Friday, November 23, 2007

Scooter? How very French West-Indian of you

St. Barth's is, I've decided, best seen via scooter, and with a French-speaking companion (boyfriend:check!).
We rented our scooter from this man, whose store was right along the main drag, for 35 euros, not bad considering it's more powerful than the standard model (good for more than one body when going uphill, and St. Barth's has a, hills, not bodies!)

From Gustavia, where the tender boat left us, we headed east, past St. Jean/Nikki beach with it's airstrip on the North coast and along the whole of the rugged east coast with it's various beaches.

This was taken at Petit Cul de Sac if I remember correctly.

And this one. My helmet was way too big for me: anyone can tell I'm nowhere near a 7 and-a-quarter!

The first beach we stopped at was the Grand Saline, on the south coast.

It looks like a river when you first drive in. The beach is approximately a ten minute walk,

but look, it's worth it.

We swam in the clear, turquiose water, lay on the beach a while, and then walked back to have lunch at a place called Le Grain de Sel (grain of salt, reader!).

This was my view.

And this.

One appetiser and one main dish plus a beer and a rum-punch came to $99 without tip. St. Barth's isn't cheap, but it is movie-set beautiful.

Heavier on our scooter but lighter in pocket, we headed to another beach, known to be one of the loveliest, called Gouverneur. There was a steep decline to get down to this beach, but as you can see it was easy on the eye, if not so easy for Eric doing the driving.

Again, beautiful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How to be a good girlfriend

Give your boyfriend a facial! Seriously! I reckon tons of men actually crave a facial but are too scared to go to a salon. All I can say is, when I suggested it, my man went for it in a big way.

See, you can make all the stuff yourself. You can get really good recipes for natural face-masks using only basic foods like oatmeal, honey, brown sugar, etc. (don't eat them, put them on his face!) from the internet. Check out or

From left to right, in this picture, I made:

-a yoghurt/honey cleanser; 40z yoghurt, 1 tablespoon honey (mix, apply and remove with a warm face cloth)

-a toner that's just a green tea bag, steeped in half a cup of boiling water for 3 mins, then chilled (apply all over face with a cotton wool ball)

-a scrub with 2 tablespoons each of quick oats and brown sugar plus 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tablespoons aloe vera juice (but I used aloe vera aftersun gel and it worked great!)

-a facemask you leave on for 20 mins with half a peeled, mashed up cucumber and 1 tablespoon natural yoghurt

-a second facemask using 1 apple, peeled and finely diced (I didn't do too good of a job dicing, but they don't let the crew have sharp knives onboard for obvious reasons!) 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of yoghurt. You leave this one for 20mins too.

The only thing I didn't make myself was a moisturiser, and that's because for me, there really is no other moisturiser than Este Lauder's Skin Refinisher. Eric loved it.

You get your man to shower, then wrap him up in warm towels before getting him to lie face-up for his facial. Make sure you have a big bowl of warm water and a bunch of face cloths to remove the various potions. My big tip would be to give him a foot massage while the face mask is on.

The only downside? If you want him to be energetic, take you out on a date and/or be coherent forget it. This is what you get after you give your man a facial. Ah...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Parents on for the Panama Canal, a disappearing Curacao bridge, Nessie and other stories

I haven't posted in a few weeks, dear reader. I apologise. My parents were onboard, and I've been a busy lady. I'll try to summarise their cruise in one post, which began in Miami, ended in Costa Rica and was deemed a Very Good Thing by all involved.

South Beach, Miami is much prettier than I'd imagined.
Images of stucco, fake, puce-painted art-deco buildings with Ripley's "Believe it or Not" museums housed inside were thankfully all in my head. The reality is so pretty. The architecture is authentic, and the beach is long with sand like icing sugar.

I like to walk behind Eric and my Dad while they talk.

It's true what the say, everyone seems to have one of those little 'teacup' dogs. They look like rats on ropes. The smaller and more specific the breed (Puggle: Pug and Poodle mix is just one I overheard) the better, and they are all carried around by their owners in these little bags/purses because they're just too small to walk by themselves on the street without being trampled or swallowed up in one gulp by a larger dog.

My dad bought me a dress that made me feel like a movie star, embellished with Swarovski crystals and complete with movie star pricetag.

In St. Barth's, we all went snorkelling on a guest tour, then I went with my folks to Nikki Beach, also called St. Jean's Beach. Check out Mum and Dad with their "noodles" (the word "Noodle" is particularly funny when spoken with a French accent, as it was in St. Barth's).

