St. John!

(*note: I’m sorry this hasn’t been posted in so long! for the past 2 1/2 weeks I’ve been battling terrible bouts of chronic nausea which was enhanced by looking at computer screens, reading or watching TV. It’s been incredibly frustrating as the doctors haven’t been able to find out what is wrong with me, even after a slew of tests. I am feeling better enough to be on the computer today, and actually have somewhat of an appetite. I’m hoping it’s a good sign. Meanwhile, here is the long overdue St.John writeup!-kathleen)

What a wonderful time we had renewing our vows in St. John!

We arrived the day before our vow renewal. After a long plane trip to St. Thomas, a taxi ride to the Red Hook ferry port, and a ferry ride, we got to St. John in one piece. Our friends Donna and John met us at the dock; they had arrived a few days beforehand. They even brought ice cold Coronas for us, what could be better!? That night we ate out with our friends at a great restaurant that we loved 5 yrs ago, Morgan’s Mango. We were happy to find that they served the same vegetarian platter that they served back then, fried plantains and all. Yum! We tried to behave ourselves and not have too many rum drinks because it was the night before the renewal; I felt nervous like it was the first time all over again!

We stayed at Star Villas, which was a bit of a disappointment. The villa was not at all what we expected. It was in poor shape and looked like it had been given a minimum cleaning. There were tiny ants everywhere and the décor was dingy and old. The bedroom was small and you had to get to it by climbing a rickety metal spiral staircase not much wider than us. The shower was so small that you basically had to put one body part in a time to wash it!
But the view was beautiful and the location was great. There is not much you can expect in that price range for a private villa, so we made the best of it. Besides, who spends a lot of time in their room on vacation anyway?

The next morning we were at Hawksnest Beach at 8:30 a.m We felt so fortunate to have a few friends and relatives there: Chris’ parents, sister and his cousin Anne Marie were there; our friend Erica and her friend Kerry, our friends Donna and John and my Aunt Claire and Uncle Gary. We had the same justice of the peace, Anne Marie, who did a wonderful job making it a beautiful ceremony. We even hired the same photography company. The weather held out wonderfully and it was an incredible moment. I felt like we were married all over again, and it felt beautiful to have our loved ones to witness it this time.

Even in the early hours of the morning, the beach was HOT! So we headed back to the beach later in the day to swim and hang out with friends. Later that night we took everyone out to a nice dinner at the Lime Inn on Cruz Bay. The Lime Inn has been around on the island for many years and the owner is an amputee with a sense of humor-he fully makes the use of his “hook” for a hand and can bus tables with more gusto than those of us with 2 hands!

Friday we took the ferry over to St. Thomas to send off our friends Donna and John; we were sad that they had to leave! We spent the rest of the afternoon on St. Thomas and grabbed drinks at our fave “touristy” bar, Duffy’s Love Shack. Duffy’s is the epitome of fun cheeziness, serving character themed drinks in their own glasses that you get to take home as a souvenir (ex: the “Pirate Painkiller” comes in a cheezy pirate glass and they give you a pirate patch to wear :). You even get a lei and a sticker that says “I got LEI’D at Duffy’s”. Gotta love it. Later on we headed back to St. John and discovered the best little bar on the island: Woody’s. It’s cheesy decorum didn’t hide the fact that the drinks were good and their happy hour was the longest-and cheapest-on the island. Most drinks were only 1$ and the happy hour was from 3-6. The bartending staff was nice there and it was a great spot to meet up with everyone (“let’s meet at Woody’s!” Was the usual thing we did before going out to eat in the evenings), and a great place to chat up with locals.

Saturday we spend hanging out with Chris’ family at the resort they were staying at, the Westin. The Westin was pretty swanky, with its own private beach and a gorgeous big pool w/ a giant TV that played movies over it. We had a great time hanging out and playing in the water. There were giant trampolines that you could swim out to and bounce on, and a giant blow-up climbing wall that was hard to climb-but we had fun trying. We played like little kids all day, it was great!
Later on that evening we hung out with our friend Erica who was staying at Cruz View-where we had stayed 5 years ago. We forgot how STEEP the hill to the villa was, but the view atop (and the room) made it all worth it.

