St Maarten/St Martin
Beaches: Simpson Bay is looking quite good. The beach has filled in to the top of the seawall at the Horny Toad Guesthouse. Grand Case Beach is fairly thin at the eastern edge running up to Grand Case Beach Club. Petite Plage on the other side of GCBC next to Sunset Café had a bit of beach and last year's construction just above the beach has turned into two 7-BR villas. There is sand beneath Cliffhanger at the eastern end of Cupecoy and a bit under the Cliff, but it gets thin at Sapphire Beach Club. Nonetheless, there was enough for several chairs up against the rocks. There was quite a bit of beach beneath Ocean Club and more under the parking lot. The little cove had a tiny bit of sand. A major rock has tumbled onto the platform by the monolith and destroyed one side of it. There is some beach and several coves along the stretch running from here to the western end where there is room for about one row of chairs next to Shore Pointe's new wall.
flat lagoon on Sunday morning
Construction: We added some boardwalk and Philipsburg photos on the construction feature. There is also a new shot of the airport terminal taken from Prince Rental Car's booth at the exit from the old airport and a shot of the wall at Shore Pointe.
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 a few requests. So this offer is still out there.
Select Wine Cellar: We stopped in to get some more of the Savigny-les-Beaune from Girard. Unfortunately, the white is backordered. Fortunately, Amiot-Servelle's 2003 Bourgogne is a very good and cheaper substitute. The red Savigny was in stock and we had liked it so much that we have needed to reorder more already. While we were there Marina poured some 2003 Doux Gros Manseng from Alain Brumant. It may not be up to the standards of his better sweet wines, but this would be great with foie gras and a bargain at about $10 per bottle. Last week I mentioned that they are carrying a fantastic line of glassware called Tritan from Schott in Germany. The sturdiness of this fine crystal is what is amazing. It rings as well as our Riedel, rivals it in delicacy, but can withstand a beating and a dishwasher!
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. Zouzou reminds us that she is still offering $1 for 1 euro for cash and traveler's checks.
Groceries: We stopped at the lone Ram's in Cole Bay on Friday, 6 Jan. It looked pretty sad - almost no fresh food at all, few vegetables, no fresh meat or fish, nine chickens. We had the second half of our Guadeloupe melon with duck breast proscuitto and a chilled rose. The melon was even sweeter this week and the slightly sweet rose made a lovely lunch looking out at Saba.
Karen and Pascal's Restaurants - 31 December 2005 to 27 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
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 some of the contests. Here is the list of future contests:
We exercise at Marci's Mega Gym 2000 in Simpson Bay. There is plenty of equipment, kept in good shape by Marci's husband, Francis. They had been to the boardwalk for New Year's and came home about 3 AM after mingling with about 12,000 people. Not exactly our style, but if you like it, and 12,000 people did, you'd have a great time.
|We went for a snorkel with Sebby at Grand Case Beach Club Activities Desk on Saturday. This trip also goes to Creole Rock, but it leaves from Grand Case and takes about two minutes to start snorkeling. It's cheaper than the boats coming from Simpson Bay and considerably faster, but you don't get to go sailing, there's no lunch, and you certainly don't get a look at the island on the way. Obviously, if you get seasick, this is a great way to see some of the best snorkeling on the island without a long boat ride. This approach also features a local diver (usually Sebby himself, although our 17 year old niece thought Damien was quite nice last year) showing you the sights. We always see more when somebody leads us. This time we saw the usual sergeant majors, parrot fish, and yellow-tailed needle-nose fish as soon as we entered the water. As we headed around the rock, we saw many a couple brilliant blue queen parrotfish. We crossed over the reef and into the chop from the tradewinds. It wasn't as clear, but the fish and coral are a bit larger on the far side. After a bit we allowed the current to bring us back inside the reef where Damien brought up a little starfish and we headed back to the boat. After an hour in the water, we were ready to take a break. We also saw a triggerfish, tangs, goatfish, wrasses, and blueheads.||
On 1 Jan the euro was at 1.184 and today it is at 1.215. That's fairly steady for the dollar but news that interest rates in the US would stopped rising have made the dollar start falling. 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 just got it at California Restaurant and Bistrot Caraïbes and noticed it at Restaurant du Soleil and Marlin's Cafe. 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.
On Wednesday we went to Antoine Restaurant on the new boardwalk in Philipsburg. Jean-Pierre is always a treat in the dining room and in the kitchen Pierre-Louis does a great job. JP confirmed that New Year's was very busy and that the boardwalk is bringing new business up to his area. This was the busiest lunch I had seen in years but JP expects better when the derelict buildings all get fixed up. To that end, nothing has happened at Everyt'ing Cool, but several new beach bars have appeared up in this area: One Eyed Jack, Big Wave, and Pagano's Bistro. Many more now line the original section of the boardwalk and several have aspirations to more than just BBQ. However, we were having fine French and started with a bottle of the LaCoste Rose d'une Nuit ($20) and proceeded to devour the wonderfully crunchy French bread with butter. Martha had a tasty conch chowder and a fish terrine with lobster and salmon in two sauces (photo on the website). I had the spicy tuna filet with rice and a pair of pureed veg. We had a pleasant time watching the America's Cup 12 meter boats racing in Great Bay. Take a look at the photo on Antoine's menu page. It looks fake but the only thing I did was use a telephoto lens to bring them a bit closer.
