St Maarten/St Martin
28 February 2016 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was pretty cloudy, but there wasn't much haze as the shot of Saba (right) shows. The sunset pano below is from Sunday night. Monday turned out to be a beautiful day, starting to fulfill last week's forecast of a much better week this week. Monday ended with the sunset below left. There was a very small green flash. Tuesday was hot and humid. Wednesday was supposed to be clear but it rained during my morning swim and again in the afternoon. There was a lovely sunset in Marigot as we drove through on our way to Orient on Friday evening (below right). We had a wonderful dinner on Ti Bouchon's porch in French Cul de Sac, but as we drove homeward, we found that a late evening storm had drenched Simpson Bay earlier. Unfortunately, we caught some music at Harbour Restaurant and we got drenched heading back to the car. They are only short storms, but they can get you very wet very quickly, but you don't have to shovel them.

The next ten days show four clear days, one partly cloudy day, and five days with a chance of rain reaching a maximum of only 50%, and totaling 0.33 inches over the ten days. The high temperature will be 82 with one day at 81F and two at 83F and the overnight low will have a similar pattern, six days at 75F and four at 74F. that's a bit more rain and less sun than the previous week and a little bit warmer. Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:18 PM. That provides 11 hours and 46 minutes of sunshine. We are about three quarters of the way to the vernal equinox (20 March), when everybody gets 12 hours of sunlight. The full moons for 2016 will be 23 Mar, 22 Apr, 21 May, 20 Jun, 19 Jul, 18 Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: The Daily Herald reported that French side Vice-President Guillaume Arnell dissed the three local holdouts who had not signed agreements for their rebuilt restaurants. He questioned how the restaurateurs who were complaining that the spaces did not meet French codes knew more than "the various government controllers and inspectors, who have passed the project as being in conformity with required norms." In a statement that may change your dining habits on the French side, he stated that technically beach bars and restaurants are held to different standards and obligations than other restaurants. Think about that as you order something on the beach. However, he also stated that "Five out of the eight restaurants in the project already signed contracts and are open for business." I could not find one restaurant that was open when I was there a week ago Saturday. I did see that Aloha was selling drinks to customers on the beach. Arnell also makes a valid point that there are plenty of people willing to pay the 2500€ monthly rent for one of these structures. Orient is one of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. Comparing rents for government owned spots in Marigot or Grand Case is not the same. So why not have an auction?

In other news, Tropical Wave is still fighting to keep their operation going on Galion Beach. Pat has been collecting signatures at the restaurant and you can add yours on the internet. At this time there are over 528 signatures.

Help save Galion Beach! Please sign this petition.

On Tuesday, Wendy K said "Finally, some dry sand came back to baby beach. It also looks as if there's sand at Rainbow. Nothing but rocks at Shore Pointe, but a nice pool." On Saturday she added "Today will be the first time in three weeks I will be swimming! Clear calm water this morning. Some of the sand has eroded from baby beach, but there are still chairs set up there. More sand returning to Shore Point beach, which is where I'll go today."

The Nightengale by Kristen Hannah - (about $16 hardcover, $6 paperback) - From Amazon: Kristin Hannah is a popular thriller writer with legions of fans, but her latest novel, The Nightingale, soars to new heights and will earn her even more ecstatic readers. Both a weeper and a thinker, the book tells the story of two French sisters, one in Paris, one in the countryside, during WWII. Each is crippled by the death of their beloved mother and cavalier abandonment of their father; each plays a part in the French underground; each finds a way to love and forgive. If this sounds sudsy. . . well, it is, a little. . . but a melodrama that combines historical accuracy (Hannah has said her inspiration for Isabelle was the real life story of a woman who led downed Allied soldiers on foot over the Pyrenees) and social/political activism is a hard one to resist. Even better to keep you turning pages: the central conceit works – the book is narrated by one of the sisters in the present, though you really don't know until the very end which sister it is. Fast-paced, detailed, and full of romance (both the sexual/interpersonal kind and the larger, trickier romance of history and war), this novel is destined to land on the top of best sellers lists and night tables everywhere. Martha listened to the audio borrowed from our local library.

