St Maarten/St Martin
20 March 2011 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday cleared up nicely and turned into a lovely afternoon, although there was some rain. On Monday we were stocking up on food and wine and included a lovely outdoor lunch at Champagne Snack Bar, warm but not bad in the shade with a bit of a breeze. Our friends went to Anguilla to beach and golf on Tuesday. Unfortunately, both events were rained out causing them to return early and our dinner at Infinity, the Oyster Bay Resort's restaurant, featured a blustery wind, but no actual rain. Wednesday was perfect and made even better by a stay in the primo cabana overlooking Orient Bay (left) at Palm Beach Restaurant. Again, it was warm (low 80s), hot in the sun with a very strong breeze at Orient (look at Martha's hair or Phyllis's lean, or Wayne hanging on tight).

Thursday and Friday were much the same, but Friday evening had a little bit of rain. The fullish moon lit up the waves at Coralita Beach beautifully as we drove north from Oyster Pond to dinners in Grand Case and Cul de Sac. Above right is a shot taken on Saturday after we returned to Cupecoy. It was a clear largely cloudless day, but Saba's rain forest on the top of Mt Scenery has a crown of clouds. Below left and center is a photo of a tub that has been bobbing about off our balcony in Cupecoy. It appears to have plenty of communication facilities and few markings. It appeared around the time of the regatta and is still here. Below right is a shot of Saba later that evening as the sun set.

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 6:26 and the moon is full. The next few days will be a great time to be dining on the water. In 2011 the full moons will be 18 Apr, 17 May, 15 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

Tub Tub Saba at sunset

SXM-Beaches: On the right is a shot taken from the Horny Toad Guesthouse looking east past Azure Beach Studios, La Siesta Residence, and Turquoise Shell Inn to Royal Palm (the low white buildings on the right). Behind them is the taller Atrium building and between these two is where the final party of the Regatta went on until 3AM. If you want to be part of it, be here for the first weekend in March. Bear in mind that this is only half the beach. The view to the west goes past Mary's Boon and Karakter (a great beach bar) and ends with the setting sun. This part of the beach is quite close to the runway.

The panorama below was stitched together from photos taken at Bonita's Cantina. If you took your eyes off the 10 TVs, this is the view you would have. The background is the central highlands and the foreground is the lagoon. On the right is Marina del Sol, home of the mega-yachts. Dead center with the red roofs is Port de Plaisance which sports a few yachts of its own. Rising up the hill behind that is Almond Grove which has some spectacular villas, some with views to the sun setting behind the airport as the planes take off toward you, before veering to the southeast.

Simpson Bay Beach

View from Bonita's Cantina

Beach reading: Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman - about $8 - This is one of the first of the Joe Leaphorn series. The story begins with Ernesto Cata, a twelve-year-old Zuni boy, proudly and diligently practicing for his role as Little Fire God, in which he will lead his village and dance an all-night attendance on the Council of the Gods. But, in a practice run, the boy comes face to face with a kachina. The Little Fire God disappears and then his best friend George Bowlegs, a Navaho, also disappears. As Leaphorn investigates, George's father is murdered. A hippie commune, the FBI, a narcotics agent, and an archeological dig all get woven into the story before it is neatly tied up. Along the way, you'll learn alot about the Zuni and the Navaho tribes.   Dance Hall of the Dead

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo at this time. It will be available for rent again starting in mid-April at rates ranging from $700 to $1000 per week until 15 Dec, when high season kicks in again. 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."

On the right is a view of Les Mammelles, the twin peaks in the French lowlands, taken from our lagoon-side balcony. Atop the left hand peak is the home of Stew Leonard

  Les mammelles

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: We are vacationing in Oyster Pond this week, staying at Lighthouse Villa 1A for a week with the owners of the unit and another couple. Actually, it's not much of a vacation as I still am laboring away on this newsletter. This unit has two fantastic bedrooms with king-size beds and large and lovely attached bathrooms. The third bedroom has has a queen-size bed with a smaller, quite adequate bathroom. This is a first floor unit, so in addition to having 2100 feet of indoor space, it has 800 feet of terrace overlooking the entrance to Oyster Pond, which gives it the panoramic view of the nature preserve below.

