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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)

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