St Maarten/St Martin
Weather: Sunday 17 Dec was lovely, a bit cloudy, but warm and nary a sprinkle. Monday was pretty good in the 80's during the day and dropping down into the 70's at night. Tuesday had more sprinkles but they should not have bothered bathers. Wednesday was another lovely day followed by the same thing on Thursday. It's warm (77F as I type in the morning) with a pretty good view of Saba, but not crystal clear, so there is some humidity. Friday and Saturday were lovely. Sunrise on Sunday was at 6:44AM and sunset will be at 5:39PM. That's about 11 hours only two days after the shortest day of the year.
Beaches On Sunday 17 Dec, we went to Cupecoy. There is a little beach at Sapphire, quite a bit next door at Ocean Club, none in the little cove, and more than usual in front of London's Folly, plenty of room. The wide swath of Pburg's Great Bay Beach looked wonderful as we headed over the hill from Little Bay past Divi to Pburg. It really is a lovely beach and there is a lot going on down there with plenty of beach bars, some becoming beach restaurants, and a very good restaurant with huts on the beach and indoor table service: Antoine Restaurant. The beach in Grand Case looks fine. On Saturday we went to the far NW end of Cupecoy where there was plenty of sand and the waves weren't rough. Beach reading: I just finished reading Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen. Now the movie had at least two things to recommend it, but after you pay Demi Moore $20 million to make a movie, you better get your money's worth. Hiassen's books rarely have a totally heroic character that movie lovers must have, nor do they focus on a single character. Thus, the book is a much wider portrait of south Florida and doesn't focus on the troubled stripper quite so much. It is hilarious.
Traffic: No disasters to report. We actually went over to Cole Bay and back before 11:30 on a Saturday to pick up some provisions before the two day holiday (Christmas followed by Boxing Day here on the Dutch side). So things aren't so bad, especially when one considers that the outbound bridge opening at 9:00 on the Saturday two days before Christmas is probably the busiest departure in a long time.
We have made a map of the Cole Bay area and have explained the traffic experiment on map page of SXM-Info.
Construction continues, although many projects shut down for two weeks over the holidays. The airport has finished demolition of the old building, paved it over, and now has all four jetways in operation, ostensibly reaching its full capacity and giving the employees more parking on the airport side of the road. That should help car traffic in front of the airport as most tourists aren't using the parking lot across the street and attempting to cross over to the airport.
It appears that Caravanserai has finally received building permits, but nothing new has started yet. that's somewhat understandable in the week before Christmas.
Wendy K points out that Cupecoy Cove is a project that owns property next to her along the lagoon in Cupecoy.
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. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to firstname.lastname@example.org via Paypal) and if you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. Given the large assessment that Sapphire just levied, there may be a lot of sales. At present, there are 20 sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.
For those who would like to hear something positive about Sapphire, Teri P writes "...the hairdresser's at Sapphire is great....a great experience. I have always been a bit hesitant to have my hair done away from home, but it was great. A super head massage was included in the wash, and knowledgeable stylists made the transition easy. Another note, for the first time since I have been going to St. M, (since '94) I was able to swim at Sapphire Beach. And, have room to lay in the sun! So, the beach changes, but what comes around goes around. (or visa versa...)"
Select Wine Cellar to fill our cellar. A closet holds about three cases, max. They have the same Chablis from Gerard Tremblay that they had last year, but a different vintage. I think my advice from last year is still valid. They are all good, but the Chablis costs only a little bit more than the Petit Chablis and is well worth it. The Premier Cru Chablis costs quite a bit more and you may feel differently, but I buy the one in the middle. For a different style white Burgundy (rounder, smoother, less crisp), we still feel the Savigny Les Beaune from Girard is quite nice at under $20 per bottle. The difference in taste is not from the grape, as both are made from chardonnay. The Chablis region is not contiguous with any other Burgundy region, but lies about 50 miles NW of the northern tip of the sliver of hills that grow the finest wine in the world. Moreover, the soil has a higher mineral content.
Passports: This has been postponed once, and once again, but now they are saying that all travel to the USA will require a passport after 8 Jan 2007. If you are coming next year, think about this now, rather than at the last minute. Life is pretty easy if you allow enough time to renew by mail. All the details can be found at this State Department page. You can go away for the holidays and get by with a birth certificate and a driver's license, but after that, Get a Passport!
