Logo

St Maarten/St Martin
20 February 2011 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings

ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Cupecoy sunset Weather: We arrived to continuing great weather: mid 70s for a low and low 80s for a high, a nice breeze and low humidity. Yes, we are in SXM and on the left is a Cupecoy sunset from Wednesday evening. The next day was quite clear and lacking any clouds on the horizon, the sun dipped into the Caribbean, ending in the elusive green flash. On the right is another sunset shot with Tango's sunset cruise passing the island of Saba on a cloudier evening. There was just the smallest drizzle during lunch on Friday. And having written the above on Saturday morning, I can now report that it really rained over lunch on Saturday and turned cloudy and cool, ie below 80F. Saturday's rain cleared the sky so Sunday has arrived rather clear and 79F at 9:00AM. We can see houses on Saba, Statia is visible, and an outline of part of St Kitts peeks through the distant haze. Cupecoy 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 6:14 and the moon was full two days ago. In 2011 the full moons will be 19 Mar, 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

SXM-Beaches: TTOL had a thread warning about repeated car break-ins at Bay of Prunes (Plum Bay - the confusion here is that Prunes in French means Plums in English). This is the very secluded beach past Bay Long in the French Lowlands. Cars park on the road and beach-goers reach the beach via a 100 yard fenced in path through dense undergrowth. The undergrowth hides the thieves and the long path allows a spotter to alert the looters if someone is approaching from the beach. It's a lovely, sparsely inhabited area with few beach-goers, but these same attributes encourage the thieves. Don't leave anything visible in the car and take everything out of the trunk. Of course, you may not want to take a spare tire and jack to the beach but they have been stolen.

The north-western beach at Cupecoy has some sand, but on Saturday it was rather rough, followed by a lunchtime downpour. On Sunday morning the swells are building and I can hear waves crashing on the beach.

  Plum Bay

Cover   Beach reading: Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise by Michele Owens - about $15 - From Amazon: Not only does Owens make an utterly convincing casein terms of healthfor getting out your shovel and creating a vegetable garden, her enthusiasm for the sheer fun of the endeavor is bound to win you over. Ruth Kassinger, author of Paradise Under Glass Michele Owens is truly the most eloquent, cosmopolitan, and opinionated garden writer since Katharine White. In Grow the Good Life, she makes a passionate and compelling case for returning vegetable gardening to its rightful place in the day-to-day lives of every American family. It is a witty, entertaining, and highly persuasive read. Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants

Martha, my wife and a chef in a former life, has returned to gardening, the pastime that led to her becoming a chef. We have about 6000 square feet of raised beds that provide us with most of our vegetables. She merits a few pages in the discussion on the taste of fresh grown food. In addition, there are several pages on my experiences with raising, chickens, rabbits, pigs, geese, turkeys, lambs, and ducks.

Blue Mall

Construction: On the left is Blue Mall with a Cupecoy sunset in the background. They are still working but say they will open in October. They built one of the taller structures on the island on the high point between the lagoon and Cupecoy Beach. It incorporates all the finer points of Russian Communist concrete block construction, softened only by a few swirls of other gray colors. Some day I'll tell you how I really feel. On the right is the rightmost bit of Blue Mall and all of Porto Cupecoy. One blocks the sun, sky, water, and view while the other blends.

Porto Cupecoy  

From our vantage point (admittedly six floor up) Porto Cupecoy does not even rise above the level of the hills in the background. It also offers varied, smaller buildings with different facades and fenestrations, even different angles on the buildings. It blends into the landscape and does look, as claimed in the sales literature, like a "village."

In other construction news, it has been reported that an elevator now works at Caravanserai. Here in SXM, we take our victories where we can. Elisha Otis founded his elevator company in 1853, so it is understandable that such an advanced engineering feat has taken so long to reach the third world.

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are on our way to 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."

