St Maarten/St Martin
30 June 2004 Newsletter

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Weather and Beaches: In mid June, Vincent at Thai Garden said the weather had been very hot. Elisa from Bikini Beach reports great beach and great weather. Unfortunately, she's "still in Thailand. Actually at Koh Samui, an island about twice the size of SXM, staying on Chaweng beach. Almost a second Orient Beach with its hotels and restaurants. Be back mid-July."
Zuzu at California says the weather is absolutely beautiful with just a slight breeze.  It's perfect and the business was good in May. Their specials at this time are lobster cake and curry dressing, home made foie gras pâté, encrusted brie cheese and crispy bacon, exotic lobster salad (half a lobster, jumbo shrimp, sea scallops, and exotic fruit), monkfish and jumbo shrimp in saffron flavor, sea scallop risotto, cotriade (couscous de la mer), duck breast topped with goat cheese, beef tenderloin in morel sauce, and chicken stuffed with lobster.
Wine: Sylvain from Vinissimo says that it's very quiet in St Martin, but we still doing some business and having good time also. He had the opportunity to try some Kobe beef for the first time this week-end with a Beringer Private Reserve 1997 and Volnay Champans 1998. May was very rainy and it still rains quite often at the moment, so the good point is that the island is very green for this time of year. He will be in France in August for vacation and will find new wines for us to try next year.
New vacation: Cruise Club has opened at Bobby's Marina. They offer a week-long catamaran cruise, complete with a captain and private chef, for a mere $8,000 to $20,000.
Turtles: The first leatherback sea turtle hatchlings of the season appeared at Guana Bay on Saturday (5 June) and promptly headed out to the ocean.

Travel and Leisure Magazine: The Inn at Cupecoy is Travel and Leisure magazine's "Inn of the Month" in the July 2004 issue .... at newsstands now or use this link to view online.

Air Canada: Air Canada will start weekly direct flights from Toronto to SXM in December. Currently it's slated to continue until April 2005. We've heard great things about Canadian airline prices, mostly charters, but have never used them ... yet.

Dolphin Casino: It has been reported that Dolphin Casino has closed again. Not my fault.

Turnover Tax/Customs: There is no customs duty upon entering SXM and therefore, there is no inspection of luggage to find dutiable items. You really shouldn't bring illegal drugs onto the island, but bringing alcohol, cigarettes, meat, jewelry, whatever, while generally silly in terms of cost savings, is not illegal.

This is the basis of the island's claim to being a duty-free paradise. Be that as it may, most businesses are expected to pay a 3% Turnover tax (TOT) to the government. Basically they add up their total sales and give 3% to the politicians. Given that few businesses make more than a 10% profit on their sales dollar, this is a rather high tax on their profits and few businesses can, much less, will give it up willingly. Most raised prices by 3% (or more). Some started to add 3% to all bills as they were presented to customers. This then put the lie to the "duty-free" part of paradise. Though many people have accused politicians of being dumb, it is rarely true. They know where they make their money and act accordingly. Thus, the authorities came out with:

Inspectorate of Taxes, St Maarten
Hereby, the Inspectorate of Taxes, makes known to all the enterprises taxable for the turnover tax, that the turnover tax is NOT a Sales Tax and should NOT be levied as such. THE CUSTOMER SHOULD NOT BE CHARGED TURNOVER TAX NOR SHOULD THE TURNOVER TAX BE SPECIFIED ON THE RECEIPT OF THE CUSTOMER. Please take notice that the Turnover tax should NOT be specified as a "3% Government tax" which frequently appears on receipts within the hotel and catering industry. PLEASE TAKE GOOD NOTICE OF THE ABOVEMENTIONED !

Thank you for your understanding.

Philipsburg, February 4th, 2003
The Head of the Inspectorate of Taxes St Maarten
Mr. R.G. Richardson

visiting address : Vineyard Building, Buncamper Road 33, Philipsburg
visiting hours : 8am to 12pm and 13pm to 15pm
Postal address : P.O. Box 1026, Philipsburg
Telephone : 542.2143 / 542.5301 / 542.5304 / 542.3839
Fax : 542.2918

This ensures that the tourists will not notice the government's hand in their pocket. In theory, you can demand that this charge be removed from any bill, as the charge is supposed to be included in the prices that you are given. Good luck. I am indebted to Watchdog on the TTOL bulletin board for bringing this up. We, of course, knew this from reading the local papers, but few tourists read as many issues as we do.

Christmas: Possibly it's a bit early, but Philipsburg is planning an extravaganza for next Christmas/New Years featuring the new boardwalk. The Dutch side is trying hard to get people back and the boardwalk is a great start. There are new restaurants and some of the old restaurants are among the best on the island. Check them out at Philipsburg-Info.com.

Other news: From Neil Rooney at Buccaneer Beach Bar: Simpson Bay Yacht Club is adding units, between Saratoga and The Boathouse, they've got the walls up. There is a new project being built on Simpson Bay Beach, South of Mary's Boon. There are two new projects on Cupecoy, between Cupecoy Beach Club and Sapphire. (That would be Tendal's project and Erato's Rainbow Beach Club -  ESK note). Maho's Aqua Marine project claims that over 60 percent of the units are sold. The new seven theater movie complex, attached to the old Lightning Casino opened in early June. Some of the land at Cupecoy, at the French border is being cleared. It's owned by Orient Express, the owner's of La Samanna Hotel. (The plans I saw called for private villas and a small "Mediterranean" village - ESK note). La Belle Creole was sold to an American Company in March, but nothing is happening at the site as yet. Indiana Restaurant is closed for "renovations", will reopen in .... September? Lots of restaurants for sale...Mezzanote and more (add Boathouse and Spartaco, but this is hardly news ESK note)...The Airport expansion has started, the land across the road, by the cement plant, is being cleared.

