St Maarten/St Martin
17 July 2005 Newsletter

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Weather and Beach report: From a recent visitor to Dawn Beach: We just returned from a delightful trip - an Interval International exchange into Oyster Bay. The tragedy I have to report is about the Dawn Beach construction at Scavengers. One day, we enjoyed the shade of a palm tree surrounded by a couple mangroves just south of the drainage runout that separates Scavengers' beach from the former hotel's beach. Two days later we returned to find all the palm trees and mangroves along the beach uprooted and being hauled away (supposedly this is a protected sea turtle nesting ground). And hundreds of tons of the heavy black toxic sludge in the catch basin being rapidly pumped into the bay. The ocean water was black for a couple hundred yards. Dead fish were washing ashore. The speed of the pumping (they had switched from a 4 inch to a 16 inch effluent hose) certainly caused the toxins to enter the water far faster than the wave action could dilute and disperse it out of the bay. The real tragedy is that the living coral that makes Dawn beach such an interesting snorkeling site was probably poisoned by this action. Though the island's ecologists were called in along with the news helicopters, the pumping was completed before any protective or legal action could be initiated. Of course, in the news that day, the developer denied all knowledge and couldn't understand how a subcontractor could do such a thing. Sorry to bear bad news, but I thought you might want to check it out and also warn your readers of the toxicity - either direct or from by-products of decomposition (red-tide-like effects) resulting from the disruption in the local ecology. It will be weeks before I would want to try swimming there and there are no warnings.

Our snorkel highlights were 'the swimming pool' in the reef at Dawn beach, both ends of Plum Bay, and near the arches at Baie Rouge. Pinel was good (and easy for inexperienced snorkelers) but not as good as these other locations.

He adds: Beware the thieves on Happy Bay, hiding/lurking in seclusion off the entry path from Friars. We were not aware they were there until our supposedly well hidden bag was searched while we were snorkeling. (They obviously saw me hide it deep in the foliage, away from our stuff. They were kind enough to leave $10 for gas and the credit card, but took $150 and my watch.) When we were finally aware of their hideaway as they cased another couple that arrived after us, they were not hesitant to also blatantly display inappropriate sexual behavior. I'm 6' 3 and these guys made me feel small and prepare myself to fend off a surprise assault in the foliage along the trail back to Friars and the car. It turns out that we either outwaited them or outnumbered them by waiting to go back at the same time as the other couple. (The good news and bed news to having a beach nearly all to yourself.)

Editor's note: It has often been reported that the bushes have eyes. You are probably being watched as you hide your valuables in the trunk of your car, in the bushes near the beach, or bury them in the sand.

Zuzu at California said that it was very hot in mid-June. Check out the Sep-Nov 10% off at her apartments on the beach in Grand Case. September may not be the greatest month, but October and November are spectacular.

Toward the end of June Don at GCL Car Rental reported that it was cloudy, but no rain!

Carter at Turquoise Shell Inn said that they had been having rain, got 3 inches in my gauge from the 6/9 thru 6/10, but keeping things growing and green. A month later it was blustery with off and on rain and clouds.

Vero from Antoine Restaurant reported about a week ago that the weather is still ok, not too hot and we were lucky that hurricane Dennis spared us. Now we are looking at "Emily" (this one is supposed to move toward the West , Barbados, Martinique) (Editor's note: It ended up going seriously south, hitting Grenada quite hard, skirting past the southern Netherlands Antilles (Curacao and Bonaire), and is currently passing thought Jamaica, the Caymans, and heading for Mexico.
The CNN weather site has a five-day forecast for Philipsburg. Sunset is about 6:47 and the moon is waxing gibbous. In English, that means approaching full (on 21 July).

This is a repeat from last year, but many people are new subscribers, so here goes: We use Skyglobe to tell us what is happening in the night sky. Down in SXM, where you can see so much more sky because of the lack of tall buildings and absence of light pollution, it's interesting to know what is up there. It also gives you the time for sunset and the phase of the moon and moonrise time. It starts with the date and time on your computer, but you can move the date to your time on the island and change the location to SXM (18.05 North 63.10 East) to find out what things will be like when you visit. Obviously, you can use it at home also. You can download the Skyglobe program free. It was shareware for a mere $5 that is now available for nothing because the company is out of business, but the people making it available ask for a donation.

