St Maarten/St Martin
2 March 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It is still rainy and overcast. We get some nice periods and I think the periods of nice weather are increasing, but this is not a tourist bureau season. On the right is a Monday shot off our balcony. The Heineken Regatta is coming up next week, so there are lots of strange boats with strange sails, (and strange sailors) arriving. This one put up a strange spinnaker as it ran downwind. I happened to catch a plane coming in and one of the better views of Saba this season. On Tuesday morning I had a clear view of Saba and could see the houses running up from Flat Point to Upper Hell's Gate. The three photos below are the same shot with great zoom as you head from left to right. Here's a map of Saba. Remember, I am looking at the north coast (top of the map).

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 6:18PM, 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.

This was the sunset on Wednesday and as you might guess, it turned into a green flash!

SXM-Beaches: The photo on the right was taken on Monday at Galion Beach. As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day with puffy white clouds. The bay was quite calm despite the tradewinds. These two are obviously professional sunbathers. Note the expensive, new equipment: comfortable folding chairs, a very large umbrella with a screw-in base, a cooler full of cold beer, and the perfect spot to gaze down the long beach to the waves breaking on the reef and a view that goes on to St Barts.

The far end of the beach now has a floating swimming pool. It is much like the one that used to be at Grand Case near the pier by Il Nettuno Restaurant. A storm came through, tore it from its moorings, and deposited it down by the cemetery, a somewhat fitting location for its final resting spot. Not to worry, St Martin got money for another one from the European Union and put it here.

Beach reading: Seek my Face by John Updike - (about $4 paperback or hardcover) - This was Updike's most experimental of the experimental novels he published from 1992 until this one in 2002. It is supposedly a work of fiction wherein a young woman interviews an older woman (Hope McCoy) about her marriages to two famous abstract expressionist artists. The first is called Zack McCoy, but because the book describes him as the founder of drip painting in the 50's, it is obvious that he is Jackson Pollock, aka Jack the Dripper. Updike admits as much when the forward mentions that a large number of the details come from Naifeh and Smith's "Jackson Pollock: An American Saga." Updike follows reality at least through the car crash that killed Pollock, leaving his wife, Lee Krasner, as his widow. At this point Hope diverges a bit from Lee as she goes on with a painter of flags (our neighbor here in Cupecoy, Jasper Johns) and eventually marries the pop artist who did cartoon dot paintings (Roy Lichtenstein). The book is 276 solid pages of text describing one day of interviewing; one looong chapter, a dozen or so sentences - Updike at his prolix best. It was basically "My Dinner with Andre" on the printed page. However, it is actually amusing if your wife is ABD PhD Rutgers in Art History.

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 Passat heading past our balcony on the way back to port in the afternoon.

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: King Bob of karaoke fame and currently the lead singer in Category 5, rents out the first floor of his house on the waterfront in Beacon Hill. It has three bedrooms and two baths, accommodating six. He has just put in this plunge pool. For two couples, the price is quite good, and for three, a downright bargain for waterfront property.

SXM-Activities: On the left we have Tango and Lambada racing toward the sunset on one of the better days in this last week. They go out almost every night on a pleasant run westward from Simpson Bay along the southern coast and then up the western coast to see the same sunset that we get from our balcony. On nice days, it is a beautiful sunset and a pleasant alcohol-fueled journey.

On the right is Random Wind heading past in the morning for a day of dining, snorkeling, sailing, and swinging (on a trapeze). They call it a Paradise Day Sail and on a day as nice as this was, it is paradise.

Groceries: On the left are some cheeses we have picked up recently. Super U, the new store on the eastern edge of Marigot in the Howell Center, sells Morbier for 16.15€/kg, about $10 per pound; Pont L'Evêque for 3.50€ per 240 gram piece or about $9 per pound; and their house brand Roquefort for 13.95€/kg, a bit less than $9 per pouund (a real bargain). At Simply on the western end of Marigot (much closer to our condo in Cupecoy) we have picked up Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, and Comté for 17.90€/kg, about $11 per pound; Emmenthal for 10.9€/kg, about $7 per pound and Morbier for 16.90€/kg, about $10.50 per pound;. I love the Chaumes, but it is more expensive than Reblochon, so I generally have that instead. Jenkins' Cheese Primer will tell you about all of these, but he especially likes Comté (as does Martha), calling it one of the world's greatest cheeses.

Super U also has pretty good prices on meat. We got beef kidneys for 8.95€/kg, about $5.60 per pound; prime rib for 19.95€/kg, about $12.50 per pound; and pork sausage with herbs also for 8.95€/kg, about $5.60 per pound.

