St Maarten/St Martin
24 July 2011 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Cupecoy sunset Weather: It really turned into summer in late June with the daytime temperatures up into the high 80s and nighttime temperatures in the high 70s. All the while, there was a 40 to 50% chance of precipitation. Recently the chance of thunderstorms has increased to 70% and the temperatures may even be slightly hotter. Stay near the beach! Maybe you'll get a photo like the one on the left taken from the cliffs of Cupecoy showing the sun setting into the haze on the far horizon.

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 tonight will be at 6:50 PM. In 2011 the full moons will be 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

SXM-Beaches: The panorama below is a shot of all of Great Bay stretching from the cruise ship pier to the Divi Peninsula with Fort Amsterdam on the headlands. The 12 meter boats are racing in the middle of the harbor. There is one on each side of Saba, 26 miles across the Caribbean. This shot was stitched together from several shots taken from Antoine Restaurant during a lunch last spring. The shot on the right is a telephoto shot of the sailboats taken over the tops of the palms on Antoine's beach. It's a lovely place to spend the day if you come in on a cruise ship. Do all your shopping as you walk down to a lovely lunch and then spend the afternoon at the quiet end of Great Bay. Sailboats on Great Bay

Gallis Bay

The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook Beach reading: The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook by Amy Farges - It's out of print, but used copies area available for about $3 - From Amazon: "No one has done more to popularize mushrooms in America than Amy Farges, food writer and co-owner of the national mushroom distributor Aux Delices Des Bois. And now that Ms. Farges made sure mushrooms are available, she shows what to do with them. THE MUSHROOM COOKBOOK AND PRIMER is an inspiration-a mushroom extravaganza with 175 exquisite yet easy-to-make recipes, plus a Mushroom 101 guide to selecting, storing, cleaning, and cooking, plus a primer with full profiles and photographs of 40 exotic mushrooms. Full of sweet succulence, toothsome crunch, and haunting flavors from earthy to fruity to seafood-like, mushrooms offer the home cook a dazzling range of possibilities. Here are finger foods: Morels with Calvados, Ovoli and Fig Crostini, Wild Mushroom Bruschetta. Lighter offerings: Porcini Carpaccio, Cream of Asparagus Soup with Roasted Cremini, Blewitt and Crab Rolls. Glorious pairings: Risotto with Corn and Chanterelles, Sirloin Steak with Wine Caps, Mustard-coated Lamb Chops with Wild Oysters, Truffled Lobster with Cilantro Butter, Duck and Shiitake Tortillas. And the unexpected: Black Trumpet Biscuits, Portobello and Basil Salsa, Hen of the Wood Ravioli. A dozen fitting mushroomless desserts offer the irresistible finish." OK, you might not read this on the beach, but it is a book we use in the kitchen.

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are back in NY at this time, so our condo is available. The rates range 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."

The shot on the right is the telephoto view of an apartment building in the bosom of Les Mammelles in in the French lowlands taken from our lagoon-side balcony. We've been told that Dutch-side government workers/politicians retire there.

  French lowlands

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.

The Daily Herald reported that the island MPs voted to pave the way for timeshare legislation. It's not exactly the same as passing any timeshare legislation, but I suppose it could be the start. Specifically, they instructed the Council of Ministers to allocate an amount of NAf (still using NAf, despite the fact that there is no NA) 200,000 from the tourism budget to be used solely for the drafting and amending legislation that will protect the rights of timeshare owners and create a timeshare regulatory board.

Beach at Azure at night SXM-Hotels: Mike and Fawnette at Azure Beach Studios have just changed their 50% off notice to 20% on their lovely rooms on Simpson Bay. On the left is a nighttime shot of the beach and the studios.

Zuzu said she would take do 10% off on all her rental villas and condos. That includes Acropole Villa and Coconut Cottage in Orient and California Apartments and Pavillon Beach in Grand Case. She'll also take 10% off on catamaran charters (see below). These reductions are valid May to October. And while she was being so expansive, she mentioned a free mimosa cocktail with the brunch at Paradise View (right).

Paradise View
Diane cushions Activities: News from Diane of Random Wind: "We're on vacation in the US now. We got great new cushions on the amidships for serious lounging. We are having a great season - still number on on Trip Advisor and having a blast.

We have added a section on the Boardwalk Segway Tour to our attractions page. We've watched young and old alike traveling up and down the boardwalk for several years.


