St Maarten/St Martin
25 July 2010 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Marigot Fountain   Weather: I've been watching the weather on Weather Underground and we've moved into summer. At 6PM it was 86F in mid-June. By mid-July most days reached the high 80's and it was a cool night if it dropped into the high 70's. Humidity usually reached 80% and the breeze (generally the tradewinds from the east) was well-appreciated. It hadn't been too rainy until Tropical Wave Bonnie lingered over the island a week ago producing flooding, but little damage because of light winds. Since then it has cleared out to 20 to 40% chance of rain, but is still hot and humid (both in the 80's). On the left is the fountain across from Le Plongoir in Marigot

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. On the solstice (21 June) the sun rose at 5:43 AM and set at 6:47, for just a bit over 13 hours of sunlight. Here in upstate NY, the sun crept in at 5:28 and it faded out at 8:27 for about 15 hours of sunlight. Sunset today is at 6:46 and the moon is almost full. The full moons in 2010 will be 24 Aug, 23 Sep, 22 Oct, 21 Nov, and 21 Dec.

Kakao   SXM-Beaches: In these hot and humid times, it's best to be on a beach. Orient Beach has plenty of restaurants and activities and the advantage of facing east, toward the tradewinds. You can dine with your feet in the sand at several establishments and we think one of the best is Kakao Beach. That's Martha at one of our favorite tables overlooking the beach. Further south, closer to the nude beach, is ZEN Café (right), a smaller restaurant with a very large menu that includes mussels, crepes, and waffles. Bikini Beach is one of the oldest restaurants on the beach, still going strong, and Palm Beach is one of the newest, developing quite a following.   ZEN Café Concept

Beach reading: Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. I am listening to the audio books version of this. The Washington Post says: "This extraordinary work of fiction about the German occupation of France is embedded in a real story as gripping and complex as the invented one. Composed in 1941-42 by an accomplished writer who had published several well-received novels, Suite Française, her last work, was written under the tremendous pressure of a constant danger that was to catch up with her and kill her before she had finished.

Irène Némirovsky was a Jewish, Russian immigrant from a wealthy family who had fled the Bolsheviks as a teenager. She spent her adult life in France, wrote in French but preserved the detachment and cool distance of the outsider. She and her husband were deported to Auschwitz in 1942, where he was gassed upon arrival and she died in the infirmary at the age of 39. Her manuscript, in minuscule and barely readable handwriting, was preserved by her daughters, who, ignorant of the fact that these notebooks contained a full-fledged masterpiece, left it unread until 60 years later. Once published, with an appendix that illuminates the circumstances of its origin and the author's plan for its completion, it quickly became a bestseller in France. It is hard to imagine a reader who will not be wholly engrossed and moved by this book.

  Suite Française

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo 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. A recent visitor said, "Erich, We had a wonderful time at your condo for the 3rd year in a row. We appreciated the coupons. Hope to be able to do it again next year."

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.

Activities: There is good snorkeling on several beaches. Mullet Bay has an interesting reef near the ruins of the large units at the north of the Bay. Grand Case has Créole Rock. The islands at Orient (Pinel, Green Cay, and Tintamarre, plus smaller rocks) offer some interesting sights. There is a reef running SE from Pedro's at the northern end of the nude beach that is full of fish (lots of squirrelfish, right) and even an eel or two. It is best to approach it from the south and swim with the current. Galion and Dawn boast the best reefs on the island, but require a fairly calm day for their exploration. There are lots of snorkeling trips. If you like sailing and small groups, consider Random Wind. She sails from Simpson Bay around the western edge of the island, serving drinks and lunch on an all day voyage. The motor cats (Scoobidoo, Lambada, Tango, Bluebeard) also leave from Simpson Bay or Philipsburg and by virtue of a motor, can go all the way to the far side of Anguilla for snorkeling on Prickly Pear, Sandy Island, or Little Bay. Cruisers may find Snorkel Safaris in Philipsburg to be convenient.   Squirrelfish

Stress free shopping   They are larger and take more passengers, motoring most of the way, but it's still an all day voyage with drinks and lunch included. If you just want a few hours of snorkeling on a great reef, consider Créole Rock via Snorkel Trips out of Grand Case Beach Club. They will take you out to the rock in a matter of minutes and, if you wish, have a dive master accompany you, pointing out sea creatures that most people miss.

Shopping: We just added Caribbean Gems to SXM-Shopping. I've always liked their advertising photo. They have been on the island since since 1983 and have an extensive inventory. Martha and I were both born in September and rather like our birthstone, the Sapphire. We did find this stunning tanzanite and diamond pendant set in 18kt white gold with 9.30 cts emerald cut tanzanite set in the center with 2.06 cts tw in prong set diamonds around the tanzanite on their website. Tanzanite is not a sapphire, but it is quite blue.


