Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Island Time

Jerry and I had our fifteenth anniversary this May. We decided last year that we would do some type of trip, but until a couple of weeks before our trip we hadn’t decided exactly what. We consulted our friends, family, and guide books, and decided on St. John, US Virgin Islands for its natural beauty and laid back pace of life.

After a flight through Atlanta to St. Thomas we took a ferry to St. John, directly to our hotel, the Westin St. John. We disembarked the ferry, got our key, and headed to our room, but met another couple at the door! Turned out that we had been upgraded to a beachfront room since we were celebrating our anniversary! When we finally got there we were very pleased – here’s our view:

The hotel manager also sent champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to our room, along with a nice note congratulating us on our anniversary. We pretty much crashed the first evening, and took our time breakfasting the next morning before we met with the concierge to see what there was to do. We decided to take a tour of St. John to get the feel of the island before we scheduled any activities. Here we are overlooking the main town, Cruz Bay:

We saw several of the beaches, and stopped by the Caneel Bay Resort, which has some pretty well-preserved ruins of one of the old sugar plantations:

We stopped to get a photo at Trunk Bay, which is the most popular beach on St. John. We talked to several locals that said that the reason it’s most popular isn’t because it is the best beach on St. John, but because the picture taken from the overlook is so pretty, that’s what everyone sees in the guidebooks and wants to visit.

Since Trunk Bay is most popular, it has the most amenities, including an underwater snorkel trail. You swim from buoy to buoy, and there are signs embedded in concrete at the bottom to tell you what you are looking at. We decided to head there our first day, just to get our fins wet. We waded into the water, put our fins and masks on, stuck our head in the water, and were face to face with a stingray. After we followed him around for awhile we headed out to the underwater snorkel trail. It was pretty, but the weather was overcast, so I got a bit cold and headed back to the beach after the snorkel trail. Jerry swam all the way around the cay (the island) and said it was very pretty on the other side. Here we are post snorkel:

Since our snorkel gear rental was for a 24-hour period, Jerry decided to see what was off the beach area at our hotel when we got back. I decided to walk the beach alongside of where he was snorkeling, and we both collected seashells – lots of pretty ones. As we walked back to our room from the far end of the beach Jerry gave me a plumeria bloom, which I thought completed my island look nicely:

The next day we went on an excursion to the Baths, which were in the British Virgin Islands – I got a stamp in my passport! (I had stamps in my old passport, but I haven’t been anywhere since I got my new one!) It was very overcast and sprinkled on us for most of the trip, but the Baths were nice. They were stones, not pools. We didn’t really know what to expect! The next stop was supposed to be some caves to snorkel around, but the sea was too rough, so we went elsewhere. We saw lots of coral, barracuda, and some conch, but they were too deep for us to pick up. Here’s us on the boat and at the Baths:

The next day we decided we were tired of being wet and chilled all day, so we spent it in town, shopping. We ate some island Bar-B-Que at Uncle Joes, which was very good, and Jerry tried a green tea smoothie at one of the cafes that was pretty good.

Our last full day we decided to try the beach that the locals said was the best. There was no road access, so you had to take a taxi or shuttle to a drop-off point, and then hike about half an hour to the beach at Waterlemon Bay.

We staked out our spot on the beach and started the swim to the cay, where the good snorkeling was supposed to be. Along the way we saw lots of starfish, big as dinner plates, all over the bottom of the bay. The locals were right, the snorkeling was great around the cay. We went around it, and then up on its beach for a rest before heading back to the main shore. On our way back we took a bit of a detour and saw a sea turtle, which I swam along side of to get a good picture.

All in all, we were out over two hours in the water. It was awesome snorkeling, but the sun had come out, and I ended up sunburned on the backs of my arms and legs. I had gotten a rash guard shirt to avoid sunburn, but it wasn’t enough. Next time it will be long sleeves and board shorts!

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