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Friday, July 4, 2008

Paradise Found - Part Dos (FINALLY!)

As you'll recall, we left off at Day-4 of my oh-so-lovely vacation . . .


DAY FOUR


After a fitful night of sleep (in the middle of the night, I had the creepiest dream ever that there was a small, colonial child sitting on the bed staring at us, and woke up FREAKED!), I dragged myself out of bed around 7:30 a.m. We lounged. I napped. We ate lunch. Finally, around 12:45 p.m. or so, Wilson and I decided we should probably do something with the beautiful day! We packed up the beach gear and headed towards Cruz Bay, which is what I guess you would call the "downtown" area of St. John (hehe). Since parking is hard to come by, we got to park our jeep at the rental place for free (score!). We unloaded and headed in the direction of the National Park for yet another hike to the beach. This time, we chose Honeymoon Bay, by way of the Lind Point Trail. We took the "long way" and were rewarded with this magnificent view of Cruz Bay.




After an easy hike, we made it to the beach, where we were saddened to discover quite a lot of beach-goers. Apparently a few day cruise ships had parked themselves at the Bay for the afternoon--and thus unleashed their many obnoxious passengers! Luckily, Wilson and I managed to find a nice, quiet spot by walking a bit further down the beach. The beach itself was absolutely stunning. I would definitely go back.




We had also thought about checking out Salomon Bay (which apparently has historically been known as a "nude-friendly" spot; although the VI police are cracking down now and handing out tickets on occasion). We were so content at Honeymoon, though, we just stayed put. Wilson did a little snorkeling and I worked on my tan.



Around 5 p.m., we decided to take one last walk up and down the beach, and then headed out. Back in Cruz Bay, we walked around a little bit and stopped into St. John Spice. I love-love-loved this place. It has all kinds of interesting Caribbean hot sauces, marinades, coffees, teas, etc. (and great air-conditioning to boot!). After the spice shop, we headed back to the Starfish Market for some random food/drink items, including my new favorite thing ever . . . Terra garlic mashed potato chips. Holy crap, am I addicted to these things. Has anyone ever had them? I nearly ate the entire bag on the drive back to the villa! Oh, so good! For some reason (perhaps my new favorite snack?), I really enjoyed the car ride back. The windows were down, the radio was on . . . we snapped a couple fun photos, including this photo of a sign posted at the end of somebody's driveway. In case you can't make it out, the signs say, "Goats Keep Out;" "Donkeys Go Away." Ha.


We got back to the villa and relaxed with (of course) some drinks. I took to reading past visitors' journal entries in the little diary provided by the villa owners, Susan & Paul. It was really interesting to read about everyone's various reasons for coming (mostly weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries, etc.), and what they enjoyed most about their stays. While I read, Wilson threw some NY strip steaks on the grill along with some asparagus . . . both were delicious! Oh how I wish I had a place to put an outdoor grill! Sigh. We went with cherry chocolate chip ice cream for dessert, and by the time we finished it, were practically falling asleep! Thus, it was off to bed.

DAY FIVE


Wilson and I awoke pretty early to the gorgeous sunrise, but decided to just stay in bed for a while . . . because how often do you wake up and get to just lay around in bed for a couple hours? Pretty much never, if you're like us! Finally, we got up around 8 a.m. and made breakfast . . . yummy omelets with monterey jack and leftover bratwurst. Yummy :) After cleaning up, we got our provisions together for more hiking + beach-ing. We had decided to hike out to Waterlemon Cay, which is known for its great snorkeling. We left the villa around 11:30 a.m. and on our way to the beach, stopped at the ruins of the Annaberg School.



We then continued on to the parking lot for the Annaberg Ruins, which is where people generally park to hike to Waterlemon. Since we were there, we figured we might as well check out the ruins! It was a great decision . . . not only was it a fun spot for photographing, but we also met a couple of very cool local guys, one who we think worked for the site, and one who kept a very extensive garden near the ruins. He showed us what everything was in his garden, and even shared a pair of freshly picked mangoes with us! While we were there, we also encountered an annoying American family. I kid you not, they were actually complaining about the "long" quarter-mile hike around the ruins, and insisted on stopping to rest several times. Dear. God. Anyway, the local dude was nice enough to entertain these people, despite the fact that they were totally annoying and loud. He split open a coconut and gave it to the one man, who then asked, "Do you have a straw?" HA. The local dude responded with, "No straws in thee jungle, mon!" Priceless. When Wilson and I headed out, the local guy was chucking a shovel up at a tree, trying to get something (probably another coconut) down for the family. I'm definitely glad we stopped there, and would totally recommend it, thanks to the local guys! Here are a few of the photos we snapped at the ruins:












