St Maarten/St Martin
7 March 2010 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Sunset on 28 Feb   Weather: Sunday afternoon was yet another reason why people come here. It was hot and sunny with a light breeze out of the southwest. It was a great beach day and on the left is the sun sinking into a cloud bank on the horizon as seen from from the cliffs of Cupecoy. Monday arrived hot, humid, and hazy. Saba is missing and we're hiding in the a/c. We ventured out on Tuesday. It was really hot, hazy, and humid, at least 84F with a minimal breeze. Wednesday was more of the same with the heat index hitting 93F, but it seemed a bit more pleasant in the evening as the breeze picked up. The Thursday weather report says that the haze we are currently seeing is fine Saharan sand. That plus the humidity hides the neighboring islands and produces some very   Sunset on 28 Feb
strange sunsets. These two on the right were taken just seconds apart as the sun set into the haze on the horizon. Friday was very hot (87F before noon), hazy, humid, and rather still. That's bad for landlubbers, but on the opening day of the Heineken regatta you can bet that the sailors trying to get a 5 mph breeze to push them around the island were none too happy. On Saturday it was cooler and less humid with considerably more breeze. It rained on Saturday night and the wind tacked around to the NE coming in at 15 mph. It's 75 F at 7:00AM, heading to a mere 80F according to the forecast. Sounds a bit better, but it is still overcast and Saba is still lost in the haze. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast 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 6:17 and the moon is in its last quarter. The full moons in 2010 will be 29 Mar, 28 Apr, 27 May, 26 Jun, 25 Jul, 24 Aug, 23 Sep, 22 Oct, 21 Nov, and 21 Dec.

  Sunset on 28 Feb

Friar's Bay   SXM-Beaches: This is a shot taken at Friar's Bay (Anse des Pères), a small beach between Marigot and Grand Case. It's a bit of a drive down a paved road that runs alongside and eventually crosses the ghut. The pavement ends shortly after that and it's a hard slog on a bumpy dirt track to reach a couple small parking lots. There are two beach bars here: Kali's and Friar's Bay Beach Café. The first has a heavy Jamaican influence, from its bright green, red, and yellow paint scheme to its barbecue menu to its laid back atmosphere. So laid back that we walked in, and through, the restaurant without anyone paying us the slightest bit of attention, eventually reaching Friar's Bay Beach Café where someone offered us a table. There's more on lunch below, but we did move from the dining table to beach chairs (free with lunch, although we had to pay $6 for the umbrella) and enjoyed a warm afternoon. The beach is 50 to 100 feet wide and a half mile long, but the entrance to the sea is quite rocky, certainly not what I remember from earlier visits. The beach faces wnw and affords a view of the sun setting into the water at this time of the year. It's on the Anguilla channel which can get rough, but because it faces away from the prevailing tradewinds, it is generally calmer than the channel. This beach, like all others on the French side, is topless and there is a path up and over the hill that leads to Happy Bay, where nudists have been spotted.

Night Train   Night Train by Martin Amis - about $10 paperback - I started reading this on Saturday evening (27 Feb) and couldn't wait to get back to it on the following Sunday. It is dark, bleak, and foreboding, but you do wonder how it will end. Amazon.com Review: On a beautiful night in a second-tier American city, a beautiful astrophysicist with the clichéd everything to live for shoots herself dead with a .22. Tough-talking detective Mike Hoolihan, quickly summoned to the scene, has witnessed every sort of victim: "Jumpers, stumpers, dumpers, dunkers, bleeders, floaters, poppers, bursters." But this case is different. Mike has known the young woman for years - she's the daughter, it turns out, of Mike's mentor, Colonel Tom Rockwell. And the colonel is desperate to find a perp, despite massive evidence to the contrary.

In Night Train, Martin Amis has fixed his sights on the American female with a difference. Mike is in fact a woman, a hulking, chain-smoking, deep-voiced alcoholic who comes complete with a squalid family background and a none-too-happy foreground. She even lives in a building next to the proverbial night train and can't survive without her tape with eight different versions of the R&B "hymn to the low rent."

