Southampton Calling!   Leave a comment

I am pleased to say that our path to the airport was much clearer than last time. This adventure begins on a sunny Saturday rather than a snowy, icy Friday. Additionally, our driver showed up this time. Also a huge improvement!  (Although his very conservative rate of speed paired with an alarming tendency to eschew turn signals brought on some tense moments!)

In less than an hour, we were checking our bags at the Virgin Atlantic counter. We booked Premium Economy through Delta, so our boarding passes were marked “priority” which allowed us the fast track through security. Yay!

After dinner at Logan, we boarded (yes, we could have had dinner on the plane, but not until 10:30. Too late for us). Virgin PE is okay. I think British Airways is more comfortable. Virgin’s foot rests were in an awkward spot rendering them useless, and the rows so close that when the person in front of me reclined, their seat hit my knees! 

Upon arrival at Heathrow, we went through the shortest immigration line that I have ever seen. Once we were cleared, we found our baggage carousel and quickly spotted our bags lazily flowing by. We were through so quickly that we had to wait for our friend and tour guide to arrive!

Jill is the proprietor of Windsor Day Tours, and knowing she is a bit of a Stonehenge expert, we engaged her to take us to Southampton via Stonehenge. I had been many years ago, but this was a bucket list item for DH.

Along the way, we stopped in a little village (sorry, no idea of the name!) to take in some lovely cottages with thatched roofs. 

Luckily we had pretty nice weather! It was breezy on the plain, but the clouds gave way shortly after we arrived at the mysterious monument. 

After an entertaining hour (listening to Jill was so much better than the audio guide from years ago!) she brought us to The Old Mill in Salisbury where I enjoyed my proper Sunday roast and DH his enormous fish and chips. 

Finally, we made our way to Southampton via New Forest, where we saw dozens of ponies, including frolicking, nursing and napping foals! So cute! (Alas, no pics though!)

Jill dropped us at the entrance of the Grand Harbit Hotel just after four. Perfect!  After checking in, we went on a mission for cash, water and pints. We enjoyed relaxing on our balcony as dusk settled in and preparing for well-deserved slumber. 

Tick, Tock!   Leave a comment

Yes, the clock is ticking!  We will begin our journey tomorrow to the Norwegian Jade and a crazy, port-intensive cruise around the British Isles.

It is weird that we are flying out Saturday night (I am used to racing home after work and heading to the airport)!  I have so much time to pack that less than 24 hours out, I am not done yet!  But hey, I have over 20 hours before we are taken to the airport… 🙂

This cruise should be awesome!  Not only do we get several stops in the British Isles (two in England, three in Ireland, and three in Scotland), the ship is freshly out of a three week dry dock and major refurbishment.  Lots to discover and explore on all fronts!

I should be able to blog from the ship as we got “free Wi-Fi” with our booking (250 minutes) plus we get 60 minutes each for being “Platinum Plus”.

I expect this to be a fun trip, and hope you will join us!

 

Random Final Thoughts on St. John   Leave a comment

Every cat I saw during the week was black.  Interesting.

Driving on the left when you can’t see around corners and steep drop-offs, with potholes poised to swallow your Jeep whole can be terrifying at times.

The little market at the Gallows Point Resort actually has pretty competitive prices on many grocery items.  In some instances they were even cheaper than the much larger Starfish Market.

Gallows Point Resort was, for us, just perfect.  Our ocean view condo (in building seven) gave us an unimpeded view of stunning blue water and St. Thomas.  We never heard a peep from Cruz Bay and our central location within the resort was excellent.  We would (will!) stay there again in a heartbeat.

Gallows Point is a four-minute walk to Cruz Bay.  Convenient!

I still don’t get people who state that St. John is so much better than Maui.  Now that we’ve experienced both, for us they are apples and oranges and both are great for very different reasons.

We really “got” the St. John vibe once we were back in the traffic of St. Thomas.  Ugh!  Talk about apples and oranges!

The ferry ride to St. John is way better than the ferry ride to the airport. 🙂

STT airport was such a madhouse on the way out it almost makes us reconsider returning!

BUT we had read that employees at the airport were rude.  Everyone we encountered was nice and had a smile for us!

Joe’s Rum Hut has good pizza.  Great for takeout and dining on our patio.

Painkillers are yummy.

Been snorkeling from Bermuda to Hawaii to Bonaire and everywhere in between and have never, ever, seen so many turtles as what we saw at Francis Bay!

The Sundog Café has the best Mahi tacos.  Period.

Angel’s Rest is a cool idea.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Who has the best crab Rangoon?  Umami or 420 to Center?  Undecided.  Opinions?

Best burger, Skinny Legs!  Honorable mention, the Tap Room.

