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St. John Trip Report - Ferensak 4/1/09-4/8/09

Travel discussion for St. John

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St. John Trip Report - Ferensak 4/1/09-4/8/09

Postby CarolJLF » Sun Mar 06, 2016 9:57 pm

St. John 2009 Trip Report

We were devastated when we realized that we probably weren’t going to make it to St. John this year … or maybe never again! We’ve been vacationing here in paradise for many years now, but the economy has hit us hard this year, sending our 401Ks into the toilet and claiming both my husband’s job and mine! At age 60, any new job opportunities will be limited, and we aren’t sure of what the future will bring, so we figured we would have to forego our escape to paradise this year! But …with the help of a wonderful friend in St. John, some good luck finding cheap airfare, and a newfound “live now and do-it-while-you-can" attitude, we pulled it off at the last minute!

4/1 – Since we are traveling on April Fool’s Day, we keep waiting for something to go wrong and ruin our trip, but it never does! Our flight from Philadelphia is on time, our luggage is first off the plane, our rental Jeep is ready to go, and the car ferry is sitting there ready to leave as soon as we pull in! What timing!
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Once we’re on the ferry, we find our way to the upper deck, take a deep breath and finally relax from our long day of travel. The sunshine and fresh ocean breeze rejuvenates us and make us realize how much we love this island, and how much it truly feels like home. We often wonder if the year-long anticipation of the trip and our fond memories build it up to be more than it really is … but that is never the case! Each year, our special place is just as we remember it, but even better – the azure turquoise water lapping gently on the clean white beaches; the clear blue skies with white cotton-ball clouds; the narrow, winding mountain roads; the colorful island homes, the friendly people; the wild donkeys, goats and chickens; the vividly colored flowers … and the peace and tranquility that comes with knowing that you’ve finally come “home”.
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We have arrived! Paul drives our Jeep over the rickety metal grate, off the ferry and heads straight to Starfish Market where we stock up on the necessities – Milk, bread, a fat juicy steak, rice, veggies, fruit, snack food; orange-pineapple juice; some chocolate chip cookies for desert (well, we’re on vacation, aren’t we!); and of course, some sugar for our friends, the bananaquits! One last stop at the liquor store for some coconut rum (to go with the juice) and we’re on our way! Here we come, Sea Spirit!
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Sea Spirit – A secluded romantic hideaway, perched on an oceanfront cliff with hot tub, cliffside gazebo and rustic national park surroundings – Gorgeous!

We’ve stayed at Sea Spirit many times and the long winding drive to the other side of the island along the north shore, through Coral Bay and past Salt Pond Bay only adds excitement to our anticipation.
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As we turn onto 107 toward Coral Bay, we spot the bright yellow trailer of Reggie’s BBQ and decide to take some local home-cooked food back to the villa for dinner - and what a treat it is! We order two dinners to go (but, in retrospect, we could have shared one and still had leftovers)! Anxious to get to Sea Spirit, we hop into our Jeep and complete the rest of our journey, over the narrow, winding roads and then finally up the bumpy, well-worn, rocky dirt path to our secluded little hideaway in paradise! We are starving after our long travel day, so we eagerly devour the tender barbecued ribs and chicken, tasty rice, savory coleslaw, macaroni salad and delicious fried plantains outside on the deck of our beloved Sea Spirit. We notice the bright lights of a cruise ship in the distance and listen to the soothing sound of the waves crashing below … and then we go to bed, totally exhausted, but feeling exhilarated and at peace with the world!
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4/2 – I wake up to the sound of Paul unlatching the heavy slatted wooden doors of the villa. As I open my eyes, the front and side doors are folded back to reveal that breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea that has become so familiar!
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Perched atop a jagged rocky cliff with no other structures in sight except the bougainvillea-draped gazebo below, this special place gives us a feeling of peace and tranquility! We pour some sugar into the coconut-shell bird feeder for our friends, the bananaquits; refill the sugar water for the hummingbirds; and then eat breakfast on the deck without speaking, just breathing in the sights and sounds of nature and realizing that despite the odds, we made it – We really are back home in paradise again!
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Time to stop daydreaming and get going – We wash up, pull on bathing suits and some clothes, make sandwiches for lunch, pack snorkel gear, sun block and towels… and off we go to explore and do some snorkeling at Yawzi Point and Little Lameshur. After negotiating the rugged rocky road in our Jeep, we hike Yawzi Trail (a short easy hike – even for a 60 year old with double hip replacements) to Yawzi Point and do a little snorkeling. From there, we head over to Little Lameshur for some sunbathing on the quiet sandy beach, lunch under the trees and more snorkeling around the rocks. In the late afternoon, we head back to Sea Spirit to freshen up in the open-air outside shower and get ready to go out for dinner. We are looking forward to checking out Concordia Café, as our son spent a season living here, helping to build this beautiful new structure. We enjoy a delicious dinner, chat with some people who know our son, and then wander around the grounds, mesmerized by the waves crashing on the rocks below.
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Back at the villa, we quietly slide out of our clothes and into the hot tub for a relaxing soak under the star-studded night sky, discussing what we want to do tomorrow – and then we’re off to bed.

