Monday, July 27, 2009

The Best Honeymoon I Never Had: Part I

Finally got Blogger to upload photos this morning (Tuesday, July 28) so, if you read this earlier, photos now added below!! :-)

We left our house about 6:30 am on Saturday morning (7/18) and our flight to ATL left at 7:50. We were on a huge and beautiful 777 which helped somewhat with my fear of flying (which seems to be getting worse as time goes by, not better...need to deal with this before our next flying vacation in November). Business class had these individual "pods" that were pretty private and looked kind of enough to use our frequent-flyer miles to upgrade rather than getting a free trip another time? Not! ;-)

Got to Atlanta around 3 pm local time (noon our/west coast time) and had a 2-hour layover to explore and get some food. I was very good: had broccoli with my meal (staple of my "program") and no rice or bread (I managed to be pretty good on program with the exception of the daily coconut rum and "lime in a coconut" fests...but not good enough according to the scale when we got home...more on that later!)

Our flight to St. Thomas left around 5:30 pm and we got in after 9 pm in a raging thunder and lightening storm. Not so fun for scaredy-cat flyer me, but it wasn't too bad until the last few minutes of bumpiness and skidding on the runway when we landed! Luckily I was chatting with our seat mate who was a local St. Thomas-er...she was super helpful with tips about the islands and didn't seem too worried about the storm. Once we landed, there was no way to get to the terminal in St. Thomas except across the tarmac so, needless to say, we were soaked by the time we got inside...but all was forgiven when the nice greeters handed us our first coconut and pineapple Cruzan rum tastes (apparently a Virgin Islands tradition!). We bought some more rum drinks from the conveniently-located bar in the open-air (but thankfully roofed) baggage claim area while we waited for our luggage. Niiiice.

We had to stay in a hotel in St. Thomas that night because it was too much to consider navigating the ferry, car rental and 45-minute drive to our villa on St. John at that hour of night so I had planned a stay at a hotel that was well-reviewed on TripAdvisor. Got a shared-taxi to our hotel (MaFolie) up the mountain overlooking the bay of Charlotte Amalie. We got to our hotel about 10 pm and the restaurant and bar there was closed...and nowhere close by to eat. We were, at this point, still being very good on our program and we were hungry! The nice staff at the hotel offered to drive us down the hill to a place where they were going for drinks that still was open for dinner. Niiiiice. :-) (On the way to dinner, one of them told us how he remembers to stay on the left side of the road while driving: "shoulder to shoulder". This worked like a charm for us. It helped too that, on St. John, the speed limit is 20 MPH!)

We had dinner at this bar down in town (and more rum on the rocks...that coconut rum is SO good...). We both had salads...good for us! And got souvenir plastic cups before taking a cab back up to our hotel (for which I am sure we were overcharged -- no meters on the Islands -- but that's ok). After enjoying our balcony overlooking the lights of the bay, we passed out for the night...happy in the warm island breeze.

When we woke up on Sunday...WOW. What a view!! We were definitely THERE. :-)

We went down to the hotel's restaurant for the included continental breakfast. NOTHING offered had protein except the cream cheese for the (very not delicious) bagels. Oh well. I had a bagel with cream cheese and some water. DB had coffee, cereal and toast. The hotel itself wasn't fancy, but was fine for a one-night stay. We had planned to look around St. Thomas, but really had no idea where or what to see and nothing in the guidebooks we picked up tickled our fancy so we asked the hotel to get us a cab to the ferry at Red Hook (45-minute cab ride for a 20-minute ferry ride -- we could also have taken a 15-minute cab to a 40-minute ferry, but everyone on STJ seems to prefer the former).

Our cab driver to the ferry was a delightful woman originally from the British Virgin Islands (I love the Caribbean accent!) and we had a fun ride to the ferry in her Ford Explorer. :-) Just made the 11 am ferry over to St. John...ahhh, we were on our way!

Water over to STJ was choppy, but beautiful azure blue. The ferry was air above and below. We got into Cruz Bay (the "big" town on STJ) and it was sooo cute! Colorful buildings just off the wharf...and more welcoming Cruzan rum! YUMMY.

We walked a couple of blocks to our car rental place (Conrad Sutton Car Rental) and here was our first real adventure in "island time" (or, as I came to call it, "welcome to the islands...[insert bad news here]". I had read in on-line forums that Mr. Sutton's operation was a less-than-major-rental company (but I knew someone who had rented from him and said it was good). It was a tiny one-room "office" and a smallish parking lot full of Jeeps (gotta have 4WD on STJ because of windy, switch-backy, sometimes steep roads). Unfortunately, the only person there (washing cars) said the person in the office had "just" left and "would be right back". I will spare you the cranky details, but it took at least half an hour for someone to come back, and then another half hour to fill out paperwork and have Mr. Sutton peruse every little thing on our driver's licenses...and comment on it all. Seriously. Welcome to the islands... ;-)

After this ordeal, we needed sustenance. Put our luggage in our car, left it at the Sutton parking lot (not a lot of parking in Cruz Bay) and headed out for some food and DRINKS. We stopped in a cute open air restaurant right on the beach, ordered salads (yes, still being good) and our first "lime in a coconut" drinks (these were to become an obsession later...). YUMMY.

