Image by Josh Duncan

St. Thomas was SPECTACULAR!!!

Let's start by saying this was a last minute trip. I got the flight for $145 nonstop and roundtrip from the East Coast. Score!!! The accommodations weren't as cost effective. But, you get what you pay for. My factors for picking a hotel start with being at least four stars. The customer rating has to be at least a 4.0 and the bathroom shower can't have a shower curtain. After that, I consider the location, among other factors.

 

I stayed at the Marriott's Frenchman's Cove, which was close to the airport, the capital of St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie, and right on the beach. I rented a two bedroom villa that had a full kitchen, dining room, living room and balcony off of the master bedroom. I was very happy with my choice. The hotel was really nice with an infinity pool, private beach and a restaurant on the beach that proved to have one of the best quality cuisine in St. Thomas.

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The first night, I had dinner at the hotel. Caribbean Lobster and mixed veggies (squash, zucchini and broccoli). The lobster was grilled, seasoned well and paired with drawn butter. The butter was cold and had hardened by the time I ate it. I didn't even warm the meal up. That's how good the lobster and veggies were. I wish I knew what seasoning they put on the vegetable medley. It was all very tasty. But, before dinner at the hotel, we went to Tap & Still, which is a five minute ride from the hotel. I was hungry after a long day and this place was recommended by the bellman. He was on point with his recommendation. The burger was delicious. The Korean BBQ wings were fried crispy, without having to make a special request.  And the fries were boardwalk fries, my favorite fries after crinkle cuts. That place didn't disappoint. They were also having a $5 happy hour at the time. It was five drinks to pick from. I vowed to try all five drinks before I drank the first one. Happy hour drinks usually skimp on the alcohol. Five should have been a breeze to get through. Or so I thought. I tried the Electric Lemonade, Melon Ball and Blue Crush. All were pretty good and potent.  Although I wasn't driving, I felt myself becoming a little more than tipsy.

I make it a point to never get drunk on vacation. I've missed too many days/events while on previous vacations by not quitting while I was ahead.  I quit at three drinks. 

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Of course, I went to the beach every single  day. The beach at the hotel and to Magen's Bay. The water, all over the island, is light blue with soft waves. The sand is a light tan and doesn't get too hot. The beach at the hotel had some rocks at the entry that were beautiful to look at but not so beautiful to walk over. If you have ever been to the beaches in Jamaica, it was reminiscent of that. But, the beach at Magen's Bay was a Caribbean Dream.  There were no rocks in sight. There was a mountainous island off in the distance.  It was surrounded by beautiful homes tucked away in the hills of the island. It felt secluded and exclusive. Magen's Bay has a concession stand and bar.  I tried the jerk chicken, rice and peas, cabbage and plantains. It was decent. The jerk chicken was more of a BBQ sauce than a dry rub. But, it held us over until dinner. But, the drinks at Magen's Bay!!!  Goodness!!! I fell in love with a Bushwacker. Think of an adult chocolate milkshake. I ordered it by mistake because I thought I was ordering a PainKiller, which is equally as good.  Both drinks are topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg.  We kept the drinks flowing the whole time. Just imagine being on a pristine beach with the best drinks you've ever had. A gentle breeze is blowing. The sun is shining with intermittent cloud covering for shade.  It was a lovely experience.  I loved my experience at Magen's Bay so much that I changed my flight to leave later on my departure day to go again before I flew home. 

St. Thomas was hit by a hurricane about three years ago. It has affected the landscape of the beaches. So, don't expect acres of sand before the shoreline starts. The two beaches I went to had about 20-30 feet of sand before the water sashayed in. We briefly sauntered past Maho Bay on St. John Island, which had about 10 feet of sand and decided to skip having a beach day there. Now, let's talk about St. John. St. John is about a 20 minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. You just take a taxi to Red Hook, buy a ticket and hop on. It was really quite easy. The ferry leaves around the top of every hour. We arrived at St. John and I hear music coming from what looks like a small town square. I thought it was an outdoor concert going on. I was so far off. It was a funeral going on for prominent business owner and Senator, Bob O'Connor. A full funeral. The gold casket was resting in the center of the gazebo stage surrounded by flowers. People socially distancing and standing around to pay their last respects. We walked past the funeral to find a place to eat. We ended up at Beach Bar, where we ordered some American fare, along with some fried flying shrimp. They taste like regular fried shrimp to me. All the food was good though. Except, they had a bit of a bee problem. As soon as we got our food, the bees swarmed us. The staff had two choices. Either let us eat inside or we were ditching the food. They let us eat inside. After eating we wanted a tour of St. John, which is only 14 square miles, and to be dropped off at Trunk Bay. 

 

Trunk Bay is considered one of the best beaches in the world. The driver showed us every beach on the island from every vantage point, including Maho Bay with the tiny beach space. We did get to explore the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins. I was amazed.  It was so meticulously built. There are placards everywhere explaining what each structure/room was. I wish I had more time there.  The driver seemed to be in a rush. Afterward, we found out that he had another group of people to pick up at a certain time. So, he brought us back to the starting point and told us to take a taxi to Trunk Bay. How rude.  We decided to skip Trunk Bay and just caught the ferry back to St. Thomas. 

