Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The "Caribbean Colors ….. As I See Them: Part I" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just had a chance to load all my cards into iPhoto and have a few I would like to share with you.  I know there may be some you wonder why I ever pushed the shutter release, but to me they still have some merit.  Since there are so many I wanted to add, I will spread it over a few days.  Also will keep you from getting so bored looking at them all at one time.  I know what it's like looking at someone else's vacation photos.  Here is the first 13 photos taken on the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Simpson Bay swing bridge.
Flowering cactus. 
Rooftop overlooking Orient Bay. 
One of my daily friend during vacation.
Another blue-eyed daily companion.
Art gallery in Marigot. 
Local design on the outside of the art gallery. 
Portraiture artist on the Boardwalk in Philipsburg.
Macaroons at Sarafina's in Marigot. 
Looking down on the fish tank in a Marigot restaurant. 
Beach splendor! 
Lace umbrella in a linen shop in Philipsburg.
Window dressing in a shop in Philipsburg.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The "We'll Both Have The Beef Stew" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Second day of our vacation on the multi-national island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  It has been tradition with my wife and I to always have our first meal of vacation at our favorite restaurant, Le Piment, which is located in Orient Village, a short drive down the hill from our rental villa.  That is until this year.  Our first night was spent on a late flight from Miami, since our air schedule was destroyed by an early morning storm in New York.  But that's another story that you probably have already read.  Our second night had already been planned with a trip to the restaurant Sol e Luna with friends of my wife's who owned a place at the Grand Case Beach Club so we had to wait until our third evening to make our trek to Le Piment for my wife's favorite.  
Krystal (in black sleeveless top) greeting people as they enter.
Last year she tried one of the specials at the restaurant and found a whole new taste that she just loved.  Called Beef Stew, but not the traditional beef stew that we had become accustomed to in Lancaster County, PA.  Their beef stew didn't have carrots, potatoes, onions, celery and beef blended together into a stew, it was just plain beef.  It was marinated over two days in a wine sauce and I must admit it actually melted in your mouth.  Yea, I had to get it also, since I was convinced over a period of a few months before vacation that it would be the best meal of vacation.  Krystal, the owner of  Le Piment, met us at the awning of the outdoor restaurant and greeted us with the traditional French  kiss on either cheek, then seated us in the restaurant's new chairs and tables that decorated the restaurant.  
The "Special Board".  Click on the photo to
enlarge.  You will see the Beef Stew.  Prices
are in euros.  At the time 1 Euro=$1.40.
Immediately Carol checked the hand lettered chalkboard to see if the Beef Stew was on the menu.  Our traditional 1st night fare had been a caprese salad and a oven baked lasagna.  Both are enough for two meals so we shared one of each.  But …….. it looks as if we are going to have to change our tradition and have the beef stew.  We are not big wine or alcohol drinkers so we order peach ice tea that comes in a can.  I know, no class!  Krystal brought the special board to our table and as she was setting it on a nearby chair, Carol said, "No need for that, we'll both have the beef stew."  She remembered how much Carol raved about it the previous year and replied, "Ah, good choice."  The beef stew is accompanied with a small lettuce salad with house dressing, a small serving of sprouts, a piece of pine tree that Carol insists is a piece of Rosemary and vegetables that are baked in small crock and consist of sliced potatoes, squash and peppers.  
The Beef Stew!
I must admit it was delicious and had to eat it slowly to savor all the flavors and make it last longer.  The beef was better than any beef I had ever eaten.  It really did melt in your mouth.  After clearing our table our waitress brought us each a shot of Ma DouDou bananae-vanillae flavored rum which is made on the island.  A very nice new tradition for the start of our vacation.  As we left, Carol leaned close to Krystal and whispered something to her.  She got a smile on her face and told Carol she would tell the chef.  After asking her what she told the owner, she whispered,  "I told her the beef stew was better than sex!"  "Geez, thanks a lot!" I said.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The "Faces Of Strangers: #17" Story

