St Maarten/St Martin
3 July 2016 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It's summertime but while it has been cloudy or overcast, there has not been too much rain. On the right Captain Trevor and Diane are showing off on Random Wind's Tarzan swing, but you are supposed to notice the mostly cloudy sky in a photo from late June. The next ten days will have six clear days with a chance of rain on four days. The biggest rainfall will be 0.11 inches and the total will be about a quarter inch. It will be hot as the high temperatures are predicted to be two days at 87, seven at 86, and a cool spell dropping down to 85F one day. The overnight low temperatures will be 80F for nine days with one day only dropping to 81F.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:52 PM. That provides 13 hours and 11 minutes of sunshine, about the same as the last newsletter a month ago on the other side of the solstice, which is to say that we have already had the longest day of the year and it's all downhill until late December. The full moons for 2016 will be 19 Jul, 18 Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Tintamarre was well known for it's secluded beach and nude mud baths. Alas, the mud is now protected and nudity is no longer permitted. Moreover, there are signs warning anyone leaving the beach that poisonous trees await. Binkie van Es posted some photos of Tintamarre on the Pirates of SXM facebook page showing what actually awaits. For the most part, it is not dangerous and according to Mark Williams, you will find the ruins from a time when Mr. D.C. van Romondt lived there producing the best butter in the Caribbean. He was known as the King of Tintamarre. He was also the owner of Mary's Fancy plantation.

The beaches move around a bit all the time as winter storms in the US send waves crashing into the western side of the island and hurricanes come in the summer, usually from Africa and damage the windward side. JimCandD had a post on TTOL saying that in mid June they walked the beach from the Perch to Coco Beach. The beach was narrow until Pedro's area and then past the rocks in front of the new construction it is narrow again. After the new "huts" the beach opens up to as wide or wider than it has been. Below is a panoramic scene of the Divi peninsula taken from Great Bay in Pburg looking west. Not much beach here, but the other side is Little Bay.

cover Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman - $15 (Kindle) - From Amazon: Jonathan Kellerman has been universally hailed as the master of psychological suspense, and the blockbuster new thriller featuring Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis confirms his status as today's preeminent practitioner of saber-sharp storytelling. Psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware meets beautiful and emotionally fragile TV actress Zelda Chase when called upon to evaluate her five-year-old son, Ovid. Years later, Alex is unexpectedly reunited with Zelda when she is involuntarily committed after a bizarre psychotic episode. Shortly after Zelda's release, an already sad situation turns tragic when she is discovered dead on the grounds of a palatial Bel Air estate. Having experienced more than enough of L.A.'s dark side to recognize the scent of evil, Alex turns to his friend LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis for help in finding out who ended Zelda's broken life. At the same time, Alex is caught up in another quest: the search for Zelda's missing son. And when other victims vanish from the same upscale neighborhood, worry turns to terror. As Alex struggles to piece together the brief rise and steep fall of a gorgeous, talented actress, he and Milo unveil shattered dreams, the corruption of a family, and a grotesque betrayal of innocence. With each devastating revelation and damning clue, Alex's brilliant mind is challenged as never before and his determination grows to see a killer caged and the truth set free.

We downloaded the audio version of this from our local library.

Sapphire Beach Club: The timeshare owners group on Facebook has a posting from Debbi Becht on the condition of unit 143. It was not perfect, but was made pretty close to perfect after a call to the front desk brought up a toaster, coffee pot, and TV plus a maintenance guy to fix the safe and the low water pressure. On the right are some colorful boats heading past our Caribbean balcony. The pano below shows the lagoon in the foreground, a cruise ship in Marigot Harbor, and Créole Rock off Grand Case in the distance. It was taken from our lagoon side balcony.

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 Random Wind. Recently she was awarded a 2016 certificate of excellence.

On the right is Lambada coming in from her evening sunset sail.

The pano below shows gasoline heading into the harbor. Those tanks are towed to gas stations to fill their underground tanks. Given the recent British vote, many markets, including oil, are in turmoil. Nonetheless, gasoline has been less expensive on the French side for several years.

Crime: The gas station killers were sentenced to 22 years and 15 years according to the Daily Herald. They murdered an uncooperative attendant at the Sol Station in Cole Bay getting $1370. Shortly thereafter one of the assailants robbed the Sol Station in Simpson Bay where the attendant was more cooperative. He was not harmed and they got $1439. The bill for the funeral of the murdered gas station attendant cost $6215 and was paid by Ronald Tackling, the owner of the station.

