St Maarten/St Martin
12 February 2017 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a wonderful day that ended with the sunset to the right. It was taken from the beach at Horny Toad Guesthouse. It led into an even better evening watching the Super Bowl at the Toad. Even though the forecast for this week was bleak, Sunday was fine and now, on Tuesday, things are still looking good (below left - lots of clouds and sheets of rain on the horizon, but none here in Cupecoy.) The middle picture was taken on Wednesday and the far right was on Thursday. In both cases Saba is lost in the haze while the sky is mostly cloudy, but we had very little rain all week. On Saturday it was quite cloudy but the marine haze cleared up enough that Saba and Statia were visible. The sunset pano was taken on Saturday evening. You can easily tell where the sun went down. On the right is a cruise ship heading into that sunset.

The next week looks pretty good: five clear days, one partly cloudy day, and one day with a chance of rain. The high temps range from 79 to 82F and the nighttime cool temps range from 74 to 76F.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:15PM providing 11 hours and 38 minutes of sunshine. In 2017 the full moons will be 12 Mar, 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Plum Bay (Baie aux Prunes) is a pretty beach, but rocky and a bit rough. It has great sunsets because it faces west. There are no facilities at all. You must go through the gate house near Bay Rouge to get access to either Bay Long or Plum Bay. It's quite a drive from the gate house to the two small entrances to the beaches. The panoramic photo below is the entire southern part of the beach as it looks from the entrance. President Trump owns Château Palmiers (Tower of Palms) here. The beachside part of his estate is under the highest cloud on the right side of the pano below. The cloud is huuge. On the left is a photo of his estate from the road. It is huuger and the very, very best on the island. On the right is the northern part of the beach.

The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst ($10 Kindle or paperback) - I learn a lot writing these newsletters, and much of what I learn can be found in this book. The fifth edition of this widely praised and highly esteemed reference guide has been updated with new information to reflect the way we eat in today's world. The authors have taken into account our healthier lifestyles and more diverse palates to include over 500 new listings, including Korean, Persian, and South American additions; updated information for hundreds of existing entries; a blood alcohol concentration chart for men and women; an extensive breakdown of food labels and nutritional facts; and the Department of Agriculture recommendations for a 2,000 calorie per day food plan. Among the myriad foods and culinary subjects defined and explained are cooking tools and techniques, meat cuts, breads, pastas, and literally everything else related to good food and enjoyable dining. Handy appendices cover many topics including suggestions for substituting recipe ingredients, a microwave oven conversion chart, recommended safe cooking temperatures for meats and fish, and much more. The New Food Lover's Companion is a reference guide, not a cookbook, but it includes hundreds of cooking tips plus an extensive bibliography of recommended cookbooks. More than 7200 entries plus line art are included in this seminal work.

Sapphire Beach Club: No big news here. Things are working. GEBE went out a couple times this week making me ever more grateful that we have an emergency generator. The photos are from the end of the week starting with the full moon and two shots of boats with Saba in the background. As you can see, there were clouds, but little rain.

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: Baywatch in Beacon Hill has been transformed into a fantastic three bedroom, three bathroom villa on the water and it has a pool. It's a convenient location near Alegria and its restaurants and just a bit farther to Maho. King Bob gets great reviews as a landlord. If you can get a reservation, I'm sure you would have a great time.
SXM-Activities: We went out on a great day sail with Captain Alain aboard Flagship II from SXM Cat Charters. Alain and his wife Zuzu have switched from running one of the best restaurants in Grand Case to a life of sailing with the occasional house rental. The restaurant experience makes this charter boat a cut above the rest in terms of food quality and hospitality. They do day sails and longer sails. There is a 2 days/1 night sail that goes to either Anguilla or St Barts. The 7 days/6 nights can take you to both Anguilla and St Barts or even further.

Rental Cars: I was just surfing around Next Level Cars and found that the website was laid out quite well. I also found that they offer a 15% discount for geezers (60 and older). That seemed to produce a very competitive rate. If you are going to get older, you might as well get something for your efforts.