Sapphire Beach Club: The Monday night manager's party features a band called "Two". They are actually pretty good. Below is the sunset on Monday night taken from the Paolo's dining room.

Our unit will not be available in early April when we leave as we have signed a lease with our previous med school tenant. He will be here through the end of the year. Next door, studio unit 254, will be available for a couple weeks in mid-April. Check out the website and send Jim an email if you are interested.

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.

A visit to Marigot
We've spent some time in and around Marigot lately. Things are looking up and if you look up, you'll see Fort Louis with the French flag flying (right). The decrease in the value of the Euro has been most helpful. The photo below left shows the West Indies Mall's thoughts on the economy. The photo of the fort was taken from the Marigot market, inside the passageway next to The Garnet that runs to the local food shops just outside the market (below center). We've had good, inexpensive lunches at both Enoch's and Rosemary's. Below right is one of the larger ferries that shuttle from Marigot to Blowing Point in Anguilla every hour. Far below is a review of a lunch we had at Le Galion on Marina Royale.

Shopping: One Green Planet says that France became the first nation in the world to ban supermarkets from wasting food under a new law this month. Seems a good idea to me. Our neighbor in NY is an organic farmer who sells via two farmer's markets and CSA shares. If he grows something that isn't beautiful, or loses it beauty after a day in a farmer's market, he puts it aside for my pigs. I'd bet that about a third of what he gives us gets diverted to our kitchen before the pigs get to try it.

SXM-Activities: We went over to Orient Village for the Friday night party and Martha found some rather nice scarves at a very reasonable price. As we started to dine, the entertainment arrived and started on sound checks.

It turned out to be David, who still does some gigs with King Bob (Barron). He started the first set with some Frank Sinatra, Dino, and Louis Armstrong. He got to the Eagles before he took a break. For the second set he put on his dreadlocks and channeled Bob Marley.

Gas: The cheapest gas we have found lately is at the Delta Petroleum stations. There is one near La Santal on the west side of the French canal and another in La Savane at the bottom of the big hill heading into Grand Case from Marigot. They are offering 0.89€/liter and 1 to 1. The Cadisco station on the lagoon on the eastern side of the French canal is doing the same, but its other Cadisco stations are not priced as attractively. 0.89€/liter is $3.37/gallon.

green logo Nature: From Wendy K: "I was taking laundry down when I noticed the local cat looking like he was about to climb into one of the large blue flowerpots on our terrace. Upon closer inspection, I realized that a big old crab (with claws the size of a stone crab) had dug itself a hole in the dirt. I retrieved my trusty BBQ tongs (previously used to fish the 8" long lizard out of our toilet bowl), and eventually got him out and chased him off the terrace. The joys of island living!"

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: In case you were wondering if the Health Inspectorate's food safety inspections had been hindered or obstructed when the joint inspections were temporarily suspended on 5 Feb pending a review, Daily Herald had a story with the same smiley photo of Health Minister Emil Lee saying that they were not, despite no news of inspection failures since the joint inspections were canceled.

He went on to say that in 2015 only 0.37 per cent of inspections led to closures, while thus far in 2016 6.7 per cent of businesses were closed after an inspection. Does anyone believe that restaurants got about 20 times more unsanitary in the first five weeks of 2016?


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

Current Contest: now until 27 Mar
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase
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:
27 Mar to 22 May | 22 May to 21 August | 21 August to 20 November

same cast of characters as current contest



On 21 February the Euro was at 1.113 and today it is at 1.093. that's about a 2% change in a week and in a direction that should keep establishments offering 1 to 1.

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. If a French side restaurant offers a bad exchange rate, 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 you will get the wholesale rate on the exchange.

L'Escapade 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. Simply and Super U are also offering 1 to 1. Note this is generally only for cash payments using US greenbacks.

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.

