A Travellerspoint blog

April 2021

St. John, USVI, Part 1: Chicken(s) of the Sea

As longtime readers of this blog already know, Angel and I are experienced Caribbean travelers. And as such, we have endured our share of only-in-the-islands hardships. There was that warm Chardonnay served in plastic cups in Abaco. The private beach dinner in Anguilla sans the tiny decorative pineapples I'd requested. And, probably most horrific of all, that Christmas Day on Tortola when I almost didn't get to eat lunch.

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But none of these prior calamities could have prepared us for our pre-Covid visit to St. John.

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Beautiful St. John, with its striking green mountains and stunning beaches. Peaceful St. John, with its chill vibe and charming people. Scenic St. John, with its steep switchbacks and sweeping overlooks.

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And utterly terrifying St. John, with spiders the size of saucers and billipedes (that is not a typo) the size of hot dogs and bumblebees so huge they look like flying avocados. St. John, with its nightly cacophony of frogs? howler monkeys? Tasmanian devils? that sound like an angry flock of seagulls fighting over a single French fry. St. John, where the charming cottage we rented featured a screen door that never managed to bang around the same way twice, leaving us unwitting participants in a nightly guessing game of "Is it just the wind...or is it a masked intruder hoping to find more than just the 16 pairs of shoes I brought?"

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There is an old adage that a particularly bad scare can so startle a person's heart as to shave one year off their life expectancy. After surprises on St. John ranging from finding an enormous waterbug on my face towel (apparently it's possible to scream so loud that you startle them) to an unidentified creepy-crawly in my hair (more screaming, plus some wild Elaine Benes-style thrashing) to taking a pitch-black outdoor shower at night during a blackout (in the interest of preserving my few remaining shreds of sanity, I refuse to even speculate) . . . I am pleased to announce that I am inexplicably still alive given that, according to the old adage, I should have died approximately nine years ago.

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Our nightly Battle of the Bugs began on the Sunday before Christmas, when we foolishly arrived with suitcases full of clothes and brightly wrapped presents instead of cans of Bop and beekeeper suits.

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None of this, of course, was the fault of Sago Cottage, a charming, spotless West Indian style cottage in Calabash Boom.

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We didn't want to venture too far on our first night on island, so we headed down to Coral Bay just in time for sunset at Aqua Bistro.

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What beats fried calamari, tacos, rum punch, and a Bushwacker for dinner?

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Obviously that was a rhetorical question.

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Angel awoke bright and early the next morning, while I planned ahead for a cottage with no window blinds.

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Finally I roused myself enough to get dressed and take in our fragrant surroundings.

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Soon it was time for lunch, so we headed down the mountain to Skinny Legs.

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Skinny Legs is proudly blender-free, but that didn't stop us from ordering up a Painkiller, a rum punch, and then the deadly Melee -- a blend of all six Cruzan rum flavors and a thimble full of fruit juice.

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After lunch we decided on a swim at Cinnamon Bay or, as we were calling it after that Melee, Cimmaninn.

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After that, things got wild.

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That evening we dressed casually for dinner at The Longboard, only to find that the wait was more than an hour. Too hungry to hang on, we instead somehow managed to luck into an outdoor table at one of the best -- and most popular -- restaurants on the island, Extra Virgin.

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Although we had reservations for later in the week and hate to repeat a restaurant on vacation, Extra Virgin's gracious service, fabulous drinks, and excellent food definitely warrant doubling or even tripling up.

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Holiday Horchata with fig and vanilla infused bourbon, coconut, almond horchata, and cimmaninn. I mean cinnamon.

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Grapefruit margarita with house-made grapefruit sour...swoon

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Gnocchi with tomato cream and basil

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To-die-for housemade ricotta with mushroom and sweet corn saute

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Fettucine with colossal king crab and shrimp

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Apple crisp with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and just a smidge of whipped cream.

The next morning we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise. Not on purpose, of course. We're not psychos.

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We do sometimes dress alike, though, which I guess is close enough.

