St Maarten/St Martin
24 April 2011 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Saba Weather: Sunday was a spectacular day, especially for sailing on Flagship from Anse Marcel to the far side of Anguilla and back. It was warm, not hot, with a few clouds. The sunset photo on the left was taken from the stern as we beat headwinds back to Anse Marcel. Monday was pretty nice but by Tuesday and Wednesday we were moving into summer conditions. It reached 84F with plenty of clouds, humid with little wind. The photo on the right shows that the marine haze is gone, but the clouds are now sliding down Saba, enlarging the rain forest. Below left is a wider shot taken later in the day. It's not as cloudy and it turned into a decent day. Pardon the blatant product placement, but we had just used this nifty beach bag on our sailing adventure. Clouds on Saba

Better day Pineapple Pete has been selling them for at least a year, but this season they took over some more space and opened a boutique selling their logo merchandise and a lot more. Wednesday night (14 April) brought severe rain. So much so that our drive to the airport would have benefited from an amphibious vehicle as we passed through the low spots in the golf course. Wendy K reported that on 15 April a big storm came across the lagoon with thunder and lightning, reminding her of of Hurricane Lenny. Two days later, she reported the day was, on a scale of 1-10, a perfect 15!! It really is getting to be summer. It's warm and if a good breeze keeps the humidity down, it's a perfect day. If the humidity rises to a fever pitch and the heavens open, it's a lot of water everywhere.

The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset today is at 7:31 and the moon is approaching its last quarter. In 2011 the full moons will be 17 May, 15 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

SXM-Beaches: On the right Little Bay on the far side of Anguilla. It's a marine sanctuary and the only fishing comes from the platoons of pelicans and squadrons of seagulls that feed on the schools of young fish. We went there with Zuzu and Alain on Flagship. There may be better coral and larger fish elsewhere, but this sanctuary had the most fish I had ever seen in one location. The only way onto the beach is via boat or rappelling down the cliff. There is a rope attached securely and Martha and I have both done it, so it is not terribly difficult, but we both have done serious rock climbing at our condo in Tahoe. In any event, it keeps the crowds out and the fish are quite tame. We literally would swim into schools of fish and have them gracefully part around us.

Just before she left this week, Wendy K reported sand at all three Cupecoy beaches, but the most is at the main beach.

The panoramic shot below was taken from the lookout across from the governor's mansion on the shore road running from Little Bay to Great Bay. It includes all of Great Bay starting with Great Bay Hotel on the left and circling around to the cruise ship pier and Pointe Blanche beyond.

Little Bay in Anguilla

Lambada, Random Wind, and Saba

I Remember Nothing Beach reading: I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron - about $14 - Nora says: I have a book coming out called I Remember Nothing, and it will probably not surprise you to hear that I can't recall how I came to write it. I notice that most authors who write about their books on their Amazon page know exactly when inspiration struck, and they describe this Eureka moment quite eloquently. But I don't have a clue about mine. There had to have been a blinding flash when I realized I had to write something about Age and Memory, but, as I said, I remember nothing, and my guess is that this shimmering insight was followed in short order by my forgetting I'd had the idea in the first place. And then I had the idea again. And forgot it again. Until finally, miraculously, it stuck.

When you're young, you make jokes about how things slip your mind. You think it's amusing that you've wandered into the kitchen and can't remember why. Or that you carefully made a shopping list and left it home on the counter. Or that you managed to forget the plot of a movie you saw only last week. And then you get older.

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 some of the bougainvillea blooming in the gardens in front and in back of Sapphire at this time.

  lagoon, Belle Créole, and Anguilla

For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). If you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. At present, there are 20 sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.

