St Maarten/St Martin
26 January 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was so hazy that Saba could not be seen in the mist. This continued on into Monday but by Tuesday Saba was slightly visible. A huge squall came up from the south, obliterating Saba, and we were just barely able to see this passing cruise ship (right). After it came through, the skies cleared a bit and the sunset in the panoramic photo below produced a green flash. Thursday night brought rain that continued on into Friday morning. There were sprinkles again on Saturday morning, but the day was fine. Sunday has marine haze and the next 10 days are all going to reach only the upper 70's, but with little rain.

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 6:03 PM. In 2014 the full moons will be 14 Feb, 16 Mar, 15 Apr, 14 May, 12 Jun, 12 Jul, 10 Aug, 8 Sep, 8 Oct, 6 Nov, and 6 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: At Cupecoy, there is still sand on the western side of Ocean Club. It can be reached from the parking lot next to Ocean Club. There is nothing at the little cove (baby beach) and the dock next to the monolith has nothing. There is sand at Shore Pointe. Simpson Bay Beach gets a bit thin at some point between the Horny Toad Guesthouse and Karakter. Maho doesn't have as much sand as usual and the parking is bit limited by large rocks along the roadway. This makes it seem very crowded.

Beach reading: Without Fail by Lee Child - hardcover about $8 - What better way to test the security surrounding a U.S. vice president-elect than to hire someone skilled in the killing arts to penetrate his protection? Assassination strategy, though, is only part of the assignment facing Jack Reacher in Without Fail. This restive, blunt-edged ex-military cop must also determine whether recent threats against VP-to-be Senator Brook Armstrong are legitimate or are primarily intended to embarrass the perfectionist head of Armstrong's new Secret Service detail, M.E. Froelich, who happens to have been a girlfriend of Reacher's late brother. If Without Fail lacks the emotional urgency of Lee Child's previous novel, Echo Burning, it still barely lets the reader catch a decent breath between plot crests. Jack and his fetching yet formidable colleague, Frances Neagley, must figure out how warning letters to Armstrong are being delivered into the Secret Service sanctum, whether the senator is at risk because of something political or personal, and who staged the demonstration murders of two innocent men also named Armstrong, first initial B. Unfortunately, a few twists (including the source of a thumbprint applied to the threats against Armstrong) can be figured out in advance, and the story is light on character development. A tiny breach in Reacher's reclusive carapace opens as Froelich transfers the love she once felt for his brother toward him, and there are suggestions that Neagley may have depths of feeling just waiting to be plumbed. However, other players are mere ciphers--the sacrificial victims of an action-oriented yarn.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. The A/C works, the elevators work (one is currently out), beach towels are available, the common areas are clean,the pool is lovely (right), and even the hot tub has warmish water. It will be available starting in April at rates ranging 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. 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."

For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). If you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. At present, there are several sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.

SXM-Hotels: We watched the NFL playoff games at the Horny Toad Guesthouse in Simpson Bay. Our halftime celebration included a very tasty baked ham, potatoes, salad, and veg and ended with a key lime pie. Betty always has parties and generally supplies the meat while the guests put together the rest (all units have full kitchens). We get invited because we do the website for the Toad. It's really a fun place, right on the beach. Check out the website.

Groceries: We went over to Super U, the new supermarket in the Howell Center on the east side of Marigot. It's in the same spot that Match was, except they seem to have bought and paved a portion of the field next door so there is adequate parking. Almost everything except a few vegetables were portioned and wrapped and almost no workers were to be seen except at checkout. They did have a Super U brand that was generally cheaper than name brands. A quick comparison of Morbier cheese showed Super U lower than Simply by 75 euro cents at 16.15€ per kilo. That's about about a half buck cheaper on a $10 per pound cheese. On some Comté, Simply was cheaper by 40 euro cents at 17.90€/kilo. That's about a quarter on an $11 per pound cheese. I checked the Emmental price and Simply was selling it for 10.90€ per kilo while prepackaged factory Emmental at Grand Marché was 11.70€ per kilo. Anyone who insists that things are always more expensive on the French side is simply wrong. At Super U we picked up an epoisses (250 g for 7€, about $18/lb). It's the first one I've seen in a while. Jenkins' Cheese Primer calls it his favorite cheese, adding that "everything you know about eating will be redefined with your first taste."

