St Maarten/St Martin
25 January 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It rained last Sunday night for a while, but otherwise Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday have been fine, if a bit hot and muggy with very little breeze. On the right is an early morning shot of Saba with its crown of clouds keeping the rain forest moist. Below is a shot of a cruise ship sailing past the twin peaks of Statia. Wednesday was a lovely day with clear views out to Saba and the lovely sunset below center. Thursday got a bit hazy and on Friday Saba was lost in the haze. It was the same on Saturday but cleared a bit toward evening. The last two days have had little breeze rendering them sticky and muggy. The far right photo below was taken this morning as the sun was lighting up the clouds above Saba. It is rather still, with no whitecaps on the Caribbean or on the lagoon, ie more of the same hot and muggy, but with less marine haze. The next ten days are showing highs of 82-84 and lows of 74-75 with four clear days, two partly cloudy days and four days with a chance of rain. As the rain is listed as zero inches, it's just widely scattered, short showers. As I recall, it sprinkled as I drove from Cupecoy to Pizza Galley last night, but it wasn't raining when we walked out of Sapphire, nor was it raining at Pizza Galley. All in all, great weather, with just a touch of rain to keep the hills green.

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 6:02 PM providing eleven hours and 16 minutes of sunshine, five minutes more than last Sunday. The pano below was also taken shortly after sunrise on Tuesday morning. You can see three cruise ships heading into Pburg from our Caribbean balcony. The pano shows them crossing between us and Statia. The tall mountain on the left is The Quill. Monday was the first day that we saw Statia. We were here two weeks before we got a good view of Saba. I'm not sure that St Kitts is still with us. 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 Wednesday, 21 January.

SXM-Beaches: In theory, there is a public parking lot between Ocean Club and the private property further to the west. That property has the baby beach, a small cove that sometimes has dry sand in high season, the monolith and dock, both of which are falling apart and generally have no sand, and the beach at Shorepointe, which is your best bet for sand on Cupecoy. On the right is the gentleman who collects money from vehicles driving onto the private property next door next door to the public lot, although there were reports on TTOL that he was trying to get money to park in the public lot. Dany, of Dany's Beach Bar, has made a deal with the owner of the private property above the cliffs. So, in a roundabout way, he may be authorized to collect the $5. It does make the transportation of chairs, coolers, umbrellas, etc much easier. Generally there is parking on the street, some of it much closer to Shorepointe.

Beach reading: The Marco Effect: A Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen - (about $17 paperback, $12 Kindle) - From The NYTimes: All fifteen-year-old Marco Jameson wants is to become a Danish citizen and go to school like a normal teenager. But his uncle Zola rules his former gypsy clan with an iron fist. Revered as a god and feared as a devil, Zola forces the children of the clan to beg and steal for his personal gain. When Marco discovers a dead body proving the true extent of Zola's criminal activities, he goes on the run. But his family members aren't the only ones who'll go to any lengths to keep Marco silent forever.

Meanwhile, the last thing Detective Carl Mørck needs is for his assistants, Assad and Rose, to pick up a missing persons case on a whim: Carl's nemesis is his new boss, and he's saddled Department Q with an unwelcome addition. But when they learn that a mysterious teen named Marco may have as much insight into the case as he has fear of the police, Carl is determined to solve the mystery and save the boy. Carl's actions propel the trio into a case that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups. Martha is listening to the audio book borrowed from our library system in NY.

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 from our balcony on 22 January.

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 conference championships at Pete's Sports Bar, the SPN Café. Having arrived after the early game started, we were relegated to the stools at the bar. We had a fine view of a large screen TV, but it's not the most comfortable way to spend the six hours we anticipated. We got some drinks and ordered a very tasty chicken satay. The game was pretty boring until the last two minutes and nine seconds when Seattle went on a tear, only to be tied by the Packers 48 yard field goal with 14 seconds left. Seattle continued on a tear in OT, despite losing the toss, and won the game, stunning all the Packers fans in the room. We are a long way from Seattle, so there were not many Seahawks fans. As it was OT, the Patriots fans started arriving before all the Packers fans recovered and headed home. This led to a difficult scramble for vacant tables, but we got a table and a pizza for the Pats game ...

... which turned out to be a snoozefest as the guys with the soft balls proceeded to dominate on offense and defense. Whoda thunk? By halftime the Pats were were ahead by ten. At one point during the game somebody yelled out, "Are there any Colts fans here?" He got no reply. We were all having a great time, but when the Pats scored a another TD with ten minutes left in the third quarter to put up a 17 point lead, we stuck a fork in the Colts and declared them done. Time to go home. Satay, pizza, and about four drinks each came to $66. Not bad for about five hours of fun.

