St Maarten/St Martin
1 April 2012 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday turned out to be a spectacular day, something to make the tourist bureau proud. We spent it at Galion Beach with Pat Turner and more than enough rosé. On the way home we took the photo of the wreck in Gallis Bay (right). Monday was just as nice, sunny with puffy white clouds, reaching 82F, but so hazy that Saba is not to be seen. Tuesday was even more of the same, more hazy, more humid. The Daily Herald reported that sargassum weed was reaching the shores of Pointe Blanche. I had already photographed some off shore at Cupecoy (below left). The Sargasso Sea is the answer to the question, "What sea has no shore". It is bounded by currents (on the west by the Gulf Stream, on the north by the North Atlantic current, on the east by the Canary current, and on the south by the North Atlantic Equatorial current). This rotating system traps floating seaweed in its warm waters. Currently, the Gulf stream is moving to the south, pushing some of the seaweed in our direction. The left hand photo below shows a large batch of the seaweed with a 35 foot sailboat in the background. On Wednesday the French side newspaper confirmed that the haze is Saharan sand. The middle photo below shows the Dutch supply ship and Passat sailing past our Caribbean balcony and I guarantee that Saba is out behind the supply ship, but I haven't seen it in days.
The panorama below was taken from the Cakehouse shortcut from Pburg to Cole Bay on hazy Wednesday. That's Cole Bay in the foreground with the lagoon and Simpson Bay beyond that. On Saturday we finally saw Saba and on Sunday morning I can see the outline of the island again. Honest. The photo below right has Saba rising up out of the water about a quarter inch from the right hand side. All in all, it's been a warm, sunny, hazy week with little rain.

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 6:26 PM. In 2012 the full moon dates are 6 Apr (this week), 5 May, 4 Jun, 3 Jul, 1 Aug, 31 Aug (a blue moon), 29 Sep, 29 Oct, 28 Nov, and 28 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Below is a panoramic shot of half of Bay Long. It's only the southeastern half facing left as you use the public access. The public access is no longer reached by driving past La Samanna. They no longer want you near their facilities and have blocked off the road. You are supposed to drive toward Bay Rouge and use the other entrance to the lowlands. There are gates here also, but they have motion detectors that will raise the gate when you approach. As soon as you get inside, a left turn will bring you to the Bay Long public access and parking and going straight will get you to the Plum Bay public access and parking. As you can see there were very few people here on Saturday afternoon. Both beaches have the lovely sign on the right.

The blue hulled yacht to the right of center in the distance is Sherakhan. It was actually anchored about 200 yards off our Caribbean balcony for a couple days, although it was gone on Sunday morning.

Beach reading:Thirteen Steps Down by Ruth Rendell - (about $13.50 paperback) - Mix Cellini has just moved into a flat in a decaying house in Nottinghill, where he plans to pursue his two abiding passions--supermodel Nerissa Nash, whom he worships from afar, and the life of serial killer Reggie Christie, hanged fifty years earlier for murdering at least eight women. Gwendolen Chawcer, Mix's eighty-year-old landlady has few interests beside her old books and her new tenant. But she does have an intriguing connection to Christie. And when reality intrudes into Mix's life, he turns to Christie for inspiration and a long pent-up violence explodes. Intricately plotted and brilliantly written, 13 Steps Down enters the minds of these disparate people as they move inexorably toward its breathtaking conclusion.

Martha read this on her Kindle, downloading it from our local library's website to her computer via our high speed internet connection while here in SXM. She then transfers the file to her Kindle via the USB port.

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 2012 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 Sherakhan. At 230 feet, she dominated the view from our Caribbean balcony and when she dropped anchor for a couple days.

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: It's been a slow week on the "Hard Rock buys Simpson Bay Resort" front. I haven't seen anything.

