Phenix Car Rental – This is Mikey Daniel and Roberto, formerly of Tropicana/Tropical Car Rental. For the life of me, I can not understand spending this kind of $ on a trip, and worrying about $10-$15 for a substandard vehicle. I got a blue Nissan with 12,000 miles on it that ran like a top and the service simply could not be any better – plus Mikey is a great guy. Cell: 721-580-2561, website www.phenixcarrental.com.
Mario’s Bistro – simply the best restaurant on the island and the new location is a bonus. Went twice, different meals – all great.
LaPetrona – new Mexican Restaurant in the Simpson Bay Villas where the Stone was formerly located. We are from New York and foodies. We rarely go out for Mexican since wife thinks it is too heavy. Stopped for a cocktail when we got there just to check it out. The bartender, Ivan, is a real craft bartender who made us Chipotle Margaritas. OMG! Went every day for drinks and finally broke down and ate dinner there. Let Ivan and Luis the chef order for us. Tremendous – flavors, light, fresh and they told us the methodology of how to eat the food. Great! Very nice setting with outdoor fireplace, etc. Love being surprised!
Anguilla – GB Ferries from Airport and a few nights at Four Seasons. Beyond great. This is a story for another time and place.
Simpson Bay Villas – got a renovated 1 bedroom suite at a very good price. The resort appears in great shape and except for the credit card machine breaking down during check-in, the unit was great and service could not be faulted.
La Playa, Orient Beach - Bruno was behind the bar. As upscale experience as you can have on Orient. Great chairs, great service. The Bo-Bun Nem salad is on the menu. Beach was in great shape, however, pretty windy. Not really a fan of the new section. Although everyone made an effort to personalize their spaces, it’s too crowded and I liked the old shacks and character. Miss Andy and Cheryl’s.
Dreams, Nettle Bay - George runs this. High end dining and drinking on the beach. Steep Drop off and seaweed, however, it does not get any better.
Friars Beach Café - Beach not in great shape, however, we come here for lunch and it never disappoints.
Phillipsburg – Never though I would say this, however, Philipsburg has cleaned up nicely and we had a good time. I would never go to Philipsburg in the past since I said it was hot, crowded, and dirty, a lot of traffic and no parking. Took the last right towards Cruise ship dock to Bobby’s Marina. No Traffic, easy parking. Actually went to buy some Cuban cigars at Cigar Emporium since they lifted the Embargo. Great store, spent way too much. Ended up walking down Front St., (really cleaned it up) some high end shops, love looking at the watches, walked back along the “boardwalk”, had a few beers and ended up eating Poutine with some Canadian folks at one of the bars. The Dutch government deserves applause for reinventing this area and improving everyone’s experience and I go back to when Ric’s and Everything Cool were on Front St. I know they did this mainly for the cruise ship revenue, however, someone had vision. Good times!
St Maarten Yacht Club – went for happy hour for late bridge openings. A great place to hang out to watch the boats. Limitless was anchored in the marina – 2 choppers! Good service and contrary to what I read, I’m happy to report that the grouper fingers are still great. They must be fresh, they sell enough of them. Parking still a pain, however, funny to watch all of these cars in the lot have to move to let one person out, it’s like a ballet.
Sunset Beach Bar – have not been there for a few years, Holy S**t! They must have expanded it by 10 times. Buses dropping people off by the 100s and there was only 1 ship in port – of course it was Oasis. I remember when it was the round concrete bar, a few picnic tables and a 50 gallon drum for cooking. Not a bad experience, however. Was able to get a couple of seats at the bar, couple of beers, some ribs (pretty good, BTW) and watch a couple of planes and the idiots hanging on to the fence, well, being idiots. For those interested, the beach was in pretty good shape. Park in Algeria, get ticket validated.
Airport arrival and departure – Went through customs in about 10 minutes and new scanners really seem to be working in moving people along at departure. The remodeled terminal departure area is also greatly improved as well as the duty free shops and food options. Bought more Cuban cigars at duty free – Monte #2 Petits, $258 per box for those who are interested.
Café Paris, Marigot marina – went on Thursday when mussels arrive. Some of the best mussels I ever had. We also like the French bistro food, capriccio, escargots, frittes, etc. Only 1 waitress for the whole place, however, she made everybody happy!
Truthfully, did not find anything bad on this trip. All good!
Traffic in Simpson Bay. Ugh! Never seen it close to this bad. When we went to Mario’s, we were against traffic. It was bumper to bumper from past Billy Folly Rd. past the airport almost to Maho. The Causeway was also backed up. It definitely did not have anything to do with the bridge closures. It was backed up every day between 4-6:30PM. We made it a point to be back at our unit by then or be sitting at the SMYC. When we were at the SMYC, traffic was backed up in both directions and when the bridge opened, there was still a backup on the other side.
Marigot Marina – I remember when the marina was a hopping place, especially on Thursday nights when all of the shops stayed open late, they has mimes and face-painters and almost every space was taken with great restaurants – La Belle Epoque, Jean Dupont, Chanteclair, etc. There were a lot of people. You paid the guy in the main lot $1 and all was great. Granted it has been getting seeder over the years, however, I was not prepared for this. It is half deserted, homeless people all over the place – pretty much in every nook and cranny – got accosted in the lot for $$ to watch our car. Almost ran a guy over when I tried to pull into a space, which turned out to be his home. Wife was intimidated – I’m too stupid and aggressive, so I just dealt with it. Spoke to the owner of Café Paris and his answer was that “they were not in the tourist zone” and now they drew mainly French. Didn’t notice at first, but it was true. All of Marigot was cosmopolitan, clean and nice back in the day. Wife and daughters used to love to shop there. How could the French government let this deteriorate so badly? (see Philipsburg above). In fairness, there was a lot of security in the marina, gendarmes with dogs, private security in the lots as we left, but the entire area gave off a bad “vibe”.
In conclusion – Great trip. We stop in SXM for a few days on way to other islands. This is year 21 and one change you can count on every year is change!