St Maarten/St Martin
5 June 2016 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It has not been very good weather over the last month, nothing like the coming ten days. The forecast is for five clear days and five partly cloudy days a high of 85 or 86F and a low of 79F for eight days and 80F for the other two days. There is only 0.06 inches of rain over these ten days, making this one of the best times for a visit. Not only that, but the flamboyants (right) should be blooming.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:46 PM. That provides 13 hours and 10 minutes of sunshine, about 16 minutes more than the last newsletter a month ago. The full moons for 2016 will be 20 Jun, 19 Jul, 18 Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

Newsletters: In the last newsletter I said I had lost a couple weeks worth of effort producing newsletter content for the summer. About two hours into the mailing of that newsletter, my Sony Vaio booted up and I recovered the files! I left the computer on overnight and received the blue screen of death for my troubles. It's resting peacefully on a couch in my office. My $2000 HP Spectre is working quite well and has an external two terabyte hard drive that is used for a scheduled backup every morning at 1 AM.

SXM-Beaches: On the right is a photo of Mullett Bay taken from the northwestern end of the beach, near the ruins of the villas in the Mullett Bay Resort. It's a lovely beach with lots of chairs and lots of open areas. Below is a panoramic scene of the beach.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith - $12 (Kindle) - From Amazon: When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them. Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Robert Galbraith is the alter ego of JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. She (or he) has recently been shortlisted for Theakston's crime novel of the year 2016.

Sapphire Beach Club: The timeshare owners group on Facebook is abuzz about the election of board members. As I understand it, most timeshares are actually long leases and Verdier remains the owner and votes for you. Thus, he can never be outvoted, althoug I doubt very much that he pays the annual maintenance fee on these units. As a whole owner, I have a deed on file at the Kadaster (essentially, the registrar of deeds) in Pburg. Nonetheless, I have never received any ballot soon enough to return it by the due date. On the right are the mamelles in the French lowlands taken from our lagoon balcony. The pano below is also taken from that balcony, but zoomed in on the ruins of the old Hotel Belle Créole.

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: Below left is Random Wind is heading west on her daily sail featuring snorkeling, swimming, and a fine lunch. A container ship is in the distance, the Coast Guard boat is on the left, and in the center is a ferry. Below center is Heineken heading back to harbor after a mediocre sunset sail. Some days you get a great sunset, some days you don't.

On the right is Miek-Miek with her sax. We've caught her in several places on the island. This photo was taken at the Sapphire Beach Club bar.

The boat pano below was taken from our Caribbean balcony in early April. ReveMarine can hook you up with power and sail boats with and without a captain. However, I'm guessing this one is not part of their fleet.

Crime: On 16 May three armed and masked men stormed into Island Water World in Cole Bay, threatened the cashier, and ran off with a small amount of cash.

A security guard was involved in a shooting at the Westin last weekend. It turns out that his employer, Checkmate Security, hired him as a trainee patrol officer, despite his earlier sentence reportedly for an armed robbery that resulted in death.

Alcohol: I'm drinking a 2009 Vosne-Romanée from Domanique Mugneret. We got it from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. It was in the case of wine that we bring back to the US every year. We brought this back in 2013 and aged it in our cellar for a few more years. It's a selection from Becky Wasserman, a woman from Philadelphia who moved to a small town near Savigny-les-Beaune to be come a Burgundian negotiant in the late 60s. She has marketed this with her somewhat understated slogan "Selection pas mal". I visited her in the 80s, had a great tasting followed by a delightful lunch, but never actually bought any wine from her.

Groceries: The Simply at Hope Estate outside Grand Case has closed and will reopen as a Super U. The Simply on the western edge of Marigot is still in operation.

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.

Parking: In mid-May the Daily Herald reported reported that work had begun to put parking onto Kim Sha Beach. That's the part of Simpson Bay on the eastern side of the Dutch Bridge, ie toward Skipjack's. In fact, the parking is across the street from Skipjack's, where La Bomba was before it was hauled to the dump. Shortly thereafter the Nature Foundation complained about beach parking on the western end of Great Bay.

The blue zone parking on the French side (essentially Marigot) is now being enforced. You will need a blue zone parking disk if you park in the spaces marked in blue. Basically you can only park in the blue zone for a limited time, usually two hours. You set the time that you parked on the disk and leave the disk on the dashboard. If a traffic cop sees that your disk is too much before the current time or two hours after the current time, you get a ticket.

green logo Nature: On the right is a pair of white cheeked pintail ducks enjoying a swim in a Pburg pond.

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: Generally, this section of the newsletter has some snarky comments about small-minded happenings on a small island. Not this time. I just want to make you aware of a retired school teacher who writes a daily blog. His name is Larry Woods and the blog can be found here. He and his wife have just returned from a three week vacation (20 April to 11 May) on the island, so the daily blog is loaded with interesting visits and fabulous photos. You may have to dig into the blog archives to see all the stories.


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.

Winners of the contest that closed on 5 Jun
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Barbara Bonelli
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Barbara Bonelli
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase - no entries
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Tony Last
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Tony Last
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Barbara Bonelli
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Barbara Bonelli
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Mark Malloy

Current Contest: now until 2 October
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:
22 May to 21 August | 21 August to 20 November

same cast of characters as current contest



On 8 May the Euro was at 1.140 and today it is at 1.137, almost no difference over the last month, but that disguises the fact that the dollar strengthened to 1.113 earlier and was at 1.089 on Friday morning. A poor jobs report suggested weakness in the US economy which suggests that the Fed will not raise interest rates. Thus, the dollar lost almost 5% on Friday!

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. Super U switched to $1.05 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.


L'Escargot Restaurant
One Wednesday we headed to Pburg on the free bus from Sapphire to Pburg. The bus is provided by Ama Jewelers. You do have to come to their main store to see where it is, as you will be led from their to the pickup spot for the return to Sapphire. They do get in a plug for their jewelry and mention free Heineken on tap and a clean restroom. Martha looked at sapphires and more, but eventually we walked to L'Escargot Restaurant for lunch. We were early (just a touch before noon) and had our choice of tables. We chose a deuce with a window looking out at all the tourists taking pictures of the lovely Créole structure that houses L'Escargot. The center photo shows Joél and Sonya at our window. We ordered a half bottle of Bordeaux, a conch salad (below left), and the calamari steak in a caper and lemon sauce (below right). Service is good and the we think that Chef Christophe is better than ever. Our total bill was about $83 when a 15% tip were added. Joel and Sonya are still going strong after almost 40 years on Front Street. There's a photo (black and white) of them on opening night on their website.

Chanteclair Bistro has announced a new schedule for the low season. They will be closed on Sunday and Monday and Saturday lunch will be reserved for a cooking class. There is a special seafood menu on Thursday evenings and a 28€ menu on the other nights.

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.
Luc, husband of Florence at La Villa, has reopened Orange Fever without his former partner Olivier. Shanghai Brasserie in Porto Cupecoy has closed, barely making it through high season. The place was smart and the food was good, but the prices reflected this, making it much more expensive than the average Chinese food emporium on the island. Not many people come here to eat Oriental. Fusion has closed. We had been to their Pburg restaurant shortly after they opened and liked it quite a bit. They moved from there to Maho and then to Cole Bay. I heard that the food was still good and they finally had some parking, but it seems it didn't work.

If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, Chanteclair Bistro, L'Escargot Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

The parties in Grand Case and Marina Royale in Marigot have ended with the advance of low season. There are still Wednesday and Friday night parties in Orient Village for a while longer.

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. A blue oval 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.

Chanteclair Bistro
Endless Summer Beachwear
Kakao Beach
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."