Another stop in paradise.
30.05.2009 - 05.06.2009
Tuesday: Cattle Stampede at Honeymoon Beach.
After a brief morning rain, we decided Tuesday seemed like a good day to take our first trip to Honeymoon beach. We had never made it there on previous trips because we typically had travelling companions that simply did not understand why you would walk to a beach when there were so many you could just pull up to.
Reason not to take newbies #4,568: When you want to try a new beach that involves a walk, you don’t have to listen to anyone complaining about having to carry their crap. You just up and go.
Honeymoon Beach was sheer bliss for about 2 hours. There were only 2 other people on the beach and they chose one end and we chose the other. A quiet morning was spent drifting with the waves, reading beneath the palms, and sinking my toes into the sand. That ended abruptly when the Cattle Catamarans loaded with yellow vested St. Thomas beach wreckers showed up.
There must have been 50 people to a Cat and they swarmed the beach like the troops storming the beach at Normandy. I heard a dinghy driver yell “One hour, we’ll pick you back up!!” as he dumped another wide eyed herd onto the sand. This seemed like a good time to snorkel since they seemed content to sit in the sand and stare stupidly, trying to figure out why they had just paid $60 to be dumped on the sand for an hour. We grabbed our masks and fins and headed into the water, leaving our stuff by our chairs under a palm tree.
We swam for about 45 minutes. The snorkeling was very good, with tons of fish. We did see one yellow vested guy struggling in the water, standing on the coral, waving his arms as his wife yelled to the Catamaran. A dinghy rushed over and picked him up as he broke off piece after piece of coral because he obviously couldn’t swim.
Just my 2 cents folks: Know your limitations. The following day, a woman drowned at that same beach dropped off by one of those Catamarans. At a minimum these folks hurt the underwater environment. At a maximum, they hurt themselves. It’s a lose-lose scenario. Know your limitations.
As we were nearing the beach post-snorkel, I looked for our chairs and couldn’t see them. The only ones I saw had some big nasty wet guy sitting in them. I looked right, I looked left, I looked again.
No f’n way.
Mr. Yellow Vested Wet A$$ was sitting in my freaking chair. We walked up and just stared at him.
“Are these your chairs? I just thought they were left here,” he said as he glanced at the two huge beach bags full of our crap sitting next to the chairs. “Really?” Matt asked, “Did you think the chair fairy left them?” he said as he escorted the guy out of our chairs.
Incredible. I’m giving you 4 cents now: Don’t sit in someone else’s chair on the beach. That is rude as hell.
Thankfully, the cow bell rang and the braying herd was shoved kicking and screaming back onto the Catamarans after only about an hour on the beach and we were once again left in peace.
The beach was followed by lunch and villa down-time. Late afternoon shopping at Mongoose led into early evening drinks at Joe’s Rum Hut. Several drinks at Joe’s led to dinner at Woody’s because Matt loves the Drunk’n Shellfish. When we went in it was so quiet. We ordered and I checked the bathroom door, remembering my indelicate overexposure during my last visit and was pleased to see the lock had been fixed. About 2 minutes later, a horde of young women came rushing in, all high heels and feather boas, tiaras and balloons. Two words: bachelorette party. I looked at Matt and he had a stupefied look on his face which I imagine was very similar to the look on the face of the minimum wage gas station attendant who has just discovered he is holding a winning lottery ticket. Actually, every man in the place had the same look on his face.
Let’s just say the evening was festive.
We’ll leave it at that.
Wednesday: Vie's Two Tickets to Paradise.
The morning was rainy so we just let villa gravity take hold. I was on my second book and the joy of being able to sit and read for more than a few minutes made me loathe to move from my spot. So I didn’t.
After a few hours the rain seemed to ease off, so we eased up. We decided to drive out to Vie’s. When we got there they were just opening up. Vie was standing out front cleaning off a table and I asked if the beach would be open. She said “Yes, and you’ll probably have it to yourself. Hope you stay dry,” as more clouds rolled over head. We decided to take our chances and paid our $5 and headed to the gate.
Past the cemetery, past the goats, past the rusty cans, past the smelly boat, under the big tree...I stepped out onto the soft sugary sand of Vie’s beach.
Apparently, the threat of rain was enough to keep everyone else away. While sun mingled with clouds giving us moments of sun and moments of cool breezy shade, we spent about 4 hours alone on Vie’s beach.
It was glorious.
While Matt stretched beneath the tall palm tree, I strolled the water’s edge and inspected the small gifts the sea was leaving for me on the shore. There were colorful shells, smooth stones, and my favorite….little pieces of sea glass rubbed smooth and opaque by the ocean and deposited like jeweled treasure on the sand. I could walk the beach picking up pieces of sea glass for hours. It calms me….walking along and seeing a small piece of light green or sapphire blue glinting in the sunlight…picking it up and rubbing it gently between my fingers….dropping it quietly into my pocket like a secret between me and the sea.
