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St Maarten/St Martin
11 January 2009 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings

ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The first week after the last newsletter featured more coolish temperatures (just reaching 80 for several days, some days not even that) with several windy days but little rain. Again, I can't complain as we were in the teens. The next week was reaching 82 and weather has been described as "spectacular". There had been a light rain, but no major squalls, and the wind has calmed considerably. On the right is a photo of the lagoon on the morning of 31 December. Here's the current local conditions and here's the forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Maartin Forecast We've passed the winter solstice, so for the next six months we'll be getting more sun every day. Sunset today is at 5:51 and there is a full moon tonight - great dining on the water in Grand Case tonight and early this week. Full moons for 2009 are 9 Feb, 11 Mar, 9 Apr, 9 May, 7 Jun, 7 Jul, 6 Aug, 4 Sep, 4 Oct, 3 Nov, and 2 Dec.   Lagoon at Sunrise on New Year's Day

Mullet

Mullet

  SXM-Beaches: At Mullet, the golf course has been tidied up after Omar and much of the sand has been returned to the beach. It is still one of the prettiest beaches on the island with a wide expanse of sand backed up by sea grapes. There are vendors supplying food, drink, umbrellas, and chairs at the southern end, but one can find solitude toward the northern end, near the ruins of the Mullet buildings on rocks. There is also quite a bit of parking, but it gets very crowded on weekends as this is the locals favorite beach. There usually is a band on Sundays which we can hear in our condo about a mile away.

The photo at bottom right is from the southern end of the beach near a foundation from a bit of the Mullet Bay Beach Resort that was washed away by Hurricane Luis on 5 September 1995. It was rather close to the water. Mullet Beach is in front of the greenery on the right. Heading north along the shore one comes to Cupecoy Beach Club perched on the cliffs. Next is the tallest building on the island, The Cliff, followed by Rainbow Beach Club and Sapphire. The next tall building (under construction, unpainted) is the Blue Mall and the low buildings at the far end of Cupecoy are ShorePointe.

Wendy K reports on 5 Jan that there had been high waves for the last several days at Cupecoy and Mullet. They have finally subsided. We swam at Mullet for the first time today and it was beautiful.

  Mullet

Mullet

Food Matters cover   Beach Reading: From Mark Bittman, who preaches culinary simplicity and wrote How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian comes Food Matters. A review of this book by Laura Miller in the Salon starts thusly: "Mark Bittman is the anti-foodies' foodie, one of the few culinary writers around who don't indulge in either the precious chefolatry of the Gourmet magazine set or the remedial pandering of Rachel Ray." A bit later she asserts food preparation "shouldn't be reduced to layering prepared foods in a casserole dish, popping it in the oven, and chirping "Yummers!"." Bittman offers a no-nonsense rundown on how government policy, big business marketing, and global economics influence what we choose to put on the table each evening. He offers straightforward, budget-conscious advice that will help you make small changes that will shrink your carbon footprint -- and your waistline.

Atlantis Casino   Activities: Here's a shot of Atlantis Casino with The Cliff rising in the background. This is the casino we go to most often, but mostly for the great food at Montmartre Restaurant, Temptation Restaurant, Rare Steakhouse, and Gondola Restaurant. The casino offers free valet parking, even if you just go to the restaurant.

For great snorkeling day sails check out Random Wind. Good food, good snorkeling, and good times. Enter the SXM-Info contests for $40 coupon. Five lucky couples win this every year. It might as well be you.

  Random Wind

Pommard   Alcohol: Franois Prudhomme at Philipsburg Liquor has just received his 2004 Pommard Vignots and Pommard 1er cru Refenes. Unfortunately, the 2004 is an average vintage. Fortunately, an average Pommard is a thing of beauty. There is a very nice vintage chart on the Enobytes site and you should always see what Robert Parker has to say.

Construction: Here's a shot of Cupecoy Yacht Club from the water's edge across the bay. It's a lovely shot with the trees framing the structures, but even the structures are starting to look pretty good with interesting fenestration and facades, and a touch of color at this early point in the project.

  Cupecoy Yacht Club

Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo will be available again in low season (starting 15 April) for $1000 per week. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

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.

  ginger

Travel: We are flying out on Wednesday, overnighting in Newark, and arriving on the island on Thursday afternoon. Continental couldn't seem to get its connections sorted out so that we could take an early morning flight to Newark in time to catch the non-stop to SXM. As we are in the middle of yet another sleet/ice storm, it can't come soon enough for me. I wrote that a few days ago. Today's feature is a regular snowstorm with 4 to 6 inches expected. The good news is that the temperature has risen from zero to the high teens.

Nature: This is a bougainvillea in blossom alongside the Cote d'Azur apartments along the lagoon in Cupecoy. In the distance are the apartments that replaced Hotel Delfina.
Bougainvillea  

The Nature Conservancy has a carbon footprint calculator that will make you think a bit about what impact you have on global warming. The current consensus is that sea levels will rise by about a yard. That isn't much, but most of the beaches on the island would get much smaller. Moreover much of the US population lives rather close to one of the three coasts. Technology Review's feature story for the January/February issue told how the major problem for renewable electrical energy (especially wind and solar) is the grid, specifically it's ability to handle the wide and frequent variations in production from wind and solar and manipulate conventional production to meet a changing demand. Basically, it is very difficult to store electricity. Another problem is that areas that are prime for wind powered production are in the Great Plains, specifically the northern regions of the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The areas that are best for solar generation are in the southwest and southeast. Other than Florida and California, there are few people in any of these areas and the transmission grid follows the power consumers. If, as our new president wishes, we increase our production of renewable energy from its current 2.5% to 10% by the end of his term, we will also need transmission lines from these remote areas to population centers. BTW, Germany currently gets 14% of its electricity from renewable sources.

