We were spending two days in St. Barths so we had time on the second day to go on a Catamaran snorkel expedition.  We left the ship at 8:30 am and headed for the dock where the catamaran was waiting.  The boat had to zigzag through all the anchored yachts in the harbor and eventually we got close to the Wind Spirit.   Here I am on the bow of the boat with the big ship in the background.

We had a bit of a sail before getting to the bay where we were to snorkel.   Along the way we saw more of the huge, fancy yachts.  We also had a brief rain shower which was not a problem except worry about cameras getting wet.  Finally we anchored and people got ready to get into the water.  Here I am in the water with the snorkel gear.

There were refreshments on the catamaran, from rum punch to water with several types of beer available too.  Here’s Jan enjoying a Heineken.

At the same time we were on the catamaran, other cruise passengers were taking an excursion on “The Yellow Submarine”  It’s sort of a glass bottomed boat except it has a very deep draft and the underwater parts are all glass.  Those who went really had a good time and,  unlike a true submarine, it was no problem for those who were claustrophobic.

We were due to stay in St Barths harbor until 10:30 pm that evening before sailing back to St. Martin.

Since we were supposed to be off the ship early Saturday morning we didn’t take part in much of the ‘last day at sea’ action that evening.  Also for the same reason we had decided to take bus a tour of St Martin once ashore.    The tour made a couple stops in shopping areas on the island.  In one place I found this teddy bear who sums up our feelings pretty well.

At another stop we had time to enjoy the beach one last time.  This was the place where many of the larger cruise ships come in and had lots of interesting shopping.  Though we didn’t go in I found this shop rather intriguing.   Here are a couple of pictures of the beach and area around the bay.  One is a para-saill up a long way off the water.

Finally, here is a shot of the beach area itself which seems to stretch along the shore for a mile or more with bars, shops and restaurants all along the way.

Finally we returned to our hotel, the same one we had stayed at before our cruise.  Fellow passenger Ginni was also staying at the hotel and flying out on the same flight that we were.  We decided to go out for a nice dinner down by the harbor and picked a place called La Tropicana.  We had a very pleasant dinner and retired early as we had to leave for the airport at 6:00 am.

The trip home went smoothly and it appeared that much of the deep snow from before we left was gone.   It was nice to be home again.

We arrived at St. Barths around 8:00 am and anchored out in the harbor.  St. Barths is a wealthy island and some of the most spectacular and expensive ships come here. Here is our sister ship, the Wind Surf which was also in the harbor.  Anchored a short distance from the Wind Spirit was, what is called the most expensive yacht in the world. It’s simply named Yacht A.

The island is also well known among aircraft pilots for it’s tricky and demanding airport.  Here are some Google Images of the airport – note that the end of the runway goes right into the sea!

That morning Jan, I and two new friends Romaine and Warren caught one of the first tenders to the dock so we could take a taxi tour of the island.  One striking thing was everything seemed clean and in good repair, a contrast to other islands.  The taxi ride was spectacular.  Here is a map showing where we went that day.

Here is one of the many beach resorts on the island.  All of them looked like they were a minimum of four stars.   Probably quite expensive too.

And here is one of the smaller villages with a great view of the surf and a neighboring island.

Off one of these beaches there was a windsurfer doing his thing.  It looks like fun but I doubt my old body could take it. After the tour Jan, Romaine and Warren all wanted to go shopping but I decided to return to the ship, get a beer by the pool and read.

This was the night when Jan and I had reservations  at ‘Candles’, for a meal on deck with just the two of us.  We were hoping for a romantic evening but the ambient light on the ship spoiled the effect somewhat.

The next day was to be our Catamaran/Snorkel excursion.

We left Jost van Dyke at 4:00 pm on Feb. 8th and sailed for St. Kitts.  This was going to be a rather long leg of the voyage.  After we got underway the seas became rather rough and, for the first time in my adult life, I started feeling the onset of motion sickness.  By dinner time I was feeling poor enough to elect to skip dinner and just hole up in our stateroom.

I spent a rather unpleasant night but by morning I was feeling good again and ready for breakfast and our day on St. Kitts.  We had visited this island a number of years ago and at that time we climbed the dormant volcano (Mt. Liamuiga, formerly Mt. Misery)  shown in this picture.  On this visit we had a more leisurely activity planned.

