St Maarten/St Martin
6 November 2016 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: In the ten days before today the forecast was for no clear days, nine days with a chance of rain, and one partly cloudy day. Total rain was about an inch and a quarter. The daily high temperature was 86 or 85F dropping to only 79F most nights. The next day's forecast had all ten days with a chance of rain and the amount increased to about four and a half inches. If you were down there looking for a nice vacation, you must have had a terrible time.

But wait, it gets worse! The forecast shows all days in the coming week as rainy days with total of 1.6 inches. It will be warm as the daily high temperatures range from 84 to 86F. The overnight low temperatures will be 78 to 80F.

On the right is a photo from Vikki Whitley showing a sunset view in Grand Case a few days ago. It was not actively raining when the shot was taken, but the clouds are pretty thick. She has moved to Grand Case from Canada and started a Facebook page of her adventures.

Today she has posted photo of a beautiful blue sky over the pier in Grand Case that appears to contradict the current forecasts: Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. To be fair, the Weather Channel says the rain will start at 9:15 and end at 11:00AM. Sunset tonight will be at 5:37 PM. That provides 11 hours and 13 minutes of sunshine and it's all downhill until late December. The remaining full moons for 2016 will be 14 Nov and 13 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: The cruise ships come in to Great Bay and tie up at the cruise ship terminal on the eastern edge. It's about a quarter mile walk to the eastern end of Philipsburg and the first smattering of tourist-related businesses. In another quarter mile you can turn left on the boardwalk and walk along the shore past a mile of restaurants and bars. Most are burger joints, but there are some serious restaurants including the Ocean Lounge and Antoine Restaurant. Front Street is one street in from the beach and has more shopping than dining. We like L'Escargot Restaurant for French and Shiv Shakti Restaurant for Indian. Below is a photo taken after most of the cruise shippers have shipped off.

cover The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny - $10 (Kindle) - From Amazon: "Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village. But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet. And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here. A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back. Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next."

Martha and I went over the books that we had heard over the last month and I said that though I generally liked the Inspector Gamache books, I found this book a bit far-fetched. Martha said that I hadn't listened to the afterword. Had I done so, I would have learned that the book was based on a true story!

Sapphire Beach Club: If you are an owner at Sapphire, you can follow some of what is happening at the timeshare owners group on Facebook. I saw some reasonable comments by Tom Delorge. Sapphire wasn't perfect but some changes were evident. The WiFi worked, beach towels are available, the a/c worked, etc.

On the right is a shot looking NE from our lagoon balcony with a kayaker on the lagoon and a small cruise ship anchored in Marigot Harbor. The pano below shows Passaat passing by our Caribbean balcony with a murky sky in the background.

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-Hotels: Jordan Village Agency has sent out a flyer offering units at Aqua, a residence tower. I'm repeating that story because Jeff Berger continues to stir the pot at Sapphire by saying Aqua will go in the vacant land on the lagoon side of Sapphire, blocking our view. The flyer says the project will be on Cupecoy Beach complete with a photo-shopped image showing the building next to Shore Point. I wrote to Jordan Agency and the reply said that the project would be "facing the sea between La Samana and Shore Pointe" next to the recent supplemental parking that Porto Cupecoy put in to accommodate Mario Bistrot. That's not exactly on the beach and it's certainly not across the street from Sapphire. Their photo on the right shows the building behind Shore Pointe I'd be willing to bet that it won't be in either place as this project like many others will not go forward.
ReveMarine SXM-Activities: On the left ReveMarine. They are located in the Marigot Marina Royale and can set you up with almost any maritime adventure with or without a captain.

On the right is Random Wind coming home from a day sail. Her day sails feature a couple stops for snorkeling and swinging on a trapeze with a great lunch, free drinks, and fine music. She also does some sunset cruises and day charters.

Travel: The Herald announced that Princess Juliana Airport will become a US pre-clearance airport. Basically US customs, immigration, and agricultural officials will operate in SXM. This obviously reduces delays and missed connections in the US. Before you get too enthused, the delays and missed flights are merely transferred to SXM.

