Logo

St Maarten/St Martin
27 December 2009 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings

ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: 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 5:34 and the moon is a waning crescent. We've passed the solstice, the sun is moving northward, and the days are lengthening. We've got about 9 hours of sunlight on the island. That's actually less than in NY, but it's a lot more direct and considerably warmer! The Christmas winds arrived, as usual, and Christmas arrived at about 80F, heading for 82F, but with the threat of rain. The rest of the week is supposed to get better. On the right are the sugarbirds of Hope Hill. Stop in to see them and donate a dollar to the animal shelter. Stay for lunch at the new Paradise View restaurant and pick up some rum at the duty-free store. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast The last full moon for 2009 is 31 Dec. It's the second full moon in a this month making it a "blue" moon. Moreover, this one is on New Year's Eve! The remaining full moons in 2010 are 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.

  Sugarbirds on Hope HIll

Bird cliffs   SXM-Beaches: Here's a shot of St Martin taken from a sailing trip over to Anguilla's out islands. The foreground on the right is the French lowlands and the Falaise des Ouiseaux (Bird Cliffs). You may remember that they were briefly featured in the execrable movie Speed 2. At first, the hijacked ship was headed northward into the oil tanks in Cay Bay on the south side of the island. As soon as that disaster was averted, the ship was steaming southward into these cliffs on the north side of the island. The ending, where it beaches itself in Marigot Harbor, is moderately possible as just to the left of the cliffs you can see Marigot in the distance.

Porto Cupecoy   Construction: On the left is a photo of Porto Cupecoy from the edge of the lagoon across from the complex. It actually looks interesting, considerably better than the blot on the landscape next door: Bleu Mall (on the right).   Bleu Mall

Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo is available for the next two weeks 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.

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

tomatoes and corkboards   Groceries: Yahoo had an article entitled The 7 foods experts won't eat on its health channel. You can read the article to get all the reasons, but the first food was canned tomatoes. Here in NY, we can our own and get fresh hydroponic tomatoes from nearby Shushan Valley Hydro Farm. Their produce is available in local Hannafords and they travel to the NYC Green Market twice a week. That's some of their tomatoes and our corkboards on the left. On the island both US Imports and Grand March carry Guadeloupe tomatoes over the winter and the rastas have got their farm in Bellevue in operation. Rasta Farm yesterday. They are open every day EXCEPT Saturday. They sold a kilo of smallish tomatoes in various stages of ripeness for $5.60, or about $2.50 per pound. They also had nice looking lettuce, some small eggplant, and fresh herbs. On the right below is a shot of the gardens at the Rasta farm.

Food number two was corn-fed beef. We created our own mess when we took creatures designed to process grass via four stomachs and confined them in feed lots where they wade in their own filth while dining on corn. The diet reduces the nutrition available in beef while the conditions increase the dangers of e coli. Locally we get grass-fed beef from Lewis Waite Farm and they participate in a CSA supplying quality food down the Hudson valley to NYC. At times Argentina and Uraguey supply some beef to the island. Non-organic potatoes are mentioned because potatoes require a lot of pesticides and they go into the ground. Unfortunately, that's where the potatoes are. Similarly, non-organic apples use a lot of chemicals to look as beautiful as we have come to expect. We have an orchard and our apples taste better than their apples look, but if Eve had offered one of our apples to Adam, things would have turned out differently. Another food to avoid is farmed salmon. I can't say it any better: "Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers." I'd ask the provenance of the salmon at any fish market or store.   Rasta farm

Small Island story: The GEBE saga continues with a typical day: Power went out at 8:00 PM for a half hour, next morning from 6:00 to 6:20, then went off again at 6:30 and came back on at 6:45!


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Current Contest:

27 December 2009 to 28 February 2010
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
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October)
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two

Contest Winners for the contest ending 27 Dec:
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - James Hayes
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Tom Van Veghel
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Tom Van Veghel
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Bob Hateley
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Tom Van Veghel
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock - Allen Morrow
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle - Tom Van Veghel
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Tom Van Veghel
PassportMD - Six months free service - no entrants
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Ed reap
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October) - Norm Oppliger
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Ann Sullivan

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

 


RESTAURANTS


On 6 Dec October the euro was at $1.484. Today it is at $1.437. That's a four percent drop from the 1.5 rate that it reached in November. 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.

