St Maarten/St Martin
|Weather: We arrived on Thursday 13 Dec to 82F and mostly sunny. As we drove through the golf course to Sapphire, the greenery and low spots indicated that it has been raining. At the moment, they are blaming the long reach of tropical storm Olga. It's considerably north and west of here, but we are getting waves and scattered showers. The weather forecast has shown scattered showers for a week and they have been correct. Nonetheless, the mornings and evenings are in the high 70's, the afternoons reach the low to mid 80's, and the showers don't last long. They can be tropical downpours, so hard that I just lost my internet connection early Monday morning, but the rest of the day turned out to be spectacular with a nice sunset ending in a green flash. Tuesday was also fantastic, but clouds rolled in on Wednesday and brought a downpour during lunch to Pburg. We waited it out and the rest of the day was OK. Thursday morning brought clouds and by 7:30 they were leaking severely. However, the day cleared up and there was a fantastic green flash. The last few days have been quite nice.|
|Here's the local weather forecast from the Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Today's (23 Dec) sunrise was at 6:43AM and sunset will be at 5:36PM. Not quite 11 hours of sunshine. It's a bit short, but the sun came up in NY at 7:22 and set at 4:27, a touch over nine hours. I'd rather be here, especially as we just got nine inches of snow! The last full moon in 2007 will be 23 Dec, tonite! 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: When we arrived, there was quite a bit of sand at the far NW end of Cupecoy, some at the monolith and none in the little cove. The waves from Olga are getting smaller and it is possible to get into the choppy water. Grand Case Beach looked pretty much the same. It gets thin in the middle near Chez Martine and again as one approaches Grand Case Beach Club. Maho looks great. Great Bay Beach looks wonderful with the pedestrian boardwalk and numerous chairs and umbrellas along the deep sandy beach. A stop at Nettle Bay showed a goodly amount of sand, at least at Les Boucaniers. Orient Beach looked good, at least in the middle, from Kakao Restaurant to Kokomarina. The rest may be fine, we just didn't go any further. If you don't know where the island's beaches are, visit SXM-Beaches for maps and photos. Here's a photo from the bar at Kokomarina.|
Beach Reading: We listened to Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith as we drove to Thanksgiving dinner in Massachusetts last month. It's a tale about a Russian investigator, Arkady Renko, in Cuba. I was intrigued by the descriptions of life in Cuba and, of course, Castro's health and the upcoming "elections" in Cuba make this timely. This caused me to pick up Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana by Ann Louise Bardach in an attempt to fathom Cuban politics, and in particular, the Elian Gonzalez affair.
Activities: We still exercise at Marci's Mega Gym 2000 and this year it's better than ever. It is a gym, not a spa, so you won't get your nails done or get a massage, just lots of treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, machines, and free weights.
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: We stopped at Jewels By Love in Marigot and chatted for quite a while with Love Mahtani. If you want an education in fine diamonds and exquisite watches, he is the man to see. In addition to the usual four C's (cut, color, clarity, and caret weight), he noted a fifth. No, it's not cash or credit, it's certification. There are certificates and there are "certificates". Get one from a trained professional who has real qualifications from the GIA and a diamond that is GIA Certified. The GIA is a non-profit institution and it's extremely stringent standards of grading diamonds are widely considered the highest in the world. While every certified Grading Lab can agree on carat weight, the color and clarity are subjective and the cut even more so. It helps to get an opinion from a first-class appraiser. Love Mahtani has the experience and he and his family (starting with his father before him and now including Milan, his wife, and children) work in the business, so he also has a reputation to protect.|
|On another front, he said that the euro and dollar exchange rate does not affect pricing at his stores (there is one in Marigot and one in Philipsburg) because all of his prices are in US dollars on both sides of the island. Prices are the same in both stores because the overall cost is the same in Marigot and in Philipsburg. A customer can shop with confidence in either of their stores and be assured of the same honest pricing unaffected by exchange fluctuations.|
Construction: US Import, the supermarket next to the French Bridge, is growing and getting a facelift. They have taken over the bakery area next door and rearranged the entrance. The new sign is easier to see and drops Export from the name. Given that much of their food comes from France, the name is still a mystery, but it's a good market, getting bigger and better with this effort, and it's quite convenient for those of us in the lowlands. There is a photo on the construction page of SXM-Info.
Work continues on Pharos and Cupecoy Yacht Club, the Orient Express project. There are new photos on the construction page of SXM-Info.
