September 23, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Paradise Found

We're back! Our honeymoon on St. John, USVI was more than perfect.... it relaxing, romantic, adventurous, and refreshing. We weren't even aware of Tropical Storm Olga, even though there were plenty of remarks from locals that the amount of rain and wind was unusual (but there was plenty of sun everyday). Of course, now the hard part is getting ready for the holiday season and being back at work, but I'll give you a peak at our vacation before I get back to reality....

We bounced around quite a bit on St. John for only being there for a week. We rented a Jeep, which was a good move, but watch out, the roads are crazy steep and narrow in places (plus they drive on the left....)! For the first two nights, we stayed on the less populated southeast side of the island at Estate Concordia. It is part of a larger eco-resort (we stayed at the other one the next two nights, Maho Bay). We stayed in a studio that was solar and wind-powered and built from recycled materials, how cool! There is even a natural garbage disposal, hermit crabs living on the hillside (guests were encouraged to put there food waste out for them)! The only downside is that there really was no hot water for showers, but that seemed like a small price to pay for this view....

We arrived late that first night but got there in time to enjoy their cafe for dinner. I was so excited to read on their blog that the chef is interested in organic and vegan cuisine! No photos, but we had a wonderful salad (greens grown right on that side of the island!), grilled tofu, and jambalaya stuffed red peppers over polenta with green beans. Definitely one of the best meals I had on the island. I would highly recommend staying here if you're looking for some isolation from the rest of the world and some seriously unspoiled beaches.

Our first full day we took a hike out to Ram's Head, the southernmost point on the island. Views were incredible and I was amazed at the blue blue water. Also surprised to see plenty of cactus, but I guess this was the dry side of the island.
Afterwards we relaxed on Salt Pond Beach. Not very crowded and it was even a weekend. We had so much fun walking down the beach looking at the different corals, shells, and rocks on the shoreline (we're geo-nerds). What amazing variety.
After a beautiful day we drove into Coral Bay, a lazy, quiet "town" on the east side of the island. We stopped at a local bar for a few rum concoctions. John had a rum and Diet Coke while I chose something a bit fruitier, a raspberry rum colada. This is what vacation is all about....
Next was dinner at a restaurant called Sweet Plantains. We had stopped by earlier in the day to inquire about vegan options and the owner was more than helpful. To start I had a pumpkin soup (no photo, turned out even more horrible than this next one). Then I enjoyed a West Indies curry with tofu and broccoli served with basmati rice and of course the restaurant's namesake, deep fried plantains, mmmm. The dinner was very enjoyable, so if you make it out to Coral Bay, stop by this family-owned restaurant!
The next day we set out for another hike on Reef Bay Trail (except we started from the southside), this one wandered through the forest into the central part of the island and ended up at some interesting petroglyphs made by Taino Indians. The rain got us a bit wet on this hike but by the time we returned to the beach (Lampeshur Bay), we had some more sun to enjoy.

I was surprised at the variety of animals we saw for such a tiny island. Of course, then we read that the only native mammal on the island a several species of bats (which of course we didn't see). What we did see was the following: donkeys, iguanas, honeymooning insects (open the photo and you'll see what I mean), mongoose, mini-hermit crabs, and chickens roaming around!

We then moved north to Maho Bay, staying in their Harmony Suite. The hot water was a bit improved here. But the number of stairs increased five-fold! It was a good workout getting down to the beach, but especially getting back up (my hamstrings are still tight). We had a bit of a rainy day, so we slept late and then lounged on Maho Beach and did some reading before eating dinner in their cafeteria (I finished reading The Good, Good Pig and highly recommend it. Let me know if you want to borrow my copy! Haven't finished the other two I brought along). They have a vegetarian option every night (overall, the island was very vegetarian friendly, of course, this does not always mean vegan), and the theme for the evening was Caribbean cuisine. Luckily it was a vegan meal, vegetable roti topped with a red pepper sauce served with rice with lentils and some more fried plantains. I took a picture, but it was really horrible. I think if you give the cafe advanced notice, they can accomodate vegans even on Italian (= lasagna with cheese) night.

