St Maarten/St Martin
4 October 2015 Newsletter
The previous ten days were fairly cloudy but reach the high 80's every day. Night time lows were high 70's ora low 80's. There were three or four days that had a chance of rain, but the total was infinitesimal.
The next ten days show eight reaching 90F with lows of 81 to 83F. There will
be two clear days, two partly cloudy days, and six days with a chance
of rain. This time real rain, amounting to about an inch.
The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed
Weather Underground and here's one from the
Sunset tonight will be at 603 PM.
The full moons for 2015 will be 25 Nov and 25 Dec. The full moons for
2016 will be 23 Jan, 22 Feb, 23 Mar, 22 Apr, 21 May, 20 Jun, 19 Jul, 18
Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.
That was quite a moon last week.
The pano below was taken as a cruise ship passed between our balcony at Sapphire Beach Club and Saba last April.
SXM-Beaches: The revamp of Orient Beach is progressing. This thread on TTOL
shows some of the restaurant construction and a new seawall to protect
them. The seawall is in the typical island style with island rock set
into concrete. It undulates as it runs along the sea front, adding a bit
more visual interest. The posting went up on 30 Sep, but the photos are
undated. With November a month away, I can pretty much guarantee that
this will not be finished in early November. They look like 20 ft x 20
ft boxes and they won't have much of a kitchen, so there isn't that much
work, but there are several of them and a lot of finish work and
landscaping to be done. The buildings are much sturdier than the
previous shacks and are up on higher ground with a seawall to protect
them, so they should make is through hurricanes better than their
On Jeff Berger's site there is a video of sargassum seaweed
being picked up by a boat with an ingenious carpet cleaner contraption on Martinique or Guadeloupe. the weed is still a problem on
SXM, mostly on the north-eastern side of the island. It has, however,
showed up on the Great Bay webcam and there are reports of it in Little
Bay. At the same time Orient seemed to be clear. Below is a sunset shot
taken from Horny Toad Guesthouse last season.
Beach reading: Make Me (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child ($15 Kindle or $17 hardcover) - This just came out in early September of 2015. Martha downloaded a copy from our library and we listened as we processed fruits and vegetables from our fields.
From Amazon: Why is this town called Mother's Rest? That's all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It's a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal.
Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there's something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he's plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother's Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.
Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher's rule is: If you want me to stop, you're going to have to make me.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
||Sapphire Beach Club:
There seems to be no more news from management. We are not in our condo (Unit 255)
at this time and have a long term rental from May through December. We
will use the unit from early January until early April of 2016. Our tenant says nothing
is happening and everything is working at present. He is attempting to
find another unit in the building for the 12 weeks that we will be on
On the right is a yacht that anchored off our balcony, unleashing a horde of jet-skis.
SXM-Hotels: According to this
Daily Herald story
Marty has won the latest court case with Alegria. It also appears that
the court is somewhat exacerbated by Alegria's actions as they said
"that [Marty] Dijkhuis had paid rent on a regular basis and that the
agreement made it possible that, under certain conditions, there would
be no rent due. Therefore, the Court did not find it proven that there
were any arrears and that Marty "was in possession of the required
permits and the establishment was adequately insured." The Judge
suggested that the parties start a court case on the merits, open
negotiations, or seek the assistance of a mediator, instead of filing
Alcohol: We certainly miss lazy lunches from Champagne Bistro served in Select Wine Cellar.
Sylvain has returned from Europe and said that his trip was great,
especially Barcelona. It's a beautiful city and food is amazing!
He says that the 2015 vintage looks good in France overall, but he didn't try too
many new wines in France, just a few in Languedoc. Unfortunately, most
of the ones that he liked were unavailable. In Spain he visited
Rioja, Ribera del Duero (in north central Spain, see inset), and
Priorat. He will try to get a few of these wines but he prefers Abadia
Retuerta and will try to get that. The tour was great, but the stress of
flying with Petrus, his dog, or any animals is not easy.
