We’re off on our annual St. John adventure. Because the hotels were so expensive near the Boston airport, we decided to be decadent and have a limo take four of us to the airport. Only, it wasn’t supposed to be a “real” limo; we were supposed to be picked up by their Escalade since we had so much luggage (remember, we transport almost all our food). At 2am the driver arrived in a real limo. Needless to say, our luggage didn’t fit, so we were in the back of the vehicle with three large hard suitcases. For Donna and me there was no problem. We just stretched our legs out across the one suitcase. 6’ Frank and 6’2” David were a wee bit cramped. I did appreciate the gleaming crystal wine glasses, softly piped in music, and the constantly changing tubular lighting around the roof. Since we had all basically stayed up until 2, we dozed during the 2 ½ hour trip. The black-suited driver was mortified, but we gave him a healthy tip anyway. It wasn’t his fault; the owner had decided to “treat” us. From the ticket counter to the Jetblue flight to Puerto Rico, all went well…. Except that we had the “children from hell” sitting behind us. A family group, numbering 10 in all, were letting these kids scream, wail on each other, kick our seats, etc. Forget sleeping; I couldn’t even hear the movie. Finally, after giving the mother the dirtiest look I could muster, several times, I called the attendant. She was sympathetic and moved Donna and me to the exit row where we finished out flight in silence. When we were in leaving mode, the man behind us leaned forward and whispered, “We were going to kick your seat a few times, but you didn’t seem in the mood for a joke.”
At Puerto Rico we had a two-hour layover. My, but that airport has grown over the two decades we’ve been coming down here, and they’re adding another terminal just for Jetblue (which makes me very happy since they are my most favorite airlines). We transferred to a six-seater Cape Air Leer jet (that comment is for you, JR). All my life I’ve been scared-to-death of small planes, but the short hop to St. Thomas was wonderful. Being completed surrounded by windows and flying 1,000’ above the ocean and small islands was surreal. As we landed, I felt like I was playing with a flight simulator because we were so close to the pilot and could see the landing strip approaching head-on. There had actually been seven passengers, so one sat in the co-pilot seat (I tried not to think about the implications of that); when we deplaned, he told us the pilot had said a number of times, “Don’t touch anything.” Thankfully, he was obedient.
We picked up our red Escape (KF), loaded all our luggage, except the one piece that didn’t make it, and headed across the island to the car ferry. With just minutes to spare, we backed onto the ferry and made the short trip to St. John. We were so tired, we didn’t even leave the car. The car ferry docks only minutes from where we stay. Frank kept repeating his mantra—“stay on the left, stay on the left.” Unlike Britain, not only do St. Johnians drive on the left, their steering wheels are on the left.
When we arrived at the Westin, we were thrilled to see that our villa had had an exterior makeover, and much of the vegetation had been replaced. The pergola over the hot tub, also known as “lizard lounge” because the iguanas would lie (SM) on the top before dropping into the Jacuzzi, is now gone, and the gas grill which had been fueled by propane bottles had been replaced by a built in grill. The placement is a bit odd as it is now installed just inside the door instead of under a roof near the kitchen, but I suspect that had something to do with the gas lines.
There’s not much else to report. After we put the food away, I went to take a little nap (5:30ish) and awoke this morning at 7:30. Frank was already up and working on SOLO stuff. Frank aka Mr. Energizer Bunny was in the pool here last night and is now down at the Westin beach while the rest of us are still semi-comatose.
I don’t want to mention the bright sunshine, gorgeous blue sky, palm trees swaying in the light breeze, or the air redolent with scents of various flowers…. How did I do with clichés (PL)? Nor will I comment on the clear, turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Now that we’re out of NH, the weather should turn to summer…. At least there are no black flies here. I learned from Verizon that I can text and receive texts at no charge, but calls are $1.99 minute, both making and receiving calls and that includes listening to voice mail. If you need to reach me, please text. I call SOLO daily, and you’re welcome to leave a message there. Miss you all.
