St Maarten/St Martin
5 February 2012 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday morning was very bleak with squalls scurrying across the lagoon, but by 10AM things looked better and the temperature got up into the low 80s with sunshine. Monday arrived at 76F, a bit warmer, haze that obscured Saba, cloudy skies but a softer breeze (no whitecaps on the lagoon). We did get the lovely sunset on the right. The week was coolish, cloudy, and there were frequent sprinkles, sometimes downpours. On Friday evening we watched off the Caribbean balcony as a lovely two-master with red sails glided past on a sunset cruise. Its sails sparkled in the bright sunshine. I walked to the lagoon balcony and saw a rainbow!? I called Martha and by the time she got there, it was raining. 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.

This, of course, is Philipsburg taken from the outlook along the road from Divi.

SXM-Beaches: On the right is world famous Maho Beach. It's certainly not famous for miles of sand. There's only about a quarter mile of beach and at times water washes right over the sand, carrying it onto the road. They do put it back so there is almost always a beach here and beach bars on either side. On the left in the foreground is Sunset Bar and Grill, the successor to Sunset Beach Bar. It is world famous for serving free drinks to topless women. That's the Sonesta Hotel and Royal Islander in the distance.

Cupecoy: As noted below Sapphire and Ocean Club have little beach. The next beach to the west, commonly called Baby Beach, has very little, but the next beach at the dock, and the beach beneath Shore Pointe are bigger than ever. The Lemon Drops are still here. Two of them got married on the beach yesterday.

Beach reading: Hemingway's Chair by Michael Palin - about $16 - From Amazon.com Review: Martin Sproale is an assistant postmaster obsessed with Ernest Hemingway. Martin lives in a small English village, where he studies his hero and putters about harmlessly--until an ambitious outsider, Nick Marshall, is appointed postmaster instead of Martin. Slick and self-assured, Nick steals Martin's girlfriend and decides to modernize the friendly local office by firing dedicated but elderly employees and privatizing the business. Suddenly, gentle Martin is faced with a choice: meedly accept defeat as he always has, or fight for what he believes in, as his hero, Hemingway, would. Filled with Michael Palin's trademark wit and good humor, this novel is for anyone who has ever dreamed of triumphing over the technocrats and backstabbers of the world. Hilarious, touching, and ultimately inspirational, Hemingway's Chair will make readers stand up and cheer.

In case you don't remember, Michael Palin was the lumberjack in the famous Monty Python skit and he was the pet shop owner to John Cleese's customer in the parrot sketch.

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 shot of the "beach'. You can get into the water, but there is no space for sunbathing.

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.

Activities: On the left is Random Wind heading in after a lovely day of sailing, snorkeling, sightseeing, eating, and drinking. We've been out on Random Wind several times and always enjoyed ourselves.

Minor correction for King Bob: He's playing four nights a week: Solo on Monday at Tortuga Beach Bar at Royal Islander (not Palm - major brain cramp), 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.

We stopped in at Pineapple Pete for dessert (below left) after Friday's dinner at Skipjack's. Ziggy was serving, the head pineapple was there, Ronny was playing,and Jonesy was bartending.

Groceries: We stopped in at Grand Marché for some veg (no more melons). Alert reader Ali C told us about La Fermiere yogurt and we found some there, along with the Greek yogurt that we like so much. It was about $5 for those two ceramic jars containing about 8 ounces each, very good. The Greek yogurt was about $6.60 for 24 ounces, a bit cheaper. We also saw some hanger steak (onglet in French) for about $4 per pound. We bought flap steak at about twice that price. They are similar but the hanger steak is part of the diaphragm, hanging off the plate toward the front of the steer and the flap is a bit of muscle hanging off the bottom sirloin to the rear of the steer. Made a great dinner and will be cheese steaks soon. We headed over to US Market in Sandy Ground for our cheese, finding some Morbier for $8.00 per pound, emmental for $6.40, and reblochon for $10.20. They had some Petit Billy, a great goat cheese, at $5 for the round weighing 200 grams (about 7 ounces). I also got some great dried ham, jambon aoste, on sale at $13 per pound, a savings of about $3 per pound.

