Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Caribbean Blues

It has been almost a month since Craig and I returned from the half Dutch, half French Caribbean island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. I must admit that those azure waters and warm, gentle breezes sound inviting now. We didn't have much chance to truly enjoy the tropics, since we spent about half of our time there enduring a terrible virus. These things happen. We tried to make the best of a bad situation and we did manage some fun times. Nearly everyone at the resort fell victim to the nasty virus, yet most of us maintained a sense of humour about the whole thing. After all, it could have happened anywhere. Had we been on a cruise ship, we would have been in the news!

A glimpse of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Our working vacation began with a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Thursday, January 14. We only had the evening there, and had been up and traveling since 3:30 AM, so we ate dinner at a restaurant recommended by the hotel - Los Pinos. The grilled steak w/chimichurri was wonderful and the pina coladas the best I have ever tasted! The next morning we headed out to the airport and arrived way too early, especially since our flight was delayed several hours. Eventually, our little plane took off, and in just 38 minutes, we landed in St. Martin. It was dark by the time we arrived at the Westin Dawn Beach.

This was our view on Friday morning.

The next morning, we met up with some friends and enjoyed a half day in Phillipsburg, riding Segway on the boardwalk and beach. We followed it with a tasty lunch of mahi-mahi wraps at restaurant there, with a lovely view of the ocean. A bit of shopping rounded out the afternoon. We returned to the resort, where that evening everyone partied on the beach at the huge welcoming event hosted by the owner of the company for which Craig works. The company spares no expense in showing the customers a good time. The buffet overflowed with tasty choices such as lobster bisque, whitefish in beurre blanc, mushroom ravioli, and grilled steak. A dessert bar offered mini crème brûlée, as well as mango cream puffs, tiny chocolate mousse cups, and coconut cake. Of course, there was full bar which supplied just about any beverage one would expect at such an event. A live band provided music for a very festive evening.

Segway on the beach!

On Saturday, I was able to talk to Darcy while Craig hosted a breakfast bar on the beach. We later went out for lunch with some friends at a place nearby called Mr Busby's. It's right on the beach in Oyster Bay, with a cool breeze and a lovely view. After we returned to the resort, we relaxed on the balcony with a cold drink and a book. That evening, we met up with another couple for dinner at Ocean, which is a restaurant at the resort. We dined on the terrace near the pool, and it was an enjoyable evening. 

In the middle of the night, the virus hit me like a freight train. An hour later, Craig became ill. We didn't suspect food poisoning, because we had eaten different items from the menu. We spent some very miserable hours in our beds and learned via text message that many other people had fallen ill, most of whom had not dined at the hotel. Over the course of the next couple of days, a doctor made repeated visits to the resort, dispensing prescriptions and giving injections to the ones who were severely ill. We didn't learn until much later that nearly everyone in that resort had become ill, and there were others across the island who were experiencing the same symptoms. 

By Monday, we felt well enough to be out and about. I didn't eat much during the day, but drank lots of water and the occasional warm coke which was advised by the doctor. We went to lunch with a group to the Sunset Bar and Grill, where we had a blast watching the planes come into the airport and seeing people being tumbled across the sand into the water as the big jets turned and took off. I have written about this in a previous post. It's a fun place to hang out. The grill serves some good food, though I really wasn't ready to do much more than nibble on a chicken wing. 

Fun at the Sunset Bar and Grill, Maho Beach.

That evening, six of us went into Grand Case, where we were treated to a fabulous meal at the French restaurant there known as The Cottage. I had heard that it served the best French food on the island, and I don't doubt that for a moment! Our meal, from starter to dessert, was exquisite! I recommend the filet with Bearnaise, or the sea bass cheeks. And for dessert - try the caramel souffle or the chocolaty Mon Cheri. The service was wonderful, and the decor as charming as could be. It was a memorable evening.

The next day, I awoke feeling a bit queasy. Too much rich food the night before, I suppose! Craig and I both took it easy, except that he did have to put in an appearance at a couple of events. Early that evening, we went into Phillipsburg, where we did a bit of shopping. We had planned to have dinner there, but nothing really appealed to my still-queasy tummy. We chose instead to savor some refreshing sorbet at a shaded table overlooking the water. It really hit the spot! 

Wednesday was our last full day on the island. We had considered going back to Grand Case for a bit of exploring in the daylight, but after meeting up with some friends at breakfast we decided instead to visit Pinel Island. There were four of us who rode the little ferry over to the tiny island on the French side. We had lunch at a restaurant on the beach, savoring some tasty food as we enjoyed the lovely views. We lingered over our meal and refreshing drinks, and then began a hike along the trails nearby. The path is narrow and a bit rocky, though it's not difficult. It was a very warm day and as we were still recovering from the virus, we didn't walk far. After about a mile and a half, we were ready for more cold drinks! We also did some shopping at the cute gift shop on the island. There was a great selection and good prices.

Our view at lunch on Pinel Island.

Looking toward Flat Island from the trail on Pinel.

A pretty scene on the ferry ride to Pinel Island.

That evening was the big farewell party at the resort. We could see that not everyone had recovered from the virus; there were many empty seats at the tables scattered across the lawn. The food was amazing! We enjoyed conch chowder, Jamaican cole slaw, Caribbean pepper steak, crab legs, plantains, and much more. There was a DJ playing old favorites and taking requests. The dance floor was jumping until the party ended. 

We were up early on Thursday morning to see our friends off to the airport. Our flight was the last one out of our group. We hung around the lobby until nearly everyone else had departed. I was sipping my warm cola and nibbling on pretzels - no breakfast for me! By the time we arrived in San Juan and checked into the hotel, I was tired and a bit hungry. Craig and I decided to have a small meal at the Papillon, a cozy French restaurant on the property. We both chose the croque monsieur, and it was wonderful! It came with a tiny fryer basket heaped with crispy fries. The sandwich itself was perfectly prepared, sitting prettily in a little pool of bechamel. It was as tasty as any I have had in France.

On Friday evening, we were home at last! Not all of our luggage made the trip, but the errant bag was delivered to us late that night. And now it's time to begin planning our next journey!

TRAVEL TIP: Always pack a small pharmacy when traveling overseas. Because you just never know!

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