St Maarten/St Martin
22 February 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday turned out to be a lovely day with few clouds and plenty of sunshine. By late afternoon there was nary a cloud in the sky and the air was crystal clear. On the right is a photo of Créole Rock at the far end of Grand Case taken from our lagoon balcony. The rock is the speck in the center of the photo. Below is a pano showing a very flat lagoon with Porto Cupecoy on the left. Note there is only one large ship in the marina. Below left is the sunset from that evening. There were clouds, but the sun dropped through them and into the sea - perfect conditions for a green flash - and we got one of the best I have ever seen. Below center is a small plane coming in at sunset from the southeast looking as if it will land on our balcony. They turn to the right about two miles out and head into PJIA. Monday morning it sprinkled while I was swimming into the rather bright morning sun. Other than that, there was no rain that we saw but the crystal clear conditions deteriorated as the wind came in from the southwest bringing a new set of rollers to Cupecoy. By Tuesday night the rollers were quite visible (below right), but the sun again came out of the clouds and created another spectacular green flash. Wednesday was cloudy with sporadic showers.
On Thursday I awakened to light showers that continued on through my morning swim, but by 10AM it was fairly sunny, although Saba was barely visible. By the end of the day even the haze was gone and we got a third spectacular green flash. Friday had constant rain in the early morning and some squalls that raced in from the south and a lousy, hazy sunset. Saturday was lovely with a light breeze and a few puffy, white clouds. Sunday at 6:00AM featured heavy showers, but now at 7:00 there is plenty of blue sky. There also appear to be squalls on the far side of Marigot heading in this direction.

The forecast for the week shows seven clear days and three chances of rain. Today is supposed to bring almost a fifth of an inch. The high temps are 82F straight across and the nighttime lows are 75 or 76F. Sounds like a pretty good week and better still it will be clear by this evening. It's time for a visit to Pizza Galley for dinner and La Bamba for music from Category 5.

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 6:16 PM providing eleven hours and 41 minutes of sunshine, nine minutes more than last Sunday. For 2015, the full moons will be 5 Mar (the opening party for the Regatta!), 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: On the left a sunset cruise just off Cupecoy Beach and you can see the rollers swarming in toward the beach. No fun for people looking for dry sand and not even much fun for people on the boat getting hit broadside by these waves. Wendy K, our senior Cupecoy Beach reporter, says: "It was calmer at baby beach this morning [Wednesday]. Dany had a row of chairs against the cliffs, and there appeared to be dry sand. The waves were still pretty big at Shore Pointe and the middle beach. No sand from Ocean Club until Rainbow, where there appeared to be quite a bit. Some friends went to Mullet on Monday and said they'd never see some much sand there. There was room for 6 rows of chairs." On Saturday she reported: "Some of the boulders have been moved to give access to the "free" parking adjacent to the Ocean Club. The sand from baby beach is migrating to Shore Pointe, but still sand along the cliffs. The waves are fairly calm." Indeed, I can no longer see or hear the rollers that dominated the early days of the last week. Hoever, when we came home late last night, we heard them and at 7AM this morning, I can see them. They are not too large at the moment (no surfers), but I'll bet there isn't much dry sand.
Beach reading: The Wild Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria's Defiant Daughter by by Mary Hart Perry - (about $11 paperback, $10 Kindle) - From Amazon: The astronomical success of the historical novels of Phillipa Gregory and Christine Trent prove that readers simply can't get enough of the British royals and now Mary Hart Perry enters the fray with an exciting, deliciously sensual novel of Queen Victoria's "wild child" daughter, the Princess Louise. The Wild Princess transports us back to Victorian England and plunges us into the intrigues of the royal court, where the impetuous Louise brazenly followed no one's rules but her own, even marrying a commoner, which no one of royal blood had done in the previous three centuries. Filled with rich period deal, The Wild Princess is an exciting, enthralling read. The Tudors have gotten the lion's share of attention in historical fiction; it's high time Queen Victoria and her family got their due!

Contessa recommended this.

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. All three buildings 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 view off the balcony: a giant cruise ship heading past Saba and below was one of the spectacular sunsets last week.

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: On the right is Lambada heading past our condo on a daysail. Below left is Captain Neil from Celine Too (center). I bumped into him at the usual meeting spot: The Mailbox in Simpson Bay. Short-term tourists may never need their services, but those of us that are here for several months (or years) all have mailboxes here. Celine Too is currently berthed at Barnacles and goes out for daysails, sunset sails, and the world famous lagoon pub crawl. The daysail to Tintemarre is always fun. Now that the French prohibit taking mud baths there, Neil concocts his own mud and those who wish, mud up on the boat. The sunset cruise is in the lagoon, and even the though the sunset will not end with a green flash into the Caribbean, you do get a tour of the homes of the rich and famous.

On Saturday night, after dinner at Bistrot Caraïbes, we dropped in at Blue Martini, next to the pay parking lot, to hear the Remo & the Barbwire band - pretty good Reggae and very good people watching. More next week.

