St Maarten/St Martin
30 August 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It's not exactly weather, but Kick'em Jenny, an active submarine volcano on the Caribbean Sea floor about 5 miles north of the island of Grenada, has been more active than usual in late July. This led to a TTOL posting of all sorts of dangers including tsunamis, which are highly unlikely in the open waters of the Caribbean, and especially unlikely on a tiny island (like SXM). There was a magnitude 3.8 earthquake on 30 July. It occurred on the sea bed about 20 miles below sea level and 12 miles east northeast of SXM. A quake of this magnitude is often felt by people, but very rarely causes damage, although shaking of indoor objects can be noticeable.

The previous week or so featured Hurricane Danny being downgraded to a storm and finally dissipating into a depression on 24 Aug. Moreover, it passed south of Guadeloupe. It did drop about three inches of much needed rain on the island in that week. The high temperatures ranged from 86 to 88F with lows of 80 to 81F with plenty of clouds. Just after Danny, Erika rose up as a much larger storm but never made it to hurricane stage. Moreover, it passed to the south sparing SXM but causing considerable damage and four deaths in Dominica.

The next 10 days are about evenly split between cloudy (most with a chance of rain) and clear. The rainy days show very little rain and the temperatures will be 88 or 87 for the high and 81 or 80 for the low. 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 628 PM. We are approaching the autumnal equinox but we will still get 12 hours and 30 minutes of sunlight today. The full moons for 2015 will be: now!, 27 Oct, 25 Nov, and 25 Dec. The full moon shot was taken from the sheep pasture that is our front yard.

SXM-Beaches: Sargasso seaweed continues to be a problem. It is found in the Sargasso Sea, the only sea that has no beaches. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. Speculation has been that a southward shift in the Gulf Stream has pushed the Sargasso Sea south toward SXM, but here is a more complicated explanation backed by science. The Daily Herald in early July said that the French side has put 20 people to work cleaning up the sargassum seaweed. Shortly thereafter the Herald said that the Dutch side announced that they will be "collaborating on beach maintenance". Admittedly the seaweed is having a greater effect on the French side. At the end of July, the Daily Herald reported that the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy authorized 2 million euros (about 2.2 million dollars) to fight the weed in the French Antilles.

The pano below was taken from Antoine Restaurant last March after the cruise ship passengers returned to their ships.

Beach reading: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - It was a Literary Fiction and Classics Editor's Recommended Book in 1996. They said: "I once went to the French Quarter in New Orleans, and there they were: the old, dented hot dog carts, designed and painted to look like giant rolling frankfurters, exactly as described in A Confederacy of Dunces. You'll have to read the book to find out why I spontaneously cracked up there on the street, laughing at the memory of the book's hero, misunderstood genius Ignatius Reilly, eating through his cart's inventory. That's only one hilarious moment among many from this novel, one of the cornerstones of the newly recognized Southern Wacko school of literature. " I agree. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has sold over three-quarters of a million copies and continues to earn critical acclaim. It is the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, a "Don Quixote of the French Quarter," and is a masterpiece of human folly and tragedy.

Sapphire Beach Club: There seems to be no more news from management. Our tenant 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: According to the Daily Herald, Alegria has five days to start letting timeshare owners (in truth renters, but generally long-lease renters). The court held that the leases signed by the previous owner (Kildare) or its subsidiary company (Endless Vacation) were protected by law. I'm sure an appeal is being worked on as I type, but this is good news for the timeshare "owners".

Groceries: Did you know that there was a moratorium on opening new grocery stores in St Maarten? The ever popular TEATT (Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications) revealed some recent changes in the moratorium and issued this enlightening statement: "Implementation of the amendment to the moratorium was decided after consideration of the fact that the government acknowledges the need for high traffic tourist areas ... to always have a supermarket on premises as a convenience to the country's visitors and guests. Allowing or issuing additional new business and operational licenses for supermarkets could entail consequences that create harm to the existing supermarkets and their investments, with the end result of providing inadequate quality and service that will not benefit the economy of St. Maarten. The Government has the task to prevent such a negative impact on the supermarket industry, and the therefore establishes this moratorium." In a later article MP Maurice Lake from the UP Party noted that grocery prices were high and that government should do a study to find out how Super U (on the French side) can be so much cheaper. Duh?
Alcohol: We certainly miss lazy lunches from Champagne Bistro served in Select Wine Cellar. On the left is a champagne from Deutz. There's nothing like a cold and crisp champagne on hot afternoon at the beach. Sylvain has shuttered the wine shop for the coming month and is looking for great wines in Languedoc (southern France) and Spain and Portugal.

