A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

St. John, USVI - Part I

Another stop in paradise.

For those of you looking for instant gratification, here is the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of my trip report:

Eat, drink, swim, sun. Rinse. Repeat.

The photos are here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157619602287524/

For those of you who are looking for a little bit more, read on.

Saturday: Rum Come, Come Fast.

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“OMG…there’s a RUM BAR by our gate,” I screamed excitedly as I made my way through the airport.

“Calm down. It’s 7:00 a.m. It’s not open.”

“Damn.”

Really, I didn’t see what the problem with rum at 7:00 a.m. was. I was going to put some juice in it. Maybe an extra orange slice. That’s not a drink. That’s BREAKFAST.

Travel Day was underway.

Short lines, on-time flights, and pain free layovers got us to St. Thomas at 1:00. The thrill never changes, does it? That first step off the plane, when that blast of hot air reeking of jet fuel and salt tinged sea air hits you like a wall, you can’t help but feel exhilarated. As I made my way down the sidewalk, I saw a familiar face on the other side of the glass. Marybeth! A friend of mine was inside waiting for her flight home. We had a virtual hug through the glass and she passed the St. John vacation baton on to me, which I gladly accepted, along with the tiniest glass of rum possible at the rum stand.

Okay, is it just my aging brain, or did we used to get at least a “Dixie cup” sized glass that had some rum and some punch at the airport Rum Stand? I didn’t exactly consider that excessively large, yet someone has felt the need to downsize. What she handed me was about the size of a thimble. And it was just rum.

What the hell. I drank it anyway. Free is free. Right? Although all it did was make me want a REAL drink.

We got in the Budget line and there were about 7 people in line waiting. This couple comes strolling up and just walks to the counter……All the people in line just looked at them, but no one said anything. They were painfully polite and biting their tongues, faces turning purple with anger. That is the beauty of being a redneck from Tennessee. We don’t give a damn. We told her that there was a line and that she was expected to get in the back of it….and she actually tried to argue that there was no line when she got there and she wasn’t moving. That’s when it pays to be a BIG REDNECK FROM RURAL EAST TENNESSEE. By the time we were done with her, she was skulking in the back of the line. Hey, we start off nice, but when you make us mad…somebody is getting an ass whooping.

Oh, and just in case she reads this: Yes, you did so cut line. You did.

We made it through the line at Budget in about 5 minutes and were on our way. Wait…what was that? Our Jeep top was actually removable? Score!

At this point, I had been denied rum once and then had been rum-teased. I was officially on vacation, I needed a drink. We were way early so we decided to stop at Duffy’s Love Shack because it was the closest bar I could think of to the Red Hook Ferry dock on St. Thomas. If you have never been, Duffy’s is hokey. It’s like a really bad (and really expensive) episode of Gilligan’s Island. But I love it. So tacky. So touristy. So yummy. For about $70 we got 2 drinks, but ......we got to keep the glass. I named this one HINA and he became the trip mascot. Why? Because across his green butt it said, “Made in HINA.” Those Hinese can make some cute glasses.

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We pulled off the car ferry onto the island of St. John and all the wonderful and familiar sights and smells of St. John drifted through the open windows. I could smell the barbeque at Candi’s waving in on the breeze. Cruz Bay was alive with ladies in tight jeans and high heels darting across the streets holding Presidentes as the music from Cap’s blasted. Dinghies bobbed on the water as the charter boats started pulling in for the day full of laughing passengers.

We followed our villa agent to Terrahawk. After 6 stays in the same villa, Sunnyledge, we had to rent a different villa because we sort of planned this trip at the 11th hour. It’s my own fault for telling everyone how wonderful Sunnyledge is. As for Terrahawk, I will say this: Catered To were wonderful hosts and the house had an amazing location, walking distance to Gibney Beach and a very short hop back into Cruz Bay; a beautiful view of Caneel’s Hawksnest Beach; was very private; and was clean, comfortable, and well appointed. It was however, fairly basic. It is not a villa you want to stay in if luxury and décor are your priorities. For the money, you can get a much nicer villa. It is a great choice, however, if location is your priority. Did I enjoy staying there this time? Yes. Would I stay there again? No.

