SXM-Info newsletter 10 February 2013

St Maarten/St Martin
10 February 2013 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was spectacular, truly a super Sunday, albeit a bit cool, although when I tell you it was 81 when I typed this, you won't agree. Late Sunday and Monday were spectacularly clear with four islands visible from our balcony. Monday was even cooler, I'm not sure it got out of the 70s - yikes! Tuesday had sprinkles throughout the day and early evening, but our evening Pub Crawl was dry. It sprinkled a bit on Wednesday but even though Thursday was rather leaky, we didn't get a drop on an all day trip on Flagship II. We got a few sprinkles on Friday and a downpour at 6PM that was over in 15-20 minutes. On the right is a Friday night sunset that ended in a green flash!

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 6:10 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.

How's this for a sunset. It was shot from the Blue Mall looking through the trees that are left on top of the cliffs at Cupecoy.

SXM-Beaches: This week's beach shot is Orient taken from the deck at Paradise View Restaurant. It's actually five shots stitched together by AutoStitch. We stopped in to say hello to Lucie at the restaurant and Bernie at Local Rums & Spices. Bernie now has coffee, a rich Cuban roast from Trinidad. It's what's fueling my effort to get this newsletter out at an ungodly hour on Sunday morning! It's pretty good if you like dark roast and Bernie could use your help in taking care of homeless animals.

In the photo below, Pinel Island sticks out from the shore at the left. The next rather flat island is Tintamarre. In the center is Green Cay and way in the distance about one inch from the right hand side of the photo is St Barts.

Beach Beach reading: A Beach Less Traveled by John Berglund ($10 Kindle or $17 hardcover) I'm plugging this again as John and Cyndi Berlund are great people and I think many of you would be interested in what it takes to come down here fulltime. 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."

On Super Sunday we got absolutely clear skies, no haze, and this great shot of Saba (and our yacht).

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: We watched the Super Bowl at the Horny Toad Guesthouse in Simpson Bay. The party is not open to the public, just guests, a few friends, and the webmaster. We set up a TV in the pavilion on the beach and have a dinner before the game. If you want a small and friendly guesthouse on the beach, you can't beat the Toad. Four of the rooms have doors that open onto the sand. The guests in the second story rooms have to descend the stairs to reach the beach (It's a tough life). This beach is behind the sea wall and private. There are about six steps down from the seawall to the vast two mile expanse of Simpson Bay Beach running from Maho essentially at the end of the airport runway to the Dutch Bridge. There are now two very interesting restaurants to visit on the beach, both toward Maho. First is Karakter and then Tahoma. Obviously all of Simpson Bay is easily accessible. If you can't get into the Toad, Azure is next door. It has fewer rooms just a few steps from the beach and is just as friendly. beach side view

Activities: On Tuesday evening we went out on Celine with Captain Neil for the Lagoon Pub Crawl. It's changed since the last time we went out. It still starts at Skipjack's, but now the crawlers get their first drink and an appetizer (mahi kebab and a crab back) there, before departing. Previously, everyone got on board and sailed away for the first stop. Given the 5:30 bridge opening and ensuing traffic jam, this makes a lot of sense in that we probably didn't depart until 7:30 at which point the traffic has dissipated. The next stop is Aux Quatre Vents (The Four Winds) at Porto Cupecoy, essentially the longest trip you can make inside the lagoon! Celine has been totally refitted since our last trip and she moves along quite smartly. A side benefit was that we got to see the new causeway construction up close and personal. Here we got our main course: beef, fish, or chicken with sides and a welcoming drink. Captain Neil takes orders and phones them in so there is no long wait upon arrival. My beef dinner was a mini beef bourguignon with pasta and a nice glass of red wine. One very large table was reserved for us, no milling about at the bar, rather civilized for a pub crawl. We then headed back to Barnacles behind the Gourmet Marché in Simpson Bay for a dessert and final land-based drink. Drinks on-board are free. We got back to Skipjack's at about 10:30. All in all, I like the changes. There are two rather long bits of motor sailing giving you (night-time) views of the lagoon and the stops are much better organized. I certainly liked the food at Lal's (Indian), Uncle Harry's, and Peg Leg Pub, but these two newcomers are just as good.

We went out on Flagship II with Alain and Zuzu on Thursday. The trip was different from our last one. Instead of sailing to the far side of Anguilla for snorkeling at a couple spots, we visited three spots in the French Maritime Park, spending much more time in the water or on a beach. Coffee, pastries, and fruit were available as we boarded and as we came out of Anse Marcel heading to Créole Rock in Grand Case. We saw tangs, wrasse, goatfish, sergeant majors (below left), parrotfish, and more. We then headed over to Tintamarre where we saw some rays and a turtle, but there seemed to be more interest in the TikoTiko nude cruisers. We then headed over to Pinel and had lunch on board. It's a very large boat with a table that could accommodate all 10 of us. Lunch started with a great salad (below center), and continued with grilled chicken with rice and ratatouille (below right), ending with a wonderful chocolate cake with creme anglaise and whipped cream. Red, white, and pink wines were always open and beer was available. The cost was $110 per person. The size of the boat and limit on the number of boaters makes this a great trip. It doesn't hurt that Alain was the chef in a very good restaurant before he took to the sea and the slogan of his captain, Umberto, is "Anything is possible!"

Groceries: I picked up a package of merguez at Grande Marché for about $6. Martha added onions, zucchini, turnip, and peppers. We put it over rice and added some harissa. Total cost about $12 and we will have a lunch with the leftovers.

We did some major shopping at Simply in Sandy Ground (the cash register receipt still says US Market) and got some great sausages: a very tasty chorizo ($5.40) and one based on sanglier (wild boar, $5.80). I just had some of the chorizo in my morning omelet. They had some petit billy, a goat cheese that they counter woman raves about, as does Jenkins' Cheese Primer ($6 for about a half pound).

