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SA is back from Montserrat !! - Trip Report, phase I

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Mar 28th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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SA is back from Montserrat !! - Trip Report, phase I

I'll have to cut this up into sections so I'll get a start today & add on as time allows. We departed CLT Sunday evening & had an uneventful, direct (the best kind) flight to St. Maarten via US Air (of course). There we stayed at the Wyndham ($12 for a taxi from the airport) which is nice enough for $250/night. We met some friends who were staying at the Esmeralda (sp?) on Orient Bay. It was of their opinion that our place was a tad nicer & a tad cheaper. We had a little efficiency type room w/a kitchen as well as a pocket door that you could separate the 'living room' from the sleeping/kitchen area. This came in handy w/the two little ones (A 3 year old & 11 month old). After some debate we had dinner at the hotel which was actually very good, the scallops being everyones' favorite. It was an early evening as we had to travel to Montserrat the following day. If you need anything at the Wyndham, Janelle is the person to take care of it for you. On the Wyndham, not the best of locations but convenient to the airport which was good enough for us. The pool area & restaurant were fine & they even had a 'kiddie pool', which was a nice surprise. This property used to be a condo/time share property & there are still a few lingering owners. We were typically the youngest persons there (outside of staff) by twenty years or so.
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Mar 28th, 2006, 08:20 AM
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Such a tease! You got me all excited about reading your Montserrat report!!

On a serious note, looking forward to reading it. Welcome back.

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Mar 28th, 2006, 11:56 AM
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I absolutely echo caribtraveler's sentiments.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 05:31 AM
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On Monday we traveled on WinAir via Antigua to Monterrat. (No problems here although it takes some time to get through Immigration & Customs). The Mars family, of candy bar fame, was immediately behind us in line and my daughter proceeded to entertain them & everyone else during our wait. Suffice it to say she had to go to the bathroom...& I'll leave it at that... Clover Lea picked us up at the airport w/our rental car & took us to the police station to get our Montserrat Drivers License ($20 or $50EC). Then on to Gingerbread Hill. We stayed in the villa which is a two BR, full kitchen w/doors that open to the outside across the LR & BR. It's even better than the pics - www.volcano-island.com. Clover was also kind enough to give us a little mini-tour & stop by the grocery on the way to pick up some essentials. W/the two little ones that was pretty much it for our first day, as we didn't arrive until early evening. We constantly had hummingbirds buzzing around the feeder, & the sunset views were wonderful from our vantage point. After meeting the rest of the Lea contingent, & scheduling our tour w/David for the following day, we turned in early, excited to have finally arrived...
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Mar 29th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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Other Montserrat info...there is a small piece in Conde Nast Traveler this month as well as in the US Airways magazine. Also check out www.mvo.ms & www.visitmontserrat.com.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 09:26 AM
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More more! =D>

I am thrilled to finally read a recent trip report on Montserrat.

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Mar 29th, 2006, 09:44 AM
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I'm very interested in reading about Montserrat. Looking forward to the next installments.