Alcohol: We stopped in at Select Wine Cellar on Thursday to refill our fine Burgundy compartment. Despite the early hour (about 10:30AM) we were offered some wine. I mentioned an unfortunate incident with a 2004 wine so we tasted a 2004 Monthelie that Sylvain had, but was not selling. He said it wasn't so bad, but we tasted it and then moved on to something else, rather quickly. This really was the worst vintage for Burgundy in this millennium by a wide margin.

I picked up four bottles of the Girard 2009 Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier cru-Les Peuillets ($32.50) and two bottles of the fabulous 2009 Beaune Premier Cru-Les Chouacheux from Chantal Lescure ($52). These are expensive but worth it. For every day drinking we have the Amiot Guy Bourgogne ($24). With spicy food we have the 2008 Montevina Zinfandel from Netco at $10.15.

Traffic: Not so bad this week. We have been going to Marci's Mega Gym 2000 after the 9:30AM bridge. We've had no problem getting there and with Bonita's Cantina closed, there is plenty of parking. If we leave after the 11:00AM bridge has gone up, we can easily head back to Cupecoy. We also have found that if we leave shortly before it goes up, we can get over to Cole Bay and do our shopping, returning via the French side.

Daily Herald Best of: Every year I complain that these are awards from a Dutch side English language newspaper that permits ballot-box stuffing. So take all this with a healthy ration of skepticism. Best Pizza: Pizza Galley. Obviously I agree with this especially when the competition (and past winner) was Domino's. Best French Restaurant, tied L'Escargot Restaurant and Moulin Fou. In this case, for the Dutch side, these are good choices, especially when they have a best high-end restaurant category that features Temptation Restaurant and Rare. David Foini sold La Gondola and took the Best Italian Restaurant with him to Izi. Peg Leg Pub got best steak with Rare coming in second. Pineapple Pete got best lunch, best local food (?), best live music, and some others. Caribbean Gems got best jewelry store. Marci's Mega Gym 2000 got first place. Top Carrot got first place for vegetarian food and Shieka's Bistro came in third.

Green logo Nature: These are goats over by Orient Beach.

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

Small Island story: Other than Sapphire's supplemental assessment, nothing has caused my bile to overflow this week. Possibly the stock market has put an overall rosy tint on my glasses.  


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 29 Jan the euro was at 1.322 and today it is at 1.315, essentially no change.

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.

Pizza Galley
On Monday night we drove out to Simpson Bay for a visit to the world-famous Pizza Galley run by Lorna and JP. Their world-wide reputation is maintained via the circulation of the Daily Herald ("all the news that fits") and the fact that Pizza Galley has regularly won (or placed) in the best dessert and best pizza categories of the Daily Herald's reader's survey for many years. This year is no different as they have just been named Best Pizza and came in second in the Best Dessert category.

We ordered a small salad and split it (plenty for two, below left), the JP Special Pizza (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese, below center), and the house red wine, the 2009 Mont Redon Cotes du Rhone for $24. It's a quality Rhone blend that is fine with pizza. They have a rosé and a chardonnay available at about the same price. We had a bit of key lime pie for dessert. It was a fine meal, perfectly filling for the two of us and only cost $52 plus a tip for the staff.

As usual, we chatted about restaurants, but the big news is that Pizza Galley will be selling gluten-free pizzas within a week. JP said Capriccio had opened next door in April and was there when he went on summer vacation, but when he came back, it had moved to Simpson Bay Resort (Pelican) and Caribbean Grilled Flavors appeared next door. He also mentioned that he had been to Le Cigale in Nettle Bay recently for a fine meal, including his favorite: foie gras soup!


