St Maarten/St Martin
12 March 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a perfect day for the last day of the Heineken Regatta, plenty of wind, some clouds, no rain, but Monday arrived with more clouds (right) with intermittent rain. Saba is in that photo. Tuesday was horrid with rain driven by 15 mph winds and temps in the lower 70's. The photo below left was taken at 6AM on Tuesday. It was cloudy and only got worse. The central photo below was taken at Orient Beach by Vikki Whitley on Thursday. The trade winds have been fierce, 17-18 mph but died out by sunset on Friday. Below right is Random Wind heading out for her daysail. Saba is in this photo also. On Saturday morning Saba was totally lost in marine haze, closing out a pretty bad week of wind, cool temps, haze, and some serious rain. It keeps the island green and gives us the rainbow pano (below) that was taken from our lagoon balcony on Monday afternoon.

Today will be clear, then partly cloudy, then clear, then partly cloudy, then clear for three straight days. The temperatures are rock solid: 81 for the high and 75 for the low for the next seven days.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:21 PM providing 11 hours and 59 minutes of sunshine. We are close to the equinox! In 2017 the full moons will be 12 Mar (tonight!), 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: It was a pretty tough week at the beach. You saw the waves at Orient above in the weather discussion. Wendy K went to Cupecoy early in the week and never went in the water. However, this morning she reports sand at baby beach and calmer waters. The photo was taken 10 years ago on a Regatta cruise on the original Celine. On the right is Sapphire, in the center is Ocean Club, and on the left is Blue Mall, currently closed. Cupecoy Beach
cover Bone Box by Faye Kellerman - $28 (Hardcover) - Amazon.com Review: In this thrilling chapter in Faye Kellerman’s bestselling series, Rina Lazarus makes a shocking discovery in the woods of her upstate New York community that leads her husband, police detective Peter Decker, through a series of gruesome, decades old, unsolved murders, pointing to a diabolical, serial killer who's been hiding in plain sight. On a bright and crisp September morning, while walking a bucolic woodland trail, Rina Decker stumbles upon human remains once buried deep beneath the forest grounds. Immediately, she calls her husband, Peter, a former detective lieutenant with LAPD, now working for the local Greenbury Police. Within hours, a vista of beauty and tranquility is transformed into a frenetic crime scene. The body has been interred for years and there is scant physical evidence at the gravesite: a youthful skeleton, a skull wound and long dark strands of hair surrounding the bony frame. As Decker and his partner, Tyler McAdams, further investigate, they realize that they're most likely dealing with a missing student from the nearby Five Colleges of Upstate, a well-known and well-respected consortium of higher learning where Rina works. There's more, but you get the idea.

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

Sapphire Beach Club: Recently, Cheri Martel wrote: "We have now been at Sapphire for our first week. Things are definitely progressing but still need a lot of work. The pool and bar area look nice and the resort seems to be almost full. Lots of people and activity. Our two rooms have been completely renovated. We have had daily maid service. AC is working fine but can tell the new chillers haven't been installed yet. Staff has been great and it is great to see a lot of the same workers that have been here for years (that says a lot to me). We own 5 weeks and have paid all the assessments and maintenance fees as we feel that's the only way things will continue to get done. We've been asked repeatedly if things are okay in our rooms, they want to know every detail so it can be documented. This week the island has been packed with tourists for the regatta. Traffic is an issue if you don't know how to navigate. Hopefully this will encourage some of you to stick with your investment to give things a chance."

On the right is Tanya-Michelle belting out the blues on at Friday party. Below left is a helicopter that appears to have popped out of dormant Mount Scenery on Saba. Below center is Mercedes with her lights on and on the right is a proud parent of two chicks on our balcony looking for crumbs.

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.

Balcony view SXM-Hotels: The Grand Case Beach Club is a beachfront property on French St Martin. They are on the northwest coast of the French side of the island, just steps away from the fabulous restaurants in Grand Case. They have five two- or three-story buildings separated from the sand by a colorful garden of bougainvillea, hibiscus, and coconut palms. From your room at Grand Case Beach Club it's only a couple of steps down to the beach, dotted with umbrellas for shade. They have an artificial grass tennis court (lit for night play), a water sport center with a variety of complimentary services, and a swimming pool for your enjoyment.