View from the terrace

dock of the bay Activities: It's not much activity, but you can drop a fishhook off a dock. The gentleman on the left is on the dock in Grand Case. There are often people fishing off the French Bridge. Deep sea fishing charters are readily available, try Rudy, Lee, and Taylor Made. Prices start at $150 per person for a half day charter to $300 per person for a full day. None of them let you keep your catch, though they all say you can have enough for dinner. Roy says you can keep your catch. On the right is some mahi caught by two lucky gentlemen. Very fresh mahi-mahi

Groceries: On Monday we headed over to Skipjack's to pick up some fresh fish for dinner and found some luscious mahi, picking up two pounds for about $25. Martha made a marinade with some orange juice, garlic mashed with salt, olive oil, grated lemon peel, lemon juice, and ground pepper (styled somewhat after Skipjack's pineapple salsa), cooked the fish over charcoal, and served it with a bit of rhubarb relish. Great. We cooked at home again on Wednesday night, having foraged for some half-price duck breasts in the frozen food aisle at Grand March. Almost as fresh Mahi-Mahi

Vouvray Alcohol: Earlier on Monday we stopped in at Select Wine Cellar to procure enough wine to get us through the week. We sampled a 2007 Bourgogne Chardonnay Domaine Amiot Servelle (around $25) and a 2009 Vouvray Les Argiles from Chidaine (around $33). The burgundy is a bit old for a white, but was quite good. The Vouvray has a hint of sweet fuzziness, making a very cold bottle a thing of beauty on a warm day. We then had a great lunch at Champagne Snack Bar (see below), during which Sylvain brought out a 2008 Sancerre Rouge from Vacheron ($35). A red Sancerre is not rare, but at least unusual. We bought three of each and rounded out a case with three bottles of our house wine, the 2007 Cote de Beaune from Chantal Lescure ($33).

I picked up six more 750 ml bottles of Angostura Rum (about $22) at Sunny Foods in Pburg. They are on the grocery map. I put four bottles (3 liters) into a plastic wine bladder and asked some friends to take it home. Declare three liters and they'll generally let two people in with no duty.

Angostura Rum

Traffic: We've done a bit of traveling this week as we have been out in Oyster Pond. It takes about a half hour to get to either Grand Case or Cul de Sac from here. Orient Beach is about five to fifteen minutes closer, depending on the section of Orient you wish to visit. Philipsburg is about a ten minute drive. On Friday, our friends were meeting some friends at the Caf on the Bay on the lagoon in Simpson Bay between Pineapple Pete and Tropicana Casino. They left at 5:00PM for 5:30 cocktails and arrived on time. Their friends left Cupecoy at 4:00PM and got stopped by both the 4:30 and 5:30 bridge openings, arriving about 15 minutes late, even though it is a much shorter drive. The lesson here is that one cannot head east through Simpson Bay after 3PM during the week. The photo on the right is from blog by Jess: An American in St. Maarten. Bridge

Nature: On a recent trip from Marigot to Grand Case we saw a lone iguana on top of the ghut at the entrance to Friar's Bay, first of the season. Shortly thereafter I saw two dead on the road and chased one off the road in La Savane.

Another first of the season is this tomato on Wendy K's patio. Given the cost of water down here, I'm not sure what this one costs, but I'm told it was good. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Green logo

Small Island story: The Daily Herald had a story about the island's PM attempting to soothe the Dutch after the Committee for Financial Supervision rejected the 2010 budget again, because it was neither balanced or realistic. Other than that, I'm sure it was very nice. I'm sure you missed it, I know I did, but this is the budget for 2010 they are arguing about.