Sitting on your patio and having peacocks and iguanas stroll by is seriously cool.

No-see-ums are evil.  Still have welts!

Memorize your license plate! We were the only car in the Starfish Market parking lot…and came out to find we were one of three two-door red Jeeps parked next to each other!

Leaving our condo by 9 each morning meant we had no problems parking at whatever beach we wanted to go to (including Jumbie)!

For us newbies, the National Geographic’s Virgin Islands National Park “Trails Illustrated Topographic Map” was a great tool helping us navigate the roads and St. John Feet, Fins and Four-Wheel Drive is a great little travel guide, written by a local with a good sense of humor.  Both provided invaluable information!

Places that advertise “air-conditioning” more often than not mean they have fans! 😉

Sitting on the shore, watching dolphins frolic at South Haulover was pretty damn neat.

Yes, really, shorts and a casual polo shirt are fine at even the “fancy” restaurants.

I wasn’t sure that it would apply to us, but apparently, you can’t visit St. John without immediately planning your next visit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted April 11, 2017 by cubechick in St John, USVI

Final Day(s) in St John   Leave a comment

I cannot talk about the fabulous weather enough! It really has been perfect during our entire stay. New visitor to our patio today!

Today we were seeking a breeze at lunch time so we went to Joe’s Rum Hut. I had a delicious (if very messy!) Cajun shrimp po’ boy. Yum! DH had a good for you turkey wrap. Very happy with the food at Joe’s, and the view of course!

We had to spend some time this afternoon packing. Boo! I can’t believe the week has flown by! In case we forgot, we got a packet with departure information in it when our condo was spiffed up for the day. And we received a call asking for our departure time and ferry info (I tried not to take it personally!) 😊

I followed News of St. John on Facebook and they posted that there was a “First Friday” celebration that evening at Mongoose Junction. That decided us on what to do with our last evening! It was a fun, family atmosphere with a band playing, traditional dancers, free face-painting and a “tall man” as one shop keeper put it. 😊

DH found his new favorite Mahi on the island at the Sun Dog Cafe in the form of tacos. He also loved that all of the toppings were served on the side like a mini taco bar!  My blackened shrimp quesadillas were delicious, but an enormous portion! Be sure to stop by and say “Hi!” to David the bartender. He was great!

Back at the condo I spent every precious moment I could on our patio, watching the lights of St Thomas twinkle. 

Final breakfast and packing done. DH had read that getting food at the airport could be challenging with one overrun restaurant. So I brought wraps, cheese and condiments with from home. With turkey and ham purchased at Starfish Market, I made us a couple of wraps. In a gallon ziploc bag, I placed a couple of trays worth of ice cubes. Everything got tucked into a plastic bag to keep everything cool until the airport. It worked perfectly! I just discarded the bag of ice before security. 

With a 3:30 flight, we caught the 11:15 ferry to Charlotte Amalie. It took awhile for us to get loaded onto a taxi. Once at the airport we got our luggage tags and joined the enormous line to customs (someone in line said they had never seen it this busy…the line wrapped around outside to the Delta check-in). It took forever to make it through that line and then security so we were very glad that we had given ourselves ample time. 

The restaurant was packed as advertised  (another line out the door) but I spotted their kiosk and grabbed a couple of drinks there. I have read several reports of rude workers at the airport, but everyone we encountered was friendly. 

We grabbed a piece of floor and had my prepared lunch (still cool despite spending 4 hours in my carry-on).  

Thankfully our flight left on time. We landed 47 minutes early in Boston  (yay) which means they didn’t have a gate ready (boo)!

Coming up! Final thoughts on our week in paradise!

Posted April 8, 2017 by cubechick in St. John

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Sorry St. John Peeps…Day Six is a Snooze    Leave a comment

After running around for three days, we decided to have a veg day. Once we had shaken off the previous night’s sleep, we hopped in our cute red Jeep and filled up her tank and turned her in. I had to pay for 5 days even though we had her for four (when I booked this I expected to leave a day earlier) but we were completely satisfied with St. John Car Rental. It is easily walkable from the ferry which is good to know next time!

Once settled, we went to Cruz Bay Landing for breakfast. A much more satisfying experience than lunch or dinner! I was very happy with my Philly cheese steak omelet (tasty and not too large) and my first Bloody Mary of the vacation! 

We spent the morning on our patio, enjoying the view, reading  and relaxing. Our big excitement was went this lady iguana scurried from the top of the coconut palm near our patio. 

We went to High Tide for lunch (okay, not great) and went back for Happy Hour (it seems we have found our spot).  We ordered a couple of happy hour snacks, $5 per order (tasty!):

Dinner was leftover pizza from Joe’s Rum Hut and the sunset from our patio. 

