St Maarten/St Martin
18 January 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was cool, for the island, in that it was down to 73F at dinnertime. It also rained several times, but briefly. This continued on Monday morning with 77F at 7:30AM and four brief showers before lunch and marine haze that obscured Saba. We did manage to drive to Grand Case, visit with several restaurateurs, have a great dinner at La Villa, and return home without wetness. However, on Tuesday it was the same story only the showers lasted longer. The pano below shows how the day went. On the left you can see the gray clouds above the Blue Mall that are the center of a shower, yet most of the rest of the photo has blue sky. You'll also note the lack of any large yachts at Porto Cupecoy. By late Wednesday, it was much nicer with white puffy clouds and plenty of sunshine. There was still a lot of marine haze obscuring Saba. It is still there as I type this at 7:30 AM (right, honest, Saba is in that photo). It's also a rather cool 73F again. The coming week shows highs of 81 to 82 and lows of 74/75 with only three days with a chance of rain measured at 0 inches. Obviously, those are brief showers. Basically, the weather is great!

Below are three photos of the lagoon this morning. The extreme flatness of the surface says that there is barely a breeze. On the left to the north is the corner of the lagoon in front of Porto Cupecoy. The center photo is a bit to the east and shows the Belle Creole tower. Both of these shots show water so flat that you can see the reflection of the buildings. On the right is a further zoom to Créole Rock off Grand Case.

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 5:58 PM providing eleven hours and 11 minutes of sunshine, three minutes more than last Sunday. For 2015, the full moons will be 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 on Thursday, 15 January.

SXM-Beaches: I hate to spread bad news, but I do think people should know about the dangers. Orient is usually a very calm beach. I mentioned last week that the southern end has a reef breaking the waves and the center of the beach has Green Cay blocking the waves. It was rather windy (and rainy) early last week and a big wave knocked a cruise ship passenger down. It appears that he hit his head and died immediately. The Daily Herald has more details, but do be careful.

On the left is the gentleman who attempts to collect money for parking in the public lot next to Ocean Club or driving onto the private property next door. Needless to say, he owns neither. I walked right past him, as could anyone who parked out on the street.

In fact parking on the street closer to Porto Cupecoy puts you closer to the only beach (right hand photo below). On the right are the many butterflies that people have mentioned on TTOL. Some say is is leftover from the rain in the hurricane and the monsoon shortly thereafter. Below left is Baby Beach looking very moist. There was a small amount of dry beach, four chairs max, beneath me. The center shows the remains of the monolith and the dock at the center beach and finally the beach in front of Shorepointe where Dany has his bar. Wendy K notes that there is some sand behind Ocean Club and yesterday's seaweed, which we could see from our balcony, is gone.

Beach reading: The Hanging Garden by Patrick White - (about $12 paperback, $10 Kindle) - From Booklist: In January 1981, having posted his completed autobiography, Flaws in the Glass, to his editor for review, White, the only Australian ever to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, immediately began work on his next novel. It was to be a love story, tracing the intertwined paths of two young adolescents who have escaped the war in Europe to find tenderness despite bleak and foreign circumstance. Eirene is from Greece; her Communist father was murdered in prison, and her mother has abandoned her in Australia to return to the war (and her new lover). Gilbert, lean, blond, and rapidly shedding his boyhood, has been sent to Sydney to escape the Blitz. Their connection is initially elusive, fraught with childhood politics and the bristling closed-off-ness of orphaned children. But, one senses, there are profound and beautiful epiphanies in store for the young lovers. The precise contours of these moments are, however, left for us to imagine: White, failing in health and increasingly distracted by political issues, stopped work on the story in April (on ANZAC Day, Australia's Memorial Day, to be precise) and never completed it. This book is, therefore, but a glimpse, a tantalizing, sensate, glimpse, of one of the twentieth century's top writers, in raw but still beautiful form. --Brendan Driscoll

Some friends came to our house for dinner over the holidays bringing their adult daughter who is an editor at Picador. She sent Martha a copy of this book. Martha is only 20 pages in and claims the book is wonderful already.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo (Unit 255) at this time. The pool is clean and full, although a section of the bottom is failing, allowing some water loss. The alternative is to drain it in high season and fix it at all deliberate Caribbean speed. Building 2 has only one working elevator. Other than that, we have A/C, hot and cold water, beach towels, and maid service. The pool bar/restaurant is open. The condo will be available in early April at $1000 per week or less until 15 December 2015 when the rate rises to $1500 per week. 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 shot of the sunset taken on 17 January. There was marine haze obscuring Saba but the sun went right down to the water and disappeared in a green flash, our first of the season.

