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Rachel Perlow

St. Thomas / St John USVI Dining

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I just returned from St Martin, I,ve been there many times and did want to try Citrus but they are closed till October. Instead we went to another high priced restaurant in

Marigot, that just opened in July. The chef Michel Royer is an old hand on the island , returned to France and came back recently, the food was quite good and I wondered if Tony Bourdain is familiar with it. I certainly second his view of the dutch side and Philipsburg, I go through the dutch side with blinders on, the architectural hodge podge is quite offensive and much too "Miami Beach" for my taste.The restaurant is Michel Royer and is located in a new mall on the waterfront in Marigot,

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When you say "high priced restaurant" what do you mean? Are you comparing it to other restaurants on the island or other restaurants from wherever your home is? Approximately what did you actually spend per diner and did that include wine or alcohol? Thanks. :smile:

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As I recall the entrees were 30 dollars and up. I had rack of baby lamb from the pyrenees, roasted in rhododendron honey served with fava beans and pureed sweet potatoes, 35 dollars, my son had clover fed filet of beef from simenthal, a canton in

Switzerland, served with truffled mashed potatoes. Actually an interesting rendition of this often served dish, because the potatoes were still lumpy and the addition of truffle oil as opposed to truffle butter gave the dish an earthy quality. The beef was p;robably

the best tasting filet that I ever had due to the preparation of extremely flavorful filet with indonesian peppers. My friend had a dish that contained three fishes on e of which was

a fish from Lac Leman, as well as fresh water crayfish. 35 dollars. Her entree also included cola ( red snapper) a local fish. As you can see a good deal of the meal was flown in from France or Switzerland. The wine list was very expensive for St Martin and

began at 40 dollars. The desserts were 12 to 16 dollars and were the weakest part of the meal. Clearly this is not a restaurant serving local food but the setting and preparation made the experience worthwhile

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Well, we came, saw and conquered...thanks to the info from toni10 and Damian.

St. Thomas is definitely busier than the BVI's and St. John but worth it for the shopping and diing.:) We had some tremendous meals at Cuzzin's(the johnny cakes, local veggie casserole and conch salad were worth the trip), Agave Terrace(splendid view of ZS. J and wonderful desserts..must try the coconut icecream and the lobster was sweet and delectable...best lobster I have had in a long time). My favorite meals thought were at the Sugar Mill(incredible rare ahi tuna with wasabe cream and the swordfish with mango salsa was to die for as well as there island mash and bruschette with portabello mushrooms and goat cheese). Everyone's meals were unbelievably deliscious and the presentation was eyepoppingly well done. The other must do and second best restaurant was Off the Hook(formerly Cafe Wahoo). It was again, worht every mouthful. Sumptious jerked mahi and the crabcakes with island papaya dip was outstanding as well as the calmari and tuna(again rare is the way to go). I have more to say.....about the snorkelling and island hopping, but must recommend Ramshead, Little Cinammon Bay and Lamshure and Waterlemon Keys off St. J as prime spots. Hawksnest Beach was our personal favorite and the Baths on Virgin Gorda, spectacular. As far as nightlife on St. T....The Greenhouse on Tues. and Th are the choice reccomendation and anytime at Duffy's for drinks. Try the Guavarry colada in the Parrot! Again, appreciate all the help for making our wedding, honeymoon, vacation all that it was!

Next stop...St. Marten for carribean destinations and we will definitely enlist egullet for info!!

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kskis! So glad you enjoyed and many, many congratulations and warm wishes!

Glad to hear that you liked Waterlemon and Lameshur for snorkelling. I agree that the beach at Cinnamon Bay (or little Cinnamon) is spectacular (hard not to find a spectacular beach on St. John, really). I also enjoy the hike out to Ram Head and the incredible view that is its reward. Sounds like I should stop off in St. Thomas next time before moving on to St. John and the BVI.

Thanks for the report!