Dining news: The NY Times had a recent blog from Bruce Buschel who is putting together a seafood restaurant. He came up with 100 Things Staffers Should Never Do. I agree with most of them, but number 7 says "Do not announce your name." I cannot think of a more polite way to get a server's attention than to call them by name. Martha and I argue about number 17 (Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.) I find tables so small (and crowded with drinks tents, dessert tents, salt, pepper, etc) that I don't mind plates being removed, but we both agree that no one should be rushed and no second courses whould be delivered while someone is still working on the first. Number 51 (If there is a service charge, alert your guests when you present the bill. Its not a secret or a trick.) should be embraced by more than a few restaurants on the island.

La Marine
Wendy K had a very great lunch at La Marine, after some holiday shopping at Tijon Parfumerie. She chatted with Cindy and found some nice gifts. Even better Tijon gives 1 to 1 for cash. La Marine is an attractive space, lots of white and blue and very clean looking. There were only two other tables lunching. With three glasses of rose, a bottle of flat water, and two lunches (scrambled eggs with stuffed peppers and the Landaise plate, featuring duck) our bill came to $50. We were very happy.

Ed note: One of our last meals on the island last season was a long and liquid lunch with Martyne and Mario (from Mario's Bistro) on a Sunday afternoon. Domanique Dutoya, former chef/owner of Le Saint Severin, has come back to this property and is doing a fabulous job. Lunches on Grand Case Bay should not be missed.

Dining
Scrambled eggs and stuffed peppers Landaise salad


New Year's celebrations L'Escargot Restaurant is having their usual Cabaret Dinner Party on New Year's Eve. Gerald Romani says that for New Year's Eve they will do the regular menu with more specials for this festive occasion at both L'Escapade Restaurant and Montmartre Restaurant.


New Year's Menu from Antoine Restaurant in Philipsburg ($110 per person)

Welcome Glass of Mot & Chandon Champagne with beignets d 'acras

APPETIZERS

Sea scallop in a puff pastry

with white wine, shallot and butter sauce

Or

Home made fish pt

Lobster, salmon, red snapper on a bed of spinach

Or

Snails out of their shell Chablisienne

with mushroom, shallot and Chablis wine

Or

Warm chicken Mousseline

with asparagus

 

Mixed mesclun salad with walnut

 

MAIN COURSE

Beef tenderloin  Rossini style 

Served with Foie Gras and Port wine sauce

Or

Roasted rack of lamb Chtillonaise

with mustard, garlic and parsley

Or

Poached filet of salmon

with cream and leek sauce

Or

Combination of shrimps and sea scallops

with anise and cream sauce

Or

Guinea fowl

With Cointreau sauce

 

DESSERT

New Years Eve chocolate cake

Coffee or Tea

 

 

 

News and Changes: Raymon at Il Nettuno Restaurant in Grand Case says that he will be the feature restaurant in the new Destinations magazine will have a big write-up on his restaurant. Destinations is distributed free on AA, Continental and US Air.

Last season Destinations Magazine had a good article on Mario and Didier of Mario's Bistro and it continued to be distributed over the summer. Didier tells us they felt it greatly improved their off-season business.

JP at Pizza Galley is now open 7 days a week from 5pm. It's become our new Dutch side pizza place since Hot Tomatoes closed. On the French side we have always liked Belle Epoque Restaurant for pizza, but the menu contains so many other good things that we usually go for one of the them. For pizza at home in Cupecoy, we get take-out from small pizza parlor attached to the Espresso Coffee House near the AUC campus.

Nearby Ric's Place at the bridge in Simpson Bay is now Bonita's Cantina. Bryan and Bonny Tyrell are the new owners. He was the Smokehouse Manager at Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City. They will be serving Tex-Mex and BBQ. A new website is coming.

There is a new restaurant in Maho, next to Le Moulin Fou, called Sweet Heaven. Some people have liked it a lot, although the menu is not very exciting, but reasonably priced.

Also in Maho, Enzo La Rosa's new restaurant, Granduca Restaurant, has opened upstairs from Paris Bistro, next to Soprano. The website, granducasxm.com, wasn't working when I tried it, but may start sometime. It's very attractive with an interesting menu, but not cheap. FONT COLOR=RED>Correction Enzo La Rosa from Granduca Restaurant (website still not working as of this morning) reports that he has both a Bardolino and a Chianti priced at $25 that somehow were overlooked by my corespondent when we reported that the cheapest red wine was priced at $35. The space seems jinxed as no restaurant has lasted more than three years in the location. High priced restaurants don't do well at Maho, as the old Terra space is still vacant.

Down the road in Cupecoy, someone is working on Khush. There's a new wooden porch out front.

Work is also work being done on the old Tatoo in Baie Nettle. Always wondered what a "social oasis" was, but never enough to go inside.


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.

  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.

 

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.

Mike and Fawnette at Azure Beach Studios are still offering some discounts and have added a four-bedroom villa for rent.

  Azure's beach