Sapphire Beach Club: We just arrived and found a fresh coat of paint on the elevators. I don't imagine that would make them work any better but they have also worked perfectly during the two weeks we have been here. The maintenance manager came to our room to look at some tile work around the hot tub and schedule some routine maintenance. At night, they now close the gate on the left entrance reducing the possibility for intruders sneaking past the guards and desk manager. The wireless internet works fine. I now use it rather than Caribserve. Admittedly, they are merely a reseller of Caribserve's wireless, but their rates for short term usage are considerably better.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 escaped from Salem, NY on 13 Dec ahead of a storm that left nine inches of snow and wreaked havoc on the airlines. We had spent the night in an airport hotel (at about one-third the rack rate courtesy of Priceline). Some hotels will let you park your car in their lot for a couple week vacation and shuttle you to the airport and back. Sounds pretty good to me. We, however, didn't plan to leave our car here until April, so we arrived with friends who returned the car after a great dinner across the street at Real Seafood. We started with fried calamari that reminded us of Skipjack's, only larger portions, and I never went hungry at SkipJacks. After eating entirely too much we went to bed early in preparation for a 4AM wakeup call. We left town at 6AM as we heard that 200 flights had already been cancelled, mostly out west.
The Albany to Newark flight left before sunrise and arrived with no problems. The Newark to SXM flight left on time and arrived 20 minutes early, possibly aided by the tailwinds from the approaching storm. Immigration was swift. Luggage was not, but it all arrived, always a plus. Don at GCL Car Rental arrived as we were walking out. We were home at Sapphire by 2:30 after a stop at the Maho Food Express.
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.
Groceries: The Maho Food Express is quite convenient to those of us on the western side of the island. It's not as large as some markets, but has much of what we need without forcing us to fight our way past the airport and Dutch Bridge. In the other direction, we generally stop at US Imports, just on the other side of the French Bridge. We do have to deal with that bridge, but it gets much less traffic. Besides, if you want cheeses with truly heart-stopping cholesterol contents, you need to shop on the French side. Just drink plenty of red wine to combat the effects of cholesterol.
On Friday at 3PM we attempted to go through Simpson Bay to the Grand Marché in Cole Bay, but turned around and headed back through the lowlands to US Imports. As we were buying French cheeses and a few vegetables, we weren't fussed by the euro. We picked up some Chaumes for about $14 per pound, St Andre triple cream for $11 per pound, and Blue d'Auvergne, Comte, and Cantal for $7-8 per pound. For what it's worth online I found Chaumes for $15 per pound, Comte for $14.50 per pound, and Blue d'Auvergne for $11 per pound from Canelle Specialty Foods. Velveeta is cheaper and American style slices (with only a minimal association with a cow or farm) may be cheaper still.
On Saturday we made it to Grand Marché rather early in the morning by going through Marigot. It is a large and well-stocked market and its proximity to the French side has caused it to stock some fantastic French products. We got Chaumes for $13 per pound and Morbier for $6 per pound. We picked up some Proscuitto for $10 per pound. However, the Bayonne ham we got at US Imports the day before cost only $9 per pound. Both would be fine with a Guadeloupe melon and a rosé, but we think we like the cheaper jambon de Bayonne better.
Alcohol: Laphroig 10 year old was recently chosen by Whisky Magazine as the best singlemalt, at least according to the Continental in-flight magazine. It has long been one of my favorites. Coming from Islay it mixes a salt air tang with the peaty smoke. For me, it brings back memories of Japan. Of course, that's only because I used to pick it up in the airport duty free shops before I would call on clients there. You should pick it up here on the island. My bottle (exhumed from our owner's closet) says I paid $25 for 750 ml, but it doesn't say where. I'll see what I can find, but a stroll down Front Street in Philipsburg should reveal several stores with many singlemalts and if you like a strong peaty flavor, try Laphroig.
If you are interested in recent wine vintages, here are Parker's ratings, Berry Bros ratings, and the Wine Enthusiast's ratings. Two of them are a "hundred" point scale and one is a 10 point scale. Berry Bros 10 point scale actually tells you more than the 100 point scales because they use most of the scale, at least percentagewise. Parker says 70 to 79 is average, but of the 12 years of ratings for 34 varieties of wine, only 5 % are average and a half percent are below average. Sounds like Lake Woebegone to me. Anyway, what to make of it and what should you drink down here in paradise? It turns out that 2003 and 2004 were even better than the highly rated 2002. 2001 was also pretty good and 2000 was quite good in Bordeaux, but not so good in Burgundy. However, except for white wines, none of these are at their peak and few are even ready to drink. Given the lack of deep wine cellars on the island, you will be offered 2003, 2004, and 2005 vintages at most restaurants. Last night we had two Premier Cru Savigny-Les-Beaune from Jean-Jacques Girard brought over by Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. One was 2004 and the other was 2005. Both were about $30 with the 2005 costing 10% more. It was probably more drinkable at this time, having more forward fruit, but the 2004 was quite good. If you buy a case, the price gets better, but the website has a coupon for a 10% discount on any purchase.