Shopping: We stopped in at the Marigot outpost of Jewels By Love. The photo on the left is essentially the view from the street looking inland. Downtown Marigot is much like Pburg in that it is about five parallel streets squeezed between the sea and steep hills (Marigot) or the salt pond (Pburg). The photo doesn't include many tourists, although it was taken about 3PM when most cruisers are on their way back to their boat. Jewels by Love is run by fifth generation jeweler, Love Mahtani, who is now bringing his son Rish into the business. They also have a store in Pburg. In addition to a large inventory of fine jewelry, they have a large selection of watches as they represent some of the most prestigious and exclusive names in watchmaking:

Patek Philippe | Breguet | Vacheron Constantin | A. Lange & Sohne
IWC Schaffhausen | Jaeger-LeCoultre | Ulysse Nardin | Hublot

Alcohol: We took some of the cheeses and some patés over to Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar for lunch on Wednesday. Starting at the left and going clockwise, the meats are a rillette de porc, a creamy goose liver paté, and a chunky paté de compagne. Going clockwise from the round orange Epoisses, the cheeses are Morbier, Comté, Reblochon, and Roquefort. Sylvain brought out a white 2012 Domaine D'Apilhic from Languedoc ($17) that stood up to the lighter cheeses and a 2012 Saint Joseph from Pierre Galliard ($32) for the sturdier cheeses and the meats. The first was quite interesting and the second was a wonderful full-flavored Rhone. Our bread was a couple finettes from Sarafina on the Marigot waterfront. We are liking them better than anyting from Sucreiere and a lot better than any supermarket bakery.

Construction: Work is progressing at Indigo Bay. The development is reached via the roundabout at the top of the hill as one goes from Simpson Bay to Pburg. There are several roads carved into the hillside and a few homes under construction. Our wine tasting last week was in an almost finished, but still astounding, home with fabulous views of the water. A beach bar and restaurant named Kokomo has opened on the waterfront. It appears the Platinum girls show up here on the sabbath at 11AM and continue with 3 DJs and plenty of champagne until after sunset.

Traffic: The new causeway was officially opened on Saturday evening. That means they had to close it. We had come out of the movies just as the 5:00PM bridge was opening, no problem, use the causeway. Big problem, it was closed. Thus, our trip to the cinema included a circumnavigation of the lagoon.

Green logo Nature: On the right is the batch of sticks that a pair of ringneck doves put together on the palm tree that is getting quite close to our balcony after living here for almost 20 years. That is an egg in the center of the rudimentary nest.

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

Small Island story: Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of bribery, money laundering and being a member of a criminal organization according to a Daily Herald story. This goes back to the bribery that was videotaped in th office of the Bada Bing manager last spring.


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 16 February 2014

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
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 a Sulay entered 33 times, instead of increasing her chance of winning, she decreased it to zero as I deleted all of them. She did account for about a third of the entries.

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:
16 February to 13 April | 13 April to 13 July | 13 July to 12 October | 12 October to 7 December
same cast of characters as current contest



Two weeks ago the Euro was at 1.3540 and today it is at 1.367, up about 1%.

Piazza Pascal, La Villa, L'Escapade Restaurant, 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. A few years ago my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I switched to a Capital One card and I get a good exchange rate with no fee. 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 and neither did the gite rental in Beaune nor the apartment rental in Paris.

My United Mileage card is from Chase and every year when I leave for SXM, I notify both Cap One and Chase that I am going to the Caribbean for three months. I always mentioned to Chase that they won't see many charges because of their 3% foreign exchange fee. in 2012 they wrote to tell me that the fee has been eliminated. As I really need United Airlines to get to SXM from Albany in one day, I am grateful for the extra miles.

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.

Bistrot Caraïbes
On a Thursday evening (because of Karaoke at Sappphire) we headed over to Bistrot Caraïbes. We had 7:30 reservations, but arrived early so we could talk to some restaurateurs. Even at this early hour, there is rarely an available free parking spot so we headed directly to the pay parking lot. Our talks were cut short by a tropical shower but Pascal at Auberge Gourmande was quite busy as were Christophe and Florence at La Villa. As we made reservations at Le Tastevin, they turned away a party of three because they were fully booked. We sat down to a fairly full restaurant and Thibault was turning away potential customers without reservations for the next two hours.

