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Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 #185414
02/25/2019 07:14 PM
02/25/2019 07:14 PM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 25
Michigan
Clifford Offline OP
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Clifford  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 25
Michigan
Back from another great trip to St Martin from Feb 14 to 21 2019.
We finally got to use our credit card miles for our free flight. Since it was mid-week we had almost no problems with the airport. We stayed at Jardin d'O and made three trips to the ClubO Beach (which needs more chairs). My wife went scuba diving and we did some snorkeling. We picked up kin who came on a day trip from a cruise. We took them around the island and stopped at Lotterie Farm. After the dives we visited Skipjacks and Cupacoy beach. Our other dining was in Grand Case, Orient and Orleans. The natural beauty of the island was all we remembered from previous trips. It was a joy to re-connect with so many familiar faces from our Club Orient stays. We loved the lack of overcrowding but that comes with a price for those running businesses on the island. We promise to return next time for a longer stay.

This was our seventh trip to the island. We missed last year. On a return 4 years ago we fell for the credit card offer from USAir which turned into American. At 95 dollars a year for the card it really isn't a free trip but $400 is well less than what most are paying to get to the island. We flew AA from Detroit thru Charlotte. The planes were full though they were slightly smaller planes than before Irma. Our flight pulled up near the east end of the terminal where the passengers walked down the stairs to the tarmac. We couldn't use the rear stairs. Waiting on the tarmac we soon realized the arrival entrance was nearby and walked over to the east corner. Inside is small but there is a bathroom when you walk in and stand in line for Immigration which was briefer than previous visits. Arriving on a weekday made the wait so short. The arrivals area is only about one quarter of the terminal. Everything has a temporary look to it so it may be different next year. Yes they are still working on the roof. The baggage claim and bathroom near the exit are familiar to previous visits. Change to tropical clothes.

For those who haven't been to the island, St Martin is about 150 miles east of Puerto Rico. It is 26 square miles and divided into a French side and a Dutch side. This makes it different from most of that part of the world. It is 82F degrees in the day and 75 at night. In my mind it is like Europe without the crummy weather. It is one time zone ahead Eastern North America which means no jet lag for those folks. There are many things you will see in that region that are missing in St Martin. There are no snakes and gators, red tides, volcanoes, excessive sargasm and beaches pilled up with waste plastic. No riots at this time. The winds always blow in from Africa. You can chose to be in the wind on the east side of the island or be out of the wind on the west and south. US dollar is accepted most places and at par with Euros at some. If you want to practice your poor French skills on the French side some will accept that, some will prefer English.

Our rental car person Julia from 971locations was at the airport. Julia also was minding the store at Jardin d'O so she took care of both check-ins. Jardin d'O is up the mountain and across Route 7 from Orient. Rue de Jardin is between the Mont Vernon traffic circle and Leader-Price store. Papa Dan's Pizza is on the corner. There is a gate across the road and Jardin d'O is just up the hill and inside of the gate. There are only 5 apartments divided between two buildings inside the grassy lawn and beautiful flowering shrubbery. There is a 30 foot long pool surrounded by cane loungers (will seat 3:). The apartments are spacious and contemporary with easy flow from indoor to outdoor. It's private enough for first time naturists. Each unit is different so message me if you have questions On our stay it was mostly long time Club Orient couples. Nice to share stories about CO. Most people get out and about and don't spend a lot of time in their resorts.

First night out was dinner at Le Piment, still serving a great experience in the Orient Village. It is the busiest restaurant there. There is one less restaurant in the square as the asian restaurant moved out to the front and it's former site is closed up. We talked to a couple staying at Esmeralda who had a pool to themselves. They lamented their former resort of Alamanda which is still a gutted shell. Walking around after dinner we saw the larger Petite Casino grocery store and behind saw La Playa resort is wearing a bright new coat of white paint but is still within a wire fence and one end of the building has a waterfall of wiring coming out and not inside panels. Still some work to do at La Playa.

