St Maarten/St Martin
10 April 2011 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Saba Weather: Sunday turned out all right though hazy, but Monday was a bit clearer. Saba was visible and if you knew where to look, Statia's outline was barely visible. Tuesday morning morning was very cloudy and hazy making Saba but an outline (photo on left and squint). On the right is a container ship in the haze. The tub that was floating around for the last month has departed. Despite a few sprinkles in the morning, we went out to Galion Beach for lunch at Tropical Wave and had a great time in nice weather. Wednesday had even more haze, but was warm with quite a bit of sun. Thursday featured more than enough clouds, strong winds, and my long sleeved shirt. (I was officially cold although the thermometer claimed 79F) COntainer ship off Cupecoy Beach

Cruiseship at sunset The photo on the left was taken Thursday night. I said it was cloudy but at least the clouds look good when they turn red in the sunset. Later that evening it rained so much that the road through the golf course was flooded as I drove through it on Friday morning. Nontheless Friday was a great day for a sail to Tintamarre on Celine. When we returned, I got this photo of a "pipeboat" called An-Tiki. Anthony Smith is 84 years old and designed this raft that uses capped plastic pipes for flotation. He and three friends headed out from England over two months ago and are now tied up at the Simpson Bay Yacht Club. Saturday was a rather nice day, reaching 82F with more than a few clouds.

Pipeboat at sunset

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 7:02 and the moon is almost in its last quarter. In 2011 the full moons will be 17 May, 15 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

Headlands of Tintamarre SXM-Beaches: Trip Advisor had a poll on beaches and nothing on the island (or even very close) made the top 25 in the world or the top 10 in the Caribbean. Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos was the best. I went out to Tintamarre this week. On the left is a shot of the headlands. The beach is to the right of this and is a few hundred yards of beach generally thirty to fifty feet deep. Nothing to rival the world's great beaches, but the only way to get here is by boat and there are no amenities. Bring your own and have a great and private day at the beach. You used to be able to snorkel on the reef and dig mud for mud baths, but now this is a nature preserve and those activities are forbidden. There's more info below under activities.

The panoramic shot below was taken from our Caribbean-side balcony late in the afternoon. It's Lambada on the left and Random Wind wind on the right, with Saba in the background.

Lambada, Random Wind, and Saba

Bird Artist   Beach reading: The Bird Artist by Howard Norman - Martha liked this very much. From the Amazon.com Review: Though judging a book by its cover is ill-advised, assessing The Bird Artist by its first paragraph is a safe bet. Howard Norman's second novel lives up to all expectations promised by the kind of beginning that makes a reader beg for more and then panic that the rest will not be as good: "My name is Fabian Vas. I live in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. You would not have heard of me." "Obscurity is not necessarily failure, though; I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living at it. Yet I murdered the lighthouse keeper, Botho August, and that is an equal part of how I think of myself."

There are echoes of Vladimir Nabokov's infamous narrator, Humbert Humbert, in Fabian's confessional tone, witty humor, and emotional detachment from the series of bizarre events he describes. Set at the turn of the century in a remote cod-fishing community, The Bird Artist is a love story of sorts, filled with curious characters and a chowder restaurant. The men wear "knitted underwear all year round lined with fleece calico" and periodically escape the island to pursue their livelihoods on the sea. But the women are land bound. Helen Twombly suspects fellow villagers of stealing her milk bottles. Alaric Vas suffers from arthritis that no liniment relieves and plots her son's arranged marriage with a fourth cousin in Richibucto, New Brunswick. Meanwhile, Fabian's childhood love, Margaret Handle, propels herself and the plot forward with unwieldy energy. How did things for a mild-mannered man who just likes "to wake up early, wash my face, and get out and draw birds" go so wrong?

Norman, a folklorist and naturalist, presents us with the possible explanations in the form of fine details from an island life he researched while living in a remote Inuit whale-hunting community. He carefully examines the inner isolation of his characters. The severe landscape and the weather serve as the perfect metaphor. If you're looking for linguistic pyrotechnics, Norman's economy won't suit you. In The Bird Artist--a finalist for the 1994 National Book Award--there is as much to admire on the page as what's not. --Cristina Del Sesto

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 2011 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."

From our lagoon-side balcony we have a view of the lagoon, the tower at the defunct Belle Créole resort, the Anguilla Channel, and finally Anguilla.

  lagoon, Belle Créole, and Anguilla

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.