We had a Capital One Signature Visa Venture card. It's true that frequent flier benefits could be used on any airline and there are no blackouts, but that is because you accumulate 1 cent worth of ticket for every dollar you spend on the card. Then you use that to buy a ticket. To buy our round trip from Albany to SXM costs about $700 meaning we would have to spend $70,000 in order to get the ticket. Frequently we can get flights on United for 37,500 frequent flyer miles, ie the frequent flyer miles on United are worth about 2 cents, about twice as much. In the Spring of 2014, Martha was offered a Capital One Quicksilver Visa Signature Card that gives us 1.5% cash back - no fooling around with miles. They do not charge an exchange fee on foreign transactions and they do provide rental car insurance. This has been our primary card as airline miles are not as valuable or as easy to use as they used to be. Consequently, we canceled the Capital One Venture card with a $30,000 credit limit. The newer Quicksilver card only had $18,000 limit. I asked if they could bump up the credit limit on the Quicksilver card. Seems logical, they were on the hook for $48,000 before I canceled, why not keep the total the same. They said it doesn't work that way. My reply was that when the Quicksilver card runs out of credit limit, I'll use my United card. Your loss.

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. The first one has a review of the new Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It gives you 2 points for travel related purchases and then allows you to take 20% off when purchasing your rewards through their Ultimate Rewards portal. It's tempting.


Le Galion

We went to lunch at Marigot's Marina Royale on Tuesday. We arrived at 12:30 and were very lucky to get a convenient parking spot. There were 14 restaurants open for lunch on the marina and two hidden away in the warren of shops. One of them was La Source, a little hard to find, but worth the effort. Of the 14 on the water, Chanteclair stands out as Chef Ina Urfalino has come over here from L'Estimanet. Before we got there, we were corralled by an old friend from Il Nettuno and had a nice lunch at Le Galion. We started with a bottle of the Cotes du Rhone shown below left (24€) and some fizzy water. We both had specials, a ham with Madeira sauce (13€, below center) for Martha and a squid steak with a tomato sauce for me (15€, below right). Martha asked for a small side salad and got one on her plate plus another platter of leaves that we brought home. We had a choice of starch, but as the owner/chef is Belgian, the frites are hand made and very good (especially with his mussels on Thursday - says our waiter). My squid and its sauce was great, but Martha was not thrilled with her sauce. We finished the meal with a shot of homemade banana rum. Deducting the unneeded salad, our lunch came to about $77, although more than a third of that was liquid refreshment. We left another $7 as a pourboire. It's a nice place with good service and reasonable prices. There is a lot of parking, but you may have a quarter mile walk.

Dining with Deepti
at Mario Bistrot
On Thursday we went to Mario Bistrot. Last week some friends wanted to go here and this week Deepti, straight from China, also wanted to go there. So we did, making reservations at 9PM. We arrived to see a corner table on the terrace being set up for us. We sat down, ordered water, looked over the wine list, and picked out a 2010 Santenay Premier Cru from Beauregard ($78, right). A 2011 was brought to the table but as 2010 was a better year, I asked for a further expedition into the cellar. Jean quickly returned with the last bottle of 2010 in the cellar.

We started with the usual basket of rolls and the appetizers arrived shortly thereafter. Deepti had ordered the caramelized onion soup wherein the caramelization adds a sweet taste to the mix - very nice (below center, $13). Martha had the octopus salad with grilled artichoke, broccoli rabe, Paremesan slices, and tomatoes.

My appetizer was Mario's signature mussels in a tomato based sauce. These were some of the biggest and best mussels I have had in a while. (below left, $18). On the right is Martha's main course. It's actually an appetizer, the duck plate with foie gras, terrine, arugula salad, sliced duck breast, and duck mousse. ($18)

Being a lighter Burgundy, the Santenay was fine with the octopus and onion soup but still worked well with the bold flavors in the mussels. So well in fact, that I had to order another bottle. We tasted the different vintages together and concluded they were both good. Martha liked the older wine and I was happy with the slightly fruitier and brighter 2011. It was fine with Deepti's cod (below left, $38, a special) and worked with my pork (below center, 35, a special), even standing up to Martha's duck extravaganza.
Deepti is a dessert person and requested the molten chocolate cake (above left, $13). Mario was experimenting with a new dessert and sent that out to us. It's a molten cake with caramel. It's a work in progress, but he had a tough crowd of chocolate lovers to contend with at our table. We closed down the restaurant as we chatted with Mario. He is much happier here and will be hosting the Chaine des Rotisseurs in March. Our dinner came to $360 with an added 15% service charge. We left another 10% for good service and a great time.