Alcohol: Sylvain has cleared out his storage area in anticipation of his containers of new wines for the coming season. We are looking forward to many long lunches while sitting at this table in his tasting room. The lunches will usually come from Champagne Bistro next door to Select in the Orange Grove shopping center.

green logo Nature:On the right are two brugmansia plants that have about 20 flowers on them. As the nights nearing 32F have increased, we put the plexiglass inserts over the screens on our screened porch and brought the brugmancia "indoors." There is no heat on the porch, but the greenhouse effect warms it considerably during the day.

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: I haven't seen any noteworthy island nitwitude over the last month, but I had been very busy harvesting tender crops and tilling the gardens. We're now bringing in some of the late fall crops: cabbage, potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, etc and tilling those areas. The pigs and lambs have joined summer's chickens in the freezer.


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 18 December
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:
18 December to 12 February

same cast of characters as current contest



On 2 October the Euro was at 1.124 and today it is at 1.080. That is quite a change, about 4% in a month.

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 and are subject to change.

There was a recent article in the NY Times about credit cards and travel benefits. Check it out here.

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.


Kakao Beach Bar
We had reserved a table for four on a Monday in mid March and were offered a front row table on the beach. Despite driving through a rain storm on the way over, Orient was clear and our table had a great view (below left). We got some water and a Cotes du Rhone from Perrin ($25). Our friends from the Horny Toad Guesthouse ordered a special pizza featuring prosciutto and black olives (center) and a cheeseburger in paradise (right). Anytime that the temperature back home is below 50F and you find yourself sitting at a table with your feet in the sand, 84F air, 75F sea, and a view like the one on the left, you are in paradise and that, on the plate with hints of orange peeking out, is a cheeseburger. The fries are probably crisper than those back home and you rarely get a salad with your cheeseburger in the US.
Martha ordered a salade Niçoise (left) and I had my usual supreme pizza (ham and mushrooms, right). Martha thinks this is one of the best salades Niçoises on the island. One reason is that they ply her with anchovies. The pizzas came with crispy thin crusts with hot oil and crushed red peppers on the side. We finished with a couple variations on flavored rum as we watched the action on the beach. The total bill was about $100 for four using a reasonable exchange rate. It really was a day in paradise.

Christian and Brigette Moreau, original owners of Sol é Luna, are working on the logo, menu, design, etc for a new Italian bistro called Altro. It will be in Porto Cupecoy with a terrace and open kitchen serving lunch and dinner everyday. He will prepare fresh pastas "Altro style" meaning a different approach of italian cooking, featureing fresh pastas and organic wines with affordable prices. They are thinking about (and I heartily endorse) a 3 course menu for lunch as they did at Sol é Luna. They have bought a Villa at Sapphire, so they will be our neighbors. I am truly happy that Altro will join Mario Bistrot in our neighborhood, especially as we have lost Fig, Gondola, and Montmartre over the last few seasons.

Johann at Rancho del Sol has sent me his list of daily specials. They are another fine choice for lunch, probably one of the best at 12 Euros. Every Monday they feature a different preparation for onglet, hanger steak.

Despite a report in The Herald that the Conservatoire du Littoral cut the power cables to Tropical Wave on 10 Sep, I got a message from Pat Turner saying he is in business and the Herald had another story. Pat is recovering from a fall and his wife, Tracey, is running the business.

Shortly before the last newsletter, a local paper reported that Dino Jagtiani chef/owner of Temptation and of executive chef/owner of the now closed Rare Restaurant and the Rituals coffee shops was convicted of tax evasion. He was ordered to pay a bit of money and do 200 hours of community service. I ignored the story until Dino could tell his side of the story. It can be found here. As many of you know, both Rituals Coffee Shops have closed and, on the advice of his tax lawyers, their losses were absorbed by Rare, which has now closed. The tax office took a dim view of this and Dino's tax lawyers could not fend them off.
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!

The list of annual closings for area restaurants has been removed, starting with this newsletter as essentially everyone who is going to be back this season, is back and running at this time.
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."