St Maarten/St Martin
29 January 2012 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Alert reader Mark Sears has notified me that it is 2012. I will be using that for the next year, possibly longer. Sunday morning was extremely ugly at about 9AM, but turned out rather well, though cool. Monday was worse with scattered showers all day long and cool temperatures. The best we got was low 80s in the afternoon and a drop into the low 70s overnight. On the right is an early morning shot of Saba after some showers cleared the air. The houses are visible running from the airport up to the metropolis of Hell's Gate. The panoramic shot below demonstrates that rainy, cloudy weather can provide interesting sunsets. Thursday and Friday were both rather nice and we got a green flash off our balcony as the sun set. Saturday had some scattered showers that scattered tourists and I didn't even see a temperature above 80F. 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 6:02 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: Sapphire's beach was short-lived. By Monday of this week, there was just a bit of sand and a major drop to a rocky entry into the Caribbean. Maho has been rather nice lately. Tango has been cruising close to Cupecoy and blasting its horn. I suspect, but of course have not participated in, the mooning that they are likely getting from the lemon drop crowd. The photo is a shot of the beach at Le Shore looking out toward the ruins of La Belle Créole. The beach faces north, so its not great for getting a tan or for watching a sunset, but if you are on the western end of the island it's close and convenient. It appears that the original Shore (in Grand Case) is no longer there and the new story is the old story, the owner hopes to have apartments or a boutique hotel on the spot. The spot to the west of Le Shore will be called Le Sand and will be run by Gerald from Kontiki.

Beach reading: The Children of Men by PD James - $8 used From Amazon.com Review: Told with P. D. James' s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, "The Children of Men" is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.

This is the PD James who wrote the Adam Dalgliesh detective novels. She is also Baroness James of Holland Park, a Conservative life peer in the House of Lords. This book was made into a feature film of the same name in 2006. Despite substantial changes from the book, James was reportedly pleased with the adaptation and proud to be associated with the film.

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 bit of plumeria from from the gardens.

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.

SXM-Hotels: If you are looking to stay at Sapphire (and you should be because Jan Borsje made some serious improvements before his departure) Glen Spiegler has a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit available. It's unit 350 on the same floor as ours and it has an additional view to the west, over Cupecoy Beach to the sunset. Our neighbor is in his unit (254) at this time, but it will be available in a couple months.

On the right is the Horny Toad Guesthouse as viewed from the water.

We were over there discussing the Super Bowl Party with Betty. She has a party for almost any reason, Super Bowl, her Birthday, St Paddy's Day, Thanksgiving, etc. It's open to guests and the webmaster. Basically, being there is being part of a family. Most people make their reservations for next year as they check out. If you can get a reservation, you'll have a great time. You'll meet good people in a good location with a great beach.

Activities: After dinner on Monday we stopped in at Pineapple Pete to catch the end of the 7-10PM show. Amin was working his magic. Backing tapes are used by many musicians down here. Ronny makes his own, usually taping a rhythm guitar track and a percussion track. When he appears here, he selects the track and plays lead guitar and sings. Amin actually records several bars of rhythm guitar while you watch. He then adds a percussion track on top of that by slapping his guitar. Then he plays the track and plays lead guitar along with it. It's quite a show. Obviously, the young lady on the right, who was celebrating her birthday, felt the rhythm. The big band (House of Blues n' More) is here at 9:30PM on Tuesday night.

We bumped into King Bob this week. He's playing four nights a week: Solo on Monday at Tortuga Beach Bar at Royal Palm, Wednesday as Cover to Cover with Dave at Peg Leg Pub, Friday as part of Category 5 at Rancho Steakhouse, and Sunday with Category 5 at La Bamba.


Shopping: We stopped in at the Marigot outpost of Jewels By Love on Friday. Love Mahtani is the fifth generation in an illustrious line of watch and diamond professionals whose knowledge, integrity and reputation are well known in the Caribbean. We met his son, Rish Mahtani, and now that he has graduated, he will be the sixth generation. If you need one of the finest watches in the world or some truly spectacular jewelry, you should stop in at their stores.

Groceries: We got some more Guadeloupe tomatoes at the Grande Marché and we found some Guadeloupe melons. Closer inspection showed they were indeed charantais melons, but they came from the Dominican Republic. After a few days it was ripe and it became part of a great lunch. The prosciutto that that we got there was not as what we get from US Market. We also picked up some fresh pork tenderloin at $4.60 per pound, some frozen duck breast at about $7 per pound, and a whole frozen duck at a bit less than $4 per pound. The pork and the duck breast were great. The whole duck is resting in the freezer.

We had a 2005 Beaune Premier Cru Les Bertins from Chantal Lescure with the duck breast. It still had quite a bit of fruit initially and ended in a considerable amount of tannin. After a few minutes in the glass the tannins dissipated and it was a wonderful. Back in the US we are drinking the 2002 premier crus at this time and letting the 2005s age a bit longer.

