Never Judge A Book… You Haven’t Read

Having dipped our toes in the shores of several different Caribbean islands, I began to feel that I was really developing my sea legs.  At least I thought that I had.  For many years now, much of my spare time is often spent exploring the www, and traveling, albeit virtually, to a new and different island with only the click of a mouse.

I often pour over brochures, blogs, and websites, developing a sense of each islands unique characteristics.  One island excels as an eco-tourism destination, another as a sport and active travel hot spot, and yet others may be noted for shopping or dining.  Happy is the traveler that finds a destination that matches their personality and objectives.  Destitute is the traveler that avoids a destination, simply because of its perceived shortcomings.  Especially when the perceptions are misplaced.  Such was the case on my own personal assumptions about St. Thomas, USVI.

I had delayed a St. Thomas visit for some time, thinking it held no appeal to me.  An over-crowded cruise ship destination, filled with neon lights and fast-food chains.  At least that was my perception.  We decided to target St. Thomas, a couple years ago as we continued to investigate more and more of the diversity the Caribbean has to offer.  I am happy to report that my assumptions were sadly misplaced, and that St. Thomas in the USVI has much to offer even the well traveled island hopper.

We did indeed find bright colorful lights, but the view of the Charlotte Amalie Harbour from Bluebeard’s Castle left us begging for more.

The Marina at Charlotte Amallie
The Marina at Charlotte Amallie

The bright lights of the harbor however held little in comparison to the natural beauty to be found at every turn.  The island was literally covered with brilliantly colored flamboyants.

Magnificant Flamboyants Decorate the Island
Magnificant Flamboyants Decorate the Island

Shopping was easy to find, but we opted to stray a bit off the waterfront.  In doing so we found simple pleasures like these quirky bar stools at Mountain Top.

Bar Stools at Mountain Top
Bar Stools at Mountain Top

And lest you think you can’t find a nice meal in a quiet corner of the island, this is Romance with a capital “R”!

Water Side Dining, Secrete Harbour
Water Side Dining, Secret Harbour

But to our happy surprise, we found the gem of the island to be very much to our liking.

World Renowned Magen's Bay
World Renowned Magen’s Bay

Take a lesson from this now humbled traveler, and given the chance, indulge yourself in all that St. Thomas has to offer.  It is easy to get to, and is a great stepping off base for other nearby islands.  The island has more than enough to offer in dining, shopping, or just beachin it!  And never, ever, judge a book… without reading it!

Live the Lifestyle,
JVbytheSea

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From the Blogosphere – Week in Review 042013

After the week that was, we’re definitely needing some time away from the headlines.  We continue to remember those touched by the tragedies in Boston this past week, and pray for healing of both the body and spirit.  Stepping back from the horrific scenes,  here’s a look back at some interesting blog postings we found through the week that was.
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Charles at Big Kahuna took us on a tour of the eco-friendly resort Concordia on the island of St. John.  From the Eco-Tents, to the community aspect, and even the Work Exchange Program, this small resort on the east end of the island appears to have plenty of appeal.  Read more in Big Kahuna’s Eco Friendly.

Big Kahuna - Eco Friendly[rule]

If your thinking of a girls outing for the Ultimate Shopping Trip, check out this post by Pirates Paradise Adventures on the great shopping in St. Thomas.  Heads up guys, this could put a serious dent in the plastic!  Read all about it in this tale of Best Virgin Islands Shopping St. Thomas.

Havensight
The Waiting Game played out at Havensight, St. Thomas
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Do you love Kenny Chesney and  love to party?  If you’re in or around the Dallas area, you chesneymay want to check out the special tailgate package being offered by the gang over at Team Cocktail.  A full day of fun in the sun is scheduled for May 11!  Believe me, these guys give you bang for your tailgating buck.  Get all the deets at Kenny Chesney Ticket & Tailgate.

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Parrot Cay Resort
One more stunning resort is introduced to us by Laura from Caribbean Travel News.  In this update, Laura reports on new additions to the Parrot Cay Resort in the Turks and Caicos.  Designed to make your friends jealous, check out all the images of this beautiful layout in Parrot Cay Resort.

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Be sure to check out our Caribbean blogging friends.  These guys truly help to put us in an island state of mind!  And until next time, go get…

Lost in a Lifestyle,
JVbytheSea

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Island Encounters … On St. Thomas

Our sales staff recently concluded a tour of St. Martin and St. Thomas, and are now enjoying the lush interior of Belize.  As first time visitors to St. Thomas, every day brought new and exciting experiences.  Here is a blog written to describe the coolest experience they had during our 11 days in the Islands.  I thought I’d share it and let you read about a truly memorable evening!

My husband and I were filled with anticipation as we parked our rental car,  gathered our bags, and quickly headed towards what has been voted one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Magens Bay.