Sunday we spend the day at Trunk Bay. The weather was great but the snorkeling wasn’t the best due to the boats and the high volume of people that go there. Unfortunately the reef has been damaged due to all of this. But the beach was nice to relax and catch up on reading and tanning at. Even with factor 45, you can burn! That night we revisited Morgan’s Mango for drinks and dinner. The drinks at Morgan’s Mango are absolutely the best because they use fresh fruit in their drinks and no cheap mixes. The “Bahama Mama “ was my personal fave, as it was made with fresh bananas and coconut milk-the bomb!

Monday morning was Erica and Kerry’s time to depart, so we sadly said farewell to them at the docks. It was nice to have friends and family on our vacation!
We later headed over to the Maho bay campground which was on the eastern side of the island. We had heard a lot about this eco-conscious campground and thought we might check it out and do some snorkeling on their private beach. After a long, winding and bumpy taxi ride during which we praised the merits of Dramamine, we arrived to find this neat little tucked away Maho community. The tents looked like screened-in little treehouses. They recycled everything, including bathwater. There was a giant common room and dining hall and a community swap area. The private beach proved to be great for snorkeling (it was much less spoiled than Trunk); Chris even spotted an octopus!
It became very buggy and looked like rain when we got out of the water, so we took a taxi ride back to the bay.
That evening we grabbed dinner with Chris’ family at “del Livo” an authentic Italian restaurant that just opened up near Cruz Bay. The owner hardly spoke a word of English and had to have his busboy translate at times. The food was fabulous, with homemade pasta and all! The chef even made a fabulous cinnamon liquer for dessert. It was a very memorable meal. Unfortunately, with the fact that the owner speaks little English and the restaurant is on a back alley and does not take credit cards—I fear that this restaurant won’t have a long life. Most tourists who come to the island crave more “island” fare, and might avoid this little gem, as wonderful as it was. I wish the best for them.

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to the Arnini clan and spent the morning with Chris’ cousin Anne Marie, who had a flight early the next morning. We walked to a supermarket a few miles away from Cruz View and discovered Satyamuna, a little Meditteranean restaurant that was all vegetarian. I had some BBQ tofu and Chris had some spicy tofu curry. The tofu wasn’t stellar but for what you can get on the island it was pretty good. The unfortunate part about St. John is that the majority of foods you and I are used to need to be imported there-so that makes them very expensive. For instance, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s costs 7 dollars! A box of cereal could run you 10. But the rum and fresh produce our cheap, so that is what we mostly had. We packed some granola bars for the trip and were happy to have those on hand too!

On Tuesday night we had dinner at Margarita Phil’s; boy, what an experience that was! We sat at the bar and were greeted by a waiter who appeared to have severe A.D.D Right after he asked us what we wanted to drink, he headed away from the bar without even waiting for us to answer. He went to go talk to some people who had just arrived and then waited on a few more people before finally returning to us. Here is a dialogue of what went on in the next half hour or so. (A few drunk girls at the bar next to us decided to make up a name for the bartender and they called him “Kenny”).

“Kenny”: So, what did you guys say you wanted to drink again? I forgot…

“us”: well, um.. we didn’t say before. But we’d like….

“Kenny” (interrupts) : Wait can you hang on a sec? I gotta handle this bill. (Tries to handle the bill but can’t seem to work out the calculator.) I think I broke this calculator (hands it to us). You think you can fix this for me?

FINALLY, Kenny gets our drink order! But we come to find out that the bar is out of Coronas, rum, and most of their tequila—and it’s only 8 pm! They do have some beer left, but most of it is crappy. We settle for Dos Equix.

Kenny comes out with a Heineken and 2 styrofoam cups. We tell him this isn’t what we ordered, but he asks us if we can open the bottle and pour ? into each cup for him and his friend. Say what?

As the night progresses, we watch “Kenny” screw up 4 more orders, break a margarita glass, and ask the group of drunk girls at the bar if they want to participate in a “foursome”.

The busboy, obviously irritated with the bartenders dubious mixups, gives Kenny another order even though Kenny is nowhere in sight. Kenny comes running over to us and asks us “Did you guys get that order?”

The most exciting part of the night came when a group of patrons almost got into a fist fight with “Kenny” over a bill dispute. Somehow, they thought they were being cheated by the amount of lobster that was on their lobster quesadillas?

We DID get our drinks (20 minutes later), and about an HOUR later, we actually got to EAT too.
The food actually wasn’t that bad, I have to admit.

Even though it was a raucous night, it made for great entertainment and we might just go again for the entertainment alone! “Kenny”, wherever you are, and whatever your REAL name is…this Bud’s for you.

