St Maarten/St Martin
10 March 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday was pretty breezy, but the wind came from the south, making the Caribbean choppy, while the lagoon was fairly flat. That was not so good for the sailors trying to go from Marigot on the north side of the island to Pburg on the south. It was so hazy at 9AM that Saba has disappeared. Monday was a warm day with few clouds but plenty of haze. Tuesday started off very cloudy, but cleared up nicely. Wednesday started cloudy (see the pano below) and stayed pretty cloudy and hazy all day. On the right is a sunset shot from our lagoon balcony looking off to Sandy Ground and the mammelles (twin hills) in the lowlands. It continued like that as the photos taken on Thursday evening show (below left and right). Friday morning was even worse, but at least it rained for about 15 minutes in the morning, knocking some of the humidity and haze out of the sky. Saturday was warm, humid, and hazy. For the last two or three days planes have been taking off to the west as there is hardly a breeze.

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 6:21 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.

Sunrise on Wednesday morning with a completely overcast sky and Saba with its crown of clouds.

SXM-Beaches: Sunday's Cupecoy report said: Still no sand in front of Shore Pointe, but the current is going in that direction this morning. Plenty of dry sand at baby beach. On Monday, the waves have calmed down, although the breeze is still coming from the same direction. A little more sand in front of ShorePointe, but it's at the bottom of one of the pools. On Tuesday there was some wet sand in front of ShorePointe and OK sand and waves at baby beach. Thursday looked better than Wednesday, with lots of sand at the middle beach. Unfortunately, the swells are still reaching the cliffs at times. Friday found calm water and dry sand at both baby and middle beaches, with sand beginning to fill in the pools at Shore Pointe. Saturday and Sunday both featured large rollers that I could hear as I typed in the morning. The surfers appeared shortly thereafter.

On the right is a view of Galion Beach looking south from Pat Turner's Tropical Wave. Below is the look north and east from his establishment. He has a long stretch of very calm beach with a view of St Barts in the distance on the far right.

Beach reading: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan - (about $11 paperback) - This won the Booker prize in 1998. Martha is reading it and likes it very much. Amazon.com Review: "When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the upmarket newspaper the Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them be stricken with such an illness, the other will bring about his death. From this point onward we are in little doubt as to Amsterdam's outcome, it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumors circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavory Garmony comes out on top. Ian McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot.

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: a fabulous sunset from our balcony.

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 the far left is Lambada, back in action after being dismasted a few weeks ago. On the near left is Tango checking out the villas at Sapphire. They both came by on Monday night for sunset cruises. On the right is Celine. She also does sunset cruises, day trips, and hosts the world famous Lagoon Pub Crawl that starts at Skipjack's with drinks and snacks and then sails to two other restaurants on the lagoon before returning to Skipjacks.

SXM-Activities: Here's a nighttime activity: Music at Pineapple Pete. Last year I recall two very tall, very dark, very pretty young ladies working at PP. One was Nikie and the other was Neci. I believe this is Neci with an even taller new hire named Petra. We also saw Ziggy Chang for the first time this season, but he isn't likely to merit a photo when these two are in the building. Sorry, Ziggy! Oh yeah, this was about music. On the right is Jojo, one of the few left handed guitarists down here. On his right is Mo, the White Chick in the band One White Chick, who played at the regatta parties. When these two play together here on Thursday nights, they call themselves Mojo and do a lot of nice jazz.

Groceries: We went to the home of the owner of Daniel's by the Sea for a dinner extravaganza on Saturday. In preparation, we stopped at Merchant's Market (behind the Harley Garage) and picked up 6 lamb shanks (frozen from Australia). They weighed in at 5.42 lbs and cost $29. We also got a pound of frozen artichoke bottoms from Grand Marché for about $5 to make a potato and artichoke gratin with caramelized mushrooms.

Alcohol: While Martha waited for the shanks to belch up from the bowels of Merchant's Market, I crossed the street to Select Wine Cellar and was allowed one bottle of Chantal Lescure's 2009 Beaune Premier Cru Les Chouacheux ($55). The few that are left are promised to another. We also got Lescure's 2009 Nuits St George Premier Cru Les Vallerots ($99). Daniel had other plans and dipped into his cellar for a Sauternes to go with the foie gras starter, a good French Bordeaux (2000 Pavillon Rouge, the second wine of Chateau Margaux), a stupendous 1998 Napa cab from Grace Family Vineyards (absolutely perfect with Martha's lamb shanks), and a lovely Sassicaia (one of Italy's leading Bordeaux-style red wines).

