The Gory Details: SXM and NEV

This post will appeal only to those who like to know the minutiae of an island trip, but here it is:

Travel:

To SXM: American Airlines from BWI to MIA, and MIA to SXM — flights on time and without mishap (other than being at an ungodly early hour).

To NEV: Winair from SXM to NEV — flight delayed about 1 hour, at least partly attributable to heavy rain, but even being late, we were in NEV at 8:30 in the morning.  On the plus side, arriving at a tiny airport as 2 of a handful of arriving passengers is very convenient.  But the customs agent was more thorough than usual.  Once through, we were shuttled to Nisbet Plantation.

To BWI:  Taxi from Nisbet Plantation to Oualie Beach.  Private water taxi (with fully stocked cooler, if you need a Carib to get you through the 10-minute ride) from Oualie Beach to Cockleshell Beach (aka Reggae Beach) on St. Kitts.  Taxi from Cockleshell Beach to SKB.  American Airlines from SKB to MIA, and MIA to BWI.  Notwithstanding the many steps in this part of the journey, it was remarkably smooth.  Except for the fact that you have to walk from the terminal across the tarmac up the stairs to reach the plane.  Not a problem unless you get a torrential downpour and the thoughtless jerk in the first row of first class parks himself in the aisle to stow all of his stuff while everyone else waits in the rain…

Lodgings:

On St. Martin, Le Petit Hotel in Grand Case.

On Nevis, Nisbet Plantation.

Rental Cars:

SXM: I’d originally booked with Kenny’s (Lesley Bruce), but his wife was temporarily in charge due to his illness and had overbooked.  So they sent us to Payless, which honored the rate.  Payless was fine, but a little less convenient because you have to ride to their off-airport location to pick up the car.

NEV: We used Parry’s, arranged for us by Nisbet Plantation.

Eating Out:

SXM:

Francis Bar in Marigot

Bistrot Caraibes, Ocean 82 and L’Escapade in Grand Case

Sky’s the Limit and Au Coin des Amies lolos in Grand Case

NEV:

Nisbet Plantation for all breakfasts and dinners (different dinner menu every night)

Golden Rock Plantation, Sunshine’s, Yachtsmens Grill and Bananas for lunches

Customs and Immigration at MIA:

There is a new procedure for clearing in to the US at MIA.  After walking about 12 miles through MIA (or you can take the SkyTrain), you go to self-service kiosks and scan your passport.  The kiosk will spit out a receipt, and if anyone’s in your party has a photo with an X through it, you have to go to secondary screening.  (Someone very very bad must share Rick’s name, because he got the X, and got the same stink-eyed scrutiny we always get when entering the US.)  Then the usual bag claiming rigamarole — which, I believe, Florida law requires: load 4-7 bags from the arriving flight on the carousel to get the passengers all excited that the bags are coming, then wait at least 27 minutes before loading the rest on.  Then customs, bag re-check, security (again), and on to departure gates.

Finally, Because You Really Can’t Get Enough Of It:

Julie’s ant-bitten foot.

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Fire Ants Bite — A Guest Post

[For a change of pace, Julie has written this post to provide her toe-witness account of the most exciting part of our trip to Nevis. So you know that it’s a different writer, Julie’s post is in Flag Blue]

Beware of Killer Ants, Not Killer Bees, on Nevis

Why is it that the tropics always seem to bring out the itchy, buggy and rashy stuff? Or maybe it’s just me.

As a resident of Florida, I’m very familiar with the nasty fire ant, but hadn’t, until recently, had a true experience with their hot-headed, nasty temperament when one steps on their nest.

So, I thought I would share my experience, along with some personal solutions if you ever find yourself in the proximity of these hot headed devils.

The Bite.

During a recent visit to Nevis, a quiet little Caribbean island hidden off the coast of St. Kitts, my husband MT and I were participating in a palm tree planting ceremony to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of our good friends Rick and Eva.

Since MT and I are both shutterbugs, we both took charge of documenting this amazing ceremony with different cameras. Andrew, the grounds man of the Nisbet Plantation found a perfect spot on the Avenue of Palms, then hauled out the baby palm tree, shovel, a big heavy hoe and some white powdery stuff. After digging an appropriately large hole for the tree, and shaking some white powdery stuff around the hole, it was time to plant the palm – and for the event photographers to start clicking away.

