St Maarten/St Martin
24 February 2008 Newsletter

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Weather: Sunday started out overcast but turned into a great day with few clouds and lots of blue sky. Monday was even better and I'd like to tell you that I took my sailboat out, but this beautiful boat merely sailed past our condo as we were on the deck having lunch. Saba should have been in the distance, so there is still a lot of haze on the water, but it was a warm and sunny day with a bit of wind. Wendy K was leaving the beach as we walked up to Cupecoy on Monday afternoon. She said it was fabulous. She was right. No green flash as the horizon was hazy, but a wonderful sunny day, fairly small, easily swimmable waves. Both Martha and I thought the water was cool - we've been here too long, also. Both Tuesday and Wednesday were lovely days, but started with short downpours, one of which ended in this full rainbow visible on both sides of our condo, reaching from Cupecoy Yacht Club's construction project to the Caribbean, just off Dany's grill on Cupecoy Beach. Here's the local weather forecast from the Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Today's (24 Feb) sunset will be at 6:11PM. Full moon dates for 2008 are: 21 Mar, 20 Apr, 20 May, 18 Jun, 18 Jul, 16 Aug, 15 Sep, 13 Oct, 13 Nov, and 12 Dec.   Monday sailboat

rainbow   The photos below are from the eclipse of the full moon that occured about 10:30 PM here. The first is a shot from our lagoonside balcony. You can see part of Sapphire's structure, so we went down to the road and took the next two shots. It never got as dramatic as I expected, never turned orange, and even with binoculars, the planets on either side of the moon were not very impressive. Betty at the Horny Toad Guesthouse said that later it was somewhat orange and the paper showed a time lapse sequence that had a bit of color. Thursday had some serious rain but Friday was quite nice. Saturday was a bit cloudy, hazy, and cool - but no rain.   rainbow

eclipse of the moon   eclipse of the moon   eclipse of the moon

NW Cupecoy   SXM-Beaches: Cupecoy is in pretty good shape. The photo on the left is Shore Pointe dominating the NW end of the beach. It also shows that the wall has not (at this point anyway) caused the loss of sand at this end. In fact, it looks better than it has in years. It doesn't mean I like the wall or the project and I doubt the people who pay a million or so (see below) for a waterfront villa are going to like to look at me (or you). This will be great fun in the future. On the right is the view looking SE from the area at the end of the parking lot next to Ocean Club. There is a bit of beach there, Ocean Club has some beach, Sapphire has a bit of a beach, and there is more below Rainbow and The Cliff. If you don't know where the island's beaches are, visit SXM-Beaches for maps and photos.   SE Cupecoy

Beach Reading: I have finished reading A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain. He raved about Thomas Keller's French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley. Keller has now opened Per Se in NYC. You can try to get reservations at either of these and many more restaurants through Open Table. We've used it with good results in the US. Don't try it on SXM, but there are two places to try in Anguilla, one in Nevis, a few in the US Virgins and the rest are in San Juan. The book does reveal that frites are much better than French fries because they are blanched in low temperature oil first to cook them all the way through, then they are fried again briefly in high temperature oil to make them crisp.

Activities: Tropismes Gallery in Grand Case is have a show entitled The Sistine Chapelle Revisited with works by Poivre de la Freta on 1 March from 5-9PM.

Golf Our guest played over on Temenos, the Greg Norman course on Anguilla. He was part of a foursome that included Mario from Mario's Bistro. He said it was amazing, the most beautiful course he has ever seen. That's even more amazing given the lack of water. We've heard the golf villas cost about 12 mil and yearly fees are about a quarter mil. If you've won the lottery, click the link and invite us over.

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

  Sistine Chapelle Revisited
Cupecoy Vilage  

Construction: Here's a photo of Cupecoy Village. I think it says all you need to know about what is happening there. Pharos, next door still has workers, moving slowly. The Cove at Cupecoy has been scuttled. Shore Pointe and the Orient Express project, Cupecoy Yacht Club, are progressing. According to the sales office at Shore Pointe they have only one Lapis Villa remaining (3 bedrooms/3½ baths) at $2,750,000 and two Topaz Villas at $1,850,000 and $1,700,000.

Sapphire Beach Club: If you missed it above, Sapphire has a bit of a beach. Parking is getting tight here when occupancy is at its highest. They haven't helped much by blocking off several spots in the entrance. On the plus side, the entrance to the garage now uses electronic room keys, so you won't need two bits of plastic, one for the room and another for the garage.

