St Maarten/St Martin
12 October 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

This is a somewhat skimpy newsletter. Other than government elections and the Caravanserai debacle, not much happens in September. Accordingly, we spent a week in France and a week in Italy. Here's our trip report.

Weather: The 10 days preceding this newsletter had highs of 84-86 and lows of 79-80. There were five clear days and five days with rain, three with less than 0.1 inches. Not bad for the rainy season.

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 6:14 PM providing. In 2014 the full moons will be 6 Nov and 6 Dec. For 2015, they are 4 Jan, 3 Feb, 5 Mar, 4 Apr, 3 May, 2 Jun, 1 Jul, 31 Jul (a blue moon), 29 Aug, 27 Sep, 27 Oct, 25 Nov, and 25 Dec.

This sunset pano was taken from the Caribbean balcony of our condo in late 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).

Earlier we had had three hurricanes: Arthur, a minor happening making no major landfall in the Caribbean or US. Hurricane Bertha, a category 1 storm, came from Africa, crossed over Martinique to the south, and circled over the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It also dropped some rain in the Bahamas before running parallel with the US east coast. It continued westward eventually causing a lot of flooding in the United Kingdom. Cristobal passed to the north of SXM in late August and became a Hurricane near Hispanola. It turned north and west, never making major landfall as a hurricane. Since last newsletter Hurricane Edouard wandered out of Africa, turned north and then east, petering out in the middle of nowhere. Tropical storm Fay is way north of the Caribbean and heading north.

Sunset SXM-Beaches: Here are two shots of sunsets on beaches. On the left is a shot from the Greenhouse restaurant on Kimsha Beach. On the right is a shot from The Horny Toad Guesthouse near the middle of Simpson Bay Beach. Sunset

Beach reading: The Way We Cook: Recipes from the New American Kitchen ($12 paperback, $21 hardcover, used even cheaper) - From Amazon: "For the past twenty years, in their wildly popular newspaper and cooking columns, Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven have been providing hundreds of thousands of cooks with recipes they can depend on. Now, in this long-awaited cookbook which is an essential reference for anyone who wants to get the most out of time in the kitchen, they present 250 of their favorites. From Roast Side of Salmon to Creamy Chocolate Tart, each dish is straightforward, contemporary, and elegant: home cooking at its best. Julian and Riven have an unerring sense of what busy people need: appetite-provoking nibbles that won't set back dinner preparations; easy meals for the time of day when the cook is most exhausted; impressive but relaxed dinners for company; simple side dishes; slow-cooked suppers served straight from the pot; weekend breakfasts that leave plenty of time for reading the paper; desserts anyone can master."

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, and the pool is lovely. 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.

Below is a panorama taken from our Caribbean balcony across 25 miles of the Caribbean to Saba.

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: On the left is the courtyard at Azure Beach Studios. That's a ring-necked dove enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. There are usually a couple turtles wandering about. The Hotel is at the end of a road that dead ends on Simpson Bay Beach, one of the longest and least developed beaches on the island. The rooms are new and the owners, Mike and Fawnette, are wonderful hosts. Check out the prices and specials on the website.

Simpson Bay is where most of the action is on the Dutch side. The Horny Toad Guesthouse and Turquoise Shell Inn are also located in Simpson Bay. The Toad is a block away from Azure, also at the end of a road leading to the beach. The Turquoise Shell is closer to the action and has a small pool but has access to the beach via the vacant lot across the street. It's also for sale.

The Caravanserai owners have just been screwed. It appears that the new "owners" are claiming that the bank loan did not state that Caravanserai could use the money for a timeshare operation. Thus, there are no valid timeshare owners. Those who thought they were timeshare owners may jump through lots of hoops and might be offered a week in a hotel unit, if available.

Construction: Some bad news from Maho, as the Herald said that a worker fell to his death in an elevator shaft. He may have been fleeing a government sweep for illegal workers.

green logo Nature: On the right is a frigate bird looking for lunch.

