Loc: Omaha, NE
OK settle in, this is a big one....
Flight: AA out of Kansas City at 6:15 am. Big brother Mike (49) and wife Mary (49) from Overland Park, KS had slight issue with checking in as they booked the flight under Mike instead of Michael which is on his passport. All good, after 20 mins the clerk had it all squared away. Wife Julie (47) and I, Matt, (47) from Omaha, NE had no problems. We carry on our luggage, as we read years and years ago, that's the best way not to over pack for the Caribbean.
Landed in SXM around 3:45 pm and headed towards Oyster Bay Beach Resort (OBBR) after renting RAV-4 from AVIS (had JEEP Wrangler reserved but was not going to big enough for 2 giant Americans and their beautiful wives and luggage). Avis said they are getting a couple of 4 door Wranglers in next week which would have been perfect for us. Stopped at Lee's for a couple of quick drinks and appetizers. $1.50 Caribs for Happy Hour! Also had fried crab balls (so-so) and rib app (awesome). Off to Grand Marche for groceries. Mike and I scurried over to Mark's for an El Presidente while the girls shopped. Back on the road and the traffic was absolutely crazy! It was the weekend of St. Martin days and 6 pm and rainy. It took us over an hour (maybe closer to an hour and a half) to get to OBBR from the airport.
Easy check in. I called the week before and talked to Kathleen and requested two renovated rooms on the ocean and low and behold that's what we got!! The rooms (2831 and 2821) had an awesome view of the ocean and sunrise (that almost never happens). Well-appointed with acceptable furniture (much nicer than 8 years ago), flat screen tv's, and plenty of room. Some minor issues like the thermostat stayed on 18 degrees C, the bedroom drywall not quite finished and the power, cable, and phones went out several times during the visit. But for me, my biggest hassle out of all of that was that I had to reset the clocks in the room three times, ha. Oh, and open the doors to warm the place up.
$50 Timeshare fee and $7 per day for utilities. I paid $99 upon check out for our timeshare stay through Interval. WIFI not great but it worked most of the time. Did not partake in any resort activities as I love to plan my own adventures based off experience and all the help and suggestions I get from the TTOLers. Lastly, the staff was amazing friendly and helpful. If you treat people with love and respect, you get love and respect in return.
Dinner at Daniel's By the Sea. It was pretty good, I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars. The Mahi was a little over cooked but my pizza was really good. Off to the Dinghy Dock for late drinks and to watch the Iowa/Michigan game. It was fun, not too many people.
I got up at dawn (6:15-6:30 am) almost every day to drive around the island some while the wife slept until 8-8:30am. Driving around the island, seeing the kids go to school in their different uniforms is one of my favorite activities of the week. 10am, off to Mullet for our first beach day. It was raining pretty heavily, so we stopped at Maho to get Mike some snorkeling gear. $32 for a large mask and snorkel (no fins). We got our first free rum shot of the week and it was good. Rain stopped so off to Mullet. Rented four chairs on the far left side of the beach as you come in. The beach and water were as amazing as I remembered. Got four chairs and 2 umbrellas for $25 (talked them down from $30 or $15 for two chairs and an umbrella). We did have a couple that were super overzealous in their passion for each other frolicking on the beach in front of us, but chalked it up to something we would talk about for years to come. We nicknamed them, Kim and Kanye. Mike and I snorkeled, just OK, as the waves were pretty big and the water was pretty cloudy. Ate lunch and had great chicken and fish at Daleo's (I thought it was Rosie's at first). They were out of ribs, sad face. Overall, an amazing first beach day. Had to stop at Sunset Beach Bar for one drink to see the planes. Mike and Mary really enjoyed that as it was their first time on the island other than a cruise 20 years ago. It's still kind of exciting to Julie and me as well, even after several visits. Headed back to OBBR to clean up and head to dinner at Big Fish. Funny, I did not realize that they moved across the street (no longer on the water). We liked the new digs however. For the price, we were slightly underwhelmed. Enjoyed meeting Teresa and Mike but the food had a little to be desired for the price and our server was nonexistent most of the meal. I would probably still spend a night there if we go back to OBBR though as we had a great time and it was super close. Wife said the calamari was off the hook good.
Same morning drive by myself. Headed to Orient for the day around 10 am. Setting up camp at Kakao's (NEW) (when I put new down in parenthesis, it means it was our first experience based mostly off TTOL recommendations). Could not negotiate a deal for the chairs this time, $40 for four chairs and two umbrellas. We did, however, get two tables that turned out to be a huge asset for our beers and drinks. Guy said that the chairs are a separate business from the restaurant so they could not negotiate a deal even if we ate and drank. Still an amazing day at the beach. Snorkeling nonexistent but still had to give it the ol' college try. Oh, forgot to mention that Mike and I brought our own small coolers full of beer and water to each beach day and then we would start ordering from the bar when we ran out. Mike and Mary wandered up the beach and ate at Sun Beach Bar. Mike said it was the best Mahi Mahi (or any fish) he had ever had. He loved the Creole sauce. Julie and I ordered from Kakao. I got her the Mahi Mahi with Creole sauce (which she loved!) and I got the Pina Pizza that was ham, prosciutto and pineapple (awesome!) Ate it on the beach and it was fantastic. Love Orient for the sun and people watching. Mary got an amazingly cool cover-up for $65 on the beach. Roughly 6 hours on the beach, we have to head home. Cleaned up and off to Canoa (NEW)for dinner. One of our best dinners of the week. Everyone really really enjoyed their meals. Mike and Mary split the seafood pasta (rich but really good) and salad, Julie had a Greek salad with added Mahi. It was awesome and $20 well spent she said. I had the chicken curry and it was off the chain good. Sat out on the deck by the water and it could not have gone better.
