St Maarten/St Martin
17 May 2004 Newsletter

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Weather and Beaches: Our last week on the island was a whirlwind of activity. Unfortunately, almost none of it related to beaches. We made it to Cupecoy once and it appears that the swells have come from the southeast, taking sand away from Cliffhanger and the little cove and depositing it at the far northwestern end, making Danny and the beach boys a lot happier. Cliffhanger still has some sand but the little cove was unusable when we want by on 8 May. As it turns out, the week was fairly cloudy and rainy, so we didn't really miss too much beach time. Things only got worse after we left on 10 May. Ed and Sandra from TTOL called the weather "atrocious" and my ex-wife who returned on 14 May didn't have many good things to say either.
Photo feature: There are some photos of the week's activities at a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. There are some flora shots taken at the Horny Toad Guesthouse and one of the flamboyant in front of The Summit.
The Temptation Restaurant $100 gift certificate was won by Debbie Schenkel.
Vacation Suites at Oyster Pond is sponsoring the current contest, which will run until 30 June. Just click their name to go to their website, find the link to sign up for the SXM-Info newsletter, click it, sign up, and you are entered. Obviously everybody that is getting this email is already signed up for the newsletter, but you are not automatically signed up for the contest. You do have to go to their website and click the email link to show you visited their site. Just tell me you are already on our mailing list, and I'll leave you signed up for the newsletter and just add your name to the contest list. The prize: 1 free week over the summer! So if you win, be prepared to take a vacation before 15 November.
Here is the list of future sponsors. We urge you all to sign up ONCE for each contest. Our clients want you to see what they have to offer. Go to their websites at the appropriate time, click the link, and you could be a winner. Look for future gift certificates from:
L'Auberge Gourmande - 1 July to 15 August - $100 off a meal for two
Sunset Café - 16 August to 30 September - $100 off a meal for two
Montmartre Restaurant - 1 October to 15 November - $100 off a meal for two
Sealine Charters - 16 November to 15 December
Chez Pat/Tropical Wave - 16 December to 6 January - $100 off a day at the beach: food, drinks, chairs, windsurf lessons, etc
Marci's Mega Gym - 7 January to 27 January 2005 - a week of gym usage for two
California Restaurant - 28 January to 17 February 2005
Escargot Restaurant - 18 February to 4 March 2005
Hot Tomatoes - 5 March to 26 March 2005
The Horny Toad Guesthouse - 27 March to 24 April 2005 - seven low season days for the price of five
Celine Pub Crawl - 25 April to 5 June 2005 - two tickets on the Lagoon Pub Crawl
Another contest: Hot Tomatoes has a contest on their website to kick off their combination lagoon cruise/dinner package. You can now take sunset lagoon cruise on White Octopus  and follow it up with a dinner at Hot Tomatoes. They are giving away a two pizza dinner with a bottle of red, but you have to go to the website, click the comments link, and send in some comments. Somebody's going to get two pizzas with a bottle of red just for saying something that tickles our fancy. I talked to Brad last night and we're looking for 25 entries. As soon as we get 25, we'll post them, and pick a winner. While you are there, look over Brad's site, check out the coupon, and take a look at the White OctopusWe have almost enough entries, but there is room for three more.
On 17 April the euro was at 1.188 and today it's at 1.188. Nothing going on there, but it's better than most of high season. French side restaurants with many costs in dollars and many American (or Canadian) clients have been offering more favorable exchange rates. Some restaurants offer a 1 to 1 exchange. To the list that includes California, Escapade, Balaou, Santal, Enoch's Place, Au Beaujolais, Rainbow, Oizeau Rare, Pirate on Orient (not Repaire du Pirate in Grand Case), Restaurant du Soliel, Pedro's (priced in dollars - no conversion ever), Saint Germain, Le Cottage (for cash), and Paradise View, we add Le Mambo in Grand Case. Many restaurants will offer you a better rate than you can get on your credit card, so you can allow them to convert and charge in dollars. Note that California only offers 1 to 1 on cash purchases. Some restaurants have lowered their prices.  As always, know what the euro is worth, what the restaurateur is offering for an exchange, and what the costs are on the menu. Finally, you are here to have fun and fine food, not complex financial calculations, so don't worry about it too much. 
We had a final dinner at Auberge Gourmande on Tuesday, sitting on the porch, watching Grand Case pass by us one last time. The Harmony Nights street festivals have ended for the season, so it was fairly quiet. Christophe sent over a welcome cocktail on our last evening and we ordered the Corton-Perrières Grand Cru 1999 Maurice Chapuis  again. We had this in January and thought that it was a bit young, but on this second tasting it seemed considerably better, especially after it warmed up a bit. L'Auberge makes their own quite tasty bread, usually a round wheat and bran bread rolled in more bran. I ordered the chicken liver appetizer. The presentation has changed a bit over the season. Originally, it was chicken livers and salad in a vinaigrette, good, but rather plain. Now the chicken livers are in a puff pastry with a mustard sauce. Martha had the nem, duck liver and vegetables in a crispy egg roll with a soy vinaigrette. Her dinner was another appetizer, the foie gras with roasted pears. I had the pork tenderloin stuffed with apricots and walnuts, a very interesting combination of flavors and textures. Despite being one of the less expensive items on the menu, I find it to be one of the best. BY the end of the meal, the wine was opening up wonderfully and complemented all the wonderful flavors that came from the kitchen. Coffees and armagnac finished up an enjoyable evening of good food and good service.
