Sunday/Monday Day 14/15 St. Martin

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful as usual. The day started at 6:00 am with a walk around the city perimeter to parts I had not seen before. I thought I’d do this early before the heat of the day. Wrong! I was a lather of sweat within 15 minutes. An interesting walk, non the less. Away from the glitz of Front Street, I strolled through the residential areas where the working class live. Roosters welcomed me and I got a good look at the Great Salt Pond teaming with fish, turtles and birds.

By noon, we were on the beach and enjoyed a quieter day as there were no cruise ships in that morning. One did arrive in the afternoon but by then we had retreated to the coolness of our room for a cocktail and some blogging.

For dinner we went back to one of our favorite restaurants, The Greenhouse. We arrived just in time for Happy Hour so took advantage of that. A perfect meal of calamari appetizers, grouper for Mon and Caribbean conch for me. A leisurely stroll home along the boardwalk we could hear calypso music wafting through the night air. Arm in arm, we took our time knowing this would be our last night.

Monday, final day. A bit sad and a bit glad that it’s nearly over. That combination just sort of leaves you feeling numb. Add to that the photo of our driveway that Sarah sent us with snow up to the kitchen window. Bless her and Matt for clearing it before we returned. They will be rewarded.

Packed and ready to go at 8:00 am, our flight didn’t leave until 5:30 so we needed to amuse ourselves for a few hours. Although our shopping was done, Kelly and Marion (dinner the night before) highly recommended Shoppers Haven jewelry store just four shops away from our hotel. It’s probably the one shop Monica had not been in. So, off we went for a look. It’s a family run business and Kumar was most hospitable and not pushy like so many others. We walked out with a little something for Mon.

A couple of free tee shirts to go with it and we bade Kumar farewell and continued our walk as a school marching drum band appeared around the corner. The noise was deafening but their enthusiasm was infusive. Everyone was tapping toes and bouncing to the rhythm.

Continuing our stroll, we discovered the St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church was open so I slipped in for some shots. Lovely church although nothing compares to Notre Dame Bascilica we had seen two weeks ago in Montreal.

A quick beer to cool down at the Big Wood Grill pirate bar and then back to the hotel to wait on the lounge sofas for the airport taxi. Our taxi driver was great and entertained us with interesting  facts about St. Martin’ history. The clear blue skies gave us a view all the way to St. Kitts and Nevis.

A bite to eat at the airport (very expensive), an uneventful flight to Montreal and a sudden shock as I stepped off the plane in my shorts and tee shirt into -17 degrees. We’re back!

What a vacation… If I tried to find three words to sum up my experience, I’d say: discovery, delicious and dreamy.

Now back to reality. Thanks for reading and I hope you all get to enjoy these beautiful places yourself as we did. As the Caribbean’s say, “Lille more”, farewell.


Saturday St. Martin: Valentine’s Day

Another beautiful day. We have hardly had any rain for two weeks. Must be their dry season in the Caribbean.

After breakfast, Mon and I decided to do a bit of shopping for a birthday gift for someone special in mind. There is a store here called the Yoda Guy owned by Nick Maley who was a make-up artist for the Star Wars movies. We had seen the store earlier but it was closed. Today we were in luck. Inside is a museum of original movie props and memorabilia. Really fascinating. We bought what we were looking for and as luck would have it, Nick Maley himself arrived while we were there. He gladly posed for a photo with us. We were delighted. Nice, is he. Met him, we did.

Afternoon was for the beach. Totally relaxed and starting to think about packing up soon for return to Canada. We are watching the blizzard on the news and feeling both sympathy and fear.

We exchanged Valentines cards and clinked glasses and toasted to many happy memories in our past and hopefully to many more.

For supper we made reservations at the Holland House restaurant for 6:00. We arrived just as the sun was setting. Very spectacular. Anna, our waitress escorted us to our table. We sat next to a very nice mother and daughter couple from Virginia & Boston (Marion and Kelly). They had just arrived and were thankful to have missed the storm back home. Both were seasoned travellers and we enjoyed sharing stories of adventures abroad. Marion has connections to Lunenburg, NS. Her grandfather was captain of the Blue Nose.

The Valentine’s special started with complimentary Grey Goose Cosmopolitans. Then a plate of appetizers with tuna sashimi, coconut shrimp, wonton lobster and king crab profiteroles. Each course had a wine pairing and for appetizers it was Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The next course was a second appetizer of “line caught Wahoo fillet with butternut pumpkin and shallot vinaigrette” (I’m reading this off the menu we saved). Again with the Sauvignon Blanc wine. The main course was “prime filet mignon with Osso-bucco, black truffle linguine, iberico and portobello” paired with the  Tommasi ripasso valpolicella red wine. (Unbelievably delicious). For dessert, it was help yourself to the chocolate fountain with fruit, honey cakes, wafers and I can’t remember what else paired with Sauternes dessert wine. A memorable meal and a rose for Monica.

