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St Maarten/St Martin
28 February 2010 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Islands   Weather: Sunday afternoon turned out to be much better than the morning. There were still a lot of clouds but the rain held off, at least over at Cupecoy. The earlier rains knocked the haze off the horizons and all the islands came into view by 5PM, clearer than I have ever seen them. In fact, I am not convinced that the fourth island off to the SE is Nevis. We now think it is Montserrat, about 110 miles away! The photo on the left shows the twin peaks of Statia on the right, the multiple peaks of St Kitts in the center, and a blob to the left of that behind the two boats. A close look at a map of the Caribbean (below left) suggests that Nevis would be almost on the opposite side of St Kitts from our vantage point. That blob would have to be an island further to the east and a bit further south: Montserrat. Below right is a telephoto shot of the island. Monday morning looked ugly and the evening must have been horrid judging by the flooding in the low spots of the road by the golf course, but the day warmed up and the clouds cleared out but there was no sunset shot as there were plenty of clouds on the horizon.
Local area island map   Tuesday defied earlier weather forecasts by being quite clear (just a few puffy white clouds) with little haze (we could see a bit of Kitts, over 50 miles away). It was just a fabulous day, although a bit windy on the south side. Wednesday was cloudy and produced a wild tropical deluge that swept across the island from Orient to Cupecoy in the late afternoon. Thursday was fairly calm, bright, and warm - a perfect beach day. Thursday evening at 6:43 an earthquake struck under the seabed about 65 miles from SXM near Antiga/Barbuda. It was only 4.8 on the Richter scale, and as the scale is logarithmic, it had less than 1% of the energy of the recent quake in Haiti. Martha and I did not feel it six flights up in Cupecoy, but some people did notice it on the island and in Statia.   Montserrat?

Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast The recent quake in Chile had 30 times the energy of the one in Haiti and 10,000 times the energy of our little bit of excitement. Friday arrived warm and hazy and stayed that way because of a lack of wind. The temperature hit 84F at 11AM and it was good to be close to the water! Saturday, and now Sunday morning, were hot, hazy, and sticky with a heat index over 90F. We've had brief showers in Cupecoy but not enough to clear the air. The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset today is at 6:15 and the moon is full. The full moons in 2010 will be tonight, 29 Mar, 28 Apr, 27 May, 26 Jun, 25 Jul, 24 Aug, 23 Sep, 22 Oct, 21 Nov, and 21 Dec.

Yacht for Sale   SXM-Beaches: SXM-Info has been commissioned to offer this sleek sailing vessel to our esteemed clientele. Surely there must be one of you in need of a new motor yacht. Further details of the sale and several exciting contests will be posted on the charter boats section of SXM Activities on Thursday, 4 March at 8PM east coast time, to coincide with registration day for the Heineken Regatta. Imagine the pride and fun you'll have with this boat as you sail out to view the exciting races. The contests will help you defray the cost of owning this fine floating vessel, but will also entail more than merely finding a contest code, like our normal contests. This special contest will reward both speed (first correct answers win) and knowledge. So check that site after 8PM on Thursday to see the prizes and the questions.

One of of our normal contests ended today. Congratulations to the winners of the 13 prizes and, as usual, as one contest ends, another begins, so be sure to enter the normal contest, details below. One important detail is that you are allowed only one entry.

The Bookwoman's Last Fling   Beach reading: The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning - about ($10 paperback) - From Publishers Weekly: "Bestseller Dunning scores another triumph with his fifth mystery (after 2005's The Sign of the Book) to feature Cliff Janeway, a former homicide detective who has found a second career as an antiquarian book dealer but who hasn't quite lost his taste for police work. Janeway receives an invitation from wealthy horse trainer H.R. Geiger to come to Idaho to appraise his book collection, but by the time Janeway arrives, his host is dead. He winds up tracking down some rare volumes that have vanished and probing the decades-old death of Geiger's wife, a wealthy heiress who collected valuable juvenile fiction. When a fresh body turns up and Janeway himself almost falls victim to a killer, the bibliophile detective finds that his decision to pursue the truth puts him at odds with his longstanding significant other. Dunning's exceptional gifts at plotting and characterization should help win him many new readers, while the horse-racing angle is sure to lure Dick Francis fans." You may remember that Dick Francis died last week. Martha is reading this and especially liked this compared compared to a recent Janet Evanovich. John Dunning previously owned an The Old Algonquin Bookstore in the Denver and worked for several horse trainers before writing this book.

