Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 79
November 1997

Last Update Oct 29/1600ET

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Patti  and  I  left  Chicago's  O'Hare  on  9/30  at  6:15AM  for SXM, 
transferring  in  Miami.  Because  of  this  early start we were up at 
3:15AM  to catch a Limo at 4AM. Check-in at O'Hare at 4:45AM is a snap 
(took  only  5  minutes).  Flight was uneventful to Miami and on time. 
Our  wait in Miami was only 1 hour and we were on our last leg to SXM. 
We  arrived  on  AAflight  #445  at exactly 2:30PM. I am assuming that 
what  happened  in  the next 25 minutes was simply due to it being the 
slow  season.  Patti  and  I  went  through immigration in less than 5 
minutes  and our bag was already on the carousel on the other side. We 
grabbed  a  taxi  to  Hertz and picked-up our car and were leaving the 
Hertz  rental  area  at 2:55PM. This obviously was a new record for us 
since  it  took nearly 90 minutes in August of '96 to perform the same 

Feeling  real  good  about  ourselves, we headed for Marigot and Match 
for  a  few  necessary provisions - French bread, Brie cheese, etc. We 
had  already brought some other basics such as coffee, creamer, sugar, 
soap  <thanks Carol>, bug spray, fruit. As we left Match I noticed, as 
some  others  have,  that  things  seemed  cleaner  along  the roadway 
compared to last year. 

We  arrived  at  Club  O at 4PM and checked-in with no problem <thanks 
Jim  Ruos>.  We  booked  a  beach chalet through Jim and were somewhat 
apprehensive   as   to   what   it  would  be  like  compared  to  our 
accommodations   at   Esmeralda's   last   year.  We  were  pleasantly 
surprised.  The  unit  was  very  nice and located equidistant between 
Pedros'  and  Papagayo's  - Unit #68. I won't describe the unit, since 
Carol  Hill has done that very nicely in her previous Club O report. I 
will  say  however, that the view was great and we did have A/C in our 
bedroom, which was all we needed. 

After  unpacking,  Patti and I made a dash for the water and spent the 
next  hour in the water, on the beach, in the water, on the beach <G>. 
We  walked  up  and  down  the beach to see how things have progressed 
since  last year, and were amazed at how much had been accomplished at 
Club O in the last 13 moths. 

After  our  water  and  beach baptism we headed back to our chalet for 
French  bread  and Brie cheese out on the front patio - aaaaaah what a 
life!  It  occurred  to  us  that a some point we should get ready for 
dinner  and  put  some clothes on (which we so easily shed when we got 
to our unit). 

We  left about 6:30 and headed over to our favorite eating area, Grand 
Case.  We  had  already been warned that many of the great restaurants 
over   there   were   closed  for  vacation.  However,  our  favorite, 
'L'Auberge  Gourmande' was open, so we were thrilled to start our trip 
off  with  Christine  and  her  chef  husband.  We  both had the house 
cocktail,  champagne  with apricot brandy, and a wonderful conch soup. 
For  a  main  entre  Patti  had  red snapper rolled around shrimp in a 
wonderful  basil  sauce  and  I had lobster thermidor both with nicely 
done  vegetables.  For  dessert  I had creme bruelee while Patti had a 
walnut  cake  topped  with  creme  bruelee in a raspberry sauce with a 
scoop  of  passion fruit sorbet and butter cookies as trim. All-in-all 
a  great first meal on our first night in paradise. Christine was kind 
enough  to  buy  me  an  after  dinner drink of Chambord Liqueur while 
Patti  decided  to buy one of L'Auberge's T-shirts. I will not comment 
on  the  pricing  of  our meals, since I believe it would take all the 
fun  out of it and also remind me that we probably spent too much <G>. 

We  arrived  back at Club O around 9:30PM. You must know they now have 
a  gate  that  must  be raised and lowered to get into Club O - so the 
guard  has  to keep on his toes for the late casino arrivals. I failed 
to  mention  earlier,  that  one thing we hadn't missed was that great 
road  leading  into  ClubO  and Orient Beach - sure beats any potholes 
I've ever seen. 

After  a  nightcap on the porch, looking at the stars and listening to 
the ocean, we called it a<VBG>day. 

Wednesday  morning,  10/1,  I  awoke  to  beautiful  sunshine  with  a 
smattering  of  clouds.  While  Patti was still sleeping<which she did 
every  morning  until I had croissants in hand>, I took a quick dip in 
the  water  and  then  proceeded to L'Orientique to pickup the morning 
croissants  and  another  French  bread.  This  became  a ritual every 
morning  but  two,  so I won't repeat myself. The one thing that was a 
different  experience  for  me  was  the  way  I  shopped  <G>.  After 
returning  to  the  chalet  I got Patti moving by the smell of freshly 
brewed  coffee  and  the allure of croissants from paradise. We sat on 
the  porch and had breakfast, relaxing quietly for the first time in a 
long time. 

