St Maarten/St Martin
23 March 2008 Newsletter

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Weather: Last Sunday started with a lot of puffy clouds (see photo) but became a spectacular day, with bright sun, little wind, even on Orient, and no rain. Monday (St Paddy's Day) was another beauty. Tuesday morning was so clear that we could see the tip of Nevis from the balcony of our condo. Our guest went diving with Ocean Explorers and had a fabulous morning, but during a late lunch on the lagoon at Skipjack's, we had to scramble to close the rain curtains as bad weather moved in. That was just the precursor to 19 March when the French side closed the beaches and told all boats to get into the lagoon in preparation for 15 foot (4-5 meter) waves coming from a storm a 1500 miles to the northwest. This storm along with almost full moon tides (full moon was on 21 March) caused a bit of flooding, some road damage, and a lot of surfing. The photos below show the waves at Maho Beach. These were piling sand and water on the road to Beacon Hill, closing the road at times. The center is Shore Pointe, no beach, but lots of crashing wave noise to go with your million dollar villa.   clear day looking over to Saba

Maho beach Shore Pointe   Mullet

Surfers   The last photo above is an already ruined foundation at Mullet getting another pounding. To the left are the surfers off Cupecoy Beach. The waves started subsiding on Friday and some swimmers were in the water on Saturday. Today's (23 Mar) sunset will be at 6:20PM. The road passing by Fort Louis Marina and the lighthouse in Marigot was washed out and closed on Wednesday. Full moon dates for 2008 are: 20 Apr, 20 May, 18 Jun, 18 Jul, 16 Aug, 15 Sep, 13 Oct, 13 Nov, and 12 Dec. Here's the local weather forecast from the Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel.

SXM-Beaches: We spent Sunday on Orient. It wasn't very crowded so we just spread our towels out near the Perch at Club Orient after picking up a six-pack of ice cold Caribs at Pirate Beach Bar. There is plenty of sand with easy walking from Pirate along the beach to Club Orient. After that, the beach news was pretty grim as the large waves were hitting almost all beaches. Pat at Tropical Wave said the reef protected his operation on Le Galion. If you don't know where the island's beaches are, visit SXM-Beaches for maps and photos.

Beach Reading: I'm still reading Caribbean by James A. Michener. I'm making progress, but slowly with guests, dining, etc.

Activities: I bumped into Jerome, captain of Temptation (the boat, not the restaurant) in Marigot's Marina Royale. He says business is OK. His prices are in dollars, at least on his sign at his slip in front of BDLG (Brasserie de la Gare). This is illegal in La Belle France and at least one business in Guadeloupe was fined for expressing prices in dollars.

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.


There was an island wide art show over the weekend. About 25 artists opened their studios and welcomed the public. We stopped at MV Sinbad which had tied up at Marina Fort Royale in Marigot and saw Captain Doug Hazelton's works in copper. He has crafted remarkably realistic fish and birds. They were displayed throughout the ship, which itself, is a work of art. We went out for a dinner cruise on Sinbad during the 95/96 season. Doug told us about his night when Hurricane Luis raged over the island for 36 hours. He was on the boat (a 90 foot steel trawler with a couple masts added) for the entire storm and for the most part he was under power, dodging other boats and drifts of other boats that had caught one another's anchor chains. The next year they headed off around the world. This is their shell collection.   Shells

Construction across from Bay Rouge   Construction: This is the construction across from the entrance to Bay Rouge. About 500 feet of wall has been built and most of the vegetation has been removed from the road to the lagoon. There is no sign offering anything for sale.

Caravanserai appears to be up to the second or third story, quite visible from highway running past the airport.

Construction across from Bay Rouge

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.

topaz earrings from DK Gems   Shopping: Our guests picked up some nice topaz earrings at DK Gems and I got a free beer. Ya gotta love jewelry shopping when you get a free beer, and even more when you don't even have to buy the jewelry, although these only cost $50.

Groceries: No big news. We did find a better selection of cheeses at US Imports at the French bridge, but the Grand Marché in Cole Bay near the border has a good selection and they certainly were cheaper recently.

Alcohol: US Imports was flogging Mount Gay Rum in a fancy baggie with a snap lock. It's obviously left over from the regatta and at 5.99€ for 1.14 liters it was dirt cheap.