On Saturday we stopped at Select to round out our cellar (OK, it's a closet here on the island). But first, we needed some breakfast and as it was 11AM, Sylvain broke out a 2005 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru from Guy Amiot, an excellent breakfast wine. We bought some of the usual Chablis (about $18) from Tremblay (currently the 2006 is on offer). We generally spend an extra couple dollars to get the Chablis rather than the Petit Chablis, but don't spend the further $8 to get a Premier Cru Chablis. I think this is more related to our use of white wines as an aperitif than to the perceived quality. We did buy one bottle and will see if we still stand by this assessment. His selections of Burgundy are much better this year and he expects more in February.
Saturday night we had a 2005 Cote de Nuit Village from Coillot from Select - wonderful with a chicken from Grand Marché with their prosciutto and our own shallots. The wine is not cheap at about $25 per bottle, but it was a wonderful Burgundy and may replace some of my beloved Savigny-Les-Beaune. On the next night we had 2005 Les Milléres Rouissillon from Jean Gardiés (about $20) with some merguez from Grand Marché with their red and green peppers and onions and our garlic over rice. We also added some Le Phare du Cap Bon harissa (also found at Grand Marché) and the rather spicy meal went quite well with the burly Roussillon.
Gas: We got gas at Cadisco in Sandy Ground for 1.00€ per liter which, given their 1 to 1 take on the dollar, is $1.00 per liter or about $3.80 per gallon. Not too bad, even compared to the US. The Dutch side was cheaper at 88 cents (US per liter) but raised prices/taxes recently such that they are now about 20 cents (US) per liter more expensive, ie about $1.20 per liter or $4.50 per gallon. I wouldn't fight traffic around the lagoon to save $7 on a 10 gallon fillup, but I sure would buy gas if I were visiting the French side. Bring cash, as few places take credit cards.
Traffic: Other than one slow afternoon when we gave up on making it through Simpson Bay and turned around, we have made it through OK. On Wednesday we left Select Wine Cellar in the Orange Grove Shopping Center and headed for the bridge at 4:20 and made it to the bridge by 4:28, beating the 4:30 opening. It helps to know the opening times (9:00AM, 9:30AM, 11:00AM 11:30AM, 4:30 PM, and 5:30PM). But not too much, because when we got to the other side, we stopped at Marci's Mega Gym 2000 and Marci said the bridge had been going up and down all day. The megayachts pay a few hundred dollars for a bridge opening and collect a few thousand per day from each of several customers. You can bet that if a 3:24 opening is more convenient for them, it will be your problem, not theirs.
Marigot had just started major work on the drainage and sewage system as we left last spring. The paper said they had essentially finished, but when we got there, the block of the road from Vinissimo to the high road (Rue de Hollande) was blocked off. Further talks with locals suggest this may remain. Click the "traffic" link above to see a map and further discussion.
|Nature: A pair of banaquits (sugar birds) are building a nest on our balcony. We have filled an ash tray with water and they bathe in it regulary, joined by a finch friend.|
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
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
We went to Ti Sucrier on the lagoon in Nettle Bay for dinner on the night of our arrival. It is almost the closest restaurant on the French side. Ma Ti Beach on the waterfront is a bit closer. Here's a map showing the restaurants in Bay Rouge, Nettle Bay, and Sandy Ground. Ti Sucrier now has excellent signage and parking is available. When we arrived, there was a guard in the guardhouse protecting the fenced parking lot. The restaurant is on a raised deck surrounding the (currently closed) swimming pool. There are signs of construction and chef/owner Sylvain says that the pool and deck will be returned to their previous glory. Now the restaurant merely has a lovely view of the lighted lagoon shoreline, several palms, and the distant buildings on the Dutch side. We did not have reservations and were led to a lagoonside table. It was a Thursday a bit before high season, so we could get away with this, but if you want a primo table in a week or so, make a reservation. We were a bit tired having been up since 4AM and still a bit overstuffed from a meal the night before at Real Seafood, so we skipped an appetizer, but could not resist two flutes of champagne to celebrate our first night on the island (8€ each). Sylvain and the waiter conspired to deliver two small bowls of vichyssoise as an amuse bouche. It was cool (of course), smooth, and quite tasty with hints of mint and cooked cucumber, topped with diced fresh chives - very nice with our champagne. We ordered the 2002 Savigny-Les-Beaune from Bouchard (39.5€) to go with sweetbreads and porcini mushrooms on tagliatelle pasta and a bit of grilled turbot topped with beurre rouge on a bed of leeks. I've had the sweetbread dish before and it is still superb. The turbot was fresh as could be and grilled to perfection. We skipped dessert and sipped wine and Badoit water as we chatted with Sylvain about his restaurant and the island. The restaurant's second anniversary was on 15 December, two nights after our dinner. He thinks things are working out fairly well despite the high price of the euro. We may also have the recipe for the vichyssoise for a future article in St Maarten Events.