Alcohol: I'm drinking a 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin. We got it from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. It was in the case of wine that we brought back to the US in 2013. We have been ageing it in our cellar for a few more years and served it at a birthday party for a friend in Salem, NY.

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.

green logo Nature: On the right is a bobcat enjoying a stroll about 1000 feet from our home and free range chickens. It's not SXM, but he's a handsome creature.

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: Ray Sidhom, the buyer of Caravanserai, has started yet another lawsuit. He is trying to get the Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs to annul the casino permit of Dunes. The Dunes Casino had a hotel-based casino permit when they were part of Caravanserai which had plans for the required 200 rooms. The parcel was separated when Sidhom bought the remnants of Caravanserai. Sidhom wants the Minister to shut down the Dunes as it no longer has the rooms necessary for a hotel-based casino permit. Read the full story.


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 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 5 June the Euro was at 1.137 and today it is at 1.114. Obviously the Brexit fiasco is having some influence. While the US dollar is about 2% better against the Euro over the last month, the Japanese Yen is about 8% better than the dollar in the same time frame!

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.


Pizza Galley
On a Tuesday in mid-March we had dinner at Pizza Galley and another chat with JP. We had our usual wine (a Mont Redon Cotes du Rhone, now a 2014, below left, $26), a small and tasty Caesar salad (below center, $7), and the JP Special Pizza (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, caramalized onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese ($21 with a half head of roasted garlic, below right). There is a wine list, but this is a quality Rhone blend and we think it is fine with pizza. It was a great meal perfectly filling for the two of us and only cost $60 including a tip for the crew.

JP stopped by and we heard that they had done well over the Regatta weekend and the new Dock Bar with its very happy hour has been doing well since it opened. We actually arrived early and got a few happy hour beverages from Dan, the bartender. On the way out of Sapphire we got to talking to the family with us in the elevator. They asked where we were going. We said Pizza Galley and they followed. While we were at the restaurant another couple from Sapphire showed up. Good food, good wine, good company on a lovely evening in an open air restaurant.

Ocean Lounge

For one of last meals on the island we met two other couples for lunch at the Ocean Lounge in the Holland House Hotel. It's moderne and shiny and right on Great Bay Beach with great views. The menu was loaded with info and looked quite good. When the food arrived, it was even better. Be warned that the prices are commensurate with the quality of the food, service, furnishings, location, and view. We've been coming to the island for about 20 years and never came to this restaurant before this visit. We'll be back. In 2015 it had both a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Below is the view east along the boardwalk and on the right is the view straight out (essentially south) across the beach to Great Bay. In the center is a $16 cheeseburger in paradise. It's an 8oz hamburger made with USDA Black Angus short rib, brisket, and chuck tender beef with Monterey Jack cheese, smoked bacon, lettuce, onion, and tomato, served with coleslaw.
On the left is a chicken saté, grilled and marinated chicken on bamboo skewers with peanut sauce, coconut flakes and coleslaw ($17). On the right is the beef tartare, prepared raw beef, shallots, Dijon mustard, and capers served with truffle fries and mixed salad ($22). The fries were fantastic, but truffle oil will do that. Below is our very competent (and strong) waitress bringing over one of the seafood platters that we ordered. In the center is a close-up of the extravaganza. It had grilled lobster, sashimi tuna, salmon, shrimp, ceviche, king crab legs and fresh oysters with sauces, French fries, and a salad ($115). On the right are some of the biggest and best mussels I've ever seen. It was a wonderful lunch.

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.

Sabrina and Raphaël have purchased Antoine Restaurant from and Jean-Pierre Pomarico and Chef Pierre-Louis Kesner. They have kept Edouard, the sous-chef of many years who had essentially taken over the head chef position as chef Pierre-Louis cut back on his schedule recently. They also kept the maitre d'hotel, Leonard. They have streamlined the rather large menu, keeping the old favorites.
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 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.

Amazon Prime Day: On 12 July Amazon celebrates Prime Day, a day of savings only for Prime members throughout the web store. Sign up for 30 days of free Amazon Prime and you'll get to see all that Prime Day has for you. In addition you'll the regular panoply of services: unlimited streaming of Prime Video (very useful in SXM), free two day shipping on all Amazon purchases, unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos (post your SXM photos here to share), ad-free music with Prime Music (also nice to use on SXM), and access to Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle First (another useful entertainment option on SXM). We are members and given our remote home in the US, we use the free shipping for many purchases and find the other benefits quite useful in SXM.

Sign up now

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."