St Maarten/St Martin
29 March 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was great, somewhat breezy, but warm and clear, with the sunset lighting up clouds above Saba (right). The sunset pano below was stitched together from three shots taken from my lagoon balcony on the same evening. The waxing crescent moon rose with Venus at its side as we headed out to dinner that evening. The pano of the lagoon and causeway below was taken on a beautiful Monday coming over the Cakehouse shortcut from Pburg to Cole Bay. We were on our way to the Grand Marché and on into Marigot for a nice lunch at Oizeau Rare. Tuesday and Wednesday were spectacular. The photo of the cruise ship and Saba was taken on Wednesday morning. In the grocery section there are some sunset photos on Wednesday evening. Thursday was another fine day but Friday began with light showers and more than enough clouds. Saturday had more showers in the morning which included a lovely rainbow during my morning swim but fewer clouds. It turned into a lovely, but breezy, day. Sunday is starting cloudy and hazy. The ten day forecast shows highs of 81 to 82 rising to 83 for the last two days and lows of 73 to 74 with one day at 75 with only four sunny days, one partly cloudy day, and five days with a chance of imperceptible rain adding up to 0.19 inches.
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 6:25 PM providing twelve hours and 16 minutes of sunshine, eight minutes more than last Sunday. As we are past the equinox, we are now getting more sunshine in the northern latitudes. Back at our farm in NY we will have 12 hours and 34 minutes of sunshine today. Eventually we will have about 15 hours of sunlight on the solstice and SXM will have a about 13. The full moons for 2015 will be: 4 Apr (this week!), 3 May, 2 Jun, 1 Jul, 31 Jul (a blue moon), 29 Aug, 27 Sep, 27 Oct, 25 Nov, and 25 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Report from Wendy K, our Senior Cupecoy Correspondent: "As mentioned a last week, there were surfers on Saturday. A check on Sunday showed that the sand had moved from the NW to the SE, but there was very little dry sand anyplace. On Tuesday we got to the beach and there was a photo shoot taking place at baby beach, so we went in the water from middle beach, which now has lots of sand. (First time in two years I've been in there) The water was calm and clear today, and as we got closer to Shore Pointe, there were lots of pelicans diving into the water for fish. We commented that the air smelled a bit fishy, in fact. As we were just in front of Dany's bar, he called to us to look out to sea. There was a school of dolphin swimming by; one no more that 100 yards from us breached the water! Later, as we were leaving, we stopped to chat with Dany and John. They pointed out a dark area in the water that we had been swimming through. It was a large school of sardines that the pelicans were devouring. [ed note: I actually took the photo on the right from my balcony as some frigate birds were feeding on the sardines.] Saturday was not as nice as the last two days. The sand was shifting back towards Shore Pointe, and Ocean Club, but was mostly moist. Baby beach and middle beaches had some dry sand. The waves were a little stronger than Friday."

Beach reading: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler - (about $16 paperback, $11 Kindle) - An Amazon Best Book of the Month for February 2015: It's pretty clear that Anne Tyler is comfortable with the art of storytelling. From the first lines of A Spool of Blue Thread, there's an urge to sit back and settle into the cadence of her words. Or, rather, Abby Whitshank's words as she recounts the story of how she fell in love with Red Whitshank in 1959. But don't get too comfortable. Anne Tyler understands that, despite their best intentions, family members don't often let each other settle back for very long and the Whitshanks, a Baltimore clan whose history is told through several generations in this sensitive and empathetic novel, is no different than most. As Abby and Red age, their children are drawn back to their sprawling house. When the second part of the novel moves back in time, the shift is jarring at first; but after a fifty year writing career (this is her 20th novel), Tyler has the end in sight. This is a book about the stories we tell each other and the little moments that make up our lives. - Chris Schluep. Despite all this praise, Martha didn't like it that much.

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: Below left is Random Wind anchored off our Caribbean balcony on Tuesday. I believe they are having a snorkel and lunch. There used to be some pretty good snorkeling here, but the lack of a beach has kept most people away. That's Diane doing the acrobatics off the Tarzan swing.

Groceries: We went to wine and cheese tasting at Wendy K's lagoon front condo in Cupecoy. Great minds think alike. She went to Martial at Le Gout de Vin and brought back a 2009 Beaune du Chateau from Bouchard, essentially Bouchard's best blend from all the Premier Cru Beaune vineyards, and a Savigny-Les-Beaune also from Bouchard. I went to Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar and brought a 2011 Pommard Vaumuriens Premier Cru from Lescure and a Savigny-Les-Beaune from Girard. We started with the two good ones and it was hard to choose.