Wednesday lunch was at Ô Plongoir on the waterfront in Marigot. We had just finished discussions with Martyne at Mario's Bistro and headed out for a light lunch. Martyne had a Caesar salad with chicken, Martha had a salad with baked goat cheese and eggplant, and I had a skate wing with capers and black olives. Prices were good, the view is nice, and the food was tasty. We sat outside on the patio, but there are tables inside for rainy weather.
The next night we went to Nettuno for a last waterfront dinner in Grand Case. Raymon has a double wide dining room running alongside the water, so every table gets a good view and about a third of them are on the water. At this time of year, one can usually get a waterfront table without a reservation. Nettuno presents each table with a plate of bruschetta: tiny toasts topped with fresh chopped tomatoes and onions dripping with olive oil and garlic. I ordered the 2000 Tomassi Amarone and found it delightful. It may have been a bit much for the very good mussels in white wine and parsley, but was wonderful with our two veal dinners. One was a thin slice of veal with capers and proscuitto accompanied by fresh pasta prepared al dente and the other was a veal reale (royal) with mushrooms and red and green peppers (white mushrooms, red and green peppers, the Italian flag) accompanied by ratatouille in a pastry crown and mashed potatoes. It was a fine meal with lovely views across the bay.
Thursday night we had a very nice dinner at Oizeau Rare on the Marigot Waterfront. They have been advertising a 31euro three course dinner and stating that they will let it go for $31. Vianney, the maitre'd, explained that we could choose any ap, main course, or dessert off the menu or the special board to make up our $31 dinner. he did explain that the portions would be a bit smaller than the regular menu. That seems fine with me as I am a bit larger than regular. We ordered a 99 Chorey-Les-Beaune (36euro) and started with an ap of calamari in a soy and ginger sauce. Martha eschewed the three course meal and had a Marmite de Pecheur, essentially a fisherman's stew with scallops, shrimp, snapper, and salmon with the usual rouille, gruyere, and toast. My main course was the French version of Osso Buco featuring a brown sauce based on mushrooms with fresh spaghetti. Both were wonderful. Our dessert was the chocolate fondant, a chocolate cake with a liquid chocolate center. we added coffees and Vianney added some licorice rum. The total bill was less than $100 and we left behind some of the fish. The interior of the restaurant is very nice, but the exterior is even better. The dining room is open on three sides with one side facing the waterfront and the other two side facing a nicely tended gardens that feature waterfalls.
We had a few more dinners before we left the island on Monday, 10 May, but I'll save them for the next newsletter. Our flights were uneventful, except for the one that was so uneventful that it didn't happen. We got to spend a bonus evening in Chicago when the plane that was to take us to Albany never arrived from Springfield, MO because of the thunderstorms and tornadoes that were sweeping the Midwest. Over the summer, the newsletter will be published less frequently, coinciding with the contest schedule above. We will read the Daily Herald, peruse the bulletin boards, monitor the euro, and get news from our many clients on the island.
Our one bedroom condo will be available for rent until we return in mid-December. Last year we replaced the microwave with a new GE Advantium model and this year we replaced the refrigerator and dishwasher. The unit was painted. New drapes were put in front and back. All the upholstery was recovered and a new cover was put on the king size bed. We rent it for $1000 per week and throw in a $50 voucher on a dinner for two at Hot Tomatoes and a $50 coupon to Ama Bella Jewelers with any reservation. We include a special invitation to Vinissimo where you will get at least 10% off and a few samples. Finally, Pascal, owner of Auberge Gourmande, Sunset Café, and Montmartre Restaurant, is offering a welcome champagne cocktail and an afterdinner drink at one of his restaurants to any of our renters. That's a net of about $850 for a sixth floor one bedroom unit. The rest of May is lovely and our on-island friends tell us that June is calm and quiet. July is largely taken already and August is when the French arrive for their month's holiday, so the restaurants are all open. September is probably the hottest and wettest month, so many restaurateurs close and take their vacations. We have been here in October and November and loved it. By then the restaurateurs are back and trying out new ideas. Go over to our website, check out the unit and its fabulous views, check the calendar for availability, and send us an email if you are interested.
Look on the SXM-Restaurants website for a list of all restaurants that have coupons for some freebie. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper.
L'Esperance Hotel (www.LesperanceHotel.com) in Philipsburg is bargain at $65 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen. It's not on the water, but they have a pool.
Delfina (www.SXM-Hotels.com/delfina) now charges $95 per night for a double and includes two breakfasts and evening cocktails. They are in the Cupecoy area, not on the beach, but close enough to walk and they have a pool. You also get a $50 coupon to Ama Jewelers with any reservation.
The Banana Cabana (www.SXM-hotels.com/index.html#bc), a one bedroom studio on the lagoon in Cupecoy, is only $695 for the week all taxes and service included.
California (www.SXM-hotels.com/california has two apartments for rent that are right on the water in Grand Case. The one bedroom, sleeps four, is $550 and the two bedroom, sleeps six, maybe more, is $900 for the week.