Small Island Story: As we drove past a line of stopped traffic in Friar's Bay, some guy in a large truck waved frantically and called my name. I pulled into the turnaround and started back and as he jumped out, I realized that it was Daniel from GCL Car Rental. We are driving their car this season. He wanted a business card so he could give it to a shop owner in Marigot who wants a website. Two points: The car rental guys know their cars and generally know other rental company's cars also. Second, if you wonder why there are traffic jams, you should realize that a true island person would not have pulled over, but merely stopped traffic in both directions while exchanging pleasantries and then finally got down to the nature of the urgent hand-waving. Welcome to the island, mon!
Club Fantastico will be hosting its annual New Years Eve Party on 31 December 2006. Join our host and guests for a great time overlooking beautiful Orient Beach and ring in the New Year 2007! Watch the New Year arrive in the comfort of our pool and Jacuzzi. Price $295 per couple payable in advance by December 15th, or $350 at the door. Hotel Guests will get a $ 95.00 discount. Call Tony at the NJ office at 973-575-1706 or email your reservation request to Rich.
Fireworks Beach Display
A great home-cooked Italian dinner
For those staying elsewhere in St Martin this season, we welcome you to visit the Club and spend the day with us for $125 per couple, enjoy our facilities and make your future reservations to stay with us. This includes use of our property including open bar, beach transport, Pool, Jacuzzi, Satellite TV (NFL Football) and more fun than you can have anywhere else in the Caribbean. For more info on the club, visit our website Hope to see you at Club Fantastico this season!
Winter schedule: Win $100 at Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant contest every week until April 2007. Get $50 in casino action and $50 off a dinner for two at Baccara Restaurant, just above the casino floor. Make it a spectacular evening as you will be picked up and returned home in a chauffeured Bentley. You must enter this contest each week and you must use the entry form for this contest to be considered.
Martin Conway, GM at the casino, says that they offer free pick up service by Rolls Royce or Bentley and can send a bus for larger groups. Distance is no problem. With this service, there are no worries about security or drinking and driving. Our motto is Good Gaming, Great Entertainment, and Fine Dining.
Martin also notes some changes at the Princess. Le Baccara has a new chef. We have a new restaurant: the “Rock House”, restaurant and sports bar. Another new area “Just Sushi” and a terrace restaurant to open mid-November, the “Surf & Turf” Island Grill and Bar. The entertainment is great with a special themed evening every weekend. Examples so far, Miss Princess, Caribbean Night, Oriental Night, Mr.Princess, Victor-Victoria. Halloween is coming up as is Indian Night. Friday Night in the Rock House is Karaoke with over 2000 songs in English and French. Monday night is, of course, Football night and we have 7 large screens and a couple of pool tables.
Aaron Lilly and Norm Oppliger
Two winners as it has been four weeks!
SXM-INFO'S REGULAR CONTEST
Let's go over the rules:
Rule #1 - Visit the website(s) and find the entry code.
Rule #2 - Send in ONE entry using the form with all the contest codes for the contests you wish to enter.
Rule #3 - If the prize-awarding entity goes out of business before you claim your prize, you are unlikely to get your prize.
Rule #4 - Prizes are valid for one year from the award date.
Rule #5 - There is no rule number five.
It's a lot easier than other contests and there is no timeshare presentation. We choose an email randomly from all those received. If that person has entered multiple times, we throw them all out. If not, that person will win all the prizes for which the correct contest code has been entered. If all the contests have not been won by this person, another email will be chosen, etc until all prizes have been won. It isn't mentioned, but there are five slots for contest codes on the entry form. Thus, one entry can win five contests.
Last weeks winners:
California Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two - Dan Desilets
California Apartments - $100 off a week's stay - John Sawicki
Ti Coin Créole - $50 off a dinner for two - John Sawicki
Atelier des Tropismes - signed print from Paul Elliott Thuleau - John Sawicki
Grand Case - Grand Case Cookbook - Dan Desilets
12 meter challenge: America's Cup Racing - two for one ticket on the number one activity in the Caribbean - Sophie Avent
Stay tuned. They'll be back after the Christmas/New Years Holidays.
On Monday night we went to the wine dinner that Select Wine Cellar and Stone Restaurant prepared for twenty lucky people (including us). Johan Roebert (the son of Capn Neil of Celine and the famous Lagoon Pub Crawl) was the chef. The cocktail hour featured Bergerac sec cuvée Sophie 2004 Domaine Grande Maison and this carried through to the smoked salmon roll filled with goat cheese with a pickled cucumber slice and some tapanade. Our next course was a walnut crusted baked Brie de Meaux with a slightly sweet sauce paired with Pouilly Fumé 2005 Domaine Bouchie Chatellier. Our first meat course was a beef steak topped with a bit of foie gras on a bed of noodles and oyster mushrooms in a cream sauce. The wine was a Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2004 Les Milleres Domaine Jean Gardies from the south of France. The combination was quite good. The final meat course was a duck breast with a hint of orange in the sauce paired with a Crozes Hermitage 2004 Cuvée Louis Belle Domaine Belle. I've often recommended a Crozes Hermitage as a more affordable version of the finer, and better known, Rhone wines: Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Our dessert was a molten chocolate cake with a caramel ice cream that Sylvain paired with his Rivesaltes 2004 Domaine Boudau. Johan came out and said a few words about each course and Sylvain and/or Marina said a few words about the wines they had paired with the courses. It was good fun plus good food and wine, and we all learned a bit.
