PrologueCraig had been to St. Thomas on a Caribbean cruise with our friend Gary in the early '90's. With just one day-long shore excursion to the island, he was left wanting more. I had never been to the Caribbean. So we decided to take advantage of the long weekend that Thanksgiving provides and head to the USVI.
While doing research online, Craig found a tourism message board where he became acquainted with a local named Marty. Marty was quite friendly and we decided to meet up for a drink while on the island. The rest is history; a friendship which has lasted 16 years and counting!
11/21/2000 - ArrivalWe had to scrape frost off of our windshield at 5:30 a.m. when we left for the airport. We arrived at Logan at 6:00, in plenty of time for our 7:15 flight. We flew on American (and had lots of legroom in their newly refurbished plane) and got to San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 12:30 p.m. (they are an hour ahead of EST).
The flight from San Juan to St. Thomas only took about 20 minutes. They were giving away free rum punch at the airport, but we didn't partake. We rented a Mitsubishi Mirage and drove to the Secret Harbour Beach Resort near Red Hook. We checked into room 211 (a studio suite right on the beach). It was beautiful. They had cheese and crackers and Coke waiting for us in the room. The view from the patio was gorgeous, and there was a small stone wall separating us from the beach, which afforded us a little privacy.
We drove the short distance into Red Hook to buy provisions at the market. Everything was readily available but a little pricey. We went back to the hotel to stock our kitchenette and then walked to the Blue Moon Cafe (on premises) for the weekly manager's reception. There was free rum punch and hors d'ouevres. There was also a steel pan player, and Ernest the manager sang along.
Next we headed over to the Agave Terrace for dinner. We were not seated on the ocean side, but it was still wonderful. We were seated on a small courtyard, where we could watch geckos and hermit crabs playing on the rocks. We were also seated next to a wonderful steel pan player. He showed us his drum, which was handmade in Trinidad. The food was some of the best that I have ever eaten. Craig had a lobstertail stuffed with crab meat. I had crab cakes and chicken Coki, they tossed the salad at our table, and the salad contained grapefruit. They gave us chocolate truffles at the conclusion of our meal, and our waitress took our picture.
We sat outside for quite a while near the restaurant, looking at the stars. The restaurant is named for the agave plant, which flowers once in its life (when it is 25 years old). It is then used as a Christmas tree.
On the drive back to the hotel, we saw fireworks coming from the Ritz. Once back at the room, we made some vodka and lemonade drinks and wandered outside. We brought beach chairs down to the water and sat, soaking our toes and enjoying the peacefulness of the waves.
11/22/2000 - Coki Beach and Party MartyWe woke up late and lounged on out terrace for most of the morning. It was rainy at first, but it quickly burned off and became quite warm. Craig cooked eggs and bacon, and I ate cereal.
At 11:00, housekeeping came to make up the room, and we headed off to Coki Point. Keith showed us the ropes and brought drinks to us. Christy wrapped my hair for $15. The water was gorgeous; it looked like a swimming pool. We swam and sat on the beach until 2:30.
Then we went back to the hotel to change. We drove to Paradise Point in Charlotte Amalie to meet Marty (our new friend from the internet). Paradise Point is gorgeous. There is a tram to get up there, and at happy hour, the tram ride is free. There are cheap well drinks (drinks without the premium alcohol), and they will bus you back down the mountain. We drove up on our own, however. We walked along a nature trail up there (and saw some nasty millipedes) and watched the cruise ships. There was a quick downpour.
We met Party Marty arond 7:00. He introduced us to Lori, Tony, Chris, Suzanne, and Mike (who had recently played harmonica for Pine Top Perkins!) Marty introduced us to the preferred island drink: the Bushwhacker (it's all booze, except for the fresh nutmeg). We also did Jaegermeister shots. I ate a Hawaiian pizza, and Craig had wings.
We drove Marty back to his apartment so that he could pick up his motorcycle. He had the coolest rock we have ever seen (a boulder in the living room). He also has a deck with a pool, jacuzzi, wet bar, TV, VCR, Nautilus, and a great view of Magen's Bay though we couldn't really see it because it was dark. We hung out there for a few, and then followed Marty back to Red Hook.
We went to Duffy's Love Shack for drinks. Most of the tables are in the parking lot, which is where we sat. Marty ordered the drinks: a Shark Tank (a 64 oz. fish bowl filled with blue alcohol. There are plastic skeletons floating in it, as well as a plastic shark that contains a shot), Zoom Zoom shooters (shot glasses attached to a plastic race car) and Love Potion Number Nine shots (in Duffy's souvinir shot glasses).