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I take my job very seriously. Most times I get so caught up in getting the right angle and framing the photo I forget where I am, or even how my body might even need to contort to get the right shot.

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So, once again, I found myself so excited to photograph each movement – from the close up of the placard, to the smiling faces of Rick and Eva behind the tree, and the anointing of the tree with rum, I constantly elbowed MT out of the way to get a better shot. Again I was so focused on the photos until…”FIRE.”

I had stepped in a pile of fire ants. Ouch! It felt like hundreds of needles were shot into my foot.

Andrew and his assistant immediately shouted to get them off my feet and check between my toes, and said to put water on my feet since the ants hated water. Well, I didn’t see any water, so I did the next best thing, I poured a load of Mt. Gay rum on my feet. After all, alcohol is an antiseptic, right?

“We have a saying on the island, if the ants bite you, that means you’re sweet,” said Andrew, as he sprinkled more powdery white stuff onto the area where I had just stepped.

Funny, the only two areas with the sprinkled white stuff on the entire resort was surrounding us at that moment, leading me to think for the rest of my stay, “How many others are there?” Perpetually looking down at my footsteps for the remainder of my stay.

The Afterbite.

Throughout the remainder of the day, there were no signs of pain at all, just a few red bumps. I thought, “Maybe rum was a good antidote?”

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Just to make sure the rum worked, Eva and I shared a couple of post-ceremony Killer Bees at Sunshine’s. Again, no pain or sting from “the bee.” I was perfectly fine…until the next morning.

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I woke up with the feeling of both feet being on fire. Ran to the shower and doused my feet in water and the burn calmed slightly, but enough to tolerate the pain. The buggers had won.

Within an hour, large red welts started forming on my foot – especially my left foot. No swelling of the foot, just big, weird, red blisters. So, I applied lots of cortisone cream and Neosporin that I had just happened to have brought with me (for the anticipated tropical rashiness.)

Eva also donated some generic “Wal-dryl” to help stop the itch which helped a lot.

Thanks to the wi-fi from tiny the island resort, I was able to Google fire ant remedies, and found I had done just about everything right (although no mention of rum). (Fire Ant Remedies)

However, by the end of the second day, one of the blisters had grown really big and scary. So, I made an appointment through the receptionist at Nisbet Plantation with THE island doctor of Nevis for the next day.

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Western Medicine at its Finest.

The next morning the gang all headed to Charlestown, the capital town of Nevis, to visit Dr. Chandy Jacobs. We all took turns guessing at what the prescription might be on an island – a sacrificial goat? Special amulets to ward off the evil attached to my foot? Or maybe just some antibiotics after he lanced the ugly beast on my toe?

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We waited about 20 minutes before we called his listed cell phone on the door to make sure he was still coming – we figured he was just running on island time, and we were just prompt tourists.

Entering the doctor’s office about 30 minutes later, MT came in with me to hold my hand (and observe – boy was he thrilled). Dr. Jacobs’ office desk, shelves, walls, and corners were filled from floor to ceiling with books on anatomy, childbirth, and other medical text books (I hoped he wouldn’t have to look this one up), in addition to a few books on India.

Dr. Jacobs took one look at my foot and said it was one of the most unique cases he had ever seen since most people who are bitten come in with swollen arms, legs or feet where they were bitten. He commended me for not breaking the blister beast, and was amazed that I had no additional pain in my feet, legs or hips. He asked me what I did after I was bitten. I mentioned the rum and the topical creams. (I assumed none of this was in one of his textbooks.)

Next step – lancing the beast. (MT’s favorite part) This was SO sterilely accomplished using two Q-Tips doused in peroxide then squeezing the blister so that the liquid inside squirted up and over onto his desk like a beautiful fountain. He then sprinkled some white powdery stuff on my toe, stuck a bandage on my toe and wrote a prescription for some antibiotics.

After the procedure, I asked Dr. Jacobs if he was from India (based on the book on the shelf, and somewhat based on what he looked like and his accent). He confirmed and said he was from Kerala – a place MT and I had visited just over a year ago – another very tropical location – so I guess he specializes in rashy tropical stuff.

