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My first trip report- Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts honeymoon

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Jun 23rd, 2008, 01:12 PM
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My first trip report- Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts honeymoon

We just returned from our week-long destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta, followed by our honeymoon split between Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts. The entire trip was incredible and provided us with so many great memories. Since I received so many helpful tips from this site, I thought I’d give writing my first ever trip report a shot in hopes that it will help others. Hope it’s useful!

ANGUILLA
Overall, we adored Anguilla and can’t imagine a friendlier or more beautiful place. Every single person we talked to seemed so kind, helpful, and happy- we just loved it. The beaches and the restaurants were phenomenal. We spent 4 nights here and wish it had been more!

HOTEL: Cap Juluca
We were hesitant about CJ because of the mixed reviews it’s been getting lately due to management issues, but we could not have enjoyed our stay more. The service was top-notch- they opened the gift store twice for me when it was closed so I could get medicine for my new DH, they sent Champagne and a welcome basket for our honeymoon, as well as a voucher for their sunset cruise, etc.

We stayed in a Luxury room (Villa 4, Room 5) with a private rooftop deck and we loved it. The view of St. Martin from the top was amazing and the room was very nice- simple and clean and very comfortable. The bathroom was half the size of our New York apartment and had a large soaking tub, a beautiful shower, and skylights. The mattress and the bedding were all nice and soft and we slept very well. We did not find the louevered doors that some complain about to be an issue- we liked that to hear the sound of the waves and did not mind putting on bug spray (provided in the room) to avoid being bitten.

CAR RENTAL: Ronnie Bryan
We were so glad we rented a car- parking was easy on the island, we enjoyed being able to go at our own pace, and the one cab ride we took to Blanchards from CJ before we had the car was $35 round-trip- just about the cost of the car for an entire day. Ronnie Bryan was very nice and professional and we would definitely recommend him.

Driving on the left was something neither of us had done before, but it wasn’t difficult at all. Aside from remembering to go left around the roundabouts, we just felt like it was driving in the left lane of the one-way streets at home.

RESTAURANTS
We love to go to dinner, so the restaurants were one of the reasons I was looking forward to Anguilla and we were not disappointed! The restaurants were New York prices, as we expected, and generally we ordered wine, 2 apps, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert and our bill ran between 175-225 including tip each night. We enjoyed and would recommend all the restaurants. In order of our favorite (top) to least favorite (bottom):

1. Mango’s- we felt like this restaurant had it all! A wonderful staff, beautiful ambiance, lovely food.
2. Koal Keel- we liked the change of scenery here from the beach to town. The building has a lot of history to it and it was neat to explore. I had the tuna here and it was the best I’ve ever had in my life. The food was exceptional; unfortunately, the service was not. Perhaps we just had an “off” waiter, but he was a bit slow and the closest we came to an unfriendly person on the island.
3. Blanchards- we came here our first night in Anguilla and they greeted us with complimentary glasses of Champagne for our honeymoon. Everyone was very nice and the food was excellent- my DH got the Caribbean sampler and the jerk chicken and sweet potatoes was out of this world! We didn’t like the atmosphere inside the restaurant as much as Mango’s- it was beautiful, but somehow just didn’t strike us the same way. Of course, we got there late, when the sun had already gone down, so perhaps that affected our experience.
4. Straw Hat- this building looked pretty ramshackle when we pulled up and we loved the contrast between the worn exterior and the beautiful restaurant inside. The views were great and the food was very good- the bread, however, was the worst bread I’ve ever had. But after a bad start, everything else was great!

ACTIVITIES
After a stressful destination wedding week in Puerto Vallarta, we were ready to relax! We enjoyed CJ’s wonderful beach, which always felt like it was empty. The water was calm and warm and we loved the floating docks we could swim to. People have complained that a hotel as expensive as CJ should have nicer beach chairs, but once the beach attendants put the towels on it for us and made little towel pillows they were perfectly comfortable.

