As promised here's the report from our just completed trip:
Flew in from Wash/Dulles via Charlotte landing early afternoon in SXM. Flight uneventful save tight connection in Charlotte. Landing SXM 3 minutes through immigration and no customs per se in sight so walked right through to the Avis counter and called for the van for pick-up. Got a decent car for 135 rate, all-in total at end of week was 184. BP station right in front of Avis so very convenient when returning car. Avis folks all good. Had finally thrown away topo/road map from our last SXM trip of 11 years ago so remembered to pick up another one at airport. Same ad with topless woman on upper left of map from over a decade ago! Nice. Drove as per suggested though Cupecoy/Marigot/Grand Case to the Alamanda. Alamada very nice. Got room 212 center of hotel overlooking pool. Mattress firm but fine. First moments in room wife sat on bed and said "this won't work" but first morning afer awakening said "slept great" and at end of week said "best sleep in ages". Go figure. Was fine with me. Continental breakfast included is juice choices, coffee, strong and delicious w/ steamed milk, a bowl of fresh fruit, and a bread basket containing one regular croissant, one chocolate croissant, several pieces of toasted french bread, and butter/jams. The two ladies who alternate serving breakfast are sweet and great. Pool at Alamanda is very nice, something not frequently mentioned on the TR's I'd read. Pool chairs have 4" green cushions and sit under good sized palapas. We sat out most days at Kakao's beach chairs at the ocean. The 20 or so chairs to the right/south end of their (Kakao's) area are reserved for Alamanda guests. We befriended GP, the cool and suave bartender at the KO bar which fronts Kakao's main restaurant/bar. Talking with GP my wife and I learned quite a bit of local info and met several US ex-pats and chatted up a few of the cruiseshippers there for the day. Never knew cinnamon was so good on Pina coladas! I ran 3 days barefoot on OB in the morning. Figuring the beach is around 1 3/8 miles long I did around 4 miles starting and ending near Kakao/Bikini area doing the south leg to Club Orient's water sports shack twice. One morning I decided to take a skinny-dip halfway between Coco and BooBoo Jam near (in front of mystery house) and had an unnverving couple of minutes post-swim unable to locate the shorts I had hidden under an old plastic bowl- walking back to Club O in my birthday suit, no problem. Alamanda, little problem hehe. Anyway found them and the swim was nice. Noticed several times the rocks near Coco attract lots of photographers. Neat area. We ate most dinners in Orient Village. We loved Tai Chi for it's Thai food and sushi. Waitresses there are cool and sexy, as most of the French in this area seemed to be. Presumed owner dresses in white and reminded us a bit of Anthony Hopkins. Great food, fresh and nice sized portions of fish on the sushi. Safari grill was also really good. Salads, burger and pizza there were all top-rate there. Le Piment was slightly dissapointing; I had pasta with mixed seafood which ended up being mostly with kinda yucky squid and a couple of micro-shimp. But I love pasta in any form and filled up regardless. Wife had a decent salad but was a bit put off by the curry powder sprinkled around the rim of her plate. Didn't mix well w/ the vinagerette dressing and tomato/mozzerella. Tiffany/Alan et al at the desk of Alamanda were all helpful and upbeat. It was suggested we buy the "Blah Blah" card at the tobacco shop next to Tap 5 to make long distance calls. For 5 euros we got a card enabling us to make 400+ minutes worth of calls to the US. One night this service wasn't working so we asked how much the Alamanda would charge / minute for us to call direct. $1.15 was the anwser so we made a very brief check in call to our kids that night but upon check-out they did not bill us at all. My feeling is the hotel may have a very cheap/free universal rate and is using these comped calls to create some good PR for the hotel in an area where hotels are historically predatory. Good for them if so. Nice touch. We set out one morning to Marigot but ran into a traffic backup prior to Grand Case so aborted/redirected to Grand Case for a morning of trinket shopping, picture taking and then a great lunch at Talk of the Town. Chicken leg and thigh for $2!! Get otta town! We spent somewhat more and left stuffed. Drove down to GCBeachClub but turned back at the gated entrance. Note to mgmt, were it not for the gate we would probably have had lunch/dinner at Sunset Grill. (Someone will tell me here the intercom will let you in if you just pull up further than we did in the car) Later on learned there had been and accident involving a cab causing the backup on the road to Marigot. Went to Baywatch and met Andy and Cheryl. Nice folks and a great view of the beach from their place. Met a fellow from Pa. there staying a ClubO for 3 weeks. Nice chat. Besides drinks we had the roadrunner sandwich (grilled chicken and onions with melted cheese) and awesome batter-dipped onion rings. Took a trip to Philipsburg Friday with one cruise ship in town. Not too crowded. Wife and I both thought expansion/boardwalk is a nice improvement. Bought a liter of Grand Marnier for $22.50 at the same West end water side/Front street store I bot a litre in 1994 for $17.50. That was a steal then and same is true now. It pays to shop around because at the first store we went in (near the wharf) they wanted $39 for the same bottle which is about a stateside price. Had a somewhat pricey but classy lunch at the Holland House boardwalk terrace restaurant. Great food and good peoplewatching in a more upscale venue than most of the other options we saw. Lost a quick $30 at the Casino Royale playing BJ but left straighaway when my last bet doubling down on an 11 vs. the dealer's 6 lost. Oh well poker's my game anyway. Must have missed turns both travelling to and from Philipsburg from Orient as we went around the W side of the pond going and ending up seeing Baie Lucas north of Dawn beach on the return. This was welcome if accidental and interesting. Bot 2 B-ball hats in P'burg for $7.50 at the mkt next to the main parking lot and a couple of t-shirts. Have to get here early to get a spot I think. Didn't use the car that much.. in retrospect we could've cabbed it for about the same money and skipped the extra stop at Avis. Never made it to Anguilla as we just didn't want to leave Orient for a 3-legged trip to Shoal beach. Plus I got a little seasick just sitting on the pontoon 100 yds offshore of OB. Stopped near Maho before returing and snapped some pics of planes and the beach and our honeymoon hotel. Still a neat area.
Overall nice trip, Alamanda very nice pick (personally hard pressed to stay elsewhere on OB) terrific food, loved the classiness of the French, give a good attitude and you'll see dividends. Weather was great w/ a total of 2 minutes shower whole week. Mostly sunny with a nice 10-12 mph southernly breeze every day.