St Maarten/St Martin
12 March 2005 Newsletter

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Weather and Beach report: A beautiful week. A bit hazy but warm and sunny. A bit too calm for the regatta!
Construction: We have posted a feature on construction on the island and have added a bit more lately. There's lots of photos and lots of info on who is building what, where. If you're interested, have a look.
Dutch Carnival: The carnival village opens on 14 April and the grand final parade is on 2 May this year. That said March last week. Things are slow down here, but rarely does time flow backwards.
Regatta: The round the island race on Friday was a thrill to watch. We started from Horny Toad Guesthouse as the boats jockeyed for starting position. There were 261 boats, a new record) that went out in over a dozen classes starting every ten minutes. In about two hours, they were all sailing away and we came back to our condo and watched the spinnaker run along the western side of the island. From our other balcony we watched them round the end of Cupecoy Beach only to emerge on the far side of the lagoon in Marigot bay and head for Creole Rock in Grand Case. Some ships go around Tintamarre for a 33 nm course back to Philipsburg and some get to cut it short and go between Tintamarre and SXM cutting a bout 4 nm off their trip. In any event, everyone ends up back in Pburg for a big party on the new boardwalk. We go out on Saturday with Neil in Celine of Lagoon Pub Crawl fame. More next week with photos.
Jimmy Cliff is the headliner at Kimsha Beach on the final Sunday night party..
Photo feature: This week's feature has some of the last sunset photos to be taken this season from the Caribbean balcony of our condo. The sun in its northern journey will go around the end of the building and reemerge on the other side before we leave. We then see more sunsets into the water, but from our lagoon side balcony. there is also a shot from the top of the hill heading from Grand Case into Marigot, a very good goat cheese, and two shots from Cupecoy Beach. The link only goes to subscribers.
Snorkeling: We finally went snorkeling with Sebby at Activities Desk at Grand Case Beach Club. It's a two minute boat ride out to the best snorkeling on the island and for only $30 per person, a divemaster will get in the water with you and show you things that even I haven't seen in my 12 years here, much of it underwater. We put a feature up on the website with lots of fish photos and more blather about them.

The Escargot Restaurant contest was won by Anne Kinney. Congrats. Hot Tomatoes is sponsoring the contest that runs from 5 March to 26 March 2005, giving $100 toward a dinner for two. Just click their name to go to their website, find the contest code and the link to our new signup form, fill it out, click send, 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.
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:
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
Escapade Restaurant - 6 June to 17 July 2005