Le Bateau Ivre
On Wednesday night we went over to the concert at Porto Cupecoy. The Jolly Boys (a local string and steel pan band) were playing from 7PM to 10PM. Admission is free and parking was available. Unfortunately, it was quite windy with sprinkles. This cut down on the crowds considerably, but the Jolly Boys soldiered on. As we walked in we passed the Rendezvous Lounge which had light snacks and drinks and entered the main plaza, at least a couple football fields, leading to the marina. We checked out the menus at Ernest and Fidel (Hemingway and Castro), finding that those on display stopped at lunch. Next door is Les Quatre Vent (The Four Winds), successor to the Molin Fou outpost that started here. Porto Cupecoy is a high end development and those high end rents were reflected in the menu prices that we saw in all of these places.
  We went to the lower level, essentially at water level, to find Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat). The prices weren't quite as high and there were glass screens blocking the very cool breeze off the lagoon. We actually went into the bar where they were serving tapas and choose the foie gras on toast (below left, $15) with a couple glasses of South American pinot noir ($6 each). Eventually, we decided to stay and moved out to the dining room for a duck confit (below center, $31) and a filet mignon with cepes (below right, $30). Our wine was a Pommard from Aleth Girardin ($58). The wine list had no vintage. The good news is that I asked the waitress and she actually knew the year. The bad news was that it was 2004, the worst year in recent memory. The wine was extremely cold and got a bit better as it warmed up, but it did live up to its reputation. Altogether, our dinner cost $175 and it was pointed out by a sign on the wall that the tip was not included and could not be included on the credit card. Cash only. Honest.  

Champagne Snack Bar
On Thursday we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain and pick up some good wine. We reserved three specials at Champagne Snack Bar and headed to Grande Marché for provisions. While there, the heavens opened, but when we returned we chanced a lunch on the terrace and were rewarded with a lovely afternoon. Martha had the smoked duck, foie gras, and chicken liver salad (center) while Sylvain and I enjoyed the mini-burgers (smoked salmon, grouper, and beef) with crisp fries and a bit of salad. Martha really liked her very flavorful lunch and especially liked the mâche in the salad. I would have a hard time choosing my favorite burger. They were all good but all different. Both plates were about $15. Sylvain brought the 2009 Côte de Beaune "Le Clos Topes Bizot" from Chantal Lescure and it was great with these dishes. We do this frequently (about once a week), so if you'd care to join us, drop an email.

On Friday evening we thought we would catch the jazz and tapas at Karakter, but the late rain and subsequent cool air sent us to a warmer place with a roof. When in doubt, we head for Skipjack's. Traffic at 7:00PM was a breeze and we got a parking spot at the front door. We had the usual bottle of the Concannon Pinot Noir ($31). That's Bido pouring some on the right. We started with the crabcakes. There are two rather large ones, so it is a great ap to split. (below left, $14). They are quite good with plenty of crab and a bit of heat.
Martha had the tuna (above center, $25) and I had the grilled mahi (left, $24). The tuna is fresh as you can get and just barely seared, close to sushi, although they will cook it more if you wish. The toasted sesame seeds on the outside add a satisfying crunch as the ginger, wasabi, and soy dipping sauce add flavor. My mahi was also fresh and the sauces (Créole and pineapple salsa) were an added bonus. The bill came to about $110 after they added a 15% tip. That's a wonderful price for fresh seafood prepared well. They give out a $50 certificate in the SXM-Info contest and one is available to all renters of my condo. Use that and this meal comes in at half price!

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. Ti Coin logo

Heineken Regatta: The Regatta kicks off on Tuesday 28 Feb with the Budget Marine Match racing Cup. Leap Year Day is registration day and a party at the Yacht Club. Thursday is the final call for registration and a party at Port de Plaisance. Friday is the round the island race and a party on the Boarddwalk in Pburg. Saturday is the race from Simpson Bay to Marigot followed by a waterfront party. Sunday has the race back to Simpson Bay and the closing ceremonies followed by the BIG concert.

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.

Drummers in Grand Case

Porto Cupecoy Nights: Everybody is getting in on this trend. On Wednesday night Porto Cupecoy had a concert featuring the Jolly Boys, a local string band with a steel pan. On Monday nights they have a French Film Festival with subtitles. the show is projected on the side of a building next to the courtyard. On Saturdays, from 9AM to 1PM they have a farmer's market featuring local fruits and vegetables, gourmet foods, and island crafts.

Marina Royale Nights: Thursday night has been claimed by Marigot's Marina Royale. They are doing some theme with live music. For instance, next Friday is local art with the Gunslingers steel pan band.


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."