St Maarten/St Martin
21 December 2014 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset


Weather: The last newsletter went out on 7 December and said "The weather over the next ten days is predicted to be either 81 or 82 for the high temperature and 77 for the low with seven clear days followed by some clouds and maybe even a quarter inch of rain." That is pretty much what happened and the current ten day forecast is very similar: seven days of sunshine, two partly cloudy, and one with a chance of rain. The temperature will be a bit more variable with highs ranging from 81 to 83 and lows stretching all the way from 76 to 77. Sounds like great vacation weather. We'll be arriving on the island in two weeks.

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 5:42 PM providing eleven hours and 3 minutes of sunshine. As this is the solstice, it will be about the same tomorrow. For 2015, the full moons will be 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 mid February.

SXM-Beaches: Here are a few shots of Galion Beach, next to Orient Beach. Galion features a long, wide beach along a shallow bay with minimal wave action. It is on the windward side, but the bay is protected by a curving spit of land that gives way to a reef. The waves break out on the reef, but the wind continues on over the calm bay making this an excellent training ground for beginning wind or kite surfers. They get the rare twin benefits of calm water and a good breeze. Pat Turner rents all manner of water sports equipment and beach chairs at Tropical Wave and serves a very good lunch.

Beach reading: Personal (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child ($10 Kindle or $17 hardcover) - This just came out in early September. Martha downloaded a copy from our library and listened as she baked Christmas panettones. She liked it and was in good company:

"The best one yet."-Stephen King
"Reacher is the stuff of myth, a great male fantasy. . . . One of this century's most original, tantalizing pop-fiction heroes . . . Child does a masterly job of bringing his adventure to life with endless surprises and fierce suspense."-The Washington Post
"Yet another satisfying page-turner."-Entertainment Weekly
"Reacher is always up for a good fight, most entertainingly when he goes mano a mano with a seven-foot, 300-pound monster of a mobster named Little Joey. But it's Reacher the Teacher who wows here."-Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
"Jack Reacher is today's James Bond, a thriller hero we can't get enough of. I read every one as soon as it appears."-Ken Follett

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are not in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. I'm hearing that the A/C and elevators are problematic. Beach towels are available, the common areas are clean, and the pool is lovely. The condo is available now at rates at $1000 per week until 4 Jan 2015 when we arrive. 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 with two cruise ships chugging past.

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-Activities: Kool and the Gang will be the headliners at the Heineken Regatta. The Regatta runs from 6 to 8 March. The headliners are the featured band at the big party on Kim Sha beach on the last day of the regatta.

That's a ways off, so if you are planning to visit sooner and want some live music, check out Pineapple Pete in Cole Bay. It is regularly voted the best spot on the island for live music by the discerning readers of the Daily Herald.

Groceries: It's the time of year when fantastic delicacies reach the island. Notably foie gras, oysters, duck breasts, and the finest cuts of beef show up at Grand Marché and Simply. If you want to stay home, you can have a fine meal at a fraction of the cost of dining out.

Alcohol: Sylvain at Select Wine is offering Belin Tradition Champagne for $30 during the holiday season. If you want something a bit better, try his Deutz Brut Classic. He also has a fabulous selection of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

Travel: On the day before the last newsletter (6 Dec) there was a bomb threat at the airport. A phone at about 9:30AM said that there was a bomb on a KLM flight that had been canceled for technical reasons. The airport was evacuated and traffic was turned around at the roundabouts on either side of the airport. Incoming flights were diverted.

