Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Heaven on earth

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! :)


Mrs. Smith said...

Thanks for the happy, sunny, warm photos! And hey, at least you LIVE somewhere warm...I'm dying up here in Indiana!

Joanna said...

What a beautiful place. I have only been to the beach here in Florida. But I'd love to venture to the Virgin Islands one day. It sounds like y'all had the trip of your lives. What an awesome prize!

Valarie said...

I'm with you on that weather thing! Hot, cold, hot, cold. Make up your mind! Although I prefer the warm, anything stable is good too.
Our "wedding moon" was in Jamaica, I would love to go back. Your trip looks like it was amazing.

My Home - My Life said...

I 100% agree with you. I LOVE the caribbean as well and go there any chance I can get. I can't believe you won that trip out of so many people - that is just awesome. I have never been to either of these islands but they look amazing in every way!

Carrie said...

The photos were wonderful what a beautiful place. I think the stork dropped me down in the wrong place too i just love the beach!

Sandy Toes said...

What beautiful pictures...I can almost feel the sun!
-sandy toe

Lucky in Love said...

How beautiful! Looks like you had a wonderful time! I'm so glad :)

Miss(es) Canadian Pie said...

I felt like I just went on vacation! I'm not really a beachy person...in fact I'm more a cabin in the mountains kind of girl. But wow, it was so neat just reading about your vacay. I think I'd pee my pants if I were on a wooden bench riding up the side of a mountain. And how cool about the cat!!

Shannon said...

It is beautiful there! I loved all the pictures! We got to go to St. Thomas and it was perfect.

Mindee said...

Oh how I love the beach! We just got back from Hawaii and now I check the job listings there frequently just in case. :)

Sweet Simplicity said...

What a fun trip! I can't believe you won it!!

Leah said...

I SO want to go one day!

Jenni @ nest to keep said...

These beautiful pictures are a good reminder that it will get warmer...soon, I hope! What a wonderful place to visit! :) It looks gorgeous there! :)

Tanya said...

That looks truly wonderful! Warm, sunny, gorgeous. How awesome that you won it!

You and your hubby are so cute together too!

Candy Allen said...

What an amazing trip! Your photos were beautiful enough but I couldn't imagine how stunning it must have been IRL. Can you tell I've never been?

Thanks for giving me the "beach bug"!

Our Complete Family said...

What amazing photos! Needed to see those sunny shots today for sure!
You had me cracking up about the rum with bfast. Too funny!
Happy day wishes hun~ Les

Liz said...

Wow. I'm so unhappy with winter and my town now. :)

Those are fabulous pics, and memories.

Taryn said...

wow- it sounds amazing! I am very jealous. thanks for the fun pictures and stories!

AnNicole @ OurSuburbanCottage said...

That is sooo cool! I've never been to the caribean, but that's how I feel about Kauii...kaui? (oh my gosh, I can't spell today). Anyhoo, that's such a great prize.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll have to read more of yours. I love your blog name and your description. I can soooo relate...except for the musician husband part :).

Lindsey said...

WOW!!! Gorgeous pictures!!!

Kaitlyn said...

I briefly visited the USVI (St. Thomas and St Maarten) on a cruise two years ago and I LOVED IT. I'm trying to convince Ryan to go for a honeymoon :) So gorgeous there!!!

Jen r. said...

WHat lovely photos.. Ahh. I can feel the heat already!

Gwen said...

I remember when you went on the trip - and when you won the tickets how excited you were!

Beautiful photos! I want to go there someday.

katie said...

I know this post is a little old, but I just had to comment. My husband and I were on St John for two weeks a couple years ago and visited some of the same places- the sugar mill (which I dragged him back to a second time because my camera died on the first trip:), Waterlemon Cay, Trunk Bay and I could swear we saw the same exact donkey. :) We hope to go back soon!