St Maarten/St Martin
19 February 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a wonderful day that started with a very clear morning. Saba, Statia, St Kitts, and Montserrat were visible. The photo to the right shows Statia (two humps on the right) and St Kitts (larger hump on the left). Passaat came out for a great sunset (below left). The day ended with one of the longest green flashes we have ever seen followed by the fabulous sunset in the pano below. The middle photo below is the view from our kitchen as we started preparing dinner after the sunset. Our Caribbean balcony looks almost exactly due south at Saba. Valentine's Day featured profoundly calm weather and great visibility. Four islands were visible including Montserrat and there was another long green flash at the end of the sunset below right.

The next week looked fabulous a few days ago, but has deteriorated: four clear days (one with 0.22 inches of rain???), two rainy days, and one cloudy day. The high temps are 79 on one day and 841 or 82 on the others. The nighttime cool temps range from 73 to 75.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:17PM providing 11 hours and 44 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: Bay Long is a long beach with the expensive La Samanna complex at one end (the white buildings at the far end of the beach in the pano below) and limited access in the center to a rather rocky beach. Other than Samanna, which will not let you in, there is no service on the entire beach. In 2011 they stopped allowing access from the main road to the road going to La Samanna forcing people seeking beach access to Bay Long to use the lowlands access closer to Bay Rouge. That access has a bar across the roadway. Those in the know, know that if you pull up to the bar, it will rise up during the day if the booth is unmanned. If there is a guard, tell him you are going to the beach and he will raise the gate. At night the gate is manned and you are not allowed into the area. The photo on the right was taken from the entrance and shows some of the rocks at the water's edge. It's best to walk in either direction from the entrance if you wish get in the water. Plum Bay St Martin Beaches St Maarten Beaches Sint Maarten Beaches Saint Martin Beaches

Bay Long St Martin Beaches St Maarten Beaches Sint Maarten Beaches Saint Martin Beaches

cover One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson - $10 (Kindle) - Amazon.com Review Kate Atkinson began her career with a winner: Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which captured the Whitbread First Novel Award. She followed that success with four other books, the last of which was Case Histories, her first foray into the mystery-suspense-detective genre. In that book she introduced detective Jackson Brodie, who reopened three cold cases and ended up a millionaire. A great deal happened in-between. In One Good Turn Jackson returns, following his girlfriend, Julia the actress, to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. He manages to fall into all kinds of trouble, starting with witnessing a brutal attack by "Honda Man" on another man stuck in a traffic jam. Is this road rage or something truly sinister? Another witness is Martin Canning, better known as Alex Blake, the writer. Martin is a shy, withdrawn, timid sort who, in a moment of unlikely action, flings a satchel at the attacker and spins him around, away from his victim. Gloria Hatter, wife of Graham, a millionaire property developer who is about to have all his secrets uncovered, is standing in a nearby queue with a friend when the attack takes place. There is nastiness afoot, and everyone is involved. Nothing is coincidental. Through a labyrinthine plot which is hard to follow because the points of view are constantly changing, the real story is played out, complete with Russians, false and mistaken identities, dead bodies, betrayals, and all manner of violent encounters. Jackson gets pulled in to the investigation by Louise Monroe, a police detective and mother of an errant 14-year-old.
There might be yet another novel to follow which will take up the connection those two forge in this book. Or, Jackson might just go back to France and feed apples to the local livestock. Atkinson has written an enjoyable and lively story of no degrees of separation among the most unlikely cast of characters. Some plot lines have been left to drift, but it does hang together in a satisfying fashion.

As usual, Martha borrowed the book from our library via the internet and read it on her Kindle.

Sapphire Beach Club: No big news here. The stairwell in building three had several damaged spots cleaned up and filled with cement as we arrived about six weeks ago. On Wednesday, they finally sanded them and painted. Looks great. There are two one hour parties, one on Monday and one on Friday. They have free drinks and some decent wines. There is live music: Fridays feature Tanya Michelle who really rocks the lobby. Monday is a bit more Caribbean/Reggae laid back style.

Paula Angella has taken over the spa. I can vouch for the massage.

It's less than two weeks until the Heineken Regatta (2 Mar) and boats are coming in, adding to the view for most of the units at Sapphire. On the left is Tango coming back from a daysail. in the center the square-rigger with green sails is the Alexander von Humboldt II named after the Prussian explorer, geographer, and naturalist. It's a sail training ship owned by the German Sail Training Foundation (DSST). Green sails were installed as a marketing tool for advertising campaigns by the ship's sponsor and founding member of DSST, the German brewery Beck's. On the right is Passaat out on her sunset cruise.

Paula Angella, Massage Therapist
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: L'Esperance Hotel is just outside downtown Pburg. They have a lovely pool and the rooms have recently been updated. They have air-conditioning, cable TV, direct dial telephones, in-room safes, full kitchens, private balconies, and free Wifi. It's a great place to stay, even if if you only want a couple extra days to use both weekends of a timeshare week. Their rates are good, but you need to call (or email) for them.

SXM-Activities: Pat Turner established Tropical Wave in 1977 on the beach of "Le Galion Hotel" to handle watersports. One of St Martin's best and most accessible reefs protects the beautiful bay. Just off the beach and out from the point, the reef offers a beautiful selection of colorful fish and corals, ideal for snorkeling. The eastern coast of St Martin is exposed to the almost constant tradewinds, but the reef keeps the waters calm, making the bay a perfect place for windsurfing or kitesurfing. It's also a great beach for toning up your tan and they have a great beach restaurant.