The big news is the court case that seems to give US Citizens the same rights to live and work on the island as Dutch nationals. The original ruling was in favor of the government, but it was appealed and the appeals court ruled in favor of the the US citizen, upholding a common sense reading of the Treaty of Friendship. The Daily Herald story said:
[Qoute]In the appeal case, the Minister had also stated that relevant stipulations in the Friendship Treaty and the attached protocol had been wrongfully interpreted and that the explanation of the Kingdom Law approving the treaty only contained general rules and would allow governments to take measures when deemed necessary. The Appeals Court, however, rejected these arguments and declared the appeal unfounded. "For the first time, the Joint Court gave its opinion about the requirements for admission of US nationals in St. Maarten," said Grant's attorney Vivian Choennie. "The Court confirmed that American citizens are entitled to the same rights as European Dutchmen. This, in fact means that just like European Dutch nationals, American citizens also do not require work permits when seeking employment here. They are, therefore, entitled to stay in St. Maarten, for as long as they have sufficient means to sustain themselves and have no criminal record," the lawyer said.[Unquote]

green logo Nature: On the right is a cotton flower. The photo was taken on the top of the cliffs at Cupecoy. The cotton should be coming into flower at this time.

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

Small Island story: For a small island dependent upon tourism for the bulk of its economic activity, there are quite a few laws stifling the business. The Daily Herald reported that the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT, an acronym that suggests a lack of English comprehension) has given all businesses permission to stay open until 10:00 on the run-up to Christmas. This will only help locals and stay-over tourists shop, but any cruise ships arriving on Christmas and New Year's Day will still find all shops closed. Given that many of the shops on Front Street are Indian-owned and Indian-staffed, it's a bit much to tell them they have to honor the local religion. I do note that some Indians are Christians and New Year's Day isn't exactly a Christian holiday anyway.


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 8 February
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
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 ago 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 Champagne 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. ... 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:
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 7 December the Euro was at 1.229 and today it is at 1.223. That's great news for those of us with dollars.

Piazza Pascal and La Villa, in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Nearby Ti Bouchon offers 1 to 1 also.

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.


Mario's Bistro

For one of our first and last meals every season, we go to Mario's. It is close to our condo, but it is also superb, from the roomy dining room, to the friendly and good service, the large wine list, and, of course, Mario's cuisine. We started with sparkling water and two flutes of champagne (14€€) and ordered the 2012 Marcel Lapierre Morgon (right, 44€€). It's a cru Beaujolais, just south of Burgundy, made from the gamay grape. Mr Lapierre claims that his poor, acidic soil produces notes of violets and black cherries, but, if left to develop more and deeper roots, it will develop deeper tastes, approaching its cousin, Pinot Noir. We have several bottles of the 2009 in our cellar and while the 2012 had more fruit, it was a wonderful accompaniment for Mario's cuisine.

We started with a special appetizer, asparagus on a bit of crisp Serrano ham topped with Parmesan cheese shavings, arugula, and a poached egg, all surrounded by a peppery sauce. Just thinking about all the textures and tastes required another glass of red wine. We both had special dinners also. Martha is on a bit of a pigeon kick as Franck at Le Pressoir had just crafted a magnificent pigeon dinner for her, so she ordered Mario's first pigeon and indeed, she got the first one that came out of the kitchen. It was partially deboned and accompanied by green beans, pearl onions, carrots, cauliflower mousseline and topped with a bit of foie gras which was topped by house made Yukon Gold potato chips (below center, 32€). There was a fresh ahi tuna special on a bed of gnocchi in a tomato sauce with a roasted garlic on the side. The tuna was topped with blue cheese and scallion fries. There was also a dash of a fiery, fruity salsa, just in case you hadn't had enough tastes swirling about (below right, 32€). The wine was wonderful with all these flavors. We ended with another champagne for Martha and a Bally 7 year old rum for me, both complimentary. Altogether, we spent 144€, about $198 at today's rate, pretty good for a meal of this quality.

On a busy Saturday last March we stopped in for a late lunch at Skipjack's. There were a few people still there at 1:30 when we came in and a few more arrived even later. Obviously we got a waterfront table and this view of the new causeway stretching across this little corner of the lagoon. Closer to our table at 200 feet in length was the Sea Owl, below left. Our lunches were the fried calamari salad (below center, $17) and the fish and chips (below right, $14). Fresh and tasty with a couple beers to wash it all down. It was a very good lunch for less than $50. There is generally plenty of parking for lunch and they are open every day except Sunday for lunch. Dinners are served every night.

