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St Maarten/St Martin
31 October 2010 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Cupecoy sunset   Weather: On the left is a sunset from the Cupecoy cliffs. In early October a tropical depression sat on top of the island for the better part of a week. I've often said that October is a great time to visit the island, but I certainly feel sorry for those who got stuck with that week. The road through the golf course from Maho to Cupecoy was underwater, causing people to drive off into the golf course or through the driveways and parking areas of the dilapidated condos. Just remember, it can rain or even worse as Hurricane Lenny arrived on 20 November in 1999. On 22 Oct Sunny at Radiant Gems said the weather was great and all traces of any hurricane or flooding are long gone. He's looking forward to your visit this season. A quick look at the forecast for the coming week shows a 20 to 30% chance of rain for every day. Sounds bad, but remember, that's not constant rain, nor is it island wide. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset today is at 5:37 and the moon is in its last quarter. The remaining full moons in 2010 will be 21 Nov, and 21 Dec. In 2011 the full moons will be 20 Jan, 18 Feb, 19 Mar, 18 Apr, 17 May, 16 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec.

Simpson Bay sunset   SXM-Beaches: Simpson Bay Beach is a two mile strip of beach facing south, affording a view of Saba, 26 miles away. There are only two beach bars at the extreme western end, Karakter and one that was just opening as we left in early April. We've had good food and good times at Karakter. Here's a link to one of our visits. There are several places to stay on the beach. The Horny Toad Guesthouse has been there for quite some time and is about the closest you can get to the beach. Nearby Azure Beach Studios is similar. Turquoise Shell Inn is closer to the nightlife in Simpson Bay and while it is across the street from the beach, it does have beach access and Aerial view Simpson Bay a lovely pool. La Siesta Residence is brand new and is on the beach with a pool. All these places have kitchen facilities. I know some people go out for breakfast, but even so, I would not face the world prior to ingesting a liberal amount of caffeine, so a coffee pot is required in my room. All these places can give you some sunset views and a sundowner on your own beach is a perfect and inexpensive way to start the evening. This sunset photo was taken from the Toad.

Beach reading: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, updated ed. (2010) by Patricia Shultz - about $14 for a paperback - Publishers Weekly says: "This hefty volume reminds vacationers that hot tourist spots are small percentage of what's worth seeing out there. A quick sampling: Venice's Cipriani Hotel; California's Monterey Peninsula; the Lewis and Clark Trail in Oregon; the Great Wall of China; Robert Louis Stevenson's home in Western Samoa; and the Alhambra in Andalusia, Spain. Veteran travel guide writer Schultz divides the book geographically, presenting a little less than a page on each location. Each entry lists exactly where to find the spot (e.g. Moorea is located "12 miles/19 km northwest of Tahiti; 10 minutes by air, 1 hour by boat") and when to go (e.g., if you want to check out The Complete Fly Fisher hotel in Montana, "May and Sept.-Oct. offer productive angling in a solitary setting"). This is an excellent resource for the intrepid traveler." I say it's an interesting beach read as you won't mind being interrupted avery minute or so. There are a thousand short stories in the book, all about some interesting place.   1000 Places Cover

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo for $900 to $1000 per week until 15 Dec, when high season kicks in. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island, and many more coupons as well, including the use of our 2010 SXM Privilege Card that gets you discounts on many restaurants. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. A recent visitor said, "Erich, We had a wonderful time at your condo for the third year in a row. We appreciated the coupons. Hope to be able to do it again next year."

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. 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.

