St Maarten/St Martin
4 November 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: I had a Skype chat with Francis M who is staying in Grand Case and he was saying that the days were nice but often it rained at night in September. He also mentioned a rare thunderstorm as did Roy (of Roy Deep Sea Fishing) during a Skype phone call in late September. I had no renters in my condo throughout September, about normal, although some people have stayed at that time in previous years and had great, though warm and humid, days with rain at night. No one was there on 5 Sep 95 (Hurricane Luis), thankfully. Here's the local weather forecast. Sunset will be at 5:36PM on Sunday (4 November). In a few weeks at the winter solstice (22 Dec) the sun will set at about 5:40PM. Note that the solstice is the day that the sun reaches its maximum distance below the equator and starts its northward journey toward the equator. It's frequently called the shortest day (ie, least time between sunrise and sunset) and generally is, but it is not necessarily the earliest sunset. Full moon dates for 2007 are: 24 Nov, and 23 Dec. Full moon dates for 2008 are: 22 Jan, 21 Feb, 21 Mar, 20 Apr, 20 May, 18 Jun, 18 Jul, 16 Aug, 15 Sep, 13 Oct, 13 Nov, and 12 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Francis M also reports that the sea was a bit rough, even at normally placid Galion in late September. If you don't know where the island's beaches are, visit SXM-Beaches for maps and photos.

Beach Reading: Wendy K sent along Garlic Is Life: A Memoir With Recipes (Paperback) by Chester Aaron. She liked this memoir of a divorced, middle-aged professor chucks it all and starts raising garlic in Sonoma County, CA. We do raise our own garlic. Hmmm?

Again, you can't take it to the beach, but Wendy K has found another food related blog from Lyon by an American woman married to a French man.

Construction: The breakwater bridge at the western end of Pburg near the Great Bay Hotel has been demolished and newer, sturdier bridge will replace it. The schedule calls for a 14 Dec reopening, just in time for our arrival on 13 Dec.

Wendy K (who just arrived on the island) reports of building going on in Cupecoy, with the exception of the Cove, next to her in Parc Lagon. The rumor is that they have abandoned the project. She's not sure if that's bad or good for them, but right now, they're happy there's no dirt and noise from that side. Moreover, there's nothing going on with Cupecoy Village on our other side, either.

Construction continues at the Cupecoy Yacht Club. They're working on what looks to be a six story building at the edge of the property that she can see from her terrace. The Delfina is being transformed into what may be more condos. It looks as though they'll be putting wood siding all around which looks nice. More of the university housing is being completed. The Blue Azure (the building between the private high school and Cote d'Azure] has a sign out that says condos for sale starting at $99,000. One of the university buildings has a sign advertising $1300 a month rent. Work is ongoing on Rainbow Beach [ed note: same motto as NY State: Excelsior, or ever upward] and at the Venezuelan's building (Arenas).

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. Send an email to get aboard.

Marci's Mega Gym 2000 just celebrated its tenth anniversary. There are some new photos on her website.

Shopping: Our large and ever growing SXM website has just added Jewels By Love with shops in Marigot and Pburg. The place is owned by Love Mahtani and he spends most of his time in the Marigot shop at 7 rue Charles de Gaulle. We've never been in either store, but TTOLers have great things to say about the place. It turns out that asking Google for "st martin jewelry", brings up our jewelry page in the first slot. It's fourth if you look for "st maarten jewelry". There are two paid sponsors in the four. I don't know about everyone, but I generally ignore any paid sponsor because I think that if you get to the top of Google based on the size of your advertising budget rather than your content, I'm probably not interested in your content.

Crime: If you are staying at the Westin, you should be pleased that chef Sharmien Fiorelli Elshot was acquitted car theft, burglary and forgery, but was found her guilty of fencing and making use of forged checks. She was sentenced to 180 days, 157 of which to be suspended pending a two-year’s probation, reducing her sentence to time already spent. Thus, she'll be back in the kitchen ready to serve you ASAP.

The other major crime news seems to concern Americans who overstay their allotted time on the island. Someone arriving at the airport was forced to buy a return ticket recently. A major contribution to global warming may be attributed to the TTOL bloviating on this topic. I can understand that having spent several hundred thousand dollars on a dream retirement home, it must be a shock to be told you have to leave the island after 90 (or is it 30 or is it 14?) days. Wendy K just arrived and reports that she was smiled at by the man in immigration and was asked, "How are you". More important, she was not asked to show a return ticket, a bit of a problem in the paperless ticket world. However, for a different take on all this, see the small island story below for an account of all the fun to be had in dealing with the local authorities.