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: Pineapple Pete has music every night. It is regularly voted the best spot on the island for live music by the discerning readers of the Daily Herald.

Last Sunday we watched the NFL divisional playoffs in the SPN Café next door. There are essentially three rooms: an outdoor terrace along the street, a bar, and an indoor room with about twenty TVs spread about. The indoor room has A/C, tables, and chairs and a couple high tables with stools. The bar has stools and the outdoor area has stools and high tables. We arrived a bit after the first game started and got some stools at the bar. When the Packers had dispatched the Cowboys, the indoor room cleared out and we got more comfortable table and chairs for our dinner (see below). By the time Denver and Indianapolis started their game, all the seats were taken.

Gas: Unleaded gasoline on the Dutch side will dropped from 1.957 NAf per liter (about $4.11 gallon) to 1.847 NAf per liter (about $3.88 per gallon) this week. I used 1.8 NAf per dollar. Gas stations on the Dutch side will probably give you 1.75 or even 1.7 adding up to 5% to the cost. Even if the Dutch side gas stations add 5% via a bad exchange rate, they will have cheaper gas than the French side for the first time in years.

Groceries: We picked up some Petit Billy, a soft, luscious goat cheese described as "excellent" by Steve Jenkins in his Cheese Primer. We got it for 5€ at Simply in Sandy Ground. As it weighed about a half pound, the cost was $12 per pound.

On the left is a leg of pork from Super U. It was priced at 8€/kg, about $4.40 per pound. Essentially, you divide the French price in half and add 10% to it to get $ per pound. Martha studded it with garlic and this 3 pound, $13 leg roast fed us for two nights and two lunches. On the right was our anniversary lunch: foie gras, figs, and fried boniato (sweet potato) slices with scallions.

Alcohol: We have been drinking the case we bought from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. We had the 2012 Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru ($39) with some veal that we bought at Super U for about $11 per pound. We tried the 2011 Chassagne-Montrachet ($45) with the first meal based on the leg of pork. We put some leftover pork in a spicier sauce and paired the Cote du Rhone with it ($23). Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

green logo Nature: The dove in our palm tree managed to hatch out two chicks. The photo was taken within hours of hatching, after she left them alone briefly to search for food.

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

Small Island story: The Daily Herald said that Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Claret Connor said that timeshare complaints "have not fallen on deaf ears". If you go on to read the rest of the article, he seems to say they need more laws and regulation. One would think that a simple rule respecting contracts was part of the legal system here and that would be enough to make all developers (and subsequent purchasers of whatever the developer owns) to respect the contracts they signed. That would stop Alagria from telling owners they might get a hotel room, rather than the 2BR condo described in their contract. Then again, I'd bet many of of the owners stopped paying which would seem to void their contracts.


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 11 January the Euro was at 1.184 and today it is at 1.157, almost what it was when all this started about 15 years ago and about where it was five years ago.

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.


SPN logo
SPN Café
On Sunday we headed out to Pineapple Pete's SPN Café and caught most of the early playoff game and downed most of a bucket of Presidente (5 bottles for $15). We had barbecued ribs with crispy fries and a garden salad ($18, right) with another bucket for dinner and watched the the late playoff game. The dinner came to $66 and we got a bill for $76 as a 15% tip was added. The credit card slip came back at $76 with an empty spot for another tip. I tossed them $5 as they (the entire team seemed to be working together) were pretty good, even under playoff pressure.

On Monday night, we went to Grand Case for dinner at La Villa. The hurricane didn't help the summer business much, but they are doing well. They are still doing 1 to 1 pricing for cash and the $49 three course menu option is still available.
The three course meal provides at least a half price dessert and that is especially good when their desserts include an array of premium ice creams and a molten chocolate cake with ice cream. We ordered sparkling water and after deciding on full flavored main courses, we went with the 2010 Rully Premier Cru from Rodet for our wine selection (right, $52). It was on special and a rather good price for a premier cru Burgundy with a bit of age.
An amuse bouche of chilled vegetable soup (zucchini potato, and leek) was a nice start. I choose a special appetizer of duck confit ravioli in a creamy cepes sauce (left, $16). It was quite tasty with the Rully. Martha chose a special, a veal tenderloin in a creamy parmesan sauce ($36 below left) and I had the Angus beef filet with a foie gras sauce ($30, below center). Both were wonderful I went with the molten chocolate cake for dessert ($13) backed with some old rum from St James ($9). I ended with a second complimentary balloon of rum while Martha had a glass of champagne. Our total bill was a about $153. Service was, as usual, superb. The restaurant is lovely and they have live plantings in the dining room to make up for the lack of a sea view. It should be on everybody's list to visit at least once as the food, service, wine list, and pricing are excellent.