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Yes, Damian. You ought to try St. Thomas. There are some nice beaches(Megan's, Coki, Sapphire) and good dining choices on the island. I however, preferred St. John and Virgin Gorda as far as " slow island living" goes, but St. Thomas has its nice qualities, most definitely. Check it out for an afternoon the next time you fly down. Again, thanks for all the advice. You helped make our trip much more enjoyable!

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Michel Royer closed his doors for good--after only a brief run. Investor problems say locals.

By the way--IF indeed--you are staying near the Oyster Pond (now called, oddly, Oyster Bay?), I can recommend Happy Hour at the Dinghy Dock on Capt. Oliver's Marina (that's NOT Cap'n Olivers Restaurant--its a separate little joint that feeds liquor and decent chow to local yachties and sailors). Dollar-pour-your-own-drinks. Be sure to say hello to the two Ryans for me. If you want to know what's going on on the island while youre there you can compare the unofficial government apologist organ, the Herald--or the more lively opposition TODAY. The letters columns are priceless. Also. I had the pleasure of eating lunch at (remember this is ME speaking) vegetarian joint run by Ras Bushaman--the Freedom Fighters Ital Shack on the Bush Road diagonally across from the Herald. It's the grimy fence with the murals. Tell Ras Bushman I sent you. His "herb" iced tea and tamarind juice is great--everything is grown on premises, and its an unforgettable experience. If you have trouble finding it--just call Laser 101 (101.1 on your local FM dial) betwen 6-10AM M-F) and ask the host, Bulldog for directions. DO NOT MISS THIS. And tell Ras Bushman, Tony says "Bless." You might need a designated driver getting home.

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Thanks Tony. This is precious. I can just imagine calling a radio station DJ for directions to a restaurant. Hey, you don't happen to have a road map to give or lend me? Is there such a thing? Can't find anything online.

Too bad about Michel Royer, sounded good.

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Tony. We are planning a trip for St. M next summer and was curious as to whether you would reccomend staying at Oyster Pond or Dawn Beach. There are resorts at both locations and we were wondering which was nicer. Also, love hearing all about the local flavor of the island. You know your stuff!Thanks in advance!

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Rachel: I don't have a spare map--but they are available everywhere on the island--at bars, restaurants, in hotel and time share rooms.

Kskis: Oyster Pond Hotel was once the most lovely twenty room Spanish style getaway on the most beautiful, remore lagoon on the island. It is now a gigantic, constantly under-construction Radisson that nearly blots out the sun with its size and ugliness. It looks like Leavenworth. Dawn Beach Hotel was destroyed by Hurricane Luis. The beach is nice--though crowded--and the area surrounding the lagoon has been similarly built up. If you have to stay in the area, I suggest looking for food--and beaches-elsewhere. Particularly in the terre basse(lowlands) on the other side of the island. A scenic and not too long drive. (I used to do it every day by scooter). For Hotels--La Samanna is far and away the best.Worth every dime--and full, attentive service and a fantastic beach--the kind you expect of the West Indies but seldom find. For les expensive, but quaint, cozy and local feling--you might consider the smaller places in the town of Grand Case. You WILL need a car rental--and it should be a 4X4. And drive defensively.

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Thanks, Tony. This will help a bunch. Not planning the trip til next year, but we will post when we do!

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There's a new radio station that didn't have any commercials the last time I was there, Island 92 is the number. They will have some commercials by now and they are pretty good at picking bars but since they are commercially motivated I wouldn't rely on their restaurant referrals.

Internet is everywhere and the price is dropping, look around.

No doubt you'll have a good time, and don't miss happy hour 4 - 6 at the Floating Bar south of the Simpson Bay bridge.

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Just checking in briefly... Not only did we call Bulldog at Laser 101 for directions as discussed above, but when he heard that we were recommended to him by Bourdain and he checked out eGullet.com, we were invited onto the the show. We spent an hour in the studio this morning talking about eGullet and what we'd done and where we'd eaten around St. Martin. More about it next week.

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Jason posted links to listen to the radio interview on the Media forum. The Bulldog show is somewhere in between a "Morning Zoo" and Howard Stern, we were on for an hour on Thursday, Oct 3rd between 9-10 AM.