On Friday evening we went to Ti Bouchon in French Cul de Sac. Momo has new chefs and was about to unveil a new menu, but held off as the second chef called in sick. We perused the chalkboard and made our dinner selections: crispy goat cheese salad, pork tenderloin with cinnamon, and duck breast. The new wine list is expanded and includes some fine Burgundies, but alas is so new that it is still at the printers. We discussed Burgundy and ended up with Pommard les Vignots 2003 Aleth Leroyer Girardin ($61). François distributes this wine at Philipsburg Liquor Store for about $30, making Momo's markup quite reasonable. It's a wonderful silky and seductive wine that barely made it through the crunchy brick-wrapped goat cheese salad that we shared. Luckily the main courses arrived smartly and we had a bit left to go with our two dinners on a bed of sautéed sticks of zucchini, carrots, and yellow squash with a bowl of the tastiest roast potatoes I have had in a while. We were still tender from our journey and the tribulation of unpacking our apartment, so we excused ourselves from a wonderful evening and headed home. I'm looking forward to many more meals here this season and if you don't trust my judgment, consider that eight of the ten patrons behind me were locals, including José and Christine from Le Tastevin in nearby Grand Case.
We returned via Simpson Bay and were met with a traffic stop just before we reached the end of the airport runway. No questions, just a flashlight in my face and a "Have a nice evening"???
On that beautiful Monday (17 Dec), we had an appointment with Esther, owner of Flamboyant Beach Villas at the far eastern edge of Grand Case, just before Grand Case Beach Club. That gave us a perfect excuse to spend this perfect lunch hour (or two) in California Restaurant. They still do 1 to 1 for cash and have a added a new page of mussel preparations to the menu. The boutique is now called Zen Attitude and has several new offerings. The dining room has been upgraded and the lovely view remains the same. We had a bottle of Picard's Bourgogne for $26, a reine pizza (ham, mushrooms, olives, and cheese) for $12, an avocado salad with crab and tuna for $16, and a bottle of water. The total bill for two on the water in Grand Case was $65 - a lovely way to spend a couple hours in the afternoon.
The next day, we had another very nice lunch at Les Boucaniers. We had avoided this restaurant as it has changed ownership and cuisine over the last few years, but Sylvain at Ti Sucrier recommended it, so we stopped in for a beachfront lunch on Tuesday, another fantastic day. They have a nice plantings and lovely view of the water off to Anguilla. The menu is Créole and French. Martha had the Créole plate with boudin noir, avocado with salt fish, tuna tartare, accras, a crispy crab cake, smoked chicken salad, and marinated salt cod (18€) and I had the grilled mahi with Créole sauce (14€). We chose a bottle of Bouchard's non-vintage La Vignée and some sparkling water. The wine was fine with the strong flavors of the Créole cuisine. The bill came to 55€ or $77 given the 1.4 rate that is used here.
On Wednesday we headed to Pburg to check out Arthur's Car Rental and do for some shopping. Arthur's is the closest agency to the cruiseship pier, literally a hundred yard walk from the entrance. If you are cruising into SXM, he is convenient, but make a reservation. After a bit of shopping, we had a lunch at Antoine Restaurant on Great Bay. We had another bottle of Bouchard's non-vintage La Vignée and some sparkling water with a salade Niçoise (tuna, olives, green beans, and hard-boiled egg on a bed of greens) and a less fancy tuna salad with fresh tuna. We lingered over the wine as a tropical storm passed through, clearing the beach and boardwalk. It gave us time to chat with Jean-Pierre who was quite pleased with the progress on the beach, boardwalk, and Front Street renovations. He also noted that the government is doing more about crime, mentioning traffic controls to get rid of unlicensed and/or uninsured drivers. We immediately thought back to the Dutch side traffic control on our way back from Ti Bouchon.
And on Thursday we bumped into a local who knew someone caught recently in the traffic stops. Outside of the unlicensed and uninsured, they are looking for illegal immigrants. I imagine that being white in a rental car will get you a free tourist pass, but you should at least carry a driver's license, even if you leave your passport in the safe. As far as I know, there still is no BAC limit on the Dutch side and no analyzer, but you can be ticketed for being impaired, so I wouldn't drink too much.
