St Maarten/St Martin
24 June 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: In mid May the island was hazy because sand was blowing over from the Sahara. That's just another reminder that it is hurricane season. Usually, it is hurricanes blowing over from Africa. The US government (NOAA) has predicted 13 to 17 storms, seven to ten of them hurricanes and three to five major ones, calling this season "active". Dr William Grey and his team at The Colorado State University predicted 17 storms, nine of which would become hurricanes. Here's the local weather prediction. We just passed the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, June 21. NYC got about 15 hours of daylight and SXM got about 13 hours. Sunset will be at 6:48PM on Sunday (24 June). In New York City, it will be about 8:27PM. Full moon dates for 2007 are: Jun 30, Jul 29, Aug 28, Sep 26, Oct 26, Nov 24, and Dec 23.

SXM-Beaches: DeLinda Goodman reports that they took the 10:00 ferry to Pinel Island and spent the day there, snorkeling and soaking up the sun. "We always hike over the hill to the very isolated, and very nice beach on the other side of the island for privacy, and more snorkeling. The next day we discovered Happy Bay, which was very isolated and private, and spent the whole day there. The following day was spent Dawn Beach but it was very crowded (comparatively) because a cruise ship was in, and the waves were pretty rough. We went back to Happy Bay for another relaxing day of privacy and a beautiful, calm beach. Unfortunately, another cruise ship was in and Happy Bay was a popular snorkeling excursion site." If you don't know where these beaches are, visit SXM-Beaches for maps and photos.

Beach Reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (Hardcover) by Barbara Kingsolver (Author), Camille Kingsolver (Author), Steven L. Hopp. Novelist Kingsolver moves from Tucson, an area in water deficit to Appalachia and attempts to live on locally available produce. She notes that the food on the average family's table has traveled further than that family will travel on their annual vacation. Thus, each calorie of energy in the food requires 87 calories of fuel (usually diesel) to reach the table. This, of course, is only possible because we are consuming energy stored in fossil fuels from previous eons. Similarly, we are depleting aquifers and draining rivers to raise these foods in deserts. It can't go on. The Colorado river no longer reaches the sea, petering out in salty mudflats. The carbon dioxide converted into plant matter millions of years ago and then converted into fossil fuels is now being released back into the atmosphere. If it continues, the world will, in some respects, return to conditions that were prevalent back then. No, I don't think we'll have dinosaurs roaming the earth, but the hot steamy conditions with considerably more water will return.

Construction: The shipyard near Uncle Harry's on Airport Road is to open in March 2008. I believe it started because a lot of boats washed up there after Luis. Ever since then, more and more boats have been added to more and more reclaimed lagoon land. It looked pretty operational to me, but the big news is that Island Global Yachting will install a 600-ton Travelift to deal with the mega-yachts.

Activities: Roy Deep Sea Fishing takes out parties of four or five and comes back with wahoo, marlin, tuna, and mahi. Send an email if you are interested. If you don't have a party of four, we'll use this space and Roy's website to help fill out the charter.

Traffic: After two recent deaths, St Maarten's Lt Gov has decided that quad operators should be at least 18 and licensed. In addition, seat belts will become mandatory for drivers, child seats will be required for children, and only hands-free mobile phone devices will be allowed. And, ... wait for it ... Yield for pedestrians in cross walks. Doesn't that cut down on vacation fun!

The new Dutch bridge opening times effective are 9:30am, 11:30am and 5:30pm for both directions. A trip report from the end of May/early June still noted horrid traffic in Simpson Bay between 5 and 6 PM. In an effort to slow things down even more, speed bumps are to be added ten meters away from the bridge on each side.

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.

Smoking: The Dutch side has decided to amend the 1996 no smoking law by expanding its scope beyond public places to forbid smoking in all restaurants, bars, casinos and nightclubs. This, of course, brings them into agreement with most of the civilized world.

Sapphire Beach Club: We have just added a bit on the unit numbering system to the website, so that people can figure out where they might be staying. Basically, two digit number or numbers starting with zero are villas, along the sea shore, cut into the sandstone cliffs. Three digit numbers are in the three towers rising behind the villas. The first number indicates the tower number with 1 being in the center, 2 is to the east (left as you face the building from the road, and 3 is the newest tower on the right. The central digit indicates the floor number and the last number is the unit on that floor. There are several floor plans on each floor and they differ slightly from building to building, but we have put eight of them on the website also.

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.

