St Maarten/St Martin
15 March 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Last Sunday I had a pretty bad day. The newsletter went out fine, but I found out that a story I had repeated from TTOL had been changed. It no longer mentioned one of the scammers by name. I felt it was necessary to correct this immediately. I did so. So fast that I actually fired up the mailing program before I even uploaded the correction to the internet. The result was an empty email. I noticed this, uploaded the correction, and fired up the mailing program, only to misspell the name of the correction file. Same results. Usually I send a test of any mailing to me (at this address and my Yahoo, Gmail, and Excite addresses) and to Martha. In my haste to correct a mistake, I skipped this step and managed to send two empty messages. I apologize. The third time was the charm and the message got out that the man initially mentioned as the aggrieved party was mis-identified and therefore his name was redacted on the TTOL thread.
Weather: Last Sunday was a pretty nice day although there was a downpour at the end of the show by headliners Kool and the Gang, essentially as the forecast said. Monday was pretty good, but the photo on the right shot looking west along the runway shows that it was pretty cloudy. Tuesday had a couple showers and the whitecaps on the lagoon and the Caribbean convinced me that there was a mighty wind a blowin' even before I opened the sliders. Wednesday was moist when I got up and two showers zipped over us before lunch. The haze is clearing somewhat as Saba is visible. The photo below left was taken from the lagoon balcony at about 4:30PM. You can't have rainbows without a bit of rain. On Thursday some tiny showers swept over, but the day was mostly warm and sunny. About half the sky around the helicopter is quite blue. Friday was a lovely day, warm, sunny with a bit of a breeze, but so hazy that Saba was lost. We had a lovely afternoon at Kakao on Saturday afternoon. Sunday has started well, but the photo bottom right is a shot straight off our Caribbean balcony essentially due south at Saba. It has been hazy, and as that haze is water vapor, humid. We will have the vernal equinox this week and it will be summer here very soon.
The ten day forecast shows highs of 82 or 83 and lows of 74-75 with seven sunny days, one partly cloudy days, and two days with a chance of imperceptible rain. Sounds great. Even last week's miserable forecast wasn't all that bad. It did rain but only via widely-scattered, brief showers.

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 6:22 PM providing eleven hours and 58 minutes of sunshine, four minutes more than last Sunday. Friday is the equinox when everybody gets 12 hours of sunshine. 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.

SXM-Beaches: On the left is the view of Bay Long that one gets from the entrance path looking to the southwest. On the right is the view down the beach access path looking back to the road and the salt pond. There is no natural outlet for the salt pond, so when heavy rains and/or hurricanes arrive, the pond fills up and starts to cover the road. In the center is the view of La Samanna at the far south eastern end of the beach. They are the only commercial enterprise on the beach and they don't want your walk-in business. You won't get much love from the owners of all the very expensive beachfront villas either. There is public access from the main road at the eastern end of the lowlands. Admittedly, there is a guard station and a gate. If you tell the guard you are going to the beach, he will let you in. A sharp left will take you to Bay Long and going straight will take you to the public access for Plum Bay.

Senior Cupecoy Beach Correspondent WendyK says: There is a small patch of sand at the Ocean Club beach. Baby beach has sand in the small cove and the water is crystal clear. Lots of sand at Shore Pointe and water access by the stairs and at the far end.

Beach reading: Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie - (about $12 paperback, $10 Kindle) - From Amazon: Many may remember the tale of Robert Johnson, the musician who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for being the best blues guitarist around. What many may not know is that after this tragic deal in Mississippi, Johnson ended up in a small town on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington state - at least that's how author Sherman Alexie tells it. In Reservation Blues, Alxie spins the fictional tale of Johnson's adventure at a new crossroads, this one in a small town called Wellpinit, Wash. It is here that he comes to seek out Big Mom, a local medicine woman, and, in so doing, leaves his famous guitar in the hands of misfit storyteller Thomas Builds-the-Fire. Builds-the-Fire, brought back from Alexie's last book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, takes up Johnson's magical guitar and, along with Victor Joseph, Junior Polatkin and two Flathead Indian sisters named Chess and Checkers, goes on to build a reservation blues band that takes the Northwest by storm. As the band plays club after club, Alexie uses music as a crosscultural bridge, without compromising the cultural integrity of his characters. The band members seem to take on the gamut of problems faced by Indians on the reservation today, battling everything from alcoholism to violence, political corruption to sexual abuse. Ghosts from the past, both personal and historical haunt the musicians, serving both to hold them back and urge them on. It would seem that the scars of abuse run deep.

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. They have painted the exercise room and are working on some of the machines. My 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.

Even Jeff Berger (a registered sapphireophobe) has sent out an email blurbing his newsletter saying: "Sapphire Apparently Starting to Shape Up Against Complaints to RC."

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 first day of the Regatta, Phaedo3 set the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the island at 2 hours and 7 minutes, averaging almost 40 miles per hour. She finished almost an hour ahead of the next boat. This is the first time in 35 years that the race has gone counter-clockwise around the island. See the Heineken Regatta website for more info.

Below are more regatta photos taken from our balcony.