After dinner, we sat in the lounge and listened to live music; soft saxophone and a lovely female crooner doing all the old favorite love songs. Mon waltzed with me around the lobby floor and then we called it a night. Happy Valentines Day sweetheart.

Thursday-Friday St. Martin

Thursday was a lazy day on the beach after a bit of morning shopping. It is so hot here (sorry Canada) and I tried to stay under my umbrella as much as possible and sip my piña coladas. It was interesting watching the beautiful beach bimbos trying to take pictures of themselves and the no-so beautiful ones wishing they were.

That evening Mon and I went for supper at Chesterfiels on the waterfront. Excellent food and service. Mon had the seafood pasta with cognac cream sauce and I had the blackened Mahi mahi. Yum yum.

Friday morning we decided to go on an adventure and rented a car to explor the island. Sucker Jordan from Angel’s Car Rentals delivered the car to our hotel. He is a wonderfully professional but down to earth fellow. His Caribbean speak is delightful to listen to. With map in hand and Mon as my trusty navigator, off we went. Unfortunately when we got back that night, we made a little boo boo when downloading pics to the iPad and accidentally deleted the memory chip on the camera. So the pics I have of the island tour have been grabbed from the Internet. Thank goodness we had all previous photos saved so not all was lost.

Also thank goodness, people here drive on the right hand side like home. First stop, Dawn Beach for a photo. We had seen this on our catamaran tour and it looked lovely. Truly it is. We stopped at the Dutch/French border crossing for the photo and carried on to Orient Beach with intentions of a 2-hour beach stop to watch the nudie’s parading back and forth. When we learned beach chairs we $20 we decided to carry on (I did get a peak though…Really nothing to get too excited over).

Carrying on to Grand Case, we parked the car and walked past the shopping boutiques and restaurants. Pedestrian and car traffic was light here so we enjoyed a casual stroll. A very lovely town. We got photos of the Los Calmos Cafe where we’d had lunch on the catamaran tour. The waves on the beach were impressive so no chance to dip our feet.

Next it was into Marigot for some open-air market shopping. The traffic here was unbelievable. It took an hour just to find a parking spot. Hot and congested, we were not long making our purchases, sat for a minute to cool off with a cold bear, and then we were out of there. Took another half hour to get out of town.

Next on the must-see list was Pic Paradise, St. Martin’s highest peak at 427 meters. The road to the top is single lane and about 30 degree incline. Quite spooky! We passed some mansions of the very wealthy  and arrived at the summit. A short path brought us to the magnificent view of Baie d’Embouchure on one side and Marigot on the other. A fresh breeze at the top made it feel really nice…almost cool (by Caribbean standards).

Knuckles white on the wheel and Monica with eyes closed, we came down in a hurry and made it without meeting too many cars. When we did, we both had to squeeze into the grass on either side. At the bottom, we drove next to Friar’s Bay with intentions of a swim and snorkel. However the waves were so big, people were surfing. Nevertheless, we found a beach chair at the beach bar and enjoyed watching the breakers while sipping a piña colada. A bit of cloud cover made it bearable. We really enjoyed this beach for the afternoon. The kids on their boogie boards were very entertaining.

After the beach we made our way past Sandy Ground, Cupecoy Bay, Mullet Bay, Maho Bay (airport) and finally to Simpson Bay where we stopped for supper at The Palms restaurant. We had eaten here our first night arriving two weeks ago before going to Nevis. Such excellent food and a vibrant Canadian atmosphere. Greg (the owner Originally from Toronto) and his Trinidadian mother greeted us and explained the flavourful recipes We saw Jo, the waitress, again…a delightful young woman from Quebec. I had the drunken ribs and Mon had curried shrimp.

Back to Philipsbirg where Sucker met us at the car drop-off and drove us to the hotel. What a fun day.



Wednesday Day 11 catamaran tour

Today we booked a catamaran and snorkel tour around St. Martin. There was a fresh breeze blowing from the west which is not the norm. That promised great sailing.

We were picked up at our hotel at 8:00 am and escorted to Bobby’s Marina where we boarded the Too Rhum Punch and met our captain, Guy, and our hostesses, Petra and Yasmine. Off we went out through the harbour, past the cruise ships and around the southern point of the island. How thrilling as we plunged through the surf. Hanging on tightly we dangled our feet over the side ever watchful for sea turtles.

