Wednesday, June 14, 2017

St. Martin & St. Barts March 2-9

We bid on this vacation in a silent auction to benefit T. J. Martell Foundation charity last fall.  My parents have been to St. Martin on villa vacations four or five times and rave about the island on a regular basis. "The shopping!" "The food!" "The beach!" It made it onto my short list of travel ideas last year for this year, even before we knew it would be up for auction at the charity event.
The event caught my eye because of two reasons: (1) it was being held at one of our favorite restaurants, Ariane Kitchen & Bar and (2) this charity helps fund leukemia, cancer, and AIDS research.

Oct. 23, 2016

The founder, Tony Martell, happened to be seated a table next to us. (Sadly, he passed away at age 90 on Nov. 27th.) It was touching to meet him and hear more about the charity that was named after his son, who passed away at the age of 19 in the 1970's from leukemia. His dying son's wish was for his father to raise a million dollars for cancer research so that, in his own words, “no one else will have to experience what I am going through.”

This foundation far exceeded that goal, raising more than $271 million to date. We learned that if someone has the particular leukemia that Tony's son had, it is treatable today.
The silent auction had mostly sports paraphernalia along with this big trip. I said, "Let me get the bidding started..." I bid the minimum. Nobody outbid me. When I was in line to pay, the couple in front of me said, "We were gonna bid! My husband didn't want to outbid you!"
I made us a nice itinerary that focused on the French side (top half) of the island. I chose the Palm Court in Orient Bay for our first four nights before going to this high end hotel, La Samanna. In red is the main road that circles the island. I thought the driving was going to be a breeze...
I printed our maps and directions for each of our destinations, instead of opting for a GPS with our rental. As it turned out, this was a mistake. My bad. I own it. The Google map directions ended up being vague and caused stress in the car. :( And I'm not sure why I chose miles when I knew the island & rental cars used kilometers.

Thursday, March 2nd

Our flight was supposed to leave at 9 am from Newark. We had strong winds overnight and only one runway was being used. We were stuck in the airplane for two hours before we took off. Luckily, I did doze off, but still very annoying. On a positive note, I rediscovered how wonderful Tom and Jerry cartoons are. One of the many I watched: Click here. :)

The delayed flight screwed us up. By the time we got our rental car, it was 5:30 and we were sitting in traffic to cross the Simpson Bay bridge. I looked over my paperwork and read that the receptionist of the hotel would be there until 7 pm. If we arrive past that time, instructions would be left for us. I thought, "We have plenty of time." We were only ten miles away.

There was a McDonald's on the way, in Grand Case. I knew Scott Babe was dying for some caffeine and wanted to stop and get an iced coffee.  At same time, knew I wanted to get to hotel by 7. He didn't stop.

Anyway, lots of traffic and then we took a wrong turn when we got close to Orient Bay. It's difficult for Scott Babe to stop for directions, but we had no choice. A pharmacy was still open and we stated our business. The woman pointed us into the right direction.
Our hotel was in a gated community—it was dark and it was nerve-racking. I found it, and had Scott pull over next to the closed gate. An older couple (95% of everyone else seemed older. Should we have waited until we were retired to visit?!) was in a car about to leave and I told them we just arrived and asked for the code to the gate.  I got the code and we parked the car. It was 7 pm, I was anxious. I didn't want to miss the receptionist. I raced out of the car (before Scott could even pull the keys out of the ignition) and found Anne, the property manager/receptionist, by the pool. She was happy to see me. She was very gracious and said,"You can check in tomorrow," She gave us the key and showed us to our room.  We got a quick tour of the spacious room which included a kitchenette and coffee maker. Scott said, "Whew." But then Anne pointed out, "You just need to pick up coffee from around the corner tomorrow."

Minutes later, Anne comes back to the room and gives Scott an espresso. We were touched. The island hospitality didn't stop there. We had it on our entire trip. The French were one of my favorite things about this trip.

View of the pool from our balcony.
 Foam bed was uncomfortable. I would still recommend this hotel, though.

We unpacked a few things and then walked to dinner. There were eight restaurants at Le Village, shown above (less than a 5 minute walk).  I had all of our meals planned out ahead of time, many with reservations.

