St Maarten/St Martin
22 January 2017 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Monday was overcast (right) but cleared up and the rest of the week followed suit. Clear days piled up upon clear days until on Saturday we could see five islands: Saba, Statia, St Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. The lagoon was flat as an ice skating rink and the Caribbean was like a bath tub. The sunset ended in a green flash. The sunset below left was on Tuesday. The middle shot is with the sun raking Saba was taken on Saturday morning. The right hand shot shows the Saturday night sunset that ended in a green flash. The pano was taken on Saturday afternoon when the air was clear and the sea was flat.

The next week starts with two cloudy days, followed by two rainy days, leading into four clear days. the high temps range from 79 to 80F and the nighttime cool temps range from 73 to 75F.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:017PM providing 11 hours and 15 minutes of sunshine. In 2017 the full moons will be 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: On the left is a shot of the Cupecoy monolith that has deteriorated in a much smaller duolith 0ver the years. On the right is baby beach, and it really is baby-sized.

cover The Redeemer by Jo Nesbø - $10 (Kindle) - From Publishers Weekly: This sixth installment in Nesbø's popular series finds Harry Hole, Oslo's most successful and least collaborative police investigator, spending the Christmas season trying to unravel a knotty murder case while bemoaning the loss of a friendly superior and working around the demands of the strong-willed new boss. The novel alternates between Harry's sleuthing and a Croatian assassin's attempt to evade him long enough to escape the city. John Lee selects a properly surly and world-weary voice for Harry, and an accented, desperate one for the killer known as the little redeemer. Since the book travels through various strata of Oslo society and even includes a side trip to the former Yugoslavia, Lee is given ample opportunity to display a panoply of Norwegian and Croatian accents. He uses his own rich British accent to guide us smoothly through the novel's descriptive passages. Since the author packs his fast-paced scenes with crucial details easily missed, Lee's clear, crisp rendition is a blessing. However, several shifts between Harry's sections and those of the little redeemer are so abrupt, narrated by that same well-modulated voice, it may take listeners a moment to realize whose story is being told.

As usual, we borrowed the book from our library via the internet and listened to it on Martha's Kindle.

Sapphire Beach Club: I have been forgetting to mention that the mini-market in the basement at Sapphire is back in operation and Paulla Angella is now operating the spa. DaPaolo's restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The money that Sitbon took from us to fund a second restaurant and three lobby shops hasn't yielded a single paying tenant, not that we would get any of the profits from the businesses. There is a Monday night party with free drinks, a small band, and various activities come and pass out flyers. They used to talk about their products but the crowd talked over the top of them so they quit. There is another party on Friday with wine and cheese and Tanya Michele as the rather animated singer. She has a nice voice and energizes the crowd. Jan has been at all of these parties. The pool is fine and the view is great.

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: We see many of them coming past our Caribbean balcony. On the left is Mercedes, one of the youngest of the tall ships. She's here in the winter and sails in Europe in the summer. In the center is Random Wind, considerably smaller, taking no more than 22 people out for a day of snorkeling, sailing, and Tarzan swinging with a very tasty lunch. On the right is Passaat, a schooner built in 1911. She does day sails, sunset cruises, dinner cruises, and private charters.

Gas: Delta Petroleum on the western side of the French bridge in Sandy Ground was changing 0.85 per liter of gas and taking dollars at 1 to 1. Delta's station in La Savanne was charging 0.82 but taking dollars at 1.1 to the euro. Use your credit card and you might get euros at 1.07. They also have a station in French Quartier that is doing 1 to 1 and has a good price.

Traffic: After buying the wine at Select we headed through Simpson bay at about 3PM. Going from east to west was fine, but the traffic from west to east was heavy at the Kruythoff Rotary in Cole Bay and solid from the Dutch Bridge to the Airport entrance. We've had a couple requests to join in at parties starting in the late afternoon, but we can't get from our side of the island in Cupecoy to Simpson Bay (or worse yet Oyster Pond). Even if we got there, parking would be a problem.

Alcohol: We stopped in at Select Wine Cellar in Orange Grove and were treated to a 2015 Touraine from Francois Chidaine in the Loire Valley. It's a very nice wine for a mere $14.50, but the price drops to about $13 per bottle if you use the discount coupon on the website.