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: On Sunday at about 8PM the runway lights failed at PJIA. This caused the airport to shut down and the good news is that several people got a bonus night in St Maarten. The bad news is they spent it sleeping in the airport as this is one of the busiest weeks of high season. Few hotels had available rooms. The lights were finally fixed on Wednesday evening.

So the next day, when we went online and found that the Continental flight taking our guests back to Newark was running an hour and half late, we celebrated our good fortune with another bottle of Pommard at lunch. We duly showed up two hours before the rescheduled departure and were told that their seats had been given away because they hadn't showed up two hours before the regularly scheduled time. Moreover, it was their fault and changing the tickets would cost $100 each. Had they checked in on-line this wouldn't have happened. So I guess the lesson is that if you go online and learn that your flight will be delayed, continue online to check-in!

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.

Shopping: Ever wonder where all the restaurants get their gizmos? We are always meeting restaurateurs at PDG in Cole Bay. Way back when, two guys ran the restaurant supply store and essentially handled everything from fixtures to fromage. They split up and one of them kept the fresh food business while the other took the paper and dry goods. That would be Paper and Dry Goods, currently PDG - or so we have been told. Regardless, they now have all the fancy plates, designer napkins, and gizmos galore.

Groceries: We picked up some Chaumes at Grand Marché at $15 per pound. Just before Christmas we did a major round the lagoon shopping trip and reported that this cheese was $13 per pound at Grand Marché and $14 at US Imports. The bottom line is that if you are buying French or any European goods which are priced in euros, you will pay essentially the same on either side of the island. Cheese, wine, perfume, not much difference.

Alcohol: On a recent visit to Select Wine Cellar we tasted the 2005 Hautes Cotes de Beaune from Chantal Lescure and decided it was good, not ready yet, but it would improve in the glass such that we finished the bottle. Sylvain thought that this should remain in the cellar for another year. Ultimately we bought Chantal Lescure's 2005 Borgogne ($22.50). This wine is ready now. We also bought the 2005 white Savigny Les Beaune from Jean Jaques Girard ($29.90). Every once in a while I like the round flavor of a white Burgundy as a break from the crisp Chablis that we get from Tremblay ($18.10). For the record, Chablis is a Burgundy and the grape is also a chardonnay, but the region is not contiguous with the rest of Burgundy and has a markedly different soil and climate, or as the French say "terroir".

Traffic: Saturday is getting to be a zoo as we reach the highest of high season and head into the Heineken Regatta. As I understand it, regatta is an Italian word for "traffic jam". We did the usual Marci's Mega Gym from 9 to 10 and by 10:30 we were headed over to Grand Marché in Cole Bay. It was a bit slow but traffic in the other direction was backed up almost to the Grand Marché. We finished shopping and continued on into Marigot, coming home through the lowlands and traffic was backed up heading into Marigot all the way from the French bridge.

Gas prices at Cadisco are now $1.04 per liter at Orient and $1.03 in Sandy Ground, almost $4 per gallon. They still do 1 to 1 for cash and I think they are still cheaper than the Dutch side. The Gess in Cul de Sac showed $1.08 and was doing 1 to 1. The Daily Herald on Saturday had a story saying all three Gess stations have been closed since 3 Feb and the workers haven't been paid. I can't say I have stopped in to see if the places are open since I buy my gas at Cadisco because they have lower prices. Maybe that's why the lines have been longer at Cadisco lately.

Cotton and puffy clouds   Nature: On the way to Cupecoy, we were walking in high cotton. The clouds were rather puffy, also, looking like cotton. This crab came for a visit while we were on the beach.   Crab

Small island story: The advice column in the Daily Herald is a great source for small island stories. There was one forlorn letter from a young lady complaining that her relationship with her boyfriend was going badly. The good news is that he had agreed to counseling. The bad news is that the counselor was also working with the boyfriend and the boyfriend's current wife. Not only are there not enough men on this small island, but there are not enough counselors either.


We're starting to fill in the contests for the next season:

Current Contest - now 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
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine

Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form:

One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once.