Moulin Fou
On Thursday our anniversary dinner at Mario's Bistro was replaced by an evening at Moulin Fou for a last-minute going-away party for a couple who ran a restaurant that we liked. We had the party at Moulin Fou because we could use the services of Sylvain. By day he runs Select Wine Cellar and at night he is the sommelier at Moulin Fou. Moreover there is a the very long table in the wine room capable of seating a dozen guests. As always, when in Maho we the valet service at Casino Royale to solve our parking problems. The restaurant looked lovely and the outdoor tables looked pleasant. Some people feel that getting to watch the show at Cheri's without having to eat their food is a benefit. We prefer to avoid both by dining inside or dining outside on Tuesday when Cheri's is dark.

We started with several white wines. Two were from Pahlmeyer and were fabulous: full-bodied with a very long finish, quite good with a bit of sushi roll from Chef Q. We moved on to several varieties of cabernet from California including two from Martha's Vineyard, but the winner was a Chateau Montelena. Martha and I split a crab and avocado salad appetizer ($16, below left). On the right is my shepherd's pie, mashed potatoes on top of duck confit with girolles. The English translation on the menu says "candied" duck, but the French did say confit. Below left is Martha's duck breast ($38). Duck and great cabernet is a pretty good combination. The restaurant has changed hands and Sylvain was saying that the new chef is even better than previously. Everyone agreed. Bottom right is a portion of the libations. Like many restaurants on the Dutch side, Moulin Fou adds an sc discreetly to the bill. In this case it is a 12% service charge, somewhat less than most and as we had great service, we left about 8% more.

Mario's Bistro


This was supposed to be our anniversary dinner on Thursday. We had a venison tenderloin at home on Friday, letting the timeshare people celebrate their final night on the island by crowding all the restaurants. That leaves Saturday night with somewhat less crowding, unlike back in the US. I dropped Martha at the door and parked back on the main street. The recent renovations in this area have resulted in a lot more parking no the Marigot side of the bridge. As an added precaution, Mario has hired security. We had an early reservation and got the corner waterfront table. We ordered flutes of champagne to celebrate and a bottle of Lapierre's Morgon 2012 for dinner. It ma3y be gamay grapes, but they are very good, organic grapes that are treated just like pinot noir grapes are treated in Burgundy. The result is a wonderful wine that rivals pinots that cost 30 to 50% more.

We split a special risotto appetizer that combined fabulous tastes and textures. Risotto by itself combines a creamy texture with a bit of crunch from the rice, but Mario crisped up some prosciutto for more flavor and a bigger crunch. Some foie gras shavings were added for their lusciousness and some arugula gave it bite. Note the photo on the left is a half portion. Martha's main dish was from the menu and the same one she had the last time we were here. It consists of cod wrapped in crispy potato strands with Portuguese brandade and Serrano ham (center). I had the tuna with bleu cheese. This is an old standby at Mario's. Previously the tuna was on a bed of gnocchi. The photo on the right shows a smaller amount of gnocchi in a nicely spiced tomato sauce with a bit of vegetable and a roasted garlic. The tuna was perfection and the dish is wonderful. We ended the night with a complimentary champagne for Martha and a balloon of Armagnac for me. The bill was $178, including about $80 for wine and water.

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.

If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, La Villa, and L'Escargot Restaurant. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

José and Christine have sold Le Tastevin to the Amaury and Thibault from Bistrot Caraïbes and Pascal from Auberge Gourmande. José and Christine are staying to run the restaurant for one last year. Cedric (one of the twins who were on the wait staff) has crossed the street to La Villa.

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

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
Auberge Gourmande
Bistrot Caraïbes
Piazza Pascal
Le Pressoir
Le Tastevin
La Villa
Ocean 82
Calmos Cafe
Blue Martini
Le Soleil
Le Cottage
Tijon Perfumery
La boutique D'Anaise
La Boutique D'anaise
Cotton Club SXM
La Boheme
Sexy Fruits
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."