We are working on our pictures for a more complete post, but here are some highlights of our trip:

  • * Happy Hour at The Dinghy Dock on Captain Oliver's Pier. Fish Dinner for $7.50??? Best deal on the island.
    * Vegetarian lunch and "special" tea at Ras Bushaman's Freedom Fighters Shack.
    * Citrus Restaurant - would be at home in any big restaurant town, which makes it unique for a carribbean island.
    * Il Capuccino gelato - wait a minute... Are we on St. Martin or in Italy?
    * Dawn Beach was our favorite. We went to a few others (Orient, Baie Rouge) which were also nice, but had no facilities. Having a beautiful beach adjacent to our resort with a shower for rinsing off right next to the sand was a major plus.
    * Shopping for rum, rhum, and Rum Jumbie.
    * Poulet D'Orleans - fresh chicken and delicious seafood.
    * RIBS
    * Pain Chocolat
    * Gourmet Epicerie, Marigot - fabulous cheese and deli section and bread.

Interesting factoid: there seems to be a higher Chinese restaurant to population ratio than NYC on St. Martin/Maarten. We only sampled one once, on our last day and it was actually pretty good!

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The Perlows visit Sts Martin/Maarten - photos to be edited in later.

Saturday, September 28th - First stop was lunch at Mark’s Place in the Food Center Shopping Mall (supermarket still under construction). Excellent ribs. First exposure to acras (shrimp/fish/conch fritters), eh, where’s the shrimp? They were hush puppies to me. Then we went to Ram’s Supermarket to stock up on some supplies for the week (we were staying in a timeshare and didn’t want to eat out for every meal). On our way out of the market we had our first taste of Il Cappuccino gelato. They were giving out free samples in cones and we were instantly addicted, more on that later. For dinner on Saturday we made a mistake and went where Tony Bourdain (TB from now on) told us specifically not to go, Captain Oliver’s restaurant. The food wasn’t bad overall – my soup de poisson was a deliciously murky brew full of the heady essence local fish and Jason loved his shrimp and scallops dish, but Fredlet’s lobster bisque was the antithesis of my soup. It looked very similar to the soup de poisson, but with a kind of bitter lobster flavor and a piece of lobster thrown in. In other words, it was nothing like what we thought the lobster bisque would be (pink & creamy). In addition, the restaurant was overpriced and stuffy. Don’t bother.

Sunday the 29th – We decided to circle the island. Brunch at a little patisserie in Marigot. I didn’t get the name, sorry, but it was diagonally across the street from a church and also on the same block with the library. It was the best one we visited during our stay. My favorites were the Pain Chocolat, apple butter filled and pear & cream filled pastries.

DSCN0151_JPG.gif

We returned to Ram’s to pick up some additional supplies we needed, including some packaged Il Cappuccino ice cream (and more free samples). :smile: After some time on the beach, we made lunch out of the beautifully fresh red snapper purchased at the supermarket (on ice in the produce section). There were no barbecues available at this timeshare resort :sad: so we filled the fishes belly with slices of red onion, garlic and limes and broiled them for about 5-7 minutes per side (two different sized fish, one needed more cooking after the initial 10 minutes).

For dinner, Jason and I headed to Poulet D’Orleans, a TB recommendation (they will be featured on A Cook’s Tour next year). This restaurant specializes in freshly killed chicken, which truly tastes different (better) than the usual commercial product. The choices of sauce for the bbq chicken were peanut (Jason’s fave), creole (mine) and bbq. DSCN0158_JPG.gif For appetizers we had Boudin Lambi (seafood sausage) and stuffed Christophine. This is the veg we call a chayote in the States. Both were delicious. The other couple we were with (Fredlet is the creator of eGullet’s icon, Gully, and her hubby) didn’t come with us, so we decided that we had to bring them back to Poulet D’Oleans later in the week. Soaking in the resort’s hot tub completed the day.

