Thursday, 23 August 2007

A Cure for Islanditus!

I spent today on Anguilla's neighbouring island, St Martin.

Sheryl and I took the early ferry, which takes about twenty minutes, to Marigot on the French side of the island. I should explain that the island is split between the French and the Dutch and each side has its own distinct character.

Marigot is a very French capital. You could be in any seaside town in France when you visit this pretty town. There are pavement cafes from which you can people watch and a colourful street market most days. It is a good place for breakfast - pain au chocolat or croissant and good coffee is de rigueur.

Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side. It is more commercial than the French side, with a huge ferry terminal and hundreds of duty free shops which line the streets in the vicinity of the liners that arrive with great regularity.

We arrived in Marigot and hired a car. This was a bit of a palava. Many of the ferryside car hire companies will gladly hire you a car and when you take delivery of it you find that there is little gas to actually make it move. Hire company employees just smile and shrug their shouldars, taking no responsibility at all and leaving you to limp to the nearest station. If it happens to be closed, you end up pushing.

Consequently, the hire companies I use regularly know that I will not take the car if there is no gas in the tank. This morning this meant that we had to wait for twenty minutes while a car with something in the tank was found. We had enough to take us out of Marigot to a station just beyond, which is where we made for.

After putting $10 in the tank, which we thought would be enough for the little bit of running about we wanted to do, we set off for Simpson Bay and the excellent Scuba Shop there. Readers of this blog will remember that a little while ago I purchased a new BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and was getting used to it. I was, and still am, very pleased with the investment but the air pipe is too short. The Scuba Shop had agreed to look at it and so we made this our first port of call. As we arrived we found that the car had a flat front tyre.

Kim, the boss, and Mariska, one of her excellent staff, were their usual helpful selves and we called the hire company from their office. We were reassured that within twenty minutes we would have someone with us and we carried on with our business. I soon had an air hose that was a full four inches or so longer than before and Sheryl had been fitted for a much needed new dive mask. We spent at least half an hour in the shop and yes, you guessed it, no hire company had turned up when we left. We were marooned.

It took the company two hours to get to us. You can imagine how we felt by that time! To give them their due, the chap who arrived to sort out the problem did his best to change the wheel as quickly as he could. However, the spare in the boot of the car was flat and bald, so it was just as well he had another wheel in his van, and when he tried to unbolt the wheel on the car to change it, one of the bolts just snapped off. We were not impressed.

We were finally on our way again after a fair bit of stress. We went for a well earned lunch in the waterside Skip Jacks restaurant, where we cooled off a bit. If you find yourself in Simpson Bay you cannot do better than pop into Skip Jacks for a fish lunch. Wonderful!

The rest of the day went well I am pleased to say. We shopped and Sheryl managed to pick up new cutlery at a price that did not make her gulp.

We ended up on the beach at Grand Case. This is nothing compared to any of Anguilla's beaches but is pleasant enough and makes a nice spot to stop for a cold drink and a short chill on a hot day.

We arrived back on Anguilla loaded with boxes and, of course, had to run the gauntlet of the customs man, who today was Justin. He and I know each other but that did not stop him from performing his duty. Both Sheryl and I had bills to pay! C'est la vie!

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