St Maarten/St Martin
22 March 2015 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Except for haze, Sunday and Monday were great. The breeze even abated a bit. On the right is Passat out in the gloom on a early week sunset cruise. Passat is the boat that has taken the restaurant map from my Simpson Bay East page and used it on their site. Be careful if you cruise with them. The photo on the left below really has Saba in the background, filling the frame, at least at the waterline. Even the haze lessened by Wednesday as it is easier to see Saba lurking in the mist in the center photo, especially if you realize that the white clouds in the center are surrounding the rain forest on Mt Scenery. Saba was finally visible on Saturday afternoon and by Sunday morning I could see St Kitts, Statia, and Saba. The shot on the right is so clear you can see the houses.

The ten day forecast shows highs of 82 to 83 and lows of 74 to 75 with ten sunny days. Sounds absolutely spectacular for our last ten days on the island.

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 6:23 PM providing twelve hours and 8 minutes of sunshine, ten minutes more than last Sunday. Friday (20 March) was the equinox when everybody got 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: Saturday's report from Wendy K, our Senior Cupecoy Correspondent: "Surfers between middle and Shore Pointe beaches this morning, and the sand is all gone from Shore Pointe. So much for my beach day." She also sent over this shot of her terrace (right) with a dredge parked nearby. Porto Cupecoy has been dredging their marina and are now working on the channel to get to the marina. On the left is the view of of the north stretch of Plum Bay and the pano below shows the entire stretch of the southern shore. It's a lovely beach with no amenities, but does have little pricker balls in the sand near the vegetation.

Beach reading: A Cold Heart by Jonathan Kellerman - about $9 (Kindle) or $0.01 (paperback) - Amazon.com Review: In Cold Heart Dr. Alex Delaware picks up on clues missed even by his closest friend, LAPD detective Milo Sturgis. Leave it to this canny shrink to figure out that the only thing two otherwise unconnected murder victims have in common (they're both artists making comebacks after early career burnouts) may hold the key to their deaths. Even for Alex, this unlikely link is a stretch, especially since Baby Boy Lee was stabbed outside a nightclub and Julie Kipper was bludgeoned in the bathroom of an art gallery. But when a concert pianist dies on the eve of his greatest triumph, Alex is sure that the murders are not only the work of the same killer but also connected to the unsolved slayings of a Boston ballerina and an L.A. rock singer. By an even greater coincidence, two of the victims were tangentially involved with Alex's former lover, Robin Castagna, which provides the good doctor a few well placed paragraphs to ruminate on what went wrong in their romance as well as rescue her from the serial murderer who's targeted her as his next victim. As usual, Kellerman manages to make even a far-fetched plot like this one ring true, but after 17 Alex Delaware mysteries, his series protagonist holds few surprises for the reader, who longs for something to shake Dr. D. out of his smooth complacency. Losing Robin didn't do it, maybe the new woman in Alex's life will.

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. Two buildings have only one working elevator each. I'm told one of the buildings now has two working elevators. 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 toilet began leaking from the tank when a bolt holding the tank to the bowl corroded (after 20 years). They fixed it the same morning I called down to the desk. 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.

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: Richard Santaga has sent me a few of his fantastic Heineken Regatta photos.

CSA 4 First Place: LIPTON
Multihull 1 Gunboat First Place: Elvis
Fastest Around the Island: Phaedo 3

We went to the last Thursday night party at Marina Royale and were impressed by the planning. They appear to have given up on large dance/parade troupes given the rather small walkway between the water and the restaurant tables creeping ever closer to the water. Rather than having revelers provide their own music, a central band/broadcasting headquarters is set up at the harbor master's centrally located area. You can hear it, but it is not as overpowering as a bass drum next to your table. Moreover, the dance troupe consisted of only four people. It was possible to get past them, if necessary. The police presence was also impressive: gendarmes, the local constabulary, and even private security. The bands actually took a break at about 8PM and the dancers put on some recorded music. They did a bit of dancing at every restaurant that was open and were followed by a juggler/acrobatic act. On the left is Ronnie and Peter, on the right is the dance troupe taking a bow, and in the center is the restaurant called "The Hands in the Dough", that's pâte, not paté. What a difference a couple squiggles make, n'est pas?

Groceries: We picked up another Charantais melon and jambon de vendee for our melon and prosciutto lunch. The melon was 3.95€/kilo for a total of 3.65€, about $4 for a two pound melon. The ham is quite tasty and only costs 15€/kilo. The package has five or six slices and weighs about 0.2 kilo, about 5 ounces and costs a bit under 3€. We get two lunches for about $8 and I have some ham left for my Sunday omelette!

We also went on a red meat bender. They had some beautiful veal stew that Martha turned into a blanquette de veau in a lovely brown sauce with shallots, literally whole shallots rather than small onions because the shallots were priced at 1.25€/kilo. She also bought some ground pork and veal and as beautiful red peppers were the same price as green peppers (4€/kilo), she made a strikingly beautiful stuffed pepper dinner with a spicy tomato sauce. On the sametrip we picked up a cote de boeuf (prime rib, 21€/kilo, about $10 per pound). That's it on the left.