On Tuesday we were doing some shopping in Pburg and stopped for lunch at L'Escargot Restaurant. Joel and Sonya are doing fine and the restaurant is going strong. We had a half bottle of the Ch Bel Air with the Caribbean Chicken and the Conch Salad (with some extra hot sauce). The chicken has been changed a bit from last year and is quite good. The conch salad has long been one of our favorites.
On Wednesday we had a lunch at California Restaurant. Vanessa (who previously sold flowers in Grand Case) and Patrick (from Tropical Wave at Galion Beach) are running the restaurant. At present, the operation looks much the same, esp as Alain is still in the kitchen but in a month or so there will be a new chef and a few changes. Stay tuned. We had a Reine pizza (cheese, tomato, ham, mushroom, and olives) and a Salade Alyzé: frisée and lettuce topped with tomatoes, slices of chicken breast, artichoke, hard-boiled egg, and salami. A bottle of La Vignée (non-vintage and quite good pinot noir) from Bouchard was only $25 and with water, the total bill came to about $50. They are doing 1 to 1 on the euro, and have beach chairs, so this is a lovely spot to while away an afternoon.
Harmony Nights has started up again in Grand Case. It turns out that this year the event is being put on by Grand Case Lolos Association and they are calling it Tuesday Nights in Grand Case. It will run for three months and is sponsored by Divico, the St Martin Tourism Association, the Marie (mayor's office), the Chamber of Commerce, Heineken, Orange, Radio Calypso, Youth Radio, and Tackling Assurances.
On Thursday we went to see Cedric at Restaurant du Soleil. He has taken over the bakery next door and turned it into a boutique featuring stones, jewelry, etc. In doing so, he snuck some of the space into his restaurant, adding about 10 more seats in a slightly raised area. Thus, though the tables are not on the water, they do have a good view of the water. He also has a new chef and a revamped menu. We had a couple glasses of Chablis as we looked over the menu and ordered the accras to start, followed by the grilled ahi tuna with a hint of vanilla flavor accompanied by two sauces (soy and Creole) and mashed potatoes and a deboned rabbit leg stuffed with a mushroom duxelle sitting on a sweet, tart sauce with the flavors of white grape.
On Saturday night we went to Grand Case and got a spot in the pay parking lot next to Blue Martini. Many restaurants will comp the $5 parking charge in this well-lighted and convenient lot. Saturdays are usually slow because it is timeshare turnover night and this was especially slow because three flights from NY were cancelled in the aftermath of the huge snowstorm in Denver. In addition, Air France was having problems and there was a traffic accident on the main road in Grand Case. This gave us a chance to catch up with many people. José is back at Le Tastevin because Xavier, his manager of 10 years, went back to France to be closer to his family. José was a bit chagrined to find that he didn't know some of his more recent repeat customers. He and his wife, Christine, are both wonderful, friendly people and the wait staff has been there for many years. It is probably the prettiest restaurant on the waterfront, with fine food and splendid wine list. It is the first restaurant I ever went to in Grand Case in 1993, although the photos on the wall attest to the fact that this is not the same physical plant that I visited before Hurricane Luis in 1995.
Next door is L'Escapade Restaurant and Gerald has turned this into another beautiful restaurant with deep red accents throughout the dining room, but I think José, assisted by Hurricane Luis, did a fabulous job in relandscaping his waterfront, bringing gardens into the dining room and making many private dining areas on the waterfront. Axel runs the dining room at L'Escapade Restaurant and does a fabulous job. The chef is settling in and they are changing the menu every three or four months.
Bistrot Caraïbes has opened on Saturday nights now that high season has arrived. We started with the smoked salmon. This is the season for smoked salmon and this is the place to get it. They smoke the salmon in house and serve a plate of luscious salmon topped with capers and a few crisp raw onion rings. Squeeze out a few drops of lemon and enjoy the lovely flavors and textures with the toast points. We had the 2003 Rully which Martha did not love, although I thought it was OK. Our dinners were old standbys: braised red snapper with vegetables in a creamy mussel sauce with saffron (on the menu) and grilled, whole (but deboned) French sea bass served with vegetables in a chive sauce (available only when Air France can bring in the fish - they had arrived at the restaurant at 6:20 this evening!). Needless to say, the fish was fresh. A wonderful meal.