MT then remarked that he knew Kerala was the birth place of Ayurveda (a fact he would remember because of my interest and training in Ayurveda). Immediately, I hoped that he might know of some other Ayurvedic remedy like topical turmeric, neem cream or ghee mixed with some honey that would make it vanish – instead of a week of antibiotics. But, unfortunately, Dr. Jacobs made clear that that wasn’t his specialty, and proceeded to show us beautiful coffee table book he had in one of his piles about Kerala as we proceeded to reminisce about the beauty of his homeland.

30 minutes later, we were out the door with prescriptions in hand. It only took 3 different pharmacies to find what we needed, antibiotics, Benedryl, a box of plasters, and a small bottle of more white powdery stuff – I was quite impressed actually. The tiny island was quite equipped.

So off we went after the big adventure of island medicine to get a delicious lunch hidden in the hills of Nevis.

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Thinking back, I bet I would have had the same experience in Florida – minus the powdery white stuff.

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When In Doubt….

A lot of good-to-remember sayings start with the words “when in doubt.”  For me, the most important one I learned at sailing school.  “When in doubt, let it out.”  It refers to situations when the boat might be overpowered, and/or uncomfortable due to too much heel, and usually comes into play when a strong gust hits the boat.  When in doubt, let the mainsheet out.  Putting myself in the position of managing the mainsheet makes me feel safe and in control.

At Chateau Calypso, Rick and I have another “when in doubt” maxim.  “When in doubt, go to the islands!”  It seems that when we want to reward or soothe ourselves, we head south.

What to do when winter has us down?  Go to the islands.

What to do to prepare for winter?  Go to the islands.

Summer weather got us down?  Go to the islands.

Find a quarter under the sofa cushion?  Go to the islands.

I exaggerate, but only a bit.  Once we found our West Indian groove, we just kept wanting it more and more.  We hoard our frequent miles and credit card points, and guard vacation days, to get our fixes.

In this past year of milestones, one that has loomed large was our 25th anniversary (we got married in grade school).  There was no doubt that we would probably go to the Caribbean to celebrate it, though we wouldn’t be idiotic enough to go in August, our actual anniversary  (we stopped traveling during the peak of hurricane season after riding out Hurricane Georges on Tortola in 1998: (Hurricane Georges).  So we marked the actual date of our anniversary with a really nice dinner out, but deferred the real reward until our semi-usual November escape.

Of course, it’s not enough to just decide to go to the islands.  We had to decide exactly where we’d go, and what we’d do.  Naturally, we thought of our “happy places,” among which two possibilities immediately rose to the top of the heap.  Reluctantly, we decided against Fernandez Bay Village on Cat Island in the Bahamas, as we’d spent a week on Cat Island during our Bahamian odyssey (Cat Island 2014) and a week the year before (Cat Island 2013).  That left Nisbet Plantation on Nevis the winner.

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Nevis is Nice!  What’s not to love about this beautiful island populated with kind and gentle people?

But getting to Nevis is no easy thing.  The closest connection is via Miami to St. Kitts, and then involves shuttles and water taxis.  So we break the trip up, and go to St. Martin for a few days before taking a commuter flight to Nevis.  This year, going to St. Martin has special resonance, for that’s where we honeymooned 25 years ago.

In an era before the Internet, we chose St. Maarten/St. Martin (SXM for short) for our honeymoon because no one we knew had ever been there.  We assumed, wrongly, that it would be a fairly obscure destination that would satisfy the craving for seclusion that we both shared even then.  Boy, were we wrong!  Time shares (and time share hawkers), cruise ships, crowded beaches, traffic, American chain restaurants – this, even way back in 1989.  Based on word-of-mouth, we ventured to Grand Case in search of a special dinner. We drove in, took a look around – and not liking what we saw – turned right back around.  Our nascent island sensibilities took in the ramshackle fishing village and did not find it especially promising; scary even.

So unimpressed were we with SXM that it would be 18 years before we returned, and that only because circumstances chose the destination for us – we’d bid on a sailing charter at a charity auction, and SXM was where we’d be sailing from.  We ended up in Grand Case with our friends MT and Julie.  (SXM 2007) .  But then, we fell in love with Grand Case.