Green logo Nature: On the right is a ring neck dove. It's a beautiful creature and nothing like the pigeons I remember from Boston Commons. She's on our dining table on our balcony at Sapphire Beach Club.

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

Small Island story: It's official, the airport is being rebranded with its IATA code: SXM. I'm not sure that the family of Princess (then queen, then ex-queen) Juliana is terribly pleased, but it is a major bit of free advertising for and all the rest of the SXM-whatever sites that I own. The website for the airport is Thank you very much.


Winners of the contest ending 10 February 2013
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Lee Kurtz
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Debbie
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Debbie
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - Jill Chase
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Jill Chase
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two - Lee Kurtz
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Derek Lowry
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Jill Chase
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Debbie
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Debbie

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
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:
now to to 14 April 2013 | 14 April to 14 July 2013
14 July to 13 October 2013 | 13 October to 15 December 2013
same cast of characters as current contest



On 3 February the Euro was at 1.364 and today it is at 1.336, a major retreat in a week.

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.

Belle Epoque
On Tuesday we headed over to Marigot's Marina Royale for lunch at Belle Epoque. For over 20 years, Belle Epoque has been on the marina. The food has always been good and reasonably priced. Some of the most reasonable prices can be found on the specials board. Martha had a salade Paysanne with chicken livers, hard-boiled egg, potato, greens and bacon, (below left, 10€). I had the rabbit special featuring a leg and a bit of the loin with pasta (below right, 16€). The rabbit was wonderful with a tasty sauce. We added in a bottle of water and a bottle of the 2009 Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet (26€). The total bill was 58€ which is a bit under $80. This was good solid French food in a brasserie setting. Service was great and the waiter spoke very good English.

Champagne Bistro
On Friday we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, pick up some wine, and have a lunch imported from Champagne Bistro. We started with a Gardies from Roussillon Village in the south of France (left, $39). We all had civet of sanglier (wild boar cooked in red wine) with sweet potatoes (right, $18). This is one of the most full flavored wines in the south of France and paired well with the full flavored food.

Bikini Beach Restaurant
On Saturday we headed past the airport to Pburg and on to Orient Beach. We left at 10AM and arrived at Bikini Beach before noon despite three stops. That's a bit early for a French lunch, so we choose a table with the lovely view through the palms, across the beach, to Pinel (below left) and started with the usual bottle of beach rosé, as we waited for our friends to arrive. The wine, a Cotes de Provence, was fine with a just hint of sweetness. Bikini Beach has the usual beach fare, but they have a Thaï chef, so it seems a shame not to try his offerings. Martha had the seafood salad (below center).
One of our friends had a special, duck breast salad with Israeli couscous (above left) the other had moules frites, quite tasty but not photogenic with dark shells in a dark bowl. I had the squid salad, loaded with wonderful squid and added hot sauce (above center). The total bill came to about $85 per couple after a 2% tax on the French side, using a tender conversion of about 1.3 for the Euro. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, this ORIGINAL Bikini Beach is in a court battle. Elisa (above right) came over to say that things are looking up, in that the bane of her existence has had to post bail to keep out of jail. In most places this would bode well in a court case against the perp. I'll have more details after I read the article in Daily Herald.

Pizza Galley
Saturday night we drove over to Simpson Bay for dinner at Pizza Galley and another chat with JP. We skipped our usual salad and had just 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 and only cost $41 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. It's a great pizza and the readers of the Daily Herald agree, voting it the best pizza on the island.

And on to the usual discussion with JP about dining and the restaurant business. He said he was doing well, in fact, if we had come on Friday night, we would have joined the end of a long line waiting for tables, and indeed, the restaurant was essentially full by the time we were dining. JP who doesn't get out for dinner often in high season, said he has enjoyed lunches on the beach at Rainbow Café in Grand Case. We mentioned that we were looking forward to Monday night at Le Tastevin as it had everything: view, facilities, service, wine cellar, and cuisine. We noted that our recent visit to Le Pressoir was similar except for the sea view.

News and Changes: Last week I reported that La Bamba was closed by the authorities. It has reopened according to their sign on Welfare Road. The story has reached TTOL where there was talk about a minor technicality and I'm not sure what the problem is but I know there have been many complaints about the noise. This may cause the authorities to look for a minor technicality. If so, it may happen again as it happened at Le Shore in Nettle Bay, now moving into space above the old Dolphin Casino in Simpson Bay. It has just happened at Le Shore's previous location in Grand Case, now run as Le Moon by Philippe Laroutis. According to FaxInfo, they have been closed for three weeks because of numerous complaints about tapanage (din) by the neighbors. Noise image courtesy of The Bottom Whine.

John Jackson of Saratoga has surfaced and said a few words, so I will tell you that he was ill at the end of high season last year. He is fine now, but the restaurant is closed and it looks unlikely to reopen as Saratoga. He is currently in Norway. He did not mention on TTOL what he was doing or the nature of his illness, so neither will I.

Heineken Regatta: The Regatta kicks off on Thursday 28 Feb. It is the final call for registration with a welcome party at Port de Plaisance that evening. Friday is the round the island race and a party on the Boardwalk 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. None of this is finalized, but the dates are firm.

Drummers in Grand Case Grand Case Nights: "Les Mardis de Grand Case" - The Tuesdays of Grand Case - have already started. 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.

Marina Royale Nights: Thursday night has been claimed by Marigot's Marina Royale. They are doing some theme with live music. For instance, last Thursday featured Christian Amour on piano. It runs until 25 April. There's even more happening on the Marigot waterfront on Friday evenings starting at 5:30PM.


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."