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: 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 and a birth certificate with a raised seal. 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.

I've heard that the passport crunch is over, but please plan ahead.

Groceries: On 22 Sep, to celebrate the equinox (along with the rest of the Druid community), we purchased some smoked salmon at BJ's, opting for the wild Alaskan sockeye rather than the tepid, farm-raised, artificially colored, etc. We added our own crisp sliced onions capers, and a squeeze of lemon and a bottle of Champagne, saving the last half of the bottle for late night pagan ritual in the hot tub. Smoked salmon is available at most supermarkets on the island. We usually get it at US Import in Sandy Ground. Our Alaskan sockeye salmon was good, as is the salmon we get at US Imports, but nothing is as good as the house-smoked salmon at Bistrot Caraïbes. They let me buy it for takeout. I'm sure they would do it for you.

Small-minded island story: From an acquaintance who shall remain nameless: "We've been doing the residency dance for a while now. Remember that list you sent me? I also received the same list from someone on the island that was going to help move this along. Nowhere on that list did it say anything about an apostille stamp on our marriage certificate. We had all our papers and they said we needed the marriage certificate apostillised(?), a letter from our accountant stating exactly how much money we receive, and we need health insurance from here! Our accountant provided a letter stating that we would be able to take care of ourselves financially but didn't give an exact figure. The health insurance came out of left field. I called our insurance agent here and she didn't believe it either. So she called around to get us some figures because if it was too much, we were going to forget about it. Since my husband is 60, she said he is too old to get insurance!! We have health insurance that will cover us in the states and medical evacuation insurance in case things get rough. This place is a perfect catch 22!

We have heard so many stories about residency, our heads are spinning. We went to see a notary in town to see what the pros and cons were of obtaining residency. We specifically wanted to know if we would have to pay taxes on any income we receive (from our own account) as someone else told us we would/could end up paying up to 50% on any income we receive! What!! I'll tell you, this whole thing is insane. If you ask ten people the same question, you'll receive ten different answers. Anyway, when we left the notary, we didn't know any more than when we went in except that, yes, we have to file taxes here. She said we could get a copy of our US return and attach it to the tax form here but she wasn't sure if we would have to pay any taxes, "It wouldn't be much, if you did have to." So I posed the residency question on TTOL and as you can see, Philippe [ed note: from Tabba Khady] knows more than anyone on this whole island! So now, do we leave every three months or try to get the residency and suffer all the repercussions? I can't get any straight answers on anything. I don't know if the health insurance is for real or not, I have someone getting the marriage certificate notarized in the states (an added attraction) and apostillised, and I don't know about paying any taxes. What I do know is that I have a condo I cannot stay in longer than three months. If you ask anyone how to stay longer than three months, they'll say go to Anguilla even though it's not legal. So are we supposed to go to our native country? For how long? Someone else said anywhere you live for six months and a day is your place of residency. So that means we cannot stay here for more than six months of the year without residency.

In a place where they're building, building, building, they have made no provisions for the occupants of the buildings. If I were to rent this condo out, the renter can only stay three months, to be legal. We bought this place with the understanding that we would be able to stay here as long as we left after three months and then we could come back. Then I heard of the residency thing and thought that would be best so we wouldn't get in trouble. No way is the right way to do this. I'm going to go to a realtor tomorrow and ask how they're selling condos and houses where people can't stay in them for long. If I knew this, I would have rented a place and been done with it. But we like the condo even though we had a lot of problems with it at first. It's shaping up nicely."


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:
Susan Chantry
Ron Dohr

Martin Conway, the casino manager, and his wife are no longer the owners of Baccara Restaurant. He reports that this contest will continue and diners can also use their dinner award at the Surf and Turf Bar & Grill, next door. They are open every night from 6:30 pm, last orders up to midnight. Live Lobsters at $23 lb, lots of steaks, and pizzas have been added to the menu.


Winners of the contest that ended on 4 November
Azure Guesthouse - seven nights for the price of four - Louis Grilli
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Andrea N Smith
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride - Channa West
Bistrot Caraïbes - $100 off a dinner for two - Bob Jones
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill - Channa West
Restaurant du Soleil - $50 off a dinner for two - Bob Jones
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 - Channa West
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Channa West

Current Contest - until 30 December
Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form:

VistaRoyale - seven nights for the price of four
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Valley Car Rental $50 off a week's rental
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill
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

Future Contests:

30 Dec to 2 March 2008
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
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 4 November the euro was at 1.377. Today it is at 1.452. That's a 5.5% decrease in the dollar's value in three months. 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 40 to 50% 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 appears that Buccaneer Beach Bar is opening up again without Neil, but with the same workers. It is also rumored that L'Alabama Restaurant will not be reopening.

