St Maarten/St Martin
8 March 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was pretty nice, but there were widely scattered brief showers. Monday was a lovely day but a bit hazy. Tuesday was hazy and windy. The shot of the KLM flight coming in around noon is from that day. There were a few showers and the last one around 5PM dropped the temperature, such that it was 75 F when I got up on Wednesday. The regatta was about to start so all the sailors hopes for wind were being realized. The photo on the right was taken on Thursday as the Gill Commodore's Cup was beginning. There was considerable marine haze, but it was fairly sunny. The photo below right was taken on Friday morning. It was extremely hazy, so hazy you may not notice the second boat in the photo. Sunday started off very hazy, Saba was nowhere to be seen, but by 9AM it was visible. The temperature is supposed to hit 81F today but there is a tiny bit of rain in the forecast. As I readied this newsletter at 9AM a squall passed over. The coming ten days have highs of 81 or 82F and lows of 74 or 75F. There are three days with a total of 0.11 inches of rain, three partly cloudy days, and four days of sunshine. Unfortunately this coming week has all of the bad weather.

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 6:20 PM providing eleven hours and 54 minutes of sunshine, seven minutes more than last Sunday. The full moons for 2015 will be: 4 Apr, 3 May, 2 Jun, 1 Jul, 31 Jul (a blue moon), 29 Aug, 27 Sep, 27 Oct, 25 Nov, and 25 Dec.
The pano was taken on Friday afternoon during the round the island race. Usually they start in Simpson Bay and come around the airport to our place in Cupecoy by 10AM. This year, everything has changed as the French declined to participate. The race went counter clockwise such that the boats headed east around Pointe Blanche and up the eastern side of the island. We finally saw them coming into Marigot Harbor about noon and past us in mid-afternoon.

SXM-Beaches: Wendy K sent these photos over on Friday. Cupecoy does have some sand. the photo on the left is the beach in front of ShorePointe. There is sand, but if you look closely, much of it is damp. On the right is the little cove and there is a large dry area at the foot of the steps. This was a good week for tucking up next to the cliffs as the regatta crowd got the wind that they for which they prayed.
Beach reading: City of Bones by Michael Connelly - $6 (Kindle) - From Amazon: "Since his first appearance in 1992's Edgar-winning The Black Echo, Detective Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch has joined Dennis Lehane's Patrick and Angie, George Pelecanos's Derek Strange, and Greg Rucka's Atticus Kodiak in the pantheon of new-school hard-boiled detectives. Rather than giving Bosch a clever gimmick (like Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme, who is a quadriplegic), Michael Connelly embraces the noir archetype: Bosch, an L.A. homicide detective, is a chain-smoking loner who refuses to play by his superiors' rules. Although he has quit smoking, Harry's still the same tight-lipped outsider, taking each crime as a personal affront as he tries to cleanse his beloved city of the darkness he sees engulfing it.

In City of Bones, Connelly's eighth Bosch title, Bosch and his well-dressed partner, Jerry Edgar, are working to identify a child's skeleton, buried for 20 years in the forest off Hollywood's Wonderland Drive, and to bring the killer to belated justice. For Bosch this is more than just another homicide, as the mystery child, beaten and abandoned, comes to represent much of what he sees as evil in his city.

Add in a tragic love affair with a fellow cop, complications from overzealous media, and the growing feeling that he's fighting a losing battle about which no one cares, and the usually stoic Bosch is pushed to his limits. This isn't the strongest plot Connelly has concocted for Bosch, but it leads to an ending the whole series has been building toward. The conclusion may not shock longtime fans, but it will leave them wondering where the series will go from here.

Martha thinks that Connelly is one of the more consistently good writers in this genre. I also found this book on subscriber Lisa R's Goodreads list.

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 and two restaurants are open. The condo will not be available until April of 2016. I've scheduled a bit of maintenance in early April and have a rental from 21 April until 1 May and then a long term rental from May through December. We will use the unit from early January until early April of 2016.

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 a recent Sunday night, after dinner at Pizza Galley, we went over to La Bamba to catch Category Five. On the right is King Bob, aka Bob Barron, on lead vocals. Below left is Nacio on bass and a few vocals and Eric on drums. In the center is Bob and Branko on lead guitar and vocals. They cover the hits from the 60s through the 80s, maybe even more, sometimes with a few changes in the lyrics. Nacio has been one of the best bassists on the island since I first heard him with Ronny at Evry Ting Cool on Front Street in the 90s. Bob's been around about that long and helped out with Sapphire's karaoke night. Lately, he's concentrating on his singing and stage patter. Branko, IMHO, rivals Ronny at this point.

As for the remaining shots, the two girls on the left wanted to get into the photo of the band that I was taking, so I obliged them. In the center was a guy who wanted to get in. And then there were four of them. I don't know any of them but they were having great fun.

For a bit more activity in your activities, consider a day sail on Random Wind. You get some sailing, some snorkeling, some swimming, some high jinks (right) on the trapeze, a great lunch, and free-flowing libations.

If you want your own boat consider ReveMarine or Sunevasion. Both can provide a captain and/or crew if you wish.