Alcohol: Because of the abundance of Guadeloupe tomatoes, we've been having pasta with tomato sauce at home. This has caused me to seek some Italian wine, preferably chianti. I checked Grande Marché and found Gabbiano Chianti for about $15. I wisely passed at that price and headed over to Netco. I found a 2008 Gabbiano Chianti Classico, a better wine with a bit more age, for a mere $10.15.

We stopped in at Select Wine Cellar and tasted a white 2010 Cotes du Roussillon Les Glaciaires ($26.00) from the south of France. It was a most interesting wine, considerably better than wines I had while staying in the south of France a couple decades ago. We switched to a red 2009 Hautes Cotes de Beaune from Ludovic Bonnardot ($22.50). It was lighter (and lighter on the wallet) than the 2009 Guy Amiot Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($24.00, left - ignore the date on the photo). We like the bigger, bolder Amiot and took home a half case. With our pork tenderloin, we broke out the bottle of Chantal Lescure's 2009 Beaune Premier Cru Les Chouacheux. It's $52, so take the coupon from the website and save 10%.

Traffic: Traffic is slowing down on Welfare Road because of the huge car swallowing potholes in front of Tropicana Casino. I don't think that the pothole is that bad and I am really amazed at wannabees driving huge SUVs over these potholes and through an inch of water at a half mile per hour, but they really do and traffic backs up from the roundabout all the way back to Carl's Unique Inn and Conference Center.

Dialing, Drinking, and Driving: You are not supposed to use your cell phone while driving on either side of the island and both sides want you to use booster seats for children. St Maarten is the Dutch side and has no set limits on alcohol, but you can get hauled in for driving while impaired. The standard joke is that if you are caught driving without a beer, you are issued a Heineken. Not quite true, but they are relatively lenient, relative to the French side, that is.

St Martin is part of France. The limit is 0.05 Breath Alcohol Content (BAC). The US is currently at 0.08 BAC. A 150 pound man can have four drinks to reach 0.08 BAC and then one drink per hour thereafter to maintain that level. In France, that would be 2.5 drinks and one per hour thereafter to maintain the 0.05 limit. Women lack an enzyme that assists in the metabolization of alcohol and generally weigh less than men, so they should drink less.

A drink is a bottle of beer, a glass of wine (6 ounces), or a a shot of booze. I figure that I am perfectly legal to split a bottle of wine with my wife over dinner and have an after dinner drink, even if I weighed 150 pounds, which I don't because I split a bottle of wine with my wife and generally have an after dinner drink. Watch out for high alcohol beers and/or large bottles, high alcohol booze (most are 80 proof, but some are more, much more), large shots of booze or multiple shots of booze.

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 an egret on the back side of Philipsburg in the canal between the university and the town.

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

Small Island story: Robbie Ferron has resigned as the chairman of the Heineken Regatta Steering Committee saying the board had a "lack of interest in the core mission" which he believes is "putting up a great sailing event." Somehow I doubt that the board is not interested in putting on a great sailing event but the article went on for over 600 words and never mentioned any real point of disagreement.  


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 22 Jan the euro was at 1.293 and today it is at 1.322. That's quite a change in one week and two weeks ago it was at 1.268, so it has risen by 5% in the last two weeks.

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.

Bistro Caraïbes
On Monday evening we headed for Bistro Caraïbes for dinner on a cool and rainy evening. We arrived early and parked next door in the pay parking lot to avoid the rain.

I knew I had a decision to make when one of my favorite appetizers, the snails and mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce, was available as a special while my other favorite, the smoked salmon appetizer, is always available on the menu.

Martha expressed an interest in the duck special (28€), suggesting a red wine, so I choose the snails (11€) and added the beef tenderloin with mushrooms as my main course (28€). I choose the 2007 Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet, but it arrived as a 2009. While 2007 was the year of the decade for Rhone wines, 2009 and 2010 are the next best. Obviously, it was quite young and fruity, but very good. It was great with the snails (below left, 11€). Martha's duck arrived with a fan of breast in a dark, flavorful sauce, a glass of duck confit topped with a mousse of mashed potatoes, a bit of salad with slices of smoked duck topped with shreds of foie gras, and a vegetable garnish. My tenderloin arrived perfectly cooked and was wonderful. Both were complemented by the wine. We finished with complimentary balloons of Armagnac. Our total bill was 122€ which was $157 using a rate of 1.29.

Les Toqués
This place has opened in the building previously occupied by Durreche. Wendy K writes: Larouse defines "toqués", with the accent on the "e" as "dotty", "flaky", "loony", "to be nuts about" And I thought they were referring to the chef's hat!

A definite step up, or three, from our beloved Durreche, Les Toques already had several tables filled when we arrived shortly after noon, and was completely full when we left before 1:30PM. The clientele was mainly French, but the waiters appeared to speak English to a couple of tables.

