Sunday, July 3, 2022

And We Are Back

We arrived home at about 1:30 AM yesterday morning after 12 hours of travel. We grabbed a few hours sleep and began the process of getting out of vacation mode and back into reality. 

It was kinda sad. 

Mower Deck with Missing Bracket
Elkridge, MD
July 2, 2022

After retrieving the four-footed members of the family from their vacation locations, my big projects for the day were ensuring the pool was fully clean and shocked followed by with mowing the lawn. And that is where things kind of fell apart, literally. The welds holding one of the main brackets on my mower deck failed. I was able to mow the lawn using bungee cords to keep the deck in place, but now I am looking for a welder to fix the deck. 

I need to fix the mower deck because I am looking to sell the tractor and mower because I do not need this equipment in Florida!

It was hot yesterday. The humidity made it feel much worse than it was, but by the time I finished unhooking the mower deck from the tractor, I needed another shower. I considered falling into the pool, but having just shocked it the chlorine level was a bit too high.

It is good to be back. Really?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD


Saturday, July 2, 2022

And so it ends


Travel Morning Image on the Veranda
Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
July 1, 2022

Chris and I arrived safely back in Elkridge about 1:30 AM this morning completing our travel from Sint Maarten. 

We got to experience Atlanta's airport at the busiest I have ever seen it--a Friday night at the front end of a holiday weekend. And we survived, thanks to being able to hide-out in the Delta Sky Club! We also were lucky not to experience any flight cancellations or delays. Thank you people of Delta for making my travel pleasant.

Last Sunset Over Simpson Bay from Veranda
Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
June 30, 2022

As I looked out my window this morning, I considered the vast difference between viewing my pool and our private lot and the Caribbean colors of Simpson Bay. It is rare when I get to the end of a vacation and am not, in some way, ready to come home. Yesterday all I could think about was that I wanted to stay--longer, maybe weeks longer in Sint Maarten. Yes, this was my first no kidding vacation since I retired and I did not feel the call to get back to work and catch-up on a week of missed email and projects. 

Etched in my mind are the colors of Caribbean water when the sky is clear; the smells of the fresh sea water walking along a sandy beach; and the sounds of dogs, kids, and roosters that greeted us every morning. Yes, there were sounds of life all around us, but it was great. Every morning I'd sit out on the veranda looking at Simpson Bay, writing my blog and reviewing the crush of email that receive. What could be better? 

Perfect vacation.

And now it is time to get back to my regularly scheduled life.

Did I mention that we have a contract on the house? Yes, that happened. 

-- Bob Doan, ELkridge, MD

Friday, July 1, 2022

Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit

Yoda and Grogu
Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
June 30, 2022

 Right here in beautiful Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, lives a real live movie hero. Nick Maley who made significant contributions to the creation of Yoda and many other Star Wars creatures runs the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit that is, of course, open to the public. Furthermore, Nick and his wife Gloria run the shop and museum and are there providing stories and background on the exhibits. 

Chris with Ewok
Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
June 30, 2022

And it was not just Star Wars, but many other science fiction classics, and some forgettable movies as well, that he worked on. The museum is definitely worth the effort to find and the $15 admission. Spending time walking back through Star Wars, Terminator, Highlander, and Superman to name a few.

Wandering through the museum and seeing the pages from movie scripts, story boards, and work-ups along with life-size models of movie props took me back to many of the movies. There was also information from some forgettable movies, but it showed the extensive planning and work that goes into creating worlds that tweak the imagination. 

Me with Life-sized Tusken Raider
Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
June 30, 2022

The exhibit is located on a side street in Philipsburg and unless you are looking for it, you would likely miss it. It is unassuming, but well worth the effort to find it. 

The exhibit was a great way to spend part of our last full day in Sint Maarten. I am sure it was open only because there was a cruise ship in port and while that made the place a bit crowded, it also increased the fun because both Nick and Gloria are engaging people and more than happy to discuss their lives and the work that Nick has done and is doing to further his trade. BTW, the hours posted at the exhibit differ from those on the website.  At the shop the sign it is not generally open on weekends and that is Friday through Sunday unless there is a cruise ship in port. Other days it opens about 11 AM, if they are going to open. A true Island Life approach and I love it!