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 Pelican saga continues. The union and the owners met separately with the government, but as of Saturday morning, it looks as if the resort will be closed on Sunday. Most of the independent businesses in the resort are open, but they can't be doing well. Their best news is that there should be more parking than usual. If nothing else, Pelican is making all the other resorts look better. I saw a thread on TTOL talking up the good points of Rainbow Beach and despite the complaints and lawsuits, there are some good points. It's open, if not fully air-conditioned because of owner-management issues. The interiors are quite nice, possibly not up to The Cliff or Lighthouse (Lighthouse Villa 1A and Lighthouse Villa 1B) standards, but still new, large, and handsome (inside, as I am not a great fan of the exterior.) The units on the cliff have great water and/or sunset views.

Activities: We went to 3 Palms for dinner on Tuesday night (more below) and were entertained by Dave Morris (right), the musician formerly known as Mr Skin. He did have a shaved head at one point.

After dinner we walked essentially next door to the Pineapple Pete empire to hear House of Blues n' More. Skipping the pineapple, the left hand photo has Ronnie on the left, Amin in the center and Yousef on the right. They were doing some reggae when I took the shot and Ronnie was on lead, Amin was doing the reggae rhythm, and Yousef was singing. The middle shot shows Jom Barnhoff stepping in to do some headbanging. You can see a bit of the bass player and there is a drummer in the back. The guy in the blue shirt, behind Jim is Fredo who shows up with a case full of harps and joins in often.

  Mr Skin
Pineapple Pete Blues and More Jim Barnhoff Fredo

Groceries: We did a lot of shopping, most of it at Grand March in Cole Bay. We were able to get fresh Guadeloupe tomatoes that are tasty and an almost ripe Guadeloupe melon. We bought a few cheeses (chaumes at $13.70 per lb, fourme d'ambert at $7.50 per pound, morbier at $7.10 per pound, and comt at $9.80 per pound). At US Market in Sandy Ground we picked up some Societe Roquefort on sale for about $16 per pound, a savings of about $7 per pound. It's expensive, but it is great, considerably tarter than the fourme d'ambert which is also a blue cheese (at half the price). We also bought more comt here at $11.60 per pound because Martha thought it would be better. In a blind taste test she did indeed pick the one we bought in France. We had to go to US Market to get some prosciutto (or similar) as the best that Grand March had to offer was black forest ham. We picked up some Bayonne ham for about $14 per pound and added that to the Guadeloupe melon with a glass of ros. Melon and Ros

Rhone wines Alcohol: Shortly after arriving we headed over to the Orange Grove Shopping Center to visit Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. It was Valentine's Day and we needed a few things per last week's newsletter. Our Champagne was the Deutz (as advertised) but the Burgundy was the 2006 Pommard Les Vaumuriens from Chantal Lescure ($59). Sylvain does not carry Jadot wines so the Chambolle-Musigny from the Amoureuses vineyard was out, but our Pommard was almost as good, if not quite in the Valentine theme. For an everyday Burgundy we picked up the 2007 Cote de Beaune "Le Clos de Topes Bizet" ($33) and our rather special Burgundy is currently a 2007 Chambolle-Musigny Les Mombies also from Chantal Lescure ($47). We picked up some whites, starting with the usual Chablis from Trembley, this time a 2009. To slake the thirst of the tired travelers, Sylvain had offered a 2009 Pouilly-Fum from Chatelier which we liked and ordered. We filled out the case with a white 2009 Pernand-Vergelesses from JJGirard, as an example of the luscious chardonnay from Burgundy, as opposed to the crisp Chablis style. The next day we stopped in during shopping and were offered the 2007 Crozes-Hermitage ($27.50) from Domaine Belle. In 2007 the Rhone region was the only French area that made very good wine and what they made was spectacular. We stop in frequently to taste (and buy) wines, often having lunch next door at Champagne Snack Bar. If you care to join us, send an email.