Do these ads work? Ask Lucille: "Thanks for putting in the ad. All is well, I sold the Villa week 16, thank you and tell everyone it does work if they price it to sell. I rented it and was lucky to find a very nice person visiting SBC and who bought the villa while they were there. Everything went great."

Crime: Pburg is putting in surveillance cameras. I generally don't go on about this much. Like all bad things, it is overplayed in the media and I don't wish to add to the excess coverage. Moreover, in a dozen years of staying on the island for four to five months per year, we have never had a car burglarized, our unit burglarized, our beach goods burglarized, nor have we been robbed. We recognize that these things happen and never leave anything visible in the car, never even park the car, move valuables to the trunk, and walk away. There may be people watching. We live in a sixth floor unit with security, admittedly lax, but even a sleeping policeman may deter some robbers. We do not walk anyplace at 3:00 AM.

The Insider Secrets addition to the recent copy of Conde Nast Traveler outlined several common street scams. Some of them may be useful in SXM. One was the broken ATM scam, wherein someone helps you after your card gets stuck in the machine. The scam artist somehow manages to make the machine keep your card and as you enter the PIN he watches, or possibly he offers to help you, but requires your PIN. In any event, he gets your PIN and when you finally leave, he retrieves your card and has a good time. The best advice was to use a false PIN so that even if he got the card, he couldn't withdraw cash. Most of the others were a distraction (fake fight, a fake baby toss, request for help with a map, a real (though induced) flat tire, etc) followed by your instinctive offer to help or accept help, only to be robbed by an accomplice. The phony parking lot attendant exists in Marigot. I don't think he robs cars there, but I don't think he watches them very carefully either. The metal detector scam uses two people ahead of you in line with little luggage, so that yours heads on down the belt quickly as man number one passes through. Man number two, ahead of you has lots of metal and holds things up repeatedly as man number one walks off with your carry-on. Obviously, don't push your bag through until you can enter the metal detector, and better yet, if you are traveling with another person, wait for that person to reach the other side before putting anything through.

One other comment, somewhat in relation to selling your timeshare via the Sapphire Beach Club website or any other. If anybody offers to send you more than you have requested and asks you to send him the overage, don't even bother to cash the check. It will eventually bounce, but not until you have sent him the overage. This is the current Nigerian scam. They started with you winning the lottery, but they needed your bank info, etc in order to send you the money. Give them your identity and they don't even have to steal it. Moreover, they might even get you to send over a processing fee for the lottery. Round two was all the stories about larcenous relatives who had skimmed millions from oil, diamond, etc companies, died, and left it to some poor soul who just got your email address from a list of honorable and honest people. They need your help to get the money out, you can keep 20%. If they don't steal your identity, they do send you a $10,000 check. You deposit the check and send their 80% to a Swiss bank getting their money out of the hellhole that has trapped it. The timeshare overpayment is just a variation on this and all the great job offers, cashing checks for goods sold here in the US, keeping you 10 to 20% cut, and forwarding the rest, are all the same.

And if you wonder why crime is so bad, a Dutch consultant recently studied the island and said that education needed to be improved. Also, the Daily Herald has reported that police commissioner has been suspended as a human smuggler has said the commissioner was in cahoots with him.

Enough, I know people whose houses have been burgled, cars stolen, mugged, etc. It does happen. Be careful.

Travel: 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. Nonetheless, things are backed up and there is talk of easing the regulations. Don't count on it, start now and get a Passport!

Acropole Orient Villa and Villa Coconut: Zuzu reports that both of her villas now have wireless internet access. She is offering Acropole, Coconut, and California Apartments at 10% off from 4 August until 31 October.

Groceries: We went to The Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville, MA for their 20% off quarterly wine sale and picked up some Epoisses (inter alia). Jenkins calls it his favorite cheese in his Cheese Primer. On the island we frequently see it at US Imports and at Chez Bernadette and René in Bellvue.

Small island story: The Wine Cask was featuring Chateau La Moutete, a very dry, very tasty rosé that Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar served us last season. We love rosé with Proscuitto on Guadeloupe melons. The specialty foods section of The Wine Cask had the Proscuitto, but I'm afraid that Guadeloupe melons require a trip to the islands. We do live close to the Hand Melon Farm, the famous melons sold at the Saratoga Race Track, but the season is a bit shorter and hasn't started yet.


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.

This newsletter's winners:
Bruce Nunnally
Tommy Backman


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 13 May the euro was at 1.353 and today it is at 1.347. A small victory for the dollar. 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.