It was a wonderfully relaxing morning, looking for treasure, reading beneath the palm tree, munching on Vie’s coconut and pineapple tarts, and swimming in the clear, calm waters of the bay.
As the morning turned to afternoon, others finally started to show up and we decided the burgers were calling. It was time for Skinny Legs.
In short order we were seated at Skinny’s and were waiting for hot burgers and cold drinks. I also discovered a new love: Valley Doll 151 Hot Sauce. What is it about drinking alcohol that makes you think you have suddenly developed super powers that allow you to tolerate inhuman quantities of hot sauce?
A hot cheddar burger, coconut swizzle, mango painkiller, and half a bottle of Valley Doll later, I climbed into the Jeep and we headed to the Tourist Trap for one last drink. After a Drink Right, Keep Left, I had no choice but to use the Crap Shack, which is not my favorite. This time it was even more special. There was something new.
This huge guy was staring at me while I tried to go. After a few drinks, this guy makes you afraid to pee. Just sayin'.
As we drove back toward Coral Bay from the Tourist Trap, we passed another donkey. I leaned out the window, and in my less than classy drunken state yelled, “Oink, oink.”
I have no idea why I said that. It just came out. I had the right sound in my head, but I think the drinks had frozen that part of my brain. After a coconut swizzle, mango painkiller, and some Drink Right, Keep Lefts my mouth and my brain were experiencing a failure to communicate.
Matt nearly wrecked the Jeep, laughing. My explanation: when I was a kid we were pretty broke. Most of my toys came from yard sales. I had one of those toys that had the spinning arrow and it would point at the animal and then make the sound. Well, mine was a little off, because it only cost 25 cents. Instead of “The duck goes QUACK QUACK,” mine said, “The chicken goes MOO,” and maybe even “The donkey goes OINK OINK.”
It was an honest mistake.
Not my fault, really.
It had NOTHING to do with the alcohol.
The donkey never even noticed.
After some villa naps, evening rolled around. We headed into Cruz Bay for some shopping and a light dinner.
We ate lunch pretty late and then had nachos at Tourist Trap, so we wanted something small for dinner. We decided on Rhumblines for a Pu Pu platter. The atmosphere alone is enough to draw me into Rhumblines. I love the flickering candles and tropical plants, the colorful pillows strewn on benches behind tables and the swings at the bar. The food just adds to it. We got a great assortment: cold sesame noodles and spicy Thai noodles, spring rolls, gingered chicken wrapped in bok choy, blackened shrimp, coconut shrimp, and corn crusted lime-cilantro shrimp. I think it was around $30 and it was more than we could eat.
Another great day came to a close as the tree frogs began to serenade the night and the palms rustled, telling their secrets to the sea breeze as we drifted off into blissful, vacation sleep.
Thursday: I Luv Ma Ho.
This was our last full day and I was having a tough time deciding between Gibney Beach and Maho. Maho is my favorite beach and I couldn’t imagine a trip without a day at Maho. Gibney was across the street, though, and it just seemed wrong not to go. Turns out we’d get a chance to do both, thanks to some obnoxious beachgoers.
We started the day at Gibney, which is directly across the street from Terrahawk (probably Terrahawk’s most remarkable quality). The beach was basically deserted for much of the morning. We found a clump of palms trees on the far end of the beach and parked it for hours.
Shortly before noon, the loudest, most obnoxious group of people showed up in 3 dinghies. I don’t mind dinghies. I don’t mind loud people. What I mind are about 20 loud people unloading on a quiet beach and proceeding to dump their crap right next to you when there is TONS of empty space, throwing a football while screaming at the top of their lungs, lighting up their cigarettes, and managing to completely take over the entire beach leaving not one spot where a person can find any peace and quiet.
It took me about 2 seconds to pack up my bag and say, “Time to go. Maho is calling.”
We ran back to the villa and ate some lunch and then headed to Maho.
Vicki’s Final Beach Day: Take 2.
Aaaaahhhhh...Maho. I love Maho. To me, it is simply the most perfect beach that exists in the universe. The sand is soft. The palms are tall and dance with the wind. The water is calm and clear and seems to stretch for eternity, muddling into a kaleidoscope of blues before colliding with the horizon. And it always seems to be mercifully quiet. We planted ourselves beneath the palm trees with a book and a cold drink and there we stayed for hours.
We did a looooong snorkel from one side to the other and then around the point toward Little Maho and the campground, where we saw lots of turtles, rays, starfish (something I have never seen at Maho), and the biggest, baddest barracuda I think I have encountered to date. He was about 4 feet long and FAT.
It was a perfect, quiet day. It always is at Maho.