We went to the Thursday wine tasting at Vinissimo and promptly lost the list of wonderful wines in a computer crash. Trust me, nice pate, tasty cheese, wonderful bread, and lots of good wine - some under $10, some not. Even if you don't trust me, go anyway. I'll offer a double your money back guarantee. Let's see, the newsletter is free, the wine tasting is free, so that's zero plus zero times zero. Sounds as good as Social Security to me, at least you get wine, cheese, pate, and bread. Stop in from 5 to 7 on Thursday to see for yourself.
On 26 Feb the euro was at 1.320 and today it is at 1.324. 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 got that at Escapade, Bikini Beach, Restaurant du Soleil, California, Auberge Gourmande, and La Marine. La France in the Marigot marina, Rainbow Cafe, Balaou, Santal, Sebastiano, and Marlin's Cafe were offering the same. Note that some only offer this rate for cash. We will let you know about other places as we find them. 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 to do complex financial calculations, so don't worry about it too much.
TTOL party: The Wharf Restaurant will be having a TTOL party from 6 to 8 on 28 March. Bernard will be supplying appetizers, happy hour prices will be in effect, and .
Dining:  We had a wonderful dinner at Sol e Luna in Mont Vernon on Monday. We took new photos for the website and it is possible to see why they regularly receive the most romantic restaurant award from the readers of The Daily Herald. They have just finished the rooms and suites that they were building on the hillside above the restaurant. (Sol e Luna Apartments). They are as lovely as the restaurant, have even better views over Green Cay to St Barts, and are quite reasonable, especially with the 10% discount in the restaurant. Our dinner was even better than usual. Our lovely burgundy was very good with the yellowfin tuna carpaccio with red onions, chives, red curry, wakame, and soy sauce (12 euros) - tender luscious tuna with the crunch of wakame and crunch and snap of onion plus all the taste elements. Martha had the Jumbo Shrimp flambéed with old rum with black risotto and spinach in a basil and saffron sauce (28 euros). The shrimp were very flavorful. I had the tenderest beef tenderloin, cooked to your specification, drenched in a cream sauce with morels and mashed potatoes. (30 euros). We ended with coffees and a very spicy ginger rum and a very smooth coffee rum. It was a lovely evening in the soft night air on the porch.
Tuesday night we went to Moulin Fou in Maho. We choose Tuesday because Cheri's (motto: Louder is better) is closed that night and the terrace at Moulin Fou overlooks the stage at Cherie's. The week has been lovely, so the warm night air was perfect on the terrace. We started with drinks and perused the menu and wine list. there were three specials, an ap, a main course, and a dessert plus about a half dozen other aps, a half dozen meat courses, a half dozen fish courses, and a half dozen desserts. The usual suspects were all represented and the menu seemed quite interesting and with most main courses in the $20 to $25 range, fairly cheap. choosing a Mercurey ($32) to go with a mille-fueille of tomato, mozzarella, and eggplant, a Caesar salad and a goat cheese salad. All good with a nice batch of arugula next to my mille-fueille. No, we have not started to eat more, we had friends with us for dinner. The gentleman raved about the tuna coated with white and black sesame, and ordered it, causing Martha to do the same. His wife choose a beef filet mignon and I had a special pork tenderloin with goat cheese in a phyllo dough crust. the tuna was very good, and again, the luscious tender tuna combined well with a crunchy texture with a bit of taste. Much like Christian's tuna carpaccio from the night before, a combination of tastes and textures makes for an interesting dish. The pork tenderloin provided more of the same with its goat cheese for flavor and phyllo crust for texture. The beef tenderloin came with mushrooms to provide another point of interest, again like Christian's, but they were rejected by the diner - food allergies. In any event, the beef was overcooked. the bill arrived with s/ch at the bottom and it equaled 15% of the total. I hadn't noticed this mentioned on the menu (possibly an oversight) and it certainly wasn't pointed out when the bill arrived. We tossed in credit cards and the slips duly arrived with $120 total on each and a very empty spot for us to add an even bigger tip. When one adds 15% to all prices on the menu, they don't look quite as good.
Thursday night found us at our favorite table at Auberge Gourmande, in the corner of the porch next to the fountain. We had a bottle Aloxe Corton, a lighter burgundy to go with a starter of fish cassolet that included swordfish, lotte, shrimps, and scallops (two of each) in a saffron sauce. Martha also required a light burgundy with her sole which was expertly deboned at the table and proved to be sweet as could be. I had the beef tenderloin with a porcini and risotto with girolles - again lots of tastes and textures make an interesting dish. Coffees and armagnacs finished another lovely evening.
On Friday night we went to Saint Severin on the back side of Marigot, again. We had guests arrive after a long journey from Houston and by 7 PM we were sitting down to a massive seafood platter containing 4 oysters No 2, 4 oysters No 3, 6 clams, 1 crab, sea snails, Spanish mussels, and 4 shrimp.  We then went on to two orders of moules frites, a plate of sardines, and a stuffed squid and pepper plate. It was all quite good and with two bottles of white wine came to $155 for four, largely because of a 1.1 to 1 exchange, but the 18 euro Muscadet, excellent with seafood, contributed.
Look on the SXM-Restaurants website for a list of all restaurants that have coupons for some freebie or discount. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper.

L'Esperance Hotel in Philipsburg is bargain at $80 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen. It's not on the water, but they have a pool.

Turquoise Shell Residence in Simpson Bay is bargain at $100 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen, all taxes and service included. It's across the street from the water and they have a pool. Make a reservation and get a $50 coupon to Ama Jewelers and a $25 coupon to Hot Tomatoes.

The Banana Cabana, a one bedroom studio on the lagoon in Cupecoy, is only $695 for the week all taxes and service included.

California has two apartments for rent that are right on the water in Grand Case. The one bedroom, sleeps four, is $750 and the two bedroom, sleeps six, maybe more, is $1100 for the week. They have just added a villa next door on the beach, three bedrooms, great views, at only $2800 per week.

Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she has negotiated a great deal at Alamanda and has can't beat rates at Le Petit, L'Esplanade, Maho, and La Plantation.

Erich S. Kranz
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SXM-Info newsletter 5 Mar 2005