La Table d'Antoine
On a lovely Friday evening we went to dinner at La Table d'Antoine in Orient Village. We had 7:00 reservations and the Friday night party (vendors and a singer) had brought in quite a crowd already. We did find a parking spot just outside the village square and we had a front row table waiting for us. I watched Antoine turn several customers away, so think about reservations, especially on party nights (Wednesday and Friday). We started with fizzy water as we looked over the menu. A very nice bit of roll arrived with a small tub of Buerre d'Isigny (below left). We looked over the small menu and certainly found some things that were interesting, but we found our main courses on the specials board. Our ap came from the menu and was a glass about half full with avocado and spices topped with crab. It came with several narrow slices of toasted baguette (15€). It may have been seafood, but the spices were great with the bottle of Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet (34€).

Martha had a skate wing with a Créole sauce (24€, above center) and I had beef cheeks done up as Wellington (27€, right). Both dinners came with mashed potatoes and zucchini. We liked both dinners and they were quite nice with the Crozes-Hermitage. We really like this restaurant. Chef Renaud Oster and Antoine call their menu Bistro Chic. The menu is basically bistro, but they add chic touches. Beef cheeks are bistro fare, beef cheeks in puff pastry with a duxelles is bistro chic. The restaurant is also reasonably priced. Our total meal came to $120 and we left another $10 on the table for attentive service.

Ti Bouchon Restaurant
On Saturday we went to Ti Bouchon in Cul de Sac. The colorful old Créole house contains the bar and kitchen, while the dining is on the porch that wraps around two sides of the house. It was a lovely night and it was delightful to be there. Ti Bouchon has is a small but most interesting menu with aps ranging from $10 to $20 and main courses from $25 to the low $40s. As usual, Momo has several specials that are worth your consideration and he is more than happy to discuss his menu and specials with you.

We ordered fizzy water and a 2012 Saint-Joseph (right, $57) that Momo bought from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. In fact, we had bought two bottles there three hours earlier.

We started with an amuse bouche of pumpkin soup with smoked chicken - very tasty. Momo described a special appetizer that started with a hollowed out bit of zucchini stuffed with a red pepper enhanced ratatouille, topped with this slices of scallops grilled. On top of that was a bit of phyllo dough wrapped around some lobster. A fried bit of very crunchy salmon skin came out the back of the creation and a lovely sauce provided a decorative base (below left, $16). It was a triumph of taste and texture and despite the seafood base, it was fine with our red wine.
Martha's main course was a tuna crusted with pepper and citrus (above center). It was on the menu at $32. I had a special: beef stew with local vegetables (above right, $28). Both of them were rather simple dishes, although the novel combinations of flavors made them quite interesting and the quality of the beef and tuna was stunning. We generally make stew from our lambs or from deer taken on our property. Either approach supplies some fabulous stew, but this stew rivaled ours. We passed on dessert, but a couple at the table next to us got the flaming chocolate affair on the left and graciously allowed me to take a photo. The chef is Thierry Delaunay, one of the finest on the island. He seems to be thriving partially because Momo is so good at describing the various specials. The menu is priced in dollars and our bill came to about $140. Again, we left another $10 for fine service.

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, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

There is a Thursday night party at Marina Royale in Marigot. The theme changes weekly. There is a Tuesday night party in Grand Case. There are Wednesday and Friday night parties in Orient Village.

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 participate 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


The Gill Commodore's Cup takes place on 3 March, followed by the St Maarten Heineken Regatta. It opens on 3 March with a party at Port de Plaisance. A round the island race starts on Friday morning with shorter races on Saturday and Sunday.

Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites.

Kakao Beach
Endless Summer Beachwear
Lucia's Taxi Service
Pizza Galley
Select Wine Cellar
Table d'Antoine
Tropical Wave

SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed 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 their offerings.

Kindle: We now have have two Kindle devices, as Martha 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."