St Maarten/St Martin
25 May 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: On 13 May there was a thread on TTOL complaining about five straight days of rain, including the night of 12 May which several people claimed was the heaviest downpour they had ever seen. It is the rainy season, but lacking a real tropical storm, five straight days of misery is rare. As of last Thursday, the ten day forecast had seven partly cloudy days and three days with chances of thunderstorms. Moreover the temperatures ranged from 79 to 81F and the winds were 15 to 20 mph from the east. That's more like summer weather, cloudy, but not constant rain. The days look something like the photo on the right, taken shortly before we left in early April.

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 6:42 PM providing 13 hours and 6 minutes of sunshine. Here in upstate NY we have 14 hours and 58 minutes of daylight. We also had a snowstorm arrive shortly after the previous (13 April) newsletter! In 2014 the full moons will be 12 Jun, 12 Jul, 10 Aug, 8 Sep, 8 Oct, 6 Nov, and 6 Dec.

This sunset pano was taken from the Caribbean balcony of our condo in mid February.

Hurricane Predictions

I'm going to keep the hurricane predictions from Colorado State University in the newsletter and compare them to actuality. They predicted only 9 named storms (compared to 12 in the average year from 1981 to 2010), 35 named storm days (60.1), 3 hurricanes (6.5), 12 hurricane days (21.3), one major hurricane (2.0), and 2 major hurricane days (3.9).
SXM-Beaches: Here are some shots of Simpson Bay Beach taken from Vlaun Road. On the left, I was standing in the road, next to the Horny Toad Guesthouse and shot the view across the beach and the bay essentially due south to Saba in the background. For the shot on the right, I walked to the end of the road and turned right, facing west. The camera caught Karakter and White Sands Beach on the way to Beacon Hill in the distance. Karakter does a great jazz and tapas affair on Friday nights. White Sands Beach is the home of SXM Yoga. I mention this so I can show the photo below.

Beach reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - (about $17 paperback or hardcover, $7.50 Kindle) - This won the Pulitzer Prize. Amazon.com Review: Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love--and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are not 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 is available now 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 several more coupons as well. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

To the right is a shot across our Caribbean balcony, over the pool and villas, and about 25 miles across the Caribbean to Saba. It was so clear that the houses on Saba are visible in the enlarged version.

A visitor in early April said:

The vacation was GREAT. Your suite is very nice, the plants, books and cd's made it home-like. We especially liked tooling around the Island listening to Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis on the cd player in Unity's car; which was by the way, a great deal. He upgraded us one level and charged us low season rates. The Pub Crawl was a success. Neil has a knack of getting a group to interact and have fun and we always go out with him at least once. Select Wine Cellar was a highlight. Sylvain steered us to some bottles that were very good. All in all it was a great vacation. Thanks for the coupons they made our stay even better than usual.

Best regards,
Nick & Sharon

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: The Turquoise Shell is an oasis of calmness in Simpson Bay. It is a short walk out the front door to the Dutch Bridge, essentially in the center of all the Simpson Bay nightlife. Cross the street from the back door and you are on Simpson Bay Beach, generally calm water and great for walking. The rates are good and the full kitchens allow you to save money on breakfast and lunch while still enjoying a great evening. You might like it so much that you want to buy it!

A recent thread on TTOL had good things to say about Grand Case Beach Club.

SXM-Activities: On the left is Random Wind sailing past our balcony on her way to some great snorkeling, swimming, drinking, and dining. They have a Tarzan swing that goes out over the water and you can try your luck with various acrobatic dives.

The schooner on the right is Passaat (Tradewinds) alongside Tango. Passaat does day sails, sunset sails, and dinner cruises. Tango does dinner cruises and her sister ship, Lambada, does sunset sails. They both do day sails over to Anguilla and Prickly Pear. Flagship II now does half-day charters, morning and afternoon at $900 for up to 12 people, open bar and snacks included.

The Palm D'Or Nightclub above Palm Beach Restaurant is breaking out with parties on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at 11PM (Doors open at 10PM). Every Sunday features an AFTER BEACH PARTY, essentially a continuation of the Palm Beach Restaurant Party. Fridays and Saturdays have various themes, special drinks, and DJs. The website has the very latest info. Last Friday was ladies night featuring free maragaritas for the ladies all night long with dj SUPAYASS. Since you missed it, it will be repeated on 30 May, followed by a TWO for ONE night on 31 May: all mixed drinks are buy one and get a second one free until 1AM.

This is a shot of Grand Case at night. It was taken from the street, essentially in front of the garden at Blue Martini. It's a view down an alley to Grand Case Bay turning reddish from the setting sun. It was taken on the night of the penultimate Grand Case Mardi Gras of this season.

