St Maarten/St Martin
5 July 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The mackerel sky on the right is courtesy of Captain Neil from Celine 2. The previous week was much like summer on the island, 85 or 86 as the high and 78 or 79 as the low. Most days were partly cloudy but no rain, unlike summer.The next week appears to be much the same with no rain. That's a bit surprising, but other than the a tropical storm that passed by over a week ago, it has been rather dry, so dry that the brush around the French Dump caught on fire. The Daily Herald story calls the dump an eco-landfill. I call that obfuscation. 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 6:42 PM. As we have passed the solstice the days are getting shorter. Today will have thirteen hours and 1 minutes of sunshine, a loss of 7 minutes since the last newsletter. The full moons for 2015 will be: 31 Jul (a blue moon), 29 Aug, 27 Sep, 27 Oct, 25 Nov, and 25 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Johan at Rancho del Sol has sent me his list of specials for July. I like their pizzas and their Tex-Mex, but the daily specials can't be beat. The real news is that there will be a closing party on 31 July, the last day before their summer vacation. I'm not flying down for the event, but if you were on the island, you could have a good time here.

Here's some good news: Bikini Beach Owner Elisa Cohen has won her most recent court battle. That higher court victory opens the door for appealing the eviction and reimbursement of rent verdicts and reapplying for the AOT (basically, the authorization to run a business). It's been long and slow, but she may have won it all and move back to Orient!

The pano below was taken at Orient Beach last March.

Beach reading: From Makeup to murder: The Sandra Bernstein Chronicles by Jacky Rom - $6.99 (Kindle) - From Amazon: "Sandra Bernstein, better known as Sandy is quirky, charismatic, and extremely loyal. From the makeup studios of a long running TV Soap to a film set on the exotic Caribbean Island of St Maarten. Sandy takes us on an adventure of discovery, murder, intrigue, and suspense! This classic murder mystery is the first story in the Sandra Bernstein Chronicles." Sounds like the perfect read on a beach with a rum punch or five and there are hopes for a sequel.

Sapphire Beach Club: There seems to be no more news from management. Our tenent says nothing is happening and everything is working at present. We are not in our condo (Unit 255) at this time and have 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-Hotels: Alegría has submitted plans for finishing/revising Caravanserai. They seem to be planning a world class resort in a spot that features world class hurricanes. A bit to the north are the ruins of Mullett Bay. After Hurricane Luis, the buildings out on waterfront consisted of little more than concrete piers. Caravanserai was also damaged pretty severely in that storm. Alegría wants to rebuild on that spot and make the buildings taller. That disturbs the airport. There is supposedly a limit on the height of buildings near the airport. Sometimes it is enforced. Alegría's plans also called for yacht basin on the open Caribbean. Marina Fort St Louis demonstrated how difficult is was to keep yacht owners from getting seasick while enduring the waves from the Anguilla Channel. The west side of the island regularly gets surfable rollers. The yachting crowd hates it when they spill their Nuit-San-Waga-Waga. There is also a problem with tall masts near the runway.

Travel: It appears that they have revamped the departure lounge at PJIA. I guess that's a good thing, but I was pretty happy with comfortable chairs and A/C. Add a decent and inexpensive bite to eat along with a few tipples and free WiFi, and I'd be in heaven. However, it appears that most of the "improvements" enhance the shopping experience. One last grab for your wallet before you escape!

In other travel news, another bomb scare occurred at PJIA on Friday. The first was last December 6. Both involved KLM flights and neither involved an actual bomb, but did waste a lot of time and money.
Groceries: On the left is Martha's latest bread experiment. It's a sourdough from her starter containing only wild yeast. On the island we like Sarafina's finette. It's similar crusty and tasty, but not as sour.

The weather here in NY has been rainy lately (after six weeks of no rain). We were surprised to see that the local mushrooms responded so well. We've harvested a few shiitakes from our plantation, a few boletes (cepes), some girolles, and some very large chanterelles. I picked 7 lbs over two days. I left several smaller ones and hope to return to large ones. They are amazing in that they have little insect damage or infestation. We generally find island mushrooms at Simply. They almost always have chanterelles and cepes.

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 2011 Vosne-Romanèe Premier Cru from Chantal Lescure 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 parrot in the trees at Sapphire Beach Club.

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

Small Island story: Last newsletter, the Daily Herald had a story saying that Alegría wants Marty removed from the Dream Bar. We now report that Marty won his case as the court said that Alegria must honor the agreement he had with Manek. It appears that the island will allow Alegría to screw the US owners of timeshare but the local guy gets his agreement enforced.


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 31 May the Euro was at 1.099 and today it is at 1.111. The numbers look different but it is only a change of 0.002 over five weeks. It's been bounced around by Greek default speculation and today features a major vote by the Greeks (0.39 percent of world GDP). I don't care. Neither should you, but TV news with hours to fill features Greek drama.

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 and Rancho del Sol are offering 1 to 1. 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
One Friday late last season, we stopped in at Select Wine Cellar and ordered lunch from Champagne Bistro. On Fridays they have a special of small French mussels in white wine, shallots, and leeks ($19.50, right). Martha had duck confit (left, 19). The mussels are very tasty and well prepared. Sylvain added some 2012 Savigny-Les-Beaune from Girard ($29) for a great lunch.

Daniel's by the Sea
Our last dinner at Daniel's came late in March. We had a table hidden away on the right looking out at the beach. Daniel joined us as best he could as Tina (his wife), Martha and I enjoyed a lovely evening in the warm air. We started with a bottle of King Estate Pinot, some sparkling water, and the warm and tasty garlic bread. Our appetizers were the squid diavolo (below left), perfectly cooked rings of squid in a very spicy red sauce (the heat level is up to the diner and I like it hot) and some snails in garlic and parsley butter (below right). Both were great, although the Pinot was probably a bit delicate for version of the squid that I requested.
As we were approaching Palm Sunday, a flower salesman came by with some really beautiful specimens. The photo on the left was taken the next morning on our balcony with the hot tub in the background. Our dinners were shrimp diavolo with linguini and a fish combination. Both were quite good but required another bottle of wine: Stag's Leap Petite Syrah - very good with spicy food. A lovely evening all around, lovely setting, wonderful company, superb service, and great food and wine.

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 End of August until
last weekend in September
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.

Orient Beach Restaurant Demolition: As promised, the French government is knocking down businesses from Pedro's to Aloha and rebuilding sturdier structures further from the sea. That's not a bad idea as the buildings suffered greatly in previous storms and the businesses lost customers from lack of available beach. Moreover, better electricity, water, and sewage would be helpful. There is a question of parking as they are moving the buildings back onto the current minimalist parking area. Here's a shot of the remains of Aloha on Jeff Berger's Facebook page. They claim they will be finished in November. Did they mention a year?

Moulin Fou: It's one of the better French restaurants on the Dutch side so there was quite a stir when it was recently was closed by the government over paperwork problems. Not to worry, they are back in operation after a week's vacation.
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
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."