For you skywatchers Betty Vaughan of Horny Toad Guesthouse says The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10 pm and reach its azimuth at about 3 am.

By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 am. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.

Trip report: Mimi and Joe Dordoni write: We had a fantastic trip made even more special because of the price break – due to winning a recent sxm-info contest - on our ‘white corolla’ rental from Michael and Joseph at Unity Car Rental.

Our meal at Hideaway at La Vista Resort was wonderful. The house salad – mmm. I treated myself to the rack of ‘divine’ lamb; my husband thoroughly enjoyed the mahi. as if that weren’t enough, we indulged ourselves even more by splitting the amaretto cheesecake – oh my! tada! we outdid ourselves. We went on Thursday for the music which everyone enjoyed. The service was excellent and the atmosphere was so romantic.
thanks again!

Sunset Beach Bar: In mid-June the bar was auctioned off to the highest bidder after marshals of the Island Receiver morning closed the bar, a popular hangout at the start of the airport runway. Island Receiver Sherry Hazel explained that the marshals had itemized the inventory to prepare for the auction that took place at the bar location. Itemizing the inventory and the auction, according to procedure,usually takes place 10 to 30 days after the Island Receiver has place a lien on a property, said Hazel, who didn't want to say why Sunset Beach Bar was being auctioned. It appears to be back in operation and the website was working last time I looked. Carter at Turquoise Shell Inn said that he went to the Sunset Beach Bar for the picnic over the Fourth. Things seem back to normal: topless women DO drink free, but no takers last night. It was blustery and off and on rain yesterday (and a bit cloudy on 5 July), so the crowd was a bit sparse. They still have another issue to deal with as far as losing the lease for non-payment of "something" which comes up on July the 9th. Recent news has La Samanna canceling a private function that SSBB intended to have there.

Random Wind: Marten says: "Aboard Random Wind we had an active fish season with lots of dolphins and whales. Andre the captain even got to swim with the dolphins......in the wild!! You might say that our people were out with the giants, After our complete deck refit Random Wind looks so clean and spacious that lots of people complimented us for all the good changes. Lately the weather has been nice with some squally intervals but the snorkeling has been real great especially at Creole Rock and our favorite spot is around the corner from Bay Rouge. No other charter boats go there except Random Wind and our motor-launch At Random. At Random has been very active with children's outings and sunset cruises. On the kid's cruises the bottom fishing was great. We're catching lots of small colorful fish. We take their picture and send them back into the water. Check out the photo feature for a close encounter of the dolphin kind.

Boardwalk Project: Vero from Antoine Restaurant says there is construction all over the island, it's booming more then usual!! The sheet piling is in all the way to Horizon View Hotel. Concrete will be poured after the rest of the piling is finsihed and the bricks will be placed on that. The schedule still looks for completion by December. The project calls for several of the beach access alleyways be upgraded with similar brick walkways. Vero sent some photos and they have been placed here. Vero also says the cruise ship industry is asleep with one boat per week but we are still doing ok as the evenings are good. Our chef is back from vacation, it's so good to taste his food again. He is going to participate in the Culinary contest for the Chef of the Caribbean in Martinique during October 05. Antoine will stay open during all summer is still offering valet parking service at night.

Airport Project: Carter at Turquoise Shell Inn in mid June said the airport is on schedule. The roof is on and two walls are nearly enclosed so they will be completely enclosed soon. Looks like they will do the first road diversion almost any day now ( but that probably means 2 weeks or more). On 12 July Vero from Antoine Restaurant reports that the new airport road just opened.It's a real change ! She sent a photo which has been added to the construction page of SXM-Info's features.

Rainbow Beach and the Cliff in Cupecoy: Vero from Antoine Restaurant sent in new photos that have been added to the construction page of SXM-Info's features

Marigot Casino: Some people are thinking about a casino/hotel in Marigot. Check out their plans.