We also did the sunset cruise CJ does on Fridays, and it may have been our favorite activity all trip! The boat took us around the tip of the island to Little Bay, which was just gorgeous with all the cliffs and cacti around. The sunset was beautiful and drinks and heavy hors d’oeurves were served. Because the sun doesn’t set in front of CJ’s beach, I’d highly recommend this trip for a great time and a gorgeous view.

We went snorkeling on the sailboat Chocolat and visited Prickly Pear and Sandy Island. This was a great trip as well, but a little long. DH and I both said it would have been better to do one island or the other, not both, as we were gone from 8AM to almost 5PM and we were exhausted from all the sun and swimming when we got back to CJ. The captain, Roland, was very helpful, though, and was also a great storyteller. The boat had an open bar and a large lunch was provided at Prickly Pear. The snorkeling was very good, but although our boat of six was the only group in the water when we got it, when I next lifted my head out of the water several other boats had arrived and there must have been at least forty other people swimming. My DH was run into a couple of times by people so intent on their snorkeling- not a huge deal, of course, but just to say that it was nicer when the group was smaller.

Finally, we did an island tour with one of the cab drivers, Bennie, who took us to see Mallihouhana, Cuisinart, Shoal Bay, and a few other areas. We were glad we did this, since despite having researched the island thoroughly and having our own car, there’s nothing like having a local around to point out interesting sites and tell stories. We paid him $80 including tip for about 3 hours and it was well worth it.

As a side note, after seeing the other two top hotels on the island, we were very happy we were at CJ. Mallihouhana was very beautiful with dark wood and a nice pool area, but their beach wasn’t as nice as CJ’s, and we felt that Cuisinart’s property was too manicured and Disney-fied for our tastes- in our opinion, it could have been anywhere. Both CJ and Malli seem have a more natural island charm to them that we enjoyed.

(more to come!)
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Jun 23rd, 2008, 01:39 PM
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ST. MARTIN
St. Martin was beautiful and lush, with a very different interior than Anguilla, but we are unlikely to return. After 3 nights there, we’ve had our fill. We actually were a bit depressed our first night there after the beauty of Anguilla, so that combined with being a bit on edge because we had heard crime is common and we don’t speak French put a bit of a damper on things. However, the restaurants were lovely, as were many of the beaches. There were many nice shops, though that isn’t really our things, and most people were very nice. Overall, though, it just couldn’t live up to Anguilla!

HOTEL: Le Petit Hotel and L’Esplanade
Due to a mix-up on our part, we had to spend 2 nights at Le Petit and 1 night at L’Esplanade. I was so excited for both of these places because of their rave reviews on Tripadvisor, but after staying at both, I have to say that L’Esplanade wins hands down.

Le Petit’s location on the edge of Grand Case is fine, but we hadn’t realized it is right on a busy road with no sidewalk, so walking to the restaurants at night is a challenge. We didn’t want to walk on the beach for safety reasons, including the fact that there was a lot of broken glass in the sand. There is also nobody at the desk before 9am or after 5pm, so although somebody is on call, it would have been a hassle had we needed anything. Stephanie at the desk was wonderful and very helpful, but I found Caroline to be a bit cold. I was trying to call Liat to check on a question about our flight to St. Kitts and I was dialing the number wrong and couldn’t understand the recorded message in French, so I went down to ask for assistance. She really made it seem like a huge chore to help translate the message for me and was not very helpful. I still hadn’t figured it out when we were done talking, so we actually went to L’Esplanade and they were very friendly and seemed happy to help.

We were in room 9 on the 3rd floor and it was just as beautiful as the pictures on the website. The sheets were even nicer than Cap Juluca’s, actually, and there was a lot of space in the room. The bathroom only had a shower, no tub, but was still nice. The balcony was pretty small and had a nice view of Anguilla.

When we moved to L’Esplanade, we were much happier. We were in their one-bedroom suite (room 20) and it couldn’t have been lovelier. We laughed at how much more comfortable we’d be living in that room than in the apartment we’re currently in at home. Everything was new with beautiful furniture. The balcony was large with flowers all around it and overlooked the water. We really loved this room so much better than the one at Le Petit.