Admin building SXM-Hotels: The Daily Herald story about short-lease timeshares was an April Fools Day joke or as the French say Poisson d'Avril. I did pretty much play it straight and even embellish it with the short-term lease trickery and timeshare fiasco candidates. I got an email from a long time resident telling me that it was a joke and I fell for it. At that point I had to tell them that I guess they had not checked the last paragraph (now with a few more words added). She replied that if I had fooled her, that several other people must be fooled. Before I answered that email, I got another one telling me I was fooled! There is a long history of April Fools Day jokes:

"This article is related to the famous [fake] BBC Documentary [concerning the 1957 Swiss spaghetti harvest]. Wikipedia has some information on the [fake] documentary, but there is much more information on this page [from the Museum of Hoaxes]. There is a BBC ad [featuring Terry Jones from Monty Python (not Pastor Terry Jones) and flying penguins] worth seeing.

Neci Activities: After another dinner at Skipjack's we headed over to Pineapple Pete and caught Ronny. We really like his guitar work, especially when he covers Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits. Last week we had a shot of Niki and this week the beauty on the left is Neci. Obviously, they are both pretty, but it isn't obvious that they are both about 6 feet tall and in great shape. I think Pete has the makings of a great beach volleyball team here. Who knows what his next venture may be?

Well actually, I do. A couple nights later we were enjoying another set with a pair of Sam Adams when he handed me flyer advertising Open Mic Night at The Alley, his late nightclub and lounge. Amin will be playing and three performers will compete for prizes. It's on Thursday night starting at 9PM, Caribbean time.


Mud people We went on a sail to Tintamarre aboard Celine with Captain Neil Roebert. Celine is a 40 foot cat making her fairly stable, which was good as we got into 6-8 foot chop after we came through the French Bridge and cleared Marigot's protective hills. Neil made a great lunch featuring seafood paella after we spent the morning on Tintamarre's beach. We then headed back stopping for a snorkel at Créole Rock. We made a final stop at Happy Bay where we used some mud that Neil supplied for an exfoliation session.

I was looking at the blog on Random Wind's website and found out that Diane had "lost" 548 emails. Essentially, they were not being forwarded to her. She thought she was having a down year, probably even normal in these economic times. Add in the Pelican closure and she was almost relieved to find out what had happened. So, if she did not reply to you earlier this season, that's why. She's still in business, the Tarzan swing still beckons.


Random Wind

Duck breast Groceries: The Lido group closed their large store in Cole Bay. They were competing with the Daily Extra and the fairly new Market Garden. They also had an outpost at Maho that was fairly small and stayed open late, but still had good prices. That store has changed its name to Maho Market and they are still small and stay open late. Prices are another story. Late on Sunday we decided we needed a bit of shopping and as the deeply religious Dutch side forces groceries to close on the Sabbath, we headed over to the US Market in Sandy Ground. As the euro has risen about 10% lately, we ended up paying about 10% more for most things. When the exchange rate is stable, it doesn't matter too much. If a farmer in France sells his cheese for 10 euros per pound, the French side pays ten euros and marks it up to 11 euros. At the same time, the Dutch side buys it for $13 (if the exchange rate is 1.3) and marks it up to $14.30.

After a month of dollar devaluation to an exchange of 1.42, the French side is selling the cheese for 11 euros but that is now $15.62 and the Dutch side is still selling for $14.30. It works the other way on the way down. In theory this works the same way in restaurants, but restaurants tend to print menus once per season (or even less frequently). Grocery stores can reprice instantly.

Deepti Shopping: On Monday we headed into Pburg to talk to Deepti at DK Gems. Actually, Martha talked, I tried to go to the bank. In case you've never done that here, don't go on Mondays or Fridays. Everybody gets paid on Fridays and needs money for the weekend so they cash their checks. On Monday they find out they spent everything and are back for more cash. The banks are so backward that every transaction takes a long time. The line was out the door, and so was I. Martha is looking at a lovely necklace of their own design. It has a boatload of diamonds and is priced accordingly. One of the good things about DK Gems is that they can produce a modification of many of their designs. (I'm hoping for fewer diamonds)

Alcohol: I could not find any more Angostura Rum at Sunny Foods but I did end up getting a bargain on the 1.14 liter Mount Gay Eclipse ($10). I also got some 12 year old Appleton Estate ($14.30 for 750l). I needed another one and got it at Grand Marché for $13.50. It pays to shop around.

Traffic: It hasn't been too bad, even though they are digging a trench from the Dutch bridge toward the airport. The trench runs next to the lagoon-side of the road and totally disrupts parking at any business on that side. Luckily (and I believe it is more luck than forethought) they only do a hundred feet at a time and backfill that before proceeding. Add six bridge openings per day and any trips to or through Simpson Bay need to be considered carefully. I did leave Cupecoy at 10AM, dodging the 9:30AM opening, did some business in Cole Bay, and got back onto my side of the bridge before the 11AM opening.

