St Maarten/St Martin
5 December 2010 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Cupecoy storm   Weather: It was rather stormy over the first weekend of November (that's the monolith at Cupecoy on the left). An American tourist staying at Sapphire was drowned on Cupecoy Beach after he was hit by a large wave while taking photos of the storm. Large waves are dangerous, especially if they are breaking against cliffs. The next week was characterized by rapid changes, one evening closed at about 86F but by the next morning, a change in wind direction had brought the temperature down to 73F. By noon it was in the low 80s, which is closer to normal for mid-November. And the middle of the month stayed wonderful: sunny with a nice breeze and no rain for over a week. The last couple weeks were really nice, if you don't mind the early "Christmas winds". They're keeping the cool, and the mosquitoes at bay, so no complaints. mon. An occasional tropical shower comes by and keeps everything green. Yesterday it was only 81F in the middle of the afternoon. It's warmer than NY but not too hot - dare I say perfect? 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 5:37 and the moon is in its last quarter.

The remaining full moon in 2010 will be on 21 Dec. In 2011 the full moons will be 20 Jan, 18 Feb, 19 Mar, 18 Apr, 17 May, 16 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. The full moon on 21 November would have been a "blue moon" under the original definition of a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons. A misinterpretation of the original definition was eventually picked up on StarDate, the PBS radio snippet, and we now have the current definition of two full moons in one month, at least according to Yahoo news.

SXM-Beaches: Wendy K reported in early November: Just back from my first few hours at Cupecoy. The last two days have been mostly cloudy, but no rain during the day. The sand is mainly at the Shore Pointe end of the beach. The usual rocks along the shoreline are exposed, but there's easy access to the water at the far end. The surf was fine and I swam from the end to Kim's cave and back. Renee and Marley are doing fine - as are Dany, John, and Selira. My rum punch was, as always, THE BEST! My friend, Jeri, has been to Mullet, where there's a sharp drop off, both on the beach and in the water. As all of us know, this too will change. Later in the month she said: The sand at Cupecoy has remained at the baby and middle beaches. Rough surf on this side of the island kept me out of the water Sat, although I sat with Jeri at Mullet and we watched lots of people younger than I playing in the waves. Yesterday was Sunday Rum Punch day at Cupecoy and I was able to get into the water. Talked with Boris & Michael (from Delfina Hotel, now gone) for a while and they were raving about the new restaurant, Patagonia, in Simpson Bay. Formerly, Mooi, and with the same chef, it's VERY upscale and expensive. Don't see us going there any time soon though.   Cupecoy Beach

Beach reading: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson - about $14 - From Amazon (Lynette Mong): "Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) turns his attention from science to society in his authoritative history of domesticity, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. While walking through his own home, a former Church of England rectory built in the 19th century, Bryson reconstructs the fascinating history of the household, room by room. With waggish humor and a knack for unearthing the extraordinary stories behind the seemingly commonplace, he examines how everyday items--things like ice, cookbooks, glass windows, and salt and pepper--transformed the way people lived, and how houses evolved around these new commodities. "Houses are really quite odd things," Bryson writes, and, luckily for us, he is a writer who thrives on oddities. He gracefully draws connections between an eclectic array of events that have affected home life, covering everything from the relationship between cholera outbreaks and modern landscaping, to toxic makeup, highly flammable hoopskirts, and other unexpected hazards of fashion. Fans of Bryson's travel writing will find plenty to love here; his keen eye for detail and delightfully wry wit emerge in the most unlikely places, making At Home an engrossing journey through history, without ever leaving the house." We actually were listening to the audio book read by Bill Bryson. In addition to his great writing skills, he's also a great reader. He's so interesting and prolific that Amazon has devoted a page to him.   At Home

Construction: Wendy K reports that the road from the front of Cupecoy Beach Club to Porto Cupecoy has finally been paved, and even has a white line down the middle! The Blue Monster (That would be the Bleu Mall) has put in a pretty sidewalk with palm trees across from their building, but it's ONLY ACROSS FROM THEIR BUILDING - doesn't go anywhere! The biggest improvement, for those of you who make this drive frequently, is the small portion in front of Cupecoy Beach Club, which used to be full of pot holes.