I suppose it shows how far we’ve come in a quarter century of marriage and Caribbean travel, because now virtually the only place we spend time on SXM is Grand Case. While the rest of the island is not to my taste, we’ve carved for ourselves a little happy place in the village:

A charming hotel:

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Le Petit Hotel is just our style. And you can’t get much closer to the beach.

A beach less traveled:

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Baie Grand Case is not totally secluded, but it’s definitely laid back and low key.

Another beach even less traveled nearby:

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Happy Bay is aptly named, at least for us.

Great drinking and dining:

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A French breakfast to start the day.

From there, the jump to Nevis is easy.  After a low-flying and brief flight, giving us stunning views of the neighboring islands, we arrive “home.”

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Flying over St. Barth.

Unlike Grand Case, which to us feels like an oasis quite different from the rest of SXM, the boundaries between Nevis’ plantation inns and the island itself are quite porous, and the vibe is uniformly warm and welcoming.  At Nisbet, we are greeted by name, but at the same time, the attention is casual and comfortable, not hovering.

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We could have easily spent our entire visit at palmy, beachy Nisbet Plantation.

We arrived at Nisbet early in the morning, but our SXM partners-in-crime, MT and Julie arrived late after a series of delays and complications.  Maitre d’ Patterson allowed us to order dinner for them, so they wouldn’t miss out.  Although we’d issued a sort of breezy and wide open invitation for any of our friends who were interested to join us to celebrate our 25th, it was fitting that MT and Julie were the ones who came, as we’ve been spending their anniversary with them for all but one of the last half dozen years.

Not that we’d be doing anything especially fancy.  Just something special for us.  Nisbet is known for its iconic “Avenue of Palms,” the allee of palm trees leading from the Great House to the beach.

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So iconic, they even have a cocktail named Avenue of Palms. 

And guests can arrange to plant a palm tree of their own, complete with a placard commemorating the event, for a special occasion.  That was just the ticket for us.

And so, on a beautiful sunny morning, head groundskeeper Andrew Nisbett (yes, his real name) and general manager Alistair, led us in the planting of our very own palm tree.

There was some heavy labor.

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Swinging an axe and planting the palm.

Of course, it was necessary to anoint the spot with Mt. Gay rum.

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And we placed our personalized placard.

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And we posed for lots of pictures.

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Luckily, we did have rum, because has there ever been an event in the islands completely without mishap?  Nope.  Poor Julie stepped on a fire ant nest, and the results were NOT pretty.  Luckily, Rick (Doc Rock) was there with the rum to disinfect Julie’s wounds.  [Eventually, we did take Julie to visit an island doctor to treat her bites, which further involved wandering from “pharmacy” to “pharmacy” to get prescriptions filled.  It was all part of the island adventure, but serves to explain why – though I so love the islands – I could never retire there!]

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Only a little worse for the wear after the doctor visit.

As further salve for Julie’s pains, and a balm for all of the hard work, we had our post-planting reception at Sunshine’s, one of the great beach bars in the Caribbean.  In the past, we’d all partaken of Sunshine’s signature cocktail, the Killer Bee, and some of us had to have our boneless semi-corpses poured into our cars to be able to leave the scene of the crime.  (Not naming names….)  This time, we vowed to have no more than 2 of the potent potables apiece, interspersed with lobster lunches and water, and as a result were able to walk away under our own power.

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Both a Ravens flag and a Maryland flag hang at Sunshine’s.

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Me and Julie on our first Killer Bees. Rick stuck with Carib beer.

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Sunshine’s: we’ll be back!

Now that we are responsible for a new life, we will be compelled to return to Nevis to check on our baby palm tree.  We trust that the ladies and gentlemen of Nisbet Plantation will take good care of it – name yet TBD – but there is nothing like our own personal attention.

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If you visit before we return, please check on our baby palm.

When in doubt….

 

 

 

 

Caribbean Style

After 4 months of living aboard Calypso in the Bahamas earlier this year, the lush and mountainous islands of the Caribbean are almost sensory overload.  The Bahamas are low and scrubby, with the most dazzling colors being those of the sea and the candy-colored houses in the small settlements.