La Table d'Antoine

This was before the rain! We had a lovely table outside until we moved to the covered area. (Shrimp ceviche in coconut milk above)

Out of the rain to continue our dinner! My entree (no pic) was Noix de St. Jacques juste Roties, sauce Noilly Prat, fondue de Poireaux et Truffes -- Sea Scallops, leek fondue and truffles, served with vermouth sauce.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I learned some French! Café gourmand = Coffee with delicious sweets.♥

Bonus rum shots! It turns out all the restaurants offer this at the end of your meal! Such a nice touch. This one was infused with passion fruit.

Scott Babe petted a couple of cats. Sadly, they all looked like they were living a rough life. :(

Friday, March 3rd:

A few daylight shots of our hotel!
View from breakfast. Our room is middle room on second floor. :)

True love! Scott Babe blowing up my tube! 

On our way to the beach, I felt bad for this Yorkie baby -- she was waiting for her Mommy behind that green door. (Thank you, Melinda for confirming Yorkie or Morkie!)

Waikiki Beach:

Access to lounge chairs & umbrellas at Waikiki and Kakao beaches was included with our stay at Palm Court.

This is peak time to visit. It was a fluke that the ocean was so choppy.

I guess I'll break the news to you now. The ocean was too choppy/dangerous for us to swim or float. Not just this day, but every day of our vacation. We had rain rain at some point every day, too. This is their peak season for perfect weather. We simply had bad luck. We made the best of the trip and had leisurely meals.

Woman in hat offering Scott Babe free 5-minute foot massage!
(He respectfully declined.)

Lunch at Bikini Beach:
I spotted a woman wearing a "45" Club Med t-shirt!

 Refreshing mojito.

We shared our lunch with this cutie.

Bonus rum shots when we got the check. :)

Next stop, Kontiki beach:

Juggling bartender :)
(No need to watch the full minute -- I didn't expect him to do it for that long!)

I thought of my girlfriend, Kelly, when I saw this cool Heineken bottle. Kelly works for them. :)

The Sucrier knows the best place to build a nest. :)

Pineapple rum.

Cheers! Round two. I loved this bar.

Bubble Shop next to Kontkiki beach

Dinner in Grand Case:
 Lobster hot tub -- yikes.

Boulevard de Grand Case was a restaurant row! It was fun to see all the restaurants and people waiting outside for tables. I was on top of my game and made a dinner reservation at Bistrot Caraibes a month prior. (I also heard good things about Ocean 82 across the street. If we ever visit St. Martin again, I'd like to try that one.) We were a little late to the restaurant because we got lost. The owners were cool about it and thankfully we didn't lose our table.

I think we liked their signature dessert: Moelleux au chocolat chaud, glace vanille et sauce chocolat
(Not pictured - my delicious French onion soup to start and roasted sea scallops, tomatoes, asparagus in a light butter sauce with bacon for entree)

Rum shots!

 Out of focus! Grrrr! Was is the rosé?!

Fun shopping on the boulevard.

Saturday, March 4th
I took this photo to show you where breakfast was every morning -- under the pavilion. (Included with our stay.)

 View from breakfast

There were also croissants, cheese, and ham. Eggs were available, but cost extra. My backup plan if we didn't like the breakfast was to walk ten minutes to Coco Beach

This was a five minute walk from our hotel. I loved the seating!

Our view :)

Scott enjoyed his Fricassée de Volaille Coco (chicken curry with coconut) and I devoured my pepperoni and pineapple pizza! I didn't eat the whole thing -- we had a fridge in our room and were able to get a doggy bag. :)

Scott Babe -- also known as the cat whisperer!

All the cats we saw here in Orient Bay were in very bad shape. :(

Iguana climbing up.

Bonus rum shots.

We checked out the little grocery store near our hotel. Rosés for under ten bucks!

Relaxing before happy hour.

I knew there was a happy hour at our hotel, starting at 4 pm with hors 'dourves. I just didn't know where. The property was small, so I knew we would find it. Well...we didn't and we asked Anne at reception. It turns out it's where we have breakfast and she called for a girl to assist us. Not quite what I had pictured. We kept it simple and ordered a beer and a rosé. I wasn't about to ask where's the cheese?!

Driving to dinner in Marigot.

Le Bistro Nu was a lovely restaurant. I would love to dine there again one day.

 We got there early! It was nice to have the restaurant to ourselves for a bit. I would also like to mention that, during the entire trip, this was the only restaurant playing a French radio station that played awesome 80's hits along with French songs we never heard of. Most of the other restaurants were playing covers - that was weird!

