St Maarten/St Martin
15 February 2015 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday turned out to be a lovely day. Monday was much the same, if anything, they were too hot with a minimal breeze. We could see three islands from the balcony and although there were clouds on high they didn't quite reach the water. The sunset on the right ended with one of the best green flashes we have ever seen. Below left the gang on Lambada is getting one of the best cruises of the season. By Tuesday it was getting hazy again. The evening sunset shot (below center, taken from L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant in Marigot) shows plenty of clouds. By Thursday we could see no islands. I didn't see any rain in Cupecoy on that day, but when Martha went to her nail salon at the western end of the airport runway she got caught in an afternoon shower. The wind picked up, coming from the south, and on Friday morning I could hear massive rollers breaking on Cupecoy Beach long before I got to the balcony to see the surfer dudes waiting for the perfect wave (below right). The waves subsided a bit on Saturday, but I can still hear them as I type this on Sunday morning. The ten day forecast starts off with three partly cloudy days followed by the usual chance of rain of no consequence. The next six days contain four clear days, one partly cloudy and one more chance of rain.
The daily high for the next ten days is 83 with one day hitting 84F. The nightly low is 77 or 76F. The humidity now is rather high at 74%, bringing the dew point up to 70, making it more like summer weather, ie muggy. The panoramic shot below was taken from our Caribbean balcony on Monday night.

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 6:12 PM providing eleven hours and 32 minutes of sunshine, five minutes more than last Sunday. For 2015, the full moons will be 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.

SXM-Beaches: Wendy K, our senior Cupecoy Beach reporter, gave us a good report on LAST Saturday night that went into the PREVIOUS Sunday morning newsletter. Unfortunately, she got to the beach on LAST Sunday and found the big rollers that I could hear in my condo were sweeping up the beaches, leaving no dry spot to work upon your all-over tan. The conclusion to be drawn is that things can change at Cupecoy on a daily basis. this morning she reports: "The waves are still pretty strong, although not as bad as the last couple of days. Baby beach will be the first to come back and has lots of sand, but this morning it was still wet."

On the left is Steve Jobs' boat. It was in the lagoon and headed it out a few days ago. This photo was taken from the Horny Toad Guesthouse on Valentine's Day. Many of the people who stay here have or had boats and the consensus was that this is the ugliest thing they have ever seen.

Beach reading: A Beach Less Traveled by John Berglund ($10 Kindle or $17 hardcover) This is a repeat from a couple years ago, John and Cyndi Berlund are friends, so I am entitled to plug his book. This is the remarkable story of a happily married couple who abandoned the corporate rat race to open Tijon Perfumery and create their own custom lines of fragrances in the French Caribbean What originated in a family vacation on the beach eventually became an unlikely but thriving business on the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin. Though he chose a career in law, John Berglund's passion lay in the chemistry sets of his youth and his lifelong fascination with perfume. Berglund eventually built a full-fledged lab in the basement of his home in Atlanta, where he spent countless hours of free time experimenting with new concoctions. He began to dream of opening a perfumery in a tranquil island paradise and ultimately set out to make it happen no matter what. Berglund's account of his Caribbean adventure is a fun-filled, factual tale of conflicts, contrasts, and celebrations. As he and his wife, Cyndi, embed themselves in the eccentric French-side community of Grand Case, they learn incredible lessons about business, success, and themselves. Their story may just inspire others, too, to follow in their footsteps, trading business casual attire for a pair of shorts and flip-flops.

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. Buildings 1 and 2 have only one working elevator each. 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. On the right is a cruise ship rounding the airport heading into Pburg as the sun rises in the east. At the same time another cruise ship, a couple container ships, and Saba were straight off our balcony in the pano below.

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.