It's old news, but summer visitors should know that the only two beach restaurants on the island that made the list of 24 compiled by Ian Keown in the February issue of Caribbean Travel & Life were Kakao Beach and the first restaurant mentioned: Karibuni on Pinel Island, a short ferry ride out of Cul de Sac on the French side. Kakao is a bit easier to reach and it's the one I take guests to for great food on the beach. Hervé and Doumé run the place and the site has just been updated with many new photos from Delphine, Hervé's wife. Nearby Bikini Beach has some very interesting menu items, especially from Asia. For great local food, especially fish, we visit Pirate Beach Bar and for barbecue Pedro's Beach Bar. Except for Karibuni, they are all on Orient Beach and they all have coupons on their websites. Have a great day at the beach and save a few bucks.

We just had a lovely evening outdoors on our terrace, much like one of the waterfront bistros in Grand Case. The evening was lovely, warm air, still, and most un-SXM-like, very light until 9PM. Remember that the longer days on the island in the winter, translate into shorter hours of daylight in the summer. That is the main reason we mention the full moon in this newsletter. That will be the only natural light on the water after 7PM, even on the longest day of the year (ie a couple days ago). We started with a half bottle 1969 Musigny from Joseph Drouhin. It had lost a bit of perfume and fruit, but still had a long, smooth Burgundy taste. I doubt you will find any Burgundy with this age on the island, but Cave du Marigot on the road out of Marigot to Grand Case has an excellent selection of more recent Drouhin Burgundies. We enjoyed a cigar from Casa del Cigar with the half-bottle. We had picked up a porterhouse steak at a local butcher/slaughterhouse (Eagle Bridge Custom Meat) and cooked it on the grill using real hardwood charcoal without benefit a hydrocarbon based, carcinigous accelerant. Try Dino's Rare Steakhouse for something approaching this. Only well marbled prime grade from exceptional cattle breeds can be dry aged and it has to be tasted to be believed. Dino serves a "De-constructed Porterhouse" that features a 16 oz dry aged bone in KC strip with an 8 oz wet aged filet. It's not cheap, but if you wish to explore the ultimate in steak, cooked to perfection, with a plethora of interesting sides, go to Rare Steakhouse. Peg Leg Pub serves several good steaks and there is also Charolais which was pretty good when we visited it in Marigot in the previous millennium, but we did not visit the one in Cole Bay (now occupied by Pineapple Pete), nor have we been to the current incarnation in Maho. After dinner we switched to Tesseron Cognac from Select Wine Cellar as we finished the cigar in the twilight.

It is possible to bring 100 cigars into the US duty free. Cuban cigars are outlawed, but without the bands and box, nobody knows what you have. You can also bring in 1 liter of alcoholic beverage duty-free for each person in your party over 21. Above these limits, you pay duty, typically 10%, but more typically, you get waved through. We routinely bring back one or two cases of cognac, armagnac, scotch, bourbon, vodka, gin, etc. Only once in a dozen years have we been asked to pay duty, despite declaring the alcohol on the form. The customs people also claim to enforce the local state laws. Thus, if you land in Florida to change planes for NY, you must comply with the laws of Florida, where the local distributors have made it a felony to import alcohol. I have never seen this enforced, but we generally return via Puerto Rico.

In early June, Georges at Bali Bar reported that things are quiet, too quiet. They still have live music every Friday: Pap's blues, reggae, funky jazz and soul seems to cover all bases.

For the low season Kokomarina is offering 1 chair 1 umbrella & 1 free drink for only $5 instead of $8 during the season. Sounds like the best deal on Orient Beach. They are still doing 1$=1 euro and serving a menu similar to California Restaurant, but with fewer choices.

Nearby and closely related Rancho del Sol is offering week end specials of paella, cous-cous, burritos, fajitas, and more.

2007 Restaurant Closings
Restaurants Dates
Bali Bar Closed for September and first half of October
Belle Epoque Restaurant open all summer
closed on Sundays in June
Blue Martini August
Le Cottage Restaurant September 1st to October 26th
Dare to be Rare No vacation
Closed on Sundays
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
L'Escargot Restaurant Closed on Sundays until October
Dinner Cabaret Show continues every Friday
through the summer
Kokomarina Closed in June
Rancho del Sol Closed in September
Sol é Luna Restaurant June 20 to July 7
Tabba Khady Last two weeks in August, maybe
Temptation Restaurant No vacation
Closed on Mondays


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.

Don at GCL Car Rental also announces that if you rent a car for a week from him, you'll get free week of chairs at Boo Boo Jam on Orient Beach. 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.

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.

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)

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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