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Cheese, Wine, and Rhum

Amsterdam Cheese and Liquor Store
Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
June 29, 2022


It seems that no matter where we travel we can find a wine event to enjoy. Yesterday was one of those days. We went to the Amsterdam Cheese and Liquor Store for a cheese and wine tasting and followed that up with a rhum tasting event at Topper's Restaurant and Rhum Bar. 

OK, let's get right at it. Is it rum or rhum? I asked that question and the answer I received was that in French it is rhum! Hence, Topper's sells rhum!

Rhum definition: Rhum agricole is the French term for sugarcane juice rum, a style of rum originally distilled in the French Caribbean islands from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Rhum is the term that typically distinguishes it in French-speaking locales from the rum made with molasses in other parts of the West Indies.

OK, enough of the school work for the day.

Wait, I also learned about gouda! There is such a thing as Amsterdam Gouda! It is a thing! Who knew?

We tasted 8 different cheeses, all gouda, and they were good-a. Added to the cheese tastings were two cheese dips, who knew that was a thing, a bottle of Cava and a very nice Tempranillo, which I liked so much that I bought a bottle. We enjoyed an hour at the shop and, because it is off-season, we had the shop and shopkeeper to ourselves the entire time. 

Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
June 29, 2022

And then it was time for rhum! A short drive to Topper's and we were set to taste seemingly infinite varieties of rhum. 

Coming to our senses, however, after enjoying a wine and cheese tasting we chose the lower level of the three possible flights, and tasted the six most popular rhums. This place offers to refill bottles if the are returned--for a discount! And, I learned, four of their rhums are available at Total Wines! We bought a coffee flavored rhum that is not available at Total Wine & More and left feeling very fulfilled. 

Another great day on the island engaging in some of our favorite activities. 

Harmony of the Seas
Simpson Bay en-route Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
June 30, 2022

Sadly, this is our last full day in Sint Maarten and we are planning a day in Philipsburg with about 4,000 of our closest friends who just arrived aboard Harmony of the Seas. I watched it sail past just a few minutes ago and took this image. It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day!

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Birds and Beaches

Parrots at Parotte-Ville
Sint Maarten
June 28, 2022

It was time to get some wheels and set out on our own around the island paradise. 

There were two stops on the agenda yesterday: Partite Ville, Sint Maarten; and Orient Bay Beach, St Martin. Yes, we went to France yesterday. 

Parotte Ville Bird Sanctuary was an interesting stop. It is one of those places that when just driving and not looking for it, I would never stop. But, that would be a mistake the same as judging a book by its cover. The price of admission is $10 and well worth the time. Once inside the staff was incredibly helpful and the birds were the true stars of the show. Upon admission after a very informative briefing, we each received a cup of bird food and were turned loose inside the enclosed aviary with between 130-140 of our new best friends. And the birds knew what to do. At one point t I had two birds on the feeding cup, one on my hat and one or two others on my shoulders. There are some 27 different species of birds in the aviary and the staff are there to ensure the birds do not become too much a nuisance.

Orient Beach
Saint Martin, France
June 28, 2022
Next was Orient Bay Beach. Perhaps one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean. We arrived there shortly after lunch and remained until after 4 PM. It was a windy day with high surf, and so water activities were somewhat reduced. I did get in the water to enjoy the 6 foot waves, and mistakenly turned my back on the ocean while exiting the water only to get flattened by a huge wave. I broke my own rule of never turning my back to the water and I paid the price. Sand everywhere--including places that I didn't think you could get sand.

Pretty Toes
Orient Bay Beach, St Martin
June 28, 2022
(Photo by Chris)

Orient Bay Beach is a place where there is something for everyone, literally, but it is all separated and you only need to know where to go to enjoy your style of beach life. The destruction of Hurricane Irma, 2017, was more evident everywhere on the French side of the island as we drove to the beach, but most of the establishments along Orient Bay Beach have been restored. We spent the day at the Bikini Club portion of the beach renting chairs ($15) and enjoying drinks and food on the beach along with the sun and sand. The sand is very fine and gets everywhere. Seriously! And the more you fight with it the more places it finds to hide.

