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St Maarten/St Martin
12 April 2009 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday turned out to be lovely, clear and bright, and if anything too hot - a great day for the beach. The shot of Saba on the right shows houses visible across 26 miles of the Caribbean. The panoramic shot is the whole of Grand Case Bay from Molly Smith point on the left to Grand Case Beach Club on the right with Anguilla in the distance. Monday and Tuesday were a bit cooler with more clouds. The Tuesday sunset produced the shot of Saba (below right) with plentiful clouds in the sky and a crown of clouds on Mount Scenery, no doubt putting some rain into the rain forest. Dr Wm Gray has revised his storm forecast, predicting a milder hurricane season. Named storms will drop from 14 to 12, hurricanes from 7 to 6, and major hurricanes (level 3 or greater) will drop from 3 to 2. Sounds good to me, but these predictions have a rather poor track record. On Wednesday the weather here seemed to be getting closer to summertime conditions, warm bordering on hot, so dry that the golf course is turning brown along with the hillsides and the salt ponds, and little breeze.   Saba

Grand Case Bay on Sunday

Marina at Orient on Friday   The photo of Marina from (left) Kokomarina was taken on Friday at Orient. Saturday was more of the same, hot and sunny, reaching 82F. Saturday night featured a full moon. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Here's the current local conditions and here's the forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. the days are getting longer. Sunset today is at 6:25 and the moon is just past full. Full moons for 2009 are 9 May, 7 Jun, 7 Jul, 6 Aug, 4 Sep, 4 Oct, 3 Nov, and 2 Dec.   Saba on Tuesday
Orient on Friday   SXM-Beaches: The hot days with clear skies and little breeze make for calm waters. Put it all together and it has been perfect beach weather, at least on the leeward side of the island. Cupecoy was fabulous on Wednesday, but there is still no sand at villa beach and plenty at the little cove. The water has been crystal clear and calm water. We've been able to see the bottom from our sixth floor balcony. Things were a little different on the windward side. It was still hot with clear skies, but the tradewinds were still blowing a bit. Orient and Galion with protecting reefs and islands had fairly calm waters even with a refreshing breeze. There were plenty of kite sailors using that breeze and we saw a jet ski flip over on some of the waves some distance offshore. On the left is a shot of Orient looking north from Pirate Beach Bar. As mentioned, the hills are looking a bit brown and there aren't many clouds, certainly no dark ones promising rain. Sharp eyes will detect a menu board at the bottom left. Orange Fever opened up their kitchen on Thursday, serving pizza, burgers, composed salads, and steak, grouper, and shrimp plates. They are doing 1 to 1 on the euro, so prices are pretty good.

Beach reading: My sister, who is a very good sister and actually reads my newsletter, said that she had watched some of the HBO series on the The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency and liked it.

If there is anything that Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins lacks, it is color photographs of the fine cheeses. Blame the photo of the cover (right) on me and take my word that the photos in French Cheeses: The Visual Guide to More Than 350 Cheeses from Every Region of France by Kazuko Masui & Tomoko Yamada (Author), Joel Robuchon (Foreword), Yohei Maruyama (Photographer) are fantastic.

  Cover

Activities: After dinner at Chalet Restaurant on Tuesday night we drove over to Pineapple Pete's to catch the Tuesday night blues jamfest featuring The House Of Blues 'n' More. We happened to be sitting at the bar next to Fredo for a while having a great time listening to Ronny (left) and Amin Bouadelli, the other guitarist, trading riffs. After a few songs, Fredo reached into his bag to find the harmonica with the right key and joined the band. That's him in the white shirt, second from the left. Youmay Dormoy, the guy with wild blond stickup hairdo, is the lead singer and plays a mean trumpet, although on this song he was doing some sort of percussion. Note that Alex Jack, the bass player on the right, has a six string bass and he could play it. The drummer, James Thomas, as usual can't be seen, but he held them all together. We stayed for an hour and a half - way past Martha's bedtime, and had a great time. King Bob from Cover to Cover was in the audience and was going to cover some Mick Jagger tunes, but we couldn't stay. As we stopped to say goodbye to Pete, he said we should stay as they get better every week and get better as the night goes on. We weren't the only ones clapping and stomping.   Ronny Santana and the Blues Band
Blue Mall blocking the road   Construction: The Daily Herald had an ad offering a special end-of-season 35% off sale on units at Porto Cupecoy. It seems the market is softening a bit. That's part of the Orient Express/Cupecoy Yacht Club project.

