St Maarten/St Martin
9 April 2005 Newsletter

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Weather and Beach report: Saturday was hot and clear. Sunday had a few puffy white clouds, a breeze, but no whitecaps on the lagoon. There were some on the carib, so we headed for Orient. fabulous and one can now walk the length of the beach. The sand has filled in the area in front of Pedro's Beach Bar. The 4 PM volleyball games at Club Orient were in, pardon the expression, full swing. I was truly amazed at how much interest my 12 year old nephew had in volleyball. Galion Beach is lovely and quiet. There's plenty of sand and not much happening except on weekends. Petite Plage exists in Grand Case but the beach on the other side of the point at GCBC is pretty moist. The rest of Grand Case looks pretty good. The area above the beach at Cupecoy is being scraped by construction equipment. The beach at the little cove is quite large and Danny says there is a hint of sand near the pool at the NW end. After the relatives left, it turned cloudy and cooler, but still a bit humid. They were here for nine days and saw a bit of rain as we drove to Pburg one morning but it stopped before we got there. It has been lovely! It rained on Friday morning, but was clear the rest of the day. We went to Orient, but were sandblasted off the beach by 3:15. The eclipse was a dud, having been eclipsed by clouds on the horizon. Sunset is at 6:23 and the moon is new.
Dutch Carnival: The carnival village opens on 14 April, the grand final parade down Front Street in Philipsburg is on 30 April, and the final jumpup and burning of King Momo is on 2 May this year. Here is the full schedule. We will be having lunch and watching the parade from the porch at L'Escargot. If you are on the island and want to join, make your reservation early. The restaurant generally is not full, but the front porch and street are quite crowded.
Sapphire Beach Club: Earlier this year I said that I doubt I will live long enough to see both elevators in building two work simultaneously for an entire month. I have made it to that plateau, although after about two months, they started to act up again, but they are now working. Nonetheless, 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. The first ten weekly listings are free. After that, we will charge $25 per year and have only received one request. So this offer is still out there.
Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou says that for the month of March, and possibly longer, she has a seashell art exhibition in the restaurant containing mirrors, mobiles, jewelry boxes, seashell boards, cards, and more. there are a couple examples on the boutique page of the California website. 
GCL Car Rental: Not only did Don at GCL lead my brother-in-law and family from the airport to their apartment at California while carrying some of their luggage, he met them there with a larger car and drove all five of them and luggage to the airport for their departure. I'm impressed. Look in the bargains below for a special rate and eight contests for a free week, one every month from now until November.
Truck inspections: Previously the paper was showing overloaded trucks driving about. After the tragic accident as a truck with failed brakes roared through houses at the  bottom of Cay Hill, they have managed to get photos of the police stopping overloaded trucks with bald tires.
Jean DuPont: I am sorry to report that Jean DuPont, the owner of Santal and the former Jean DuPont restaurant at the Marigot marina, has died.
Photo feature: This week's photo feature contains some photos taken at David's Hole and more taken at Petite Plage next to Sunset Café. There is also a fabulous sunset taken from our streetside condo balcony. It's in a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location.

Regular feature: Some new photos and a map were added to the existing construction feature. This was required because there has been new work in the Cupecoy area.
Several businesses in Simpson Bay are sponsoring the contest that runs from 27 March to 24 April 2005, offering prizes worth about $100 each. Just click their name to go to their website, find the contest code(s) and the link to our new signup form, fill it out, click send, and you are entered. Put all the contest codes for the contests you want to enter on ONE entry. Do not send multiple entries.
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. We have so many prizes that we will be doubling and tripling up for several contests and producing feature photo spreads in conjunction with the contests. Here is the list of future contests and feature photo spreads:
Simpson Bay Feature - 27 March to 24 April 2005:
    Horny Toad Guesthouse - seven low season days for the price of five
    Hideaway Restaurant - $75 off a dinner for two
    Unity Cars - $100 off a one week car rental
    Tri Sport - Kayak Snorkel Tour for two

Celine Pub Crawl - 25 April to 5 June 2005 - two tickets on the Lagoon Pub Crawl

Grand Case Feature - 6 June to 17 July 2005:
    Escapade Restaurant - $100 gift certificate for two
    GCBC Snorkel Trips - A guided snorkeling trip for two around Creole Rock and an afternoon on our lounge chairs on Petite Plage
    GCL Car Rental - $100 off a one week car rental
    L'Esplanade Hotel - $100 gift certificate toward a week's stay
    AIA Massage - Two massages for the price of one

