SXM-Info newsletter 3 February 2013

St Maarten/St Martin
3 February 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was rather rainy and overcast but by the afternoon was fairly sunny. The photo on the right was from the morning. The photo below left taken on Tuesday afternoon shows plenty of cloud and haze. We did get sprinkles and a few downpours in the early part of the week. The photo below left shows Random Wind going past our balcony on a cloudy, hazy Tuesday afternoon. The center photo suggests there is still rain, but also enough sunshine to produce a rainbow. On the right is the coast guard patrolling alongside our balcony keeping us safe from pirates on Friday morning. Unfortunately, the pirates have already landed. At least it was a much nicer day with fewer clouds but still a bit of marine haze obscuring Saba.

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 6:04 PM. In 2013 plan on full moons for 25 Feb, 27 Mar, 25 Apr, 25 May, 23 Jun, 22 Jul, 21 Aug, 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

And this is the Thursday evening sunset: tremendous, towering clouds with rain out at sea, but beautiful.

SXM-Beaches: It appears that the beach bars on Bay Rouge are back in operation after the French authorities shut them down recently. These two and Arawak in Marigot were closed down by the health authorities and I was told that it was related to having fresh and hot water. Arawak actually has a facility in the building next to the bar shack on the sidewalk and it is open, but as the photo on the right shows, the sidewalk bar is still closed.

Below are some photos from a visit to Cupecoy. The monolith is even less monolithic and smaller, barely able to accommodate a pelican. In the center is the beach at ShorePointe, if beach is a word for a solid rock formation littered with more rocks. The final photo was taken atop the crater formed by a cave that collapsed. It's not the same beach as in my younger days, but there is now plenty of parking after the top of the cliffs were scraped and you can usually find some sand someplace. You may have to introduce yourself to the person squeezed in next to you, but have a couple rum punches and a good time.

Beach Beach reading: A Beach Less Traveled by John Berglund ($10 Kindle or $17 hardcover) We bumped into John and Cyndi Berlund (and another couple) as we walked out of the parking lot in Grand Case on Friday night. They were on a stroll from their end of Grand Case to the other end (and eventually back), intending to sample tapas and libations and music. It's how we live in the Caribbean. This is the story of their move to Grand Case and founding of Tijon Perfumery. The remarkable story of a happily married couple who abandoned the corporate rat race to open a perfumery and create their own custom lines of fragrances in the French Caribbean What originated in a family vacation on the beach eventually became an unlikely but thriving business,a perfumery on the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin. Though he chose a career in law, John Berglund's passion lay in the chemistry sets of his youth and his lifelong fascination with perfume. Berglund eventually built a full-fledged lab in the basement of his home in Atlanta, where he spent countless hours of free time experimenting with new concoctions. He began to dream of opening a perfumery in a tranquil island paradise and ultimately set out to make it happen no matter what. Berglund's account of his Caribbean adventure is a fun-filled, factual tale of conflicts, contrasts, and celebrations. As he and his wife, Cyndi, embed themselves in the eccentric French-side community of Grand Case, they learn incredible lessons about business, success, and themselves. Their story may just inspire others, too, to follow in their footsteps, trading business casual attire for a pair of shorts and flip-flops.

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 the rain squalls wash over Saba.

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: Here's a shot across the airport runway showing the new fresh air enhanced condos at Caravanserai.

Activities: We went to hear Category Five at La Bamba on Sunday night only to find that the authorities had closed the place. Enzo hopes to get it back in operation soon. It was no big deal as we headed over to Pineapple Pete. They have music most every night and were voted third in the Best Live Music category by the readers of the Daily Herald. Pete/SPN also got best pool hall and best sports bar.

Marci's Mega Gym got best gym with a note that it was "up to date and quite specious." Got through the spell check.

Here's some more activities. Last week's lone kayaker was replaced by a lone stand-up paddler heading east along Cupecoy Beach. He may have come from Tri Sport as they rent these boards. On the right is Lambada limping past our balcony with her mast being towed by the other boat. It will be a while before she goes by again.

Groceries: We generally pick up a pair of frozen Cornish Game Hens at the Grande Marché. They aren't game and and they aren't necessarily hens and they are a Cornish Rock Cross dispatched at 4 to 6 weeks. It's the same chickens that I raise, except I keep them for 7 to 8 weeks and they reach 7 lbs. It turns out they are sold by the piece at Grand Marché (about $5.50) and the pieces range from 16 to 22 ounces. It's worth your while to choose the bigger ones. This week we also picked up some jerk spices (about $7 for 100g or 3 oz) and made our own jerk chicken dinner. The jerk spice will last us for the season, but you can take them home.

We noticed this fine slogan on the back of a truck in the Cole Bay Grand Marché parking lot. Don't bother checking the website. It appears they can't keep it up.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a major iguana on a cactus just outside Marci's second floor MegaGym.