Out for my drive first thing after setting my alarm for 6 am to watch the sunrise.
Off to Phillipsburg for shopping and lunch at 10 am. Stopped at the Tour of St. Martin Catholic Church(NEW). Very impressive! Got a little choked up at the beauty inside. We love Caribbean Catholic churches and their quaintness. So here is a good spot to tell the main story of our visit. We celebrated 20 years of marriage last month and I wanted to take a special trip and surprise. A new diamond ring for Julie and a renewal of vows at Dreams. So I tried to get Mary to help me get Julie a new ring. I had her take her into Artistic Jewelers (NEW) as Julie loves David Yurman jewelry and so I thought this was the spot, but no go. SO, onto plan B (later). We stopped at The Lazy Lizard (NEW) and had a few drinks and a couple of apps. The ribs app were really good (pretty sweet but add a little of their homemade hot sauce...and POW, awesome!), the chips and mango salsa were underwhelming (needed more flavor) and the shrimp skewers that were pretty good. Marlin did an awesome job as our sever. The owner came out and was very passionate about his food and rum which I appreciate, but it seemed somewhat canned (IMHO). Loved the free rum shots, the best we had the whole week. Should have bought a couple of bottles to take home, sigh. Off to Gus' on Baie Rouge (NEW) . Our youngest son is named Gus (9) so, of course, we had to check it out. The beach is spectacular! The bar was very modest to say the least. Gus was gone to a funeral but I got to meet him briefly as we were leaving. We had a great beach day at Gus' and got our Gus a tee shirt to wear in the future when he grows into it. I snuck over to Dreams to set up our big 20th anniversary dinner and renewal of vows for Thursday night. Here's where my biggest snafu of week occurred. I had been going back and forth with Bruno a few times over the past few months about this big dinner. I needed them to set up the entire renewal with flowers, a trellis, an officiate, and dinner. Well.... he said he could take care of this in so many words, but come to find out, they really could only take care of the dinner. You see, he is very French and a lot of what I emailed got lost in translation. So I show up on Tuesday afternoon and meet with Bruno (owner?), George (manager?) and most importantly, the wonderful and amazing, Angelique. Come to find out, I needed to care of the flowers, trellis and officiate on my own. So, George got me in touch with the florist in Marigot and Angelique said she would take some pictures of the event since that is her passion. So.... I cannot get a renewal setup in such a short time, so we improvised and just turned it into a 20th anniversary celebration. BTW, a renewal of vows with an officiate, trellis and flowers will run you about $850 on top of the $300 dinner for 4. Oh, and the kicker, they didn't serve dinner that Thursday night because their chef had to head back to France I believe. I had a pretty great and rough day (that the wife knew nothing about at this point) so we headed back to OBBR. I took a nap and the others went to Mama's Pizza for a less expensive and casual dinner. The pizza and atmosphere was great. I ate the left overs and the pizza was great!
St. Barths! We took the Voyager ferry from Oyster Bay to St. Barths. I rented a car so we could explore the island. The boat ride was fine as I got some motion sickness patches from the doctor the week before we left (because Julie got sick the last boat ride to St Barth's 8 years ago). Customs sucked. It was long and hot. Traffic at that time was terrible so I went to get the car and the others walked down to Le Select to have a beer and wait for me. We headed to Shell Beach (NEW) first and it was fantastic. We had never been and were overwhelmed with the beauty, shells and snorkeling. The major downfall was that Do Brazil was sold and closed. The new owners were renovating it so there was a lot of construction noise. Oh well, still awesome. So we needed to have lunch so we headed back to Le Select. had a great "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and a few Presidente. Off to Saline Beach. Fantastic beach as we remembered. Mike and I went to the left side of the beach to swim out to the rocks and snorkel. Different but as amazing as Shell. Nice to have a partner to snorkel with as it gets a little hairy swimming out into the deep water. Off to Jean Beach and Eden Rock (NEW). The ladies had their one and only $18 cocktail! Julie had a Thyme, lemonade and vodka drink and she said it was phenomenal (for $18). The French people were all skinny and fabulous. Off to return the rental but not before I dropped everyone off at Le Select for one last drink. I caught up with them and met 4 great couples staying on St Barth's from Cleveland, OH. Ferry ride home was uneventful but relaxing. Stopped at the small grocery store in Oyster Bay to get snacks for dinner in the room.