Acropole SXM-Hotels: Zuzu said she would take do 10% off on all her rental villas and condos. That includes Acropole Villa (left) 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. Paradise View
Welcome aboard Activities: On Sunday (10 April) we went on a sail to Sandy Island and Little Bay aboard Flagship with Zuzu and Alain. They leave from Anse Marcel and turn left as they reach the Anguilla channel running downwind (generally) between the two islands and circling north around the western end of Anguilla while we enjoyed snacks and breakfast. At that point, we were in the lee of Anguilla and had a peaceful sail to Sandy Island (below). It is a tiny spit of sand smaller than a football field, two feet above sea level. We dinghied over and snorkeled in the clear and calm waters. Eventually happy hour was declared and we returned to the boat for drinks and more snacks as we headed over to Little Bay (see above). We tied up to a mooring outside the sanctuary and had a great lunch featuring grilled chicken and merguez with wakame seaweed and a rice and corn salad. It was followed by a chocolate cake with creme anglais. We retraced our journey returning eastward through the Anguilla channel as I took photos of the setting sun (see above). It was widely agreed that this day was one of the finest of the entire season and this trip made it even better.

Sandy Island

Vanilla Groceries: While we were dining at Marrakech Restaurant Jahleef, a rastafarian, came up and offered some very nice vanilla beans at an attractive price. We had bought some from him earlier and said that while they were very good, we didn't need any more. If he approaches you, pick up a few beans. If you want some in the US (or Canada), check out Olive Nation. The Gourmet Food Store can deliver fine French cheeses (including Chaumes) to your door. You can't bring many cheeses back on the airplane. Chaumes

Buisson Renard Alcohol: On Tuesday as we walked into Select Wine Cellar, we noticed the Gout de Vin delivery van in the parking lot. When we stepped inside, Martial and Sylvain were enjoying a 2007 Buisson Renard from Didier Dagueneau. He developed a cult following for his exceptionally clean and flavorful Loire Valley wines. Didier was a renegade and a daredevil in other ways, moving from racing motorcycles to flying ultralights. Alas, he died piloting an ultralight in 2008. His brother, children, and partner are continuing to produce wine. Marina (Sylvain's former partner in the wine shop, now running Babydou, next door) came over and actually figured out what wine this was in a blind tasting.

We were having lunch at Champagne Snack Bar and there was a blanquette de veau (veal stew) special, so Sylvain choose a 2006 Hermitage from Domain Belle that was also spectacular. It will probably get better for the next ten to twenty years. It may have been too much for a delicate blanquette de veau, but there were no complaints.

Hermitage Domaine Belle

Traffic: It really was rather light in our last week as it is the last week of high season. The week after we left, the car rental companies and hotels lower their rates, so tourists wisely wait a few days for the bargain rate.

Gas prices on the Dutch side went up twice in April, reaching $5.85 per gallon. We always get gas at the Cadisco on the lagoon between Marigot and the French Bridge. The photo on the right is their sign (and some construction). They sell gas for 1.40€ per liter, but they do 1 to 1 on the dollar so this comes to about $5.40 per gallon. They have a more prominent station in Nettle Bay, but that one does not do 1 to 1. They also have a station between Orient and Grand Case, quite close to the road to Palm Beach Restaurant and Boo Boo Jam. This one also does 1 to 1, but their price is usually a bit higher than the one on the lagoon. On a 10 gallon fill-up you'll save about $5, well worth to cost of driving over, but probably not worth your time. However, for those of us who live in Cupecoy, it's the closest station and for anyone in Orient, Anse Marcel, Cul de Sac or Grand Case, the station in Orient is the closest.

B-25 Mitchell

Nature: On the right is mother dove with her two furball hatchlings. I wish them luck. You may remember that last year the babies fell out of the nest during a storm and my attempts at rebuilding a nest in a bush below the palm tree did not meet with success. They are ringneck doves, quite beautiful. Green logo
Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: Just in case you thought the government was loafing about now that high season is over, the Daily Herald assures us that Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Franklin Meyers is on the job. In a press release he announced that the number of brothels on the island will be increased from two to four. You may sleep well tonight - or not.

  Dove and hatchlings


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.