  Mount Gay

Cadisco   Traffic: On the way back from Orient we got caught by the French bridge. Now we know that on Sunday it can take a bit over half an hour for the boat traffic to clear. It's better to know that it goes up at 5:30 and to plan accordingly.
I got rear-ended while I was stopped in traffic next to the airport runway. The nice woman stopped and we sorted things out, but if you get hit, write down the license plate ASAP. Many locals do not have insurance or driver's licenses and tend to drive off.

Gas Prices at Cadisco are now $1.08 per liter at Orient and $1.05 in Sandy Ground, a bit over $4 per gallon. They still do 1 to 1 for cash. The Gess stations have reopened and sell gas at 0.95€, but they are doing $1.35/€, so that is about $1.30 per liter. The Texaco near the airport is doing 2.1 Nfl per liter and giving 1.8 Nfl/$. That is $1.17 per liter. The Shell stations usually charge the same amount (it's government regulated) but use a worse exchange rate, not that anybody does the exchange calculation correctly anyway. With the Cadisco in Sandy Ground you also get this fine view across the lagoon.

Nature: A dolphin washed up on Simpson Bay Beach this week. It appears that it drowned after becoming entangled in a fishing net.

Small island story: Lest you think that crime in on the island is limited to the Dutch side after yet another police officer was arrested recently, an official on the French side was just sentenced for falsifying immigration documents. The mayor also didn't open the required bank account for campaign donations. This was announced the same day he was explaining that the new status for the French side (somewhat akin to the Dutch side's desire to report directly to Holland rather than working through the Netherlands Antilles) was a bit more work than anticipated.


Current Contest - now to 27 April 2008
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

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:

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
Ti Coin Créole - $50 off a dinner for two
Marci's MegaGym 2000 - Two weeks gym admission and two mega-shakes

27 July to 26 October
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Azure Guesthouse - seven nights for the price of four
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)
Bikini Beach - A DAY AT THE BEACH
(including 2 chairs and a parasol, 2 welcome punches and $50.00 credit towards food and drink)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine


On 2 March the euro was at 1.567. Today it is at 1.544, an improvement. 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, Paradise View Restaurant, Spiga, Le France, Fish Pot, 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.

However, if you read the reviews below you will see that two similar restaurants Montmartre Restaurant and Bistrot Caraïbes provided similar dinners (both wonderful) at essentially the same cost ($150 per couple). Add in the review of L'Escapade Restaurant on 6 January of this season where we spent $100 on food and a $50 bottle of wine would have brought that meal to $150 per couple. Essentially the same price at a restaurant on the Dutch side priced in dollars (Montmartre), one priced in euros in Grand Case offering 1.4 to 1 (Bistrot Caraïbes), and another one priced in euros in Grand Case, but offering 1 to 1 on the euro.

Mixed Grill   On Sunday we had a wonderful lunch with our toes in the sand at Kakao Beach. We started with a bottle of 2006 Domaine des Vingtinières rosé (22€), a perfect wine on a lovely sunny day at the beach. We ordered a mixed grill (20€) and three of the special salade Perigordine (19€). Perigord is the area in France famous for its ducks and this salad featured duck gizzard, breast, and thigh. When it arrived, we ordered a bottle of Guigal's 2003 Cotes du Rhone (26€). The photos tell it all. With a favorable exchange rate and bit extra for a tip, we managed to have a wonderful lunch for four at $180.   Salade Perigordine

We had our usual St Paddy's Day dinner at Horny Toad Guesthouse. Betty and the guests put together the usual corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes. There were 24 people at the table, including invited guests. The Heineken and Guinness flowed freely, the sun set beautifully, and the evening ended with a few toasts based on grasshoppers (they are green) and Tullamore Dew (it's Irish). The photo was taken from the Toad two years ago on St Paddy's Day. Our sunset wasn't quite as nice, but this is one of the longest and loveliest beaches on the island.