Our first trip to ClubO beach was the next morning. We got there at 11am and could not get chairs and umbrella. There are well over 100 umbrellas which means almost 250 chairs. We were relegated to sitting in the "nose bleed seats" near the shells of the Club Orient residences. There were probably another 100 who brought their own seating or just walked the beach and sat on towels. We went there two more times and as long as you arrive around 9:30 you can select your umbrella and chairs. Before Irma the old Perch bar was virtually in the water 100 or more feet from the rocks at Pedro's. The new Perch is well back from the water but closer to Pedro's non functioning bathroom (marked as a taxi stand). That area was formerly an elevated stop for cabs and buses but isn't usable now. The road from the old Club Orient entrance to the village is now overflow parking for the ClubO beach. Entrance to ClubO beach is an opening in the wire fence that surrounds the former resort. The old sign is up and says "Club Orient Private Property" There is parking for about 40 cars mostly up against the old Club residences. At the lot end is Perch Lite with the Club Orient Security sign. There are several signs posted about naturist beach and no photography. The one sign missing is the former sandwich board "No Photography" in the middle of the chairs on the water. There is work on the carbets between ClubO and Kontiki. A fairly deep trench has been excavated along the road for utilities and orange plastic fence surrounding the area. It looks like there are 4 places going in. A substantial load of concrete reinforcing steel bars were dropped there. Looks like it could be more like Kontiki style places. Not the old 2x6 and plastic tarp beach vibe. When the carbets get going there will be a need for much more parking in the area. Kontiki, Bikini and KKO are all big, bright, new and busy. Not much going on between KKO and Mont Vernon. About a foot of sargasm along the untended beach. We talked to 2 couples staying at Mont Vernon and both said their rentals were nice and newly furnished but there are some others boarded up. The pool is still a wreck. At the ClubO end of the beach, shoes are recommended for walking through the old Papagayo restaurant to get to the end of the beach. A ban on glass beer bottles would be nice. There is a lot of broken glass at that end of the beach. All of the umbrellas are clustered around the Perch Lite end of the ClubO beach. I even found beer bottles while snorkeling (the reef off Perch Lite was teeming with fish).

We went to Grand Case for dinner at Piazza Pascale. A great dining experience. Pretty well full of patrons exchanging greetings with Donna the hostess. Sadly Donna and Pascale plan to leave the island. We could see the strain the last 18 months have placed on many businesses on St Martin. After our dive at Dive Safaris on the Dutch side we went to Skipjacks for a great lunch. Not having crowds is great for us but a strain on businesses. Sixty percent occupancy is not enough for most businesses to thrive. Across the street the Diamond Resorts rooms are only steel studs. A lot of work still to do. Roxxy is under construction. From Skipjacks nearly to the drawbridge is cleared out. On the island a half dozen major resorts are still under construction. That's thousands of tourists and $$$ missing. It's not uncommon to hear "I've lost ten years".

Cruise ships are plentiful and help the economy. Some of our family cruised in one day. We drove them around the island and spent a few hours at Lotterie Farm. The mountain climb was unhurt by the hurricane. Paying the 5 euro each for the climb entitled us to use their beautiful pool. Too bad we didn't bring required swimwear. What used to be the restaurant seating area and the old lounge are gone. The restaurant and bar are now beside the pool which is an improvement. On the climb we saw about a dozen monkeys on the trail as well as an iguana about 4 feet long. Lotterie Farm still has the zip-line paths thru the jungle. It is the only tropical rainforest on the otherwise semi-arid island.

Mosquitoes? I only saw two on the whole trip and they were not dancing together.

With Jam Rock gone we were looking for some local fare and finally tried Chez Yvette's in Orleans. Usually a fast drive thru town we were confronted with finding Yvette's in a town with no street signs and hardly any of the google map businesses visible to the eye. We discovered that Yvette's is located on the only street that crosses Route 7. There is a Delta gas station on the corner. Many must not bother trying to find the place since they do a brisk take-out business with taxis. Modest would describe the dining room decor but it was in island tradition well decorated for Valentines Day. It was fairly crowded as we enjoyed conch and dumplings, whole red snapper creole and johnny cakes. Yvette is no longer around but her family were most gracious hosts.

