Monday, May 30, 2011

Back from St. Martin

Anyone going through blog withdrawals out there? Well, last week was rather uneventful with everyone doing their best sloth imitations trying to stay as cool as possible. Friday we headed for St. Martin. Yay!! We got the heck off this island and headed to another one - wahoo! We got to the airport at 9am ready to go (at 11). I had to restrain Michael, now in vacation mode, from indulging in the beverage on the 2nd tier of this machine (9am? I think not).

Of course, at 11 when we were still sitting there and there was no sign of the plane, the beer was starting to look a bit more tempting. We were actually just about to indulge ourselves at around noon when the plane seemed to come out of nowhere and we boarded without pretense. The next thing we knew we were on the ground and headed to the St. Maarten Yacht Club for lunch. With all the traffic, it actually took longer to get the whole 2-3 miles from the airport to the restaurant than it did to swap islands (60 miles apart). Luckily, our pals, Jim & Wendy from s/v Merengue were still patiently waiting for us. NOW it's time for a beer (plus Michael bit his inner cheek, so needed to "ice" it). Ah, something different from a Carib!

After a quick lunch, it was time to head out to our home for the weekend, a 27' Island Packet (a monohull - major inhale of breath!). Time to get into the dinghy! We haven't done that for a year and a half!

Once we dropped our stuff off, we took a quick trip back out ourselves to buy a few things from Ace Hardware (e.g. batteries). The dinghy motor operated a bit differently than ours, but we got into the swing of things pretty quickly (that's Merengue behind Michael).

Once in Ace, we just stood there and took it all in. We're in an elevator people!! An elevator - I can't remember the last time we were in an elevator!

Is that a full-length mirror? AACK! I suppose I should be thankful I don't have one of those.

On our way back to the boat, we decided to make a stop for some soda. I stayed in the dinghy with the stuff we bought, while Mike made a quick dash into a gas station. As soon as he got inside, it started raining. Son of a...

That's right - rain harder. Yep, this was just like we remembered it.

Wendy was waiting with a towel for us, Jim with a pump to get the water out of the little boat, and before we knew it we were having rum & tonic sundowners. Good times... Every night, goats could be seen at the top of the rock and I couldn't help but want to belt out that song, The Lonely Goat Herd, from the Sound of Music movie. I restrained myself. Your welcome.

We've spent many a night in the Simpson Bay Lagoon or Marigot Harbor, so can't say it was unfamiliar territory, but I still couldn't sleep. There was music playing from a very distant shore that didn't stop until about a 3:45am and I spent the entire night trying to "name that bass." At least the water was calm, so there was no possibility of sea sickness. Blissfully, the sun finally came up and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the harbor before dinghy motors get going, the wakes of larger motorboats kick in, and the day's activities begin. While neither of us really miss the boating life, we are glad to still have a foot in here and there because there was a lot to like about being liveaboards too.

The lagoon and outer harbor were pretty full considering hurricane season starts in 2 days, but everyone was spaced out pretty well.

So the PLAN (4-letter word), was to get a bus to Phillipsburg, see if we could find some work boots and sandals for Michael, get him a haircut from his favorite Dominican barber, and buy the billionth mp3 player for me. Sunday, we'd rent a car and head to the grocery stores and get all our frozen goodies before our flight back. Instead, rental cars are so cheap on the island, we decided to just rent a car both days. We were a bit worried, as this was how traffic looked on Friday (and traffic is one of the reasons why we didn't pick St. Martin as an island to live on),

but we actually had no problems with it. We had more difficulty remembering which side of the car the steering wheel was on and driving on the correct side of the street. Stay to the right!

Well, it turns out Mr. Barber (we call him Pepe because he just looks like a Pepe, but his name is Dominic) had moved and we were unable to locate him. Size 9 1/2 work boots were nowhere to be found, but I did find an mp3 player. Of course, I realized upon returning home that I paid $15 more for it than I should have and that it's regular battery operated (and has an 8-hour battery life). Sigh. The good news is that I do have rechargeable batteries/charger from another life, so hopefully all will be well on that note. I also got a free case thrown in so maybe I won't sweat the device into oblivion again.

We had a great meal (as usual) at The Blue Bitch on the Philipsburg boardwalk and realized that we had forgotten how blue the water is here. The water in St. Kitts is dynamic too, but for some reason this aqua color really stands out at most of the St. Martin beaches.

There was a band with a great vibe playing and made us really feel like we were on vacation.

Then we decided to take a quick stop by the Cost-U-Less to confirm that they'd be open on Sunday and to do a preliminary check of what they had to offer this time around (it's always changing, kind of like Costco). They'd be open until 3 on Sunday, which would work, and Jim & Wendy took advantage of us having a car by buying some last minute things for themselves and their 4-legged furball Bailey (25# of kitty litter for $15 - egads!). The next thing we knew, we were putting slowly back to the boat hoping the weight of all of us and our stuff didn't sink the poor thing. Peek-a-boo Wendy! Little sailboat/little dinghy.