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

Small Island story: The Herald reported that the vote buying case, though proven, was dismissed. Why, you ask? Well, essentially because everybody was corrupt and doing it and so this was unfair enforcement of the law. The investigation alleged that Theo "invested" $3 million in his campaign. As he is not new to government on the island, I can only assume that he believed this to be a wise investment. That comes to about $150 per each of about 21,433 possible votes.
The results are on the government website, but the Herald has most of this info in their Saturday roundup of events and more in their 2 Sep wrap-up.. As it turns out only 14,500 people voted, a turnout of 69%, considerably higher than in the US. Theo's party (Up with People) led voting with 6156 votes, followed by William Marlin's National Alliance at 4011. The current Prime Minister's Democratic party, Sarah Wescot-Williams, received 2,398 votes and Member of Parliament Frans Richardson's US Party polled 1,636 votes. Before the final parliamentarians were to be chosen, the last three parties agreed to cocoperate and form a coalition government, once again leaving Theo on the outside. William Marlin will be the Prime Minister.

I wrote the previous paragraph as things happened and then on 8 Sep left for a two week vacation. When I came back, the Herald was reporting that Theo would be forming a government. It appears that Cornelius de Weever from the Democratic Party (Sarah's party) subsequently agreed to form a coalition with Theo and his six other UP party members.


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.

Winners of the contest ending 12 October:

Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Ken Anderson
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Dorene Kuffer
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Dorene Kuffer
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - Dorene Kuffer
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Walter Smith
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - John Harris
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Walter Smith
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Ken Anderson
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Dorene Kuffer

Current Contest: now to 7 December

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:
7 December to 8 February | 8 February to 5 April | 5 April to 31 May
31 May to 30 August | 30 August to 6 December
same cast of characters as current contest



On 26 August the Euro was at 1.325 and today it is at 1.263. That's down 4.7% over the last six weeks and down about 9% form this year's high value of 1.39 in late March.

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 Signature Visa Venture 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 as 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.

Cap One just offered Martha a Quicksilver Visa Signature Card that gives us 1.5% back - no fooling around with miles. They do not charge an exchange fee on foreign transactions and they do provide rental car insurance. This will be our primary card as airline miles are not as valuable or as easy to use as they used to be.

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
In late February we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, pick up some wine, and have a lunch imported from Champagne Bistro. . The lunches were quite sturdy and flavorful, so Sylvain choose a 2005 Olmaia Cabernet from the Montalcino/Siena area about midway between Florence and Rome. The vineyards were planted with French Cabernet in 1984, so they were about 20 years old when the grapes were harvested. It went well with the bavette (steak, left), beef tartare (center), and tuna tartare (right).

Piazza Pascal
On 16 March we went to dinner at Piazza Pascal. We had 7:30 reservations and as we arrived, the free lot looked very full so we parked in the pay lot and strolled down the street. Donna had saved us a corner table in the upstairs dining area (bottom right). We started with sparkling water and the Chianti Classico from Castello D'Albola.

We split the calamari steak appetizer (below left, $15). Martha had a ravioli special with lobster, crab, and spinach (below center). As usual, I had the Linguini Di Napoli (bottom center, $25), shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels, and assorted seafood in fresh basil tomato sauce (extra spicy per my request) over linguini pasta. We ended with coffees and old rum. Total cost, about $100 as they are still doing 1 to 1 for cash purchases. There is no water view, but this is one of the best deals in Grand Case. As a bonus, you get to meet two of the nicest people in the business: Donna and Pascal (bottom left).

News and Changes: 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.

Jean-Pierre at Antoine Restaurant is celebrating October by offering special deals on three of their most popular plates: Lobster Thermidor, Red Snapper, and Veal Scallopine. Moreover, they all come with a glass of wine.

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!

I have been told that Sol é Luna Restaurant and Apartments has been sold.

Momo said that Ti Bouchon reopened on Monday, 6 October. Reopening Monday, October 6th. There will be a new menu and a new wine list on the website by mid October (Caribbean standard time).

Sylvain from Select Wine said that the father of Marina (his former partner) has bought A HREF="http://www.SXM-SimpsonBay.com/east/champagne">Champagne Bistro. That's the restaurant at his front door, the one we have deliver lunch to Select when we are doing our weekly wine tasting. I have heard that the Mezière brothers from Bistrot Caraïbes have teamed up again with Pascal at Auberge Gourmande to buy Le Tastevin.

I've also heard that Ti Provençal and Rainbow have been sold.

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."