A great day! To put the exclamation point on the day we enjoyed some hand-tossed pizzas from a local establishment, Pizza & CO. Some of the best pizza ever! It received high reviews and it earned them by delivering two tasty pizzas. We are close and the pizzas were still hot by the time I walked them back to the place we are staying. 

Who knows what fun will happen today. I think there may be a wine tasting and a rum experience being lined up.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Snorkeling Saint Martin with Captain Bob Speedboat

Creole Rock
Saint Martin North Coast
June 27, 2022


Some days I use the official name of the island, Saint Martin, to designate what Chris and I have been doing when we are doing more of an island thing. 

Yesterday, we journeyed from Sint Maarten into France, Saint Martin, during our snorkeling adventure. Sadly, the tropical storms south of the island affecting Aruba made the seas too rough for us to enjoy the originally planned itinerary, but the day was a full and fantastic day of touring the island from the sea and snorkeling.

We taxied to Philipsburg to board the tour, we were lucky that the cruise ship was not docking until later in the day, and thirteen intrepid snorkelers led by Captain Brett headed out into the waters off Saint Martin for a day for surf, snorkeling, and beach fun. 

It was a six hour trip and we enjoyed four stops, unlimited alcohol and sandwiches for lunch. The small number of people aboard the speedboat made the day enjoyable. Captain Brett did a great of touring us through the island and explaining the sights to help us understand what we were seeing and why. The effects if Hurricane Irma, 2017, are still painfully evident everywhere we looked, but the reconstruction underway is slowly returning the island to its former paradise glory. 

Two videos of the day's activities help show the fun. 

First, some cliff divers, note the sign about not diving from the cliff.

Next two landings and one take-off from Princess Juliana airport as seen off the end of the runway from the sea. 

Can a day get any better than this? 

I think not!

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, St Maarten

Monday, June 27, 2022

Dinner by the Bay

Dinner at Mary's Boon Restaurant
Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
June 26, 2022


After another enjoyable vacation day, which included snorkeling a wreck not far from where we are staying, we enjoyed dinner at a hotel-bar-restaurant along Simpson Bay a short walk from where we are staying. 

The Simpson Bay wreck snorkel was a good dry run for today's 6 hour snorkeling adventure which will take us around St. Martin and visit two close islands in search of fish and scenic beauty under the sea. My take-away was that I need to shave! Water entered my mask unless it was positioned perfectly on my face, due to my couple day beard growth. I am freshly shaved and ready for underwater action today. I did not take my underwater camera yesterday so there are no wreck pictures to share. It was a fun snorkel, but not much of a wreck to image. 

Stray Dog
Mary's Boon Beach Resort and Spa
Simpson Bay, St Maarten 

The remainder of the day was thoroughly relaxing with multiple trips to the local grocery store and a short beach walk. 

We had a lot of fun at dinner and it was a 0.7 mile walk along Simpson Bay Road from the house where we are staying. The airport is right behind Mary's Boon, but as it was evening there were relatively few flights arriving or departing. As sunset was falling we departed the restaurant to arrive back at the house before twilight turned to darkness. 

Another day in paradise concluded sitting on the veranda enjoying adult beverages; talking and dreaming.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Island Paradise Exploring

 A few funny things have happened during and since our arrival to Sint Maarten. 

Deplaning at Princess Juliana Airport
Sint Maarten
June 24, 2022

The first interesting, amusing, weird thing was that the taxi driver from the airport did not have a clue where the address was on the island. She actually asked me if I had a GPS to guide her. Mind you, the house is near, and I mean near, the airport. Just two streets from the runway. I was finally able to get my mapping program to work, but because I did not have internet I could not get directions. Good thing I had done my intelligence preparation of the battlefield and was able to identify the house and direct the driver to the location. We inquired, why the problem? She responded that they are used to dropping people off at hotels and resorts, but not VRBOs. 

