St Maarten/St Martin
20 December 2015 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The previous week was pretty warm, reaching 85 last Sunday and 84 on the other days. Six nights dropped to 76 but Friday held at 78. There was one rainy day, one partly cloudy day, and five days with some rain somewhere, never much, and adding up to only about 0.4 inches. The next ten days show two clear days, two partly cloudy days, and six days with a chance of rain totaling about a third of an inch of rain. That's about three weeks of mostly cloudy, if not actual rain. It's usually not this bad in December. We get December winds, but not much rain. For an actual report, we asked Wendy K and she said "The weather has been fine, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the high 70s. We're still getting rain pretty much every day - several hard squalls early this morning, and one short one this afternoon while I was at the beach."

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 5:41 PM. That provides 11 hours and three minutes of sunshine, one minute more than tomorrow, the solstice and the shortest day of the year north of the equator. For those suffering from SAD, here is a sunset photo taken from the cliffs of Cupecoy. The last full moon for 2015 is on Christmas 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.

SXM-Beaches: Wendy K says that the best Cupecoy beach is currently at Ocean Club, with plenty of dry sand and fairly calm water, despite Windguru saying it should be rough. Fingers crossed for today, my rum punch day, as the weather report is for rain and rough seas (same as yesterday's was).
Beach reading: The Company She Kept by Archer Mayor ($13 Kindle or $17.50 hardcover) - During the height of a harsh Vermont winter, the body of a woman is found hanging from the steel-mesh retaining net lining the cliffs along the interstate. She was brutally murdered, with the word "dyke" carved into her chest. She was also a state senator and best friend and ally of the current governor, Gail Zigman. At Zigman's personal request, Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team agree to help the Vermont State Police in their investigation before the victim's high profile and powerful friends create the inevitable publicity maelstrom. Raffner was indeed a lesbian, and the word carved into her chest might be evidence of a hate crime, or it might be a feint designed to confuse and mislead investigators. But the question remains: what was she involved with, who wanted her dead, and what company was she keeping? What Gunther and his team discover during their initial investigation isn't the stuff of a simple murder. Someone killed a prominent figure and fabricated an elaborate scene for a purpose.

We rather like these Joe Gunther mysteries as they take place next door to us in Vermont. At this time of year I can see Vermont's Green Mountains from our barnyard. Archer is a death investigator for the state medical examiner and has twenty-five years of experience as a firefighter/EMT. He lives near Brattleboro, in the southeastern corner of Vermont.

Sapphire Beach Club: We are not in our condo (Unit 255) at this time and have a long term rental from May through December. He hasn't mentioned any problems and we will use the unit from early January until early April of 2016. Our tenant will move to unit 254, a studio next to our one bedroom unit, for those months. Unit 254 will be available for rent after that and he will be moving back into our unit.

On the right is a Tango heading home after a sunset cruise with Saba in the distance.

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: If you like the sunset on the left, think about a week (or more) at Horny Toad Guesthouse or the Azure Hotel on Simpson Bay. If you need a couple extra days before or after a timeshare week, check out the fabulous pool (right) at L'Esperance Hotel on the outskirts of Philipsburg. If you are thinking about the French side, Amaury and Thibault from Bistrot Caraïbes have some studios on Orient. If we didn't own at Sapphire, we would certainly spend some time at Grand Case Beach Club to be close to the fabulous restaurants of Grand Case.

Alcohol: For holiday holidays, you can't get a better $35 bottle of Champagne than the Deutz Classic at Select Wine Cellar. Sylvain is taking over 20% off his normal price. The Wine Spectator gave this wine a 90 rating earlier this month. Budget shoppers will appreciate the Belin, a real Champagne, at a real fine price ($30). Below is one of our last lazy lunches brought over from Champagne Bistro and served in Select Wine Cellar. We started with a refreshing light white wine, Colombelle (a Wine Enthusiast best buy at $8!) and moved on to three great red wines with our duck confit (center) and moules. The two Burgundies were wonderful, with a nice long middle taste and the St Joseph was a more fruity blend of several grapes from the Rhone Valley.

green logo Nature: On the right is a chameleon. Clicking the image gets a Youtube video. This came from Tina, wife of Daniel (by-the-sea).

