St Maarten/St Martin
3 March 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday was a lovely day ending in a green flash and a very pleasant evening. The photo on the right shows the conditions that lead to a green flash. If you can see a large orange disk sinking into the sea (not a cloud or marine haze), you are quite likely to get a green flash. At about 7AM on Monday morning a shower drenched Cupecoy for no more than 10 minutes. That usually cleans out the haze, but the shower was so localized that I still cannot see Saba. The weather continued to improve giving us saw green flashes on Tuesday and Wednesday, but I have never gotten a decent photo. On Thursday morning I could see roads on Saba and Statia was visible. On Friday the regatta started and I was afraid the around the island race would be ruined by the lack of wind. The panoramic photo below shows how calm the lagoon was. That was early, and as the sun came out, the wind picked up. It was a beautiful clear day as you can see from photo below left of Andrey Melnichenko's yacht called A coming past our balcony slightly before the first boats.

Luckily, the winds did pick up and the race went off. On the right is one of the early boats heading past 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 6:19 PM, two minutes later than last week. In 2013 plan on full moons for 27 Mar, 25 Apr, 25 May, 23 Jun, 22 Jul, 21 Aug, 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

A dead calm lagoon at 8:30AM, about a half hour before the start of the round the island race! This shot was taken from our back balcony.

SXM-Beaches: Sunday's Cupecoy report said: Rough seas, but there was beach. On Monday, the rough seas continued with some pretty good swells. There was only one row of chairs along the cliffs at baby beach. The sand was coming back to middle beach, but the waves are breaking on the stairs. Not a good swimming day! On Friday, the seas had calmed some from the day before. The "pools" at Shore Pointe were accessible and John had a row of chairs set up all along baby beach, although the sand looked wet. By Saturday, the relative calm conditions left some dry sand at baby beach.

In other beach news, we have a shot of the new pier toward the foot of Philipsburg (left) and another shot of the beach at that end of town (right). The water taxis are finally delivering passengers to this end of town. The beach is quite large down here and the few businesses keep it sparsely populated. We walked quite easily from here to Antoine Restaurant for a nice lunch (see below). Note the bench along the boardwalk. Enlarge it and it says Klass Electronics, where we went after lunch at Antoine Restaurant.

R is for Ricochet Beach reading: R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton - about $8 - Amazon.com Review: "When wealthy octogenarian Nord Lafferty hires Kinsey Millhone to help his newly paroled daughter find her way back to the straight and narrow after doing time for embezzlement, the Santa Teresa P.I. has no idea what she's getting into. Reba Lafferty's ex-boss, land developer Alan Beckwith, is the man who sent her to prison, so how come she's meeting him just hours after her release, and treating Kinsey to an X-rated reunion scene played out in his parked Mercedes? And why is he also playing sex games with Reba's formerly best friend, who still works for him? A visit from an old friend from the FBI clears up the mystery--Beckwith is suspected of running a money-laundering game, and they need Reba to make their case by rolling over on him. It's not until Millhone presents Reba with photographic evidence of Beckwith's two-timing that she agrees to do what the Feds want, but she'll only do it her way, which could get a lot of people killed. Grafton fleshes out this well-crafted thriller with a romantic subplot involving a romantic triangle that features Kinsey's elderly landlord Henry, his brother, and a vivacious widow who can't seem to choose between them. It doesn't add much to the plot, but the fans of this evergreen series (who must be wondering what will happen to Millhone when Grafton gets to the end of the alphabet) probably won't mind a bit." I say it's great beach reading.

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 the right is just another day in paradise, sitting on our balcony watching the Heineken regatta boats head past 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 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-Activities: On Sunday night we went over to La Bamba Beach Bar to hear Category 5. The band had four guys from four different countries performing five different styles of music: rock, country, reggae, motown, and blues. Branko from Serbia was on guitar and vocals, Nacio from Aruba is on bass and vocals (left), Erik from France is on drums, and King Bob (far left) from the US of A is on lead vocals. La Bamba had a facebook page, but it appears to be random trash having nothing to do with La Bamba at the moment.

