Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Quick Jaunt

Hey thanks for the encouragement folks. I'll make you a deal. I still think there are some changes a-comin', but I'll keep blogging until they happen. That's fair, right? To shake things up, we went to see a movie after dark - and during the week!!! I know - it's radical. We met up with Heather (winter clothes and our salt shaker in hand) and saw Snow White and The Huntsman on Tuesday. I think I'll just say it was interesting. The popcorn always makes a movie outing worth it though.

If that wasn't enough, we got an opportunity to jet to St. Martin for the day yesterday. We've been wanting to food shop for a while now and Michael needed a 5th pair of workboots since our arrival, so when we got word that a quickie trip had been coordinated, we hopped onboard. I didn't get to pilot the plane this time, nor were there the rainbows all around like the last trip, but I always consider it a success when we get to our destination and back without a dip in the sea, so all was well. Michael didn't get a head wound this time either. We've all learned to keep our sunglasses off the top of our heads.

It turns out the two other passengers were Dario the owner of Ciao, and Richard (Richie) of the Hermitage Plantation in Nevis. Yes, in Nevis. We were an hour late leaving because Richie had to come up with a Plan B to get to St. Kitts after the ferry decided to cancel its 7am trip across for no apparent reason. That gave us a chance to get to know Dario a bit. I had told him that I didn't even know his restaurant was still open, they don't do much online, and he told me they rely on Tripadvisor and radio ads (which I wouldn't hear). He assured me they're open 7 days/week. He was heading to St. Martin to check on his restaurant there (his kids run it) and to pick up a few things (like cheese) for Ciao. Once Richie got there, we paid the painful $37US/pp fee to get off the island and off we went.

We didn't spend much time on the coastline, which was fine as it was rather hazy out anyway.

I can't say I was too pleased to see the big poofy white clouds, but we only had a wee bit of turbulence around that area and then it smoothed out.

We went just to the west of St. Barths,

and then headed for the east side of St. Martin. Hey - that's not where the airport is! Well, not the Dutch airport. FlyWindies Mike had chosen the quieter, less hassle airport in Grand Case on the French side. Cool! We hadn't sailed or anchored on that end and hadn't been there in years, so it was a fun change of pace.

Little runway. Little airport.

When Fly Windies Mike said no hassle, he meant it. We landed and walked right to our rental cars.  No immigration, nothing. Seriously, we love the French islands when it comes to this stuff. They were the easiest when clearing in on Jacumba too.

We always end up with these tiny cars, but it sure does make parking easier. You'll note we were back to the steering wheel on the left side of the car, driving on the right. There was lots of windshield wiper action as the controls for the turn signals are switched too. No problem!

Off we went.  Is that a wallpapered wall surrounding that ATM?

That's certainly traffic. Welcome back to St. Martin! Remind us not to go that way when we head back to the airport.

First stop was to Philipsburg for some workboots for Michael. Did I mention I hate shopping?

We wandered around a bit looking for clothes, but most of it was cheap polyester and metallics (who wears this stuff?) and only good for a Disco party. Is it time for lunch yet? Yes! We couldn't find the Indian place (Mr. Singh's) that Fly Windies Mike had recommended, but didn't mind Taloula Mango/Blue Bitch at all. Look how empty the boardwalk was.

Amstel Light? I can't remember the last time I had one of these and at $2.75, was a steal.

The rest of the meal was great too. Fried gouda sticks. Gouda - yummy.  Hot portabella wrap with less than a forkful of slaw (why so stingy with the cabbage?!).

Ok, I'm ready for the rest. Off to Cost-U-Less.

Luckily, they carried what they usually do and we picked up everything from kitty litter to laundry detergent to toilet paper to some frozen vegetarian fare. I had wanted a beach lounge chair, but didn't think it would fit in the plane, so didn't get it. Boo. Then it was off to Le Grande Marche (2 of them).  I really miss food. Sigh.

Avocados...strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, weird shaped tomatoes...whaaaaa! We stumbled around like refugees for a bit, kind of getting depressed, and then headed for our section.  We absolutely love these "chicken" strips. L-O-V-E them (cook til nice and crunchy). So we started to grab them all, but noticed a woman standing patiently nearby. Yes, she wanted one too, so we got out of the way - let her take her fill - and then took the rest. All of them.