CAR RENTAL:
This was arranged through Stephanie at Le Petit and everything was fine. We were actually upgraded to an SUV, which was helpful for the dirt roads we were sometimes driving on. Driving was actually harder here than Anguilla because some of the roads were narrow and the drivers were a little more aggressive.

RESTAURANTS:
We ate lunch at the lolo’s and they were wonderful! The food was delicious, very cheap, and the only place that did the 1:1 cash exchange rate.

Our dinners were very nice and similarly priced to the restaurants in Anguilla- again we spent around $200 each for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, a dessert, and a couple of drinks or a bottle of wine. In order:

1. L’Auberge Gourmand- the staff here was very friendly and welcoming. We had a lovely table outside so we could people-watch everyone passing by. The food was excellent and the service was great. We loved the atmosphere here and had a lovely time.
2. Sol e Luna- this was apparently voted St. Martin’s most romantic restaurant and we could see why! The location was a nice change from Grand Case, as it’s located in a quieter area between GC and Orient Bay. The décor was beautiful and our server and the food were great.
3. Le Pressoir- we were not at all impressed by this place. It was the worst of all our dinners between AXA, SXM, and SKB. The service was fine, but our food (especially my mahi mahi) was very bland and unimpressive. This would be the only place we wouldn’t recommend. There are much better places to try!

ACTIVITIES
We went to Loterie Farm, which was very pretty and unlike other nature reserves we’ve been to in that it has a nice restaurant and bar area. We had a wonderful lunch here and loved the beautiful scenery. We did the extreme zipline, which wasn’t as scary or difficult as I worried it might be. The ziplines were fun and the obstacles were just challenging enough to be exciting. It was a great experience and I would definitely recommend it.

We also spent a day driving all around the island. We went jet-skiing at Orient Bay, which was a lot of fun, explored other beaches like Dawn, Baie Rouge, Baie Longue, etc., and stopped in Phillipsburg to explore. Phillipsburg was interesting because it seemed like there wasn’t much to do on the boardwalk, then there were many expensive designer shops on Front Street, followed by inexpensive clothing stores on Back Street. We didn’t do any shopping because neither of us enjoy that, but it was worth a walk around. We did actually return on a Sunday to buy some gifts for family, but literally everything on Front Street was closed except for the Sunglass Hut and a Subway. We didn’t realize how much everything would shut down, so definitely go another day if you want to get your shopping in.

(St. Kitts info coming!)
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Jun 23rd, 2008, 02:23 PM
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ST. KITTS
We loved this island for its natural beauty- there is still so much undeveloped land, though with so much construction going on, it will be very different in just a short time. The people were nice, the mountain views reminded us a bit of Kauai, and we loved the pretty black sand beaches (though we didn’t go to the beach once while we were here!). We would go back to this island, but not before we visit a few others on our list.

HOTEL- Marriott and Ottley’s
We originally were going to stay at the Marriott for 5 nights because DH’s godparents gave us their points as a wedding gift. We ended up staying one night in a one-bedroom suite and checking out the next morning. The hotel is large, few of the rooms have any views, and everything is loud and impersonal. Some of the staff was a bit rude and we just decided it would be worth the extra money to move.

Ottley’s was where I wanted to stay before the offer of the Marriott points, so luckily they had availability. As we drove up the dirt road leading to the inn, we breathed a sigh of relief. Even on a bumpy road, everything at Ottley’s was already more peaceful than Marriott! As we pulled in the driveway, we were just amazed at the spectacular views of the mountains and the ocean. This is definitely a special place. Everyone on the staff knew us as the Marriott refugees and called us by name immediately. They could not have been more warm or welcoming (even one of the cats, Pablo, escorted us to our room and sat around while we unpacked, as if he was just checking to make sure everything was okay!). We loved our stay here largely in part to the personal service.