Here's another shot of Blue Mall putting the concrete pumper and concrete truck on the road in order to pour their third floor on the annex to the south. Needless to say, it causes a traffic jam because they built lot line to lot line and even more so because they put their recent load of block on the other side of the road. They do have a considerable number of workers on site. You can see them up on the deck as the concrete is coming in.

There is some action at Rainbow Beach Club. They've been putting in drainage so that all the water that falls on their acres of concrete will run down the road and fill the low spot at the golf course. It's amazing that this island can exist in a hurricane zone without even thinking about road drainage.

Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo will be available again in really low season (starting 15 June) for $900 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

Rasta Farm   Groceries: The rastas have been given some land on Union Road near the border and have worked hard to turn it into a functioning farm. The good news is that they sell some of the best vegetables you can get on the island. The bad news is that it is a farm, selling what they raise, so you get what's fresh, not a cornucopia of imported, out-of-season produce.

Shopping:: Royal Caribbean Jewelers has closed their outpost in Sapphire Beach Club. They still have the store in downtown Philipsburg at 86B Front Street and an outpost at Flamingo Resort.

  Blue and White Diamond Rings

Montevina Zinfandel   Alcohol: After lunch at La Marine on Sunday we stopped at Lido BBQ in Cole Bay for a combo to go. For $11 we got two racks of ribs and a half chicken plus sides of macaroni and cheese and scalloped potatoes. They were out of rice and peas. That's probably why we got the second rack of ribs. When we got home we added some hot sauce (Matouk's for me, with a bit of modified corn starch). Martha was given a bottle of KC Masterpiece Spicy Original Barbecue Sauce. The first ingredient is High Fructose Corn Syrup, so it was a bit sweet, but also quite hot. The barbecue was great and the addition of Montevina Zinfandel worked wonderfully. We get it at Netco for about $9.

Crime and Traffic: An alert reader emailed me after my recent rant saying that the, and I quote, "imbecile" in the three wheeled gizmo was tailgating her as she drove by the airport. A bit later, she checked her rearview mirror and he was up on the curb. As I said, you can contract a case of the stupids just by touching the handlebars on these things.

In real crime-fighting news, the case against Commissioner Louie Laviest (yes, he still is a commish and still drawing a salary, just not doing anything for it) has finally gone to court. The prosecutor has asked for 18 months jail time for forging of documents, bribery, employing an undocumented worker, etc. Louie claims he is innocent, just a nice guy helping out an illegal, people just donate money to his campaign fund, it has nothing to do with the government favors they were seeking, etc.

  Montevina Zinfandel

Nature: The iguanas are still sunning themselves next to the ghut (drainage ditch) near the turnoff to Friar's Bay. Just drive slow (not too difficult generally) and you'll see them on the north side of the main road heading from Marigot to Grand Case. They come up out of the ghut and catch the rays all afternoon. The big guy is over 2 feet long and looks quite tasty. I'm surprised he has lived this long. I believe this guy is the Lesser Antillean version, not the Green Iguana. The word "Iguana" is derived from a Spanish form of the original Taino name for the species "Iwana". Wikipedia says they have a third eye on top of their head and have very good vision, distinguishing shapes, shadows, color and movement at long distances. They certainly notice me whenever I try to get close for a photo shoot. The pictures that I have are all taken from the car as we drive by.

Having said that based on experiences earlier in the week, we didn't see them on two trips through the area on Friday. On the outbound trip a jogger was ahead of us and that will send them scurrying, but they weren't there on the way home either.

  Iguana

Small Island story: The small island story this week is that there is no small island story because the island is so small that the Daily Herald has quit publishing for Easter and that means no paper on Friday, (never on Sunday), and none on Monday. As the same company publishes the international edition of the Miami Herald distributed to hotels (free!) that was not available either.


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Current Contest: 1 March to 26 April 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
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more


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:

26 April to 26 July 2009 | 26 July to 25 October 2009 | 25 October to 27 December 2009
27 December to 28 February 2010 | 28 February to 25 April 2010 | 25 July to 31 October 2010
same cast of characters as current contest

 


RESTAURANTS


On 5 April the euro was at $1.348. Today it is at $1.315. A little bit better. Vanessa at California Restaurant confirms that they are still doing 1 to 1. Pirate Beach Bar's menu is in dollars, no conversion necessary. Momo at Ti Bouchon says his menu is in dollars also. We had a lunch at Kokomarina where the menu proclaims 1 to 1. Le France in Marigot's Marina Royale is doing 1 to 1 also. L'Auberge Gourmande is doing $1.2 to 1 . We'll let you know as we hear from more of them.