Restaurant Lescargot on Front Street.
It was an ordinary day.  Walking Front Street in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten trying to kill some time until we are more hungry for lunch.  Heading east along the street and as we passed the restaurant "Lescargot" a young black woman was attempting to put up the umbrellas that lines the street in front of the restaurant.  Was struggling so we crossed and Carol helped her guide the bottom of one of the umbrellas into the base.  The restaurant sits about 4 feet off the street and is decorated with beautiful hand-painted tiles, many with likenesses of snails which is what the restaurant is famous for on their menu.  The woman looked down on us and thanked Carol for helping her.  Naturally began a conversation with her so we could learn more about the restaurant and their delicacy they sell.  
I asked her her name and she responded by telling us Paula.  Told us she had been working at the restaurant for 21 years and just loves her job. Seems the owner is thinking of retiring after 42 years and Paula is hoping the restaurant will continue as it is now so she can continue working there.  Asked her if she likes snails and she told us she can eat them if necessary.  She continued telling us they're not the kind you find on the island, but they grow on grape vines in Italy.  Said they were about the size of Carol's pendant which would make them the size of a nickel.  She asked if we wanted to come in for lunch but I told her I wasn't hungry enough to eat snails.  Naturally had to laugh.  She wasn't born on the island, but on the island of Jamaica and spent the first 22 years of her life on that island.  Her smile was brilliant and her personality intriguing.  Then she took the offensive and asked where we were from.  We told her the U.S. and she responded, "Oh, I love your President.  I can't believe people don't like what he is doing."  My wife really enjoys politics and she and Paula really got going about our congress and the fact that no matter what Obama proposed, congress could find a reason not to like it. "Can't stand that John Boehner," she said.  "But, I think Hillary would make a good president if she would run."  Well, the smell was interesting coming from the restaurant, but we opted for something different for lunch.  Did enjoy our visit with Paula and told her maybe next year.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The "Queen Of Diamonds" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the lobby of one of the several Diamonds International stores on Front Street in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of Sint Maarten.  The day started as a beach day, but in no time the clouds moved in and the rain began to fall.  Since we had very few days remaining in our yearly trek to paradise, we decided to make one last trip to Philipsburg to find a gift for our grandson and to get something for Carol to take to work with her to share the flavors of the island with her co-workers.  Took the island tour from our villa in Orient through Marigot, the capital of the French side, towards Cole Bay and across the new swing bridge towards the airport then across the Simpson Bay Drawbridge and finally winding our way into Philipsburg.  After wandering the entire deserted boardwalk we headed to Front Street where stores selling duty-free and tax-free items abound. After passing the Courthouse we stopped to check the time and decide where we wanted to have lunch.    The weather on this side of the island was slightly different than the French side with the sun shining brightly and the humidity much higher.
Facebook page photo of Diamonds International in Sint Maarten.
 We stepped under an awning and felt the cooling air of the Diamonds Inter- national store we were standing in front of at the time.  Carol said, "I wonder if this is the Diamonds International store where Hilary works.  You know, the girl who was looking for a rental place with her new husband, since she had just gotten a job with Diamonds International."  Oh yeah, I did remember that episode on House Hunters International from maybe a year of two ago.  We try and record all the episodes from islands where we have visited or plan to visit so we can enjoy the islands once again, even though it may be snowing outside at the time.  Well, we walked in and were instantly confronted by one of their sales reps.  After listening to his spiel about the newest Australian Opal rings and earrings, Carol asked him, "Is this the store where Hilary works?  The girl that was featured on TV."  
Hilary and Carol pose inside the Diamonds Internaional store.
Off he went and in a minute her comes this girl walking towards us.  "Hello, I'm Hilary!" she said to us.  She looked exactly as I had pictured her from watching the show.  She and her husband Shawn Grant were featured trying to find a rental place with a $2,900 budget.  She wanted something near her work while Shawn really didn't care, since he is a software designer and was planning on working from home.  Three houses were featured, one at the Blue Mall Residences, one at Beacon Hill and one at the Simpson Bay Yacht Club area  and they finally chose the place closest to her work, Simpson Bay.  We asked her about the show and she said it took four days to film the 21 1/2 minutes that were used.  At the time she and Shawn had only been married 3 weeks.  That was 1 1/2 years ago now and she now trains sales people for the company.  Carol and her hit it off right away and they talked about a variety of different things from her family in California to her being Miss California International.  We found out that fact when Carol said, "You know, I have watched that episode many times and could never figure out what the pendant was that you were wearing."  She told Carol it was a crown that was given to her by one of the pageant sponsors.  At that time she talked with the sponsor about jobs in the jewelry business.  She then changed her major in college to study gemology and became a gemologist.  She was then offered a job with Diamonds International with the chance to move to the island of Sint Maarten.  Hilary and Shawn love the island and are going to start looking for a permanent home soon.  Also read online that Hilary is now the Regional Training Manager and recently attended the National Asso. of Jewelry Appraisers Conference where she gave a two hour presentation about the "Crown of Light."  It was so nice of Hilary to take the time to meet us and tell us about her experiences on the show as well as life on the island we love so much.  A great young woman who is making a name for herself in the industry that has store after store on Front Street in Philipsburg.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - You can catch a repeat of this episode of House Hunters International on June 15th at 7:30 PM.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The "Caribbean Colors ….. As I See Them: Part III" Story

