St Maarten/St Martin
12 March 2005 Newsletter

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Weather and Beach report: Saturday morning looked good for the big parade but we got a few sprinkles that were almost welcome in the heat. Sunday on Cupecoy was another delightful day. The waves were kicking up a bit so the snorkeling was not as good as last week, but interesting enough. Monday is beautiful and clear and on Tuesday all four islands were visible from the balcony. There's plenty of beach at Cupecoy: under Cliffhanger, in the little cove, and at the far NW end. On Wednesday we went up to Orient to check on the beach and Club Orient. There were plenty of chairs and not all of them were filled used by people with yellow towels. I read on TTOL that they are rescinding their attempt to charge $25 to park and get a chair. I can't confirm that as I never park there. I also read a rumor that Pedro's Beach Bar was going to start charging for parking. I asked Elise about that. As she doesn't own the parking lot, that would be a good trick. Don't believe everything you read on TTOL. It's easier to post bogus info their that in the Daily Herald. In any event, Wednesday was beautiful, warm and sunny, but rather windy on Orient. Friday opened to total overcast and quickly went through a torrential downpour that ended in a mostly cloudy day. Saturday is looking much better. The CNN weather site has a five-day forecast for Philipsburg. Sunset is at 6:32 and the moon is new.

I got an email asking if one should forego vacations to Cupecoy because of the construction. Basically, there is no construction that keeps anyone from using the beach under Cliffhanger and even when the Cliff and Rainbow Beach are completed (don't hold your breath - I predict at least two years before anybody is in there), access to the beach will still be available via Cliffhanger. The other side of Ocean Club is a bigger problem and this is of major importance to the birthday suit crowd. Most of the beachfront and most of the access is controlled by the Cupecoy Village project and I believe that the rest is part of Shore Pointe. I think that there is public access next to Ocean Club, but that only reaches the beach beneath Ocean Club, which is missing and has been most of the season. Thus, the future of the nude beach depends on the speed of construction on the those two sites. Both are land sales, not projects. They both have managed to put up some signs, scrape some ground, and build content-free websites. Cupecoy Villages has a sales office slightly larger than my woodshed and they have been working several weeks on a job that would have taken me a week to complete. Extrapolating this construction schedule leads me to believe that I'll be using my walker to get to the beach, but stay tuned.

Meridien/Habitation: The latest announcement is that the hotel will revert back to its previous name, Habitation, and no employees will lose their jobs. The owners are trying to sell but they claim that there were no talks with the Four Seasons chain.

Marriott Dawn Beach: They have started scraping the land in this area and the plans show that they are going to fill in the freshwater pond, touching off a major controversy. Given that the pond was created by Hurricane Luis as it destroyed the property only ten years ago and the plans call for a new holding pond in another location, it seems fairly innocuous.

Dutch Carnival: The carnival is over and we watched the parade from the porch at L'Escargot. It wasn't as exciting as last year and I fault the audience for the most part. It was not very crowded for two reasons: there were no cruise ships in port and Easter was very early, so a lot of visitors were here then and we got no bounce from some of them lingering on a bit. I took about 50 photos and put the best on the L'Escargot website. Veronique at Antoine Restaurant took several shots of the children's parade. I'll get them up soon. The Mighty Dow dethroned King Beau Beau and won a car in the process.

Caribbean Celebrity Chef: This year Dino Jagtiani of Temptation and Dare to be Rare (opening in June?), will represent St Maarten in this competition to be held in NYC from 29 May until 4 June. Last year Johnny Bridgewater from Johnny B's Under the Tree was there and he may come again this year.

Sapphire Beach Club: 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 two requests. So this offer is still out there.

St Maarten Open: SXM-Info sponsored a hole at the Golf tournament that was played on 30 April and 1 May. The course was beautiful from all the rain. We donated $600 worth of website work that went into a silent auction and the winning bidder was Margy Lincoln from Caribbean Duck Boats. We also bid and won a weekend at La Samanna and a weekend at Cap Jaluca on Anguilla. The proceeds will go to charity.

Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou says that for the month of May, 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.

Photo feature: This week's photo feature is in a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. It had a shot of Saba from the balcony and a four shots of the fantastic outbreak of greenery and more as a result of all the rain we had a couple weeks ago.


