St Maarten/St Martin
12 June 2011 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Saba Weather: The last week of April featured five days of thunderstorms. Again, not all areas get rain all day long, some areas see no rain, although when there are two days with a 90% chance of storms, you will probably get wet. Temperatures ranged from the mid-70s at night to mid-80s in the afternoon, essentially summer conditions. The week ending 15 May was quite rainy and overcast.

NOAA's Hurricane predictions: Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is predicting the following ranges this year:
* 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
* 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
* 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)
Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

On Wednesday this week, Donna Pavianni from Piazza Pascal said "It's been raining for the last two days. Everything is very green. Up to then very humid with sprinkles often. Very strange June."

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 7:49 and the moon is approaching full. We are almost at the solstice. On 21 June sunrise will be at 5:37AM and sunset will be at 6:51PM, not quite 13½ hours of sunlight.
By comparison, New York City has 15 hours and 9 minutes of sunlight. We are 166 miles north of NYC, about 2.7°, and get about 16 minutes more sunlight on that day. I use Earth Tools to get all these bits of trivia. It's a handy program and free. In 2011 the full moons will be 15 Jun, 15 Jul, 13 Aug, 12 Sep, 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

SXM-Beaches: The photo on the right is a shot taken from ZEN Café Concept looking north across Orange Fever to the hills behind the old Mont Vernon Hotel. There was a thread on TTOL asking which of the Five Stars on Orient was the best. This produced immense confusion, with some people saying there were no five star restaurants (whatever that is) on Orient. The first five major restaurants to open on Orient were on land owned by Plantation Hotel. At one point they had a website calling themselves the Five Stars on Orient (Kontiki, Coco, Bikini Beach, Waikiki, and Kakao Beach). Nobody awarded them five stars, they merely took the name and made a website. La Playa and Palm Beach Restaurant certainly have the chops to raise the total to seven stars. For those who knew the five stars, Kakao, Bikini, and Coco got the most good mentions (in that order). Though not one of the five stars, Palm Beach was suggested frequently also.

The panoramic photo below was taken from the entrance road to Palm Beach Restaurant on Orient Beach. The central feature is the is the large rock-strewn hill behind Coco Beach at Esmeralda Hotel. Palm Beach is to the left (or north) of the hill. The island in the middle of Orient Bay is Green Cay.

Orient looking north from Zen Café

Gallis Bay

Before the Frost Beach reading: Before the Frost by Henning Mankell - about $9 - We've been listening to this in the car during a trip to MA and now at home as we cook. It's a bit dark (like Sweden in winter) and convoluted, but interesting. From Publishers Weekly: "In Mankell's stellar 10th Wallander mystery, the generational torch passes from father Kurt to his equally stubborn daughter, Linda, who recently finished her police training and is anxiously awaiting her first day on the job. But a seemingly random series of events jump-starts her career and enmeshes her and her father, along with Stefan Lindman, the detective featured in The Return of the Dancing Master (2004), in a case with global ramifications. The book begins on a bizarrely disquieting note: someone is setting animals--wild swans, a farmer's calf--on fire. Then Linda begins investigating, unofficially, the disappearance of her friend Anna Westin. And the stakes for everyone are raised when Linda finds the ritualistically mutilated corpse of Birgitta Medberg, a local cultural historian. A complex (but wholly credible) narrative connects these events with a terrorist plot led by a survivor of the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. As always with Mankell, the mystery is connected to larger issues--the decline of Swedish civility, of course, but also the danger of religious fundamentalism (the events are set in the weeks before 9/11)--but polemics never trumps suspense in this extraordinarily compelling drama."

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are back in NY at this time, so our condo is available. The rates range from $700 to $1000 per week until 15 Dec, when high season kicks in again. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island, and many more coupons as well, including the use of our 2011 SXM Privilege Card that gets you discounts on many restaurants. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. A recent visitor said, "Erich, We had a wonderful time at your condo for the third year in a row. We appreciated the coupons. Hope to be able to do it again next year."

The shot on the right is the telephoto view of Gallis Bay on the far side of Marigot from our lagoon-side balcony.

