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St Maarten/St Martin
26 April 2009 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings

ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday turned out to be lovely, clear and bright, and if anything too hot with a bit of marine haze - a great day for the beach. The next few days were a blur of packing and last minute dinners and lunches to say good-by. The weather as I recall was wonderful, finally. Here's a sunset shot taken at this time of year. No clouds, calm air, beautiful red skies and a large, brilliant orb sinking into the sea. This was taken from the cliffs above Cupecoy, which explains the vegetation in the foreground. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Here's the current local conditions and here's the forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset today is at 6:29 and the moon is a waxing crescent. Full moons for 2009 are 9 May, 7 Jun, 7 Jul, 6 Aug, 4 Sep, 4 Oct, 3 Nov, and 2 Dec.   Sunset

The little cove at Cupecoy   SXM-Beaches: Wendy K reports that after we left, "it's become quite hot, 30C (86F) in our apartment at the moment. There's a nice breeze outside though, and there was at the beach, as well. The little cove at Cupecoy still has lots of sand, crystal clear waters, and lapping waves. The water is also warming up a bit. Dany said sand has come back to villa beach, enough that several people were there today. I counted just 15 couples and a few singles at the cove. Saba and Statia were visible in the distance through a haze. The skies are clear blue today. THIS is the weather we missed in Jan, Feb, & most of March!" And I couldn't agree more. This has been the coolest winter in my 15 seasons on the island.

Beach reading: I finally finished T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton on the plane going home. I rather liked it because it was about identity theft, always interesting to a computer geek.

  Trespass Cover

Activities: On our last Sunday on the island I bumped into Neil Roebert from Celine and the world famous Lagoon Pub Crawl. Celine is docked at Skipjack's where we had three dinners, three lunches, and numerous late night stops for a shot of Gentleman Jack on our way home from dinners elsewhere. Consequently, we saw the boat and once in a while caught site of the returning crawlers making their last stop at Skipjack's, but never actually talked to Neil. On Sunday he said he has had a good season, even turning down requests for larger groups than Celine can handle. The boat gets crowded with more than 25 people, so that's the limit for the pub crawl. Currently it heads out of Skipjack's for Peg Leg Pub at their new location at Port de Plaisance for some cubes of filet mignon and sword fish with garlic bread. She then heads to Jo's Steakhouse for a California roll with seaweed salad, pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. It's followed with a Bourride de Saint Tropez - a traditional French soup, made with several different types of fish, sea scallops, shrimps, and mussels, accompanied by toasted baguette slices, a special light mustard, grated cheese, and fresh garlic - great. The last stop is Skipjack's for crab backs or spare ribs or buffalo wings. You get a drink at every bar and there is an open bar on board Celine. Enter the SXM-Info contests for a two-for-one coupon on the Pub Crawl!   Celine

Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo will be available again in really low season (starting 15 June) for $900 per week. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). If you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. Given the large assessment that Sapphire just levied, there may be a lot of sales. At present, there are 20 sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.

  ginger

Bakery and   Groceries: I trust you've all heard that the croissant came about because Ottoman soldiers attacking Vienna were detected by bakers rising early to make the daily bread for the city. In celebration, the bakers created the croissant, or crescent. There's more however. The Turks retreated and besieged the city. The siege was lifted when Polish and German knights defeated the Turks. This victory was commemorated with a pastry shaped like a German knight's stirrup, called a bgel which became the bagel at least according to the paper of record.

If you are looking for bakeries on the island, you can use the finder function of SXM-Restaurants. Sucriere has an outpost on the waterfront in Marigot and another on the lagoon in Cole Bay. We've always liked sweet irony of the fitness center located above the Cole Bay outpost.

Shopping:: Love Mahtani has just announced that Jewels by Love will be the official agent for the House of Breguet on St Maarten.

  Jewels by Love

Their first shipment has just arrived and Love cordially invites you to visit their Marigot store to discover these marvelous timepieces worn by the likes of Queen Marie-Antoinette, Emperor Napoleon, Empress Josephine, and more.