Monday the 30th – Breakfast in the condo of fresh melon, local eggs made into a gouda cheese omelet for me, dairy-restricted Jason got sautéed peppers and garlic in his. We also first sampled our new discovery, Cheesecake flavored Philly brand soft cream cheese (I think St. Maarten is where they test market new flavors, they had a lot of different flavors at the supermarket that I had never heard of). For the rest of the trip we called this stuff “crack.” Oh boy.

We started circling the island again, stopping in Grand Case for lunch at a lolo (open air BBQ joints) called Talk of the Town. DSCN0167_JPG.gif Jason’s ribs were OK, but my shrimp and the conch stew were pretty mediocre. TB – strike one. We continued in a counter-clockwise direction around the island, made a brief stop in Marigot, then some more serious shopping in Phillipsburg. Most of Front Street is the typical cruise-ship-tourist-attracting “discount” jewelry stores. However, major purchases were ruled out on this trip so I made do with a new pareo (large scarf-like bathing suit cover-up/skirt/wrap) and otherwise just window shopped. Here's an interesting shop, DSCN0183_JPG.gif We finished our shopping at the picturesque DSCN0185_JPG.gifPhillipsburg Liquor Store (in Pointe Blanche) where Jason got a few rare bottles, I got some junky stuff :smile: and we first tasted Rum Jumbie.

For dinner, we went to where TB did send us, The Dinghy Dock on Captain Oliver’s Pier on Oyster Pond. After learning the rules of happy hour there -- $1 beer, $2 pour-your-own mixed drinks – Ryan gives you the bottles you request and a mug with ice and you mix your own drink, at the bar, don’t take the bottles to your table, order your food only when you have your entire parties order ready -- we settled in at a picnic table for a couple hours. As I mentioned in my teaser post, the Fish Dinner for $7.50 is the best deal on the island: grilled red snapper, rice, veggies, salad – all delicious. Other items sampled by our group included the burgers, BLT on baguette, chili, onion rings – all were great. The only drawback to the place is the lack of fans to help create a breeze. We sweated throughout our couple hours there and then headed back to the resort to cool off in the pool then relax in the hot tub before bed.

Tuesday, October 1 – We all spent the morning lazing around after Monday’s activity (a lot of shopping/walking), then Jay and I decided to explore a little more on our own. We had a little lunch at Le Bar de La Mer in Marigot. Nice people, but not great food and expensive, don’t bother. Then we found the Gourmet Boutique epicerie on Rue d’Anguille and browsed around there for a while. They have a fabulous cheese selection, an equally fab deli where we got some salami, cured ham and pate, and just baked bread. Jason was impressed with their kosher section, I was tempted by the selection of confiture (jams).

Later that evening we had reservations for the four of us at Citrus Restaurant. The chef. Jeff Kipp, is recently of Charlie Trotter in Chicago. It is part of The Inn at Cupecoy, a small boutique hotel that seems reasonably priced for the amenities it offers. They also have an adorable Market with a great selection of specialty items. This restaurant would be at home in any big city, it is not so much a “Caribbean” restaurant and simply a great, even special occasion, restaurant. I had the tasting menu ($39) which started with an amuse bouche of a single pristine Bluepoint oyster. I will admit to trading this for Jason’s amuse of smoked salmon as we each preferred what the other was given, the salmon was very lightly smoked and wrapped around supremes of orange, very delicate and lovely. Next came roasted quail over Forbidden Rice with a small piece of foie gras. The black grains were cooked into a savory risotto which was very complimentary to the foie and quail, yum. The main was roasted venison loin cooked to a perfect medium-rare, with not a hint of gaminess. I also got to sample Jason’s perfectly cooked scallops from the a la carte menu. My dessert was a chocolate cake with rich vanilla ice cream and hazelnuts, which was good but no comparison to Jason’s fudge-like chocolate terrine with sour orange sauce. Now that was lick-the-plate good! It was so rich we all got to taste because a small slice was enough. Highly recommended.

