St Maarten/St Martin
1 March 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday squalls passed by all day long, stopping in the late afternoon, making our dinner at Pizza Galley quite pleasant. The first sunset pano below is from that evening. That's Les Mamelles, the hills in the French lowlands. Stew Leonard 's estate is on the top of the one on the left and at some point Jackie O owned the estate on the top of the other. On Monday a few squalls came through but the next pano shows the sunset with a cruise ship heading into the pink clouds on a wonderful evening. On the right are two cruise ships coming on Tuesday morning at 6:45AM in rather gloomy weather. Saba is slightly visible between the ships. Twenty minutes later the red spinnaker came by against a still grey sky (below left), but about two hours later as the snorkeling boats came around, the weather was beautiful. We went out on Celine Too's sunset cruise and took a beautiful sunset photo that evening (see below). Wednesday started with thick clouds and haze obscuring Saba. We shopped and had lunch at Champagne Bistro, but when we returned, Martha spent most of the afternoon at Sapphire's pool. The sunset featured a green flash.
Thursday appeared to have been ordered up by the tourist bureau - sunny, a bit of a breeze, plenty of sun, and 82F. Friday was a lovely day but too breezy and with a bit of rain around 7PM. Saturday was quite windy and there were several showers in the morning, but the afternoon was fine. Sunday seems much calmer - no whitecaps on the Caribbean or lagoon. Saba is visible but hazy (see the Sapphire pano below) and it is possible to discern Statia, if you know where to look.

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 6:18 PM providing eleven hours and 47 minutes of sunshine, six 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: Wendy K reports: "The sand has filled in the pools at Shore Pointe and there's sand at baby beach. Lapping waves at 8:30 this morning. No sand by Ocean Club until you reach Rainbow." The photo verifies her previous report that at least one of the boulders has been moved, opening up the free parking lot at Cupecoy. That is a major change in policy here in Cupecoy. Access has never been been restored after being denied. For many years Cupecoy Beach Club (CBC) had public access, no sign, just an iron gate that opened in the morning and closed when Cliffhanger Bar closed for the evening. Needless to say, this allowed all manner of undesirables to infiltrate the grounds of CBC. About the same time that The Cliff and Rainbow were blocking all access to their properties, CBC quietly and quickly blocked off their entrance making a solid blockade from Mullet Bay to the far side of Ocean Club. You can still see the outline of the door in the now-solid wall at CBC.
Beach reading: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - It was a Literary Fiction and Classics Editor's Recommended Book in 1996. They said: "I once went to the French Quarter in New Orleans, and there they were: the old, dented hot dog carts, designed and painted to look like giant rolling frankfurters, exactly as described in A Confederacy of Dunces. You'll have to read the book to find out why I spontaneously cracked up there on the street, laughing at the memory of the book's hero, misunderstood genius Ignatius Reilly, eating through his cart's inventory. That's only one hilarious moment among many from this novel, one of the cornerstones of the newly recognized Southern Wacko school of literature. " I agree. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has sold over three-quarters of a million copies and continues to earn critical acclaim. It is the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, a "Don Quixote of the French Quarter," and is a masterpiece of human folly and tragedy.

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 sunset cruise going by and below you can see a bit of Saba as the sun was rising this morning.

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 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, draft Heineken, very good people watching, and even the wait staff is easy on the eyes. That's Emily on the left.

Celine Too: On Tuesday night, before dinner at Cugini, we went on a sunset cruise with Neil on Celine Too. For those who haven't been keeping up, Neil was in the process of building Celine Too when a freak hurricane (Gonzalo) hit the island last fall with essentially no warning. Another boat went over the top of Celine and destroyed her. Celine Too was put into service earlier this year, so there were about four months when Neil had no boat. He's back and all the usual trips are in operation. As we headed out from the slip behind Barnacles, we saw Venus (Steve Jobs' yacht) at Porto del Sol Marina. It's the strange-looking one on the left side of the photo (right). We snaked through the rather crowded end of the lagoon getting a shot of the causeway and a close-up of the anatomically correct rock formation. We circled the lagoon and at sunset I got the panoramic shot below as we were heading back. We made a stop at the lagoon end of the runway and caught a large Air France jet heading in our direction. The trip is $40 per person for about an hour and a half trip with free-flowing drinks and some snacks.

Groceries: On the left is Thursday's lunch on our sunny Caribbean balcony. It stared with Guadeloupe melon, a squeeze of lime, and air-dried meat (jambon sec de montagna, 26€/kilo, about $14 per pound). This was followed by munster, morbiere, and petit Billy with a tranche of paté de compagne. All of these came from Super U in the Howell center on the east side of Marigot. The bread is a third of a banette from Sarafina's on the waterfront in Marigot. The wine is a pretty dry rosé from Sylvain at Select Wine. The view beyond the table skips over the pool directly beneath our balcony to the villas along the waterfront and then to the Caribbean in the distance.
Shopping: On the left is is a shot of the Blue Mall from our lagoon balcony. The link goes to their site which details all the shops that are there. On the right is Porto Cupecoy. It doesn't have nearly as many shops but may have more restaurants. Both have parking, but only the Blue Mall has a free covered garage. You'll note that there appear to be two large yachts and a large sailboat at Porto Cupecoy.