SXM-Info welcomes a new prize to the list: a one week rental for half off the posted rates on the LAW Car Rental website. Taxes and insurance are NOT included. As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on lodging, car rental, entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work it off! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest:

27 February to 24 April 2011
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
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
LAW Car Rental - Half price Car for a week

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:
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 13 March the euro was at 1.390 and today it is at 1.416, a two percent change in a week, and it was quite a week: the fourth largest earthquake in history causing a major tsunami which is leading to a nuclear disaster. Add in a no-fly zone being imposed on Libya and your guess is as good as anybody's concerning the near future.

ZEN Caf and California Restaurant are still offering 1 to 1. La Villa in Grand Case is offering 1 to 1 for cash. L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant offered us about 1.33 which is about 3% better than the real rate and if your credit card charges another 3% for overseas charges, it amounts to some savings. We got a similar rate at Il Nettuno. Belle Epoque gave us 1.3.

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.

La Source Restaurant
  David   In the previous week, on Friday evening we headed over to Marigot Marina Royale for a Soire Cochonnaille, a two to four course dinner based on pork products from David (left) at La Source. It's located in the old Hediard shop just off the marina, behind Le Village Restaurant. By day the restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, focusing on fresh, maybe even healthy, cuisine. There is also a formula lunch featuring a plat du jour and a drink for a fairly low price. The restaurant itself is very modern and new, quite smart with an indoor air-conditioned space and an outdoor terrasse, but with no view of the marina.

Dinner was 29 for two courses (main, cheese or dessert) and 43 for four courses (ap, main, cheese, and dessert). We ordered one of each option so we could taste everything. We were given a kir (a shot of cassis mixed into a crisp Bourgogne Aligot) and shortly thereafter an amuse bouuche arrived (right).

  Amuse bouche  
  charcuterie   It was boudin, a blood sausage, on a bed of caramelized onions on crisp toast. The smooth texture of the boudin contrasted with the crisp baguette and a sweet onion flavor worked its way into the boudin. It was quite a treat and even though we were drinking a white wine, the infusion of the cassis added enough flavor to make it an interesting companion to the plate. Our next course was a plat de charcuteries artisanales from France, a plate of cooked and air-dried pork products. On the left of the plate hiding behind the cornichons there are two slices of raw ham from Vende (just south of Britanny) and proceeding clockwise we have Andouille from Guemen, dry pork, and a bit of garlic saucisson. All of these taste delights were handmade in Britanny in northwest France, ie close to Britain.  
  Palette de porc  la Bourguignonne   My main course was the Palette de porc la Bourguignonne (pork shoulder) with chestnuts atop a moussiline of celeriac (left). The rich brown sauce added a lot of flavor as did the chestnuts. The creamy smooth moussiline added a textural counterpoint to the chestnuts and pork. Martha had the Saucisse de Morteau with potatoes and onions. The sausage features garlic and demands the mustard while the potatoes and onions add flavor and texture. Neither of these are David's creations, they have been around for a long time, but they have been around because they are so good. In my old age, I'm beginning to like authentic food rather than loft and whimsy.   Saucisse de Morteau  
  Cheeses   David presented a selle su cher (the white cheese with the black rind), a reblochon (the creamy cheese with the white and yellow rind), and a ti medoc au noix (a cheese from the Medoc with walnut oil brushed on the rind). The first was a creamy smooth and fairly mild goat cheese. Reblochon is one of my favorites and the walnut infusion on the last made it quite interesting. A garnish of crisp arugula was included. If you want to know more, get it from the source: Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer. Steven really likes reblochon, as do I. We stopped at US Market and picked up a half round (about a two-thirds of a pound) for about $11.   Ice cream and fried bananas atop French toast  
  Our wine was a bottle of red Burgundy which worked well with the charcuteries, main courses, and the cheese plate. We finished that as the dessert arrived: Ice cream and fried bananas atop French toast The menu at 29 is about $40 and the 43 version is amost $60 at the current exchange rate. That is a great deal for a four course course meal. It was even better because David is using 1.2 as the exchange rate. With wine, we spent 116 which came to $140 for a four course meal with a good bottle of Burgundy. We did leave a bit more for a tip, but in the 5-10% range, not the 15-20% range. I asked David to let me know when he will be doing another of these dinners and I hope I get enough lead time to tell you.