After  breakfast  we  did the suntan lotion ritual which was necessary 
especially  this  first  full day on the beach. We parked ourselves on 
the  beach  with  two  chairs and an umbrella, supplied to us by JB, a 
nice  young man who works for Papagayo's watersports. Our location was 
somewhere  between  our  chalet #68 and Papagayo's. Except for a brief 
passing  shower  <more a nuisance than anything> the morning was spent 
in water, on the beach, etc. 

For  Lunch  we  decided to try the new Papagayo's. Patti had the curry 
chicken  salad  and  I  the cheeseburger with Dutch cheese washed down 
with  our  favorite - Mango daiquiris. Overall a nice lunch in a great 

After  lunch  it  was  back  to  the  beach for the afternoon with the 
weather  very  much  cooperating. Patti did want to visit L'Orientique 
in  mid-afternoon,  so  we strolled over to see what they had to offer 
besides  croissants  and  French bread. The shop is very nice but very 
expense,  so  we  decided  that we would hold off on buying any gifts, 
etc.  for  Marigot  or  Philipsburg  later  in  the  trip.  After  our 
browsing, we hit the beach and the water again. 

Wednesday  evening, as many know, is the wine and cheese party between 
5:30  and  6:30 at Papagayo's. I've been to many cocktail parties over 
the  years, but this was a first for Patti and I. Somehow this was the 
greatest  'equalizer' I had ever experienced <G>. We had a great time. 
We  met  Mr.  Brink, our host, and a number of other very nice people. 
We  met  one  couple,  Terry  and  Sarah,  from  Mississippi  who were 
spending  their  7th  or  8th vacation at Club O. Being wiped out from 
our  first  day  in  the  sun,  we  decided to stay and have dinner at 
Papagayo's.  Patti  had a kabob of fish featuring mahi mahi, tuna, and 
swordfish,  while  I had grilled swordfish. The meals were accompanied 
by  rice  and  very  fresh  broccoli,  however  we  did order potatoes 
instead  of rice. For dessert we had an almond cake with fresh whipped 
cream.  The  meal  was  good  but  our  complaint  was the slowness of 
service.  It  took  nearly  2 1/2 hours and there were only four other 
tables  having  dinner  in  the restaurant that night. After dinner it 
was  back  to  the  chalet  and  called it an early evening. As a side 
note,  we  are  not  opposed  to  casinos,  but since we NEVER win, we 
decided  to  spend our money on food <BG> instead of going over to the 
casinos after dinner. 

Thursday,  10/2, we got up and had breakfast and started to put on our 
lotion  for the day when it started to rain. The rain lasted for about 
1  hour  and then the sun came out. During the night we had very heavy 
thunderstorms  with  tremendous  flashes  of  lightening. Our hope was 
that  this  was  not  going  to  be  a  trend for the next week. While 
waiting  for the rain to pass, our maid was cleaning our chalet and we 
had  an interesting conversation with her. She will be turning 65 this 
year  <looks  55>  and  she  has  9 children and 24 grandchildren. She 
originally  is  from  the  Dominican  Republic but has been on SXM for 
about  17  years. Like a bartender or a barber, she had great insights 
about life. 

For  lunch  we decided to walk down to Pedros' only to find it closed. 
I  suspect  that  this  was  due  in part to the poor start to the day 
weatherwise  and  because there was no cruise ships. As with no cruise 
ships  there  were no gawkers which was very nice for a change. So, we 
turned around and headed back to Papagayo's for lunch. 

Patti  had the Greek salad for lunch and I had the fried calamari with 
fries  <great  for the cholesterol> both moistened by Mango daiquiris. 
The  afternoon  was  spent  on the beach and in the water, meeting two 
couples  who  were visiting Orient Beach but staying over on the Dutch 
side  in  their  timeshares.  Since,  Patti  and I are originally from 
Philadelphia,  it  was  interesting  to  us  that  one couple was from 
Allentown,  Pa.  and  the other just outside of Doylestown, Pa. It was 
fun  just  talking  about,  and  catching up on, what's been happening 
back there for the past 11+ years. 

