St Maarten/St Martin
29 January 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a bit more cloudy than the days leading up to it, but there were still five islands visible from our balcony. On the right is the sunset and below left is a shot of Saba taken about 20 minutes later. The sunset pano below was also taken on Sunday. By Monday the wind has turned 180°, coming from the south (Caribbean) side of the condo to the north (lagoon side). That usually indicates a change in the weather and Monday did have more clouds. On Tuesday morning it was obvious that it had rained overnight. In the morning Saba was barely visible as the photos below center and below left show. Look carefully, Saba is visible on both. There was rain overnight on Wednesday and a bit during the day on Thursday. Even Saba was not visible. That's quite a change of weather! Early today (29 Jan) is totally overcast with rain squalls visible in two large areas to the south, one of them wrapping around to the east..

The next week starts with two chances of rain today (Sunday) and again on Tuesday. The other five days are clear, making this a pretty good week. The high temps range from 81 to 82F and the nighttime cool temps range from 75 to 76F.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:05PM providing 11 hours and 19 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 right is a shot of Kim Sha beach, ie Simpson Bay on the east side of the Dutch bridge, near Buccaneer Beach Bar and Greenhouse. That's not a major amount of seaweed and it is rare to find much on the Dutch side, but it doesn't really enhance one's vacation. The previous years troubles manifested themselves from Oyster Pond north to Orient. I have heard no reports of seaweed there this season.

cover Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - $10 (Kindle) - From Publishers Weekly: Private detective Jackson Brodie finds himself entangled in three distinctly different cases only to thread the needle time and again and come across remarkable connections between them. Susan Jameson delivers an absolutely stunning performance; her classically trained voice is perfect for Atkinsons prose and the shifting point-of-view narration. Though the lead protagonist is male, listeners will never question Jamesons abilities; she brings raw emotion to this tale and her British dialect also gives the story a vintage mystery feel. As Brodie, Jameson is simply flawless, delivering her words firmly and with resoluteness. Hers is a performance that demands repeated listens.

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

Sapphire Beach Club: On the right is Tanya Michelle who sings at the Friday night party. Below left is Passaat heading toward the sunset. In the background, the coast guard boat is also on a sunset cruise. In the center is Venus, one of the last bits of control freakiness from Steve Jobs. Both of these shots were taken from our Caribbean balcony. Say what you want about Sapphire, the location is fabulous and 85% of the units have a Caribbean view and the remainder have a view of the lagoon. About 30%, including my unit, have a view of both. Over the last few years when we were disaffected with Sapphire we looked around and couldn't find anyplace with the two water views, except extremely pricey penthouses. So, we are still here having turned down an offer two years ago that would have given us a $60,000 profit.

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: Here are two places on the water. Mike and Fawnette own, run, and live at Azure Hotel on the beach in Simpson Bay. I know it looks as if the front desk would be hard to find amongst the plantings, but it would be worth the effort as you could enjoy your morning coffee on the beach and walk to any of the restaurants in Simpson Bay. Speaking of dining, the photo on the right was taken from a three-bedroom villa on the water in Grand Case, dining capital of the Caribbean. You can find more on that unit or on a pair of two bedroom villas in Mount Vernon at Mount Vernon Villas.
SXM-Activities: ReveMarine is in Marina Royale in Marigot. They have a wide variety of sail and power boats that can be taken with or without a captain. The Lagoon Pub Crawl on Celine (center)is a great evening that visits three different restaurants on the lagoon. Each one supplies a drink and a snack and drinks flow freely on the boat. She also does a day trip to Tintamarre, a sunset cruise, and two beach trips. Random Wind (right) does a lovely day sail where you will sail, swim, snorkel, eat, drink, fish, and swing into the blue waters of the Caribbean from the Tarzan swing while enjoying an open bar, lunch, snacks, a mud bath, standup paddle board, and an awesome stereo system.

