SXM-Info newsletter 27 January 2013

St Maarten/St Martin
27 January 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was quite nice with a few clouds but lots of marine haze. It reached 81 by 9AM. Saba was visible, Statia was rather dim, and St Kitts was lost in haze. The day was lovely, but ended terribly for the Pats. Monday morning featured a whiteout at about 7AM and some dribbles through the day. It was the same for the rest of the week, although we didn't see any rain on Saturday. The shot on the right shows the hazy and cloudy conditions that prevailed. Saba is in the distance, but barely visible. Below is a sunset shot of Saba with a crown of clouds on Mt Scenery's rain forest and a sunset shot. Note the clouds

The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Sunset tonight will be at 6:02 PM. In 2013 plan on full moons for 27 Jan (tonight), 25 Feb, 27 Mar, 25 Apr, 25 May, 23 Jun, 22 Jul, 21 Aug, 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Above is the cleared land above the cliffs of Cupecoy. On the far left is the ugly tower at Ocean Club. Just right of center is the front end loader that helped clear away the vegetation. Note that there are no cars in sight. There were large boulders blocking entrance to the drive through the property. They are now gone, but the clearing essentially turned everything into a road - or nothing. You can get in there and there is sand on the all three beaches, but not much. I have seen a map that shows a government-owned beach access lane next to Ocean Club and I think there is enough land to put in a parking lot. Certainly the former area had parking for two rows of cars, one row facing the Ocean Club wall on the east and another facing the post and wire fence on the west with an access lane down the center. It's been years since this was in operation.

We took a drive to Bay Long recently. It used to be a quite short drive, just a quick shot across the border, turn left at the top of the hill (red arrow) toward La Samanna and take a right at La Samanna. In a couple thousand feet we would be at the public beach access, about a mile in total. In 2011, the lowlands association blocked off all access from this direction. You must continue on another couple thousand feet to the combined entrance to Bay Long and Plum Bay (green arrows). It appears to be blocked off also, but the gate will rise if you approach it. A quick left takes you toward Bay Long, but this entire route is about three times longer than our previous journey. Once there, a short access path leads to the rather rocky center of Bay Long (photo below with Saba in the distance). Samanna to the south has sand and the very northern end also has sand. The coastline curves back at this point as Plum Bay starts. The point between Bay Long and Plum Bay is called Pointe Canonniere and features the French side sewage plant, which can be seen on Google maps.

Eleven on Top Beach reading: Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovitch ($8 Kindle or paperback) Stephanie Plum is thinking her career as a fugitive apprehension agent has run its course. She's been shot at, spat at, cussed at, fire-bombed, mooned, and attacked by dogs. Stephanie thinks it's time for a change. So she quits. She wants something safe and normal. But the kind of trouble she had at the bail bonds office can't compare to the kind of trouble she finds herself facing now. She's is stalked by a maniac returned from the grave for the sole purpose of putting her into a burial plot of her own. He's killed before, and he'll kill again if given the chance. Caught between staying far away from the bounty hunter business and staying alive, Stephanie reexamines her life and the possibility that being a bounty hunter is the solution rather than the problem. After disturbingly brief careers at the button factory, Kan Klean Dry Cleaners, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket, Stephanie takes an office position in security, working for Ranger, the sexiest, baddest bounty hunter and businessman on two continents. Tempers and temperatures rise as competition ratchets up between the two men in her life--her on-again, off-again boyfriend, tough Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and her boss, Ranger. This is certifiable beach reading, no concentration required.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo at this time and it looks fine. The unit will be available again on April 2 when we return to the US. The rate ranges from $700 to $1000 per week over the low season. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted agencies on the island, and many more coupons as well, including the use of our 2013 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."

You could sit on the balcony and watch the sunset cruises pass by Statia every evening. They come out here because we have the best sunsets.

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 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: The Baywatch at Beacon Hill has been upgraded with lots of new furniture, new pictures and mirrors, newly tiled kitchen, new bathroom light fixtures, sinks and faucets and a new staircase leading to the beach. Check out all of the new pictures at VRBO. I made a typo on the URL last week.

Bleu Emeraude in Grand Case is offering a one bedroom apartment for the studio rate from now until the end of January. Not too many days left.

Activities: On the left is Flagship II, Alain and Zuzu's new cat. We had a great trip with them in 2011 on Flagship I and are looking forward to another great time next week.

On the right is a kayak heading past our balcony in Cupecoy. There are two companies I know that rent kayaks: Tropical Wave at Galion Beach and Tri Sport with outposts in Simpson Bay at the western side of the bridge, in Pointe Blanche, and in Marigot. This guy is quite a distance away from any of them. Galion Beach has a rather calm bay and TriSport's Simpson Bay location is on the lagoon, so they both are good for beginners.