If you want more action in your activity, consider a day sail on Random Wind. It's a real sailing ship that actually uses its sails, if the wind is right. Here she is anchored off our balcony for lunch and a snork on one of the reefs at Cupecoy. She usually makes a couple other stops on the day trip.

Groceries: Where do French-Canadian women buy their bread on the island. On the left is one of them with three finettes in Sarafina on the Marigot waterfront (at least on the road that used to be on the waterfront before they paved paradise and put up a parking lot). Nearby Sucriere sells banettes, a trademarked bread with a specific flour and process. I think Finette is Sarafina's approach to the trademarked banette, in that it uses a special flour and there's probably something special about the yeast and rising time. Both of them have more pointed ends and are darker and tastier than a standard baguette.

We invited Elisa Cohen, late of Bikini Beach and now the manager at Bajatzu, over for lunch on Wednesday. We started with a soup made from sweet potato, onion, habanero, V-8 juice, and milk with a topping of creme fraiche and yogurt with cilantro and scallions. Our Salade Cupecoise featured tuna on a bed of romaine with potatoes, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, and as we could not find any green beans, sticks of zucchini. You can get all these ingredients at Grand Marché, Simply, and Super U. We think Super U has a great selection of frozen fish and fish frozen at sea is pretty good, quite possibly better than fish arriving "fresh" from a two week trip to the Grand Banks.

The lunch wines were a 2013 Tavel from Super U (8€, about $9) and the Saint Croix Rosé (about $11) from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. We were split as to which was better. Don't tell Sylvain, but I have a soft spot for Tavel having spent a couple days there showing my mother and father around Europe in the 80s.

Alcohol: We have been having the occasional bottle from our "cellar" and now after almost three weeks on the island it was time to stock up again. We found Sylvain at Champagne Bistro enjoying lunch just outside his shop. There were two other couples and a waiter from Moulin Fou where where Sylvain works at night. There were also a lot of empty bottles and more to come before we could desist and get on with the arduous task of buying wine. We tried a fabulous Pax Syrah, a few others, and ended with a 2009 Rioja Reserva that I liked the best. I'm beginning to think that a nice soft tempranillo wine rivals a Burgundy. I really like to start the evening with a glass of chilled white and I find Sylvain's 2013 Chablis from Tremblay to be a good balance between taste and price ($18.50). We chose a couple bottles of 2012 Savigny Les Beaune from Girard as our house red ($29) and a bottle of Chantal Lescure's 2010 Pommard premier cru as our celebration bottle ($87). In a fit of frugality we picked out a simple 2013 Borgogne from Fournier ($20). Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

Shopping: on our way back from Orient on Tuesday we found a parking spot in Marigot. Taking it as an omen, we pulled in and went to visit Candy at Octaedre Gems. She had some new green garnet pieces (left). Unlike the red garnet which is mined here, the green garnet must be imported. We usually take a few souvenirs home, as the prices are good (at 1 to 1 on the dollar) and the red garnet is a real island souvenir, unlike most of the trinkets to be found on the island.

There are also some new swimsuits at Endless Summer Swimwear this season. On the right is a teaser. Click the link for many more photos.

green logo Nature: The dove in our palm tree is raising two chicks and they seem to be doing well. On the right is a heron we saw on the inside of the fence that surrounds the airport.

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

Small Island story: St Martin News Network reported that a woman in Cole Bay traced a foul odor wafting into her house to a dead cow in her back yard. The cow belonged to a neighbor and he refused to do anything about it. She got the run-around from the Simpson Bay police to the Philipsburg police to a butcher (I'd rather not contemplate that) to the fire department. When the owner got the word that he should get a permit and have the fire department supervise a cremation, he skipped the permit and supervision, staging his own private ceremony in his neighbor's back yard. This isn't very funny and it all stems from the fact that the rule of law is very weak here. Either there are no laws that one would expect in a civil society or they are enforced haphazardly at best.


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 18 January the Euro was at 1.157 and today it is at 1.121, over a 5% drop in one week. The European Central Bank ended months of blah-blah-blah about easing and actually eased. The European stock markets jumped, but measured in dollar terms, not so much, if at all.

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
As mentioned above, we headed out to Pineapple Pete's SPN Café for the conference championships. We got there just a bit late and got a stools at the bar. With 15 flat screens and two giant screens, it's hard to find a seat without a view of the game. We had chicken satay skewers as an appetizer (pretty tasty) during the second half of the first game and got a table for our pizza dinner during the second game. We drank a bit less than usual and only dropped $66 over five hours!

