St Maarten/St Martin
3 April 2011 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Whiteout Weather: As Sunday warmed up, some of the marine haze burned off, and a bit of Saba appeared. By late afternoon it was 82F and we could see Saba, Statia, and a bit of St Kitts. Monday was a nice day, but a bit too humid, requiring a beach or air-conditioning (or both, not simultaneously). Tuesday got so humid that it poured for about half an hour at 5PM. I took the photo on the left showing an almost total whiteout looking off our lagoonside balcony. Those twin peaks on the left are Les Mammelles in the French lowlands and Nettle Bay, Sandy Ground, and Marigot are lost in the downpour. It didn't do much for anyone setting up for Tuesday night in Grand Case and I heard they eventually canceled. Sunst at Marigot

Wednesday was nice, warm, and very humid. On Thursday the breeze kicked up and it was a bit less humid. It was still pretty cloudy as the photo (above right) shows. That was taken at Marigot's Waterfront, essentially in front of Claude Mini-Club looking west. The hills on the left are the Mammelles in the lowlands. The photo on the right is just a zoom of the luminous clouds. Friday morning was warm (79F at 7AM), muggy, and so hazy that I could not see Saba. It eventually reached 84F and felt like 88F! The breeze also died out and then shifted around to the south causing planes to take off in the other direction. On Saturday at 10AM it was already 81F with hardly any breeze and Saba is just a very dim outline in the haze. We had a delightful afternoon on Orient Beach. Sunday morning looks a bit cloudy with no little breeze and so hazy that no islands are visible. Either the weather pattern will be stationary ot the weatherman is on vacation because it says 77 for the low and 82 for the high with light winds and little chance of precipitation for the entire week. Come on down, the weather's great.

Saba 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 6:25 and the moon is new. In 2011 the full moons will be 18 Apr, 17 May, 15 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

Wedding on Orient SXM-Beaches: We stopped in to thank Koko and Marina for the great time we had at Palm Beach last week and found Zuzu and Alain having lunch. Zuzu took me up to the beach and showed off this setup for a wedding that had taken place the day before. In truth it is a bit difficult to get married on the French side, but the Dutch side makes it easier. You do have to get married by their official, who you might coax onto a beach, but if not, after the official ceremony near the dump, you are free to have a civil ceremony in a church, on the beach, anywhere. We used Lucy Davis to handle the details (which are a bit time-consuming. Anguilla makes it easier and is an English speaking island). Jean Rich also plans weddings.

The panoramic shot below was taken from our Caribbean-side balcony. The foreground is the coral outcropping that held part of the Mullet Bay Resort. After Luis in 1995, there was very little left near the water, merely foundations. You can see the two story apartments scattered about with severely damaged roofs. Behind them is the Sonesta Maho and behind that is Caravanserai. Actually, it is just a hint of Caravanserai as the only part visible is the crane.

Mullet, Maho, and Beacon Hill

Brass Verdict   Beach reading: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly - about $11 - From Publishers Weekly: "Bestseller Connelly delivers one of his most intricate plots to date in his 20th book, a beautifully executed crime thriller. When L.A. lawyer Mickey Haller, last seen in The Lincoln Lawyer (2005), inherits the practice and caseload of a fellow defense attorney, Jerry Vincent, who's been murdered, the high-profile double-homicide case against famed Hollywood producer Walter Elliot, accused of shooting his wife and her alleged lover, takes top priority. As Haller scrambles to build a defense, he butts heads with LAPD Det. Harry Bosch, the stalwart hero of Connelly's long-running series (The Black Echo, etc.), who's working Vincent's murder. When Haller realizes that the Elliot affair is bigger than simply a jealous husband killing his cheating wife, he and Bosch grudgingly agree to work together to solve what could be the biggest case in both their careers. Bosch might have met his match in the wily Haller, and readers will delight in their sparring." Martha thinks that Connelly is one of the more consistently good writes in this genre. He certainly is prolific, having written The Lincoln Lawyer Void Moon, The Overlook, Concrete Blonde, among others.

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo at this time. It will be available for rent again starting in mid-April at rates ranging from $700 to $1000 per week until 15 Dec, when high season kicks in again. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island, and many more coupons as well, including the use of our 2010 SXM Privilege Card that gets you discounts on many restaurants. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. A recent visitor said, "Erich, We had a wonderful time at your condo for the third year in a row. We appreciated the coupons. Hope to be able to do it again next year."