Gas: The Nettle Bay Cadisco was charging 0.88€ per liter and not doing 1 to 1. Delta Petroleum on the western side of the French bridge in Sandy Ground raised their price 2 cents to 0.89 and taking dollars at 1 to 1. The Cadisco on the other side of the French Bridge is still charging 0.88 and giving 1 to 1. Delta's station in La Savanne was charging 0.82 but not doing 1.1. The station near the Super U was charging 0.92. The Cadisco in Orient was charging 0.90 and doing 1 to 1. The winner seems to be the Cadisco station along the eastern side of the French canal, although if you use your credit card and get euros at 1.07 the ultimate price in La Savanne is almost the same.

Alcohol: We had an interesting dinner at Select Wine Cellar in Orange Grove on Thursday night. There were eleven people and we sipped Belin Champagne as we waited for everyone to arrive. One couple brought sushi for all and Sylvain added a magnum of white Sancerre. Sylvain had picked up several appetizers at Epicerie de Marie in Marigot. We worked our way through them with some great old Italian reds and some more recent French reds (Pommard, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Saint Joseph). A pork roast was our main course and dessert was accompanied by Monbazillac and Miclo's Eau de vie framboise.

Groceries: We went over to Carrefour and picked up a beautiful Charantais melon (locally, they call them Guadeloupe melons). After a few days in the room, it is ripe and luscious. The crisp sweetness contrasts with the chewy saltiness of some air-dried ham. We got some Parma (about $19 per lb) and some Serrano from Spain (about $15 per lb) from Super U. I could hardly tell the difference. Super U seema to have better prices for cheese and charcuterie. They had Chaumes on sale for 20/kg. Using 1 to 1 that comes to about $9 per pound for one of my favorite cheeses. I saw a one pound round selling for $36 on Amazon. But wait, it gets worse: they wanted $46 to ship it! That's overnight shipping with ice packs, but that makes for one expensive pound of cheese. Super U also had munster at $7 per pound. Amazon would sell you a 7 oz package for $10 and charge $13 for two day shipping. That's about $50 per pound.

green logo Nature: A pair of doves built this mess of a nest and are slowly trying to start a family.

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: This is true, and as no one was injured, funny, A tourist drove his car straight into the Gourmet Marché at Porto Cupecoy on Tuesday. That's about all you need to know, but there is a great photo in the Herald.


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 5 February the Euro was at 1.079 and today it is at 1.064. That is a 1.4% drop in a week

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 now use the 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.

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.


L'Escapade Restaurant
We had a wonderful dinner at Escapade on Wednesday. It's usually a slower night than the rest because the Mardi Party draws a huge crowd on Tuesday. Everyone stays away because they have just been there. We had reservations and we got our favorite table, a corner on the waterfront with the view to the right.

The wine list is one of the better ones on the island and we found a 2012 Marsannay. The wine was probably not the best choice for our very tasty, but somewhat spicy beef nems (below left). It was wonderful with my beef filet with garlic mashed potatoes and a mushroom sauce (below right). As Martha's fish soup was on the spicy side, I may have missed the mark again. Nonetheless, Martha loves Burgundy about as much as I do, so she was a happy camper. We finished with a bit of very tasty mango rum.

Friar's Bay Beach Café
On Friday afternoon we drove through Marigot to Friar's Bay for lunch on the beach. We arrived late and couldn't get a table on the beach or even a table along the edge of the restaurant. Nonetheless, it's still a lovely spot. We ordered some water and a Cotes du Rhone (25€), a special tongue and leeks vinaigrette platter (center, 14€) and squid steak (right, 18€). Martha thought her tongue was great and I loved my squid in a tasty sauce. They don't take credit cards but do accept dollars at a mediocre exchange rate. They also claim no tip is included. So I left about $80 for a nice lunch in a relaxing location. Kali's, in the foreground on the view, is famous for their full moon party with a bonfire and bands. Happy Bay is up and over the hill in the background.
wine tongue conch

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!

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.

Endless Summer Beachwear
Kakao Beach
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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