We strolled down the boardwalk and ended up at DK Gems. This shouldn't be in restaurants, but they will serve you a beer while you shop and we spend most of our time discussing restaurants. We didn't need a beer, but Martha had a powerful need for Christmas diamonds and few places can satisfy this desire as well as Deepti and brothers at DK Gems. As for the restaurant gossip, Jeff had recently had some lovely duck at Auberge Gourmande in Grand Case and Deepti was almost as thrilled with Dino Jagtiani's Dare to be Rare as she is with his Temptation Restaurant.
|We then headed back toward the car but stopped at L'Escargot Restaurant. Perhaps it's Edith Piaf wafting onto the street, perhaps it is Christophe's garlic wafting onto the street, perhaps we were thirsty. After a couple glasses of white wine, and more talk about how busy Pburg was on New Year's, Joel brought out a seafood crepe with a lovely shellfish flavored sauce, claiming it was a mistake. Possibly, the order was wrong, but the dish was delightful.|
|At about 5:10 that afternoon we stopped at Bamboo Bernies for their half hour of free margaritas, mudslides, beer, and great sunsets. The sunset actually arrived after the half hour of free drinks, but it was still free even if the drinks were about half price until 7 PM.|
On Thursday evening we went to Hideaway Restaurant. It is hidden a bit all the way up Billy Folly Road past Pelican to La Vista Resort. The good news is that parking is easy and traffic noise is nil. The dining room and bar are at the land end of the swimming pool. For breakfast and lunch, there is a beautiful view across the infinity pool to Saba. At dinner, at least with December sunsets, the pool is lit and soft lighting surrounds the tables. We arrived at 7:30 just as Les Hodge started playing piano. We started with a bottle of 2002 Cote Chalonnaise from Champs Perdrix. This area is the southern end of Burgundy and includes Rully, Mercurey, Montagny, and Givry. They have some lovely wines at better prices than their northern neighbors. This was only $23. Our first course was a rather large ceviche with shrimp, scallops, and fish. I had a special of veal chops that were quite good as was Martha's shrimp with old rum and pineapple. Both were surrounded by potato croquettes, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, asparagus, rice, red pepper, and a pair of tortellini. We ended with coffee and cognac as we danced in the moonlight. The total bill with a 15% tip included was $101.
Friday lunch was at L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant on the waterfront in Marigot. It is a pretty place with spectacular landscaping and waterworks ascending the hill behind it to Fort Louis. The dining room is wide open on three sides affording views of the waterfront and the landscaping to most anyone in the rstaurant. Jean-Christian Bazur turns out some interesting dishes and Madame Bazur and Vionnay bring them out. We had a rose wine made from Pinot Noir grapes from Sancerre in the Loire Valley that was quite delicate and refreshingly cold on a warm afternoon. Martha had a Salade Chavignol: lovely greens with baked Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese. Crottin translates as horse ball and seems a strange name for a food product. Then again, we have SHTA, the St Maarten Hospitality and Tourist Association, and SMUTA, the St Martin United Taxi Association right here on the island. In any event, Steven Jenkins in his Cheese Primer says when it's good, it's fabulous, but it can be aged to long. This was fabulous. Chavignol is a small town just outside of Sancerre. I had a pizza and am sorry I passed up the chance for Jean-Christian's tuna sashimi. Pizza is good, but the taste of Martha's salad reminded me that we are on this island to have things that are better. With Badoit water and an extra tip, lunch was about $70.
After snorkeling on Saturday morning, we enjoyed the last two orders of moules in a creamy sauce with lots of onion, pepper, and parsley at Sunset Café. Good food, good service, and a great view of Creole Rock and Anguilla. Chris says that fresh moules are now being delivered twice a week, so you won't have to worry about us eating the last two orders in the future. Sorry.
Later on Saturday afternoon we talked with Jose at Blue Sapphire Cafe at Sapphire Beach Club. He also owns Le Tastevin in Grand Case and was instrumental in organizing Harmony Nights. The first Harmony Night this year will be Tuesday 10 Jan. They will continue every Tuesday for 12 weeks.
Changes: Da Livio has closed but Daniel is serving Italian food at Mr B's at night. Indiana is now Picante. Tatoo (another strange name for something associated with food) in Nettle Bay looks considerably improved and the word is that the food has followed. Next door is Madinina replacing Swing Caraibes and across from Ma Ti Beach is Ti Sucriere. They come and go rather quickly on this stretch. Faster than I care to update the map. Pierre at Layla's Beach Bar has a new partner and big construction plans. He says it may start in March. Marlin's Cafe seems to be open again in Grand Case. Amandier is closed.
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.
Those who like Club Orient might be interested in Club Fantastico. Check it out.
Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she can generally beat any rates you can get from the hotels. Give her a shot.