4/3 – We decide to spend the morning relaxing at the villa and exploring the rugged terrain around Sea Spirit. After photographing assorted prickly cactus plants, vividly colored flowers and jagged rock formations … and just missing an iguana that scurries into the underbrush, I retire to the gazebo with Paul to read and browse our St John literature. After sharing some wishful dreams about buying a villa in St. John someday “when” we hit the lottery, I convince him to pose with me for some pictures on the gazebo (I’m a camera fanatic and he hates me for it!).
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We are just about to leave when something in the water catches Paul’s eye. Right out in front of us is a pair of dolphins, leisurely frolicking in the water, as they swim from Kiddle Bay toward Grootpan Bay - what a treat!
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We head out for lunch at the new Tourist Trap, where we have delicious lobster rolls and some refreshing iced tea. From there, we take a hike down to Salt Pond Bay to do some afternoon snorkeling. The water is perfectly clear, the sun is bright, the fish seem extra vibrant and plentiful, and the coral seems healthier and more colorful than we’ve ever seen before! We observe many spiny black sea urchins, parrotfish, barracuda, trunkfish, angelfish, blue tang and a host of other colorful fish. A large stingray gracefully skims along the sandy bottom and a large green turtle allows us to follow him around a shallow grassy area for a good 20 minutes, surfacing right near us several times and even letting us get close enough so that Paul is able to touch his shell! A truly magical snorkeling experience! After snorkeling, we clean up and head to Aqua Bistro for appetizers and drinks ... and then back to our villa for a home-cooked steak dinner and romantic evening on our last night at Sea Spirit.

Honeymoon Cottage – Private romantic location near Francis Bay with magnificent views and a gazebo with hillside hot tub, table for two and an outdoor bed!
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4/4 - Moving day! Because of our last minute arrangements, we had to split our time between two villas – Sea Spirit and Honeymoon Cottage. We’ve stayed in each of them previously and we love them both, so we don’t mind at all! They are uniquely different, but each one is equally wonderful. Honeymoon Cottage is walking distance from Francis Bay, our favorite beach on the island, so we drop off our luggage in the morning, grab a delicious breakfast of stuffed French toast with mango syrup at Donkey Diner (a "must" stop for breakfast)
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and head out to soak up some sun on the white sandy beach, swim in the sparkling clear water and snorkel along the rocks on the right side. After a full day at the beach, we head back to the villa, get ourselves settled in and shower up in the unique wavy-walled outside shower with a peephole! Cleaned up and hungry, we head to Island Blues, where we enjoy tropical drinks, nachos and a tasty dinner on the patio, while being entertained by a table of little island girls with beaded braids and colorful outfits who are drinking their Shirley Temples, whispering and giggling as all little girls do!
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4/5 – Up bright and early for Sunday breakfast at the Maho Bay pavilion. I’ve heard that the early bird gets the worm, but the brave little birds sitting on the railing at Maho are determined to get my entire breakfast of organic yogurt with granola and fresh fruit! Eyeing my bowl intently with each bite, they swoop in as soon as I push the bowl away!
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We take a long leisurely drive out to the East End, where we visit with some friendly donkeys, have a tasty snack of conch fritters at Vie’s and spend some time lounging on her beach. After cleaning up, we head into Cruz Bay to our favorite restaurant - Rhumb Lines!
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We listen to T-Bird play her guitar and sing a folksy mix of old covers along with some of her original music
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We share a pistachio-crusted goat cheese salad with baby greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, and some creamy Thai-curried coconut chicken soup. I order salmon with stonefruit-ginger glaze and Paul has grilled tenderloin with spicy Jamaican demi-glaze! Everything is fabulous, as usual, and we are so full, we pass on desert and make our way back to Honeymoon Cottage where we relax in the hot tub, before heading off to bed. After being married for 37 years, we are always amazed how this island always rejuvenates us and kindles our relationship - making us feel like honeymooners again!
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4/6 – We wake up to a brilliant orange sunrise and just stay in bed watching it change until another bright sunny day emerges from the haze! We have never been to Gibney Beach before, so we decide to head out early to secure one of the precious few parking spots.
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We swim, snorkel and sun ourselves on the gorgeous palm tree lined beach and then head to Columbo’s for refreshing cold smoothies – coconut-pineapple-mango for me and chocolate-coconut for Paul. Unwinding in the hot tub, after our “strenuous” day at the beach, I hear a crunching sound behind us and look up the hill. We sit in silence as a lone donkey winds his way down the embankment behind the hot tub and passes only a few feet from us on his trek down to Mary’s Creek below.
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While showering up for dinner, I hear a vehicle approaching and it pulls into our driveway. I peek out the “peephole” and see that we have company - our friends Terry & Olivier have stopped by for an impromptu visit! I holler out to them and tell them to come on in. Luckily, Paul is still clothed and goes to the door to welcome them while I scurry around in a towel to find some clothes I can pull on quickly! We laugh about them catching me in the shower and we tell them about our recent adventures, while enjoying coconut rum & orange-pineapple juice drinks on the deck.
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AFterwards, they head out to get some dinner in town and we grill some barbecued chicken and vegetables at the villa while making plans for tomorrow – a half-day sail to celebrate Paul’s 60th birthday!