Wednesday the 2nd – Relaxing morning in the condo, during which we called in to Laser 101’s Bulldog and the Rude Awakening Show. The show is somewhere between a Morning Zoo and Howard Stern. TB told us to call in to the show to get directions to Ras Bushaman’s Freedom Fighters Ital Shack. This Rastafarian gentleman runs a vegetarian café out of his home. I believe he grows most of the food we ate, which consisted of corn meal mush (a rich tasting soft polenta), with some red beans (kind of a vegetarian chili) and soy chunks (imitation meat curry), served by his lovely wife and their son. This was all much better tasting than I’m sure I’m making it sound and was accompanied by Tamarind juice and “herb” tea (didn’t feel much from it, apparently you need to drink a lot more than we did to notice the effects). Anyway, when Bulldog heard about eGullet and that TB told us to call, he invited us onto the radio show, more about that tomorrow.

We hit Marigot and showed the Gourmet epicerie to our friends, followed by a stop across the street at a nice little wine shop called Le Gout du Vin where Jason procured some more bottles and took pictures of some really old rum that we couldn’t afford. Some more beach time that afternoon, followed by a stop at Il Cappucchino's shop/factory in La Savanne on the road between Grand Case and Marigot (across from a green gas station). Giuseppe, Giorgio and Maria were so happy that we enjoyed their product and compared it favorably to that sampled by some of our group in Italy. Once again, The Dinghy Dock for dinner. I could tell right away from the food that there was another (new) cook on duty (overcooked fish, curry on the overcooked veggies), I didn’t learn the new guy’s name, so just make sure “Little Ryan” is cooking before you order food when you go. (This is opposed to “Big Ryan” who always seems to be tending bar.) However, the mussels (always the Wednesday night special) were excellent, so get them regardless.

Thursday the 3rd – Jason and I get up early to go to the radio station. Click to listen in on our appearance. Track 1 is an intro to eGullet, Track 2 has a long discussion about rum. You've got to listen to hear this funny bit about "bleeping hot chili." It was our first radio interview and was fun to do. We mentioned many of our site coordinators by name and website, and described some of our beloved and obsessed posters. However, I don’t think a lot of the people on the island have internet access. We offered an eGullet.com T-shirt as a prize for the first caller to describe our logo. It took most of the show for someone to win and I think it was a regular caller who won. Oh well.

We made lunch of the charcuterie purchased in Marigot. Beach. Brought Fred & Daiv to Poulet D’Orleans for dinner. They enjoyed the roast chicken and we sampled their seafood combo and ribs. All was wonderful again, especially the service provided by young Christopher and Malachi.

Friday the 4th – Jason and I took off early to pick up the CD Bulldog promised us of the radio show. We stopped first to pick them up some donuts (they teased us for being foodies and not bringing in any food the day before). They put us on the air again briefly and then we drove around and did some last minute rum shopping. All week we had noticed the proliferation of Chinese restaurants all over the island. Some look like little shacks with folding card tables inside, others look more like real restaurants. We stopped at one of the middle of the road looking places in Simpson Bay called Island Seafood and sampled their Salt & Pepper Shrimp. It was actually really good, even spicier than the versions we get at home. Next trip to the island we’ll have to sample some more. Then back to the condo to pack and hit the beach again.

Our final dinner on the island was in Grand Case at Restaurant du Soliel. An elegant open air bistro serving French and Creole cuisine. The highlights were the Caribbean ravioli with fresh crab and the Chicken breast stuffed with shrimp and lobster. It was a nice meal, but also the most expensive of the trip – and all the places along Grand Case’s restaurant row (the “Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean”) are similarly priced.

Summary – We’ve been to several other Caribbean islands and so far St. Martin/Maarten is our favorite. The driving is challenging but doable with an SUV and the other drivers are not nearly as crazy as the ones on Jamaica. We also felt quite safe and were able to get away from the touristy areas without difficulty. The beaches are beautiful with lovely soft sand, but not great snorkeling - next time I'll go on the multi-island snorkeling tour offered at the activity desk. I feel sure that this is an island to which we’ll be returning.

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Rachel -

It sounds like you had such a wonderful time there. And...you were there during my Birthday. I can't really travel because of health reasons, so I've been living vicariously thru this thread! hahahaha

Well, at least I know of a place I want to travel to someday. May I ask a few practical questions?