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For lunch, we decided to drive into town to check out the Banana Deck.

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This place serves greasy cheeseburgers, extra-cheesy fried mozzarella sticks, and Caesar dressing with enough mayonnaise in it to choke a wild donkey. In other words, I loved it.

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For his part, Angel had the grilled fish sammie with a spicy BBQ sauce that damn near melted his face off . . . which means he loved it, too.

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After that lunch, we thought it best to sequester ourselves at one of the more private beaches to avoid prying questions like, "Mommy, did that lady swallow a beach ball?" So we headed off to Oppenheimer Beach in hopes of snagging one of the very few parking spots.

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Success! Oppenheimer turned out to be one of our very favorites of the trip.

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It certainly didn't hurt that we had it all to ourselves.

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When we'd finally had our fill of the sea, we headed back to Sago Cottage, stopping along the way to sample a Tropical Whiskey Punch at the Danforth and dodge some goats before cozying up in the hot tub in time for sunset.

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That night was Christmas Eve, and we'd booked dinner at Rhumb Lines.

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The wait for our food was a long one thanks to the holiday, but eventually we feasted on potstickers, Szechuan tuna with "Puff Daddy" noodles, and a delicious shrimp Pad Thai.

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The next morning, I opened my Christmas presents, thanked Angel for his thoughtfulness, and then ran off with another man. Well, motored, actually. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants, and what mine wants is pizza.

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We showed up at the dock ready to jam.

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That mask was supposed to look like Santa's beard. This guy was ahead of his time.

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We spent most of the morning on the slide, even reenacting "A Christmas Story," since it was Christmas day.

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Soon it was time for one of the catamaran crew members to make the run over the to the floating pizza shop, Pizza Pi, to pick up lunch. They don't normally take passengers with them, of course, but I can be very persuasive. Or pathetic. Whatever.

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At first Angel had no idea where I'd gone, but it didn't take him long to figure out that where there's a pizza, there's a Tracey.

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There might even be some rum punch.

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Posted by TraceyG 14:50 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged coral_bay virgin_islands usvi st_john aqua_bistro calabash_boom skinny_legs sago_cottage Comments (6)

St. John, USVI, Part 2: Chicken(s) of the Sea

After a Christmas Day sail full of pepperoni pizza and rum punch, there was only one thing left to do afterwards: Grab some margaritas.

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We ended up at Greengo's, a festive spot in Mongoose Junction.

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By this point in our trip, I had almost made peace with the creepy-crawlies that were intent on terrorizing me wherever I went. At home, I styled myself as a modern-day Rambo, a can of BOP in one hand and an electric bug zapper in the other. At night, I rolled myself into a tight burrito made of bedsheets and topped with a thick layer of Deep Woods OFF. I steadfastly refused to use any light that didn't have a lightswitch after a particularly traumatizing incident involving a waterbug on a lampshade, and on occasion I even encountered an insect small enough to dispose of myself with my flip-flop, instead of my usual method of dropping a stockpot over the multi-legged beast and screaming bloody murder for Angel. In other words, I had the situation mostly under control.

Until we arrived home from Greengos and all hell broke loose.

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There was a blackout. And to be honest, I'm not sure which was more terrifying: Having to use the outdoor shower in the pitch dark, or having to go to Christmas Dinner without the benefit of a mirror or a hairdryer.

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Luckily our dinner was quite the distraction: a round of Copa Cabanas with Plantation overproof rum, lime, orange, and pineapple juice; tuna tartare; decadent Coquille St. Jacques; and the Caribbean version of a turducken: Lobster stuffed with shrimp stuffed with crabmeat, all topped with a creamy, citrusy sauce.

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The next day we set off for the Art Bar in Cruz Bay. There, I treated Angel to a rum tasting to occupy him while I shopped their selection of beautiful hand-made jewelry.

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We'd so enjoyed our earlier dinner at Extra Virgin that we decided to give their new sister restaurant, 1864, a try for lunch.

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There, we enjoyed moules frites, a fabulous smashburger, and 1864's excellent focaccia.

