St Maarten/St Martin
22 January 2012 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday started with a lot of rain but cleared up by about 11:00AM and we saw no more rain as we drove to Orient and returned about 5PM, stopping at Cupecoy to see Dany for a beer and take the sunset photo on the right. We had a long talk with Boris (as in Boris and Michael, former owners of Delfina Hotel). It's been three years since they sold the hotel and they found they were bored with retirement so they are now working as tour guides for groups of German tourists. It got rather cool on Monday. It was cloudy and windy, so there was little warmth from the sun and a bit of wind chill. Wednesday morning featured sideways rain and a full rainbow. The right hand end of the rainbow appears to be landing on Sir Roland Richardson's house. I think Bill and Elaine live in next door at Rainbow and got a better photo of the full rainbow which they posted on TTOL. It was a pretty moist day and evening, but Thursday was much clearer and a bit warmer. Friday had some sprinkles and Saturday was great, almost clear enough for a green flash. The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:01 PM. In 2012 the full moon dates are 7 Feb, 8 Mar, 6 Apr, 5 May, 4 Jun, 3 Jul, 1 Aug, 31 Aug (a blue moon), 29 Sep, 29 Oct, 28 Nov, and 28 Dec. Sunset

SXM-Beaches: Below is a panoramic shot of the work that is continuing on the two new beach bars next to Ma Ti Beach. We're told that a long running court case on the French side has decided that the Buperthuy family owns the beach under several Orient Beach Bars based on their original deed from France giving them the land from the sea to the top of the hills. The original developer of the the beach bars had been renting the beach from the government which claims to own all beaches. This has sent the developer over to Nettle Bay and it appears that Philipe will run an outpost of Le Shore here and Gerard, formerly at Kontiki (I believe) will run the other bar. The sign on the right is already on one of the buildings to the right of the central entrance. They had a pre-opening party earlier this week and the grand opening last night (Saturday 21 Jan). The very far right is Ma Ti Beach and the other new bar will be on the left of center. Its construction is lagging behind. WendyK told me she had another nice lunch at Ma Ti Beach: hanger steak (onglet) and grilled tuna. Ma Ti Beach is larger than the shacks at Orient, but smaller than the large establishments such as Palm Beach, Kakao Beach, Bikini Beach, etc. They are not afraid of the competition. On the contrary, they expect more customers from this development. Le Shore

New Beach bars in Nettle Bay
To End All Wars Beach reading: To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild - about $18 for the hardcover - Amazon says: "World War I stands as one of history's most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war's critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britain's leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain's most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other. Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the "war to end all wars." Can we ever avoid repeating history?"

Here's a book review from the NY Times from Christopher Hitchens (written about seven months before he died).

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are back in our condo at this time, so it will not be available until 10 April. The rate is $1000 per week. 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 left is a ginger flower and on the right is a photo of Sapphire's pool taken from our balcony. It looks much better than it has in years past with new chairs and cushions, plenty of umbrellas, and a new coat of sealer on the woodwork.


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 several 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 SXM-Hotels: We stopped in at Grand Case Beach Club on Monday to visit Sebby at GCBC Watersports to find out how the snorkeling was on Créole Rock. He said it was good and correctly predicted that the next two days were going to be pretty bad. We'll probably go next week. On the left is the view from one of GCBC's rooms looking west toward Molly Smith Point. On the right is the view from GCBC looking west at Flamboyant Beach Villas. The buoys are the limit of the swimming area at GCBC. As you can see, Flamboyant is in much the same location but without the amenities of GCBC, the prices are lower. If you want to be in Grand Case these are two possibilities. Bleu Emeraude is a recent addition at the other end of town and is quite nice. :Flamboyant Beach Villas

Courthouse Activities: Yachting isn't much of an activity and while yachtspotting may get the heart racing, it really doesn't burn many calories. This beauty named C2 (that's C two not C squared) showed up in at the cruise ship dock in Pburg this week. Here's some of the frenzy it has created in the yachting community. It seems they don't know who owns it. It's 78 m long and barely fits through the Dutch bridge. It was built by Abeking & Rasmussen in Lemwerder, Germany and is registered in The Creek, a port on Cayman Brac. Rumor has it that the boat could belong to Ron Perelman, former husband of Ellen Barkin and Patricia Duff.