Groceries: Having driven through Grand Case to Orient, we noticed that the other US Market has also become a Simply franchise. On Sunday we did another bit of shopping at the Sandy Ground store when we discovered CBS on our TV. We no longer had to go someplace to watch the AFC championship. We picked up some two lovely steaks (from Uruguay) at $13.50/lb. At the current exchange rate, multiply a €/kg price by 0.6 to get $/lb. As usual, they had the ends (talon) of some slicing ham in the case marked down from $8.50 to about $5/lb. We cut them into chunks, cook them up with frozen peas in a cream sauce, and put them over pasta. We also buy rognon de veau (veal kidneys) at $3.50 per pound. Martha does clean them well and soak them in milk. After that they make a fine, yet inexpensive, dinner.

We had bought another Guadeloupe melon which requires more air-dried ham. On the French side you get a choice of Parma ($18/lb, Italy), Bayonne ($15/lb, France), Serrano ($13/lb, Spain), and Vendée ($6/lb on sale, normally $9/lb, France again, right). The Vendée region is a bit north of Bordeaux. While the flavor of the ham doesn't reach the heights of Parma, at one third the price, it is pretty good.

I was wrong about the Morbier here was $8.50/lb, about 10% more than the Dutch side. It was really about $4.50/lb, considerably cheaper on the French side! On this trip I picked up some Reblochon and Munster at about $10/lb. I found Roquefort ($15.50/lb), Fourme d'Ambert ($10.50/lb, photo on left), and Blue d'Auverne ($8.50/lb). I chose the Fourme d'Ambert because Jenkins' Cheese Primer says it is "worthy of its distinction as one of France's 32 name-controlled cheeses." It's pretty good, but it doesn't have the tears-in-your-eyes bite of Roquefort. Of course, the price of Roquefort also brings tears to your eyes.

Alcohol: We did a blind tasting with the 2010 Jean-Jaques Girard Savigny-Les-Beaune ($25.70) and his 2011 Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru Les Lavières. ($35). Martha could felt that the Premier Cru was better, but I could hardly see a difference.

Green logo Nature: On the right is Lilly leading Martha to the shade of a sea grape on Bay Long. It appears that the sand was too hot for her tender feet.

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

Small Island story: This Daily Herald story shows the island government still piling clichéd metaphor upon clichéd metaphor as they discuss the fact that Holland has refused to give them more money, aka debt relief. Look for "more hay on our fork", "borrow a key, find a locksmith or pick the lock to gain access", "the door being closed does not mean it cannot be opened" ad infinitum and ad nauseam.


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:

now to 10 February 2013
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:

We met with Sylvian at Select Wine Cellar, enjoyed the tasting, and opted for the Belin Champange for the free bottle. It was very good. I will try and find this at home to drink again. He was a very nice host. We also went to Peg Leg Pub for the steak dinner. We had the place to ourselves with two other couples. The $50 certificate kept the cost under $100 after wine, main course, and appetizers. I enjoyed entering the contest and look forward to future entries. Over 16 days we only had only one 4 minute rain shower; otherwise the weather was beautiful. We tried the Hideaway Restaurant at La Vista. It was very good as were the other places we dined.

Future Contests:
10 February to 14 April 2013 | 14 April to 14 July 2013
14 July to 13 October 2013 | 13 October to 15 December
same cast of characters as current contest



On 20 January the Euro was at 1.332 and today it is at 1.346. That is 1% in a week and it has been quite a week in the stock market.

La Villa and Piazza Pascal in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Palm Beach Restaurant is doing 1.25 to 1. Rainbow Café, also in Grand Case, is offering 1.2 to 1. Almost all other restaurants on the French side that we have visited have offered us a better rate than 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 headed to Bistro Caraïbes to meet our friends from Lighthouse in a central location. We parked next door in the pay parking lot because the free lot appeared full as we drove by. We had reservations and were offered a table in the front with a great view of Ocean82's lobster tank.

Much of the wine on the list is brought over directly from France, so I rely heavily on the recommendations from Thibault or Amaury. As I started with the smoked salmon appetizer (below center, 15€), a glass of crisp white wine was in order and we settled on a bottle of 2010 Chablis (39€). While Chablis is a Burgundy, this photo (below left) is being recycled from our last visit when I had a white Borgogne.

For the main course Martha chose the marmite of vivaneau, braised red snapper with vegetables in a creamy mussel sauce with saffron (below center, 24€), same as last spring, though this is a new photo.

Thibault with Macon Rouge
I had the duck breast with mushrooms and a bit of veg (24€, far right). Our wine for the main courses was a Rully (55€, above right with Thibault except that this is a recycled photo of last spring's wine). Our friends asked for the double profiterole plate to be shared for desert. Thibault brought four individual profiteroles. We ended with various coffees and complimentary snifters of Armagnac and house-made ginger run. It was a wonderful evening with great food, good sturdy wine, and fine service for only $175 using a conversion of 1.28 which is more than fair at this time.

Champagne Snack Bar
On Friday we went with some friends to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, pick up some wine, and have a lunch from Champagne Snack Bar next door. We are sitting at the large table that Sylvain has in his newly remodeled shop. The previous wine storage area has been made into a small tasting and dining area surrounded by some of the best bottles in the shop. As we entered, Sylvain served an organic 2011 Red Sancerre from Domain Vacheron ($35). Sancerre is known more for white wines, but makes a rather good red.