  Terrace View from terrace Chicken salad  
Champagne Snack Bar
On Monday we went to Select Wine Cellar for a tasting followed by lunch next door at Champagne Snack Bar. We were in this terrace, hard by the parking lot, but the sun was shining and except for the guy in the baseball cap, I had a great view. The specials were blanquette de veau (a veal stew, $15) and tuna two ways, carpaccio and tartare ($16). Our friends had a chicken salad and and a half rotisserie chicken with crisp fries. Sylvain ducked into the store and brought out a 2008 red Sancerre from Vacheron. It was a great lunch all around and with waters and coffees, we still spent well under $100 for five of us.

  Veal tuna two ways Chicken  

  On Sunday, our first night in Oyster Pond, we took it easy and walked over to Daniel's by the Sea, (Mr Busby's Beach Bar during the day). It's run by Daniel who used to run Da Livio's in Pburg. Eventually, he gave up on the western end of Pburg and moved out here. He traded one of the more upscale restaurants in St Maarten's main city for a beach bar next to the Oyster Bay Beach Resort. In doing so, I think he caught up with the changes in tourists coming to the island. This seemed especially true when we were told we could have a table, but they were so busy that no one could wait on us for about 45 minutes.

Big Fish, a recent arrival, is also doing well having moved from its small location on the water to larger digs in the Coral Beach Club. Their old space is now called Floaters and, similarly, they could not accept a party of six. We eventually walked over to Infinity, Oyster Bay's fine dining restaurant run by Spartaco who used to run his own restaurant in Almond Grove. This one also features Italian cuisine and a pretty good wine list. Service was good and the prices were fair. I forgot the camera as it was the end of a very busy day, so no photos. Obviously, the one on the right with the beautiful daytime view was not happening at 8PM when we arrived, but is available most days.




Ti Bouchon Restaurant
On Tuesday, all six of us headed over to Ti Bouchon for a dinner with Momo. We were pleasantly surprised to find Thierry Delaunay in the kitchen. We have long considered him to be one of the most interesting and innovative chefs on the island. By this I mean combining French and island flavors or adding Asian touches without resorting to foolish visual jokes. On the left is a frog leg appetizer. It's simple, frog legs crumbed, cooked in butter with parsley on a bed of lettuce. It's also quite good, although it doesn't taste any better no matter how cutely you arrange the legs. Our other ap was a pea velout, a velvety pea soup. We ordered a bottle of Borgogne (Chardonnay) to go with the aps.

Our dinners were a jumbo shrimp dish (left), a special of hake with sliced shrimp (above right), a pork tenderloin with a creamy light colombo sauce (Thierry adding an Asian touch, right), four extremely large scallops, lightly seared (below left), and a marmite featuring all of the seafood mentioned and a bit more in a lobster-based sauce (below center). They all were priced in the $24 to $30 range


Hake with shrimp

Lamb shank

  As I shared some of Martha's marmite, I can say that all of the seafood was quite good. My hake and shrimp dish was very nice. Hake is related to cod so it is a delicately-flavored, not very firm, white fish. The texture of the dish was improved by the addition of the few slices of firm shrimp and the slices of leeks in a creamy sauce. There was plenty of flavor in any of these fish dishes and most of us had Fleurie, a cru Beaujolais, with our dinners. Our sole (meaning only, not the flat fish) dessert was a creme caramel, unless you count my old rum. We had a couple bottles of water and various coffees, bringing the bill to $380 for six people or about $130 per couple. We added a bit of a tip as we had Momo working hard to serve a table of six along with a fairly full porch. If you go to the site, you'll see that the dining room is the wraparound porch on a brightly colored Crole cottage. We had a great time on that porch especially as a fullish moon was lighting up the land. Momo has more stories than Aesop and many of them have something to do with food, some are even true.