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Not going to complain about these colors, but the colors of St. Martin and Nevis are in another category altogether!

Further south and east, the seduction of the senses is of an entirely different magnitude.

For the third time in a row, we’d preceded our time in Nevis with a 3-day stay in Grand Case on St. Martin.  We love staying at Le Petit Hotel, which combines a Mediterranean-style exterior with the surprise of sleek European style on the interior (Rick and I have joked that it’s not unlike the interior design of more recent models of Beneteau and Jenneau sailboats).

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Stucco and tile adorn the exterior of Le Petit Hotel’s old-school Mediterranean exterior.

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But the interior is all cool, smooth and sleek.

We like the feel of an “in-town” beach, with a bit of activity that nevertheless feels insulated from the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest islands in the region.

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A plane makes its approach into the airport just behind Grand Case.

But the principal draw of St. Martin in general, and Grand Case in particular, is dining out. To me, it’s the perfect combination of local ingredients, French techniques, and an island sensibility.  Upon arrival in Marigot, for example, we head right for the waterfront to indulge my love of Creole specialties.

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A visit to the islands is not complete without some goat stew.

Once we arrive in Grand Case, however, cuisine goes a bit more haute, at least at dinnertime.  In the space of a few blocks, in a somewhat shabby and down-and-out looking fishing village, you’ve got a collection of 2 or 3 dozen of the finest restaurants in the Caribbean.  All you need to do is walk down Boulevard Grand Case, decided whether you want to be on the sea side or the street side, and read the menu boards to choose where you’re going to eat.

The hosts are uniformly welcoming.  The servers are well-informed and tolerant of my tortured Franglish.  And the food?  Magnifique!

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Whole fish and fresh lobster at Bistrot Caraibes.

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Three kinds of mahi mahi tartare at Ocean 82.

With only 3 nights in Grand Case, we had to choose well, and were delighted with dinners at Bistrot Caraibes and L’Escapade (regular stops for us), as well as new-to-us Ocean 82.  With the customary meal-ending shot of flavored rum, the evenings always end beautifully.  And lest one feel wary of walking back to the hotel, Le Petit Hotel and a few others now offer a free shuttle.

At the other end of the spectrum, but no less satisfying, are the lolos of Grand Case.  They are basically a collection of outdoor food stands (with liquor licenses!) that offer inexpensive and hearty local gilled foods.

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The approach to side dishes at Sky’s The Limit lolo is Yes! Salad, mac and cheese, broccoli, potato salad, peas and rice, coleslaw and spaghetti make SEVEN sides; it would have been 8 but they were out of plantains.

Of course, we do more than just eat!  There’s time for some strenuous beach lounging.  And if we want to spend time at Happy Bay — one of the least crowded of St. Martin’s beaches, and one where different states of dress are tolerated — it’s a nearly 8 minute hike to get there from Friar’s Bay.  Whew!

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It’s worth the arduous hike to get to Happy Bay.

For me, St. Martin’s principal draw is culinary. Nevis, on the other hand, just knocks me out with her lush beauty, overlaid with loving stewardship of her natural and historical attributes.

Like several other islands in this neck of the Caribbean, Nevis is volcanic in origin. The result is fertile soil, and volcanic peaks which snag the rain clouds, assuring plenty of rain.

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The cloud-topped volcanic peaks of St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as the volcanic sand of Nisbet Plantation’s beach.

Nevis was also strategically and economically important in past centuries, with ties to Alexander Hamilton (who was born here) and Admiral Horatio Nelson (whose wife Fanny Nisbet was from Nevis). Nisbet Plantation’s beautiful and historic Great House anchors the resort where we stay, and our hosts work to preserve the integrity of the Great House while providing modern amenities in the cottages scattered on the grounds.

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Nisbet’s Great House is traditional, while its pool is a modern amenity.

While Nisbet Plantation is on the beach, the other plantation inns on Nevis are nestled in the mountains. We have made a tradition of having lunch at Golden Rock Plantation every time we visit the island.  The hosts are happy to let us wander the grounds while we’re there, and we take in the beautiful natural setting, and the modern décor superimposed over sugar mill ruins on the site.

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Golden Rock Plantation’s grounds are terraced and feature lily ponds overlooking the green hills and Caribbean Sea.

