St Maarten/St Martin
26 May 2013 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: For the first two weeks since our last newsletter in mid-April, the daytime high regularly reached 84F and only dropped to 77F at night. The heat and humidity only increased thereafter. The next ten days feature a chance of thunderstorms most every day with a chance of rain rain at 60% and temperatures hitting the high 80s during the day and low 80s at night. We're having our third straight day of rain and temperatures in the 40s here in NY, All in all, I'd take warm rain rather than our mess. The photo on the right was taken from the balcony of our condo on a hazy afternoon. Saba is about dead center, but lost in haze. The panoramic photo below was taken at the Horny Toad Guesthouse in mid-March and Saba is visible in the center.

The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:42 PM giving the island a bit more than 13 hours of sunlight versus the 15 hours that we would have here in NY if the cloud cover weren't impenetrable. In 2013 plan on full moons for 25 May (yesterday, but still good for dining under moonlight), 23 Jun, 22 Jul, 21 Aug, 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

Hurricanes: Just about everybody in the prediction business is saying this will be an active season for hurricanes. That's always a good guess given global warming and at this point the prediction is little more than a guess. Hurricanes are a bit easier to predict than earthquakes and there have been several small shakes lately. No damage, but a reminder that the entire island chain is the result of volcanic upheaval. Some areas, Montserrat for instance, more recent than others.

SXM-Beaches: Cupecoy Report: The wave action in mid-April continued taking sand from baby beach and middle beach to ShorePointe. By 16 April the sand at ShorePointe was filled in all the way to the point. There was still a corner of sand at baby beach and a little dry sand at the middle beach. It had rained so there were lots of green sprouts popping up on the cleared land. There is plenty of sunshine and warm weather, all the island needs to turn green is a good rainstorm. The scraped land was ugly for several weeks but it will look like parkland when the grasses green up around the few trees left standing. Recently the pools appeared at ShorePointe. On the left is Selira, Christine, and Dany, your hosts at Cupecoy Beach. On the right is Lassie and Reno, Dany's new puppy.

Beach reading: The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns - (Kindle $15 or $19 for the hardcover version) - The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It's a place where most of the population will likely die blocks from where they were born; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big entertainment on weekends is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary, perhaps even supernatural, has been stirring in Brewster. While packs of coyotes gather on back roads and the news spreads that a baby has been stolen from Memorial Hospital (and replaced in its bassinet by a snake), a series of inexplicably violent acts begins to confound Detective Woody Potter and the local police and inspire terror in the hearts and minds of the locals.

From award-winning author Stephen Dobyns comes a sardonic yet chillingly suspenseful novel: the literary equivalent of a Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller. The Burn Palace is a darkly funny, twisted portrait of chaos and paranoia, with an impressive host of richly rendered, larger-than-life characters and a thrilling plot that will keep readers guessing until the final pages.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We just left our condo at this time and it looks fine. The unit is available until our return in early January. 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 Saba with a cruise ship heading home.

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: Toward the end of our stay on the island we spent a bit of time at Marigot's Marina Royale, enjoying a lunch and a dinner at Belle Epoque Restaurant. They moved a bit down the dock recently, very close to the parking lot on the Bellvue side of Marigot. From there, you can see ReveMarine and Sunevasion. They both offer all manner of aquatic rentals: power and sail boats of various sizes with and without a captain.

Gas: Last Sunday unleaded gasoline increased in price from NAf 2.469 per liter to NAf 2.498 per liter. That's now about $5.25 per gallon. Head over to the Cadisco on the lagoon on the Marigot side of the French Bridge for the cheapest gas on the island.

Traffic: The rotating center span for the new causeway just came over on the largest ship ever to pass through the Dutch canal. Drivers were warned that this special bridge opening might take an entire afternoon, but things went quite smoothly on the way in and even better on the way back out a few days later. The French side has closed the Rue de Hollande and rerouted traffic into the center of town. This will add some time (and excitement) for those coming from Simpson Bay to Marigot or Grand Case.

Alcohol: We just picked up three cases of Guigal's 2009 Crozes-Hermitage at Saratoga Wine Exchange. It was rated 92 by Robert Parker and cost about $18 before sales tax and shipping. Parker said the exceptional 2009 Crozes-Hermitage is one of the top wines of the vintage. A complex bouquet of black olives, licorice, ground beef, spring flowers and red and black currants soars from the glass of this 100% Syrah that is aged in 3-year-old barrels as well as larger foudres. With remarkable density, this evolved, approachable, delicious, full-bodied Crozes should drink well for a decade. On the island Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar has a very good 2010 Crozes from Domaine Belle for $27. Use the coupon on the website for a 10% discount. Overall 2009 was rated at 8 and 2010 got a 9.

Green logo Nature: On the right is Benjamin Franklin's choice for our national bird. He didn't get his wish and since then all intelligence has been bred out of the domestic species. These two are pretty smart however. They are hanging out in our sylvan glade on the edge of our south pasture. I had a long shot of a black grackle from the island, but the bird moved as I shot, giving it a bouffant hairdo.

