Thursday, July 30, 2015

US VIRGIN ISLANDS FOR A WEEK


Its super hot and humid here in the Midwest. Although I am just back from my holiday in the Canadian Rockies, I miss the ocean like never before. Jumping into the pool can never be a compensation for jumping in the ocean.

So I thought of penning down my memoirs from my trip the US VIRGIN ISLANDS last Christmas. It started on a  pretty rough note, but ended with memories of a lifetime.

                                                           DAY 1:
The first day was dedicated to travel. we were traveling with a toddler and three connections. Our first  flight was on time and we reached Houston with a fuss free baby. Then started the mess. Our aircraft from Houston to San Juan(Puerto Rico) developed a technical snag. Two hours and over were spent standing in line at the gate, which had no mood to open. We knew we had a smile chance of getting our final connection from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas,but we kept our hopes high. As soon as we landed in Puerto Rico, we were taken, on priority, to the gate where our connection would be departing. Guess what our flight had taken off with us. But there was a last flight and we requested for seats. Looks like, even that was not to happen. Or maybe Puerto Rico wanted us to stay back for a night, and rekindle our old times. We had visited Puerto Rico in 2010. We were booked for a flight from San Juan to St. Thomas the next morning  and we started our search for our luggage which had been checked in. San Juan Airport was in the middle of a renovation and we spent exactly another 2 hours running from desk to desk looking for our lost luggage. We were so tired when we checked into our hotel for the night. But if you know us, we can't miss a chance to be in San Juan for the night. So we went out for dinner in Old San Juan and danced the night away, over some Pina Coladas.


                                                                  DAY 2:
We finally boarded our last connection from San Juan to St. Thomas. It was the tiniest aircraft we had seen and honestly a bit scary for someone with vertigo like me. Almost like a personal aircraft. In my mind, I wanted to behave like a Kardashian on their personal jets. The view was so breathtaking that you don't have time to dream up private jet fantasies. We were over the azure Caribbean waters and our Pilot was regaling us with stories from the island. It seemed like finally the vacation had begun. We landed in St. Thomas, only to find out that our daughter's car seat had not made it on our flight. And the rental car agency did not have a spare car seat to rent out. I had spoken a bit too fast, on how our vacation had finally started. So we spent a another couple of hours in the asbestos roofed baggage claim area, sipping on some iced tea and waiting for the next tiny flight to make it to the island.




Finally we were all set when we spotted the familiar car seat in the baggage claim. we checked into our resort, ported our luggage, and rushed off. Time to explore ST. THOMAS.

Baby was fast asleep, as all that traveling and running around for lost luggage had got her super tired.

When you are in  the Caribbeans, you have to some connect with the Pirates. Disney has managed to instill that kinda feeling in all of us, subconsciously. We went to BLACK BEARD'S CASTLE.




It was an old pirate hideout and home of a legendary pirate. A watch tower  along with the connecting home of the Pirate, and the legendary 99 STEPS of St. Thomas, all with a  sleepy baby in the carrier. Then it was time, to tease my vertigo a bit more, second time, one the same day.



We went on a ride on the ST. Thomas Gondola aptly called the PARADISE POINT GONDOLA . The panoramic view from the upper terminal of the gondola was enough to make me forget my vertigo,which would greet me on the way down the Gondola again. Sunset in all its beauty  overlooking the harbour dotted with shipping vessels of all sizes. Not to forget some Rum Punch.


We decided to explore downtown St. Thomas, but everyone had shut shop . Did I mention it was just 6 pm. Apparently island life is early and shops close at 5 pm. We had dinner at the restaurant in our resort with some more Rum Punch. Cheers !! Hic !!



                                                                  DAY 3:
Merry Christmas people !!! Christmas Brunch at the restaurant of our resort. We had actually lost track of time. We had forgotten what it felt like being tourists with an itinerary. We were just soaking in every minute. Finally it was time to hit the beach. While our resort was on EMERALD BEACH., we ventured further to  MAGEN'S BAY. It was the perfect family beach. Endless white sands, and teal and emerald water stretched out. But yes, it was crowded and yes, we had to pay,to get to the beach.


For me, the holiday begins, when your feet touch the sand and surf. Out toddler also seemed to agree.


Lunch on the beach over some fresh sea food and then were off for the  OBSERVATORY on MOUNTAIN TOP. It offered a 180 degree view of the neighboring islands.



It was Christmas Dinner  and we wanted it to be special. So we decided to head to a place where we could feel the sand between the toes and hear the lashing and splashing of the waves on the rocks IGGIES it was. The twinkling fairy lights on the trees on the beach, along with the twinkling stars on the sky made its all very festive, with our festive cocktails.



Conch fritters and a Tuna mash was what we dined on. And no, the Blue Drink wasn't mine ;)




DAY 4 : 

We drove down to the local jetty and drive literally to the Barge/Boat. The Boat was taking us and our car to a neighboring Island: ST. JOHN It was indeed an unique experience. 




When we reached ST. John, the first thinG we could not miss was how picturesque it was. way more beautiful than ST. Thomas. You could actually see the different shades of the color blue in the water. We decided to do some exploring , before we hit the waters. ANNABERG PLANTATION it was. We hiked up to the ruins of the plantation and explored. The panoramic view from the ruins, was worth the hike It used to be one of the earliest Sugar Mills on the island and it was nice to soak in all the history. 