Groceries: On the left is a Guadeloupe melon (Charantais) with air-dried ham, frequently prosciutto, but lately jambon sec de montagne from Super U. The melons started at $2.76 per pound at Grand Marché in early January, dropped to $1.77 per pound in late January (also GM), and I just bought one for $1.79 per pound at Super U. They weigh about a kilo and we get two lunches out of one, so that's less than $2 each. Super U has been offering their house brand jambon sec at 26€ per kilo. We find that a tenth of a kilo is a nice amount with our two quarter melon slices. That's about $3 for both of us, bringing the total to $7 for our starter. Generally we reheat a third of a frozen bannette from Sarafina (another euro for the whole loaf) and add about 3€ of various cheeses. With a couple glasses of rosé from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar we manage to have a two course lunch on the waterfront, ie our Caribbean balcony, for about $15.
Alcohol: We stopped in to see Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar after our Valentine's Day brunch at the Horny Toad Guesthouse. It appears that the cellar master had let our wine cellar run dry and a prime rib was on tap for dinner. We loaded up on our current house wines, Girard's Savigny-Les-Beaune, village and premier cru varieties, Usseglio's Cotes-du-Rhone (three of each) and filled out the case with three high end Burgundies: Amiot Servelle's 2011 Morey Saint Denis ($79), Chantal Lescure's 2011 Nuits-St Georges ($65), and Lescure's 2010Pommard Premier Cru Les Bertins ($87). We were drinking a Crozes-Hermitage as shopped but Sylvain decanted a 2001 Chateau Pape Clement as we waited for its owner to return. It turned into quite a wine tasting. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

green logo Nature: On the right is Mrs Dove starting her next brood. Unfortunately, the strong winds blew this egg out of her poorly constructed nest.
Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: On 11 Jan I reported that Captain Oliver had died leaving a mess behind. I missed that he had died in September 2010, not 2014. That makes it an even longer, if not bigger, mess. But it has finally been adjudicated and Philippe Milovidoff is the GM (replacing Captain Oliver), using the same personal assistant as the Captain. The claims of the niece have been discredited in a mere four and a half years.


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



On 8 February the Euro was at 1.131 and today it is at 1.138. Small change. With the euro being so weak against the dollar it behooves those of us with dollars to check the exchange rate offered by restaurants again. For several years French side restaurants have been offering better exchange rates, especially for cash. The real rate is under 1.2 and I find many French side restaurants have lowered their rates to 1.2 and are sticking with it. Ask for your credit card to be charged in euros, assuming you followed my advice below and got a card that has no charge for foreign transactions and gives you the wholesale rate on the exchange.

Il Nettuno Restaurant, 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.


Restaurant Le Cottage
On Monday we headed over to Grand Case for a dinner at Le Cottage. We had made reservations earlier, requesting the water view table on the terrace, and it was waiting for us. If you duck your head down a bit, you can look right through L'Escapade Restaurant across the street and see Anguilla. The interior is quite lovely in a strikingly modernist way (see the photos on the website, if you wish), but we have always liked winter evenings on the terrace in the warm night air. It's even better now as the gendarmes and local police seem to have scared off the motorcycles with no muffler (and usually no helmet, license, registration, nor insurance). Summers may be better in the air conditioned interior.
We started with a flute good Champagne enhanced by a bit of lychee and red fruit - very tasty. The chef sent out an amuse bouche showing off two of his snail preparations. One was the usual snail in garlic butter and the other was a snail duxelle wrapped in a phyllo dough sheet accompanied by a small bowl of garlic cream (above right). Our appetizer was the trilogy of raw fish: a mahi/salmon tartare, tuna tataki, and marlin carpaccio (below left, 18€). Stéphane paired this with Drouhin's 2011 Cotes de Beaune white (below center). The label is essentially a copy of Drouhin's Clos de Mouches (a premier cru wine) and, indeed, the grapes come from the younger vines in this vineyard. The wine was amazingly good. It's been over 20 years since I imported Drouhin's wines into the US and I did bring in the Clos des Mouches. The prices are staggering for premier cru white Burgundy, so I haven't had much lately. This brought back fond memories and it went quite well with a very interesting ap.

