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St Maarten/St Martin
30 January 2011 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Cupecoy down from Shore Point   Weather: Mid January weather was quite comfortable reaching the low 80s with occasional showers and a nice breeze. It has stayed that way for most of the month and the forecast for the coming week says it will range from 75 to 80 almost every day with a 20-30% chance of showers. In short, perfect weather for a beach vacation. On the left is a shot of Cupecoy taken from the southern edge of Shore Pointe looking to the south. 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 6:06 and the moon has just passed its last quarter. The US Navy thought you might like to know what the various definitions of sunrise, sunset, and twilight are.

In 2011 the full moons will be 18 Feb, 19 Mar, 18 Apr, 17 May, 16 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: In mid January the beach in front of Shore Pointe (Cupecoy) was still all rocks with some sand at the middle beach, but the water was really churned up. The baby beach has been standing room only, with more lemondrops (a boisterous group of nudists) arriving next week. A lot of the sand there has eroded in the last week. People who don't mind wearing bathing costumes have gone to Mullet where the swimming is fine. By 23 Jan, quite a bit of sand came back in front of Shore Pointe. Wendy K had her Sunday rum punch with only about a dozen other people there. The lemnodrops are still crammed in at the baby beach, but I'm sure it won't be long before they move down, assuming the sand remains. Which was not a good assumption. The photo on the right was taken two days later and reveals nary a grain of sand. The lesson to be learned from this is that the beach at Cupecoy is still moving about, much as it has since Hurricanes Luis and Lenny so radically removed sand over a decade ago.   Shore Point at Cupecoy

Cover   Beach reading: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson - about $8 for a paperback - From Publishers Weekly: Returning to the U.S. after 20 years in England, Iowa native Bryson decided to reconnect with his mother country by hiking the length of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail. Awed by merely the camping section of his local sporting goods store, he nevertheless plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance. Bryson (The Lost Continent) carries himself in an irresistibly bewildered manner, accepting each new calamity with wonder and hilarity. He reviews the characters of the AT (as the trail is called), from a pack of incompetent Boy Scouts to a perpetually lost geezer named Chicken John. Most amusing is his cranky, crude and inestimable companion, Katz, a reformed substance abuser who once had single-handedly "become, in effect, Iowa's drug culture." The uneasy but always entertaining relationship between Bryson and Katz keeps their walk interesting, even during the flat stretches. Bryson completes the trail as planned, and he records the misadventure with insight and elegance. He is a popular author in Britain and his impeccably graceful and witty style deserves a large American audience as well.

Construction: Porto Cupecoy is up and running. Most of the shops are open and many of the condos are finished. MY Odessa, a 50 meter (164 foot) luxury motor yacht built in 2007, pulled in last week. The owners suite and the VIP cabin are located on the main deck and she has accommodations for 10 guests in 5 staterooms. For fun, there are two tenders including a 21ft Castoldi jet tender and a SOLAS rescue tender. She is also equipped with a large host of toys including laser sailing dinghies, two waverunners, a windsurfer, waterskis, a wakeboard, towable inflatable toys, snorkelling gear and beach games. Communication equipment onboard includes V-SAT High speed internet access providing wireless internet throughout the boat. It's available for around $300,000 per week.

  Odessa at Porto Cupecoy

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are not in our condo at this time. It is available for rent for $1400 per week in high season. After April, the rates drop to $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."

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: The foreclosure and subsequent sale of Pelican was working so well that Jeff Berger was telling us to go there a week ago. It really did appear that things were going well which was amazing given the circumstances, but what a difference a week makes. The union wants to protect all jobs. The management said that they had offered to protect about 80%, but that was rejected. The union says it will walk off the job. Possibly an injunction can keep things in operation. The Daily Herald had a story but it would be best to get the latest info before heading down there.

I just got an email stating that "Unfortunately the bad saga of Caravanserai Beach Resort has now spilled into RCI not honoring anyone's points and RCI says call the resort because the resort has not allocated rooms to RCI ...all finger pointing." Troubles everywhere. You may be able to pick up something cheap, but until the management companies actually manage in a responsible and transparent manner any price at all may be too much to pay.

Ronny Santana and Ziggy Chan   Activities: Interested in music? We've liked Ronny "Santana" since he played at Portofino in Grand Case in the 90s. He's a great guitarist and covers a lot of Clapton, Dire Straits, etc. You can catch him at Pineapple Pete in Cole Bay most nights from 7 until 10PM. On Tuesday from 9:30 PM House of Blues n' More really rocks the joint. That's Ronny with Ziggy Chan on the left. Ziggy is a part-time waiter and part-time rapper. Bikini Beach on Orient frequently has bands in the afternoon. We've seen James Chance on trumpet with a guitarist and Mr Skin on guitar (that's him on the right). Blue Martini in the center of Grand Case has bands three nights per week. We've also had a great time on Simpson Bay Beach when Karakter has a beach party.