Shopping: On Friday we stopped at Octaedre Gems on our way to lunch at Oizeau Rare. I took several shots of Candy with some pieces of jewelry that had just arrived. They are all up on the website. Everything here is made from garnet mined on the French side, something rare when most souvenirs are made in China and that includes the Hard Rock Café tee-shirts for cafés that don't even exist (yet?!?). But I digress. Martha had been looking for hoop earrings. She found some that she liked and it turns out that local garnet is cheaper than diamonds. She also liked the large pendant that Candy was wearing. We took the two earrings and the pendant home for for $240. The store has moved from the open air market to an enclosed stall in the permanent buildings at the eastern end of the market. It isn't much of a move as their canopy was next to the building and now they are in room 30 about 100 feet from their previous location.
We went to Klass Electronics on Front Street to check out cameras. I left my very old Canon in a rental car in Paris last September and dropped my newer (and cheaper) Canon just offshore at Tintamare Island a month ago. I was looking for a Canon, but Roger (Deepti's cousin) said the Nikon Coolpix P510 was on sale and then proceeded to give me an even better friends-of-Deepti price, only $325 with a case and a 4 gig chip. Here's the Nikon site info and here's a review on cNet. They only gave the camera a 3.5 rating, but their biggest complaint was the picture quality at 42x zoom, not terribly important to a guy who makes restaurant websites. Moreover, they said the price ranged upward from $335 with an MSRP of $380 (don't forget the tax). All in all, I think I got a pretty good price and I think the camera is great. Enlarge the bird photo in the Oizeau Rare review below to see what it does at moderate a zoom.

Groceries: Guadeloupe melons have been plentiful and tasty this season. Grand Marché is charging 6.28 NAf per kg, or $1.70 per pound. A good sized melon costs about $4. In this case we have the ham from Vendée which we got at Simply for less than $9 per pound.

Alcohol: The wine is a fairly dry rosé, the 2011 Chateau Sainte Croix from the Cotes de Provence. We get it from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar for a bit under $10. You can too if you use the coupon on his website.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a coconut palm in blossom from Leland Harms.

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

Small Island story: Closed circuit cameras now cover 80% of the airport. The press release says a couple dozen camera operators watch them and "if they detect anything illegal while on the cameras, for instance, they can act immediately and issue process verbal and take the necessary legal action and the airport can be very proactive where this is concerned." I feel safer already.


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
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 24 February the Euro was at 1.319 and today it is at 1.302, down over 1% in a week. It was 1.364 a month ago and that is the highest in the previous year. This week's figure is the lowest since December 2012, although it is above the average of the previous year. The lowest rate in the previous year was 1.206 on 24 Jul 2012.

La Villa, L'Escapade Restaurant, and Piazza Pascal in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Rainbow Café, also in Grand Case, is offering 1.2 to 1, as is Paradise View Restaurant above Orient Beach. Nearby Ti Bouchon offers 1 to 1 also. Auberge Gourmande and Palm Beach Restaurant are doing 1.25 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 a previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM. Recently, they essentially gave us 1% cash back, but it could only be applied to travel expenses charged on the card. However, spending several thousand dollars at restaurants in Burgundy and Paris did not qualify as traveling expenses.

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.

Pizza Galley
On Sunday night we drove over to Simpson Bay for dinner at Pizza Galley. We just had the JP Special Pizza (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese, $17) plus red peppers and a clove of roasted garlic, and the house wine, the 2009 Mont Redon Cotes du Rhone for $24, a quality Rhone blend from a good year. It was a great meal and only cost $41 plus a tip for the crew. It's a great pizza and the readers of the Daily Herald agree, voting it the best pizza on the island. We walked over to La Bamba to see Category Five after dinner.