Most of the restaurants had these big signs listing their specials, Our waitress translated this for us. :)

A bug took a swim in my rosé, which had happened to me the night before, too. I didn't care, just grabbed a napkin, but our sweet waitress replaced my glass. ♥
(I still haven't mastered doing closeups with my iPhone. That bug is somewhere in that glass!)

Carpaccio de boeuf and Soupe à l’oignon gratinée

Poêlée de crevettes, persil et ail

Scott Babe's Coq au vin traditionnel

Moelleux au chocolat cuit minute
It's safe to assume we had rum shots when we were presented the bill.

Sunday, March 5th - Day trip to St. Barts:

We drove about 20 minutes to Oyster Pond to take the 45 minute ferry ride to St. Barts.

Ferry ride was $85 per person round trip. By the way, my nail color is CND's - Desert Poppy.

Gustavia Port in St. Barts:

I chose Sunday for us to do St. Barts because I wanted us to enjoy Palm Court for a while before taking off on this day trip. I knew going in that many shops would be closed on Sunday. More shops were closed than I actually anticipated, but that's ok. I can't afford D & G, anyway! ♥

I got one souvenir from Pati de St Barth.

We checked out Clic.

After a refresher at La Cantina, we got a cab to St. Jean beach. When I was in the planning stages of our itinerary, I wanted to rent a car. After failed attempts to reserve one via online or the phone, I opted for simply taking a cab. I tweaked the itinerary so that we only needed one cab to get to our key spot and another to bring us back to the port. The taxi worked out like a charm. (It cost only 25 Euros or 30 dollars for the one mile each way)

Tom Beach hotel:
As we walked to the bar, we saw the hotel's spa pool. :)

First up, a refresher before lunch at the Pink Parrot. (This is still the Tom Beach Hotel.)
Do you see Scott and me in this photo?!


I had one of their signature drinks: St. Barths Nutcracker - Delicious!

 St. Jean's Bay

Plane landing at Gustaf III Airport (Video shot by Scott Babe)

We loved the techno DJ.

This was our favorite day during our vacation. Leisurely lunch with a great DJ.

Our view :) We were seated when they opened for lunch. It filled up as time went on.

 Tomate Burratina and my refreshing Pain Killer - Dark Rum, Coco, Pineapple, and Orange.

Scott Babe's: Thai Beef
Mine: Mahi-Mahi Maracuja - Local Mahi-Mahi Fillet with a Passion Fruit Sauce


You know what I ordered, right?

You guessed it! -- Cafe Gourmand :)

Bonus rum shots in St. Barts, too!

A quick look at the mini boutique.

After lunch, we walked next door to the famous Eden Rock.

Built in the 1950's, Eden Rock attracted celebs such as Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes. It still attracts the famous along with royals, including Kate Middleton and her family.

I had a feeling from my research that the bars inside Eden Rock weren't open until later on.  We sat at the bar which did not have a view of the beach. (The bar that was on the sand was converted into a juice bar to match their clientele.)

My swanky, delicious cocktail: Asian Ginger Mojito - Mount Gay Black Barrel, Hedonist Liqueur (A Subtle Blend of Cognac, Natural Ginger Infused With A Hint Of Vanilla), Cane Syrup, Fresh Ginger, Mint Leaves, Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice, Soda Water

Scott Babe's iced coffee.

While we waited for our ferry, we enjoyed fries and drinks at Le Repaire.

Back in Orient Bay, St. Martin: 
Le Piment was another restaurant in Place du Village and just a five minute walk from our hotel.
Turn off #1 - Menu on an iPad

Turn off #2 - Crunchy seafood risotto.
Le Piment is ranked #2 in Orient Bay on Trip Advisor. I'm at their page as I'm writing this portion because I'm still in disbelief what a crappy meal we had. One reviewer from just a few days ago ordered the same risotto I had and stated, "We've eaten here in previous years and had very good dinners but that wasn't true this time. My seafood risotto was disappointing because it didn't have much taste."
Our waitress was lovely and noticed I barely touched my dinner and ended up just taking it off the bill. Nice touch.

Bonus rum - no complaints here.

 Monday, March 6th:
We checked out of Palm Court and loaded up the rental car.
(I was praying the ocean would be less choppy at La Samanna, which was on the other side of the island, still on the French side.)