After some rest time at the villa, we stopped by to see friends Ruth and Ron at Bongo Bongo, inarguably one of the most gorgeous homes I have been to on St. John. Ruth introduced me to Wade the shark and his friend, Terry. I asked how she tells them apart and she said...wait for it.......wait for it......”Terry is the quiet one.”
I love Ruth.
With it being our last night, we just couldn’t decide what to do for dinner. You know the last day quandary: Which beach??? It’s our last. Which restaurant???? It’s our last. And so on. We decided to do a “progressive dinner.” We started with appetizers at La Plancha Del Mar. If you don’t know, they have a GREAT deal where small plates are $5 and sangria is $2 from 5:00 – 7:00. We ordered four small plates and all of them were fantastic: the shredded beef tacos, chicken and steak skewers, sourdough bruschetta, and pine nut hummus. When appetizers were done, we headed to Happy Fish for sushi and martinis. We wrapped up the night at Lime Inn with a chocolate chip cookie pie a la mode.
We did our shopping at St. John spice where we picked out all our goodies to have shipped home (there is no better cure for the return-home blues than getting a box from Ruth and Ron at St. John Spice…when you open the box, just close your eyes and sniff...it’s like you are there again).
With Vicki’s Hungry Monster finally quiet, we headed back for a final night’s sleep with the tree frogs for company.
Friday: I Just Can’t Get Enough.
Departure day sucks. There is just no way around it. It just plain sucks.
We packed and it sucked. We loaded the car and it sucked. We pulled away from Terrahawk and it sucked.
We had an invite to preview an AMAZING villa being built high in Catherinberg, so we stopped in at Island Stones and got a tour of an absolutely incredible home. This place has the most beautiful pool and view that I think exist on the island. After leaving Island Stones, we stopped and walked through the ruins before heading down to Coral Bay. Keep an eye out for this place, folks, it’s a show stopper.
We did our online check in and printed boarding passes at Connections. As we headed back toward Shipwreck Landing to buy a box of Valley Doll Hot Sauce from Nancy (the only place you can get it, btw), I saw the Moravian Church and realized I had never stopped at it. We stopped and I walked up to the church and walked through. That simply must be the most beautiful church in the most beautiful spot on earth.
We made our way on over to Shipwreck where I had my final morning drink (I sure miss those). We sat at the bar on what was a simply perfect day. The breeze came across Coral Bay, rustled up through the palm trees, and blew in across the bar to kiss my cheek one last time. I just closed my eyes and soaked it all in, trying to burn the sights, the smells, the sense of “being there” on my brain, hoping to carry some little piece of St. John magic back home in the sparkle that was now in my eyes and the kiss of sun that was now on my smiling cheeks.
As we headed toward Cruz Bay, there were 4 kids (anyone under 25 is a kid) sitting on the side of the road just outside Coral Bay. “We need to go to Cruz Bay,” they said, hot and sweating, bug bites climbing up each leg. “Are you really good friends?” I asked, “Because all four of you will have to fit in the back of this Jeep.”
They grinned and jumped in. Turns out they were college students that had arranged for jobs for the summer. Damn Lucky Kids. I envied their youth and the memorable summer they were about to have.
We dropped them off in Cruz Bay, grabbed some Beach Dawgs (have you figured out that I am a junk food junkie?) and soft serve from I Scream and got one last drink from the beach bar before heading to the ferry.
When you board the ferry, whether it’s the car barge or the passenger ferry, you know that your time is over. For you, St. John has come and gone. You can feel it slipping like fine grains of sand sifting through your fingertips.
What is it about St. John that makes it so hard to leave? That makes us return again and again? For me, it’s Ruth and Ron with their open arms and sweet smelling store, it’s Mic and his charismatic smile and huge laugh, it’s Drew and his willingness to go out of his way for a stranger, it’s Vie and her flaky coconut tarts, it’s a wonderful stranger at Sidney’s calling me Sweetie and teaching me to grate nutmeg into my rum punch, it’s Paradise rental having someone waiting for me with a car at the ferry on their day off. These people create a sense of belonging, a familiarity, a oneness with this special place that makes it feel more like home than a vacation destination. It’s also the stupendous beauty of the place and the uniqueness of it that no other island can compete with.
Then there is also that thing I call its “magic.” There is an intangible quality that we all know and love but that we can’t quite put into words. It’s that thing that seeps deep down into your soul that tugs on your heart when you think of it, that sends a warm and tingling feeling from your head to your toes when you picture the calm, sweet water of Maho Bay or the vibrancy of Cruz Bay on a Saturday night.
You can leave the island, but it never really leaves you, does it? You return home with a sweetness in your soul, a song in your head that you can’t quite get out, a smile in your voice. It works its magic on you and you leave with a little piece of it in your heart, buried deep and secret like a piece of sandy smooth blue sea glass in your pocket. Take it out and rub it between your fingertips from time to time, you’ll be back.
You know you will.