Alcohol: We are not going out to dinner as often as we did last year, so the cheese mentioned above often turns into lunches with patés from Simply and rillettes from Super U, bread from Sarafina, and wine from Select Wine Cellar. Our house wine, which we generally have with lunch is the 2010 JJ Girard Savigny-les-Beaune (center, $25.70). With the kidneys in a cream sauce with shallots, we had the 2011 JJ Girard Volnay Vielles Vignes (right, $45). With the beef we had a 2010 Chantal Lescure Nuits-Saint-George ($65, not shown). We generally add some heat via habanero peppers to the sausage. For spicy foods Sylvain recommends the 2011 Domain Boudau from the Cotes de Rousillon Villages in the south of France. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off.

The photo was taken on Saturday morning and Saba is in the background. The marine haze is such that it cannot be seen, although the day is one of the best this season. Looking off our lagoon balcony into the tradewinds (from whence comes our weather most of the time) I see nothing but big puffy white clouds and lovely blue sky.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a pigeon. Judging by the bands on its leg, it is someone's homing pigeon. He landed on our Caribbean balcony and walked right into the condo, checked out Martha's toes, continued on through our bedroom to our lagoon balcony where Lily was napping on a chair. She never woke up and he retraced his steps and flew off presumably deciding that this was not his home.
Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: The floating swimming pool installed at Galion did not come with enough money for lifeguards or insurance. Consequently, it is there, but unusable.


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 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 1.374 and today it is at 1.380. The rate of increase in the value of the Euro is decreasing, gather your pleasures where you may. Last year at this time it was at 1.30, not much less but this is one of the reasons that we are not going out as much.

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.


Tropical Wave

On Monday we went to Tropical Wave on Galion Beach. The photo above was taken from our table. The foreground is the well protected beach and bay. The breakers indicate the reef that keeps the bay calm while allowing the tradewinds to cool the bathers and fuel the kitesurfers. In the distance is St Barts, about 15 miles away. It was a lovely day in a lovely spot. Today's fish special was a snapper with a few small shrimp in a papillote accompanied by salad and fries. The papillote as you can see from the photo below right was aluminum foil. Martha had shrimp salad. There's a small wine list and on the beach we generally go with a medium priced rosé, the Carte Noir at 16€ in this case. Afterward, while talking with Pat, we tried the cheapest rosé and agreed that it was pretty close to the Carte Noir but $5 cheaper. The good rosé is Chateau Beylesse in the blue bottle and it is great at almost $40 for the bottle! Our entire lunch came to about 55€ and was converted at 1.3 (a good rate) to about $70. The full menu is on the website and there are a couple coupons there to save you some money on lunch and watersports. As usual, we sat down and chatted with Pat until the staff closed the restaurant around us.

Orange Fever
On Wednesday we headed to Orient Beach for a some sun, fun, and food. Unfortunately Wednesday was entirely overcast so there was no sun and not as much fun, especially when the squalls started up again. Nonetheless, looking out across a bottle of chilled Pampelonne rosé (below left, $16) and Orient Beach to Green Cay is a pretty good way to spend a rainy Wednesday. Martha ordered a special tuna tartare that arrived with parmasan shavings on the tasty tuna and several condiments, allowing you to put together the tartare mix of your liking (far below, $16). I ordered a Regina (Reine) pizza (below center, $12). It was a good thin crust version and larger than most. It's things like this that are making me larger than most. They do 1 to 1, accept only cash, have great bargains on chairs and umbrellas, and as Olivier shows (right) have great burgers.

Auberge Gourmande
On Thursday night we headed to Auberge Gourmande for dinner. We had reservations for the 7:00PM seating and even at this hour the free parking lot looked very full so we headed to the pay lot. The restaurant comps it anyway!

We were offered complimentary flutes of champagne as we waited for another couple. They arrived shortly, bringing the two wines on the right. We started with the Cheval des Andes, an Argentine joint venture combining Chateau Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes. It's a mixture of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes. This was a 2006 and was quite good, large, smooth, and long-lasting. So much so that I choose a rather hearty dinner, starting with a special of braised endive (below left).


Martha choose the chicken with emmenthal and a morel sauce. It's a very good French chicken with lots of taste, enhanced by the mushrooms. I had the same except it was a very tender filet of beef under the morel sauce. Both came with a medley of veg. Our first wine was very good with this, but the 2005 Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah from Washington was even better. It had a strong backbone of Merlot with the usual Bordeaux helper grapes. We ended with espressos and a couple complimentary rums. A great evening - good food, good wine, good service, and good company.

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.

We've been in Grand Case once or twice a week for five weeks now and the Talk of the Town lolo is mute. As we generally drive along the Marigot Waterfront to get from our condo to Grand Case, we also note that La Vie en Rose has not been open at night. Kitty corner from there is L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant which is open every night except Saturday. We'll be stopping in soon.

Rancho del Sol sent me the list of daily specials for March. They are on the website.

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.

If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and L'Escargot Restaurant. 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."