St Maarten/St Martin
2 February 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The forecast last Sunday was for 10 days of coolish weather (upper 70's), but with little rain. That's about right. The photo on the right shows some nice blue sky. Also a nice blue airplane. It is KLM's 747 starting its 2PM flight to Curaçao. I was at Triple A Car Rentals when I took the photo. Note all the people along the fence behind the plane. We did have little rain, but that doesn't mean none. Martha and I were hit by a very heavy squall that lasted a mere three minutes as we drove to dinner on Thursday evening. On Friday we had two white-out caliber squalls that bookended the lunch hour and another around 4PM. None lasted more than 10 minutes and they were all followed by a bright blue sky. We had another 10 minute downpour at 5:30 this morning.

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 6:07 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.

The pano below was taken from our Caribbean balcony shows a plane coming in on Saturday afternoon. There was blue sky but pelnty of clouds and some of them were laden with water.

SXM-Beaches: I mentioned the spot of beach missing along Simpson Bay last week. On the right is a photo taken from the Horny Toad Guesthouse showing the rocks about a hundred yards down to the west. Below are three photos taken at Cupecoy Beach. From left to right they run from east to west, starting at the baby beach to the west of the public parking area on the west side of Ocean Club. As you can see, there is essentially no sand on baby beach. When I was here in 1995 you could walk out the back of Sapphire and continue beneath Ocean Club to the rock outcropping in the photo. It was easy to get onto the outcropping, across it, and onto baby beach which extended almost to the end of the outcropping, easily accommodating several rows of chairs. The middle photo shows the monolith and the ruins of a dock. Sand used to surround the monolith and it was possible to walk from baby beach to the monolith and on to the rightmost photo which is now beneath ShorePointe. Hurricanes Luis and Lenny significantly contributed to this loss of sand. ShorePointe certainly put rocks onto the beach, cemented them together, and built their seawall on the rocks, taking away some of the beach which has not come back.

Beach reading: The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly - about $11 - From Library Journal: "Homicide detective Harry Bosch is fighting for his professional reputation in civil court. He is charged with killing an allegedly innocent man known as "The Dollmaker." The Dollmaker, however, was a serial murderer who strangled his victims and made them up to look like dolls. Suddenly, a new murder comes to light, with all the trappings of the Dollmaker's style. Bosch has to clear his name and find the copycat killer before he strikes again. Slick plot twists, fast action, and fine suspense mark this excellent thriller and courtroom drama. Characterizations by reader Dick Hill are imaginative and authentic, and the recording benefits from subtle special effects that lend realism. This is a good, solid story that translates exceedingly well to audio." Martha and I both like Michael Connelley.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. The A/C works, the elevators work (the broken one was repaired), beach towels are available, the common areas are clean, the pool is lovely, 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." On the right is the bit of beach at the far side of Ocean Club, beneath the public parking lot. The tall building on the left is Sapphire.

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 will be watching the Superbowl at the Horny Toad Guesthouse in Simpson Bay. We bring a large TV out of the closest room and set it up under this beach pavillion (left). The Toad supplies the main course and all guests bring their own drinks and a dish to share. It's not open to the public, only guests at the Toad (and the webmaster).

SXM-Activities: On the right is one of the nightly sunset cruises heading by on a dismal day. There was no sun to be seen and the poor souls were blessed with a squall rather than a sunset. Hope you don't have a day like that. Better you should have a day like the one shown in the panoramic shot below of Random Wind.

I admit that drinking beer and listening to music is not a strenuous activity, but it is quite a bit of fun. After dinner on Wednesday evening we went over to Pineapple Pete to catch Kim on guitar (left). My good camera is being repaired so I am using a tiny thing with minimal flash - apologies all around. In the center is Jonesy, our bartender, and while I can't declare him the island's best bartender on the strength of opening two beers (several times), he is personable, remembers our names and drinks, and you can't ask for much more than that. On the right is Neci. She's been here for about three years and also remembers us. Pete trains them all well which is why when we arrived at about 9PM, there was hardly a table available.

Random Wind

Groceries: On the right is our first Guadeloupe melon of the season. We got it at the Grand Marché in Cole Bay. They haven't looked too good so far this season, but we let this one ripen for about a week, topped it with a squeeze of lime, and added prosciutto. Have some crisp and cold rosé with it. Ours is the 2012 Chateau Sainte Croix from Select Wine Cellar available for $11.50, but use the coupon on the website to get 10% off. The melon costs about $2 per pound, or about $5 for the whole melon that gets us through two lunches. It helps to have a bright sunny sky and a view of Saba from your dining table. Saba was hidden behind the cactus, but barely visible in the marine haze and low clouds.
Shopping: Endless Summer Swimwear has a shop near the head of Pburg and another near the bridge in Simpson Bay. Both locations have beautiful suits and trained staff to help you find the perfect suit for you. Use the coupon on the website for a 10% discount.

Nearby on Front Street in Philipsburg is Look Kool sunglasses. You'll look kool with a new swimsuit and sunglasses.

Green logo Nature: Here are the two doves fussing over their nest with two eggs about 15 feet below our Caribbean balcony. I expect babies before we leave and this year they have chosen a very secure spot as the palm frond is stabilized by growing into the corner of the building. Previous babies have prematurely fallen out of the rickety nest as the palm frond swayed in the breeze.