Alcohol: The sommelier had to keep up with with all these great meals at home. With a bit of help from a real sommelier (Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar) we had the 2012 Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru ($39) with the blanquette de veau. It's a lighter Burgundy chosen to go with the lighter flavored veal. The slightly spicy stuffed peppers would work better with the Syrah found in Rhone blends. We had just tasted the 2012 Saint Joseph Les Pierres from Gaillard ($59) at a lunchtime tasting at Select. Damien Moreau, Commercial Manager for Wine at ILTT in Pburg, had chosen it from Sylvain's shelves. Almost any Rhone would work with stuffed peppers, but this would probably have been too good. We toned it down by drinking the village version of the 2012 Saint Joseph ($32) rather than a vineyard version. The prime rib had a shallot and mushroom sauce with garlic mashed potatoes and we stepped up to these bold tastes with the 2011 Nuits-Saint-Georges from Chantal Lescure ($65). Fabulous.

Shopping: We have decided to get a small clothes washer. I googled them and found a highly recommended one at Walmart for less than $300 with free shipping. They ship it to me care of Four Star Shipping, Safe Cargo's consolidator in Miami. I have an account at Safe Cargo so Four Star puts the package on their ship. I got notifications that Walmart had shipped, that Four Star had received, and the ship would arrive at Pointe Blanche on 17 March. I got a notification that it had arrived and paid Safe Cargo's airport office $47. They brought it over from the port in Pointe Blanche to their facility at the Maho end of the airport and eventually delivered it to Sapphire and brought it up to the fifth floor. SCS

We headed over to Pburg to take care of some business. We turned over some payments for gift certificates to Antoine Restaurant and L'Escargot Restaurant, but the most important bit of business was to pick up Martha's jewelry which was being cleaned at DK Gems. Over the years, she has accumulated some beautiful pieces. We had dropped them off for a complimentary cleaning, just another of the many services that they provide. Speaking of which, one of Martha's earrings snapped a post. Could they fix it. Not a problem. Done in two hours.

And, of course, we caught up with the news on everyone. Deepti is doing fine with the young princess. Jeff has had a great time traveling in Europe over last summer. Kamal tells us that weddings are being planned by relatives which will require even more traveling. They are all of that age.

green logo Nature: There was an article in the Daily Herald headlined "700 square meters of new mangrove at causeway." Reading further, one finds that they declared 600 square meters in Jan 2014 and are now claiming 100 square meters more. A square meter is about 10 feet. Thus, an addition of 100 square meters is about half the size of a starter home in the US.

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. 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's only halfway to the 300 responses she needs by mid-April. 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.


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 March the Euro was at 1.05 and today it is at 1.082. It touched 1.04 in Japanese trading but eventually took back the 3% loss from last 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. 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.


Il Nettuno
On Sunday we drove over to the central parking lot directly across from the restaurant. I had made a reservation so we got a corner waterfront table. The view is spectacular during the day, but even the nighttime view of the boat mast lights in the harbor and Anguilla in the distance is pleasant. Moreover, the lights illuminating the waves are an added plus. We ordered a 2009 Carpineto Chianti Riserva, a medium dry, full-bodied red that works well with tomato sauces. You'll note the rather special bread, not your every day baguette, and a special Italian twist, olive oil, not butter for your bread.
Nettuno is one of the few restaurants left on the island that offers an amuse bouche, and it is Italian: bruschetta - very tasty (left). Our appetizer was a tuna carpaccio with a bit of crisp arugula. Martha thought this was one of the best we have had this season. Her main course was the saltimboca with gnocchi, also very tasty with light as air gnocchi (below left). I had the seafood linguini (below right). It was loaded with seafood: clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, and fish.
We passed on dessert and were offered complimentary after dinner drinks. They are doing 1 to 1 (not much difference at the moment) and our total bill was $117. But the big news is:

Raymon is back!

Yes, the sale of the restaurant didn't work out well and now Raymon has returned to work his magic.


On Thursday we had some business to attend to in Pburg and on the way back, we stopped at Barnacles. The physical plant will not win awards from Architectural Digest, but then again, it is on the water and you get to dine outside with this view (below left). Then there is Tijana (right). That's a nice view, especially when she is bringing an $18 bottle of pretty good rosé to your table. We both ordered the octopus salad (below center, $17). It featured very tasty bits of grilled octopus on some interesting salad, way beyond the wedge of iceberg variety. This had red and green peppers, red onions, spinach, and more greens. The bill came to $52 and we left a good tip for good and friendly service.

On Thursday night we went to this season's last party at Marigot's Marina Royale. We had noticed that Ronnie (and Peter) were going to be playing at Le 14 and we didn't even know where or what that was. We drove over, found some easy parking, and heard the guitar. Following the sound, we found out that Le 14 is a Thai restaurant in the marina complex, but not on the waterfront. We ordered two glasses of wine and enjoyed the first set. We headed out to get dinner and ended up at Le Galion, having been led in by an old friend, a waiter from Nettuno, (below left). We had a nice bottle of Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet (above right, 42€) to go with a ribeye (above center, 20 €) and beef tartare (above left, €18). The total came to 84.50€. Since they were using an exchange rate of 1.15, I asked that euros be charged on my card (as the rate was about 1.064). The dancers visited every restaurant and even came inside some restaurants to jolly up the patrons.

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.

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.

Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Endless Summer Beachwear
Lucia's Taxi Service
Pizza Galley
Select Wine Cellar
Table d'Antoine
Tropical Wave

  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."