St Maarten/St Martin
24 January 2010 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Cruiseship Weather: Sunday last crept in on sodden pachyderm feet. It rained off and on, sometimes quite hard, all day long. Looking skyward was much like staring at the vast gray underbelly of an elephant. Monday started out a bit gray, but cleared up, and I have reports of a rather nice day at Orient. In fact, it seemed so warm that several people took off their entire bathing costumes. This cruiseship came by on Tuesday morning about 8AM when the temperature was a pleasant 75F and although there were plenty of clouds in the sky, they were not dripping. It turned out to be a beautiful day with lots of sun and temperatures in the low 80's, culminating with this sunset and a green flash. Wednesday was nice all day but we got a bit of a sprinkle as we walked the streets of Grand Case at dinner time.   Sunset

Thursday was cloudy, featuring some bright sun at times and downpours at other times. The humidity made it seem warmer that the 77F reported on the thermometer. Friday, Saturday, and now Sunday morning were the reasons this is a tropical paradise. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast 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 5:59 and the moon is waxing gibbous. The 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.

Pburg beach   SXM-Beaches: We took a trip to Pburg and can report that the beach is as lovely as ever. No major hurricanes have arrived since they distributed sand from the dredging program for the cruiseship piers. In addition to the sand, this lovely boardwalk was built all the way from Greenhouse Restaurant at the extreme eastern edge of town to the Sea Palace Hotel. The boardwalk is lined with restaurants, many offering typical grilled or fried beach fare, but there are some fine restaurants here also. The first one, Greenhouse, is larger and more substantial than many of the shacks along the beach. They also have one of the largest menus on the island and feature Angus beef. A bit further is the Pasanggrahan Restaurant, an oasis just steps off the boardwalk.   Pburg beach

About halfway to the Captain Hodge Wharf where the water taxis dock, Taloula Mango's has an interesting menu. Close to the dock, Harborview has a following among those who like local food, although we head further inland and get our Créole food fix at Shieka's Bistro. A bit further along on Front Street is L'Escargot Restaurant featuring fine French food with plenty of salads for lunch. Still further with entrances on Front Street and on the boardwalk is Antoine Restaurant. Dine in the dining room or on the beach. There is a large French menu available at lunch and dinner and lighter fare on a lunch menu. A few more steps brings you to Fusion Restaurant with a young and talented chef preparing innovative cuisine. Again a lighter lunch menu is available, but we stopped in this week and couldn't resist his interesting preparations, although even his new approaches to burgers were tempting.

Beach reading: You probably won't take this to the beach, but we chicken farmers liked this book: The Complete Book of Chicken from Cook's Illustrated. It was the James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Book Award Winner for Best Single Subject Cookbook. Cook's Illustrated is known for doing detailed tests, making this a book for anyone who wants a recipe that works the first time out. Moreover, the book is vast and authoritative, with 38 chapters containing nearly 500 recipes and 300 illustrations. It offers readers the very best methods for preparing chicken, as well as turkey, duck, goose, quail, squab, and pheasant.

Prayers for Rain Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane is a good beach read. Private investigator Patrick Kenzie is in the middle of a personal crisis--he's lost his passion for the profession, and is tired of people with their "predictable vices, their predictable needs and wants and dormant desires." Angie Gennaro, his occasional sweetheart, lifelong friend, and fellow investigator has quit the business. The suicide of a former client, Karen Nichols, gives Kenzie his investigative itch back. Six months earlier, Kenzie tracked down a stalker who had been harassing Nichols, and put an end to his heinous hobby. But Nichols needed more help than this PI could ever have imagined. The successful, middle-class young woman had been sinking into a sea of drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, hitting the bottom when she jumped from the Boston Custom House. Her death consumes Kenzie--he is convinced that someone pulled her into the vortex, although her nearest and dearest simply call her weak. Kenzie teams up with his explosive, loving, gun-toting friend Bubba Rogowski, and, after a boozy reunion, Angie Gennaro joins them. This fearless threesome must surely be the most original team in contemporary crime fiction. Good at the core--but seriously screwed up by various demons from their pasts--tact and decorum is hardly their style. They work their way across Boston, doing whatever it takes to question Nichols's family and acquaintances. By unveiling the real Nichols, tragic family secrets, betrayals, and conspiracies are also unmasked.

And speaking of crime novels, Robert Parker, creator of the Spenser and Jesse Stone series, died of a heart attack at his desk at his home in Cambridge, MA last week.