Zuzu and Alain have just returned from a vacation in France and Bali! They have shipped back furniture and decoration from Indonesia. It's scheduled to arrive in October and she'll be selling the furniture at Acropole, her villa above Orient in early November. She also seems quite excited to be able to take vacations as she and Alain are no longer involved in a restaurant on a daily basis. Their son Johann and his SO, Chantal, are running Rancho del Sol. They are still doing 1$ = 1 euro and have a two for 1 happy hour every day from 4 to 6 PM featuring tapas and a spectacular view of Orient. given that the sun dips behind the hills to the west in the late afternoon, this would be a great spot to end the day. Their daughter, Marina, and her SO, Koko, are running Kokomarina down on Orient beach featuring a smaller version of the menu that Zuzu and Alain made famous at California Restaurant, also at 1$ = 1 euro..

We had a kefta tajine based on a recipe in Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, although we substituted some chorizo from the nearby Lewis Waite Farm. Kefta is lamburger made into spiced meatballs, but chorizo is pretty close. For the real thing in an authentic setting, go to Marrakech Restaurant near the stadium in Marigot or, in a sumptious setting, try Dehlia's at Atlantis Casino. This used to be Casablanca, which was also the name of a house of ill-repute near Orient.

On 14 Sep we headed to MA for a wedding the next day, stopping in Williamstown to visit the Williams College Art Museum and see "Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy". We had a nice lunch at Thai Garden. Yes, there is a restaurant of the same name in Sandy Ground on the French side, but they aren't related. Last season we had been closing out long days at Orient with an early dinner at Tai Chi Restaurant - good Thai food and good sushi. Another option is Mai's near the stadium in Marigot.

We went on to in Lenox, MA staying at the Village Inn. Our dinner was at nearby Bistro Zinc. In parts of France, bistros are called zincs because most of them had metal ceilings. We call it a tin roof or ceiling, the French and the people in the Caribbean call it zinc. I can't speak for every roof ever made, but two of the houses on my property, all three garden sheds, the wood shed, the garage, and one of the barns use galvanized steel, ie steel dipped in zinc, so the French are closer to being correct. But how was the dinner? The half dozen aps were in $10 to 15 range, there were a few interesting salads similarly priced, and the eight main courses ranged from $20 to 30. Martha and I split an ap of local mushrooms, quite nice, and she went on to a bit of grouper while I did the bistro thing with steak frites. Neither were breaking new ground and Martha thought that her saffron rice was lacking in saffron, but the fish and steak were good and well-prepared. The frites came with Heinz ketchup. Given a choice, I would take Heinz over any other store-bought ketchup, so much so that I bought the stock several years ago.

On 20 September we went up to Lake George for a spectacular day and dinner at the Sagamore Resort. Lake George isn't as large as Lake Champlain, but that merely brings the opposite shore (and the waves of hills rising in the distance) even closer. As this was the third Thursday of the month, the Sagamore was having a wine tasting dinner, this one featuring Burgundies, with an emphasis on 2005. The menu started with four seafood based aps served with a Bourgogne Blanc 2005 during a reception and moved into the dining room for a Foie Gras Paté paired with a 2005 Chablis. There were three meat courses, a veal roulade, braised short rib, and a tandoori game hen with a 2005 Chambolle-Musigny. The final course was cheese with a 2003 Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru. The 2005 vintage is supposed to be superb and I have already laid away several cases, but they are not ready for drinking now. This tasting was informative, but close to infanticide. Last season on the island, the 2002 vintage was extremely drinkable, although the 2003 and 2004, which may be replacing it, are supposed to be quite good, with a slight edge to the 2003.

Where can you get a meal like this on the island? When La Samanna is doing a major tasting with guest chefs, I've seen meals this elaborate. On a smaller scale, Select Wine Cellar has done tasting dinners at Halsey's Restaurant and does wine and cheese pairings with Champagne Restaurant every month, usually on the first Friday. As for the various individual parts of the meal, we have always liked the foie gras dishes at Le Cottage Restaurant, Mario's Bistro used to have a braised short rib, but it is not on the current website menu, Dino's Temptation Restaurant hired the chef from Sitar Indian Restaurant and produces a tandoori spiced duck breast, with coconut-chile chutney, candied tamarind sauce, and vegetable biryani. I thought the veal roulade and the tandoori chicken went well with the burgundies, but the braised short rib could have used an even bigger wine.

