  living  room  area was huge. Of all the
places  we  stayed,  this  unit was the most handicapped friendly. Our
deck  had  3  steps  that  lead down to the beach. We were in the unit
less  then  15 minutes when management had a ramp installed so I could
get down easily.

Sylma  arrived  promptly  at  4PM  with  our  luggage,  food and clean
laundry.  Sure  wish  I  had  this woman here <g>. Today Sylma arrived
with  her sister Sylvia, who works at Flamingo. They both made sure we
had  EVERYTHING. Ed wanted a couple of extra pillows. We ended up with
SEVEN!

One  thing  I really liked about this place was that the towels in the
bathroom  were bath sheets instead of those small bath towels. My body
doesn't  fit  in  bath  towels! Annie are you listening? The TV in the
living  room  area  (there  were  2  TV's  in  the  unit)  was  closed
captioned.

Of  all  the  places  we  stayed,  this one was the nicest in terms of
being  a  bit  roomier  and  easier  for me to get around in. Divi was
probably  the  nicest  unit, but I prefer to be on the airport side of
the  mountain. Ed is having some vision problems so night driving is a
problem so we stayed close to home base in the evenings.

ST. MARTIN BY DAVID JAUVTIS

Trip 8/98

After  9 cruises in 6 years, this was our first land trip in a decade.
We  booked  through  Liberty  travel which resulted in a lower airfare
portion  then  if  we  had  booked  the  components  separately. After
reading  the various comments on this board, the RT airfare of $575 pp
seemed  reasonable, (using American both ways) from Newark to SXM with
a  stop  at  Miami going down and San Juan returning. The land portion
for  two  totaled $644 and included 5 nights at the Mont Vernon hotel,
located  at  the  northern end of Orient Bay, a full breakfast buffet,
transfers  to  and  from  the  airport,  a coupon book full of $10-off
coupons  (more  on  this  later),  and a rental car from Hertz for two
days.  The  rental  car  did not include insurance, which cost $13 per
day  with  a  $500  deductible or $20 with no deductible. After seeing
how  isolated  the  resort was, we added two days onto the rental car,
at  a cost of $20 per day. With full insurance, the cost was $40 a day
plus gas.

The  flight down was un-eventful and the plane arrived on time. We did
not  realize  that there was no direct tube connection to the terminal
and  that  an  outside  stairway was necessary. Regulars obviously are
aware  of quirks like this and don't mention it in their posts. I feel
that  stuff like this should be mentioned just to alert people like us
who have never traveled to the Island except by cruise ship.

The  transfer  from  the  airport  to  the hotel took some time as the
driver  was  taking  4  traveling parties to 4 different hotels and we
were  last off as the Mont Vernon is all the way to the north. The air
conditioning  on  the  bus  wasn't  working  (what  else is new in the
Caribbean).

The  Mont  Vernon  is  charmingly set on a hill overlooking Orient Bay
and  the  sea.  We  had a large spacious room with a wonderful view of
the  water  and  the  Orient  salt  pond. The room had a nice recessed
terrace  which  allowed us to sit out at night in our best Club Orient
attire  and  observe  the  view.  Be  warned however that the hotel is
located  on  a  VERY  hilly  plot  of  land which means that it is the
equivalent  of  5  or 6 stories high just to go from the beach area to
the main building.

To  move  around  the  resort the choices were to use the direct steep
stone  stairways  cut  into  the  hill or the meandering gently sloped
roads  used  by  the  hotel service vehicles. Most people parked their
cars  on  the perimeter road running around the resort at the level of
their building and walked along the service road to their room.

Also,  all  the  rooms  were in 3 story buildings, similar to a motel,
with  a single plank bridge from the pathway to the outside walkway of
the  building.  When  we walked from where we parked the car we had to
walk  uphill  past our room which was at the South end of the building
to  the  North  end of the building which connected the pathway to the
building  walkway,  cross  over to our building and walk back down the
outside  of  the building to the southern tip. The other two levels of
the building were reached by stairways from the plank level.