Cupecoy Feature - 18 July to 24 August 2005:
    Cupecoy Villas - stay seven nights, pay for five, only $1750 for a two bedroom, three bath villa on the beach
    Villas in Paradise - $100 gift certificate to Temptation for two
    Cliffhanger Beach Bar - $40 gift certificate for two

Marigot Feature - 25 August to 30 September 2005:
    L'Esperance Car Rental - $100 off a one week car rental
    La Vie en Rose - $100 gift certificate for two
    Thai Garden - $100 gift certificate for two

Orient Beach Feature - 1 October to 15 November 2005:
    Chez Pat - $100 toward a day on Galion Beach
    Sol é Luna Apartments - $100 off on a one week stay
    Nono Car Rental - $50 off on a one week rental

Philipsburg Feature - 16 November to 15 December:
    Vacation Suites - a free low season week!
    Lucky/Hibiscus Cars - $100 off a one week car rental
    Antoine Restaurant - $100 off a meal for two
    DK Gems - $100 gift certificate

Karen and Pascal's Restaurants - 16 December 2005 to 6 January 2006
    Auberge Gourmande - $100 off a meal for two
    Montmartre Restaurant - $100 off a meal for two
    Sunset Café - $100 off a meal for two

On Monday we took the family out to Grand Case Beach Club to visit Sebby and Damien at the Activities Desk. Damien took five of us for a snork around Creole Rock. Actually, there was a bit of northeast swell, so we stayed in the lee of the rock for the most part. As most of the fish seemed to feel this was sensible, we didn't miss a thing. As soon as we jumped in we were surrounded by needle-nosed ballyhoo up to a foot long and their larger relatives, the houndfish, up to three feet long. Shortly thereafter, we were approached by all the sergeant majors in the area. We eventually saw some scary barracuda and toothsome moray eels, some bashful soldierfish and squirrelfish, French grunts, the largest puffer I've ever seen, a sea turtle, a small trunkfish, a squid, and many others. Damien brought up a white sea urchin and attached it to the children who were a bit reluctant at first, but eventually enjoyed the experience. He also found a very red and very wriggly starfish for them. We cruised through a lovely coral collection and then made it back to the boat after about an hour and a half in the water. We didn't see any Dolphins, but Sebby had seen them a couple days earlier! It's a great time and only costs $30 and includes the equipment. For a better deal, go to the website for the coupon. 
Not much of an activity, but we had lunch at Chez Pat and the kids rented a peddle paddleboat for a half hour for $12. It is an extremely calm and shallow lagoon and they had a great time. More active sorts can get kayaks, windsurfers, or snorkel gear. I got an umbrella, a beer, and a nap.