Trevor throwing a line to shore   Activities: Diane on Random Wind sent along this story: As hurricane Earl approached we knew we were in for a good storm. We tied off stern-to at the Port de Plaisance Marina. Captain Trevor left nothing to chance; tying us off with 11 lines. We bound the sails in their bags, took all the cushions, noodles; EVERYTHING down below into our home. We rented movies, stocked up on paints, water, ice and food. Since we live on Random Wind and it was not looking like more than a category 3 hurricane, we decided to stay on board. Trevor stayed with us to ensure the kids and I were safe. There was a catamaran to our left and a motor yacht to our right. About two hours into it, Trevor was up on deck observing, as he did often to be certain we were ok. He saw a 60 foot sailboat, a monohull, that had broken free and was blown up against the catamaran next to us. Knowing it was damaging that boat and that it was a matter of time before it would come our way; he dove into the lagoon and swam over to and boarded the cat. The winds were 125mph. He started to prep the lines when two friends on the land saw him and came to help. Their boat had been damaged by this stray boat already; they were eager to help. Pulling a 60 foot sailboat against hurricane-force winds was too hard so someone brought their car over to the dock. They were then able to pull the boat alongside. It was a heroic rescue to say the least. It was quite an experience that we will not soon forget, except possibly for daughter Caroline, who at the age of three seemed blissfully unaware as she worked on her puzzle.
pulling the stray boat alongside the normally calm lagoon little Caroline doing a puzzle

Zuzu and Alain have started yet another business. They have bought a 45 ft catamaran and have started SXM Cat Charters offering a variety of sailing packages, ranging from a day sail to a 2 day, one night sail, to a regular weekly (or longer) charter. The boat has four cabins each with a head with additional accommodations for the captain and hostess/cook. They will go out for a daysail with an open bar and BBQ lunch for 95 per person with a minimum of six people. If you and two other couples go out, you get a private charter for about $250 per couple.

Deepti   Shopping: Deepti, the D in DK Gems says that Kamal (the K in DK Gems) is engaged. There are photos on her Facebook page. She is on a trip through Hong Kong to India, returning on 21 Nov. She says the store is great but she is so happy to be on vacation though. I have been warned that there are several new pieces she wants to show to Martha. On restaurants, she says, "I am still waiting to go back to Bistrot Caribes with you guys. You guys need to try the grouper burger once at Baywatch."

Alcohol: The NY Times reported that Marcel Lapierre died earlier this month. Noted US wine importer Kermit Lynch dubbed Marcel and three similar Beaujolais negotiants (Jean Foillard, Guy Breton and Jean-Paul Thvenet) the "gang of four", as they produced a better quality wine, eschewing the marketing hype (and fast bucks) surrounding the rise of Beaujolais Nouveau in the 70's. By 1981, Mr Lapierre was producing organic wine to be laid down. The photo shows his 2009 Morgon amongst some of our fall cucurbits in our kitchen. We drank a toast to Mr Lapierre over a beef stew on the cool fall evening that we heard of his death. The wine, of course, was his recommended by The Wine Cask in Somerville, MA. The same wine (but an earlier vintage) is available at La Samanna. The beef came from nearby Lewis Waite Farm, available via CSA shares in several locations near NY City.   Morgon

Montevina Zinfandel   Eric Azimov wrote up an interesting and intelligent review of zinfandels in the NY Times recently. He liked zins in the 70's but they turned into higher alcohol (over 15%), over-the-top blockbusters that overpowered any food within 50 meters. Lately they have been tapering off such that the top rated zin (a 2007 old vine Porter Creek from Sonoma County) came in at 13.8% alcohol. It also came in at $35 and probably cannot be found anywhere outside of California and NY City. Number two was a Seghesio, one of my old favorites, but also difficult to find and not cheap at $30. Azimov's best value, was the "the juicy, exuberant 2007 Old Vine Sonoma County from Ravenswood, was $15, about half the price of Ravenswoods single-vineyard zinfandels." You can get their wines on the island. We've seen them at Food Express in Maho. We also pick up several bottles of Montevina at Netco to accompany our spicier lunches and dinners at home. Any zinfandel is a lot harder to find at restaurants, especially on the French side. For another take on Zinfandel, check out this listing from Gregory Dal Piaz at Snooth. You will note that no bottle appears on both lists, somewhat like the duelling "Top Ten Steakhouses" lists that appear in the flight magazines.

Travel: The November issue of Caribbean Travel + Life featured their yearly reader's photo contest. The good news is that the grand prize winner was a misty morning shot of the monolith at Cupecoy Beach. The bad news is that Cupecoy no longer looks like the photo. The really good news is that the first and third place in the nature category were from St Martin. First prize was a shot of an iguana swimming about a quarter mile off-shore with Pinel Island in the background. Third prize was an underwater shot of a school of fish off Orient Beach. The next article covered twenty new and/or recently updated resorts or spas in the Caribbean. St Maarten was represented by Blue Pelican, apartment-style accomodations decorated in minimalist style with a minimal price tag. They are the latest venture of Kristin and Marc Petrelluzzi, owners of two of the finest hotels on St Martin, Hotel L'Esplanade and Le Petit Hotel, both in Grand Case.