Shiitake mushrooms Groceries: These shiitake mushrooms came from our mushroom plantation here in NY. We actually felled some oaks and inoculated four foot sections with shiitake mushroom spawn before half-burying them in a large sandbox. It has been a great season for mushrooms. We had heavy snow cover which actually prevented the ground from freezing deeply and provided plenty of moisture, although the snowfall was negligible compared to the rains we got in the spring. I add these mushrooms to my morning omelet and love them with shallots as an accompaniment to a good steak. Both Grand Marché and US Market have a good selection of fresh mushrooms. Sang's in Pburg generally has some dried mushrooms at lower prices. They are very easy to reconstitute by putting the desired amount into a bowl of water. Microwave for 30-60 seconds and let them stand for a few minutes. They are perfect for cooking.

In the US, both Olive Nation and the Gourmet Food Store have a good selection of dried mushrooms.

Alcohol: The 31 May 2011 Wine Spectator featured an article by James Molesworth on Bordeaux. The big news is that 2009 is being hyped as the best year of the decade with a 95-100 rating. 2000 was a close second and 2005 next. However, all years were good with 2002 and 2007 as the worst at a very good 85-87 rating. We'll probably see a lot of the 2007 vintage on the island this fall and possibly a few bottles from 2008. The top rated 2008s, coming in at 94, were three of the usual suspects (Ch Ausone, Ch Latour, and Ch Mouton-Rothschild) costing about $1200 per bottle. The surprise was Ch Leoville-Las-Cases ($170). That's still a bit steep for my taste, especially if you double or triple these prices to get restaurant prices. Molesworth did go on to find some wine that we might drink: Ch Feret-Lambert, Ch Lillian, Ch Puygueraud, Ch Reynaud, Ch Teyssier, and Ch Le Thil. All these were in the $11 to $20 per bottle range. The lesson is that the big names found in all listings of the great classified growths of 1855 will cost more than most of us spend on wine. If you want to drink decent Bordeaux at a reasonable price, read experts like Molesworth, although his recommendations may be hard to find. The alternative is to develop a relationship with a reliable wine shop. They can steer you toward the wine that you would like best in the price range you specify. On the island there are several. We tend toward Select Wine Cellar, although Vinissimo, Le Gout du Vin, and Bacchus have good wine and personnel.

Obviously, when you are back in the US, you should establish a relationship with a good local store. Lacking that, or in addition to that, check out Lot18. They offer short-lived sales on various wines. Right now they have Rua, a Napa wine that is made in a Pomerol style at $30. Buy four and shipping is free. The sale only lasts for 48 hours so I can't get it, taste it, and recommend it. I can say that I have bought several good wines from Lot 18 at good prices.

You can read more about Bordeaux in our features section.


Travel: After reading this post on TTOL, I checked my flights on Continental. We go Albany - EWR - SXM in January and return in April. I had no problem booking a few weeks ago and had the itinerary and record locater. I went to the CO site and pulled up the itinerary and they only had the ALB-EWR out and back flights, giving me a three month vacation in Newark in the winter. I called CO and 45 minutes later I got a call back. After about half an hour I was booked on the UA flight to SXM and back. It seemed obvious to me that the UA flight had no record of my previous reservations. I'm sure they would have sold our seats if they had a buyer. My advice, if you have reservations on CO for the EWR-SXM flight check to see that you really do have reservations ASAP.

Nature: This is the famous breadfruit that Captain Bligh of the Bounty was attempting to bring back to the West Indies as food for the slaves. Fletcher Christian led a mutiny which led to several books and movies. Further expeditions actually brought back some breadfruit and some of the mutineers, but it turns out that the slaves did not like breadfruit. This one was just off the Marigot waterfront.

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



Contest Winners for 24 April to 24 July 2011
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - D. McCadney
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Helene Cisek
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - D. McCadney
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - Sandy Lehman
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Sandy Lehman
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Sandy Molly
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Helene Cisek
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - D. McCadney
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Tina Simons
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October) - D. McCadney
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - D. McCadney
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Shelli Jacobs

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:

24 July to 30 October 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
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:
30 October to 25 December 2011 | 25 Dec 2011 to 19 Feb 2012 | 19 Feb to 15 April 2012
same cast of characters as current contest



On 12 June the euro was at 1.436 and today it is at 1.436. That looks as if nothing has happened, when in fact, it was a rather tumultuous six week ride back to the same location. It was the usual PIIGS problems making the euro look ugly followed by our government stumbling toward a shutdown. Repeat that a few times over six weeks and the financial markets declare a pox on both your houses, leaving the exchange rate back where it started.

