Monday, August 18, 2014


Part II: St. Martin

St. Maarten (Dutch side) / St. Martin (French side) from the air

The Princess Juliana International Airport in St, Maarten (Dutch side)  
From the time of our spirited landing, literally landing within feet of the sun worshipers on the public Maho Beach, at the clean and modern Princess Juliana International Airport (on the Dutch side), where there are danger signs posted on the beach warning of being injured or killed by the jet blast blowing the sun worshiper into the water from aircraft taking off!
Maho Beach (the public beach) is well known for the low flying aircraft that make for interesting tourist photos!
The warning sign posted on Maho Beach on the fence at the Queen Juliana Airport
Beachgoers being blown towards the sea as a jet takes off at the Queen Juliana Airport
We cleared customs fairly quickly with ‘nothing to declare’ (there wasn’t much to buy in Antigua), jumped into a taxi and headed off to the Five-Star La Samanna Resort on Long Bay (on the French side). The hotel was gorgeous, located on a pristine beach with crystal clear blue water; so gorgeous that we didn’t venture of property but just a couple of times for dinner, and another time for a tour around the island with a hired taxi driver cum travel guide.
We pretty much had every breakfast, lunch and dinner at La Samanna, most of them served either poolside or beachside in our personal palapa. All we had to do was place our little blue flag in the sand at the end of our chaise lounges and within a few minutes a beach attendant was there to bring a liter of Evian for each of us, and take our food and beverage order. Why leave?
Like most luxe 5-Star hotels, the more European the people were, the smaller the swimsuit, and the older they were the larger the lips!
An Italian adult is reassured by his Floaties

Girls Lips gone wild

"Yachties" stopped by everyday, dropped anchor and launched their toys to enjoy the hotels semi-private cove and beach.
The French and Dutch have lived side by side on St. Martin/St. Maarten for hundreds of years—with no border patrols or customs between them. The French side has a more genteel ambience, more fashionable shopping, and a Continental flair. The Dutch tends to be less expensive, has 13 casinos, and more nightlife. There are 37 beaches.
On the day of our taxi tour, we drove over to Great Bay on the Dutch side which is home to Front Street and Back Street (yes, really, Front and Back Streets!), the boardwalk, and what looked like a mile of colorful beach cabana’s lining the beach on both sides of the pier, and duty free shops filled with tourists from the two huge cruise ships that were moored in the harbor.
Great Bay

Tourist flock from the two cruise ships that were moored in the bay

The pier in Great Bay

MC, Me, and Caroline being tourists!

Beach Cabanas line the beach on Grand Bay
An update to the local shopping: Many of the luxury shops on the French side of the island have closed their doors and either moved to St. Barth's, or moved to the Dutch side of the island because of the onerous French employment laws including their minimum wage and national health care law requirements---you hear that USA and the State of California? Bvlgari (Bulgari), the uber expensive jeweler has moved from the chic French side of the island to the Dutch side next to the cruise ships, where most of the hordes of looky-loo tourists are more interested in buying tee-shirts that declare the wearer a "Classy Bitch", or souvenir Conch shells instead of diamonds and gold. Hermes, the venerable French fashion house famed for its leather goods, silk scarves and ties has closed their doors and moved off island to nearby St. Barth's.
Bvlgari moved to the Dutch side from the French side just to keep themselves competitive


Conch shells souvenir
Our island tour took us by the entrance to Loterie Farm, which we hadn’t known about and unfortunately had no time to experience. Loterie Farm, was a former sugar plantation that dates from 1773-1855, and contains protected plant and animal species, in addition to the islands only zip line through its tropical forests. There is a huge natural shaped multi-level pool with private cabanas.
The Pool at Loterie Farm
The Zip line experience at Loterie Farm
For my next trip to St. Maarten, there are three things I will do in addition to Loterie farm:
One: Tour historic Ft. Amsterdam Fort, built by the Dutch in 1631 (seized by the Spaniards two years later!). A tid-bit of history: Peter Stuyvesant, founder of New York (formerly New Netherland) lost a leg in a battle to recapture the fort for the Dutch.

Two: Tour the Sucker Garden salt factory on the Great Salt Pond built in the mid-19th Century, which was operational until 1962.

Three: Tour the Butterfly Farm (La Ferme des Papillons). See the photos below that were hijacked from the internet.
Photos above and below: Butterfly Farm
Regardless of the things I didn’t get to see or do, I am completely fulfilled by the things that I did, and didn’t do on the island.
The week in St. Martin ended as fast as it had begun, and we reluctantly headed for the airport for a business trip to New York.
Good bye St. Martin 

Hello New York City
Stay tuned for a blow by blow account of the fantastic New York Now Show (formerly the New York International Gift Show).
Good night moon.



Saturday, August 16, 2014


Part I: Antigua

My Nephew on his knees in the snow proposing to his girlfriend 


A pretty darn cute "Save the Date Card"

Well it all started last winter when our nephew proposed to his girlfriend while she was mastering the bunny slope on a ski trip to New Mexico. From the snow covered slopes to the white sands of Antigua eight months later, a great week of fun was had by all, and then some!

Antigua from the air
We missed the Antigua’s lively Carnival, which ended two days before we arrived, but the betrothed couple and my sister and brother-in-law took in the spirited festivities.

We landed on the Caribbean island of Antigua, in the West Indies, famous for Antigua Sailing Week, at the end of April and beginning of May, the annual world-class regatta. The airport itself is flanked by two, now infamous landmarks, the Stanford Cricket Ground and the former Bank of Antigua (Stanford Financial Groups Colonial Mansion headquarters) which were ground zero for the $7 Billion Ponzi Scheme masterminded by the American and former Texan, Allen Stanford, now serving a 110-year prison sentence.    