As we made our was up the west coast, the rugged cliffs gave way to sandy beaches and hotel resorts. Our first stop was Tintamare Island for a snorkel and beach refreshments. The sand is golden and so fine. What a beautiful place. Uninhabited except for the sea birds.

Continuing on we sailed around the northern tip of St. Martin to Creole Rock where we snorkelled and saw beautiful tropical fish… It was very choppy and not great conditions for snorkelling… But Mon was very brave and held my hand tightly as we did venture out and saw many fish…my favorite is the little black and yellow Angel Fish. Alas no sea turtles… Yet!!!

We dropped anchor in Grand Case harbour … And swam in for lunch at Calmos Cafe… Yummy Mahi again. We sat with folks from Quebec.

After lunch, more rum punch and a terrific sail around the island to La Somana for a swim stop.. A rain shower didn’t dampen our spirits, as the bar was always open. Very rough and exhilarating sail back to Philipsburg.

On the  way home  I saw 2 sea turtles 😄

Back to the hotel… Quick change and off to Greenhouse restaurant (we were here once 2 years ago on a cruise stop) … Crusted goat cheese salad for me and Mon had the special.. Alaskan King Crab… So yummy!

The end to a wonderful day… Early to bed tonight…could still feel the tossing of the boat on the waves.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday St. Martin

Sunday morning we bade farewell and a heart felt thank you to Mala and Gopaul as we left Nevis on the ferry to St. Kitts to catch our flight to St. Martin. We wished we could have stayed longer. What a beautiful island. So undiscovered by the hoards of tourists. So peaceful. All that was about to change in a big way.

Arrived in Philipsburg before our room at the Holland House Hotel was ready so we had time to kill (like that hasn’t been what we’ve been doing for the past week). We strolled the Boardwalk to the end of town and back. Beautiful beach! We had been here once on a cruise two years ago and I remember how gorgeous this beach is. Wide with that signature turquoise water. There were three cruise ships in port so the streets were quite busy as several thousand bargain seekers pushed and shouted in and out of the jewelry shops lining Front Street. Such a contrast from Nevis.

Finally, our room was ready. We unpacked and headed for the beach. Ahhhh. So nice.

For the next two days Monica did some morning shopping while I did some blogging to catch up on the past days. The Internet was down the entire time on Nevis and here in Philipsburg is equivalent to dial-up. So blogging amused me even at slow speed. Anything to avoid crowded streets.

Both afternoons were for the beach and the evenings were spent enjoying great food and strolling the Boardwalk to watch the sunset. The only time I ventured out in the morning was at 6:00 am Tuesday for a photo-shoot walk about town before hardly a soul was on the streets. Just me. And I loved that.

Enough laying around. Tomorrow we have an adventure planned.

Saturday Day 7 Nevis: 2 more beaches and a romantic dinner

Up again early thanks to the roosters. Sunny skies meant Beach day! Only two major beaches left to discover. First stop, Oualie beach on the north west coast of Nevis. Although we weren’t the only ones there, the other four people were so far away it felt like we were alone. This is technically the beach for the Oualie Beach Hotel but all beaches on Nevis are free and public so you can go anywhere and not worry that you are trespassing. As with all the others, this beach is pristine white/gold sand and the water is crystal clear. I had fun snorkelling although the white sand bottom didn’t provide much habitat for fish. I think I only saw one. No matter, the piña coladas on the beach had fish swimming around my head in no time (kidding…I only had one). Later in the morning we decided to change beaches. First a drive through the highlands to the village of Fountain. Much more humble here and probably the worst roads we drove. But just as beautiful as everywhere else. During the rains (not now) there would be lovely waterfalls coming down from the mountain thus the name Fountain. Time to head to our final Nevis beach destination for lunch. Just down the road a couple of kilometres from Oualie beach is Chrishi Beach. I don’t need to tell you how beautiful this beach is since they are all gorgeous but each is unique in its own way. We started with drinks at the bar and enjoyed the wonderful view across to St. Kitts watching the ferry come and go. For lunch we both had the grouper fish burger… Hands down the best fish burger I have ever had! I was in heaven. After lunch activities included lying on a lounge chair under a grass umbrella and occasionally slipping into the Caribbean to cool off. I’m forgetting what day this is. Back to the villa to shower and dress for dinner. For our last night on Nevis, we are going to Mont Pellier Plantation for what the locals promised us would be a memorable experience. Dinner reservations were for 6:30. We arrive on the dot and were escorted to the great room for cocktails and hors d’ourves. We met the sommeliers and the estate owner. Lovely people. Then we were escorted to our table in the old windmill. We met Tish, our waitress, and thus began an evening to remember. The photos will show each of the 5 courses we were served but the highlight of the evening was when Tish brought the dessert on a plate inscribed in chocolate “Happy 30th Anniversary”. To go with that, Tish with the most beautiful voice, sang us a song she had written herself about looking for and finding love. You can’t imagine what that was like. I have goosebumps now as I write this. Indeed a very romantic dinner. The locals were right.