On an earlier Friday night, after dinner at Moulin Fou, we dropped in at Lagoonies on the lagoon in Cole Bay to hear Koolberry Jam, drink $2 beers, and have a great time. The band consists of Branko on lead guitar, Ignacio Richardson (Nacio) on bass, Handell and Dakelly (Kelly) Betancourt on vocals. On the left is Kelly and on the right is Nacio. Below left is Branko and Kelly, center is a shot of the entire band and on the right is Handell who also does drums. Koolberry Jam sang on the Pburg boardwalk on the Friday of the the Heineken Regatta show. Branko and Nacio also play with Bob Barron and Eric the drummer as Category 5 at La Bamba on Sunday nights.

Shopping: On Thursday we went out to do a bit of shopping, finding a parking spot in downtown Marigot. I stayed with the car and took the photo of the West Indies Mall (left) where Martha was checking out perfume and make-up. At the time they were offering 20% off for cash. She left penniless, literally spending all her money. I also took the photo of Fort Louis on the top of the hill at the eastern edge of Marigot harbor. I noticed Oizeau Rare in the bottom right corner of the frame and thought a small bite to eat might be appropriate. It's certainly a beautiful spot (right).

Groceries: We continued on to Super U where we picked up some ham de vendée for only 15€/kg, less than $7 per pound. It, of course, was added to our Guadeloupe melon (although they seem to be coming from the Dominican Republic lately). The melon cost under $4 at Super U. Wait until they are it's ripe (2-6 days), add air-dried ham, a squeeze of lime, and a dry rosé from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar.

The Guadeloupe tomatoes haven't looked good this season. We had some earlier and they didn't taste very good and they rotted before they ripened?? In any event, they looked good this week at Grand Marché so we tried them. Martha roasted some in the oven with diced shallots and a drizzle of olive oil. They were great with a Créole dinner of merguez with rice and peas.

Alcohol: We got down to one bottle of red wine in our "cellar", so I issued a red alert to Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar and arrived for lunch from Champagne Bistro. It turns out that Jason, an old friend dating back to a wine tasting at Halsey's, was visiting from DC. He's studying for his Masters of Wine and working in the wine industry. He had brought three friends, all of whom knew quite a bit about wine. It was a very interesting and liquid lunch that ended at about 6PM after tasting seven bottles of wine. Jason and friends bought some wine and departed and then we picked up a case of good reds: 2011 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles ($27) and a 2012 Saint-Joseph from Gaillard ($32) - good Rhones for hearty meals - and the usual 2012 Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru from Girard ($39) plus the 2011 Pommard Vaumuriens from Lescure ($66) for some dinners with more finesse than power. Use the coupon on Sylvain's website to get 10% off on his list prices.

green logo Nature: The adolescent birds have been driven off and the baby birds are now occupying the nest. Here they are preening as they wait for Mom or Dad to bring lunch.

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

Small Island story: We tried to do this the easy way, but here is the hard sell: Take this survey about your internet usage and you will be entered into a contest for dinner for two at Daniel's by the Sea. All previous survey participants are entered. 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 comes to an end: Wendy K writes: I got a call on Tuesday from the head honcho in SXM, checking to see if I was happy with the service. I should have been more critical and told her how bad the customer service was before they got the alert from Canada, but I bit my tongue again. Stay tuned for an exciting adventure with SXM cable.


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 March the Euro was at 1.1084 and today it is at 1.05. That's another 3% this week and almost at par. 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. This is no longer much of a bargain.

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.


Champagne Bistro

On Monday we stopped in at Select Wine Cellar and ordered lunch from Champagne Bistro. On the left is Martha's special conch stew. It was wonderful conch in a delightful sauce with rice and ratatouille. I had another special: a very special beef Wellington. That is a pretty fancy dish for bistro lunch menu. It was great and absolutely spectacular with the Pommard Vaumuriens from Lescure. The specials were about $22.

Moulin Fou
On Thursday we had another extravaganza in the wine room at Moulin Fou using the services of Sylvain. By day he runs Select Wine Cellar and at night he is the sommelier at Moulin Fou. As always, when in Maho we use the valet service at Casino Royale to solve our parking problems. The restaurant has been remodeled and looked lovely. There are outdoor tables and while some people feel that getting to watch the show at Cheri's without having to eat their food is a benefit, we prefer to avoid both by dining inside or dining outside on Tuesday when Cheri's is dark.
We started with two platters of angry dragon sushi rolls ($38 each platter) from Chef Q. We tried several varieties of cabernet and cabernet blends from California and Bordeaux, but the big star of the night was Sylvain's 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape from Pierre Usseglio. Martha and I split a beef carpaccio appetizer ($16, right). Below left are some nems that were on special that evening. In the center is a very tasty lobster thermidor. Below right is my ribeye steak with a mushroom sauce. Martha had a tasty mahi filet with onion marmelade and a mild, creamy cajun sauce (no photo, $26). Like many restaurants on the Dutch side, Moulin Fou adds an sc discreetly to the bill. In this case it is a 12% service charge, somewhat less than most and as we had good service, we left about 8% more. Our bill came to $90 per head without wine, but we had a lot of food (two orders of sushi rolls, plus aps - one of which was a very tasty warm foie gras).

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 last Tuesday night party in Grand Case was on 10 March.

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

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.

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 Amazon. 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."