Two charter boats a are sponsoring the current contest that runs from 25 April to 5 June 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. The easiest way to do this is to go to the charter boat feature, look it over and click on the links to the sponsors. Their websites will open in new windows. Use one of the links on their websites to open the contest entry link. Enter the code. Go back to the feature and open the other sponsor. Enter that code into the same contest entry. Send ONE entry with both codes.
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, find the contest code(s), and click the entry link and fill it out correctly. We have so many prizes that we will be doubling and tripling up (and more) for several contests and producing feature photo spreads in conjunction with the contests. Here is the list of future contests and feature photo spreads:

Charter Boat Feature - 25 April to 5 June 2005:
Celine Pub Crawl - two tickets on the Lagoon Pub Crawl
Sealine Charters - $100 off a half day or full day charter

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
Dare to be Rare - $100 gift certificate 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
Saint Germain - $50 gift certificate for two
Le Marrakech - $50 gift certificate for two

Orient Beach Feature - 1 October to 15 November 2005:
Chez Pat - $100 toward a day on Galion Beach
Kakao Beach Bar - $100 toward a day on Orient Beach
Sol e 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


We had a spectacular bit of roast beef at a barbecue at the home of Vinissimo's Sylvain in Concordia on Monday evening. It should come as no surprise that he bought it at the Boucherie in Concordia. Just follow the main street up two blocks into Concordia and it is on the right, behind La Plancha, a grill restaurant.


We took a ride on the Caribbean Duck Boat as part of the website development. You board the boat in the parking lot of St Maarten University and drive over the hill to Simpson Bay, entering the water on Kimsha Beach across from The Wharf Restaurant. Although we have made the trip far too many times, one does get a different perspective from 12 feet in the air and a different view from Simpson Bay. I took about 50 photos and I'll put together a feature over the summer. Until then, there are some photos of the tour group and the Duck Boat in the SXM-Info features section.


On 30 April the euro was at 1.292 and today it is at 1.281. 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, La Marine, Rainbow Cafe, and Balaou. Sebastiano, Le France in the Marigot marina, and Santal were offering the same. Note that some only offer this rate for cash. 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. This is the end of this feature as it is difficult to keep up with this when we are here and impossible when we return to the US.


We had lunch at L'Escargot on the Saturday of the carnival parade. We got there early and had some water and white Sancerre before we ordered two osso bucos (19.50) with home-made pasta. The osso buco was tender and tasty and the chilled Sancerre went fine with the warm afternoon, but a red wine would have been better with the very flavorful lunch.

On Sunday, which was a major holiday (Labor Day to most of the world), many restaurants were closed and many of those that were open were short-staffed. We violated our rule about not going out on holidays (Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are killers) because this was the last night on the island for some friends staying at L'Hoste on Orient Beach. We met in the middle at Alabama. We had stopped at Marina La Royale in Marigot to take some photos for the upcoming Marigot contest feature and were disappointed to find over half the restaurants closed. Photos of dark and shuttered restaurants were not what I had in mind. It wasn't that bad in Grand Case, but Le Cottage Restaurant next door to Alabama was closed and Alabama was fairly crowded with only two people working the front of the house. Alabama is doing 1 to 1 on the euro for cash and has an early bird three course special at a very good price. The dining room is quite pretty, although as it is on the land side of the street, there is no sea view. It's also fairly large and the tables are well-spaced. The wine list is similarly large but Pascal can guide you through it, especially the extensive Bordeaux listings. We started with the Chambolle Musigny 1999 from Domaine Clerget ($73) a bit expensive and not as good as I had hoped - possibly we have had too much Burgundy this season. No problem, six people on one bottle means you get to order another one soon. We switched from the pinot noir grape of Burgundy to the melange of Rhone with a Crozes Hermitage Clos des Grives 1998 from Domaine Combier ($65) and were quite pleased with the long lasting yet well-behaved flavor. It was especially nice with the cheese and salad offerings. I had a special of Roquefort baked in phyllo dough on a bed of greens with pine nuts and balsamic vinegar ($11). Roquefort is quite a strong cheese and balsamic vinegar is not for sissies, so when this is added to the crunch of phyllo dough and the texture of pine nuts, one gets a quite flavorful and interesting dish that needs the full flavor of the Crozes Hermitage. But I said cheese and salad offerings. The menu also had a warm goat cheese salad with honey and walnuts ($12) and a baked Brie cheese and sundried tomatoes cake with avocado and citrus salad in caramel and tamarind sauce ($11.50) and three other guests ordered them and were quite happy. We were with some good eaters and a soup course followed with some very tasty French onion soup along with some cold tomato soup with feta cheese. By now the wine was getting low and we moved downscale a bit to the Crozes Hermitage 1999 Les Meysonniers from M. Chapoutier ($36), still quite good. I did not catalog all the dinners but my veal tenderloin medallions in a bacon coating and pistachio crust with roast asparagus (also wrapped in bacon) in a Cognac sauce had all the things that I like: lots of flavors and textures ($25). The lamb tenderloin grilled on lemongrass kebab with pineapple chutney, cardamom and thyme sauce ($26) was well received. The shrimps and sea scallops on fresh rosemary kebab served with sweet potato cake and apple browned sauce ($25) featured very tasty, but a bit overcooked seafood. Some desserts arrived but, as usual, we did not participate. I did have a quite lovely glass of grappa made from chardonnay grapes. The total bill for the table came to about $440, but as our friends had been their earlier, their previous bill gave them a 10% discount on this dinner. Bottom line: we ended up spending about $140 per couple, not bad considering each couple consumed about $65 from the bar (there were bottles of sparkling waters and a glass of Riesling).