Wednesday we spent snorkeling at Cinnamon Bay. The weather was exceptionally hot, but the beach was nice and the snorkeling was great. Cinnamon Bay is the only beach that has its own campground. As cool as it sounds to fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves, I’m not sure I could handle camping in St. John for long. The lack of air conditioning in the 90 plus degree heat, and strange insects and “island” sounds at night might make me want to run for the hills… But I’m sure it would be romantic, too.
(Speaking of strange creatures roaming about the island, St.John is home to free roaming iguanas (They are the island equivalent of the New England squirrel), and wild donkeys! Imagine my surprise when, after showering in one of the public showers at Cinnamon Bay, I turned around a corner to find a wild donkey quietly munching on some dry grass. Talk about surprise!)

Things we discovered while snorkeling at Cinnamon Bay:

schools of yellow and silver fish
blue and green parrot fish
sea urchins!
and….a nurse shark. I know nurse sharks are generally bottom feeders and harmless to people, but the sight of those shark fins and that ominous outline made Chris and I a little uneasy. After seeing that, we decided maybe we had enough snorkeling for the day.
Near Cinnamon Bay are the ruins of an old sugar plantation. Chris and I explored the fascinating building remains, made out of stone laced with local shells and coral. An amazing but sad little bit of history. We took pics!

Thursday we spent snorkeling at Salt Pond, which turned out to be by far the best snorkeling of the trip. We took the local bus to the other side of the island. It took a while but it only cost 1$ AND it was air conditioned—if we took a taxi it would’ve been an open-air taxi and it would have cost us 60 bucks!!
Salt Pond is a nice, quiet beach with pristine and abundant reefs. We saw schools of jeweled blue fish that we’re unsure of the name of, some bright pink and green mottled parrot fish, and white crabs.
I had been secretly hoping that we would be able to spot a sea turtle, but they are often difficult to find and only reside in certain parts of the reef. The last time we had been to St. John we hadn’t been able to spot one at all. Since today was our last day of snorkeling, I made a wish that we’d get so see one…just once. Only a few moments after I made that wish, what did I see but a beautiful, large sea turtle. He appeared right in front of our eyes. I was so excited I almost cried and I started screaming to Chris underwater (which sounded pretty pathetic). After I finally got his attention we watched the sea turtle for quite some time. He was incredible, soaring up and down and coming up for air. He munched on a little seaweed and swum around, and finally disappeared into the reef. These are the times we wish we had a good underwater camera! It was the perfect ending to our trip.

Friday was our last full day, so we decided to take the ferry to St. Thomas to do some duty-free shopping on Charlotte Amalie. Once there, we realized why we DID not want to stay on St. Thomas. There were way too many shops and it was overcrowded, noisy, and smelly. The majority of the stores were not unique, just your usual gold jewelry, Prada bags, tourist t-shirts and booze stuff. Everywhere we went people were trying to sell us stuff or get us to come in their store. We did at least go to a Kmart which had really cheap prices for rum, and we bought a few bottles to carry with us on the way home.

Friday evening we decided to commemorate our 5 year anniversary by getting tattoos, just like we had gotten on the islands our first time. This time we decided that we should get 5 stars signaling our years of marriage around our original tats. We went to Octopus Ink on Cruz Bay, where tattoo artist Pat Mazza did our work. We came to find out that she used to work on St. Thomas and had actually done my tattoo there! She did a decent job but her personality was about as painful as her tattoos—she didn’t have much interpersonal skills and spoke very little. She also had a HEAVY hand! But she did well AND she touched up my luna moth tattoo for free. So that was nice! We were happy to have our permanent souvenir, one we DIDN’T need to buy at Charlotte Amalie.
That night we had one last hurrah at Woody’s (sniff sniff, hard to leave!), and ate at a great Italian restaurant called Cafe Roma. It wasn’t as authentic as the other Italian restaurant but it was sure better than an Olive Garden and there were LOTS of things for vegetarians to have! Chris had a baked ziti and I had penne with vodka sauce. Yum!
We were sad that the next day was our last day, so we tried to enjoy every last minute.
We were going to miss the sounds of the ocean and tree frogs outside our villa at night, and seeing the beautiful aquamarine water in the morning. We were going to miss fruit smoothie stand guy, “Kenny”, and some of the other funny locals. We hated to leave our Woody’s happy hours, our lazy days of snorkeling in the sun, and the overall amazing time we had renewing our vows and being with family. Alas! But it was a trip to remember—and one to do again in another 5 years!

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