TRIP REPORT – PART ONE, JUNE 16-18
THE JOURNEY BEGINS…
The time had finally arrived to begin our little adventure, one that we had been planning for about a year! Our trip consisted of five parts… travel to “the islons” (from the west coast, never an easy task); a night in San Juan; time in Bequia; sailing the Grenadines; time in Grenada; and finally the return to reality which is an inevitable reality with vacations, albeit a sad one.
Larry and I set off from Alaska with the intent to meet up with my grown son and a friend in Los Angeles. This would be our group’s first night together before our journey on to the Caribbean. We left Alaska around noon, and experienced a hefty delay right from the get go. Uh-oh, not a good sign for our long journey ahead. Sure enough, our stop in Seattle to catch our first of many connecting flights was too late… as we were pulling in to our gate, we saw our flight to LAX pull out of the gate ahead of us while we sat on the taxiway. No problem – we caught the later flight to Los Angeles, and instead of enjoying the first evening with our group being together, we got there in time to go to sleep and ready ourselves for the morning flight.
To continue with the theme of delays, (this time using American), we were delayed getting out of Los Angeles on our flight to Miami. We got into Miami late, and sat at the gate for quite some time prior to the jetway being deployed for us to try to catch our next flight – MIA-SJU. Luckily for us, the San Juan flight was also delayed, so we did make our flight. After some worry about a mechanical issue, and sitting on the plane waiting to take off for quite some time, we were happy and relieved to finally be on our way to San Juan.
We arrived in San Juan two hours late, but we were there and our journey was well underway! Yipee – we were ready for vacation. Our hotel, the El San Juan Resort and Casino, is now a Waldorf-Astoria Collection hotel. We found one restaurant open at that late hour, and had a nice dinner (the first food we had since breakfast!).
Our rooms were nice and in a renovated section of the hotel. We did not have a view, but it was fine for our one night at the hotel. Our next flight (SJU-GND) wasn’t until 6pm, so we had the day to spend exploring San Juan. We started with an outdoor breakfast at the hotel, and toured the property. Very pretty pool areas, and the beach was lovely. It was nice to feel we were in the tropics – finally!
After checking out of the hotel, and leaving our bags with the valet, we caught a cab to Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, El Morro for short. Exploring the windswept walkways and tunnels makes for an interesting day. This particular day was especially windy and dozens of school children on field trips were flying kites in the outside courtyard area as you approach the castle. The purpose of El Morro was to keep seaborne enemies out of San Juan. Today it is an attraction for tourists, which we were one of on this breezy day!
After our morning at El Morro, we decided we were all hot and thirsty, and that it was time to find the shops and restaurants of Old San Juan. This 465 year old neighborhood has evolved into a charming residential and commercial districted. The narrow streets are lined with cobblestones, and there are many carefully restored 16th-17th century Spanish colonial buildings to admire. After a little shopping, it was time to find the Parrot Club for lunch. The Nuevo Latino cuisine blends traditional Puerto Rican foods with Spanish influences. The restaurant is set in a beautiful 1902 building. Now that our little group has had refreshments and food, it is time to head back to the hotel to get our bags, and “mosey” (island time) on to the airport for our flight to Grenada.
Our flight to Grenada was uneventful (unlike each flight the previous 2 days), we left on time and arrived early! Isn’t that refreshing? One note of something new while going into the Customs area… we were met by 2 nurses, each wearing a mask and given a Swine Flu questionaire to complete prior to speaking with the Customs Agent (who by the way were also wearing masks). Basically, the forms contained questions about your health. These forms were collected after speaking to Customs, and before you went to the luggage area. We were staying for the one quick night at the Flamboyant Hotel. We easily caught a taxi to the Flamboyant, and thought all was good… we were looking forward to dinner and going to bed. Unfortunately, our luck did not change as when we arrived at the hotel, it was evident we were short one of our 3 rooms. My son and I share a last name still, and the hotel saw the same last name and assumed we only needed one room. We had prepaid for all 3 rooms, had confirmations/travel vouchers for all three rooms, but it took about one hour to straighten out the room issue. Apparently, the hotel had some sort of event going on, and things seemed to be quite confused. At first I was told there were no rooms left at all. I was quite surprised with June being low season, and the Flamboyant being a rather large property. But, after an hour or so, the manager was able to find the third room for us. The Flamboyant is a moderate hotel, and is clean and air-conditioned. I was disappointed at the room mix-up and the way it was handled, but we eventually did get our room so it worked out fine. Unfortunately, in all the room confusion, my friend put her cell phone down by the public computer in the lobby. After noticing the phone missing, my friend went back down to look for her phone. It had only been 10 minutes, but alas – the iPhone was gone. Things did not appear to be going our way – at least at that point in time! We were all (kind of) laughing at the luck of our little group, and hoping that the new day would bring us some new GOOD luck!