Did this novel begin as narrative flexing, yet another test the hypertalented author (an Elmore Leonard fan) wanted to pose to himself? If so, he has passed with flying colors. True, Mike's search occasionally pushes her up against pulp pathos, but mostly the genre keeps Amis true. "Police are pretty blasé about ballistics. Remember the Kennedy assassination and 'the magic bullet'? We know that every bullet is a magic bullet. Particularly the .22 roundnose. When a bullet enters a human being, it has hysterics. As if it knows it shouldn't be there."

Mike spends her time weighing the evidence, wishing it would point to murder, and letting us in on some current police realities. Whatever television tells us, in real life (not to mention postmodern crime fiction), there's no neat solution. Even that old standard, the good cop-bad cop approach, no longer works: "It's not just that Joe Perp is on to it, having seen good cop-bad cop a million times on reruns of Hawaii Five-O. The only time bad cop was any good was in the old days, when he used to come into the interrogation room every ten minutes and smash your suspect over the head with the yellow pages." With such discourses, Amis is stretching the rubber band of his book's realism. But in the end, all his fancy footwork doesn't stop us from admiring and pitying his heroine, and hoping she won't board the ultimate night train: suicide.

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.


Activities: The Heineken Regatta went off on Friday for the round-the-island race, starting in Simpson Bay and ending in Philipsburg after coming past us in Cupecoy. We can also see them from the bedroom balcony as they head past Marigot toward Grand Case. The wind was from the south, which is rare and on Friday it was quite light. It picked up on Saturday and produced large rollers that must have made sailing a bit less fun than usual

Close race

Spinnakers flying

Random Wind follows the race

Segway tours   You can take a guided Segway tour of the boardwalk in Philipsburg. They leave from the head of town and travel to the end of the boardwalk, take a break, and return to the head of town. I'm told it takes about an hour and costs about $50, more if you book on the cruiseship, but you knew that.

Here is the official beach bag of SXM-Info from Pineapple Pete's. This is the first one of these we have seen. It has enough room on top for a couple towels, suncream, and a large bottle of water. They bottom compartment might hold a six pack with some ice and there is a side opening for a wallet. It was pretty handy on our trek out to Friar's Bay.

  PP Beach Bag

Blanc du Nil
Shopping:: After lunch at Antione in Philipsburg, we stopped in at Blanc du Nil near the head of town, essentially opposite the Guavaberry Emporium. Pascal and Karen, owners of Auberge Gourmande in Grand Case, own this store with a third partner and we found all of them there. They said that their 100% Egyptian cotton, tan-enhancing clothing was selling quite well. It's good quality clothing at pretty good prices. Certainly you don't pay for a designer name.

Alcohol: On Wednesday we went to Select Wine Cellar at noon. A group of four had contacted me via TTOL and Sylvain got two more groups of two for a tasting. The purser and the pilot from Sherakhan were part of group. Sherakhan is 230 foot yacht that rents for about a half million per week. On the plus side, it can accommodate 22 guests. We started with whites: Domaine Gardies Les Glacières ($26), a refreshing light wine from Rousillon in the south of France, 2008 Pouilly-Fuissé from Cordier ($31.50), a crisp chardonnay from the Maconnais in southern Burgundy, and 2007 Chassagne-Montrachet from Amiot ($55), a fabulous chardonnay from the southern Côte de Beaune. We then moved on to reds: 2006 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles from Belle ($26), a very nice Rhône, though young and tannic. It benefitted from the wine key that Sylvain sells, as did the 2005 Bouscassé from Madiran ($27), well-known to be a wine for aging. For the finale, Sylvain brought out a 2006 Beaune 1er cru Chouacheux from Chantal Lescure ($52). For a Burgundy lover, this was a fantastic wine and though young, it was rather smooth and powerful. At that point we headed to the terrace and sat down for lunch at Champagne Snack Bar taking some of these wines with us. For our dessert course, Sylvain brought out a chilled 2003 Pacherenc Vendemiaire from Alain Brumont ($23.80). This wine also comes from Madiran, but this name is used for white wines from the region. In this case it is a late harvest, sweet wine, harvested in late October. Alain Brumont generally makes two later harvests in November and December. It was a wonderful way to end the meal. If you might be interested in joining us for another of these tastings, send me an email.