Feeling much better, we picked up our car and headed to the market for groceries. I had heard things were cheaper in Cruz Bay so we stocked up. Spent less than we could have. Bought a lot of healthy things to keep us close to program...and some of that yummy Cruzan coconut and pineapple rums ($9.99 a liter...can't beat that!). I tell myself that pure distilled beverages like this have no carbs...and all the nutrition information I find bears this out. I actually don't think we got in trouble on the lbs. until we started the search for the best lime in da coconuts...they are not too sweet, but have coconut milk in them...calories and carbs.

We arranged with the caretaker to meet us at the house to turn over keys and everything so we set off for the other (Coral Bay) side of the island. We took the North Shore Road that goes by many of the famous beaches...they were breathtaking. (An aside: a couple of years ago when I got a new phone, I picked the prettiest photo of the choices as my wallpaper. It was a photo of a beautiful beach and islands. When I was planning this trip, I saw a photo of Trunk Bay and said "hey, I think that's my phone photo". It was. So I had been looking at this photo for years without knowing it was St. John. It was meant to be...!)
I think we got to the house/villa about 4 pm on Sunday. My first reaction was: the photos do not do it justice!!! The ceilings were higher, the new paint job was prettier, the landscaping was lusher, it was more private and larger than I thought...I could go on and on. It was unbelievably gorgeous. It had a washer/dryer, dish washer, EVERYTHING to make it homey and convenient. Even the dishes and kitchen tools were beautiful. On the huge deck was a large dipping pool overlooking the incredible view. There were no less than 4 eating areas in and around the house. The main portion of the house was a great room (living, dining, kitchen -- much like our house at home), a large bedroom with king bed and a bathroom. There was another bedroom with two twin beds and a bathroom that was separated from the main house by a breezeway. We didn't use this room, but it made the house perfect for a family vacation too.

One pretty bad thing was that the caretaker told us that the tv wasn't working (no problem) and neither was the internet (big problem -- DB needs constant access to manage his business -- and I had told them that repeatedly when booking). We ended up having no access at the house all week and that really sucked for DB. He managed, but this was our most disappointing thing.

There was a nest with two hummingbird babies outside the front door...we had fun watching them get bigger all week...and they disappeared sometime during the night on our last night.

The back patio smelled divine...jungle, organic, green. I kept saying I wished I could bottle the scent to take it home. :-)

After the caretaker left, it started to really rain again. I turned away for a minute and when I looked out on the huge balcony/patio, there was DB, naked, luxuriating in the rain. That's my nature man! ;-) Just goes to show how private we were...we could walk around naked outside and no one could see. :-) So we both jumped in the dipping pool and looked at our view while enjoying some coconut rum on the rocks.
We went to dinner at a place called Shipwreck Landing on that first night. It was one of the closest to our villa (about a two-mile drive) and I had heard the food was good. Well, not really. The food was fine (we had yet more salads), but unimaginative and way overpriced (even for St. John). We went back one other time for a drink, but this was, in my opinion, the worst meal we had on the island.

After dinner, it was time for bed...time to get on Eastern (and island) time...and we were looking forward to our first full day on St. John on Monday....snorkeling was calling us... :-)


LG said...

WOW. What a wonderful description of your vacation and wonderful photos! I'm so happy for you and yet, I WANT ONE TOO! (Esp. the lime in the coconut.)

I'm glad you're back but I'm really happy happy that you had such a good time! You and DB totally deserve it!

Laura said...

MORE MORE!! I can't wait to read more.

Your landing sounds scary. It's such a narrow stip of runway anyway, I can't imagine coming in on a storm.

Trunk Bay is supposedly the most photographed beach in the world. & I'm sure you know why now!

I recognized STT airport from your picture. Nobody "gave us" drinks, but we bought them at the bar as soon as we arrived. :)

Isn't Cruz Bay cute? I hope you went back.

Shipwreck Landing food was meh to me too. But their bushwhackers were tasty.

How was Breath? How was snorkeling? How were the beaches?

More more!

& yeah, apparently no internet is the way of the islands. It's a different way of life down there.

Vickie said...

middle child and I were just talking about snorkeling this weekend - loved the pics and all the description - looking forward to the rest.