St Maarten/St Martin
23 February 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: On Monday morning I couldn't see Saba, but Statia, though considerably farther from SXM, was visible. Strange weather all winter. I also got rained on as I went for my morning swim. While working at the computer in the morning on Tuesday a large squall passed over. Saba was visible and even Statia was peeking out of the gloom, but there was a huge squall on the horizon west of Saba and by lunch I couldn't see any islands. You can see it in the sunset shot taken later that day (below left). The center shot below was a lunchtime shot from our Caribbean balcony. That's Passat passing by and I assure you that Saba is just above her. On Friday it rained twice while I worked in the early morning and again as I swam laps in the pool. The final shot is an afternoon rainbow. The sunset pano below actually ended in a green flash, but the sky was cloudy.

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

SXM-Beaches: The beach report will be closed until it stops raining. On Saturday morning it rained as I was making morning coffee at 6:30AM. It rained as I was swimming laps in the pool at 8AM. It rained again around lunchtime. These were short, only a few minutes. In the afternoon there was a huge and powerful squall producing a whiteout so thick that we could not see the lagoon about a half mile away. It appears that the final dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles is that Satia (left) and Saba (right) have moved away. They are nowhere to be seen!

Beach reading: The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes - about $11 Kindle, used books much cheaper) - Superintendent Richard Jury has been wrong before. But when stating that "nothing ever happens in Stratford," he never imagined just how wrong he could be. Besides the stage murders committed nightly at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a real one has been performed not far from a popular pub known as The Dirty Duck. When a few more happen accompanied by a couple lines from an obscure poem, things look grim. I found it interesting, witty, and hard to put down.

Here's some recommendations from subscriber Kristin Baker: All at Sea by Heather Wardell is a chick lit book by a Toronto author. The couple in the book spends time in St Martin. The Art of Racing in the Rain is perfect for any dog lover as it is a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope--a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. The A/C works, the elevators work, beach towels are available, the common areas are clean, the pool is lovely, and the hot tub had water for a short time. 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 Lambada heading past our balcony toward another sunset.

Rental Cars: Above I mentioned that Unity Car Rental will give you a discount if you rent our condo. I also mentioned that they were a pretty good company. Don't take my word for it, read this thread on TTOL. So even if you don't rent our condo, check Michael for a car rental.

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: VistaRoyale, high on the hill overlooking Great Bay and Philipsburg, offers great views of Great Bay and plenty of privacy. The 2BR, 2 bath condo is in a gated community and has every amenity you might want. All of Philipsburg is at your feet and Oyster Pond and Orient Beach are a short drive away.

SXM-Activities: After dinner at Sushiitto on Sunday night we headed over to catch King Bob with Category 5. That's Bob Barron (left) on lead vocals. Below is Nacio on bass guitar and on the right is Branko on lead guitar with Eric on drums. They are all good musicians, but I think this year they are playing better as a group. Well worth a Sunday night visit. (5 Heinekens for $10)

Groceries: On the left is a Guadeloupe melon (it really is a charantais variety and sometimes they come from Santo Domingo), but regardless, they cost about $3 per pound and weigh about two pounds. Grand Marché frequently has them as does Simply and Super U. Wait a few days as the melon ripens on the counter, cut it into quarters, add some ham Vendée (about $9 per pound at Simply, fresh sliced, or at Super U, pre-sliced and packaged), a squeeze of lime, and a glass of rosé.

Alcohol: Our rosé came from Select Wine Cellar. Sylvain has a few available and we like the Chateau Sainte Croix at $11.50, but use the coupon on the website to get 10% off.

Green logo Nature: On the right is one of the parents feeding the two newly hatched ring necked doves. Below left has one dove feeding the hatchlings as another stands guard. The middle photo below shows how they wisely choose a palm front that braced itself by growing into a corner of the building. We have seen previous nests, eggs, and/or hatchings fall off during squalls (much like the one passing by as I type this on Sunday morning - will it ever end?).
Within a few days they have feathers and a parent is nearby encouraging them to flap their wings and move about (center photo). On the far right, the two hatchlings are fully feathered, although a bit puffy, and have moved to another frond. They were there on Saturday and are still there on Sunday morning, preening after the squall passed.