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.

  ginger

regatta   Activities: The Heineken Regatta starts on Tuesday 2 March with the Budget Marine Match Racing Cup. Registration for the Regatta takes place on Thursday with a welcoming party that evening at Port de Plaisance. Friday sees the round the island race from Simpson Bay to Pburg with a party on the boardwalk. Saturday is the Simpson Bay to Marigot race ending with drunken sailors in Marigot. Those that can still sail leave on the morning of the seventh for the final race from Marigot to Simpson Bay, followed by the prize ceremony and the final party on Kim Sha Beach. The photo on the left was taken from Neil Roebert's Celine during the 2008 regatta. Contact Neil or Diane on Random Wind for your chance to get close to the action. That's Random Wind below left, followed by Celine. If that doesn't work, there are many more boats, including Tango (next photo, passing by our balcony on Cupecoy) or Passat (it means Tradewinds in Dutch, photo on the right).

Diane has been having communication problems, but she assures me that she is going out every day and for the regatta they will do their normal stuff on Friday, Saturday and Sunday: sail, swim, snorkel, eat, drink, swing (that's on a trapeze), and fish. The price is the usual $95pp including breakfast, lunch, snacks, open bar. They are now leaving from Skipjack's and have breakfast on board.

Random Wind Random Wind Tango Passat
Bertie Higgins of yesteryear   We went to the Bertie Higgins free concert at the Alley (part of Pineapple Pete's empire) on Thursday night. It started promptly at 9PM Caribbean time. You may think SXM is an hour ahead of the US east coast in the winter, but for concerts, we are an hour behind, two for reggae. Bertie currently tours with a seven member band, but this was a quick trip to SXM and St Kitts with one member plus backing tapes before a grand tour of China. The US can export something to China!

Marci's Mega Gym got a writeup on their Wing Tchun martial arts classes in the Daily Herald on Tuesday. They were voted the best gym on the island earlier this month.

  Bertie today

Shopping: Our ice maker has headed even further south, so I've had several exciting days with a few screwdrivers in order to determine what part is needed. It's a Kenmore, so Sears has a major parts website which gave me the amazing opportunity to buy a ten cent screw for $5, plus tax and shipping. And you thought Casablanca was expensive. I added up the cost of the 36 parts in the ice maker, getting about $500, over half the cost of the refrigerator. At that point I called the 800 number and asked if I could buy the whole ice maker assembled. It cost only $75 and Sears will ship it to Safe Cargo's consolidator in Miami. It arrives here in another week. You have to open an account at Safe Cargo at no charge and basically they want your name, address on the island, and contact info. I've used them before to bring in the refrigerator and microwave. Everything worked fine.   SCS

Tomatoes   Groceries: We We stopped in at the US Market at Hope Estate outside of Grand Case and found these tomatoes. You should click the photo to see how beautiful they are, but be sure you are sitting down as the price will knock you to the floor. It says 25.90/kg. If that doesn't scare you, how about $16/lb. They look spectacular and our friends at Shushan Valley Hydro Farm must be wondering how they can get those prices.

Alcohol: We bought some Angostura Rum last year after tasting it at the 3 Palms restaurant in Simpson Bay. We got another bottle shortly after we arrived this year, but it seems to be gone already. We headed over to Sunny Foods on the back of Pburg and bought all three bottles we found at about $19 each. We've seen a similar price at the Maho Lido Food Express.

Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar served us some Amiot Servelle Bourgogne, which should be chardonnay. Martha and I tasted it blind and thought it was Sauvignon Blanc. Christian and Elisabeth Amiot make some fine red Burgundies, but not much white. We are going to an in-store tasting at noon on 3 March with two other couples. The tasting will eventually morph into a lunch on the terrace outside the shop at Champagne Snack Bar. Basically, we'll buy bottles from Sylvain at retail prices, taste them and end up taking them to lunch at Champagne. It should be a fun time and, of course, Sylvain would be happy to sell you more wine after lunch. We could take one or two more couples. If interested, send me an email.

  Angostura Rum
Crime: Looks like I jinxed crime also. After saying that even politicians (in this case, Louie Laviest) seem to be getting convicted, even on appeals, it appears that Michael Loor, former police commissioner, got his conviction thrown back to a lower court for review. In other crime news, Topper's was robbed at about 10:30 at night earlier this week. The two thieves obviously didn't, as they say, case the joint. By 10:30 the night's receipts were no longer in the cash register. Moreover Topper's has several security guards and even more security cameras. Now that everyone has a cell phone, an employee called another one with the money in the office and told him to lock the door while a security guard called the police. In earlier days, the last phone call would have been a waste of airtime. In this case, it reached the Simpson Bay substation (now open and staffed!) a mere half mile away. Officers arrived within three minutes. One evil-doer was caught and they are rolling tape on his accomplice.