  Gallis Bay

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.

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

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

Paradise View
Double Activities: News from Diane of Random Wind: My 4 year old daughter fell into the lagoon and I jumped in and grabbed her. After the drama and the heart pounding stopped I realized I had my Blackberry on my hip. Lost a lot - I do back up but not often enough! So I am scrambling through emails and deposits to put the missing pieces into the schedule.

The Port Authority of SXM has taken on the task of bringing all of their commercial vessels up to an internationally recognized safety standard. We had our inspection and did quite well. We do have to have some more safety equipment but not a lot in addition to what we already had. While I think some of things they are recommending, especially to some of my colleagues, are a bit over the top - I am happy to comply and am glad that there is a safety code being adhered to. This will serve to bring the water activities on SXM up a notch and is a good thing. Captain Trevor and I have perfected our tandem back flip off the Tarzan Swing (photo left). We are having lots of fun out there. We meet at 9AM now - to accommodate more people and we no longer serve breakfast in lieu of a price increase.

  Malcom Malcolm Maidwell, guru of sports and health and founder of Tri Sport, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family at his home on Saturday, 7 May. He will be missed because of his incredibly positive personality and peaceful presence. His motivation touched so many people throughout his lifetime, resulting in an outpouring of love and condolences from all corners of the world. The sporting community celebrated his extraordinary life on Saturday, May 14th. Cyclists met at the security guard entrance to the Falaise des Oiseaux at 3pm, where they were led to Malcolm's home. His wife of 48 years, Liz, gave them his ashes, which they carried via bike to runners who were waiting at the entrance to Port de Plaisance at 4pm. The runners continued with the ashes to Kim Sha Beach, where the paddlers took Malcolm to his final resting place, his beloved Caribbean Sea. They all drank a toast to his great spirit and then watched the sun set.

We were already back in the US, but took the time to join them in a toast at 5PM.

Pineapple Pete
Here's what's happening this summer at Pineapple Pete's nightclub, The Alley Nightclub & Lounge.

The Biggest Party under One Roof! The Alley's 2-4-1 Tuesdays. 2-4-1 on Most Drinks until 2am. $1 Coranitas. Doors open at 1Opm. FREE ENTRANCE before 11pm. $5 before MIDNIGHT, $1O after MIDNIGHT

PP logo
Come to The Alley Ultra Lounge and enjoy authentic Cuban music and cigars. Doors open at 9pm. We offer a wide variety of Cuban Cigars as well as an extensive selection of Cognac, Armagnac and Ports. We have a full cocktail selection available and great drink specials including $5 Cuban Mojitos, $3 Dewers, $3 Cuba Libre and $2 Presidente/Pres. light all night long.

Calling all talent! You could be the next YOUTUBE sensation! Great prizes every week for best performance. Doors open at 9pm. Sing, dance, tell jokes, recite poetry – you have a full 5 minutes to shine! Performances to be taped and put on YOUTUBE {with consent from performer} DRINK SPECIALS: $2 Presidente/Pres. Light, $3 Café Patron Shots, $4 Vodka Redbull mix. Each performer gets a free drink from the special drinks!

Music from the 7Os and 8Os. "When Music Was Music". This night is in THE LOUNGE. Doors open at 9pm. DRESS TO IMPRESS: Come dressed in 7Os & 8Os and get a free drink! DRINK SPECIALS: $2 Presidente/Presidente Light, $5 ALL MARTINIS, $5 Mojitos.

The hottest Latin music on the island played all night long! Doors open at 1Opm. FREE ENTRANCE. Drink specials. $1 Presidente/Pres Light BEFORE MIDNIGHT, $2 Presidente/Light after midnight. $3 Dewers all night long.

tamarind chutney Groceries: We had a lunch for nine on Easter, serving our own lamb shoulder roast and lamb ribs. There were plenty of leftovers so on Tuesday night Martha went into the pantry for some curry powder from Bernie's Local Rums & Spices on Hope Hill high above Orient Bay. The resulting lamb curry was put on basmati rice and accompanied by three chutneys, including the tamarind to the left. The major supermarkets have basmati rice and some lamb plus the the chutneys and curry powder, but Bernie's is the real local version and the rescued cats and dogs on the island would appreciate it if you got the spices and chutneys from Bernie.