We ordered water and a bottle of the 2009 Chateauneuf de Pape, a pretty good year with rather sturdy, long-lasting flavor. I usually have the smoked salmon appetizer as I consider it one of the best on the island, but there was a special of snails and mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce (right) and that is another one off my favorites. We had that and the tuna tataky (below center) and found that the tender flavors of snails and tuna when augmented with garlic, soy, and ginger were quite nice with the wine.

For main courses, Martha ordered the locally caught mahi (26€, below left) on a bed of leeks with mashed potatoes a seafood sauce. I had the sweetbreads, also a special, with chanterelles, vegetables, and mashed potatoes (28€, below right). The wine also worked well with these full-flavored dishes. We both had coffees with complimentary balloons of old rum. The menu here does not change much, but that doesn't bother me because I like almost all of it and they rotate some wonderful specials. Altogether our dinner cost us about under $185, an exchange rate of about 1.33 - slightly better than the actual rate.

Shakti Restaurant
On Saturday we we had lunch at Shakti Restaurant in Simpson Bay. We started with two papadam (thin crispy bread containing cumin seeds topped with onion, cilantro and a bit of heat, right) and two kingfishers. We continued with saag paneer (spinach with Indian cheese, below), chicken tandoori (far below, left), and onion kulcha (nan with onion and spices (far below, right). With a third Kingfisher our bill was under $40. There is a bit of parking in front of the restaurant. Service did get a bit slow as they got busy, but the beers are cold.
Onion kulcha

We are just rolling out a new feature on our restaurant site. Antoine Restaurant and Piazza Pascal will be offering gift certificates for sale. We expect more restaurants to follow. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

Harmony Night in Grand Case started on 21 January and will run until 30 March.

Charter House 1863 has remodeled the old Saratoga location in the Simpson Bay Yacht Club and had a grand opening on 23 January. The menu featuring steaks and seafood seems like a copy of the Chart House chain. The website isn't working (www.Charterhouse1863.com) so the link goes to a pretty much content-free Facebook page. It does give the hours, phone number, a logo, and a shot across a table of glassware to the lagoon and some boats.

I've seen nothing about the Thursday night party in Marigot and a visit to Marina Royale showed that Quai 31 was closed and empty and as BDLG was closed at lunchtime on Wednesday, I'm guessing they are gone. Belle Epoque has a new owner, but it appears to be the same staff and decor.

Here is the current list of the ARCHA members contributing to the security and clean-up of Grand Case. They would appreciate your continued support of their efforts. Stickers to be displayed on businesses are on order and will be posted in participating restaurants soon.

Hotels and Residences:
Grand Case Beach Club
Le Petit Hotel
Bleu Emeraude
Catalina 4
Hevea Hotel
Auberge Gourmande
Bistrot Caraïbes
Il Nettuno Restaurant
Le Tastevin
Piazza Pascal
Le Pressoir
Calmos Cafe
La Crepe En Rose
L'Effet Mer
Restaurant du Soleil
Ocean 82
Blue Martini
Le Cottage
El Cafecito
Le Ti Provencal
Tijon Perfumery
La Boutique D'anaise
Octopus Diving
Que Du Bonheur
Cotton Club SXM
La Boheme
Sexy Fruits
Tropismes Galerie
Simple Elegance


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 is now free. 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. Visit their website to see where you can get one on the island.

Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Endless Summer Beachwear
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
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, and $50 off a daysail on Random Wind. 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 now have two Kindle devices, as Martha just bought a Kindle Fire, She paid about $200 for the device without the 3G option. It connects to WiFi which we have here in NY and at the condo in SXM, and nowadays, at almost all restaurants, hotels, etc. The Fire is essentially a tablet computer with Kindle capabilities and a camera. If you add Amazon Prime to the package you get free 2 day shipping on Amazon, access to a lending library of Kindle books with no expiration, and access to over 40,000 movies via Netflix. The Kindle Paperwhite e-book from Amazon is a great thing to take on a beach vacation. It is glare-free, weighs less than a half pound, and is one-third of an inch thin. It's only $119. Newsletter subscriber Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." Paul M wrote: "My wife and I spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous. I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers and now Wendy reports she bought her own. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
Even though Martha has a Kindle and is quite happy with it, she still downloads audio books from our local library to her Zune or Sansa player (iPod knockoffs) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well and keeps us amused as we drive. I just got a newsletter from a reader who reports that "Regarding downloading - several of my friends have the Nook and they can download books on it from their library in the states...but they do expire after 2 weeks."

Erich S. Kranz
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