We took one of the cottages with a plunge pool (room 25). The room was beautiful with a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. Everything was very comfortable. The only downside (and for us it was minor) was that there were ants and mosquitos all around the room. They came to spray for them, but it didn’t help much, if any. Even with bugspray on, poor DH had trouble sleeping because he kept being bit. However, considering how wonderful everything else was, especially in relation to Marriott, a few bug bites were nothing.

The property was beautiful. We loved hiking in the rainforest trails and looking for monkeys (although we didn’t see any there!) and picking fresh mangoes off the trees. The main pool area is nice as well.

CAR RENTAL: Bullseye
This was a bizarre experience! First, when I called in the morning to arrange to pick up the car, one of the workers, Carissa, told me things were a bit crazy that morning because the office and several of the cars had been broken into the night before. She asked if it was okay if she was a little late because she needed to talk to the police, so of course that was fine.

When we arrived to pick up the car, we were speaking with the owner, Winston. At this point, we had just checked out of Marriott but hadn’t yet made it to Ottley’s. Carissa told him we should just stay at his house, which made my husband and I exchange “this is odd…” glances. Winston offered to take us to his house and have a glass of wine because he felt bad about being late with the car. He was very nice and we’d already established some connections (he and my husband are both from Texas, I’m attending grad school where he went to undergrad, etc.), so we agreed. He did have a stunning home up in the hills over looking the southeast peninsula, so he had beautiful mountain, Caribbean, and Atlantic views. It was just so unexpected that he would invite us there when we were perfect strangers! After spending some time chatting with him, we headed on over to Ottley’s.

Things with the car itself were okay. We rented a red Sebring convertible, which apparently is the only convertible on the island. It got us a lot of attention as we drove around the island, which made us uncomfortable. We tried to switch to another car, but they were all rented already. The car was also terrible on many of the rocky, gravelly roads and we had to drive very carefully so we didn’t bottom out. We would definitely recommend getting a car with a higher clearance.

RESTAURANTS
With the exception of the Royal Palm at Ottley’s, they just couldn’t compare to Anguilla or St. Martin. In order of preference:
1. Royal Palm- We loved this! We had breakfast here every morning, lunch twice, and dinner twice. The atmosphere is so relaxing and peaceful, and the food is delicious! We did the continental breakfasts that were included in our room rate and they included homemade bread, muffins, fruit, yogurt, and granola. Both times we had lunch, we were coming in late from something so they specially made us sandwiches, which was so considerate. The dinners were phenomenal- possibly the best we had the entire trip. The shrimp in coconut crepe appetizer was so good we had it both nights. This was a more expensive restaurant than the others (entrees $36-38) but well worth it in every way.
2. Marshall’s- Marshall’s was very good, but not great. The view was nice and the service was good, and for St. Kitts this is probably one of the best restaurants. As I said though, it just couldn’t compete with the others we had already tried on the trip.
3. Serendipity- this would rate just above Le Pressior as our least favorite restaurant from the trip. The food was okay, the view would have been great but it was so windy they had to put up plastic screens that completely obstructed everything. The service was fine and overall, it was just an okay experience.

ACTIVITIES
By now we were very relaxed, so we were ready to explore!

We did the Scenic Railway, which was interesting. We learned a lot about the history of St. Kitts and the trip was nice- it just takes a really long time and we did get bored after awhile. There’s an open bar and they had an a cappella group singing, which was entertaining mainly because it seemed so out of place!

We drove down to the end of the peninsula and took some great photos, stopping for lunch at Reggae Beach Bar to see Wilbert the pig. That was a very fun experience with good food and drinks and we were just sad we’d forgotten our bathing suits. Cockleshell beach was beautiful!

One day we took a day trip to Nevis on the car ferry. The ferry ride is only about 20 minutes, but they spend an extra 45 or so getting all the cars on properly, so it took longer than we expected. On Nevis, we had lunch at Coconut’s. We were the only people here because it was a bit drizzly, but we had a very nice lunch and it definitely seemed like a fun place. We liked climbing on the palm tree growing sideways out of the sand!