  Chicken cookbook

Pier   Also dieing last week was Erich Segal, a Yale classics professor and author of "Love Story", a hugely successful book in 1970. The movie came out late in that year starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw and became the first "blockbuster". “Love Story” was in the news again in the late 1990s, after Al Gore, then the vice president, was reported to have described himself as the inspiration for Oliver Barrett. Mr. Segal set the record straight: Oliver, he said, was mainly a youthful incarnation of the actor Tommy Lee Jones (Gore's housemate at Harvard). He did say that he had modeled Oliver’s freighted relationship with his father on the Gore family. (Al Gore, Sr was a senator who lost his seat in 1970, partially because of his opposition to the Vietnam war.) Mr. Segal had met both Mr. Jones and Mr. Gore in the late 1960s, when they were students at Harvard and he was there on sabbatical.

Construction: Here's the new pier on the western end of the boardwalk, near Sea Palace Hotel and Fusion Restaurant. The pier is finished, but tenders will not be allowed to use it until restrooms are constructed.

Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo until mid-April but it is available after that for $900 to $1000 per week until 15 Dec, when high season kicks in. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island, and many more coupons as well. 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.


Ronny   Activities: We stopped in at Pineapple Pete's on Friday evening to catch Ronny "Santana". He's there Wednesday through Sunday from 7:00 to 10:00 PM and House of Blues plays on Tuesdays starting at 9:30 PM. Ronny put on an extended guitar session toward the end of his set, including a piece that he had written. Martha and I noticed a bit of Spanish classical guitar motifs. Sure enough when Ronny came over after his set, he told us that he had started out on a gut stringed classical guitar, but he has always liked steel strings as he kept breaking the gut strings. That's his new guitar, essentially acoustical with steel strings and an amplified pickup. He's well worth seeing.

Ziggy Chan waited on us and when we asked what he has been up to he sent us to this new video clip. The Head Pineapple, Pete (aka Pierre), has built quite the empire here on the shores of the lagoon. It seems the latest addition is a video editing facility. It'll knock almost six minutes out of your life to watch it, but it will transport you the island when you are watching the snow pile up and the temperature drop.

Shopping: Alert readers may have noticed that the model used in the beach reading section with the chicken cookbook is none other than Deepti from DK Gems. Knowing how much she likes chicken, we bought two of those cookbooks, one for us and one for her. We stopped in for the usual chit-chat about restaurants (We'll be reviving the Dining with Deepti section as we head out to Auberge Gourmande on Monday.) and some business. Martha had some old jewelry that we took in to have reset. Deepti choose the good stones, drew up a pendant, and took everything. Eventually we'll get something for the gold and get charged something for making a new pendant that Martha likes. She says she would do this for any customer, so if you have some old pieces that are collecting dust, bring them down.   Deepti
Cornish Game Hens   Groceries: On Tuesday morning we drove off to Pburg for a nice lunch at Fusion Restaurant (see below), a visit with Deepti from DK Gems, and some grocery shopping at Cost-U-Less and Sunny Supermarket. At CUL we were looking for the wonderful frozen filet mignons wrapped in bacon that we got inexpensively last summer. No such luck. We then looked for the Cornish Game Hens. They had these, but a four-pack for $18 is not a doorbuster. I did pick up an entire beef tenderloin (fresh) for about $70 or $11 per pound. After Martha trimmed it and cut off the silverskin, we will get about seven meals from it. The first one, a luscious slice of tenderloin, was quite good especially with some reconstituted dried mushrooms from Grand Marché and garlic-mashed potatoes with truffle oil.   mahi

We headed on up to Sunny Foods and picked up some vegetables at about 80% of the cost at Grand Marché, but the selection is considerably smaller. They did have the Angostura 1919 Rum that we like so much, albeit at $20 per bottle it should be pretty good. Later in the week we stopped in at the fish market next to the Simpson Bay bridge. It is finally being used by several fish vendors, a restaurant, and some shops. When we first arrived, there were no large fish, just small reef fish and we worry about ciguatera, especially prevalent in smaller reef dwelling fish. This gentleman told me that he expected larger fish on a boat due in at 11:00 AM. We came back on the way to Pburg for lunch and got the back half of this mahi for $24. The fresh mahi done Créole style that evening was wonderful and we froze enough for four more meals.