GEBE: As usual, the letters to the editor contain numerous suggestions for fixing GEBE. The good news us that the solution is simple. The bad news is that it is impossible. All the letters offering new high-tech and or green-tech ignore the fact that this is a pretty low-tech area. Rudolf Diesel demonstrated and patented his engine in the 1890s. Its major advantages over gasoline engines are simplicity and reliability. Higher efficiency and a safer, cheaper fuel are just bonuses. The simplicity comes from the fact that diesels achieve ignition merely by compressing air to a high pressure (and temperature) - no electrical ignition system required. In a low-tech area simplicity is a major virtue. The reliability comes from building a machine that can handle the the high compression ratio and the fact that diesel fuel is a fairly effective lubricant. Being a couple thousand miles away from anyplace that manufactures anything puts a premium on reliability. All of this suggests that moving to some new technology is unlikely to save the day, especially here. The problems last year were caused by a shortage of generating capacity. Simple solution: more generators. They are here, but a bit late, and still not fully operational. Another problem is maintenance, never a strong point in the Caribbean, land of manana. Simple solution: more maintenance. The impossibility in both cases is more money. This is a poor country.

Airport landings   Travel: The Daily Herald reported on tourists early this last week. Arrivals at PJIA dropped from 560,000 in 2008 to 530,000 in 2009. The really bad stock market news started in the fall of 2008, a bit late to influence travel in 2008, but as the stock market is a leading indicator, it appears to have really hurt early 2009 figures. The market hit its low around March and climbed for the rest of 2009. The fourth quarter of 2009 was actually better than the fourth quarter of 2008. Cruise visitors were 1,220,000, about 10% lower, and the lowest since 2003. An informal poll of our hotel clients suggests they are maintaining occupancy (Sapphire is full and turning people away, for the first time in recorded history they rented my unit AND paid me). Our restaurant clients are not so sanguine. A few are doing well, but many report fewer patrons and lower expenditures from those who do show up.

The big travel news is that a bomb threat closed the airport and the road for about six hours last Friday (19 Feb). We didn't go out on Friday or read the story in the Herald until after last Sunday's newsletter. On Monday the local constabulary said they would press charges and expected many businesses to sue, who and what monetary damages they might get is a mystery, like many things Caribbean.

Nature: We went to lunch in Grand Case on Tuesday, passing by the ghut near Friar's Bay. Traffic was bad and we had plenty of time to admire two specimens catching some rays and trying to attract females. This one was large with a quite attractive throat bulge. He became quite animated as I took his photo, possibly eating something that came along, wrestling it into submission? Green logo

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

  Iguana

Small Island story: It may be a small island but it just got another political party. Theo bolted from the DP to become an independent last summer. He voted with the NA, giving them a majority and putting them in power. He has now decided to head the United People's Party. The party's color will be lime green. I knew you wanted to know.

Further to the internal debates carried out in the newspaper: Wednesday's paper had the upper left headline quoting somebody as saying 10-10-10 is still doable. In case you've missed the numerology, the most recent date chosen for achieving country status is 10-10-10, ie 10 October of this year. The locals have plenty of problems of their own, but the Dutch government fell last week as the coalition partners chose to part company over the country's continued presence in Afghanistan. Since the Dutch government is involved, if only to pay the bills left by the Netherlands Antilles' profligacy, this was yet another roadblock on the winding road to country status. This was mentioned in the editorial on the very next page, essentially saying that the 10-10-10 date was no longer possible.


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Winners of the contest that ended today:


Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Mark Sears
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Randy Jenkins
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Randy Jenkins
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Randy Jenkins
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Mark R
MMG 2000 - Two for One week at the gym with a shake - Mark Sears
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle - James Patrick
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Mark Sears
PassportMD - Six months free service - Amy Stege
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Sue Van Veghel
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October) - Randy Jenkins
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Mark R
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock - Mark R

Current Contest:

28 February to 25 April 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
MMG 2000 - Two for One week at the gym with a shake
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

 


RESTAURANTS


On 21 Feb the euro was at $1.359. Today it is at $1.360. No movement. Greece postponed their government bond auction. Stay tuned. Piazza Pascal is offering 1 to 1 for cash. Vanessa and Patrick's restaurants (California and ZEN Cafe Concept) are also doing 1 to 1, as is La Villa. Zuzu tells me that they use 1.20 at Paradise View Restaurant and Rancho del Sol. It's 1.25 at Palm Beach Restaurant but the beach chairs are free if you eat there. 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 and get an excellent exchange rate. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. For more info on credit card fees, read this recent article in the NY Times. They even mention Capital One.