It was an ordinary day.  The final installment of photos I am sharing with you from my recent vacation to St. Martin.  What I enjoy and what you enjoy may be two different things, so I'm hoping you will like at least a few of the photos I have included. Remember to click on photos to enlarge them.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Neat beach scene on the French side of the island.
Make your own plates day.  I think George W. was driving this one.
Even their business tags are colorful. 
Cute little guy at one of the rescues on the island.
Traffic mirrors can be artistic.
Colorful bracelets in a store in Marigot.
Neat jewelry display in a shop in Philipsburg.
Outdoor market in Marigot.
Colorful water bird.
My wife's meal one evening!
Little gallery in Marigot.
Fire eaters at Le Piment restaurant.  His head is backward and almost upside down.
Dancing Sugar Birds.

The "Ship and Egg Yokes" Story

Click to enlarge.  The Simpson Bay drawbridge can be seen in
the center of the photo.  The building to the right of the drawbridge
with the yellow roof with red and yellow stripes is the Yacht Club.
It was an ordinary day.  Eating bacon and eggs over easy with home fries and toast while Carol is having fruit with an  English muffin.  Today's breakfast is at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club on the Dutch side of the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  The club is at #90 Welfare Road, directly next to the drawbrige and is known worldwide for its St. Maarten Heineken Regatta which is held the first weekend of March every year.  
Carol watching a boat come through the drawbridge.
For years we would pass over the Simpson Bay drawbridge during our travels around the island, but never thought of stopping at the tiny property called the Sint Maarten Yacht Club which is right next to the drawbridge and where chairs are lined along the water to watch everything from dingys to mega yachts go through.  
Drawbridge beginning to open.
Then one night last year, while having supper with a friend we met on TravelTalk- Online, which is an online travel forum, Norm asked if we had ever eaten at the club.  Told us of all the fun times he and Betty had watching the ships go through while having a meal.  So, we knew we had to try something new this year during our visit to the island.  
Very large sailboat flying the British
flag passes through the drawbridge.
The bridge has set times for inbound and outbound traffic and Carol and I decided we wanted to watch both so we arrived for breakfast this morning about 5 minutes before the bridge opened to the outbound traffic.  After viewing a disappointing three small craft pass through the drawbridge, we had a leisurely breakfast and conversation with our waitress, trying to stretch out the time until the next opening.  The hour passed and the bridge opened once again and I had my camera ready.  One catamaran went through, then a series of very large yachts went through followed by a boat that seemed to be floating on air.  
Yacht Club flags from all over the world cover the ceiling
of the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.
Passed me and I realized it was a tunnel-hull vee boat with a central hull and a pontoon on either side.  Pretty neat design.  When all boats had passed and the drawbridge had descended, we called it a day and after saying Goodbye to our waitress, headed to the capital of the French side of the island, Marigot, to visit our favorite art gallery on the island.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - A few more photos from the yacht club follow.  Remember to click on them to enlarge them. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

