St Maarten/St Martin
16 March 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a pretty nice day, still a bit hazy, but I could see Saba, Statia, and St Kitts from the balcony. There was no rain and a decent breeze, maybe even a bit cooler than normal, perfect for the final day of the regatta. The breeze died at the end of the day and the following morning WendyK sent me the photo of Porto Cupecoy (right) with a reflection in the very still lagoon. That night was very calm and hazy leading to the photo of Saba at sunset (below left). That was a pretty flat sea with long period, low rise swells coming in from the south. This is a classic change of weather and by the next morning those swells had risen, taking away most of the beach behind Ocean Club and putting it at the middle beach, ignoring the small bit of beach at Shore Pointe.

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 6:22PM, two extra minutes. In 2014 the full moons will be 16 Mar (tonight), 15 Apr, 14 May, 12 Jun, 12 Jul, 10 Aug, 8 Sep, 8 Oct, 6 Nov, and 6 Dec.

The center photo below below is a sunset shot on Thursday. You can see small, parallel ripples in the water. These are the low frequency, low-rise rollers that come at us from the southeast when the tradewinds taper off. The photo on the right is a view to the southwest taken this (Sunday) morning. These rollers are considerably larger. I could hear them crashing long before I got to the balcony to take the photo. If these continue to grow the surfers will be here. Needless to say, this changing wave pattern moves sand around on Cupecoy. In the early 90s it didn't matter as there was plenty of sand to shift about. If you have 200 yards of sand from the cliffs to the water, it doesn't matter if fifty yards moves to another part of a beach, but Luis in 95 and Lenny in 99 took most of the sand away. Lenny was a rare storm that approached from the west, hitting the western side of the island with full force.

This is a sunset shot taken on Thursday night. The photo in the center above was taken at the same time and shows light puffy clouds high in the sky but a lot of haze on the horizon. This photo is looking southwest and shows the haze continuing all the way to the sunset.

SXM-Beaches: We took some photos at Grand Case Beach and things didn't look too good. On the right is the view from the ghut that drains the pond. It goes under the road and into the ocean between Zen It! and Calmos Café. The photo on the right shows very little sand behind Calmos with most chairs stacked on a tiny bit of dry sand. The photo below left is the view to the southwest, starting at Zen It! and heading down past the docks. There's not much sand at Zen It! and it gets worse down by the docks. We dined a bit further down at Il Nettuno Restaurant and there was a bit more sand, certainly enough for strolls on the beach. The next two photos were taken from Rainbow Café at the far end of Restaurant Row. They have one row of chairs on dry sand. The middle photo is looking west and the right photo is looking east all the way to Créole Rock and Grand Case Beach Club.

Beach reading: Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin - about $11 (Kindle or CD) various prices for hardcovers or paperbacks, new and used - Amazon.com Review: At night the summer sky stays light over Edinburgh. But in a shadowy, crumbling housing development, a junkie lies dead of an overdose, his bruised body surrounded by signs of Satanic worship. John Rebus could call the death and accident--but won't. Instead, he tracks down a violent-tempered young woman who knew the dead boy and heard him cry out his terrifying last words: "Hide! Hide!" Now, with the help of a bright, conflicted young detective, Rebus is following the girl through a brutal world of bad deals, bad dope and bad company. From a beautiful city's darkest side to the private sanctums of the upper crust, Rebus is seeking the perfect hiding place for a killer, in Hide and Seek, the second novel in the series from Ian Rankin. [ed note: Obviously I like these if I'm onto the second one already.]

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. The A/C works, the elevators work (although one has had problems), beach towels are available, the common areas are clean, the pool is lovely, and the hot tub now has water although no heat. The condo 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."

Below is a shot off our lagoon balcony across an empty parcel, over the roof of the house next door, across the lagoon to Nettle Bay and Sandy Ground, and then to the Atlantic (or at least the Anguilla Channel). Dead center in the distance is Créole Rock off Grand Case.

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: Sol é Luna Romantic Inn is one of the most beautiful places on the island. Moreover, it is in a quiet residential area with sweeping views over Etang de Chevrise to Orient Bay. Better yet, it is a few steps up the hill from Sol é Luna Restaurant, just as beautiful and tastier.

SXM-Activities: The Heineken Regatta finished on Sunday and I have about 30 photos on my Activities website. There were 211 entries and they looked as if they were having fun as the went past our balconies on all three days.