After we got settled in, it was time to go find some dinner. My favorite thing after a long day of travel is to go have a nice dinner and a few drinks to finally just let vacation brain sink in. I had a surprise planned for Matt this evening, though. His sheer predictability made the plan go off without a hitch.

Background: He has been drooling over the same watch for years. We go look at it on every trip to St. John. His birthday was on this trip, so I had pre-purchased the watch (major kudos to Drew at Jewels for helping me make the surprise happen) and had worked up a plan with Drew to surprise Matt with the watch the night we arrived. Matt always wants to eat at Morgan’s Mango the day we arrive and Jewels is almost next door, so I knew Matt would want to walk in there first and visit his watch.

“Where do you want to eat?” Matt asked me. “I don’t know. You?” “How about Morgan’s Mango?” he said. Ding, ding, we have a winner. “How about we stop at Mongoose first and see if they have that watch?” Score two for Vicki. “Whatever you want to do sounds fine.”

We stopped in at Jewels and Drew gave a performance worthy of an Oscar. Matt was surprised, shocked, thrilled. It couldn’t have been better.

Thank you Drew!

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After dinner, Matt was too psyched to go home and go to sleep, and I needed St. John Spice coffee, so we headed over to Wharfside Village. There was some sort of festival going on and the park and taxi area were filled with steel drum bands, food and drink vendors, and arts and crafts. Music was playing. Girls were dancing. The smells of island delicacies filled the night air.

I might have gotten a little too “into” the island spirit because I decided to buy a drink from the little Rasta man with a crazy card table littered with homemade pots and a cardboard sign. Yes I did. My drink choices were: “Chlorophyll (WTF? Really?), Sorrel, Beet, or Ginger Lime. Um. There was one obvious winner here. Ginger lime sounded do-able. I went with it. I gave him $3 and he pulled out an unmarked plastic jug of green stuff and poured me a glassful.

It tasted like ground up lawn.

And I’m pretty sure it was not FDA approved.

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Sunday: A Jost Kind of Birthday.

We popped awake freakishly early. It was Matt’s birthday and he wanted to go to the island of Jost Van Dyke. Besides, I think he was still all cranked up because of the watch.

With just the two of us, we opted for the ferry. $60 each and a 30-minute ride later we pulled into Great Harbor on Jost. A customs agent was standing outside the small blue building with a clipboard and checked us all through in about 5 minutes. The immigration agent wasn’t there, so she told us we had to leave her our passports and that we could pick them up at 3:00 before we left.

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I know….I know….never give someone your passport in a foreign country…right? But this is JOST, people. It’s all good.

We left the passports without even hesitating.

I had called a few weeks earlier to ask Paradise Car Rental on Jost about renting a car for the day, since Matt wanted to go all the way to Sidney’s Peace & Love for lunch. My conversation that day went something like this:

“I’d like to reserve a car please.”
“What day you comin'?"
"Sunday."
"Ooooohhhhhh......mmmmmm.....we don' open on Sunday."
"Oh, okay, well, thanks."
"Weeeelllllll......mmmmmm.....maybe somebody come in on Sunday."
"Uh..."
"Na, we not open on Sunday."
"Okay."
"But somebody might wan' come in for you on Sunday."
"Uh...?"
"What time you comin'?"
"In the morning. About 9:00?"
"When you leavin'?"
"That afternoon."
"Okay. Ya name?"
"Vicki H."
"Ya. Okay."
"Okay?"
"Okay."
"Um....okay....thank you.....Good-bye."
"Good bye."

No credit card. No confirmation. No email. I had no freakin’ idea if I had actually rented a car or not….for all I knew a 3-legged donkey with a cart was going to show up. But that’s just part of the beauty of Jost. It’s all good.

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Well, Paradise was sitting there with a Jeep at the ferry dock waiting for us when we arrived. Someone came in on Sunday just to give us the car. I highly recommend Paradise, but I don’t recommend renting a car on Jost if you are uncomfortable with ambiguity. You gotta’ be willing to go with the flow. Trying to discuss how we’d get the car back to them was a lot like the reservation conversation. It went like this:

“Should we bring the car back to the office at 2:30?”
“Nah. No one be here. Jes leave it.”
“Leave it at the ferry dock.”
“Yeh.”
“What about the keys? Do you have another set? Should we lock them in the car?”
“Yeh, we have another set.”
“So, lock the car?”
“Nah.”
“No?”
“Nah. Leave them under the mat. Someone get it later.”

