St Maarten/St Martin
26 February 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a wonderful day that started with a fairly clear morning. Saba, Statia, and St Kitts were visible. Monday was just as nice, but Tuesday featured this pirate ship attacking a cruise liner in the early morning rainstorm. That's fake news, I don't want to hear about a terrorist attack in SXM. The rain was quite real, but ended about 10AM leaving several extra water hazards on the golf course. Wednesday started calm and misty (below left) and we had a small sprinkle in the afternoon. Thursday looked terrible at 7AM, but the rain washed everything out of the sky and we could see Montserrat by noon. Thursday's sunset pano below will be one of the last from our Caribbean side balcony as the sun is heading around the north side of Sapphire. We see it again in late April from our lagoon-side balcony. Below right is a Saturday mid-afternoon shot off our balcony as a United flight flies over Okto sailing past Saba. It was a beautiful pretty clear day.

The next week starts badly with a chance of rain in the late afternoon into the evening followed by a clear day and then two days of cloudy weather. After that it will be clear for the next four days. The temperatures are very stable 81-82 for the high and 75-76 for the low.

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 54 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.

Friar's Bay St Martin Beaches St Maarten Beaches Sint Maarten Beaches Saint Martin Beaches SXM-Beaches: Friar's Bay is a small, rather pretty and very protected cove with two beach bars: Kali's Beach Bar (foreground in the photo on the left) and Friar's Bay Beach Café (background). Kali's is Jamaican/Créole and Friar's BBC does pretty good French cuisine. They both provide chairs and umbrellas. There are also covered tables for dining on the sand. The road in 2017 is in better shape than our last visit showed. Happy Bay, a clothing optional hangout, is up and over the hill in the background of the photo on the left. Anguilla is in the background of the photo on the right. The pano shows how calm the bay is. Friar's Bay St Martin Beaches St Maarten Beaches Sint Maarten Beaches Saint Martin Beaches

Friar's Bay St Martin Beaches St Maarten Beaches Sint Maarten Beaches Saint Martin Beaches

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II by Rhys Bowen - (about $15 hardcover, $5 Kindle, $9 paperback) - "Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic, and stylish, like binge-watching a great British drama on Masterpiece Theater" - Lee Child, bestselling author

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham's middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility. As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela's family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela's help, stop them before England falls? Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.

Martha got it free on her Kindle as part of our Amazon Prime membership.

Sapphire Beach Club: Last Sunday Sharon Rojek Dileo posted this on Facebook: "Arrived yesterday. Much improved. Our unit (330) had all new appliances. Meticulously clean. And no smell. Huge flat screen TVs. Pool has new umbrellas. Pool area and pool looks nice. They are bringing in AMA jewelers where the candy store was. Modest gym upgrades. Did not see the store yet. When we arrived Marcia was making rum punches and mimosas. Free internet. Jan and Pascal welcomed people. Even a new sales person. Sarah. Seemed like more people. Certainly not the jewel in the RCI crown but in an upward improvement."

On the right is a singer from the Monday party in the lobby. Below left is Sarah, one of our new sales persons. She appears to have quite a following. Below center is Random Wind out on her day sail in the Thursday morning gloom, which quickly cleared off.

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: On Thursday the Herald announced that Sarah Wescott-Williams had tabled a timeshare law. Don't get out the champagne yet, as ratification by the Council of Ministers and an approval by the Ombudsman are necessary before this becomes the law of the land. It's also the first law with an English version.

Oyster Bay Beach Resort has bought Coral Beach Club including 11 of the 24 unsold units. It was a high-end residence project with a lot of unsold units. OBBR says they will market it as high-end timeshares and fractional ownership.

Thibault and Amaury from Bistrot Caraïbes have lovely studios available in Mont Vernon at the northern end of Orient Beach. The rates are good and the units have been fully remodeled. There is a very large pool and they are on Orient Beach.

Nightlife: On the left is Jay, the bartender at Pineapple Pete. The tee shirt is supposed to remind you that they have pool tables in addition to dining and live music. How's that working for you? On the right is Eduardo who put some good licks on that guitar while we enjoyed a Red Stripe and a margarita on Thursday night.

Below left is Ronnie Santana who is now in a soul/blues band, with the bassist (on the right below), Ayan who does vocals (center), a drummer (hidden behind the front people, of course), and a great keyboard player. They are at Karakter on Tuesday evenings.

SXM-Activities: Billy Bones Boatcharters has half or full day excursions featuring snorkeling and secluded beaches. They also do private day charters. Check them out!

You might compare their offerings with those at ReveMarine. They are located at Marigot's Marina Royale.