Our pool

SXM-Activities: We met Capn Neil in the lobby of Sapphire on Monday night and he filled me in on what he is doing. Celine still hosts the world-famous Lagoon Pub Crawl on Wednesday night. Currently, it starts at The Stone Restaurant with a drink and an appetizer. She then goes under the causeway to Rendez Vous in Porto Cupecoy for the main course. Her last dining stop finds dessert waiting at the Dinghy Dock. Finally, she returns home. It's a moveable feast of three courses with three drinks while motoring around the lagoon and the bar on the boat is always open. Celine also goes out on a day trip to Tintamarre and a beach getaway. Or just get up a group and dream up your own perfect day charter.

SXM-Activities: On Saturday we caught a few tunes by Miek-Miek at Sapphire's restaurant before we left for a dinner at Le Cottage. That's her on the left with the sun setting behind her. As the restaurant is just off our Caribbean balcony, we hear the music quite well.

After a wonderful dinner, we returned to the pay parking lot. As we walked in to the lot, the band started up at Blue Martini. It was Remo and the Barb Wire Band. We went in for a couple adult beverages and didn't get home until midnight.

Rental Cars: I knew Starlite Car Rental via Brinks Car Rental. There was a man on the island by the name of Brinks who had a car rental called Brinks Car Rental. Seems reasonable, but not to the Brink's company. They got in touch with me as I was listed on the domain registration. After a few years the Internet authorities ruled that Mr Brinks could not use his own name for a totlally unrelated business and the domain was transferred to Brink's. Today they are Starlite Car Rental working out of the Belair Hotel. I've seen emails from many satisfied customers. Ask them for a quote, if you haven't got a car for your next vacation.
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 0.92 and 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. The Delta station in La Savanne has gone from first to worst in terms of price???

If you are looking for fine jewelry or watches, look no further than Jewels by Love, a fifth generation jeweler with shops in Pburg and Marigot. The world's greatest watchmakers have chosen only one official agent to show their creations in the Caribbean. That agent is Jewels by Love where Love Mahtani (in Marigot) and his son Rish Mahtani (in Philipsburg) are passionate about "Haute Horlogerie". A testament to the Mahtani's success came in the mid 80's with the granting of Official Agent Status by the World's Finest Watchmakers. The most prestigious and exclusive watch brands are mow represented by Jewels by Love. They include such venerable names as:

Patek Philippe | Breguet | IWC | Vacheron Constantin
A. Lange & Sohne | Jaeger-LeCoultre | Ulysse Nardin | NOMOS| Snyper

Alcohol: This will be hard to believe. We did not buy any wine from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar this week. We did deplete our cellar considerably, drinking some of Chantal Lescure's wonderful Burgundies. I believe this was the last 2009 Pommard premier cru that Sylvain had. We will miss it. The other two bottles are from the 2012 vintage. The Volnay was quite good for a village wine and the Beaune premier cru was even better.

Groceries: Carrefour in Cole Bay near the causeway has been having extravagant ice chests topped with fresh fish, supposedly caught the night before, which I think is true if you show up on Thursday. There was a chest topped with red snapper ($8/lb) and another with yellowtail ($12/lb). The middle photo had some really expensive seafood. the expanded version has some labels on the fish. Martha picked out some mahi ($17/lb right) I'm not saying they were cheap, but they were fresh.

green logo Nature: On the right is a gecko. It was easy to find when it was green, but as I got the camera ready it changed to brown and looked just like another stick.

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: On Wednesday, the Herald's lead on-line story was about two guys who robbed two supermarkets in Sandy Ground. The photo however showed two shipping containers. Other than "two", I saw no connection until I got to the bottom of the article where the last two paragraphs switched to another story about a citizen who had illegally started building a restaurant on Friar's Bay Beach with two shipping containers. This happened two weeks after I had written about the beach!