On Monday night, we went to Grand Case for dinner at La Villa. Florence and Christophe have now made it through three seasons and seem to be doing well at the start of their fourth. They are still doing 1 to 1 pricing and the $49 three course menu option is still available.
Basic math skills show that the three course meal provides a half price dessert and that is especially good when their desserts include an array of premium ice creams. We ordered sparkling water and after deciding on citrus/fruit flavors for our meals, we went with the 2009 Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet for our wine selection (right, $44).
An amuse bouche (right) of chilled asparagus soup arrived and quickly disappeared. I started with the citrus crusted sea scallops with caramelized orange sauce with local yucca purée (below left, $16). The citrus crust with the orange sauce added some interesting flavors and the yucca purée added more flavors and textures. It all went well with the fruity, and young, syrah. Martha chose the duck breast with a sweet and sour lime sauce and a pumpkin mousse (below center, $28) and I had the seared black pepper crusted tuna steak with soy and sesame oil sauce accompanied by an asparagus tip risotto (below right, $28). I ordered the tuna rare and given the ginger and wasabi that came with it, it was much like sashimi. We ended with espresso and complimentary balloons of Armagnac. Our total bill was a about $130 aided by their acceptance of dollars (cash) at one to one on the Euro. Service was, as usual, superb. The restaurant is lovely and they have live plantings in the dining room to make up for the lack of a sea view. It should be on everybody's list to visit at least once as the food, service, wine list, and pricing are excellent.

Ti Bouchon Restaurant
On Tuesday we counter-programmed the festivities in Grand Case by driving past them to Ti Bouchon in Cul de Sac. The colorful old Créole house has the bar and kitchen and the porch that wraps around two sides of the house serves as the dining room. Thierry Delaunay is no longer in the kitchen but the new chef (and Momo) have put together a most interesting menu with aps ranging from $10 to $20 and main courses from $25 to the low $40s. As usual, Momo has a specials board and is more than happy to discuss his menu with you.

John and Florrie came with us and we started with an amuse bouche of gaspacho based on Momo's visit to Spain last summer with a few changes, notably a substitution of avocado for bread to make a gluten-free gaspacho (below left). And of course it is no longer red. My appetizer was a calamari stew off the menu that came with a bread stick and a bit of greenery. The calamari was tender as could be in a lovely tomato based sauce. Our frineds had the snails off the menu and a lobster bisque. The bisque was well received and the snails arrived in a glass atop a tasty sauce that the waiter mixed up. We ordered fizzy water and found Jean-Jacques Girard's 2010 Borgogne on the wine list. Momo gets it just as we do, from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar.

Some fresh mahi had arrived too late to make the specials board and Momo's oral description of the plate sounded great. John had it and was pleased (above right). Flory had a shrimp dish off the menu: five large shrimp in a nice sauce surrounding a vegetable concoction (below left). Martha had the duck confit, a bit of preserved duck leg and thigh atop some mashed potatoes with a nice sauce (below center). I had the beef tenderloin with a Bearnaise sauce, potato puffs, and some carrots and peas. Another bottle of the Burgundy was required during this course. We finished with complimentary lemoncellos. Momo presents a bill and says he doesn't care if you pay in euros or dollars. Currently, you should choose dollars. You read this newsletter to obtain such sage advice. The total bill was under $300 for the four of us, and a bit over $300 when we added a tip. Ti Bouchon is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the drive as the food is superb and inexpensive.