If you think about it, it would be pretty pointless to steal a car on Jost since it's only a few miles long with a couple of roads.

We spent a glorious, sun-soaked morning at White Bay. Matt had the ladies at Gertrude’s giggling like school girls and it scored us free chairs and when it came time for drinks, they just handed him the bottle, “Pour your own rum, Sweetie.” I have no problem pimping him out for free chairs and rum.

9:30 a.m. too early for a drink? Nah. We’re on Jost. It’s all good.

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I am always mesmerized by White Bay, and no, it’s not just the rum. The water is nearly electric, the color impossible. The lazy palms trees rise tall and lanky and seem to sway with the rhythm of the ocean. Brilliant white boats rock lightly with the breeze. The sand is deliciously soft, unnaturally white. Colorful tables litter the beach and laughter carries from one end of the bay to another. It’s simply perfection.

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After Gertrude liquored us up for breakfast, we headed to the Soggy Dollar. Mic, the man with the most beautiful smile in the Caribbean, was mixing up painkillers. Matt had a second birthday surprise, free birthday drinks from some friends had been left for him on the message board. Thanks, guys!

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I planted my slightly...okay moderately...okay whatever... very intoxicated butt on a stool and we enjoyed some painkillers and left a few to pay it forward.

Do you know what happens when a 102 lb. person consumes multiple alcoholic beverages between 9:30 a.m. and noon? She starts getting stupid. To avoid excessive silliness on Vicki’s part, or some embarrassing incident involving me face down in the sand, we headed off in search of food. It was Matt’s birthday after all, and he had his heart set on lobster at Sidney’s Peace and Love in Little Harbor on Jost.

We drove over to Little Harbor and found Sidney’s....beautiful and deserted. The water in Little Harbor is a soft blue-green and paint peeled boats in sunbaked colors are scattered in the dry dusty grass beside the water. Sidney’s sits perched at the water’s edge, a happy yellow open air structure with t-shirts hanging from the ceiling and the scribblings of 1,000 visitors covering every available surface.

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We were greeted warmly and asked the only question there is to ask at Sidney’s, “Lobster?” A question that only needs to be answered with a huge grin and a nod of the head. While our lunch was prepared, I was guided behind the bar and shown how to make a Rum Punch.

“Ya got to grate the nutmeg good. Rum punch no good without nutmeg,” she said just before she called me “Sweetie,” patted my back and wandered back toward the kitchen.

We wandered around, bought some t-shirts, and took the beautiful view when I heard a voice calling me, “Come, Sweetie, come come.” She waved us into a dining area where a table was set with two giant steamed lobsters, corn on the cob, and bowls of cole slaw, potato salad, and peas and rice.

Heaven on earth, I tell you.

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With some food to soak up all the alcohol, we reluctantly left the peace and quiet of Sidney’s and headed over to Great Harbor to stroll along the sandy “main street” before having to catch the ferry. Main Street, Great Harbor was ALIVE. Boats loaded with smiling tanned faces lined the shore and children played in the water’s edge.

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The only bad thing about spending a day on Jost? You eventually have to leave. We headed back to the ferry. When we arrived at the little blue customs building, a worried and anxious little group stood on the porch. I could hear them nervously, “Do they have our passports?” “No one is here?” “What do we do?” You can tell the difference between people who have been there before vs. those that haven’t.

Was I worried? Nah. It’s Jost. It’s all good.

Someone showed up with the passports. We went up to collect ours and, I kid you not, he looked at me and said, “Do you have a photo ID you can show me to confirm this is your passport?”

Okay. Pause.

You can read my mind here, can’t you?

I have difficulty responding appropriately to rampant stupidity and it only intensifies when I am under the influence of alcohol. I could see Matt starting to sweat, picturing me being hauled off in handcuffs in about 2 minutes by an insulted customs agent. However, I did a pretty good job of stuffing smart-a$$ Vicki way down in my pocket, putting some duct tape over her mouth, and cramming a bag on her head.

“Isn’t my picture in the passport?” was all I said. “Oh, ya, here you go.” It was time to head back to STJ.

It was all good.