SXM is really hot and still pretty dry for the rainy season. Moulin Fou
is reopening on Friday and he will be working as the sommelier on
Rental Cars: Michael at Unity Car Rental
has an offer for my readers: Rent an economy car during the summer and
he will upgrade you to compact car at no extra charge. Just reserve
online and mention the SXM-Info upgrade from economy to compact in the
Gas: On 21 September gas prices dropped about 10 percent to 1.826
NAf per liter, about $3.95 for a gallon. That's about 60 percent more
than I pay in NY, not exactly a low tax state.
Nature: On the right is a grey kingbird perched in Sapphire's gardens.
Our office is well over 100% solar-powered. In fact, in six 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 reported that the government got a vote of no confidence
last Wednesday from 8 Members of Parliament. The same members promptly
submitted their plans to form a new government to the Governor. The deck
chairs will be rearranged on the Titanic.
As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a
bargain on lodging, car rental, entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work
it off! That would be five prizes to one person.
Winners of the contest that ended 4 October:
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Karen Held
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - no entries
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Karen Held
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Nicole Reed
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Nicole Reed
Current Contest: now
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake
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
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
accommodations with dinners and activities. I really check and 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.
6 December 2015 until 31 Jan 2016 | 31 Jan to 27 Mar | 27 Mar to 22 May
22 May to 21 August | 21 August to 20 November
same cast of characters as current contest
On 30 August the Euro was at 1.118 and today it is at 1.121. The numbers
are very close and don't reveal the volatility over the last six weeks
as the currency traders have played guessing games with the Federal Reserve Board.
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. The real rate is under 1.2
at this time and I find many French side restaurants have lowered their
rates to 1.2 and are sticking with it. 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 and gives you the wholesale
rate on the exchange.
Il Nettuno Restaurant,
Piazza Pascal, and
in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash.
Nearby Ti Bouchon and
Rancho del Sol
are offering 1 to 1.
This is no longer much of a bargain.
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. My Capital One
Signature Visa Venture card gets a good exchange rate with no fee. The
frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no
blackouts. Basically you get to spend 1 cent on air travel for every
dollar you charge to your card. However, we can usually get a round trip
from Albany to SXM for 35,000 miles on United. They would sell me that
ticket for about $700. Do the math and you see you would have to spend
$70,000 on Cap One to get enough "miles" to buy the ticket.
Consequently, we rarely use the Cap One card. As there is no yearly
charge, it is a handy spare card. We found it best to take the rewards
in merchandise. We picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of
our points from a previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to
SXM. Recently, they essentially gave us 1% cash back, but it could only
be applied to travel expenses charged on the card which makes it
essentially the same as getting a ticket through their system. Moreover,
spending several thousand dollars at restaurants in Burgundy and Paris
did not qualify as traveling expenses and neither did the gite rental in
Beaune nor the apartment rental in Paris.
In the spring of 2014 Cap One offered Martha a Quicksilver Visa
Signature Card that gives us 1.5% back - no fooling around with miles.
They do not charge an exchange fee on foreign transactions and they do
provide rental car insurance. This will be 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.
On a Tuesday in late March we had another
extravaganza in the wine room at Moulin Fou using the services of
Sylvain. By day he runs Select Wine Cellar and at night he is the sommelier at Moulin Fou.
We were a party of three couples and we started with bottle of Belin
Rosé Champagne, quite dry and quite good, the perfect start to a
birthday celebration for the young lady on the right. We ordered a
Special Q platter of sushi and sashimi (below left). With 32 pieces, it
is a great ap for six people at only $68. Chef Q let us rearrange the
selection slightly, so we were very happy with what we received. Sylvain
chose a 2008 Viré Clessé from Bongran to accompany the sushi and it
worked quite well. The birthday girl and I both had the shepherd's pie, a
creamy smooth potato covering duck confit with a brown sauce loaded
with girolles (below center, $28). Martha had a confit of lamb shank
with a tomato, garlic, shallot, and aromatic herb sauce (below right,
$28). As you can see, it was fall off the bone tender.
