St. Martin Trip Report Day 6

We got an early start at 8am this morning and headed to Orient Beach. I had planned on going diving this morning but the trip got canceled so we headed over to Brice’s Paradise for another beautiful day at the beach.

Crystal wanted to go parasailing and since neither of us had done it we thought it would be fun to try. The views of Orient Bay were awesome and we got some great photos. We also have some video but I need to edit out all the wind noise.

After Parasailing we headed to Baywatch for lunch. Crystal had a garlic scallop caesar salad  and I had the philly cheese steak. Both were excellent but we will give Brice’s lunch from Monday a slight edge over today’s Baywatch lunch.

After lunch we spent some time swimming in Orient Bay and I was trying to figure out what to do in the afternoon. I could not decide between scuba diving, kitesurfing, or windsurfing! In the end I dusted off the windsurfing cobwebs and rented some gear from Wind-Adventures. The wind was in the 12-14 knot range so I grabbed a 7.4 sail and a 120L board. It was not 100% planing conditions but it was close. I had not done much windsurfing since my time in Aruba 9 years ago but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I still remember what I am doing :)

I only lasted about 90 minutes before I was totally exhausted but it was just long enough to remind me how much I love (and miss) windsurfing!  I really need to get back into it when I am back in Atlanta or get a trip planned to Aruba :)

We finished off the day with a swim in the Princess Heights pool. Tomorrow we are going to Anguilla aboard Bluebeard 3 it should be a fun day!

St. Martin Trip Report Day 5

We got an early start this morning since we had a boat to catch at 9am. We left Princess Heights at 8am. It usually takes us about 20 minutes to get to Simpson Bay.  Today I felt like I was back in Atlanta rush hour traffic and it took us 45 minutes! We made it through the traffic jam and stopped at La Sucriere in Simpson Bay to grab some croissants and chocolate crosissants. Crystal had been looking forward to these all week and they did not disappoint!

We arrived at the Lady C floating dock to board the Bluebeard 3 Heineken Boat for our day sail to Prickly Pear. Prickly Pear is a small uninhabited island located off the west coast of St. Maarten with a stunning beach and crystal clear water:

The sail over is just under 2 hours and the seas were pretty calm so it was awesome to just sit up on deck with the breeze bowing and take in the beautiful scenery:

When we got to Prickly Pear we went snorkeling and saw lots of great fish including a blowfish, stingray, and baby sand shark. We also saw a huge school of fish swimming in unison that was pretty cool. Unfortunately we missed the sea turtles and baracuda that a few other people reported seeing. Last year we made the mistake of snorkeling without shirts on and we both got REALLY bad sun burns. We did not make that mistake again this year and came armed with my windsurfing lycra shirts and SPF 50! Glad to report that there was no sunburn for us this year although it looked like lots of other people on the boat made the same mistake we did last year.

After snorkeling, we had a great lunch on Prickly Pear and spent some time walking the beautiful beach. On last year’s return sail we had a drunk teenager go overboard! I am glad to report that this year’s trip did not provide that kind of excitement! The crew of Bluebeard 3 does a fantastic job at taking care of everybody on board and it was another great day. We highly recommend this trip to anyone visiting St. Martin.

After getting back to Simpson Bay we headed to Skip Jacks for dinner. We got a table on the water over looking Simpson Lagoon. I ordered grouper stuffed with crab and Crystal ordered shrimp linguini in a white cream sauce. Both dishes were outstanding and the total bill came to $53. I put this meal in a tie with our dinner at Big Fish on Sunday for our best meal on the island. We might have to make a 2nd trip back to Skip Jacks.

St. Martin Trip Report Day 4

We got a really late start today and woke up around  10 am :) I think we both have been catching up on a lot of sleep from the last couple of months. I love being on island time! I don’t wear a watch and I have nothing to do but relax. We had breakfast on our balcony again this morning which is always a great start to the day!

We did not have a plan for today but since we had a great time at Orient on Saturday we decided to go back to Brice’s Paradise. We grabbed two chairs on the water and spent the morning reading. Crystal finished her 1st book but I am still working on Buffet’s book. Baywatch is closed on monday’s  so we needed a different option for lunch. There was a young lady next to us who ordered a huge salad from the Brice menu and it looked great. After seeing her salad we decided to stay and eat.  Crystal ordered the same chicken salad the young lady had and I ordered the italian panini. Both were excellent! Total bill was: $38 (They are 1/1 for euro’s/dollars) .

