St Maarten/St Martin
24 March 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday arrived with squalls blocking the view of Saba and Statia. Within a couple hours two squalls had passed over us and headed out to block off the view of St Kitts. They were short and did little to break the drought that has turned the greens to browns on the golf course just in time for the St Maarten Open. They have started to water the golf course and a tanker had to deliver water to Saba. The photo on the right was taken from our Caribbean balcony showing the rather clear skies as a cruise ship and Passat sail by at sunset. Below is the St Barts ferry heading by and a small plane approaching the airport. We had brief showers on Monday night and about one minute of rain early on Tuesday morning and about ten minutes after lunch. The middle photo is the motor yacht STEEL, a 180 foot explorer style yacht flagged in the Cayman Islands. Saba was directly behind her and hopelessly lost in the marine haze on Friday afternoon. The shot on the right shows Lambada and Golden Eagle racing in after their sunset cruise on Friday evening. Again Saba is behind them, but lost in haze. The days have been beautiful, warm, and calm, with little breeze, but also hazy and muggy. Spring may have just sprung, but "Sumer Is Icumen In" here in the tropics.

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 6:24 PM, two minutes later than last week. We just passed the vernal equinox. There will be a full moon in three days. Think about dining on the water in Grand Case. In 2013 plan on full moons for 27 Mar (Wednesday!), 25 Apr, 25 May, 23 Jun, 22 Jul, 21 Aug, 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

Here's the sky looking to the west from The Horny Toad on Simpson Bay with the sun setting behind Beacon Hill.

SXM-Beaches: Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were great at Cupecoy. There were very brief showers on Sunday and Tuesday mornings and about ten minutes rain after lunch on Tuesday. On the right is Saba peeking up out of the Caribbean on the far side of the cliffs on the east side of baby beach at Cupecoy. Below left is Lilly, the fierce Lynx Point Siamese, emerging from her cave on the western wall of baby beach. The center photo is one of the sandstone cliffs that make Cupecoy so beautiful. By Wednesday, even the mild wave action had started to pull the sand off baby beach. It seemed to be heading to ShorePointe. It was still eroding the eastern end of baby beach a bit on Friday and Saturday.

The photo on the far right shows the beach behind the Greenhouse Restaurant in Simpson Bay. That would be the eastern end of Simpson Bay and the beach goes by the name of Kim Sha. That's Royal Palm in the distance.

The beach pano below is the view looking north to Mont Vernon from Kakao on Orient Bay.

Beach reading: The Racketeer by John Grisham - (about $13 for the Kindle or $17 for the hardcover version) - From Amazon.com: "Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five. Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge's untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland. On paper, Malcolm's situation isn't looking too good these days, but he's got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge's body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied. What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price, especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett's death. And the Racketeer wasn't born yesterday. Nothing is as it seems and everything's fair game in this wickedly clever new novel from John Grisham, the undisputed master of the legal thriller." We are listening to this on Martha's Sansa Fuse, having borrowed the audiobook from the library in Salem, NY while we were here. Isn't technology wonderful?

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 a shot from our balcony showing Tango returning from her sunset cruise..

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 left is Ronnie and Peter (from the Butterfly Farm) playing at Buccaneer Beach Bar on Wednesday evening. Ronnie still gets my vote for best guitarist on the island. It's below freezing back home and I'm having a Presidente listening to Ronnie outdoors as the last rays of the sun light up the sky on a warm evening. Can't beat it.

Sea Side Charters operates out of the Palapa Center in Simpson Bay offering a large variety of charters. On the right is a dinghy pulled up on Sandy Island on the far side of Anguilla, just one of a thousand places to visit.

Destruction: Not exactly destruction, more like clearing. In any event, the clearing that started across from Blue Mall above the cliffs of Cupecoy, has continued across the street around the Blue Mall and heading east between Sapphire and the lagoon. The gizmo on the left has two blades and hooks on the back. Note the egrets looking for lunch. On the right is an excavator with a smaller four wheel version of the other gizmo. It has a blade on the front and hooks on the back. The best story I've heard is that after the double murder at Ocean Club, they are cleaning up the neighborhood. I have heard that the area between Blue Mall and Porto Cupecoy (cleared earlier) may become a casino.