Rental Cars: Moti has been on Sint Maarten since 1991 working as a bartender for Sunset Beach Bar, Royal Palm Beach Resort and now at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina at the beach bar. He also runs Soualiga Car Rental which has as fleet of cars ranging from older Corollas to a BMW X5. Give him a shot!

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 is at 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 station near Marigot's beach at Galis Bay was charging 1.01€ and not 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 1.06, the ultimate price at the Delta station in La Savanne is about the same.

Alcohol: On Thursday, we had an interesting dinner with Sylvain from Select Wine Cellar and two other couples at the home of a restaurateur on his night off. Martha cooked some lamb shanks, osso buco style. We got them at Merchants Market next to the Harley place in Cole Bay. They weighed about 1 lb each and cost $5 per pound. The shanks were slowly cooked in a broth with finely chopped onions, carrots, garlic, celery, tomato and lemon peel. Larger chunks of leeks and carrots were added and the meat was taken off the bone. Oh, we had some wine also (see below).

Shopping New swimsuits are in at Endless Summer's two locations: Front Street in Pburg and Airport Road near the Dutch bridge in Simpson Bay.

Groceries: On the left is a light lunch on our balcony. The bread came from Sarafina in on the waterfront in Marigot and the cheeses, chorizo, and paté all came from Super U on the eastern side of Marigot. The cheeses were Morbier, Bleu d'Auverne, Chaumes, and Emmenthal (from left to right). The glass of Volnay came from Sylvain.
green logo Nature: This is the female dove on the nest. We just saw two eggs, but couldn't get a photo before she covered them up. For a bit more excitement, check out this pod of dolphins that escorted Celine Too on a recent voyage.

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: It appears that spectators dancing along the carnival route are getting too stimulating for the local worthies. The Carnival Development Foundation is watching you. So watch out.


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.

Winners of the contest that closed on 19 February 2017:
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Chris Ehrmantraut
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Chris Ehrmantraut
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase - Chris Ehrmantraut
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Randy Gettman
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Chris Ehrmantraut
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Randy Gettman
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Chris Ehrmantraut
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Anthony Zajac

Current Contest: now until 9 April 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

Chris Ehrmantraut Future Contests:
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 12 February the Euro was at 1.064 and today it is at 1.061. Not much change, but it is headed in the right direction.

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.


Altro Italian Bistro
We went to Altro Italian Bistro in Porto Cupecoy and met some friends on Monday. Porto Cupecoy projects movies onto a wall next to the plaza every Monday at 6:30. The feature was La La Land and they had about 100 people. It formed an amusing backdrop for a great dinner. Altro is the latest creation of Brigitte and Christian Moreau with their daughter Charlotte. They feature fresh pasta and Christian has a small menu with many specials. The aps are all around $20 and the main courses are mostly under $30.
That's the family on the left. We started with a bottle of Quincy, a Sauvignon Blanc from the eastern Loire. It went well with the tuna carpaccio (right) and the scallop carpaccio (below left).
We had two orders of Cioppino (one for me), a tomato-based fish soup (right), much like the version that Chef Christian made famous at Sol é Luna.
Our guests had a fruiti di mare (left), fruits of the sea. It looked a lot like my cioppino, but with even less liquid. Martha had osso buco, except the meat was removed from the shank bone and Israeli couscous was used rather than the traditional risotto.
We had this grand cru Beaujolais from Lapierre. He championed the finer Beaujolais, pushing for them to be more than a marketing ploy for selling the first wine of the season. He treated his wines like fine Burgundies, and got a fine wine from the gamay grape. We did have a pana cotta for dessert and water. We spent $154 per couple and were told that the tip was included.

Restaurant Le Cottage
On Wednesday we headed over to Grand Case for a dinner at Le Cottage. We had made reservations earlier, requesting the water view table on the terrace, and it was waiting for us. We were offered a welcome drink and ended up with Laurent-Perrier Champagne to sip on as we looked over the menu and the specials board. When Tania came back to take our order, I handed her the specials menu and said one of each, please. There was a fish ap for us to split followed by a scallop and shrimp plate for Martha and a veal tournedos plate with a morel sauce for me. The chef sent out the amuse bouche to the right: a tasty puréed vegetable soup with a creamy topping.
We looked at the wine list, but Stéphane, one of the best sommeliers on the island, said he would take care of us. We started with a 2012 Chablis Premier Cru from William Fevre for our appetizer which was an assortment of fish: starting with the scallop at the bottom left and continuing clockwise, tuna tataki, some mahi tartare, and salmon carpaccio with beet root. There were interesting tastes and textures and the wine went nicely with the ap.

Martha's dinner was a further assortment of shellfish: scallops and shrimp in a basil butter sauce with an assortment of vegetables and a splash of tropical sweet potatoes (below center). I had the veal tournedos topped with a slice of foie gras with three dollops of risotto, a carrot, and a bit of broccoli. Stéphane paired a white wine with Martha's fish, but I should have told him that Martha drinks red wines almost exclusively. Eventually, she was drinking the red wines that were paired with my dinner, one of which was a Montirius. We had a bit of sweet Bandol for dessert. The total cost was about $160 and well worth it.

Champagne Bistro
On Friday we stopped at Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain and replenish our meager stocks. Martha had the Champagne Burger (below left), Sylvain had the Coq au Vin special (camera shy), and I had a calamari special (right), a large squid stuffed with a tomato sauce. We were all a bit lethargic from the previous nights exertions but everything was fine and cost a total of about $60 with a tip. Sylvain dug deep into a stack of boxes until he reached a 2012 Chambolle-Musigny from Amiot Servelle. It was fantastic and cost more than the lunch.

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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