The "Here's To The Heroes Of Our Country" Story

Old Glory flies outside LDub's house in Lancaster, PA
It was an ordinary day.  My flag is waving in the light breezes on my front porch and the articles abound in the local newspaper about the heroes who gave their lives in service to their country.  On this  Memorial Day I would like to express my thanks and gratitude  to all my relatives, friends and acquaintances who served in the armed forces to keep my country free and a safe place for me and my family to live.  
Brother Steve and me.
Yesterday my family celebrated with a pool party at my brother's house in nearby Ephrata, PA.  My brother Steve was in the U.S. Marines in the late 60s, serving in Japan.  Got me thinking about how many countries our service men and woman currently serve in to protect our freedom.  Do you know that our military is deployed in over 150 countries around the world with close to 160,000 active-duty troops serving outside the US.  
My sister-in-law Kathy decorated the front of the house
with flags to honor her husband, Steve.
Over 67,000 are stationed in Europe.  I just assumed Europe had their own troops who could handle their own problems, but I guess we want to make sure they do it correctly.  We also have about 52,000 stationed in East Asia and the Pacific as well as almost 5,000 in North Africa, the Near East and South Asia.  Then there is the Western Hemisphere, the Sub-Saharan Africa and the states that used to be the former Soviet Union.  We have troops in ALL those countries.  As of now only those troops serving in Afghanistan are seeing active action.  Our country is well protected in the name of freedom!  Well, anyway, my brother decided that he wanted to have a big celebration during the holiday weekend so our family gathered around his pool.  Had the event catered by a neighbor.  The food was fantastic, as usual, and the family had a great celebration in honor of my brother and all others who served, or are currently serving, in the armed forces of our country.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The "Faces of Strangers: #16" Story

Leslie the sculptor.
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at the naked girl reclining on the beach.  But, there is something quite different about this special girl for you see, she is made of sand.  The builder of this day-long venture is named Leslie.  Leslie had built another reclining sculpture a couple of days ago, but the strong winds on Orient Beach totally decimated it.  Today the winds were more gentle so Leslie got to work early in the morning and by the time the beach boys had taken down the umbrellas for the day, her sculpture was complete.  This area of Orient Beach is quiet and the beach goers tend to be more friendly than on other parts of the beach. Many stopped to talk to her about her artwork, admiring the skill that she displayed.
The sculpture.
The reclining girl looks much like the other bathers on this beach, decked out in a colored necklace with a flower in her hair.  Leslie's husband assisted her by filling her bucket with sand from the edge of the water where the sand is cleaner and packs much better.  
This view shows you the detail she adds to
her sculpture.  A true beach wonder!
He replenishes her plastic sprayer with sea water which is used to spray on the sculpture to keep it firm so it doesn't deteriorate as quickly.  As the sun was slowly dropping in the Caribbean sky, I walked over to see the results of her beach day.  Asked a few questions and asked if I dare take a photo of it.  She said she is going to her place close by and get her camera, telling me that at this time of the day, when the beach is beginning to empty, the security guards don't mind if you take a photo.  I waited for her to return and took a couple of photos of her sculpture and asked if I could take one of her.  The Houston, Texas visitor was more than happy to pose for my camera.  One of my favorite "Faces of Strangers" subjects!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.