La Marine
  On Sunday we headed to La Marine for a to see see what Dominique Dutoya was doing for lunch on the waterfront in Grand Case. Dominique used to own Saint Severin in Bellevue on the outskirts of Marigot. The location was conveniently close and there was parking nearby, but it was not a tourist destination because it was the back side of Marigot with no view. It hardly mattered because Dominique had a loyal following amongst locals. He's from the southwest of France and cooked in that fashion. Expect duck and duck liver, but also fabulous seafood coming in off the Atlantic. Alas he sold St Severin, but now he has reopened La Marine at the western end of restaurant row in Grand Case. He has owned this building for quite some time and his son Camille ran it for a while before heading back to France with his new wife. The menu that Dominique has put together here has many of our favorites from St Severin. Better yet, we were with Mario and Martyne from Mario's Bistro.   Conch salad  
  First, it was a lovely afternoon with a great view as the panoramic photo that opened this newsletter shows. We started with this bottle of Riforan Ros and yes, that is the view from the double wide dining room. At lunchtime everyone gets a waterside table. Mario ordered gravlax, a blackboard special, which brought us two thick slices of cured salmon topped with dill, a dollop of creme fraiche enhanced with herbs, a blini-like bit of pastry, and some perfect boiled potato slices (below left). By now we had moved on to Aleth Girardin's 2005 Burgundy (28). It is just plain Burgundy, but well-made Burgundy from a great vintage, and thus, a wonderful wine that works well with any flavorful dish. The salmon was so good, we ordered another one before moving on to rest of our meals. Martyne ordered the quail salad (another special, below center) and Martha ordered the hollowed out potato filled with various bits of duck, a crouton with more duck bits, and some greens (below right, also a special). Mario ordered Dover sole and got two perfect whole fish (far below right, 36, another special, but frequently available). I had the duck chipolata with some duck bits, essentially the same as the topping on Martha's crouton, and a dollop of garlic mashed potatoes (far below left, 9, from the menu). The meal required a second bottle of Burgundy and we ended with two desserts. Our total bill with a small tip came to $300. It's quite possible to dine for under $50 per couple with two glasses of wine, but Mario gets one day off per week and this is it. Martha and I have no excuse, other than the fact that we were there for almost four hours. Many people would have moved off to the complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, but we lingered in the dining room enjoying a lovely day, in a lovely spot, with great food. Both dinner and lunch menus are on the website, but as usual with Dominique, the chalkboard has things that looked good to him - and they will taste great for you.  
Gravlax Quail salad Duck and potato

Duck Chipolata Sole

Dining with Deepti
Restaurant Le Cottage
On Monday we went over to look at Deepti's new apartment in Aquamarina and the headed over to Grand Case for dinner at Le Cottage It was a fine meal and I'll write about it over the summer when I can devote more time to such an amazing meal, but we are packing to leave at this point.

  Bruno

 
Le Chalet Restaurant
On Tuesday we took a short drive to Sandy Ground for raclette (22), wonderful melting cheese scraped onto a perfect boiled potato enhanced by the addition of various bits of charcuterie. All that is required then is a glass of red wine. We had a Crozes-Hermitage (29) from Jaboulet that went well with this full flavored meal. The all natural, super-premium ice cream that they import from Haut Savoie was available and we chose the chocolate Valrhona (3.5). If you are a chocoholic, you'll love their website ... and their chocolate. This ice cream is even better than Etna, which is in our refrigerator. You have to taste it to believe it. If you can't translate all the flavors, go to the website where I have done the work. We also had a bottle of water and the total bill was 84, translated to $109 using 1.3$/. That is a great price for all this fabulous food.
  raclette
  wine raclette raclette  

Halsey's Restaurant logo fine dining-unrefined waterfront dining on the lagoon in St Maarten  
Halsey's Restaurant
On Wednesday we headed over to Halsey's on the lagoon in Simpson Bay for a very good meal under $100. I'll write more about this over the summer.
 

Pirate Beach Bar
On Friday we headed to Pirate Beach Bar for a great lunch on Orient Beach. As we walked in we noticed a mahi special for only $10. Martha got fries with hers and I got the rice and peas with a bottle of Matouk's Hot Sauce on the side. We both had Carib beers. The Matouk's required another Carib. We used a coupon from the website and got two beers, two chairs, and an umbrella for only $12. That left two wonderful mahi plates and one beer for $22. Total cost for a perfect afternoon on Orient beach $34. I confess we had a few more drinks that day, especially after we left Pirate and walked up the beach to say goodby to more friends at the end of the day. We've got lots of photos and memories from this lovely day and I'm saving them for some newsletter in a cold December.
Mahi Special Pirate logo Matouk's Hot Sauce

News and Changes: Greenhouse Restaurant has opened their new outpost in Simpson Bay. It's in the old Picante location, next to Buccaneer Beach Bar.