On the right is the cupola at the top of the courthouse in the center of Pburg. That's a pineapple, the sign of welcome, at the top.

Cupola on the courthouse

Deepti Shopping: We did take a piece of jewelry in to DK Gems to have the clasp repaired. Deepti said it would be done in about three days.

I also dropped in on Karen at Blanc du Nil. They were quite busy selling beautiful Egyptian cotton clothing.

Blanc de Nil

Angostura Groceries: We stopped in at Sunny Foods in Pburg to pick up several things. They have our favorite Angostura 1919 Rum at $22 for 750 ml and a a very large selection of other rums. The store looks brighter and cleaner than last year. They also have a good selection of produce and probably more ethnic (Asian or local) products than US Market or Grand Marché.
Last week I said that a quick check at US Market showed the Morbier was essentially the same price. Essentially, but a calculator says it is $7.25 at US Market and about $8 at Grand Marché. We got some Forme d'Ambert (a blue cheese) at USM for $8.25 and the Bleu de Bresse was as bit cheaper but at GM the Bleu de Bresse was $16.50/lb). Anyone who claims that things are always more expensive on the French side hasn't looked carefully. If you want some in the US (or Canada), check out Olive Nation or the Gourmet Food Store. Both can deliver fine French cheeses to your door. Olive Nation did not have chaumes, but I found it in the Gourmet Food Store. Chaumes

Alcohol: That's our lunch on the Caribbean balcony, overlooking Saba. As I said, it has been cloudy and rainy. Saba is lost in the mist. Our 2009 Amiot Bourgogne is visible and the cheeses are the Pont L'Eveque, reblochon, comté, and morbier. The last three (and the best, by far) came from the US Market in Sandy Ground. It sure is strange that the French side, where they speak French, has US Market as its major supermarket and the Dutch side, where they speak English, has the Grande Marché as its major market. The bread came from Sarafina's on the waterfront in Marigot. We've tried two others this season and still feel that Sarafina's bread is the best. The salad features Guadeloupe tomatoes from Grande Marché.

We did stop at Select Wine Cellar to augment our initial purchase, picking up some of Amiot's 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Clos Saint Jean ($52) and some 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Chaumes ($42). We also have some 2009 Beaune Premier Cru Les Chouacheaux from Chantal Lescure ($52). For spicier occasions we went to Netco from some 2008 Montevina Zinfandel ($10.15) in a screwtop.

amiot 2009 Bourgogne

Traffic: We made it to Pburg at 10AM on Monday morning with minimal difficulty. We did some shopping at Select Wine Cellar and a lunch at Champagne Snack Bar. We then came back through Simpson Bay heading west at 4PM with no trouble.

Car Rentals: Just a reminder that Brink's Car Rental will now be called Starlite Car Rental. Same people, same cars, same phones, new website, and new email: starcarrental@hotmail.com.

Green logo Nature: This is the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries dengue fever. It is smaller than the usual US mosquito and has white stripes. It feeds for two or three hours shortly after daybreak and shortly before sunset.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Aedes aegypti mosquito
Small Island stories: This is not humorous. The Daily Herald reported that there were 3 confirmed cases of dengue fever on the Dutch side recently. All were in Belair. There were only 22 confirmed dengue cases for all of 2011, so this is a rather fast start. Then again last year had a similar fast start. Dengue is not transmitted from person to person.  


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:

25 Dec 2011 to 19 Feb 2012
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
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.

Here's some comments from a past winner:

I was very pleased to win your contest when my wife and I were on the island. I was able to use the three restaurant certificates and the Privilege Card. They were well appreciated and we had good service at all along with good food. Skipjack's has been a regular for many years (one of our favorites and we always go twice during our visit). Peg Leg Pub is also a restaurant we have frequented in the past (good steaks), but Piazza Pascal was new to us and will now be on our list to visit next year. Donna was very good hostess.
Bob Ross

Future Contests:
19 Feb to 15 April 2012 | 15 April to 15 July 2012 | 15 July to 14 October 2012 | 14 October to 9 December 2012
same cast of characters as current contest



On 15 Jan the euro was at 1.268 and today it is at 1.293, gaining back most of what it lost last week.

