St Maarten/St Martin
31 May 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The previous week had two spectacular days, three days with imperceptible rain (less than 0.05 inch), and a couple days over a third of an inch. The high temperatures were either 84 or 85 while the low temperature ranged from 76 to 79. It's summer. The forecast for the next ten days are all partly cloudy or chance of rain, but two days were imperceptible and two days were 0.12 inches with the other days in between. The high temperatures ranged from 84 to 86 and the lows from 78 to 80. That is even more like summer weather, in that it has more heat, clouds, and rain. 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 6:44 PM providing thirteen hours and 8 minutes of sunshine. The full moons for 2015 will be: 2 Jun, 1 Jul, 31 Jul (a blue moon), 29 Aug, 27 Sep, 27 Oct, 25 Nov, and 25 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Here's a pano of Bay Long looking south east from the public access point. That's La Samanna in the distance.

Beach reading: Deadline by John Sanford - (about $8 Kindle, $10 paperback, $17 hardcover) - In Southeast Minnesota, down on the Mississippi, a school board meeting is coming to an end. The board chairman announces that the rest of the meeting will be closed, due to personnel issues. Issues is correct. The proposal up for a vote before them is whether to authorize the killing of a local reporter. The vote is four to one in favor. Meanwhile, not far away, Virgil Flowers is helping out a friend by looking into a dognapping, which seems to be turning into something much bigger and uglier - a team of dognappers supplying medical labs - when he gets a call from Lucas Davenport. A murdered body has been found and the victim is a local reporter.

We listened to this and found it quite amusing and we were not alone. "Sanford balances straight-talking Virgil Flowers' often hilariously folksy tone and Trippton's dark core of methamphetamine manufacturers and sociopaths; the result is pure reading pleasure for thriller fans." Booklist

Sapphire Beach Club: There have been fresh rumors of Sapphire's sale. I have received nothing from management. Then again I hardly ever hear anyting from management. We are not in our condo (Unit 255) at this time, but we have a long term rental from May through December. We will use the unit from early January until early April of 2016. Below is a panoramic shot from the Caribbean balcony. That's a cruise ship arriving in the early morning light. Statia is in the distance. The taller mountain on Statia is the Quill, a dormant volcano. The other one is the remains of five older volcanoes and most of the 3200 people live in between.

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.

Travel: A thread on TTOL had some comments on renewing a passport. Presently, renewing a passport takes about a week, if expedited and the normal service takes three to four weeks. It does depend on how busy the US Passport office is and if the government is operating. If you are renewing a passport and reside in the US, use form DS-82 via US mail and $110 gets you a passport book, $140 gets the book and a card. The government currently says they take four to six weeks for normal service and they are committed to 8 days for expedited service using overnight mail both ways. The expedite fee is an additional $60 plus about $15 for the overnight shipping (each way). Here's a lot more on Fees and importantly, all the restrictions and minutia for minors and first-time passport requests.

Another thread on TTOL went on (and on) about the necessity of an International Driver's license on St Maarten. Several responders said that had been stopped and had no trouble with US-based licenses. I was stopped twice over the years and had no trouble with my US-based license on the French side. Nonetheless, the French Embassy says: If you are on a short visit or short business trip (less than 90 days), you may drive with a valid U.S. driver's license if it is accompanied by a notarized translation in French. It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit.
Alcohol: We certainly miss lazy lunches from Champagne Bistro served in Select Wine Cellar. We do have a few bottles that we brought home from the island over the last few years. We just enjoyed a 2009 Amiot Servelle Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru last night.

Rental Cars: Michael at Unity Car Rental has an offer for my readers: Rent an economy car during the summer and he will upgrade you to compact car at no extra charge. Just reserve online and mention the SXM-Info upgrade from economy to compact in the comments section.

green logo Nature: On the right is a male turkey displaying in our south meadow. We had some wonderful turkey breast shortly thereafter.

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

Small Island story: The Daily Herald had a story saying that Alegria wants Marty removed from the Dream Bar. It is the usual small island silliness. Marty opened the bar at the pool in Caravanserai in 2011 and claims he had an agreement with Manek, the then owner. Alegria bought the property out of bankruptcy and certainly has not recognized any timeshare claims. Now they say Marty is bad for their proposed upscale hotel business and hasn't paid any rent, nor has he paid for water and electricity. He says he has signed checks but they won't take them.


