St Maarten/St Martin
26 March 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a pretty good day as we walked around Marigot's Marina Royale although the splats on our windshield during the drive over made us remember the chance of rain that was forecast. And so it went for the rest of the week: a little rain over a short duration. On Wednesday we met a downpour on the way to Galion Beach. However, we arrived to cloudy skies and no rain. The photo on the right was taken that afternoon from Oyster Pond as the Rue de Coralita drops down looking over Chateau Key to Tintamare in the distance. Note the clouds and haze. Add a splash of rain, and you have described the last week. Below left is a cruise ship coming in on Thursday morning, but the center photo from that afternoon shows blue-ish sky with a few clouds. That's cattle grazing on the hills between Grand Case and Orient. On the right is this morning's sunrise, plenty of clouds, but by 10AM it was just partly cloudy with lots of marine haze. The weather pano below was taken from our Caribbean balcony as the sun was rising on Tuesday morning.

Today's forecast shows is a chance of rain for the next three days (0.4 inches total), followed by partly cloudy, two clear days, with rain next Saturday. Sounds mediocre except that the total rain is less than a half inch. The temperatures are pretty solid: today 82, all others 81 for the high and 75-76 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 6:24 PM providing 12 hours and 13 minutes of sunshine. In 2017 the full moons will be 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Here is Simpson Bay Beach. The photo on the right was taken looking east from Roberts Drive (the side road to Azure Hotel). The Dutch Bridge and canal are at the far left end of the photo and Pelican Key is on the right. The pano below was taken from the same spot, but looking west. Azure's green umbrellas are in the right foreground and the white seawall belongs to the Horny Toad Guesthouse. Heading down the beach takes you past Mary's Boon to Karakter Restaurant, the last building on this end of Simpson Bay Beach. After that the airport runway is too close to the beach to have structures built upon it. The far western end of Simpson Bay Beach (and Beacon Hill) can be reached by driving along Maho Beach and turning left at the Alegría Resort or you could walk along the beach from Karakter.

cover Beach Reading: Traitor's Story by Kevin Wignall - ($5 Kindle) - Amazon.com Review: When fifteen-year-old American Hailey Portman goes missing in Switzerland, her desperate parents seek the help of their neighbor, Finn Harrington, a seemingly quiet historian rumored to be a former spy. Sensing the story runs deeper than anyone yet knows, Finn reluctantly agrees to make some enquiries. He has little to go on other than his instincts, and his instincts have been wrong in the past, sometimes spectacularly wrong. But he gets involved anyway, never imagining that Hailey's disappearance might be linked to the tragic events that ended his career six years earlier, drawing him back into a deadly world that has neither forgiven nor forgotten.
Kevin Wignall is a British writer, born in Brussels in 1967. He spent many years as an army child in different parts of Europe and went on to study politics and international relations at Lancaster University. He became a full-time writer after the publication of his first book, People Die (2001). His other novels are Among the Dead (2002); Who is Conrad Hirst? (2007), shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Barry Award; Dark Flag (2010); Hunter's Prayer (2015, originally titled For the Dogs in the USA), which was made into a film directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Sam Worthington and Odeya Rush; and A Death in Sweden (2016). The Traitor's Story is his seventh novel.

As usual, Martha borrowed the book Amazon Prime's Kindle library via the internet and is listening to the audio book.

Sapphire Beach Club: On the right is TR2, Tanya Michelle on vocals, Richard on trumpet, and Renato on keyboards. They play at the Monday night Manager's Pizza Party. Below left is a lovely cat that sailed past our Caribbean balcony. Below center is our crack sales team at Sapphire: Pascal, Oceane, Sarah, and Bobby (left to right). On the right is Random Wind coming back from her day sail.

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: La Vista Beach on the water and La Vista across the road have the same meticulous owners. As La Vista is on higher ground, it still has views of the Caribbean. The motto here is "Timeshare done right" and I agree, they have done it very well. They also rent out units. A studio at La Vista is only $160 per night. A double on the water at La Vista Beach is only $330. Come with another couple and you can stay on the beach for a mere $165 per couple per night. La Vista has a lovely infinity pool blending in with the Caribbean and a nice restaurant, The Hideaway, surrounding the pool.

SXM-Activities: We attempted to go to Red Piano to see "Church on Monday" on Monday evening. We had had dinner at nearby Izi, so we arrived about 45 minutes after the first set started. Our first problem was a complete lack of parking. Waiting about ten minutes and tipping the lot attendant $10 got us the two parking spots we needed. The Red Piano is about 40 feet wide and a hundred feet deep. The entrance is at one end and the stage is at the other. The right side is the bar with stools, the left is banquettes (half of them facing away from the stage, obviously), and the center is taken up with high tables and stools. The stage is elevated no more than a couple feet so you might see some singing heads (photo right). The crowd is loud, the band is louder. After about two songs they took a break and one of our party finally finally brought some liquid refreshment to the area where we were standing. After about 15 minutes the band came back. After about 15 more minutes we gave up and went home.