Winners of the contest that ended 24 April 2011:

Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Michael Gilmore
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Michael Gilmore
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Michael Gilmore
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - Pat Kelly
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Pat Kelly
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Michael Gilmore
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Bryan Murchison
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Pat Kelly
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more - Eileen Corcoran-Olsen
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October) - Henry Shaw
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Michael Gilmore
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Dayna C

Current Contest:

24 April to 24 July 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:
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



On 10 April the euro was at 1.448 and today it is at 1.455. Up about 0.5% even though the US avoided shutting down the government. Unfortunately while S&P reaffirmed its AAA rating on US debt, they changed their outlook from stable to negative, indicating there is a one in three chance of a downgrade in the future. They cited the US debt, deficit, political gridlock, and future entitlements as problems. Duh! The markets also were as unsurprised as I was: on the day S&P made their announcement, treasury yields fell slightly and the dollar actually strengthened.

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.

On Friday night we stopped in at Karakter, just past Mary's Boon in Simpson Bay, for jazz night. They still offer a bucket of Bright ($12, that's Amstel Bright Beer) and four tapas off the regular menu for a mere $20. We got a bottle of red Bordeaux for $29 and some tapas. Clockwise, starting at top left, that is a chicken satay, grouper kebabs with bacon, crisp French fries with garlic aoïli, and crab salad on toast. The jazz was provided by Connis Vanterpool on sax (a local) and Sproka on guitar, who came all the way from Anguilla. We bought a CD from Connis entitled Unity, Caribbean Funk Jazz. The food was good and the price for an evening's fun was great ($49), although we did leave tips for the servers and the band. That's one of the servers in the center photo being a sweetheart and taking photos for tourists.

Tapas Server band

On Wednesday we headed over to Le Ti Coin Créole at the far end of Grand Case. It's possible to walk from the central parking lot, but there is a bit of parking next to the restaurant and a bit more on the street. We got a spot in their lot and walked in to a waiting table. We ordered water and the Picard Bourgogne (22€). Créole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some wonderful home made hot sauce. We used it sparingly because of the Burgundy. If you liked really spicy food, a sturdy syrah from the Rhone would be better and he has a good one on the wine list. We both like conch and Martha always has stewed conch (below right, 13.50€) as her main course. As I always try to have two different main courses, in order to satisfy my conch craving, I have the conch salad as an ap (below left, 6.50€). It is very tender conch in a tasty and slightly hot dressing. Martha ordered the accras for her starter (below center, 7€). They came with the usual sauce chien (oil, lime juice, thyme, onion, and peppers). I had a few and we agreed that they were some of the best that we have had on the island. I chose Créole shrimp for my main course and we were both very happy with the results. The conch was tender, the shrimp were good, and the sauce was fine. The photographer screwed up the photo of the shrimp - sorry. The total cost was $92. This is real Créole food from a real Créole chef, cooking in the house he grew up in.
  conch accras Stew Conch  

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 (now closed), and a recipe for Coconut Blancmange from Les Boucaniers. Mussels logo

The last newsletter said that Best Gastronomy finally arrived on the island and I couldn't find St Maarten Events. It arrived in our lobby within a week.

The last newsletter also said that Montmartre had closed and a small note said that a new restaurant will be here on 30 April [Caribbean time]. We've heard that Christophe Martinez from Bellevue Restaurant will be the new chef. His partner at Bellvue, Cedric, is heading back to Le Tastevin.

Kiwi Café has closed.

Halsey's is being renovated. Scuttlebutt says another ice cream joint.

There was a post on Trip Advisor saying the Radisson in Anse Marcel was closing until 15 December. Their website says "The Radisson Blu Resort Marina & Spa, St. Martin will close temporarily for infrastructure repairs on May 1, 2011 to permit the hotel to efficiently conduct necessary repairs. The hotel is expected to reopen on December 15, 2011." It just opened about a year ago after extensive renovations. Don't believe everything you read.


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 tomorrow, 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."