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St Maarten/St Martin
25 October 2009 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Shortly after the last newsletter on 13 September, we had our first frost and certainly have turned on the heat here in upstate NY. At midday, the temperature is in the lower 50's and I glanced at the temperature on the island given in the Weather Underground image and it was 88 F. Fall is beautiful here but it is much warmer in St Maarten! Keep an eye on Storm Carib to see where the tropical storms are and which may become hurricanes. The box shows the current local conditions and here's the forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset today is at 5:40 and the moon is a waxing crescent. We've lost about an hour of daylight since the last newsletter 6 weeks ago. The photo on the right is a sunset shot taken from the Horny Toad Guesthouse in Simpson Bay. The western view to the sunset looks over the end of the runway and the tiny bit of land that connects Beacon Hill with the rest of the island. If you click the photo to see the larger version, you'll see a plane landing. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Full moons for 2009 are 3 Nov, 2 Dec, and 31 Dec. The second full moon in a single month is a "blue" moon. Moreover, this one is on New Year's Eve! In 2010: 30 Jan, 28 Feb, 29 Mar, 28 Apr, 27 May, 26 Jun, 25 Jul, 24 Aug, 23 Sep, 22 Oct, 21 Nov, and 21 Dec.   Bill Noyes

Parasail at Orient   SXM-Beaches: So far this hurricane season there is little to report in the way of changing coastlines and we are most of the way through hurricane season. However, the weirdest hurricane in recent memory, Lenny, came through from west to east in mid-November ten years ago, devastating Cupecoy Beach, so keep watching the weather websites. The big news on beaches seems to be the upheaval in restaurants on Orient Beach. It's all reported below in the restaurant section.

Beach reading: Goat Song by Brad Kessler ($16 new) - From Publishers Weekly: Novelist (Birds in Fall; Lick Creek) Kessler's account of tending a small herd of milking goats in Vermont captures both the lush, poetic paradise of rural life and the raw, unrelenting drama of dairying. Kessler, a Saab-driving ex-Manhattanite, purchases two Nubian goats, breeds them and helps his wife, Dona, a trained doula, attend to the birth of four goat kids the following spring. The amusing zoomorphic and anthropomorphic descriptions, where goats forage as if they were at a sample sale and milk-fed kids stagger like street junkies, dissipate as Kessler endures a season of goat wrangling, haying and hunting coyotes. Kessler gives the legal aspects of unpasteurized cheese a cursory inspection; his devotion centers on a budding relationship with animals, the earth and goat cheese. He's a back-to-the-land naturalist, who supports his detailed personal observations with extensive research as he explores the cultural, historical and biological aspects of pastoralism. While the tome's lengthy poetic journal entries on animal husbandry and cheese making hardly qualify as a comprehensive manual, the observant, unsanctimonious read is bound to inspire hobby farmers and consummate cheese lovers.   goatsong
Brad is an aquaintence and neighbor in Sandgate, VT. Though we are in NY, Salem's eastern border is with Vermont and Sandgate is a hamlet in the neighboring town. We just had a Cheese Tour in our county and have several fine artisinal cheesemakers nearby. On the island, we get great goat cheese at US Imports at the French Bridge in Sandy Ground. Look for Billy or take the advice of the ladies at the counter. Chez Bernadette and Ren, the boucherie in Bellvue, is another source for fantastic, if expensive, cheeses.

Activities: Diane from Random Wind says: "With our new underwater camera we are getting some great shots of our sea friends. All of our photos are posted on our website and are free to copy. Enter the SXM-Info contests for a $40 coupon aboard Random Wind. Five lucky couples win this every year. It might as well be you."

37 Beaches is the island's premier vacation planning and concierge service. They take care of all the logistics, while you enjoy your vacation/wedding/ party/event . If we can get you to start planning your next SXM vacation the minute you leave the island, then we have met our goal. So, allez! lets start planning your trip to this truly magical island. When was the last time you built a sandcastle? Visit their website to start building now.

  Underwater friends

Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo is available for the next 30 days for $100 per night. A week's rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients, including one for $50 off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

We've just had a cancellation over New Year's Eve. In addition to the full moon this year, our neigbor anchors a barge off our balcony and provides one of the best fireworks shows on the island. We always have dinner at home, but all of the great restaurants at Atlantis Casino are within walking distance. Take a week including New Year's or Christmas for $1500.