CIN Art Gallery (located upstairs at Puerta del Sol Plaza, Simpson Bay, Airport Road) announces that at 7:00PM on Thursday (3 February) Ms. Elsje Bosch, the Founder and

  Mr Skin
Director of the Sint Maarten Heritage Museum will present a talk entitled "The Joy of Collecting." Not only will she let us know what it takes to start and maintain "a collection" but she will also give us an inside of her own personal collections and that of the Museum. (The talk will be in the gallery and seating is limited, so please come early!) Following the talk, they will be celebrating the opening of our new show called "COLORS" featuring a variety of color plays with jewelry by Isabelle Souccar and oil paintings by the sisters Trimborn, with the main focus on the new work of Corinna Trimborn.

Alcohol: Last newsletter I talked about Oregon Pinot Noirs and obviously, great minds think alike as Eric Azimov put together a panel to taste twenty of them. Here are the results. He mentions that great vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy are for "those with the time, patience, storage and disposable income to give them the required aging." Smart consumers unable or unwilling to wait for long-term aging are often better served with good rather than great vintages. He claims that the 2008 Oregon vintage was superb, and while they "will reward in 10 years or so of aging, ... many of them will still give a great deal of pleasure now." Their top three were the Belle Pente Willamette Valley ($23), the WillaKenzie Willamette Valley ($27), and the very one that was mentioned in the last newsletter, the Adelsheim Willamette Valley ($26). Admittedly, mine tasted better because I only paid $17 at The Wine Cask in Somerville, MA.

Greg Del Piaz debunks a few wine predictions for 2011 and makes his own here. I tend to agree with him, especially the part about the world being awash in wines at this point in the recession. Don't jump on the first price for a first release, wait for sales and stock up.

  Adelsheim

Oil prices   Gas: The Dutch side just lowered gas prices??? Don't get too excited, as they went from 2.11 guilder cents per liter to 2.10 guilder cents per liter, which doesn't seem to jibe with the graph on the left. In any event, gas costs about $4.60 per gallon on the Dutch side, about 40% more than here in NY. It's generally cheaper at the Cadisco stations on the French side (Orient and Sandy Ground) that sell it for about 1 per liter but offer 1 to 1 on the dollar/euro exchange, making it less than $4 per gallon. I wouldn't drive too far for the savings but if you found yourself at Orient Beach, you should fill up the tank.

Travel: Travel was mess over the last month, with many flights canceled by storms sweeping along the east coast. We had a tenant in our condo who emailed to ask if he could stay longer as his flight back to NY was canceled.

I had not booked another tenant (and, even if I had, that tenant probably would not have been able to get to the island) so I told current occupant he could stay. When he returned two days later, he immediately offered two days extra payment. I told him that one day was sufficient as he had been inconvenienced. Then I got to thinking about it. He had two extra days in paradise while I was running a tractor up and down the driveway removing a foot of snow as the temperature hovered near zero. Who was inconvenienced? Green logo

Nature: That's a merlin looking for a snack from the trees outside my office. And yes, it was taken during one of the blinding snowstorms that bottled up traffic up and down the east coast recently. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: On the Friday night, 21 Jan, GEBE had yet another power failure. I'm not sure how wide it was, but it certainly stretched from the airport to Cupecoy, as it was dark in Cupecoy and you could hear the planes circling because the airport lights were off. That also suggests the backup generators and/or lights at the airport were also out.

  Merlin


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Current Contest:

26 December 2010 to 27 February 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
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:
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

 


