St Maarten/St Martin
4 October 2015 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The previous ten days were fairly cloudy but reach the high 80's every day. Night time lows were high 70's ora low 80's. There were three or four days that had a chance of rain, but the total was infinitesimal. The next ten days show eight reaching 90F with lows of 81 to 83F. There will be two clear days, two partly cloudy days, and six days with a chance of rain. This time real rain, amounting to about an inch. 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 603 PM. The full moons for 2015 will be 25 Nov and 25 Dec. The full moons for 2016 will be 23 Jan, 22 Feb, 23 Mar, 22 Apr, 21 May, 20 Jun, 19 Jul, 18 Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

That was quite a moon last week. The pano below was taken as a cruise ship passed between our balcony at Sapphire Beach Club and Saba last April.

SXM-Beaches: The revamp of Orient Beach is progressing. This thread on TTOL shows some of the restaurant construction and a new seawall to protect them. The seawall is in the typical island style with island rock set into concrete. It undulates as it runs along the sea front, adding a bit more visual interest. The posting went up on 30 Sep, but the photos are undated. With November a month away, I can pretty much guarantee that this will not be finished in early November. They look like 20 ft x 20 ft boxes and they won't have much of a kitchen, so there isn't that much work, but there are several of them and a lot of finish work and landscaping to be done. The buildings are much sturdier than the previous shacks and are up on higher ground with a seawall to protect them, so they should make is through hurricanes better than their predecessors.

On Jeff Berger's site there is a video of sargassum seaweed being picked up by a boat with an ingenious carpet cleaner contraption on Martinique or Guadeloupe. the weed is still a problem on SXM, mostly on the north-eastern side of the island. It has, however, showed up on the Great Bay webcam and there are reports of it in Little Bay. At the same time Orient seemed to be clear. Below is a sunset shot taken from Horny Toad Guesthouse last season.

Beach reading: Make Me (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child ($15 Kindle or $17 hardcover) - This just came out in early September of 2015. Martha downloaded a copy from our library and we listened as we processed fruits and vegetables from our fields.

From Amazon: Why is this town called Mother's Rest? That's all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It's a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal. Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there's something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he's plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother's Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine. Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher's rule is: If you want me to stop, you're going to have to make me.

Sapphire Beach Club: There seems to be no more news from management. 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. Our tenant says nothing is happening and everything is working at present. He is attempting to find another unit in the building for the 12 weeks that we will be on the island.

On the right is a yacht that anchored off our balcony, unleashing a horde of jet-skis.

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 this Daily Herald story Marty has won the latest court case with Alegria. It also appears that the court is somewhat exacerbated by Alegria's actions as they said "that [Marty] Dijkhuis had paid rent on a regular basis and that the agreement made it possible that, under certain conditions, there would be no rent due. Therefore, the Court did not find it proven that there were any arrears and that Marty "was in possession of the required permits and the establishment was adequately insured." The Judge suggested that the parties start a court case on the merits, open negotiations, or seek the assistance of a mediator, instead of filing injunctions.

Alcohol: We certainly miss lazy lunches from Champagne Bistro served in Select Wine Cellar. Sylvain has returned from Europe and said that his trip was great, especially Barcelona. It's a beautiful city and food is amazing!

He says that the 2015 vintage looks good in France overall, but he didn't try too many new wines in France, just a few in Languedoc. Unfortunately, most of the ones that he liked were unavailable. In Spain he visited Rioja, Ribera del Duero (in north central Spain, see inset), and Priorat. He will try to get a few of these wines but he prefers Abadia Retuerta and will try to get that. The tour was great, but the stress of flying with Petrus, his dog, or any animals is not easy.

SXM is really hot and still pretty dry for the rainy season. Moulin Fou is reopening on Friday and he will be working as the sommelier on weekends.

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.

Gas: On 21 September gas prices dropped about 10 percent to 1.826 NAf per liter, about $3.95 for a gallon. That's about 60 percent more than I pay in NY, not exactly a low tax state.

green logo Nature: On the right is a grey kingbird perched in Sapphire's gardens.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered. In fact, in six years of operation our solar panels have produced over half the electrical needs for the house, my work shop, and a large animal barn. Our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: The Herald reported that the government got a vote of no confidence last Wednesday from 8 Members of Parliament. The same members promptly submitted their plans to form a new government to the Governor. The deck chairs will be rearranged on the Titanic.