Lamb vindaloo   Groceries: Martha made a Lamb and Potato Vindaloo from a recipe on Recipe Czar. It was from one of our own lambs, left over pieces cut from a wonderful leg of lamb dinner. If you check the ingredient list, it's pretty daunting, but it is possible to find these ingredients in the Grand Marché and Sang's. However, the preparation time is a mere 15 minutes, although like most stew-like concoctions it benefits from over two hours of cooking time.

If that doesn't fit with your vacation plans, just head over to Shakti Restaurant on Billy Folly Road in Simpson Bay. Loknath, the former chef at Lal's, makes a great lamb vindaloo. That's it on the right. In addition to Lal's, there are three other Indian restaurants of note: Anand's (two locations, Pburg and Simspon Bay, Pride of India (Simpson Bay), and Shiv Sagar (Pburg).

Travel: The July issue of Condé Nast Traveler had a cover story entitled "50 Islands We Love". There are lots of islands in the world and apparently at least 50 that Condé Nast like better than SXM. Surely it is moving away from being an island paradise and turning into a high-rise infested traffic jam. The only good news is that the current economy has put a few properties in financial difficulty and even the ones with deep pockets are finding that they have to reach into them as potential purchasers are not plentiful. I'm told Pelican is closing up some of its buildings for the summer and below you'll find three restaurants are closing, two for good, one for the summer.

The August/September issue of Caribbean Travel + Life had some spectacular satellite photography, but again, SXM was not included. There was a shot of St Barts similar to the one on the right, but larger and clearer. That shot was then used to locate Anse de Columbier at the far northwest corner. There was another shot taken from there looking northwest across Île Fourchue to southwestern SXM.

  St Barts

Green logo Nature: Here's a sandpiper on the beach at Cupecoy.

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

Small Island story: The island council meeting on June 21 did not achieve a quorum. Several members of the Democratic Party were in their seats but they did not sign in for the meeting causing it to be canceled. Just before adjourning the meeting Acting Lt. Governor and Chairman of the island council Reynold Groenveldt called on island council member Roy Marlin to make sure he is properly attired when the meeting reopens. Marlin was seated in his chair wearing a white long sleeve shirt with a tie but his coat was over the back of his chair. Island government in action, or is that inaction?



Previous Contest Winners:

Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Bob Maze
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Bob Maze
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Channa West
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Kathy Hill
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Channa West
MMG 2000 - Two for One week at the gym with a shake - no entries
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle - Bob Maze
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Channa West
PassportMD - Six months free service - no entries
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Sandra McIlmoyle
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October) - Bob Maze
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Channa West
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Bob Maze

Current Contest:

25 July to 31 Oct 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 9 June the euro was at $1.195. Today it is back up to $1.291. The richer nations in the Eurozone are, indeed, coming to the aid of the poorer ones. In mid July, Spain, Greece, and Ireland (despite a Moody's downgrade) sold debt in a heavily oversubscribed offerings and the euro is now up almost 10% from its low this year.

I'm dropping the restaurant exchange rate numbers because I am no longer on the island to check them. 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. Note that you won't get frequent flier tickets quite as fast. It may be best to use the Cap 1 card out of the country and take the rewards in merchandise. We just picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of our points from the previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM.


Halsey's Restaurant
We saved our second visit to Halsey's until late in the season, saving one of the best for last. We started with some Etesian Pinot Noir ($39) and a bottle of fizzy San Benedetto water. Halsey's starts everyone with a basket of sliced baguette with butter and an olive oil/garlic dipping sauce and all dinners include a crisp green salad with a tangy dressing. If you order an ap, the salad comes after the ap. If you skip an ap, the salad serves as your ap. We ordered some of Ryan's spicy crabcakes, not too spicy, but perfect with a pinot noir. I had penne, al dente, with scallops in a creamy sauce and Martha had a slightly spicy grouper. I won't go on much because John Halsey has sent an email saying that the restaurant will be closing. I certainly will miss it.
  Wine Mahi Grouper  

  We went to Glens Falls, NY to see some Team Tennis (Hingis was supposed to play Venus Williams). We stopped for dinner at Jake's Roadhouse. They produce classic American comfort food. Martha had some tasty crab cakes and I had meatloaf. It reminded me of Bellvue on the outskirts of Marigot, although they serve French comfort food. Wendy K dines there frequently: "We go here every Thursday and generally have the "onglet de boeuf" (hanger steak, or a small steak hanging on each side of the of the diaphragm muscle. - ed). It's on the small menu, but sometimes they are out (as there are only two small steaks on a thousand pound animal, they are rare. We do a website for Lewis Waite Farm and take all they will give us - ed), or have it as a special, as they did today, with a different sauce. Today it came with a bernaise sauce, which we asked for on the side. It came in the cup you see in the photo and had the wonderful tarragon flavor we love. The bavette, ordered rare, is oven roasted, Cedric told us, and is sliced at a diagonal which makes a super-tender bite of beef. The homemade "frites" are my vote for best on the island (next to L'Oizeau Rare), and the salad is perfectly dressed chopped romaine leaves.