Our first stop before checking into La Samanna, was a leisurely lunch at Dreams. Yeah, it sounds like a strip club, huh? Wrong! Anyway, Dreams was a bitch for us to find. We did pass Tropicana which was on our itinerary for two days later. I made a mental note of it's location.

We FINALLY stopped for directions. At Le Beach Hôtel, a woman said we were close! "8 minutes down the road and the food is good!" WHEW.


Refreshers at the bar before being seated for lunch. I didn't let my high stress levels from not finding Dreams easily show in this selfie.

Lunch at Dreams:
Our beach view from our table was prettier than Scott Babe's pâté.

Appetizer - Mahi Mahi on lower left, cod fish fritter in middle and salad in upper right.

Jerked Mahi Mahi

I loved my shrimp pasta.

 We were told that the chef was Italian and had just made the tiramisu! SOLD! I can't recall what kind of ice cream that was. Shoot!

Bonus flavored rum shots that we have come to expect!

Reader, if you'd like to take an intermission, now is the time! La Samanna is up next!
Also, I'd like to just say that Scott Babe said more than once to me on this trip, "Don't bid on one of these vacations again." and raved about Club Med, which is all-inclusive.

La Samanna:
This wasn't easy to find, either. At least it was a short drive from lunch.

Our suite for the next 3 nights. (bottom floor)

Beads on the door = do not disturb. ♥

Our patio.

Our card keys

Door to the right was our kitchenette.

Behind our love seat - Scott Babe used this daily!

Kitchenette off of the living room with bonus rum! I brought that home with us!

 Complimentary pineapple slices, raspberries and prosecco. I had filled out their preference sheet prior to arriving. 😉

Pillows were for sale. The middle pillow depicts the view from reception/bar area. You'll see my pic of it towards the end of this post.

Between the bedroom and bathroom

Surprisingly, Scott Babe preferred our room at Palm Court over this suite! He said this one felt like he was in someone's apartment!

My girlfriend, Elisa, seems to like the products in hotel bathrooms. This pic is for her!

My gratis rum punch when we checked in.

6/21/11 - Photo taken by my girlfriend Wendy Ploger

While we were given a tour of our suite, I became emotional and teary eyed with my hand on my chest. I was overcome with happiness. This same feeling was reminiscent of when Scott Babe and I tied the knot at City Hall, nearly six years ago. ♥

Pouring the prosecco that was compliments of the hotel.

 The infinity pool and ocean was conveniently just steps behind our patio.

Exploring :)

One more shot of our patio (shot on another day)


Selfie before dinner.

We had dinner at the hotel's bar, "Baie Longue". I was curious about their risotto (Risotto Arborio aux truffes Melanosporum) ever since looking at their menu months ago. Scott Babe got their pizza which was just ok. I sent back my undercooked risotto. I hated doing that, but it was inedible. The second round was fine. Was this a clue to our dinner at their restaurant tomorrow? Keep reading.

Turn-down service.

Tuesday, March 7th:
Weather wasn't good. In fact, I could have packed a sweater. Weather appeared to have improved the day after we would leave.

Buffet breakfast at Interlude:
 These food warmers actually didn't keep the food warm.

 Scrambled eggs.

 Almond croissants

Lots of fresh fruit. This wasn't all of it.

Al fresco every morning.

I've read that some consider the best breakfast on the island at our hotel. The $35 per person breakfast fee was waived every morning for us because of the charity package we bid on. Honestly, who is going to eat $35 worth of food every morning to make it worth it?
(I thought the chocolate croissants were good until I had one from Le District near my new office. I hope my health coach isn't reading this! hehe.)
Red flag day:
 Our bad luck with weather continued over at La Samanna. :(

The waves were insane.

Video showing these monster waves.

What to do when the ocean is too dangerous to swim in:

On the right is my delicious Piña Colada made with white rum and then topped off with a bonus splash of dark rum. Nice touch. (Scott Babe had his favorite go-to drink -- Captain Morgan rum and diet Coke.)

Our bartender offered to take our photo :)

Maho Beach:

For lunch, we drove 10 minutes south to Maho Beach to watch the planes land.

I read that they have good burgers, so that's what I ordered!

I had a "painkiller" :)

Plane landing. Again, choppy water here, as well. Watch to the end and see these crazy waves. Typically, tourists are swimming here. I actually felt slightly nauseous eating and drinking on the pier from the rough sea.