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

Small Island story: A beach friend told WendyK that he was jogging in Simpson Bay on the morning of the causeway grand opening. As he approached the causeway, he saw a sign which read "Closed to Vehicular Traffic". He saw others using the walk lane, so headed across the bridge, when someone waved him down, and said he couldn't cross. He said that he saw the sign saying no cars, but what about those other people who were walking across? And the man told him, "But they're coming from the other side!" I'm not making this up.


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 1.367 and today it is at 1.349, down by 1.3% in a week and 3% in two weeks.

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.

You should not be paying a currency transaction charge as there are many credit cards that don't have this onerous charge. My United Mileage Plus Explorer/Chase card no longer charges it and gets my first bag checked free for all United tickets purchased on the card. My Capital One card gets a good exchange rate with no fee. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. Basically you get to spend 1 cent on air travel for every dollar you charge to your card. However, we can usually get a round trip from Albany to SXM for 35,000 miles on United. They would sell me that ticket for about $700. Do the math and you see you would have to spend $70,000 on Cap One to get enough "miles" to buy the ticket. Consequently, we rarely use the Cap One card. As there is no yearly charge, it is a handy spare card. We found it best to 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 which makes it essentially the same is getting a ticket through their system. Moreover, 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.

We always notify our card companies of our travel. Chase actually accepts this info on-line, making it much easier.

There are discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets that may help you decide what card is best for you.

Pizza Galley

On Wednesday we headed over to Pizza Galley for our usual pizza, the JP special pizza with a roasted garlic clove in the center (below left, $17 plus $2 for the garlic). Sorry about the photo, but the pizza looked so good that we just started eating before I could take a photo. We had a large salad for lunch so we didn't have our usual large salad. We did have our usual Cotes du Rhone from Mont Redon ($24). It's a 2011, rated 8 of 10, and tastes fine with pizza, even spicy pizza. The Daily Herald reader's poll says this is the best pizza (and the best dessert) on the island. You can comment on the Pizza Galley Facebook page. JP let me know that they are still doing a gluten-free pizza and he requests inquiries about a vegetarian or vegan pizza.

His daughter Leigh is doing a $45 three course gourmet vegan lunch on Saturdays in the VIP room. Make a reservation vie email: leigh.elmes@gmail.com

On Thursday night we went to Le Ti Coin Créole at the far end of Grand Case. It's possible to walk from the central parking lot, but there is a bit of parking next to the restaurant and a bit more on the street. We got a spot in their small lot and walked in to a window table.

We ordered Jean Luc Columbo's Cotes du Rhone (right, 22€). Créole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some wonderful home made hot sauce. If you use it, a sturdy syrah from the Rhone works well. After the wine arrived, Carl Philips (the chef) brought over Carlton, his assistant, to give us a reading from his schoolbook (below left). You can see the bright new colors and the new windows in Carl's Créole cottage and the new vivier (lobster tank) can be seen on the website.

After the reading, Martha ordered the accras as her ap and we did ask for some extra hot sauce. The accras and their accompaning sauce chien were quite tasty.

Martha always has stewed Créole conch as her main course, so I have the conch salad as an ap (below left, 6.50€) so I can have some conch also. It's amazingly tender conch in a tasty and slightly hot dressing (aided by my application of more hot sauce). Martha's stewed conch is in the center (13.50€) and I had the seafood pasta, one of Carl's signature dishes (below right, 19€). We were both very happy. Martha's conch was tender and tasty. My seafood (shrimp, scallops, and fish) was cooked to perfection atop some al dente pasta and surrounded by local veg. We skipped dessert, but you can check out the Sweet Potato Pudding photo and recipe from a previous article we wrote. The total cost for our dinner was under $90, not bad for real Créole food from a real Créole chef, cooking in the Créole cottage he grew up in. This is the exact same meal we had last season


From WendyK: We had arranged for a wine delivery from Le Gout de Vin while we had lunch at Dreams today. Unfortunately, mother nature had other ideas, and not one, but two horrendous squalls came across the water from Anguilla, and drove all those on the beach inside. The sky was just black, and the winds blowing like crazy. [These were the two lunch time storms mentioned in the weather section above.]

We may not have received our wine, but we did have a really good lunch. After a few "light" (i.e. pizza) lunches for me at Dreams, I'd been dreaming of tartare de boeuf, with my now, favorite, frites. (22€) Tony chose a "plat" from the specials menu: a combination of salmon, mahi-mahi, langoustine, and scampi served on a bed of sautéed veggies, and two tempura rolls, (28€). We drank our usual Saumur Champigny (23€). After the wine was poured, we were served an amuse bouche of sliced focaccia with a sundried tomato sauce for dipping. We finished with shots of homemade banana vanilla rum.

Our bill of 73€ was translated to $91.25. Our cc billed us $99.31, so I would say pay in cash with dollars. Our tip was left in USD. [As usual, it is a French side restaurant offering a favorable exchange rate: 1.25 versus 1.36]

We stopped in at Ti Bouchon to make reservations for dinner next week. Momo is refreshed from a three month vacation in Spain over the summer and his Créole cottage is brightly painted for the new season. We had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc as we looked over the wine list. It contains several wines from Select Wine Cellar including the 2010 Savigny-les-Beaune from JJ Girard that we are using as a house wine this winter. In fact, I have a glass with me at my desk. It's left over from our cheese, paté, and bread lunch on our Caribbean balcony.

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

I got a good report on the new restaurant called So French, on Billy Folly Road, where Bel Mar (and Le Bec Fin earlier) used to be. It's the owner of La Cigale and Le Fourmi on the French side.

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!

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."