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 has increased its price to 1.39 per liter, about 30 cents more per gallon. Both of these stations do 1 to 1, making the gas cheaper and the conversion easier. I drove from Cupecoy past Sandy Ground and on to Orient on Thursday, so I know these are the current prices and I took this photo at the Sandy Ground station.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a spider spotted in Pburg as we walked along Front Street.

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

Small Island story: The island is abuzz about the Daily Herald story and video tape of MP Patrick Illidge accepting a bribe from Jaap van den Heuvel, operator of Bada Bing!. The video won't do you much good unless your Dutch is better than mine, but the Herald has conveniently supplied a translation.


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 3 March the Euro was at 1.302 and today it is at 1.300. Ho hum, a slow week.

La Villa, L'Escapade Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and Rainbow Café in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Paradise View Restaurant above Orient Beach is offering 1.2 to 1. 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.

There have been several comments on TTOL about restaurants adding 20% to a credit card charge. This is happening because more and more people are getting credit card alerts on their phones. What most people don't know because they don't think about it, is that the credit card company gets a message dcontaining credit card number and an amount for dinner. They have to approve or deny the pending charge. If it is coming from a restaurant, they know that most likely a tip will be added. To protect themselves, they add 20% to the pending charge. The card holder leaves a tip (or not) either on the credit slip or in cash. Eventually the restaurant will close out the pending charge with the final amount, but the pending charge remains in place until then. Restaurants usually don't take extra time during service to close out these charges, but if they want to get the money, they do have to close out the pending charge with the amount for the final charge. Thus, they generally do it that night or the next morning. If you get an alert with this pending charge, I can understand that you might be a little worried and question it. If you really worried about the money, you would call the restaurant or the credit card company. They are the only ones who are going to get your money back. The restaurant or credit card company will explain that, in fact, no one has taken your money as the charge is pending and will be finalized to the correct amount. Rather than worrying about their money, some people post something on TTOL accusing restaurants of charging them 20% extra. Please before you slander a restaurant, use common sense. No one would jeopardize the money and time they have invested in their business, as well as their reputation, for a few dollars. In this day and age of electronic communication, who in their right mind would do something so stupid intentionally?

Rancho Del Sol
On Sunday, thinking the regatta boats would leave from Marigot and come past the eastern side of the island, we headed to Rancho Del Sol to get some great photos from their hill overlooking Orient Beach. Unfortunately, the boats went counterclockwise past our condo in Cupecoy, so I have a photo of this large yacht anchored in the lee of Green Cay (below left). From up here you can see Tintamarre, Green Cay, Pinel, all of Orient Bay, and even St Barts. Below right is a shot of Martha and Lilly (under the cart, it's a Tex-Mex theme up here).
We ordered a bottle of the Mont Redon Cote de Rhone (below left, 26€), a small Perigourdine salad (below center, 10€??), and a Western pizza (below right, 9.5€). The wine is one of our favorites with big, sturdy food such as Martha's smoked duck and gizzard confit in the salad and the ham, olives, and mushrooms on my pizza. Martha particularly liked the gizzard on her salad, which is good as we keep all the gizzards from the chickens we sell on our farm in the summer. I liked the pizza and it certainly was cheap. There is an interior dining room, a wrap-around porch, and outdoor tables. The WiFi is free and the website allows online ordering with free delivery in the local area. They have a fleet of scooters at your service.

Bikini Beach Restaurant
Later that afternoon we headed down to the beach to see what's happening with Elisa. The ORIGINAL Bikini Beach is still in operation and Martha and I can vouch for the rum punch. They are on the left as you look out to the beach. The Bikini Beach on the right is an imposter. The photo in the center was taken from the beach. It's a closeup of the yacht that is in the view from Rancho del Sol. The final shot was taken from the beach looking north to Pinel.

Restaurant Le Cottage
On Monday we headed over to Grand Case for dinner at Le Cottage. We had made reservations early, requesting the table on the terrace with a view of the water. That's a bit of a joke as the table is on the outdoor terrace, just to the right of the entrance steps. From there, you can look through L'Escapade Restaurant to the waters of Grand Case Bay.