French Restaurant School

On Wednesday we went to the French side cooking school for lunch with Wendy K and Tony. This is part of the high school, but the teenagers do get top-notch instruction because on Wednesday Thierry Delaunay is in the kitchen. All menus start with a special cocktail (with or without alcohol) and it is refreshing to see a culture that feels teenagers can actually mix and serve alcohol without ruining their lives. Today's theme was fish and citrus so today's cocktail was a fruit concoction served in an orange (no fish involved). We ordered sparkling water and a bottle of Crement de Borgogne (12€), a sparkling wine from Burgundy, mostly to go with the tuna tartare (plus citrus) that was to follow. The tartare was tasty and made even better by the crunch found in a small plate of chopped red onions to be added (below left). We ordered a Bouchard's Burgundy (12€) to go with the next course, a cod filet with a red pepper and citrus topping, a bit of braised endive, and potatoes with olive oil wrapped in steamed endive leaves (plus citrus, below center). The dessert looked like a birthday cake with meringue candles planted in a tart with two citrus flavors, approaching key lime pie. With waters and a small tip, we spent about 40€ per couple for a very nice lunch with wine.

Antoine Restaurant
On Thursday we headed over to Philipsburg for some shopping and a lunch at Antoine on a lovely day. Below left is the view from our table across the large beach in front of the restaurant, across Great Bay, to the two massive cruise ships that came in today. We started with sparkling water and the Rosé d'Un Nuit from Chateau La Coste (right, $31). Martha ordered the salad Niçoise (below center, $13) and I had the seafood linguine (right, $20). The total was about $80 with the added 15% tip. We had a lovely time on a beautiful day. They do serve a lighter lunch menu and serve at the beach chairs in front of the restaurant.

L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant

On Friday, the first day of the regatta, we headed to Marigot and found a parking spot remarkably close to the market. It was an extremely short walk to Candy at Octaedre Gems, now in shop 30 in the enclosed stalls at the far eastern end of the market. Joël had brought in some new merchandise, so Martha had a fine time looking it all over as I took several photos of the jewelry and Candy wearing the jewelry for the website. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

We walked on to the end of town and ascended the few steps to the lovely open air dining room of Oizeau Rare. The bar and kitchen are on one side of the dining room. The back and other side have gardens and the front looks out over Marigot and the harbor. It's a lovely place and is run by a family. Christian is cooking and his wife is in the dining room. Before we left from our leisurely lunch, she had departed and son-in-law Cedric had appeared. Daughter Nathelie makes frequent appearances. We started with a bottle of Badoit red extra-fizzy water and the 2009 Beaumes de Venise at 26€ from Jaboulet (as always). It's a Rhone, but a bit better than the average Cotes du Rhone and a good year.

Martha chose the salmon tartare (below left, 16€). It came with some of the island's crispest, hand-cut fries. I ordered the beef tartar, also hand-cut with fries and a bit of greenery (below center, 16€). I found it quite tasty and also liked the salmon tartare that I was allowed to finish. Both went well with the fruity Beaumes de Venise. Our lunch came to 65€ or $87. The final photo is a a bird fishing in one of the ponds at in the garden at thee back of the restaurant. Cedric is quite upset by this little bird as it eats the fish that he puts in the pond to eat the mosquito larvae. It's always something!

News and Changes: Uncle Harry's has become Boca Marina featuring Italian cuisine. But read this thread on TTOL before you show up. Bombay Bites has opened above the McDonalds in Simpson Bay. Some friends went and said it was OK. Johnny B has given up on the tree and is now located in the Simpson Bay Fish Market as Jackfish, serving local food.

Heineken Regatta: The Regatta kicked off on Thursday 28 Feb, but it was something like an on-side kick. I'm told that Heineken sold its distributorship on the island and neither the parent or the distributor are putting as much money into the affair. This must explain why the website is a dog's dinner and only 202 boats registered. Today has the race from Marigot to Simpson Bay and the closing ceremonies followed by the BIG concert. According to their website, the artists are not finalized. The posters and a crawl on the website say that the Commodores will be the big act. They were big about 30 years ago, but Lionel Ritchie and another member of the original band departed at that time. The best story I have about them is that they choose their name via a random selection from a dictionary. It was a stroke of luck that they are not known as the Commodes. We have some sailing photos on our site.

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."