Well, file this one in the “it’s a small world” category. After several grueling days of relaxation on St. Maarten, your trusty correspondent flew home to Southern California on Thanksgiving, arriving just in the nick of time for a late turkey dinner.
I was home about 36 hours before departing following morning for a week’s vacation on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. For those of you who are keeping track, St. Maarten and St. Thomas are about 90 miles apart, but rather than just fly a short inter-island hop I managed to put about 7,000 miles behind me only to end up right where I started.
Flying is like that.
Anyway, unlike most other trips, this one was a long-planned vacation with extended family — 10 of us in all — to celebrate my brother’s 70th birthday. Yes, you read that right, I have a 70 year old brother. As Tom Hanks so succinctly explains in You’ve Got Mail: “we are an American family”.
Aside from my a nasty cold my wife picked up from her nieces on Thanksgiving, we had a lovely time. Poor Kristi was stuck in the hotel room for the first three of our seven days, but we were continually thankful that it was just a minor illness. Between the heat, humidity, jet lag, mosquitoes, and other facets of a long-distance tropical vacation, it’s not hard to imagine a serious gastrointestinal or sun stroke problem out there. I’ve seen it happen.
Speaking of which, though I wouldn’t bat an eye at flying half way across the world, I nearly came to grief trying to drive a car on that little island. In the Virgin Islands you drive on the left side of the road, but the automobiles have the steering wheel on the left side as well. Add in a general lack of signage, narrow streets, and terrain hilly enough to make even a San Franciscan take notice, and you’ll get an idea of what I was dealing with. Pilots like to joke about the drive being far more dangerous than the flight, but in this case it was 100% true.
St. Thomas is a delightful way to do the Caribbean thing. To begin with, as an American territory, the usual travel hassles are eliminated. They use the same voltage, currency, language, and customs we have here in the mainland. The beaches and resorts are first rate. I can’t say enough good things about the Frenchman’s Reef, Cove, and Morningstar Beach. It was a first class experience even by Marriott standards.
And as a lover of history, there’s no shortage of things to do and see around the island. Columbus landed there on his second voyage to the New World, and a century later the Jamestown settlers stopped at St. Thomas on their way to America as well. Sir Francis Drake used one of the island’s high hills to spy on enemy ships of the Spanish fleet passing through what is now called Drake’s Passage. There are fortresses, submerged artillery, and the 2nd oldest synagogue in the English-speaking world.
Here are just a few images from the trip.