The  hotel  did  have  an  enormous fresh water pool with a walled off
wading  section  for  tots  and  a large beachfront on Orient Bay. The
surf  was  quite  rough  hitting  the hotel property, not as gentle as
down  the  Bay  by  Club Orient where we hung out most of the time. We
observed  that  most  of  the  people staying at the hotel were French
family  groups,  children  and  all. The mothers with young kids had a
ball  pushing  the  strollers  up  and down the mountain all week. The
hotel  staff  spoke  French  and English but most of the French guests
didn't  speak  anything  but  French, which was another reason we hung
out at Club Orient's beach.

The  hotel  was  wired  220V with round plugs and a grounding pin. The
hotel  didn't  have  any  adopters  available,  neither  did the store
located  on  the hotel grounds. We eventually located an adopter at an
electronics   store  in  Philipsburg;  the  gizmo  didn't  accept  the
grounding  pin so the store gave us a spacer. This meant that it was a
loose  fit and the plug had to be held in and wedged while being used.


We  overheard  the  few other Americans in the hotel planning shopping
trips  to  buy  European-spec hairdryers. Not a friendly situation; if
the  hotel  wants  US  citizens  to  fill  it  up  in  the low season,
Xenophobic stuff like this is not the way to go.

Since  we  did  not  get  our rental car until the next morning we ate
supper  at the hotel the first night. The hotel offers a supper buffet
,  with  a  different  theme  each  night.  This meal at best could be
described  as  adequate  and  just reinforced our desire to extend the
rental  car  contract  for the full visit to get the desired mobility.
The  food was OK, the desserts terrific (the chocolate croissants went
FAST!!)  The breakfast buffet was better (no crepes, though), with the
chocolate  croissants  going  even  faster  than  at the night buffet.
Breakfast ran from 7-10 in the morning, the dinner buffet ran from 7 -
10.

Friday  morning,  after  securing  the rental car, a new clean Hyundai
Accent  with  auto  and  working  a/c,  we  headed into Philipsburg to
acquire trinkets for the lady and toys for hubby, along with the much-
needed  220-110 converter. The Monarch was in port so the streets were
crowded.  We found out that only 4 ships stop in St. Martin during the
summer,  the  Monarch  on  Friday,  The  Fascination  on  Mondays, and
another  Carnival  ship  and  RCI  ship  on Tuesday (or Wednesday, not
sure.)  This  is  another reason why the island economy is so bad. The
crowds  thinned out a few blocks from the dock pier, which also has to
hurt  the  merchants  on  Front  street  at the fringe. After securing
diamond  studs,  a  Canon  APS camera and the converter, we stopped at
the  BK  by  the  dock for LARGE sodas and headed back to the hotel to
prepare for the beach.

After  parking  at  the  edge  and  hiking  up the hill to our room to
change  into  beach attire, we hiked back down to the car and drove to
Orient.  Be aware that there are 3 entrances to Orient Beach; the road
marked  Orient  Beach/BooBoojams  leads to a part of the beach that is
not  connected  to  any  hotel  and  is  nearly  deserted  and full of
seaweed.  We  eventually  found  the  correct access road, marked Club
Orient/Bayside  Stables  (no,  we weren't in Queens) and parked behind
Pedro's.  Since  this  was  our  third visit to Orient, we immediately
turned  to  the right, passed the large sign and got into proper dress
mode.

Because  of  the reefs, the surf was more gentle than at the hotel and
there  was  very  little seaweed present. The beach was fairly crowded
because  of  the  Monarch  people, many of whom walked up and down the
water's  edge  pretending  not  to  notice  the  attire of most of the
people  on  the  beach.  We paid $5 each to rent a beach chair; we had
brought  towels  from  our  hotel  pool. The fellow running one of the
concessions  had  taught his dog how to play soccer and they had a fun
time  with it. Unfortunately, I could not photograph it, for the usual
reason.  The  dog  was REALLY good and could dribble the ball and pass
it  back  to  his owner (or servant, if you asked the dog, assuming it
could speak).

After  several  hours  we headed back to the hotel, parked the car and
hiked  up  to  the room to shower, relax and change before heading out
to explore St. Martin at night.