I thought Martha looked quite nice with her new pendant from The Garnet (formerly Octaedre). Sparkling water and champagne appeared. On the right is an amuse bouche: eggplant caviar with a topping of goat cheese mousse.

Stephane pointed out the foie gras lasagne with a morel mushroom sauce (below left, 19€). I envisioned a thick lasagne pasta, but the foie gras arrived in two of the thinnest sheets of homemade egg pasta imaginable. I had ordered a 2009 Chambolle-Musigny (61€), but Stephane downsold me to the 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet from Francois Lequin (49€), saying it was drinking better at this time. Before I tasted it he brought over two glasses of a gewurztraminer from Riquewihr in Alsace by Dopff. It was luscious with tastes of fruit, notably lychee and was wonderful with the foie gras.

Martha ordered off the specials board, getting a bouillabaisse featuring scallops and lotte (below center, 28€). It's not exactly the standard preparation, but it did come with the standard accoutrements and who doesn't like scallops and lotte? I had duck three ways off the menu, something of a standard here at Le Cottage. There were slices of duck breast, a leg and thigh confit, and another bit of foie gras atop a bit of toast atop a bed of potatoes plus some gizzard in greenery and a lovely sauce (below right, 29€). We ended with complimentary flavored rum as we contemplated a superb dinner. Service was great, so we left a bit extra with the 157€ (about $200). That's more than our usual expenditure, but I had two courses with foie gras and Martha had scallops and lotte.

Il Nettuno
On Thursday we drove to Il Nettuno, parking in the central lot directly across the street from the restaurant. The lot is free at lunchtime. I had made a reservation, but it rarely gets busy at lunch. The view is spectacular, the long stretch of Grand Case Beach to Molly Smith Point to the west (below left) and the short stretch to Créole Rock to the east (below right) . We ordered very nice Tomassi Valpolicella (30€), a soft fruity wine from north central Italy. On its good days Valpolicella becomes a more robust Ripasso, and on its best days it becomes a fabulous Amarone. Martha ordered a special, chicken pizzaiola (below left, 14€), and I had another special, duck and mascarpone ravioli (below right, 14€). Both were quite nice with al dente pasta. Our total bill was 65€ or $85.

Tropical Wave

On Friday we went to Tropical Wave on Galion Beach. Owner Pat Turner is still laid up a bit from his ladder-related injury, but at present he is at the restaurant and resting his foot. His new house is progressing. We spent a bit of time discussing his use of gray water for irrigation and his solar-powered electrical generation. Tropical Wave usually has a fish special and we usually have that, but today Martha had a shrimp salad (13.5€, left) and I had the mahi-mahi special. It came with salad and fries or baked potato (14€, right). There's a small wine list and on the beach we generally go with a rosé so we took the St Roch priced at a very reasonably priced 14€. With a bit of Perrier water, our entire lunch came to about 43€ and was converted at the going exchange rate to $56. The full menu is on the website and there are a couple coupons there to save you some money on lunch and watersports. There are few things as interesting as sitting down with Pat at lunch and discussing what the island was like when he arrived. He was here long before Hurricane Luis and has plenty of tales.
We brought Lilly (below left). It was a rather calm day and even calmer inside the bay here at Le Galion. Cats, of course, don't take to water and Lilly really doesn't like waves crashing, so she thought this place was great fun and went exploring. The middle shot shows the very calm bay. Pat rents all manner of aquatic equipment, including this new craze, stand-up paddle boards. One other thing in the photo is Pat's black lab, Bella. She will chase rocks, shells, etc tossed into the bay and dance around until she finds it with her hind feet. She then dives to get it and brings it back for another go. She was most interested in Lilly, but our cat doesn't know about dogs, living as the queen of all she surveys on our 83 acres. Pat even rents some land-based sports equipment. We watched a rather lively volleyball game with our lunch.

News and Changes: Mooi is now called Luna Rossa (red moon) and Uncle Harry's has become Boca Marina (Mouth Mariina). At least Boca Marina is better than Boca Raton (Mouth of the Rat).

Heineken Regatta: The regatta is over. It had about half the boats of some recent regattas and a decidedly lower presence on the island. Word I heard is that it was getting too big for the island to handle. All the bare boaters were bumping into one another, or worse yet, into the serious sailors out on the course. All the crews and tourists were bumping into one another in Simpson Bay traffic, made even worse by extra bridge openings. We avoid it all because of the traffic and take sailing photos as they come by our balcony in Cupecoy.

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."