St Maarten/St Martin
9 December 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: Dr William Gray's team at Colorado State University has released its new forecast calling for a total of 13 named storms in the Atlantic. It says there is a slightly higher-than-average chance that at least one major hurricane will hit the United States. Government forecasters also predicted an above-average season for 2007. An average of 5.9 hurricanes form in the Atlantic each year. However, Grey and his team had called for above-average storm seasons the past two Decembers — and both turned out to be wrong. But Gray said he believes this year's forecast will be better.

Wendy K reports that the island was quite green and rather warm in early November and Teri P reports great weather for the week before her return, also in early November. Later, Wendy reported that a few days before Thanksgiving a large squall came across the lagoon. It was followed by showers throughout the day until it cleared mid-afternoon. The rainiest day she had seen so far. The next day was lovely with a light breeze off the lagoon. Most recently she reports rough seas as a result of a front that came through on Monday bringing high winds and one rain squall after another. A neighbor's satellite dish became dislodged by the winds. Here's the local weather forecast. Sunset will be at 5:33M on Sunday (9 December). In a few weeks at the winter solstice (22 Dec) the sun will set at about 5:39PM. 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. The last full moon in 2007 are will be 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: Tom F writes: "What is the problem with Pinel Island? We have been going there up to three times during vacation! The last two years we have had a problem getting chairs and umbrellas for our group of six." I can't answer his question as I have never used a chair at Pinel, but I wonder if the unhelpful attitude is a function of all the flap over the French government trying to stop building on the "protected" island.

The continual flap on clothing vs clothing optional arises on TTOL whenever anyone asks about the CO sign at Galion. This has led to numerous postings and angry email to Philippe (of Tabba Khady). Consequently, he hasn't done much updating on the situation. The sign seems to say that the beach is clothing optional, which certainly would be a major change, and cites a French law that no one can find.

Teri P reports no beach at Sapphire. Also, the beach at Orient was very short....and Papagayo's was 'in the water'. Wendy K reports that all the sand at Cupecoy is in front of Shore Point which is rapidly approaching city-size. Unfortunately, on that day in early November the waves were a little too rough, although Danny said it was calm the day before. She headed to Mullet, although normally they don't do Mullet on Sundays. However, there was hardly anyone there. There were waves, but it was easy getting in and out. The beach at the Maho end is quite eroded, with waves coming up above the palapa and a sharp drop-off. We parked under the trees at the Maho end, which turned out to be a huge mistake. We were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes as we went to leave. They even got into the car and were biting us as we drove home.

Just before Thanksgiving she went to Cupecoy and found the sand is evenly distributed between the main and middle beaches with gentle waves. However, just after Thanksgiving she spent most of her time at Mullet as all the sand from the main beach at Cupecoy had been sucked out. There's some sand at the middle beach, and even some at the baby beach. The water has calmed down. As usual, it comes and goes.

This last week Wendy K reports that Thursday was their first day back swimming at Cupecoy. Most of the sand is now at the "baby" beach in the little cove, with some also at the middle beach. Lots of waves today, which, by the time I left around 1:30, were beginning to break at the shoreline. If you don't know where the island's beaches are, visit SXM-Beaches for maps and photos.

Beach Reading: Teri P also said "thanks for the tip about West of the Equator: In Search Of Paradise (Paperback) by Cheryl Bartlam DuBois Am reading it now... Found the Testament by John Grisham in the Sapphire book swap, and read that while I was there. Good book!

Activities: Roy Deep Sea Fishing takes out parties of four or five and comes back with wahoo and mahi lately, marlin and tuna, sometimes. 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.

Shopping: For Christmas, I'm about to send out some lovely garnet earrings and pendants that we bought at Octaedre Gems in the Marigot Market. They are quite pretty and inexpensive.

Crime: I was looking for a crime story and Saturday's Daily Herald had this: "There is finally some good news to report on the crime front. The police spokesman says there has been a sizable reduction in the number of reported armed robberies ..." It's nice to have good news once in a while.

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. Life is pretty easy if you allow enough time to renew by mail. All the details can be found at this State Department page.

Activities: Teri P took the high speed ferry to Saba. It's "something I've wanted to do for a couple of years now, but it was always booked before I got there...so I booked on line), and the seas were real ROUGH! Remnants of Noel. Good piloting certainly was appreciated. What a unique and different island, truly a gem in this modern day trend of build, build, build." To book in advance, check Dawn II or Voyager.

Resorts: The November issue of Conde Nast Traveler listed the 25 best Caribbean resorts, placing La Samanna at 13. On Anguilla CuisinArt, Malliouhana, and Cap Juluca came in at 7, 8, and 9 respectively.