4/7 – We get up early and head to the dock behind Skinny Legs to meet up with Rick, captain of the Long Distance. A family of four from Minnesota joins us on the dock and we all climb aboard the dinghy (actually, I trip and fall in head first - causing major embarrassment, but luckily, no injury)! We take a short ride out to the sailboat where we are greeted by Ricks wife (and co-captain) Robin and their little dog Kiwi (who wears a miniature life jacket, just in case he falls overboard!) We spend a leisurely morning sailing, snorkeling and sharing tidbits of our lives with Rick, Robin and the Minnesota family.
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By the time we arrive back at the dock in the afternoon, we are starved, so we grab burgers (and NO fries) at Skinny Legs, browse the gift shops and then head to Francis Bay to catch a few afternoon rays. Back at the villa, we clean up and get ready to go out for Paul’s birthday dinner – sushi at Happy Fish in Cruz Bay. While savoring an assortment of creative sushi rolls with tuna, salmon, eel, avocado, cucumber, crunchies and spicy sauces, we reminisce about our trip and realize how lucky we’ve been to be able to vacation on this special island all these years.
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4/8 – Our last day in St. John has arrived and we are both feeling renewed and invigorated, but also experiencing a bit of melancholy. We’ve had another fabulous vacation, and have created many more wonderful memories, but we also know that this could be our final trip to St John, as we don’t know what our financial situation will be next year. So, with heavy hearts, we pack up our belongings, our souvenirs and our wonderful memories … and bid a sad farewell to our favorite place in the world … hoping that next year brings better financial times and we will be able to return again. (Or even better … hoping that maybe Kenny Chesney takes pity on us and donates one of his villas!)
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Last edited by CarolJLF on Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:24 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby David 12 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:49 am

Thanks for the belated report! We were on St. John the same time as you back in April 2009. I remember it being pretty dry but otherwise beautiful weather.

Dave
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby CarolJLF » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:40 am

We just got back from St. John last week (Feb 28th) and it was just as wonderful as we remembered it! So happy we were able to do it again, this time with family members. Will post a new report about this year's visit soon (not as belated as this one!) LOL!
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby liamsaunt » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:48 pm

A vintage trip report! It was fun to see all the the old long gone restaurants. I think we were there in April 2009 too, our only April trip. The weather was great but I missed the warmer summer water for snorkeling.

Did you get back out to the Sea Spirit area this trip? There is a HUGE villa out there now. It is weird to see all the little homes and then this huge house.
It's like looking in your soup and finding a whole different alphabet.
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby Pickle » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:43 pm

We stayed at Sea Spirit and find ourselves often longing for being on the deck at that little cottage. It's one of the best views that we've ever had on St. John (as you said, no other houses in sight :) ). We almost picked Honeymoon Cottage for our upcoming trip but opted to go with another property. It's nice to see Terry and Olivier in your photo.

Looking forward to your 2016 trip report!
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby CarolJLF » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:45 pm

No, we didn't stay at Sea Spirit this time. We took our grown kids and their families along with us this year, so we needed a bigger place. We rented a large 4-5 bedroom villa called Virgin Seabreeze and we loved it! http://www.caribbeanvilla.com/property/ ... seabreeze/
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby ColumbiaSCTraveler » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:54 pm

OH, how I miss Donkey Diner and their mango and cream cheese stuffed French toast...and their pizza nights! Sigh.

Thanks for sharing!
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby CarolJLF » Tue Mar 08, 2016 3:59 pm

Me, too! Donkey Diner was the best! And their mango & cream cheese French toast was to die for! I ordered that every time we went!
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby David 12 » Thu Mar 10, 2016 6:42 pm

As I mentioned earlier, we were on St. John the same time back in 2009 and we stayed at Caneel Bay. Here is our view from room 7E overlooking Scott beach.

Still beautiful!

Dave
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Re: St. John Trip Report (New) - Ferensak -4/1/09 -4/8/09

Postby CarolJLF » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:42 am

:( Feeling sad and thinking about our special paradise in the islands since Irma and Marie just came through. St John has been our favorite get-away since 2000. Many things have changed since this 2009 visit, but the damage done to the island is beyond comprehension! I can't believe that so many of our favorite places are gone or seriously damaged. The island is decimated and the people have been through hell! Rebuilding seems like a monumental job right now, but I hope that with lots of help from those of us who love the island (and the government), they can bring St. John back to its glory and make this idyllic paradise flourish again. :(
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