Thursday  evening  we  had  reservations  at  Mario's  Bistro in Sandy 
Ground  for  7PM.  We had called down for reservations about two weeks 
in  advance  so  we  could be assured of a table by the water. Without 
disappointing,  our  favorite  server  Didier,  showed us to our table 
overlooking  the  water  channel.  I  started off with an appetizer of 
penne  paste  in a mushroom sauce topped with parmesan and goat cheese 
while  Patti  had a bacon romaine salad with a vinagerette/blue cheese 
dressing.  For  a  main  course  Patti had a 2 inch thick grilled tuna 
steak  topped  with  freshly  grated  blue cheese and gnocchi in a red 
sauce  as a side. I had the most outstanding veal chop (12 oz.) that I 
had  ever  tasted  with  crusted  pesto  on top with crispy onions and 
chedder  cheese  potatoes.  Dessert consisted of fresh strawberries in 
an  upside  down  cone  for  Patti <looked like a volcano> while I had 
raspberry  marbled  cheesecake in a vanilla sauce. With a great dinner 
in  tow, the car moved slower up and down the hills of St. Martin back 
to  Club  O  for the evening. Parked on our chairs on the porch of the 
chalet,  we  again  looked  to  the stars and listened to the peaceful 
roll  of the water and the chirping of the frogs. <P.S. until dressing 
for  dinner  at Marios's, I came to realize I had not worn any clothes 
for almost 48 hours - how relaxing>. 

Friday,  10/3,  we  started  the day by adding passion fruit juice and 
bananas  to  our breakfast menu. After a stroll on the beach and a dip 
in  the  water, we headed to Marigot for the Market on the waterfront. 
While  there,  we ran into another Club O couple from Tennessee, Nancy 
and  Dave,  who were looking for Bruce Farrington's favorite croissant 
place.  We  later  found  out  that  they found it, but we were not so 
lucky  <Bruce  you need to draw me a map>. Patti bought an island doll 
from  a  local artisan <dolls being Patti's passion> and I a very nice 
gold  and stainless steal/silver bracelet for Patti. Being a very very 
hot  and  humid  day, we headed back to Club O after about 2 1/2 hours 
so  we  could  hit the beach for the afternoon. The afternoon was more 
cloudy  than not, but that was OK since we needed to lighten up on the 
sun  for  a  little  bit.  Lunch, by-the-way, consisted of a chocolate 
croissant and Perrier in Marigot. 

On  the recommendation of Jim Ruos, we headed over to Bistrot Caraibes 
where  the  live  lobsters reside in the fountain out front. To start, 
Patti  had  the  lobster  bisque  soup  and  I  the  conch  stew. As a 
comparison  to  L'Auberge Gourmande, I had the lobster thermidor which 
had  a  tarragon/cheese sauce and Patti had a sea bass dish. Both were 
excellent  meals  with  the  added  side  learning  of how to tell the 
difference  between  a  male and a female lobster. Obviously I thought 
all  you  needed  to do was to turn them over, but our server was much 
more  astute  than  I.  Patti had five different berries <straw, blue, 
black  rasp,red  rasp,and  guava> with a very creamy vanilla ice cream 
for  dessert  and I the creme brulee. The meal was topped off with the 
traditional  Grand  Case  rum  after dinner drink laced this time with 
ginger  root.  While  we  were  in  Bistrot Caribes, unbekownst to us, 
there  were  three  other couples from Club O who would later meet and 
become  known  as  the suspects in the recent 'St. Martin Fall Fling'. 
More on this subject in subsequent trip reports. 

After  dinner,  we walked down the street to a small shop called 'Sexy 
Fruits'  where Patti bought a pair of earrings and then headed back to 
our chalet for the night. 

Saturday,  10/4,  started off spectacularly from a weather standpoint. 
Saturday  was  the  beginning  5+  days  of sunshine with little or no 
clouds,  88  to  90  degree temps, no wind<on the beach or otherwise>, 
and  very humid. Needed to resupply on French bread and Brie, so added 
these items to my daily routine stroll to L'Orientique. 

Patti  and  I  were  on  the  beach by 9:30AM and never saw our chalet 
until  5:30PM.  I  rented  one of Papagayo's yellow floats for the day 
<$5>  and  Patti  and I used it to float two or three times out to the 
floating  diving  platforms  that are 30 to 35 yards off shore. What a 
great  way  to  spend  a day. One thing one needs to remember however, 
don't  forget to reapply that suntan lotion all over, especially after 
sitting  on  your  beach  towel or floating in the water face down for 
any period of time <ouch>. 