Similarly – but executed with an entirely different aesthetic – Montpelier Plantation combines the modern with the historic, and offers a similarly warm welcome. We stopped here for afternoon cocktails after visiting the Botanical Gardens.  Nisbet’s bartender Kaddy also works at Montpelier, and we spent time with him comparing (with taste tests, of course) the qualities of different sipping rums, most of which are (sadly) not available in the U.S.

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An old sugar mill is a centerpiece of Montpelier Plantation.

When it comes to gardens, I’m an appreciator, but not an especially avid or informed one. And while I can’t say what inspired me to visit Nevis’ Botanical Gardens, I’m glad I did.  With no basis for comparison, I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of plants and their surroundings.  A nice way to while away an afternoon.

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Bold colors stand out at the Botanical Gardens.

Lest you think that beautiful flowers are limited to botanical gardens and plantation inns, they are not! After Saturday’s torrential downpours and a run into Charlestown to visit a doctor to treat fire ant bites (more on that in an upcoming post), we ventured back into the mountains for lunch at a new-to-us restaurant, Bananas.

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An artful display of island-style “mezze.”

Aside from artfully presented and creatively prepared local foods, the setting was jaw-dropping. Sited in an old gingerbread plantation cottage, the restaurant uses the dark woods and rich colors of its interior to set off eclectic accessories.

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And all of it is surrounded by barely-contained tropical vegetation.

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A feast indeed.

Stormy Weather

I have a terrible reputation for bad travel weather.  I’ve had so many weather-related trip insurance claims that I’m amazed I can still get coverage.  Hurricanes, blizzards — even volcanic eruptions – have cancelled, delayed or extended my trips.  People jokingly ask whether I’m traveling in places that hurricanes are about to strike, or ask me not to travel to the same places they are headed.

So when Hurricane Gonzalo passed close to Nevis, and then struck St. Martin, on its way to Bermuda a few weeks ago, I was hardly surprised.  St. Martin and Nevis were, after all, my destinations for the first week of November.  I’m used to making alternate plans on the fly. In fact, our first trip to Nevis was planned on a day’s notice when a planned trip to Long Island in the Bahamas was cancelled due to an arriving hurricane.  (See that report here: http://islandtime.homestead.com/Nevis2008.html)

We want to be sensitive to whatever difficulties those directly affected by the storm are facing, but at the same time appreciate that they want visitors to come as soon as possible, since tourism is their principal source of income.  By the time we flew to St. Martin for the first part of our trip, they were mostly ready and open for business after the storm.

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The view of Baie Grand Case from our hotel.

We were staying in Grand Case, on the French side of the island, which was hardest hit.  We made a circumnavigation of the island, and from what we say, most of the damage was cleaned up.  But there was still evidence of work to be done.  In both Simpson Bay and Marigot harbor, there were many severely damaged boats; they had borne the brunt of the storm’s fury.  Then there were these two beauties on Grand Case’s beach:

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Most people seemed pretty nonchalant about the boats, walking past them with only mild curiosity.  But if you’re a boat person like me, it pains you to see them.

We stayed at Le Petit Hotel, a tiny property at the southwest end of the beach.  Whatever damage they may have suffered was largely gone.  Mostly, there remained some sand-blasted exterior paint which you might notice if you were looking for it.

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You have to be looking for evidence of damage to Le Petit Hotel; no doubt, they will clean it up in short order.

One of my favorite spots on Grand Case beach is Calmos Café.  When you are on the French side of St. Martin, you are technically in France — the same way you are in the United States when visiting Hawaii.  The currency is the Euro, the French tricolor flies, and the language is French.  But it is French with a Caribbean accent.  And Calmos Café is perfect example of that blend.  Most patrons speak French, the servers are French, and the menu is French-inflected.

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The French flag over Ft. Louis in Marigot.

But the water that laps up is that of the Caribbean sea.   The sun sets over a lush volcanic headland.  My favorite cocktail there is ti punch, a blend of rhum agricole (a particular type of rum distilled in the French Caribbean), simple syrup and lime.  And what could be more Caribbean than being struck by an October hurricane?  Calmos was hit hard, and opened mere days before our arrival.   Though about half of the beach’s depth had eroded, the show went on.