  Scallops Marmite Creme  caramel  

Palm Beach Restaurant
We headed up to Palm Beach for a loaf on Orient. We had reserved a cabana and were offered a choice of the two-level cabanas away from the beach or the primo spot in the cabana between the main building and the beach. That's the one in the photo that opened this newsletter. It was quite pleasant in the shade with a breeze keeping us cool. We ordered water and ros and enjoyed an hour in the cabana before moving to the upstairs dining area. If this photo of the dining area (ignore the patrons) doesn't make you want to come here nothing will. Sitting on the second level looking over the beach to the mountains in the distance while enjoying good food and wine with sunshine and an 80F temperature seems to me to be the quintessential Caribbean experience.

  Palm Beach is owned and run by Koko and Marina, and is at the northern (Mount Vernon) end of Orient Beach. The grounds are stunning, the facilities are the newest on the beach, and the accoutrements are spectacular. We had polished off two bottles of the La Croix ros (29) and ordered a bottle of Cotes du Rhone Monredon for lunch. We had three orders of moules, two with cream, one with a touch of curry (18 each), a duck breast salad (19), an salmon salad (18), and a Caesar salad (11). I can vouch for both versions of the mussels and Martha liked the duck breast salad. The total bill came to 194 including a new French side 2% tax and via a charitable exchange rate of 1.3, we paid $252 plus a tip for a fabulous afternoon and it wasn't over as we went back to the cabana for a few beers as the daylight faded.


  This may be a little hard to believe, but we went to four more restaurants. It is however 5PM on the day this newsletter should go out, so I'll save these for a later date. We tried out Momo's new venture, Momovino Bistro, for lunch on Thursday and went to Bistrot Carabes for dinner that evening. On Friday we went for a truly special evening at Sol Luna Restaurant, three lovely ladies on a sumptuous outdoor terrace on a night with an almost full moon. Finally, we used Bonita's Cantina as our departure lounge as we took our friends to the airport.

  Bonita's Cantina Logo  
  Bistrot Caraibes Sol e Luna Momovino  

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

Grand Case is doing Harmony Nights again on Tuesday. They will have bands, parades, street performers, arts and craft vendors, and local food vendors. All the restaurants will be open and many will be doing sdomething special. The previous link is to photos that we took and the lolos have made this site. It's a typical French site and has a jpg of the advertising poster, 9 meg and 3000x5000 pixels. It took about a minute to download on my DSL connection.

L'Excellence, the French cooking school has a new phone number: 590 29 12 38. They are on Rue de Spring heading right off Rue d'Hollande just past the stadium as one heads from Marigot toward Grand Case. They are on the downtown Marigot restaurant map.

Bali Bar has morphed into Tha Bali with the same emphasis on the bar and band scene with more emphasis on Thai cuisine and less emphasis on other cuisines.

Le Galion on Marigot's Marina Royale appears to have closed.

There was another article in the Daily Herald stating that "The turnover tax (ToT) is "an indirect tax with the character of a consumption tax that should not be listed as a separate item on invoices." The article mentioned that a regualtion had been drafted making it a punishable offense to place the ToT separately on the bill, invoice, or receipt


Here is a complete Dutch side carnival schedule, but the short version is that the Unity Jump-Up from the French side to the Dutch side is on 19 March, the carnival village opens on 25 April, the big parade is on 30 April, and King Momo goes up in flames on 3 May.
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 Int'l
Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems
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 and MedjetAssist to arrange medical transportion services. We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have. Check out both and see which one offers the best prices your timeframe and traveling group.   Click here to Enroll Now

Kindle: We now have one, so I'm really 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 still downloads 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. I just got a newsletter from a reader who reports that "Regarding downloading - several of my friends have the Nook and they can download books on it from their library in the states...but they do expire after 2 weeks."