For  lunch,  we  decided  to  walk  down  to  Pedros' and see what was 
happening  at  that  end  of the beach. Fortunately, there weren't too 
many  'cruisers'  on the beach, just mostly locals and their families. 
Patti  had  the  St.  Martin  version  of  a  'Philly'  cheese steak - 
swordfish  steak  sandwich  and  some bottled water. I thought I would 
try  the  ribs,  fries,  and  a coke. The swordfish steak sandwich was 
only  passable  as  were  the  ribs. I guess I'm spoiled by 'Carson's' 
ribs  here  in  Chicagoland. Lunch was filling and certainly enough to 
keep  us  going  on  the  beach  and  in the water for the rest of the 
afternoon.  Beach  day  ended  with  us  sitting on the porch with our 
traditional  Brie  and  French  bread.  Saturday night, we headed back 
over  to Grand Case to Il Nettuno's. They had just opened this evening 
after  a  month  long  vacation.  We were greeted by its very loud and 
comic  owner,  who let you know that this is an Italian restaurant and 
not  French. As an appetizer I had the Portabello <spelling?> mushroom 
and  Patti  had  a  tomato  with  basil  salad  topped with an oil and 
vinaigrette  dressing.  For  an  Entre Patti had the bowtie pasta in a 
cream  sauce  with chunks of smoked salmon and spinach while I had the 
veal  saltimbocca.  We  finished  our meal with a very very creamy and 
light  white  chocolate  mousse.  As we were leaving we had a pleasant 
conversation  with  the  owner  who  apparently  spent 26 years in the 
Washington,  DC  area  running  two  French restaurants. The day ended 
with our five minute ride back to Club O - very convenient. 

October  5th,  we  started  the  day off a little different by walking 
down   to   Papagayo's   for   breakfast   <known   as  'Breakfast  at 
Papagayo's'>.  Breakfast  there  was  one  of  those little surprises. 
Patti  had the ham and cheese omelet with a croissant instead of toast 
<only  substituted  in  the off season we were told> and coffee. I had 
the  Eggs  Benedict with fresh orange juice and coffee. On the way out 
we  inquired  about  the  TIKO  TIKO  nude  cruise.  We were told that 
Guillome  an  Phillip  would be bringing it into Orient Bay later that 
day  and  would  start the cruise on Friday <too late for us, since we 
were  leaving on Thursday>. More about TIKO TIKO later. As some of you 
already  know,  the  TIKO TIKO was in drydock for about a month on the 
Philipsburg side of the island. 

After  breakfast  it  was back to the beach and the water with another 
float  rental for the day. We met another couple on the beach who were 
from  North  Carolina  this time, Graham and Diane. Graham offered his 
snorkeling  gear  to  Patti and I which we graciously accepted. Graham 
indicated  there  were  some  good  snorkeling just off the rocks from 
Pedros.   So,   Patti  and  I  headed  in  that  direction.  Saw  some 
interesting  coral  and  some different fish. Although this may not be 
very  interesting to most, it was a major accomplishment for Patti who 
has  not  snorkeled  in 20+ years. We both had fun with it and I could 
tell how much it meant to her. 

Since  Patti  did not finish all her bowties from the previous night's 
meal,  we heated them up for lunch back at the chalet, along with some 
French  bread and wine. Afterwards it was back to the beach and in the 
water.  One  would  think  that  this  gets boring, but not for us old 
beachcombers from South Jersey. 

Sunday  evening  we  made our regular trek over to Grand Case again to 
try  Le  Cottage.  We  started  off with the house special - Champagne 
with  a  berry  liqueur.  For  an  appetizer,  Patti  had raviolli bay 
scallops  and  I  had  a chilled tomato/cucumber soup. The ravioli was 
very  light  with  a white alfredo sauce. For our main course, I had a 
rack  of  lamb  in  an  oriental  sauce  and  Patti  had  the  lobster 
thermidor.  Dessert  for  me was white chocolate mousse once again but 
with  mangos,  pineapples,  and  passion  fruit  with  Patti  having a 
macaroon   with   a   strawberry/mango   sauce  and  slices  of  mango 
throughout. Dinner ended with a rum after dinner drink. 

Once  back to our chalet, we were sitting on our porch when Graham and 
Diane  came  down,  from  chalet # 72, to say good-bye since they were 
leaving  Monday  to  head  home  to North Carolina. This was the first 
time  at Club O for Diane, and she was just raving about how wonderful 
their  trip  had been. We exchanged business cards an E-mail addresses 
and indicated that we would keep in-touch. 