Alcohol: On Tuesday we had a white Burgundy tasting with Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar, ordering lunch from Champagne Bistro next door. I had bought Drouhin's Cote de Beaune at Bacchus (23€, $26) in the Hope Estate Shopping area and asked Sylvain what he had that was similar. He had just received a pallet and with a bit of work extracted two 2012 vintage exemplars: one from Chantal Lescure ($37) and one from Jean Fournier ($36). 2012 is supposed to be a slightly better year for white Burgundies but I thought that Drouhin's wine, especially at its lower price, was quite good. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

green logo Nature: On the right is the mother dove in the center with her two recent babies on each side. The mother has a black ring on the neck. The fledglings will get one as they age. Mother is sitting on two eggs trying to get these two slackers out of the house.

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

Small Island story: An island friend is pursuing a psychology degree via long distance learning. One of her requirements is to conduct a research study on Internet use, personality traits, and the impact this may have on an individual's social life. She needs 300 responses by the end of March. Your responses will be confidential; the survey doesn't ask for your name. It might take 15 minutes. If you can spare that much time click this link to the survey. Thanks much.

The small island stories just keep on coming. On Friday while having lunch at Select Wine, the power went out. Patrick, who was sitting next to me and is part of the family that owns the Orange Grove Shopping Center, counted to five and the lights came back on. No, he does not have any weird super-powers, he merely knows that his shopping center has a five second delay on its emergency generator. But this story is about RBC Bank (again) and may be related to the power failures that GEBE is spreading about Cole Bay and Simpson Bay. You may recall the trouble Wendy K had with them over an inactive account in last week's newsletter. On this Friday, the last business day of the month, the bank's computers were down, meaning essentially every customer's accounts were inactive. Stay tuned for next week's exciting conclusion.


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 22 February the Euro was at 1.138 and today it is at 1.120. That's over 1.5% in a week. All sorts of things on the French side are starting to look good. 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.



After a sunset tour on Celine Too on Tuesday evening, we drove the short distance to Cugini. They have moved from the corner of Marina Royale in Marigot to a spot between the Simpson Bay Yacht Club and Pineapple Pete. They are a bit hard to spot as there is a large parking lot in front. This location was a not much more than a lolo before Cugini moved in. The wine cellar (right) gives you an idea how much they have improved the previous physical plant. Given the snacks on the boat, we ordered no aps and started with a nice bottle of 2011 Antinori Chianti Classico (below left, about $40). Note the nice bit of crisp focaccia, very nice. Martha had meat lasagne (center) with a bit of salad and I had a seafood pasta (right). Both were tasty and about $25. The total bill with a 15% tip added came to $114. We left a bit more for good service.

Champagne Bistro
On Wednesday we stopped in at Select Wine Cellar and ordered lunch from Champagne Bistro. On the left is Martha's chicken plate off the menu. It was very tasty chicken with mashed potatoes and a bit of salad. I had the seafood pasta special. In case you are wondering, I like seafood, pasta, and a tomato sauce.

Le Ti Coin Créole
On Tuesday night we went to Table d'Antoine and as we drove in the sun was setting, but there were few lights on. It turns out most of Orient was in the dark. After chatting with Hervé at Le Piment as we watched Antoine's servers clear the tables they had recent set, we finally gave up and headed to Ti Bouchon where we heard good news for Momo (he was fully booked), bad news for us. Sticking with restaurants that start wit the letter "t", we tried Ti Coin Créole in nearby Grand Case. It's possible to walk from the central parking lot, but there is a bit of parking next to the restaurant and a bit more on the street. We got a spot in their small lot and walked in to a window table.

We ordered a 2011 Crozes-Hermitage (right, 35€), an addition to the wine list this year. Créole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some hot sauce for the adventurous. If you use it, a sturdy syrah from the Rhone works well. We started with the conch salad as an ap (below left, 6.50€). Martha always has stewed Créole conch as her main course It's amazingly tender conch in a tasty sauce (below center (13.50€) and I had the seafood pasta (again!), one of Carl's signature dishes (below right, 19€). We were both very happy. My seafood (shrimp, scallops, and fish) was cooked to perfection atop some al dente pasta and surrounded by local veg. We skipped dessert, but you can check out the Sweet Potato Pudding photo and recipe from a previous article we wrote. The total cost for our dinner was under $90, not bad for real Créole food from a real Créole chef, cooking in the Créole cottage he grew up in. This is the exact same meal we had last season, except we did not have the tasty accras this time. Moreover the Crozes-Hermitage is an upgrade from last year's Cotes du Rhone. We also experienced a limited power failure at this end of Grand Case. It was not EDF's finest hour(s).

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."