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: An Immigration Officer was shot and wounded recently. I'm not in a snarky mood. It's more of a sadness that gun violence is overtaking both of my homes.


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work it off! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest: now until 31 January
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 dinners and activities. I really check and a 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:
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 6 December the Euro was at 1.088 and today it is at 1.087, essentially no change despite wild swings in the stock markets and the Fed raising their interest rate from zero to 0.25%. As this is the last newsletter of the 2015, here is a graph of the year to date. A quick glance shows that the value of the euro dropped about 10% over the year.

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.


Pizza Galley
On the right is our favorite pizza, the JP special featuring pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives and mozzarella cheese. We add a head of roasted garlic in the center and wash it down with the Cotes du Rhone from Mont Redon ($24, below left). That's JP in the center photo. There is a coupon on the website and he is a sponsor of our contests.

Further below is the Dock Bar, the new dining room, and the sign for the Dock Bar. As you can see it is a bit closer to the Dutch bridge. The schedule is slipping a bit as JP now hopes to have it open for New Year's Eve when he will be serving the regular menu and free aps at midnight when the lagoon fireworks show begins. The dinghy dock is finished and JP is opening Pizza galley at 4PM with a happy hour (actually three), serving beers at $2 and wine/mixed drinks at $4 until 7PM.

La Table d'Antoine
On lovely Friday evening in early March we went to dinner at La Table d'Antoine in Orient Village. We had 7:30 reservations and despite the band and vendors featured on every Friday, it was not crowded when we got there. We looked over the very large, and interesting, specials board. A very nice bit of bread arrived with some AOC butter. We chose a 2011 Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet to go with the flavorful dinners we were planning.
We started with drinks (first of the season). Martha had a Martini Rouge, which, in France, is red vermouth, not some weird martini. We ordered everything from the specials board, starting with a shrimp ceviche in coconut milk. It arrived in half a coconut shell (below left, 16€). It was very tasty and it was an amazing amount of shrimp. Martha had the ravioli stuffed with scallops (below center, 24€) and I had the risotto with, cepes, morels, and black trumpets with a side of very crispy fries. I really liked my risotto and took about half of it home. It turns out that the scallops couldn't stand up to the wine. We took some of them home and they were much better with the chardonnays that I have been getting from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. The 2011 Rhone was very good and fairly tame after three years in the bottle. It benefited from breathing. The total bill was about 114€, about $125 at the real exchange rate. Ask to be charged in euros.

Last minute gift idea:

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! If you order before 5PM on 24 December, we can send out an email with a certificate that will arrive by Chrismas Day!

Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant has opened The Grill in the former location of the Sugar Cane Café at Starz Casino, formerly Atlantis. It's not as upscale as Temptation, but still features his special talents in the kitchen. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dino has also produced a cookbook with art work by Sir Roland Richardson, St Martin's treasured artist, and poetry by Laura Richardson, Roland's wife. 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.

L'Escapade Restaurant is open everyday from 11:30am to 10:30pm non-stop and doing 1€ for $1 in cash.

Mario has opened his Bistro in Porto Cupecoy. His website does not have the Dutch side phone number (721 523 2760). He still has a French side cell: 509 690 77 72 44. Wendy K had her second dinner at Mario's last Saturday and reports that it was good as ever. They weren't too busy, and Bobby said that the two weeks before Christmas are usually quiet. Porto Cupecoy is tastefully decorated for Christmas and very pretty, but it's hard to get into the true spirit when it is warm and sunny.

JP at Pizza Galley says that the marinas are full. It probably has something to do with the strong dollar and improving economy.

The last newsletter mentioned Avantika, serving fresh Thai cuisine. This week we present this tidbit from the Herald saying that the lien on Avantika was now lifted. The backstory is that in January Panlaan got a lien on Avantika because "the two restaurants were quite similar and the dishes were too much alike". In May Panlaan contended that Avantika had not complied with the January ruling and asked for damages. The recent ruling gave them no damages based on the current menu and ordered them to pay the legal costs of the procedures, which were about $900. Here's the more information from Today, St Maarten's other newspaper.

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 or work in the kitchen. 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."


Erich S. Kranz
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