From there, we started off on the hike to Waterlemon Cay. Imagine our shock when we saw a car driving right at us, on what we had assumed was a pedestrian-only path! Apparently we were wrong! You could really only drive about a quarter-mile further than where we'd parked; then the path just got too narrow and you had to walk it--so what's the point of driving the extra quarter-mile? As it turned out, people's laziness ended up getting them in trouble . . . we got to the impromptu "parking area" these people were using, and there was so little space for all the cars trying to squeeze in, that it was virtually impossible to exit the parking area without going off the edge of the road and into the water! Wilson and I had to wait a good five minutes to pass on foot because a jeep was attempting, ever-so-slowly, to exit the "parking area" without rolling into the water! A girl was directing the dude driving and turned to apologize to us, saying "Sorry. Some jerk parked right there so nobody can get out now!" I really wanted to be like, "Would it kill all of you to park in the actual parking lot and walk? You could use the exercise!"

We finally made it past the "traffic jam" and reached the beach.






We found a decent spot and just hung out for a bit before setting off on our first snorkeling adventure of the day . . . out around the cay. As it was pretty far away from the beach, we had two options--either swim out or follow a trail to a closer point and swim out from there. For some reason, I was just all about swimming out. Well, we made it, but were seriously grateful for the fact that there was a nice little beach area on the cay, where we could rest before resuming our snorkeling. I was a tad bit nervous about snorkeling around the cay, as I'd read the current can be pretty strong. Luckily, it wasn't too much of a problem. There was one area where I felt like I was using a ton of effort and getting nowhere, but I didn't panic, and I eventually managed to swim through it. The fish and coral were definitely worth the long and crazy swim. We saw so many fish we'd never seen before . . . it was incredible. I even got to see a TON of huge, beautiful starfish and a barracuda (which of course, caused me to sing Heart's classic for the rest of the day--"You'd have me down-down-down-down on my knees . . . now wouldn't you? Barracuda!")

After we made it back around to the little beach area, we stopped to rest for a few minutes before setting off on our swim back to the beach. On the way, we spotted our first of many stingrays. Once we'd arrived at our destination, we went back in the shaded bush along the beach to reapply sunblock, and heard a faint baaing sound. Before we knew it, a pack of goats showed up, and were munching on the grass and leaves growing around some ruins. Wilson got some good photos of them . . . they were so cute!!



Watching the goats eat made us hungry ourselves, so we busted out our picnic lunch (it was already 3:45 p.m.!) We quickly devoured our roast beef sandwiches and granola bars, but not before some mongooses figured out we had food! I fed some of my sandwich to them, and for the rest of the day, we had dependable mongoose friends constantly surrounding us!

After lunch, we rested a little bit before snorkeling once again . . . this time right along the shore in some turtle grass. We'd heard people talking about turtle sightings all day, so we were hopeful that we would encounter one as well. Sure enough, within minutes of heading out, we spotted a huge green turtle! We followed him around for a bit, then figured he was probably getting annoyed with us shadowing him! Thus, we moved on. While out there, we also saw several more stingrays; one of which had a fish pretty much glued to his back, I guess trying to steal all of his food (how annoying!). Just as I decided to call it quits, I saw my green turtle friend again . . . he was very close by in the shallow water--so close I could have touched him! I headed toward the shore again, and spotted a stingray in even shallower water. It was like the sea animals just didn't want me to leave! It had definitely been a very successful snorkeling day!

Once out of the water, Wilson and I lounged a bit and allowed ourselves to dry off, and then finally packed up to go around 5-ish. Before heading to the car, though, we hiked up to the "Boys' Home Ruins."







After taking the above photos, we hiked back down to the jeep. We packed up and headed back towards Coral Bay, with the hoped that Colombos Smoothie (i.e. frozen rum drink) Stand would still be open . . . no such luck. They had just closed when we drove up. Thus, we had to wait until we got back to the villa for drinks . . . we opted for margaritas. We had just enough time to sip on margaritas and shower before heading back out to a restaurant called Sweet Plantains, where we had made a reservation. I am officially obsessed with this place. It is a little pricey, but is SO worth it! The atmosphere is awesome. We were sitting right next to a big open air window with great sea breezes coming in. I was also mesmerized by the hip but comfy decor.