At 8:00 am we departed the ship and were bussed to the starting point for the St. Kitts Scenic Railway.  This narrow gauge railway originally was used to transport sugar cane from the plantations around the island.

The railroad runs around the Atlantic side of the island and passes through some beautiful scenery.  Here is one of the black sand beaches visible along the way.  The tracks go through some rugged areas with ravines crossed by trestles.  If you click on this picture you can see one of the track maintenance cars crossing the trestle.

The train featured complementary refreshments, both alcoholic and non- and even had an a-cappella  choir singing both modern and traditional songs.  The second half of the tour was via bus through some of the towns on the Caribbean side of the island.

That evening there was a huge barbecue served poolside with music and dancing by the crew.  Later the passengers joined in the dancing too and everyone had a wonderful time.  We spent a long time that evening under the stars talking with our fellow passengers.  It was a very memorable night, unfortunately I had chosen not to carry my camera so I have no photos to show.

Our next destination was the French island of St. Barths where we were to spend two days.   We had a island taxi tour planned for the first day and a catamaran/snorkel excursion for the next.

More to come.

Jost van Dyle is a small island with about 140 residents and only got electricity in 1991 .  The locals say “The Main Street is the Beach.” We had visited there around 20 years ago and we were anxious to see how it had changed.  Here’s the Wind Spirit anchored in Great Bay.

We had no excursions scheduled for that day so Jan and I decided to hike up to one of the high points that overlooks a spectacular white sandy beach called White Bay.   As we started out we passed this interesting place.  Click on the thumbnail so you can read the sign.

We had started out fairly early but it became quite warm and the climb was strenuous.     When we got to the top we really could not see the Bay because of trees lining the road.  So we kept going…

Eventually we got to the bay and, more importantly, a beach bar called The Soggy Dollar. The name came about because the shallow water prevents direct landing of boats there and so the sailors would swim ashore to get a beer, getting their money wet in the process.  We had some much needed beer and then found a taxi to take us back to Great Bay where the ship was anchored.

We had the cab drop us off at Foxy’s Bar, which was one of the few places that was on Jost van Dyke when we had been there earlier.  There were a number of other people from the ship there already and we joined up with a group of them.  From left to right; standing Judy, Ginni and Jan; sitting Romaine, Warren and me.  This picture was taken with Romaine’s camera and used with her permission.

More to come.

The ship was scheduled to depart for Tortola at 6:00 pm but was delayed due to some late arriving passengers.  We used the time to unpack and relax by the pool.

We arrived at Road Town, Tortola around 8:00 am and, after breakfast Jan and I decided to go ashore and explore a little.  Since it was Sunday, few of the shops were open and there was not a lot happening other than the local church services.

We wandered around and saw a number of shops that might have been interesting, had they been open.  One place that caught our eye was this restaurant.

This was “SuperBowl Sunday” and the television reception onboard ship was poor at best. The captain had decided that he needed to change the cruise itinerary in order to get to a place where passengers could watch the game.    The ship would sail for Virgin Gorda and the Crawl Pub at Bitter End Yacht Club.  Due to the distance to cover, the ship would sail at 2:45 pm.

Here is the view of the harbor at Virgin Gorda as we came in around 5:00 pm.

Jan and I decided to not go ashore that evening and instead had dinner on board with some other passengers who were not football fans.

Our planned “Land-Sea Excursion” for the next day (Monday, 02/07/11) had been canceled because of rough seas so Jan and I decided to take advantage of some hiking trails near the Bitter End Yacht Club.  It was a fun hike but we had to turn around when the trail got too steep and rocky for Jan’s sandals.  Here is one view from the trail.

Following our hike we took the tender over to Prickly Pear Island for the beach barbecue being put on by the ship.  We staked out a shady spot and checked out the beach.  It was beautiful but I think we don’t enjoy sitting on the beach as much as we did when we were younger.

That evening we sailed for the island of Jost van Dyke at 4:00 pm.  After watching the sails go up  we had dinner with four fellow passengers and, as usual, we had a great meal and great conversation.