Wendy got the cheese from Super U and they are now giving 1 to 1 on the dollar for cash. Simply is also doing 1 to 1. The cheeses, heading clockwise from the left were a Parmesan, Comté, Beaufort, and Pecorino. Those are some very nice cheeses. The photos below document sunset on Thursday from the terrace looking to Sandy Ground, Porto Cupecoy, and a cloud turning pink above Mont Rouge.

Alcohol: We went over to Select Wine Cellar on Thursday for a big heading-back-home party. Daniel (by the Sea) brought over a 2001 Brunello in a double magnum. Of course, we started with champagne, on to several white wines, some lovely Burgundies from Sylvain, and then the Brunello. As I recall, there was food.

Shopping: After a lunch at Oizeau Rare we walked next door to the West Indies Mall. It's still beautiful and almost fully occupied, at least the first two floors. The third floor is largely empty. It's unclear what is happening with Le Fourmi. There is a restaurant up there but they are not using the lovely (now a bit decrepit) terrace overlooking the harbor that Fourmi used to use. On the right is a photo from the now defunct terrace looking down to the Anguilla ferry dock/immigration building.

This probably should be a small island story but we are using that to help a young lady further her education. We walked up Rue de la Republique to the Credit Mutuel to get some euros and had a bit of trouble as it kept telling us to push CONFIRM, when there was no button that said CONFIRM. We brought out a teller and she put the card in backwards. When it failed she proceeded to tell us we needed a card with a chip. I turned it around and got to the same request to push CONFIRM. She pushed VALIDATION and I got my money.


green logo Nature: On the right is Lilly watching one of the doves. They get food from several of our neighbors, but we don't put any out. We're not sure Lilly wouldn't chase one over the edge and we don't want her to kill one either.

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 past 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 22 March the Euro was at 1.082 and today it is at 1.089. Maybe this is the new normal as it has been 1.04 to 1.10 for the last three weeks. 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.


On Sunday we drove over to the Pan Laan in Simpson Bay It's between Pete's and the rotary, just after the Laguna building and there is a sign on the lagoon side of the road. It's a short drive to the lagoon and they are in the waterfront building on the left.
They have a large deck overlooking the water, but we chose the interior because of the breeze. Ronny and Amin were playing on the deck and though we were out of the breeze, the sliders were open and we could hear the music quite well. Ronny was doing some amazing lead guitar work and Amin does some fantastic rhythm guitar and percussion work.
We ordered a couple Singha beers ($5 each, below lelft), the beer of Thailand, and looked over the menu. We started with a Moo Tod Samun Pri, crispy pork with Thai herbs in and a spicy sauce ($9). It was so good that the photographer finished it without taking a photo. Martha had the Pad Thai with shrimp ($21, below center) and I had Pad Kee Mao Nuea with beef ($17, below right). Basically, there are several preparations of various noodles, curry, and fried rice to which you can add some protein. Tofu is cheapest, Beef, chicken and pork are come next, followed by shrimp, then a seafood mix, and finally poo. Luckily, that means crab in Thai. Not all of these are available with every base, but everything is available Mild, Medium, Hot, or Thai Spicy. We went with Hot. That required another round of Singhas. The main courses were were both very good. The total came to about $72 and they added a 15% tip to get to $82. Martha even brought home a bit, making this one of our least expensive dinners this season. Obviously, four beers at $20 is way below most of the wines we buy. They did have an interesting wine list, but we really prefer beer with very hot food.

L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
We went over to L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant for lunch on Monday. The restaurant changed hands over the summer and is looking quite modern with more lounge space and a gourmet food and wine store. They have a special at lunch, offering an ap and a plate for 15€. There are a few choices and I went with the calamari on a bed of puréed celery (below center) followed by ribs (far below center). Martha surprised all of us by ordering a cheeseburger (far below left, 14€)?!? I got her a full flavored 2010 Crozes-Hermitage (below left, 30€). Her cheeseburger was pretty authentic complete with orange cheese, a color hardly found in nature, but it brings back memories of Velveeta. The burger was very good, cooked medium rare as requested and even the orange cheese was ok, possibly mimolette, the favorite cheese of General Charles de Gaulle. As Jenkins says in his Cheese Primer, "Perhaps the General ate too much army food." My ribs were nothing like the slobbery, sweet-fest of American ribs. They arrived quite dry with a small amount of drippings. I thought they were quite good. Both plates had crisp, tasty fries. All in all, a nice lunch in a lovely spot with water cascading down the hillside and a view out to the harbor. The total was 64€, half food, half wine and water.

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

We just added Lucia's Taxi Service as a client. She has a seven seat van and like most taxis looks forward to island tours rather than short trips. She has a tour discount coupon on her site. She'll also meet you at the airport or take you to the airport at the end of your visit. Her English is excellent y se habla español.

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."