Le Fourmi
From early November, Wendy K writes: We headed to Mt Vernon to Sol é Luna Restaurant for lunch today, but got there to find them closed, and a pool being excavated in front of the restaurant!!! Hope it re-opens with the same owners and format. [ed note, see below for more info].

We decided to see if someone else had moved into the space in West Indies Mall where La Fourmi was, as their sign was still up, and we were welcoming the a/c. (VERY humid and soupy today) We were surprised to find the same menu and waiter AND owner! I had the salade gourmandaise (16€) with smoked duck breast, gisiers, and confit, and Tony had his favorite souris d'agneau with flagiolettes (19€, right). A bottle of Samur Champigny was 20€. Really lousy tourist weather this week, with lots of rain, thunder, and lightning. AND humidity. We've had five squalls come through with thunder in just the last hour. And I have some very wet clothes on the line!

I posted on TTOL and Facebook, asking if Sol é Luna had been sold, and almost immediately got a nice Facebook "chat" from Charlotte telling me that it had. She decided to stay in Marbella (Spain), where she has opened a small boutique, and her parents are joining her there. (Charlotte's husband is from Spain and they were going there for the summer). The restaurant/inn was putting in a swimming pool just in front of the restaurant when we went there last Friday and found them closed. The new owners did post on Facebook that they have re-opened for lunch and are still doing the 20€ formule.

Le Sand

Wendy K reports: Jeri and I had lunch at Le Sand in mid November. It was excellent, albeit expensive. It was a lovely day, and much appreciated after so much rain (Jeri had to have her car towed to a mechanic today from Beacon Hill, where it sat in 4-5 " of water for more than 2 days after the deluge Friday night/Saturday). We had a table on the edge of the beach, and there was a lovely breeze which was nice because it's still pretty humid.

We drank a reserve Cotes du Rhone (29€) and we each had onglet (hanger steak) with a shallot sauce served with home made frites (27€). I just looked at the bill, and it appears the tax was included. They brought us each a small bowl of chilled soup as an amuse bouche: asparagus &and carrot, it was very creamy and actually tasted of neither, but had a nice bite and curry flavor. The bread was fantastic: 3 kinds of grain bread, served with good olive oil. The onglet was cooked perfectly rare, and the frites and shallots all were excellent. We finished our last glasses of wine for dessert, and were served a shot of passion fruit infused rum. The total bill was 83€ about $106.


Wendy K reports: Monique and I had our almost-annual lunch at Tropicana in mid-November. They were full when we arrived at around 1:00pm, and we sat at a table along the harbor, under a sturdy awning. We shared a bottle of Carte Noire Rosé (20€). I had tartare de boeuf (15.75€, right) with their wonderful frites, and Monique had her favorite saumon marinée (14€, left).

We had quite the experience on the way home, as traffic was crawling just before the bridge, and rapidly came to a complete halt in both lanes. We sat for about 45 minutes; finally gave up and turned around, taking the causeway to get home. We later learned that some young people created a blockade of the road to protest the fact that the basketball court has not been completed! The gendarmes "supervised" to make sure there was no violence, and it finally broke up when the president of the colectivité showed up at 6:00 pm. Ah, the French!

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.

Momo at Ti Bouchon will be open seven days a week through high season including the holidays. No special menus are planned at this time. The new owner at Sol é Luna wrote to say that they also have no special plans. Donna at Piazza Pascal said she is doing: "Nothing special. We will be closed New Year's Eve and day. Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!"
Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant has produced a cookbook with art work by Sir Roland Richardson, St Martin's treasured artist, and poetry by Laura Richardson, Roland's wife. Together they have poured their shared passion, creativity, and talent to the best of their ability into this magical archive of St Martin's flavors. For further information, please contact Chef Dino Jagiani dinojagtiani@aol.com or Sir Roland and Laura Richardson roland.laura@wanadoo.fr

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!

Talk of the Town has reopened in Grand Case. Air Lekkerbek has closed on Pondfill in Pburg. Dean's Restaurant (formerly Palms, formerly Peg Leg Pub) in Cole Bay closed and a Tuscan restaurant is moving into the space.

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."