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 third 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.

SXM-Hotels: A friend asked about inexpensive lodging near Orient. I found four nearby. Coconut Cottage is in Orient and only about $1500 per week. It's part of the Zuzu and Alain empire. Flamboyant Beach Villas in Grand Case has rooms for two for $800 per week. Orient Bay Studio is a totally refurbished unit in the old Mont Vernon Hotel. Amaury and Thibault (from Bistrot Caraïbes) rent it for $830 per week. Colombus Hotel in Oyster Pond has rooms that are a bit over 500 square feet that include a private terrace, a T.V. equipped living-room, direct phone, air-conditioning, a fully-equipped kitchen, a bedroom with individual safe, a bathroom with typical “creole” shower, and a separate toilet room. They are about $1500 per week in high season.

Activities: Sabine and Ben at Seaside Charter in the Palapa Center can get you in on this action, and almost anything else you might want on the water.

  Wild from Seaside Charter

Deepti   Shopping: Martha was wearing these earrings recently. Her mother died about a year ago and I thought that she had found them in her mother's house as they match her father's Holy Cross College ring. She explained that she had found them among the clearance items at DK Gems. Deepti wants you to think of her when you think about diamonds because she has a great selection, despite Martha's efforts.

Groceries: A visit to the recently-opened Gourmet Marché at Porto Cupecoy reveals that it's a nice store, but you will pay for the convenience of shopping there, similar to the Gourmet Marché in Simpson Bay. The selection is better and the prices are lower at their sister Grand Marché stores in Cole Bay and Philipsburg.

  Amethyst earrings

shop sign   Alcohol: I got a nice note from Debby and Joel: "We just returned home on Friday from St Martin. We did the wine tasting last week at Select Wine Cellar after reading about it in one of your previous newsletters. We brought two other couples with us and finished with lunch at Champagne Snack Bar. Just wanted to say "thanks". We all enjoyed it very much and Sylvain was a wonderful host!" Martha and I do this several times each season. It is most pleasant to show up a bit before lunch, taste a few wines (don't forget to buy some), and have lunch on the terrace next door. As Champagne does not have a wine license, one merely pays the retail price to Select and enjoys fine wine with lunch at a most reasonable price.   Sylvain Pereira

Travel: SXM made the recent issue of Caribbean Travel + Life twice in the December issue. The first was a bit more than a page on Pinel (the island at the center of the photo), mentioning that Up on the Key offers two chairs, an umbrella, and two drinks for $15. Karibuni owner Erick Clément claims he has plans to open a six-suite lodge. The details are sketchy, but I believe the lodge will be on the "mainland" and provide kayaks for trips to Pinel. A few pages later, there is a brief mention of discounted rates at Oyster Bay Beach Resort. The Reader's Poll in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler had St Martin as the number nine island in the Caribbean. No island resort made the top 30 in the Caribbean although CuisinArt and Cap Juluca on nearby Anguilla came in at 16 and 18 respectively. Our visit to Cap Juluca was quite impressive (and expensive).   Pinel Island

The NY Times had an article entitled 36 Hours in St. Martin/St. Maarten. The first stop was the Love Hotel in Grand Case. While their are houses of ill repute on the Dutch side, this establishment is merely a poorly named hotel/restaurant. Despite the location shown on the Google map on their website, they are quite a way down the Boulevard, in the space previously occupied by Chez Martine. The article claimed that they had a "stellar" wine list and good appetizers, making it a nice place to visit for a sunset. Unfortunately, the website doesn't mention food or wine. Nonetheless, we have often stopped in Grand Case on the way home from a day at Orient, where the sun retreats behind the central mountains at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Any place on the water in Grand Case will have a sunset view for you to enjoy.