Dining with Deepti
at Thai Fou
  On Sunday evening we went with Deepti from DK Gems to Thai Fou in Maho, parking in their large garage. We have been known to use the valet service at the casino, but it has been getting slow recently. Moulin Fou took over the space next door and installed a Thai and Sushi emporium, saving a bit of space for a fantastic wine cave for the sommelier, Sylvain, who by day runs Select Wine Cellar. The website is now even larger and harder to navigate. It is written in Franglais and it gave me at least one unwanted pop-up. It does show how extensive the wine list is and you'll be able something you like on the menu, as there are many good things to be had. We dined inside in a lovely air-conditioned room admiring Sylvain's wine cave. This was doubly important as the day was hot and deathly still and on every night save Tuesday, Cheri's has their 90 decibel entertainment a few feet away from the outdoor terrace dining area. Moulin Fou got the award for Best French restaurant in the Daily Herald's reader's poll and Thai Fou came in second to Bamboo Bernies across the street for sushi.   Combo plate  
  Sylvain brought us his special cocktail featuring sparkling wine, saki, a bit of lychee syrup, and a lychee nut, a great way to start a meal. He then suggested a bottle of his 2008 Chateau Miraval Ctes de Provence Terre Blanche for our dinner. We had tasted it at his shop and readily agreed as it is a white wine with plenty of flavor, but not so much as to distract one from the delicate flavors in the sushi and sashimi to come. We started with some maki rolls, steamed dumplings, nems, and shrimp tempura (no photos, as we ate them too fast). Above right is a combo plate of sushi and sashimi to which Martha added her favorite, yellow tail (below left). Below right is shrimp tempura roll, favored by Deepti.

 
  Yellow tail sushi rolls  
  Chef Q sent out his special sashimi (below left) featuring tuna, salmon and tilapia with asparagus, crab, avacado, cucumber, and mango with a special sauce. We found all the fish to be prefectly fresh and were quite impresed with his special sashimi. Deepti's dessert was the molten chocolate cake with ice cream. Martha and I rarely have desserts, but when we do, this is one of our favorites, and this one was great. It was a fine meal matched with a wonderful wine in a well-appointed restaurant, not cheap, but one of the finest experiences you can have on the island.

 
  Yellow tail sushi mill rolls  

 
Shakti Restaurant
On Monday we headed over to Shakti Restaurant in Simpson Bay for a casual Indian dinner. Loknath was there and we turned our dinner choices over to him and told him we liked spicy hot food. He started us off with pepper chicken which looks fiery, but really was not very hot, although the little bowl of sauce was. Our other ap was the usual samosa, very tasty with two wonderful sauces, one based on yogurt. There were very interesting flavors here, but no heat.
  Pepper Chicken
Pepper Chicken
 
Samosas
Samosas
Lamb vindaloo
Lamb vindaloo
The concept with Indian food is similar to the concept at David Foini's neaby Izi: choose a preparation, choose a protein (or not), and put it on pasta. Here at Shakti one chooses a preparation (korma, vindaloo, curry, sag, etc), choose a protein (chicken, lamb, shrimp, conch, fish, vegetarian, etc), and put it on great basmati rice. You get the added bonus of specifying the heat level and that may even come in a separate bowl on the side. Almost anyone should be able to enjoy Indian food. We find that the totally different culture in a considerably different climate has led to different spices and somewhat different foods combined in different ways. It certainly will wake up your taste buds, but needn't burn them. The lamb vindaloo is a bit hotter than normal dishes.
Dal tadka
Dal tadka
The dal tadka was hot as it calls for turmeric, garlic, and green chillies. Moreover, you can see a roasted chilli floating in the mix. Palak paneer combines fresh spinach and ricotta in a creamy curry. The curry will contain onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and some red chillies. Leave the chillies out and it is an interesting blend of exotic spices. Add as many as you like and you'll have a very tasty dish with a bit of heat. We always have the onion kulcha, an Indian flat bread with onions in the mix. It's done in the tandoori oven to add to its flavor. We drank cold Caribs with lime and spent most of a $50 bill, taking home enough for a lunch at a later date. There is a bit of parking in front of the restaurant. Service is good and the beers are cold.
Palak paneer
Palak paneer
  Onion kulcha
Onion kulcha

 
La Marine
On Tuesday we went over to Grand Case for a wonderful lunch on what turned out to be one of the best days of the week. The blustery wind was coming from the south so Grand Case on the north shore was well protected and it was rather sunny. We went with friends and had a four-top on the water. As la Marine is in in the middle of the bay, we had views of Molly Smith point to the west, Anguilla across the channel to the north, and Grand Case Beach Club on the eastern headlands.