Alcohol: We tracked down François Prudhomme (email: francoisprud@hotmail.fr and cell 590 690 87 29 78). He's working as a freelance wine supplier. He uses his contacts in the local industry to bring wine to you. I don't believe he is looking to discuss a single bottle purchase, but if you were interested in a case or two he would probably save you some time and money. For the last couple years he has supplied us with a wonderful Pommard. Unfortunately his shipment hasn't arrived yet. It appears that everyone on this island is waiting for their ship to come in. He did have some other nice Burgundies from Faiveley. We bought a bit of the 2004 Santenay and the 2006 Mercurey. We also bracketed these two wines with a bottle of 2005 Nuits-Saint-Georges (a very good year and a better vineyard) and 2006 Domain Chanzy Borgogne, an everyday drinking wine. We had the Santenay with a salad Niçoise on our balcony and can report it was quite nice, smooth and flavorful, but neither 2004 nor Santenay will bring tears to the eyes of serious Burgundy drinkers. I'm convinced that the cost of better Burgundies is responsible for no small part of those tears. That evening we had the Mercurey and thought it was a bit better, although a bit more expensive   Faiveley Burgundy

Saba   Travel: The photo should be all you need to figure this out, but there is a rain forest at the top of Mt Scenery, the extinct (we hope) volcano that produced Saba. The rain is essentially mechanical. The warm tradewinds head from Africa across thousands of miles of warm water, becoming saturated with water vapor. When they hit a mountain, they rise up and via adiabatic expansion, cool down. That causes clouds to form and water to drop out of what was a clear blue sky. It falls, of course, at the top of the mountain - and nowhere else. This leads to some interesting and unique flora and fauna. The steep sides of the volcano preclude beaches over on Saba but do provide some of the best wall diving in the Caribbean. There are only about 1500 Sabans on the island and not more than a couple dozen places to stay counting small hotels, villas, and cottages but there is a School of Medicine. Thus, there are some things happening and a bit of nightlife, but it's a great spot for doing nothing. There is much more info on this website. Being 26 miles away it's a difficult daytrip by boat, but quite short by air. Then again you could travel by boat and stay a night or two before or after your timeshare week, avoiding the Saturday snafu at the airport and spend some time on our quieter neighbor.

Small Island story: On Tuesday, after an hour's worth of exercise at Marci's Mega Gym, we headed to Pburg, arriving rather quickly thanks to the new roundabout and minimal traffic. Simpson Bay had power when we left, but as we walked down Front Street, all the shops were dark. Yes, GEBE had struck again. Power was out from about 10:30 until 12:30 making the restaurants especially happy. It was out in Simpson Bay as we exercised on Thursday morning.


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 Créole 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

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 | 31 October to 26 December
same cast of characters as current contest



On 17 Jan the euro was at $1.438. Today it is at $1.415. Not much of a change, but it's 2% in a week. A new high season here and I have been told that Piazza Pascal is offering 1 to 1 for cash. Vanessa and Patrick's restaurants (California and ZEN Cafe Concept) are doing also 1 to 1, as is La Villa. Charging your credit card in dollars used to save the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging for foreign currency transactions. 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.

Bonita's Cantina Logo   We stopped in at Bonita's Cantina on Sunday afternoon to watch the early NFL playoff game because Sapphire does not get the Fox channel. We settled into some comfy chairs facing a rather large screen TV and watched Brett Favre eat up the Dallas Cowboys while we drank several pints of Presidente. Eventually we ordered some chicken wings and Bonnie asked whether we wanted six or twelve. Being a chicken farmer, I'm well aware that a chicken wing consists of three parts. Having grown up in Buffalo, I'm familiar with the concept of chicken wing appetizers wherein the two larger and meatier sections of the wing are separated from each other and the smaller wing tip is tossed out. Not so here at the Cantina. When they say wings, they mean wings and give you the whole thing. Consequently, we received twice as much as we expected. That's not a problem because they were quite tasty, as was the dipping sauce. When it was all over we paid a mere $21 for five pints and two large orders of very tasty wings.