On the right is a view of Jasper John's home in the French lowlands, just over the border from our condo.

  Saba at sunset

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 announced that the island government was selling off the unused top floor of the government admin building as short-lease timeshares. The first forty applicants can get the use of one of the forty two-bedroom units from 21 April until 4 May of this year. This goes right through the Easter/Carnival holiday weekend allowing the lucky winners to enjoy the festivities. Applicants after the first forty will be allowed to choose a single week over the next two years. Many timeshares down here were sold with 999 year leases, some with 99 years, some even less. Many buyers didn't realize they were lessees rather than owners. The government is hoping provide a benefit for some lucky locals, collect a few bucks on a building that will not be fully occupied for two years, and to resuscitate the moribund timeshare industry in the wake of the Pelican, Rainbow, Aquarius, etc fiascos.

This article is related to the famous BBC Documentary. Wikipedia has some information on the documentary, but there is much more information on this page. There is a BBC ad worth seeing.

On a more serious note, a TTOL thread had some good news about Caravanserai: Some points have been posted to RCI already, some people have enjoyed their stay, saying the unit was nice, the pool is lovely, the elevator is working, as is the water, both hot or cold. Fresh towels arrived, trash departed, and requests were acted upon. The other big news is that the Dunes Casino opened!.

Even better news is that Sapphire has a new general manager, Jan Borsje. He has a lot of experience in timeshares, having worked at Oyster Bay Beach Resort. He is accessible and already has made some sensible changes.

Nickie Activities: After dinner at Skipjack's we headed over to Pineapple Pete. Monday night is a bit funny and we found Tim (?) singing with Amin doing lead guitar, although they traded at times. I've never seen Tim but Amin plays with House of Blues here on Tuesday night and trades licks with Ronny. At about 9PM Tim packed up his equipment and Amin finished the show. He had a system that we had heard earlier wherein he could tape a rhythm guitar track, then a bass track (admittedly using a six string guitar), and then smack his guitar to add a percussion track. He's playing with both hands and recording these tracks with his feet. He then proceeded to play lead guitar to his backup tracks. Niki, the beauty on the left, was not in the band, but she did serve us a few Sam Adams over the course of the evening. That's a good enough reason to include her photo here. Tim and Amin

Bread at Sarafina Medical: Martha has been getting blood tests at the Laboratoire Lepers in downtown Marigot. It's essentially on the shopping street (rue de la Liberté) behind Claude's Mini-Club. There's parking there early in the morning, before the market gets going. The lab can handle anything that her doctors have requested, quickly, and inexpensively. Moreover, they send the results back to us via email, automatically! We do have to forward it to the doctors in the US and call them on the phone to tell them to look at their email (I am not making this up, they wanted a fax. They like hard copy. I suggested they try control P). The tests show that the pills are working with minimal side-effects (a bit of nausea at times and disrupted sleep).

Groceries: That's quite a lead into the fact that these trips allow her to get bread from either Sarafina or Sucrier on the waterfront in Marigot. We buy several loaves and freeze what we don't eat immediately. The frozen bread crisps up nicely in a toaster oven and I just put together a fabulous ham, gruyere, Guadeloupe tomato slices, onion, and romaine lettuce sandwich. Top it with plenty of bold Amora mustard. Get the fixings at Grand Marché.

Earrings Add a glass of pinot and a view across the Caribbean to Saba on a beautiful warm afternoon with a great breeze and suddenly, I don't even care that it is 25F and a foot of snow is predicted in Salem, NY.

Shopping: On Monday we were driving past Claude's at 11:30AM in slow traffic when somebody tried to back out in front of us. I took it as a sign, pulled into the vacant space, and walked over to Octaedre to pick up some garnet from mines near Friar's Bay. Joel Husson crafts some beautiful jewelry and Carlinda will help you pick the perfect island souvenir. Martha picked up a large, square ring and two pairs of earrings for about $200. We then walked toward the marina, passing by the lab. It was open and it was a mere 15 hours before Martha's normal exam, so she walked in and was out in five minutes. Try that in the US!