Sunset Take a little tour of ... Grand Case: On Friday we headed over to visit Tijon Perfumery (below left). The sunset photos (left and right) are from earlier visits, as is the shot of Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. The sunset on the left was taken from the old Le Shore location and the one on the right is from Ti Provençal. Sunset from Ti Provencal Restaurant Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church
We drove down to the street past the old press to the central parking lot across the street from Il Nettuno Restaurant. We were on our way to Tropismes Gallery to attend a gathering in honor of Poivre de la Freta (below left), one of the founders of the gallery who died recently. We have a lovely sketch of of wine glasses from him hanging between our kitchen and dining room back in the US. Unfortunately, I have no image on this computer, so I have substituted one from the gallery website. Nettuno

He was a wonderful, well-loved man who packed more into his allotted 68 years than most of us will. The gathering was filled with his fellow artists. We met Donna in front of Piazza Pascal as we walked along and told her where we were going. She abandoned her post and walked down with us. He was that kind of man.

Shopping: We just bought a new four burner ceramic cooktop for our condo. It took a while to find one, but Kwik Bargains on the road into Pburg (Long Wall Road) had two different 30 inch versions. We took the pure black top for $450. I found the same thing online in the US for $511 and while they would ship to Miami for free, I would have to pay to get it here. The estimate was about $50. Obviously, Kwik Bargains was a bargain.

Activities: On the right is a pod of dolphins that was photographed by Diane on Random Wind last week. She says: "We are seeing them nearly every day. Like a gift from God they visit us, swimming along the bow-wave. They to give us a gentle smile. How lucky are we?"

On the left in the foreground is Random Wind heading home after a day of snorkeling, dolphin photography and other fun.

On Monday night James Chance (right) was playing at Sapphire's management party. He covered Eric Clapton's ode to Pattie Boyd, "Wonderful Tonight" and other similar songs.

On the far right we have Tango's Tuesday night sunset cruise coming quite close to the villas on the beach at Sapphire. They have been known to cruise close to the naked Lemon Droppers on Cupecoy and exchange greetings, but this is the first time I have seen them this close to our villas.

CHEESE Groceries: On the left is the boniato bin at Sunny Foods on the outskirts of Pburg. Wikipedia sys "The flesh of the boniato is cream-colored, unlike the more popular orange hue seen in other varieties [of sweet potato]. Boniatos are not as sweet and moist as other sweet potatoes, but many people prefer their fluffier consistency and more delicate flavor." I say it has a nutty flavor, somewhat like a chestnut. We bought another pork shoulder at Grand Marché (about $3 per pound), braised it for quite a while in bit of thin-sliced scotch bonnet pepper (habenero), lime juice, and allspice and added onions, tomato paste, carrots, and boniato. The shoulder resembles the meat in ropa vieja. We got two dinners and two lunches from about $8 worth of pork.

We bought some Badoit red sparkling water at Grand Marché for $13.41. The same six pack at US Market was $3 cheaper.

Alcohol: On Friday we went to Select Wine Cellar and our usual Friday lunch at Champagne Bistro. We took a bottle of the 2009 Beaune Premier Cru-Les Chouacheux from Chantal Lescure ($52) from the wine shop to have with our lunch.

After lunch, we picked up three more bottles of our "house" wine, the 2009 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Guy Amiot ($24), a bottle of the 2009 white Hautes Cotes de Beaune from Bonnardot ($24), a bottle of a bottle of the Tremblay's 2009 Chablis Premier Cru ($29.50), and Gaillard's 2009 St Joseph that we had at Moulin Fou this week ($33).

In the US, Saratoga Wine Exchange has Guigal's 2009 St Joseph for a bit under $300 for the case. Guigal makes very good wines and it is a great year. If you are from NY, there will be tax and, of course, shipping is extra. Similar, but less expensive, Lot18 has a 2010 Domaine Le Garrigon Cotes du Rhone Half Case with free shipping. It's rated 3 out of 4 by Eric Azimov, wine critic of the NY Times.

Traffic: We came back from Pburg on Tuesday afternoon at about 4PM and found opposing traffic backed up all through Cole Bay and Simpson Bay back to the airport runway. It appears you should still avoid heading east through Simpson Bay after 3PM.

Gas: Cadisco at the Marigot location on the lagoon does 1 to 1 for the euro dollar conversion and generally has the cheapest gas on the island. We usually put in $40 at a time (right). The current price $1.32 per liter or $5.00 per gallon. It's usually a few pennies more per liter (or 10-15 cents more per gallon, currently 1.35 per liter) at Cadisco's Orient Beach location which also does 1 to 1. The Cadisco in Nettle Bay on the main road does not do 1 to 1. The Dutch side prices are now 2.57 NAF per liter, or $5.60 per gallon at 1.75 NAF per dollar.