California Restaurant is still offering 1 to 1. La Villa and Piazza Pascal, 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.

Chase has come out with a Sapphire Card that is similar to Cap One, although the no foreign transaction fee only comes with the $95 per year preferred version. You'd have to spend about $3000 overseas to make the fee worthwhile, but there are other benefits, including a signup bonus if you spend over $3000 in your first three months. Read these discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets and decide if they work for you.

Palm Beach Restaurant
We usually have our anniversary dinner at Mario's Bistro, but every seven years or so it falls on a Sunday when Mario's is dark. Having spent a lovely afternoon in a cabana at Palm Beach last spring, we reserved one (always a good idea) and went over for a great lunch. The panoramic shot of the beach in the foreground and Green Cay in the distance was the view from our cabana.

View from cabana

Palm Beach is owned and run by Koko and Marina, and is at the northern (Mount Vernon) end of Orient Beach. The grounds are stunning, the facilities are the newest on the beach, and the accoutrements are spectacular. I said all that last spring, and it's even better now. We were greeted by Marina as we arrived, visited with her mother, Zuzu, as we were seated, and Koko stopped for a chat after lunch. My point is not that we are special, it is that the family was there on a Sunday to make sure that everything worked well - and it did.

We started with two flutes of champagne as we looked over the menu and specials board. As a beach bar, there is plenty of menu space devoted to drinks but we drink wine and at the beach we drink rosé, in this case Chateau La Coste (about $25, using their rate of 1.25). Our appetizer was the house foie gras with figs and a glass of Monbazillac, a sweet wine from the south of France near the Spanish border. It's not as well known (or expensive) as Sauternes, but it is sweet which works well with foie gras and figs. As you can see in the photo on the left, it came with a bit of mango a bit of crunchy salad (both adding texture), some bread, and an extra bit of fig. Our rosé arrived with our main courses. Martha had a duo of salmon tartare and I had tuna with a Créole sauce. All three plates were about $25. One of the tartares was a bit spicy and both were good. The tuna was perfect and I liked the sauce. We finished with espressos and rum. The bill for about $125 arrived with two more flutes of champagne from Zuzu. It was a wonderful afternoon with good food and good service.

Foie gras Salmon Tuna

California Restaurant

We had lunch the next day at California Restaurant on the water in Grand Case. That's Vanessa in the photo with some locals trying to right a submerged boat on the beach and Créole Rock in the distance. As you can see there are some lovely sights, both inside and outside, the restaurant. We started with a bottle of sparkling water and a bottle of Carte Noir rosé ($26). Martha ordered a special shrimp in garlic and pastis ($31). It's been done before and will be done for a long time to come as the flavors work so well together. You really should click the middle photo to see the lovely larger view. Not only was this dish tasty, it was beautiful. I opted for a pizza and Patick, Vanessa's husband, sent out the thinnest of thin crust pizzas with ham, mushrooms, and olives ($14). It was crisp and crunchy with great flavors. Don't forget the hot oil, especially as it is more oil than hot. After lunch espressos were complimentary and the total bill was under $80. They still do 1 to 1, so you can read the menu and know the price without worrying about what the dollar is up to (or down to).

Vanessa and view Shrimp Pizza

Kakao Beach Bar
On Tuesday we headed out to Orient Beach for a another long lunch at Kakao Beach Bar. We ordered a bottle of rosé as we waited at the bar for a table to open up. On a random Tuesday in early January, usually a slow time, reservations would have been nice. In about five minutes we were seated at the table and dividing our attention between the menu and the kite surfer we could see through the dense foliage. Martha had the salmon and scallop duo off the menu (below center, 19€) and I had the lamb chops topped with morels off the specials board (below right, 22€). When I think of a fine French lunch on the beach, I think of Kakao. They do have pizza and burgers, but this lunch was pretty upscale. Martha's salmon came with three scallops sliced in half and some very fresh spinach leaves with sprouts and tomato slices. But my lunch was over the top with four lamb chops covered by a handful of morels, accompanied by scalloped potatoes with a sprig of thyme, a stuffed tomato, a zuchinni stuffed with squash purée, red cabbage, and a bit of ratatouille in an onion layer. Pretty fancy fare for a guy with sand in his shoes. With the rosé (24€, Chateau Paradis, but it was their last bottle), our total bill was $93, using a reasonable 1.29 exchange rate. Service, as always, was great.

