St Maarten/St Martin
1 April 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: Sunday was overcast but warm with little breeze and both Saba and Statia appeared through the haze. Monday dawned without a breath of air, cloudy and warm (80F at 9AM). Tuesday was cooler, still cloudy, and leaky. Wednesday started out with blue sky and two of the islands were visible off the balcony. By lunchtime it was cloudy but 85F. There was a tremendous rainstorm in the wee hours on Thursday and the day dawned to clouds and haze. The day continued in that fashion and the late evening brought a downpour that shut down satellite TV. Friday dawned to clouds and haze, stayed that way most of the day, and ended colder and wetter. Saturday looked better, but still hazy on the horizon, windy, and only 78F at 9AM, but it reached 84F in the afternoon. Sunday looks better, the winds have died down and Saba is visible, but it's only 8AM and only 73F. The online version of this newsletter has a panoramic photo of the Caribbean on Friday morning.

Sunset will be at 6:22PM on Sunday. Full moon dates for 2007 are: Apr 2, May 2, May 31, Jun 30, Jul 29, Aug 28, Sep 26, Oct 26, Nov 24, and Dec 23. May 31 will be a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. Note that these are full moon dates for the Caribbean. A full moon occurs at an exact instant when the moon is opposite the sun with the earth in the middle. This happens at 24 different times in the 24 different time zones, some on each side of midnight, leading to European, American, and Asian calendars sometimes having different dates for full moons and, rarely, different months for blue moons.

This is a composite of three photos. The left photo shows Statia, the center has Saba, and the right looks out toward Puerto rico, containing a tanker and a rain shower at sea. It looks like Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black, hold the black.

Friday morning gloom Friday morning gloom

SXM-Beaches: Tropical Wave at Galion Beach had plenty of sand and very calm water on Monday. It's such a protected area that the sand and calm waters are essentially constant. It is on the windward side, so it provides an excellent place to windsurf with good breezes on calm water as the reef breaks the waves. The area looks fabulous as Pat has cordoned off the parking, keeping cars off the beach, added garbage cans, and cleaned things up. Mother Nature has helped by keeping hurricanes away. The palm trees have grown up considerably since Luis and Lenny in the 90's. On the same day, Wendy K reports the water had calmed quite a bit and there was still lots of sand at the NW end of Cupecoy. On Wednesday she went to Mullet and said the surf was increasingly rough as the day progressed, but plenty of people playing in the waves. On Saturday she reports that despite howling winds & mistral-like conditions on the lagoon, Cupecoy was calm & clear today. Most sand was at the middle beach. The current is moving the sand from the big beach towards the baby beach.

Beach Reading: Bridging the divide: My Life by Edward W. Brooke - About $20 - In the fall of 1966, I arrived at MIT at the age of 17. In November of that year, Edward Brooke was elected to the US Senate from Massachusetts and took office in 1967, becoming the first popularly elected African-American to join the U.S. Senate since reconstruction. Obviously, he managed this without my vote, but it was interesting to be there. He is now 86 and living at least part of the year in St Maarten. The liberal Republican has written an autobiography with plenty of interesting stories about the Second World War, the tumultuous post-war period, and the Vietnam era. He was signing books at the Great Bay Resort on Thursday.

Construction: We've heard that the Coral Beach Club at Oyster Pond isn't selling too well.

The Daily Herald reports that Duck International has agreed to sell Mrs B's Beach Bar retail space in their development for $200,000 over three years. This may be related to the fact that she just got her license to squat on the beach in front of their property renewed. She may have gotten the license renewed just before island-wide elections because there was a protest march scheduled in Pburg to "protect citizens and safeguard beaches". I'm a little unclear how giving one business (Mrs B) rather than another (The Duck) rights to squat on a public beach protects citizens or safeguards the beach.

We also heard that Westin promises to rent all its rooms first and then dip into the rental pool of private owners after that. Good luck on any summer rentals. Doesn't matter much, as they are only going to return 50% of the income to the private owners anyway.

While we are on the topic of egregious development, there are a couple more shots of ShorePointe or London's Folly on Cupecoy. Click the link above to see them.

