We left early Tuesday morning (April 22nd) and flew to Atlanta. From there, we flew into St. Thomas! We grabbed our bags and found our rental jeep. Did you know that the U.S. Virgin Islanders drive on the left side of the road, dear reader? Even though their cars are for right-side driving? That took some getting used to and I was glad Brandon was driving! Of course, he spent two years driving in Australia and drove the entire time we were in London, so I wasn't that nervous...
We drove to the marina (a marina? dock?) and got onto the car ferry to take us 4 miles across the water to the island of St. John.
Our hotel was just a short drive away, and we checked in. Unfortunately for both of us, I was incredibly sick. I had come down with some kind of cold a few days before we left, but by the time we landed in St. Thomas (where I silently cried during descent because of the sinus problems I was having), I was feeling the achings of a fever coming on. When we checked into the hotel, Brandon found me some medication and left to explore while I slept. After a little while, I felt much better, so I ventured out to the local pool and beach to find Brandon.
Dinner was at a Thai restaurant, and I was beginning to see how accurate the guidebook I had purchased was: St. John is the epitome of casual! Although it's against the law to wander around in a bathing suit (it's considered incredibly rude), the state of dress was beach casual everywhere. Tourism is obviously their number one money-maker, and I'm positive they sell more liquor than just about anywhere! But isn't that what people do when they go to the Caribbean? They hang out on beaches and drink a lot of alcohol (the songs aren't wrong!). This casual atmosphere did not seem raucous, however. In fact, everything was just slower and very laid back. "Island time" is what they call it, dear reader, and once you accept it as reality, life is very pleasant! Food service is slower, traffic is slower, everything is just a bit... slower...
The next day, I felt a lot better, although my sinuses would continue to trouble me all week (and still are). We found Jake's (a fantastic restaurant that serves a great breakfast)...
(The view shows an unfinished building that has sat the same way for 15 years, we were told.)
They had a small barbecue restaurant where we grabbed lunch, and then we did some exploring! Right across from Cinnamon Bay Beach there is an informational hike amongst some sugar mill ruins from the 1800's, along with some cemeteries. It was such a perfect little jaunt in the jungle because we were the only ones, so it was practically silent, except for some birds. We saw deer (they were brought to the islands for game in the 1700's) and a lot of lizards, as well as termite nests and all kinds of trees. While we were hiking, though, I felt a overwhelming sense of sadness. These ruins were here because of abducted slaves from Africa. It truly broke my heart.
(Can you see the tiny lizard looking away right in the center? and the one below, we're looking at his side...)
(Large termite nest)
(In one of the cemeteries was this grave --only two years old!)
Wanting to explore more of the island, we drove east and found this view (you can see Tortola of the British Virgin Islands in the distance) and then these school ruins:
Unfortunately, we never did hike to see the hieroglyphics of the original natives to the island. Maybe next time! Next, we drove towards Coral Bay:
We ran into some local wild animals!
In fact, the island has the following "feral" animals: mongoose, donkey, chicken, goat, deer, cat, bats, and many birds, lizards, and insects.
We found Salt Pond Bay Beach and snorkeled for a bit --found a sting ray! It was quite the jaunt to get down to the beach and back up. I wouldn't have minded, but for some chafing (ouch!). Btw, a lot of cactus grows on the island. Here is where it's unlike other islands (especially Hawaii) --there is very little rainfall and the locals have to use some pretty intense water conservation methods, as well as gather rain water.
Then we drove to the east side of the island. We had hoped to find some entrances to the beaches there, but most were blocked by private residences expecting payment to pass. No, thank you! Instead, we just drove back to the hotel, showered, and then went to a spectacular restaurant called The Spyglass. The view was wonderful, and the food was outstanding! Brandon had the full red snapper and I had the crab-stuffed Mahi.
Then we headed back to the hotel and decided to sit by the pool for a while. I'm glad we did, because this big guy decided to join us! He was a fast swimmer and dived right into the pool. There are these large square planters in the middle of the pool --apparently, the iguanas live there most of the time.
Dinner that night was at The Beach Bar, which was, of course, right on the beach in Cruz Bay, and right at sunset! It was beautiful.
Brandon had signed up to do a scuba dive, so while he went diving, I took a loooooong shower, read my book, and took a nice long nap. It was wonderful (if you forget the maid who knocked on the door and the man who came to the wrong hotel room and knocked on our patio door).
That night we just ate dinner at the hotel (it was really good! I had paella) and then after getting gas/cleaning out the jeep, we went for a walk on the beach by our hotel. We stretched out on the chairs and looked at the stars... Sigh...
Saturday was travel day. Breakfast at Jake's, shopping for gifts for the kids, and then we headed to the ferry dock. We didn't fit onto the 9:30AM ferry, but we were (gratefully) the last car on the 10AM ferry! If we hadn't, we would have waited until the 11:30AM ferry, and that would have created mild panic about our flight...
We flew to Atlanta again, and then onto Philly. My sinuses were much kinder to me this time, thank goodness! My dad picked us up around 10PM. We grabbed dinner at Taco Bell and came back to our kids and our lives. The kids were pretty excited to see us in the morning --or was it because we brought gifts? Ha!
All in all it was a fantastic trip! We had a chance to focus on our relationship and just enjoy being together, which is the point of our vacations like this. I fell in love with my husband again (not difficult!), and I loved every minute I spent with him! Honestly, we adore beaches, hiking, history, good food, and the ability to run our own schedule. So, it's easy to conclude that this trip was a roaring success.
The kids did well with my parents and the best part: the house was clean and the laundry finished! My parents are amazing. So grateful to them!
Up next, our Sunday morning surprise...