Rancho Del Sol
After lunch we stopped at Rancho Del Sol to talk to Johan and get an overview of Orient. He was at a table with his mother (Zuzu), her parents, and Lucie, a niece who runs Paradise View Restaurant (closed on Tuesdays). Below left is the view of Green Cay (again) from our table high on the hill. On the right is our waitress and one of the glasses of wine that she brought. Johan now has a few motorcycles and a car devoted to delivering food in the Orient Beach area. The menu has a cowboy slant (which means steaks) but also includes pizza and some seafood. If you are staying at Orient and don't want to cook at night, they make it pretty easy.

Green Cay Waitress and wine

Auberge Gourmande
On Wednesday night we headed to Auberge Gourmande for dinner. We had asked for reservations at 7:30 and Karen moved us to 7:15 saying that they were so busy they were doing two seatings. Even at this hour we found the free parking lot completely full so we headed to the pay lot. It was windy with intermittent rain, so we choose a table inside rather than out on the porch.

We choose the special appetizer of the evening, braised endive on a bit of brie cheese flavored with honey and accompanied by a bit of greenery (below left). We've had this before and it is one of our all-time favorites here. Martha's main course was the chicken breast delicately filled with Emmental cheese, topped with a morel mushroom sauce, served with gratin dauphinois and a (below right). I had the beef filet with a morel mushroom sauce also with the potato gratin and a similar medlay of vegetables including a broiled half tomato, a bit of broccoli topped with chive whipped cream, red cabbage in a hollowed slice of squash, a stuffed pepper slice, and an eggplant exravaganza. For this flavorful dinner we choose the 2007 Gigondas from Meffre. Pascal, the owner, was there assuring that service worked smoothly, even though they were one table short of full capacity. It was a wonderful night. I return to this beef repeatedly and always add the morel sauce even though they offer three other sauces. It's extremely tender and flavorful beef.

braised endive



Shakti Restaurant
On Thursday we headed over to Shakti Restaurant in Simpson Bay for a tasty Indian lunch. Martha was in the mood for vegetables and ordered paneer chutney masala (cheese with coriander and mint sauce, right, $8), dal fry (lentils with tomatoes, coriander, and spices, below left, $7), and aloo gobhi (potatoes and cauliflower in an onion and tomato sauce, below right, $7)
Paneer chutney masala
Paneer chutney masala
Dal fry
Dal fry
Aloo gobhi
Aloo gobhi
The concept with Indian food is that you choose a preparation, choose a protein (or not), and put it on rice. Here at Shakti one chooses a preparation (korma, vindaloo, curry, sag, etc), chooses a protein (chicken, lamb, shrimp, conch, fish, vegetarian, etc), and put it on great basmati rice. You get the added bonus of specifying the heat level and that may even come in a separate bowl on the side. Almost anyone should be able to enjoy Indian food. We find that the totally different culture in a considerably different climate has led to different spices and somewhat different foods combined in different ways. It certainly will wake up your taste buds, but needn't burn them. The spices in dal fry, and in particular, the long dark red peppers, are dangerous. I certainly ate them but Martha wisely demurred.
Chicken vindaloo
Chicken vindaloo

We drank three cold Kingfishers and spent most of a $50 bill, taking home enough for a lunch at a later date. There is a bit of parking in front of the restaurant. Service is good and the beers are cold.