Then we went next door to the Poor Man's Bar. Marty ordered rum and Cokes. The bartender brought over three glasses of ice, two cans of Coke, and a bottle of rum. We got to make our own drinks! Then we rolled dice. If you win (best poker hand against the dealer), your drink is free. Otherwise you pay double. Marty and Craig drank free, and my drink cost $5 (still not bad...considering that was the "double" price!)
11/23/2000 - Thanksgiving in Charlotte AmalieWe woke up at around 7:30 a.m. We ate breakfast on the terrace (Craig made an omelette and bacon, and I had cereal and muffins). Then we headed into Charlotte Amalie. The merchants with umbrellas near the parking lot were a bit pushy, but when you went into the real stores it was fine. Liquor, perfume, and jewelry are all good deals, so we did a bit of Christmas shopping. I browsed for sapphire rings, but I decided against it.
We ate Thanksgiving dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. The Patriots game was even on (it figured that we were away the first Thanksgiving in memory when they had a game). And they were winning (at least while we were watching; they lost in the fourth quarter). We had the turkey dinner special, complete with stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, and apple pie.
When we were done eating, most of the shops were closed. It was 3:45, and the shops really are governed by the cruise ship schedules. We went to the KMart in Tutu to peruse their acohol selection. We were back at the car looking for directions to the other KMart when a woman knocked on our window and asked if we needed directions. Everyone is so friendly! We went to the other KMart, and still having no luck, we went back to the hotel to watch sunset.
We went to the Wyndham Sugar Bay in search of the Turtle Rock Bar (and its famed nightlife). After parking the car and taking their shuttle, the driver didn't know of a Turtle Rock Bar (even though the sign listed it). He brought us to the Mangrove Restaurant. After an accidentally free drink, we decide to skip out on the Voodoo show. All we wanted were appetizers, but the Wyndham only offers all-inclusive meals.
So we headed to Fungi's. It didn't look very happening, so we went back to the Agave Terrace. Everything was closing rather early due to the holiday (it was 9:25), so we were only able to sit at the bar. It was nice (overlooked the ocean). We ate delicious conch fritters with Bahamian cocktail sauce and sipped bushwhackers.
11/24/2000 - St. JohnWe woke up at 6:25 a.m. and made it to Red Hook in time for the 8:00 ferry to St. John. We stopped at that National Park Visitors' Center, and then took a $10 cab ride to the head of the Reef Bay Trail. We started the hike at 9 am. The hike descended down through rainforests, past petroglyphs, and down to an abandoned sugar mill and a beautiful beach. We saw lots of wildlife...geckos, a golden orb spider, a deer, doves, etc. The trail was very well maintained. Although the guidebooks advised wearing pants, we were much too hot in jeans, and it was perfectly safe to wear shorts.
The petroglyphs were located along a 0.3 mile side trail. There were some large rocks, a murky pool, and a few petroglyphs. The petroglyphs here were not as impressive as the ones we saw in Hawaii, but if you have never seen petroglyphs before, it's worth the extra effort. We met a guy near the petroglyphs who was from Hamilton, Mass!
Then we proceeded down the rest of the trail to the beach. There were hermit crabs along the trail that would play dead by dropping and then rolling down the hill a ways as we approached (thereby attracting much more attention to themselves than if they had just kept still). The sugar mill was creepy, and the beach was beautiful and private. For a long while, the only other person there was a guy from Idaho, with whom we chatted in the water. The ascent to the top took us about an hour and a half. We arrived at the top before 2:30 pm.
Some friendly local construction contractors gave us a ride in the back of their pickup. After they dropped us off, we walked for a ways. We saw a pig and piglets run across the road when called by a goat. Then some masons picked us up in the back of their pickup and drove us the rest of the way to Cruz Bay. We went into some shops and ate at the St. John Duffy's. The menu was the same as at its St. Thomas counterpart, but the service wasn't as good, and the atmosphere wasn't as rustic. It felt more like a Swiss Family Robinson tree house. I preferred the St. Thomas Duffy's. It was happy hour, so I got $1 well rum and Cokes and Craig had $1 Red Stripes. We had Sunset Burgers (which had carmelized onions, BBQ sauce, and cheddar). Our appetizer (which were brought after the meal) were chicken skewers with peanut sauce and nachos with Jamaican jerk chicken.
We caught the 5 p.m. ferry back to Red Hook. I stopped at Duffy's to buy a shirt (they were out of the one I wanted on St. John). Then we went back to Secret Harbour for sunset and took a swim.
Reef Bay Trail
Sugar mill ruins, Reef Bay Trail
11/25/2000 - Captain Marty's Island HopAt 7:30 a.m., we met the gang for Captain Marty's Island Hop: Lori, Tony, Chris, Steve, Victoria, Marty, and Gabriela. This is something that Marty does regularly: rents a boat for the day and takes friends out on the water.