SkipJack'slogo   The next stop was at Patagonia in Plaza Puerta del Sol, Simpson Bay Yacht Club, and yes, they serve Argentine beef. It's in the space formerly occupied by Mooi. Although it means cute in Dutch, I can understand why Americans stayed away in droves.

Traffic: George at Skipjack's reports that the road around airport extension was completed earlier. It's no big change, just puts some bigger twists in the road to get it farther from the runway, meeting US airport dictates. Last years rerouting of the road around the airport parking lot improved traffic greatly. This summer they also paved the road from Mullet Bay through Cupecoy to the French border. It's smooth as butter, making the potholes everywhere else seem worse than ever.


Current Contest:

31 October to 25 December
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
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 December to 27 February 2011 | 27 February to 24 April 2011
24 April to 24 July 2011 | 24 July to 30 October 2011 | 30 October to 25 December 2011
same cast of characters as current contest



On 31 October the euro was at $1.395 and rose up over 1.40. In mid-November a bi-partisan committee put forth some reasonable approaches toward closing the US budget deficit and there were some rumors concerning Ireland's debt. The euro dropped 2% in a week. The Irish crisis pushed it down to 1.30 and the recent resolution has brought it back up to 1.339.

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.

Palm Beach Restaurant
Wendy K sent this in late last spring: It wasn't a beach day, with overcast skies and strong winds, but since it was our last weekend, a friend and I decided to make our first trip of the season to Orient beach. Having spent every beach day this season on the Dutch side, going to Orient was just like a vacation to a foreign country, as indeed it is.

Palm Beach is the new restaurant owned and run by Koko and Marina, and is at the northern (Mount Vernon) end of Orient Beach. The grounds are stunning, with huge palm trees that must have survived at least a few hurricanes.

  There are hedges made from cacti and paved walkways to get from the large parking area to the restaurant, bar, and beach. There are plenty of chairs with padded cushions and umbrellas, which are free if you eat there. We inquired at the restaurant when we arrived as to reserving a table for lunch, and were instructed to go to the bar, where we met Lloyd.

He gave us chairs right up front, told us he'd reserve a table for us, and brought us two drinks: a large glass of rose for me and a mango colada for my friend. The waves were breaking all along the beach, and with the wind and clouds, we were happy to enjoy our drinks and chat until it was time for lunch. There's a very comprehensive menu, with sandwiches, salads, appetizers, tartars and carpaccios, and meats and seafood. We both had specials: a ribeye steak and a foie gras trio (25€ and 22€).

The ribeye was a good-sized cut approximately 1/4 inch thick, served with a small pitcher of shitaki mushrooms in a cream sauce, a molded "cake" of thinly-sliced potatoes, a roasted tomato, julienned veggies topped with a stuffed zucchini slice, and a small green salad. The foie gras was a trio of a foie gras "brulee", two small medallions of foie gras frais, lightly sautéed, and a slice of homemade paté de foie gras, served with the obligatory toast points, a bit of caramelized onions, a small mound of sea salt, and an arugula salad with pine nuts. This was served on a slate slab, and a very attractive presentation.

We passed on dessert, and were brought a bottle of passion fruit rum and two glasses. After another half hour back on our beach chairs, we found Lloyd at the bar and got our bill: $90 for our two excellent meals, 3 glasses of rose, a mango colada, and 2 coffees. They give a good exchange rate that is considerably less than the current 1.35€/$ exchange. The service was efficient, and very pleasant; restrooms were clean; beach chairs comfy; and the restaurant spacious and lovely. Highly recommended for a special day on the French side.