We  drove  over  to  Grand  Case,  looked  in our $10-off coupon book,
checked  for  the  Amex sticker (we usually only use Amex, to build up
the  FF  miles, and did not bring a Visa or MC with us from the room.)
We  found  a lovely place, L'Escapade, with dining in the open terrace
by  the  bay.  This  was their last night (this being July 31) as they
were  closing  for  the  month  of  August.  The meal and service were
excellent,  however  their Amex machine was on the fritz, so we had to
pay  cash. Since this depleted our Casino funds, we then headed out at
10  PM  to  find  an ATM machine that would dispense $, not francs. As
usual,  the  Xenophobic  French-side machines would only give FF so we
headed  down to the Dutch side and took a withdrawal from the Windward
Bank  near  Maho  Beach.  At  that  point,  we  decided to explore the
explore the Maho beach area and discovered Cheri's cafe.

We  sat  outside, eating our Hagen-Daz from next door and drinking our
tropical  drinks  while  people watching. Since this was Friday night,
it  was  crowded  and we enjoyed watching singles perform their mating
rituals.  Boy,  that  took  us  back.!!!. Back to the hotel at 1.30 AM
only  to  discover  that  all  the parking spots on the perimeter road
were  taken;  we  had  to  park  alongside the beach area, all the way
down, which meant a REALLY BIG hike up to the room.

Saturday  morning,  up  earlier  to  hit  the morning breakfast buffet
while  there  were  still chocolate croissants available, then all the
way  down the hill to where the car was parked (It goes without saying
that  we  didn't  gain any weight on this trip, even with all the rich
French food we ate, mountain hiking really burns it off.)

We  then  headed  back  to  Philipsburg  to  get  a spacer so that the
converter  would  work.  While  there  (no  ship  in  port,  much more
relaxed)  the  wife  stopped  in  a  Touch  of  Gold and bought a fine
bracelet  at  a  very  reasonable price. The bb is right, they do have
good  stuff  at  good  prices, we should have bought the diamond studs
here,  better  quality at the same price. Wait until December, when we
return  on  the Grand Princess, she will have really done her research
on necessary trinket necessities

While  wandering up and down sparsely-populated Front Street, the time
share  people  implored  us  to check out their developments, with all
kinds  of  bonuses  available,  including  a  free trip for two on the
catamaran  to St. Barts, just for listening to a sales pitch on Monday
for  1  hour  for the Divi time share project. After another supersize
set  of  sodas,  this  time  at McD (no steps to climb here) we headed
back to Club Orient for some more quality beach time.

We  did  not  return to our hotel to change, since we weren't changing
into  anything  for  the beach (Enough mountain work after breakfast.)
The  beach  was  much  emptier without the cruise ship people. Pity. I
had  a  camera  in our carry-bag; if Ronaldo-disguised-as-a-beagle was
there,  I  would  have  asked  permission  to  take a picture. No dog,
though.

After  three  hours, back to our hotel to get ready for another supper
expedition.  We  headed  back  to  Grand  Case again, which was really
empty,  even  though  it  was  Saturday night (we found out later that
Sat.  is  usually  a  quiet  night  here.) We ate at a place called Le
Cottage,  almost  as  good as last night. It was sad to see L'Escapade
shuttered  for  August,  along  with  a  lot of other restaurants. The
owner/manager  of  LeCottage  spent his time the front door, imploring
passersby  to  come into his place. After a while, we could recite his
shtick  as  well  as  he  could,  without  the French accent. Really a
shame,  the  island  has to get it's act together. The French families
at  our  hotel  were not venturing out at night but were eating at the
mediocre  hotel  buffet.  What can you do when you have small children
along  and  the  hotel does not seem to have baby sitters available at
night.  I assume that the people at the other hotels also eat at their
hotels and don't explore the Island at night.

After    dinner,    back   to   Cheri's   for   more   Hagen-Daz   and
banana/strawberry  daiquiris  (not  as  good as at Pedro's, where they
use  fresh fruit rather than mixes.) The crowd here was also much more
sparse, don't the singles prowl on Saturday night??