Groceries: Martha made a Salade Cupecoise (below, left) for our lunch on Thursday. That would be our local version of the Salade Niçoise. Our meat was the leftover pork from chop a great dinner at Bajatzu in the Maho complex. In the center, she is checking out the boniato, a starchy tuber that tastes a bit like chestnut. On the right is a long shot along the cold vegetable case at Grande Marché. We have been talking to a lot of old timers lately. On Friday we had a lunch at Kakao Beach, still run by Hervé after meeting him here just after Hurricane Luis in the 95/96 high season. Our lunchmates were Patricia and Timothy of L'Esperance Hotel. As a native St Maartener, she may be younger, but she's been here even longer. After Luis it was difficult to find anything, but even before Luis our choices were Ram's, Food Center, and Match - all gone now. Grand Marché and US Import (now Simply) came after that and now Super U and Cost U Less have joined the fray. Things are much better and photo on the right rivals our local Price Chopper back in the hinterlands of NY.
Alcohol: As mentioned earlier, we are dining at home more often. The salad above was combined with the 2010 Savigny-les-Beaune from Jean-Jacques Girard. Martha and I visited his winery in Savigny in 2012 with Sylvain from Select Wine Cellar when he was on his buying trip. The Savigny-les-Beaune is about $26 at the shop. Last night Martha made pork meat balls with a caper sauce adding stock from our recent Cornish hen dinner. The fresh ground pork came from Grand Marché at about $4.50 per pound, not a bad price. It was wonderful, especially with the 2011 Aloxe-Corton from JJ Girard ($37). Look closely to the left of the Aloxe-Corton label and you'll see Saba. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off.

Shopping: On Wednesday morning we went over to the Marigot Market on the waterfront. Wednesday and Saturday are supposed to be bigger markets. That may be true for fruits, veg, meat, and fish but if you are looking for trinkets and teeshirts you'll do fine any day of the week. We were in search of garnet jewelry and it seems easier (and safer) to buy it at The Garnet, formerly Octaedre Gems. The alternative is wandering around Friar's Bay looking for the raw material. The people who own the land frown on this practice, so it's best to head to the eastern end of the market in the permanent stalls and find Candy (below center). She always has an excellent selection of rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets. The jewelry is mined and crafted here, unlike the trinkets marked "Made in China". Martha has several pieces and we usually take some home as gifts.

The photo on the right is St Martin's homage to the market women who ply their trade here. She just got a fresh coat of paint and looks very good this season. Below left is the western entrance to the tented markets. A permanent structure on the eastern end houses several merchants (including The Garnet) and several small local food restaurants. The permanent buildings behind the photographer to the west house the fish market, the meat market, and most of the vegetable and spice stands.

336666 logo Nature: On the right is the pigeon that visited recently. He really came onto the balcony in the photo walked to the other balcony and is now heading back out. He was quite friendly and I managed to catch him easily. Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.
Small Island story: You know you are in a third world country when something goes up in flames (Orange Telecom) and a 1000 clients in Grand Case and Sandy Ground have no land lines or internet service. That also means no credit card transactions are possible. Simultaneously, there is a notice that the French side should not drink the water.


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 Sylvain 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 1.388 and today it is at 1.390. Small change, but a bad 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.