Rental Cars: I have known Alain Arnell of Triple A Car Rentals for about 20 years. He has always been a straight shooter and there are TTOL comments to back this up. A few years ago he moved to a larger lot and put up a new office on Beacon Hill near the western end of the runway. He's got a good fleet of cars and keeps them working well. Cars, however, do not always cooperate, so its good to know that he gets high marks for quickly sorting out any problem that may arise.

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 Artsen station near the Super U was charging 1.02€. The Cadisco in Orient was charging 0.90€ and doing 1 to 1. The Blue station near Marigot's beach at Galis Bay was charging 1.01€ and not doing 1 to 1. The Artsen station near the Super U was at 1.02€. 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.

Shopping On Tuesday we headed to Pburg to talk to Arun Bijlani at Ama. It has been about one year since Don Sharman, one of their long-time employees, passed away. We had known him for about twenty years. Lately he had come to Sapphire to promote his bus to Pburg. He told terrible jokes on the bus and managed to get in a plug for their jewelry store mentioning free Heineken on tap and a clean restroom, both necessary to keep the guys happy while their wives are shopping.

Alcohol: We regret to announce that Sylvain's faithful dog, Petrus, has died in his fifteenth year. Martha and I remember him as a puppy in the Vinissimo wine store in Marigot. We also remember him from many lunches at Select Wine Cellar with Sylvain and on a vacation in France.

On a brighter note, we have been getting some nice Burgundy from Sylvain (right). Girard's 2014 Premier Cru Savigny-Les-Beaune is our house wine ($32), his 2013 Pommard is pretty good considering that it was generally a poor vintage ($46). Lescure's 2012 Volnay is for special occasions.

Groceries: On the left is a French housewife foraging for dinner at Super U. On the right is the dinner built around the yellowfin tuna that we got ffrom the frozen food section. My chef added some capers and red peppers, a dollop of risotto, and some sautéed zucchini. A light Burgundy, Savigny-Les-Beaune (see above), rounded out a nice dinner at home.
green logo Nature: On the right is a newly hatched dove and its late arriving sibling.

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 Herald reports that Dutch civil servants are banned from flying Curaçao-based Insel Air, KLM suspended their code-share agreement with them in November 2016, and the Aruba Department of Civil Aviation issued a flight ban for all aircraft of Insel Air Aruba. It's OK for you to fly on them, however. Good luck.


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 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

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 19 February the Euro was at 1.061 and today it is at 1.056. That's better but it didn't stop Super U from abandoning 1 to 1 pricing this 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 1.05 for cash. Note this is generally only for cash payments using US greenbacks and is 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'Escargot Restaurant
On Tuesday we headed to Pburg and went to L'Escargot Restaurant for lunch. We were late and got a table in the back. Martha had the red snapper that she liked very much (below left) and I had the calamari steak in a caper and lemon sauce (below center). Service is good and we think that Chef Christophe is better than ever. I had a glass of white wine and Martha just drank water, so our bill was about $77 when a 15% tip were added. Joel and Sonya are still going strong after almost 40 years on Front Street. On our way back to the car, we saw Miek-Miek playing sax on the street in front of Coliseum Casino.

Ti Bouchon Restaurant
On Thursday we went to Ti Bouchon in Cul de Sac. The colorful old Créole house contains the bar and kitchen, while the dining is on the porch that wraps around two sides of the house. It was a lovely night and it was delightful to be there. Ti Bouchon has is a small but most interesting menu with aps ranging from $13 to $21 and main courses from $21 to $35. As usual, Momo has several specials that are worth your consideration and he is more than happy to discuss his menu and specials with you.

We ordered fizzy water and a 2012 Saint-Joseph (from Select Wine Cellar) but Momo cautioned that they were out of that vintage and had received a 2015 replacement. It may be 2017, but this wine was a grape a year and four months ago, so we went with the 2013 Crozes-Hermitage ($42) below right.

We started with an amuse bouche of pumpkin soup with local thyme and smoked chicken - very tasty (below left). Momo described a special appetizer made from callalou, the green leaves rising up from a tuber variously named dasheen, yautia, tannia, taro, or malanga. Some tender squid rings were added to the soup ($13, below center, but that is a half portion)

Martha ordered the grilled shrimp with purple mashed potatoes in a passion fruit emulsion from the menu (below left, $26). I had a special grouper rolled about some small squid, mussels, and veg with a wine reduction sauce. (below right, $23). We ended with a snifter of old rum. The total bill came to $123, a certifiable bargain for such a fine meal in a lovely cottage. The chef is Thierry Delaunay, one of the finest on the island. He seems to be thriving partially because Momo is so good at describing the various specials. Ti Bouchon is worth a visit.

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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