Green logo Nature: On the left is almond tree complete with almonds. It was above our car as we parked just outside Orient Village.

Recently, there was an article about the wonders of Ed Bardfield's electric bike in the Daily Herald. Nobody seems to have noticed that electricity is generated down here by burning diesel fuel. But we shouldn't act so smug, in the US most electricity comes from burning coal. Electric vehicles merely move the pollution to the power plant.

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

Small Island story: The locals who have been using the Netherlands Antilles guilder despite splitting up and resolving to get a new currency by 1 Jan 2012 are now touting dollarization. I rather like the dollar and if they used it here, the funny business at gas pumps would stop, but it didn't work well in Argentina.


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:

19 Feb to 15 April 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:
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 25 Mar the Euro was at 1.327 and today it is at 1.334. That's up 0.006, not much but it's 2.5 cents per month. After three months with this tiny change the rate will be back to 1.40. Nothing says that it will be a steady rise like that, but nothing says that the US will even begin to address it's problems, while Europe already has and will continue to do so.

California Restaurant is still offering 1 to 1. Rainbow Café La Villa, Piazza Pascal and Rainbow Café, also in Grand Case, are 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.

Moulin Fou
On Tuesday evening we went to Moulin Fou in Maho using the valet service at the casino to solve our parking problems. Everything about the restaurant has improved since our last visit. They have fully integrated the space next door and and done a makeover inside and out. It is stunningly beautiful. The menu seems similar to our last visit, but I think there are a few more choices and the preparations seem more upscale and the kitchen executes them well. Even the website has had an upgrade. It is still written in Franglais but it now has prices on the menu or wine list, although it is only the high end wine list. They have La Tache for a mere $1860, but trust me, the 2009 St Joseph from Gaillard was quite nice with our dinner (right, $56 or about 5% of La Tache). Sylvain from Select Wine Cellar is the wine steward, so you always get excellent advice on the cellar.
Moulin Fou  
  As usual, we went on Tuesday as Cheri's is dark, but frankly, it is getting warm and we retreated into the A/C before the evening was over. Thai Fou remains as several pages of sushi on the menu and we chose the spicy tuna as our ap. There were eight spicy tuna rolls when the platter arrived, but only six were left for the photo (below left, $14) We generally like powerful Rhone wines (or zinfandel) with spicy food, and this combo was quite nice. Martha chose the chef's speciality appetizer, smoked marlin raviolis, as her main course (below center, $15). It's white on white, so it isn't a stunning photo, but the smoked marlin was quite flavorful. I had the pork "Wellington", pork (rather than beef) topped with a duxelle of mushrooms wrapped in pastry, no foie gras. It was quite good and the ratatouille, broiled tomato, and garlic mashed potatoes were nice accompaniments. The hint of a yellow fruit on the ratatouille is a physalis, from the nightshade family, same as tomatoes and potatoes. Again, the powerful, though young and fruity, Rhone wine was fine with the pork and while I didn't have any of the marlin, I did note a lot of wine heading into her glass. That's the problem with first class sommeliers, they fill other people's glasses. We skipped desserts and had espressos that arrived with a bottle of banana-flavored rum.

Cheri's really does have a rather loud show featuring rather rotund men pretending to be women every night but Tuesday when they are dark. As the terrace at Moulin Fou overlooks the open air stage at Cheri's you can consider it a bonus with dinner or you could ask for a table inside the restaurant or go on Tuesday. Our bill arrived with charge of 15% for "SC" bringing the total to $152.

Spicy tuna rolls Marlin ravioli Pork tenderloin

Pizza Galley
On Wednesday night we drove out to Simpson Bay for dinner at Pizza Galley and another chat with JP. We ordered our usual salad and split it (plenty for two), the JP Special Pizza (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese, $17), and the house wine, the 2009 Mont Redon Cotes du Rhone for $24. There is a wine list, but this is a quality Rhone blend from a good year and it is fine with pizza. It was a great meal perfectly filling for the two of us and only cost about $50 plus a tip for the crew. You'll note that the JP special pizza is not stock, a few red peppers and a clove of roasted garlic were added.