Caribbean Celebrity Chef: This year Dino Jagtiani of Temptation and Dare to be Rare (opening in July?) went to New York City for a cooking demo. He says, "The trip was amazing. The highlight was preparing the menu at the CTO ball at the Waldorf Astoria. Among many VIPs, Mayor Bloomberg was in attendance. Got to shake his hand. Other highlights were a cooking demo at Williams Sonoma, at the Time Warner bldg, and cooking for a bunch of foodwriters, journalists, etc at the NY Hilton during a media marketplace cocktail party. St. Maarten, Bahamas, and Jamaica's chefs also got a spot on CBS's morning show for about 20 seconds. So I got to wave and say hi to everyone."

Mario from Mario's Bistro, Cecile from Chanteclair, Scott from Terra, and Dino went to Miami on 25 June to participate in the Taste of Caribbean competition. They were proclaimed the best out of 12 teams. That is pretty impressive, but I thought so back in 1995 when I bought my condo here! The interesting thing is that we have the best food, but the great thing is that the prices are reasonable.

Dare to be Rare: Dino says that it will be open in late July.

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.

AIA Massage: Tricia's big news: My news is that I am pregnant and looking for an esthetician or other therapist to permanently share my business as an independent therapist capable of drawing their own clientele. I will continue treatments through July and energy treatments (IET) through September. However that need change nothing with massage bookings as I have two other excellent therapists to replace me.

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 features: 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 Cupecoy. Getting a bit away from Cupecoy up into the hills of Columbier, we have some action shots from the "I love my Ram Contest'. When I first heard about this, I was a bit suspicious, but it appears to be semi-serious. The reigning champion (and three-time winner) is Titus who trains at Marci's Mega Gym 2000. Actually that's not strictly true, but Marci and Francis sent in the photos. There is a shot of Titus and a young lad in a "I (heart) my Ram" tee-shirt. Just send orders for the shirt to Marci. There is also a shot of Francis, Titus, and it looks like Bulldog to me. Finally, there is a shot of the full moon rise on the solstice, taken in NY. There are also several shots of the Children's Parade from Vero at Antoine Restaurant on the restaurant's website.


The winners of the Grand Case Contest which ended today are:
Escapade Restaurant - $100 gift certificate for two - Warren Sale
GCBC Snorkel Trips - A guided snorkeling trip for two around Creole Rock and an afternoon on our lounge chairs on Petite Plage - Allen Morrow
GCL Car Rental - $100 off a one week car rental - Allen Morrow
L'Esplanade Hotel - $100 gift certificate toward a week's stay - Allen Morrow
AIA Massage - Two massages for the price of one - Allen Morrow

Several businesses in Cupecoy are sponsoring the contest that runs from 18 July until 24 August, 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:

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
Caribbean View Condo - Half price week, only $500
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
Panoramic Car Rental - $100 off a week's car rental


On 6 June May the euro was at 1.221 and today it is at 1.204. 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.

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.

Hot Tomatoes: We are waiting for more Hot Tomatoes comments. 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.

Halsey's: Halsey's has started to advertise on SXM Restaurants. For those of you unfamiliar with them, they are on the SE side of the Dutch bridge, across from Royal Palm. Ryan Halsey is the chef and Jessica is in the front of the house, serving up interesting and bold flavors on the lagoon

Baccara: Martin Conway who owns Le Baccara restaurant at Port de Plaisance is also the Director of Casino Operations. He says he has been soooooo busy with the casino. The restaurant has had to get by on its own a little, thank goodness for my good team. Le Baccara is now open every night and will not be closing during the summer months. The casino is still offering some great entertainment and is very busy on weekends and the restaurant is the best place to appreciate the entertainment.

Chez Pat/Tropical Wave Pat says: We're open all summer and we are doing our Annual super saving special. 50% off double our normal pricing. This of course is for not only our food menu but for windsurf lessons and kayaks also snorkeling and paddleboat. Hope all your readers will consider this and make it a point to visit the team at Tropical Wave. Don't forget all drinks 2 for 1... pay for 2 and get just 1. Unbelievable Sail on, Patrick OK, so maybe it's not a great sale, but you'll find Pat endlessly amusing, the beach is beautiful, the bay is calm, the beer is cold, and the fish plates are fantastic.