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

Small Island story: To kick off the start of the French side carnival, both sides meet in Philipsburg and join the Unity Jump Up . It celebrates the unity of the island and heads along Union Road past the border monument heading for Marigot. Unfortunately, it was stopped there because the necessary permits were not in place to continue into France. So much for Unity.


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 27 January the Euro was at 1.346 and today it is at 1.364. They look similar, but that is another major weekly gain (1.3%) for the euro and it has hit a 14 month high.

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 as is Paradise View Restaurant. 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.

On Sunday night afternoon we made reservations for our favorite table and headed over to Skipjack's at 7PM. There were few tables left and it was still crowded after a rather long dinner and a long conversation with Capt Neil from Celine and the Lagoon Pub Crawl. We were startled to find that our Concannon Pinot Noir was no longer on the wine list, leaving a choice between a South American Pinot and a high end French Pinot. We did see a Crozes-Hermitage at for only $29. It's not an Hermitage, but it is much better than the standard Cotes-du-Rhone. It certainly went well with the fried calamari with marinara sauce ($11, below left). The fruit in the wine worked well with the pineapple salsa that came with Martha's shrimp kebabs ($24, below center) and my blackened grouper ($24, below right). Add it all up and we had a nice dinner for about $88, a bit less than $100 when they add the tip. A talk with the waitress revealed that the staff does split the tips. If you use the SXM Privilege Card, you can get 10% off, but only at lunch.

Paradise View Restaurant
We went to Paradise View on Monday and the weather was a bit more cooperative. The photo on the left shows the view over Galion Beach to St Barts in the distance. Click the image and St Barts shows up much better in the enlarged version. On the right is Lucy serving us the La Coste Rosé d'un Nuit (22€), a lovely, not-too-sweet rosé that works well with fish. The restaurant is high on Hope Hill with an open air section and lots of windows looking out over all or Orient and the islands near (Green Cay, Tintamarre, Pinel, Molly Beday off Guana Bay) and far (Fourchue, St Barts). Here's the Google map.

Martha had a shrimp salad (below left, 10€) and I had a mahi fillet with Créole sauce (below center, 17€). Both were quite good and as they only use 1.20 as the exchange rate, the cost was only $59. The view of Tintamarre (below right) and the panoramic shot of St Barts were free.

Champagne Snack Bar
On Thursday we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain and were pleased to have his ex business partner, Marina, join us for lunch from Champagne Bistro next door. The Bistro delivered lunch to the large table that Sylvain has in his newly remodeled shop. We all ordered the Poisson Provençal special from the chalkboard at Champagne: mahi and young squid (seiche) in a tomato based sauce with rosemary and other Provençal spices accompanied by a bit of veg and rice ($17) - very tasty. Sylvain served Domaine Weinbach's 2010 Cuvée Theo ($55). It had been chilled and was quite good, but became fantastic as it warmed up. We had this as an aperitif and started into lunch with it, but soon ran out. Sylvain rummaged about and poured some wine into one of his beautiful decanters for a blind tasting. After several guesses we had narrowed it down to a chardonnay and Sylvain said that Martha and I had tasted it. It was lugubrious, coating the tongue with lots of flavor, but we could not place it. Finally it was revealed that it was a 2005 Macon Viré-Clessé that we had tasted in Burgundy with Sylvain last September ($42). For dessert Sylvain poured some Eau de Vie de Mirabelle, a plum liqueur. A great end to a rather long lunch.

L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant

On Wednesday we headed to Marigot and hit a traffic jam a bit before the Mini-Club. Traffic was bad because Wednesday and Saturday are the big market days and Wednesday also features more cruise ships than usual. It's something like a high tide during a full moon. A parking spot looked inviting, so we parked and walked through the crowded market, stopping to talk to Carlinda at Octaedre Gems. She said that Joël was not at the stand because he was on a trip to bring in new merchandise, so as we will be here for two more months, we should come back later. We always take home some of his beautiful garnet pieces.

We walked on to the end of town and ascended the few steps to Oizeau Rare. We took a window table so I could keep an eye on our condo at Sapphire. Honest, if you click on the photo on the right and look at the horizon, from right to left you can see The Cliff, Rainbow, and Sapphire Beach Club. We started with a bottle of Badoit red extra-fizzy water and the 2009 Beaumes de Venise at 26€ from Jaboulet. It's a Rhone, but a bit better than the average Cotes du Rhone and a good year.

Martha chose the chicken breast stuffed with figs (below left, 18€). It came in a lovely sauce with some of the island's crispest fries. That makes me very happy because it cuts down on the number of fries she steals from my plate. I almost always order something with these wonderful fries. If I forget someone from the Bardin family (father in the kitchen, or his wife, daughter, or son-in-law in the dining room) will see that I get some. As it turns out, my tuna tartar came with fries and a bit of greenery (below center, 16€). I found it quite tasty and also liked the few bits of the chicken with figs that Martha shared. It's a good combination of both textures and tastes, especially with the fruity Beaumes de Venise. Our lunch came to 66€ or $90. The final photo is a view over the ferry terminal to Marigot Bay.