Crime: This was the left hand head on the Daily Herald on Tuesday. A few years ago a Gallup poll of local citizens would have elicited the following responses: "That explains a lot", "Duh?", and "Ya think". In this case, however, the police chased some car thieves into a bad neighborhood where the thieves abandoned their booty and ran. As the police checked out the car, the thieves and their buddies started pelting them with rocks. This is actually good news, sort of. Now the police are so active that the evil-doers are starting to notice and complain, in their own fashion. In past years, evil-doers were so active that the citizenry noticed and complained. The fairness doctrine suggests that I should mention that in the same issue of the paper there was a letter to the editor complaining that the police never even responded to a burglary call. On Thursday the paper announced that two armed robbers got 13 years in prison, somewhat more than the usual suspended sentence.

GEBE: No news is good news. We experienced no outages at home, at the gym, or while we were out to dinner. In fact, the last one we remember was a short one during lunch on the French side last week.

Nature: This is a flamboyant tree in the Sint Rose Arcade between the boardwalk and Front Street near the head of Pburg. It's a bit early to be flowering, but it is also a bit early for this exceedingly hot weather. This is the type of tree that our local painter, Sir Roland Richardson, has painted several times. When he paints them, they usually have a few more flowers.

Green logo

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

Small Island story: The further travails of 10-10-10 continued with former head of government Sarah Wescott saying that 10-10-10 had no significance, other than the fact that it was a catchy date. It was no better than 11-11-11 or 12-12-12, for instance. Then she pointed out that 11-11-11, ie 11 November (2011) was St Maarten's Day, ie the saint for whom this sunny paradise was named, and a local holiday. In case you forgot, it's also a holiday in the US, but currently we call it Veteran's Day. I'm guessing this will be the next day mentioned for achieving country status.



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:
7 March 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 28 Feb the euro was at $1.360. Today it is at $1.362. Not much movement, but it had dropped earlier in the week until the Greek bond auction on Thursday was oversubscribed by a three to one margin. They did have to pay higher rates than Germany (which rates another, "Ya think") but they managed to mortgage their future and in the process, relieved some of the pressure on the euro. 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.

Friar's Bay Beach Café
  On Sunday afternoon we drove through Marigot to Friar's Bay for lunch on the beach. We got a table on the sand with a canopy. We asked the waiter for sparkling water and a rosé. He said they had one that was fruity and dry and another that was sweet. We went with dry and you have to love a waiter who knows his wine list. The 2008 Chateau de L'Aumerade was fruity, dry, and cold - very important on the beach. Martha had the salade Landaise, yet another bit of tasty duck with on a bed of greens, this time with apples and a poached egg. I had to choose between a brochette espagnole with calamari, mussels, shrimp, and more, salade des ABBA (that's a pun on the Swedish rock group and abbats, innards) featuring chicken innards, or rognons (kidneys) with some veg and frisée. I eventually chose the kidneys and was quite happy. Both lunches were good and we were impressed by the choices available here with our feet in the sand. Kali's, next door, is famous for their full moon party with a bonfire and bands, although some other places are getting in on this theme, notably La Bamba on Kim Sha Beach.   Ch de L'Aumerade  
  Landaise salad Kidneys  