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Rick, at Calmos Café.

Nevis, compared to St. Martin, merely had some rain and wind, with no major impacts from Hurricane Gonzalo.  So when we flew there for the second part of trip, we thought we’d be safe.  And in large part, we were, as sunny breezy day followed sunny breezy day.

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On a normal day, Mt. Nevis is shrouded in clouds, but the sky is blue.

Until Friday night, that is.  Then it started to rain.  Rain-forest-style downpours.  Accompanied by lightning and thunder the likes of which the residents said they’d never experienced before (and which jolted me from my sleep with a yelp).  Six or seven inches of rain in all.  And heavy winds.  The nature of the volcanic soil on the island is such that it drains quickly rather than being absorbed, so it flowed downhill.  And collected at the edge of the sea.

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Above left, the Nisbet Plantation beach front before the rains.  And then after the downpours.

The Nisbet Plantation staff took it in apparent stride, moving breakfast from the beachfront to the Great House.  The guests felt like we were all in it together, donning rain gear, waterproof shoes, and trash bags, and sporting the umbrellas so kindly supplied in our rooms.  By the next morning, some of the water had drained, so at least we had a path to the beach that didn’t involve wading.

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On Sunday morning, we could walk to the beach front, but the staff had to dig some trenches to help with drainage.

But the ghut running alongside the property, which had been nearly dry before, was still flowing in a rushing torrent.

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Deep water rushing through the ghut.

And the stream, which previously hadn’t cut through to the sea, now had done so, and had created a new sandbar.

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The stream, before it broke through to the sea (left), and after.

But when we left on Sunday, the sun had returned, reminding us of why we keep coming back.

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Foot Fault and Evapalooza

Back in April, when we passed through Charleston on our way back up the ICW, I was a bit alarmed by the fact that the supercute pair of platinum sandals I bought while shopping during the Second Sunday on King Street were European size 42.  I figured it was an aberration — that the shoes weren’t really that big — explaining why they were marked down.

Alas, I was wrong.  Seven months of wearing flipflops and Keens (when wearing shoes at all) has resulted in bigger feet.

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Yes, Harriet has the same pair…. But hers aren’t the same size as mine anymore.

Not just longer, but with more relaxed toes.  I thought that once I tried to corral those puppies in work-appropriate shoes, they might fall back into line.  But after over 3 months of being back in the business world, I’m having to face the reality that it ain’t happening.  Those toes got a taste of freedom, and will simply not be reined back in.

Most guys won’t understand, but I’m sure my female readers will: having to jettison a good percentage of my cute shoes is painful.  I LOVE SHOES!  And to send some of mine away (to a good or worthy home, no doubt) causes a bit of a pang.

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And those are only some of the summer shoes to which I’m bidding farewell.

Lest you think that I’ll be replacing all of them … well, I won’t.  Perhaps some strategic new acquisitions, but one thing I’ve learned as a cruiser is to live with less Stuff.  And that requires clearing out things that are no longer useful, and sticking with essentials.  Of course, I say that now….

One of the things I missed about living with my feet on the ground  [see how I did that?  that is what fancy writer-folk call a transition]  is live music.  We had the occasional opportunity to hear a local rake-n-scrape musician, or a bar band, here and there, but nowhere near the frequency or quality of shows I attend in “normal” life.  Even as we were making our way home, I was scooping up tickets to shows.  Not always easy when WiFi is patchy.

I was totally psyched to find out one of my favorite bands, Guster, would be playing at Merriweather Post Pavilion as part of the “Route 29 Revue” (here’s a representative Guster song, if you’re curious:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k-VAlIPzKg), and quickly bought tickets.  But then another favorite, Pat McGee (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwUP2HGP7HY) announced a show the same day at Ram’s Head on Stage in Annapolis.  What to do?!  I did what any fangirl would do: got tickets to Pat’s show as well.  Lucky for me, Guster would be done by 5 p.m., and Pat wouldn’t start until 8:30 p.m.  Plenty of time to get to Annapolis and change out of my Guster t-shirt (which, incidentally, is the only band shirt I own other than a few Jimmy Buffett shirts, and the only band shirt I’ve ever worn to a show).