We started with some sparkling water and a Cteaux d'Aix Domaine de la Rabiotte Ros (19). It was very pleasant on a rather warm afternoon. Our lunches were the pork chop with fingerling potatoes and a bit of salad (right, 16), salade Landaise (below left, 15), foie gras with toast points

  Pork  
  (below center, 18), and a special, coq au vin (below right, 16). The Landaise salad comes from the southwest of France, an area known for its duck and it contains duck sausage, dry ham, and warm duck breast. Dominique Dutoya, owner and chef, is from this region and sources some of his offerings from here. If you like duck (or foie gras) this would be a great spot to have it. I had the pork and it rivalled the pork we raised last summer. I doubt the chicken was an old rooster, but it really was long cooked in red wine which probably would have made a rooster as tender this. To accompany these flavorful dishes we choose a 2005 Aleth Girardin Borgogone (28). It's a great year, now with a bit of bottle age, from a skilled producer. They are offering $1.25/, so our total lunch came to $40 per person. I confess, even though this is France we left a pretty good tip for great service on a wonderful afternoon. During the day, there is parking on the street down here. At night there is valet parking. If you come for lunch, you get free chairs on the beach. The chef was Thierry Delauney who no longer is at Montmartre Restaurant.

 

 
  Salade Landaise Foie gras Foie gras  

Le Tastevin
  On Wednesday we headed over to Grand Case for a dinner on the water at Le Tastevin. I first went to this restaurant in 1993 shortly after the current owners, Christine et Jos Manrique, had finished transforming the building into one of the prettiest restaurants on the water in Grand Case. Hurricane Luis removed their terrace in 1995 and Hurricane Lenny forced complete reconstruction in 1999. They rebuilt a dining room almost 100 feet long running along the bay. Almost half the tables are on the water but the landscaping along the waterfront worked into indentations in the facade provide some of the most intimate dining areas in Grand Case.

Via the magic of reservations, we had a waterfront table at the far eastern end of the room. There was one other table on the water near us and another behind us near the glassed-in wine cave. We started with sparkling water and ordered the 2005 Beaune du Chateau premier cru from Bouchard, our wedding wine (59). Jos returned with the bad news that the 2005 was finished and they had moved on to the 2006 vintage. The 2005 vintage was probably the best of the decade and the 2006 was in the middle of the pack, but it is a testament to Bouchard's skill and the quality of their vineyards that their 2006 was very good.

  Bread, AOC butter, and amuse bouche  
  foie gras with a fig compote   Top right is a basket of lovely rolls with AOC butter. Only the French would rate areas that made better butter, and frankly, this is the only restaurant that I know that serves it. It's quite good. The amuse bouche is a soup based on a local squash, christophene, flavored with a touch of curry and chives. On the left is Martha's foie gras with a fig compote (17), certainly among the finest that we have had. Jos thoughtfully brought Martha a glass of Gros Manseng, a sweet wine from SW France. On the right we have snails placed in hollowed out small potatoes and topped with melted brie (14). This was wonderful from the perfect little potatoes to the snails flavored with garlic and basil to the creamy brie.   snails placed in hollowed out small potatoes and topped with melted brie  
  Quail veal chop with chanterelles rum and tulips  
  Above left is Martha's main course, although it is an appetizer. It's a partially deboned quail glazed with honey on a bit of salad with bits of pistachios and drizzled with pistachio oil (18). My main course (center) was a special, a veal chop with chanterelles and aligot, a potato pure and cheese combo (30). We finished with espressos and Jos brought out some complimentary 1998 J. Bally Rum from Martinique. If you add this all up, you'll see the cost was the better part of two c-notes, although almost half can be blamed on my Burgundy addiction.