Orient was much busier today as a Royal Carribbean was in port so half the beach was cruise ship passengers. I prefer lighter crowds but they do provide some good people watching. We both agreed that there needs to be a rule:  your husband’s swimwear can NOT contain LESS fabric than your wife. We saw many violations of that rule today :)

We packed up around 5:30 and headed over to Grand Case for an early dinner. There was no traffic tonight since they had opened up the new parking lot. We cruised up and down main street and settled on Le Soleil. We got a table overlooking the water and the sunset was beautiful:

Le Soleil has some great reviews on Trip Advisor and for location and service I agree with all of them.  I can’t imagine a better location on the island for dinner. Crystal ordered the Seafood mixed grill & I had the daily special which was a seafood/meat mixed grill. I enjoyed the meal but it was not fantastic. The red snapper was very good but the rest of the meat was lacking flavor. Crystal agreed and thought it was “good” but not great. Total bill was 50 euro’s or $72 with the 1.4 exchange rate.

Tomorrow we are doing a day sail trip to Prickly Pear on the Heineken Boat

St. Martin Trip Report Day 3

Day 3 in paradise! We got a late start today (see a pattern here :) ) but headed to Dawn Beach for the morning. The weather was absolutely perfect today.  The last couple days we had seen a few clouds but today was all sunshine.  It was finally clear enough that we could see St. Barths from our balcony.

Although the Westin takes up most of Dawn Beach, we found a quiet spot under a palm tree towards  Busby’s beach bar. We did some snorkeling and explored the reef just off the beach. Snorkeling on St. Martin is not great but we did  see a lot of reef fish.

For lunch we headed to Simpson Bay and had lunch at Pineapple Pete’s. I really like this place for lunch. Good food and good service. Crystal had the chicken caesar wrap and I had the grilled chicken sandwich.  Both were excellent! Total bill: $25. We might have to try out the dinner menu later on this week.

After lunch we went on the Rhino Rider Safari. This was one of our favorite activities from last year and we had a blast again this year! You start in Simpson Bay Lagoon and ride a 2 person inflatable speed boat along the french coast to creole rock on the north west tip of the island.  We spent about an hour snorkeling at creole rock and the highlight was seeing a 2 foot barracuda! It was a really fun way to spend the afternoon, highly recommended!

You can see from above that I have not been working on my tan.  Still rocking the biker tan :) Looks like I might have to drop down from my SPF 50 to get rid of those tan lines. Crystal has been doing a much better job than me.

Since we were already in Simpson Bay we decided to drive over to Marigot on the western side of the island and watch the sunset:

After watching the sunset, we were going to go to Mario’s Bistro for dinner but forgot they were closed on Sunday. We headed north to Grand Case but that turned into a mess as the traffic and parking were awful. The main parking lot was closed so it was gridlock with everybody trying to find parking. After driving around, we decided to head back to Oyster Pond and went to Dinghy Dock.  I had Fish & Chips and Crystal had the special: Shrimp & Mussels in a white wine sauce over pasta. Both were very good. Total bill: $35

Not sure what is on the schedule for tomorrow I might go SCUBA diving or we might just spend another day at the beach :)

St. Martin Trip Report Day 2

We slept in today after having to get up at 6:30 am yesterday to catch our flight. It was nice to be on island time with nothing to do but relax :) We had breakfast on our balcony:

and then headed to Orient beach for the day.  We set up camp at Brice’s Paradise and spent the morning lounging on the beach and swimming in the ocean. We also took a long walk all the way to the end of Orient.

For lunch we headed to Baywatch. Andy was in good form, and we enjoyed a very tasty lunch:

Andrew – Pork Sandwich
Crystal – Grouper Burger
Total: $32

We also found out about a July 4th party that Baywatch will be having next Saturday so I think we will head back there next weekend.

We spent the rest of the day on the beach reading  (Andrew – The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life / Crystal – The Hour I First Believed) , getting a little sun, and swimming in the really warm water of Orient Bay. We also took a stroll down to Club O the “clothing optional” section of orient beach. We kept our clothes on but Crystal did have a good quote:

What’s the point of wearing a t-shirt when you don’t have any pants on???

For dinner we went to Big Fish right down the street from the hotel in Oyster Pond. This was the only restaurant we went back to last year and I think after tonight’s meal it is our favorite on the island.  Here is what we had:

Andrew – Grouper with a lobster sauce
Crystal – Mahi “Renee”
Total: $56

The service was a little off tonight (they forgot our appetizer) but the main courses more than made up for that oversight. The food was outstanding! I usually don’t order fish but this might have been the best fish dinner I have ever had. It was that good.  The entrees offer good portion sizes and come with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Simply perfect!

St. Martin Trip Report Day 1

After having such a good time on our Honeymoon in St. Martin last year we decided to come back this summer.  Since it is low season I was able to book everything just 3 weeks ago.