PART TWO: JUNE 19-20
We awoke bright and early (hmmm – well it was still dark actually) to head to the airport and catch our LIAT flight to St. Vincent. One change from our trip last year has to do with liquids and gels… last year the Grenada airport did not seem to follow the U.S. protocols of the 3oz size limit. This year, they did! Also, LIAT seemed much tighter on bags than last year. I had a beach bag purse, and a small wheeled backpack. They insisted on checking the wheeled backpack. Last year I had the same travel setup, and was able to carry both on the plane. Upon arrival in St. Vincent, we again were met by completing a Swine Flu questionaire. We collected our bags, and made it quickly and easily through Customs and Immigration. LIAT again this year had been great – flight close to on time and no lost luggage (4 people traveling). Maybe our luck had indeed changed!
Leaving the airport, we walked outside to be called by name. How did that happen? I had transfer arrangements taken care of in Grenada, and in Bequia – but not St. Vincent! Well, turns out that Tradewinds Cruise Club (our sailing charter) had sent a driver. Very nice! We had the driver take us to the Fort and the Botanical Gardens as we had some time to kill prior to the ferry.
The Botanical Gardens in St. Vincent are absolutely beautiful. We had a guide that led us through the fabulous grounds showing us all of the plants and trees, as well as the unique characteristics of many of their plants. What a lovely area for photo ops! We took many photographs to attempt to capture the beauty, serenity and peace of this lovely spot.
After our walk through the Gardens, it was time to head over to the ferry terminal. We were aboard the 11:30 ferry headed for one of my favorite islands – Bequia. The crossing is quite quick, one hours time, and you are transported to a small charming island filled with friendly people and gingerbread trim.
Doc was there to pick us up at the ferry terminal and take us to Sugarapple Inn for our one night in Bequia. We used Doc last year for all our transfer and taxi needs while on the island. He is such a nice reliable man, we made sure we arranged to use him again this trip.
Sugarapple Inn (http://www.sugarappleinn.com/Site_2/Background.html) is an adorable Inn, and very reasonably priced. We chose it last year while in Bequia due to the very positive reviews on TripAdvisor, and were not disappointed. This year going back as a repeat customer felt like returning to visit family. Cilla, the manager, gave a warm and welcoming smile and hug and we were indeed in paradise! This is the Bequia I remember… friendly and welcoming people. We settled into our 3 rooms (the only guests staying in the Inn), and after a quick swim in the beautiful pool, headed back into town. A little shopping, a quick internet check stop and lunch rounded out our afternoon.
We had dinner at the Bequia Beach Hotel, and were treated to a wonderful dinner. This hotel/restaurant is a quick three minute walk from Sugarapple, so the perfect dining spot. This probably was my favorite pumpkin soup of the trip – it was delicious! I had a chicken stuffed with callaloo that was to die for! Yum. Everyone enjoyed their meals immensely.
We spent Saturday with a morning island tour (thanks Doc), and enjoyed seeing the island once again. Unfortunately, the Turtle Sanctuary was closed on Saturdays, but as we wandered around the outside peeking in we got a glimpse of Busybody (the turtle that has been with him the longest – he likes to be scratched!). I had a little chat with Busybody, and could see him come up to the edge of his pool right by me turning on his side as if to say, “Pet me.” Our breakfast this day was at De Bistro – quite yummy. We did some shopping for snacks and such prior to heading down to our own sailboat (catamaran) for the week. What a nice day it had been! And… the fun was just beginning!