We met at the Marina Market and picked up supplies (including some delicious deli sandwiches.) We got to the marina by 8:00, filled out our customs forms, and we were off. The ocean was a bit rough, and Craig and I were glad we had taken some motion sickness medicine beforehand! We sat at the front of the boat, and were slammed by the waves quite a bit.
We stopped at Customs in Tortola. We circled around in the boat while Marty, Tony, and Victoria went ashore. After that, we were free to enter the BVI as we pleased. We dropped anchor off Smuggler's Cove in Tortola (one bay over from the famed Bomba Shack). We swam to shore, just ahead of a rainstorm. We waited out the storm inside the Honor Bar (a decrepit, sandy-floored building that contains the Cadillac in which the Queen toured Tortola decades ago, props from the filming of The Old Man and the Sea, snorkel equipment, T-shirts, and a fully stocked, frosty cold fridge.) Leave money for whatever you take. Soon the storm had passed, and the sun revealed the beauty of the Smuggler's Cove beach. We lounged there for a while before returning to the boat.
We wanted to go to Willie T's to try to win a free T-shirt, but there was another storm. Marty sailed into it, and we were getting soaked and tossed around, so we turned back. We anchored off of Sandy Cay. It was beautiful. Gabriela and Chris were the only ones who got out of the boat.
Then we went to Jost Van Dyke. We parked at a dock and went Foxy's Tamarind Bar. Foxy's is a bar/restaurant that is basically a roofed picnic grove. There are business cards, bathing suits, hats, etc. hanging from the ceiling. We ordered drinks and I had a bbq chicken sandwich. There was a nice gift shop where we bought shirts. We ran into Marty's "brotha from anotha motha" Miles, who was also island-hopping that day. While we were eating, Foxy came out and sang and told jokes. He was hilarious. We ended up buying his CD.
We then went a few bays over and anchored offshore of the Soggy Dollar Bar, where we drank their signature drink: the Painkiller. They had food there as well, but we didn't have anything. There was a ringtoss game attached to a tree, and there were several hammocks. It was a happening place.
On our way back to St. Thomas, we cranked classic rock and oldies (and a little salsa music as well) and cruised in the sunshine. Marty insisted that I steer the boat at one point, which was fun. When we got back to Red Hook (around 5pm), Marty, Craig and I ate at Bill's Texas Pit BBQ cart, at Marty's suggestion. The brisket was delicious! Gabriela got some Chinese food.
The four of us then went to Duffy's and got "lei'd". (They give you a lei if you order a frozen drink, and we got bushwhackers). Then Craig had a beer and I had a Tiki God Rum Punch. Miles showed up there as well. After talking for quite a while and eating Gabriela's Starbursts, we drove Gabriela home at around 10:30 and then went back to the hotel.
Gabriela and Marty on the Island Hop
11/26/2000 - Magen's BayWe got up at 9:00 a.m. We made breakfast in the room, and then drove to Tillett Gardens for the Christmas craft fair. We bought a Christmas ornament of a woman playing a steel pan.
We then went to Magen's Bay. It wasn't as busy as Coki Point. Although it costs several dollars to enter, it was worth it. It was a gorgeous beach. Miles is the running waiter there! When we heard him crooning "Cocktails!" we had to call him over. He delivered a bushwhacker to Craig and a pina coloda to me.
We left the beach at around 3:30 (as a little storm rolled through). We relaxed on the Secret Harbour beach until sunset. Then we went to the Blue Moon Restaurant for our 7:00 reservation. We got bushwhachers and a crab cake appetizer. Craig had the surf and turf (lobster tail and a filet) and I had cilantro swordfish with citrus couscous. We were back at the room by 8:15. We listened to reggae and packed.
11/27/2000 - DepartureWe woke up at 7:30 a.m. and checked out around 9. We drove to Charlotte Amalie and bought some things, including a larimar Caribbean hook bracelet (Marty had told me I wouldn't leave the island without one!) and some art prints of St. Thomas and Foxy's. We also got some alcohol.
We ate lunch at the Greenhouse (two-for-one margaritas and crab cakes.) It was amazing how many Christmas decorations had been put up in the days since Thanksgiving. Everything was colorful and festive. We returned the rental car. We were very early for our flight, and filled out a tourism survey while at the airport.
We ate at the food court in the San Juan airport. The connecting flight was delayed, and Gary was kind enough to pick us up at the airport when we got in (around 11 p.m.).
Dinner at Agave Terrace
Coki Point Beach
Sharing a shark tank with Marty at Duffy's Love Shack
Thanksgiving at the Hard Rock Cafe
Sunset at Secret Harbour
Swimming on St. John
Reef Bay Trail, St. John
The Honor Bar
Cap'n Marty's Island Hop
Post-Island Hop drinks at Duffy's Love Shack with Marty and Gabriela
Cocktails at Magen's Bay