RESTAURANTS


On 16 January the euro was at 1.339 and today it is at 1.361. Krugman had a long piece in the NY Times Magazine about the future of the Eurozone, entitled Can Europe Be Saved?. It started on May 9, 1950 when Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, proposed that his nation and West Germany pool their coal and steel production, fashioning a new Coal and Steel Community. Over the next 30 years, it evolved into a customs union within which all goods were freely traded between an ever increasing number of countries. Over the next 20 years the widening of the zone slowed, as it deepened. This brought the next step wherein all countries would offer similar social benefits and taxes and, of course, one cannot have a free trade in sausage and cheese without establishing exactly what sausage and cheese are - and are not! It led to great comedy and there was an episode on Yes Minister where the Minister was informed that the traditional British banger would no longer qualify as a sausage, but would have to be an "Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tube." And if you think that's funny, you should look into the various US laws concerning milk, cheese, and cheese products. At this point, the powers in Europe felt that they were ready for a single currency. The euro existed as a computer currency for all of 1999 and became real (or at least paper) in 2000. Some of the good things happened: trade increased and perennial poor countries of Europe found they could borrow money at the same rate as the powerhouse German state. Not all good things are unmitigated good things however. Some people and/or countries borrowed too much (quite a bit for real estate) and we are where we are today with the PIIGS threatening the existence of not only the Euro, but the entire Eurozone concept. The problem is the single currency connected to a weak political federation. The PIIGS cannot devalue their currency in an attempt to put their citizens back to work and the powers in Brussels don't want to bail them out. Krugman sees four possible outcomes: Toughing it out a la the Baltic nations (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia), essentially what is happening; Debt restructuring, which is happening somewhat as PIIGS bonds yield higher interest rates than German bonds; Full Argentina, the Full Monty approach taken by Argentina wherein they abandoned the link between the peso and the dollar and repudiated their foreign debts; or a Revived Europeanism, the least grim of these options, but it requires the stronger nations to aid the weaker nations, the other part of what is happening. What will happen? Krugman doesn't say, but I wouldn't bet against the euro.

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.

Rainbow Caf

Wendy K reports: I went with our friend Ainslie and we both had tartare de boeuf (hand cut) 15/$ (1-1 for cash!) and drank a bottle of San Benedetto frizzante ($5) and a bottle of Carte Noire Rose ($24) and another glass of rose for me ($5) while Ains had cappucino ($5) and ice cream ($4 - 1 scoop), and the total bill was $74. We retired to our free beach chairs and umbrella for a wonderful swim in calm water such as I haven't seen since we've been here. Nice music too. I'm going back for sure - made me feel like I was on vacation! Ed note: The new owners have parking in the lot next door, solving one of Rainbow's nagging problems.

Beach
Tartare Carte Noir chairs

  Ti Bouchon  
Ti Bouchon Restaurant

There was an article in the NY Times about a new restaurant in NY called Lyon. Needless to say, it is a bouchon, a small, intimate restaurant that offer generous helpings of flavorful foods, serve local wine in pitchers, and have a convivial, possibly boisterous, atmosphere. The first place I think of is Ti Bouchon in Cul de Sac. It has moved away from its original take on a bouchon, but still has great food, generous portions, and a convivial host. Another place that comes to mind is Bellvue, on the outskirts of Marigot. That is their hanger steak on the right.

  Hanger steak  

Ti Provenal

Wendy K reports: We both had a special ap of tuna tartare and added some frites. The Chateau des Vingtinieres rose was 22. The food was wonderful and even though it had a a more limited and a bit more expensive menu than Rainbow, we think we'd return here for the food. (ed note: sometimes you do get what you pay for and the chef/owner, Herv Sageot, was a two time winner of the taste of St Martin award.) As you can see from the pics, the beach area isn't as developed, and the restaurant interior didn't look much different from when it was La Marine. Herv was talking to someone and appeared to be discussing some changes. The service was very friendly and efficient.

Grand Case has a few more restaurants doing lunch and beach this year, including LOVE in the old Chez Martine location. Despite, or possibly because of all these available locations, things were pretty quiet everywhere. The busiest appeared to be Rainbow.

Tartare and frites Carte Noir chairs

Antoine Restaurant
  In late January Wendy K went over Pburg for lunch at Antoine Restaurant. "We started with two glasses each of a merlot from the pays d'oc for $5 each and a bottle of fizzy water ($5). Our lunches were a cheeseburger at $9.50 and red snapper with potatoes and beurre blanc for $25. Both were very good. The total bill was $60 to which they added $9 for service and we added a bit more. It was the first time we've eaten in Philipsburg in several years, and the view of the boardwalk, Great Bay, and cruise ships was worth a trip."

 
  View to the east Burger Snapper with potatoes  


News and Changes: The article on restaurants at Orient Beach with recipes for a four course meal that we touted all last season has been published on the web in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Shrimp Dumpling Soup from Tai Chi Restaurant, a recipe for Goat Cheese Salad from Palm Beach Restaurant, a recipe for Beef Wellington from Kakao Beach, and a recipe for Coconut Flan from Rancho del Sol.   Rancho logo

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.

We've heard that Dominique DuToya from St Severin and La Marine has opened a new place in Marigot on Rue de Republique, near Richardson's gallery? More later.

We've heard that Hard Rock Cafe opened on the Boardwalk in Pburg near the center of town (ie near the water taxi wharf), thereby making all those previously sold bogus tee-shirts semi-legitimate. Here's their website. Don't expect to see us there anytime soon.


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


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
Escargot
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.

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 attached trial.

  Medjet: Take Trips Not Chances
   

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.