Photos above and below: The aftermath of an American in paradise and his $7 Billion dollar Ponzi scheme, the former Bank of Antigua, top, and the Cricket Stadium and Ground he built, below. 

I try to read the history of a place prior to my arrival, and what I learned that Christopher Columbus named the island "Antigua" in 1493 in honor of the "Virgin of the Old Cathedral" found in Seville Cathedral in southern Spain. On his 1493 voyage, honoring a vow, he named many islands after different aspects of St. Mary, including Montserrat and Guadaloupe.

We headed to our home for the next week, an ocean side room on the Caribbean Sea in Saint John, the capital of the island.

Birds in the hotel lobby, Sampson & Delilah

This bird was carved from the remaining trunk of a long dead palm tree

Family vacations often come with pitfalls, but this week was surely an exception. We had a great time, dancing in-mass to the local traditional steel band, the Grandmother, Sister, Wife, Daughter, Niece, Nephew, and Brides family whom we’d just met, all shook a Caribbean leg (or two)!      

Caribbean architecture at our hotel

A beachside restaurant adjacent to our hotel in real island style

We dined together morning noon and night, chartered a private boat for an island tour, snorkeled over a 1900’s shipwreck, and even launched a “message in a bottle” for the Bride and Groom, a gift from my Sister, the Mother of the Groom. The “message in a bottle” is a cool gift-- the Bride and Groom fill it out the enclosed form, wedding guests sign their best wishes, and the bottle is tossed into the sea. When found, the finder opens it, and hopefully follows the instructions to log onto the internet, document when and where it was found, and then tosses it back into the sea to be found by another person. The Bride and Groom can log onto the website and see just how far their bottle has traveled, who found it, and wait until the next finder logs on.

Photos above and below: "A Message in a Bottle"


MC succumbs to a beach vendor who's already made a sale to my Brother-in-law! He made her a tiara out of Palm fronds... fitting for my little Princess.

The view from the massage table- A break from the family for a vacation essential
On our snorkeling trip in Deep Bay, we cruised by Giorgio Armani’s cliff side Antiguan getaway, a fabulous Caribbean style villa with several buildings and a private beach, which was also I’d seen a couple of years ago in Architectural Digests. We snorkeled over the ship wreck, the Andes, a ship from Trinidad that sank over 100 years ago. Its mast rises slightly above the surface and you can see the entire wreck in the crystal clear waters- but be aware of the Jelly Fish, they were plentiful!    

Hawks Bill Rock

Yachting, Antigua style

Snorkeling the ship wreck Andes 

We snorkeled a 100 year old ship wreck, where the Jellyfish were out in force!

Photos: Giorgio Armani's Antigua Digs, above, my photo, and below the photo taken by Architectural Digest... you get what you pay for!

Antiguan architecture and an original sugar mill viewed from the water

The wedding was beautiful, on the sand under a bamboo hut, with the barefoot Bride, Groom, Family and Guests. Simple, elegant and sincere, it was all we needed. Afterward another steel band greeted us as we partied and celebrated our newest family member and the marriage of our Nephew. Afterward there was a poolside dinner under a garden gazebo, which ended with dancing to a local DJ spinning classic dance music that had everyone on their feet until the late hours of the evening.

The vows officiated with local clergy

After the vows: Me, Beau Carder, Sarah Carder, MC, and Caroline

The guys hamming it up with the bride

One of the Steel band players

The pre-dinner festivities included a steel band and the entire family danced together- such fun!

The week ended with a family brunch on Saturday morning where we said our goodbyes and headed out to the airport which included a private island tour of the islands early fort, Fort James, at the entrance to the harbor of St. John's. The fort was built in 1706 to guard St. John's harbor and is one of the many forts built by the British in the 18th century. A powder magazine, several cannons, some of the original buildings, and the foundation of the fort's wall remain.

 Ruins at the Ft. Berkley's entrance

The original Ft. Berkley wall

Officers Housing at historic Ft. Berkley

A historic building at Ft. Berkley, now houses a restaurant and bar with amazing views of the island
My family unit poses for a pic!

Details of the original operable wooden shutters and stone work

Photos above and below: Artifacts from the English Fort Berkley include hand carved pipes and English blue/white china

The best view of the island and harbor are from the fort, and you have a birds-eye view of Eric Clapton’s magnificent 14,000 sq. ft. villa, Standfast Point, situated on a 45 peninsula. Side note: The villa is available to rent! Contact Barbara Japal, Caribrep Villas,, 268.463.2070.

Eric Clapton’s property, Villa Standfast Point, situated on a 45 peninsula juts into the Caribbean Sea

Eric Clapton’s magnificent 14,000 sq. ft. villa, Standfast Point, is available for private rentals

Antigua is a fairly undeveloped and rather poor island. The downtown leaves a lot to be desired and you will not find shopping like you do on the other more prosperous islands like St. Barth's and St. Maartan.

Photos above and below: Two views of downtown St. Johns, Antigua

The Antigua airport leaves a lot to be desired, but a badly needed new airport is being constructed next door and should be operational within a few months.

Goodbye to Antigua

We left Antigua and headed off to the duel-ruled island of St. Maarten (French) / St. Martin (Dutch).

To Mr. & Mrs. George frank Carder IV, we wish you all the happiness in the world. With love, Uncle Steve

All for now!

Goodnight moon.