On   Monday,  10/6,  Patti  and  I  decided  we  better  get  down  to 
Philipsburg  and  do  some  shopping  before the time slipped away. As 
usual,  Philipsburg  was  crowded with a Carnival cruise ship in port. 
We  did  not  do  any  serious shopping in 'Touch of Gold' or 'Diamond 
Creations'  this  time. We stayed pretty much to basics, getting a few 
island  gifts and drifting to 'Last Mango in Paradise' to get my Jimmy 
Buffett  fix. After 2 hours of intense heat and humidity, we got outta 
town  quick.  We  took  the eastern road back to Orient Beach via Dawn 
Beach  and  Oyster  Pond,  two  areas  we  had  not seen before in our 
previous  trips  to  SXM.  WOW, what a hill to Dawn Beach. Fortunately 
the  brakes  held and we had enough horsepower to get back up the hill 
going back towards Oyster Pond. 

By  the  time  we  got back to Club O it was lunch time, so we made it 
easy  and  went  down  to  Papagayo's and split the Chef's salad which 
consisted  of  ham, turkey, cheese, red & green peppers, lettuce, etc. 
with  a  ranch  type dressing. As required, we had our Mango daiquiris 
to ease everything down. 

As  we  were  leaving,  we noticed a sign up at Papagayo's watersports 
indicating  that  the  TIKO  TIKO  was  going  to  begin its cruise on 
Tuesday  and every day for the rest of the week. Well, we were in luck 
since  we were led to believe they weren't sailing again until Friday. 
We  asked  if  we could go the next day, Tuesday, and the fella behind 
the  counter told us that 3 people had just canceled and that they had 
room  to  add us to the cruise for a total of 11 <12 being the maximum 
on  the  cruise>.  I  rushed  back  to the chalet to get money for the 
cruise  and then came back to make our gourmet luncheon selections and 
pay for the trip. Timing is really everything I believe. 

As  we  were  heading  to the beach for the afternoon, we ran into the 
couple  we  had  met  earlier  from Tennessee, Nancy and Dave. We were 
telling  them  we  had  just  signed up for the cruise on Tuesday when 
they  indicated  that  they had organized a group on the beach to take 
the  same  cruise.  Things  were  obviously shaping up in establishing 
what  later  would  be  known  as the suspects to the 'St. Martin Fall 
Fling'.  Later  that  afternoon  Nancy  introduced  Patti and I to the 
other members of the upcoming trip.  

Back  to Grand Case for dinner, this time repeating ourselves by going 
to  L'Auberge  Gourmande  again.  Patti  had bay scallops in a pancake 
with  a  cajun  sauce  and  I  the  cooked bay scallops wrapped in raw 
salmon.  For the main course Patti had salmon in a port wine sauce and 
I  had  the  shrimp scampi. Dessert was a lemon souffle with raspberry 
coulis  and  pieces  of  dark  chocolate  and  their famous chocolates 
dessert  for  Patti  and  I  respectively.  Again Christine bought our 
Chambord to finish off the night. 

I  think by now Patti and I have gained at least 10 lbs. from all this 
fine  food.  So,  Patti  decides  to walk down again to Sexy Fruits to 
purchase  a  bracelet, necklace, earrings, and sunglasses. This is her 
version  of  exercise  and  an excuse not to lose money at the casinos 
<she  wants  something to show for it>. Finally we call it a night and 
head back to Club O. 

Tuesday,  10/7,  its  an  early start since we need to meet the cruise 
party  in  front  of  Papagayo's  by  9:15AM.  Guillomeand Phillip are 
ready,  willing,  and very much able to take on this motley crew for a 
day  in  the  sun,  sand, and water. We all took the small rubber boat 
over  to  the  TIKO  TIKO  and began our trip to Tintamarre. There was 
very  little  wind  so  we  went  over  by engine power <took about 40 
minutes  to ride over>. The weather was perfect with no clouds and the 
temperature about 88 degrees. 

The  others joining Patti and I were couples from Virginia, Tennessee, 
Georgia,  Texas,  and  a  gentleman  from  Scotland.  As  others  have 
indicated,  this is without a doubt a great way to meet others staying 
on  SXM and Club O. The laughing, the friendship, the sheer fun of the 
day  was worth the trip alone. No one took themselves seriously and we 
couldn't stop grinning all day. 

After  we  anchored,  we  all  floated  or  swam  ashore while Phillip 
brought  the  umbrellas,  drinks,  snorkeling  gear,  floats,  and our 
personal  bags  over  on  the rubber motorboat. Having established our 
base  camp  for  the  day,  we  set about to do some serious swimming, 
snorkeling,  sunning,  and  exploring.  This was THE finest day of the 
trip.  About  two  hours  after  we  landed  however, a very large Cat 
called  the 'Golden Eagle' anchored and unloaded about 75 tourists for 
some  snorkeling. Unimpressed, we stuck to our principles and remained 
'au  naturale'  with  very  little  gawking or picture taking on their 
part.  Actually  they seemed relatively un- moved by us. All-in-all it 
was  a  peaceful  coexistence.  They  stayed  for about 3 hours before 
heading to Philipsburg. 