We did not take this turkey-shaped thing. They had one that looked like a duck too. That's ok. We don't eat these meat knock-offs because we miss meat, most of these taste better than what passes for meat these days, but because they're easier to throw in meals, make sandwiches, BBQ, etc.

Michael was having a tough time making decisions.

I had to be pried away from the Amy's soups (she makes the best no-chicken chicken noodle soup ever).  The rest are delicious too (like Thai coconut...).

The veggie section does get smaller and smaller, but it was good enough to make the trip worthwhile (our freezer can only hold so much). They've got a huge section of Indian food as well, with every kind of mimosa you could imagine, naani breads, etc. etc. The electricity went out for a few seconds, making us feel right at home. Sheesh. Everything fit quite nicely in the bags we brought though.

Of course, we've become experts at this. Look at what a shopping trip looked like when we had Jacumba. St. Martin is one of the cheapest islands in the Caribbean for shopping, so if you're there, you should be stocking up. In cart, in car, on dock, in dinghy, onto boat, into cabinets. I don't miss that, but this trip was getting close.

We took a leisurely trip back to the airport, enjoying seeing the quieter side of the island,

stopping at one more new grocery store, and then schlepped our stuff inside. Those bags were heavy! I actually carried one of those blue freezer bags, the kitty litter, detergent, and toilet paper - it's a good thing I've been working out (it did really pay off).

Michael felt the need to take a photo of the toilet, because apparently it was self cleaning for those men with bad aim. Every household with a male should have one.

Everyone was back on time, and we learned that Richie didn't get any shopping in because he was messing with his boat that's in a boatyard for repair (yep, that reminded us why we don't own one anymore).  No departure fees to leave (merci!) and then we were back in the air.

This was one of our favorite places to anchor - Ile Fourche. The uninhabited rock formation is right between St. Barths and St. Martin, is a French marine park, has free moorings right up by the cliffs, and lots of lots of turtles. You can see when we flew over it the first time, there was no one there.

We imagined being anchored there, drinking our morning sodas, staring at barracuda shadows under the hulls...On the way back, there were 4 boats mooored with 2 more motoring in. There went our visions of privacy and serenity, but still...

Here's what it looked like via sailboat.

Look how still things were during this flight.

And the haze! That's pink Saharan dusk from Africa and is a real pain in the butt when cleaning (houses, cars, planes, etc.), but a boon if you want to keep hurricanes away (it dries the atmosphere and starves potential systems of moisture). Can you see Statia in the forefront and Saba like a mirage behind?

We were practically on top of St. Kitts and could barely see it.

Then we were passing Sandy Bank. Hey!

And we've passed St. Kitts. The dark mountains almost looked like someplace in Thailand.

Yes, we went to Nevis first to not only drop off our Hermitage passenger, but to refuel. Yes, please. Runway #2 for the day.

I told Fly Windies Mike that he was ruining my sunset shots with this delay, but it didn't look too bad from Nevis and the delay wasn't that long.

Once up again, we went right over the top of the Marriott. I hadn't realized it had 3 pools.

And then we were landing and home. Runway #3.

Well, almost. We still had to lug all the stuff we bought (we helped Dario too).

We also had to to go through customs, but with just food it was a piece of cake (no duty). Stuffing all this crap (I mean fantastic food) into the freezer was quite the challenge. I'm scared to open the thing now.

Dario had invited us to eat at Caio and we took him up on it.  It was bigger inside than I would have imagined.

Ilde, his wife, was waiting for us and we had a great dinner together. I tried the pumpkin ravioli in a butter sauce (and boy was it, but in a good way), and Michael tried the fettuccine alfredo (with a spinach fettuccine).  Wow. They were both decadent. Very, very good. We were too full for dessert, but enjoyed our conversation (I felt like I was with the Italian side of my family), the wine, and appreciated the fact that they bought my book (BTW, it's available for sale at Reggae Beach and Shipwreck right now + I always have one on me).

What a day. Exhausting, but fruitful. Tonight, we just might be having a baguette with brie, and a crepe, stuffed with French chocolate pudding, peanut butter and with banana "ice cream" on top (well Michael will have the 2nd thing).  Oooh la la.