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

Caprese Salad   Groceries: On the left are a couple of Caprese salads featuring fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. On the right is a closeup shot, in the style favored by Martine who did all the photography for the Mario's Bistro Cookbook. These tomatoes are heirloom striped Germans from our garden and they are yellow when ripe. US Imports usually has Guadeloupe tomatoes and mozzarella. Frequently they can also be found at Grand March on the Dutch side. Both stores have good olive oil. We raise basil on our balcony as the supply of fresh basil is spotty.   Caprese Salad

Travel: Caribbean Travel + Life had a nice squib on Hotel L'Esplanade as its Rare Find in the November Trip Savvy column. It's a lovely boutique hotel with only 24 rooms on the hill at the eastern edge of Grand Case. Also in that section listed as a Hot Deal was a half price special package at La Samanna. It featured a deluxe ocean-view room, breakfasts, and various fitness percs, three nights for $1,495. An article entitled Your Heart's Desire started with a two page photo of the rooms and beach at the CuisinArt Resort in nearby Anguilla. The location is lovely, the rooms are lovely, and the food is special. Dr Howard Resh was commissioned to build and operate a one acre hydroponic garden. The very fresh produce from this garden is then used by chef Daniel Guenan in his Meditaribben fusion cuisine. Dr Resh offers tours of his operation and Chef Daniel hosts an educational chef's table and offers cooking classes. We've been there and it's certainly worth a stop on any day trip to Anguilla.

Cond Nast Traveler just did its 100 top cities, islands, hotels, etc. Our island came up eighth in the Caribbean. Bermuda was number one and Anguilla was fifth. I've been to Bermuda in October and, believe me, it's not in the Caribbean, it's in the Atlantic Ocean.

Wild Turkey   Nature: In just about a month it will be turkey day - at least in the US. Our Canadian friends celebrated their Thanksgiving on 12 October when the weather was much better. You won't find this wild turkey on the island (except as a top shelf Bourbon). You can find a Thanksgiving dinner at Halsey's Restaurant and also at Saratoga, both in Simpson Bay. The chef/owner of Saratoga, John Jackson, grew up Saratoga, NY about 30 miles away from Salem, NY where we spend our summers. Jack at Peg Leg Pub says "as always (at least for the last seven consecutive years now) we will offer a traditional Thanksgiving feast with Waldorf salad, roast Butterball turkey & dressing, with mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, corn niblets, and hot dinner rolls, ending with pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. On the other side of the island Beau Beau's Restaurant always does a traditional buffet. Elisa at Bikini Beach promises the usual BIG Thanksgiving. There will be live music and reservations are recommended. Sunset Caf in Grand Case confirms that they will also be doing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner

Small Island story: The big story on the island lately is GEBE and their difficulties in actually producing electricity. The local Chamber of Commerce has lawyers ready to sue them. Energy Commissioner (amongst other things) Theo Heyliger claims to be exhausted and tired. I sure am glad that our home at Sapphire Beach Club has a standby generator that comes on automatically. It can't run the entire complex but it makes life bearable.


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Winners of the contest ending 25 October 2009
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Belinda Johnson
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Denise Whiting
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Belinda Johnson
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Moises Riveron
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Belinda Johnson
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock - Belinda Johnson
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle - Deb Reid
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Deb Reid
PassportMD - Six months free service - Tom Baldi
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Vikki Whitley


Current Contest:

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

 


RESTAURANTS


On 13 September the euro was at $1.459. Today it is at $1.500. That's almost a 3% increase in six weeks. Moreover, the euro has been on a fairly slow but steady climb from 1.30 at the end of high season. At this point, it is the highest since the all-time highs reached at the end of high season in 2008 when it flirted with 1.6 for several months before plunging to 1.25 at the start of high season in 2009. A new high season is arriving and I will no longer post restaurant exchange rates until I hear from the restaurants again. Frankly, at this point no restaurant could still be in business selling 40% to 50% below other restaurants. You'll find that the overall cost is more dependent on the location and quality of the food than on the exchange rate. Until recently, charging your credit card in dollars saved the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging. Recently my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I now use a Capital One card. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts.

GoBeach has a restaurant page where they recommend 11 Dutch side restaurants. At least three of the 11 are closed, two have changed in major ways since the recommendation, and one is totally unknown to me. Their recommendations on the French side are a bit better, although Alabama is listed, despite having been closed for a couple years. They then allow the entire world to send in their comments. These could be more timely, but the recent update is the first since last February. The diner certainly found a gem when (s)he raved about Fusion Restaurant on the water in Pburg. We had a lovely lunch there last season and wrote a glowing review.

Mario's Bistro
Last April, we stopped into Mario's in Sandy Ground for our final blowout meal on the island. We arrived for the second seating which generally assures one of a waterfront table, especially late in the season. It's quite convenient from our home in the lowlands, but worth the journey from anyplace on the island. We started two flutes of champagne to accompany the tuna sashimi topped with a deep-fried maki roll (below left) and the flathead lobster in puff pastry on a bed of greens (below right). The tuna was top quality and everything tastes great with champagne. Our dinners were Mario's chicken (far below left) with mashed potatoes (far below center) and a grouper (far below right). Mario bought a cask of 2004 Beaune from the Hospice de Beaune charity auction. It was made from a plot of land left to the Hospice by Maurice Drouhin, son of Joseph Drouhin. It was a lovely wine with the flavorful dinners. We ending the evening with Armagnac as we watched the fish in the channel.