French: If you want to work on your French vocabulary and help feed the hungry, go to Free Rice. They give you a French word and you choose an answer from four English choices. Get three right and you get harder words at the next level. Miss one and you go back a level. There are only ten levels on the French, so reaching the top is not that difficult. There are sixty levels on the English vocabulary section. They claim few people get past 50. Check it out, improve your French (or English, German, Italian, and more), and do the world some good.   Free Rice


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


We have just added Tijon Perfume to the contest list.

Current Contest: 28 December to 1 March 2009
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
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
PassportMD - Six months free service

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. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining accommodations with dinners and activities.

Future Contests:

1 March to 26 April 2009
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
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
PassportMD - Six months free service


RESTAURANTS


On 28 December the euro was at 1.406. Today it is at 1.343. It's not much change, but it is 5% and its down considerably from the 1.6 level reached this summer. Vanessa at California Restaurant confirms that they are still doing 1 to 1. Le France in Marigot's Marina Royale is doing 1 to 1 also. We'll let you know as we hear from more of them.

Mario's Bistro
From Wendy K: We just returned from another fabulous meal at Mario's and I'm having my home follow-up glass of Calvados. We drank an Auxey-Duresses [ ed note: a rather unknown southern region in Burgundy, good and relatively inexpensive] and Tony had a pork tenderloin special. I had a shrimp and scallop special with crab mashed potatoes with a lobster sauce. We repeated our 2 aps from our first meal there: sauted Flat Head Lobster Tails in Puff Pastry with bell pepper confit "a la Basqualaise" and lemon butter sauce and a Crab Cake with two shrimp en brochette served with a "maque-choux" condiment on top of a daikon salad. Mario told us business was crazy-busy the last 2 weeks, and they had several large parties booked tonight for the 8-8:30 seating. Hopefully the euro will continue to drop against the dollar, and tourists will realize that many of the French side restaurants are not over-priced!

Lobster ap Mario's Logo Crab ap

News and Changes: Cond Nast Traveler just published its "gold list:" 710 best hotels, restaurants, etc around the world. In the Americas, outside the US, they gave a top food award to Le Toiny on St Barts. We were there on our honeymoon in 98 and the food was very good and the setting was even better. If you take a day trip to St Barts, a lunch at Le Toiny would be better than anything in Gustavia.

Karakter, on Simpson Bay Beach near Mary's Boon, is having a beach dance at 6:30 on the first Friday of every month.


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


  Our condo: Our condo has only a few days available (10-15 Jan) for just $100 per night. Just get a cheap flight on Jet Blue and email us the days that you want. The condo will be available for rent at $1000 per week from 15 April 2009 to 15 December 2009. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients. The holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season that is available will be $1500 per week. It will be unavailable from 15 January 2009 until 15 April 2009. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. The rate is so good and the coupons are so popular that we get about 60% occupancy in the low season. If you want a week, it's best to book early.

Jen Porter sings and plays the piano at The Sopranos all through January. She covers Stevie Nicks, Arethra Franklin, Alanis Morisette, Pink Floyd(?), Led Zeppelin (??), and Queen (???). That's what it says.

  SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed as our preferred medical travel insurance partner. Any medical travel insurance will get you back to the US, but SkyMed takes you home. Where's home? From their website: "Our definition of home is simple: Home is where you say it is. When struck by the unexpected, our service takes you home.  

PassportMD provides many things, including access to Monthly Harvard Health Letter and the Harvard Mental Health Letter, savings on prescriptions, medical reminders, an ability to email your doctor, and more. The most important benefit for travelers on cruiseships or those who take extended vacations in the third world is the ability to have your medical records stored in a secure server that will allow quick access in your time of need. SXM-Info has teamed up with PassportMD to provide these services with a two month absolutely free, no strings attach trial.

 

  We have sent the article featuring four recipes from four restaurants in (or close to) the Lowlands to St Maarten Events. Look for a moules appetizer from Mario's Bistro, a vichysoisse from Ti Sucrier, lamb chops from Montmartre Restaurant, and a blanc mange dessert from Boucaniers. I had several photos for the article and Michael Dingemans, the publisher, was on the island recently taking more photos. As always, his wife, Carina, turns it into a beautiful layout. The magazine is distributed free throughout the island.

Amazon: I'm not convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach, but it sure is a lightweight way to get some of your favorite books to the Caribbean, especially now that the second bag costs $25 or so on most flights! Martha has been downloading audio books from our local library to her Zune (an iPod knockoff) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well.

 

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
Escargot
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Paradise View
Pirate Beach Bar
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Diamonds International

Mario's Cookbook   The Mario's Bistro Cookbook is still available online. 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.

Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel offers personalized service to fit your needs and budget.

Azure Beach Studios on Simpson Bay is conveniently close to the airport and close to all the action in Simpson Bay. The rates are quite attractive for a week on the beach.
  La Vista