We ordered drinks first (there was an entire menu dedicated just to their extensive offering of rums!) I went with rum punch, which was delicious (and potent!) Wilson had some kind of five spice martini, which he really enjoyed. Next we ordered food . . . salt fish patties for an appetizer. They were SO good; especially with the mango dipping sauce! For our main entrees, I had a Creole swordfish dish. It had andouille sausage and a delicious tomato-based Creole sauce, topped with crispy onion strips, and served with yucca fries. Wilson went with the mahi-mahi curry special (you could choose West Indian or East Indian curry style--Wilson went with West Indian). He loved his dish as well. In fact, we loved our food so much, we completely cleaned our plates--which I almost never do! It was just SO good! I will definitely return there next time I'm in St. John!

After dinner, we drove back to the villa, where we immediately went into a big, fat food coma! I read a little bit more from the guest journal, and then we turned in around 10-ish.

In the middle of the night, we got to experience a huge, crazy storm! The wind was howling and the rain was absolutely torrential! It took me several tries to convince Wilson to get up and help me close the inside shutters in the main villa to protect it from the crazy blowing rain . . . finally he agreed. It was already quite a bit wet inside, but definitely could have been worse, considering the conditions of the storm! We got the shutters taken care of and then headed back to bed for a fitful night of sleep.


DAY SIX


This was a bit of a lazy day for Wilson and I. We slept in until 8 a.m. and had no plans whatsoever for the day. As we were contemplating eating breakfast, my inner child came out, and I demanded ice cream for breakfast. Ha. I announced to Wilson, "I'm on vacation. I'm eating ice cream for breakfast!" He probably thought I was nuts, but he definitely partook in some morning ice cream yumminess as well! We did quite a bit of lounging until I finally decided I should be awesome and "run" some laps in the pool. I ended up running 100 laps around the little plunge pool. It was actually a REALLY good workout! My legs were jelly when I finally climbed out of the pool . . . not to mention, I was STARVING!

Wilson and I finally got our stuff together and left the villa around 12:30 p.m. We decided we'd drive out to the East End and check out Ms. Vie's Snack Shack and the surrounding beaches. Ms. Vie serves up all kinds of tasty treats--from conch fritters to garlic chicken to homeade limeade to coconut tarts. We made the drive over the crazy roads (shown below) to the East End, excited about the delicious food we were about to ingest.



On the way, we also passed this little guy, who I totally wanted to take home with us!



Our plan was flawless . . . or so we thought. Then we got to Vie's, and it was closed!! I'd read before that Ms. Vie's is not always open--In Ms. Vie's own words, "Some days, we might not be here at all!"--but was really hoping we'd get lucky! Oh well. We snapped a photo of Vie's snack shack before leaving.


It was obviously time to come up with a back up plan . . . We eventually decided to head back toward Coral Bay and check out a place called Shipwreck Landing.



I'd heard mixed reviews of the place (the negative reviews complained about service; not food), but it seemed like the type of place we would like . . . plus, they had conch fritters, which we were dying to try! While we dined, a family of roosters roamed around the open air restaurant!


Despite the fact that it was only lunch, we ended up enjoying quite a feast! We started with fruity rum drinks and conch fritters (finally! they were GREAT, especially with the special curry sauce they gave us). Then we moved onto our entrees . . . Wilson enjoyed grouper tacos, while I went for a mahi mahi sandwich with chipotle sauce and a pasta salad side. I was nowhere near able to finish my dish, but it was all really good (in case you haven't noticed, it's actually quite difficult to find a bad meal on the island!) . . . and I thought our server was super nice--no complaints there!

After lunch, we again pondered what to do with our time. Finally I said, "let's just drive in the direction of Ms. Lucy's. We haven't reall explored that area yet." Wilson (having obviously done far more research than I) mentioned that we could check out Lameshur Bay, which is in that very direction. So off to Lameshur Bay we went! The road down there was a bit treacherous (apparently some of the car rental companies forbid renters from driving to Lameshur Bay), but we made it okay, and parked ourselves at Great Lameshur Bay.



We picked a spot on the rocky beach, and it didn't take long for me to realize that it was HOT! While Wilson headed into the water to snorkel a bit, I tried my best to keep cool. First I plopped myself down on a big rock under a shady tree . . . but it wasn't long before I got bored of just sitting there! Off I wandered with the camera to see what I could find. I followed some kind of trail back into the bush, and found that it led to a salt pond. Let me tell you, those things STINK! I also took plenty of "nature" photos, as you can see.








Then I figured I should probably head back to the beach, as Wilson might be worried about where I'd disappeared to! Sure enough, I found him wandering around the beach, trying to figure out where I was hiding! We wandered around and explored a bit. We found a random makeshift bench, which we stopped to pose for pictures on . . . and we also saw a DEER. On the beach. Kind of odd . . .