Travel: We had a fairly uneventful flight to SXM on Continental. Our first leg from Albany to Newark was delayed almost an hour by heavy air traffic in Newark. It mattered not at all to us as we had to overnight in Newark to wait for the morning non-stop to SXM. It turns out that no one was inconvenienced on our flight because all the connecting flights were being similarly delayed. We stayed at the Sheraton Newark Airport Hotel for about $150. They were chosen because they are cat friendly, although we did get a king-bedded room with lots of space in a rather new facility with an indoor pool and whirlpool. Another great feature was a 24 hour shuttle bus that ran every 20 minutes. The drivers were most helpful and when we were the only travelers on the 5:40AM shuttle, the driver asked which airline we were using. He then took us directly there rather than to the airtrain that would have delivered a varied group of travelers to their various terminals. It's probably not worth a Nobel Prize, but we certainly didn't miss schlepping our bags on and off the train. Lily does travel with us. She needs a health inspection from a vet within 7 days of traveling each trip and a $250 roundtrip ticket to ride under the seat in front of us. She also needs a bit of Valium to keep her calm. If that doesn't work, we take the rest. That's Lily in the shopping bag on our condo floor. Lily

We were met at the airport by Unity Car Rental. We were on-time. They were on-time. After a short drive to their lot, we were driving off. We rented on short notice and they couldn't give us the Getz we wanted, so they gave us a larger car at the Getz rate. Given this thread on TTOL, you can see that dealing with a bad rental car company is a terrible way start to a vacation and often has more ramifications than just a botched pickup at the airport. Note that if you read this thread as of Sunday morning, the offending rental car agency logged in and promised to make things right. Obviously, only as right as a few bucks after the fact can make things. Wasted vacation time is generally not replaceable.

Traffic: We've had no troubles with traffic this week and we have been shopping or dining out or both every day. Having typed that on Saturday morning, we broke another one of our rules and drove past the airport at noon. There was surprisingly little traffic, but the other side was backed up behind a wedding party being led by a horse-drawn carriage. The backup ran from the airport, around the runway, and almost to the bridge. The best thing to be said for the nitwits that would backup traffic for a mile at the airport on timeshare changover day was that they were getting wet, as it was an open carriage and it was raining.

Green logo

Nature: Here's some sugar birds at Hope Hill. Stop in and see Bernadine Ali at the Local Rums & Spices shop. She has several local island rums including Guavaberry, Ma Doudou, and Pre Labat from the island of Marie-Galante off Guadeloupe. She feeds the sugar birds and cares for strays and deserves our support. Have a lunch next door at Paradise View Restaurant. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: This section is usually snarky, so here is a warning that today it is merely heart-warming. We haven't had a very good year and our departure was fraught with anxiety coming from several directions: the weather, Martha's recent diagnosis, traveling overnight with the cat, and even our normal ride to the airport had gone on vacation. Everything seems to have worked out well, but the heart-warming part was at first the warmth of the sun when we deplaned, followed by the warmth and speed of the immigration officer, and the speed with which our luggage arrived. Best of all is walking out into the arrivals hall and hearing our name called. Yes, even the shuttle bus driver at Unity Cars knows us.

  Sugar birds


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 13 February the euro was at 1.355 and today it is at 1.367. That's almost a one percent change in a week. Those can add up to real change in month or two. Somebody borrowed 16 billion from the the European marginal lending facility (catchy name that). They don't disclose the name of the borrower, but it doesn't appear to have softened the euro in the least.

I'll be reporting exchange rates at various places in the next newsletter as we will be in SXM. 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.

