St Maarten/St Martin
13 May 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: Things finally cleared up here on Tuesday morning 24 April. The Northeaster that pummeled the east coast of the US in late April sent large waves onto Cupecoy and engulfed the island in cloudy, humid, hot weather. The haze obscured all islands, but after a few days, a faint outline of Saba appeared. Lately (as in mid-May), it's been in the mid 80's for a high with the possibility of precipitation from 20 to 40%. Here's the local prediction. Sunset will be at 6:34PM on Sunday. In New York City, it will be about 8PM. Full moon dates for 2007 are: 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.

SXM-Beaches: On Monday 23 Apr Wendy K says "Today was a bit too rough for us, but I stayed for the morning & made use of the "pool" at the main beach. Some brave folks were swimming though." Bad news here in paradise: The weather is hot and humid, but the water is too rough for swimming! Martha noticed that yesterday it was hotter in our summer home (Salem, NY) at 87F, than here in SXM. On Tuesday Wendy says "Some sand at all 3 beaches, with the easiest water access at the "baby beach". The waves are still rather large, but I managed a swim at the middle beach this morning. On Thursday she reports that there were a series of squalls in the morning (rain yesterday afternoon and during the night, as well) but we managed to get a swim in at the middle beach. Most of the sand is still there, although the current was moving toward the main beach. The temperature has dropped some, along with the humidity. We had our final dinner at Mario's Bistro last night. [ed note: great minds think alike]. Sunday, the final day for Wendy K: Water was fairly calm and I swam from the main beach past the rock and back again. The water was very clear, as well. We're still having intermittent squalls and sunshine; but to our advantage, the winds have shifted back to the "normal" flow, so we're not sweating so much and the mosquitoes have subsided a bit.

Beach Reading: We've just been through the Dutch carnival, and if you haven't read it (and even if you have), check out Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk. Some things have changed but a lot has not. It's about a fictional island, loosley patterned on Wouk's time in the Virgin Islands.

Construction: The government has announced plans to fix up last two of the long streets running parallel to Front and Back street in downtown Philipsburg. Having real sidewalks with SUV repelling barriers would be nice. Without the barriers, the SUVs just climb over curbs, blocking pedestrians and traffic alike.

De-Construction: The French side municipal council has requested the Conservatoire's intervention to protect Galion Beach. The Galion Beach Hotel was quite the place in the 70's and early 80's and much of the land is still owned by various real estate companies. Pat Turner's Tropical Wave restaurant and watersports emporium and Windy Reef are all that is in operation now and the remaining hotel buildings are in very sad shape. Pat has worked tirelessly to keep the beach clean and it appears that he and Windy Reef will be allowed to continue operations. The Conservatoire will seize the land, bulldoze and remove the dilapidated hotel structures, and forbid any new development. One hopes this comes to pass and some of it infects the politicians on the Dutch side also.

Activities: Active vacationers should go to the TriSport website and ask for the weekly newsletter. The latest one can be found by clicking the weekly training schedule link. There's always some race, by foot, bike, or kayak (or some combo). They'd be thrilled if you'd enter.

Traffic: I only saw the beginning of this period and traffic was pretty good, despite having a surge of tourism as the hotel and car rates just dropped. The decrease in rates seems to work for the hotels as there were plenty of people here, but they didn't rent too many cars. On Monday evening (23 Apr) the central parking lot in Grand Case was filled with buses and the restaurants were filled with budget tourists.

Grand Case will be changing the traffic pattern soon. At present, to get to the parking lot, one must take a right on the entrance road and proceed along the canal to the main street and take a left onto a new one way section. Had you gone straight into town, stopping at the corner where Bistrot Caraïbes and Fish Pot face each other, you would be looking up the wrong end of that one way street toward the central parking lot. The change will be to use the parking lot entrance that is used on Harmony Nights, when the lot is free. When this is in effect, you can head straight into town and take a right near the police station and Repaire du Pirate and enter the lot. It hasn't happened yet, but we'll let you know when it does.