On Thursday evening we drove to Grand Case and parked in the convenient central parking lot. Last summer as we left, the authorities had changed the traffic pattern so that the road in front of the parking entrance was on a stretch of restaurant row that is one way from the canal to the center of town, ie the corner with Bistrot Caraïbes and Fish Pot. Thus, if you drove up to that corner, you would be looking at the parking sign from the wrong end of a one way street. There is an entrance to the lot just past the police station that gets used only on Harmony Nights when the lot is free. They were talking about using that entrance all the time. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened yet, so remember to take the right hand turn off the main entrance road and follow along the canal to the intersection where you can make a left and head to the parking lot entrance. It's much easier to follow with a map and there is one on the parking lot web page.
In any event, traffic wasn't bad so it took half an hour to drive from Cupecoy to the parking lot at 7:30PM. A short stroll later found us at a front table at Bistrot Caraïbes. The view of their lobster tank is nice, but the view across the street to Fish Pot's tank is even better. We enquired about a crisp white wine and Thibault said that they still had Rodet's Rully (48€), but the vintage was 2005 - not a problem as it's the best one on the vintage charts for the last 20 years. Thibault correctly guessed that it was chosen to complement the most luxurious smoked salmon on the island. They smoke their own, add the crispest of onion rings, capers, and crisp toast points. The white wine caused us to consider fish for our main courses and this is never a problem at Bistrot Caraïbes. Usually they have fresh French sea bass available by Thursday evening and on through the weekend. French seabass is a totally different fish from Chilean seabass. It's a small fish with delicate flesh, while the Chilean fish is not really a bass, is much larger, and has firmer flesh. At BC, the bass is filleted and presented on bed of vegetable ribbons with a tomato sauce containing a hint of roasted red peppers. This is another of my favorite dishes, but I had ordered one of the specials: grilled mahi on a bed of smashed potatoes. Both dinners went well with the crisp Burgundy. We finished with coffees and were the penultimate couple in the restaurant, giving us lots of time to chat with the brothers Meziere over a touch of Armagnac. Our bill was about $170 using their exchange rate of 1.4 rather than the slightly higher actual rate, but remember that about $70 of that can be attributed to my indulgence in fine Burgundy.
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, Olivier leading a dining room team that consists of Sam, Titan, and a couple others, legendary chef Thierry Delaunay still leads the kitchen, and Gerald, or his partner Laurent from La Casa del Cigar, will be hosting. We stopped in for a chat and noticed a platter of our favorite cheeses being prepared for the evening.
On Saturday we headed over to Orient Beach to have lunch with our feet in the sand at Kakao. Don't try this in high season, especially on a Sunday, but we went without a reservation and got the last beach table. We had our usual lunches: a salade Niçoise for Martha and a supreme pizza (ham and mushrooms) for me. A bottle of Guigal's Cotes du Rhone and a bottle of Pelligrino rounded out a wonderful lunch. They are using a favorable exchange rate, about 1.35, which brought our lunch to about $78.
We headed on down Kokomarina. Koko and Marina are doing fine and the restaurant looks better than ever with table cloths and very impressive tableware. We'll stop in soon to report on the food, but I have no doubts about it.
Harmony Nights will run every Tuesday night from 15 January 2007 until April.
Changes: Aqua on the lagoon across from the airport has become JO's Steakhouse and Berry's Grill seems vacant. Mai in Marigot has closed. Coconut Joe's which was Iron Horse in Cole Bay is trying again as Wasabi, serving sushi. Senor Bernies Tijuana yacht Club is in the old World News Cafe/Liberty Inn/etc next to Boathouse. Look for margaritas and Mexican from Jim Goldman, owner of Bamboo Bernies, which is moving from Caravanserai to Maho. La Suite has closed. It appears that Cliffhanger is open with no signage, no website, and no advertising. That is somewhat common in timeshare/condo establishments. They want some bar and restaurant, but not a lot of outsiders (or noise). They will offer cheap rent to a bar/restaurant, but restrict advertising. From all the complaints on TTOL, it doesn't appear to be much of a loss, but the green flashes were great.
BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS
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. The first Friday of the New Year has been cancelled. Send an email to Sylvain for more details or a reservation (highly recommended as these are very popular).
Ti Bouchon Wine Tasting: Momo has now opened for lunch and dinner with two new chefs. He no longer has time to indulge us in fine wines in the afternoon. Most unfortunate.
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
Pirate Beach Bar
Pedro's Beach Bar
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Good Cards (and gifts)
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.