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.

Crime: The big news on crime is awful. Armed robbers struck at Oro Diamante in early August. Bicycle Officer Gamali Benjamin and others responded, but he was hit by three bullets, one of which entered his neck and lodged in his brain. He died from this wound a few days later. He is the first police officer killed in the line of duty in St Maarten. His funeral was attended by hundreds and thousands followed on line. Jeffrey Sochrin from island92 radio has started a GoFundMe campaign that had donations a bit more than $15,000 from about 210 people the last time I looked.

It appears that some evildoer(s) may have carried out a robbery while wearing a DHL-like uniform. The article did not mention who was robbed, what was taken, or when it happened. The article appears to be a DHL press release stating the obvious: Look beyond the shirt for an ID tag, a scanner, and even a DHL vehicle.

Rarely do we ever hear that someone is punished for their crime, so it was nice to see a Herald story that says that two of the suspects in the 16 November 2014 Atlantis Casino (now Starz) armed robbery in which a security guard was shot have been sentenced to six years in jail.

green logo Nature: On the right are two of the goats often seen wandering around the fields near Orient Beach. As I recall, these were on the west side of the highway near the entrance to Palm Beach Restaurant.

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

Small Island story: They Herald reported that 2011 census is still in dispute. The census said that there were 33,600 residents on the island, but the civil registry (the basis for voting) showed about 55,000. As Mort Sahl said "I've arranged with my executor to be buried in Chicago. Because when I die, I want to still remain active politically."


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.

Winners of the contest that ended on 5 July (a bit belated):
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Gerry Rosemary Okimi
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - John Romanik
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - no entry
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - John Romanik
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - John Trazoff
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - John Romanik
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - John Romanik
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - John Romanik

Current Contest: now to 4 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
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:
6 December 2015 until 31 Jan 2016 | 31 Jan to 27 Mar | 27 Mar to 22 May
22 May to 21 August | 21 August to 20 November

same cast of characters as current contest



On 5 July the Euro was at 1.111 and today it is at 1.118. Now China has replaced Greece as the meltdown de jour. At least it makes a bit more sense in terms of ability to affect the world economy. A billion people in the world's second largest economy might actually do something that matters. The thought that we should be worried about 11 million people with a total debt that would be less than the market cap of several US companies is fairly silly.

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
We met Tina (Daniel's wife) and Mike and Teresa (late of Bajatsu, and at the time, negotiating with Big Fish) for a nice dinner in early March. We had our usual table hidden away on the right looking out at the beach. Daniel joined us as best he could as rest of us enjoyed a lovely evening in the warm air. We started with a bottle of 2007 Castel Giacondo, a Brunello de Montalcino (right), and added some sparkling water with a basket of the warm and tasty garlic bread. For an appetizer we all shared a pizza with red peppers, sausage, and spinach, a very tasty pie that went well with the large taste of a well-aged Brunello.
Martha asked for some fish soup, and though it is not on the menu, a very tasty shrimp and fish soup arrived. I had the veal pizzaiola, also not on the menu, and again, this was not a problem for the kitchen. All in all, it was a wonderful evening with several more bottles of wine from Daniel's cellar and even an after dinner drink for some. Mike and Teresa did eventually negotiate a deal with Big Fish and they are now the new owners.

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 Left the island as Danny and Erika aspproached
Will return in October
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. Use the next button to get a few more photos. They claim they will be finished in November. Did they mention a year? Here is an aerial shot of the cleared area as of mid-July.

Loterie Farm: The Daily Herald reported that a significant part of the Tree Lounge was destroyed by a fire in the early morning of Sunday 12 July after the Saturday evening Garden Groove Party. No one was hurt and the quick arrival of firemen from nearby La Savane limited damage. The initial thought was that an overloaded circuit breaker started the fire. With the help of an electrician and several generators some parts of the Loterie Farm were back in action on Monday. The restaurant wain operation with a limited menu because of the damage to a walk-in cooler. By now they are back to normal.

Estaminet In early July Islandgem posteed on TTOL that Estaminet will close on 17 July. That's a complete closing, not a 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."