Orange Fever on Orient Beach opened the kitchen on Thursday of this week. The menu is on the right, pretty much as Olivier said, with the usual grill fare, some nice salads, even a few better than the usual plates, and pizzas, which I forgot last week. My only quibble is that I have requested the title of Orient Beach Bun Inspector, so anyone claiming to have nice buns needs to submit proper photo documentation of same to me before they will be allowed to make such claims publicly.

The Blue Martini across from the Dutch airport was open for two private parties this week, but otherwise locked tight. hmmm? It also looked quite dark for the concert of semi-famous musicians Firefall and Al Stewart on 11 April. hmmm? Bottom line, it looks like this ripoff of the original Blue Martini in Grand Case has failed in less than one season.

Noche in Grand Case was lit up on Saturday night, but closed up pretty tight with a note to ring the bell for entrance. hmmm?

Jimmy Goldman closed Tijuana Yacht Club two weeks ago and it has stayed closed, although he says he will be moving it to a new location. Given traffic and parking in Simpson Bay and his recent move of Bamboo Bernies from the disaster that is Caravanserai to Maho and his opening of Tantra night club at Maho, I'm guessing that if TYC reopens, it wil be near Maho. Maho does have valet parking and a large underutilized parking garage.

John Abbot has been held over until 15 April playing pop/rock at Sopranos. Saturday nights feature a Jam session with Paps and all Heineken is two for one.

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

  menu at Orange Fever

The SXM Culinary team chosen to represent island at this year's Taste of Caribbean will be Raymond Southern from Westin, M. Geoffrey from Le Pressoir, Stephane from L'Astrolabe, and Paul Peterson and Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant. The team manager is John Jackson of Saratoga. Mario Tardif from Mario's Bistro, and Cecille Briaud-Richard from Chanteclair are coaches. The competion will be 12-14 June in Puerto Rico


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


Mambo Loco in the square at Orient Friday Night in Orient Village: Once again Orient Village is bringing in a band and several vendors on Friday evening for a lively time in their square. Mambo Loco was playing in the square in April.

Tai Chi Restaurant, also in Orient Village, has just opened Tai Club upstairs. It's a pretty fancy bar with live entertainment.

Tai Club

Theo Bonev will be having an exhibition of nudes at Tropismes Gallery from 18 to 27 April. The gallery is open from 10am to 1pm and again from 5pm to 9pm. There will be an opening party on 18 April from 5pm until 9pm.

  Our condo: We are here until 15 April and have a good bit of the following two months rented already. The condo will be available for rent at $1000 per week from 15 April to 15 June, $900 per week from 16 June until 1 October, and $1000 per week until 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 at $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 (we are already at 30%). If you want a week, it's best to book early.

Tropisme gallery

  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." We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have.  

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.

 

  Our article featuring four recipes from four restaurants from Cupecoy to Sandy Ground has been published in St Maarten Events and is available on the island. Look for a moules appetizer from Mario's Bistro, a vichyssoise from Ti Sucrier, lamb chops from Montmartre Restaurant, and a blanc mange dessert from Boucaniers. I had taken several photos for the article and Michael Dingemans, the publisher, was on the island just before high season taking more photos. As always, his wife, Carina, turned it into a beautiful layout. The magazine is distributed free throughout the island and contains a useful island map as the centerfold.

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! They just came out with the newer version and it's barely a quarter inch thick and weighs about 10 ounces. It has 16 shades of gray for the page background and reads well even in direct sunlight. Maybe it is the best thing to take to the beach? Here's a NY TImes review of the Kindle. 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
Diamonds International
Escargot
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Pirate Beach Bar
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems

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.

There are two other whole ownership units at Sapphire that are available for rent much of the time. The first, Sapphire 254 studio, is next door to my unit, having the same great view of Saba and the Caribbean to the south. It's slightly smaller than my unit, but still sleeps four. There is a entryway with a door at the entrance to both units, so it is possible for large families to rent both units and enjoy a larger space that sleeps eight with two bathrooms, two kitchens, and two balconies. We've done it with Martha's brother's family which at the time featured three children. Another possibility is Sapphire 350. It's a floor-through 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, unit on the western side of the westernmost tower, so it has southern views to Saba, a northern view over the lagoon to Anguilla, and fabulous sunset views to the west.
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