February 2007 Photoshow

This was our fifth trip to SXM since ’04, the second time we’ve gone in the winter, leaving kids at home! You may remember that back in the fall, when I was whining about not taking a winter vacation this year, a lot you reminded me that life is short and to go for it and boy am I glad that I did! Thank you! It was just one very short week, but it was great! It was really nice meeting so many new TTOL folks at the party and on the beach.

We arrived late in the afternoon of the Feb 28th after having to get up at 2am, to catch our 5:45am flight PIT-PHL-SXM. Mostly uneventful, (wish I could say the same about the return trip, but I’ll get to that later!) but we did leave PHL about a half hour late. Craig from Packlight was waiting with our cell phone and Mohammed from Panoramic was waiting with our car…we’ll definitely use both again.

We were going to stop and grab a few groceries on the way to Club Orient, but the sun was still shining brightly, so we changed our minds and headed straight to Club O, got checked in before the office closed and still managed to catch a few precious rays before sundown…I figured that we could go shopping when it was dark! Headed to the new Grande Marche in Cole Bay and liked it very much…got the essentials…water, rum, coke, limes, Etna ice cream and a few other things!

We absolutely love staying at Club Orient and probably won’t ever stay anywhere else. We observed a few changes/improvements this trip. First was parking. You are no longer allowed to park right outside your chalet. There are now designated parking areas on the perimeter of the property. At first it seemed like it might be a hassle, but it wasn’t at all! And the whole property looks much nicer, not having cars parked all over the place.

A Monday morning manager’s reception has been added, with coffee, tea and pastries. It was very nice and a good opportunity to meet some new folks and reacquaint with old friends.

A Sunday morning, ecumenical church service, has been added, though we personally, did not attend. But I thought that it was a nice idea for those people who really do want to attend a service while they are staying for a short trip or an extended time, as so many at Club O do, especially during the winter.

Our plans for the week were pretty simple…stay off the Dutch side, walk the beach every morning at sunrise, and eat at French side restaurants where we’ve never been. We did have a deviation in the plan, when BigDen organized the TTOL party at SSBB, so that was our one exception. While we were there, we figured we might as well have dinner…ordered at the grill - had our swordfish and burger in about 10 minutes…It was a great party, too…thanks to J.D., Jill, and Andrea, for keeping things going in Den’s absence. It was very nice to meet new friends and say hi to those whom we’ve met before! After the party, we made our way over to Maho to visit our friends at Riviera Jewelers…I did get one little inexpensive trinket – a toe ring, but more surprisingly, John got himself a watch! Perhaps the drinks at the party and the rum at Riviera influenced his decision, but I’m glad he bought something for himself for a change! Then it was back to the French side, where we stayed until it was Departure day…it was so nice not having to deal with all the traffic in Simpson Bay…and the traffic that we did hit in Marigot and Grand Case wasn’t bad at all!

We really did nothing all week, but soak up the sun (and perhaps a bit too much alcohol!) Grabbed lunches back in the room – John would buy a baguette every morning and we would make a quick sandwich – loved the Gouda that we bought! The hardest part of our days, was deciding where to have dinner. For the most part we kept to our plan of trying new places.

[color:"red"]Chez Leandra[/color] – After a visit to say hello to Luiz and to buy a new pareo, we felt the need for a late afternoon snack. Just wanted to munch on some ribs with fries - got one hot, one honey bbq – very good - $20

[color:"red"]Rancho del Sol[/color] – we knew that we wanted to stop here on our first night, because we knew we’d be tired and it was close by. We just wanted to get a pizza, and they have quite a few varieties, but we also shared an appetizer of wings. It was a nice meal and when it was done, they brought out the bottles of their homemade flavored rum – I thought I’d try the passion fruit and as it took awhile to get our check and our change, I had to try it a couple more times! Total with tip was less than $30. We would have spent more, had we chosen from the ‘regular’ menu, but the pizza was quite inexpensive.

[color:"red"]Le Ti Coin Creole[/color] – this was our first visit to a ‘real’ restaurant in Grand Case…we’d only eaten at the Lolos several times before. I was in the mood for lots of Creole this trip and this restaurant did not disappoint! Chef Carl Phillips was a wonderful host and I would recommend this place for an authentic West Indies food experience! Both of us had ‘specials’ of the house – mine Stuffed Red Snapper, John had Seafood Pasta. This evening was a bit of a splurge for us…we also had a bottle of wine, shared the stuffed crab appetizer and banana cake dessert and still only spent what I thought was very reasonable $80 +tip.