Thanks.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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Day 2 - For the small fee of $50 we spent nearly the entire day w/our host David Lea. He has done a number of documentaries & has lived on the island somewhere around 25 years. We traveled to the Volcano observatory, which is very cool, as well as to several other observation points. If you go to the mvo website there are a couple of recent pics much like what we witnessed while we were there. We also ventured into the exclusion zone a bit & really viewed the volcano from every angle while receiving a wonderful history of the island & its inhabitants. Even if you don't stay at Gingerbread Hill, contact David, & do this trip w/him first thing. It is very educational as well as enlightening. One of the things that I was not aware of is that the volcano is pretty much active (to some degree) nearly all the time. Just in varying degress. My wife was also able to collect some samples which she will take back to the classroom. All in all, a busy day which the kids handled very well. One of the interesting things about the island is that when people pass they give a short horn beep for hello. The standard greeting is 'awright'. Skipping the whole 'how are you doing', etc. & getting right to the point. Everyone speaks English although I must admit I had to listen pretty hard w/some of the locals & there version of English. Currently there is 1 ATM on the Island which dispenses EC$ (it is a RBC branch). The Bank of Montserrat just opened in their new location & should have an ATM soon. Conversion is 2.7EC = $1US. But many places it is more like 2.5. I would advise getting some EC just for the ease of doing business while on the Island.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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Days 3,4,5 - We began to explore the beaches & wander. As a whole we liked Woodlands Beach the best. Black, sugary sand next to a cliff area. Not large -but also a picnic area, shelter, bathrooms & shower, as well as shade. The water could be a bit rough, but it was very clear. My kids loved the black sand. Bunkum's Beach was probably our next choice, not much in the way of amenities, but the Bunkum Beach Bar is at the top of the hill & a great place for lunch, be it a pizza or a wahoo sandwich. We also like Little Bay but there was no shade there. A couple of days we ate at the People's Place, right at the top of the hill from where we were staying. Here is the menu - Roti (a pancake like tortilla thingy w/meat & other filling, rice & peas perhaps), Roasted Chicken, Baked Fish. All $20EC. Mary & John will take excellent care of you & there are always a couple of locals there to provide entertainment. The meat dishes are a huge/piled plate of rice, cucumber, peas, slaw or salad & yams w/the meat on top. We would get two of the three menu items & split them up. Did I mention the most people we ever shared one of the beaches with was 3, & most of the time we had the entire beach to ourselves ?? Just a side note...
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Mar 30th, 2006, 07:03 AM
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Random thoughts on Montserrat & helpful hints - On one of our last nights there we also traveled to a spot to check out the Volcano. At night, when it is flowing, the scene is truly awesome. There is just no describing it. Some other things to know about Montserrat - Arrows is a good place to go for T-shirts & what not. The stationary store in the Government complex is a good place to go for a variety of things, at the very least just stop by & look around. Marigets near the exclusion zone, & beach, has wonderful food. We had lunch there & had a fish kabob, tuna sandwich, & ham & cheese w/a big side of fries including drinks (beers for the adults of course) for $54EC (or $20US) & the food was wonderful. They drive on the left side. I would try & get an automatic as the roads are narrow & hilly. Cars are about $30US/day, jeeps (you'll most likely get a RAV4) about $50US/day. The only hot water we had was in the shower. This is fairly common. I read three full books while I was there...the pace is wonderfully relaxed. Let me just say this, if your idea of your vacation is an island resort, this is probably not the place for you. If you want to experience a different type of place on this planet of ours, meet some geniunely friendly people, relax & actually become a little more educated...this may be what you are looking for.
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Mar 30th, 2006, 07:09 AM
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Sounds like y'all had a great time. I am certainly glad to hear this firsthand experience of Montserrat, and island I've been curious about for a long time. Did you do a stopover on the way home someplace?
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Mar 30th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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This is a fantastic report! Thanks for sharing it. I look forward to taking a group very soon.
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Mar 30th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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Really enjoyed your trip report. It's very nice when people choose to go to a destination for more than just sunshine and fruity drinks. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

The people of that island have been through some really heartbreaking times, and they've lost so much. We've made it a point to keep up with what the volcano has been doing over the years.

Glad you had a good time, and it was obviously very interesting. I hope their tourism industry continues its recovery.
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Mar 31st, 2006, 05:06 AM
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Final installment - We actually extended our stay in Montserrat through Sunday evening (we were originally supposed to leave on Saturday morning). Fortunately Winair didn't charge us a change fee, nor did the Wyndham charge us a cancellation fee in St. Maarten. We stopped over night in St. Maarten coming & going (which was plenty for me by the way). In both cases we also had to stop over in Antigua on Winair, so if you can fly there direct, that is even better. Since we were using US Air miles we could get there (direct), but could not find a suitable return flight, hence St. Maarten. You will never find more friendly, helpful people than in Montserrat, despite the problems they have had. One place I had forgotten, there is a photographer named Keven who has a little shop up the hill from the banks. He has some tremendous photos that are also worth a look & a 5 X 7 print is $20EC. Our trip home was uneventful, the children loved the beaches & people much as we did. Every time we went to this one grocery store everything stopped so they could play w/my kids & they always left w/free treats. They is no crime there to speak of. When dropping off our rental car we just left it at the Airport w/the keys in it. Most of the doors, don't even have locks. It is certainly a different type of life style, but most certainly one my family & I enjoyed sharing for a week.
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Apr 3rd, 2006, 08:15 AM
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Sounds like you had a great trip SA. Thanks for the report!
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Apr 3rd, 2006, 12:31 PM
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Thx Statia, we did have a wonderful time. We plan to return & possibly hit Barbuda next time. We have friends going next week out of Antigua on a boat, so we'll see what they recommend...Saba also holds an interest.
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Apr 12th, 2006, 02:58 PM
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I don't know why I waited so long to read your report but now I know that we have to add this destination to our list. It really sounds great. I know my husband would love to visit the Volcano observatory. We have to wait maybe 2-3 years but we'll go there. Saba, Barbuda? Please stop before our list get too long. Thank you for sharing
Pat
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Apr 13th, 2006, 06:20 AM
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Pat - Any additional info I can provide I would be happy to...You just can't beat staying w/the Lea's & having David show you the Island. We really feel like we are now part of the Montserrat 'family'. We'll be returning soon.
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Apr 26th, 2006, 06:34 AM
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Topping for LEster
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Jun 27th, 2006, 07:01 AM
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Topping for JAGIRL
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