St Maarten/St Martin
13 March 2016 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was pretty good. We saw Saba and Statia in the morning and St Kitts was visible in the afternoon. On the right is a shot taken from the Horny Toad Guesthouse in Simpson Bay, looking toward Kim Sha beach where the Heineken Regatta would finish with its award ceremony and concert later that evening. Monday was not as spectacular and it rained through most of our dinner in Grand Case. Tuesday did have parts of Saba, Statia, and St Kitts visible, but just barely. Wednesday was a warm, mostly sunny day (as the below left photo taken from Antoine Restaurant shows), but marine haze obscured Saba. Thursday morning arrived with a hint of Saba on the horizon and a hint of rain during the day. The whitecaps on the lagoon suggested 15-20 mph winds. Friday (below center) arrived with Saba barely visible. It is in the photo. look carefully. The wind had dropped off a bit. There were still whitecaps on the lagoon, but not as many. There was a mid-afternoon deluge and two more during dinner. Saturday arrived with enough marine haze to block out Saba and it was cooler (76F). It was pretty ugly for Passaat's sunset cruise (below right). The pano below was taken earlier on Saturday when it was bright and sunny. Sunday has arrived with marine haze hiding most of Saba, a thunderstorm blocking out Statia, and much less wind.

The next ten days show four clear days, five partly cloudy days, and one day with the chance of rain reaching 50% on Monday but totaling a mere 0.07 inches over the ten days. The high temperatures will be will be 82 for eight days, rising to 83F. The overnight low will range from at 74F to 75F. That's less rain and more sun than the previous week with smaller temperature swings. Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:21 PM. That provides 12 hours of sunshine. We have two weeks to the vernal equinox (20 March), when everybody gets 12 hours of sunlight (actually a bit more because of the bending of light rays by the atmosphere.) 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: According to the Daily Herald, on Wednesday the three holdout restaurateurs and Saint Martin Wake Up blockaded the RN7 in Orient Bay in two spots, one near the Cadisco Station and the other near French Quarter, effectively trapping anyone between those barriers on Orient Beach while preventing any other people onto Orient Beach. Basically they screwed all the tourists and all other business owners on Orient Beach. This was especially bad as the SXMusic festival was to have started on Wednesday at Palm Beach Restaurant. Some tourists were seen walking down RN7 with their luggage after having paid for the "privilege" of crossing over the barricades) It gets worse. On Thursday the gendarmes prevented a barricade from being placed in Agremont on the eastern edge of Marigot. Moreover when the tried to take down the barricades that were already in place they were pelted with stones and responded with tear gas. Here's a cheery thought: France and the French overseas territories are still in a high level security alert situation following the Paris terrorist attacks and therefore the Gendarmerie has unlimited powers to maintain law and order, supported by the State.

On Saturday, Wendy K said "The Cupecoy beaches have been much the same since Monday: No sand at Shore Pointe beach; lots of wet sand at middle beach; dry sand and pretty calm water at baby beach; and virtually no sand, other than in the various coves at Ocean Club beach. But oh, these winds... Enough already!"

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 563 signatures.

Help save Galion Beach! Please sign this petition.

Beach Reading: The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst ($10 Kindle or paperback) - I learn a lot writing these newsletters, and much of what I learn can be found in this book. The fifth edition of this widely praised and highly esteemed reference guide has been updated with new information to reflect the way we eat in today's world. The authors have taken into account our healthier lifestyles and more diverse palates to include over 500 new listings, including Korean, Persian, and South American additions; updated information for hundreds of existing entries; a blood alcohol concentration chart for men and women; an extensive breakdown of food labels and nutritional facts; and the Department of Agriculture recommendations for a 2,000 calorie per day food plan. Among the myriad foods and culinary subjects defined and explained are cooking tools and techniques, meat cuts, breads, pastas, and literally everything else related to good food and enjoyable dining. Handy appendices cover many topics including suggestions for substituting recipe ingredients, a microwave oven conversion chart, recommended safe cooking temperatures for meats and fish, and much more. The New Food Lover's Companion is a reference guide, not a cookbook, but it includes hundreds of cooking tips plus an extensive bibliography of recommended cookbooks. More than 7200 entries plus line art are included in this seminal work.

Sapphire Beach Club: We had another nice manager's party with the band called "Two", but this time in the lobby as the rain clouds were threatening. They held off until we were at dinner in Grand Case. The warming weather and the rain are making Sapphire's garden quite lovely at the moment. The plumeria (right) is in front of the the building. The pano below was taken from our lagoon balcony. You can see Darth Vader's yacht at the right hand edge of the Porto Cupecoy Marina.

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: On the left is Passaat, a sturdy schooner that's over 100 years old. Loving care has made her a lovely boat for a daysail, sunset sail, or a dinner cruise. Here she is sailing west past our balcony on a sunset cruise.

For another approach, consider Andrey Melnichenko's yacht A, the 400 foot, $300 million dollar submarine-like yacht on the right. If you find that too confining, step up to Roman Abramovich's Eclipse which is 533 foot long costing a mere $340 million, considerably cheaper per foot. The two Russian billionaires were anchored off the end of the runway. I took this shot from our Caribbean balcony.

