St Maarten/St Martin
6 June 2005 Newsletter

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Weather and Beach report: Saturday (7 May) was quite nice and Sunday proved to be a great day at Cupecoy. The waves were up a bit so snorkeling wasn't very good. There is plenty of beach at the NW end, none at the monolith, and a bit in the little cove. On Monday the waves became rollers and we skipped the beach. Tuesday looked beautiful, but we were packing. It turned very hot and humid after we left, temps up to 90F with showers. Lots of showers since we left. Finally looking good about a week later. Highs into the low 90's but the forecast is for clouds. Vero from Antoine Restaurant says the weather since then (when we left) has been hot and abnormally humid for the season. The CNN weather site has a five-day forecast for Philipsburg. Sunset is about 6:39 and the moon is waning gibbous. In English, that means just past full.

Beach books: The Sex Lives of Cannibals : Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. MAARTEN TROOST - I just finished this on the plane coming back. People kept wondering what I was laughing about. It's not exactly like SXM, but there are some similarities. In any event, it's a good read.

Trip report: From a friend who rents our condo in the late fall, but also visits over the summer: We just returned from ten days in SXM - we actually had an unplanned extra day, as American canceled the afternoon SJU flight at the last minute. It was bedlam trying to get re-ticketed for the next morning and the same to check in on Wednesday. And, the Maho Beach resort is no Sapphire Beach Club. We had a great time, but it was almost too hot. As you know, people are talking about the similarities with the May weather the years of Louis and also Lenny. Hope they are wrong. The construction and the land clearing (near the condo in Cupecoy) were not as bad as we had feared. I hope there will always be usable beach access - will keep our fingers crossed.

Los Gauchos: Los Gauchos has moved from Philipsburg to Simpson Bay. They are now located next to The Boathouse. Still great Argentine beef, just a new location.

Boardwalk Project: Vero from Antoine Restaurant reports that they have started phase 2 of the boardwalk. Unfortunately, the government has asked them to move some of their tiki huts and some of their small coconut trees to let the heavy equipment get in to do the work. Now they are working on the pier. The schedule is at least 3 months (if no hurricane visits the island!). She reports that May was a good month for Antoine, especially at night. That seems to indicate that the efforts that the Dutch government have made are starting to pay off. It really is beautiful downtown and Antoine has valet parking for dinner.

Sunset Beach Bar: The big news is that they got raided by immigration causing much consternation in the TTOL crowd. They are open again and the website is working.

Maho and Spadaro: It appears Saro Spadaro, the savior of St Maarten (self-proclaimed after Hurricane Luis), is in trouble with the law concerning ties to unsavory money. He's been in jail before and accused of many things.

Liquor and customs: We returned to the US with a cat, some food, and 17 bottles of booze. We had our cat inspected and got the appropriate papers at no charge at the vets in Concordia just prior to returning. We declared the cat, food, and booze as we landed in Puerto Rico and were directed to the agricultural inspection. Nobody looked at the cat or her papers. Nobody looked at the booze or charged us duty. The bags were stuffed into the agricultural sniffer chute and we were on our way. Once in the last ten years we had to pay about $2 per bottle duty on the booze. It's still a bargain. The feds say they will enforce the local booze laws when you land. That's a good reason to return via San Juan rather than Miami. It's a felony to bring booze in Jeb's state. However, the feds have troubles enforcing their own laws, so they don't really concentrate on that bit of silliness, especially after the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing small wineries to ship into all the states.

Paris Bistro and The Wharf Restaurant: New for the slow season: Buy one main course at the regular price and get the second one of equal or lesser value at 50% off. Go to the websites and print out the coupon.

Bec Fin: Le Bec Fin has updated their website and started to advertise on www.SXM-Restaurants.com. We've never been there but have heard good things about them. The photo on their website showed such a lovely terrace with a sunset that I am using it on the www.SXM-Restaurants.com website. With the sun setting at 6:39 (heading for 6:47 on the solstice) you can actually enjoy the sunset during dinner. Remember there are no long lingering twilights in the tropics. In contrast, our sunset will be at 8:30 on that day as we are considerably north and east. Moreover, it stays light for about an hour after sunset.

Hot Tomatoes: We got some comments and a photo from Gil and Julie McWilliams. It's on the website and before we return in December, somebody will win a pair of pizzas and a bottle of red. Just send us some comments and we'll pick a winner.

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. No word from Dino yet.

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.

Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou says that for the summer, 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 some shots from Sunset Beach Bar and Bamboo Bernies. There are also several interesting shots from Vero at Antoine Restaurant.


Several businesses in Grand Case 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:

The Charter Boat Feature winner is Denny Small. Congrats to the winner and thanks to all who entered.

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


On 7 May the euro was at 1.281 and today it is at 1.221. That is the best in quite a while. 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. 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.

