St Maarten/St Martin
6 March 2016 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was pretty good, but marine haze precluded a decent sunset. On the morning of Leap Year Day I took the photo (right) of a small sailboat and, look closely, Saba. The island rises out of the water in the center of the photo and is somewhat visible on the right hand half of the shot. I then turned to the east and got a shot of the early morning boat traffic jam heading into Pburg (below left). Tuesday was more of the same, with some clearing as shown in the middle photo below and in the pano further below. Wednesday started with a shower but cleared up. The Commodore's Cup race on Thursday was mostly overcast with bands of rain but good wind. The Friday start of the Heineken Regatta was somewhat dreary (below far right), soggy even, but cleared up and turned into a fine day. Saturday had haze obscuring Saba, a cloudy sky, and a bit of rain. Sunday has arrived clear and warm, for the first time in weeks I can see Saba and Statia.

The next ten days show five clear days, two partly cloudy days, and three days with a chance of rain reaching 70% on Tuesday but totaling a mere 0.22 inches over the ten days. The high temperatures will be range from 80 to 83F and the overnight low will range from at 71F to 75F. That's a less rain and more sun than the previous week with wider temperature swings. Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:20 PM. That provides 11 hours and 57 minutes of sunshine. We have two weeks 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: On Saturday, Wendy K said "A little sand is coming back to the Ocean Club beaches. Crystal clear water and lapping waves and a crescent of sand at baby beach. Shore Pointe beach has some sand and one of the pools is still there. The small regatta boats were passing by towards the French side this morning at 8:30." The bigger boats came by later as Martha and I watched from our Caribbean balcony.

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 550 signatures.

Help save Galion Beach! Please sign this petition.

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín - (about $19 hardcover, $11 Kindle, $9 paperback) - Amazon Best of the Month, May 2009: Committed to a quiet life in little Enniscorthy, Ireland, the industrious young Eilis Lacey reluctantly finds herself swept up in an unplanned adventure to America, engineered by the family priest and her glamorous, "ready for life" sister, Rose. Eilis's determination to embrace the spirit of the journey despite her trepidation--especially on behalf of Rose, who has sacrificed her own chance of leaving--makes a bittersweet center for Brooklyn. Colm Tóibín's spare portrayal of this contemplative girl is achingly lovely, and every sentence rings with truth. Readers will find themselves swept across the Atlantic with Eilis to a boarding house in Brooklyn where she painstakingly adapts to a new life, reinventing herself and her surroundings in the letters she writes home. Just as she begins to settle in with the help of a new love, tragedy calls her home to Enniscorthy, and her separate lives suddenly and painfully merge into one. Tóibín's haunted heroine glows on the page, unforgettably and lovingly rendered, and her story reflects the lives of so many others exiled from home." Martha got this audiobook from our library in Salem, downloading it while we were in St Maarten.

Sapphire Beach Club: We celebrated Leap Year Day at the manager's party with the band called "Two". The sunset was lost in haze, but the The free-flowing rum seemed to put the dancers in a haze. The spa has frequently filled with clean and warm, if not hot, water. It drains out, but possibly this is the path to functioning hot tubs. The pano below was taken from our Caribbean balcony looking over Ocean Club in the early afternoon on Saturday.

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.
SXM-Activities: The Gill Commodore's Cup is awarded after a Thursday of sailing before the Friday round the island race that starts the Heineken Regatta. This year the Melges 24 Gill Race Team skippered by Andrea Scarabelli earned the Cup. More details in this Daily Herald story. Phaedo set the course record for the round the island race last year at 1 hour 30 minutes. This year the trimaran finished in 1 hour 19 minutes 59 seconds. The faster time was, in part, because the start was changed from upwind to downwind and the course was a bit shorter. More details in this Daily Herald story. She's below the pano on the right. The second boat in that row is Random Wind. She doesn't race, but she does get close to the action.

Some of the classes for the round the island race pass by our balcony on Friday.

Some shots from our balcony as the Saturday races go by.

Shopping: Martha found some beef shin at a very attractive price in the Super U. It requires long cooking. We added carrots and potatoes with a splash of Savigny-les-Beaune. It was almost as good as the beef stew that I had at Ti Bouchon last week. Thierry used a much better cut of beef.

Travel: Friends don't let friends fly Liat. Here's a story of a two hour flight that turned into a seven hour disaster. It's not a rare occurance, as these reviews show. I have my own horror story, but it is essentially the same, flights canceled after long delays, baggage lost, no communication, etc.

green logo Nature: On the right is the couple that have produced two chicks already. The chicks have fledged and are still around, but mom has two new eggs in her mess of a nest. Those of us in the fifth column of building two at Sapphire stopped the gardener from cutting down the palm frond that contains her nest. It's not that he meant to do it, it's just that he had a saw on a long pole and didn't see the nest.