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After some down time at the villa we were hungry for a little something so we headed down to the Beach Bar for some snacks. The jazz was still playing when we got there and we had some drinks and a light dinner while the sun set over Cruz Bay.

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Monday: Drinking Right, Keeping Left.

Because of our location, we decided to spend the day at Hawksnest, since it was so close to the villa. It was a beautiful morning and we had the beach entirely to ourselves for about an hour. It was a perfect morning, bold blue sky dotted with white clouds gracefully drifting above calm turquoise waters.

It was a quiet day. Even when the beach got “crowded” there weren’t more than 15 people on it. My toes were in the sand, I had a good book to read, and the island breathed a calm into my soul.

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The snorkeling was pretty good that day. Shortly after I got in the water, I happened upon a baby turtle. He was very curious and just kept swimming along with me. That was sort of cool. To me, there is nothing more calming than a long snorkel, with nothing but the sound of my own breathing in my ears and the underwater world swaying gently below me.

After about 5 hours of beach time, we opted to head back and have lunch at the villa. Ham and gouda on ciabatta bread with chips and salsa and ice cold pineapple and watermelon with a million dollar view can’t be beat.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, so we yanked off the top and cruised on over to Coral Bay. Let me clarify, we yanked off the JEEP top.

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We decided to drive out to the East End and it must have been buy-one-donkey-get-one-free day. They were everywhere. My favorite was this guy. He stood in the middle of the road and wouldn’t move. No matter how close we got, he didn’t budge. Not even when we drove past him. He made it clear that it was his damn road and that we would like it. What a stubborn ass.

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After donkeys of all shapes and sizes, immovable donkeys, and donkey trios, we headed back toward Aqua Bistro for a drink. I love Aqua Bistro in the afternoon. There is always a colorful collection of locals drinking the afternoon away. I could sit and listen to their conversation for hours. The last time I sat and listened I got a story about a guy making everyone mad at the St. John Hobo Camp because he just stuck his hand in the spaghetti pot. You never know what you’re going to hear there.

With a Drink Right, Keep Left to cool me off, I just sat and soaked the calm and ease of Coral Bay in.

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We spent the afternoon at the villa and a heavy rain blew through, providing a soothing soundtrack to read by and filling the cistern. After the rain, the world was a magical place of sparkling water droplets strung like jewels across the palm leaves as a delicate rainbow arched across the sea.

Matt decided to play bartender at this point and concocted what I call the “Watermelon Vomit Drink.” You have to understand, Matt gets creative in a very bad way. The last time we were on St. John he mixed up something that had a whole banana in it and at least a teaspoon of cinnamon. All I know is that it was thick and brown and required chewing. I forbade him to use the blender after that. Well, while I was distracted by a great book, he whipped out the blender and made something “special.”

“Here. I made a drink. Try it,” he said.

“It looks like someone ate watermelon and threw it up in a glass.”

“No really, it’s good, try it,” he said.

I tried it.

“It tastes like someone ate a watermelon and threw it up in glass.”

Matt was once again fired as villa bartender.

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It was Monday night on St. John and in Vicki World and that can only mean one thing: the Caneel Buffet. In case you haven’t picked up on a trend here, I am all about food. My idea of vacation is: Eat, swim, do some stuff, Eat, read, Eat, take a drive, Eat. The Caneel Buffet never disappoints. The setting is beautiful, with tables right at the edge of the sand facing the sunset over Caneel Bay to the soft sounds of a steel drum musician playing rhythmically in the background. The food is fantastic. They had cracked crab claws with drawn butter, cold shrimp, oysters, salmon, and tuna. Salads in every flavor, fruit and cheese, made to order lobster ravioli, grilled fish, vegetables, bisque, prime rib, and my favorite: grilled lobster. After 3 plates full (Yes, I eat like a truck driver) I hit the dessert bar. Four desserts later, I walked out doubled over ….but I didn’t care.

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We walked it off along Caneel’s many winding paths, the little mushroom shaped lights glowing softly, the night sounds a lullaby in the dark.

Posted by vicki_h 13:10 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (5)

St. John, USVI - Part II

Another stop in paradise.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

Seriously.

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.

Seriously.

The donkey never even noticed.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Phenomenal.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by vicki_h 13:10 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (0)

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