In the US, Olive Nation has madras curry powder and the Gourmet Food Store has mango chutney (from England).


Montevina Alcohol: With our curried lamb, we had a Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Zinfandel. We got this in NH for $8 a bottle last year, but you'll probably pay $12 for it on the island at Maho Market. You can find similar low-end US wines at Market Garden in Cole Bay, similarly priced. We usually bought six bottles or more of Montevina from Netco behind the Ace Mega Store in Cole Bay (under $10).

JJBuckley just released a 95 page report on the 2010 Bordeaux vintage claiming that the 2009/10 vintages will join the half dozen or so great back-to-back vintages per century. The difference according to one winemaker is that he will save the 2009 for his children, but the 2010 will be at its prime for his grandchildren. That doesn't do much for wine lists on the island as few places have wine older than five years.

The 15 June 2011 Wine Spectator featured an article on the Loire valley by James Molesworth. The basic thrust was that the rather good vintages from 2006 through 2008 have been followed by two great vintages in 2009 and 2010. If you are looking for fresh and light wines that depend more on acidity than oakiness with minerality and reasonable prices, this is the area to investigate. The Loire River begins appropriately enough in Haute-Loire about 400 miles south of Paris. It flows north-northwest reaching Orleans about 100 miles south of Paris where it turns west, flowing about 200 miles to Nantes where it meets the sea. This last section contains most of the fine chateaux and vineyards that people envision when one mentions the Loire. However, shortly before this stretch one finds Sancerre on the east bank with Pouilly-Fumé across the river, two of the better, and better-known Loire Valley wines. Read more ...

The Loire Valley
Travel: The April Condé Nast Traveler reported that Marilyn Pulito from Villas in Paradise is the person to see for villas in our particular bit of paradise. The same issue also said that the Caribbean's sunniest isles were the ABC islands formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba (long gone), Bonair (recently departed), and Curaçau (ditto). It's unclear that they are the sunniest islands, but they are below the hurricane belt.

French: About.com has a section on learning French that is helpful. If you just want to brush up on French vocab, check out Free Rice. They have sponsors who will donate rice to people in need as you answer questions on various topics. French is one of the topics and while there are only ten levels of difficulty, I can't get every word correct (although Martha can). The English version has 60 levels of difficulty and they say that most people can't get to level 50. Have fun, do yourself some good, and do the world some good.

Play Freerice and feed the hungry

Gas: Unleaded gasoline prices dropped by 0.10 NAF, from 2.63 per liter to 2.53. That's about $5.60 per gallon.

Nature: In honor of the rainy season, we resurrect our tree frog photo, much like the many tree frogs who will come to life soon. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered. Green logo
  Tree Frog
Small Island stories: The Daily Herald had a story wherein Theo complained that the "Only thing the Dutch now provide is supervision." Personally, I think they need more than they get. He also said that "government is looking at all angles to increase revenues without further burdening the people." He actually mentioned attracting expatriate well-to-do pensioners, but admitted that there are problems in renewing residence papers. Duh!

Theo later likened Dutch rule to "modern slavery" after which Ronald van Raak, a member of the Dutch Parliament from the Socialist Party, called Theo "little mafia boss" and "Mr. Ten Per cent," pretty much setting the tone for political discussion.

The separate country status continues: On 1 June it was reported that the Curaçao Finance Minister would soon approach Parliament with an official request to postpone the introduction of the joint Caribbean guilder of Curaçao and St Maarten. Of course they are behind schedule but also worried about the 20 million guilders that this little exercise will cost. Finally, thoughts of dollarization still dance in some heads.


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on lodging, car rental, entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work it off! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest:

24 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 July to 30 October 2011 | 30 October to 25 December 2011
same cast of characters as current contest



On 24 April the euro was at 1.455 and today it is at 1.436. It seems as if there has been little change, but the graph shows much larger swings that have resulted in almost no change. It has been a very interesting six weeks financially, interesting, but probably not rewarding unless you were shorting the market.