We spent the next late morning on the terrace at the Sagamore with coffee and moved on to an early lunch looking up and down the lake. You can have a similar experience (hold the mountains) in Grand Case at any place on the water side open for lunch. We like Restaurant du Soleil and nearby Il Nettuno Restaurant - both across the street from the Grand Case Parking, which is free at lunch. A bit further down restaurant row is L'Escapade Restaurant, also lovely inside with great views. For a complete day at the beach with a great lunch away from the crowds, consider Grand Case Beach Club with gated parking, a lovely little beach, Sunset Café for a lunch with fantastic views, and Sebby at the Actitites Desk, featuring great guided snorkel tours of Créole Rock.

We went to JT Baker's in Cambridge, NY in late October. The summer menu is still on the website, but the restaurant was serving fall fare: flat iron steak, pheasant, pork tenderloin, and duck. The flat iron steak was created by researchers at the University of Nebraska and University of Florida as they studied undervalued cuts of beef. It comes from the shoulder and a large bit of connective tissue running through the center of the muscle led people to believe that it was tough. However, by cutting around the muscle a flavorful and tender steak can be produced. Jason Baker used to be a chef on megayachts out of the Virgin Islands, but has moved back closer to home. His restaurant is small, having about 15 well-spaced tables seating about 60 with a tiny bar. His wife Suzanne is the pastry chef and helps out with service. The menu has six to eight aps, six to eight main courses, and six to eight desserts. The wine list has six to eight reds and six to eight whites. I'd say it was like a French Bistro, but the tables are more widely spaced and the menu goes beyond typical bistro food. I did have the flat iron steak and it was definitely not the typical steak frites. Jason's inventiveness rivals Mario at his eponymous Bistro or Dino at Temptation or Dare to be Rare. I don't recall any flat iron steak on the island, but Ti Bouchon has served a hanger steak at times. It's also a relatively unknown cut of beef, mostly because there are only two per animal so they rarely make it past the butcher. It hangs off the diaphragm and is connected to the kidney, not doing a lot of work, keeping it tender, while picking up a hint of kidney for flavor. Martha's pheasant was spectacular. I've never seen one on an island menu. Our tablemates had duck, a staple in island restaurants. We had a great duck offering at Ti Sucrier, Rainbow always had a great West Indian duck and Mario, who worked there in the 90's has had a honey roasted glazed duck on his menu ever since. His cookbook has the recipe, if you can't wait. Mario also makes one of the best pork tenderloins I have ever had. I did remember another one and with the help of Google's search feature on the SXM Info site, I found out that it was at Auberge Gourmande in 2005.

Fleur has said that after taking a break for a year (well deserved, she believes, after 26 seasons), she is re-opening the Rainbow in December for breakfast, brunch, and light lunch, taking the restaurant "back to the beginning" offering a casual atmosphere and affordable prices in her seaside dining room and second floor open terrace in Grand Case. I remember when that when I first saw the place in the early 90's, the side of the building said open for lunch. As a lover of lazy lunches in waterfront bistros, I was thrilled, at least until David told me that they were no longer open for lunch! The side of the building was painted over in the late 90's.

Philippe at Tabba Khaddy explains his reasons for closing his restaurant in his blog, specifically here. It is somewhat for personal reasons and partially because of the euro. While food and oil (which is transformed into electricity) can purchased in dollars, most other costs on the French side cannot. At a 20% premium 1 to 1 pricing can be maintained - for a while - but at 1.4 to 1.5 it becomes impossible. He also found it ironic that Jeff Berger has chosen to mention his restaurant again. According to Philippe, Tabba Khaddy was a recommended restaurant on Jeff's site that "accept[s] no advertising from any St. Maarten / St. Martin restaurants -- never have and never will" until Philippe rejected a proposal for a website from Jeff. It gets worse, but read the second and third entries here.


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 the first Friday of the month. We attended the first and it was pretty full. 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.

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
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pirate Beach Bar
Paradise View
Paris Bistro
Pedro's Beach Bar
Saint Germain
Tai Chi
Lots here
and here
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Good Cards (and gifts)

Azure Guest House has essentially finished their rebuilding and has just posted new rates. They are quite attractive for a waterfront location. Given traffic problems, it would be quite nice to be on Simpson Bay Beach and be able to walk to many fine restaurants.

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.