St Maarten/St Martin
4 December 2016 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: In the ten days before today the forecast was not so great calling for for three clear days, three days with a chance of rain, and four partly cloudy days. Total rain was about two inches with over one inch falling on a single dreary day. The daily high temperatures were 84 or 85F dropping to 78 or 79F at night.

The next ten days will be similar: three clear days and the rest will have a chance of rain totaling about three-quarters of an inch. The high temperatures will be 84F with one day at 85F and another at 83F. The overnight low temperature will be 78 or 79. On the right is a photo from Vikki Whitley showing a sunset view in Grand Case yesterday. The partly cloudy days with a chance of rain make for interesting sunsets. She has moved to Grand Case from Canada and started a Facebook page of her adventures.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 5:36 PM. That provides 11 hours and 7 minutes of sunshine. That's only 4 minutes less than a month ago. As we approach the winter solstice (21 December) the days will get shorter, but the change per day gets smaller. The last full moon for 2016 will be 13 Dec. In 2017 the full moons will be 12 Jan, 10 Feb, 12 Mar, 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Last month we mentioned that that the cruise ships come in to Great Bay. As Philipsburg (the town) and Great Bay (the beach), and Front Street (the shopping area) are right there, many cruisers go no further. The favorite destination of the more adventurous cruisers is Orient Beach. The beach is one of the most beautiful in the world, but the sights in the clothing-optional southern end of the beach also attract a crowd. There are several large, full service restaurants and bars in the center of the beach that are the equal of all but a few of the best restaurants on the island AND they generally have boutiques, massage services, and beach chairs and umbrellas. We especially like Kakao Beach and Palm Beach Restaurant. The food is quite good at both, the service good, and although the wine lists are not the largest on the island, there are several good lunch wines. The pano below was taken at Kakao.

cover Night School - $15 (Kindle) - From Amazon: "Instead of picking up where [the previous Reacher book] left off, [Lee Child] takes Reacher back in time to 1996. Still in the Army, Reacher is coming off a medal-earning career triumph when he is sent back to school. His three-man class (Reacher, a CIA guy and an FBI agent) however, is a front for a secret mission: figure out the plot behind a message intercepted in Germany which reads "the American wants 100 million dollars." The good news for fans is that all the familiar elements show up in Night School: the words "Reacher says nothing" appear at least half a dozen times, and as usual, Reacher combines mechanical precision and brute strength to beat up bad guys with a degree of violence falling somewhere between Bruce Lee and a backhoe. Best of all, fan-favorite Sergeant Frances Neagley makes a welcome reappearance, riding shotgun with Reacher as he hunts for his quarry. Is the plot as robust and impressive as our hero? Not entirely, but readers will barely notice. Twenty-one books into this series it's clear that what makes them work as well as they do is the joy of watching Reacher's extraordinary powers of deduction working in tandem with his remarkable ass-kicking abilities. On that front, Child delivers as usual."

Also as usual, we borrowed the book from our library and listened to it on Martha's Kindle.

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 believe the site was started by Mindy Squeo who was staying there as of 28 Nov. Her comments are here.

On the right is a shot looking south from our Caribbean balcony showing some sailboats racing during the Regatta. The pano below shows some sailboats passing by the same 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-Activities: On the left is Mercedes. She participates in various tall ship extravaganzas and passed through here during the Regatta.

On the right is Passaat. She is a beautiful schooner built in 1911 and still sailing our lovely waters. She does day sails, sunset sails, and dinner cruises.

Alcohol: A month ago I said that Sylvain had cleared out his storage area in anticipation of his containers of new wines for the coming season. On the right is a mre recent photo shoing his overflowing storage area. 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 is the little doofus, the younger and smaller of our two roosters. We have been waiting for the older, larger and arthritic rooster to shuffle off this mortal coil, so this guy can take over management of the flock. Unfortunately, I found him keeled over in the food tray a week ago. There are lots of free-range chickens on the island. I remember feeding small chicks at Sarafina's on the Marigot waterfront!

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: In the last newsletter I complained that people were getting used to the lousy state of affairs on the island: the dump is on fire and GEBE has had rolling blackouts as two of their diesel generators are out of commission. They got the wrong part for one of them and spent another week getting the right part, but finally all generators were in operation and rolling blackouts were in the rear view mirror. Unfortunately, last Friday an "unexpected fault" struck and and there was a country wide blackout that started a bit before 5PM and ended about 8:30PM. The hospital and the airport have emergency power that came on in about 20 minutes. My emergency generator comes on in less than one minute, and even worse, the emergency power in the airport only runs the control tower.


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 19 February 2017 | 19 February to 9 April 2017 | 9 April to 25 June 2017 | 25 June to 1 October 2017 | 1 October to 24 December 2017
same cast of characters as current contest



On 6 November the Euro was at 1.080 and today it is at 1.067. That is small change, but the Euro rose after the election reaching 1.129 in the middle of November only to crash and wander about from 1.08 to 1.06.

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.


We went with another couple and Sylvain to Big Fish for dinner on a Tuesday toward the end of last high season.

On Tuesday Big Fish allows patrons to bring in their own wine with no corkage fee. Martha and I brought in some venison from our property. We started with a several aps, on the left is a very tasty salmon with wasabi and on the right are four very tasty shrimp. We moved on to the venison and a lobster and truffle mac and cheese (below). Further down are some of the wines we brought. Great service for which we left an extra tip in light of the fact that our servers were very attentive, even pouring our own wine.

Christian and Brigette Moreau, original owners of Sol é Luna, have opened a new Italian bistro called Altro Italian Bistro. It's 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, featuring fresh pastas and organic wines with affordable prices. There is an ever-changing three3 course menu for lunch. There is a website, but no menu or photos yet. The wine list is in place and Sylvain from Select will be supplying wines by the glass.

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

Vikki Whitley reported that she had a fantastic dinner on the porch at L'Auberge Gourmande in early November. She especially liked the chocolate cake for dessert, posting a luscious photo.
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."