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The next day, we did a Cultural Tour of St. Thomas with a different tour guide, Nancy of Xcel Limo. Nancy showed up in a fancy black Escalade and took us to some of the tourist sites. But, she also took us off the beaten path. We started at the University of the Virgin Islands, which is an HBCU. She gave us a tour of the campus, which I don't think she was supposed to do since it was closed and she drove onto the campus through the wrong opening at the security checkpoint. I love a rebel though. Give the people what they want. We stopped by a food stand, on the side of the road, that she gets Pates from. A pate is very similar to a Jamaican patty. I opted for the chicken just to be safe. They had all kinds though. Shrimp, beef, veggie, saltfish, and conch. That Chicken Pate was the best thing I ate on the island. The absolute best. I wish I would have gotten two or had time to go back.  I also had a Johnny Cake. It reminded me of a deep fried flapjack.  It was really good too. We stopped at a Rastafarian Market that happened to be in full swing that day. I drooled over all the fresh produce and ordered a fresh juice. Sorrel mixed with passion fruit. It was so magical. The highlight of my trip. I devoured the fresh juice. I danced to the DJ playing reggae music. I took pictures by the cliff overlooking the water. It was a whole vibe. She took us to the highest point on the island, where we tasted their World Famous Banana Daiquiri. I took two sips and chucked it in the trash.  It didn't pass my two taste rule.  Don't even waste your money. Nancy told us that they used to be better. They had to be better at some point because the one I tasted had no chance of becoming world famous. They do have an observation deck and the view is a real life postcard. Positive point for them.

Lastly, we saw the Three Rebel Queens, 99 Steps and the oldest building on the island, Fort Christian built in 1671. The Three Rebel Queens were super dope. Queen Mary, Queen Agnes and Queen Matilda were chosen, as queens, to perform ritual and celebratory functions during the Fireburn Labor Riot of 1878. The riot has been called the largest labor riot in Danish history, during which more than 50 plantations were burned on St. Croix and the Danish West Indies. Built in 1979, The 99 Steps lead to Blackbeard’s Castle, one of five National Historic Landmarks in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

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Now on to my favorite topic. FOOD!! I ate lobster just about everyday. I also tried some foods that I had never eaten before. I made it a point to go to black owned restaurant, Gladys Cafe. They had great reviews and I was excited to try their Kallaloo Soup and Fungi. Kallaloo Soup is made from greens, okra and meat. I think I had turkey meat in mine.  But, I didn't ask to confirm. It was delicious. Tasted sort of like mushy collard greens. The Fungi tasted like cornbread that hadn't gone in the oven yet. Once I read the description, I realized that my tastebuds were correct and I won't be eating that again. I had fried whole snapper there too. It was fresh, flaky and flavorful. We also went to the Caribbean Fish Market and Sunset Grille. Both had stunning water views. Open air with waves coming in and random yachts anchored. The ambience was worth the taxi ride. Caribbean Fish Market had this Seafood Hot Pot that was divine! I was so glad that I had leftovers. It was a selection of seafood in a spicy broth topped with a cluster of bok choy over white rice. Here's a tip.  Skip the dessert. You can get better desserts at your local grocery store. The Sunset Grill had an upper echelon selection of food. I was completely disappointed with the lobster wontons I ordered. It was lobster salad topped with caviar on a wonton chip. And you only got three chips  for $15. They needed some McCormick's Salad Supreme seasoning for that dish. It was super bland. The whole fried snapper was aggressive though.  They placed the fish upright on the plate with its tail curled and the eyes looking directly at you. The mouth was open and all the teeth were showing.  It was a display of proportions for sure.  I almost didn't eat it. But, of course I did.  If anyone tells you to go to Mims, tell them Hell To The Naw!!! It's a set up. We were on our way to Caribbean Fish Market one night and the driver said with a scowl "who told y'all to go there?". I'm a researcher so I said "No one. I looked them up and read the reviews." He said Mims is better. The bellman (a native) didn't steer us wrong. So, the taxi driver must be on to something too. He dropped us off to the worst food we had the entire time. It was on the water. That's about it. I saw some debris from the restaurant resting on the rocks in my view. I should have known we were being set up when I saw the wood panel walls. The food was terrible! I ordered the coconut curry lobster for $90. I threw half of it in the trash. Couldn't even force it down. I also ordered the crab dip that happened to have raw onions in it. Nasty!  I ordered the shrimp scampi to go and that ended up being shrimp alfredo. The Bushwacker there was even bad. This guy clearly didn't want to drive to the other side of the island to our original destination. We had another driver who recommended Mims too. Ain't no way they have eaten Mims and thought it was good. They must get some type of kickback for taking people there.

St. Thomas is part of the U.S. so no passport is needed. St. John and St. Croix are just ferry rides away. And you need a negative COVID test before boarding the plane, if you don't plan to quarantine after arriving. I get asked this question every now and then.  Am I scared to travel? Simple answer is NO. The U.S. has the highest COVID numbers of anywhere in the world. And the most laxed restrictions as well. Wearing a mask in St. Thomas was not up for debate. Sanitizing your hands was not an option.  At least for the places I went to. I had Coki Beach on my list but I heard it was a "little Atlanta". It's a party at Coki beach with no social distancing and no mask wearing. Once the pandemic is over, I will venture over to Coki Beach and other places on the globe. But, for now, I will stick to the less populated beaches while sipping on their signature cocktails.