 

Angostura Rum and   Alcohol: As usual, we brought back a considerable amount of booze when we flew back home on 15 April. We have six pack styrofoam shipping containers that hold 1 liter plastic bottles. We drank a six-pack of Badoit water (and lots more) over the winter and saved the bottles. Four 750 ml bottles of Cassaude XO Armagnac from Netco (about $30 each) filled three liters. Four bottles of Angostura 1919 old rum filled the other three liters. Martha first tasted this at Three Palms Resto in Simpson Bay and we found two bottles at Sunny Foods in the outskirts of Pburg (about $20). Yes, this is the same Sunny Foods whose deli and kitchen were just closed by the Health Department. We found two more in the Grand March in Cole Bay for a bit more money. In total we brought back 6 liters of booze that cost $200 (and weighed about 15 lbs with the packaging). We declared it all and were welcomed back into the country at no charge. There really is no limit to how much you can bring in, as long as you can convince the customs agents that you are not bringing it in for resale. In theory, you will pay 10% duty on anything above 1 liter per person above legal drinking age. In actuality, it's hardly worth their effort to collect the $12 from me, so they waved me through. The other bottle is a St Etienne VSOP from Martinique. It was even better, but costs $30 per 700ml. In these trying times, we are trying to reduce expenses.

Daytrips: The April issue of Caribbean Travel + Life lists six top-secret hideaways. It's the top cover story with the largest font. Top secret no longer one assumes. In any event, one of the locations is our sister island of Saba, population about 1400. Saba is the smallest island in the Netherlands Antilles (at 5 square miles) and consists mostly of the dormant Volcano, Mount Scenery, which is the highest point in the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands. It really would be an interesting day trip, or even an overnight trip, to extend a one-week timeshare avoiding a Saturday departure. Ferries go over most days of the week and Winair has several flights per day ($186 round-trip). There are a few places to stay with high season rates in the low $100s. What to do if you get there? Hiking up to the rain forest on Mount Scenery is popular and the scuba diving is supposed to be fantastic (wall-diving only, as there are no reefs or beaches). There are a few restaurants and artist's studios, but quiet relaxation is easy to find. Visit Saba Tourism for more info.

The April issue of Caribbean Travel + Life lists the 10 best beaches for snorkeling in the Caribbean - none in St Maarten. That's not unexpected, although the French have established marine parks around Crole Rock off the beach in Grand Case and off Orient Beach. It's quite easy to see several interesting sights while on the reef that heads southeast from Pedro's. Some of the sights are on the reef and some are back on the shore. It's also possible to swim out to Crole Rock, but we have always used the services of Sebby at the Grand Case Beach Club Activities Desk. For $35 per person you get a five minute boat ride out to the rock and a guided tour lasting about an hour. We've always seen interesting things, including turtles, lobsters, baracuda, dolphins, stingrays, and even a flounder or two. The magazine mentions Anse de Colombier on St Barts. It's on the extreme northwestern end of the island and there is no road, so a twenty minute hike is required. Bring your own snorkel gear and picnic.

The May issue of Cond Nast Traveler has their hot list of top new hotels, restaurants, spas, etc. No Caribbean restaurants made the list but there are two spas that could be day trips. The closest is Boutique Spa by Carita on St Barts and the other reasonably close suggestion is Sense at Little Dix Bay in the BVI.

Nature: Here's another shot of the Antillean Bullfinch that routinely visits our bathing facility with his mate. The red breast indicates that this is the male. The bullfinch couple seems to co-exist with the sugarbird couple that also spends quite a bit of time here.

Crime: This goes along with the small island story. Yet another police officer is being banned from the force for three years, this time for threatening and mistreating his former girlfriend with a police firearm.

Small Island story: The Daily Herald's editorial this week said that the "St Maarten delegation in the Netherlands appears to have been well-received and that the members of the Dutch Parliament offered support in coming to joint solutions so the Island Territory can attain country status. However, they also suggested extending the transition period and thus postponing the target date of January 2010 for the constitutional change to take effect." Every few months they postpone the target date for several months.

  Antillean Bullfinch


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Current Contest: 26 April to 26 July 2009
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
PassportMD - Six months free service
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more


Winners of the contests ending 26 April:
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Anna Heifetz
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Anna Heifetz
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Anna Heifetz
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Anna Heifetz
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Anna Heifetz
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock - Tom Price
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle - John Kimball
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Tom Price
PassportMD - Six months free service - John Kimball
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Aaron Jelley

Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form.