We checked out the Four Seasons, Montpelier, and Nisbet, and our impression from just walking around was that Nisbet was the nicest spot. We thought the beach and buildings there looked nicer than the ones at the Four Seasons.

The Botanical Gardens were nice and we enjoyed seeing all the different fruit trees and the orchid garden.

Back on St. Kitts, we did the volcano hike with a guide, Sylvester, arranged by Ottley’s. This was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. The hike was 5 miles round trip and took about 90 minutes each way. Although it was hot outside, it was much cooler in the rainforest, which felt great as we were hiking. It’s very challenging- I really felt like a mountain goat hanging on to roots and climbing over rocks- but the view at the top was just incredible. We’d definitely recommend this activity to anyone who is in good shape and doesn’t have any joint problems- coming down was definitely rough on ours!



All in all, we had a really wonderful trip and can’t wait to get back to the Caribbean again. I hope this was useful and please let me know if you have any questions!
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Jun 23rd, 2008, 03:09 PM
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Excellent trip report! You did so much! Congratulations on your marriage, it sounds like it's off to a wonderful start with that fantastic honeymoon you had! Thanks for taking the time to write such a well-organized report.
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Jun 23rd, 2008, 04:30 PM
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What a great trip report!! Sorry to hear about Le Pressoir. I think I may have mentioned in your previous posts - my experience there was outstanding. The waiter I had at Auberge Gourmand was fantastic! The house banana rum just isn't the same at home. Congratulations!
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Jun 23rd, 2008, 06:26 PM
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Sounds like a great trip - We are also, considering Anguilla in August for our honeymoon. I'm having a hard time deciding because the island is quiet in season and afraid that it maybe to in the month of August -

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Jun 24th, 2008, 05:40 AM
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Thanks for the great trip report. Anguilla and St. Kitts/Nevis are on our list of places to go to next, so your report was very helpful.

And congrats on your marriage
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Jun 24th, 2008, 07:11 AM
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Wonderful trip report. Nice job comparing/contrasting the three islands. We love Anguilla as well but have not made it back. Hoping to get there in the next couple years.
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Jun 24th, 2008, 11:00 AM
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let me just say that yours was an excellent first trip report! It's hard to believe that you did as much as you did on your honeymoon. So you were a week in PV and 12 nights split on three islands, with a daytrip to a fourth? Very impressive!

I just loved reading about all of your different experiences and what you enjoyed about each island. If you start traveling more to the Caribbean, I think you'll find that your story of being invited to a stranger's house not all that unusual. It's that openness, friendliness, and real sense of hospitality that keep me coming back, year after year. What a great story to all of your friends back home, though, eh?

I've never been to Anguilla or St. Martin, but I absolutely concur with your impressions of Nevis and St. Kitts.

Congrats on the wedding, and I wish you many happy years of travel together.
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Jun 24th, 2008, 12:09 PM
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Thanks so much for all the confidence-boosting I'm glad the report is helpful.

ejcrowe- yes, it's definitely a great story. We'd certainly never see that in New York!

mgm8- I'd check to make sure the resort you're thinking of is open in August. We heard from several people that many hotels shut down for two months (I think starting in August) in late summer/early fall so people can take a vacation. GL planning!
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Jun 24th, 2008, 06:58 PM
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kmb,

Thanks for the great report. I'm glad you had the inspiration (and money) to transfer to Ottley's when the Marriott didn't work out. It's a beautiful property, perfect for a honeymoon.

We used to stay on St. Kitts but have moved our vacation time to Nevis recently.

I'm impressed with all the places you traveled to and happy the trip was a success.

CW
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Jun 25th, 2008, 08:20 AM
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Congratulations on the wedding and more so on a fun-filled, adventurous honeymoon. It looks like you were able to do just about everything you wanted. You'll just have to go back to Anguilla for a longer visit next time!

This is an excellent trip report! Detailed, informative and interesting. One question - where did you end up going to lunch on Anguilla?