Rental Cars: Daniel at Progressive Cars says that he's got a great price waiting for you on a 2016 Yaris Hatchback (left) or 2016 Toyota Corolla (right). If you haven't got as rental for this season, go to his site and see what he can do for you.

Alcohol: We stopped in at Select Wine Cellar in Orange Grove and were treated to a 2014 Collioure Tremedoc from Domaine Madeloc in the Languedoc Roussillon. Collioure is the westernmost town on the French Mediterranean, which is to say it borders on Spain. It was an interesting white wine at $24.

green logo Nature: Martha's stink plant, the one that attracts files rather than butterflies for pollination, is blooming again. It's quite a sight, but also quite a smell. She says its real name is Stapelia Giganticea.

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: The St Maarten government needs more money and a departure tax of about $6 has been proposed. The Herald had an editorial in which they concede that adding the proposed amount to the already high departure tax ($36) charged by the airport (and retained by airport operating company) may strain the tourists' wallets. Their solution is to get the airport to pay the departure tax out of its profits. Those profits normally flow to the owner of the airport, which is the same government that needs more money.


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 22 January the Euro was at 1.069 and today it is at 1.070. That's 0.1 percent in a week, the smallest increment I measure. If it gets to 1.1, Super U is quite likely to scrap 1 to 1 sales.

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.


Auberge Gourmande
We had a great dinner at Auberge Gourmande in Grand Case on Monday. We started with a Volnay Premier Cru. The wine list said 2010/2011. With a little prodding, I got the 2010. It's a slightly better year and had another year of age. It was well worth the effort. We had a seafood based ap: a lobster nem with a sweet and sour mango sauce with a side of tuna tartar. Nice large flavors and crunchy nem textures that went well with premier cru red wine. Martha had a special: a quail stuffed with foie gras and I had three double lamb chops. All dinners at Auberge have 4 to 6 vegetable flights of fancy from a talented chef. Both dinners went well with our aged Burgundy. This is one restaurant that should be on your "don't miss" list.

Golden Apple
On Thursday we had a very tasty lunch, with enough left over for lunch the next day, at Golden Apple in SXM Simpson Bay. Martha had a soft tofu dish with some beef, ham, chicken, shrimp, and veg (left) and I had Singapore noodles. We had the same lunch here last year. Both of our choices were quite good. They had a bottle of Matouk's on the table, so I was pretty happy. A Presidente filled out a lunch that came to $33.50. Not bad at all!

Shiv Shakti Restaurant
On Friday we we had lunch at Shiv Shakti Restaurant in Simpson Bay. The dining room has been completely redone, the serving dishes have been upgraded to lovely copper bowls, and the wine list has been improved. they also added Leffe beer. We especially like the brown.
We ordered the dal made from lentils (or other seeds from legumes) in the copper bucket on the left. To the right of that is onion kulcha with jeera (spicy rice) behind, and nan in the back. The copper bowl contains chicken tikka masala, in a red sauce. The other copper bowl has sag paneer. I liked the previous version of this restaurant, but the new decor and serving dishes really make the restaurant stand out. The pricing isn't bad either, as we paid only $52 for all the food plus three Leffes. We brought home enough for another lunch.

On Friday night we stopped in at Karakter, just past Mary's Boon in Simpson Bay, for jazz and tapas night. We ordered a bottle of Meiomi ($55) and choose a platter of four tapas plates ($21). Clockwise, starting at top left, taco chips with a bit of cheese and a small bit of guac, four barbecued shrimp with a dipping sauce, five moules in a somewhat spicy preparation, and some fried swai with a Créople sauce. The jazz was good, the food was good, and the price for an evening's fun was great ($76, two-thirds being wine!), although we did leave tips for the servers and band. Connis Vanterpool started with his sax with a backing track. After about 45 minutes Betty V arrived and she sang with the backing track and Connis filled in at times. She has a lovely voice and choose several tunes that she claimed were her favorites. Surprisingly enough we seem to have similar tastes. They are here on Friday evenings.

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."  

Erich S. Kranz
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