The last newsletter raved about great seafood from Glen and Sylvie at Pedro's Beach Bar. Unfortunately, they are a few spaces down the beach at Pirate Beach Bar. Apologies to my readers and to Glen and Sylvie. It should have said:

"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 Saturday evening we had a final dinner at La Vie en Rose in Marigot. It was a lovely Saturday night, very nice for the street fair that had blocked off the widest street on the French side, Rue de la Republique, the street beside the restaurant. The fair ended with a concert. Thankfully, the stage was at the other end of the street, but given the Caribbean motto, "Louder is better," we could enjoy the music more than if we were there. We ordered a 99 Savigny-Les-Beaune from Rodet (39 euros) that was very nice, not overpowering, but smooth and long-lasting. Wonderful walnut bread arrived with a pair of baby baguettes. We decided on an all seafood dinner, despite the red wine, starting with the shrimp because we wanted to see how the chef handled shrimp. In a word, perfectly. They were flavorful and cooked perfectly with a sweet pepper chutney in a vanilla and paprika sauce. The shrimp were flavorful enough to stand up to a chutney and the bold flavors in sauce. Moreover, the dish was fine with the wine. Dinners were a mahi with onion compote and a light brown sauce with balsamic and the yellowtail snapper with a thin-sliced potato crust on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes surrounded by asparagus, carrots, and leeks. These were both lovely full-flavored dishes that had no problem with the smooth, but fairly large, red wine. The textures incorporated into the fish dishes added another bit of interest. We finished with coffees as we gazed out over the waterfront from our second floor perch. The bill was about 110 euros translated to about $140, same as the four dinners in the previous newsletter. This was very interesting food, prepared well, and served well in a lovely place with an interesting view - tough to beat. There were differences in the five restaurants but all are capable of serving good food in nice surroundings. They all have websites, as do most of the good restaurants down here. On SXM Restaurants you can see where they are located and get links to their sites. The sites will show what the interior looks like and most will have menus and wine lists with prices. Don't take my word for it, come on down and sample them yourself!

Monday night we went to L'Oizeau Rare in Marigot. They are serving three course fixed price dinners at 35 euros (about $45) with an amuse bouche and home made vanilla rum to follow. That is a very good deal for food of this quality in this location. The are on a slight rise kitty-corner from La Vie en Rose. The rest of the hill behind L'Oizeau Rare has been landscaped with waterfalls and beautiful tropical gardens. No matter where you sit you get a lovely view, either gardens or the view over the square to the waterfront. The fixed price dinner includes everything on the menu and all the specials, except lobster - fair enough. I ordered water and a 99 Givry Premier Cru aux Moines (32 euros). We started with the amuse bouche: a small glass of gazpacho with a rich velvety texture, a bit of heat, and a carrot stick. Martha got one even though she didn't order the fixed price dinner. My ap was a mille-feuille of goat cheese and crispy phyllo dough with some salad greens and a balsamic drizzle (10 euros), but could have had foie gras with apples (14 euros) as part of my fixed price. My main course consisted of four lamb chops with a cracked pepper crust with an onion compote, fried potato dumplings, a melange of garlic, zucchini, and carrot, and ratatouille (24 euros). Martha had her favorite, the tuna tartare with extra crispy French fries. The tuna was fresh with a nice blend of spices and the fries are our favorite (14 euros). We shared the chocolate fondant (chocolate cake with a liquid chocolate center) with cream anglaise, chantilly, and vanilla ice cream (8 euros) with coffees, a glass of Etienne rum, and two complimentary glasses of the vanilla rum. Our bill was a bit under 100 which became $130 using the real rate. This is an amazing price for all this good food.

Our final dinner on the island for this season was at Montmartre Restaurant. We are most thankful that Montmartre (and Temptation and Gondola) are so close to our condo. Wine was the 97 Beaune Champs-Pimont, quite a bargain at $42. We started with the tuna tartare on a brioche topped with scallops and laced with spices - one of my favorites - and six snails - rather standard, but rather good. Our dinners were the capon leg stuffed with a foie gras and mushroom mixture with a myriad of vegetables - my favorite, but Martha ordered it - so I had the tournedos Rossini, an excellent piece of tenderloin topped with a bit of foie gras. It was a wonderful meal all around with great service and as the crowds have departed, we lingered over coffee and cognac with Karen and the rest of the staff. We like this restaurant very much. It has very good food, great service, fine wines, and good prices for the total experience. It's a bonus to have it so close to our condo and that is why we rent our condo over the summer with a coupon for a welcome champagne cocktail and an afterdinner drink.

That's it for live on the spot restaurant reviews this season, unless some summer visitors send me some. They are always welcome. Until our return in early December, we will be discussing food that is available on the island and similar products available over the internet, such that you could try them here in the US. It's not quite the same, but it is a means to reduce the anxiety caused by being away from the island. I do believe that it will warm up and the sun will come out (even here in the Northeast). That should satisfy our craving for warmth and sunlight. Get a bottle of wine and some interesting food and you're most of the way to a St Maarten vacation. Well, sort of. If you feel you must go, check out our condo below. We'll even give newsletter subscribers $100 on a week's rental, just ask.


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 have returned 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.We just put a new teak dining table and four chairs for the balcony overlooking the Caribbean.

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! The April winner was Mr.Charles Rappaport from Gilbert, AZ and the May winner was Mr.Roger Horn from Crystal River, FL.

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. Zuzu and Alain now have the Acropole Orient Villa for rent at very attractive prices, especially for three couples.

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.