Green logo Nature: Thanksgiving is approaching. This is a wild turkey in our front yard here in NY. For a turkey dinner on the island, check out Peg Leg Pub now that Jack and Linda are back at the helm. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: Our small island is now on its own. They really did stick with the 10-10-10 date and switched to country status at that time, dissolving the Netherlands Antilles. They now report directly to the Netherlands rather than via Curaao. Obviously, they feel that they will have more money as their airport fees will stay here on the island. Moreover, any money coming their way from Holland will not come via the sticky fingers of Curaao. First problem: Their driver's license gets issued mentioning the Lt. Governor, a position that no longer exists. Thus, they have stopped issuing licenses. As many people don't bother with licenses, registration, or insurance, this is only a minor problem.

  wrens


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Previous Contest Winners:


Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Allen Morrow
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Lori Bosco
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Allen Morrow
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Lori Bosco
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Allen Morrow
MMG 2000 - Two for One week at the gym with a shake - no entrants
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle - Ginny McWethy
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Allen Morrow
PassportMD - Six months free service - Melissa Guillama
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Scott Mayberry
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October) - Sandy Glenn
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Allen Morrow
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Lori Bosco

Current Contest:

31 October to 25 December
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
MMG 2000 - Two for One week at the gym with a shake
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
PassportMD - Six months free service
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October)
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card

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:
25 December to 27 February 2011 | 27 February to 24 April 2011
24 April to 24 July 2011 | 24 July to 30 October 2011 | 30 October to 25 December 2011
same cast of characters as current contest

 


RESTAURANTS


In early September the euro was at $1.27, but things haven't been going well lately as the euro has approached $1.40, finally breaking through on 14 October. It has since drifted down ever so slightly, closing at 1.395 on Saturday, up about 10% since the last newsletter.

I'm dropping the restaurant exchange rate numbers because I am no longer on the island to check them. Charging your credit card in dollars used to save the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging for foreign currency transactions. About a year ago my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I now use a Capital One card and get an excellent exchange rate. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. Note that you won't get frequent flier tickets quite as fast. It may be best to use the Cap 1 card out of the country and take the rewards in merchandise. We just picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of our points from the previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM.

Mario's Logo
Mario's Bistro
For one of our last meals on the island, we stopped at one of our favorite restaurants: Mario's Bistro. We made a reservation for the second seating and got a lovely corner table overlooking the water. The beef carpaccio appetizer (16) sounded quite good, so we started with that and added the 2005 Vosne-Romanee from Louis Jadot (79). This wine with a bit of age was fabulous as 2005 was the best year between now and 1990. Since this meal, the consensus on the 2009 vintage is that it is almost as good as 2005, although it is not available and even when available, it will not be ready to drink until 2012 for the lesser appellations. For the main course Martha chose a grouper special (30) with a foie gras croquette drizzled with truffle oil, easily having enough flavor to stand up to the wine. I had a lamb chop and a shepherd pie (30) with a garlic creme brulee and roasted garlic. We ordered coffee and were comped with some lovely Armagnac as the evening came to a close over a gallon of gossip.

Grouper special   This is one of our favorite restaurants on the island. In addition to innovative, flavorful, and plentiful offerings and a well-conceived wine list, the service is impeccable, the tables are widely spaced, and the view over the canal and out to the west end of Anguilla is quite nice. Mario and Didier reopened the restaurant in mid-October after their annual closing. We are currently with Martha's brother and family in Pawleys Island, SC. He is the executive chef at Frank's Restaurant and Frank's Outback. The two restaurants are similar, as are their chefs. Both are worth a visit.   Lamb chop and shepherd pie

  Crab ap  
La Source Restaurant
One afternoon in late March went for a light lunch at La Source in Marigot's Marina Royale before a bit of shopping at nearby US Import. We had essentially a crab and vegetable salad in a glass with melted goat cheese on a baguette with a couple glasses of crisp white wine. Total cost, about $30 and quite enjoyable.
 