Since  everything is closed on Sunday, we spent most of the day at the
beach,  a  slight mistake. It was much hotter, 100+ rather than 90+ on
the  prior  two  days  and 5 hours rather than 3, we both got slightly
burned  on top of our tans and hubby's back went out from sitting in a
beach  chair  for  a  long  period. The back eventually calmed down at
10PM,  too  late for dinner so we headed down to Cheri's, knowing they
would  be  open  later than the restaurants, but got there at 12.05 AM
(kitchen  closes  at  midnight)  We  went  next door to Hagen-Daz, got
three  scoops  rather  than  the  usual 1 as they were closing (it WAS
supper, after all), and moved back to Cheri's for tropical drinks.

We  decided  to  use  the casino-coupons in the discount book and went
next  door  to  the  Atlantis.  We got $10 worth of chips for nothing,
parlayed  that  into  $45  at  the  $5 blackjack table and called it a
night  at  1  AM.  We  headed  back to the hotel, found an open Texaco
station  at 1.30AM, filled up at $3.50/gallon (I think), gave a dollar
to  the  squeegee  guy who hung out at the gas station and cleaned our
windows  and  got  back  to the hotel at 1.30AM where we did the usual
park-hike thing again. Really getting annoyed about that.

On  Monday,  we  went into Philipsburg again, after the breakfast/hike
act   (all   the  chocolate  croissants  gone,  damn!)  Why  again  to
Philipsburg?  Because  it's  there!  The  Fascination  was in port, at
least  I  think  it  was.  I  know it was a Carnival ship. We met a 30
something  woman  at Pedro's in the early afternoon, off the ship, who
just  reinforced  our  desire  never to set foot on a Carnival cruise,
ever.  The  dining  room  is always open seating, the food and service
bad.  This  must be Carnival's response to the younger crowd who don't
want  the usual rigid cruise ship dining times, etc. She was traveling
as  a  third  wheel  with  an  engaged  couple  (friend  of  both) and
complained  that  there  were  very  few  singles  on the ship, mostly
couples  and  families  aboard.  This surprised me as I always assumed
that  Carnival  had  a  large  number  of singles on board . Maybe the
singles  were  20  something,  which would not appeal to a 36 year old
woman.

Orient  Beach  and  Pedro's were much livelier with the cruise people,
with  various  people  taking  pictures  with  telephoto lenses at the
crowd  past  the  sign  to  the right. No respect for the naked there.
This  was  our  last  day at Pedro's so we had 2 banana daiquiris each
rather  than 1, to celebrate. Monday night, we went to Marigot and ate
at  Jean Dupont's on the water at the Marina. Another fine restaurant,
wonderful  ambiance.  Also  full of French chain-smokers, like all the
other places.

After  dinner we walked around the Marina, admiring the view. Romantic
place.  If some young person would ask me where to propose to his girl
friend,  this  would be the place. Of course, no youngster would ask a
50+  old  fart  where to propose, what do we know? Down to Cheri's, no
ice  cream this time, just a final round of daiquiris, people watching
so-so  this night. We then used another casino coupon for $10 worth of
chips,  lost  it  at  blackjack,  and won $8 at a nickel slot machine.
This  was  a free standing casino 3 miles away from the airport on the
road  to  Marigot.  Back  to the hotel, park and hike, packing for the
trip back home, to reality.

Tuesday  morning  last  buffet  breakfast,  they still had croissants,
hooray!!.  We  also took some fresh rolls from the buffet in a ziplock
bag  to  tide  us  over until our yummy airline food, due at 6 PM. The
transfer  bus  showed  up  on time, at 12.10PM The air conditioner was
WORKING,  hallelujah.  To  the  airport,  waiting  on the interminable
lines,  surprised  at  the $20 per person departure tax that had to be
paid  there (another little quirk not mentioned on the board here that
should be, what if you were short of cash).