How convenient that we got back to the boat in time for another sundowner and some more yodeling goat entertainment. A baguette & cheese made the day perfect. I got a bit of sleep that night (drums coming from the other direction this time) and was ready for the final shopping day. Our flight wasn't until 9pm, so we wanted to shop as late as possible so the frozen stuff would stay that way until we could get it home and into our freezer. So we putzed around until about 11am and then took a quick drive into Philipsburg one more time to track down Pepe. No luck, but we did find some sandals for Michael. We took our time buying stuff in Cost-U-Less and I restrained myself from taking pictures of the produce and vegetarian sections (although I did hug the freezers for a quick second). Our final stop would be Le Grande Marche for the final purchases. We got there around 1:30pm and were very disappointed to discover that what was once a huge refrigerated section dedicated to vegetarian stuff had been widdled down to almost nothing. Products we had been drooling over the thought of, were no longer there. Where they used to have 5 different brands of fake lunch meat, they now had none. Nooooo!!! Why Oh Why did you forsake us Le Grande Marche? crying-2

Fine. We bought what they did have and then figured we'd try one other branch of the store on the French side. Sometimes they carried things the other one didn't. As we were walking out of the Dutch store, we noticed something rather disturbing. They were closing. Uh oh. It was only 2pm. We hadn't thought to check the grocery store hours because we just ASSumed they'd be open. scared-1 Crap. Sure enough we drove to every store we were familiar with (and there were many, we'd spent many months there during our boating life), only to find they were all closed. How disappointing. Well, we did buy a bunch of stuff at Cost-U-Less and the first Grand Marche and now had 2 full collapsible coolers for our efforts. It would have to be enough.

We met up with Jim & Wendy in Marigot for some pizza in Marina Royale, only to discover that all of our favorite places were closed until 5 or later. Really??!! Well, that was fine, that just meant we'd have to try someplace new. We ended up at le Bar de la Mer. The pizza and salad were good, the Presidente's were cold, and the service was very friendly (we really miss that). We've never been to a place on the French side that didn't serve good food and have always found the people there to be incredibly warm. Stylish too - miss that a bit also (and no I don't mean this guy's headband).

Still trying to kill a little more time, and avoid saying goodbye, we headed to Serafina's for some dessert (and to buy a baguette for breakfast in St. Kitts). This place has lots of baked goods, all kinds of breads, and...

very creamy, decadent ice cream. Yummy.

And then it was time to go. Whaa! Bye Jim & Wendy - thanks for the hospitality! We won't mention that as we headed back to the car rental place, we noticed that some supermarkets that had been closed earlier, were opening...

Even though Budget closed at 5, the owner (Francine) let us bring the car back at 7 so we didn't have to sit at the airport for hours. How nice was that? She even dropped us off at the airport. Thanks Francine!

We had PLANned on checking our one piece of luggage and putting the food in the overheads (so they couldn't get left behind or sent to Antigua), but they wouldn't fit, so we switched gears and crossed our fingers. We were also a bit surprised to see that we had a 7:35 boarding time. Remember, we were supposed to leave at 8:55. At about 8, they started taking our tickets, but stopped us right before we walked out onto the tarmac, when the pilot made the decision to refuel. You think he just happened to glance at his fuel gauge? We were boarding by 8:10 and in the air by 8:25. Yes, that would be 30 minutes early!! Wonder if we left anyone behind? Well, since it wasn't us, we thought it was awesome. Upon landing, we were quite pleased to see our 2 coolers waiting for us and hit customs not sure what to expect (we're supposed to be able to bring back food - but who the heck knows). After a quick check of what we had in there, we got a quick stamp of approval and were on our way. Nifty.

Back in St. Kitts, we apparently missed a little excitement off of Ziggy's on The Strip on Sunday as this water spout appeared and gave everyone a bit of a scare/thrill. Tornadoes are everywhere!! (Picture by Kate Walsh "borrowed" from Facebook)

Of course, I was very glad to come back to this. Thanks Kat, Ella, Molly & Nat for keeping the "kids" alive, despite the little twerps' ungrateful antics.

Yes, both kitties are being very clingy today and keep walking across the computer...

Last night, I listened to the "noise" from The Strip until 4:30am so felt right at home. Today, I've got landscapers outside my windows with their gas/electric blowers/hedgers, and the water company guys keep screaming "Inside!" at me (the islander way of ringing your doorbell - which no one has). The water's been turned off and a water meter is being installed (another bill soon to come). Ah...home sweet home...But look at our freezer (good thing we didn't buy anything else!). No electricity outages, please. Now, what's for dinner?