I’ve often wondered how much performers can see from the stage, and even if they can see, how attentive they are to what happens in the audience.  Well, Saturday I learned that they can and do.

We had 5th row seats for Guster.  I call those grown-up seats, because for all the years Jimmy Buffett played Merriweather, we always sat on the lawn, rain or shine.

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Great views of Guster.

Although they were well-received — audiences love Guster, even if they’ve never heard of them, and this was no exception – it wasn’t quite a Guster crowd  The audience was waiting for Iron and Wine, Trombone Shorty, or Trampled by Turtles.  So the fact that I stood for their entire show, wearing my Guster shirt, made me noticeable. And lead singer Ryan Miller gave me a shout out!  Squeee!

Unlike Merriweather, the Ram’s Head is an intimate room, and audience interaction with the performers is inevitable (we’ve seen some pretty embarassing instances of fan affection gone out of control….)  And Pat McGee was clearly aware of the amorous young couple right at his feet (and just in front of us), who left mid-show to … er …. get a hotel room.  So during the encore, when the band unplugged their instruments and wandered into the audience, one of them used a vacated chair to stand on.

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Pat McGee, right in front of us, unplugged.

Rick warned Pat to be careful of the napkin that the young lovers left behind, so Pat picked it up very gingerly by the corner before tossing it aside.

For us, another of the great things about Ram’s Head shows is that we can go “home” to Calypso afterwards, instead of driving back to our house.  Which is exactly what we did.  But it took me a while to fall asleep afterwards, since the endorphin buzz of Evapalooza took a while to wear off for me.

On the way home from Annapolis, we stopped at a produce market in the parking lot of the Easport Shopping Center.  As I was inspecting the wares, I heard Guster’s Satellite (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekt6PELAcEg) on the raido/Sirius/XM playing there, and absentmindedly sang along.  Just like the 20-something cashier.  We caught each other’s eyes, gave each other abashed smiles, and moved on.

Wonder if she has a t-shirt?

 

 

 

Doing Good by Having Fun

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve been having a lot of fun on boats.  I’ve spared readers, for the most part, from the day-to-day grind of our lives and from weightier topics.  That isn’t what you come here for.  If you want news, do what I do and go to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert….

But sometimes, we get to combine our fun with doing good.  Annapolis sailors are (in)famous for combining regattas and fundraising.  Many good causes receive support and attention, and Calypso or her crew have been there.  Most consistently, we have focused our efforts on Hospice Cup, as it’s a cause we feel justly receives our support, and one which has touched (or will touch) most of our lives.

The Chesapeake Bay Sabre Association — a club of which Rick and I are both past commodores — has been so successful at raising funds for Hospice Cup that the sponsors have stopped giving out the trophy for club fundraising.  CBSA has raised over $40,000 over the years; Team Calypso has raised over $5,000 of that amount.

But we’ve also been successful — both our club, and Calypso itself — in participation and WINNING the race.

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Team Calypso on the racecourse in the 2013 Hospice Cup.

Although we’ve never had enough Sabre sailboats in the race to have our own class, there are typically 5 or more Sabres out on the course.  And they do well (and, if I may say so, look good doing it).

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Last year, Rick and crew took 2nd place overall in PHRF-N.  And there are other CBSA boats on that list as well.

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Calypso took the glory from Sailin’ Whalen and Graciella, who have long taken the honors.  But clearly Greg of Sailin’ Whalen (above) bears no ill will.

But Team Calypso took another honor as well.  By including a hospice caregiver on the crew, Calypso took the prize for best finish of a boat hosting a caregiver.

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Rick handed that trophy over to Sarah, representing hospice, in recognition of all the great work hospice does.

This year’s Hospice Cup is on September 20, 2014, and Calypso will once again be upholding our club’s tradition on the racecourse.  (And then we will tarnish the club’s reputation at the post-race shore party….)

I invite all of you to help us support this terrific cause by making a donation to our fundraising page:

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/eva-hill/hospice-cup-xxxiii?mid=OIo2AA2&utm_campaign=website&utm_source=email&utm_term=email&utm_medium=email

As an incentive, Team Calypso will match all donations made (up to $25 per donation, and up to a total of $250). Better yet, come to the party — great food, great music, great company.