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

Small Island story: The government of SXM has fallen but it makes little difference to tourists. Every candidate says they want more high-paying jobs in the tourist sector and they all love to build infrastructure. It's a vicious cycle: the population grows so more jobs are needed. Jobs are in hotels and restaurants. These require tourists who then require infrastructure so they can travel from hotel to beach to restaurant to casino. Eventually the entire 37 square miles will be concrete. Unfortunately long before they reach that state, the tourists will stop coming.


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 July 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
Pizza Galley - $25 off on 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. I really check and while DiscoGolfGoddess entered 11 times, instead of increasing her chance of winning eleven-fold, she decreased it to zero as I deleted all of them. She did account for about half of the entries that were discarded.

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



On 14 April the Euro was at 1.311 and today it is at 1.293, not much change over six weeks, but a good change for those of us with dollars.

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.

Piazza Pascal
Late in March, we went with another couple to dinner at Piazza Pascal on a warm, breezy Sunday evening. We had 7:30 reservations and parked in the pay lot, which was fairly full. The stroll down the street showed most places to be fairly busy, although several places were closed. Donna had saved us a corner table on the upstairs dining area, which gets more of the breeze. We started with sparkling water and the Nippozano Chianti (right, $48).

Our friends had the bruchetta, baked country bread topped with goat cheese, fresh roasted pepper, olives, and artichoke hearts with a balsamic vinaigrette (below left, $13). This is an Italian cliché, but this is my favorite, probably because there is more topping and less bread. We had the sautéed calamari steak with lemon garlic and parsley butter (below center, $15). The calamari was done to perfection.

Debbie, the distaff side of our other couple and a birthday girl, ordered with special snapper filet with a ginger and citrus butter sauce and sun-dried risotto. (above right) She was quite happy. Neal, the staff half, ordered the slightly seared tuna with parmesan and Italian herbs topped with grilled peppers and portabella mushrooms and drizzled with a honey balsamic dressing (below left, $25) and pronouinced it fantastic. Martha had the veal Milanese (below center, $22), a sautéed veal scaloppini battered in egg, Parmesan and Italian bread crumbs. I had the Linguini Di Napoli (below right, $25), shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels and assorted seafood in fresh basil tomato sauce over linguini pasta. This is one of my favorites here. These were beautiful dishes and all quite tasty. There is no water view and and while the facilities are new, they are not gold-plated. The savings are reflected in the prices, which are in dollars for cash customers.

Wendy K writes: After hearing raves all season from beach friends, we finally made it to FIG, a small attractive restaurant that opened in November 2012 at the site of the former Cupecoy Market. Five of us had reservations for 6:30, and we were greeted at the door by Randy, one of the owners.

FIG is a real value for money restaurant, with nothing more than $20 on the menu. There were two soups and a few salads offered, as well as the main course selections: duck, rib eye steak, lamb chops, pork tenderloin, tuna steak, grouper, shrimp, and pork, chicken, or beef kebabs, Possibly more. Each plate was accompanied by creatively composed fresh vegetables and a starch. Last night we had roasted cubed potatoes, which were tender inside and crispy on the outside, a hollowed-out piece of zucchini which was stuffed with asparagus spears, a mixture of corn and zucchini, and a touch of salad greens.

The five of us managed to order four different dinners. Tony and I drank a bottle of Talus Cabernet Sauvignon ($19). Randy brought us a plate with what appeared to be home made pita crisps with hummus. Two people shared the soup du jour (contrary to popular belief, that does NOT mean cream of mushroom in English). In this case, it was a tomato soup with mushrooms. The kitchen thoughtfully put it in two bowls for them. They offer about nine different sauces (below left and right) and you may choose the one that you want with your dinner. Our neighbors ordered the tuna steak (above right) and grouper (above left) which they proclaimed to be delicious. Another neighbor and I had the lamb chops (below center) - FOUR half inch thick kidney chops ($20). I brought two home. Tony had the only disappointing meal which was the pork kebab (above center). He should've known when Randy said they only prepare the pork well done, which made the meat somewhat dry [ed note: as a hog farmer, I know it is no longer necessary to cook pork this much.] We received six sauces including chimichurri, arab garlic, jerk, and barbecue. We declined dessert. Now we know what all the fuss is about! And FIG is virtually around the corner.  

Pizza Galley
On a cool, breezy Tuesday evening in March we headed over to Pizza Galley for our usual dinner: a JP special pizza with a roasted garlic clove in the center (left, $17 plus $2 for the garlic). JP has a new Cotes du Rhone from Louis Bernard ($24). It's a 2011, rated 8 of 10, while the 2010 was rated 9 and the 2009 was rated 8. On the right is Elizabeth offering the new wine. The Daily Herald poll says this is the best pizza (and the best dessert) on the island. You can comment on their Facebook page.


Annual vacations

Summer is here. I have written to several restaurants about the 2013 season and have several answers so far.

2013 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Daniel's by the Sea We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Paradise View 19 May - 13 June
Open in September!
Piazza Pascal 10 August - 3 October
Pizza Galley Aug & Sep, re-opening mid Oct
Mr Busby's Beach Bar We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
Ti Bouchon Mid July until first week of Oct
La Villa No closing

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.

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."