On 2 April the euro was at 1.288 and today it is at 1.293. 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. 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. I've seen a lot of blather about this on TTOL with several unregistered users (always suspect) and even a few registered users claiming that the 1 to 1 is a gimmick as they all raised their prices. I just retyped the Auberge Gourmande menu after a bit over two years and prices went up about 5%, nowhere near the 35% premium in the euro or the 45% change in the value of the euro (remember when the dollar was worth 1.15 euros?). Nonetheless, Auberge Gourmande is now offering 1 to 1. I typed Bistrot Caraibes menu a couple years ago and many prices went down. They are not offering 1 to 1 but still have good prices.
Old Captain on Front Street in Philipsburg  has closed. Mario and Molly have unloaded Indiana, but it certainly didn't look very lively as we drove by on 7 April at lunchtime. The sign said open, but the chain and board across the doors suggested closed. Mario also owns Jade at Oyster Bay Beach Resort and has made the paper regarding four laid-off employees. When Beau Beau's Restaurant opened, I suspect that Jade took a hit.
Speaking of Beau Beau's Restaurant, it appears that the major dust-up on TTOL over their opening has been brushed aside by recent reasonable reviews. We had a lunch there, nothing spectacular, but a cheeseburger on the beach with a view of St Barts at about a 30 degree temperature differential from back home is nothing to sneer at. Similarly, a big pile of snot over a supposed $5 overcharge at The Wharf Restaurant turned out to be bogus as the charge was justified. Nonetheless, their name was smeared and the smear was seen by over 1000 people. By now many people have seen the more favorable comments from the TTOL party that Bernard hosted. The moral of the story is that one shouldn't go bonkers over a single incident. Many restaurants have email and all have phones. Contact them first, TTOL later.
Dining: This will be an interesting week for those of you who may be wondering if we ever eat in "normal" places. As mentioned last week, Martha's brother, his wife, and three children are here. While the three children are great eaters and would love foie gras on their pop tarts, the parents feel otherwise. Having said that, I note that the youngest only eats chicken, but we get her to eat frog chicken, snail chicken, and special kidney in mustard sauce chicken, etc. So, after a tour of the Marigot Market where we visited Octaedre (and got some lovely earrings and a $10 bracelet made from local garnet) we stopped in at Durreche. It overlooks the market and has at least four reasonably priced specials every day (and moules frites on Friday). We had two orders of emince of beef arabiata (means angry in Italian, more like spicy, but not much as I added Matouk's), two seafood salads, a kid's menu, and a hamburger. Everyone was well fed and even with two bottles of wine (that cost about $15 each) our bill was about $80.
On Saturday night we had dinner at Lal's Indian Cuisine across from the airport. It's not very swish, but in some places you would pay a lot of money to dine so close to the water. We had two different breads (nan and onion kulcha), three aps (vegetable somosas, meat somosas, and onion fritters), and six main courses ranging across the entire gamut of meats (goat, lamb, and chicken) and preparation (tika masala, vindaloo, and curry). Heinekens flowed freely as a result of Lal's coupon for a bucket of six beers per couple. We like the food and can hardly pick a favorite. Moreover, we like the price. We fed seven people for about $80.
Continuing on the low budget trend, we went for lunch on Sunday to Pirate Beach Bar on Orient Beach. Sylvie, the kitchen wizard, does some very nice things with seafood. I especially like her Pirate salad that features conch. The menu and lots of food photos are up on the website as is a coupon for a great deal on chairs, lunch and a drink. Again, we fed seven people (rib plates, hamburger plates, hot dog plates, and a few salads) and had several drinks for about $55. The prices here are in dollars, which is probably against French law, but it does away with any question on the exchange rate. The place was a good value at 1.15 euros to the dollar and is still a good value at 1.3 dollars to the euro. Gotta love it!
That evening we went back to California Apartments where the family is staying and got cleaned up for an early dinner. Some people may not be aware that this was the opening game of baseball season and it featured the beloved Red Sox against the evil empire. Most of my reports on California Restaurant go on about Alain's lovely foie gras ap with home made marmalade, lovely sauces, etc. Even so, the prices are pretty good because they always were low and the restaurant is offering 1 to 1 on the exchange. However, the menu contains pasta, pizza, crepes, and a kid's menu. This night, we had pizzas with Chianti. We fed seven people for about $70 and the menfolk scooted upstairs to watch a most unfortunate baseball game. The only good news is that as we had not lingered at the dinner table, ZouZou sent a bottle of the flavored rum that ends every meal up to the room. While it did not actually change the outcome of the game, some of us did forget how it ended.
The next morning (Monday) we did the snorkel trip to Creole Rock and used the coupons on the website to get chairs for the afternoon. Lunch was up on the deck overlooking all this at Sunset Café. Again, we have been known to rave about lamb tenderloin in puff pastry and prattle on about Ch Nuits St Waga-Waga, but there are always lunch specials (Wed-Sat look for moules in a creamy onion broth with a hint of heat and some of the crispest French fries on the island) and there is a kid's menu. Martha split a huge seafood salad with one of the children. The smallest one had the kid's meal featuring chicken. I had a chicken Creole sandwich and a round of burgers filled out the orders. This all came to about $70 until we ordered two bottles of wine! Nonetheless, the bill came in at about $120 as there are fine wines at about $25 a bottle. It was a lovely, long lunch that lingered over the wine and ended with Chris bringing two bottles of flavored rum. After repeated samples, he switched our two for two on another table and we did it again. We especially liked the coffee and coconut rums and really liked them mixed together.