Not an exciting day for my readers, but very satisfying on my end!

Posted April 6, 2017 by cubechick in St. John

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Drove Over to Haulover   Leave a comment

Day five dawns with another gorgeous day. I think the weather gods are making up for the fact that every other time we have been in the USVI, it has rained on us!

Are we the only ones who think the roads here are absolutely crazy? We drove route 10 to Haulover and my goodness the steep hills and hairpin turns! Island roads don’t offer signage to warn you. It is quite nerve-wracking to come to an “end of the world” moment with no pavement visible to find that the road is in fact still there, but it’s a steep drop off to the left. DH says we will be better prepared to drive up Haleakala on Maui after this week!

Anyway we made it to Haulover in one piece and parked along the road. Leaving our condo by 9 each morning has been early enough to grab parking everywhere we go. We picked our spot on South Haulover in the shade. After maybe thirty minutes a small pod of dolphins showed up to frolic in the bay! 

They entertained those of us on shore for about 20 minutes…until a snorkeler finally realized they were there and got too close. 😒 Off they swam. 

They probably would have left shortly thereafter as Angel’s Rest puttered into the bay. DH was out snorkeling and for him the bar just appeared out of nowhere!  His response, “When did a bar show up? “😂

Even without the bonus of dolphins and a floating bar, Haulover was worth the harrowing (to us!) drive. 

Skinny Legs was the logical spot for lunch on our way back to Cruz Bay. We’d heard rave reviews of their burgers so even though a salad sounded pretty good at this point, a burger it was. DH proclaimed it the best burger he has had this week. I was equally pleased…juicy and cooked to perfection. It lived up to the hype!

Happy hour was at High Tide. What a nice spot and a decent happy hour. 

For dinner we took a shot as we didn’t have reservations and tried Extra Virgin Bistro. Wow. Just the best food we have had all week! DH had the mussels appetizer which was pleasantly surprising with a rich pork broth. My salad was a burst of spring with greens grown on their rooftop gardens. 

While the entrees were spectacular  (halibut cheek for DH and shrimp and crab parpadelle for me) the service was so rushed it put a bit of a gray cast on the night. The appetizers came out within moments of our drink order. Fine. But our dinner was delivered 2 minutes after the starters were cleared and DH wasn’t even at the table. Six minutes passed before he returned. The manager could tell I was antsy and I explained that I don’t feel the entree should have been served when we both weren’t at the table. Just a very rushed, non “island -time” vibe we were used to. 

The Banana Deck had live music, so we stopped there on our way home. Followed by a pitstop at Drink. Overall another perfect St. John day. 

Fourth Day on St John   Leave a comment

The plan this morning was to head out to Jumbie. The snorkeling is supposed to be excellent and with only 6 parking places, we felt like Jumbie would be a feather in the St. John beach cap! We were excited to see only two cars parked in the lot, but as we grabbed our gear, the drivers of the other Jeeps returned to their vehicles, reporting very strong winds. Boo!  So Jumbie turned into a photo op. 

Now apparently, my St. John research failed me a bit. We decided to continue to Maho and a deer ran out in front of us! Fortunately we were going slow enough to avoid a collision and she scampered into the woods. I was prepared to vigilantly watch for donkeys, not deer! Literally two minutes later we can across two more deer in the road. 

On we drove to Maho (cautiously!) but as we approached the parking area DH decided with the winds he’d prefer to go back to Francis Bay, which would be protected. We planted ourselves on the far right side of the beach where he’d seen so much turtle activity the day before. We had barely settled in our spot when DH spotted three deer in the forest behind us! Amazing! Six deer in ten minutes!

It is also simply amazing that that was 10 feet behind us while this was in front of us! 

I had the pleasure of seeing several turtles surfacing for a breath of air from this vantage point. DH spotted several turtles again as well as a stingray and a “sharksucker”.

On the way back to Cruz Bay we stopped at Peace Hill. The very short (but rocky and somewhat steep) trail takes you to a windmill ruin and a wonderful view! 

After hosing off and cooling down we walked to the Lime Inn for lunch. I liked the flavor of my Cuban sandwich, but not the dryness of the pork. DH was similarly unimpressed with his steak and cheese. Oh well. I did think their potato salad was tasty though! 

The rest of the afternoon involved a rigorous schedule of reading and napping. Someone has to do it! 

Finally, we made a stop a Joe’s Rum Hut. A couple of beverages then a pizza ordered to go, to be enjoyed on our patio. 😊

I have to say the pizza was better than I anticipated! Thin crust, good flavor, it could have done with a couple more minutes in the oven to crisp up the crust, but I like that they included parmesan cheese and red pepper flake packets. 

Posted April 4, 2017 by cubechick in St. John

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