News and Changes: The article on restaurants at Orient Beach with recipes for a four course meal that we touted all last season has been published on the web in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Shrimp Dumpling Soup from Tai Chi Restaurant, a recipe for Goat Cheese Salad from Palm Beach Restaurant, a recipe for Beef Wellington from Kakao Beach, and a recipe for Coconut Flan from Rancho del Sol.   Tai Chi logo

Bali Bar in the Marina Royale in Marigot has just added a video tour to their website. As the cameraman merely spun his camera in a full circle while standing in front of the bar, it is actually a rather stunning early evening tour of the entire marina taken from the far SW corner. Check it out.

French Food: I have enough trouble with the American names for fish, but, of course, some fish routinely served in France never arrives in the US. Moreover different regions may have different names for the same fish. Patricia Wells, who runs cooking classes in Paris and Provence has uploaded a glossary in MS Word to her website. You may download it and I assure you it is a most impressive and thorough document.

In addition to mentioning that they have started a charter boat business, Zuzu said that Palm Beach Restaurant and Rancho del Sol are doing very very well and new furniture is coming soon from Bali. Rancho is now doing "HOT STONE" cooking.

We have heard that Herv Sageot from Ti Provencal in Grand Case will be moving to the space formerly occupied by La Marine.

I recently received this brief note from JP at Pizza Galley in Simpson Bay: Problem in Paradise! ECC (that's Eastern Caribbean Cellphone - ed note) went out of business so I had to change our phone number to 587-1330. This is going to be a lot of work to make all the changes. We opened last night (15 Oct) and had a nice crowd. There's a coupon for a free glass of wine on the website.


2010 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Bistrot Caraibes No vacation
California Restaurant 27 September to 18 October - closed for lunch and dinner
14-26 September - closed for lunch
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
L'Escargot Restaurant 7 August - 1 October
Mario's Bistro 15 August until mid-October
Marrakech Restaurant No closing
Montmartre Restaurant No closing, open every night
Piazza Pascal No vacation
Pizza Galley 12 September - 15 Oct
Skipjack's No closing
Sol Luna 14 September - 10 October
Ti Sucrier 12 August to 12 September
La Villa No closing
ZEN Caf Concept 10 September to 19 October


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


SXM Privilege Card   Coupons: The SXM Privilege Card seems to be a pretty good deal. It will get you various discounts and/or perks at 33 restaurants (by my count in the print version). They also cover hotels (mostly spa treatments at hotels), activities, and more. Most of the restaurant perks are a 10% discount. Use it twice in a month and it pays for itself. Here's a link to the SXM-Info website for a our coupons for some freebie or discount. Here's a list of the coupons you'll find:  
Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Diamonds International
Escargot
Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems
Snorkel Trips
Tropical Wave

  Our condo: The condo is available for rent at $900 per week until 1 October and $1000 per week until 15 December 2009. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients including one for 10% off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted car rental agencies on the island. Other notable coupons are $50 from Skipjack's restaurant, a tasting and a bottle of wine from Select Wine Cellar, a two for one ride on Celine's famous Lagoon Pub Crawl, $50 off a daysail on Random Wind, 50 from Piazza Pascal. The Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season is available at $1500 per week. As always any days within the next month are available for $100 each. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

  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. Alert reader Ken M has spotted an alternative for timeshare travelers that bundles travel insurance with a medical evacuation plan for only $99. It appears you have to use it in conjunction with a timeshare reservation, apply for the coverage at least 30 days before travel starts, and it's only good for 90 days of vacation. Then again if you have 90 days of timeshare, I'd like to meet you.  

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.

 

Kindle: I'm now convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach. Even more now that the price has dropped to $189. They have also cut the price on the high-end unit, the Kindle DX, tfrom $489 to $379. Newsletter subscriber Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." Paul M wrote: "My wife and I spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous. I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers. The only downside (for Wendy) is that she can no longer borrow books from Jerri. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
The new version and is 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. Even better news is that they dropped the price to $259 and have come out with a version that can download books outside the US. 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 and keeps us amused as we drive.

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