St Maarten/St Martin
17 February 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was another spectacular day that ended with this sunset from the second floor balcony at the Horny Toad Guesthouse. That's a view across Simpson Bay to Beacon Hill with the sun sinking into the Caribbean. The photo below left shows captain Neil sailing Celine past our Caribbean balcony on Monday morning. Note that it is fairly cloudy. The really bad news is that our lagoon balcony showed that Marigot was engulfed in a downpour (below center). The good news is that it was quick. That's the way the week went: frequent sprinkles with temps in the low 80s, cooler at night.

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 6:14 PM, four minutes later than last week. 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.

This was our Saturday morning view off the Caribbean balcony, a square-rigger sailing past a hazy Saba.

SXM-Beaches: There is essentially no beach behind Sapphire and Ocean Club, but Cupecoy does exist to the east behind Rainbow and The Cliff. There was a little bit just west of Ocean Club and enough to hold the Lemon Droppers on the more westerly parts of Cupecoy. The details are dry sand at baby beach, but eroding at the east, a little sand at the middle beach, and very little (but a nice pool) in front of Shore Pointe. That was Saturday, this is today: A ton (literally) of sand has shifted to the Shore Pointe beach overnight, and the waves have calmed down, as well. There was a little sand at the middle beach, and still quite a bit at baby beach, although the corner closest to the eastern bit is gone. Simpson Bay is looking very good. We've been to the center near the Horny Toad Guesthouse and Azure Beach Studios and they have plenty of sand. To the west, reports say Tahoma and Karakter are doing well. Greenhouse and Buccaneer Beach Bar have sand at the far eastern end of Simpson Bay, often called Kim Sha Beach. Speaking of which, La Bamba Beach Bar is definitely open. We've been to Palm Beach Restaurant, Bikini Beach Restaurant, Kakao Beach Restaurant, and Orange Fever, pretty much the vast center of Orient Beach, and they are looking fine. Sand was sparse around Pedro's making it difficult for the black socks brigade to check out the nude section at Club Orient, but things are better now as some sand is returning.
Beach reading: Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton - about $15 hardcover, $10 Kindle - From Amazon: " This is a memoir for anyone who has ever fallen in love in Paris, or with Paris. PARIS: A LOVE STORY is for anyone who has ever had their heart broken or their life upended. In this remarkably honest and candid memoir, award-winning journalist and distinguished author Kati Marton narrates an impassioned and romantic story of love, loss, and life after loss. Paris is at the heart of this deeply moving account. At every stage of her life, Marton finds beauty and excitement in Paris, and now, after the sudden death of her husband, Richard Holbrooke, the city offers a chance for a fresh beginning. With intimate and nuanced portraits of Peter Jennings, the man to whom she was married for fifteen years and with whom she had two children, and Holbrooke, with whom she found enduring love, Marton paints a vivid account of an adventuresome life in the stream of history. Inspirational and deeply human, Paris: A Love Story will touch every generation."

I'll warn you that a lot of people don't like the book and/or Kati Marton. Martha likes it, but that may be that she likes Paris more than Kati or the book.

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."

This is the same dove as last week. He's on the chair on our balcony with Saba in the distance. It seems one of our multiple week renters fed him at breakfast and sunset.

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: We had dinner with friends at the Horny Toad Guesthouse on Sunday and they pointed out that there are only three first floor apartments, not four. All the more reason for you to plan ahead if you wish to walk out of your room onto a beach. We were over there again this week for a Valentine's Day brunch for hotel guests and invited guests in the beach pavilion.

Activities: We stopped in at Grand Case Beach Club on our way to Kakao restaurant and found that Sebby at the activities desk was about to depart. He's opening up another business to be announced. He already is a partner in 37 Beaches, a vacation planning and concierge service.

beach side view

Groceries: Below left is most of a talon of ham from Simply. The talon is essentially the end left from slicing. They weigh 8 to 16 ounces and sell for 25 to 40% off the regular price. In this case 12€ per kilo or about $7 per pound. We put some in omelets, but also make a dinner (below center) with peas in a cream sauce over pasta.

For Valentine's Day we shopped in at Merchants Market across from the Orange Grove Shopping Center. The outside of the market is not very inviting and nothing is on display inside, but if you want something you can ask. Be prepared for wholesale sizes. We got a 6 lb Angus beef tender at about $15 per lb which used up most of a Benjamin and as you can see below right, it required a bit of prep before we got some fabulous steaks.

Alcohol: We had those steaks for dinner with a bottle of Girard's 2010 Beaune Premier Cru Clos de Roi ($39 at Select Wine Cellar, right)

Gas: Cadisco on the lagoon in Sandy Ground is still doing 1.31 per liter and accepting dollars at 1 to 1, so that's about $5 a gallon. On the Dutch side gas prices were raised on Valentines Day to 2.67NAf or about $5.80 per gallon if they give you the correct exchange rate. Sometimes they miscalculate and sometimes they say the price is in dollars. Both are good reasons to go to Cadisco on the lagoon next to the stadium on the western edge of Marigot or the one between Grand Case and Orient Beach. The Orient Beach Cadisco station is charging 1.35 per liter, about 12 cents more per gallon. Both of these stations do 1 to 1, making the gas cheaper and the conversion easier.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a family unit of Pelicans at the monolith on Cupecoy Beach. The parents are teaching the youngsters to fly and fish.

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

Small Island story: The UP party requested some info from the ruling party last fall. The meeting has been postponed several times but finally took place recently. The UP party showed up late for the meeting they requested and walked out because they were getting the answers orally rather than in writing. SXM makes American politics look productive. That's difficult to do.


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 14 April 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 10 February the Euro was at 1.336 and today it is at 1.336, ho hum.