Shopping: The large and ever-growing SXM-Info website just added Diamonds International to its shopping site. There is a coupon on the site good for $50 or 10%.

Sapphire Beach Club: Sapphire's wireless internet is in operation and worked free for a while but now costs $5 for an hour, $9 for a day, about $30 for a week, and $70 for a month. Not bad prices and when it was free, it worked fine for me.

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: We returned on 25 Apr on Continental. We had a two hour layover in Newark until CO changed the times on both of our flights. Of course the first leg left SXM an hour earlier and the EWR-ALB left 15 minutes later, increasing the layover to more than three hours. The last flight was also about a half hour late, bringing it to almost four hours in Newark. A piece of luggage was missing so we had to wait until the bitter end of the baggage trail and then file paperwork. By the time we got home, we had been traveling for over 15 hours and awake (sort of) for 21. On the plus side, the cheeseburger on the SXM-EWR flight was pretty good and I got my water cup refilled on the EWR-ALB flight.

Check Spirit Air for cheap airfare flying in from Ft Lauderdale, FL. I'll mention that like Jet Blue, there are some horror stories out there about Spirit Air. They are cheap because they keep most of their planes moving. If one breaks down, they may have a spare, but let bad weather cause some massive delays and it will take quite a while to sort it out.

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. In 2006 12 million passports were issued or renewed, six times the number in 2005. Tourism officials on the island report no great difference in visitors, even with the stricter requirements. It appears that adding $100 or so to the cost of a vacation wasn't a major factor. Duh! When airfare for two is over $1000, a week at a decent hotel is easily $1500, and food, drink, and entertainment can add another $1000, Homer Simpson might have concluded that another $100 wouldn't make a major difference. Nonetheless, Get a Passport!

Groceries: Jill Alexander wrote me and said that the Greek yogurt was back at Le Grand Marché.

Small island story: The I Love My Ram Association is looking for a few more board members and has announced that the 2007 I Love My Ram contest will be held on 24 June. Contact Ursula Oppikofer at 544-3464 for more information. There is an opening in the program as one of the more famous rams, owned by Marci of Marci's Mega Gym 2000 has recently died.

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.

The casino has two new restaurants: the Rock House a sports bar serving a $10 buffet 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:
Susie Johnston


Winners for the previous contest
Horny Toad Guesthouse - seven low season nights for the price of four - Jackie Biesiadecki
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Jackie Biesiadecki
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride - Jackie Biesiadecki
L'Esperance Car Rental - $50 off a week's car rental - Jackie Biesiadecki
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill - Jeannie Doyle
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Dayna C.

Current Contest - until 5 August
Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form:

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)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

Future Contests:

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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

2 March to 27 April
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Halsey's Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two
Hibiscus Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket


On 22 April the euro was at 1.360 and today it is at 1.353. Minor improvement. Last season, some restaurants were still offering a 1 to 1 exchange, but the numbers of such restaurants are decreasing. At a 15% or 20% premium they could do it for a while, but as the US budget and balance of payment deficits have ratcheted upward, international confidence in the dollar has ratcheted downwards. Most restaurants have dropped this because at 30 to 40% premium, there isn't much profit left. As we are no longer on the island, we will not post a list that could change in an instant. Almost all of the restaurants that are now offering 1 to 1 created their menus in the last two years, presumably with 1 to 1 in mind. It still saves you the 3% or so currency exchange charge on most credit cards and of course, what you see for prices don't need any conversion.