Groceries: We stopped at Super U on a Friday night as we were heading out to dinner. Bad move. It's very crowded. Martha wanted some comté and we were out of fizzy water. We found two comtés, one at 20€ aged at 6 to 10 months with 34% fat and one at 27€ aged 3 months with 32%. Seems a no brainer to me, but she bought one of each and sure enough we liked the one with a higher fat content and more aging. The big question is why did the other cost more??? We also have found that Super U's house brand water is fine and inexpensive. We get 7.5 liters for about $5.
Crime: A recent thread on TTOL detailed a rental car scam being worked at Budget. Basically, a couple turned in their rental car and were informed that they had been in a hit-and-run accident and that witnesses had seen their license plate number. The important person whose car had been damaged was coming over to settle up. He said if they paid, he would not call the police. At that point, the renters asked that the police be called and left for their flight.

Alcohol: Is it possible that we went a week without visiting Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar and ordering lunch from Champagne Bistro? Yes, it's Heineken Regatta week and traveling around Simpson Bay borders on the impossible, especially as the French have taken a powder and all the action takes place on the Dutch side.

Casinos: Atlantis World Casino now has signage indicating that it is Starz Casino, although the website remains Atlantis World. The entire exterior roof line is being revamped. Sugar Cane Café has been demolished. La Gondola has been gutted and the side facing the road has been blocked solid.

Gas: The Dutch side just raised their prices to 1.831 NAf per liter on 27 February, about $4 per gallon, slightly more than the cheaper stations on the French side. On 5 March, not even a week later, they raised prices again bringing it to 1.931NAf/l, about $4.17 per gallon. It isn't much, but if you are driving by one of the French sides cheaper gas stations, you may as well save some money and fill up there.

shop entrance

green logo Nature: Shortly after I sent out last Sunday's picture with the mother dove on the nest and two slackers still hanging around, the two eggs hatched, producing these two fluff balls. Note the baguette on the side!

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 RBC saga continues: Wendy K writes: It seems a friend happened to mention my situation to one of her frinds who is affiliated with RBC in Toronto. He, in turn, notified the new CEO for Toronto, who notified the head of personal banking for the Caribbean, who notified a VP for personal banking, and the head of corporate banking for the Caribbean! A directive worked it's way back down the chain of command and I got a phone call offering me a mcuh earlier appointment. It started at at 10:00AM and lasted 2 hours. It seems that my husband, who is ill, is required to sign more than a half dozen forms. After practically begging to be allowed to bring the form home for my husband's signature, I prevailed. I took his signed forms back to the bank on Friday only to find the computers were down.


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 1 March the Euro was at 1.120 and today it is at 1.084, a 3% drop in a week. 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 than market exchange rates, especially for cash. The real rate is under 1.2 at this time 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 2014 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.


L'Escargot Restaurant
On Monday we headed to Pburg for a bit of shopping and stopped for lunch at L'Escargot Restaurant. We had made reservations and had a nice table with a window looking out at all the tourists taking pictures of the lovely Créole structure that houses L'Escargot. So lovely in fact that Getty Images has a acquired a photo of the exterior, placed their copyright on it, and sold it to LPF (below center). We ordered a couple glasses of the house red, a conch salad (below left), and the calamari steak in a caper and lemon sauce (below right). Service is good and the we think that Chef Christophe is better than ever. Our total bill was about $83 when a 15% tip were added. Joel and Sonya are still going strong after almost 40 years on Front Street. There's a photo (black and white) of them on opening night on their website.

Ti Bouchon Restaurant
On Tuesday we counter-programmed the party in Grand Case by going to nearby Ti Bouchon in Cul de Sac. The colorful old Créole house contains the bar and kitchen, while the dining is on the porch that wraps around two sides of the house. There is a small but most interesting menu with aps ranging from $10 to $20 and main courses from $25 to the low $40s. As usual, Momo has several specials that are worth your consideration and he is more than happy to discuss his menu and specials with you.

Momo and family spent several months in Spain again last summer. We swapped tales of our two European vacations, one of which included Spain and Portugal. We ordered fizzy water and a 2011 Crozes-Hermitage (right, $55) that Momo bought from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar.

The chef is Thierry Delaunay, one of the finest on the island. He seems to be thriving partially because Momo is so good at describing the various specials. Our amuse bouche was a pea soup with calamari cubes lurking beneath the surface (below left). We split an appetizer of tuna carpaccio with a bit of beautiful and lightly dressed lettuce, some wakame seaweed, and a delicate foam along side the carpaccio. The photographer was so busy tasting that he forgot to get a photo. Martha had a special veal shank main course that was long cooked. The veal fell off the bone and was wrapped in cabbage leaves. Some penne was cooked al dente and then flamed to give it even more texture with a hint of smokiness. Some cheese shavings topped the penne and the entire dish was swimming on a rich brown sauce laced with green and black olives. My dinner was also a special, a combination of French, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. It started out as a risotto, but some saffron got into it, making it something like a paella, especially when it was topped with a shrimp, several mussels, a scallop, a bit of red snapper, and a bit of calamari. A cooked green onion was added and tasty red pepper was made even more tastier with some stuffing. Both dinners were spectacular and went very well with the Crozes-Hermitage. The menu is priced in dollars and our bill came to about $150.

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.

This is the last day of the Heineken Regatta. The boats are starting on the last race as this goes out. Tonight will have the awards ceremony and then the big show ending with Kool and the Gang.

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.

The last Mardi de Grand Case (The Tuesday Night Party in Grand Case) is this week Tuesday, 10 March 2015.
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."