Groceries: Martha sliced up a bit of leftover CAB (Certified Angus Beef) filet mignon from the slab we bought at Merchant's Market and added some chopped romaine lettuce, black beans, and taco shells from Grand Marché. She made a great salsa with an avocado and onion from Grand Marché and some hot peppers from Bernie at Local Rums & Spices above Orient Beach on Hope Hill, and we had a great taco lunch on the balcony at Sapphire as Random Wind sailed past.

Alcohol: I mentioned that Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar got me some zinfandel last week. It was a special order of six bottles from a nearby distributor. We like zinfandel with spicy food and we like spicy food, so we usually have a bottle or two every week.

We have been drinking the Montevina zin from Netco for several years. It was quite nice with the tacos on our balcony. Greg Dal Piaz had an article on zins under $20 at Snooth. We have actually been to three of the six wineries mentioned (Easton, Pedroncelli, and Quivara) - all good - even took some back to NY in my pickup truck!

Green logo Nature: On the right is a pelican dropping in for lunch just off baby beach at Cupecoy. I'm told that the constant diving for dinner disrupts the optic nerve and pelicans go blind, eventually dying of starvation.

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

Small Island story: The papers are still abuzz with the video of MP Patrick Illidge getting a bribe from Jaap van den Heuvel at Bada Bing. At this point Jaap is very sorry for what he did, saying that Theo put him up to it. Presumably Theo is unhappy with Illidge because his switching to another coalition caused Theo's coalition to fall out of power.


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 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 17 March the Euro was at 1.308 and today it is at 1.299, reversing last week's increase.

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.

Horny Toad
St Paddy's Day Party at
The Horny Toad Guesthouse
We had our usual St Paddy's day dinner at The Horny Toad Guesthouse on Simpson Bay. It's an invite only affair, essentially open to the guests and a few invited friends. If you can't get an invite, see if you can get a room. Betty is always having parties: Thanksgiving, Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, Heineken Regatta, St Paddy's Day, etc.
Corned beef dinner This holiday brings out the usual boiled cabbage, carrots, and potatoes with some fabulous corned beef. It ended with a tiramisu and a cheesecake. The lovely sunset behind Beacon Hill was taken from the seawall on the edge of the property, looking west along about half of Simpson Bay Beach on St Paddy's Day. Sunset on Simpson Bay

Moulin Fou
On Tuesday evening we went to Moulin Fou in Maho using the valet service at Casino Royale to solve our parking problems. Last year I noted how wonderful the restaurant looked and, if possible, it looks even better. As usual, we went on Tuesday as Cheri's is dark and sat outside in the warm evening. Sylvain from Select Wine Cellar is the wine steward here at night and has many of his wines on the wine list. We started with the 2009 Macon Viré Cléssé Domaine Emilian Gillet ($49). We had this with Sylvain in Burgundy last fall and over the winter here. It is a crisp and full chardonnay perfect with fish or, in our case, as an aperitif. Deepti from DK Gems had arrived on the island about a week ago and we finally found a mutually available evening. She arrived shortly, joined us with the chardonnay and we ordered a large sushi combo (no 8 at $64) and several of Deepti's favorites ($30). With the sushi we had a bottle of the 2005 Macon Viré Cléssé Domaine de la Bongran ($67). It's similar to the first wine but much more intense, a really flavorful white wine that has the acid to cut through the fish oils and body to handle the wasabi and ginger flavors. Deepti, aka the dessert queen, had the molten chocolate cake which was divine. It's a really good restaurant with Chef Q making excellent sushi, Chef Julien Bonnel putting out a fine French menu, and Sylvan assembling a superb wine cellar. The last requires at least the monetary assistance of the owner, but Sylvain has told me enough stories to know that the owner takes great delight in making sure that the wines in the cellar are in good shape.
Cheri's really does have a rather loud show featuring rather rotund men pretending to be women every night but Tuesday when they are dark. As the terrace at Moulin Fou overlooks the open air stage at Cheri's you can consider it a bonus with dinner or you could ask for a table inside the restaurant or go on Tuesday. Our bill arrived with an added service charge of 15% and a discount of 15% courtesy of our SXM-Privilege Card, bringing dinner to about $220 for the three of us, an inexpensive dinner, considering that over half the bill was for wine.