Future Contests:

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
L'Escargot Restaurant - $100 off dinner for two (cash payments only, excludes Friday Cabaret show) Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine

27 April to 27 July
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine

27 July to 26 October
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine

26 October to 28 December
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine


On 17 February the euro was at 1.468. Today it is at 1.482. Back where it was about two weeks ago. 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. California Restaurant, L'Escapade Restaurant, Kokomarina, Rancho del Sol, Sunset Café, Ti Bouchon, Auberge Gourmande, Spiga, Le France, and Spicy are still is offering 1 to 1 and many other restaurants are offering favorable exchange rates. Just taking your dollars at the current exchange rate saves the 3% foreign exchange conversion rate from most credit cards.

smoked chicken   On Sunday we went to Les Boucaniers on the beach in Nettle Bay. We had a Créole plate that surpasses most Créole plates on the island. It contained diced tuna tartare with onions and peppers, salt cod, accras, avocado with salt fish, a crispy crab cake, smoked chicken salad, and marinated salt cod (18€), a smoked chicken with homemade French fries (14€), and an octopus stew with kidney beans and rice (19€). We've raved about the Créole plate earlier.   Octopus stew

The smoked chicken was topped with chopped onions, peppers, and chives and the fries really were handmade. I had a hard time protecting them from Martha. Her octopus stew was similarly good, although I got few chances to determine this personally. We tried a small tasting plate of the special veal carpaccio topped with an arugula salad that that very good. Our wine was the 2000 Chateau Roubine (about 25€), a light red wine from Provence. Dine with your feet in the sand in a lovely place with a view across the water to Anguilla.

That evening we went to Belle Epoque Restaurant in Marina Royale. This is our choice for thin crust pizza. It's close to our home and has parking. We had three pizzas and a couple salads with a bottle of Laforet rouge (pinot noir) from Drouhin (25€). Another good choice with pizza, spicy pizza especially, would be the Monredon Cotes du Rhone at 20€. The pizzas are all 12 to 15€ and all the usual suspects are there. The French have named various pizzas and no matter where you go a Reine pizza has ham, mushrooms, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. There are many more and some places have dreamt up more exotic combos and named them. Some places have taken liberties with the "standard" names. Surprisingly, the European Union seems to have overlooked this fertile area for new laws, commissions, standards, junkets, graft, etc. I have never had any trouble getting a restaurant to put together any combination for which they have the ingredients. The pizzas arrived quickly and those who like pepper can add olive oil laced with hot peppers to their satisfaction. We ended with profiteroles and espressos. The total bill was only $126 as they are using a a good exchange rate. I'll warn you that Sunday night gets pretty busy here as many other places in the marina are closed and this must be the favorite spot for many of the rest.   Profiteroles

Thierry Delauney
  Monday evening was a a great dinner at Montmartre Restaurant. It recently won the best French restaurant award from the readers of the Daily Herald. If one accepts that the Herald and/or its readers will not give an award to the French side, one can hardly quibble with this. The runner's up were Auberge Gourmande and Tropicana, so the readers do know that there are restaurants on the French side. For what it is worth, the readers of Caribbean Travel & Life, a somewhat more worldly group, voted Auberge Gourmand the best of the Caribbean last year. Montmartre has changed hands this year, but is still in good hands as Gerald from L'Escapade Restaurant has joined with Laurent from La Casa del Cigar as the new owners. The staff remains the same with Olivier leading the front of the house and Thierry Delauney in the kitchen.

We ordered a smooth and flavorful 2001 Volnay ($63) to go with onion soup ($10), a shrimp Caesar salad ($14), and a special foie gras plate with hints of chocolate ($19). I confess that for the foie gras I ordered a glass of Monbazillac, a sweet white wine similar to Sauternes, at a fraction of the price ($8). There was a special dinner that featured veal four ways: osso buco, grilled, stewed, and as a scaloppine rolled with some spinach ($41). We needed two of those, one tournedos Rossini ($36), and a special rack of lamb with a parsley and garlic ($32). This is where Thierry really showed what the kitchen could do and the Volnay was especially nice. Dessert was a lovely tiramisu with espressos. Complimentary Armagnac finished a fine evening. The total bill was about $150 per couple, on which we added a total tip of $50. It's not cheap but this is great food and great service in a lovely setting.