Around  1PM  Guillome  blew  his  horn calling us to the gourmet lunch 
aboard  the TIKO TIKO. Like a flotilla, we headed for the boat eagerly 
awaiting  lunch.  The  TIKO  TIKO  lunch  menu  was:  Champagne -- 8oz 
Sirloin  Strip  Steak  with garlic butter OR 12oz Mahi Mahi Filet with 
lemon  sauce OR 8oz Marinated Chicken Breast with your choice of Baked 
Potatoe  or  Corn  on  the  Cob  --  Salad  TIKO TIKO -- Cheesecake in 
Raspberry  Coulis  -- coffee or tea -- after dinner drinks -- an array 
of  French  Wines.  Patti had the Mahi Mahi and corn while I went with 
the  Steak  and baked potato. The meal was prepared to perfection. All 
we  did was roll off the boat after lunch and float headup back to the 
beach.  What a way to spend a day. This was our finest hour. What more 
could  we  ask  for - great meal, great weather, great location, great 
friendship,   great   hosts.  This  was  the  closest  thing  we  have 
experience to heaven on earth. Thank you God. 

In  the  afternoon,  Patti  and  I had a chance to spend sometime with 
Guillome  in  the water. We found out that the reason why they were so 
late  getting  their  boat  out of drydock was that the crane broke in 
the  marina  the  had  put  into  and  they  had to find another crane 
operator.  While  lifting  the TIKO TIKO into the water, the new crane 
operator  dropped  the  TIKO  TIKO onto some rocks and compromised the 
hull's  integrity. Some minor leaking was occurring and there was some 
damage  to  some  of  the  routine  hull  work  they had done while in 
drydock.  Obviously  both  Phillip  and Guillome were very upset. They 
did  some  patch  work  and decided to bring it back to Orient Bay for 
the season in hope that no more leaking will occur. 

After  what  was  clearly a great day, we headed back to Orient around 
4PM,  giggling  all  the way with our new found friends - the suspects 
of the 'St. Martin Fall Fling'. 

Once  back  on  the beach, we all headed to Papagayo's for Happy Hour. 
After  about  an  hour,  Patti  and I excused ourselves from the day's 
crew and went back to the chalet to dress for dinner. 

Knowing  our  stay  in  St. Martin was coming to an end, we decided to 
see  if  any  other restaurants had opened from vacation over in Grand 
Case.  Much  to  our  pleasure  we discovered that Le Tastevin was now 
serving  evening  dinner after being closed for a couple of weeks. Not 
being  very hungry, we limited ourselves to just appetizers and dinner 
preceded  by  a glass of white wine and Kir. We both had the snails in 
a  creamy  blue  cheese sauce for an appetizer while Patti had 3 small 
crispy  salmon  filets in a curry sauce for her entre and I the shrimp 
&  scallops  in  a  garlic butter sauce. Being done in by the sun, the 
water,  the  food, and mostly the drink, we crashed back at our chalet 
at  Club  O.  Wednesday, 10/8, we dedicated ourselves to the beach and 
the  water for our last full day. We had breakfast on the porch having 
our  regular  -  croissants, coffee, juice, and fruit. I had scheduled 
myself  for  a  message  with  Dinah for 10AM on the beach; Martha not 
being  available.  Dinah had a small little covered structure built on 
the  beach  between  Papagayo's  and  Pedro's  for her customers <this 
structure  was  just  completed  during  our visit>. Not ever having a 
message  before,  this  was  truly an incredibly unique experience for 
me.  After  an  hour of heavenly relaxation, I joined Patti and two of 
the  'suspect'  couples  on  the beach for more sun & water. Lunch was 
brief,  each  sharing the chef's salad once again along with our Mango 
daiquiris.  After  lunch,  it  was  back  to  the  beach  for one last 
afternoon  in  paradise.  As  the  afternoon  began to fade, a rainbow 
appeared over Tintamarre signally for us that this was a good trip. 

The  three  remaining  'suspect' couples agreed to meet for dinner one 
last  time  at  7:30PM at Mario's Bistro. Trying to keep some sense of 
decorum  we kept our laughter and giggling down to a minimum. However, 
our  hosts  knew we were close to being out-of-control had it not been 
for  our  restraint in the liquor department. I had a very nicely done 
soft  shell crab as an appetizer along with the rack of lamb in a port 
wine  sauce  for  dinner.  Patti  had the Caesar salad and very tender 
scallops  accompanied  by  crab  ritollo. Dessert was one creme brulee 
split between the both of us. 