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 July
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
Ti Coin Créole - $30 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 July to 4 October | 4 October to 6 December
same cast of characters as current contest



On 13 May the Euro was at 1.122 and today it is at 1.099. Not much change but behind all this is battle over interest rates with some European countries charging interest on deposits! 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.

L'Escapade Restaurant, 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.


L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
Oizeau is one of five restaurants we know that offers gift certificates. Wendy K got one and as they all say to mention the gift certificate when you make reservations, she emailed owner Frank Brocard. Wendy says "Frank replied to the email reservation (twice, as I had to change the date), and he was very accommodating. He wasn't there on the afternoon we arrived, but the manager who seated us was aware of the reservation and gift certificate. They were fairly full, and all tables were full by the time we left. Good for them, but they did not have enough service staff for a full restaurant, only the manager and a waitress."

Consequently, service was not very good. We got water immediately, but waited 15 minutes for anyone to tell us about the specials for the prix fixe. We eventually ordered food and asked for the wine list. Another 10 minutes elapsed before anyone came to take the wine order. It took a half hour to get a rather nice rosé. It was another 30 minutes until we were brought the appetizers. The salmon carpaccio was actually smoked salmon (left). I liked it a lot, but Ainslie, who loves carpaccio, was disappointed. It came with a nicely dressed salad. My main course was ham (center) with frites and salad, which was tasty, with a nice sauce. My frites were a bit under done. Ainslie ordered (right) cod which came with a ratatouille and an orange pepper puree and a side of frites, which they forgot. When her frites arrived 5 minutes later, they were perfectly cooked.
Dessert was chocolate mousse (left) for Ains, which was very dense and good. I had vanilla mousse (right), with a raspberry coulis and a cookie. Very good and pretty. It was 19€ for each 3 course lunch and 20€ for the rose. The waitress told us before we left, that they weren't usually this busy, and I think the kitchen must have been a bit overwhelmed. The clientele appeared to be mainly locals, including some politicians.
I wish the restaurant well, and will give them another try. One plate on the menu was particularly interesting: mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and fresh foie gras priced at 24€. [ed note: I was there twice during high season, once for lunch and once for dinner. Both times we were the first patrons in the restaurant and it never was close to being filled. The food was quite good and reasonably priced. I actually had the Poor Man's Purée that Wendy mentioned. It was a very tasty and filling main course under $30. The service was always correct, but two servers could not possibly handle all the tables in this good sized restaurant.]

Le Sand

Wendy K visited in April: It was a lovely day with a gentle breeze. No seaweed on the beach today! The amuse bouche soup today was cauliflower and potato. We both had the special plat of salmon and scallops with a beurre blanc sauce; wonderful veggies: roasted baby peppers, sautéed cabbage, snap peas,and puréed squash. (31€) We drank a Cotes de Provence rosé (29€). Homemade passion fruit rum finished off a wonderful lunch.

Below is a listing of all restaurant annual closings that I have received. Dino said that Temptation Restaurant would have a Special three course menu for $50 that includes glass of wine and all summer long he'll have Chesapeake Bay soft shell crabs.

Florence at La Villa said that they are offering early birds 10% off their bill. Don't forget the year-round $49 special on a three course dinner.

2015 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Antoine Restaurant
Auberge Gourmande 1 September until 15 October
Daniel's by the Sea We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night 5-10PM
L'Escargot Restaurant early July through September
Hideaway Restaurant The entire month of August
Mr Busby's Beach Bar We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
Il Nettuno
Paradise View 3 September to 7 October
Piazza Pascal
Pizza Galley 15 August to 15 October
Le Pressoir 25 June to 25 July
Open in September, but closed on Sunday and Monday
Rancho del Sol Closed for August
Skipjack's 31 August to 20 September
Le Tastevin
Temptation Restaurant Open all summer, but closed on Mondays
Ti Bouchon 28 June to 20 October
La Villa No closing

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

Another reason to buy Dino's cookbook is that he led the team the won the first-ever San Pellegrino Cooking Cup of the Caribbean in late April. The full article is in the Daily Herald.

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."