3 Palms
We arrived on Valentine's Day, did some shopping, and unpacked the condo. At some point we cooked about half of a gourmet meal we planned before we faded into the bedroom. We were planning to do more work in the morning and have a bit more of the goodies we had bought for dinner when we were invited to Betty Vaughan's birthday party. This was a five-year birthday, so it was a major affair, not the usual party at Horny Toad Guesthouse, nice though that is. This was a real sit-down dinner at a restaurant for Betty and 26 of her closest friends. She chose 3 Palms and a menu offering two aps and four main courses. This place used to be Peg Leg Pub, back when it had a pub-like atmosphere, ie dark and a focus on a rather large bar. It was totally remodeled into 3 Palms a few years ago and changed hands a few times before it reached its current state. The bar area looks quite swank (elegant cosmopolitan and modern touches) although things taper off a bit as one heads out onto the dock/dining area - still nice, but not the high-toned fashion found in the lounge. We started with either French onion soup or a Caesar salad. Martha had the salad and was pleased and for the first time in 15 years, I had French onion soup in a warm climate. It was perfectly tasty, if a bit hotter and more robust than a Caribbean night requires. Caesar salad
Pork tenderloin I had the pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon (left). It came with a nice medley of veg and a starch with decorative sauce drizzled on the plate. Martha had a snapper with risotto. Also available were a bit of salmon and a chicken breast stuffed with lobster and served with basmati rice. Despite serving 27 people, the kitchen and serving staff managed quite well. I ordered a Concannon Pinot Noir off the wine list for only $20. The wine list was large (150 wines) and well conceived. I had been here two years ago and it was OK, not good enough to bring us back, but certainly decent food. Last season we kept hearing ads on the radio about the great bar scene and new owners. That was enough to keep me from trying the food. It appears to have changed again over this last summer as the website (in reality a page on DineSXM) mentions award-winning chef Julien Chauvenet and sommelier David, formerly at Mario's Bistro. Chef Chauvenet is third generation chef. His father is a Michelin-starred chef and his grandfather was a master confectioner. This explains the fancy looking dinner plates and the good wine list. Other than the wine, I cannot comment on the cost. We'll try for another visit.
Pork tenderloin Pork tenderloin Caesar salad

Piazza Pascal
On Thursday night we headed to Grand Case to meet some old friends. After a glance at the free lot showed that it was full, we parked in the pay parking lot. The free lot is usually full with the restaurant worker's cars long before dinner service starts. So unless you are going for the early bird specials in Grand Case, you'll save some time by heading for the pay lot. Several restaurants comp the parking. Ask as you park.

Pascal and his wife Donna took over the restaurant space at the back of the mini-mall in the center of town last season. They offered 1 to 1 on the euro last season and have continued, making them a most attractive dining option. Pascal, originally of Italian extraction from France, is a skilled, experienced chef. He came to the USA to learn English, settling into Detroit where Donna, now his wife, helped. After a couple decades they came here. Detroit's loss is our gain.

The wine list has been expanded and I noticed a 2007 Crozes-Hermitage ($42, right, with Buddha). Hermitage is one of the most famous vineyards in the Rhone Valley and in time honored marketing tradition the famous name gets appended to many things. In this case, Crozes-Hermitage is next to Hermitage and there is a similarity in taste. As 2007 was an excellent year in this area, this was a fine wine and with a bit of age it was drinking wonderfully. There is a map of the Rhone in our vacation travelogue from 2008. Hermitage is in the northern Rhone valley.

Crozes-Hermitage
Salmon Sausage
We ordered two aps: the sauted calamari steak with lemon garlic and parsley butter ($15, above left) and the sauted Italian sausage with peppers and onions ($13, above center). The calamari were cooked perfectly and wonderfully flavored. I usually have them, but branched out to the sausage. Now it will be hard to choose. You can have red wine with fish, especially full-flavored fish or fish in a flavorful preparation. That's good news because we then proceeded to have more fish dishes, an almond encrusted salmon filet with figs in a balsamic sauce ($26, a special, below left), a mahi filet with cactus juice and pomegranates ($25, a special, below center) and the Linguini Di Napoli ($25, below right). Both fish filets came with squid ink flavored rice. I had the seafood with linguini and was astounded by the variety of seafood for a mere $25. I had shrimp, calamari, scallops, and mussels which are always on the menu, but Pascal had added a bit of the two fish specials. We added a couple coffees and were offered some lemoncello for a total bill of a bit under $250 or about $125 per couple. We did leave another 5-10% for the great service.
Salmon mahi Seafood napoli