On Monday we went to Bistrot Caraïbes in Grand Case. We parked in the central parking lot a few steps away and as Joseph always reminds us, some restaurants will comp your parking. Bistrot Caraïbes is one of them. This was my last chance for the best smoked salmon on the island and I took it. They smoke it at the restaurant and it is a luscious, buttery slice of salmon with a pronounced smoky flavor. It's topped with the crispest of mild white onions and capers and accompanied by toast points for added crunch. It's great with the crisp Rully, a chardonnay, from the south of Burgundy. We had the 2002 Pommard Premier Cru from Champy, a bit cool to start, but it opened up as it warmed up and was truly wonderful (76€). Martha had a special: veal with a crisped mozzarella topping with a confit of tomatoes, eggplant, and more. I had the lamb chops around a bed of mashed potatoes with semi-oven dried (not to dryness, but a bit sweeter) tomato slices and zucchini.

Tuesday evening we went to Mario's Bistro for our last dinner on the island. Martha started with the carpaccio of portobello mushrooms with black truffle tapenade and St-Marcelin bruschetta, drizzled with Aged Balsamic vinegar and topped with Regiano shavings and I had a special with asparagus, more St-Marcelin, and crisp bacon bits. Both were lovely, with many textures and tastes that complemented one another (about 15€ each). The 2001 Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vignes de l’Enfant Jésus from Bouchard was spectacular with these dishes (76€) and also with Martha's second ap, a grilled quail salad with fried foie gras ravioli and a tropical fruit chutney in a hoisin vinaigrette, and my main course special, a variation on the pork tenderloin wrapped in smoky bacon with garlic mashed potatoes topped with spinach and the ever-present half head of roasted garlic. It was all good. Combining fruit with a gamey quail is traditional and, of course, at Mario's, it would be tropical fruit, and not just tropical fruit, but a chutney and foie gras improves most anything. I can't decide which variation of the pork tenderloin I prefer. Both plates were so good with the wine that we ran out of wine. Martyne came over and offered a second bottle as our going away present. She mentioned a few and we choose an Auxey-Duresses. She was a bit disappointed in our low rent selection and returned saying that she made a mistake, they were out of the Auxey. She then placed three more suitable wines on the table: 2001 Cote Rotie from Guigal, 2002 Nuits St-Georges from the Domaine des Perdrix, and Drouhin's signature wine, the Beaune Clos des Mouches, also 2002. We have several bottles of Guigal's 1995 Cote Rotie in our cellar and had tasted both of the others at our last meal on the island last season. Last year, we found the Nuits St-Georges to be more powerful and the Beaune to be more graceful. Surely, the Cote Rotie would be even more robust than these. As I used to import Drouhin's wines into the US in the 80's and my stock of 85 Clos des Mouches is long gone, we opted for Drouhin's wine, although there was no wrong answer on this quiz. We tasted it against the last of the 2001 Beaune Grèves and while the older wine having been opened two hours earlier should have been more delicate and graceful, it was not. Fresh from the bottle, Drouhin's wine was lighter, smoother, and more graceful, but with a grace that lasted. Pardon me for going on about wine, we only do this once a season, on our final night. Mario's has one of the finest cellars on the island, drawing extensively on the knowledge (and contacts) of Benjamin at Cave du Marigot. It was a fabulous finale to a great season on the island. It did cost $202 before we were done, but we spent another $300 on cookbooks. Get one here and Mario will autograph it, one for you and a couple more for souvenirs.  

On Wednesday we flew home and during the four hours that we were hanging around Newark, we had a very nice herb roasted half chicken for $19 at Gallagher's Steak House. Martha had a steak salad and the steak required a steak knife, but as we were in the secure gate section, we were only allowed butter knives. We were told that this was a step up from the original insanity: plastic cutlery!

Reader Mary F who stayed at Oyster Pond and at Grand Case Beach Club says "We had great dinners at Tabba Khady and Auberge Gourmande." I'm not surprised.

Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant and Dare to be Rare, Mario Tardif from Mario's Bistro, and Cecile Briaud-Richard from Chanteclair, having just returned from thrilling diners at Daniel Restaurant in NYC, did a guest spot at La Samanna. About 80 diners showed up to have some fabulous food from three of the islands best chefs and wine from Eric Wente of Wente Family Estates of California.