Friday Day 6 Nevis: Charlestown and the beach

Up early with the roosters and a breakfast of fresh picked oranges from Mala’s tree. They are green on the outside but nice and sweet inside.

Off we go to explore Charlestown this morning. We started with the ruins of Fort Charles and then visited the Lord Horatio Museum in the old Bath Hotel (now the Ministry of Tourism for Nevis). Very interesting displays of Nevetian history including the once booming sugar industry and the slave trade that went with it.

After that we walked the streets of Charlestown, did a bit of souvenir shopping, enjoyed people watching, stocked up on a few groceries, mailed some post cards and headed for the beach.

Today’s beach destination… Lover’s Beach on the north shore. This is the beach we flew over when we landed coming into Nevis. We found the path and walked in (3 minutes)… And Wow! Totally secluded, totally private (not another soul in sight) and totally magnificent. This would be my favourite beach of all seven that we visited. We enjoyed rum punch, played in the surf, watch planes fly into the airport and walked arm in arm promising to return here someday.

Home again for afternoon cocktails and watched the sun go down from our deck.

Then we got dressed for dinner and walked down to Yachtman Grill for another great meal of Mahi mahi ceviche and escargots appetizers before grilled scallops and Mahi mahi (my fourth time for that on the island…all excellent).

Another end to another perfect day.

Thursday Day 5 Nevis: 3 plantations and 3 beaches

We were up at 4:30 thanks to the local roosters who start crowing at 3:00 am and go till 3:00 pm. What to do? With the full moon shining, we decided to take a drive around the island to get our bearings. Note: watch out for wild life in the road (donkeys, monkeys, goats and cows). The roads are very narrow and twisty and people here drive on the left like in England. So nerve wracking!

It only took us an hour to drive the perimeter and it was still dark when we got back. So off we went into Charlestown to the hot springs at the Bath Hotel. We weren’t the first ones there. A few locals (some nude) were enjoying the therapeutic hot waters. And so did we.

As the sun was coming up we headed back to the villa and stopped at Paradise Beach for a swim. We had the whole beach to ourselves. How wonderful is that? This would be the case on several beachs this week. Nevis is not commercialized in any way.

Back to the villa for breakfast and then off we go. We began with a drive up through Cotton Ground and first stop was at the Hermitage Plantation resort, an old sugar plantation transformed into ginger bread cottages. Real cute.

Next to the Mont Pellier Plantation resort where we made dinner reservations for tomorrow night. The locals tell us this is THE place for a romantic dinner. The grounds are stunning and the old sugar mill is now part of the restaurant… That’s where we asked to be seated. This is the wedding site of Lord Horatio Nelson and Fanny Nesbit in 1787.

Carrying on, next destination is Windward Beach on the south coast of Nevis. Driving there we passed another sugar plantation ruin (don’t know how many there are on this island but it’s a lot). Arriving at the beach, we were the only ones there much to our delight. Beautiful white sand with lots of sea shells to pick. Also a great view of Nelson’s Lookout where we were yesterday.

Leaving the beach, we arrived next at Golden Rock plantation with its orange themed decor and exquisite grounds. Some of the biggest leaves I have ever seen.

Next stop, Herbert’s Beach on the north of the island. Getting there we passed the Medical School of the Americas. Arriving at the beach just about blew us away. We were the only ones there (imagine) and this beach is excellent for snorkelling. We had such a great swim. I found several conch shells in only 5 feet of water. Did I mention the water is crystal clear!

Time for lunch? How about Mexican to go. Dos Gringos is on the way back to the villa so we grabbed some enchiladas and headed for the deck. A beautiful afternoon relaxing and sipping strawberry daquaris.

After a little rest, we got dressed and headed for Lime Bar & Restaurant on Pinney’s Beach. Cocktails included a marguarita for Mon and a cocotini for me. Our waitress, Jack, invented it. She swirls the martini glass with a drop of coconut rum and then dumps that out before adding the gin. That’s it… And sooooo good! The restaurant chef, Collis, visited us during cocktails for a chat. He is interesting and his love for cooking really shows.