After we'd sufficiently explored the stretch of beach, we decided to hike over to Little Lameshur Bay to check it out. Check out my super-mad-awesome balance beam skills:



On our way over to Little Lameshur, we noticed a trail for Yawzi Point and decided to take it.



As Wilson explained, the peninsula was the site for the Yawzi Quarantine Camp years ago. Apparently slaves suffering from Yawzi (which is similar to leprosy) were brought to the point and pretty much left to fend for themselves until they died. It was weird, but I just got this overwhelming sense of tragedy and desperation while walking around the ruins of the camp.


As tragic a location as it was, the trial offered some seriously gorgeous views, and Wilson and I took photos galore (I think we were practically fighting over the camera at times!)












After we reached the point, we headed back in the direction we'd come from and made our way onto Little Lameshur Bay. Unlike Great Lameshur, which was rocky, Little Lameshur boasted a beautiful sand beach.




We sat at a picnic table for a bit to rest, and hen headed up a trail from the beach to the ruins of an old stone house. I decided I could totally live there (if only the U.S. Government would hand the house over to my care!) We explored the ruins, taking a bunch of pictures in the process . . .







Finally, the camera battery died, and we were forced to stop in the middle of our photography session. We sat on the edge of the platform the house was on . . . dangling our feet over the brush and the water below. It was just a very cool place to hang out! Finally, we decided to head back to the car and return to the villa for the night.

Once back home, we grabbed some snack and beers and lounged on the patio . . . until we finally jumped in the hot tub to watch the sunset. We stayed in the hot tub until it grew dark, then changed out of our wet swimsuits and planted ourselves on the couch to read. After a bit of reading, I fell into a ridiculously deep sleep. When Wilson attempted to wake me for dinner around 9 p.m., I had SO much trouble waking up! Finally, I snapped out of my sleepy state and sat down to our yummy dinner of garlic-artichoke chicken sausages and plantain chips. Yum :) After we finished eating, we cleaned up and were off to bed by 10:30 p.m.


DAY SEVEN


We awoke around 7 a.m. ready to take on our last full day in St. John. We made use of our customary lounge time, enjoying cofee and fresh mango for breakfast. Around 11 a.m., we packed ourselves into the jeep and were on our way to take on the hike to Ramshead. We parked at the trail head and soon after, were on our way. The first part of the hike takes place on the shores of Salt Pond Bay, which was gorgeous and breezy.



But soon, that changed . . . the trail was HOT! Becauase it's uncovered, the trail allows the sun to just beam down directly on hikers. It was quite a steamy climb up to Ramshead! We took our time on the way up there, stopping many times to have a drink of water and/or take photos.














When we finally made it up there, it was indeed gorgeous! Wilson and I spent a good thirty minutes wandering around and taking photos.














Finally, we finished up and hiked back to Salt Pond Bay, where we noticed yet another trail to "Drunk Bay."


I, of course, insisted we had to check out whatever Drunk Bay was. We started on our way, as Wilson tried to convince me that the name was a reference to drowning; not to being intoxicated. We passed another icky salt pond, and after maybe a ten minute hike, found ourselves on Drunk Bay. What was the first thing we spotted as we approached the water? Why . . . a full, unopened can of Miller Lite! Drunk Bay indeed!



The bay was rocky and really rough, with huge crashing waves. It was a sight to see, that's for sure--beautiful!


After we explored a little bit, we looked around and realized we were surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny coral people! Laying on the rocks, they were literally ALL OVER the place! I'm not sure why, but we never thought to make one ourselves! I think we were just mesmerized with all of the creepy, tiny coral figures surrounding us! I went around taking photo after photo of the silly figurines.












Once we'd spent more than enough time exploring Drunk Bay, we headed back to Salt Pond Bay and found a nice picnic table under a shade tree. I held the spot while Wilson hiked back to the jeep to get our coolers and beach stuff. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch, shared with some lizard and hermit crab friends.

Shortly thereafter, we pulled out the snorkel gear to check out the nearby reefs. The snorkeling was pretty good, but some of the water was a little murky. I saw a big stingray and some really huge schools of fish. But it didn't take long for me to decide I was done with snorkeling! I just grew kind of bored of it for whatever reason. I swam to shore, laid out our beach blanket and plopped myself down to nap a little. Unfortunately, a bunch of ants had other ideas! They kept crawling all over and biting me--grr! After Wilson came back to shore, I decided I'd suffered at the hands of the ants for long enough, and asked whether we could go back to Little Lameshur Bay.