I have to travel with a slightly oversized wheelchair due to arthritus and was wondering what the handicap nature of the island was like? I am mobile for about 100 feet or 15 min at a time, but must stop for rest due to heart problems.

Best Regards,

Mike

aka Kerouac1964

Sioux City, IA

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I think you'd have to check with the resorts you are thinking of going to. The more modern ones probably have wheelchair accessable rooms with direct access to the pool. Beaches would be harder, a lot of them have some sort of stairs down a cliff approaches. Actually at one point I remember thinking that there was a distinct lack of handicap accessible facilities, lots of stairs, small bathrooms, step ups into stores, pools, beaches.

I don't think this is just on St. Martin, either. A lot of the Caribbean is like this - they don't have the same accessibility requirements. Not that I'm an expert, but I would think you would have to stick to larger modern hotels/resorts to get the type of accessibility you would need. And perhaps sticking to the USVI would be a good idea? Make lots of calls/faxes/emails ahead of time.

Perhaps you could start a new thread, within this Caribbean forum, asking for recommendations of resorts that are handicapped accessible?

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Here's a culinary tour of St. Maarten:

Pictures, page 1 and page 2

Caribbean Felafel Shack this is one of the first things we noticed on the way leaving the airport -- we were really hungry, and low and behold we found the star of David, hoping for some good Israeli chow. But it was not to be. There was, in fact, no felafel to be found. Only a bunch of rastafarian guys selling drinks.

The view outside our timeshare was breathtaking. This is Dawn Beach, on the east side of the island. Literally a 1 minute walk to the surf.

Farm animals on the road are a common sight. You'll find goats, chickens, donkeys, and all kinds of stuff out and about, but be careful not to hit them with your car.

This is a picture of one of the rum ladies selling Ma Doo Dou and various other libations at the stand near the scenic overlook tourist area.

Boulangeries with french pastries and french-style coffee can be found quite easily on the French side of the island. These are from the patissierie across the street from the Church on Rue de La Justice in Marigot.

At Poulet de Orleans in the Quartier de Orleans, two teenage boys serve freshly killed chicken and island specialties prepared by their dad. This is Malachai (age 16) and Christian (age 13) who will provide homestyle table service and will also happily engage in converstations centering around fast sports cars, and also will provide entertainment in the form of you doing their geography and math homework if you look too bored. Behold rachel's steak dish and my freshly killed chicken as well as thier seafood platter. . Make sure you order their local specialty, stuffed christophine.

When the weather is nice the views are nothing short of spectacular. Be sure to get a four wheel drive car because the hills can be pretty scary, especially in the rain. Of course, when the rain clears up you should head to the beach and kick back with a few beers. After some R and R, we strongly suggest heading into Grand Case and chowing down on some island barbeque at one of the lolo's. Not only is the food great but the view overlooking the beach is fantastic too.

For a truly amazing dining experience you want to check out Retaurant Citrus in Cupacoy. Here is a Salmon amuse bouche with citrus vinagrette, bay scallops with wild mushrooms and a balsamic reduction and an utterly perfect venison tenderloin over mixed grains and cramelized kohlrabi. I was told that the duck was pretty damned good too.

After such a rich meal we decided to get down to earth, so we seeked out the infamous Ras Bushaman, the Itel Freedom Fighter. The Bushaman's wife prepares Rastafarian vegetarian cuisine out of his humble abode and he farms his own vegetables. Don't miss the tamarind juice and the "Herb" tea. After a couple of glasses of Herb Tea we were feeling pretty Irae.

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I use a very high resolution digital camera, the Nikon 5700. Actually these pics are shot in low resolution but the CCD is very sensitive.

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Pretty nice, most people spend years going to SXM and never capture the local color of the place.

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Great pictures--they make me homesick. Nice to see those adorabl;e scamps Christian and Malachi are still on the job--and talking about fast cars. I guess I have to check out the sorbets. And my pal Ras-Bushman..I know just what he's saying: "Bless!"

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