  Hanger steak  
  This feast was 13 euros. We drank a bottle of fizzy water and a bottle of Bordeaux, "Les Belles Murailles" '06. The wine list is one red, one rose, and one white, I believe. We haven't asked for it since we didn't get it the first time we ate here, but are never disappointed in what we're served. The bill was 45 euros, including complimentary house-made vanilla rum. (Watch out - they leave the bottle on the table!)

Le Bellevue is a small neighborhood restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday, in the Bellevue area of Marigot. There are five tables inside (with A/C) and 4 outside facing the street under an awning, which are generally filled at lunchtime with French people who work in the area. There is a small menu with some sandwiches, salads, and a couple of hot dishes, but most people order from the specials, which usually consist of a chicken dish, something with shrimp or other seafood, the onglet, and a special salad, omlette, or quiche. All are generally 10-13 euros and generous servings."


L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
Late last season we stopped in L'Oizeau Rare (The Rare Bird) on the waterfront in Marigot for a great lunch with Jon and Cyndi from Tijon Parfumerie in Grand Case. The restaurant is a few steps above grade, giving it a lovely view over the hustle and bustle down below. Moreover, the hillside behind the restaurant coming down from Fort Saint Louis is beautifully landscaped. The menu is large and there is always a large specials board. Pizzas are always good and the hamburger is formidable, but we almost always have something a bit more French, especially if it includes the hand-cut frites, which we consider among the best on the island. Chicken salad We had some sparkling water and a bottle of the Ropiteau Chassagne-Montrachet (35€), an area known to provide a river of fairly good red wine. The wine from the tiny vineyard of Montrachet in this commune (and in neighboring Puligny-Montrachet) is the real deal, but if you can buy one for less than 350€ in a restaurant, you'd be getting a bargain.

Cyndi had the chicken salad (left) and Jon had the Mi-Cuit tuna on ratatouille (below left). Mi-Cuit is just barely cooked. Martha went with the tuna tartare (below center), not cooked at all. Both require good tuna and Chef Christian has it. I had an Angus Beef flank steak (below right), quite tender if cooked and sliced correctly. Christian says all his beef is Angus and it really is better.

  Tuna Mi Cuit Tuna tartare Angus Flank Steak  
  You'll notice that both Martha and I got dishes with frites. We really do think they are good, but we did share a few and Jon and Cyndi seemed to agree. Service is generally superb given that Christian's wife or daughter are usually in the dining room. There is a coupon on the website and a complete menu for lunch and dinner.  

Bonita's Cantina Logo Pig out
  From our pigs last year, we had some pork shoulder in our freezer that Martha slow-cooked on our covered barbecue grill adding some wet pear wood for some extra flavor. It made a great dinner for us and several guests one evening and a few days later she pulled all the pork from the bone and made a typical South Carolina barbecue sauce by reducing a mixture of mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, minced onion, Crystal hot sauce, and water, essentially following the recipe on page 246 of Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA. For a SC pulled pork sandwich you, add this to the pork, put it on a soft roll and top it with cole slaw and the other half of the roll. If that sopunds like a lot of work, let Bryan do it and ask Bonnie to serve it to you. That's the pig out special shown above and you can see the cole slaw. The barbecue sauce comes in a squeeze bottle, so you can add just the right amount for your taste. The website tells you all the lunch and dinner specials. Monday through Friday, you can get a pulled pork sandwich for $6.95 during lunch. If you are on the island, today is the First Annual St Maarten Barbecue Contest at the Cantina. It should be great fun and some great barbecue beginning at 11 AM. Later this summer, college and Pro football start up. The Cantina has Direct TV and Dish Network so they can receive nearly any college game and all of the pro games via NFL Ticket starting in late August.  

Marrakech Restaurant
We had some ground lamb from the lambs we raised last year and Martha consulted the kefta recipe on page 249 of Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco . The combination of parsley, coriander, mint, marjoram, and cumin produce some bold and exotic flavors, perfect with a Rhône wine. Splurge with a Chateauneuf du Pape or economize with a mere Cotes du Rhône. As usual, if you want to skip the preparation step, it's quite possible in SXM. Just head over to Marrakech Restaurant in Marigot and let Toufiq prepare you a dinner that is out of this world (our half of the globe, anyway) complete with Moroccan wines.

  Marrakech logo  

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.   Rancho logo

Valentino's and Halsey's in Simpson Bay have closed. The bar/restaurant at Ocean Club has closed for the summer.

2010 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
California Restaurant 27 September to 18 October - closed for lunch and dinner
14-26 September - closed for lunch
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Mario's Bistro 15 August until mid-October
Marrakech Restaurant No closing
Montmartre Restaurant No closing, open every night
Pizza Galley 25 July - 15 Oct
Skipjack's No closing
Ti Sucrier 12 August to 12 September
La Villa No closing
ZEN Café Concept 10 September to 19 October


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: The condo is available for rent at $900 per week 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 tasting 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. Even more now that the price has dropped to $189. They have also cut the price on the high-end unit, the Kindle DX, tfrom $489 to $379. 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.