A few nights ago, we were sitting down to a fine bit of venison loin and a 94 Nuit San George at about 8PM. As we gazed out into the darkening meadow that is our front "yard" nine deer trouped across, no doubt returning from the nearby farmer's fields to our woods for the evening. We thank the farmers for donating their alfalfa and corn to our deer, making them some of the tastiest we have ever had. On the island, we have had venison at Dino Jagtiani's Temptation Restaurant and Gerald Romani's L'Escapade Restaurant.

On Friday we went to Saratoga Springs (home of John Jackson, chef/owner of Saratoga Restaurant in Simpson Bay) and had an amazing lunch at Moe's Southwest Grill. It was a mere $17 with two beers. Basically it was a cafeteria with all varieties of Mexican fast food. It appears to be a chain and if you like Mexican food, check it out. On the island, check out John's neighbor Jimbo's Rock & Blues Cafe for music and Mexican.

Changes: Carter at Turquoise Shell Inn reports that he spoke with Elena at La Guinguette. It appears they are there, just not returning my phone calls or emails. As Carter said, and I said after our meal there earlier this season, they serve pretty good French cuisine and their specials offer the cheapest three course dinner I've ever seen on the island, although the Blue Sapphire Cafe at Sapphire Beach Club and La Petite Auberge des Iles have specials that rival La Guinguette. While we are on the subject, Rock House restaurant in the Princess Casino is now serving a $10 buffet. I haven't seen anything that cheap in at least ten years.

Casablanca at Atlantis Casino seems to have changed its name to Dehlia's. I don't expect the change goes much further, as that is the name of the woman who owns the place. I'd expect the same good Moroccan food at good prices. They did ask me what I thought of the name, given that there is a house of ill repute over near Oyster Pond with the same name. I thought that most of the people who knew about the Oyster Pond establishment would not be their prime clientele, so the chances for confusion were slight.

There was a meeting in Grand Case and there will be some changes concerning the traffic flow. If you skipped the section labeled traffic, go back and read it.


An article in the NY Times entitled Remedies: Dark Chocolate Similar to Blood Pressure Drugs says:

Eating dark chocolate may be almost as effective at lowering blood pressure as taking the most common antihypertensive drugs, a review of studies has found. Tea, on the other hand, appears to be ineffective.

I'm adding chocolate to my list of daily medicines. I intend to combine it with one of my other medicines, red wine. A luscious red zinfandel is a fine accompaniment for dark chocolate. Note that this is dark chocolate only, none of the wimpy and cheap milk chocolate.


Our condo: We came back to the US on 25 April. As usual, our loss is your gain. Our one bedroom condo will be available for rent at $1000 per week until we return in December. Several weeks are already taken by repeat visitors, but for those remaining weeks, I'll take $100 off the rate for newsletter subscribers. That's about $125 per night for a bedroom with views of the lagoon and a kitchen/living room/porch that overlooks the Caribbean out to Saba, Statia, and St Kitts. It's all included, there are no service fees, timeshare taxes, energy surcharges, or anything else that can add 20 to 30% to your bill. You also get coupons from several of our website clients to save you money and get you great service. Go to the website, check the calendar, and send in a reservation. Mention that you are a subscriber to get the unit for $900 per week and I'll get a Don at GCL Car Rental to rent you a Hyundai Getz for only $10 per day.

Wine & Cheese Party: Select Wine Cellar and Champagne Snack Bar are hosting a monthly wine and cheese tastings, usually on Fridays. We attended the first and it was pretty full. We left just before the second and Sylvain said that it was quite successful, with over 50 people in attendance. The next one will be on 1 June with wines from Languedoc Roussillon and cheeses from Roussillon and Pyrenées. Send an email to Sylvain for more details or a reservation (highly recommended as these are very popular).

Ti Bouchon Wine Tasting: Every Tuesday afternoon from 5:30 until 6:30, 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.

Halsey's Friday Sushi: 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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