Our  plane took off at 3.30PM for the 40 minute run to San Juan, where
we  had  the fun of running the US customs obstacle course. The flight
to  Newark  took  off at 5.10 PM, as scheduled. The purloined rolls in
the  ziploc  bag  were  a  welcome treat as we didn't get supper until
well  after  6 (probably illegal to bring food into the US, who cares,
they  were  in our tummies by 5.45 PM while still on the plane). Hubby
and  wifey  differ  on  Cruise vs Land trips. The wife feels that land
vacations  like  this  are  too  dull and much prefers cruising, hubby
likes  cruising but would go on a land trip like this once in a while.
Comments and questions welcome.

ST. MARTIN BY JOHN CRABS

Trip 8/98

Linda  and  I  left from Cleveland on American Airlines on Thurs. Aug.
6th  at  7  AM.  When  we arrived in Miami a huge storm came in and we
were  delayed  for  2  hours. Later we discovered that our luggage had
sat   on  the  tarmac  throughout  the  storm  and  when  we  unpacked
everything  was  wet.  But,  we were happy to be in SXM and everything
eventually dried out.

Service  from  Hertz  was  slow.  We waited almost a half hour for the
shuttle  to  take  us  from the airport to our car. We discovered that
they  had  only  one  person working and this person drove the shuttle
bus,  got  you  your car, did the paperwork regarding the condition of
the  car,  etc. We really loved our villa at Green Cay. It was perfect
for  us.  Because of our late arrival, we decided to have dinner close
to  the  villa, and chose the Bikini Cafe on Orient beach. At first we
though  we made a bad choice since there were only 2 other tables with
people  eating,  but  the  service  was  very  good  and  the food was
excellent.  Linda and I both had the steak and lobster special and the
steak  was one of the most flavorful I've ever had. Dinner with drinks
and  tip  was  $60  and this turned out to be one of the best meals we
had  on  our  trip.  We returned to the villa and finished settling in
for our 10 day vacation.

Fri 8/7

Green  Cay  serves  you  a complimentary continental breakfast in your
villa  on your first morning there. We awoke and called the office and
shortly  2  maids arrived and laid out a very nice breakfast of rolls,
fruits,  juice,  coffee.  It  was  a  very  nice  touch.  We  went  to
Phillipsburg  to get some food for the villa. I got lost and never did
find  the Food Center I was looking for. I finally found a decent size
grocery  store and we returned to the villa and then headed for Orient
Beach.  This  beach was just what we wanted. There were plenty of food
and  beverage  stands,  restrooms,  beach facilities, etc. and we were
glad  we  chose  that beach. Thanks to those of you that steered us in
it's  direction.  Of  all  the  other beaches we saw, I think we liked
Dawn  beach  the  best.  It was empty, less than 10 people, but it did
have  Mr.  Busbys  where we had a drink and talked to some locals. Our
villa  had  a  private pool so after the beach each day we returned to
the  pool  and  really enjoyed it. Dinner that night was at Le Piccalo
in  the  French  Cul de Sac. What a great deal this place is. We dined
on  the  porch and I had the scallop special which was outstanding and
only  $9.95. Linda had beef tournados which she said was excellent. It
was  $9.95  also.  We  split the crab stuffed mushroom caps and Caesar
salad.  With drinks our bill was $42. We had outstanding service also.
This  is  by  far  the  best  bargain we found. Thanks to Jim Rous for
telling me about this place.

Since  we  usually ate dinner late each evening, we generally returned
to  the  villa to relax. One thing Green Cay could improve on is their
tv  channel  selections.  We did get HBO, but we only got CNN Headline
News  and  ESPN 2. They could drop those and replace them with CNN and
ESPN.

Sat 8/8

We  went  to  Marigot  in  the  morning  to see the market. We enjoyed
walking  around the various booths and seeing all the things that were
offered.  We  ate  breakfast  at  a place near the market that did not
have  a  sign  and no one there spoke English. So, it was an adventure
ordering  our meal. We both had ham and cheese omelets which were very
good.  I  knew  enough  French to get us by, but one of my goals is to
learn  French  very well by next summer. After spending the morning at
the market we returned to the villa and headed for the beach.

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET
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Selected features appear on Prodigy.

Contact:

Paul Graveline
9 Stirling St.
Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA
Home (Voice or Fax) 978-470-1971

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