While waiting not-so-patiently for spring, and since we've been having such weird weather lately (cold, then warm, then cold, then windy, then rainy), I think it's important to be reminded of perfection.
A.K.A. the USVI.
About 3 years ago, at my company Christmas party, I shockingly won the grand prize! Out of about 5,000 people, I won two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the continental US, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or Caribbean.
Yes! I was shocked, really, because I never win anything. Ever.
I've always said the storked dropped me off at the wrong house in the wrong part of the world, because I am a total beach hound. I could happily live the rest of my days on a beach, as long as it's warm.
I always felt gypped. So now, every chance I get, I go to the beach. Usually it's the gulf, which is fine by me, because we have a place that is special to us. San Diego was wonderful too. But nothing, NOTHING beats the Caribbean! And when I had the chance to go there with my free airfare, I jumped at the chance! I literally did jump up and down when I found out I'd won this prize! I jumped, danced, sang a giddy little song and went from cube to cube to share my excitement with my coworkers! ;)
Hubs had a passport at the time due to his worldly travels as a musician, but I didn't. And we needed to book our vacation fast (per the rules of the winnings, we were under a time limit). So under the advice of coworkers, we looked into the US Virgin Islands since no passport was needed.
We looked into St. Thomas and St. John, because we could visit both in one trip since they are just a short ferry ride from each other. We really wanted to stay on St. John since it appeared to be less crowded, but because of our short notice, we couldn't find anything available. So we booked a cute, funky resort on St. Thomas. We loved this place. Hubs and I are not 5 star kind of people. We aren't into stuffy, pomp and circumstance, hoity-toity. We are real, and even on vacation, we are real. The resort we booked was very cool by our standards. It had a neat history, and was very eclectic...totally our style! It was built to blend in with nature, and had the neatest gardens and nature trail.
There were a lot of beautiful, and "interesting" plants on the nature trail.
We had lots of visitors as well...tons of lizards, iguanas and stray cats. There were lots of cats. They just looked so sad and skinny and full of mange. Most of the cats were skittish, but one kitty was especially sweet and would come visit us every time we went out on our patio. She looked to be either pregnant or nursing, and we figured while we were there, she (and the other cats) would have a good week of eating. We went to the grocery and bought a bag of cat food. The day we left, we heard her meowing, and we looked up to the balcony above us and saw her with her kittens. It was almost as if she was saying "here are my babies, thanks for feeding us!"
On St. John, we saw lots of wild donkeys! That was probably one of the highlights for me. There's something to be said about sitting on the beach with a donkey next to you! ha!
Hubs and I love to try to blend in with locals no matter where we go, stateside or otherwise. I mean, what's the point of visiting somewhere if you want it to be exactly like "home?" So we asked around and went to eat at the places the locals recommended. We stood on the side of the road and caught a safari bus into town. Those are quite the experience! Pick-up trucks are outfitted with bench seats in the bed. You pay $1 and can ride the loop around the island. Scary at times, especially when driving on the side of the mountain and there's nothing to keep you in the truck, or to keep the truck on the road! We got to meet lots of locals that way, and they were awesome!
We also stayed away from the touristy beaches that are havens for cruise ship passengers and instead opted to go to the beach that we were told was a favorite with locals. Coki beach happened to be next door to our resort, so it was a quick 5 minute walk. I can vividly remember sitting in the sand, looking out onto the turquoise water, watching locals with their kids snorkeling, and hearing reggae music blaring behind us with the scent of "funny cigarettes" and food being grilled floating in the breeze.
We did do a few touristy things, like go into town, ride the cable car up the mountain, shopped at the millions of stores, visited Blackbeard's Castle, etc.
The local food was so good, as was the music. And I could sit for HOURS listening to the people talk! I love the accent!
Groceries were expensive, as would be expected on an island. However, rum was cheap. A gallon of milk cost more than a bottle of rum. A six-pack of pepsi cost more than a bottle of rum. So...you guessed it...we had lots of rum! ;) In fact, one morning, we sat out on our patio, eating cereal and drinking rum and coke at 7am. Good times. ;)
We did spend a day on St. John, and honestly, if I could, I'd sell my house and move there today. It was more our style as well. St. Thomas rocked, but it has a larger population (40,000 vs. St. John's 4,000) and is more metropolitan. Which is fine, we enjoyed the restaurants, art galleries and shops, but St. John had the natural flavor that is more our style. On the advice of the activities director from our resort, we snorkeled Waterlemon Cay (less of a touristy beach). Our safari bus driver was probably one of the nicest people I've ever met. In his 70s, he told us he was one of the few residents on St. John that actually was born there and still lived there. The only time he ever left was when he was in the war.
The sugar mill ruins were beautiful.
Because Waterlemon Cay is not on the usually tourist route, it doesn't have a supply of taxis waiting to take tourists back to the ferry. So we made special arrangements with our driver, and he came back to get us at the end of the day. Since we were his only customers at this point, he stopped along the route, pointed out special things and gave us the story. He pulled over at the Trunk Bay overlook and let us take pictures. We really enjoyed the time with him.
When I die, if I don't go to heaven, I hope I go to the Caribbean! :)