Groceries: If you have ever wondered why we never mention Caribbean lobster in our restaurant reviews, blame the guy on the left. George at Skipjack's generally tries to have the cheapest lobster on the island and that generally has been about $20 per pound. Martha and I were raised on cold-water lobsters so we may be biased, but we believe they do taste better. While that may be a matter of taste, it is fairly obvious that Caribbean lobsters have some serious feelers on the front while Maine lobsters have very tasty claw meat on the front. Moreover, the price of Maine lobsters has collapsed, at least at the wholesale level and some of that has trickled into retail, at least in supermarkets, if not necessarily in restaurants. The fine fellow on the left cost $7.99 per pound at our local Price Chopper and they steamed him. We bought this 2.5 pound lobster for about the cost of a one pound Caribbean lobster. We have paid as little as $4.99 per pound last summer. But if you don't live in the northeast and need a lobster fix, you can't beat the selection and price at Skipjack's. You walk straight in to the lobster tank as you enter the restaurant, so you know they are fresh.
Crime: Two pelican statues have been stolen from Mount William Hill in early May according to the Daily Herald. The statues are similar to the massive, and massively expensive at a quarter million for the trio, statues installed at the airport roundabout. The stolen statues weighed about 100 pounds each, much less than the larger statues which required a crane for placement.

Travel: The government of SXM has announced that they will begin enforcing the laws concerning the importation of pets (even for a short visit by a tourist). We have been getting a widely recognized international travel document for our cat, but that is no longer sufficient. Some laws have been on the books for 70 years, but it appears that they have hired someone to fill the government position regarding this and he does not consider this a no-show job. He has updated the requirements to include a microchip for cats and dogs, and although rabies and feline leukemia have always been checked, internal and external parasites are also to be checked. Moreover, you are required to get permission to bring your pet, report to a local vet within 24 hours of your arrival (good luck with a Saturday afternoon arrival), and submit this pile of paperwork back to the Inspections Department TEZVT - LVV, St. Maarten. Here is the animal import form I got from Mervyn.Butcher@sintmaartengov.org.

Traffic: The Herald reported that the police confiscated 18 motorcycles in early May just outside of the carnival village. The bikes were variously uninsured, unregistered, and/or uninspected or their drivers were unlicensed or helmetless. But we knew that already.

Art: The arts on the island seem to be mostly paintings, but there are also concerts, dance programs, and theater. The concerts feature fine classical musicians doing piano recitals, duets, and small chamber pieces. Don't expect ballet, but there are local dance companies that strut their stuff. Recently the College du Mont des Accords staged the play Black Orpheus, an adaptation of the Greek Orpheus and Eurydice legend set in modern-day Brazil.

green logo Nature: On the right is a Norfolk Island pine. It is endemic to Norfolk Island, a lonely place in the Pacific between Australia, New Zealand, and Caledonia. Norfolk Island is smaller than our combined island, about the size of the St Maarten.

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

Small Island story: Usually this snarky section laughs at some island government foibles and there are no end of them, so here is a story about the former Curaçao Prime Minister and has life partner being arrested for forgery and money laundering. However, there is some good news: Possibly the French and Dutch side governments mishandled the chikunguna crisis at the beginning but the Herald reports that both sides have come together and seem to have the situation under control.


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 July 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 for one contest, 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 for that contest.

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 July to 12 October | 12 October to 7 December
same cast of characters as current contest



In mid April the Euro was at 1.388 and today it is at 1.363, down almost 2 percent in six weeks, a fairly large change, and for the good.

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.


Champagne Bistro
On the Wednesday before our Thursday departure we went to Select Wine Cellar to pick up some wine and have a lunch imported from Champagne Bistro with recent contest winners Tom and Lori Fahy (below left). They had won a tasting at Select (among other prizes) and we all stayed for lunch. Champagne Bistro had two interesting specials, a fish kebob with salmon and mahi accompanied a bit of risotto ($18, below center) and an Italian plate with risotto, lasagne, some melon and prosciutto, a tiny caprese salad, and some beef carpaccio ($19, below right).

Le Fourmi
Wendy K reports: The waiter, who is also the manager at the new "Too French" restaurant (where Le Bec Fin used to be) told us La Fourmi will be sold in May. They were out of most of the less expensive reds on the wine list, as they're just running out the stock. It was fairly busy, with some tables of French men in ties. The usual blackboard menu.

We drank a bottle of their house red: a Dourthe cab/merlot blend, which he gave us for 20€. We shared a house made salmon gravlax plate (16€) that was excellent. (sorry, I forgot the picture until we'd already begun to eat), and we each had the plat du jour, which today was "calamars a la catalan" (12.50€). All was good, and we were happy.

News and Changes:

Dean's Steakhouse: This place opened in Peg Leg Pub's previous location in Simpson Bay. They weren't the first and none have lasted long. A thread on TTOL suggests that this incarnation won't last long either. On a recent visit, they were out of two of the three steaks on the menu and there were no baked potatoes. In a steakhouse? They tried to order three different wines and all were unavailable.

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.

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 ended for the season.

The Tuesday Night Party (left) in Grand Case started on 21 January and ran until 30 March. C'est fini.

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 for 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."