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St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

May 14, 2013

Virgin Islands – Saturday, May 4

The flight between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas was only about 20 minutes long. There used to be ferries running between the 2 islands, but if they run at all any more, it’s not on a reliable schedule, so we had to fly. We then picked up the rental car, and although I was happy to once again see signs in English, I had a new challenge this week – people drive on the “wrong” side of the road on these islands! So I was hyper-alert to pay attention to where I was in the road, and make sure I stayed on the correct side. Right turns were a bit different at first, as was pulling out of parking lots.

Charlotte Amalie is the main city on the island, and it’s right in the middle of the island on the south side. We were going to be staying at Magens Bay Villas, thanks to a timeshare trade I did a long time ago, and that was on the north side up and over the mountains. This island and many of the neighboring ones used to make up the rim of a very large volcano, so they all rise pretty steeply from the sea. We hadn’t had breakfast before we left, so we thought we better stop while we were in town for a quick bite, and to do a little grocery shopping. We saw what we thought was a farmer’s market sort of place – a lot of stalls set up with blue tarps for “roofs”. So we found a place to park on some neighborhood street, and went to check out the “farm market” which turned out to be mostly souvenir stalls. But there was some food, and people were also selling unusual looking fish right out of the backs of their trucks. Lots of the food seemed like it would be more for dinner than breakfast – Taryn and I noticed a sign for rice pudding in one stall and that sounded kind of good, but when we asked about it, their version of rice pudding had big sausages floating in some broth, and I’m not sure where the rice was. It definitely wasn’t the rice pudding we were expecting to see, and I think they had a bit of a laugh at our confusion! We found a little 2nd story cafe nearby instead and had breakfast.

And then we wanted to head to the grocery store to do a little shopping. Prices were very high – most of them seemed to be more than the 20% we had been told to expect. But we got a few things, and were then ready to head to Magens Bay. But that was easier said than done. There was some construction going on, and a couple of the streets we needed were closed off. So we tried to go around it, and ended up on a street so narrow, I worried if I had enough room to get through. And when I turned a corner, I confronted one of the steepest roads I’ve driven down. We drove through some neighborhood backroads before finally getting on the curvy 2-lane street that would take us to the resort. It still wasn’t time to check in, but Taryn and Jared understandably wanted to stay by the pool while I went back to the airport to pick up my sister Christy – they didn’t get any sun/swimming time on Puerto Rico.

So I went back to the airport, feeling a little more comfortable driving on the left side. On the way back, we got lost in the same neighborhood again – so many steep one-way streets running at odd angles! I was thrilled my sister was going to be able to spend the whole week here – she loves visiting islands, and had hoped to join me on Samoa, but that one didn’t work out, so she came to St. Thomas which was a new one for her too. We found our way back to the resort, where Taryn and Jared were already showing the evidence of a hot, sunny day. So Chris and I changed and got in the pool, which was wonderfully refreshing. We relaxed for a few hours, and when our unit was ready, we carried our stuff in. We were a bit crowded, but we won’t be spending much time inside anyway.

A few hours passed quickly by the pool. There was another pool down the hill a bit, and Taryn and Jared checked that one out and got some pictures of a big iguana climbing a palm tree. There are a lot of iguanas and little lizards around here. Later we all decided to go back to Charlotte Amalie to explore a bit and get some walking in. Christy told me she was planning on walking the entire 56 miles with me, so that’ll be a first! We parked on Main Street, where all the shops were locked up on a Sunday evening. All the shops have the same outside appearance – old warehouse buildings with big wooden doors to swing out when they were open – at one point these warehouses even held pirate loot. There was a great deal of piracy back then, and once again, I wished those walls could talk! But this wasn’t the place to walk in the evening – we all stayed on the well-lit sidewalk next to the bay. Chris and I headed off in one direction, and Taryn and Jared set off in the other direction, and we were going to meet up for dinner. So we walked as far as we could in our direction, then turned around and walked back, and continued on to the other side of the bay, all the way down to where the cruise ships dock. There weren’t any cruise ships in today. There was a nice boardwalk/dock along the marina and the high-end stores where the tourists shop. We also ran into Taryn and Jared in that neck of the woods, so we decided to eat at The Fat Turtle. Mostly we got salads which really hit the spot.

Darkness falls fast here, but it was still a pretty walk back to where we had left the car, and there were enough streetlights and traffic to feel comfortable. Lights were scattered along the steep mountainsides and it was also pretty to look down on the lights of the harbor as we climbed up the mountain. Speed limits are never more than 35 mph on the island – the roads are just too narrow, steep and curvy to go much faster than that, and these sorts of roads would not be drivable in a snowy climate!

Back at the resort, I did some research into donation possibilities, and I shouldn’t have as much trouble finding places here as I did on Puerto Rico, although it will probably be Monday before I can do anything.

I didn’t seem to get many pictures today, but we’ll be in the same areas again.

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