The other three had various fish dishes. Sylvain choose a Pouilly
Fuissé Les Reisses 2011 from Denogent ($68) for them and the carnivores
enjoyed a 2010 Crozes Hermitage Les Pierrelles 2010 Domaine Belle ($45).
As seen on the right, the birthday girl went with two desserts and six
spoons. The molten chocolate cake was quite good, but it always is to
those of us who love chocolate. The vanilla profiteroles with chocolate
sauce didn't last long either.
Six restaurants in Oyster Pond are having a Fall Festival. They will be
offering $5 dishes and $2 drinks today from 3 to 7PM and from today
until the end of the month they will be offering three course meals for
$25. Choose an ap, a main course, and a dessert from a special limited
menu and pay only $25 (plus a 15% tip) for the meal. That's under $30
for a three course meal. Big Fish's menu offers a choice of three
appetizers: the Hurricane Medley (two crab poppers, a shrimp nem, and a
Hurricane calimari), a cilantro lime salad, and black bean soup. Choose a
main course from three choices: tender hanger steak marinated and
flambé in Courvoisier, a tempura basa filet, or Asian style shrimp with
rice noodles. Dessert can be either bread pudding or chocolate mousse.
There are also specials on drinks. I'm tempted to head on down. I have
fond memories of my second visit to the island in the previous
millennium. I stayed at Pelican and only the bedroom was
air-conditioned. Even though it was October, it was quite pleasant. The
marine haze was such that I gazed at the sunset for about five days
before it was clear enough to see Saba! the logo that is hard to read is
from Mr Busby's/Daniel's by the Sea.
Florence at La Villa
said that they are offering early birds 10% off their bill. Don't forget
the year-round $49 special on a three course dinner.
Boca Restaurant will be reopening on Monday and any dinner checks of $60 or more get $10 off until 19-OCtober.
Great news: Jeff Berger says that Sam Runza of the now-closed Cugini restaurant in Simpson Bay is now cancer free.
Below is a listing of all restaurant annual closings that I have received. Dino said that Temptation Restaurant
would have a Special three course menu for $50 that includes glass of
wine and all summer long he'll have Chesapeake Bay soft shell crabs.
|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'Oizeau Rare Restaurant,
and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!
Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant
has produced a cookbook with art work by Sir Roland Richardson, St
Martin's treasured artist, and poetry by Laura Richardson, Roland's
wife. Together they have poured their shared passion, creativity, and
talent to the best of their ability into this magical archive of St
Martin's flavors. For further information, please contact Chef Dino
Jagiani email@example.com or Sir Roland and Laura Richardson firstname.lastname@example.org
Another reason to buy Dino's cookbook is that he led the team the won
the first-ever San Pellegrino Cooking Cup of the Caribbean in late
April. The full article is in the Daily Herald.
We just added Lucia's Taxi Service
as a client. She has a seven seat van and like most taxis looks forward
to island tours rather than short trips. She has a tour discount coupon
on her site. She'll also meet you at the airport or take you to the
airport at the end of your visit. Her English is excellent y se habla
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. The sticker is displayed at
businesses that participating in this much-needed endeavor.
BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS
Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites.
For flights, car rentals, and hotels: CheapOair can get you there.
It's always worth the effort to check their rock-bottom prices. We were
looking for flights to Spain or Portugal and really wanted
first/business class, but found only $8000 flights (each - ouch!). That
was a bit much. Martha checked CheapOair and got about half that. It's
still about three times the cost of cattle class, but I'm willing to pay
SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed and MedjetAssist
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 both and see which one offers the best prices for your
timeframe and traveling group.
Kindle: We now have now have two Kindle devices, as Martha just 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
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." Paul M wrote: "My wife and I
spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle
with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous.
I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the
device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." 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. 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."