A little noticed area (at least by tourists) is the med school area between Atlantis Casino and the Inn at Cupecoy back to Summit Resort. It's filling in considerably. There are photos of this also.

L'Habitation in Anse Marcel has announced that it is going to start construction in early April. It's been a year or so since it was sold and closed. They claim that the schedule will be 12 to 15 months. They didn't say, but I suspect the numbers are hexadecimal, so figure on 18 to 21 months in base 10.

A chat with someone who ought to know said that the plans for the Belle Créole property are inching closer to development. The story is that the recent publication of the laws for the new Status Apart on the French side has broken the logjam. The French side will now report directly to France rather than through Guadeloupe. This may also have had some effect on L'Habitation.

While we are on the subject, the new Sandals resort in Jamaica opened two years ago and is still not completed.

This just in: Several months ago the owner of Cap Juluica, Dion Friedland, was asked by the Anguilla government to sell the resort. I've never seen a reason, but he talked to about ten potential buyers and has signed a preliminary agreement with one.

Activities: We went out to Tropical Wave on Galion Beach for lunch (see below) on Monday and a loaf on the beach. OK, that's not much activity, but we did take the snorkel gear and had a great time in the calm and shallow waters. We saw the usual fish and heard the usual fish stories from Pat Turner. He's been on the island for about 30 years, most of them on this beach. More ambitious sorts could rent windsurfers, kayaks, paddleboats, snorkel gear, and more.

Traffic: On Monday we left Pondfill in Pburg at 4:10 PM and got to the Dutch bridge in 20 minutes, arriving for the 4:30 opening. The gate was coming down on the other side and only one car got in after us. Traffic going in the other direction was backed up from the Cole Bay turnoff to Pburg to the airport. Curiously, nighttime traffic has been light.

Shopping: We were in Pburg to see Deepti at DK Gems. We weren't buying anything, but returning to pick up a bottle of absinthe that I had left on their counter last week. Honest jewelry people are nice to find. She also sent us down to see her cousin at Klass Electronics and we got a great deal on JVC noise canceling headphones. Its single plug works with my computer, my Ipod wannabee, and most airlines. It also has an adapter to work with the double plugs found on Continental. That's Deepti on the right.

Elections: April 20 is Dutch side election day. You will be pleased to note that they are going to allow alcohol sales on election day. The authorities have said that cell phones must be turned off before entering the voting booth. If they don't watch what you do in the voting booth, something of a violation of the principle of secret balloting, how will they know that you left it off? The rationale behind all this nonsense is that people will show a photo of their electoral choice for a given party to the party bagman who will reach into his bag and reward the voter.

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 esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). 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.

Travel: On April 20 Spirit Air is starting flights to St Maarten from Fort Lauderdale on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. You can get from Boston leaving at 6AM and be on the beach by 2:30 or so and the cost with taxes would be about $500. It's got a stop in Myrtle Beach. You can leave La Guardia at 6:40 flying directly to Ft Lauderdale to catch the same flight for a bit less than $500.

All travel to the USA now requires a passport. Note that says to the USA. You still can get here on a driver's license. You just can't get back home, although I've heard that they just make your life miserable for a while. Life is pretty easy if you allow enough time to renew by mail. All the details can be found at this State Department page. Get a Passport!

Club Fantastico: The feature we made for our visit to Club Fantastico has a shot of the lovely pool with its fabulous view and couple shots of the rooms and the views from them, but no naked people.

Deepti at DK Gems

Small island story: I sent Dino Jagtiani, chef at Dare to be Rare and Temptation Restaurant, an email to get a reservation next week and I bumped into him at the Maho Food Express before I got his answer. For what it is worth, you can get the Temptation menu at the steakhouse. They are about 30 feet apart!

Club Fantastico


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 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! And while you are there, enter the summer contest where they can enter to win seven nights during June, July, or August.


Winter schedule: Win $100 at Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant contest every week until April 2007. Get $50 in match play 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 for this season. Le Baccara has a new chef. The casino has two new restaurants: the “Rock House”, restaurant and sports bar and a terrace restaurant called “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. Friday Night in the Rock House is Karaoke with over 2000 songs in English and French. Monday night (in football season) is, of course, Football night and we have 7 large screens and a couple of pool tables.