Rental Cars: This week's gas report is brought to you by Next Level Car Rental. Dutch side prices have been higher for almost all of the 26 years I have been on the island. Multiply €/liter by 3.8 to get €/gallon. Multiply that by the exchange rate to get $/gallon. Thus, it's about $3.75 per gallon. Dutch side prices have been higher for almost all of the 26 years I have been on the island.
Brand Location Price 1 to 1
Cadisco Nettle Bay 0.91€/lno
Cadisco Sandy Ground 0.91€/lyes
Cadisco Orient 0.93€/lyes
Delta Sandy Ground 0.89€/lyes
Delta Savane 0.92€/lno
Delta Qtr d'Orlean 0.93€/l?
Blue Galis Bay 1.01€/l?
Artsen Agrement 1.02€/l?

SXM Shopping: If you are looking for diamonds, look no further than DK Gems on Front Street near the center of Pburg. Deepti (the D in DK gems) may be a half world away, but Kamal (her brother and the K in DK Gems) and cousins Jeff and Raj are there to provide the same level of friendly service. We've bought several pieces here over the years. They have always given us a good price without hours of haggling and they have stood behind their product with service and cleaning, not to mention cold Heinekens! recent designs
green logo Nature: On the right is a male boat tail grackle. They are very noisy and disturb the doves that are raising a second clutch in our palm tree.

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: There was plenty of small island excitement as the French side went to the polls. There were many parties and Team Gibbs almost won outright, but there will be a run-off election. It was almost as exciting as watching a Republican President, Republican-majority House, and a Republican-majority Senate spend a week (and counting) to achieve gridlock.


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.

Credit Cards and Exchange Rate

On 19 Mar the Euro was at 1.075 and today it is at 1.800. That's bad, and getting worse. It's up over 2% in March.

With the Euro getting a bit stronger against the dollar, restaurants doing 1 to 1 become more interesting. It behooves those of us with dollars to check the exchange rate offered by restaurants. For several years French side restaurants have been offering better than market exchange rates, especially for cash. However, 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, Tropical Wave (<===new addition), and Rancho del Sol are offering 1 to 1. We also got it at Le Galion in Marina Royale, but there was no sign proclaiming this as the policy. The waiter, am old friend from Il Nettuno, offered it to us as he presented the bill. (<===new addition) 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 an 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.


Le Galion

We went to lunch at Marigot's Marina Royale on Sunday. We arrived around 1:00PM and were lucky to get a very convenient parking spot. Last year on a Tuesday there were 14 restaurants open for lunch on the marina and two hidden away in the warren of shops. We walked all around and found only 2 restaurants open, and possibly a third as the empty Discover boat came into the marina as we left. That usually signifies that it is picking up the people it delivered for lunch to L'Auberge des Isles. Like last year, we were corralled by an old friend from Il Nettuno and had a nice lunch at Le Galion. We started with a bottle of the Cotes du Rhone shown below left (24€) and some fizzy water. Martha had the beef carpaccio (12€, below center) and I had a Reine pizza (ham, mushroom, onion, and olives, 12€, below right). As artha remembered that the owner/chef is Belgian, so the frites are hand made and very good, she finagled a portion (and they were good). Our lunch came to about $55, although more than half of that was liquid refreshment. We left another $6 as a pourboire. It's a nice place with good food, good service, and very reasonable prices. There is a lot of parking, but you may have a quarter mile walk. They were doing 1 to 1 on the dollar.

Izi Ristorante

On Tuesday evening we met friends at Izi Ristorante. There was an accident near Three Palms Plaza. and we were making good time until we came to stopped traffic at Skipjack's. The final mile took over a half hour. We Googled the resetaurant, got the phone number, and called to tell them about our trouble. They understood as David Foini, the owner, who lives in Rainbow next to us had parked his car in Simpson Bay and walked to work! Welcome to St Maarten.

We split some wonderful aps: a burrata and some calamari in a lovely tomato based sauce with Pastis. The cameraman was so worked up by the traffic that he neglected to get photos for you. Dinners were two seafood pastas (above left), polento with baby octopus (above center), and a meat based tortellini with a tomato sauce (above right). Our friends had most of a bottle of pinot grigio gone by the time we arrived. We ordered a full-bodied amarone for the main course. David sent over two desserts (right), a panna cotta and a tiramisu. They automatically add 15% for service and we added another 5%. Dinner cost about $120 per couple. Not a bad price for such good food and wine with good service. Moreover, they have parking in Simpson Bay! The menu allows you to choose a protein (fish, meat), a pasta, and a sauce. That makes for a large menu, but there are regular Italian items on the back of the menu, and a lot of specials. Izi is well worth a visit.

Tropical Wave
On Wednesday, we went to Tropical Wave for lunch on Galion Beach. I had to take a few photos in order to update the website. The full menu is on the website and there are a couple coupons there to save you some money on lunch and watersports. Note that windsurfing is on a brief hiatus at this time as the instructor is no longer here and Pat is still recovering from a bad fall about a year ago.

We had two specials: a shrimp with garlic and cayenne pepper (below center, $16.50) and a shrimp and scallops on fettuccini with a cream sauce (below right, $16.50). As usual, we had a bottle of Carte Noir rosé. Both lunches were tasty and we had a great time dining just off the beach. Martha's shrimp came with a salad and a choice of starch (fiies, baked potato, or rice). They are currently doing 1 to 1 and accept credit cards. They are still resisting efforts to have them moved to a new location.

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.


Erich S. Kranz
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