One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining accommodations with dinners and activities.

Future Contests:

26 July to 25 October 2009 | 25 October to 27 December 2009
27 December to 28 February 2010 | 28 February to 25 April 2010 | 25 July to 31 October 2010
same cast of characters as current contest

 


RESTAURANTS


On 12 April the euro was at $1.315. Today it is at $1.324, less than 1% change over 2 weeks. the following restaurants were offering better rates at the beginning of low season. Vanessa at California Restaurant confirms that they are still doing 1 to 1. Pirate Beach Bar's menu is in dollars, no conversion necessary. Momo at Ti Bouchon says his menu is in dollars also. We had a lunch at Kokomarina where the menu proclaims 1 to 1. Le France in Marigot's Marina Royale is doing 1 to 1 also. L'Auberge Gourmande is doing $1.2 to 1 .

2009 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Bali Bar Closed for September and October
Belle Epoque Restaurant No closing, open every day
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Montmartre Restaurant No closing, open every night
Tropical Wave Open all Summer 9:30-5:00
Mondays closed between Sept. 1st and Nov. 1st

Auberge Gourmande
Auberge Gourmande is somewhat special to us for several reasons. Two of the reasons are Christophe and Florence, two of the most knowledgeable and friendly waitpersons on the island. They know the menu even though it is rather large and, moreover, Florence knows the wine list even though it is one of the largest on the island. One of our last stops of the season is always here to say goodby to them and have a great dinner. Normally we ask for a table on the small porch looking out at the street, but as it was quite warm, we moved inside, enjoying the airco. It really is an old Crole house that was wonderfully refurbished, leaving some small and intimate dining spaces in the back. We generally choose the table next to the glass-walled wine cellar. As you can see, the cellar is lovely.

On one of our last nights on the island, we did something out of character and ordered a Bordeaux: the 2005 Lagrave-Martillac, the second wine of Chteau Latour Martillac. For our appetizer we chose the chicken livers in puff pastry flamed with Cognac in a creamy shallot sauce on a bed of mixed greens. Certainly there was enough bold flavor in this ap to stand up to a very good Bordeaux. For the main course, Martha chose the roasted rack of lamb rubbed in a garlic herb paste, served with shallot sauce and olive mashed potatoes and I reprised the beef filet with a morel mushroom sauce. Both main courses had rich flavors and the bold taste of the good Bordeaux worked well. We passed on desserts and ended with a couple balloons of Armagnac.

  Petrus
chicken liver salad Filet mignon lamb

Halsey's Restaurant logo fine dining-unrefined waterfront dining on the lagoon in St Maarten  
Halsey's Restaurant
Another one of our final meals was at Halsey's on the lagoon in Simpson Bay. We ordered a bottle of sparkling water and, as the wine list has recently changed, we knew that this lovely Burgundy (right) was available for only $32. It's a 2004 from Champs Perdrix, a very good negotiant, and quite good at that price.
  Burgundy
  All dinners at Halsey's start with a basket of sliced baguette with butter and an olive oil/garlic dipping sauce. Martha and I split a special: a chicken satay, very tasty grilled chicken in a gorgonzola cream sauce. Halsey's includes a very tasty salad, served between the appetizer and the main course. It's always crisp lettuce with their own house dressing, tangy and with just a a hint of sweetness. Martha's dinner was the blackened Mahi-Mahi in a passionfruit pure served with coconut whipped plantain and grilled pineapple ($23). It's on the menu and Martha liked the combination of flavors so much that she complimented the chef on our way out. I had the Asian tuna, lightly seared with a sesame seed crust on a bed of crunchy wakame seaweed with an accompaniment of vegetable maki sushi ($25). The tuna was perfect, making this another great meal for under $100.   Our dinners

Asian tuna

  Chicken Satay

Blackened Mahi

News and Changes: Greenhouse Restaurant has opened their new outpost in Simpson Bay. It's in the old Picante location, next to Buccaneer Beach Bar. We stopped in for drinks and took some photos to update their website. Currently, they are only open for happy hour and dinner. It's the same menu, same drinks, and the same management as the Pburg outpost, but you also get a great sunset. There are two levels of parking across the street.

