St Maarten/St Martin
9 June 2010 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Lagoon at sunset   Weather: I've been watching the weather on Weather Underground and in early May it was 84F before noon and up to 86F in the afternoon. It's moving into the summer heat. As long as the tradewinds continue to blow, it's not oppressive, especially if you are on a beach. On the left is a shot of the lagoon taken from the Almond Grove area high above the eastern side of the lagoon. The end of the runway is the land at the left center with Maho and Cupecoy running across to the right. I think the island in the lagoon is Grand Îlet. The circumflex (the upside down v, ie the ^) above the I is used in French as an indication that the word once had an "s" in it, ie it was islet, which is still a word in English.

In early June it was just a bit warmer, hitting 84F at 8AM but still only reaching 86F. The 80% humidity made it feel quite a bit warmer, but the 10mph breeze, if you were in it, helped.

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 6:43 and the moon is a waning crescent. The full moons in 2010 will be 26 Jun, 25 Jul, 24 Aug, 23 Sep, 22 Oct, 21 Nov, and 21 Dec.

Galion Beach   SXM-Beaches: Galion Beach is the calmest beach on the island regularly receiving the Best Beach for Kids award from the readers of the Daily Herald. It's shallow and protected by a significant reef that breaks the waves produced by the tradewinds. Pat Turner at Tropical Wave keeps the beach clean and provides everything you need for a great day at the beach whether you want nothing more than a good meal, some drinks, and a comfortable chair with an umbrella or if you want much more: kite sailing, sail-boarding, snorkeling, and more.   Galion Beach, Tryst, and St Barts

Beach reading: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 (Hardcover) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. The Amazon review says: "This is the classic cookbook, in its entirety—all 524 recipes. “Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere,” wrote Mesdames Beck, Bertholle, and Child, “with the right instruction.” And here is the book that, for more than forty years, has been teaching Americans how. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is for both seasoned cooks and beginners who love good food and long to reproduce at home the savory delights of the classic cuisine, from the historic Gallic masterpieces to the seemingly artless perfection of a dish of spring-green peas. This beautiful book, with more than 100 instructive illustrations, is revolutionary in its approach because it leads the cook infallibly from the buying and handling of raw ingredients, through each essential step of a recipe, to the final creation of a delicate confection; it breaks down the classic cuisine into a logical sequence of themes and variations rather than presenting an endless and diffuse catalog of recipes; the focus is on key recipes that form the backbone of French cookery and lend themselves to an infinite number of elaborations—bound to increase anyone’s culinary repertoire. Bon appétit!" We have it in our kitchen. When we returned to the US this spring, we discovered that one of our pullets grew up to become a rooster. With Julia's help, we made a fine coq au vin.   Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Sapphire Beach Club: We were in our condo until mid-April and it is available 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, including the use of our 2010 SXM Privilege Card that gets you discounts on many restaurants. 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. 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.


Random Wind   Activities: For active addicts, try kayaking. Tri Sport in Simpson Bay, Tropical Wave at Galion Beach, and Sebby at the GCBC activities desk offer kayak trips. At Tri Sport, you start just inside the lagoon and can either explore the flat water and islands of the lagoon, or head out through the Dutch bridge into the Caribbean. At Tropical Wave, you can start on one of the calmest beaches on the island and explore the mangrove swamp or head out to challenge the tradewinds coming across the Atlantic. Sebby sends you out of Grand Case Bay in the lee of Créole Rock where it is generally calm. You can explore the rock, land on its tiny beach, and do some great snorkeling. You can also go around the rock into the Anguilla channel where the tradewinds generally kick up some waves.   Galion Beach

Jeff, Deepti, Kamal, and Raj   Shopping: Jeff, Deepti, Kamal, and Raj at DK Gems say, "If you are thinking about diamonds, think about DK Gems." They take pride in their extensive collection of loose diamonds in every shape and size. Set any of these diamonds in one of their hand-crafted settings and create an exceptional piece that's yours alone. Shop with absolute confidence, as you will get a guarantee on all purchases, certified appraisals, and a lifetime upgrade policy. We have used the upgrade policy to increase the size of Martha's diamond stud earrings one year and to add a surround a few years later. This year we used the design services to rearrange the stones from several recently inherited rings into a stunning pendant.   Entrance