Groceries: Not the normal groceries, but we just went to the Wine and Cheese Cask and picked up some fabulous 2005 Meursault from Matrot. It's not exactly cheap, but $24 for a bottle of Meursault is lower than usual. The newsworthy point is that one of the best white wines in France has now come out with a , wait for it, ... SCREWTOP! I love old burgundies, but the reds age much better and longer than the whites. This white is wonderful now and might become more luscious over the next few years. That remains to be seen with a screwtop, but at present, it's fine and I don't think the cellar has enough bottles of this to take me past 2010.


As noted in an earlier newsletter Baccara has closed. No new restaurant has opened yet, so the contest is cancelled. Previous winners should still call Martin Conway for the casino prizes.


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)
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)
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)
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 1.452. Today it is at 1.465. 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.

Someone asked about Buccaner Beach Bar. I haven't heard exactly what happened, but the "assets" were seized by the government and auctioned. My guess is Neil got in an argument with the gov about how much tax he owed. I remember that after he opened SSBC (and sold it), he opened Peg Leg (and sold it), and opened BBB and complained that too many places were opening in Simpson Bay and there wasn't enough business. This ire was directed at the Wharf. Shortly after that he opened at the yacht club. One does have to wonder about a guy who opens three businesses in an area and then complains that there are too many businesses opening, but still opens a fourth.

The last newsletter talked about a spectacular late morning on the terrace at the Sagamore with coffee and moved on to an early lunch looking up and down the lake. I mentioned that you could have a similar experience (hold the mountains) in Grand Case at any place on the water side open for lunch. I mentioned several but didn't make it all the way down the street to one of our old favorites, California Restaurant. They are open all day long from 11 am, so you can have an early or late lunch and enjoy the lovely waterfront setting in a leisurely manner. Now that Fleur has said that she is re-opening the Rainbow in December for breakfast, brunch, and light lunch, you could also have a similar experience there.

Mentioning the flap between Philippe at Tabba Khady and Jeff Berger in a previous newsletter got emails from both and actually got Jeff to post an inaccurate comment on Philippe's blog in response to the second entry here. Philippe caught the inaccurate statement by using the search function on Jeff's website. Similarly, you can still find the nonsense about "We accept no advertising from any St. Maarten / St. Martin restaurants [or bars]-- never have and never will" in several places on his site at the same time he begs for advertisers in every copy of his newsletter.

Martha and I just finished an article for St Maarten Events magazine. Like last year, it has recipes from local chefs, this time featuring Creole cuisine. The dessert was a spicy pudding, more like a cake, and we got wine recommendations from some local wine merchants. A few nights later we were having a dinner party that ended with a ginger-spiced cake topped with whipped cream. I rooted around in the liquor cabinet and found some port, not bad, but hit the jackpot when I spied a hand-painted bottle of ginger rum from Bistrot Caraïbes. They were wonderful together. Keep it in mind if you order highly spiced dessert, as almost all restaurants have some flavored rum.

La Samanna has announced that they have been honored with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2007. Their wine cellar has been expanded, following this year's success, and they will reopen with a new cellar room for private events and wine tastings. They will also repeat their Gastronomic Week from June 18th to June 22nd next spring featuring chefs from their sister properties in the Orient Express group.

Laguna Restaurant across from the airport in Simpson Bay has closed. For Simpson Bay area Italian, we have always preferred nearby Gondola Restaurant.

Wendy K went to Mario's Bistro and was surprised to learn that Martyne will no longer be at the restaurant. She is home-schooling to take entrance exams for the medical school here. The restaurant was doing well and was full with a few tables of walk-ins, including ourselves; at least 2 second seatings before we left. Mario has 2 new appetizers: a seafood trilogy and a duck trilogy. We had them both and they were delicious. Otherwise, the menu is pretty much the same as last season. Martyne had told us about her change of career over the summer.

Wendy returned recently and found Martyne standing in for Didier who was visiting his brother in France. It was only for a week and Martyne was quite happy to return to her studies. The meal was great.

A couple days later Wendy K went to Bistro Nu. If you haven't been there, you should try it. Real, old-fashioned French cooking, dating back to before the invention of cholesterol. They keep prices down by using many things that Americans don't eat, and many don't even want to think about. Their sweetbread salad is fabulous, and merely the start of a very large menu that includes French and Creole with a large emphasis on seafood. It's on a side street across from the school and stadium on the back road out of Marigot toward Grand Case. You can find them on the downtown Marigot map.

Gerald from L'Escapade Restaurant in Grand Case has taken over management of Montmartre Restaurant in the Dutch lowlands at Atlantis Casino from Pascal and Karen who still own Auberge Gourmande and Sunset Café in Grand Case. The staff at Montmartre has remained essentially the same.


We're leaving for SXM on Thursday and meeting Don at GCL Car Rental at the airport. 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. 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.

Erich S. Kranz
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