After the two private parties in early April, the Blue Martini on Airport Road closed in observance of Easter. They were still observing Easter as we left the island three days after Easter. It's really surprising to see such a deep Christian committment in a bar.

Karakter, on Simpson Bay Beach near Mary's Boon, is having a beach dance at 6:30 on the first Friday of every month.

  Greenhouse

The SXM Culinary team chosen to represent island at this year's Taste of Caribbean will be Raymond Southern from Westin, M. Geoffrey from Le Pressoir, Stephane from L'Astrolabe, and Paul Peterson and Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant. The team manager is John Jackson of Saratoga. Mario Tardif from Mario's Bistro, and Cecille Briaud-Richard from Chanteclair are coaches. The competion will be 12-14 June in Puerto Rico


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


Mambo Loco in the square at Orient Friday Night in Orient Village: Once again Orient Village is bringing in a band and several vendors on Friday evening for a lively time in their square. Mambo Loco was playing in the square as we left the island.

Coupons: Look on the SXM-Info website for a list of all restaurants and others that have coupons for some freebie or discount. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper. Here's a list of what you'll find:

Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Diamonds International
Escargot
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Pirate Beach Bar
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems

  Our condo: We are here until 15 April and have a good bit of the following two months rented already. The condo will be available for rent at $1000 per week from 15 April to 15 June, $900 per week from 16 June until 1 October, and $1000 per week until 15 December 2009. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients. The holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season that is available at $1500 per week. It will be unavailable from 15 January 2009 until 15 April 2009. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. The rate is so good and the coupons are so popular that we get about 60% occupancy in the low season (we are already at 30%). If you want a week, it's best to book early.

  SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed as our preferred medical travel insurance partner. Any medical travel insurance will get you back to the US, but SkyMed takes you home. Where's home? From their website: "Our definition of home is simple: Home is where you say it is. When struck by the unexpected, our service takes you home." We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have.  

PassportMD provides many things, including access to Monthly Harvard Health Letter and the Harvard Mental Health Letter, savings on prescriptions, medical reminders, an ability to email your doctor, and more. The most important benefit for travelers on cruiseships or those who take extended vacations in the third world is the ability to have your medical records stored in a secure server that will allow quick access in your time of need. SXM-Info has teamed up with PassportMD to provide these services with a two month absolutely free, no strings attach trial.

 

  Our article featuring four recipes from four restaurants from Cupecoy to Sandy Ground has been published in St Maarten Events and is available on the island. Look for a moules appetizer from Mario's Bistro, a vichyssoise from Ti Sucrier, lamb chops from Montmartre Restaurant, and a blanc mange dessert from Boucaniers. I had taken several photos for the article and Michael Dingemans, the publisher, was on the island just before high season taking more photos. As always, his wife, Carina, turned it into a beautiful layout. The magazine is distributed free throughout the island and contains a useful island map as the centerfold.

Amazon: I'm not convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach, but it sure is a lightweight way to get some of your favorite books to the Caribbean, especially now that the second bag costs $25 or so on most flights! They just came out with the newer version and it's barely a quarter inch thick and weighs about 10 ounces. It has 16 shades of gray for the page background and reads well even in direct sunlight. Maybe it is the best thing to take to the beach? Here's a NY TImes review of the Kindle. Martha has been downloading audio books from our local library to her Zune (an iPod knockoff) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well.

 

Mario's Cookbook   The Mario's Bistro Cookbook is still available online. They are shipped via UPS and cost $49 for one, $87 for two, and $123 for three, delivered. Delivery via UPS should take a day or two in the US.

Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel offers personalized service to fit your needs and budget.

The Turquoise Shell Inn is offering a special weekly rate for the low season of $700 or $115 per night, taxes included until November 15th. That's their pool on the right, but they are conveniently located on Simpson Bay Beach. Moreover, it's a short walk to many restaurants (Halsey's might be 15 minutes away, max). In these tough times, this is a great rate, airfares are cheaper than ever, and as these rooms have kitchens, you can have breakfast, even lunch, in the unit, just have a great time in a restaurant for dinner and listening to music within walking distance. No car needed!
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