Martha's dinner was a further assortment of fish, grilled in this case, and containing tuna, mahi, red snapper, scallops, and shrimp. It looked wonderful, but we seem to have lost the photo (31€). Good fish, lightly grilled, can be fantastic and this plate offered a great way to taste the differences among the various fish. I had a special, veal sweetbreads in morel sauce, with mashed potatoes structurally enhanced with leeks so that they could support crispy home-made potato chips (below, about 28€). I choose this off the specials board without even looking at the menu. This dish contains everything I love, the rich taste of as morel sauce with the texture of sweetbreads, the smooth texture of mashed potatoes with a few lumps and a leek surprise and the crispy texture of the chips. It was great. Stéphane deftly paired Martha's fish with a white Bordeaux and my sweetbreads with a red Bordeaux. It's a wonderful way to serve wine and inexpensive. We passed on dessert and coffee and just had a bit more red wine. The total bill was 126€, about $140.

L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
We went over to L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant for dinner on Tuesday evening. The restaurant changed hands over the summer and in addition to a new owner and staff, there is a new paint job and some modifications. More stairs have been added into the back of the dining room leading up the hill to a lounge area. The waterfalls have been repaired and it is now quite pleasant to have the white noise of rushing water in the background. The bar area has been changed into a gourmet food and wine store.

We started with a tasty tabouli for an amuse bouche (right) and ordered the 2010 Crozes-Hermitage (below left, 29€) from good sized wine list that covered several French regions.

I have to pay at least $20 to get a Crozes-Hermitage back home, so paying just a bit over $30 here in a restaurant makes it quite a bargain. I thought the rest of the wine list was similarly well-priced. It was a wonderful wine and three years in the bottle have mellowed the tannins. It still benefited from a bit of aeration, if only a healthy swirl. We watched the sun set as we drank our wine, waiting for our tartare of tuna (below center, 13€). It was very tasty and went well with the wine. Full flavored fish in a full-flavored preparation can easily stand up to a red wine. Martha ordered a magret (breast) of duck (below right, 24€) with fries and a salad, a simple meal but well-prepared including the hand-cut and crispy fries.
I had the Purée du Pauvre (Poor people's mashed potatoes, left, 24€). This was a bit of a joke as the poor people's purée is made with a lot of potatoes, possibly some veg, and very little meat. This one had girolles, cepes (porcini), and oyster mushrooms mixed into the potatoes, topped with sautéed foie gras, and a few crisp bits of air-dried ham. Not exactly poor man's food. It was wonderful with the wine. We took about half of each dinner home for a spectacular lunch on Friday. The total bill was 94€ ($105), one of our cheaper meals, but a very good one. Carolina's service was quite good, as was her English.

Paradise View Restaurant

We went to Paradise View on Wednesday. The restaurant is high on Hope Hill with an open air section and lots of windows looking out over all of Orient and the islands near (Green Cay, Tintamarre, Pinel, and Molly Beday off Guana Bay) and far (Fourchue, St Barts). It was a pretty nice day but there was quite a breeze on the Hope Hill. We got some savory buckwheat crepes. They are not exactly the most picturesque plates, but Martha's Complet had ham and cheese hidden away with a sunny side up egg peering out (below left 8.50€). My Forestiere had bacon and onions in a mushroom cream sauce (below right, 9.50€). We had a bottle of Mon Redon Cotes du Rhone (center, 21€) and some water. The crepes were very good and we had a great time finishing the wine as we gazed out at St Barts, Green Key, and Tintamarre (with a bit of Pinel on the left). Those are in order as you scroll down. The total bill was 44€ translated to $48, somewhat better than the actual rate. Here's the Google map of the area.

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.
Marigot's Marina Royale is having a Thursday night party from now until 19 March. They also claim to have gendarmes, local police, and private security on patrol.

As noted above there is a Friday night party with the a band and local vendors in Orient Village. On the left is the jazzy duo that played on 6 February.

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.
If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, L'Escargot Restaurant, L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. 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

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
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.

For flights, car rentals, and hotels: CheapOair can get you there. It's always worth the effort to check their rock-bottom prices. We were looking for flights to Spain or Portugal and really wanted first/business class, but found only $8000 flights (each - ouch!). That was a bit much. Martha checked CheapOair and got about half that. It's still about three times the cost of cattle class, but I'm willing to pay that.

  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."