The dump in Nassau is on fire also. Seems to be contagious.


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 26 February the Euro was at 1.062 and today it is at 1.067. That's bad, and getting worse. Super U is offering 1.05 for US cash.

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.


Auberge Gourmande
We had a great dinner at Auberge Gourmande with WendyK in Grand Case on Sunday. We started with three flutes of Champagne to soothe our rattled nerves. There was an accident at the entrance to Pic Paradis reducing traffic to one lane. Despite gendarmes regulating traffic, it was backed up from the Galis Bay rounbdabout to the Delta gas station in La Savane and caused us to be 15 minutes late rather than 10 minutes early. The champagne worked well, but we switched to a 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape for a dinner that started with the chicken livers in puff pastry (below left, same for all) and moved on to either a quail stuffed with chicken and foie gras (center, for the ladies) or, for me, the trio of double lamb chops. The chicken livers in a rich mushroom sauce with a bit of salad has always been one of our favorites and met our expectations. The quail had been on special when last we visited. When Martha extolled its virtues and ordered it again, Wendy followed suit. I had a taste earlier and another last this time, so I can say that it was a great dish. I did like the lamb I had previously and six chops are hard to find, so I did it again and was quite happy. We had another great evening: great ingredients put together by a great chef and served by a hard-working, knowledgeable staff. Don't forget the fine wine cellar.

Le Ti Coin Créole
On Wednesday we went for dinner at Ti Coin Créole in Grand Case. It's possible to walk from the central parking lot, but there is a bit of parking next to the restaurant and a bit more on the street. We got a spot in their small lot and walked in to find a table waiting for us.
We ordered a Cotes du Rhone (25€). Créole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some hot sauces for the adventurous. If you use them, a sturdy syrah from the Rhone works well. We shared our appetizers, conch salad (below left, 6.5€) and fried conch (below center, 8.0€).
Martha always has stewed Créole conch as her main course. It's amazingly tender conch in a tasty sauce (above right, 13.5€) and I had the seafood pasta, as usual. It's one of Carl's signature dishes (right, 19€). My seafood was cooked to perfection atop some al dente pasta with plantains and broccoli. The total cost was about $100 after a lower than market exchange rate was applied. We added a 10% tip. Carl's brother Kenneth waits on tables and his wife is in the kitchen. Carl sponsors one of the SXM-Info contests. You could win $30 off your dinner bill!

Restaurant Le Cottage
On Saturday we headed over to Grand Case for a dinner with friends at Le Cottage. We had made reservations earlier, requesting a four top on the terrace, and it was waiting for us. The interior is quite lovely in a strikingly modernist way (see the photos on the website, if you wish), but we have always liked winter evenings on the terrace in the warm night air. It's even better now as the gendarmes and local police seem to have scared off the motorcycles with no muffler (and usually no helmet, license, registration, nor insurance). Summers may be better in the air conditioned interior. We started with a glass of white wine from Rhone and the chef sent out a tasty soup as an amuse bouche.
Martha had the baked eggs with foie gras, spinach, and mushroom sauce (19€, below left) from the special foie gras menu. She says everything was good, but this appetizer was fabulous. I rather like sushi so I had the trilogy of the sea (19€, below center) featuring a tuna tartar in a bowl, salmon cured in beet juice (hence the deep red color) with a dill cream sauce, and the menu says marlin on a bit of toast. It may have been another fish, in any event, they were all fresh and tasty. Martha's main course was a veal t-bone with porcini mushrooms, a delicious risotto, and Provencal veg (29€, below right).
I had a special, veal sweetbread with a morel sauce (31€, left), that made my day. I haven't seen too many sweetbreads on menus, so I snapped it up, especially as morels were involved. It was as good as expected. No desserts, no coffees, but we made a dent in the Pyrat Rum which is really good. The cost was about $165 per couple. We had wines by the glass paired to each dinner and desire. Cedric did a good job with the pairing as Stéphane had the night off. Service was quite attentive and friendly.

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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