Exchange rate

California Restaurant is still offering 1 to 1. La Villa, also in Grand Case, is offering 1 to 1 for cash. Almost all other restaurants on the French side that we have visited have offered us a better rate that we would get from our credit card or a bank. There is no doubt that they want your business.

Charging your credit card in dollars used to save the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging for foreign currency transactions. About a year ago my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I now use a Capital One card and get an excellent exchange rate. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. Note that you won't get frequent flier tickets quite as fast. It may be best to use the Cap 1 card out of the country and take the rewards in merchandise. We picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of our points from the previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM.

Bonita's Cantina Logo We took some friends to the airport, checking them in before noon, and headed over to Bonita's Cantina for lunch. The weekend lunch special is smoked sausage and fries with a Presidente ($8.25) or a lunch salad with iced tea (9.95), entirely too healthy for me. The salds are Choice of Santa Fe Chicken Salad, Pit Boss Salad, Mango Chicken Salad, or Pig Salad. I went with the sausage while everyone else got healthy, choosing the pig salad. Add it all up and four of us had a filling lunch for a bit over $40 with the tip. It was a lovely day on the terrace with the panoramic view as shown. The entire menu including the Tex-Mex selections is on their website. Check out the lunch and dinner specials for really inexpensive dining.
  Pig salad sausage Terrace

View from Bonita's Cantina

While dining one afternoon at Skipjack's, the motor yacht Rasselas sent over a couple dinghies. Skipjack's seems to be a favorite of the yachting crowd. It's quite close to the mega-yacht marina, has a large sign on the lagoon-side, and even more important, a large dock. Rasselas was a Prince of Abyssinia best known from a fictional book written by Samuel Johnson.

Martha had the crab cakes ($14, below right) and I had the grilled mahi plate ($15, right). They both came with salad and I even got a choice of potato. Adding in my glass of shiraz brought our total to about $35 to which they add 15%, so we had a tasty lunch for under $40. Lunches are generally slow, so we had a waterfront table enjoying a bit of a breeze.

Grilled Mahi plate  
Dinghy from Rasselas Rasselas Crab cakes

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

News and Changes: We have reworked the article on restaurants in the lowlands that we wrote a couple years ago. There are recipes for a four course meal in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Cucumber Vichyssoise from Ti Sucrier Restaurant, a recipe for the famous Mussels from Mario's Bistro, a recipe for Rack of Lamb from Montmartre (no longer with us), and a recipe for Coconut Blancmange from Les Boucaniers. Boucanier logo

The Daily Herald reported that Karakter has been told to remove all illegal structures on the beach. Fans of a good fight on TTOL can check out this thread. The bottom line is that Jorrit and his small enterprise don't have the clout (read cash) to do what the Cupecoy and Dawn Beach developers can do.

Le Montmartre at Atlantis has reopened as Angelus with Christophe Martinez (formerly at Bellevue and before that Le Cottage) as the chef with Axel and Mimi from L'Escapade Restaurant in the front of the house. Great chef, great wait staff, it will be one of our first stops when we return to the island.

The Halsey's location has reopened as Capriccio. You guessed it, Italian. TTOL had a thread with several variations of the name. I'm using the spelling on the sign outside the building, not that sign makers get everything right, but at least it is a word in Italian: caprice or whim.


Vanessa and Patrick have closed Zen Café on Orient Beach. Fred, late of Paris Bistro and even later from Orient Club, has opened it as Ethnic. Vanessa and Patrick are working hard at their other restaurant, California Restaurant, tweaking the menu and adding some new specials. They are keeping 1$ = 1€ and closing on Mondays for the summer.

A restaurant owner in Grand Case says: "Business is quiet but not devastating. I hear the Dutch side is much worse. A couple told me they went to the Saratoga and they were the only table until another came in at 9pm. They talked to the owner and he said that the Pelican was only 15% full and another big one only 10%." [Quite possibly Maho - ed note].

La Villa is still doing 1 to 1 on cash and have no plans on taking a vacation, yet.


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."