On 20 Feb, the night of the full moon, we dined at Sol é Luna Restaurant. We find this to be one of the most beautiful restaurants on the island. It is a handsome Créole cottage with a wraparound dining porch on two sides surrounded by lush gardens. In addition, Brigitte has done a fabulous job with the furnishings. The bar has been moved and enlarged this season. Christian toils in a sparkling kitchen that has two sides open to the small interior dining room and the desk from which Brigette oversees the dining staff. The dining staff includes Charlotte, their daughter. Climbing the hill behind the restaurant is Sol é Luna Guesthouse and the owner's residence. This, to me, is the perfect arrangement: a family working in a business knowing that making you happy will make money for them. We are currently planning a trip to France in the fall and we are scouring the Michelin for small guesthouses with great restaurants.

So how was it? Start with the fact that it was a full moon night and this is the eastward facing part of the island, so the landscape was washed in soft moonlight as the moon rose up off the Atlantic. We started with drinks from the new bar and a complimentary bowl of ripe olives as we looked over a menu that that has changed a bit and expanded a bit more over the ten years that we have been coming here. There are about ten appetizers ranging in price from 10 to 15€. A dozen main courses were split between Italian offerings, fish, and meat ranging from 10 to 30€. There were also a few appetizer and main course specials. The only problem is making a choice. Martha loves crab and this crab cake came with a somewhat spicy remoulade (14€), so we orderd that and a big Burgundy, Bouchard's 2003 Beaune du Chateau (49€). Bouchard owns many acres in Burgundy and assembles a very good house blend year after year, striving for a certan quality and a certain style. The 2003 was certainly mellowing nicely and stood up to the hint of heat in the very nice crab cake. Our dinners were the large open ravioli of braised veal sweetbreads (25€), shallots, with mushrooms and thyme cream sauce and the veal pot au feu, a long cooked bit of veal with a bit of sauce, a lot of vegetables, and two dollops of super-sharp mustard (26€).   Sol é Luna

Both were very good, the veal was fork-tender and tasty while the sweetbreads were a riot of textures and tastes. We finished with espressos and complimentary flavored rum. The total was 135€ and they used about $1.37/€ to get to $185. We've been coming here for about ten years and it just gets better.

On Friday, as it was such a nice day, we went out to Grand Case Beach Club for a lunch on the water at Sunset Café. You can hardly find a nicer view than the sweep of Petit Plage with First Stick Hill behind it, Créole Rock poking up in the middle of the marine park, and Anguilla in the distance. You do have to buzz the office to get them to open the gate, but that does mean you'll have gated parking available. Parking is good, gated parking is better. We started with a fried shrimp and calamari salad that had four good sized shrimp and a boatload of calamari ($12). This was really was more than enough, but we had ordered the mussels in white wine with onions, shallots, garlic, parsley, pepper, a bit of cream, and a few more secret ingredients ($19) and a Créole chicken sandwich ($14). We were in no hurry and it was a beautiful day, so we monopolized a waterfront table as we slowly worked through a loong lunch hour. Both the moules and the chicken came with some of the crispest fries on the island, and yes, Pascal confirmed that they do blanch the fries first to cook them through, then flash them to get get a crisp exterior. We generally like a chilled rosé with lunches and the Cote d'Une Nuit at $21 is fine. You can continue the afternoon on the beach in the long chairs or the ambitious can talk to Sebby at the activities desk for snorkling, kayaking, etc.   Mussels

Changes: I stopped by Le France in Marina Royale and noted their menu said they were doing 1 to 1 on the euro. They were also quite full. I have heard good things about them, but have not visited. We currently have a list of seven places we would like to visit in addition to all our regular haunts. If we do one per week, we might visit all before we get home. Bali Bar was the third restaurant that the two gentlemen from France "purchased" (Alabama and Casablanca being the others). All are closed and they will not reopen with these two.

Sunset Café was listed for sale in a display ad in the Daily Herald. The lease is up for renewal and Pascal is looking into other things. It's a successful business with a captive clientele at Grand Case Beach Club. It's also open seven days per week, year-round, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


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 next one is on 7 March. Send an email to Sylvain for more details or a reservation (highly recommended as these are very popular).

Harmony Nights will run every Tuesday night in Grand Case until April. Pascal from Blue Martini is in charge of entertainment. He also has entertainment at his restaurant next to the parking lot on several nights.

Orient Village has a similar, though smaller, affair on Friday nights.

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:

Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Kakao Beach
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pirate Beach Bar
Paradise View
Pedro's Beach Bar
Tai Chi
Lots here
and here
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear

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.