I had the chicken vindaloo (chicken with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and vinegar, left, $8). We added jeera rice (wonderful basmati rice seasoned with fried cumin seeds and green coriander, shown with the paneer above right, $3.50) and onion kulcha (nan bread with onions and spices, below, $4.50)

Onion kulcha
Onion kulcha

Champagne For Friday's lunch we started with a tasting at Select Wine Cellar with Sylvain and others. We moved on to a nice lunch on the terrace (left) at Champagne Snack Bar. The special of the day was a very nice Italian assortment (one of Sylvain's favorites) and a salmon and scallop dish that looked great. Martha and I took it easy with salades Niçoise. That evening we took the short drive and used the free valet parking at Atlantis Casino for a dinner at Bella Napoli. We started with a calamari ap ($20). Martha had a special gnocchi with gorgonzola ($19) and I had a sausage pizza ($18). Carlo

News and Changes: We have reworked the article on Créole restaurants that we wrote a several years ago. There are recipes for a four course meal in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Conch Chowder from Antoine Restaurant, a recipe for Accras from L'Escargot Restaurant, a recipe for Crab-stuffed Grouper from Skipjack's, and a recipe for Sweet Potato Pudding from Ti Coin Créole. Escargot  logo

Drummers in Grand Case Grand Case Nights: Harmony Night in Grand Case has morphed into "Les Mardis de Grand Case" - The Tuesdays of Grand Case. It still features the closing of the main street so it can be filled with local arts, crafts, and food vendors along with a few musicians. It's great fun, although it can get crowded and if you want a streetside table, you will need reservations or extremely good luck.

Turnover tax: I reported last week that the total bill from Skipjack's was "about $101 after they added 3% tax and a 15% tip." The $101 was right, 15% tip was right, but George pointed out that they no longer add the 3% ToT to the bill. Moreover, it is no longer 3%, but 5% and the government made it clear that the ToT can not be added to the bill. Therefore, no business is allowed to add a "tax". Supposedly, if a business is found to be doing this there is a steep fine or penalty. I admit that I reused that language from an earlier visit and didn't even bring the bill home with me.

L'Escargot Restaurant: There was a very interesting interview of Joël Morand from L'Escargot restaurant in the Hot Seat section of the Daily Herald. His father was in the French military moving every two or three years all over the world. Needless to say, Joël followed.

After dinner on Wednesday we ducked into Bistrot Caraïbes to avoid the rain and make a reservation for the following Monday. Thibault and Amaury were both there and said that this was the first night of the new year that they were not packed. They also said that La Villa was doing well and we could confirm that Auberge Gourmande was also doing well. The sole table that wasn't filled as we started dinner was becasue of a no-show reservation and it was filled by a walk-in before we left.


Sign at Ti Bouchon Ti Bouchon: There was a thread recently on TTOL that demonstrated the downside of bulletin boards. As far as I can tell, one couple complained about a 30% charge at a restaurant to a second couple. The second couple posted that a 30% tax had been charged at that restaurant. It turns out that it was not a "tax" but the quite normal charge to convert a menu in euros to a charge in dollars. Moreover, when the two couples met again, it was established that the first couple had mentioned the wrong restaurant. Thus, an incorrect complaint was lodged against the wrong restaurant. The really bad news is that I can no longer find the original posting and the correction has been closed to new postings, so it had already dropped off the front page of TTOL's bulletin board on Friday and was on the third page on Saturday. Let me make this clear. The original incident did not happen at Ti Bouchon. It could not happen at Ti Bouchon because the menu is in dollars.

Simpson Bay Delivery: Two guys with with motorbikes have started ASAP Expert Delivery Service. They are working with a dozen restaurants in Simpson Bay. At this time they have managed to print a pamphlet with the menus from the restaurants but the website is not operational. Look for the pamphlets in local businesses.


SXM Privilege Card Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites. Another approach is the SXM Privilege Card which seems to be a pretty good deal. It will get you various discounts and/or perks at about 50 restaurants. 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. Victoria Contin, the force behind the Privilege Card, has come out with Island Video Guide and Web TV. SXM Island Video Guide and Web TV

Bikini Beach
Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Endless Summer Beachwear
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Radiant Gems
Tropical Wave

  Our condo: The condo is available for rent $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 $79. 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!)  
Even though Martha has a Kindle and is quite happy with it, she 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."