Last Call for the WBF's Third Caribbean Backgammon Open Sponsored by PartyGammon
by Michael Strato - 15 October 2006
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort
If you like backgammon, the beach, shopping deals and great food, and need a well-earned break from work or just routine life, head down to St. Maarten later this month for the 3rd Caribbean Backgammon Open.

This tournament will be held from October 30 to November 4, 2006 and is sponsored by PartyGammon who are offering a free seat (worth $10,000) to PartyGammon Million as an added prize - it will be awarded to the winner of the Masters Flight.

Casino Royale and the Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel and Resort are also sponsoring this event by guaranteeing a total minimum guaranteed payout of $40,000.

GammonLife will be on the scene reporting daily. We’ll have the ladders displayed, and updated daily in a new area of the Tournaments section. There'll be lots of photos in the Pictorials section as well news reports daily on the excitement and action from the backgammon boards.

The event will be held in the beautiful amphitheatre of Casino Royale, part of the Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel and Resort. The WBF has arranged a special deal for rooms, only $675 single occupancy for the week, and just $125 more ($800) for double occupancy.

The casino is just across the street from this excellent hotel - and what a lovely venue it is!

The playing room, inside the $5 million theatre of Casino Royale.

The staff of the casino, hotel and the tournament are all very pleasant people and it's a completely laid-back atmosphere, where you can meet new friends, joke around, and in general, have a lot fun and forget about the rest of the world for a while.

The Director of Casino Royale, Mirio Brazanti, is a super guy; he sometimes takes off the suit and hangs out with the players in jeans. He's pretty good at the game himself; probably because he owns a signed copy of the book, Backgammon Boot Camp by Walter Trice.

Mirio Brazanti (R) heads up against WBF Director Marco Fornasir.

Here's a shot from the 2nd Caribbean Open:

Players in action at Casino Royale in 2005.

It is also likely that one or two of the Miss Gammon 2007 candidates will be in St. Maarten to play backgammon and show off their GammonLife polo shirts...

Miss Gammon 2007 candidate Victoria of Costa Rica with GammonLife shirt.
Miss Gammon 2007 candidates Nathalie and Dominique in GL polo shirts.

...or dresses from JS Group International, the #1 Canadian exporter of elegant evening wear and party dresses. JS Group International will likely be the fashion provider for Miss Gammon 2007.

Miss Gammon 2007 candidate Michaela (L) with friend Kathy in dresses designed by JS Group International of Canada.

St. Maarten is an island just southeast of Puerto Rico or a bit northwest of Antigua. Its territory is shared by France (north side) and The Netherlands (south side). It is called Saint-Martin by the French and Sint Maarten by the Dutch. There are no marked border crossings or immigrations posts - one may travel freely from one side of the island to the other. The U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere but the Euro can also be used, particularly on the French side.

The Princess Juliana International Airport is the main gateway of St. Maarten - American Airlines flies there direct from the USA, West Jet and Air Transat fly non-stop from Canada, and from Europe, KLM and Air France are at least two airlines that fly direct from Europe, while other international airlines can take you to a major hub in the USA, such as Miami, and from there to St. Maarten.

The Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel and Resort is only two minutes away from Princess Juliana International Airport.

The tournament play does not start until 5 p.m. daily so there’s lot of free time for other activities.

There is a swimming pool in the courtyard of the hotel where guests can sit on chairs built right into the water by the bar…

...and just a few steps further is the hotel's beach:

Or you can take a walk across one side of the golf course next to the hotel, where this is a very large public beach. However, beware if you’re taking children along, they might wonder why some of the female beach-goers have lost the tops of their bikinis and are not out in the surf, frantically looking for them. (Sorry no photos available, we did not want to get the camera wet or full of sand.)

Philipsburg is the capital port city on the Dutch side and probably has some of the best prices, overall, of any duty-free haven in the world – buy a diamond, or two, take them home and sell them and you probably cover most of your expenses for the trip! Digital cameras, electronics, jewelry, crystal, clothing, perfume, booze, etc. - all 50% cheaper than the normal retail prices elsewhere for these items. They might be closed on Sundays, but shop owners run to open when they know cruise ships are docking, and most Eastern Caribbean cruises do stop in St. Maarten.

The shops are all over the island, including some right around the hotel like this fashion outlet...

...I did ask the girls to get out of the way to take a good shot of the storefront but they refused... another photo ruined!

Most stores, however, are concentrated along a strip on Front Street in the centre of Phillipsburg:

See more info on shopping in St. Maarten at this site.

Just behind the Phillipsburg Court House, which is situated about halfway along the stretch of Front Street...

...is a large outdoor market where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs and trinkets. You'll find local arts and crafts such as wood carvings, paintings, as well as, T-shirts, baseball caps, beautiful tropical shirts a la Neil Kazaross...

...and some very nice blouses, dresses, skirts and shorts for women. You don’t even have to barter, the vendors compete for your attention and will usually offer you a "special deal" on most items.

There is bus service on the island but it is very cheap to rent a car for the week. Either way, get over to the north (French) capital of Marigot, there’s a similar outdoor market, an ultra-modern shopping mall, and more stores, but while the Marigot outdoor market has a bigger selection of arts and crafts than Philipsburg's, the prices in the duty free stores in Marigot seemed higher than in Philipsburg.

You can drive up to the hill overlooking Marigot where you will find old Fort St. Louis, which has a panoramic view of the town and port, or drive further north to Grand Case which boasts the finest restaurants in the Caribbean Sea.

Hope to see you there.


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