Last week's winner:
James Kuzmeskus


Current Contest - until 13 May Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form:

Horny Toad Guesthouse - seven low season nights for the price of four
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
L'Esperance Car Rental - $50 off a week's car rental
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill

The contest rules say you have one year to claim your prize. This is the Caribbean, and unlike other contests, you don't have to knock yourself out on this one and drive a hit counter up. I make websites and program computers. I can drive up a hit counter anytime I want. We don't like rules and in that spirit Zuzu at California Apartments has told her Decmeber winner, John Sawicki, that he can come in the summer of 2008. Martin Conway has also issued an extension for one of the winners of the Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant contest. They are two nice people who make the island special. There is no doubt that they want you to come to their businesses and spend your money, but there is also no doubt that they want to be sure that you feel that you have received good value for your money.

Future Contests:

13 May to 5 August
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill
Alizes Car Rental - $50 off a low season weekly rental
Bikini Beach - A DAY AT THE BEACH
(including 2 chairs and a parasol, 2 welcome punches and $50.00 credit towards food and drink)

5 August to 4 Nov
Azure Guesthouse - seven nights for the price of four
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Bistrot Caraïbes - $100 off a dinner for two
Restaurant du Soleil - $50 off a dinner for two
Pack Light Rentals - Your choice: 2 chairs and 1 umbrella for a week or
one free cell phone rental for a week or
free snorkel gear for 2 for a week

4 Nov to 30 Dec
VistaRoyale - seven nights for the price of four
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Valley Car Rental $50 off a week's rental
Ti Coin Créole - $50 off a dinner for two
DK Gems - $50 off a purchase of $100 or more

30 Dec to 2 March 2008
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
DK Gems - $50 off a purchase of $100 or more
Antoine Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
Le Cottage Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two

2 March to 27 April
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride


On 25 March the euro was at 1.329 and today it is at 1.336. Not much change, but not good. This season, some restaurants are still offering a 1 to 1 exchange, but my list of restaurants is smaller this year. Moreover, it is getting to be something of a gimmick as by now the prices have been adjusted to enable a profit at 1 to 1 or else the restaurant would be out of business, so it merely helps with the math and eliminates currency transaction costs, not insignificant benefits to Americans. To further confuse the issue, others are offering an advantageous rate, but not as good as 1 to 1. In any event, these still have pretty good prices and as many restaurants have online menus, you could do the math (if the websites were up to date). We noticed 1 to 1 at Blue Martini, California Restaurant, L'Escapade Restaurant, Hibiscus Restaurant, Restaurant du Soleil, Ti Bouchon, Rancho del Sol, Kokomarina, L'Estaminet, and La Marine. Pedro's Beach Bar and Pirate Beach Bar on Orient are something of a special case as their prices have always been in dollars and still are. 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 Monday we went Tropical Wave on a quintessential Caribbean beach. Palm trees in front, mangroves in back, a reef protecting a lovely calm bay. Pat keeps making things better. They now have plates and real silverware (OK it's flatware, but it ain't plastic). Add in friendly, attentive service to good fresh food (especially fish) and you can have lovely bit of fish with potato and a beer for about $35 per couple. Martha's shrimp salad was even cheaper and came with very tasty grilled shrimp. My mahi came with a lemon butter sauce, salad with a tangy dressing, and potatoes. There's a coupon on the site that will give you chairs and an umbrella after your lunch for two for only 10€.