Following  dinner,  our  friends  from Virginia invited us all over to 
where  they  were  staying  for  after dinner drinks. We drove over to 
Cupecoy  Beach  Club  where  they  were  staying  in a magnificent two 
bedroom,  three  bath  condominium. This unit is owned by one of their 
friends  who  live  there  about  six months out of the year. They can 
come down and visit almost anytime they wish <must be nice>. 

Nearing  midnight,  and knowing we were going home the next day, Patti 
and I left to return to Orient Beach. 

Thursday,  10/9,  was  a  sad  day.  We  decided  to have breakfast at 
Papagayo's  one  more  time and then spend the last couple of hours on 
the  beach.  The  weather  was still beautiful and we tried to imagine 
how  we  could live in St. Martin year round. We were able to keep our 
unit  until  12:30PM  before  having  to  vacate  for  the  next lucky 

As  we  were  ready  to leave, one of the 'suspect' couples stopped by 
for  one  last  good-bye.  With  tears  in our eyes, we vowed to do it 
again next year. 

Our  trip  to the airport was smooth and uneventful, gassing up before 
arriving  at  the  Hertz  rental  area.  There  were few people at the 
American  counter  and  the  plane  was  on-time <darn>. Our scheduled 
departure was 2:48PM on a plane that was half full. 

The  rest  is  extremely boring. We arrived home about 10:30PM Chicago 
time.  The  Chicago weather was beginning to cool <58 degrees> and the 
leaves  were turning colors and falling off the trees. Reality had set 


Below  is  a  trip  report  of our recent stay at the in  May, through 
American  Fly  Away Vacations, we booked a week at the Sands Hotel and 
Casino  in  San  Juan.   We  were told the hotel was closing from 8/15 
through  10/1 for renovations, but would certainly reopen on 10/1.  We 
booked  the  week  of  10/15  through 10/22.  On 10/7 (1 week prior to 
leaving),  our  travel agent called me and said that the hotel was not 
going  to  reopen  on  time.   American  had  offered to re-book us at 
another  hotel  in  San  Juan.   I  checked out the hotel and it was a 
downgrade  from  where we were staying.  I told our travel agent - no.  
I  checked  on  the  Internet  several options and called American Fly 
Away  Vacations  myself  that evening.  I told them that since my trip 
had  been  canceled, I didn't want a downgrade and, in fact, wanted to 
stay  at the Wyndam Sugar Bay in St. Thomas (which was all-inclusive - 
the  Sands was not).  After about 15 minutes on the phone, they agreed 
to  change the entire trip at no extra charge (even for the additional 
flight from San Juan to St. Thomas).

Left  Philadelphia  at about 7:00 a.m. and changed planes in San Juan. 
Arrived  in  St. Thomas on time and was greeted by the shuttle service 
who  immediately  got  us  on  an  open  air  bus to our hotel. It was 
sweltering  in  St.  Thomas and the open bus didn't do much to cool us 

Arrived  at  the hotel around 1:30 and were immediately checked in and 
taken  to  our  room.   The room was very nice with a fabulous view of 
St.  John and Tortola. Since we hadn't eaten, we went down for lunch - 
and  I  do mean down. The pool, beach area, and one restaurant are set 
down by the ocean - 97 steps down from the main area of the hotel.  

Lunch  was  at  the Mangrove Cafe - buffet lunch with a pasta station, 
salad  and  dessert  bars,  sandwiches made to order and a grill where 
you  could order hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, grilled tuna.  We were 
immediately  seated  and  served our drinks and told to help ourselves 
to lunch which was average.

After  a  few  more drinks, it was back up the 97 steps to our room to 
unpack.  There  was  a shuttle available to take you to the lobby area 
of the hotel, but we figured we needed to walk off lunch.

There  were  two  options  for  dinner  - the same Mangrove Cafe for a 
"theme  buffet"  dinner (that night was Caribbean), or the Manor House 
in  the  main  building.  You needed reservations for the Manor House, 
so  we  called  and  reserved  8:00 p.m.  After unpacking, we were too 
tired  to  go  to  the  beach,  having  been up since 4:00 a.m., so we 
stayed in our room until dinner time.

The  rooms  are very nice - king-size bed, table with chairs, two easy 
chairs   with   a   footstool  and  a  large  dresser.   There  was  a 
refrigerator,  coffee  pot  (fully  stocked with coffee, decaf, sugar, 
creamer,  etc.),  ceiling  fan  and in-room safe.  There were also two 
sinks  (one  in the bathroom and one right outside by the coffee pot).  