Is it possible that we spent two weeks on St. John and have already been back for a week? It seems like only yesterday that we left the “spring” (that’s spelled w-i-n-t-e-r) landscape of NH for the summer landscape of this tropical paradise. We exchanged tulips, daffodils, and snow drops for oleander, hibiscus, and frangipani. Birch, maple, and blue spruce for the flamboyant tree, bougainvillea, and the ubiquitous palms. Snow and wind-driven downpours were replaced by sand and soft tropical rains. Our tightly scheduled lives were suddenly completely open-- blank slates. Get up—whenever; eat—whenever; go to bed-- whenever. Major decisions generally involved where to snorkel and what to eat. Can life really be that simple? Leaving, logistically, was easy: pack up the villa, take the car ferry to one end of St. Thomas, drive the length of the island through St. Thomas’ capital city of Charlotte Amalie to the airport, return the rental car, check in with the airlines, clear customs and TSA, await our flight to San Juan (always an interesting experience as they often have various passengers exchanging seats to even out the weight), and eventually board a big jet for the four-hour flight to Boston. From there, we await a hotel pick-up to take us to our vehicles and make the 2 ½-hour drive home. All-in-all, a 14-hour travel day. We received the welcome news that the weather was improving in Conway, and we might not need down parkas, gloves, and boots for the trip north. Leaving, emotionally and psychologically, is always more difficult. Upon returning, REALITY sets in quickly. So much to do, so little time. Return missed phone calls, pay forgotten bills, replenish depleted supplies, mow knee-high lawns, weed gardens that have suddenly grown two feet in our absence. Black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks must be contended with…. But the mountain vistas and the sparkling rivers are always welcome sights. Of course, what we most look forward to is seeing our family and friends. How great is our God. That we can not only go to this wonderful island but spend our time there being blessed daily by the friendship of people “who are closer than a brother.”
Just like the ebb and flow of the tides, life here on St. John is ever-changing. Recently Rowan was "voted off" (just kidding) and Mark and Christine arrived. Last night we had a huge thunder and lightning storm with two lightning strikes very close by. In our twenty years of coming to St. John, we've never witnessed anything like this. By morning the sun was shining brightly and the temperatures were in the low 80's-- just like NH, right?
After another hard day of snorkeling, the crew played volleyball in the pool before resuming their other arduous tasks like playing cards, reading, sitting in the hot tub, and napping. It's a tough life, but someone has to live it. Tonight's menu will be cheeseburgers, baked beans, and salad followed by some delectable dessert that Joan and Donna will whip up.
As you can see in the pictures accompanying this post, Frank and Paul don't know how to read the native language.
It's hard to believe we've been here almost a week. How can time go by so quickly when the days are spent doing "nothing?" The crew has been out exploring the offshore areas at a number of different beaches every day. They've seen hundreds of parrot fish, lots of tang, a number of octopus, sargeant majors, barracuda, damsel fish, large turtles, two eagle rays, angel fish, lane snappers, a grouper or two, butterfly fish, needle fish, drum fish, sea urchins, jellyfish, and lots more. As always, the coral is beautiful with its many shapes and colors. Each day has been perfect: sunny, warm, bright blue skies, trade winds rustling the palms. The sand on most beaches is like powder.
Before heading out to the beaches, Donna, David, and Joan go for a long walk getting in their requisite steps. Occasionally they are joined by others, but some of us are a bit lazy first thing in the morning.
Here's a picture of David after a hard day at the beach. And hopefully the guys in the pool this afternoon. The top picture is Frank cooking up a bunch of plantains which are big bananas, which taste more like sweet potatoes than bananas.
After an effortless trip down, we embarked on a new adventure-- renting cars on St. Thomas at the airport, driving out to the end of the island, and taking the car ferry. Despite the crush of cars near a big carnival, we navigated our way across the island without accident or incident! The car ferry is a far cry from the Westin ferry, but the convenience of having a vehicle and your luggage immediately upon arriving far outweighed the "luxury" of the Westin experience. Once we were "home," we began the unpacking. The food we brought plus the food we had here in storage is enough for two weeks of meals. All the meats stayed frozen and none of the produce was pureed as sometimes happens. Our first dinner was chicken on the barbie with mashed potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce, and salad. As David is fond of saying at each meal: "It all came out of a suitcase."
Most of the troops have officially left town! I snapped a few pics at Paul and Joan's house the evening they left! We went up to say goodbye and thought it might be fun to capture the chaos of last minute food packing and loading the vehicles!Lot's of food is packed to keep from buying it down there! 48.5lbs! As close as it gets!! You can't read it but this one is the same exact weight!! Vehicle #1Vehicle #2 Have a great trip! We can't wait to see some pics!!