Photo feature: There are some new SXM photos at a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. There are some birds that were near our unit at Sapphire over the winter.

Bonus photo feature:  Veronique from Antoine Restaurant took many fine photos of the St Maarten Carnival parade. I have just worked ten of them into a new page on her website. 


The week at Vacation Suites was won by Alexis Guarrasi. Congratulations.
L'Auberge Gourmande is sponsoring the current contest, running from 1 July to 15 August. Just click their name to go to their website, find the link to sign up for the SXM-Info newsletter and contest, 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 really 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 is $100 off a meal for two.
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:
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
Hot Tomatoes contest: The Hot Tomatoes contest offering two pizzas with a bottle of red was won by Wayne and Phyllis Underwood.
On 17 May the euro was at 1.218 and today it's at 1.219. Not much happen over the last month. 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. We will no longer publish a list of them as it is hard enough to keep track of them while we are on the island and impossible from NY. 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. 
Having said that, I note that Maryline at Le Mambo sent me an email saying that they will be doing 1 dollar for 1 euro all summer.
We ordered a can of saffron from Saffron.com for a mere $35 an ounce. The saffron was intensely colored and quite flavorful, better than that which we have been getting on the island at Guichard in the industrial zone in La Savane outside of Grand Case. This web-based order seems so much easier and possibly cheaper, given the euro/dollar fiasco. We then got a side of wild Alaskan salmon on sale for $5 per pound. The first meal was salmon fillets with a saffron aioli. Those interested in saffron with fish will find it in bouillabaisse at many places on the island and in the marmite at Bistrot Caraïbes or a recurring special at California featuring monkfish and giant shrimp in a saffron sauce. Our second meal from the salmon was made by gleaning bits of salmon from the frame and putting it into a saffron-flavored crêpe. If you like crêpes, St Germain on the Marigot Marina is one spot and California in Grand Case is another. Alain at California is from the Brittany on the NW coast of France where buckwheat (sarrasin in French) is used for the crêpes, although they call them gallette de sarrasin as the word krampouez is used for crêpes in the local patois. Call them what you will, they are cooked on a bilig and one turns the paste with a rozel to make them round. There are a lot of crêperies (restaurants with only crêpes and galettes) now everywhere in France, as they are a hot speciality item. There is some schools where you can learn to make crêpes, but Alain and Zuzu learned from their mothers and sisters with a grandmother's recipe. Buckwheat is actually an herb of the genus Fagopyrum, native to Russia. The flour is ground from the triangular and quite flavorful seeds and is used in blinis.
Claudette Davis of Paradise View reports that she and Mario of Mario's Bistro, Simone Raviscioni from the Spiga,  Christophe Martinez from Cottage, and Olivier Dulac from Tastevin were the five chefs from St. Martin who went to introduce the cuisine gastronomie St. Martinois to the European market. The event was held in Hotel Ampere (4 star hotel) in the 17th arrondissement in Paris and was filmed by RFO (French television). Each chef prepared four dishes. Claudette prepared Stuffed Dumpling, Beef Stew, St. Martin Traditional Boiled Fish, and Bread Pudding. Mario prepared Cream of Plantain Soup, Black Bean & Conch Chili, Sour Cream and Plantain Chips, Baked Mahi Mahi with West Indian Crab Crust, Pan Fried Yucca cakes and Creole Cherry Tomato Salsa, Guava Glazed Roasted Baby Chicken with Tropical Chutney, Plantain Crème Brulée and Guava BBQ Sauce, and Upside Down Caramelized Coconut and Banana Tart with Mellasso Ice Cream.
Toufik Lahlou (ex-maitre'd at Citrus) has opened his own restaurant called Marrekech in Marigot at 169 Rue de Hollande (011 590 590 27 54 48) near Match in the Howell Center. Given the restaurant name and Toufiq's background, it is an authentic Moroccan restaurant. He spent quite a bit of time gathering the restaurant's fixtures in Morocco and even more time remodeling the space. I haven't seen it, but I bet it is quite lovely.
Bernard of Paris Bistro in Maho is opening a new restaurant, tentatively called The Wharf, on the lagoon between Lee's and the entrance to the new megayacht marina.
Karen at Montmartre Restaurant  said that they had a writer from Bon Appetite who will feature them in the Feb 05 issue. A photographer will be coming along in the next two months or so to take some pictures that will show up in the article and on the website, someday.  They had a special with frogs legs that was so popular that they are now including this dish in their new menu. The new menu will make it to the website as soon as the English translation is completed.
Restaurant Vacations
Antoine no closing
Bamboo Bernies no info
Belle Epoque no closing
California Restaurant 16 August - 16 October
Hotel remains open
Chez Pat
Tropical Wave
no vacation, but
closed on Monday
Citrus Restaurant 20 August - 20 October
Escapade no vacation closing
closed on Wednesday
Mario's Bistro 8 June - 15 August
Paradise View Open for lunch throughout
closed for dinner from 20 June until 1 October
Sol é Luna 1 June - 8 July
Thai Garden 1 September - 15 October
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. 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. (www.SXM-Restaurants.com/coupons.html)
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 from this website.
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.