01/29/13

 

St. Martin, April 2008

 

Trip Report  4/11/08-4/20/08

 

This was our highly anticipated, first trip to St. Martin.   Our trip included one night in Grand Case,  7 days on a catamaran sailing around the island, and a final day in Philipsburg. 

Our catamaran is through a "timeshare" we have with Tradewinds Cruiseclub.  They operate from a number of bases in the Caribbean and Europe. This year we sailed on the Motu Iti,  a 56 foot Marquise boat built for these types of trips.  We had a fantastic crew, Andy & Ange, and a crew in training, Francoise and Catherine.  They did a great job taking care of us and showing us the beautiful islands.   

 

Day 1 (Friday). 

 

Arrived in SXM (my wife, Paulaner Girl, and her sister Judee and hubby Jeff) on time from Atlanta on Delta.  Unfortunately they had lost one of our parties?bags enroute (blame TSA).  Nevertheless,  our driver from St. Martin Blue Concierge service was there and kindly waited for us to get the logistics down correctly.  We then picked up a phone chip from Sharon (queenofsxm).  In the ride to Grand Case,  I managed to get my phone up and running with data access (thanks Sharon!)..

 

We shared a large oceanfront suite (700 bldg) at the Grand Case Beach Club.

The folks there were very friendly and our room was great.  Fantastic view,  a lot of room, and nicely appointed, 2 balconies, kitchen, living room, and 2 bedrooms.  They gave us 2 bottles of wine upon arrival and we managed to make them disappear in no time.  J

 

The walk to the restaurant in Grand Case had a number of security guards along the way.  We felt very safe.   If I was running the hotel I might consider a small golf cart running back and forth.

 

For dinner, we had a table at Le Ti Provencal reserved and were seated immediately.  This is a charming restaurant,  the wait staff was very accommodating, and I got the sense they really wanted us to have an enjoyable dinner.

 

At Le Ti,  we had a superb meal.  For dinner, I had a combo Trigger Fish and Trunk fish entree.  I had never had either, and this was very tasty.  The blend of herbs & fish,  served with rice and grilled vegetables was perfect.  Combined with a nice crisp Chardonnay, my wife had the Wild Shrimp.  Even though the dish only contained 2 shrimp,  Paulaner Girl could barely finish her entrée, they were huge!   

Dessert was another treat,  I had the lemon tart,  and Paulaner Girl had the chocolate dish.  Total bill was about $200 before tip (about a 1.4:1).  Can't wait for the exchange rate gets back to 1:1!

 Afterwards we went to Zen It and listened to the band and had a few beers.  The band was unusually good,  being the only bar band I have ever seen attempt to cover Prince, and do it successfully.  The walk back to the hotel was a little scary,  but OK.

 

Day 2 (Saturday).

 

We went to Marigot and checked into the boat at the Tradewinds office in Marina Royale. 

We had lunch at The Village.  I had the escargot pizza, and others included Lobster Pizza, 4 cheese,  and the lobster entrée.  I also tried the Pomme Frites.  All were pretty good,  but the Pizzas were definitely big for a personal serving. 

 

We  went exploring and Jeff and I climbed up to Fort St. Louis and uncovered the Geocache up there. 

Great view of the harbor.  Quick drinks at the bar at La Belle Epoch. 

At 5 we boarded the boat and sailed into Simpson Lagoon for cocktails, dinner, and sleep (CDS)! 

 

Day 3 (Sunday)

 

We sailed to Prickley Pear off the coast of Anguilla.  Some pretty good snorkeling and beach was very nice.  There were a good number of boats anchored there but not too crowded. 

 

We then sailed to Little Bay,  which is a wildlife sanctuary.  The cliffs house a lot of birds, and the bay has lots of turtles.  Nightfall saw us going to nearby Crocus Bay for CDS (sensing a pattern?).

 

Day 4 (Monday)

 

Had a great wreck dive off the point near Little Bay.  I believe this is the MV Commerce freighter sunk about 25 years ago to provide an artificial reef.  The wreck is covered with coral formations and a multitude of crustaceans and fish. I got some great shots of trunk fish and coral using my new camera setup.  The wreck runs from 40-80ft deep.

 

Once back on the boat,  we set sail for Sandy Island.  Not too much snorkeling,  mostly exploring the tiny island,  sitting in the sun, and having a cold rum drink from the small bar on the island. 