L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
On Monday night we stopped in at L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant on the waterfront in Marigot. The restaurant is a few steps above the street and has a nice view over the parking lot and ferry dock to the harbor with Anguilla in the distance. There were several tables filled in the large front room, so we took a couple steps up to the back room and got a deuce overlooking the garden that cascades down the hill from Fort Louis.
  Salade lapin Angus Ribeye  
  We ordered sparkling water and looked over the wine list, finding a 2006 Ropiteau Chassagne-Montrachet for 35€. Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet are at the southern end of the Cote de Beaune and produce a veritable river of very good wine. Puligny is known more for white and Chassagne has more reds. They are a bit less well known than the bigger names from the Cotes de Nuits in the north, so that's a pretty good bottle of Burgundy for under $50 and it became better as it warmed up and breathed a bit. Now it was time to craft a dinner around this flavorful Burgundy. Oizeau Rare is now serving Black Angus Beef and the last special on the chalkboard was a 12 oz ribeye for 23€. I asked Nathalie about the preparation and as her father was in the kitchen, it could be most anything I liked. I like wild mushrooms. Martha had another chalkboard special, salad with rabbit (12€). As you can see, I got plenty of mushrooms on a very flavorful, and remarkably tender, steak with a smattering of veg. We felt it was more than enough to eat and the two plates cost the same as my Burgundy habit. With water and espresso we spent a mere $115. It's really not more expensive on the Dutch side, especially when you buy the same Black Angus steak from the US. They charge 23€ for a ribeye here (and at Blue Martini in Grand Case) and we checked several Dutch side steakhouses, one was about the same at $30 and one was more, and most won't say, ie market price or unpriced menus on-line or no website.  

Antoine Restaurant
  On Tuesday we went over Pburg for a lunch at Antoine Restaurant. We ordered some sparkling water and Bouchard's Vignée non-vintage pinot noir ($29, photo right, with Fort Amsterdam in the background). It turns out that Bouchard is now putting a vintage date on both the chardonnay and pinot noir from Burgundy. They are both pretty good entries to the wines of Burgundy. Martha ordered the Salade Niçoise and requested extra anchovies - not a problem ($12.50). Jean-Pierre mentioned a special of fresh grouper with capers and butter ($28) and I was sold. You'll note the salad has a home made dressing and the grouper came with rice, a squash purée, and a cauliflower purée. The grouper was firm and fresh, wonderful with this rather simple treatment. The total bill with the 15% added service charge came to about $85. It was a lovely day with boats running around Great Bay. On the right is one of the 12 meter yachts out on the bay.

  Pinot Noir with Great Bay and Fort Amsterdam on the Divi peninsula  
  Salade Niçoise Grouper with capers and butter True North, America's Cup boat  

Champagne Snack Bar
On Wednesday we went to Select Wine Cellar for a tasting followed by lunch next door at Champagne Snack Bar. Martha had her usual Salade Niçoise and I had the salmon off the menu. Had we been a bit quicker, we might have had some osso buco, one of the day's specials. As it was, there was a bit of shrimp sauce left and it made a great addition to the salmon, which must have been crisped under the broiler. The outside had a bit of crunch and the sauce supplied another taste and texture. Both of these cost about $12 each and we got to drink wine from Select at retail prices.
shrimp and salmon Niçoise Terrace

On Friday night we stopped in at Karakter, just past Mary's Boon in Simpson Bay, for jazz night. We ordered a bucket of Bright ($12, that's Amstel Bright Beer) and choose four tapas off the regular menu for a mere $20. Clockwise, starting at top left, that is chorizo in a red sauce, garlic grilled shrimp with an aïoli, chicken satay, and as a nod to a balanced, if not healthy, diet, zuchinni tempura with a tomato dipping sauce. The jazz was good, the food was good, and the price for an evening's fun was great ($32), although we did leave tips for the servers and the band.

View toward Pelican Sunset on Simpson Bay  


News and Changes: The article on restaurants at Orient Beach with recipes for a four course meal that we touted all last season has been published on the web in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Shrimp Dumpling Soup from Tai Chi Restaurant, a recipe for Goat Cheese Salad from Palm Beach Restaurant, a recipe for Beef Wellington from Kakao Beach, and a recipe for Coconut Flan from Rancho del Sol.

  Palm Beach


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
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.