The big day! We arranged to head to Dreams around 1 pm so everyone had the morning to themselves. Mike and Mary spent it at Dawn Beach, Julie and I had breakfast at Mr Busby's, Johnny Cakes (NEW), pretty fantastic breakfast, different as I have never had a Johnny cake (syrup enhances it as it is a little dry). Then I had to excuse myself to "run some errands". I headed to Artistic Jewelers to pick out Julie's ring, then all the way up to Marigot to get the flowers and then hustled back to OBBR to get cleaned up. We got to Dreams (NEW) around 2 pm and Angelique was ready for us. We had the table on the far right up on the "stage" closest to the beach. She had fresh flowers for us. We started with the spring rolls and edamame apps. The spring rolls with shrimp and beef were really good and the edamame was good as well just not WOW. Then the main course....I had the flank steak with house fries w/ spicy mayo, heavenly, Julie had the seared tuna which was 5 stars (really good), Mike had the seafood pasta which was great, and Mary had the shrimp salad that she really enjoyed. The whole meal was wonderful. I gave Julie her head band of flowers and flower bouquet (which seemed kind of strange since we were not having a ceremony). Then Angelique brought us these most amazing tasting creme brulee ever! It was not setup (maybe because of the temp and humidity) but it was, close your eyes and moan, good. Off to the beach so I could give Julie the ring and have Angelique take some pics. Julie was super surprised with the ring and I said a few words. She brought out some after dinner rum shots that were fun ( I love the fact that the French want to send you off with a couple of rum shots after you have been drinking all day and then are ready to jump in the car, ha). Got some amazing pics sent to me by Angelique several days later. All in all an overwhelming beautiful day. Something we will cherish forever. After 2 and half hours of this lunch...we headed out and decided to stop at the Calmos Cafe (NEW) in Grand Case for music and dancing. Well....it was 5 pm and the band did not start until 8:30 pm. So we decided to go back to the resort and clean up and rest for a while. Back to Calmos and it..was..hopping! We had a great time listening to the Latin band and watching the pretty young people salsa. It was packed and hot and we had a blast! We could only stay til 12 am as we are old.
Up early for a drive. Headed to Happy Bay for our last true beach day. Parked at Friars and hiked to Happy. Beautiful as I remembered it. Good snorkeling as well. Only a couple hours of that and headed back to Friar's Bay Beach Cafe (NEW) for chairs and food. $20 for 4 chairs, 2 umbrellas and 2 tables as long as we ate at the restaurant deal. Well...headed to the restaurant and it is cash only! So Mike and I had to head to the Super U in Marigot to get some cash. Back and had an awesome lunch. Mike and I each got the rib plate (Kansas City guys) and the girls split my wife's most incredible dining experience of the trip. It was a 1/2 Santa Domingo avocado with fresh crab salad, topped with caviar, smoked fish with garlic and Dijon aioli, served with fresh ciabatta. It was super fresh and clean tasting. No fancy seasoning was used. Caviar served as the salt, the avocado was rich but paired with the salad that was a ceviche, it had balance and the smoked fish was really delicate. It was the perfect beach lunch(if you can't tell, she's a recipe editor for a magazine in Omaha). Oh, and the wife said the waiter was about the most handsome man ever, ha. The water was super calm at Friar's as well as a beautiful sunset.
We were not done as the girls could not wrap their minds around leaving the next day and devised a plan to stay, so we headed back to Grand Case for a little more fun. I heard great things about LOVE but could not park anywhere near there so we ended up at the Rainbow (NEW). We ordered a pizza and shrimp and of course it was amazing as well (I ran out of adjectives several paragraphs ago, if you couldn't tell). We walked back up the beach to LOVE and they opened up the boutique for the girls to buy a couple of things and we had our last drink and went home. What a lovely place and our new find for this trip was Grand Case. Our two trips before to St Martin we did not spend any time on this wonderful strip even though I read tons of great reviews from the TTOLers. Just thought the restaurants were too expensive for us.
Going home day...drats! Bought me and the boys some cool shirts from Shipwrecks at the resort. Got packed and headed to Karakter's (NEW) for our last beach opportunity. What an amazing spot for our last lunch. I branched out again and had the beef carpaccio which was awesome. The wife got the grouper which was good but not her best and Mary got the bruschetta I believe. The bread with tomato, olive and garlic butter app was fantastic as well. Just the perfect way to end the trip. Met our new friends from Cleveland again at the airport and had a good time drinking a few before we boarded. Pretty long and uneventful flight home.
Overall an incredible trip. Different because we had people with us this time as it has only been Julie and I in the past, but a different kind of wonderful to experience it with my brother and sister in law along with a lot of new experiences. It helps that we all get along and Julie and Mary are close friends being the "outlaws" of the Kolpin family.
I counted 21 bars and restaurants and 14 beaches! Whoa.
A few quick observations after eight years since our last visit:
The traffic seems much heavier
Seems like much more C/O, topless goers on Orient, Happy, Mullet
More stray dogs
Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks again for all the insight and recommendations! We all truly benefited from your wisdom and experience!
I will try and add some pictures if I can figure out how to do it.