Halsey's Restaurant logo fine dining-unrefined waterfront dining on the lagoon in St Maarten  
Halsey's Restaurant
On Sunday we headed over to Halsey's on the lagoon in Simpson Bay for some of the finest dining in Simpson Bay: quality ingredients, carefully prepared, and artfully presented. We had reservations and when we arrived, a waterfront table was waiting (although it is hard to find a table that is not on the water). We ordered a bottle of water as we received the menu and wine list. The water arrived smartly and we ordered some Etesian Pinot Noir from Gloria Ferrar ($39) to accompany our dinners.
Mahi   All dinners at Halsey's start with a basket of sliced baguette with butter and an olive oil/garlic dipping sauce and have a crisp green salad with a tangy dressing between the appetizer and main course. We skipped appetizers blaming the chicken wings that we had earlier. Martha had a special mahi preparation, blackened with a mango sauce topped with grilled star fruit ($28). It came with coconut whipped plantains. I had the pan seared grouper with a blue crab and lobster sauce with roasted garlic and goat cheese whipped potatoes and sautéed artichoke hearts ($27). Both were quite good and the rich flavors had no trouble standing up to the pinot noir. Our total bill was a mere $100.   Grouper

Belle Epoque
On Monday evening we made a short drive to Marina Royale in Marigot for a bistro meal at Belle Epoque. It's one of the longest running restaurants in the marina (since 1990, just celebrating its twentieth anniversary - must be doing something right). We had not made a reservation, and although almost every other place had tables available, our oversight was rewarded with a few minutes of sipping our Mon Redon Cotes du Rhone (20€) at the bar and chatting with Vincent, the manager (late of Thai Garden). We were with a friend and all of us had felt we were eating more than we should, so we tapered off a bit this evening. Our friend had a ceasar salad and a pizza (almost half of which went home to become breakfast, 10€). Martha had her usual tuna anchoïade, tuna topped with a Provençal puree of anchovies, garlic, and olive oil. There was a special of blanquette de veau, tender veal in a rich creamy sauce with white rice, for a mere 16€. Our total bill was $96 using a reasonable exchange rate.
pizza Blanquette de veau

Fusion Contemporary Cuisine
We had to do some shopping in Pburg on Tuesday, so we planned a lunch at Fusion on Front Street. It's toward the foot of town, at the end of the boardwalk, next door Sea Palace. The entrance is striking, a little stroll through an atrium to reach a rather nice contemporary dining room at the back of the building overlooking the boardwalk, beach, and all of Great Bay. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and does a large takeout/delivery business. They do have burgers and sandwiches for lunch, but also some more substantial and interesting fare.

A specials board offered many seafood preparations that I wanted to try. Eventually, I settled on the shrimp and scallop tempura (below). Martha choose the ahi tuna salad off the menu (below right). We choose a Concannon Pinot Noir ($28). Just like last week at Skipjack's, the smooth and modest flavor of the Concannon does not overpower even a delicate tempura. A lovely plate of bread warm toasted bread arrived with an olive oil dipping sauce. There were several spices in the olive oil and a small spoon for getting them onto your bread - a nice touch that let's the timid diners merely have olive oil while the adventurous can have a rather spicy experience. My tempura was perfection, served hot with a delicate batter surrounding very fresh shrimp and scallops. Martha's tuna was similarly good. With water and wine, we spent $79 for a very nice lunch. It's well worth a visit, stop in for lunch if you are shopping, or come in at night for a great dinner and use their parking lot.

  Crabcakes and a salad

Scallop and Shrimp Tempura ahi tuna salad

Grand Case
Raymon and his chef, Hervé Pazzali We went out to Grand Case on Wednesday evening, the night after the first Harmony Night of the season. As we came into town, we noticed that the new parking lot was finished, well-lit, and full at about 6:15PM. We pulled into the pay lot in the center of town and worked our way down the street. Raymon of Il Nettuno Restaurant was at the door and quite proud of the two page spread that Destinations magazine did for him. Page 140 starts with this photo and tells of Raymon Losito's French restaurant, La Niçoise, in Washington, DC and his journey from there to an Italian restaurant in Grand Case. We've always liked the seafood here and there is a recipe for striped bass that should not be missed. On the right is Amaury and a spiny lobster at Bistrot Caraïbes. Amaury and a spiny lobster
Auberge Gourmande is in operation and Pascal is as busy as ever, running Blanc du Nil in Pburg by day and this restaurant at night. Next door, Florence and Christophe have opened La Villa in the space that previously housed Alabama. The decor has been updated and looks quite smart. They say they are doing well, especially as they are now doing 1 to 1 on the euro. We continued on down the street and arrived at ...