Prior  to  dinner,  we  went  up  for  a  drink  in  the bar and found 
ourselves  to  be the only ones there.  Very friendly bartender - made 
anything you wanted - all liquor was also top shelf.  I asked for a J-
B  and  water  and  he  informed  me the only scotch he had was Johnny 
Walker and Chivas Regal.

Dining  room was very nice with another great view of St. John.  There 
were  about  8  entrees on the menu, with 2 specials every night.  The 
menus  changed every 2 days.  There was a salad bar and also a dessert 
bar,  but  you  were  served soup, your entree and coffee.  Service in 
the  dining  room  was excellent.  Drinks, wine or champagne were also 
available.   Meals  were  very  good  - lots of fish, but I did have a 
very  good prime rib one night.  We only ate at the buffet dinner once 
-  it  was  barbecue  night  and the food was very good - the chef was 
grilling  rib  eye steaks to order, they also had snapper, tuna, pork, 
chicken, mahi-mahi, etc.

Next  day,  checked  out  St.  Thomas This Week and saw that there was 
only  one  cruise ship in Charlotte Amalie, so we decided that was the 
day  to  go.  Got in a cab with 2 other people for the 20 minute drive 
to  town  (which  was $10/couple).  However, when we arrived, we saw 3 
cruise  ships  in  port.  Well, it was very hot and humid and the town 
was  packed.   Couldn't  hardly  get in any stores.  Plus - you had to 
deal  with  people  selling time shares on every corner.  This got old 
fast  -  so  we  made  our  way  back  to  the hotel and spent the day 
lounging around the pool and beach.

Wanted  to  see the island, but didn't want to rent a car and drive on 
those  roads  (they  drive on the left, plus there is a lot of traffic 
and  horrible curves), so we rented a cab for an island tour.  Set off 
at  about  10:00  and took a wonderful tour around the entire island - 
very  informative  cab  driver - told us all about the island and took 
us  to  various  points  where  the view of the island and surrounding 
islands  was spectacular.  We ended up at one of the highest points on 
the  island  - Mountain Top - where they invented the banana daiquiri.  
There  was  a bar, small restaurant and couple of shops. He told us to 
spend  as  much  time  as  we  wanted  up there.  Had to have a banana 
daiquiri  -  it  was terrible - took some great pictures and left.  We 
were  gone  for  about  3 1/2 hours on the tour and the total cost was 

Rested  and  relaxed for the next couple of days, hanging at the beach 
and  pool.   Snorkeling  equipment  was  available at no charge at the 
hotel,  so  we  took advantage and snorkeled a lot off the beach.  All 
non-motorized  water  sports are included - the only thing you pay for 
are jet skis or parasailing.

Monday  decided  to  go to St. John to see what that was like.  Took a 
short  (5  minute)  cab  ride to Red Hook and got on the ferry - $3.00 
each.   Before  we boarded, yet another time share person tried to get 
us  to  come to the Sapphire Beach Hotel the next day for lunch (yeah, 
right).   Ferry  ride  was  about  15 minutes to St. John.  It is much 
more  laid  back  than  St.  Thomas. Took a tour around the island and 
wished  we  had  brought  our  snorkeling equipment.  Wandered back in 
town  and  found  some  great  shops  -  a lot of them branches of the 
stores  in  St.  Thomas  but  without  the crowds.  Shopping was great 

The  next  morning  at  8:00  a.m., the phone rang and it was the time 
share  woman  wondering  if  we wanted to come over and see the hotel.  
Realized  I  had  told  her our last names and where we were staying - 
big  mistake  -  don't give them any info!  Told her wasn't interested 
and  spent  the  day at the hotel. Rented a jet ski for 1/2 hour ($55) 
and lounged on the beach.  

Since  our  plane  didn't  leave  until  4:00  p.m.,  the  hotel quite 
graciously let us stay in our rooms until 2:00 the next day.

All  in  all,  the  hotel  was great.  There are no hidden charges for 
anything  -  food  is very good and the staff at the hotel went out of 
their  way  to  be  friendly  and  helpful.  There is always something 
going  on  at  the  pool - volleyball, basketball, bingo, etc., but no 
pressure  to  participate.   Also,  entertainment every evening in the 
hotel  bar  -  limbo  show,  reggae  music,  trivia contests with disc 
jockey  up  until  1:00  a.m.  The hotel goes on our list of places to 
return to.  

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET and is distributed internationally through the facilities of America Online, GENIE, The Travel On Line BBS (Lake St. Louis MO 314-561-4956). Selected features appear on Prodigy.

Paul Graveline
9 Stirling St.
Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA
Home (Voice or Fax) 508-470-1971.


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