A recent visitor writes: Yes, We did go to Beau Beau's Restaurant and had a delightful time. He is such a character! The Red Snapper was stellar - whole fish, a well seasoned very light batter, cooked just right so that it was tender and flakey with rich flavor. While it seems 'everyone' has a live lobster tank to choose from and can grill a lobster, Beau Beau's staff knows how to do some alternative preparations and presentations that keep it from being overcooked and rubbery. The one we had was steamed about 8 minutes to near completion to keep the flavors intense and the meat tender, and then brushed with seasoning and quickly grilled at high heat to sear the meat and infuse some flavor without overcooking. He, of course, is a delightful singer and on Mondays he does informal duet-style arrangements with Jeffrey. His Nat King Cole - unforgettable and the two of them doing Louis Armstrong is magical.

Another highlight was Boo Boo Jam's on the north end of Orient Beach on a Sunday afternoon (enter at the last turnoff before Cul-De-Sac that has a serpent wrapped around a pole.) Any other day the place is like most of the Orient Beach bars - some entertainment, some life; but on a Sunday it is the place that the service industry locals go to play. It's packed! The dancing spills over onto the beach. The live music has a lot of Caribbean and Latin influence. 'The joint's a hoppin" and, unexpectedly, the tourists are made to feel very welcome in what is obviously a place locals choose to escape their day jobs and tourists. The prices were also obviously local scale prices instead of typical orient beach prices.

Having been to Grand Case, we now understand many of the reviews you have provided. While generalizations are difficult since each restaurant is independently owned, nevertheless my sense is that those that are on the waterfront have a sunset and a view to provide with their very good food, but those that are on the inland side of the street have to try much harder to attracts patrons and acquire a reputation that generates referrals and repeat customers. They do this with a moderate degree of price discounting, a couple dollars an entree, but more important is that they do this by stretching the culinary envelope and attention to making sure every guest has an exquisite experience. Among those with a view, you can't beat Sebastiano's for Italian or Rainbow Café for French, but the two places that provided an over-the-top experience for us was the Le Cottage Restaurant and Spiga Restaurant (the northern entry road). In particular, Le Cottage did an incredible job of combining some very unexpected flavors and ingredients to create plates that were as much works of 3D art as they were masterful culinary expressions. (The crispy duck with sauteed foie gras was reminiscent of the finest restaurants in L.A.) Another little secret - the purveyors get their fresh Mediterranean fish and European meats via the Thursday Air France flight from Paris so you can expect more continental fresh-meat specials with simpler preparations over the weekend and a return to normal menu fare and more culinary creativity on the weekdays.

We visited L'Escargot for lunch based on your Carnival season experience. Their namesake escargot dishes were excellent and the house pate was very good.

The Mahi Mahi at Scavengers was the usual fresh, good flavor, inexpensive lunch in a wonderful setting. Editor's note: get it soon as they will be gone when the new hotel is in operation.

Gus' at Baie Rouge makes the best Guavaberry Tings we found - a recipe different from the usual variations on the local liquor.

Antoine no closing
Belle Epoque no closing
Bistrot Caraibes 28 May - 4 June 2005
Sep 2005
Cottage mid August - 6 October 2005
La Marine 24 April - 1 November 2005
Oizeau Rare early May until mid-June 2005
Sol e Luna 20 June to July 5 2005


Endless Summer Swimwear Aug 29 - Sep 11


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.

Panoramic Car Rental: PCR is running a special on the Hyundai Getz for only $135.00 per week from now until 31 October 2005. I know some people complain about the Getz, but I have had one for a month over each of the last two years and found them to be just fine.

Unity Car Rental: A recent visitor wrote that Michael at Unity Car Rental did provide a great deal and wonderful service, even throwing in five extra overtime hours on our weekly rental since we arrived in the morning and left in the late afternoon. That he takes a reservation without a deposit made me a bit nervous, but his staff was there to greet us at the airport and help with the luggage.

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 said she would take 10% off September to November for the apartments at California. 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.