Monday, March 24, 2008

St. Martin: March 7, 2008

I have been to St Martin probably 20 times but I have never been up to Loterie Farm. There is now a zipline course there so we thought we would give it a try. They have two types of zipline - the regular and the extreme zipline. The regular zipline is not that high off the ground and really caters to the cruise ship crowd. It looked ok but we really wanted a real zipline so we did the extreme zipline. Everytime I say extreme zipline I always think of the Extreme guys from Harold and Kumar Go To Whitecastle.

To get to the extreme zipline they loaded us up on the back of a truck and took us up to the top of the mountain. The ride up there made me nervous enough. We had no seat belt and were on benches in the back of a completely open truck. The view from the top is stunning. I only wish I had brought my camera with me. I was afraid that it would get broken but it would have been worth the risk.

The first zipline wasn’t so bad. We just took a running start and zoomed down the zipline to the first platform. The zipline is a lot of fun. I have to admit I was a little worried about hitting the tree at the end (even though it is covered with padding) so I kept breaking too early. I eventually got that under control and learned to enjoy the ride to the finish. The extreme zipline also had some extra items such as a cable tightrope, ladders and log bridge. I think they were just there to make you appreciate the zipeline ride. Our guide Nick thought it was a load of laughs to jump on the bridge and cables as we were walking across. Honestly, these didn’t scare me but it was physically difficult to get across these items. The logs on the bridges were spaced pretty far making it difficult to get across and the cable tightrope was uncomfortable on the feet. I always felt safe as we hooked ourselves into the safety lines. I just wish we could have hung from those lines and slid to the other side! Still, I highly recommend the zipline. It’s a lot of fun and a great view.

Over the past 20 years I have watched St. Martin grow. It’s very hard to find any open space left on this island and Loterie Farm is a nice refuge. They also have a nice restaurant and bar area.

In the afternoon we headed into Phillipsburg to do some shopping. Phillipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side. All the large cruise ships come into port here. This area has good prices on electronics and jewelry and also sells the typical tourist items. In the past few years they have built a nice beachfront boardwalk. This is a nice area to stroll or take a dip in the ocean. One store everyone should check out is Rima’s on Pondfill Road. They have a large selection of souveniers and beachwear. Many of the items sold along the beaches or other shops were bought at Rima’s first. It’s a great place to pick up some inexpensive gifts to take home.

In the evening we went to Toppers restaurant in Simpson Bay. This is a nice family friendly restaurant with some good basic food as well more gourmet items. I had the gnocchi, which was excellent, and the crab stuffed mahi mahi was also very good. After that we went to the Lady C floating bar. It was lady’s night so it was loud and crowded. I usually prefer a mellower atmosphere so we didn’t stay long. I think I would enjoy this bar more on other nights.

St. Martin: March 6, 2008

We decided to start off the vacation over at Orient Beach. This is a long sandy beach on the French side. I like it because you can rent chairs, umbrellas, get drinks delivered to your chair and there are also some good beachside restaurants. Orient Beach is also great for people watching. French side beaches allow topless bathing and Orient Beach also has a nude section. Needless to say there are a lot of characters that roam this beach. The nudity never shocks me but some of the outfits are hilarious. On previous years I have seen an older couple that managed to put on their hat, t-shirt and sneakers to go for a walk. They seemed very concerned about the sun but didn’t seem to mind that they had no bottoms. There was also the body builder with his tight boxer brief swim shorts and his girl that had a Borat style swimsuit. I think she would have been better off nude. There was also the older man who must recently caught the nudist bug. He was strutting his stuff but had serious tan lines. Not a good look even on the fittest person.

We settled in at Bikini Beach and rented some chairs and umbrella. Bikini Beach has great food and drinks. I like being able to have a nice relaxing lunch and escape the sun for a little bit. They also have great margarita’s and guacamole.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St Martin: March 5, 2008

This morning we left for St. Martin / St. Maarten. Our condo at the Simpson Bay Beach Condominiums was available during the Heineken Regatta so I just had to go. Sailors from all around the world come to St. Martin come for this regatta. It’s not just a race but 3 days of parties and music. The finale of the party happens right down the beach from our condo and this year Shaggy was performing. I decided to take a couple of girlfriends. One that had never been to the island, one that went with me when we were 13 and one that has been several times.

We decided to try out the new JetBlue service to St. Maarten via JFK. This was a nice flight although it was a little bumpy due to bad weather in Boston. JetBlue is a much more comfortable airline and well priced. The seats are leather, have more legroom and the base of the seat slides when you recline the back. They also have xm radio and satellite TV. Unfortunately the TV only works while you are over the US. Since we were in international waters most of the way we had to rely on the movies and radio. Luckily the movie was Juno! I had been waiting to see this so it worked out well. The other movie was Alvin & the Chipmunks. I would probably rather stare at a blank screen than watch that – and I usually like Jason Lee.

We arrived in St. Maarten around 3 and picked up the car, another friend arriving on USAIR and then made our way to the condo. I have been going to St Martin and this condo for over 20 years. It always feels a bit like going home. Some of my favorite vacation memories have been at this condo. It’s a great place to sit and watch the sunset while enjoying some wine and gouda cheese or Etna’s Rum Raisin ice cream.

Since we had not had a chance to go grocery shopping we decided to get a quick bite to eat at Shrimpy’s. This is a bar just behind the gourmet grocery store on Simpson Bay. It is very casual and seemed to mostly be sailors taking advantage of the free WiFi. We all shared a shrimp and mussel appetizer. It was very good and after we went for dessert at Hagan Daas near Cheri’s in Maho Bay. Cheri’s has been there as long as I can remember. It’s a popular spot for birthday’s and families. They always have some sort of entertainment (music and comedy) similar to what you would find on a cruise ship or resort. Not my thing but people love it. It was a long day so we went back early.