Bistro Carabes' logo
Bistro Carabes
On Friday evening we met another couple at Bistro Carabes. We arrived early, having parked next door in the pay parking lot. A bit after the appointed hour, we got a phone call from our friends saying that they were here, but had waited ten minutes for a space to open up in the free parking lot. I mentioned that the pay lot is closer and Bistrot Caraibes will comp the parking charge.
Montagny Premier Cru
We didn't mind the wait as we were already enjoying a Montagny Premier Cru (55) in preparation for the first of my two favorite dishes, the smoked salmon appetizer (photo on website, 14). In previous years, I had ordered Rully to accompany this luscious salmon, but the wine list has changed considerably. As Rully is about five miles north of Saint Martin (in the Chalonnaise region of Burgundy) and Montagny is about ten miles south of Saint Martin, the wines are quite similar.

Our friends finally arrived and we ordered mussels in white wine, a special (15) along with my smoked salmon. The mussels were quite good in a light sauce with herbs (notably parsley) and onions. The salmon is smoked here at the restaurant and it has a deep smokey flavor while retaining a luscious texture. It comes with toast and crisp onions for crunch and flavor and capers and lemon for a bit more flavor. I ordered my other favorite dish, the whole French seabass (left, 28), deboned and served in as light cream sauce with vegetables and a tasty tomato pure. Martha had her usual, the marmite, braised red snapper with vegetables in a creamy mussel sauce with saffron (below center, 24), and the other couple matched our orders.

seabass marmite Molten chocolate cake
Our wine for the main courses was a Pouilly-Fuiss (49) from the Maconnais region, just south of the Chalonnaise region. For dessert we had the molten chocolate cake with ice cream and four spoons (above right, 11). We finished with coffees and a cappuccino and complimentary spiced rum, although a snifter of Armagnac appeared. With a tip, the total bill came to about $180 per couple for some very good food and great service.

Thibault said that they have revised the wine list because they are getting many wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy from a family member in business back in France. I certainly enjoyed both of the wines that we had. The restaurant has continually changed since they started from a pile of rubble. The orignal motif featured sea, sand, and sun. A few years ago they changed to a more elegent scheme using the colors of this review. The room changed, the table ware has changed, and soon even the menu will change. Not to worry, the the cuisine remains the same, but the menu will have these subdued colors. One other change is that they have stopped buying apartments at Mont Vernon (they have eleven and manage a few more properties) as they are getting too busy and too tired. The problem with a small business is also its greatest feature: the owner is there - 24/7.

Skipjack's
On Saturday we headed over to Skipjack's in Simpson Bay to get some fish for lunch. Althea and Bito were there and started us with some sparkling water and pinot grigio. Our lunches were the asian platter with loads of rare ahi tuna in a sesame crust with a soy-based dipping sauce, a few shrimp, calamari salad, ginger, wasaabi, and wakame seaweed and an ahi burger with tomatoes, thin-sliced sliced red onions, ginger, and wakame seaweed. That's a lot of rather secial attention to details from the sesame crust on the tuna to the thin-slicing of the onion. Add that to the interesting accompaniments, the good service, and the great view of the mega-yachts, and you'll have a pretty good lunch. The bill came to about $38 to which they add 3% tax and a 15% tip.

 

 
Althea and Bito Asian Plate Molten chocolate cake  


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

As reported last issue based on an ad in the newspaper, Mai (formerly of Mai's Thai restaurant in Marigot) is now cooking at Layla's. Based on discussions with those who should know, it appears that she has taken over the restaurant.

Bernard has changed the name of Wharf to Waterfront and it appears that Elvis has left the building.

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.

Mooi had been on vacation, but is now open in Puerta del Sol in Simpson Bay. Patagoinia and Vini's Vino are also open there. Not that I care, but a Burger King has opened across the street.


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. 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."