That evening we returned to the far side of the island for dinner at Sol é Luna Restaurant in Mont Vernon. Over the years Brigitte has upgraded the dining room and accoutrements and the gardens have grown up around the wraparound dining porch, turning it into a magical place. It's also quiet and regularly won the most romantic award from the Daily Herald's readers, at least until the voting became so Dutch-centric and rigged that it is risible. Another thing that has improved over the years is the cuisine. It's always been good, as Christian was an experienced chef when he opened this restaurant about ten years ago. Experience is good and an experienced chef who experiments can lead to great dishes. We chose the Chateau de Mercey Mercurey Premier Cru (43€). It was a 2001 and though that vintage generally gets low ratings, Christian has a keen eye (or is it palate) for wine. It was quite nice and well-behaved after about five years in the bottle. We proceeded to choose a dinner to go with our wine, starting with the crabcake ap with aioli and a small glass of gazpacho. The aioli had a bit of heat and the gazpacho had robust garlic. This is somewhat similar to the crabcake at Le Cottage Restaurant last Saturday with its glass of celery flavored juice. Both were wonderful, generous with the very tasty crab, and the glass of what is essentially "sauce" allows one to choose how much sauce to add. Our dinners were a very high quality bit of tuna on a bed of excellent greens, braised endive and a bit of tomato and some halibut topped with sundried tomatoes and olives accompanied by a pissaladier, a bit of pastry topped with onions sautéed with vinegar. Tuna can easily stand up to a light Burgundy, but a flaky, white halibut needed the extra kick of the topping and the flavor-packed pissaladier. We moved on to espresso and complimentary flavored rums to end a wonderful evening on the porch.

On Wednesday nigh we drove over to Princess Casino for a dinner at Surf and Turf Restaurant. Baccara Restaurant is on the left as you enter the casino and Surf and Turf is on the right in a large porch overlooking the outdoor stage in front of the casino. There rarely is an outdoor concert, so the usual sound is from the massive fountains gracing the entrance to the casino. The open kitchen is in the back and the lobster tank is up front next to the bar. Surf and Turf has a more casual atmosphere than the upscale Baccara, serving simpler food, for the most part. There were about a half dozen aps including salmon tartare, shrimp cocktail, and salads in the $10 to $15 range. We started with the baked goat cheese salad and found it to be quite a piece of work. The tasty goat cheese had been coated with hazel nuts and placed on a bed of three crisp salad greens. The greens were flanked by tomato slices and cucumber slices. A small glass contained a pesto made from sundried tomatoes, olives, olive oil, and pignoli (pine) nuts. Again with a glass of "sauce" on the side, this must be the leading end of a trend. In any event, that was a pretty complicated, very interesting, and quite tasty dish. As befits a Surf and Turf, the main courses concentrated on meat (rather large amounts, simply grilled, although sauces were available), seafood (fish and fresh lobster), or a combination of both, all in the $20 to $30 range. The turf offerings were a ribeye, a tenderloin, steak tartare, rack of lamb, a Cornish hen, and a mixed grill. The surf featured fresh lobster, also grilled, plus salmon, tuna, mahi, and shrimp. Martha had the 12 oz ribeye and brought half of it home. It was a very tender piece of meat with a baked potato and a bit of veg. It will become the basis for a couple excellent Philly cheese steaks. I had the mixed grill that came with a similarly tender and tasty bit of ribeye, a half breast of chicken, an Italian sausage with fennel, and a lamb chop. The wine list is a stripped down version of the much larger list available at Baccara with eight wines available by the glass, four bottles of white, three rosés, and ten reds, ranging from $20 to $60. We had chosen the Monredon 2003 Cotes du Rhone for a mere $22. It's a big sturdy Rhone from a fine grower that can handle the many flavors arising from a goat cheese salad and a mixed grill. They add a 12% service charge (stated on the menu, thank you) and we added a bit more for very good and attentive service bringing our dinner to $120.

On Friday evening we headed out toward Grand Case, stopping at Ti Sucrier to check in with Chef Sylvain and have a pre-dinner cocktail in his lovely restaurant overlooking the lagoon. I hate to admit it, but the view around the lagoon at night is more interesting because of the lights from all the new construction. Our unit is visible from the dining room.