Welcome back, but start planning for that next trip!



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Jun 25th, 2008, 09:46 AM
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Oh yes, lunches! We never went out to lunch just to have lunch, since we were usually doing something else in the middle of the day and ate more as a part of a different experience but the food was very good!

One day, we ordered lunch from George's on the beach at CJ. We shared a mahi burger (I think $27) and it was enough to fill us both up and very good.

When we did the snorkeling trip, a large and delicious lunch (choice of fish/chicken/ribs, plus cole slaw, potato salad, veggies, and rice) was served at Prickly Pear.

Another day we went out to Scilly Cay, which I think I forgot to put in my original report- it was beautiful, delicious, and surprisingly expensive. We saw other people's huge plates so we decided to share an order of chicken and lobster, and I believe our bill was about $80 for one lunch and two Caribs. It was very good and worth the trip, though!

Our final day on Anguilla we did the island tour with the cab driver and he took us to the Hungry's van which is parked very near town. They had all kinds of soups (including pigtail and bullfoot!), pastas, and quesadillas. We got a fish pasta and a shrimp quesadilla for about $12 and it was probably the best lunch we had! Hungrys also has a restaurant location, I believe, though I'm not sure where it is.
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Jun 25th, 2008, 10:12 AM
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Wow! You did so much! What a great trip report. Thank you for sharing it all with us. Congratulations on the wedding and the honeymoon!
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Jun 25th, 2008, 06:21 PM
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Congratulations on your marriage and thanks for the great trip report! KMB- I am so happy that you loved Cap Juluca- glad we didn't steer you wrong. ironically, you stayed in the exact room DH and I stayed in when we went for his 40th birthday! When we checked in, they told us they were upgrading us to a junior suite, so i find it interesting that you say it was a luxury suite-- i always had the feeling it wasn't a junior suite! still, it was quite lovely and that rooftop deck is wonderful!

Enjoy your new life with your DH and i look forward to reading future trip reports from you both!
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Jun 25th, 2008, 07:52 PM
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Excellent report! Great job....come on, it can't be your first one!
Good reviews. I totally agree with the St. Martin piece...I am through with that place, personally, but not due to crime. Orient Beach is one of my favorites, but it was so crowded last time, that I felt like I was at Myrtle Beach and the traffic....
Haven't been to Anguilla, but it is on the list.
Sorry about the Marriott experience. We do like the out buildings that offer huge rooms and ocean front/view. I would like to try Ottley's. Also sorry about Serendipity and Marshall's as they are usually 2 of our favorites.
Those hikes are fun but unexpected.

Happy return home and I wish you many more years of a blessed union!
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Jun 26th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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I enjoyed reading your review of St. Kitts. Glad you had a good time.

You should become a member of our friendly forum at www.myislands.myeyez.net

Your feedback is helpful to future visitors.

I had to smile when I read your comments about Winston of Bullseye.

The people are what makes St. Kitts so special!! They are so warm and friendly, and enjoy talking to tourists and welcoming them into their homes.



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Jun 26th, 2008, 04:06 PM
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Your marriage is starting off wonderfully. The love of travel between the two of you will last forever. I enjoyed your trip report, hopefully this will be the beginning of trip reports .
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Jun 26th, 2008, 05:37 PM
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What a great trip report! Love the positive attitude, even when things are not absolutely perfect.

The first time I read the Ottley's report I kind of glossed over the part about "even one of the cats" and read the rest of the sentence about Pablo sitting there watching you unpack. I was like, ummm... that's a little weird, some guy from the hotel watching you guys unpack! Did they have a lot of cats on property? I cats, and would seek out a place to stay where there is a resident kitty.

Thank you for posting!
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Jun 27th, 2008, 06:43 AM
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Thank you all so much for the kind words!

mymoosie- your post made me laugh! There were three cats wandering around Ottley's. Pablo is orange and white and the most sociable of the three. He even slept in our room one night! We don't have a cat but we were missing our dog, so we were happy to have the company.
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