Carlinda with pendant

Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Alcohol: Last week I wrote about the 2007 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina that we had with dinner at Gondola Restaurant and a few other Chiantis that we could find in the US and on the island. A few days later, an email arrived from Zachy's in Scarsdale, NY touting a large list of wines discounted by 25% or more. The Nipozzano was listed at $25, now on sale at $15. They do add tax (around 7%) and will ship for $1.50 per bottle, so it will be close to $18 before a bottle is resting in my cellar. But that is a good price for this wine rated 91 by Wine Spectator and 90 by Wine Advocate. Good, but not great in that an internet search at WineZap revealed some other places selling this wine at similar prices, including Station Plaza in nearby Bronxville, NY. That's nearby to Zachy's, not to me. Their shipping was about $3 per bottle.

Travel: It's not the standard way to travel to the island, but last Sunday four warbirds arrived on the island, the B-25 Mitchell, the F-4 Corsair, the P-40 Warhawk, and the P-51D Mustang. I got this photo of the B-25, but a thread on TTOL has better photos. Jimmy Doolittle led 16 of these bombers into Japan four months after Pearl Harbor by taking off from the aircraft carrier Hornet 700 miles off the coast of Japan. The plan was to bomb Japan and land safely in China. All 16 aircraft were lost but many of the men eluded the Japanese in China and returned safely. The raid inflicted minor damage on four Japanese cities, but was more important for its psychological impact on both the Japanese and Americans.

Traffic: An Isuzu flatbed truck turned over onto the Osborne Kruytoff roundabout at the base of the hill heading from Cole Bay up and over to Pburg on Wednesday. From the description it sounds like Arte Johnson on his tricycle. Truck comes down hill too fast, truck turns right, truck falls on left side taking out parts of the rotary and vegetation. Nobody was hurt, but there were major delays. To continue in the Laugh-In vein, "It's always something."

B-25 Mitchell

Nature: On the left is a dove tending to some eggs in a palm tree under our Caribbean-side balcony. On the right is a photo of a mystery plant. It grows along the roadside and it is abundant at this time. This photo was taken along the road running from Marigot toward Friar's Bay and Grand Case. Green logo
Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: The Daily Herald reported on a short circuit in GEBE's main feeder cable between the Cay Bay Power Plant and the Zagersgut substation late on Monday afternoon that sent the entire Dutch side of the island into darkness for at least four hours.



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 23 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 27 March the euro was at 1.408 and today it is at 1.423. It's about 1% stronger against the dollar in a week when it was determined that both Portugal and the Irish banks needed more money. Seems as if the gnomes in Zurich have little faith in the dollar.

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.

Belle Epoque
On Monday we had some grocery shopping to do and we find it quicker to get to the Grand Marché in Cole Bay by going through the French side rather than through Simpson Bay. And as long as you are passing by Marina Royale, you might as well stop for lunch. Many places here have closed, but many are still open. Moreover, there are many open for lunch, offering tables looking out over the marina (below left). We walked past Tropicana, Le France, BDLG, Main a Pate, and Village to get to Belle Epoque. It's been here over 20 years and we have stopped in at least three-quarters of those years. It's consistent, good, and reasonably priced. I had a pizza reine (below center, ham, cheese, mushrooms, and tomato sauce, 11€) and Martha had the beef carpaccio (below right, 13€) with very crisp fries. We added in a bottle of water and a glass of pinot noir for me, bringing the total to 34€ which was translated to $44, a rate of 1.3 when it is over 1.4 in the papers. Service was great, the waiter spoke perfect English and humored me with my French. Having little to do, we lingered over some complimentary ginger rum and chatted with Georges, the owner for all those years.

terrace pizza Beef carpaccio


On Wednesday we headed over to Skipjack's in Simpson Bay for lunch. Again, we had some errands to run, this time in Simpson Bay and we have found that we can approach Simpson Bay a bit after the final morning bridge (11:30AM) and head back to Cupecoy anytime before the 4:30 bridge. As we crossed the bridge, we noticed Les Wexner's yacht, Limitless, at Marina del Sol. Wexner runs, and owns a lot of, The Limited, which consists of Victoria's Secret, Pink (Victoria's Secret), Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, C. O. Bigelow, The White Barn Candle Company, and La Senza. The yacht was the largest private yacht in the world at 316 feet when it was built in 1997 and is still one of the largest to get through the bridge opening.