The service was very good and friendly. Menu boards (in French only) were the only menus so I assume they change frequently. The wine list was decent and fairly priced. We chose a Bordeaux at 22€ that was very nice.

Tony had the Parmentier of beef (far right, 12€) and I had bavette (flank steak), with a side of a baked potato with an interesting topping (center, 14€). Tony helped with my food, as his portion was a bit smaller, although he said it's the best Parmentier he's had here on the island. The total bill was 48€. We'll go back and the next time I'll check out the restroom(s)! They were not the finest feature of Durreche.

[ed note] In case you have forgotten, Count Parmentier learned to like potatoes while a prisoner in Germany during the Seven Years War. When he returned to France, he convinced King Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette to champion them. They did and the rest of France followed suit. Thus today, any dish with potatoes can be called a Parmentier.

Shieka's Bistro
We were shopping in Pburg on Thursday and stopped in at Shieka's Bistro for a real local lunch. They are at 50 Back Street near the head of town, near Penny's Department Store. Turn down Pastoriesteeg from Front street. Betty has upgraded the facilities nicely, such that now there is a covered patio with many tables. All lunches come with your choice of two veg but we asked for extras. Martha had the jerk chicken with beans and rice, stuffed christophine, and green salad (below left, $8). Big spender that I am, I had a Créole mahi with rice and beans, a banana salad, plantains, and mixed veg (below right, $14). They were both large plates of interesting food and there is Matouk's hot sauce on the table. This necessitated a cold Carib for me and some homemade passionfruit juice for Martha.

Shieka's logo

Le Shore
Wendy K stopped in for lunch: It was really breezy, but they were working on getting wind screens up. Within a half hour lunch was very pleasant with a fabulous view of the water and Marigot in the distance. There are plenty of beach chairs; and a few even were occupied, despite the strong winds today.

Carolyn took our order and served us, and Laurent took over at the end and brought us chilled rum shots before our bill. There is a lunch menu with light fare: burgers, sandwiches, and salads. The regular menu is heavy on sushi, with a few appetizers/salads, a duck, chicken, and lamb choice, and three fish choices; plenty of desserts. The wine list was fairly extensive and there were several reds at 22€.

We ordered a Bordeaux: les Belles Murailles for 22€. Tony chose the lamb: "Le Filet d'Agneau" crusted with herbs and mustard and licorice, served over a bed of tiny cubed vegetables. (below center, 27€). It was cooked perfectly - rare, with about a dozen half inch slices. I ordered "Le Magret"; a thinly-sliced duck breast (also cooked perfectly rare) served over a bed of wok-sautéed julienned vegetables with a sate sauce, a little mound of stewed griottes (cherries), and a glace with more of the griottes and finely chopped nuts, served in a tiny parfait glass, garnished with a sprig of lavander. (below right, 29€) We skipped desert, but Laurent brought us two rum shots to finish our lunch. The total bill was 80.58€ (about $105), which included the TGCA tax.

La Source Restaurant
On Friday, after our visit with Love Mahtani, we headed over to Marigot Marina Royale for a lunch at La Source. Chef David frequently uses organic products to make very interesting lunches at good prices. In the past, we have come here for special dinners with special wines available for the evening. He isn't doing these at this time, but he does make great, and inexpensive, lunches. He brought over two glasses of chardonnay from Languedoc, southern France and returned to the kitchen to make an amuse bouche featuring the freshest of tuna (left).

There is a special lunch of the day at 10€ ($13) and a menu featuring a dozen plates at 13€ ($17). There was another specials board offering four more plates, one of which featured tuna sashimi and another became Martha's crab and avocado lunch (below left, 15€). All plates come with a drink. I chose a Parmentier of duck confit off the standard menu (below center, 13€).

Both plates came with some greens and some shaved carrots. Martha got some ginger to add some tang to the crab. The Parmentier came with a rich brown sauce to which I added a glass of pinot noir. I thought the sauce and the flavorful duck in the potatoes was a wonderful combination of tastes and texture and Martha felt the same about the crab and avocado. We both had espresso, but I had the special espresso dessert plate that included a tiny macaroon, a wonderful chocolate mousse with chocolate shavings and whipped cream, and a ricotta cake with a red fruit sauce. It was a great way to end a wonderful lunch. After David comped the two glasses of chardonnay, our total bill came to a bit over 40€ ($53), not bad for such a tasty lunch. He's located in the warren of buildings between JFK Street and the eastern end of Marina Royale. Check the Marigot Marina Royale map.

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. Skipjack's 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.

St Martin's Week (the French newspaper with the English name) reported that there were 2000 people at the grand opening of Le Shore in Nettle Bay. And they did call it a Grand Opening, causing several members of the Académie Française to roll over in their graves. Then again, it is called Le Shore and the second word in the article was "parking". BTW, did you know that the first two editions of the French Dictionary from the Academy were published in Frankfurt, Germany when my great-grandfather was still living there?


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 or less for the summer. 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."