We headed up the street to G's Spot, a local hangout across from Restaurant du Soleil. Earlier that evening Cedric had introduced us to Lulu who was singing at G's later that evening. I had promised to take his photo which is now on SXM Activities. While I was taking his photo, Rocky of Rocky's Ideal Snack in Sandy Ground caught my eye. He is the father of Marius from St Louis Car Rental. We got invited to sit at his table and have a drink, or two, or more. While sitting there, I noticed Joseph from Grand Case Parking, said hello, and another drink landed in front of us. As both tables in the place were buying drinks for us, I bought a round for the entire bar. Giselle, the G in G-spot, brought the drinks out and ultimately presented a bill for $24. The euro may be rather high, but you wouldn't know it at G's Spot.
I asked all my restaurant clients if they were doing for Christmas and New Years and got the following:
Georges, owner of Bali Bar and Belle Epoque Restaurant has quite a bit planned. Both will be open on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. featuring traditional fare including foie gras dishes, house smoked salmon, oysters, venison, wild boar, and capon. Bali bar will also have lounge music late into the evening.
Auberge Gourmande: for Christmas and New Years we do as always: the regular menu plus specials. We hope to see you soon.
Florence and Christophe
It's much the same at California Restaurant. They are open for Christmas with Christmas specials and the regular menu. Still 1$+1euro for cash or travelers checks.
For New Years, Halsey's Restaurant is doing a four course dinner. They all look good, but your choices for the main course are a lobster stuffed filet mignon with bernaise sauce, black truffle duchess potatoes and grilled baby asparagus or seared Chilean seabass with a raspberry vinaigrette & grilled veal tenderloin with almond oil, dauphine potatoes, with baby vegetables. It's $150 and includes a glass of champagne and dancing starts at 1AM after the fireworks!
Tabba Khady will be closed on both Christmas and New Years Eves, but will be open on Christmas and New Years Days. No special meals, as they are all special.
L'Escargot Restaurant: As usual we have a huge New Years Dinner Cabaret Party....seating 70, and we already have 45, so if anyone is interested they should reserve pronto.......Also there's loads of activity on the boardwalk till the wee hours
and also a fab firework display...so Philipsburg is definitely the place to be.......
Sonya & Joel
Club Fantastico announces that Chef Antonio will be making his way to SXM repeatedly over the winter. He plans to be here the week New Years Week, and the first weeks of February and March 2007. Fine Italian dining with lots of cool tunes after dinner will be the norm. The Club owners look forward to seeing you all there this season.
Changes: Heading into Grand Case, we find: The previous owner of Enjoy has skipped town, but the restaurant appears to be open, presumably with new owners and a new chef (see below). Sebastiano is dark and the word is closed. Rainbow, as reported earlier, is closed. La Marine is under new management as Camille and Melanie have not returned. Gilles is still cooking and a stairway to the beach has been added and several beach chairs are available. Across the street Le Mambo is now L'Estaminet and the chef who used to work at Enjoy is now here. La Noche (previously Bombay Brasserie) is open as a late night bar/café. La Maeva is closed and it appeared that the bar at Domain de L'Amandier is open again.
Coupons: Look on the SXM-Info website for a list of all restaurants and others that have coupons for some freebie or discount. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper. Here's a list of what you'll find:
Le Baccara Restaurant
Pirate Beach Bar
Pedro's Beach Bar
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Good Cards (and gifts)
Those who like Club Orient might be interested in Club Fantastico. Check it out. Richard says "At Club Fantastico the Jacuzzi is percolating and the pool is a perfect temperature for skinny dipping late into the evening. The Caribbean Sea is aqua blue and warm as can be. They welcome all of you who are taking in the peace and restful summer with us. Starting September, things will be gearing up, so make your reservations now, and get a special deal. Chef Antonio plans his return in the fall. Dates not yet set. Music and fine cuisine will be the norm."
The Mario's Bistro Cookbook is now available. They are shipped via UPS and cost $49 for one, $87 for two, and $123 for three, delivered. Delivery via UPS should take a day or two, so if you want one for Christmas, order soon.
L'Esperance Hotel has great rates and is conveniently located. It's quite handy if you just need a night or two at either end of your vacation because of the wretched flight schedules. They have a lovely pool and offer free wireless internet access.
Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she can generally beat any rates you can get from the hotels. Give her a shot.