Tuesday night was a much calmer affair at Bistrot Caraibes in Grand Case. We ordered the Crozes Hermitage 2000 Les Meysonniers from M. Chapoutier (34 euros, same wine as Alabama but a different vintage). We had the foie gras with mango, pistachios, and puff pastry. The textures of creamy smooth foie gras, crunchy puff pastry, and chewy pistachios were enhanced by the lovely pairing of sweet mango with the foe gras. A bit of sweetness with foie gras is such a great addition that Thibault remembered to bring a glass of Monbazillac, even though I forgot to ask for one. Martha asked about fish and Thibault said mahi. It was spectacular: fresh as possible in a lovely tomato sauce with asparagus for more taste and texture. I really like the lamb chops here and on our last visit this season, I ordered them again: very tasty lamb chops with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes with a thyme sauce. We finished with coffee, Armagnac, and a lot of gossip. It's been a difficult year for most of the French side. The bill came to about 120 euros and they used a good exchange rate to keep it at about $140 .

Wednesday lunch was at Pirate Beach Bar on Orient for more wonderful conch salad and a mahi sandwich. This is a great spot for fish on the beach, nothing fancy, just fresh-tasting fish, simply, but well-prepared, with a great view of Green Cay. With three beers, our total expenditure was $22. No conversion, Glen's prices are in dollars and no 15% additional. We've had the ribs and have seen people devour the chicken, but we think Sylvie does such a fabulous job with seafood, conch especially, that we rarely venture from that section of the menu.

On Thursday night we had a final dinner at Hibiscus. We had the 2000 Chorey Les Beaune again (51 euros) and Thierry led off with a complimentary bit of asparagus soup. The bread was not the standard baguette, but a wheaty, dark bread with lots of chewy flavor and good crust. Martha ordered an ap: tuna sushi with wasabi sauce, wakame seaweed, and a sesame coated bit of puff pastry. I did Thierry's version of the salad caprese: tomatoes and mozzarella, except he added smoked tuna and set it all on a crispy crepe atop a bed of greens with an oil and herb dressing. Mine was a special and Martha's was the sushi ap, same as we had last time, but it wasn't the same at all. I had the special duck breast stuffed with tomato confit with shrimp, celery, and a galette of crispy, wafer-thin potatoes. The confit had a hint of heat and the shrimp were cooked to perfection, still pellucid with a bit of crunch and a lot of shrimp flavor. Martha had the pig trotters (that would feet to most of us). This is a very old-fashioned and eccentric dish made even more so by Thierry's addition of the exalted truffle to the lowly trotter. He jazzed up the steamed potatoes visually and texturally with a black olive topping. That plus the addition of a bit of vinegar cut the lusciousness of the pork. We were brought complimentary flutes of sparkling Vouvray at the end of the meal and finished with coffee, 10 year old rum, and complimentary mignardises. The bill came to 144 euros, translated as $188, more than the earlier two meals, but we did have an extra ap, and a few additional food courses plus a chance to sample some of the most inventive food on the island.

