St Maarten/St Martin
2 April 2017 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was pretty gray and cloudy, but on Monday morning Saba was quite visible and after an early afternoon rain shower, Statia came out of the mist. Tuesday started hot and sticky. Saba is visible, but Statia is lost in marine haze. Wednesday started with extremely flat water and enough marine haze to blot out Statia, but the photo on the right (somewhat enhanced by Photoshop) shows a calm sea as a cruise ship sails past Saba toward the rising sun. The shot below left was taken about an hour before sunset on Thursday. Note Saba is visible, weird clouds, and flat seas. The sunset/weather pano below was taken at the roundabout by the cemetery in Marigot on Friday night. The next photo was taken Saturday morning - flat seas and Saba was visible. The last photo is of Passaat going out on calm seas.

Today's forecast shows the best week of the season. There will be 8 clear days with 10-20% chance of rain amounting to 0.04 inches. The temperatures are pretty solid: today 83, all others 82 for the high and 76 or 77 for the low for the next week.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:26 PM providing 12 hours and 21 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 Le Galion Beach just south of Orient Beach. A reef keeps the trade winds from sending waves onto the shore, making this one of the calmest beaches on the island. Combine that with with a very gradual slope into the water and you have the perfect beach for small children. Tropical Wave provides food and drink, chairs and umbrellas, and all manner of water sport equipment. At present, their wind surfing equipment is not available for rental. They are still fighting the local authorities for control of the property.

Two young men drowned at Mullet in rough seas earlier this week. Be careful. There are no lifeguards.

cover Beach Reading: In the Woods: A Novel by Tana French (13 Kindle, $10 paperback) - From Publishers Weekly: Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut. When Katy Devlin, a 12-year-old girl from Knocknaree, a Dublin suburb, is found murdered at a local archeological dig, Det. Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, must probe deep into the victim's troubled family history. There are chilling similarities between the Devlin murder and the disappearance 20 years before of two children from the same neighborhood who were Ryan's best friends. Only Maddox knows Ryan was involved in the 1984 case. The plot climaxes with a taut interrogation by Maddox of a potential suspect, and the reader is floored by the eventual identity and motives of the killer. A distracting political subplot involves a pending motorway in Knocknaree, but Ryan and Maddox are empathetic and flawed heroes, whose partnership and friendship elevate the narrative beyond a gory tale of murdered children and repressed childhood trauma.

Martha borrowed it from our NY library and is reading it on her Kindle.

Sapphire Beach Club: On Facebook Lauchlin Kelly said "We checked into our unit, #134, on the 25th and found a freshly painted space with new appliances. The bathroom mold of yesteryear was gone. Cabinets still a little wonky in a few places and two handles missing from the dresser but overall a much improved unit. Oh, and the hot tub was full and working just fine along with fully functioning AC."

On the right is a beauty, Tanya-Michelle, doing her last gig at the Monday night party. She is heading for Paris,but hopes to be back later this year. I don't know the clipper ship on the left, but she is also a beauty. Below center is third beauty, Random Wind, heading out on her daily cruise of snorkeling, dining, swinging (on a trapeze), and the consumption of alcoholic libations. Although most of this week had light winds and seas, riding the bowsprit can give you a few thrills.

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: The photo on the left was taken from a three-bedroom villa on the water in Grand Case, dining capital of the Caribbean. You can find more on that unit or on a pair of two bedroom villas in Mount Vernon at Mount Vernon Villas.

SXM-Activities: After finishing our pizza at Pizza Galley, we headed over to Pineapple Pete for some live music. We picked up a couple red Stripes and listened to Alban plying some jazz guitar. We also saw Pete (real name Pierre) for the first time this season. It never ceases to amaze us that Pete can get such quality service from his crew.

Rental Cars: This week's gas report is brought to you by Soualiga Car Rental. Get a quote from Moti for your next visit. Dutch side gas 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?

Travel: According to a just-released study by St Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA, gotta love the acronym), hotel occupancy as reported by SHTA members increased to 69% in 2016 up from 67% in 2015. SHTA then goes on to pat itself on the back claiming that their Trip Advisor/Expedia campaign carried out in conjunction with the St Maarten Tourist Bureau produced this result. They then say that a January-January comparison for 2017 vs 2016 shows a 1% drop and the Turnover Tax (ToT) to be reported by the government will be down in 2016 as cruise arrival numbers are down. They suggest that the fire at the dump is still a problem cutting down on tourism and there is no Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT, this one too). Without a Minister (he has been nominated, but not appointed) there are no new initiatives and nobody pushing any existing ones through the system.