Martha had the fish n chips ($14, below left) and I had the steak and cheese sandwich ($13, below right). The fish was fresh and tasty and came with a slightly hot sauce, although they have malt vinegar for the purists. Both came with salad and Martha got some crisp fries. I had a glass of shiraz and our total was about $34 to which they add 15%, so we had a lovely waterfront lunch for under $40. We sat a waterfront table enjoying a bit of a breeze on a humid day. A couple dinghies came over from the marina, tied up, and took over the large table in the center of the room. I've been part of a group of twenty here and the staff handled it well, but do make reservations.

Fish n Chips Limitless Steak and cheese sandwich

  Sculpted logo
Bikini Beach Restaurant
On Thursday night we headed over to Bikini Beach at Orient for their Thaï Buffet. They do it every Thursday from 6PM until 9PM. The cost is 25€ or $33 which is closer to 1.3 rather than the current 1.42 exchange rate. There are about 20 dishes for your dining pleasure and I apologize for not getting photos and descriptions of every one.
  Spring Rolls Egg salad  
  Those are tasty and crunchy spring rolls (above left) and that's an egg, onion, tomato, and a lot more salad above center. On the right are some dumplings on the top tray and a beef and herb salad on the bottom tray. Salad is used here merely to denote a cold dish. Don't look for a lot of lettuce. Below left are three of several main dishes. The leftmost tray is a salmon dish that had amazing flavors; the white bits are coconut milk. The center tray holds a broccoli and pork dish and the last is a sweet and sour chicken with lots of veg - all tasty, but I especially liked the salmon. There were several sauces to add to whatever you wished. On the right below is a small part of the dessert offerings. The centerpiece was the fantastic pineapple sculptures but you can also see a bit of some tasty cookies and more fruit. We drank Singh Light Beer from Thailand with dinner, a fine choice. When it was all over, we paid about $85 and left another ten for the girl in a lovely Thai dress who removed boatloads of plate and soup bowls from our table.

There is plenty of Thai food on the regular menu in addition to the regular beach bar fare, so a daytime beach visit is still quite nice. In fact, we only heard about the Thai dinner when we stopped in one afternoon for a late afternoon beer. If you go, visit the website first, to get a coupon for a free drink with lunch or dinner.  

  Various main dishes Sculpted desserts  

Kakao Beach Bar
On Saturday we headed out to Orient Beach for a another (yes, we did this last Saturday also) long lunch at Kakao Beach Bar. Martha had the smoked duck breast and Marcellin cheese salad (above left, 18€) and I had the special of the day, lamb chops topped with a sliver of parmesan and a slice of proscuitto (above right, 22€). In his Cheese Primer Jenkins says "In its crèmier version, no finer cheese exists; a cheese to worship" about St Marcellin. Not bad praise for the cheese, but add in smoked duck breast, crispy endive and romaine, the odd hard-boiled egg, and tomato and you have a very interesting and tasty lunch. But look at my lunch: four lambchops with several tasty bites of lamb, parmesan, and proscuitto plus braised endive, carrots, scalloped potatoes with a sprig of thyme, a stuffed tomato, and ratatouille. All this while sitting in a tropical garden. We had the 2006 Guigal Côtes du Rhône (below left, 28€). With a bottle of water, our total bill was $96, using a very favorable 1.27 exchange rate. Service, as always, was great.
  For dessert, the waiter brought over a bottle of banana-vanilla Ma Doudou rum and two glasses. The shot of the bottles and these lower photos give you an idea as to why we like this place so much. All the photos were taken while seated at the table. Look past our bottles and you'll see nothing but greenery between us and the umbrellas on the beach. On the left below is our view over to the beach bar, almost totally obscured by greenery. The center photo was our view straight to the beach. the yellow post is the corner of the nearest table. The final photo is a sugar bird in the palm next to our table.  

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

Grand Case is about to stop doing Harmony Nights on Tuesday for this season. 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 something special. The previous link is to photos that we took and the lolos have made this site. I've been told that they canceled this week because of the rain and generally, like baseball, they have a make-up day. However, finding the date for the last event on their website is beyond my ability, but on 30 March the site provided info on the two prizes that were for 22 March, now two weeks out of date.

In a similar vein, 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 find a copy on the island.

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

Le Village in Marigot's Marina Royale has changed hands.

Wendy K had lunch at L'Excellence, French Restaurant School on Thursday and said they have a new wine list, but the good news is that the prices remain the same - they've just updated the vintages! We had the white Chateauneuf du Pape. There's a map on our Marigot page with their phone.


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."