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


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.

I forgot to pick contest winners last week and didn't notice until Saturday morning. So I took everyone who had entered between up to 15 February and put them into the drawing. Those who entered from after 16 Feb are in the current contest, winners to be drawn on 13 April. If you can't remember if you entered, enter again. This contest only, if you have two entries, I will delete only one of them. Generally all multiple entries are deleted.

Previous contest (16 Feb) winners:
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Chic Frosch
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Tom Fahy
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Lisa Dowling
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - Paul Falkenberg
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Chic Frosch
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Tom Fahy
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Tom Fahy
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Lisa Dowling
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Chic Frosch

Current Contest: now to 13 April 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:
13 April to 13 July | 13 July to 12 October | 12 October to 7 December
same cast of characters as current contest



A week ago the Euro was at 1.369 and today it is at 1.374, not much change, but the wrong direction.

Piazza Pascal and La Villa, 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.

Sushi itto
On Monday evening we headed over to Sushi itto for some sushi. They are located just outside the entrance to Princess Casino at Port de Plaisance, just a few steps away from plenty of free parking. Pierre, aka Pineapple Pete, now owns this restaurant and his training of the staff is evident. They have teppanyaki grills for the full Benihana experience, but we ordered a wakame salad and a spicy sushi platter ($42). It really was spicy especially when the wasabi was added, so we ordered a Menage a Trois ($29) California red that is a mixture of three red grapes with a large backbone of zinfandel to stand up to it.

L'Escargot Restaurant
On Monday we headed to Pburg for a bit of shopping and stopped for lunch at L'Escargot Restaurant. It turns out that Monday and Friday are good days to go to Pburg because there are not enough cruise ships to merit closing Front Street to cars. We drove right to the restaurant, turned left just after the restaurant, and pulled into the small parking lot behind the restaurant. As we walked in, we noticed some friends that we will dine with at Champagne Bistro tomorrow. They were meeting another couple and we joined them for lunch. We started with a 2011 Chablis, quite cold and crisp, perfect for six seafood lunches. Martha had the conch salad and I had the calamari steak with capers accompanied by some fresh veg and a tasty bit of rice. The calamari steak has a fabulous texture and is quite tasty. The conch in Martha's salad also has a great texture.

Champagne Bistro
On Tuesday we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, pick up some wine great wine, and have a lunch imported from Champagne Bistro. We started with a chilled and refreshing Les Cocolaières, a lovely white wine from Domaine d'Aupilhac in Languedoc ($33). When our lunches arrived, a caramel flavored pork dish with sweet potatoes ($18, below left) and a seafood plate with scallops, moules, clams, and fish ($19, below right), we switched to a Pouilly-Fuisse from Robert-Denogent ($43) and opened a 2010 Nuits-Saint-Georges from Chantal Lescure so it could breathe a bit ($65). It was good when opened and great a half hour later.

On Wednesday we were shopping and were traveling by Select Wine Cellar at 12:30 so we decided to stop in for another lunch imported from Champagne Bistro. Luckily, they change the specials daily. Our review will appear in the May newsletter.

On Thursday night, we went to Grand Case for a wonderful dinner at La Villa. Florence and Christophe have now made it through four seasons and seem to be doing well at the start of their fifth. They are still doing 1 to 1 pricing and the $49 three course menu option is still available. The review will be published in the July newsletter.

Thursdays at the Marina
We frequently post some dining photos to Facebook. Less frequently we post activities and other things related to SXM or food. If you're interested, I trust you know what to do.

Palm Beach Restaurant opened its nightclub, Palm d'Or, on Friday night. They will be open Thursday through Sunday starting after my bedtime (11PM).

The Thursday night party at Marina Royale in Marigot has started and will run until 20 March. It will feature the usual bands and parade and shops will stay open until 9PM. After 20 March there will be the Sip and Chat promotion along the waterfront (more details later).

The Tuesday Night Party in Grand Case started on 21 January and will run until 30 March.

We are just rolling out a new feature on our restaurant site. Antoine Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and L'Escargot Restaurant 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. The sticker is displayed at businesses that participating in this much-needed endeavor.

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."