On Wednesday night we had reservations for one of the secluded booths on the upper level at Skipjack's. Nardine led us to the table, recited the specials, and quickly returned with our bottle of 2010 Concannon Pinot Noir ($31). We started with beer-battered shrimp in a basket ($13, below left). It's been done before, but the shrimp are good and the marinara sauce is tasty. Martha ordered the mango chicken skewer (below center, $20). She ordered the pineapple salsa with it, sticking to tropical fruit flavors. As usual, there was enough to add to a salad in our future. I had a something that George, the managing partner, recommended: pan-fried snapper filet with Créole sauce and, Nardine insisted, some of the very good pineapple salsa ($25). It was a nice piece of fish, fresh as could be. A small salad comes with every main course as does your choice of wedge fries, baked potato, or rice. Service, as always, was fast and friendly (and gets 15% added to the bill). Our total was $89 before the service charge. There's parking in front and more across the street.

On Thursday evening we went to Ocean 82 at 82 Boulevard de Grand Case for dinner. You may remember it as Fish Pot, one of the first restaurants in Grand Case. It closed a couple years ago and has been reopened by Thibault and Amaury Mezière from Bistrot Caraïbes and Pascal Narme from Auberge Gourmande. Having never dined in Fish Pot, I can't say how much work they have done on the interior, but it does have the island's best lobster tank and a smart bar/reception area. This is followed by a short walk past the open kitchen to a dining room that runs about 100 feet along Grand Case Bay. There are only two rows of tables in the room, so even tables off the water have a good view. Reservations got us a waterfront table and a fantastic view of the ships at anchor in Grand Case Bay and the lights of Anguilla across the channel. It all went quite well with Bellinis that we enjoyed as we looked over the menu.
We went with another couple and they chose the onion tart with goat cheese and Serrano ham for their appetizer (below left, 16€) and I had tuna spring rolls with a tasty dipping sauce and a dollop of wasabi (below center, 13€). Both were quite flavorful which presents a wine problem when three of the four main courses were lightly flavored fish. The problem was solved by the three fish eaters declaring that they did not strictly enforce the white wine with fish rule, so we started with a light red wine: 2011 Saumur-Champigny (right, 35€). Maggie, our excellent and knowledgeable server, promptly brought over a bottle of this light red wine made largely from Cabernet Franc. It may be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Pineau d'Aunis, a grape unique to the Loire Valley. The Loire rises in the central highlands of France, flows north toward Paris and turns left at Orleans to head to the Atlantic. About halfway there, it flows through the Anjou region around Angers, the home of our wine. Both the tart and the spring rolls were well received and went well with the wine.
We moved on to two orders of mahi on a tomato confit with Serrano ham (below left, 26€), an order of lotte in a curry sauce (below center, 28€), and my beef cheeks and veal with porcini risotto (below right, 25€). I love flavorful dishes made from oddments and innards, so this cocotte of flavorful beef cheeks was wonderful especially with tasty, slightly chewy risotto and the red wine. The curry and the tomato confit added some pretty heavy flavors to the fish dishes so our light red wine was fine with them also, so much so that we needed another bottle! We all passed on desserts and coffee, ending with complimentary flavored rum. The total bill was 218€ which they translated to $276, a favorable exchange rate. All in all, it is a handsome restaurant with a great view, offering reasonably priced French cuisine with good service. Can't ask for much more than that.

Le Pressoir

On a Friday in March we headed to Grand Case to meet Daniel (and Tina) from Daniel's by the Sea at Le Pressoir. Daniel brought some spectacular wine and Franck had some specials that were interesting and delightful. It's the time of year when we put a few reviews aside to use for the newsletters written during the nine months we are back on the farm. Look for this one to appear in the 15 December 2013 letter, kicking off high season.

News and Changes: Doumé was at Kakao Beach when we stopped by on Saturday. It's the first time we've seen him this season. He has been busy opening L'Arche Saleya in Nice. We did stop in for a great lunch at Kakao and that review will appear in the 29 December 2013 newsletter.

We stopped at The Original Bikini Beach and chatted with Elisa about her ongoing battles with the local French government and their business friends. Without going into too much detail, allow me to say that the Dutch side does not have a monopoly on bad politicians. Put those thoughts aside and enjoy the view of Green Cay from Bikini (right).

We stopped at Bernie's Local Rums & Spices high on Hope Hill. She popped a bottle of rosé and there are few more peaceful spots than up here. Given enough rum or rosé, I believe you can see the curvature of the earth (below), also Green Cay.

Drummers in Grand Case Grand Case Nights: "Les Mardis de Grand Case" - The Tuesdays of Grand Case - are still going on. They still feature 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 street-side 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."