The next day we went for lunch on the lagoon at Skipjack's. It was absolutely lovely when we sat down and ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio to enjoy the view and the sunshine. We ordered a fried calamari salad (left), an Ahi tuna salad (center), beer-battered fish and chips (left), and a fried grouper sandwich (very tasty, but not in the same league as these presentation-wise). The calamari was tender and came on a bed of interesting greens, lots of veg (including caper berries), and two dipping sauces. The Ahi tuna was perfection, lightly seared with green and toasted sesame seeds and two dipping sauces. The fish and chips had a very tasty batter and came with curly

  Sunset at the Toad
French fries, the same interesting salad, and a tartare sauce. Althea brought over Malt Vinegar and Heinz Ketchup for the fries. My grouper sandwich also had a smidgen of the fine salad. And this is what I was saying about Skipjacks when I said they are a cut above the run of the mill restaurants in Simpson Bay: two sauces with two of the dishes (and not the same, although the tartare came with every fish), caper berries, when most places don't even have capers, a waitress that brings not only ketchup, but malt vinegar for a Welshman's fries. All this and it is on the lagoon with great views to the hills and the mega-yachts. We ordered a second bottle of the Pinot Grigio and our bill came to a mere $117, although we did leave a nice tip for good service.

Fried Calamari Ahi Salad Fish and Chips

We had dinner at Bistrot Caraïbes, starting with a bottle of Muscadet (25€) to go with my favorite ap, the smoked salmon (14€), and a special freshly-arrived moules in a slightly spicy creole sauce (14€). Our main courses were a tuna special with a bit of creole sauce on a bed of mashed potatoes (25€); the always wonderful French seabass, cooked whole, filleted and presented with veg (27€); veal in in phyllo (23€), another special; and Martha's favorite, braised red snapper with vegetables in a creamy mussel sauce with saffron (24€). The moules and seabass had just arrived from France, as seafood does later in the week. The tuna had been purchased fresh from a local fisherman. A bottle of Crozes Hermitage accompanied these dishes (36€). It's a Rhone near Hermitage, not as good nor as expensive. Desserts were an order of profiteroles (three, 10€) with four spoons and three espressos. Complimentary after-dinner drinks arrived and with water and pre-dinner drinks, our bill was 230€ and using $1.4/€, $321 for a great dinner with superb service.   Thibault and Amaury

Lemon sole   Thursday lunch was at Bellevue again. We tried to get to L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant on the waterfront but the waves had washed rocks and debris onto the road around the cemetery, reducing traffic to a crawl. We headed into town and around to Bellevue Restaurant in Marigot. As usual, parking was available and we got a table in the (now) non-smoking café, as is all of France with a fixed roof overhead. Our lunches were two variations on hanger steak, a baked goat cheese salad with duck gizzards, and lemon sole with frites. This week's hanger steak had asparagus with millefeuille and frites. The goat cheese was melted onto slices of baguette and layered onto the salad of greens and duck gizzards. They only have one red wine, a 14€ St Emilion. With a molten chocolate cake, four spoons, and three espressos, our bill was under $100 and complimentary banana-vanilla rum was brought with our change.

On Friday night we went to Montmartre Restaurant, next door in the Atlantis Casino complex. They were voted the best French restaurant by the readers of the Daily Herald. While this self-selected, English-speaking group may not have visas to visit the French side, they have chosen a very good restaurant. The service, led by Olivier, is superb. The kitchen, led by Thierry Delaunay, is one of the most creative on the island. The physical plant is also quite nice, attractive, well-spaced tables with comfortable chairs. There are even some tables outside, but there really is no great view. A platter of tapenade and toasted baguette slices arrived almost immediately. A basket of three different types of warm bread and a ramekin of very good butter came soon thereafter. We started with a bottle of white Macon and ordered a dozen snails and the foie gras paté. Two tasty slices of paté came with a small bowl of fresh chopped pepper, a bowl of aspic, a bowl of candied onion, a small salad of mâche and a tomato peel rose, and toasted brioche. I also ordered a glass of Monbazillac, a sweet wine from southern France. That is a lot of tastes and textures in one appetizer. Our dinners were tournedos Rossini (a lovely piece of beef topped with a slice of warm foie gras), beef filet mignon with Béarnaise sauce, ouassous (large freshwater shrimp) on risotto with ribbons of braised leeks in a creamy sauce with hints of vanilla, and duck two ways (breast and a bit of thigh confit). We had a bottle of red Givry with this course, although we managed to save some of the Macon for the two fish diners. We passed on desserts, ordering a Grand Marnier and a bit of Armagnac as we requested the bill. When it arrived, the after dinner drinks were complimentary and the bill was $255. The menu makes it clear that a tip is not included, so we rounded up to $300 or $150 per couple.

Changes: The Petit Market in Cupecoy appears to have folded.


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 4 April. 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
Tai Chi
Lots here
and here
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Diamonds International

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.