Monday, May 14, 2012

A Day in the Dutch West Indies


Traveling to such tropical and foreign destinations this past week was absolute heaven for me. These are places I’ve always wanted to see in person but haven’t had the chance. And, being realistic, I don’t know if I ever would have made it here on my own. So it was just perfect to go to the Caribbean for work. I just can’t believe I got paid to do it!


If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that I died and went to heaven last week in the form of a work trip to the Caribbean. You can catch up on my posts about Anguilla here, here, and our flight over to Saint Maarten here.

My day in Saint Maarten was just like the rest of my stay in the West Indies. I didn’t want to leave!


The most important thing to do once we landed and cleared Customs was to get a bite to eat. The local FBO, TLC, took us to the other side of the runway where we ate lunch at Taco Macho. I don’t think I would ever turn down Mexican food.


I ordered shredded beef tacos with the small rice and beans. They weren’t kidding about the “small” name, since the beans came in one of those plastic sampling cups! By mixing them with the dry rice, a nice side dish was created.

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Hey, I should go into the food industry! These were good, but tacos are always better in a soft tortilla. I should have specified! No habla espanol!


The view from the restaurant couldn’t be beat. I was just a few hundred feet away from landing traffic on Runway 10. Just an hour prior, I was landing on the same runway!


Look at all those crazy people behind the landing Boeing 727. They are hoping to get blown away, despite signs everywhere saying to not do anything so drastic. It cracked me up. People can be so silly! I have never liked sand and dirt and hot exhaust being blown onto my face at 150 MPH! Do I need to get out more?


The airport was hopping all day. In addition to the larger traffic, several smaller airplanes took off to hop to other nearby islands. I saw at least five of these mini airlines trucking people to St. Maarten. Lots of people come to visit this popular location!


After my belly was full, it was time to explore. I hit the road on foot and was at the famous Sunset Beach just a few feet away.


The place was packed, and a little too full of men in Speedos for my liking. I prefer none, so perhaps I was being too strict.


Despite these signs all over the place, people were clambering to get action against the chain link fence. Hubby told me about a video he saw of a lady getting blown backwards into the cement barrier and having to make a visit to the hospital via ambulance. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I treated this sign as an airplane placard and followed its advice.


I could sit on Sunset Beach all day to watch arriving traffic. I found out later on in the evening that the Sunset Beach Grill (where we ate dinner) had speakers listening to the Tower Frequency.

Isn’t this ship beautiful, too? I know nothing about nautical stuff (like ships, etc.), and I’m OK with that.


Yet another “airliner” making a pit stop in paradise.


Some airplanes don’t even look like they should be able to fly! This fat airliner looks so un-aerodynamic that I would have reservations getting aboard. But, then again, I am always baffled when an airplane that weighs 750,000 pounds leaves the ground, too.


The crowd was disappointed that this landing DeHavilland Dash-8 didn’t spray them more with exhaust. Landing traffic is usually carrying very little power, so not much exhaust comes off these guys. I doubt we hurt a single tourist when we landed.


Now we’re talking! JetBlue can blow up a mighty storm on takeoff!


This is the view of the runway from the crazy people’s perspective. If you want to get blown away, this is where to stand. Don’t do it! You can still be cool with your face intact!


I found out later that the reason the beach was so packed was because a Carnival Cruise Ship was docked on the other side of the island. When I came back to the beach after wandering around town, this place was almost deserted. It had come time for all the boat passengers to leave, and that left hardly anyone else.


This time of year (April through October) is considered the off-season for the Caribbean. I bet this place would stay pretty busy during the Christmas holidays when hotel rooms go for $500 a night!


I always wondered if St. Maarten would be friendly. I was glad to see that confirmation in the form of the local license plate.

Luckily, these people drive on the correct side of the road.


Welcome to St. Maarten! Someone stole the “T” in the sign, though.


We were on the Dutch side of the island, and the eastern side is French. I didn’t go over there but my passengers did.


Just a half a mile from Sunset Beach is a cute little shopping area. This whole island seems to be very touristy, and the entire economy is based on people coming to spend money in these shops.


I did my share by enjoying an ice cream. Team player, remember?


After buying some water for the airplane (the bottles in my trunk in Phoenix weren’t doing me much good), I walked back to the airplane on the ramp. This was the entrance to go to the ramp where Gladys was parked.


I had to clear security each time I went out, but they didn’t seem to mind anything too much. Does everyone who lives on an island have to be so laid-back?


While my flying partner was enjoying the ocean (and getting sunburned like you wouldn’t believe), I had the airplane fueled for our long trip back to Anguilla later that night.

The same trucks who fuel the airliners also fuel the general aviation airplanes. We only took about 45 gallons, but we could have made it home without taking any fuel. We wanted to support the locals and show our appreciation for their being so good to us during our stay for the day.


This airplane makes my heart go pitter-pat. You, too? I thought so!


I had to get a ride to and from the airport from the FBO, since we shared the same ramp with the airliners. After I got some fuel, I decided to head back to Sunset Beach for some dinner.

Though it doesn’t seem like very long ago that I was eating lunch…I promise that several hours had passed! My stomach decided that dinner was in order.

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While I waited for dinner, I got a lovely view of arriving airplanes. This would never get old to me!


It was surreal to be here. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be on the same beach that inspires numerous videos online of people being just feet under landing airplanes.

Man, I love my job.


Dinner came and was delicious. I probably took a risk eating such an Italian-American dish, but the entire island seems to cater to the tourist palate. This was yummy and gave me the energy needed for the long trek home.

Perhaps they don’t have fresh basil on St. Maarten? This is supposed to be a Margherita Pizza with mozzarella and basil…once of my favorites. Sprinkles of the dry stuff counts for some effort, I guess.


At around 5:30 that evening, it was time to head home. I was actually looking forward to the quiet serene location of Anguilla after such a busy day in a tourist trap.


Hello, St. Maarten Tower! Thanks for being so nice to us gringos!


This was just before our passengers arrived. They brought the flight crew some homemade fresh macaroons from the other side of the island.

So, let’s recap. Not only do I have an awesome job getting to fly to awesome locations, but my bosses bring me treats. Are you starting to see why this life is so wonderful?


Taxiing to Runway 10 for takeoff. It will be facing the mountains, but this little rocket climbed right above them. Mountains mixed with airplanes usually doesn’t work.


Goodbye, Saint Maarten! Thanks for such a lovely day! I hope to see you soon, too!


Rural Saint Maarten before we head over the ocean to Anguilla…five miles north.


The island of Saint Maarten is in the distance as we come over the island of Anguilla to land at the airport in the middle of the island. See how close they are?


Cleared to land, Runway One-Zero.


It felt wonderful being back in paradise once again. And I heard crickets when we opened the door. Silence at last! After such a busy day, it was nice to have that peace back.


With our passengers loaded in the air-conditioned ride for the trip back to their hotel, I locked up the airplane and got it ready for just one more day on the ramp in Anguilla.

Goodnight, Gladys!


I got to clear Customs again in Anguilla. Make that two stamps in my passport from this wonderful island. It feels good to be home for the night!

My Wednesday to Saint Maarten was wonderful. I could deal with days like this more often.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, so cool! I loved it all! You're just one lucky girl, and the passengers are so nice! :) Vacation of a lifetime and your paid for it!


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