Groceries: The cheeses from left to right were Morbier ($7.70/lb), Chartreux ($9.10/lb), and Emmenthal ($7.30/lb). The country patés were $5.00/lb. All prices based on 1 to 1 from Super U.

green logo Nature: Martha thought these were a pair of kestrels. They landed in the tree in front of our car at Rancho del Sol. With the sun in my face, didn't have the best position for taking the shot and the timing was a bit off also.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered. In fact, in seven 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: And speaking of government failures, Monday night brought a massive power failure to the Dutch side. The Herald had a non-story the next morning essentially saying that GEBE didn't know what caused the failure and didn't know when it would be fixed. Sapphire has emergency generators that cover important common areas and some of the outlets and lights in all the units, so it was only a minor nuisance. Eventually it was reported that a trip of an 8mW unit caused the country-wide shutdown.


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 19 February 2017
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

Future Contests:
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


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.


On 15 January the Euro was at 1.064 and today it is at 1.069. That's 0.3 percent in a week, not good if it keeps up as Super U stops the 1 to 1 for cash if it gets to 1.1.

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 is offering 1 to 1 for cash. 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.


Chef Dino's Temptation
On Sunday we went to Chef Dino's Temptation at Starz Casino in Cupecoy. He has closed Rare and brought some of the steaks and fillets over to the Temptation menu. We started with flutes of champagne and an octopus appetizer (right, $18), or as Martha said "Spain on a plate."
We ordered a 2011 Chateauneuf-de-Pape to go with our beefy dinners. The waitress came back with a 2010 CdP, saying the 2011 was out of stock. In all my years of drinking wine in restaurants, I have never been moved back a vintage. Given that 2011 is about the worst vintage for Rhone wines in the 21st century and 2010 was one of the best, this was especially rare, and greatly appreciated. Martha had the short ribs in a tomato sauce (above left, $38) and I had an 8 oz filet mignon with mushrooms and mashed potatoes (above center, $39). The wine was fabulous with all these flavors. For our anniversary, the kitchen sent out vanilla ice cream with a caramel topping. Pretty good all around. Chef Dino is a master of tastes and textures. Our food cost $95 and our drinking added another $128.

Rancho Del Sol
On Monday we had lunch at Rancho Del Sol. They are located high on a hill overlooking Tintamarre, Green Cay, all of Orient Bay, and even St Barts. The pano down below is Green Cay and the reef that protects the southern end of Orient Beach. Rancho has free wifi, a $10-12 plate of the day, and delivers in the Orient Bay area. Martha ordered the Rancho Saloon salad with shrimp and hard-boiled eggs (below left, 14). Below center is my pizza Rodeo with pepperoni and olives (9.5). On the right is our Cotes du Rhone and fizzy water. We spent more on wine and water than we did on food. Still, a $50 lunch of this quality and quantity is nice to find. They close on Saturday and make something a bit more extravagant on Sunday (Couscous Royal, Moules Curry, and Fricasee of Conch for this month) priced at $17.50. If you are staying out here, you should take advantage of this service and if not, you should find out what is on offer (Fax-info sometimes has the monthly plan as does this site) and plan an excursion. They are doing 1 to 1 on the dollar for cash. I brought almost half the pizza home for breakfasts.

On Tuesday we went to Skipjack's for some fish. It's close and good with some parking, if only across the street in the last bit of undeveloped Simpson Bay. We had reservations elsewhere but it was too crowded and understaffed when we arrived. Skipjack's was also fairly full when we arrived but as most people crave the tables on the water or at least on the lower level, the upper level is usually available. We scored the very private corner booth. We ordered a Duck Pond Pinot Noir ($55, right) that was surprisingly good. Martha chose the grilled red snapper (left, $24), and I had a special, blackened wahoo (below center, $26). Both came with salad and your choice of starch. With a 15% tip (mentioned on the menu and on the check) added to the bill, we spent about $120 very good seafood with as variety of sauces. We added a bit more because Kelvin's service was fun, friendly, and fast.

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."