That night we got the oldest child to look after the younger two (Thank you, Sarah) and had an adult night out at Temptation. We had asked for an outside table and enjoyed a quiet and peaceful meal under the cascading window wall on the terrace. For aps we had two orders of the Home Made Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli tossed with basil infused white wine bisque, and wild mushrooms ($15) and the Balsamic Roasted Portobello topped with basil, soft polenta, roasted peppers, and smoked mozzarella ($12). WARNING: I am about to wax ecstatic. About a month ago I had the Raviole de Royan, a traditional ravioli with ricotta, porcini mushrooms, and basil in light meat broth at Montmartre Restaurant, essentially next door. I feel these are two of the best restaurants on the island and these similar dishes explain why. There are a myriad of flavors floating in the broth and encapsulated in the raviolis. The raviolis can hold disparate textures and deliver interesting textural contrasts along with the flavors. Dino's spinach had a satisfying mini-crunch as the ricotta coated your tongue with, yes I admit it, fat. The food police can take my fat away from me when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers. If I remember correctly, this was not a vegetarian dish and I believe the reason is the ever more satisfying crunch of crispy bacon bits. Both of these dishes were wonderfully balanced, with nothing overwhelming, but everything working together. The tastes were there, but one had to seek them out and savor them. The other ap was a roasted Portobello and this is the difference between a great restaurant and a good restaurant. We had a roasted Portobello in a similar preparation earlier this year at another restaurant. The flavors were far from subtle and not very integrated. It had the ingredients, but was not as good to my taste. Our dinners were the duo of venison and lamb loin chops with boursin soft polenta and peppercorn red wine sauce ($35), tandoori duck breast with coconut chutney, vegetable biriani, and sweet tamarind sauce ($29), the Popped Black Bean Crusted Sashimi Grade Tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, and wild arugula salad with preserved red onions scallops, and the diver scallops with spaghetti squash. Sneaking the red peppercorns into the boursin soft polenta provides a burst of texture and flavor. The crusting on the tuna is an extra bit of interesting texture, just as the arugula adds texture to the mashed potatoes whose flavor has been piqued by a hint of wasabi. It may sound strange, but the Japanese have been adding wasabi to uncooked tuna for years in sashimi and sushi. Dino's tuna is certainly lightly cooked. We had the wet chocolate cake with peanut ice cream for dessert. We had started with a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape and finished with a Pinot Noir from Villa Mt Eden. With the water and coffees our drinks were over $100 and the food came in around $200 for a total of about $160 per couple. Dino's Dare to be Rare steakhouse has slipped its opening to 15 May, but he feels fairly certain of that date.
We loafed Chez Pat on Thursday and had a good lunch with our toes in the sand. Most people had good burgers, but a few good pieces of fish were to be had. there is a wine list, but we had Caribs.There are coupons on the website and if you spend 20 euros on lunch, they'll give you two chairs and an umbrella for only 10 euros. We spent the afternoon on the beach. It really is very calm, very shallow, and not as breezy as Orient. there is considerably more clothing also.
We went to Marrakech Restaurant for a bang-up dinner on the family's last night. Toufiq, formerly the maitre'd of Citrus Restaurant, has opened this Moroccan restaurant on the back side of Marigot. The furnishings are from his native Morocco and worth a visit even if you don't have dinner. We had about ten different appetizers and ordered a tajine or cous-cous dish for everyone. The different tastes were exquisite and there was so much that we had a wonderful lunch the next day. Toufiq recommended a lovely Moroccan wine. The service was great, as expected. If you like Moroccan food, this is a great spot. BTW, it is not necessarily HOT spicy. There are spices, new and exotic tastes, but the really hot sauce, harissa, is in a separate bowl. Add it at your discretion.
On Friday night we went to Hot Tomatoes on the lagoon. We had talked to Brad earlier in the week and he assured us that lamb chops would be available on Friday. They were: three double lamb chops with a mint infused dipping sauce, your choice of potato (make mine baked) and summer veg. Martha had the brisket with mashed. We shared the Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone on the back terrace. It was a bit breezy, but quite pleasant in the open air. The total bill was $70 with the 15% service charge. Inside, Eric Zafra and his guitarist were wailing away, so we stayed for a drink or two after dinner.


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.
GCL Car Rental:  Summer special: US $126 per week for a new Getz. All weekly (or more) reservations during each month from now until November will be entered in a contest for one week's rental refund. Rent a car a week from Don and you may return home to find the refund on your credit card bill!
L'Esperance Hotel in Philipsburg is bargain at $75 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen. It's not on the water, but they have a pool.
Turquoise Shell Guesthouse  in Simpson Bay is bargain at $700 per week 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 $900 and the two bedroom, sleeps six, maybe more, is $1100 for the 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. If you like great food, Le Petit and L'Esplanade are the two bookends on Grand Case's restaurant row. Maho is in the thick of the action in Simpson Bay and if you're part of the birthday suit crowd, La Plantation is a lovely place within walking distance of Orient beach. I've never been in Alamanda, but it's even closer to Orient Beach.

Erich S. Kranz
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SXM-Info newsletter 9 April 2005