Drouhin's Hospice de Beaune
Tuna Sashimi Lobster
Chicken Mashed potatoes Grouper

The Villa
Florence and Christophe have left Auberge Gourmande, moving next door to the old location of Alabama (93 Grand Case Blvd). Their new restaurant, La Villa, opened about six weeks ago. The chef is Jean Pierre YEPONDE, who worked for many years at Sunset Caf. The menu is French, of course. It's a bit small at the moment but the enlarged high season menu will debut next month. They are open from 5:30 p.m to 10:30 (closed on Monday in low season). Alabama always had a good wine cellar, as did Auberge Gourmande, so I'm sure that Florence has had a good time filling the cellar for La Villa. The landline is 590 590 52 36 59, the cell is 590 690 50 04 12, and the email is fclavilla@hotmail.fr.
  Exterior
Wine Florence and Christophe Interior

News and Changes: In the last newsletter we mentioned that Kokomarina had been sold and was now Aloha. There were a few threads on TTOL stating that it was as good as before. Koko and Marina will be opening a restaurant in the abandoned building between Coco and Boo Boo Jam. They look for a mid-December opening and believe it will be even better than before. We wish both establishments the best of luck.

Vanessa from California Restaurant tells me that she has bought Pirate on Orient Beach. It will be renamed Zen Caf Concept Beach Bar & Restaurant featuring "salt & sweet". SALT because there is a large choice of mussels, seafood, meat, omelettes, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. SWEET because there will be many flavors of ice cream, and varieties of waffles and crepes. She will use a 1 to 1 exchange rate as she does at California. She hopes to be open this weekend.

It looks like David Foini (of Gondola Restaurant) is finally opening his new restaurant across from Pineapple Pete's. It's called Izi (pronounced easy) and it's supposed to be an easier take on Italian food. Choose a pasta, choose a sauce, and choose some protein (or not).

Phillipe from La Playa has opened Le Shore in the complex that housed Amandier in Grand Case.

The Stone Restaurant has moved off Airport Road to Pelican Marina. Presumably there will be more parking there, possibly even a view.

Karakter has decided to stop its monthly beach party to focus entirely on their other Friday night event: Tapas, cocktails and live jazz by various local artists, from 6pm-9pm. They just had Bubbles on the Beach in conjunction with Netco. Yesterday, October 24th, they offered four different sparkling wines from four different countries. (Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, American Sparkling wine, and French Champagne) for $25.00, including snacks.

The Tijuana Yacht Club reopened earlier this month with new managers. Same owner as Bamboo Bernies, ie Jim Goldman.

Ric's Place at the bridge in Simpson Bay has finally been sold. Tamara has been flogging it for quite some time. Bryan and Bonny Tyrell are the new owners. He was the Smokehouse Manager at Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City. It is now called Bonita's Cantina, after Bonny, serving Tex-Mex and BBQ.

La Cigale in Nettle Bay will reopen on 4 Nov.

Baywatch now has a new, larger joint next door to Pedro's. Here's a link to TTOL for some photos and some estimates of the reopening date.

On 18 November Bacchus is celebrating the arrival of Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2009 from Joseph Drouhin. A menu of specialties from the Beaujolais region will be served for this event. There is limited availability and reservations are required. For more information or a reservation please send an email to specialevent@bacchussxm.com.

Peg Leg Pub has a Sunday Brunch. It runs from 11AM until 3PM and costs $34.95 for adults, children 5-12 years old are only $1.50 per year, and children under 5 eat for free. Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Bellinis are included.

Greenhouse Restaurant is bringing in boatloads of Saban lobster and selling them for $19.95 per pound at both locations (Pburg and Simpson Bay). That is the sunset view from the new Greenhouse Restaurant in Simpson Bay.


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


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
Halsey's Restaurant
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Pirate Beach Bar
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems

  Our condo: We were here until 15 April and have rented over 60% of the time since then and it will be over 45% rented through the end of the year. The condo is available for rent at $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 including one for $50 off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island. The holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season is available at $1500 per week. As always any days within the next month are available for $100 each. It will be unavailable from 13 January 2009 until 13 April 2009. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. There's not too many weeks left, so if you want a week, it's best to book early.

  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.

Kindle: I'm now convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach. Neswletter subscriber Paul M wrote: "My wife and I spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous. I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers. The only downside (for Wendy) is that she can no longer borrow books from Jerri.  
The new version and is 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. Even better news is that they dropped the price to $259 and have come out with a version that can download books outside the US. 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 and kept us amused as we drove to Boston and back last week.

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.

Fawnette at Azure Beach Studios is taking 20% off bookings from now until 15 November on most rooms. That could be you on the beach. Dominique at Colombus Hotel has offered great rates on her units above Oyster Pond. The Turquoise Shell Inn is offering a special weekly rate for the low season of $700 or $115 per night, taxes included until November 15th.
  Azure's beach