Like last year, we both felt that this was one of the most pleasant dining experiences of this season. A fullish moon was illuminating the clouds as we gazed across the bay to the twinkling lights of Anguilla. The owners, Christine et Jos, have been here over twenty years and the chef, Patrick Guillerm, has been here for eight years. Even the kitchen help and wait staff are fairly stable. It all comes together as very good food delivered with very efficient, yet friendly, service in a lovely setting (both the interior and the view) backed with a superb wine cellar. They are open every day for lunch and dinner.

 

 
Piazza Pascal
On Friday we headed over to try another pair of Pascal's formula lunches. Have a drink, a plate, and a cup of coffee for 12 or $15. They don't do 1 to 1 at lunch, but these lunches are quite the bargain. We choose the Ropiteau Burgundy to accompany Martha's sliced chicken breast on a bed of mixed greens with fresh raspberries, walnuts, onion and tomato in a house vinaigrette and my sliced chicken breast sauted with wild mushrooms and marsala wine. We finished with espressos and had a lovely lunch for a mere $30. They are so close to the pay parking lot in the center of towen, that it is probably better to park there at lunchtime. First, it's free at lunchtime, and second, there really isn't much on-street parking near the center of town, even at lunch!

 
  Salad with chicken breast and raspberries Ropiteau Burgundy Chicken marsala with wild muchrooms  

 
Skipjack's
  That evening we headed over to Simpson Bay for some great fish at Skipjack's. We had no reservations and found out that was a mistake at 8PM on a Friday. We didn't even ask for a table. We sat at the bar and ordered dinner from Steve as we watched the Dallas Mavs come from behind to beat the Atlanta Hawks on the large screen TV. We started with the slightly spicy crabcakes ($13) with plenty of crab and a good bit of salad. Martha moved on to the shrimp kabob, grilled shrimp with sweet peppers and onions ($23) and I had the blackened grouper ($23). As usual, we had bottle of the Concannon Pinot Noir ($29). There's nothing wrong with a light red wine with the big flavors of a blackened fish and even the grilled shrimp had plenty of flavor, especially when dipped in the pineapple salsa.

As Yogi Berra said, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." The last two times we stopped in, we have had dinner at the bar. We certainly don't have a problem with that as we have a great time with Steve the barman and we get to watch the giant screen TV, but we do like to chat with Brad. We had after-dinner drinks and didn't leave until about 9:45 and it was still busy. I said earlier that some places were doing well and others were not. It appears that the combination of fresh fish (and a giant ribeye) at reasonable prices in a new and neat restaurant on the lagoon is packing them in.

 

 
  Crabcakes Shrimp kebab Blackened grouper  

Bonita's Cantina Logo We stopped in at Bonita's Cantina on Saturday night for a casual dinner. We started with two pints of Presidente on draft. Martha ordered the pulled pork sandwich ($9) and I had the Cowboy Dinner which includes a half Slab of Baby Back Ribs, a quarter Chicken (Choice of White or Dark Meat), and Sliced Smoked Sausage ($15). Martha opted for Carolina style, getting coleslaw (fresh, homemade) on the pork with a vinegar based BBQ sauce. Crisp fries came with both meals and they were even better with BBQ sauce! News to me, but it appears that cowboys eat coleslaw, as I got some with my dinner. The rich flavor that Bryan brings to his barbecue comes from a real smoker with a wood chamber in the bottom and several smoking racks above, all runninng low and slow. If you are counting, this is our fourth visit in the six weeks we have been on the island. Certainly, they are close and convenient (we parked at the entryway at 8PM on a Saturday), but the food is especially tasty and inexpensive. We actually managed to have a filling dinner and drinks, and leave a tip with three ten dollar bills! The entire menu including the Tex-Mex selections is on their website. Check out the lunch and dinner specials for really inexpensive dining. I apologize, but the photographer forgot his camera.


News and Changes: Contessa recently had two lunches at Sun Beach on Orient and reports: "Very good. Not bad prices, either. Good quality for the $$." She also had a great late lunch at Palm Beach Restaurant.

It appears that Tijuana Yacht Club is closed once again. Bamboo Bernies is still going strong, serving the best sushi on the island according to the reders of the Daily Herald. Jimmy Goldman owns both of them and Tantra Night Club.

  Palm Beach


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
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
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. Alert reader Ken M has spotted an alternative for timeshare travelers that bundles travel insurance with a medical evacuation plan for only $99. It appears you have to use it in conjunction with a timeshare reservation, apply for the coverage at least 30 days before travel starts, and it's only good for 90 days of vacation. Then again if you have 90 days of timeshare, I'd like to meet you.  

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 Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." 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.