Le Pressoir

On Friday we headed to Grand Case, arriving at 7:30 to meet Daniel (and Tina) from Daniel's by the Sea at Le Pressoir. At this hour, there is no free parking left except for the truly lucky, so we headed to the pay lot and took a short walk to the north. Our table was waiting because we had reservations, as Friday is usually a busy night. This lovely corner table was available as we sat down, but not for long.

We started with Jadot's 2004 Beaune Bressandes (91€), a premier cru Burgundy. This is arguably the worst year of this century for Burgundy, but given a good plot of land (the Bressandes vineyard), hand picking of the best grapes, and extreme care in winemaking, a very good wine can emerge from a bad vintage. It helped that Mélanie (owner and wine steward) vouched for this particular wine and I had the just finished the 02 in my cellar recently. The 2004 was quite good and was a nice accompaniment to the foie gras starter (9.5€, below right). This was one of Daniel's favorite foie gras preparations: a macaroon foie gras sandwich. Normally, I would have had a sweet wine with foie gras but the macarroon and the bit of fruit chutney added enough sweetness to make a stunning start to our dinner.

For a starter, I chose the snails wrapped in a crispy shell with bleu cheese (13€, below left). Most restaurants in town have snails and most of them do the usual snails in butter with parsley and garlic. Not here. You can see the parsley and there was garlic, but there was a lot more, including a crispy shell that added a satisfying crunch. Martha had a veal trilogy from the specials of the evening: a crisped veal trotter with a horseradish sauce, a veal roast, and a blanquette of veal accompanied by smoked mashed potatoes (30€, below center).
I had a sweetbread and shrimp plate with a bit of bacon, a potato muffin, and a chopped melange of onions and peppers (26€, above right). This is Franck (owner and chef) demonstrating why this restaurant is one of the best on the island. Not only are there several tastes, but each plate had something extra in texture. As we had finished the original wine, I checked the wine list. Daniel is more of an Italian wine enthusiast, with a minor in Bordeaux, while Martha and I have about a thousand bottles of Burgundy in the basement. Unfortunately, the basement is in NY. Daniel did like the Beaune Bressandes so I looked nearby and found Joseph Drouhin's Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches at a mere 175€. It was even better and worked well with the food, even the sole meunière that Daniel and Tina had ordered. We passed on desserts and were offered La Maury old rum from Martinique to end the wonderful meal. The wonderful meal cost about 230€, about $300 for four. There were cheaper wines available, but Franck's cuisine deserves some of the best from Mélanie's cellar.

The Stone
On Saturday night The Stone inside Simpson Bay Resort for dinner with Neil Roebert, Captain of Celine and leader of the Lagoon Pub Crawl. Neil's son Johann is the chef and owner. Most of the main courses come out partially cooked on a very hot stone and you get to take your main course off as you like it. Another interesting feature is large or small plates. The small plate is a generally smaller portion of meat/fish with your choice from about 10 sides. The large plate costs a bit more, of course, but has a larger portion of meat/fish or possibly a duo and comes seasonal vegetables and your choice from the sides. I chose the Line Fish Duet (right, $32), consisting of a sesame crusted salmon and a bit of ahi tuna.

Martha had a shrimp and scallop duet. Neil and his companion did the essentially the same. No aps required. We shared two bottles of 2010 Brouilly Chateau de Pierreux ($39, premier cru Beaujolais), not as big and bold as a Burgundy, and probably better suited to all the fish dishes. We ended with no desserts and our after dinner drink was to finish the wine and chat at our outdoor table in the warm evening air. The total cost with a tip was about $100 per couple. Parking in this area is a bit of a problem and the signage for The Stone is limited by the resort, so you should know that you head down the stairs and then down the next set of stairs to get to the waterfront. You end up literally walking into the center of the dining area with a great view of the water.

News and Changes: The Daily Herald Best of St Maarten awards were issued on Tuesday and while the voters are readers of the Dutch side English language newspaper and the voting is prone to ballot box stuffing, it does show something. The best news I saw was that Elisa (left) at Bikini Beach, the ORIGINAL Bikini Beach, was voted the Best Beach Bar. In the best high end restaurant category, Dino Jagtiani's Temptation and Rare finished at the top. In the local food category The Palms near the RBC Bank in Simpson Bay finished first with Peg Leg Pub and Pineapple Pete finishing second and third. Lal's got first place for Indian food, but his former chef, Loknath, at Shiv Shakti Restaurant took a well deserved second. Pizza Galley won best pizza and best dessert, again. Best French cuisine went to Bon Apetite at Pelican (I believe they mean Simpson Bay, or possibly Hard Rock) Resort. Old standby Tropicana came in second and L'Escargot Restaurant came in third.


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."