Our flight from Atlanta was uneventful and we got into St. Martin about 30 minutes early. Since we flew on a Friday the airport was very quiet and we got through immigration in 5 minutes and our bags came out a few minutes later. We met Lesley Bruce from Kenny’s Car Rental and were on our way in about 5 minutes. Traffic from the airport was heavy as they are doing bridge rennovations on the Simpson Bay bridge. Once we got over the bridge, traffic eased and we headed to Princess Heights on Dawn Beach where we are staying for the week.

(We stayed at Princess Heights last year and loved it! Here is my review from last year)

We found our way over to Princess Heights and checked in.  Since we were staying in the new building up the hill it was quite an interesting drive to access it! Although the office is a few hundred feet from our room you had to drive up a very narrow and steep road to access the upper rooms.  I was a little worried walking out from the car as they are still finishing up all the landscaping so it looked like a construction site.  My fears were quickly gone as soon as we stepped in the room.  The room was BEAUTIFUL!  I also quickly realized that they had upgraded us from a studio room to a 1 bedroom. This was easily the nicest hotel room we had ever been in.  Marble floors throughout the entire area, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, complete sets of plates and utensils, two Sony LCD tvs, Jacuzzi tub with shower, beautifully decorated, and a balcony overlooking Dawn Beach with views of St. Barts.  I looked at Crystal and said “Are you kidding me!” – We are paying $112 a night for this place! I was thinking to myself there must be some sort of catch. But after 8 days there was no catch.  We had a great time staying here and highly recommend it. It was a 12 minute drive to Orient Beach and 20 minutes to Phillibsburg and Simpson Bay.  It was perfect for a quiet Honeymoon.  I think there were only a couple other guests staying here.  We felt like we had the place to ourselves.  If you are looking for a lot of action or a full service hotel this is not the place but a quiet vacation getaway we can’t imagine a better place to stay.

Here are some pictures from the hotel: http://andrewknight.smugmug.com/gallery/5562063_kdxYF#340870355_zpdiX

This year we got the same suprise as last year:  they had given us a free upgrade from a studio to the same 1 bedroom we had last year! After unpacking some things, we quickly got our suits on and headed down to Dawn Beach. The beach was very quiet and we just enjoyed swimming in the ocean and relaxing after traveling for most of the day.

Before coming last year, I spent a lot of time reading the TTOL (Travel Talk Online) forum.  We go so many great tips and recommendations from this board.  If you are coming to St. Martin just lurk around on TTOL and you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration! Since St. Martin has so many great food options narrowing down the options using TTOL was very helpful.  Before I get into the food reviews a few notes on our perspective.  We don’t eat out that much at home but enjoy good food that is not over the top elaborate.  We both don’t drink and we usually just go with a main course so our bills will be much lower than most!  All totals include tip.

For our first night out we headed to Mark’s Place for the best ribs on the island.  We went to Mark’s last year for the all you can eat ribs and I had been looking forward to these for an entire year!  Mark did not disappoint- the ribs were amazing. Total bill was $30. This might be the best value on the entire island!

Orient beach is is up tomorrow.

Updated to WordPress 2.7 & The iNova Theme

I have freshened things up around here and switched over to the iNova theme for WordPress. My old K2 theme has not seen a lot of development lately and I like the clean layout of iNova.

I also upgraded to WordPress 2.7 and love it!  They have made some great improvements to the usability but the best feature by far is the auto-update functionality!  I was using TypePad for some corporate blogs because updating WordPress was always a pain. Now that updates can happen in the background I highly recommend WordPress for all your blogging needs!

Take Back Your Inbox From Spam!

I recently talked about how to take back your mailbox from junk mail. Today’s post is to talk about how to do the same for your email!

I registered andrewknight.com back in 1998.  Back then, SPAM was not the problem it is today. I had used my andrew at andrewknight address for years.  I had given it out to hundreds of people and organizations and quietly over time it had started collecting a lot of spam.

At the end of 2005 I tried using some spam filters but found that I was missing some legitimate emails and I was still getting spam in my inbox. The solution? Create an e-mail alias system for all my e-mail. Here is how it works:

1) Create a new email address that you only give to friends and family.  This is a painful step as you need to update your contacts but I found that people caught on quickly.

2) Keep your current e-mail on for about a month and then turn it off. This will force people to start using your new email.

3) Now to the alias part. For EVERY website or company that needs your email address create a unique email address to use.  Currently I have over 350 of these!

The beauty of this system is that if an address ever starts getting spam on it you can simply turn off that email. You will also know who the culprit is so you can “plug the hole”. I did this recently with 2 of my emails that started getting SPAM on them.  One was website at thisdomain.com and godaddy at thisdomain.com. Both were published on the web and the spammers picked up on them.

I have used this system for the past 3 years and I highly recommend it for taking back control of your inbox!