Here's some of the action on from the final race of the Heineken Regatta last Sunday. It was a very nice day. It's nice to know that they have a rescue boat, if needed. The Island Water World boat was quite colorful. On the right is Phaedo, the boat that set the round the island race course record on Friday. It looks as if she is leading again. Note Saba in the background. It was a relatively clear day! The pano below shows the rescue boat and a lot more of the boats around it and Saba! (look carefully)

Groceries: We got some pork tenderloin at Super U. It cost 14€ per kilo, about $6.60 per pound if you pay in greenbacks and get 1 to 1 pricing. That is pretty cheap for something that is about 100% edible - no bones, little fat or skin. There were two tenderloins in the package and it weighed about 1.1 kilos (2.5 lbs). Martha cooked one tenderloin and made the dinner on the left with a melange of carrots and Brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and a sauce that included mushrooms. The mushrooms were frozen and have lasted for weeks. The remaining tenderloin was frozen and the other half of the one that was cooked will be another night's dinner.
Alcohol: Our wine was the 2012 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru from Guy Amiot which we purchased from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar ($85). It's quite good. The second bottle of the evening came from Super U. It's a Beaumes de Venise Cotes du Rhone, not bad, but about one tenth the cost of the Burgundy.

green logo Nature: On the right appears to be three dove babies in the nest beneath our Caribbean balcony. They hatched out on Thursday.

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 blockades at Orient Beach were taken down by gendarmes at about 9:30 PM on Wednesday evening. This article in the Daily Herald has a photo of some tourists pulling their luggage down RN7. They ought to have added thought bubbles to the tourists. My guess is that most of them would be saying, "Just wait till I get to Trip Advisor."


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 6 March the Euro was at 1.101 and today it is at 1.115. That's another weekly increase, this time about 1.3% change in a week, making it a 2% change over the last two weeks and in the wrong direction for those of us with dollars.

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 Tastevin
On Monday we headed over to Grand Case for a dinner on the water at Le Tastevin. The big news last season was that José and Christine sold the restaurant to Pascal from Auberge Gourmande and Amaury and Thibault from Bistrot Caraïbes. The restaurant was repainted and remodeled a bit in a Bistrot Caraïbes fashion, which is decidedly modern, not Caribbean. José had agreed to finish out the high season last year, so the news this year is that he and Christine are gone and a new team is in place.

When we arrived at 7:00 there were only two waterfront tables left, but because we had reservations, a two-top awaited with it's view of sailboats in Grand Case harbor and Anguilla's lights in the distance. We started with sparkling water and looked over the menu and winelist. It took several tries to get a wine that was in stock, but we finally decided on a 2012 Chambolle-Musigny from Jerome Chezeaux (about $100).

Our appetizer was an old favorite, now a special, terrine de foie gras with toast and a bit of fruit compote with some lightly dressed leaves and a hint of a tomato (21€, below left). We shared a glass of Sauternes with the terrine (12€). Martha's main course was another special, a mousseline of monkfish with three shrimp and veg in a tomato based sauce (below center). I had the pork tenderloin from the menu (27€, right). I finished with an espresso and a balloon of old rum as we listened to the waves slap the shore and gazed across Grand Case Bay to Anguilla. The bill came to about $130, without the wine. The dining room is lovely, the view spectacular, the service impeccable, the wine list is good, and the food is top quality and well-prepared.

We look forward to this visit as we feel this is one of the most pleasant dining experiences on this island. To enhance your experience, go a few days before or after the full moon as it lights up the bay. They are open every day for lunch and dinner in high season.

Lee's Roadside Grill & Bar
On Tuesday we headed over to Simpson Bay for a dinner on the water at Lee's with another couple. We drank the beer of the day, Presidente at $1.50 a bottle and ordered one XXLarge (23-27 oz, $41.25) and one Large snapper (15-18 oz, $32.75). Each came with two sides. That was enough for four people. The snapper was great, the fries were crisp, and the veg were fine, all for $100. Two days later Martha said she didn't want to look for frozen snapper at Super U, Lee's fresh snapper had spoiled her forever.

On Friday we headed over to Marigot's Marina Royale for a dinner on the water at Chanteclair with another couple. There is a lot of parking and a lot of gendarmes and private security, so it is safe. We were early and walked to a fairly empty restaurant and chose an indoor table. A wise choice as there were two deluges during dinner. I choose a bottle of 2011 (not a great year) Beaune du Chateau from Bouchard (58€, below left). Our guests split a salad with chèvre, he got all the chèvre, she got most of the leaves, a regular Jacques Sprât couple. Martha and I split the marinated raw fish salad with roasted potatoes (below center, 14€). On the right is a chicken ravioli topped with foie gras (19€). It was quite nice. Foie gras was a major part of the menu.
Martha's conch fricasée with (16€, below left) came with herbed rice, parsnips, and carrots. It was all quite tasty. I had the the parmentier of lamb. A parmentier has potatoes, usually mashed, in honor the Mr Parmentier who got the French to eat potatoes. I rather liked mashed potatoes with meat, especially with a sauce, and the center photo below shows just that with a nice serving of parsnips and carrots. At 18€ you can hardly find a better deal for dinner. Our dessert was a variation on the not to be missed dessert that Cecile Briaud made famous in this location years ago. It's pastry with a liquid chocolate center. We ordered a second bottle of wine somewhere along the way. With water, our bill came to 195€, about $215. We left a bit extra as the service was quite attentive. Not bad for four people.

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.

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."