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 4 October:
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Karen Held
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - no entries
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Karen Held
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Nicole Reed
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Nicole Reed

Current Contest: now
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 30 August the Euro was at 1.118 and today it is at 1.121. The numbers are very close and don't reveal the volatility over the last six weeks as the currency traders have played guessing games with the Federal Reserve Board.

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 and Quicksilver actually accept this info on-line, making it much easier than working through the hell of telephone answering systems.

There are discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets that may help you decide what card is best for you.


Rainbow Café

In April Wendy K sent this short report: "My friends had mahi-mahi (left), shrimp brochette (right), créole platter (below left), and pasta with shrimp and zucchini (below center). I had a lambi (conch) brochette (no photo) They are doing $1=1€ and the parking, chairs, and umbrella are free when dining there."

Pizza Galley
At the end of the season we had the same dinner we usually have: we split a small Caesar salad and have a JP special featuring pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives and mozzarella cheese. We add a head of roasted garlic and order the Cotes du Rhone from Mont Redon ($24).

Moulin Fou
On a Tuesday in late March we had another extravaganza in the wine room at Moulin Fou using the services of Sylvain. By day he runs Select Wine Cellar and at night he is the sommelier at Moulin Fou.

We were a party of three couples and we started with bottle of Belin Rosé Champagne, quite dry and quite good, the perfect start to a birthday celebration for the young lady on the right. We ordered a Special Q platter of sushi and sashimi (below left). With 32 pieces, it is a great ap for six people at only $68. Chef Q let us rearrange the selection slightly, so we were very happy with what we received. Sylvain chose a 2008 Viré Clessé from Bongran to accompany the sushi and it worked quite well. The birthday girl and I both had the shepherd's pie, a creamy smooth potato covering duck confit with a brown sauce loaded with girolles (below center, $28). Martha had a confit of lamb shank with a tomato, garlic, shallot, and aromatic herb sauce (below right, $28). As you can see, it was fall off the bone tender.

The other three had various fish dishes. Sylvain choose a Pouilly Fuissé Les Reisses 2011 from Denogent ($68) for them and the carnivores enjoyed a 2010 Crozes Hermitage Les Pierrelles 2010 Domaine Belle ($45). As seen on the right, the birthday girl went with two desserts and six spoons. The molten chocolate cake was quite good, but it always is to those of us who love chocolate. The vanilla profiteroles with chocolate sauce didn't last long either.

Six restaurants in Oyster Pond are having a Fall Festival. They will be offering $5 dishes and $2 drinks today from 3 to 7PM and from today until the end of the month they will be offering three course meals for $25. Choose an ap, a main course, and a dessert from a special limited menu and pay only $25 (plus a 15% tip) for the meal. That's under $30 for a three course meal. Big Fish's menu offers a choice of three appetizers: the Hurricane Medley (two crab poppers, a shrimp nem, and a Hurricane calimari), a cilantro lime salad, and black bean soup. Choose a main course from three choices: tender hanger steak marinated and flambé in Courvoisier, a tempura basa filet, or Asian style shrimp with rice noodles. Dessert can be either bread pudding or chocolate mousse. There are also specials on drinks. I'm tempted to head on down. I have fond memories of my second visit to the island in the previous millennium. I stayed at Pelican and only the bedroom was air-conditioned. Even though it was October, it was quite pleasant. The marine haze was such that I gazed at the sunset for about five days before it was clear enough to see Saba! the logo that is hard to read is from Mr Busby's/Daniel's by the Sea.
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.

Boca Restaurant will be reopening on Monday and any dinner checks of $60 or more get $10 off until 19-OCtober.

Great news: Jeff Berger says that Sam Runza of the now-closed Cugini restaurant in Simpson Bay is now cancer free.

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.

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.

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

For flights, car rentals, and hotels: CheapOair can get you there. It's always worth the effort to check their rock-bottom prices. We were looking for flights to Spain or Portugal and really wanted first/business class, but found only $8000 flights (each - ouch!). That was a bit much. Martha checked CheapOair and got about half that. It's still about three times the cost of cattle class, but I'm willing to pay that.

  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."