Groceries: We picked up some fresh veal at Super U for about $12 per pound. Martha made a sauce with dried and reconstituted black trumpets and regular button mushrooms. She added cheesy cauliflower and rice sautéed with red onions and parsley. Given the quality of the meat and produce at this store and the strength of the dollar, we are spending a lot more of our grocery money here. Another nice meal was a seafood pasta made with a frozen seafood mixture from Super U. The tomato sauce was homemade and contained some very hot peppers.

green logo Nature: On the right is Martha's stinkflower. It is strikingly beautiful, especially when these flowers burst open, but as it depends on flies for pollination, it puts out a barnyard odor.

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

Alcohol: The case of wine we picked up from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar a week ago Saturday is almost gone. Girard's Savigny-Les-Beaune village wine ($29) gets used for lunches and simple dinners. His premier cru is used for better dinners such as our veal mentioned above ($39). Usseglio's Cotes-du-Rhone was fine with the spicy seafood pasta ($23), also mentioned above. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

Small Island story: From Wendy K: Last week I received my quarterly statement on our euro account with RBC and there was a 2.50 charge as an inactivity fee. I went in last week, figuring I could just make a transaction, and it would be active again. The teller could not tell me if this would be the case, and referred me to customer service. Apparently, because the account had had no activity for more than 2 years, it was placed on inactivity status. I needed proof of address and 2 forms of ID to re-activate, and of course did not have my passport with me. I returned in a few days with 2 forms of ID and 2 invoices showing address, spoke to the customer service lady, and showed her everything. She told me to take a seat, and 20 minutes later, she came over to tell me I could schedule an appointment for March 23rd to re-activate my account! I bit my tongue, thanked her, and made the appointment.


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 15 February the Euro was at 1.138 and today it is at 1.138. Pretty steady. This may be as far as it goes. Europe has started to stimulate their economies and Greece has made nice, yet again. 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.

In the spring of 2015 Cap One 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.


Bajatzu Bar & Grill
On Tuesday we headed over to Bajatzu on the second floor of Maho at the western end of Simpson Bay. We used the free valet parking at the casino, crossed the street to the escalator, and were seated in our reserved table in few minutes. It wasn't full when we arrived at 7:30PM but got pretty busy as the night went on, so think about reservations. We ordered water and a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage (right, $43). Shortly after the water and wine we received hot rolls, some with a crunchy cheese topping and good butter.
I ordered the $42 prix fix menu, something new this year. It offered four aps: a house salad, a Caesar salad, snails in garlic butter, and my choice, mussels marinara (left). They were PEI mussels in a tasty, tangy tomato sauce. They were selling these as an ap at $16 and this looked like a full size serving to me. The main courses on offer were an 8oz striploin, a farm-raised salmon from ocean pens off the Faroe Islands, mushroom linguini, and pan roasted chicken supreme. It's a steak house. I went with the steak. It (and Martha's pork chop) came from Creek Stone Farms in Colorado. My strip loin (below left) is on the menu at $28 with sides available for $8 each. The prix fix version came with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Martha's pork chop ($35, below center) came with a baked apple and a bit of salad to which she added a side of creamed spinach. Both dinners were quite good and cooked as we asked. I had a choice of three desserts: New York cheesecake with raspberry purée and powdered sugar, pecan fudge cake with chocolate sauce, or a house baked apple tart with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. We went with the apple tart (right)
All in all, a wonderful evening and the prix fix menu made it quite affordable. Moreover, we took home pork to add to a lunchtime Salade Cupecoise. That would be Martha's version of the Salade Niçoise here on our balcony overlooking Cupecoy Bay.

Mario's Bistro

We met another couple at Mario's for a great dinner on Thursday evening. By virtue of reservations, we had a four-top on the water. We chose four aps. On the right is a foie gras appetizer (foreground, 22€) and a wahoo sashimi (background, 16€). Below left is a Thai crabcake (19€) and center is fantastic salad with caramelized pecans, arugula, endive, blue cheese, and bacon (15€). We shared these all around and it's hard to say which was best, but you can't go wrong picking foie gras. Mario knows I like pork tenderloin and he described his experiments with sous-vide (vacuum packed) cooking of pork tenderloin. He said he did not have enough to offer a special to the restaurant, but he did have one with my name on it. It was even more tender and tasty than a regular tenderloin. It came with porcini, crisp onion rings, broccoli, and Mario's signature roasted head of garlic (below right).

Martha had a special pork chop (left). Our friends had a special beef brisket and the rack of lamb (right). The brisket came with a marrow bone, not often seen these days. We ended the night with a complimentary champagne for Martha and a balloon of old rum for me. The bill was $251, without wine, not bad for this quality. The meal however, was not without wine. We started with a 1997 Chateau La Conseillant, a Pomerol bordering on Chateau Cheval Blanc in St Emilion. We also had a 1986 Chateau Montelena from California.
Both were very good and despite their power, worked well with Mario's very flavorful appetizers. They are both getting on in years and possibly their peak is behind them. The Solaia was more recent and even bigger, but it was fine with the full flavors of our dinners. It was another wonderful evening: a lovely well-spaced restaurant with a table on the water, very tasty and inventive cuisine, excellent service, and some spectacular wines.

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.

The Heineken Regatta kicks off on 5 March with a party at Port de Plaisance, there's three more parties (two on Kim Sha Beach, and one in Pburg), and three days of sailing. The French couldn't come up with a suitable subsidy, so the party in Marigot got moved to Kim Sha. It makes logistics for the yachties much simpler.

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
Table d'Antoine
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."