Sylvain, whose day job is at Select Wine Cellar in Cole Bay got caught traffic jam created when a truck overturned and slid into the Kruytoff roundabout. He was there for about two hours at the end of the day and never made his night job as the sommelier at Moulin Fou.

Nature: Bernadine Ali runs the Local Rums & Spices shop high above Orient Beach. The shop supports her and the many stray cats and dogs that she rescues. We always stop in to pick up some flavored rum, some tasty chutneys, great hot sauces, and some island spices. You can also have good lunch at Paradise View Restaurant and enjoy the great view. Green logo
Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: There was a thread on TTOL concerning differences in language between the US and SXM. One of our favorites is the use of OK for hello or good-by. It's all part of the fun.

  Local Rums and a rescued cat


SXM-Info welcomes two new prizes to the list:
LAW Car Rental website Half off the posted rates on a week's rental - Taxes and insurance are NOT included.
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - any night except Friday

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 210 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
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
LAW Car Rental - Half price car for a week
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
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two

Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form.

One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining accommodations with dinners and activities.

Future Contests:
23 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 3 April the euro was at 1.423 and today it is at 1.448. The European Central Bank raised rates from 1.00% to 1.25%, the first increase by a major bank since the financial meltdown began. Portugal followed Ireland and Iceland in requesting a bailout, estimated at 60®€ billion. The Europeans respond to problems while the US threatens to shut down the government and the euro goes up another penny.

ZEN Café and California Restaurant are still offering 1 to 1. La Villa in Grand Case is offering 1 to 1 for cash. Almost all other restaurants on the French side that we have visited have offered us a better rate that we would get from our credit card or a bank. There is no doubt that they want your business.

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 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.

Pizza Galley
  On Sunday night we drove out to Simpson Bay for a visit to the world-famous Pizza Galley run by Lorna and JP. Their world-wide reputation is maintained via the circulation of the Daily Herald ("all the news that fits") and the fact that Pizza Galley has regularly won (or placed) in the best dessert and best pizza categories of the Daily Herald's reader's survey for many years. We ordered a small salad and split it (plenty for two), the JP Special Pizza (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese, $16), and the house wine, the Mon Redon Cotes du Rhone for about $23. It's a quality rhone blend that is fine with pizza. JP was a bit worried about the bottle because Mon Redon have just switched to screw-tops. He's a bit of a purist, but I have had quite a few good wines come in screw-tops lately. Some very good white wines do, and as they don't get cellared for ten years, I don't think it matters. Red wines are another story, but a Cotes de Rhone will not be cellared for ten years either. This was four years old, actually three and a half, and probably only two and a half in the bottle. It was fine. It was a great meal perfectly filling for the two of us and only cost $45 plus a tip for JP and his daughter.

And on to the usual discussion with JP about dining and the restaurant business. The first thing to know is that the Lady C floating bar is no longer behind the Pizza Galley, so JP has more room and a great view of the megayachts. The Lady C may be back, but she is being repaired at the moment. Nothing is certain with old wooden boats. JP said he had been to Jimmy Goldman's new rooftop establishment at Maho and was impressed. Living six floors up, I'm not quite as impressed with height and we're not much for late night clubs/lounges. JP said Jimmy's other new venture, Brother Jimmy's BBQ, seems to be doing well. I find it hard to believe that a high-priced BBQ joint can compete in the land of lolos. The answer is that Jimmy can take a concept and swank it up. His ribs are bigger and better than those in the lolos and his process is better, and the accoutrements from the room, to the waitstaff, to the bourbons that are available, are better. JP asked about La Source, the small but good restaurant, in the Marigot Marina. We have really like the special dinners that David does sporadically, but as JP works almost every evening, he is more interested in lunches. So I left it to him to tell me. Maybe we'll get a review this summer.

  JP and Lorna at the Pizza Galley Salad JP special  

Marrakech Restaurant
On Monday night we headed to an exotic dinner at Marrakech Restaurant in Marigot near the stadium on Rue de Hollande. We found plenty of parking across the street from the restaurant. We started with the Badoit water and a bottle of the 2009 Halana Syrah from Morocco (right, 34€). Syrah is similar to Shiraz (and Zinfandel) and was good with the spicy food to follow. We usually have the appetizer that is an assortment of a dozen "salads" with a side dish of spicy harissa and a basket containing slices of warm pita bread (at 2.75€ per dish). They are not exactly salads as we know them, but cold appetizers featuring vegetables. We had potato salad and egg with garlic, a tomato and onion jam, and preserved lemon and tomatoes with cilantro. (below left)