And on to the usual discussion with JP about dining and the restaurant business. On our previous visit JP had asked were we would go for our last meal in Grand Case. At that time we mentioned that Le Tastevin seemed to have everything: view, facilities, service, wine cellar, and cuisine. Shortly thereafter we had a fine meal there and wrote about it here. We also mentioned that we had heard good things about L'Estimanet and wanted to get there. We did and wrote about it here. At this point we have reservations and our last three meals in Grand Case will be at Ti Coin Créole, Bistrot Caraïbes, and Piazza Pascal, in that order. Our "special" last meal will be at Mario's Bistro on Saturday (7 April) and our last meal will be casual, no reservations required, on the night before we leave, dead tired from packing up the condo (8 April) at Skipjack's. I don't know what anyone should make of all this as the first is Créole, the second is French, the third is Italian, the fourth is French-Canadian, and the fifth is seafood. Possibly the connection is that I consider all of them friends, although, like many people, I think Mario is one of the finer chefs on the island.

JP said that he had good Thai food at Mooi and having stopped in at Champagne Bistro, he's now a believer. Our recent review is next.


Champagne Bistro
On Friday we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, pick up some wine, and have a lunch next door at Champagne Bistro. The lovely lady on the right is violin diva Sarina Suno. She was here the last time we had a lunch, but alas, no longer. She played at Waikiki here on Orient Beach and at Tom Beach on St Barts. There was talk of a return engagement, but her schedule does not show any at this time. The photo will probably show up in future newsletters as I find it quite easy on the eyes.

There were two specials: seafood on mixed vegetables ($16, left) and a duck confit ($17, center). My fish had grouper, mahi, mussels, and two kinds of shrimp. Martha had a tasty leg and thigh of duck in a rich sauce with crunchy fried potatoes. Both were quite good. After lunch, we repaired to the air-conditioned wine shop to sip Mirabelle eau de vie and purchase some wine.

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

April Fool's Day: Happy AFD to all of you. As today is Sunday and the Daily Herald does not publish an edition, the tradition of April Fool's jokes on the front page is missing. Saturday's paper had a fine photo of 36 large containers of ganja found in a hotel room. I was looking for the line that the police needed people to sample it to be certain that it was ganja, but there was no punchline to the story. Previous years have featured the governor's mansion being up for auction, show up at 6AM for a pre-auction viewing!; free gas at the Texaco station, which had cars waiting in line for hours; whales sighted in the lagoon at the Dutch bridge, which had crowds on the bridge and at the Yacht Club; and last year's timeshare scheme for the unused administration building. In France this is called Poisson d'Avril (the April fish). Why, you might ask? Here's the long answer, but the short answer is that in 1564 King Charles XIV of France revised the calendar, moving the start of the year from March to January. Communication was a bit slower then, so the poor peasants using AOL dialup didn't get the news as quickly as their friends with a 4G connection who promptly played jokes upon them. The fish part comes from the fact that the astrological sign around this time is Pisces, the fish.

Porto Cupecoy's events appear to have ended for the season.

The last Grand Case Night of this season: 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

Dutch side carnival schedule:

Thur, April 19 Opening Carnival Village/Opening Jump Up Fri, April 27Senior Calypso Finals
Fri, April 20Senior Calypso Eliminations & Road March Competition Sat, April 28Jouvert Morning 4am
Sat, April 21International Concert (Soca) Sat, April 28International Concert (Latin) (8pm)
Sun, April 22Junior Carnival Parade Sun, April 29International Concert (R&B / Reggae)
Mon, April 23Ms. Mature Queen Pageant & Cultural Manifestation Monday, April 30Grand Carnival Parade
Tues, April 24International Concert (Hip Hop / Dance Hall) Tues, May 1Second Day Parade
Wed, April 25Senior & Teen Carnival Queen Pageants Wed, May 2Closing Jump Up & Burning King Momo


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 Cantin, 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."

Erich S. Kranz
Click here to subscribe or unsubscribe
Our privacy policy