We all ordered lunches from the special chalkboard at Champagne: blanquette de veau and moules with cream and leeks. Sylvain thought the veal would be quite nice with Jean-Jacques Girard's 2010 Volnay Vielles Vignes. He was right and Martha and her moules were pretty happy also. For dessert Sylvain opened a bottle of St Joseph, a good Rhone, not on the level of Chateauneuf-de-Pape, but much better than the average Cotes-du-Rhone. Bruno sold the restaurant over the summer and the new owners have had a few chefs and a few problems, but it now appears to be open and working well. Our five lunches cost $85 plus a special tip for delivery into the wine shop!

Le Fourmi
Wendy K reports: La Fourmi is a truly French restaurant, along the lines of a "bouchon", whose menu contains several plats that most North Americans would avoid: tartare de cheval (chopped raw horse meat), andouillette (a sausage made from innards), and tete de veau (veal head). Let it be said, that I'm a fan of tartare de boeuf (beef tartare), but I've so far been unable to try the version made from a horse. I HAVE tried the sausage and the veal, and can't say that I care for either. However, the rest of the menu offers French dishes I can't wait to try. Every day, Monday-Saturday, there is a plat du jour offered for 12.50€.
Today it was chicken, shrimp, and chorizo with Spanish rice - much like paella. When we went on Wednesday, it was a roasted leg of lamb with rosemary sauce, served with puréed potatoes, a bit of fresh broccoli, and butternut squash. Today, Tony decided on the souris d'agneau (lamb shank) with very tender large white beans and a light tomato based sauce (20€). I had a Landaise salade, which was assorted greens, served with thinly-sliced duck breast, duck gizzards, and duck (leg) confit (17€). We drank a saumur-champigny (20€), a red wine from the Loire area of France, that went well with both of our meals. The owner of La Fourmi also owns La Cigale, on the beach of the lagoon in Nettle Bay, one of the best French restaurants on the island - IMHO.

Palm Beach Restaurant
We headed over to Orient on Saturday. We knew it was fairly cloudy and found it to be quite windy on the windward side, but it didn't rain. We got a corner table on the second level with great views of Green Cay, Tintamarre, and Pinel and started with a chilled bottle of Chateau de Pampelonne rosé (26€, right). It's a good wine with food, especially fish, as it isn't very sweet. And if you come here, you should at least consider the fresh fish on the specials board. On Saturday they had fresh grouper salad that sounded (and looked, below center, 21€) quite good. Martha and I both wanted to order it but she made a great sacrifice and switched to the lobster and shrimp salad (below left, 23€). We were amazed at the amount of grouper and a half lobster with four large shrimp seemed pretty generous. Note the layer of pineapple, a bit of Guadeloupe melon, and some grapefruit with a tangy curry mayonnaisse. Good wine, and a great lunch on Orient Beach for only $87 as they use 1.25 as the conversion.

News and Changes: After lunch we headed down the beach to visit Elisa (left) at Bikini Beach, the ORIGINAL Bikini Beach, not the imposter. Accept no substitutes. She and Philippe at Kontiki are in a major snit with the putative (accent on the puta) "owner" of the beach and the government. They are attempting to obtain rights to operate their restaurant by the government based on irregularities in the government's dealings with the "owner". While this court case proceeds, the "owner" has put up a restaurant next door with the same name and claimed the beach, essentially by force. At present, Elisa is being allowed to run her restaurant and bar, but not her beach chair concession. She will allow you to put her chairs on the public beach at no charge. You will have to fend off the importunities of the fake Bikini Beach. It sounds ugly but almost everyone who knows Lisa hopes that she prevails, so stop in for lunch, dinner, or drinks - or all three!

Our next stop was at Kakao Beach where we caught up with Hervé. He's doing quite well and another year without a major hurricane has made his setting even more beautiful (below right). That's one of the tables set amongst the palm trees looking out to a corner of Pinel Island on the left and quite a bit of Green Cay out the shot to the right. I had a rum punch as we caught up on gossip. (left)

We stopped at Orange Fever and talked to Luc (husband of Florence at La Villa). He and his partner, Olivier, are doing quite well and I read nothing but good things about their food. We drove out to Tropical Wave hoping to catch Pat Turner at the end of the day and get the real gossip filtered through the gimlet eye of someone who has been here since 1977. Unfortunately, the surgery done as a result of a ladder accident last spring had to be redone and Tracey is running the show while he recuperates.

Finally we went to the top of Hope Hill and looked out at all of Orient Bay and off to St Barts from Bernie's shop, Local Rums & Spices. Lucy was just closing Paradise View Restaurant and I prevailed upon her for a bottle of rosé to enjoy as we chatted with Bernie. The shop has even more spices than last spring and, if possible, even more animals under her care. Stop in to sample (and buy) local rums and spices to help support homeless animals.

Newspaper ads say Boo Boo Jam is being reconstructed and they will host monthly tent parties.

There is no sign at Carlo in the Atlantis complex and the tables are much reduced, but they did appear to be making pizzas. Coupole is owned by the same man who bought La Gondola.

And here is a final panoramic shot from Hope Hill. This is is all of Green Cay, but only part of the view from Paradise View Restaurant.


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
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."