Then it was time to hit the first beach. Hopping beaches is a must, if you want to explore an island properly. First stop was CINNAMON BAY. And we spent an hour trying to find a spot to park our car. One of the problems of driving around in an island, is that parking slots are so scarce. Next time, we will rely on cabs for sure. 


Somehow this beach or this island in general reminded me of Culebra, in Puerto Rico. Similar sand and similar waters. The Caribbeans always have a way of sneaking into your heart. The water was so clear that you could see the fish swimming through. There were many who were snorkeling and can't say that I was not tempted to do so. We munched away on some quick lunch on the beach. 

And then it was time for TRUNK BAY. This beach was  bit crowded than Cinnamon Bay but was beautiful. Its one of the must see destinations on any USVI trip. I could have stayed there for an entire week, it was so majestic. It was like you had stepped into a picture postcard. 


We sampled some West indian food before we boarded the ferry back for St. Thomas. I had been waiting for a chance to sample West Indian food, as I had seen it in so many TV shows and finally had my first plate in my nah. ELLA'S WEST INDIAN CUISINE is tucked away in the only mall in the island and the crowds there, make sure you don't miss it. We opted for the GROUPER DINNER. 




Back in St. Thomas, we felt a bit fancy after a comfy warm shower. We wanted to sample some much famed fine dining on the island. So a quick phone call and reservation, and were all set for a fancy beach side dinner, complete with candle lights. 


An absolute Lobster fest at MIM'S SEAFOOD BISTRO. And the cocktails mixed by our mixologist were to die for. The chief was kind enough to whip some Pasta for out toddler,but she had her eyes on the Lobsters for sure. 

DAY 5: 


We started with exploring downtown St. Thomas. Roaming round the lanes and bylanes and exploring all the island goodies. Managed to do some shopping finally and I was sure not complaining. We had been trying to grab a meal at the much famed but had not been lucky so far. Its considered a sone of the highest authorities of west Indian cooking, and has had multiple mentions in Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor When we finally managed to snag a table for lunch, we were sure excited. We opted for GOAT CURRY, AND ROTI. Yes, the Indian and the West Indian connections were all evident, and it was so good to get a taste of almost Mom's cooking, from another Mom's kitchen. 


With our tummies so full that we could barely walk, we could barely walk, we tried to embark on another adventure. we headed to Coki Beach which was a small marina close by. Our stop was CORAL WORLD OCEAN PARK. We wanted to squeeze in some fun for our daughter as well. 

She had a great time looking and interacting with the Ocean creatures at the Park. But Mommy had a scare fest almost with all the wild Iguanas which roamed free at the park. Especially at how fast they lapped food when a kid dropped it And there as always someone who as dropping food, just to watch them eat. I love animals..but reptiles, lets say, are not my best friend. 


The heat was getting to us and we had not made our customary daily visit to a beach. We headed to SAPPHIRE BEACH. When we were initially making plans, Sapphire Beach was our initial choice to stay, but then we decided on Emerald Beach for its proximity to the airport. It was almost time for sunset when we reached the beach and the water was getting just a bit cold. The beach as strewn with sea weeds which had been brought in by the waves. Somehow, I felt good about choice of staying in Emerald Beach. And speaking of facilities, while the other beaches had tons of showers and changing areas, this beach just had one Shower which was a part of the Dive Shop. But sunsets are always spectacular on the beach aren't they ! 



For Dinner, we headed to the Marina  for  THE NEW LATITUDE 18. It was the quintessential Beach Shack which had great food and great live music. The ideal place to kick back your shoes and dig in. We opted for Lobsters, Roti Goat and Lion Fish Bites. Yes, some West Indian food again.  






DAY 6 : 
We had been to Caribbean beaches so far and had been gushing at most of them. But we hadn't been to HONEYMOON BEACH yet. The Man had kept the best for the last day. We drove to the marina closest to our hotel and took a ferry to WATER ISLAND. Its the smallest island of the USVI and had to be one of the most memorable ones we visited. 


A shuttle cab or truck to be specific, took us to HONEYMOON BEACH. It was just perfection which spread out in front of us. The water in all shades of blue possible. The beach was lined with beach chairs and umbrellas and did I mention a Floating Bar. A Food truck called DINGHY'S served up the best sea food and whipped up the coolest cocktails. Life was good. 




When you are having  great time, time flies by faster than usual. soon it was time for the last cab to take us to the last ferry. Back at the hotel, we decided to explore the beach attached to our resort. In going all around the archipelago, we had not paid much attention to EMERALD BEACH. Sunset at the beach and trying to reminisce the last few days at the Caribbeans. Sunset seemed to be more spectacular than ever probably because it a step last day. Our last dinner at the island had to be special so we headed to FISH TAILS. It came with high recommendation from the locals, so we knew we could not miss it. 





DAY 7: 
With a heavy heart and packed bags and with memories of a lifetime, it was time to fly back home. First the tiny aircraft and then the regular jets which brought us back home, to the cold and grey Midwest. Luckily we didn't have any travel and flight snarls as we did in our onward journey.