More to come.

Last year we had to cancel out ‘Big Trip‘ to Australia for medical reasons.  So we decided that this winter we would go on a simpler vacation to someplace warm as a sort of a test run to see how well I can manage traveling now.

We chose another WindStar cruise as we had enjoyed them in the past and knew they would do things right.  We chose the cruise on the Wind Spirit from St. Martin which visited  Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke, St. Kitts, and St. Barths.

Of course it was winter in the mid-west and the weather did its best to spoil our plans.  We were scheduled to fly out on February 4 and a huge storm hit on Wednesday, the 2nd!  Our route was through Chicago O’Hare which was shut down by 2 feet of snow and high winds.  We looked for alternatives and kept hoping that things would be back to normal by Friday.  The short version–our plane left Cedar Rapids two hours late on Friday and we just made our connection in Chicago.  In Miami we had another tight connection but managed to get on the plane to St. Martin with some time to spare.  After we were in the air we both sighed with relief and had a couple glasses of wine.

It was late when we arrived on St. Martin so we did not see much of the island that night.  We were not scheduled to board the ship until after noon on the next day so we had time that morning to explore the area around our hotel – The Hotel Beach Plaza.  It was a beautiful area and the hotel appeared very nice.  Unfortunately it was, in our opinion, rather poorly run with poor service and no information about the services available.

Around 1:00 pm we were picked up from the hotel and taken to the ship.  Check in on board went smoothly and we soon settled in by the pool for the buffet while waiting for other passengers to arrive.

More to follow.

Agadir (part 2)

The drive to Taroudant was less hectic than that from Agadir.  We went through rural areas with farms and fields.  We also went through large areas of  Argan  trees (argania spinosa) which grow well in the  harsh environment, surviving heat, drought and poor soil.  These trees are often seen in pictures of the famous “Tree climbing goats” who climb up to eat the higher leaves.  We didn’t see any goats in the trees, at least not close enough to the road to get a photo from the moving bus.

TaroudantTaroudant is a walled city with ramparts about 6 km long.  It was first settled in 1056 and the walls were built in the 16th century.  Today it is known as a market town and our main purpose for going there was to visit its souk.

SpiceSoukBecause of the approaching Muslim holiday the town was busy, especially the souk.  Every kind of goods were available there.  Clothing, leather goods, food, Click to Enlargespices and shoes to name a few.  We visited a shop where cosmetics and medicinal substances were made from the fruits of the Argan tree.  Women there grind the seeds on stone mills and extract the oil which is ArganOilused for all sorts of products. (Excuse the not very good picture on the right.  I didn’t want to use a flash).

We decided to buy a souvenir at one of the shops in the souk and we had been cautioned that the merchants expect to bargain over the price.  That was quite an adventure.  Eventually we managed to get what we wanted for only 1/3 of originally quoted price.  I’m still not sure if this was a good deal but it was an interesting process.

We left the souk around 4 pm and it was starting to get very busy.  In fact the guide had to enlist the help of several others to make sure our group kept together so no one got lost in the narrow, twisting side streets.  We learned later that many people believe they can get the best bargains toward the end of the day when the merchants are tired and ready to go home.

PalaisSalamBefore returning to Agadir we visited the Hotel Palais Salam for refreshments.  Jan and I tried the national drink, Mint Tea.  Very good but quite sweet.  The Hotel was beautiful though it appeared to not have many guests at that time.

Our return to Agadir was rather thrilling.  Incredible traffic with cars, trucks, motorbikes and bicycles everywhere.  The school children sometimes attend school 15 km or more from their homes and ride bikes back and forth.  The bikes have no reflectors or lights and there are no bike lanes on the narrow roads.  Then back in Agadir we encountered a terrific traffic jam.  Some of the most aggressive driving I have ever seen.  We were almost 1 hour late returning to the ship but they waited for us. 😉

That evening they had a fabulous barbecue on the ship with lobster, a whole roast pig, lamb, beef, chicken and more other food than I can describe.   After dinner we went to the lounge where the performer was doing a “TV Theme Song Trivia” contest.  Our team won the first round and a bottle of champagne.  Of course, with eight team members the bottle didn’t go too far.