  Halana Syrah, pita bread, olives, and harissa  
  We added the merguez sausage because owner, Toufiq Lalou, convinced me to have the moules tajine as a main course (rather than my usual merguez). Martha had the long cooked lamb shank tajine. It's certainly a different set of spices than we use in the west. Moreover, they blend different flavors, often combining sweet (raisins) with savory (onions, preserved lemons). For the most part, the meal was not hot spicy, although adding a dab of harissa would accomplish that, if desired. It was full-flavored and the wine was wonderful with the meal. I thought the mussels were a wonderful dish, and lovely. The contrasting tastes and textures wonderful. We packaged up enough for two lunches and finished with complimentary glasses of wine for dessert. The tajines and couscous dishes start below 20€ and reach the mid 20s and the lamb and moules were at the expensive end. Our total dinner (with two lunches in the fridge) cost $142 using $1.3/€, a good exchange rate. I think that is quite inexpensive, especially when the wine was about $42. Martha often cooks Moroccan dishes at home, consulting Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. It's very interesting food at good prices with good service and nearby parking.


  Appetizers Moules tajine Lamb tajine  

Tropical Wave

On Tuesday we went to Tropical Wave on Galion Beach. The weather got over its morning drizzle and was warm and mostly sunny with a good breeze by the time we got over to the far side of the island. Pat Turner at Tropical Wave rents kayaks, snorkeling gear, paddleboats, and more. He won the multi-hull class in the regatta with Tryst, his trimaran, a few weeks ago in very light wind. It appears that the newer fiberglass speedsters are optimized for a bit more wind than was here for the regatta. There are three lovely panoramic photos on the Tropical Wave website. Two show the long sweep of the beach and the third shows Tryst at anchor in the bay with St Barts in the distance.

Pat usually has a fish special and we usually have that, especially now that Sylvie, the kitchen wizard from Pirate Beach Bar, is now here. I had the special which was salmon and scallops in a creamy sauce in papillote. It came with salad and fries or baked potato (15€, top). Martha had the grilled Mahi with salad and the baked potato. The papillote was aluminum foil, and it probably works better than the real thing. On the beach we generally go with a rosé, and the Carte Noir was quite readonably priced at 16€. Our entire lunch came to 44.40€ and was converted at a mere 1.3 exchange rate to $58. The full menu is on the website and there are a couple coupons there to save you some money on lunch and watersports.

There are few things as interesting as sitting down with Pat at lunch and discussing what the island was like when he arrived. He was here long before Hurricane Luis and has plenty of tales.

  Salmon in papillote



News and Changes: We have reworked the article on restaurants in the lowlands that we wrote a couple years ago. There are recipes for a four course meal in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Cucumber Vichyssoise from Ti Sucrier Restaurant, a recipe for the famous Mussels from Mario's Bistro, a recipe for Rack of Lamb from Montmartre, and a recipe for Coconut Blancmange from Les Boucaniers. Ti Sucrier logo

The lovely restaurant book, Best Gastronomy finally arrived on the island. Many restaurateurs spent big bucks to put themselves in this book only to have it arrive for the beginning of low season. Sounds like St Maarten Events. After two years of arriving late (with excellent excuses), I can't even find a copy on the island this year.

David at La Source in Marigot's Marina Royale will be featuring a Bistronomique four course menu (or a la carte, if you prefer) on Thursday 21 April. The price is 39€ or $52. It will feature cuisine from the southwest of France. Send an email or phone (590) 27 17 27, if you are interested. Here's the menu:


Dégustation de Jurançon Domaine Castera 2008
et mise en bouche surprise
A glass of wine and a surprise!

Le duo gourmand : Petite frisée aux gésiers confits
et foie gras mi-cuit au torchon
Gizzard confit and foie gras

Cassoulet Toulousain aux haricots Tarbais
Cassoulet from Toulouse made with Tarbais beans
Confit de canard, cèpes persillés et pommes de terres Salardaises
Duck confit with fried thin-sliced potatoes with garlic and parsley

Rocamadour, bouquet de Roquette et sablé au pur brebis
Cheese, arugula, and a sheep's cheese cracker
Pêche blanche de Gascogne pochée en marmite façon Melba
Special Peach Melba

Montmartre has closed. The windows are papered over as if something secret is happening inside. A small note says that a new restaurant will be here on 30 April, Caribbean time.

Dominique Dutoya (from La Marine and St Severin) is cooking at a small restaurant near the Patio Hotel off Rue de la Republique in Marigot.


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 was 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 transportation 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."