Shakti Restaurant
On Monday we we had lunch at Shakti Restaurant in Simpson Bay. We started with two papadam (thin crispy bread containing cumin seeds topped with onion, cilantro and a bit of heat (right), two kingfishers (right), and raita (yogurt and spice sauce, not shown). We continued with saag paneer (spinach with Indian cheese, below).
Also in the bread category we had an onion kulcha and a cheese nan.

Onion kulcha Cheese nan
On the left is a very tasty shrimp vindaloo and on the right is an even better conch masala. We had the restaurant to ourselves, although several takeout orders were processed. With an extra dal and rice, we had enough lunch certainly, but also another lunch and part of a dinner for $66. Locknath, formerly the chef at Lal's Indian Cuisine, opened a second location in Philipsburg across from the St Rose Arcade in 2013.
Shrimp vindaloo Conch masala

Rancho Del Sol
On Tuesday we had lunch at Rancho Del Sol. They are located high on a hill overlooking Tintamarre, Green Cay, all of Orient Bay, and even St Barts. The pano down below is Tintamarre. Rancho has free wifi and Martha could keep in touch with friends back in the frozen white north. Isn't technology wonderful! She ordered the salade perigourdine with potatoes, duck liver, smoked duck breast, onions, and garlic (small size, 10€, below left). Below right is my 10€ plat of the day: endive with ham and cauliflower gratin, plus a small salad and a potato gratin. An amazing amount of tasty food for 10€. In the center is our usual bottle of Monredon Clos du Rhone with some sparkling water. The food was quite good and inexpensive, but we spent more on wine and water than we did on food. Still, a 50€ lunch (about $60) of this quality and quantity is nice to find. But there's more. They offer free delivery locally and they have a plate of the day at 10€ on all weekdays. They close on Saturday and make something a bit more extravagant on Sunday (Couscous Royal, Moules with curry, Paella, and Fricasee of Conch for this month) priced at 15€. If you are staying out here, you should take advantage of this service and if not, you should find out what is on offer (Fax-info sometimes has the monthly plan as does this site) and plan an excursion.

Auberge Gourmande
On Thursday night we headed to Auberge Gourmande for dinner. We had asked for reservations for the 7:00 seating. Even at this hour the free parking lot looked very full so we headed to the pay lot. It's comped by the restaurant. We were meeting friends so we were inside, hidden away in the back room, very private.

We choose the special appetizer of the evening, duck spring rolls with a spicy red sauce and a bit of braised endive tart with goat cheese. (below left). Martha's main course a very tasty blackened filet of tuna served with creamy parmesan mushroom risotto in an aromatic soy sauce (below center). I had the beef fillet with a morel mushroom sauce. It was served with a potato gratin and a medley of vegetables including a broiled half tomato, a bit of broccoli topped with chive whipped cream, red cabbage in a hollowed slice of squash, a stuffed pepper slice, and some green beans (below right). For this flavorful dinner we just happened to have a 1988 Le Corton from Bouchard. It's one of the greatest Burgundies, the only Grand Cru in the Cote de Beaune. The dinners were all good and the accompaniments are a real display of the chef's abilities.


spting rolls and braised endive beef beef

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.

From Contessa (a plug for one of her favorite restaurants: "I noticed where you called Le Piment a pizza place. Wow, it's much more than that and doesn't get the recognition it deserves. We've had so many wonderful meals there including pizza. And their desserts! OMG. Sometimes we just go there for dessert.....to share. And Christelle.....what a power house....great personality. She hooked us in many years ago and we've never looked back."

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!

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

Mardis de Grand Case (The Tuesday Night Party in Grand Case) runs from 20 January until 10 March 2015, a total of eight nights rather than the usual 12 because of budget cuts.

And speaking of French side budget cuts, The Heineken Regatta will not be having a party in Marigot this year. The Daily Herald has Regatta Director Michele Korteweg saying that it is partly because the Collectivité is not able to meet the regatta budget increase required to hold the event and partly for logistical reasons. The Collectivité used to cover the cost of the party but the funding was made the responsibility of St Martin Tourism Office since 2011. They offered 30,000€ while the regatta was asking for twice that much. Holding the Saturday party and Sunday finalé on Kim Sha beach, obviously saves money but also makes things easier on the sailors.

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


Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites. I have removed the SXM Privilege Card which used to charge a small amount for a card that got 10% (or thereabouts) discounts on many things. It then became free and now the website is under construction.

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."