 

Finally set sail to Maundry Bay, home of the beautiful & opulent $1,000 per night Cap Jaluca resort.  Anchored about 100 ft offshore, we enjoyed the sunset (and CDS).

Day 5 (Tuesday)

 

Woke up and had a nice swim over to the beach.   We walked up and down the beach, but didn’t see any celebrities.  Very cool to see horseback riding on the beach.  Ahh the good life. 

Our next stop was to Anse Marcel to resupply.  For anyone who has sailed into the harbor there,  the channel is insanely narrow.  The Marina is definitely rebuilding,  with the Radisson resort being rebuilt.  There is a ton of construction,  to bring the hotels there back.  I assume they were damaged in a recent hurricane.  It is here I met my true love of this trip,  Ma Dou Dou Vanilla Rum.  Beach is very nice there, calmest water we saw all week.

 

Set sail for Creole rock.   After anchoring,  the local dive operator picked Paulaner Girl and I up and took us for a shallow dive at Creole rock.  It was a fantastic dive,  as we worked our way half way around the rock.  Highlights were the moray eels, and the spotted Peacock Flounder.  Because we didn’t dive so deep,  we stayed down about 52 minutes.  Amazing!  Water temp was 79 degrees?/p>

 

 

 

Sailed into Grand Case.  Lucky for us is that Tuesdays are Harmony Nights and the place was hoppin!   Wall to wall people. Bought more Ma Dou Dou.  We had a table for the whole boat at Calmos Caf?  When we got there,  there was a table next to the bar reserved for us.  Of course, we convinced them to move us outside,  only to find out later our captain has requested inside due to the rain?the staff went out of their way to fix us up with umbrellas.  The Captain is always right.  My starter was a plate full of anchovies. They were excellent. We then had some of the best ribs!  Wow!  Nice and juicy.  Paulaner Girl had grilled shrimp.  She gave it a big thumbs up! 

 Night cap at Blue Martini.  Great band,  but the soft porn on the TV behind the bar was a little too intense (IMHO) as they had a number of families there, including a little girls birthday.     

 

 

Day 6 (Wednesday)

 

Our plan was to sail for Tintimarre, but losing 3 engines (2 on the boat and one in the dingy) curtailed this plan.  Plan B was to sail back to Creole and hang out for the day.  The mechanic arrived and got one engine running.   Jeff and I spent the day ferrying folks back and forth in the boat using our kayak, as well as climbing around the rocks.  Paulaner Girl and Judee snorkeled all the way around the rock! Captain of the glass bottomed boat full of cruise passengers yelled at Judee to get out of the way!  The top of the rock is a great spot to sit and watch the many boats in and out of the marine sanctuary.

 Spent the night at Anse Marcel.   Did I mention cocktails? 

Day 7 (Thursday)

 Early morning saw remaining engines fixed up and ready to go.  Tradewinds treated us to a trip to the Butterfly Farm while the crew took the engines on some sea trials.  We stopped at orient on the way,  and Paulaner Girl and I had our photo taken at the famous OB sign.  The Butterfly farm was really great.  The owner, William Slayter,  gave us a personal tour.  He is a real character,  his 30 minute monologue was hysterical,  if you like British humour.  But he has a purpose to his vocation, and is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject.  I was amazed at how many butterflies there were. 

 

By the time we got back to the boat,  they were ready to have lunch and head off to Tintamarre.  It was a crackin?(good) sail.  We got to the Island in mid-late afternoon and enjoyed a Noodle bar.  Basically floating around the boat on noodles,  drinking frozen drinks and trying to keep from drifting away.  We also killed off another bottle of Ma Dou Dou. Without much light pollution,  the stars out there were just phenomenal.  You can see the Milky Way and thousands of stars.

 

 Day 8 (Friday)

 

We started the day with a mud bath and ceremony on the beach.  First we hauled a bucket of dust scraped from a pit just inland from the beach down to the water.  We took turns mixing water in to make mud, then spread it all over ourselves.  Once fully covered with mud, roll in sand and let it dry.  We then spend the next hour rinsing, swimming,  an discovering new places sand can get.  J

 Jeff and I then set off on a hike into the interior of Tintamarre.  There are no paths,  but we persevered,  disregarding the signs warning about the insidious bush which spews Sulfuric Acid.  There are a curious number of foundations, walls, and pens still on the islands. In fact one building appears to have a recent (last 15 years or so) roof and gutters. Most unusual were the large radial aircraft engines about ?mile from the beach.  After looking around a little, we correctly deduced that this used to be an airport.  In fact we found the wreckage of a small plane at the end of the “runway? it wasn’t until I got back home that I discovered that this was a central hub for an early airline serving all the local islands.   We walked about half way round the island and headed back to the beach.  