We continued on to Grand Case, parking in the central lot, for a short, but moist, walk to Auberge Gourmande. We ordered water and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2003 Mont Redon. It's a big sturdy Rhone and as it is a bit young, quite fruity. Except fot the horrid 2002 vintage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages have been very good back to 1997, with the 2001 being exceptional. We started with an old favorite: chicken livers in puff pastry with a shallot and cream sauce on a bed of mixed greens. If you like chicken liver, this is a fine combination of tastes and textures. Martha had the chicken breast stuffed with a blue cheese morel mushroom sauce and I had the tenderest beef filet with blue cheese sauce. Both dishes came with a gardenful of vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, braised endive, mushrooms, and a carrot/zuke/onion sliver sauté fest plus puréed sweet potatoes and a potato gratin. Espresso and Armagnac ended a wonderful evening for us as the dining room started to fill up again at 9:30! We had dined inside this evening as it was rather cool with intermittent showers. It had been a while since we spent so much time inside, as we generally enjoy the porch. It's a lovely old Créole cottage with several rooms offering many nooks for a discreet table. Florence and Christophe have been providing good and friendly service for about ten years and recently Laurent was added from L'Alabama Restaurant next door. From the setting to the service and the cuisine, it's easy to see why the reader's of Caribbean Travel & Life voted this best of the Caribbean last year. Use US dollars and get 1 to 1 on the exchange, making it even better!

On the way home we stopped at Mario's Bistro to drop off some copies of this year's St Maarten Events which contains the article we wrote featuring Mario's tuna recipe. Martyne also gets our old copies of The New Yorker. Our mail is sent out every two weeks and takes a week to get here. Martha then reads the magazine, passes it on to me, and Martyne is then kept abreast of events that happened last Christmas. We are at the end of a very long, and sometimes very slow, supply chain. She has other things to do anyway. The Mario's Bistro Cookbook has now sold over 1000 copies in its first three months.

An acquaintance sent this in: "We had dinner last night at Le France, Marina Royale in Marigot. For the third year in a row we must give rave reviews for this place. Great food, reasonable prices and 1 Euro = 1 Dollar cash AND credit card." We've certainly seen the place several times, talked to the staff, and checked out the menu, but can't say I noticed the 1 to 1.

Changes: Enjoy is still dark.


Wine & Cheese Party: Select Wine Cellar and Champagne Snack Bar are hosting a wine and cheese tasting on Thursday April 5th at 6 pm. The cost is $22 per person. This week spotlights the wines and cheeses of the Loire Valley. Cheeses include Chavignol, Ste Maure, Bougon, Puligny St Pierre, Valencay, and Selles/Cher with special breads. Wines include Saumur Ch Gaillard 2004 (bio/ organic), Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie Chateau La Cariziere 2005 (bio/organic), Pouilly Fumé 2005 Bouchié Chatelier, and Montlouis sur Loire 2003 Laurent Chatenay (bio/organic). Send an email to Sylvain for a reservation.

Every Tuesday afternoon from 4:30 until 6:00, Ti Bouchon will host a small (ten people maximum) wine tasting on their porch. There is no charge, but if you would like to attend, please visit the website and call or send an reservation request no more than one month in advance. Be sure to mention a date and the number in your party.

Friday night sushi and happy hour (from 4 till 6 PM) is still happening at Halsey's Restaurant. We had a great time when last we were there.

Bali Bar in Marigot's Marina Royale generally has live music or a DJ starting at 7:30 CST (Caribbean standard time) on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Roy Deep Sea Fishing is looking for two more people at $150 each to fill out a morning half-day charter on 1 June. Send an email if you are interested.

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. The easiest free welcome champagne cocktail from Auberge Gourmande, Montmartre, and Sunset Café is no longer available, but here's a list of what you'll find:

Le Baccara Restaurant
Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Kakao Beach
Los Gauchos
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pirate Beach Bar
Paradise View
Paris Bistro
Pedro's Beach Bar
Saint Germain
Tai Chi
The Wharf
Lots here
and here
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Good Cards (and gifts)

We have a car from Don at GCL Car Rental. They have always been good to us and you can read several testimonials on their site from others. He and Daniel are certainly worth an email when you want reliable, yet inexpensive, transportation. I've never tested them, but they say they will come and pick you up if you think you have over-indulged.

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. Chef Antonio was here over the holidays and will be back, so stay tuned. 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 in the US.

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 offers personalized service to fit your needs and budget.

Erich S. Kranz
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