Piazza Pascal
Pascal and Donna Paviani have taken over the restaurant at the back of the mini-mall in the center of town. Calamari Steak It's a rather small space but uses the courtyard and an open upstairs balcony in good weather. Pascal is French of Italian heritage and met Donna in the US when he headed there for a bit of work and to improve his English. He got quite a bit of work, became quite fluent in English, and found a wife. At this point, they have opted for a somewhat simpler life in a small restaurant. He cooks and she runs the front of the house and I tend to like those restaurants quite a bit. This one was no exception. We sat at the edge of the piazza and enjoyed a ti punch and a Campari and soda. The menu is on the website and I waffled between the calamari appetizer and the wild mushroom risotto. When Donna explained that the calamari was a steak, sliced, sautéed, and served with lemon garlic parsley wine butter and a bit of salad (12), I was hooked. Many calamari appetizers fall off the back of a Sysco truck into a deep fat fryer. Not so here. This was a large thick steak carefully prepared as too much time in the pan will produce a calamari that only several hours of braising will tenderize. The texture was perfection (I used my fork to cut it) and the taste was just as good. The wine list a rather small, but any Italian restaurant that has a good Chianti has a good enough wine list. The Villa Vistarenni (24) certainly was not aged, but was a fine complement to the flavorful dinner.
Osso Buco The menu is not large with four seafood courses, eight pasta courses, and four meat courses, but we could easily have found several interesting dishes. We didn't because Donna's recitation of the specials revealed an osso buco on linguini and a bit of almond encusted tuna with honey balsamic reduction served with sundried tomato and pine nut risotto. Both were wonderful, tender veal in a tasty sauce and fresh tuna lightly seared with some interesting tastes and textures backing it up. The portions were large. There is an osso buco appetizer course in our refrigerator and some of the tuna was the highlight of of the salad Niçoise mentioned above. Tuna
We were cajoled into trying the thinnest slice of homemade tiramisu that Pascal could put on a plate with a bit of vanilla-banana rum and can report that Pascal makes an excellent dessert. We had a wonderful dinner and a great time chatting with Donna and Pascal. With drinks, an ap, two wonderful specials, and a bottle of wine, our bill came to 99. Given that we used cash, that was $99, a fantastic price for a meal this good. Pascal really does combine his French training with his Italian upbringing and his love of the Caribbean flavors to produce fine meals brought to you with American hospitality.

L'Escargot Restaurant
On Friday we headed to L'Escargot Restaurant in Pburg for snails and a bit more. We ordered water and the Minuty rosé ($28.50). Escargot features snails seven different ways and the sampler on the right gives you a chance to try several of them. Martha had a conch salad and Joel offered specials of fresh snapper and spinach raviolis in a tomato sauce. We had the fresh mahi in the the cooler in our car, so I went with the spinach raviolis. The conch salad was as tasty as ever and the raviolis were quite light in a delicate sauce. They do add 15% service and even the 3% turnover tax to the bill as mentioned on the menu. Our bill came to about $79. Friday nights are special at Escargot as a cabaret troupe takes over at about 9:30PM. That's "Nicole Kidman" on the left and "Cher" turning back time on the right. There are many more photos on the website.
Snail sampler
Cher Spinach Ravioli Conch Salad


News and Changes: Correction Lal's Indian Cuisine has moved from its lagoon side Simpson Bay location near the airport to a lagoonside location behind the Gourmet Marché in Simpson Bay. That's the large building on the lagoon near the end of the runway. His old location is now a restaurant called Crazy Thyme.

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. My apologies. He seems further exercised by my comment that expensive restaurants don't do well at Maho, despite the fact that his current location was preceeded by three expensive restaurants that lasted a total of a decade and Terra, one of the most expensive restaurants to grace the Maho area in my 15 years here, lasted about three years also. There are some lessons here. First is that no matter what someone says about a restaurant, the owner may complain. I certainly have learned this over the last decade. The other lesson is related to the aphorism that you should never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel. In today's economy, the people buying ink by the barrel are finding it too expensive, so to update that aphorism, you probably shouldn't argue with those who buy websites by the serverful.

This weekend kicks off some St Vincent celebrations. There are many theories as to why St Vincent is the patron saint of wine-making (at least in Burgundy). The actual saint's day is 22 Jan, but La Source, just off the Marigot Marina Royale is offering a three course Burgundian menu paired with Burgundian wines for 39 euros on the 29th. François Prudhomme has gathered up the wines and the menu features sea scallops sautéed in Chablis or Beef Bourguignone.

There's another in the wine cellar at La Samanna. The menu is longer, the wines are better, and the food is probably several steps up - as is the cost. But if you want one of the best meals of your life in an intimate setting, this is it.


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
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 13 April. The condo is available for rent at $1000 per week from then until 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 including one for $50 off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted car rental agencies on the island. The Christmas and New Year's 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. 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. Newsletter 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 keeps us amused as we drive.

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