 I had booked our couples' massage before we even flew to St. Martin. It turns out that it rained this afternoon so it was perfectly planned! LOL.
(50 minutes Swedish massage was included in our package that we "won".)

Hummingbird right outside our terrace.

Walking to sunset video. (I nearly tripped!)

Dinner at Trellis restaurant, at our hotel:
Well...we were staying at an expensive hotel, I wrongly assumed their restaurant would be excellent. From what I have read, La Samanna's heyday was in the 70's and 80's.

"Live entertainment" was on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the restaurant. I made us a reservation for tonight for the live music. What I didn't know when I made the reservation was that La Samanna's definition of live music was some guy looking like a schelp, walking in, and playing pre-recorded covers of Elvis and Sinatra while pretending to be singing. Scott Babe and I kept looking at each other like, "what is this???" I was in disbelief. The only thing high-end about this hotel were the fees and the rooms. I had to get confirmation of our suspicion with the "singer". I approached a younger, hipper looking waitress while seated and said, "May I ask you something?" In her adorable French accent, the waitress said, "Of course," she replied.  I asked, "Is that guy really singing?" Her jaw dropped and was happy that somebody was finally saying something. She replied, "I call bullshit. I can't believe the hotel allows him to come in twice a week."

Wednesday, March 8th (last full day):
Morning pool pics.

Selfie with my delicious Piña Colada.

Scott Babe is in this pic!

This morning's flag turned to yellow (medium hazard/conditions rough). I did attempt to go into the ocean with my pink tube. I asked Scott Babe to join me just in case. He said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah." Surprisingly, I did need him. I lasted a minute or so in the rough water. Scott Babe said the water dropped to 10 feet quickly. I was huffing and puffing just trying to get out of the water. :(

Afternoon in Marigot:
Margiot bay
 We drove 15 minutes east from our hotel to Marigot. I knew where the restaurant was because we had passed it on Sunday. :) Driving still had its moments -- there were no traffic lights in the middle of town.

Marina Port Royal

Lunch at Le Tropicana (My favorite dining experience):
 Don't judge a book by it's cover! It didn't look like much from Rue de Sandy Ground!

I didn't know it when I took this photo, but the empty table to the left was reserved for us! :) It pays to make a reservation! Best table overlooking the bay.

 French onion soup - charred, but still delicious.

Les Gambas Sautées à La Provençale. Yum! Can I go back for more?!

Tricky lighting under the awning! This was better than my pic represents.
Le Chaud froid, chocolat noisettes, crème glacée vanille
Hot and cold, chocolate hazelnut cake served with vanilla ice cream.

Bonus! Banana rum shots. Such a leisurely lunch. We were one of the last tables to leave.

I worked at Conde Nast selling New Yorker cartoons long enough to question this Frank Cotham caption. The actual caption was: "Two?"

A regular with her 16 yr old baby girl. ♥

Back to the hotel:

Samanna Kiss - 4 different rums are in this! -- La Samanna, Myer's,  Mount Gray, and Malibu rums. (along with peach juice, cranberry juice and fresh lemon juice)

Sunset video (I shot a portion of this live on Facebook and then removed audio.)

Dinner at Moulin Foo (Scott Babe's favorite dining experience)
Moulin Fou was tricky for us to find. (No surprise!) If you ever go, it's simply next door to Cheri's Cafe.

The kitties we saw here were so cute and appeared to be in healthy condition, unlike the ones we saw at Orient Bay. I fed this cutie some shrimp. ♥

Bonus rums!

Thursday, March 9th - LAST DAY

During our breakfast, it drizzled a bit and a faint rainbow appeared over the ocean. Very pretty. I just took it in; no photos.

Quick snapshot near reception after we checked out.

After we returned our car, we walked next door to Zee Best. My Dad raved about their croissants so much that I had to squeeze one in! My original plan was to visit their main location in Simpson Bay.

We had Zee Best make us sandwiches for lunch and we ate them at the airport. I didn't eat my croissant until around 2. It wasn't great, but maybe it lost it's freshness.

In Memory:

This posting is dedicated to my dear Aunt Nancy, who passed away from lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 50, twenty years ago, along with my girlfriend Pearlie's niece, Victoria, who had the same blood disease and passed away at the tender age of 5, almost 10 years ago.