St Maarten/St Martin
14 August 2016 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: In the week before today there were three clear days, three days with a chance of rain, and one partly cloudy day. Total rain was less than a half inch. The daily high temperature was 86 or 87F dropping to only 81F overnight. Today is listed as partly cloudy and the next nine days clear with about a sixth of an inch of rain scattered about. It will be hot as the high temperatures are predicted to be two days at 88 and the rest at 87F. The overnight low temperatures will be 81F for nine days with one morning only dropping to 82F. Hope your A/C works!

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:39 PM. That provides 12 hours and 45 minutes of sunshine, less than the last newsletter and it's all downhill until late December. The full moons for 2016 will be 18 Aug (this week - have a romantic dinner at Daniel's by the Sea or Big Fish on the eastern side of the island), 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec. The photo on the right was taken from Cliffhanger on Cupecoy Beach. It no longer exists and the beach access has been closed.

SXM-Beaches: On the left are the rocks behind Coco Beach on Orient Beach, a good place to be over the coming week based on the weather forecast! On the right is a kite surfer off Palm Beach Restaurant. Below is a panoramic scene of the beach chairs at Kakao Beach.

cover Mushrooms of North America by Roger Phillips. (used from $10 to $20) Given the weather in the northeast US lately, we are using this book more than ever. From Library Journal: In this beautifully illustrated book, Phillips vividly presents the world of mushrooms. Unlike the photographs in other guides, which are taken in the field, the more than 1000 color photographs featured here were shot in the studio in order to capture both the external features of mushrooms as well as their internal anatomy. Each picture includes specimens representing various stages of growth, and the accompanying annotation describes the anatomy of the cap, gills, stem, and spores. In addition, the author explains where the particular species of mushroom is found, its season of growth, and whether or not it is edible. Amateur mycologists as well as professionals in the field will find this book an invaluable guide. Highly recommended as a basic library reference source.

Sapphire Beach Club: The big news is that Jeff Berger says that Bruno Sitbon will be taking over Sapphire.

The timeshare owners group on Facebook has a posting from Kimberly Mosser saying her recent two week stay in a building 3 end unit "was fabulous!!!" She included several photos of the remodeled unit and more comments. 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 the Tarzan swing on Random Wind. If you want your own boat with or without a captain, check out ReveMarine in Marigot's Marina Royale

The Herald ran a press release saying that Divi Little Bay just opened a 100 foot pier that will be used by Aqua Mania for round-the-island trips, champagne brunch sails, sunset sails, and adventure tours.

The pano below shows Andrey Melnichenko's motor yacht A sailing past our balcony. This 300 foot beauty cost $300 million and is for sale as he built a larger sailing yacht for $450 million.

Travel: KLM has announced direct flights to SXM. What, you say, didn't a big KLM plane land in SXM three times a week. Well yes, but they didn't return directly to Schipol in Amsterdam. The story was that a fully loaded 747 could not take on enough fuel to go all the way back to Europe because of the danger posed by Sentry Hill off the eastern end of runway. Heading west toward the Caribbean isn't really an option most days as we are in the easterly trade winds most of the time. Thus, the jets took on enough fuel to get to Curaçao where the longer runway allowed enough fuel to be loaded. This did add 4 to 5 hours to the already 4-5 hour journey. They appear to be putting a newer A330 on the route and can reliably take off to the east with enough fuel to reach Schipol.

The Daily Herald reported that Customs Department and Nature Foundation recently worked together to seize almost 500 lbs of conch shells from departing passengers. Most of the conch on the island is in the French side Marine reserve stretching from Créole Rock off Grand Case to Orient Beach. Obviously it is not legal to take conch from there, but "conch shells and certain species of coral fall under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species and thus require a special permit to be able to transport them, alive or dead as shells. The Nature Foundation is the designated authority to issue these permits."

After almost four months, airport officials told The Herald that the cones blocking off most of the drop-off/pick-up stopping zone increased security. Probably so, but it made life worse for both terrorists and fliers.

The Herald reported on the latest quarterly conference call from Norwegian Cruise Lines. Basically business stinks. Given the terrorism in Europe (Nice, Paris, Belgium), terrorism in the US (California, Florida), the coup in Turkey, and Zika in South America and the Caribbean, no one wants to travel.

Inter-island cooperation The Herald reported that the Dutch side and the French side got together to discuss a wastewater treatment plant in Cole Bay. They certainly need that and some action on garbage as the pondfill dump regularly combusts, wafting its wonderful perfume all over the cruise ships in the harbor and everyone else in the area. The locals must be getting used to this problem but it probably comes as a surprise to the tourists. On the right is a photo that Barbara Cannegieter posted on her facebook page.

Crime: On 9 July Wendy Montulet (22), a Belgian tourist staying at La Flamboyant in Nettle Bay went jogging and never returned to her hotel. Her body was found in the brush in Nettle Bay and the prosecutor in the case said that she died of multiple puncture and slash wounds, consistent with those inflicted by a knife. A man was soon arrested and shipped to the jail in Guadeloupe where he was murdered.

Over the weekend of 9-10 July, the post office was burglarized and $80,000 was taken.

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: A new specie of fish was found by the Curasub, a submersible operated by the Smithsonian Institute's Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). This bright orange-red scorpion fish was found at deaths of 300 to 500 feet), in waters close to Curaçao. The press release printed ran in the Daily Herald has more info.

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 Herald wrote that Dominica leads the Caribbean in the percent of renewable energy production. The article states that 28 percent of their electricity comes from hydropower (???) and wind, while the next paragraph says that they have already spent US$20 million on geothermal and that solar and wind show great potential, possibly making the island self-sufficient by 2020.


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:
2 October to 18 December | 18 December to 12 February

same cast of characters as current contest



On 3 July the Euro was at 1.114 and today it is at 1.116. That is pretty steady.

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.


Last high season, shortly after the ides of March, we headed over to Marigot's Marina Royale for a lunch on the water at Chanteclair. Twice in a row we have had the good fortune to find a parking spot along the road next to the Crossontiere Restaurant. There were spots in the large lot by the cemetery. We took a table inside as the weather had been horrible over the previous week. As the shot on the right shows, it was a fairly nice day and it stayed that way all through lunch. We ordered water and a glass of the Robiteau Pinot Noir (7€). The butter and bread were quite good (left), better than the finette we get at Sarafina's. Martha had the red snapper ceviche (center, 13€) and I had the chicken ravioli with a foie gras topping (right, 19€). Both were quite good. With water and another glass of wine our bill came to 54€, about $60. Service was quite good so we added a bit more.

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.

Having posted this info, I must admit I have heard nothing from Mila since the notification of summertime hours. I have heard from someone who said the restaurant was closed.

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 L'Escargot Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

Below is the list of annual closings for several restaurants.

2016 Restaurant
Annual Vacations
Auberge Gourmande
Daniel's by the Sea We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
L'Escapade Restaurant Closed month of August only. Opening 1 Sep
L'Escargot Restaurant early July through September
Hideaway Restaurant 20 August to 1 October
Mario Bistrot closed in September and opening the second week of October
Mr Busby's Beach Bar We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
Palm Beach Restaurant
Paradise View
Piazza Pascal closing August 21 until the first week of October
Pizza Galley We are not closing at all this year!
7 days a week non stop from 5pm.
The Dock Waterfront Bar will also be open every day
from 4 pm for The Happiest Hours.
Le Pressoir 1-15 October
Rancho del Sol
Skipjack's closed 3 to 25 Sep
Le Tastevin
Temptation Restaurant
Ti Bouchon
La Villa No annual closing, but closed on Wednesdays

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."