After drinks, we took a stroll up the beach to the Four Seasons to watch the sun set. Then back to Lime’s for dinner. We had conch fritters for appetizer and I had the grilled Mahi Mahi and Monica had the curried shrimp. Mmmm. Then home for a night cap and to bed with sweet dreams… Until 3:00 when the roosters start again.

Wednesday Day 4 – mountains and horses

This is going to be a big day for both of us… I’ll get to climb Nelson’s Lookout and Monica will get to ride a horse on the beach.

A hearty breakfast and off we went with map in hand. A quick stop for a photo opportunity at St. Thomas church and a surprise that one of the window shutters was ajar so I got a shot of the beautiful stained glass window. Gorgeous.

We found the trail to Saddle Hill and started the 1250 foot climb. At 9:00 am it was already hot so we rested often during the climb. Wild donkeys greeted us along the path. As we crested the sumit my breath was taken away by the stunning vista. 360 degrees with mountains and ocean. Here is where Lord Nelson’s men would watch for enemy ships approaching from the south.

Back to the villa to rehydrate and then off to Nevis equestrian for horse back riding. We met John (owner) and his daughter Erica. Very nice people. Monica got Le Puente and I got Onyx… Both retired race horses! what a beautiful ride up into the highlands of Cotton Ground, past sugar plantation ruins and million dollar estates. My horse misbehaved and stopped to eat grass often. Then down to Paradise Beach as the sun was sinking over the ocean.  A wonderful day.

Home for a light supper and early to bed. Exhausted. Happy.

Tuesday Day 3 arriving Nevis. Beach Day.

Up early and got to the St. Martin airport for 6:00 just as they were opening. Monica got us on the first flight to Nevis. A quick breakfast of yogurt and fruit and we were ready to go.

Finally airborn the turquoise Caribbean below sparkled in the sunrise. On the approach to Nevis airport, I looked down at the water and saw a huge sea turtle come up for a breath of air and then flap his great flippers to dive down again. My camera wasn’t ready but that will stick with me for a long time. We flew in low low over Lover’s Beach… Mon and I will be back there later.

Gopaul picked us up at the airport and drove us to the Casa where we met his wife, Mala, our caretaker. They are lovely people. A quick tour around the house and we grabbed our beach bags and Mala drove us to Pinney’s Beach and left us the car for the rest of the week… Ours to use. We where the first ones there. (10:30) This is a three mile stretch of white sand on the Caribbean side of the island. We quickly found our umbrella beside Sunshine’s bar and within 10 minutes, Mon had us a couple of Killer Bee rum drinks. Now it’s time to relax.

After a couple hours on the beach we had a wonderful lunch of grilled Mahi Mahi and then we drove into Charlestown to buy an international driver’s license and a bottle of rum at the grocery store ($7.00 gotta love that) and a few groceries and back to the Casa to relax. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of this day’s story.

Day 2 Monday

Canadian winter One, Alwards Zero. Our flight to St. Maarten was delayed one hour which meant we missed our connecting flight to Nevis. Shucks! Oh well, we holed up at a hotel near the St. Maarten airport and wandered down the street to a quaint little al fresco restaurant for a fantastic meal of stuffed meatloaf and jerk shrimp wrap. Best of all, the waitress, Joe, was from Quebec, the cook is from Toronto, the folks at the next table were from Nova Scotia and someone else there was from BC. We felt right at home except it is 25 degrees and lightly raining… Unlike Saint John which is declaring a state of emergency tonight. We feel for you at home.

Tomorrow we’ll be at the airport at 6:00 to see if we can get on the first flight to Nevis.

Day 1 Saturday & Sunday in Montreal

Our 2015 winter vacation began with much anxiety due to several major weather systems all at once. We couldn’t get away from Saint John fast enough and almost didn’t amidst a 40cm blizzard on Saturday. Our flight made it out and (whew) and we arrived in Montreal with the entire day on Sunday to relax and explore the old part of the city.

Great restaurant at the Best Western Hotel. We enjoyed the pool and exercise room in the morning and then Monica’s brother Frank and his wife Pauline met us at noon and drove us around the old downtown area and dropped us off for some sight seeing. The highlight for me was visiting Notre Dame Basilica. Absolutely breath taking and a must see if you are here.

After a coffee and cookie to warm our freezing bodies (we were dressed for the Caribbean) we went back to Frank’s apartment. After a nice visit, they drove us back to our hotel and bid us Bon voyage. A nice supper and off to bed with sweet dreams of warm islands in the south.