Groceries: We can get some very good fish at our local Price Chopper here in rural NY. Martha brought home a very nice mahi recently. It was frozen and vacuum sealed at sea, making it as good as fresh fish that has spent a week in the hold and another few days traveling back to port. It's possible to get fresh mahi on the island. The fish market on the western side of the Dutch bridge sometimes has it. Go early (around 9AM) and ask. If they don't have any, somebody may know of a boat coming in later that will have some. If not, Skipjack's Seafood Market on the other side of the bridge will probably have some. We made a pineapple salsa for our mahi. Take pineapple tidbits (no sense paying for the perfectly round version and chopping them up!) add some diced red onion for a color and taste contrast. Add diced jalapenos or serranos, pickled if you like. Pour on a bit of pineapple juice, squeeze in some lime juice and add finely chopped cilantro. No quantities given as they are some vary flavorful items that may or may not appeal, so use more of what you like and less of what you don't like. If you really don't want to cook, just go to Skipjack's and and order the mahi with their pineapple salsa!   mahi

Pinot Evil   Alcohol: In the last newsletter we mentioned that we had used the plastic bladders in various boxed wines to bring rum back to the US. We declared six liters of rum and were waved through customs as the duty was waived. As the rum was declared, smuggling was not the objective. A light weight, non-breakable means of transportation was desired. We actually used this box and bladder, Pinot Evil a VDP wine previously from France (in this case, the French island of Corsica!). It now comes from Hungary and tastes even less like pinot noir. We brought back an empty bottle of the Angostura 1919 rum and we use that for the bladder of Angostura and a decanter for the bladder of Mount Gay.

Travel: The July issue of Caribbean Travel + Life had an article entitled "The Feast of St Martin". The first meal mentioned was grilled chicken, rice and peas, and a green salad. Tasty, but a feast? After a quote from Pascal at Auberge Gourmande concerning the availability of fine produce from France, I had some hope for the article. However, it eventually goes on to discuss lolos and says, "the food is consistently tasty, even if it's pretty much the same from place to place." Feast?

  Rum decanter and Angostura 1919

The article mentions Talk of the Town in Grand Case and Enoch's Place in Marigot. Been there, both good. It also mentions Yvette's and Poulet d'Orleans in French Quarter - too much of a drive for me from Cupecoy at night, but we've heard good things. It neglects two of our favorites: Ti Coin Créole and Shieka's Bistro

GEBE: There was a total blackout on the Dutch side on the morning of 14 May. They blamed this on a rat shorting out a bus bar. They've used this story before, but presumably this is a different rat.

Green logo Nature: It's the time of year for flamboyant trees to be in bloom. In other news on the nature front, Ocean Club has been ordered to take down the wall they built. I would not be too sure that the wall will come down anytime soon, if at all. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.



Current Contest:

25 April to 25 July 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
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card

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



On 25 April the euro was at $1.338. Today it is at $1.195, a drop of 10% in six weeks. Previously, I said that "France (certainly) and Germany (reluctantly) and the IMF (as a last resort) will not allow Greece to fail." They did that, but not quickly and Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain had troubles. Adding Greece makes Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain, or PIIGS as they became known. They are still problems and drove down the euro about 5% more over the last few weeks but mostly they have worried the market so much that when Hungary made slightly negative comments last week, the euro dropped another 5% and the DJIA lost over 3% on Friday. Today we are not worried about PIIGS, but PHIGGS.

I'm dropping the restaurant exchange rate numbers because I am no longer on the island to check them and at 1.2 to 1, it's not so important. Charging your credit card in dollars used to save the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging for foreign currency transactions. About a year ago 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 article in the NY Times. They even mention Capital One.