The next day we drove west to Cinnamon Bay to enjoy another beautiful beach. Right away we noticed how protected from waves all of the other beached we had been to were compared to this one. Supposedly you can surf at this beach during the right season. There is also an archaeology center that has information about many of the native cultures on the island, which was fun to read about.

Across from Cinnamon Bay are the Cinnamon Sugar Mill ruins. Here we went on a short walk that included interpretive signs discussing the history and plants and animals on the island. Our hike got cut a bit short by some rain. We had fun running through the forest getting a bit wet.

That night we drove into Cruz Bay, the main city on the island (though still very small), for dinner. I had searched St John on Happy Cow for vegan restaurant options and the only one that popped up was Satyanuma. So we gave it a shot.... sad to say it was pretty disappointing. It is more of a takeout place located in an outdoor mall, no ambiance at all. I can forgive that, but the food was pretty awful. I had a pineapple tofu curry that was poorly reheated, had no flavor, and the rice seemed like it was glued together. John's dinner was slightly better, really the only good part was the falafel (and it was deep fried, go figure). The hummus tasted like nothing and the salad was unimpressive. Bummer, I was expecting more.

After our last night at Maho, we moved further west on the island to Caneel Bay. This was our splurge for the last few nights of the honeymoon. We decided it was worth it (although, if we return to the island, we will likely stay at Concordia as our first choice). It was nice to have drinks on the beach and lawn chairs to relax in. Here is a view of Caneel Beach and the incoming ferry.

We also walked over to Honeymoon Beach (how appropriate?) and spent some quiet time there near the end of the day. There was almost no one around, perfect for honeymooners :-) I took some photos of our footprints in the sand that I thought were somewhat artistic.... (at least for me)

Our first dinner at Caneel Bay was at their fanciest restaurant, Turtle Bay. We called ahead so they knew a vegan was coming. Unfortunately, another disappointment. The meal wasn't bad (sauteed shitakes over plain plain plain tofu with broccoli and a grilled portobello), but it certainly wasn't worth what they charged. (we also ate at their casual restaurant one night, I had a reasonable pasta dish with veggies)

The next morning we had our first official breakfast on the island (most of the time we woke up pretty late and I would just snack on Luna bars anyways). Fresh fruit, english muffin with apricot jam, and soymilk! It was a delicious start to the day. Too bad we forgot to check prices before we ate, needless to say this was the only breakfast dining we did at Caneel.

The most famed beach on St. John is Trunk Bay (pictured below). It was certainly the most crowded, but the views were spectacular and the snorkeling was good (so John tells me, it's not my thing).

That evening we went on a sunset cruise, a wedding gift from good friends of ours. It was one of most enjoyable evenings. The crew (a couple living on their boat) was friendly and we enjoyed the conversation. Most of all, there was an amazin sunset and beautiful views of St. John and the surrounding islands. We even saw the official beginning of the Atlantic Ocean!

For our last dinner on the island, we tried Caneel's third restaurant, the Equator (near some interesting sugar mill ruins). Luckily, the third time was the charm and I enjoyed the curry dish with lentils, tofu, and various veggies. I think my favorite was the balsamic glaze that was on the plate, I sopped up as much of it as I could!
We were both sad to leave St. John, I think we both could have used another week of relaxation. I am sure we will return to St. John someday though. At the end of the vacation I wrote down a long list of moments to remember on some Caneel Bay stationary and sealed it up (not showing John). We will open it on our one year anniversary, Sept. 23, 2008, to remember all the special moments of our honeymoon. :-)

(I thought this was photo-worthy of next year's holiday greeting card.)

1 comment:

sachinagg said...

hey thanks for sharing such a great trip with us. Images you placed on this blogs are outstanding. I hope that you had a great trip....
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