The next, or really it was the first interesting happening was deplaning. It has been a while since I deplaned at a small airport without a jetway. Walking down the jetway into the bright sun and ocean breeze was a great experience. It was well orchestrated and busses were readily available for us to make our way to the terminal.  But, I did get this great image of the jet and the deplaning process. 

Me at Western End of Simpson Bay Beach
Sint Maarten
June 25, 2022

Simpson Bay is bounded by a beach that is officially 2.78 miles long and one of the longest beaches on St Martin. At each end there are rocks and cliffs. Chris and I decided to walk to the western end of the beach yesterday. By the time we returned to our starting location, we had walked 2.6 miles, part of the beach walk was along the fence for the airport. Along the walk we collected sea glass and a few shells along with enjoying the sights, which included a fairly large shipwreck on the rocks.

Unnamed Wreck at West end of Simpson Bay
Sint Maarten
June 25, 2022

I have to admit, I was really fascinated by the wreck. I am guessing it broke free from its mooring during the dual hurricanes of a few years ago. I did some basic research and could not come up with a name for or the story behind the wreck. It is in relatively good condition which is what leads me to believe it is recent, probably happening during the dual hurricanes.

Another day is at hand and there is much to do and explore. 

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Good Morning from Simpson Bay

Landing at Princess Juliana Airport
Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
June 24, 2022
After the frustration of waiting in the hour-long line to check-in yesterday, the remainder of our travel day was mercifully uneventful. Even with a short layover time in Atlanta, Chris and I were able to make our way to the connecting flight to Sint Maarten without hurrying and walk right onto the plane once at the gate. Since we are not using any overhead bin space, we do not require priority boarding.

Most importantly, however, we arrived in paradise!

Having been on Maho Beach watching the planes land above us at Princess Juliana Airport five years ago, I made sure to get an image from the the landing perspective. It was cool to see all of the people on the beach watching our plane land. It was a hard image to get as from the air we were only over the beach a very short time.

Sunset Over Simpson Bay
Sint Maarten
June 24, 2022

We cruised through customs and immigration and within about 45 minutes of landing were at the apartment joining-up with Pennie and Scott. What a great week ahead we are planning. More importantly, the beach is across the street and down a short 100 foot path. Boom! The warm waters of Simpson Bay stretching out into the blue Caribbean. The picture of Sunset over Simpson Bay is taken from the balcony of the apartment. We did go swimming just before sunset and I believe the water temperature has to be in the mid 80s. It is only mildly cool when entering. The air temperature was cooler. 

What could be better?

We enjoyed a great dinner sitting next to the water at the Yacht Club. 

The days are planned to be mercifully uneventful and quiet. A break from the pace of life we have been leading. Hopefully, at some point this week we will receive an offer on our house and can move mentally into the final phase of that project. But for now, sun, sand, and spectacular views.

Selfie of the four of us after dinner
Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
June 24, 2022

-- Bob Doan, writing from Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Flying from America Today

 And we are off on a travel adventure, finally. Remember that Chris and I were supposed to go on a cruise right after I retired, but COVID intervened. Today we are winging our way to Saint Martin. Yes, in the Caribbean. 

Jammed Delta International Counter at 5AM
BWI Airport
June 24, 2022

We experienced first-hand the trials and tribulations associated with air travel in America today. Baltimore-Washington International airport was a mess this Friday morning. I have not seen lines like this morning’s in years. We stood in line to check-in for our flight for an hour. I took the picture from the continuation of the check-in line into the hallway.  People missed their flight because of the line. There were two flights connecting to international destinations processing at the same time. Fortunately, we arrived two hours early. It was almost not enough. 

As luck would have it, we made both our flight to Atlanta and the connecting flight to St Maarten with just a few minutes to spare. Squeezing in time to buy a breakfast sandwich and coffee to eat on the first flight. 

The situation is as dire as the media reports. Not enough people to process travelers complicated by the fact that flying internationally requires a hands-on review of travel documents. But, we are away and excited. The house remains available for showings and offers. The animals are enjoying mini-vacations of their own being divided between family and friends.

A week in the Caribbean!

Maybe good things will happen back home  

— Bob Doan, just off the Florida at 36,000 feet

My Zimbio
Top Stories