Auberge Gourmande
On one of our last nights on the island we headed to Auberge Gourmande for dinner. We arrived at about 7PM and, as usual, found the free parking lot completely full so we headed to the pay lot. It was a lovely night so we were glad that we had reserved a table on the porch.

We started with a champagne cocktail as we perused the menu. We chose the bold flavors of a braised endive salad with honey and rosemary and planned on more big flavors for the main courses, so I choose a one of the better Burgundies with a bit of age, the 2001 Aloxe-Corton Premier Cru from Champy. On the right is the wine with the two champagne cocktails.

The braised endive was wonderful. It's expensive and cooks down considerably when braised, but the flavor is fantastic. We also had a bit of house-smoked salmon with the usual toast points for a bit of crunch but it also came with an entire salad with endive and tomato roses. Martha's main course was a tuna special, not the tuna on the menu which is blackened and served with a with creamy parmesan risotto. Her special came with a broiled tomato, a bit of broccoli, carrots, and more. I had one of my all-time favorites, the beef filet with morel mushroom sauce. There was no shortage of mushrooms in the sauce and I had the previous array of veg with the addition of cauliflower and asparagus plus a lovely sculpture of scalloped potatoes with melted cheese on top.

We finished with balloons of XO Armagnac and espresso as we sampled the complimentary chocolate dainties. It certainly was one of the best meals we had this season. Obviously, we like endive, but it was braised to perfection and combined with more interesting flavors. We like salmon, but it was wonderfully smoked and accompanied by a crisp salad. I like the beef, but they made it better with a great morel sauce and the very tasty scalloped potatoes. Martha likes tuna, but this was also prepared well. The kitchen does a great job, service is fine and friendly, and the wine cellar is one of the top five that I have seen in Grand Case.

  Aloxe Corton

Endive and goat cheese

  terrace Tuna



Café de Paris
From Wendy K: "Anita had moved from Deep Blue to Café de Paris in Marigot's Marina Royale. Our neighbors, Monique, and Catherine, have both eaten there and liked it, so we decided to check it out. It's a very nice setting at the far end of the marina, next to Bali Bar, with seating outside overlooking the Marina, and on the other side, overlooking the lagoon. There's more seating, and a bar, inside with air conditioning. Ainslie had one of the two blackboard specials: a "duo d'agneau" for 11.50€. It was a small shank portion and a 2 rib "rack" served with mashed potatoes and a ratatouille. Since I was cooking dinner, I decided on a "Napolitana" pizza for 9€. With a nice thin crispy crust and a generous serving of anchovies and capers, it was perfect on a hot afternoon, and what's more; I brought half home for the evning's appetizer. We drank a demi pichet of rosé for 13€, a bottle of flat water for 4€, and Ainslie had a cappucino (3€) while I finished the wine. Nearly all the tables, inside and out, were filled when we left a little after 2:00 on a Thursday, the first of April. Highly recommended!

  Anita Pizza Lamb  

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.   Kakao Beach logo

News and Changes: There was an informative thread about Sol e Luna on TTOL from some recent visitors.


SXM Privilege Card   Coupons: The SXM Privilege Card seems to be a pretty good deal. It will get you various discounts and/or perks at 33 restaurants (by my count in the print version). They also cover hotels (mostly spa treatments at hotels), activities, and more. Most of the restaurant perks are a 10% discount. Use it twice in a month and it pays for itself. Here's a link to the SXM-Info website for a our coupons for some freebie or discount. Here's a list of the coupons you'll find:  
Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Diamonds International
Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems
Snorkel Trips
Tropical Wave

  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 10% off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted car rental agencies on the island. Other notable coupons are $50 from Skipjack's restaurant, a tastng and a bottle of wine from Select Wine Cellar, a two for one ride on Celine's famous Lagoon Pub Crawl, $50 off a daysail on Random Wind, 50 from Piazza Pascal. 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. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
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.