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: According to the Daily Herald, the government responded to their failure to provide a subsidy to the Heineken Regatta saying: "No money was paid out to the organisers of the Regatta, because the agreement with government called for the Regatta to "directly market" the destination to attract more visitors. Instead, the Regatta budgeted the expected 2015 subsidy money for its operational cost."


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 28 February the Euro was at 1.093 and today it is at 1.101. That's about a 0.7% change in a week and in the wrong direction.

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.


La Source Restaurant
We went to lunch at Marigot's Marina Royale on Tuesday. We arrived at 12:30 and didn't get a convenient parking spot but it was a short walk to La Source, essentially behind La Spinnaker in the SE corner of the marina. You'll see this sign in the walkway between Spinnaker and the original Belle Epoque (moved nearby and closed after a year or so). Chef David at La Source frequently uses organic products to make very interesting lunches at good prices. In the past, we have come here for special dinners with special wines available for the evening. He isn't doing these at this time, but he does make great, and inexpensive, lunches.

There were several specials for lunch of the day ranging from 15€ to 21€ and a menu. Martha chose a crab and avocado special (below left, 21€) and I had a poulet de Bresse (below center, 21€) with a mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and a bit of arugula. Both lunches were very good. I had a couple glasses of Ropiteau Pinot Noir.

Le Pressoir

On Thursday we joined a restaurateur, his wife, a wine account manager from ILTT, and Sylvain from Select Wine Cellar at Le Pressoir. We, of course, made reservations and had a six top toward the back. We had a lot of wonderful wine starting with a Puligny-Montrache Premier Cru from the tiny vineyard Les Pucelles. It shares a border with Batard-Montrachet and is kitty-corner from the Montrachet. Both are grand crus. We also had an older gewurztraminer. This was a great start with a shared appetizer plate. We then moved on to various appetizers and the crab ravioli (right) was well received.

Martha had a three way duck, pithivier (shredded duck in pastry), confit (duck preserved in duck fat), and grilled breast in a sauce with a hint of raspberry (from left to right in the photo below left).

The duo of sweetbreads and shrimp (above right) has been on the menu for some time. I have enjoyed it often but the red wines that awaited needed something stronger, so I had the filet mignon with the topped with a bit of foie gras (above center). Black truffles were available at 3€ per gram. After the picture was taken I had several grams shaved onto the filet. We had some 96 Dunn Vineyards Howell Vineyards Cabernet an 87 Chateau Montelena Cabernet, and a 2006 Bertani Amarone. Our dessert was an ancient port. Thanks to Melanie's efforts, the wine list is one of the best on the island, and the service is impeccable. Her husband Franck assures the quality of all ingredients and then puts them together in beautiful and tasty preparations. And the restaurant is beautiful.

Champagne Bistro
On Friday we stopped at Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, his former partner, Marina, and others. We arrived late and they had ordered the last three servings of Friday moules from Champagne Bistro. Martha ordered a very tasty beef ravioli (below left), one of the guests ordered the sole wrapped around more seafood with a lobster sauce (below center), and I had ... wait for it ... a cheeseburger. It was pretty good with cooked onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato,and real French cheese (which is made with cheese, unlike US cheese that can contain 6% sawdust). A bottle of 2011 Coteaux du Languedoc Les Cocalieres ($35) was open when we arrived. Some customers came in and Sylvain offered them a taste of a 2011 Meursault ($59, a rare red Meursault!), setting the remainder of the bottle on our table. It was a tasty lunch with some very fancy wines to accompany a cheeseburger.

On Saturday night, we went to Grand Case for dinner at La Villa with some fellow Sapphirians. We parked in the pay lot and had a short walk to our dinner. It sprinkled a bit as we approached and, and as we sat down, the skies opened and engulfed Grand Case in a tropical storm for about ten minutes.
We were offered a glass of champagne to start and it lasted through an amuse bouche of a chilled potato soup. We then had the last bottle of 2010 St Romain in the cellar ($49). It's a round full bodied chardonnay from southern Burgundy that was quite nice with our friends' fish soup and my marinated wahoo carpaccio with a lime cream sauce (right).
One of our friends ordered the sea scallop and shrimp and risotto dish that had a very tasty sauce (below left). Martha chose a the duck breast in a peppercorn sauce with veg ($28, below center). Our other friend and I chose the rack of lamb baked with goat cheese, honey, and rosemary sauce. We switched over to a 2013 Crozes-Hermitage to accompany these full flavored main courses. It was fine with shrimp and risotto. Everyone except Martha took advantage of the $49 special for three courses, so the rest of us choose a three way special that included a scoop of heavenly chocolate ice cream. I ended with a complimentary balloon of rum while Martha had a glass of champagne. Our total bill for four was $286. Service was, as usual, superb and got an extra tip. The restaurant is lovely with live plantings in the dining room to make up for the lack of a sea view. It should be on everybody's list to visit at least once as the food, service, wine list, and pricing are excellent.

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


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." 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."