Tourist First

Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Welcome to Steve Bailey's Tourist First. You can use the search function in the upper left corner of this screen to look for particular destinations. You can also simply scroll through the more than 100 postings. Or you can click on one of the terms below to find postings on a variety of topics and destinations.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Happy on Bequia

      A January 2017 getaway was needed, someplace sunny and warm. On two previous trips to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jane and I visited Bequia for a few hours.  The first was a day trip from St. Vincent to visit Moonhole, the fantastical community of stone homes at the southern tip of the island. Our second visit was a lunch stop while sailing the Grenadines..
     This time, we planned two weeks on Bequia (BEK-way). First, a week in a house at Moonhole, which we shared with friends, Mary and Dick Greenberg of Colorado. The second week, on our own after the Greenbergs left, was at Firefly, a small hotel on a mountainside farther north. 
      Click HERE for Dick Greenberg's blog posting about the week at Moonhole.  My own post on Moonhole should appear in this blog just above this posting.
      Bequia, which has about 5,000 residents, is about seven square miles and is at latitude 13 degrees 17 minutes north, meaning that it's close enough to the equator that nights and days are about 12 hours each and the temperatures are about the same year-round. Like most Caribbean islands, it's volcanic in origin. U.S. dollars are readily accepted, but I think that taxis and merchants don't give a very favorable exchange rate. So we used an ATM (usually where you get the best exchange rate) to get Eastern Caribbean dollars. 
      Here are some links to places on Bequia
      The Moonhole Company (click HERE) handles rentals for houses at Moonhole. They come with a housekeeper/cook, though guests pay the grocery bill. Wine, beer and rum can be bought in Port Elizabeth.
      Firefly (click HERE) is a small inn and restaurant. We stayed there six nights. The room was lovely -- the double shower even had its own door to the terrace -- but the restaurant's dinner menu became monotonous. Lunch is much better thanks to a selection of curried rotis.  I can recommend both the curried goat roti and the curried chicken roti. The hotel/restaurant staff here was exceptionally professional and friendly. The hotel provides guests with cellphones preloaded with phone numbers for a good taxi service as well as numbers at the hotel. Take the phone to the pool so you can order drinks from the bar. Otherwise, it's a steep 40-step climb to fetch your own. 
     The Fig Tree (click HERE) was our favorite restaurant. We ate there twice with the Greenbergs and then again on our last night. We had grilled lobster each time. Hardly anyone was there for our first two visits, but it was packed on our third visit, possibly due to live music -- two excellent guitarists/singers who performed songs by Bob Marley, Paul Simon and others.
      Max's Pizzeria (click HERE) is next door to the Fig Tree. We ate there once and had the lobster pizza, which is much better than it sounds. An island institution, it's now owned and operated by a young couple from San Diego. Highly recommended for its lively ambiance as well as the food.
      Sugar Reef (click HERE) is within walking distance of Firefly.  It's more formal and less friendly than Firefly and everyplace else we ate. The food, however, was good even it it wasn't quite what we expected. Lobster came cut into pieces and dressed and placed back in its shell and was overall the smallest serving of lobster we saw.
      Jack's (click HERE) is the only place to eat on Princess Margaret Beach. It's known for its fried chicken, but I enjoyed an excellent fish sandwich and very cold Hairoun, the local beer. Jane had a Nicoise salad with fresh grilled tuna.
      Keegan's (click HERE) is a guesthouse and cafe on Lower Bay. We had dinner there waiting for the Bequia Music Fest to start at the nearby De Reef bar. Grilled lobster was huge and Jane was particularly happy to get the entire beast, not just the severed tail. 
      Getting to Bequia is not easy. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to St. Vincent or any of the Grenadine islands. Jane and I flew to Barbados where we were scheduled to take at SVGAir flight to Bequia. That flight was overbooked, however, and we were bumped onto an ad hoc Air Mustique Barbados-Bequia flight. The Greenbergs were never able to get tickets for a Barbados-Bequia flight, so they flew into Barbados, spent a night in a hotel, and the next day took an early flight to St. Vincent. From there they caught a ferry for the one-hour trip to Bequia. On the way home, it was we who had to overnight in Barbados because the different airlines' flight times didn't line up.
     Getting to Bequia, however, is definitely worth the effort. This island, where everyone seems to know everyone, is the friendliest place I've ever been. There's none of the grinding poverty that is seen elsewhere in the islands, even on St. Vincent itself. Houses are often brightly painted and appear in good repair. There's not a huge huge gap between homes for residents and vacation homes for outsiders. When we found the most recommended wine shop closed when it should be open, a lady at an office next door explained that the usual wine shop clerk was injured. She called around to locate the owner. She didn't reach her right away, but later in the afternoon when we were walking by again, she said the owner had just been there and this time was able to contact her to come back. She did and we were able to stock up. In our experience, taxis don't expect payment when they take you from a remote hotel into Port Elizabeth. No, you can pay them later when they take you back to the hotel. People wave when you pass by. "Hello" and "good afternoon" are always answered. Hands are shaken. It's an island of friends.
      Here are some of my snapshots from the trip.

Our eight-passenger Air Mustique flight to Bequia.


Barbados as seen just after takeoff on our flight to Bequia.
     
An egret takes in a view of the harbor at Port Elizabeth, the main community on Bequia, 

Rib bones from a whale frame the entrance to the Whaleboner bar. Bequia's fishermen
 are allowed to hunt for whales, though we heard none had been killed for several years. 

A colorful local? No. It's Dick, a Colorado Rastafarian. 

Attendees at the annual Bequia Music Fest, a three-day event at several
venues. These women are waiting for the show to start at De Reef on Lower Bay.

The Signals, a band from Dominica, at the music fest. 

Sugar Reef is a restaurant and inn on Industry Bay. The most elegant dining room we saw on Bequia.

The bar and dining area at Firefly, where we stayed for six nights.

The pool at Firefly is 40 stone steps below the restaurant.

Cruise ship passengers spent a morning at Princess Margaret Beach.

Princess Margaret Beach got its name after a visit from the late princess, who was associated more
with nearby Mustique than with Bequia.

Jack's is the only place to eat at Princess Margaret Beach, and that's not a bad thing. The beer is icy cold
and the "fish burger" is really a large grilled piece of mahi-mahi. 

The dock at Jack's. A waterside walkway that once connected
 Princess Margaret Beach with Port Elizabeth has fallen into
disrepair, so a lot of water taxis use this dock.


Boats moored in Admiralty Bay off Port Elizabeth. People who watch the sunset carefully
can see the green flash as the last rays of the sun skim waves far away.


The hawksbill sea turtle rescue operation provides a nice break from the sun and sand, as
well as an opportunity to give a few dollars to support the sanctuary. 


Jane and Mary check out the occupants of one of the tanks.

Our room at Firefly. Those are coconuts on the little table.

View from Firefly, which looks east.  Firefly is developing the waterfront area with new villas;
dredging will make the water deeper for swimmers and provide sand to widen the beach.