I acted as the guest escort and hence got to go snorkelling for free! I have to say -and I feel sorry for Eric, because he never got to go on the second trip- that the snorkelling in Curacao is far better. They took us to a tug boat wreck that sank 47 years ago. The fish seemed to love it, and we saw squid, octopus, huge parrot fish, angel fish in cute pairs and tons of things I'm not qualified to identify. Plus, I bought a throw-away underwater camera (my folks have it, undevelopped, that's why no fishy pictures are to be found here) which made time pass so quickly I couldn't believe it when our 2 hours was up and we had to get back.

Also in Curacao, Eric found his "ideal Birthday present." It's a speaker, worth around $600, even at Duty Free rates. Um, let me can't have it!

In Curacao, there's a floating bridge over to the main shopping area, you can see it on the right of this picture.
The disconcerting thing is that when ships want to pass through, the bridge swings away from the far side of the pier to lie flat with one side of the dock, as if it were never there. Last time we were here (and I admit, after a few rum cocktails) I had an argument with the ferry driver about there being a bridge "Right here! And no I won't get on your ferry until you show me where the bridge is!"
Here are my folks at one of the Panama Canal gates, seen from Deck 8.
My Dad, a resort developer, quantity surveyor and property engineer with his own building company was enthralled by this piece of engineering, the hugest single concrete structure (so they say.) A huge amount of life was lost in the construction of the canal. It is always impressive, you're so close to the rainforest at times you can see monkeys and exotic birds, and I've been through it now at least a dozen times.
Also during this cruise, Eric finally got his new electric NS bass.
It's long, but thin and extremely transportable compared to his current upright bass, Big Brown Beatrice.
This new bass you have to put on to a pin, er, base, she is called Nessie, and I think Eric is very happy with her. He spends enough time with her, anyway...
After 10 days, my folks left for San Jose in Costa Rica on our final day of the cruise. Eric and I said goodbye the night before due to their early transfer by coach to their hotel, and were left in Caldera.

I must give you a tip on the port in Caldera, there's really not much within walking distance of the actual port, except an amazing, picturesque and well kept secret of a seafood restaurant called Costa del Sol.

I'm prepared to share details with you on how to get there, but don't tell everyone. You come out of the port, and go down the road. At the fork, you veer left, seeing this abandoned freight train perhaps.
Do not head towards Liberia.

Carry on walking, until you see this old steam train front carriage (I'm photographing it from the wrong side, but you get the picture). Here, turn right. Keep going, it'll look something like this.

Then turn left, this is what you'll see. Keep walking until you see the place on your right.

This is the place.

This is the view.

This is the food.

This is us.
It's worth it, I promise you. And on the way back, walk along these old train tracks, a very quaint old system with tunnels under the bridges still erected.
There'll probably be some young people playing in the water too to your right, trying to catch the fish that jump from the river.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

NY and the Village Vanguard Jazz, but first, Me!

So, just because some people have been accusing me of not actually doing an honest day's work on the ship but simply schlepping round various ports, I'm putting a 'work' shot in. It's Nick and myself, about to give it some 'Chicago' dancing. I don't know why it came out this small, but it's just as well.

Now, on to other things. These are my trying-to-be-discreet-by-turning-off-my-flash-and-red-eye-reduction-on-the-camera-before-snapping efforts from our night out at the final half set of the Village Vanguard Orchestra in New York's Greenwich Village.

Yes, they're dark, but they capture the atmosphere of the place pretty well. We got in at a discounted rate of only $10 because by the time my man finished working, it was 11.30pm, the time the last set starts at the Village Vanguard. It would otherwise have been $30 to hear big-band jazz, not cheap even by my London standards.

The room was fairly small for such a large group of musicians and had all the elements required for a 'genuine' big-band experience, four trombones, sax and trumpets, of which the lead trumpet-player was of the crazy, frat-boy ilk etc. and one really great bassist.

Duncan was impressed.

Eric and I had been to The Village (we talk like locals now!) earlier in the day, for his appointment to try out some upright basses at a specialist store called David Gage, check out this showroom (I'm a regular undercover photographer now) and on our walk there I particularly liked this collection of tiles painted by locals after 9/11, some had really poignant messages on them.

After the Village Vanguard had finished their final set, and my company did the usual and sometimes profitable "Hey, I'm a musician/you're a musician" social thing, we got a tip-off to go to Smalls for more jazz.

This three-man outfit couldn't compare to the evening's previous entertainment, but we stayed a while anyways, and I did get a good shot of the bass player.