Finally,  we boarded the boat for our last major sail of our trip.  L  It was a smooth downwind sail to Marigot harbor, through the French bridge (very close tolerance) then Marina Royale. We managed to dock overnight, so it was easy to hop on and off the boat.    

 We had a table reserved at La Belle Epoch.  I had the escargot for appetizer.  I love escargot and never met a snail I didn’t like.  For entre I had the mussels in crème sauce.  While good, they were a little more “fishy?than I like.  We finished the night with the crew at the Bali Bar.  It was a great place for us,  as they have semi-private couch areas where we could get all 10 of us together to celebrate the week.  The bartender does a great fire show,  setting half the bar on fire with flames from his mouth.

 

Day 9 (Saturday)

 

Up early, ate, packed, stowed the bags, and headed off to the Marigot Saturday Market.  Loads of crafts, hot spices, spices, shirts, trinkets, art, fish, and trash.   We were definitely there too late for the best fish,  but enjoyed walking around and gawking.  Headed back to the boat dock and stopped for pan au chocolate and coffee.  We also walked around the Marigot cemetery right by Marina Royale.  Definitely needs a “cleanup for sure,  but interesting headstones and history.

 

 

 

Caught a cab to the Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House.  We had rooms 16 and 22.  Both were clean and decorated with nice art and Indian linens and drapes.  This is a very charming property.  Unfortunately the bar and restaurant was closed on Saturday (supposedly so the kitchen can be cleaned).

 

I was struck by the difference in Philipsburg and Marigot.  Front Street in P’burg reminded me of so many of the cruise ports in the world.  Same stores, jewelry, designer clothes, t-shirts, Cuban Cigars, liquor, and Americanized restaurants and bars.  Just like Cozumel and Charlotte Amalie.  Nevertheless,  I had a great Cuban Pulled Pork sandwich on the boardwalk,  and of course, beer. 

 

Upon recommendation form TTOL,  we went to Chesterfields for dinner.   Due to construction just past the water Taxi pavilion,  we had to walk out to the sidewalk/road and up to the restaurants.  It will be nice once the boardwalk is completed all the way to the cruise dock.  Of course we had to stop at The Green House as it was 2 for 1 cocktails.  I’ll give their Mojitos an A-.

 

At Chesterfield’s Paulaner Girl, Judee, and I had the grilled lobster. Jeff had a pasta dish.  I am not normally a fan of spiny lobster,  but this was juicy and delicious.  It really filled us up.  These were huge. 

Due to being completely stuffed with food and drink,  heading over to the Carnival Village for the reggae concert was out of reach.  We did, however, manage to crash a private party at a local bar for the Special Olympics.  It took them a while to realize we weren’t not part of the party.  Of course, it was a shock to us when the waitress came over and said we could sit, enjoy the music, and finish our drinks,  but then we had to leave.  We then we realized?  Finished with a nightcap at The Holland House. For the first time since we got on the island,  we heard someone speak Dutch.

 

Day 10 (Sunday)

 

Had breakfast at The Pasanggrahan. Paulaner Girl and I both had the poached eggs on hash with potatoes.  However, the pancakes were “the best I have ever had?  Highly recommended. 

 

We then went shopping,  scavenging for last minute gifts. I bought some Absinthe, the nice Indian shopkeeper (himself an expert in US law) assured me it was legal to take into the US.  We had to leave for the airport early, as the first parade of Carnival was at 2.  Got to see the infamous Heineken Airplane Bar and the salt pond.  Check in was flawless and after being assured we could get food inside of security, headed to the gate.  It wasn’t until we got through security that we discovered food choices to be limited inside of security, with no sit down service.  Had a cheeseburger at a snack bar.  Picked up some more Ma Dou Dou (only $12 a bottle) to drink at home.

 

Flights on Delta, with connection through Atlanta was slightly delayed,  but we arrive at 11:45pm. 

 

Summary

 

We had a great time on our trip.  St. Martin is a fantastic destination.  I feel like we only scratched the surface of the things to see or do.  The food, the people, the beaches, and the list goes on.  Look forward to our next visit!


 

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