SXM Shopping: We've mentioned the fabulous fresh fish coming in to Carrefour and Super U toward the end of the week. The photo on the right is from Carrefour. If you want some fish earlier in the week, check out Skipjack's on the eastern side of the Dutch bridge.
green logo Nature: On the right is a lovely plant getting ready to propagate. It's in Sapphire's garden, but we don't know what it is??

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: In other SHTA news, based on World Bank figures country Sint Maarten's power outage level equals that of Tanzania and Burkina Faso. Luckily we have a bigger airport here with more flights, so if having an authentic third world experience is important to you, it's much easier to come here. Burkino Faso was previously known as Upper Volta, but on the first anniversary of the military takeover of the government, they chose Burkino Faso instead. Moreover there never was a Lower Volta.


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 26 Mar the Euro was at 1.800 and today it is at 1.066. That's down 1.3% in a week, back to the level in early 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.


Kakao Beach Bar
We had reserved a table for four last Saturday and were offered a table on the beach. We were meeting friends from L'Esperance Hotel and had arrived a bit early so I could take some photos. We got some water and a Cotes du Rhone from Perrin (25€) for Martha as I went out to the beach for photos. On the left is the view from our table. In the center a view back toward the restaurant, focusing on the bar that services the beach chairs. On the right is the kite from some guy on the beach. Check out the cloudy afternoon.
We all ordered specials for lunch. That's generally a good idea and this time it worked out well. On the left are beef cheeks in a red sauce on a bad of mashed potatoes (24€) - very tasty. In the center is a seafood pasta, that I was thinking about, but passed when one of our guests had it (26€). On the right is my pork tenderloin with some fancy layered potatoes (24€). We did run out of wine an got a bottle of Pinot Noir from Joseph Drouhin, much better, but 33% more (33€). The waiter left a bottle of flavored rum on the table and we had a wonderful afternoon.

Pizza Galley
On Monday we had dinner at Pizza Galley and another chat with JP. We had a new wine (to us) from the new wine list, a 2015 Riscal Tempranillo ($26), a small and tasty Caesar salad (below left, $7), and a new pizza (sliced sausage, red peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese ($16, below center). It was all good. The total about $60 with a tip.

JP stopped by and we heard that they are doing well with the Saturday Night Fever dance party on the first Saturday of the month. Check his Facebook page to be sure because it changes at times (Regatta, Carnival, etc).

Le Pressoir

On Wednesday we headed over to Le Pressoir in Grand Case. We, of course, made reservations and had a deuce waiting for us in the back. We started with a Campari soda and a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne as we perused the menu. Melanie had a night off, so Jerome explained the specials and said that a large grouper had arrived that day. Martha was interested in the seafood specialties, choosing a mille-feuille of snow crab and avocado as her ap (below left) and taken Jerome's advice on the fresh grouper. I also made a quick decision as I choose the special seafood menu. It started with four types of shell fish: half lobster tail, sea scallop, black tiger shrimp, and ouassous (below center). A long discussion with Jerome brought us to choose a 2014 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru from Romanet. It's a lighter Burgundy, in deference to our seafood dinner. It was spectacular with the smoky grilled flavors of my ap.

Martha's main course (left) arrived with butter sauce, some veg, and a sweet potato with ginger and raspberry flavors. Martha merely says it was the best grouper she had ever had. The main course with my seafood dinner consisted of four fish, each grilled to perfection and placed on a bed of flavored mashed potatoes. Both dinners were superb and the wine stayed with them. We had a couple balloons of Mauny old rum for dessert. Thanks to Melanie's efforts, the wine list is one of the best on the island, and the service is impeccable. Her husband Franck assures the quality of all ingredients and then puts them together in beautiful and tasty preparations. And the restaurant is beautiful.

Auberge Gourmande
We had a another great dinner at Auberge Gourmande in Grand Case on Thursday. As always, we were offered a flute of champagne as we were seated. We ordered the Volnay Premier Cru from Bouchard (right) to go with a fantastic dinner that we had planned. For our ap, we shared the delicate chicken livers in a puff pastry with a bit of salad (left). Martha finally tried the Dover sole (below left) and I had the usual filet of beef with a morel sauce (below center). The wine was great with both. It is an interesting menu, the service is excellent, and the wine list is very good.

Johann at Rancho del Sol has sent me his list of daily specials for April. They are another fine choice for lunch, probably one of the best at 12 Euros every weekday. Every Wednesday they feature braised beef ribs at $12. They are closed on Saturday and feature an even better special on Sundays at $17.50.

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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