  Bungalows Ribeye Steak Foie Gras  

Piazza Pascal
One of our last meals on the island last spring was here, in the center of Grand Case. It's a cute and cozy spot on the land side of Restaurant Row, run by Chef Pascal and Waitress/Wife Donna. Pascal, of Italian heritage, came from France to the US where he met Donna. They opened opened Piazza Pascal about a year ago and offered 1 to 1 pricing. A recent email confirms that they still do and that a new menu is coming soon. We met some old friends at the restaurant and after a couple weeks of over-eating, we passed on an appetizer as our friends enjoyed a fresh garden salad.   Salad
Our friends both had a special: paella (left), a seafood and rice extravaganza from Valencia in Spain. This one had mussels, shrimp, scallops, and a bit of fish with saffron rice. It's a wonderful dish and original recipes call for cooking in a paella pan (something like a wok) over an open fire such the rice at the bottom gets toasted, changing its flavor slightly. This one was very good, but alas, it is so much work that it is rarely on a menu, sometimes a special, sometimes a weekend special. If you ever see it, you should try it.

Martha had a Veal Tosca (below left), a veal scaloppine battered in egg, parmesan, garlic and parsley and sautéed. It's on the menu for a mere $19. I started with a calamari appetizer (below center). The calamari were great, chewy, but chewable in a tasty preparation. For my main course, I had another special, a risotto with smoked salmon. Both were very good. We had a bottle of Ruffino Chianti ($41). Given that the dinners were about $20 and the aps were about $10, we spent a mere $150 for four.

  Veal Tosca Squid Smoked salmon risotto  

Some short notes from Wendy K: Mario's Bistro has lots of new stuff on the menu. Tony had his favorite appetizer trio of seafood with lobster and asparagus au gratin, crab cake, and shrimp tempura. His main course was a special: short rib of beef with portobello risotto and shitaki tempura. I had duck rolls with mango salsa and foie gras flan, followed by rice-crusted sea bass, with a crab cake, garlic mashed, and asparagus. We drank sparkling water and a Mercurey. We had a lunch at Cafe de Paris (Marina Royale in Marigot) that was very good. Tartare de boeuf for me and a pizza for Tony. Durreche is definitely closed but we don't know any details. Jeri and I went to Le Batteau Ivre in Porto Cupecoy for happy hour. It's buy one glass, get one free if you join her facebook page and use the password "batteau". Was very nice, but quiet.

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 logo

Zuzu reports that her niece Lucie is now running Paradise View Restaurant high above Orient Beach. She is doing breakfast, brunch, and lunch every day. On weekends (Friday to Sunday evening) look for a cheese party, tartiflette, raclette, Fondue Savoyard, and Fondue Bourguigonne.

George at Skipjack's reported that Brad had left earlier this summer. I hadn't passed the news along as I had hoped he would return as he has in the past. It appears not. George says, "Everyone at SJ has stepped up to the plate, faced the challenges of Brad's departure and are doing a phenomenal job. SJ has never run smoother." I hope so. It's one of my favorite restaurants. It's not gourmet food, but good food and plenty of it at reasonable prices. The physical plant was purpose built as this restaurant, so it is new, clean, and works well affording a water view to most patrons. The wine list is small, but well-conceived and reasonable priced and the bar is great fun with one of the largest TV screens on the island.

Stephane Decluseau, the former chef at Astrolabe in Orient Beach has opened L'Effet Mer in the former location of Le Ti Provencal.

Stacey & Michelle from Deep Bleu at the Summit Resort have divorced and she's back in the States, but he's still running the bar and trying to sell it for a good price.

Le Batteau Ivre at Porto Cupecoy has built a more permanent awning over the outside tables which enhances the experience.If you join their Facebook page, you get a free glass of wine after after buying one.

This probably shouldn't be listed under restaurants, but there is a Burger King going in next to the new Market Basket grocery at the foot of Billy Folly Rd. They're putting a turn lane in off the main road. That's always been a tough corner.

Sopranos has Barry Rocklin on keyboards and has a 2 for 1 happy hour from 8 to 9.


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
Tropical Wave

I also have two half price coupons, a $70 coupon at Ti Coin Créole and an $80 coupon at Hibiscus Restaurant. They are for sale at half their face value. Send me an email if you are interested.

  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. It only weighs a half pound and is one-third of an inch thin. Even better, the price has dropped to $139. 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 and now Wendy reports she bought her own. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
Martha has been downloading audio books from our local library to her Zune or Sansa player (iPod knockoffs) 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.