Bajatzu Bar & Grill
On Monday we headed over to Bajatzu on the second floor of Maho at the western end of Simpson Bay. We used the free valet parking at the casino, crossed the street to the escalator, and were seated in our reserved table. It wasn't full when we arrived at 7:30PM but got pretty busy as the night went on. We ordered water and told Muriel, our server, we would have the Chateauneuf de Pape if it was the 2007. The wine list said 2007/2008. If not, the 2009 Crozes-Hermitage would be fine. She came back with the 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape and the 2009 Crozes-Hermitage. The CdP is a better wine, but 2008 was not so good. 2009 was very good. So we took the CdP and were quite happy (right, $69).
Shortly after the water and wine we received hot rolls. Hot rolls with a crunchy cheese topping. And great butter. We had tasted the tuna tartare at a private party earlier this year and decided we needed more (center below, $15). Unlike many steakhouses a salad and a choice of starch (garlic mashed potatoes, a large baked potato, French fries, or steamed rice) are included. The salad (below right) was not a throw-away wedge of iceberg, but a real salad with tasty greens, onions, and a bit of carrot.
Martha's main course was a special, a Kurobuta pork chop from a region in Japan that raises pork much like Wagyu beef, the area of the beer massages for cattle (below left, $45). The pork, as you can see, was firm and it was tasty. We raise heritage breed (Gloustershire Old Spots crossed with Berkshires) on pasture and just before we came down to the island we had a blind tasting of our previous year's pork (a tamworth), Chris Kimble's heritage pork, and ours. Ours won and this pork rivalled ours. I had the 18 oz bone-in Delmonico from the menu (below center, $55). It was well-marbled, moist, and very tasty, especially with the Béarnaise sauce.
We finished with a molten chocolate cake topped with luscious ice cream. All in all, a wonderful evening. It was expensive, but we actually took home enough to provide another dinner and the meat in a lunchtime Salade Cupecoise. That would be Martha's version of the Salade Niçoise here on our balcony overlooking Cupecoy Bay.

Sol é Luna Restaurant
On Tuesday evening we met another couple at Sol é Luna Restaurant in Mont Vernon. It's owned by Chef Christian and his wife, Brigitte, who runs the front of the house. Daughter Charlotte now offers tasty plates at lunchtime.

We listened to several specials and consulted the menu, finally choosing a bottle of Quincy, a Loire valley sauvignon blanc (28€), to go with our appetizer. We choose our wedding wine to go with the dinner we arranged. It was the 2009 version of Beaune du Chateau from Bouchard rather than the 1985 that we had in the previous millennium. At 60€ it was not cheap, but it was wonderful.

We received an amuse bouche of beet soup topped with whipped cream which the photographer promptly ate. Our appetizer from the menu was mozzarella, crumbed and pan fried place on a bed of artichokes (16€, below left), quite nice with the Quincy. Our main courses were both from the menu. Martha had the jumbo shrimp cooked with cognac (below left, 30€ below center). I had the sweetbreads mixed with morel and chanterelle mushrooms (below right, 29€). Our friends had the cioppino (38€) and a special very fresh snapper in a light coconut curry sauce (30€). We required a second bottle of Quincy, for the seafood dishes, although the cioppino with its tomato base would stand up to the Burgundy. All the dinners were great. Martha could only finish three of her shrimp so I can vouch for the fourth and I have had the cioppino. We finished with espressos and by the time waters were added, we had spent about $250 per couple.

There is plenty of parking, either in their own lot or across the street on the road. Service was great and the restaurant is lovely thanks to Brigitte's efforts in interior decoration. The grounds, which pretty much contain the view, are also lovely. Brigitte has just opened a room on the side of the entryway to accommodate large groups or those waiting for tables. She is planning to redo the dining room over the summer. You could stay here and enjoy one of the finest dining experiences on the island (and get a 10% discount!).

L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant

After shopping on Wednesday, we walked on to the end of town and ascended the few steps to the lovely open air dining room of Oizeau Rare. The bar and kitchen are on one side of the dining room. The back and other side have gardens and the front looks out over Marigot and the harbor. It's a lovely place and is run by a family. Christian is cooking and his wife is in the dining room. Before we left from our leisurely lunch, son-in-law Cedric had appeared. Daughter Nathelie makes frequent appearances. We started with a bottle of Badoit red extra-fizzy water and the 2011 Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone at 24€ (below left). It's a pretty good Cotes du Rhone and a good year.

Martha chose the tuna tartare (below center, 16€). It came with some of the island's crispest, hand-cut fries. I ordered the formidable burger (below center, 14€), also with fries. It's Angus beef so its a pretty good burger. Martha really liked the tuna tartare and as I had some, I agree. Our lunch came to 60€ or $83. All good things must come to an end. It's time for Cedric and Nathelie to think about the education system and head back to France for the children's sake. Chef Christian is my age, which is to say retirement age, and with his family moving back, he will selling the business and heading back also. We certainly will miss them and the restaurant.

News and Changes:
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.

When we got on Funseaker in Grand Case, we walked past Talk of the Town and the picnic tables were stacked up as if for sale. That's because they are. The woman running the lolo got ill and her son, followed by the son's wife were running it - but not paying taxes. The government closed them and is probably selling what they can to get the back taxes.

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."