Luckily, we were on the same page, so we packed our stuff up and made the crazy drive back to Little Lameshur. When we arrived, we were delighted to find just a handful of people there. We found a nice, quiet spot and lay down to nap on the beach. I had a fabulous nap and woke up to see a large famiy with a really sweet collie walking up. The family all went into the water, so I sat and watched the collie, who was completely adorable! I was so tempted to go play with it . . . but figured the owners might be a bit frightened (why am I constantly trying to steal everyone's dog?). After a bit of dog-watching, we realized it was already 5 p.m. I asked Wilson if he wanted to pack our stuff up into the jeep and hike back up to "my house." He agreed, so we hiked back up and spent maybe a half-hour wandering and taking photos, before finally heading back to the villa. Here are some of the results of stone house photo session number two:




Back at the villa, we enjoyed some drinks, showered and got ready for dinner . . . finally heading out the door around 8 p.m. Our original plan had been to try out a place called Island Blues, but we were bummed to discover it was closed. Once again, it was time to come up with a back-up plan . . . we decided on another local Coral Bay joint, Aqua Bistro, which turned out to be really good. We enjoyed drinks called "Drink Right, Keep Left," and we both ordered a cod special which was absolutely devine. It was served with couscous and asparagus, and the cod was covered with feta cheese and yummy grilled veggies. It was SO good, and I really liked the fact that the chef himself brought it out to us. The meal was great, and for dessert, we both had another "drink right, keep left." When we got to the car, we noticed we were parked next to this beauty--love it!





Sadly, when we got back to the villa, it was time to pack. What a bummer!


DAY EIGHT

We awoke around 6 a.m. with the sun having just risen, and dragged ourselves out of bed to enjoy our last morning of coffee on the patio. While I sipped my coffee, I wrote a bit in the guest journal of the villa. It was fun, but also sad, to recount the tales of our week-long adventure. Just as I was fininshing up my entry, a tiny yellow and black bird (some kind of warbler, according to the villa's Caribbean birds book) came and landed on the ottoman of the deck chair I was sitting on. It just looked at me in such a way that said, "Don't go! Stay here in St. John!" And believe you me, I wanted to stay! But sadly, we had to have the jeep back to Courtesy Rentals by 10 a.m. We finished packing, did a final check of the villa, and were on our way around 8:45 a.m. This left us just enough time to stop at the Donkey Diner for a quick brunch. It was such a cute place . . . and quite friendly as well!




It seemed like the type of place a lot of loyal "regulars" frequent. Wilson enjoyed stuffed french toast; while I went with a simple egg & swiss sandwich on an english muffin. Both were great. After brunch, we set out on our last drive to Cruz Bay. It was a really great drive . . . the island just seemed so bright and peaceful! We made it to Courtesy by around 9:30 a.m. We figured we might as well take advantage of the free half-hour of luggage storage and hit up St. John Spice again--Wilson ended up buying two bags of coffee beans to bring home. We got back to the car rental place to realize our jeep was not where we'd left it! We were a bit freaked, until we realized that the rental place had just moved it to a different parking space. We recovered our luggage, and the guy came out to check the vehicle out. Of course, the first thing he mentioned was the fact that the top was unlatched (you're not supposed to remove the tops of the Wranglers--but Wilson apparently didn't notice the HUGE sticker saying so--thus, he unlatched the thing and couldn't get it re-latched).

Wilson apologized and told him he'd tried really hard to get it back on, but just couldn't. The dude's response? "Too bad; you have to try to put it back on." Wilson sweated it out for a good fifteen - twenty minutes before the guy finally came back out and helped him re-latch the top. I guess he was just trying to teach Wilson a lesson . . . a very hot, sweaty lesson! We finished up with the car rental place and headed in the direction of the ferry. We had to wait a while for our 11:00 ferry to Red Hook to show up, but once it did, we boarded and headed to the upper deck to end our trip to St. John in the same way we'd begun it.

We arrived in St. Thomas after a short ride, de-boarded, picked up our luggage, and met up with our old friend, Freddie (the cab driver). I tried to savor every moment of the 40-minute drive to the airport . . . my last few moments of vacation. And just like that, it was over . . .

3 comments:

Alex Gonzalez said...

That was a great vacay report and the pictures were great too! I was actually going to turn in for the night, but after reading this I feel like having some Terra Garlic Mashed Potato Chips as well. I'm hungry now! lol!

The Laminator said...

That is one LONG vacay report! Not that I'm complaining or anything, because it was fun and full of colorful pictures, but do I get a medal for finishing?

Laura said...

Mmm, I really want to go to Sweet Plantains! And all the talk of fruity alcohol is making me REALLY thirsty... :)

I think you should have gotten drunk on Drunk Bay.