The next night we went to Grand Case to dine at Bistrot Caraibes. It was Tuesday night which means the main street was closed off for Harmony Night. It is an improvement because the vehicles make the street dangerous. With many people on the street parking is more of a challenge. We would usually park on Route de l'Esperance near the airport. We got a little closer turning into a field which led to a walk along the pond and a trek across the soccer stadium. OK to get there but muddy on the way back after a shower. The restaurant was crowded, had the doors and windows open to the street activity but also had the air conditioning running. Had rack of lamb and whole sea bass. The chocolate moelleux pictured on their website is very good. A drum parade down the boulevard emptied the seats. Not expensive compared to restaurants off the island.

So difficult to leave the island after only 7 days. Once again I will say the airport is not a problem if you use it on a weekday. No lines. We waited to board while 6 people were coaxed out of their seats for 600 on our over-booked plane. After takeoff we looked back and saw 6 empty seats in the plane. What is with airlines!

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Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185417
02/25/2019 07:33 PM
02/25/2019 07:33 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,919
Portland, OR
jazzgal Offline
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jazzgal  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,919
Portland, OR
Thanks for the report. Sorry your trip was so short; I can't imagine only seven days, but I come from the West Coast.


[Linked Image]
Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185418
02/25/2019 07:35 PM
02/25/2019 07:35 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 17,585
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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ruralcarrier  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 17,585
Ohio
Thanks for the report.


J.D.
Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185425
02/25/2019 08:28 PM
02/25/2019 08:28 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 83,149
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 83,149
Central Florida!
Thanks for the report!


Carol Hill
Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185445
02/26/2019 02:37 AM
02/26/2019 02:37 AM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,081
Clearwater, FL
Biturbo Offline
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Biturbo  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,081
Clearwater, FL
Thanks for sharing. We had the same experience going to the Club O beach - get there by 10 and there are still lots of chairs available. After 11, it was mostly full. We also loved our meal at Bistro Caraibes - it's our new favorite. Donna & Pascal are leaving the island?


I'm going where the weather suits my clothes.
Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185455
02/26/2019 09:00 AM
02/26/2019 09:00 AM
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 4,431
Rhode Island
RonDon Offline
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RonDon  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 4,431
Rhode Island
Glad t ear that you found Yvette's. Love their creole pork chops.

Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: jazzgal] #185510
02/26/2019 05:17 PM
02/26/2019 05:17 PM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 25
Michigan
Clifford Offline OP
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Clifford  Offline OP
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Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 25
Michigan
Near the end of the return flight I felt like I had been on the plane for 7 days.

Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Biturbo] #185511
02/26/2019 05:21 PM
02/26/2019 05:21 PM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 25
Michigan
Clifford Offline OP
Traveler
Clifford  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 25
Michigan
Originally Posted by Biturbo
Donna & Pascal are leaving the island?


Donna said they are both burned out and are getting out of the restaurant biz. Big chance for somebody to buy the Piazza. Rooftop dining under a canopy with views of the ocean and Anguilla. Great place and location.

Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185546
02/27/2019 12:43 AM
02/27/2019 12:43 AM
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 179
under the Paul B in 39073
wct49 Offline
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wct49  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 179
under the Paul B in 39073
awesome report. can't wait to get back.


"I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”
Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Clifford] #185549
02/27/2019 02:09 AM
02/27/2019 02:09 AM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,081
Clearwater, FL
Biturbo Offline
Traveler
Biturbo  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,081
Clearwater, FL
They will be missed. Donna's outgoing personality and the food made for a wonderful dining experience.


I'm going where the weather suits my clothes.
Re: Clifford's Trip Feb 14 - 21 2019 [Re: Biturbo] #185624
02/27/2019 04:04 PM
02/27/2019 04:04 PM
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 13,149
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
islandgem Offline
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islandgem  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 13,149
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
So sorry to hear they are leaving the island. They want to be closer to children and grandchildren now and I totally understand that choice.





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