August 2002Liz Drayton & Family
Arriving at our villa Solares that afternoon was just like going home (only better!). Located along the southwest coast, the approach to the villa was straight up the hillside. "Keep bearing left whenever you have a choice" Eileen had instructed us. We had laughed our way through every left turn, and let out a cry of joy when we descended down the short steep driveway to our villas gate. Magz and Henry were through the gate and down the stairs to the pools edge before I even had time to pull the emergency brake (and check it twice). Solaris sits high on the hillside, looking down at the waves rolling into Chocolate Hole Bay. We opened the sliding glass doors to the master suite and I was immediately swept away by the crisp clean smell of the freshly starched white curtains billowing in the breeze and the sight of our sparkling pool below. We opened the doors to the living pavilion, once again with the same fabulous view, and the kids immediately hurled themselves onto the huge wrap around couch that stretched three quarters of the way around the living room. It was festooned with bright pillows, and the kids, much to my chagrin, couldn't resist the temptation to turn on the television. Oh well… I mixed myself a drink, and even though the king-sized bed and mound of plump pillows beckoned from inside my gorgeous bedroom, I picked a breezy spot on the patio and sat back with a lime-drenched rum drink to enjoy the evening. This was bliss.
"Mom, we're ready to go to town!" the kids sang out from the living room.
I thought back to Maggie's poem "All I want for spring vacation is a tan".
"All I wanted was one extra minute to soak in the tropical sun at this peaceful, relaxing villa and let the warm winds sooth my soul.....Maybe next time," I thought as I slipped into my sandals and the grabbed the keys to the jeep. Too much to see and do to sit still for a minute. Next time I will "plan" for at least 2 or 3 days to do nothing but sit and enjoy just being in our villa. Oh yes, and remember to pack our own snorkeling gear so we can have it kicking around the back seat and at our fingertips whenever we feel the urge to explore the depths in our travels.
We headed in to Cruz Bay for dinner at Duffy's Love Shack (what kid or fun loving adult could pass up a place named the Love Shack!) - a goodtime place where we were each draped in yellow, orange and red leis and served a cool drink in a coconut with a swizzle stick topped with a paper parrot. We feasted on calamari and fresh fish grilled with juicy mango and finished up with an imploring concoction called "Love Potion #9." Jimmy, our waiter, was friendly, fun, and made us feel like he had known us forever. We loved the laid back feeling of St. John.
The next day we joined in a three-hour snorkeling tour out of the Westin Resort . We saw some brilliant Queen Trigger Fish, and schools of thousands of shimmering little yellow fish as we snorkeled along the shores of a small island, and once back on the boat we actually spotted a sea turtle swimming just below the surface as we surveyed Hawk's Nest Bay. The Captains assistant Sharon shared her knowledge of the history and ecology of St. John as we got a chance to explore St. John's mangrove coves and the rugged north coast. I am always fascinated by the ruins of the Caribbean's old sugar mills, and the view of the historic 1733 Annaberg Sugar Plantation near Leinster Bay was a treat to see from the water. The National Park Service offers a host of guided nature walks through the acres of protected park land. Maybe next time!
Friday we explored the rural east side of St. John together from the jeep, stopping frequently to allow the native goats, pigs and chickens dart across our path. After a final visit to the Westin to try our hand at parasailing, we boarded the afternoon ferry back to St. Thomas and watched from the deck as we left behind our new friends and the great times we had on St. John.
Saturday the kids decided to hang out with Emily, Sophie and their friends while I opted for the Virgin Islands Eco Tour, a nature walk that begins at Drake's Seat and slowly winds down through the forest along an old road bed ending up in a beautiful stand of towering old palm trees beside Magen's Bay. Our guide Dagmar pointed out yellow prickly trees whose trunk were covered with knobby spikes, "fake" pineapples with their iridescent red center leaves, wild ginger, several ENORMOUS termite nests hanging from the branches of old dead trees, palms of all types and, my favorite, the turpentine tree, often called the "tourist tree" because of its red, peeling skin-like bark. Halfway down the trail, we paused at a rest stop to watch brilliant green hummingbirds dart swiftly around a feeder. At the bottom of the trail the road opened out onto Magen's Bay and I sat beneath the towering palms and savored some rum cake and spiced iced tea with my fellow hikers. It took us about two hours, on a very gentle slope with fascinating botanical, geological, and historical stopping points of interest all along the way. This was a side of St.Thomas that most shoppers never got the chance to experience. I had a new appreciation for the nature and beauty of St. Thomas and understood more of why people have loved living here for so many years.
Maggie, Henry and I had designated our last day on the island as Magens Bay beach day, since we had yet to sit ourselves down for a day at the beach in St. Thomas (hard to believe). The water was absolutely crisp and clear and beautiful. And Magen's Bay itself is sooooooo grand. To think of all of the sailing ships and sailors who anchored in its waters over the years! The key to enjoying Magen's Bay is to turn left into the parking lot, and to travel as far as you can. Although you are heading away from the concession stand, you can claim a piece of this marvelous beach all to yourself. And that is just what we did on our last day. The beautiful blue water eventually beckoned me from my spot on the beach and as I walked along the powdery sand I thought once more of Maggie's poem. "All I wanted on my spring vacation is…"
"Exactly what I got," I thought as I dipped below the glassy surface of the Caribbean Sea.
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