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Soon the beach beckoned again, so we set off for a soak.

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After an afternoon in the hot sun, we'd worked up a thirst.

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New Favorite Drink Alert: the R&R, made with St. John Brewers' draft root beer mixed with Cruzan vanilla rum.

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The afternoon had turned cloudy, and by the time we got back to Sago Cottage, it had started to drizzle. Not that we let that spoil our fun.

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By evening it was raining in earnest, so we decided to snuggle in with a couple of pizzas from Pizzabar in Paradise and a bottle of red wine, enjoying the sound of the rain drumming on the tin roof.

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We spent the next morning taking in the spectacular view from the cottage.

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Eventually we decided to check out nearby Salt Pond Bay, which is where we learned that "a trail good for all skill levels" still means that you should actually wear shoes.

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Somehow we managed to make it to the beach with our ankles intact.

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Happily, the day began to clear up, so we made a beeline for the Paddle-In Tiki Bar at Maho.

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There, we discovered the Friend of the Devil, a Painkiller with bourbon instead of rum. I have no idea how I'd never thought of that before, but it's never too late to make a good cocktail even more deadly.

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It's just a shame they were so stingy with the nutmeg.

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Lunch was at High Tide, where we enjoyed crunchy coconut shrimp, spicy blackened fish, and a Caprese sandwich served with a tasty little pasta salad.

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For dinner, we stuck close to home with some BBQ at Oasis, where we might as well been this potted plant for all the attention the bartender paid us.

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And they were out of the mac & cheese, which is a far greater crime than just ignoring me.

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The next morning dawned bright and sunny, which was perfect for what I had planned for our last full day.

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We piled into the Jeep and set off for Hansen Bay and what would be one of the highlights of our trip, Lime Out.

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I was practically giddy at the thought of not just tacos and Painkillers at Lime Out, but floating tacos and Painkillers, and so I was crestfallen when we learned that the pedal boat we planned to rent to get over there was not available, having filled with water from the rain the day before. But those tacos beckoned, and so Angel and a kind stranger managed to lift the massive pedal boat and drain it so we could pedal over to Lime Out.

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Finally, having pedaled our little hearts out, we arrived at Lime Out, tied up our ride, and clambered "aboard."

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We whiled away the afternoon with cocktails, tacos, and new friends.

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Soon it was time to pedal back.

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Of course, it's not every day that you find yourself pedaling away from a floating taco bar in the middle of a secluded bay at sunset and hear someone call your name, and I'll admit that my first thought was that I was hallucinating from one too many Painkillers. But there was Sandra, the caretaker who'd led us to Sago Cottage when we first arrived on St. John, and her partner Ronald on their sailboat, waving and inviting us aboard as we pedaled by.

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Ronald went ashore to pick up Angel from returning the pedal boat, leaving Sandra and I alone to take silly selfies.

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Sunset from a sailboat with new friends and a belly full of tacos and Painkillers? Not a bad way to end our last day.

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It was our last night on island, so we headed back to what had quickly become a new favorite, Extra Virgin Bistro.

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The next morning we soaked up the view one last time, said goodbye to our goat friends, and grabbed a quick lunch at the Westin before dragging ourselves to the nearby ferry dock.

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On the way back to St. Thomas, we were treated to a rainbow spanning the horizon, a symbol of hope in many cultures. Angel's hope was that we'd return to St. John someday.

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Mine was that I'd never see a billipede ever again.

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You may have spent the pandemic baking bread, organizing your closets, and learning to play the ukulele, but I spent it watching Tiger King and not blogging. But now I'm back, baby, and there's at least a year's worth of trips to catch up on! Up next? Anguilla, Antigua, and anyplace else that will permit disease-ridden Americans to enter the country. Click here to subscribe and you'll be the first to know when a new post goes up!

Posted by TraceyG 12:54 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged terrace st_john tiki greengos the_terrace st_john_brewers pizzabar_in_paradise art_bar 1864 maho lime_out Comments (6)

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