Magens Bay Beach from Mountain Top

It was around 4pm, and many of the sun worshipers had already gone home for the day.  We were focused ahead on the amazingly calm turquoise water as we walked to the white sand, but something caught both our attention as we passed by.

An elderly couple, dressed more for church than for the beach, were gently unfolding an elegant burgundy table cloth to cover the weather-worn picnic table.  A wicker picnic basket sat on the bench, waiting to be unpacked.  No children in sight – just the two of them setting a scene that was curious to us. Were they selling something? Were they getting ready for a social gathering and soon be joined by others? Just fleeting thoughts in our heads as we approached the beach.

After a short time of wading out into the pristine sea, we returned to the sand, took a seat on a bench, and marveled together at this natural wonder. God had really outdone himself!

Then we saw him walking towards us, this well dressed gentleman whom we had passed. “My wife sent me to invite you to join us at our table for some wine and cheese” he said, smiling and motioned towards the shaded scene from a classic movie.

“Really?” I responded, surprised by his boldness.  “How can we refuse an offer like that!” came my husband’s response, as we followed him and took a seat on each side of the bench.  He introduced himself and his lovely wife, explaining that they were locals who returned to this same table at 4pm, every Wednesday,

St. Thomas ambassadors and romantic fools!

to enjoy the scenery and celebrate life together.  Cloth napkins and crystal wine glasses were set before us, along with soft Havarti cheese and a bowl of fresh fruit.  I couldn’t help but notice that they just happened to have four glasses.

For over an hour we bonded with our new friends, hearing intriguing stories about their life on the island, and sharing some of our own.  Sometime during that conversation we both realized the gift we were experiencing: genuine hospitality at it’s finest.  We left with full hearts and blissful memories.  Not because of the breathtaking world-renowned beach, but because of two fascinating people who intentionally impacted our lives and left us forever changed.

Magens Bay Sunset

Thanks to T-Lynn for an awesome story.  That my friends, is island living at its best!

Live the Life,
JVbytheSea

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The Real Blessing of Travel

I have had the good fortune of traveling to a good many cultures and climates in my brief time on this big blue marble.  I’ve seen the Rocky Mountains of the western US, and traveled its beaches from coast to coast.  I’ve tasted beaches and ruins from throughout the Caribbean and the Cote d’Azur, and marveled in the history of some of Europe’s greatest cities.  However, when asked, what is the one thing we love most about our travels, we always come back to the realization that the greatest pleasure in travel is in the friendships we develop along the way.

Such was a chance meeting in our recent travels this past summer.  Little did we know that a photo contest we ran in December would pay such lasting benefits to us.  You may recall our Warm Faces, Warm Places Photo Contest,  that featured a prize of a new jewelry box featuring the winning photo.  The contest ended on December 24, and the winning image

Bridget’s Winning Photo on the Finished Product

was this stunning picture taken of Megans Bay in St. Thomas.  As it turns out the photographer, Bridget Skjordahl, lives on a quiet hillside overlooking this familiar beach.  In fact, Bridget has the terrible misfortune of having to view this beach from her home every day!  As they say, it’s tough work, but someone has to do it.

As we began to plan our June buying/sales trip,  we began to target St. Thomas as a destination for this tour.  It was to be our first trip to the island, but I assure you, it will not be our last.  During the planning stages I reached out to Bridget for advice and insights, and found her to be a wealth of information and a most willing guide.

As we finalized our plans, we agreed to meet up while on island, and upon our arrival, Bridget quickly set about arranging a time to meet for an evening together.  We quickly accepted and were supremely rewarded!  Having people on the “inside” is a huge benefit.  Membership truly does have privileges!

They invited us to an evening out and dinner at Banana Tree Grille, on the grounds of historic Bluebeard’s Castle, and overlooking the beautiful harbor of Charlotte Amalie.

View of Charlotte Amalie from Banana Tree Grille…Seriously Stunning!

Meeting her husband Marty, a pilot for Seaborne Airlines, was a another great pleasure.  Finally I’ve met someone who is as supremely Type A as I.  It’s nice to meet a kindred spirit.  They filled the evening telling us of their move from corporate life in middle America, to true island spirits.  By evening’s end, I was ready to toss my return ticket and start my own House Hunters International.

Large Silver Carnival Inspired Red & Gold Tribal Hoop Earrings

And, as an added bonus, as it turns out, Bridget is an artist in her own right. Bridget produces her own line of handmade custom jewelry, created in the islands.  Please take a moment to check out her Facebook Page at B. Skjordahl Studio Handmade Art Jewelry.

She gave us a couple gifts to remember her by, and we are thrilled to see them as our new island friends.  You can see more of her unique creations in her Etsy store at Paradise Made Jewelry.  Quite aptly named we think, given the stunning beach she overlooks from her island home.

We love the words Bridget uses describe her works and her passion,

Handmade Limited Edition Sterling Silver Sea Shell Pendant Necklace

“I live to experience and share everyday love, joy, and beauty through a multitude of methods and media. Every piece of art you find here is my answer to the call, to express my interpretation of these values, through the lens of the paradise in which I live.