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 Tuesday night we had reservations for one of the secluded booths on the upper level at Skipjack's. Isabella led us to our table and shortly after that Janine was pouring our new favorite wine, the 2007 Crozes-Hermitage ($38), a great year for Rhones and a good wine. We started with beer-battered shrimp in a basket ($13, below left). It's a cliché, but well done and tasty. Martha ordered the seared tuna (below center, $25). It's wonderful with the soy dipping sauce, some ginger, and some blow-the-top-of-you-head-off fresh wasabi! As usual, there was enough to add to a salad in our future. I had a something off the special board: swordfish, grilled with Créole sauce and some of the very good pineapple salsa ($27). Service, as always, was fast and friendly (and gets 15% added to the bill). There's parking in front and more across the street.

Kakao Beach Bar
On Wednesday Martha and I went with another couple for a leisurely lunch on the beach at Kakao. We had a table with a lovely view of the action on Orient Beach with Green Cay in the background and started with a Domaine des Vingtineres rosé (25€) and a bottle of fizzy water. As usual Martha had her salade Niçoise with extra anchovies(14€, below left) and I added my favorite, a pizza supreme (13€, below center). Our friends both had the smoked duck breast with phyllo-wrapped, baked St Marcellin cheese (below right, 19€). Smoked duck breast is pretty good and Jenkins in his Cheese Primer says "no finer cheese exists; a cheese to worship." Warm it up and crisp up the phyllo wrapping and it is even better. Our bill came to about 90€, converted to $126 for four using a rate a bit better than you could get in a bank. We had a lovely time with good food and good service, one of the best meals you can have with your feet in the sand.

Izi Ristorante Italiano
On Friday night we met Daniel (of Daniel's by the Sea) and Tina at Izi Ristorante Italiano. It's a very good idea to have reservations on Friday night as all the timeshare visitors are going out for one last meal before their Saturday departure. This is certainly true of extremely popular restaurants in Simpson Bay. David spotted us in line and pulled us into our waiting table. If you haven't been here, you should know it is pronounced "easy" and the slogan is "Take it Izi." Their deco is smart, modern, and bright, quite different from the decor at Gondola, David's previous restaurant. The menu does have some similar dishes, especially in the specials, but the emphasis here is in several three general price groups of pasta covering 12 different varieties including stuffed and organic. These can be topped with any seven different red sauces. In addition, there are eleven specialty sauces. This leads to over 200 combinations of pasta and sauce and protein. There are several appetizers plus soups and salads and an entire menu for those not interested in pasta followed by a section where you choose your protein (chicken, rib eye, salmon, mahi, or shrimp), choose from any of five sauces, and add any of five sides for the perfect plate plus a side salad.

We started with some crisp bread and tapanade as we looked over this amazing menu and the night's special offerings. We ordered the shrimp and lobster cocktail (below left, $18, expensive but so is lobster, and it is good), salmon carpaccio (below center, $14) and crispy calamari ($13, below right) and drank two bottles from Daniel's Burgundy collection, a Vosne-Romanée and a Nuits-St-George.

We decided to have a great bottle of Italian wine with the main courses. Tina and I were having a special, risotto with seafood, calamari, mussels, and fish ($29), Daniel managed to get a veal chop although there was none on the menu ($38), and Martha had Osso Bucco ($33). Everything we tasted was great, aps and main courses. On the right is a bit of overindulgence. That's a 2006 Ornellaia (ranked 95-97 and selling for about $175 in wine shops in the US) and a 2005 Solaia (ranked 93-97 and selling for $215-250). They were very good. We did have an astounding chocolate dessert and a bottle of grappa di chardonnay found its way to the table. The bill for food came to almost $200, which actually is pretty good for food of this caliber. There was a 15% service charge added to that amount. David has always trained his staff well, so the 15% is not unwarrented. Even more amazing is the ability to choose a protein, choose a sauce, add a side and get a salad for $18-20 ($25 for the rib eye)! David has created a very good checked table cloth Italian restaurant and grafted another Gondola on top of it.

Belle Epoque
On Saturday we had some errands and ended up in Marigot at lunch time. We walked to Belle Epoque and found all the outside tables were taken. As it was a bit hot in the sun, we were hardly disappointed to move into the air-conditioned interior. We ordered the 2011 Cotes du Rhone from MonRedon (24€) and a bottle of San Pellegrino (5€). Martha saw an Aïoli Provençal on the specials board featuring salt cod and vegetables with an aïoli sauce (16€). I had a pizza reine with mushrooms, ham, and tomato sauce (13€). My pizza was perfect with crispy thin crust and lots of hot oil (and a couple slices for breakfast). Martha raved about her cod. It was salt cod that had been reconstituted and cooked until it was crispy. It came with cauliflower, carrots, a potato, and a carved zucchini holding a hard boiled egg. That's a lot happening for on a plate for less than $20. Service was fine. The bill came to 54€ or $71, a decent exchange rate. It's in a lovely spot at the corner of the marina and it always reminds us of the south of France.

News and Changes: The Daily Herald on 9 Feb had an article entitled "Three facing fraud charges in Orient Beach AOT affair." AOT is an Authorization of Temporary Occupation. In France, the government owns the beaches and can give (or rent) temporary occupation as it desires. The Commandant of the Gendarmerie confirmed that NL, the Orient developer, and two government officials have been summoned to court on 21 March for fraud charges in connection with the AOT issued to NL in September of 2012. NL was taken into custody overnight. His passport was confiscated and he deposited 300,000€ bail. Moreover, he is forbidden to be on the Bikini Beach or Kontiki property. We certainly intend to do business with the ORIGINAL Bikini Beach (on the left as you face the water).

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. 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."

Erich S. Kranz
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