California Restaurant is still offering 1 to 1. La Villa and Piazza Pascal, also 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.

Ma Ti Beach

Wendy K went with a friend to Ma Ti Beach in Nettle Bay last spring. I don't believe they have a website and info is so scarce that my mention in 2006 that a new restaurant, Ti Sucrier, was across the street from Ma Ti Beach comes up third in Google searches for "Ma Ti Beach". In both cases the Ti is a contraction for petite, small. Ti Sucrier is the Little Sugarbird and Ma Ti Beach is My Little Beach, and the beach is little as the photo in the Nettle Bay feature demonstrates. The photo on the right was taken facing in the opposite direction, ie to the west, looking at the ruins of La Belle Créole. You can make out the bell tower, the tall white structure just left of center.
Belle Creole
As you can see on the right, the view off toward Marigot is quite pleasant. There are tables inside and outside, with several large tables outside. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. The menu is fairly large and there were a few specials. Lunch started with some crisp and tasty nems (below left) and moved on to a large duck breast salad (below center) and beef tartare complete with a raw egg (below right). The presentations were lovely and the food was tasty. There is a wine list which produced a nice glass of rosé and a full bar. All in all, the lunch seemed to a good value as as service was also good and the view was a bonus. View from the table
Nems Duck salad Steak Tartare

Sol é Luna Restaurant
When we took a vacation last spring, we traveled from our condo in Cupecoy to Lighthouse Villa 1A in Oyster Pond to stay with two other couples. The unit is one of the best in the Lighthouse complex. That, of course, is an opinion, but it is one of the largest, especially when the outside terraces and pool are included. As Oyster Pond is ringed with hills, even the top floors don't get much better views, so the ability to access the private ground level terraces is an advantage without the usual drawback. Moreover, there are guards protecting the entrance to Oyster Bay Beach Resort and another gated wall surrounding Lighthouse, so a ground floor is quite safe.

But this is about restaurants. One night we took advantage of our proximity to to Sol é Luna Restaurant in Mont Vernon. It's owned by Chef Christian and his wife, Bridget, who runs the front of the house. New for this year, daughter Charlotte is running the Pearl Nightclub at the end of the runway in Simpson Bay. With reservations, we were offered several tables and choose one out on the terrace. The restaurant is surrounded by spectacular landscaping and the interior is breath-taking, truly one of the loveliest restaurants on the island.

We had been dining like mad fools, so I didn't take copious notes nor even photograph every dish. The photos speak for themselves. The dishes were as beautiful as the surroundings and tasty. The monkfish rolls featured firm-fleshed monkfish in a crispy roll with crunchy wakame seaweed (below left). The ris de veau (sweetbreads) with a morel sauce were fantastic (below center). Below right is the tuna tartare - top quality tuna with a delicious dressing and more crunchy wakame seaweed.

Seabass Sweetbreads Tuna tartare
To the right is conchiglioni. That's the name of the pasta because it is shaped like a conch shell. Normally the pasta is larger and stuffed but in this case it was used to backup the fabulous seafood which included shrimp, clams, mussels, and squid. Below left is a Chilean seabass on a bed of vegetables. In the center is a shrimp and scallop combo featuring some of the largest shrimp and scallops to be found on the island. The solitary meat-eater had a wonderful veal dish with more morels. There was a dessert split six ways and some wonderful wine. It's not cheap, but it is one of the finest dining experiences on the island. Conchiglioni
Seabass Shrimp and scallops Conchiglioni

2011 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Antoine Restaurant Open all summer, closed only for lunch on Sunday
Bistrot Caraibes No vacation
California Restaurant closed on Mondays
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Mario's Bistro 1 September until mid-October
Marrakech Restaurant No closing
L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
Closed until 29 June
Piazza Pascal No vacation, closed on Wednesday until December
Pizza Galley last weekend of July until 15 October
Skipjack's No closing
Sol é Luna closed September
La Villa No closing

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 (no longer with us), and a recipe for Coconut Blancmange from Les Boucaniers. Ti Sucrier logo

Last issue had a mention of a fine lunch at Bonita's Cantina. It appears that it will be our last. They have closed and an auction of the contents seems to be in the near future.

The Herald reported that Key Restaurant on Pinel Island is slated to be demolished, based on a ruling that the original owner did not have a valid building permit.


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."

Erich S. Kranz
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