On Friday night we stopped in to Auberge Gourmande for one last dinner with Christophe and Florence. We had asked for our usual table on the front porch as the day's rain had cooled things off enough do without A/C. We started with the Mercurey 1er 2001 Cru en Sazenay Chateau de Marcey, a lovely pinot noir from the very southern end of Burgundy. Our ap was the chicken livers in puff pastry with a mustard sauce on a bed of mixed greens. If you like chicken liver, this is a wonderful dish. Mustard complements the flavor of liver and kidneys and the contrasting texture of the puff pastry and crisp greens adds even more interest to the dish. Martha had the duo of monkfish and shrimp served with wasabi mashed potatoes and sweet pink peppercorns in a butter sauce and I had the pork filet mignon stuffed with walnuts and apricots served on a bed of Provencal vegetables with a crushed black pepper and red wine sauce. Both are lovely dishes with flavor and texture surprises in every bite. Auberge is doing 1 to 1 on the exchange so the price was in line with the others.

Note that two of these dinners were at 1 to 1 and two were not. The differences in price were minimal, attributable more to differences in wine or in numbers of dishes than anything else. Does this mean that the ones offering 1 to 1 raised their prices and then started doing 1 to 1? Having typed three of these four menus into websites, the answer here is no, and I believe that, in general, it is no. I think that some restaurants actually lowered their prices in response to the weakening dollar while others did nothing. Eventually the anemic dollar caused the majority of restaurants to take some action and this is the mess we are in today. Some restaurants offer 1 to 1, some do 1.1 to 1, 1.2 to 1, or the real 1.3 to 1. It all comes down to the fact that they are in competition. These are four very good restaurants on the land side of the street and they have all found a way to get their prices to be comparable. I have always said that the restaurants with the sea view cost about 10% more for comparable quality. At this point with the exchange rate changing by 30% from one restaurant to the next, generalizations are difficult. With Escapade, Restaurant du Soleil, California, La Marine, Balaou, Chez Martine, and Rainbow Cafe all offering 1 to 1 and Domaine de 'LAmandier closed, there are few holdouts. Look at the menu, ask about the exchange, and think about the quality.


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.

Caribbean View Condo: It's that time of year. We are officially short-timers, about a week before we return to the US. Our loss is your gain. Our 1 BR, 1 bath condo with a private foldout couch in the LR at Sapphire Beach Club on Cupecoy will be available for $1000 per week. Coupons are included with each week's rental that bring the cost down by about $200. The coupons include a $50 voucher on a dinner for two at Hot Tomatoes and a $50 coupon to Ama Bella Jewelers with any reservation, and a special invitation to Vinissimo where you will get at least 10% off and a few samples. There's more: Pascal, owner of Auberge Gourmande, Sunset Cafe, and Montmartre Restaurant, is offering a welcome champagne cocktail and an afterdinner drink at one of his restaurants to any of our renters. Finally, Unity Car Rental is offering 10% discount off already low website prices on any week's rental. That's a net of about $800 for a sixth floor one bedroom unit offering views of the Caribbean AND the lagoon with a jacuzzi on the balcony. Here's an even better deal. We just spent $700 for a new teak dining table and four chairs for the balcony overlooking the Caribbean. The first person that says they'll pay for the dining set, gets a week. That's $100 per night, no tax, no service charge, a total of $700 gets a week

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 for 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.

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 $900 for the week.

The Turquoise Shell Inn is running a summer promotion in conjunction with SHTA, four nights for the price of three or seven nights for six and more. Their own deal may be better: the weekly special July 15th thru Nov 15th is $625.00 including all taxes and service charges. Summer in St Maarten is as good as the rest of the year, great prices, and no crowds. Their weekly special thru July 15th remains at $700.00.

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 can now say I have been in Alamanda's lobby. It's quite nice and a very short stroll to Kakao on Orient Beach.