[color:"red"]Poulet D’Orleans[/color] – This place has been on our list since we started going to SXM. It was very nice to finally eat here and meet Chef Tony Romney. Again, I went for Creole – Mahi Mahi in Creole sauce; John went for house special ‘Ribs Galore’ – lamb, goat and beef ribs. Dinners came with loads of vegetables – carrots, plantain, broccoli, squash, and small corn on the cob. Again, we splurged a bit, sharing the seafood sampler ($22) – stuffed crabs, mushrooms, conch fritters, crab legs, but it was well worth it! Dinners also came with sides of rice, beans, potatoes and garlic bread. Everything was very good, and so reasonable! $60 for the night and we got to watch the lunar eclipse from the front porch while we ate!

[color:"red"]Bigouden' Blues Creperie[/color] in Cul de Sac – Food has French/English influence, lots of seafood, mostly shellfish... Friends of ours had just eaten here the previous night and said that they enjoyed it…I think it’s fairly new and more of a locals place that tourist. The menu on the board was in French, but our waitress was very helpful in translating. She suggested an English ‘cider’ wine, which was very good. They had a great variety of dinner crepes, but we knew we wanted to share the apple flambé dessert crepe, so we opted for ‘regular’ meals. I chose the endive with ham in cream sauce; John had a sausage and ham platter. Again, we enjoyed our meal very much. $50 + tip

The one place that we were going to try to get to and didn’t was Calmos on Sunday night. We were going to head over and watch the sunset, get something to eat, and stay for music. Never made it…had our laptop with us, and once we got off the beach, logged in to the computer and saw that 2 of our kids were on instant messenger…by the time I finished chatting with them, we had missed sunset. We decided to be lazy and just have dinner at [color:"red"]Papagayo’s[/color]. This did go against our ‘new restaurant’ plan, but we had a very good meal here as well. Carlos was attentive, as usual, suggesting a nice wine. We shared a shrimp scampi appetizer; I had the evening special, Sea Bass, while John chose the Seafood Bouillabaisse. $62 + tip for a very nice, relaxing meal.

Tuesday Nights in Grand Case. We really enjoyed the stroll up and down the street in Grand Case, but we were on a mission to find souvenirs for our daughter and her best friend, with whom she stayed while we were away. Once we had success, we made our way to [color:"red"]Sky’s The Limit[/color] Lolo. This also went against our plan, but John was really in the mood for their ribs and the garlic shrimp (which we both had!). I was a little concerned about the food and service, with so many hundreds of people trying to eat, but our food came quickly and though probably not presented as nicely as if there wouldn’t have been such a crowd, it was as good as we remembered. In spite of the huge crowd, service was great, probably due to fact that there were quite a few waitresses working there that night.

Departure day – We weren’t sure where to go to eat lunch, but knew that we didn’t want to take forever just to park. It was Wednesday, so we figured that lunch in Marigot was probably out of the question! If we’d have stumbled upon a parking spot, we would have stopped, but Market day was jammed. We kept driving and decided that if we were going to eat on the Dutch side it would have to be easy to park, somewhere new and we did not want to go beyond the drawbridge. [color:"red"]Shrimpy’s[/color] fit the bill! I had a smoked salmon with egg and capers on toast and John had the fish and chips - $20.

The best part about choosing Shrimpy’s was noticing the new Belgian Chocolate Shop in Simpson Bay was out front! I still managed to get my chocolate fix after all! Brought a big box home with me!

Made our way back to the airport and dropped off the car and headed into the new terminal. USAirways seemed to be having a particularly bad day…we had heard of computer system problems, but wasn’t sure if this caused the backlog at check in or it was simply ‘island time’!

We also noticed that our flight to PHL was delayed. Turns out the weather in PHL and need to de-ice contributed to a 2 hour delay for the arrival of the plane that was to take us home. We knew that we were going to miss our connection, so we had them move us to a 10:45 flight to PIT from the 8:30. All was well until we got to PHL! We zipped through customs and immigration, having only carryons, but there was so much confusion and chaos, still yet, from the morning’s weather…We were first told to go to USAirways Customer Service…other passengers that we talked to, told us that there were people waiting there in line for 3 hours! We decided to go directly to the gate to get our boarding passes…ended up having to go to several different gates…then it turns out that we weren’t booked on the later flight – ended up having to wait and see if we would get stand by seats. Fortunately, we did. Flight didn’t leave PHL until almost 1am, finally pulled in the driveway around 3. As tired as we were, we did try to keep it in perspective…when you travel in the winter, it’s a chance that you take, but it’s so worth it.

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