Staying true to expressing my heart is paramount. Each day is a new day, unencumbered by yesterday or tomorrow.”  Now that is the true spirit and appreciation of Paradise!  We envy her for her little corner of Paradise, but most of all we are thankful for her genuine spirit of friendship and open arms.

This, my dear friends, is the true blessing of travel.  The people and the open welcoming hearts we encounter.  As we left our evening together, we couldn’t help but ask, “Could this be our future home?”  Well only time will tell, but it certainly has the gears turning, and we know that wherever we travel next, we can only hope it is a Paradise filled with friends like Bridget and Marty.

Perhaps you will see us again in ‘our’ little corner of Paradise.  Time will tell, but keep the lights on just in case!

Live the Life,
JVbytheSea

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An Island Tour -St. Thomas

With great anticipation we scoured the map plotting our course for the day.  We had planned this first day to quickly give ourselves a snapshot view of the best and most notable strands of St. Thomas’ shorelines.  We charted a path on this trip to tour the eastern and north-shore beaches,  map and requisite camera in hand we headed out.

Nearest our B&B was the westward facing Secret Harbour.  I was feeling pretty good about myself and the lovely evening I had arranged.  We stopped in and had a nice dinner to watch the sunset and I thought I was really scoring a few

Romantic Sunset at Secret Harbour

points here with my bride.  Then I spied that some over-achiever had left me in the dust with his seaside preparations!  Needless to say, this small section of soft golden sand makes this a great place for a romantic sunset dinner at water’s edge.

But alas the night was not all lost.  We had the great privilege of meeting and spending a little time with William Torrillo, a professional photographer whom we follow as Old Mango on Facebook.  I even tried to replicate an image he had posted from this beach.  What a miserable failure it was.  This guys has sick talent!

Coki Beach

Our next target was an overshot, so we made a quick detour to Coki Beach instead.  This beautiful beach has a couple small bars and grilles, and is home to Coral World Ocean Park, and the Marine Park & Observatory,  The relatively short length was more than compensated for by the numerous barkers looking to park your car and point you to a chair of their choosing.

We then heeded the recommendations of nearly every “islander” we met, and retraced our steps back to Lindquist Beach.  All we could say was “Fantastico”!  We absolutely loved this quiet, beautiful, and pristine stretch of sand.  We had the entire beach to ourselves, save one lone family celebrating the father’s 40th Birthday.  Such clear water and gentle surf makes for a perfect playground.  Thanks to all who pointed us in this direction!

Lindquist Beach
Magens Bay

We reluctantly waved a hasty goodbye and headed out for the infamous Magens Bay.  This is the one seen in so many St. Thomas postcards and websites.  Upon stepping through the trees of this US State Park we quickly understood why.  What a beautiful stretch of brilliant, soft white sand, and the entirety is lined with quiet shady retreats.  It was instantly clear why this beach is a favorite of tourists and locals alike.  Absent the usual throng of cruise ship tour buses, we had the beach nearly to ourselves. The crystal clear waters are perfect for wading at a considerable distance from shore.  One of the best tips we got during this trip came from our friends at Uncommon Caribbean.  When leaving the park, stop in at the sinfully refreshing Udder Delight!  Shakes, malts, sherbert, and even Adult Milkshakes, all guaranteed to satisfy.  Thanks for the tip guys!

We then followed the requisite path of every tour bus and headed to the top… Mountain Top that is.  This treetop giftshop and bar, situated at 2,100 ft. above sea level, is one of the oldest and more infamous attractions on St. Thomas.  They claim to be the home to the World Famous Banana Daiquiri.  In reality, they are home to the World Famous views of Magens Bay!

Magens Bay from Mountain Top

Our final stop was in search of the elusive Neltjeberg Beach.  We really didn’t know how elusive this would prove to be.  Instructed to drive past the gas station, beyond the dumpsters parked along the roadside, just past the restaurant Thirteen, and turn down the path along side the carport with the ‘blue’ tarp.  After a few laps passing the immediate area, we eventually turned at the ‘white’ tarp and found our way.

What we encountered was the absolute worst road known to man.  This was pothole after pothole, separated by deep crevices, and short unexplained patches of perfectly reasonable concrete pavement.  But the resulting stop proved to be yet another beautiful section of quiet shoreline, and we netted the quintessential Caribbean beach photograph.

Neltjeberg Bay

All in all, we were profoundly impressed with the parks and beaches of St. Thomas.  On our final day on the island, we decided to drop our towels on just one beach and spend the entire day soaking up its vibe.  For this special day we ultimately settled on Magens Bay.  But hey, that’s just our opinion.  If you’ve been to St. Thomas, we would love to hear you voice your opinion,  What is your favorite STT Beach?

Live the Life,
JVbytheSea

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