St. Croix: Revisited

Since 2020 decided to become a massive dumpster fire, and Hubs and I have already had to cancel TWO international trips only halfway through the year, we elected to plan for an impromptu trip to St. Croix for some much needed time away from real life problems.

AirBnB offered the opportunity to rent a delightful little house right in Christiansted. The ranch style home had a covered front porch leading into an open living area. The nicely remodeled kitchen had a large island and an open living room and dining room perfect for cooking. The kitchen was superbly appointed, with a marvelous gas stove, awesome mismatched appliances (just like our kitchen), almost all the gadgets we could ever need (except a wine bottle opener – we may have left one in our wake), and plenty of dishes and utensils. A dining room and living room were open to the excellent canteen. If one is big on watching TV when a better view is present just outside (you are in the Caribbean, after all), then you are greeted by a huge, wall-mounted television. A hallway leads to the guest rooms and guest bath. Two nicely appointed guest rooms are on the left, each outfitted with a wonderful AC unit and one of the most powerful fans I have ever had the pleasure of sitting under. The bathroom, while not huge, was renovated beautifully. The only really annoying thing… the bathroom light was on a motion sensor. Little fucker turned on and off at the most aggravating times. Other than that, the house was quite enjoyable to stay in. Even has a parking pad in the rear and another outdoor space there as well. The home is situated across the street from two churches, one of which allowed us to crash a wedding, and its rehearsal! It’s walking distance to all the shops and restaurants and cafes and the marina and jewelry stores…

And the bungalow was owned by one of the most jovial, gracious, and considerate women I have ever met. Denise even met us at the house once we arrived in our rental car. She gave us a tour of the property, and helpfully pointed out a couple minor quirks, which came in handy periodically. She let us know she was available via phone/text whenever we may need her.

The friendliness did not end with our wonderful host. Roadwork was going on down the entirety of Queen Cross Street. The construction workers, whom I would typically ignore and continue on my morning while I drank coffee on the porch while reading St. Croix’s quaint newspaper delivered by the quiet Leroy, were insanely friendly. The workers remembered us each and every day as we strolled up and down the road from our rental house.

The home we rented on our first trip to the island had a pool overlooking a hillside that cascaded down to the turquoise waters. Since this place did not have a pool, we opted to research the various beaches scattered around the island. Unfortunately, my favorite beach from the previous expedition is closed for this half of the year to allow for turtles to flourish. Alas, we were forced to locate different options since one does not travel to a Caribbean island without taking a few jaunts to sandy shores.

Cramer Park…

The result of a southside beach outing fail (mainly, because of our challenged vehicular device). We learned a lesson with regards to car rentals this trip… do not opt for a sad, little 4D sedan just because you’re staying in town. Get the damned 4×4. Why, you ask? Beach and road access can be challenging, requiring a vehicle that can go off road. Prime example: Southside beaches are accessed by unpaved, rut-savaged dirt “lanes.” Side note: parking your car and trekking down the beach is ill-advised, as vehicle theft in insanely common. Shit. We attempted to sun bathe at both Robin Bay and Woodcottage Bay on banks that looked sublime. Alas, tribulation triumphed, and we drove north, settling for Cramer Park. A mostly paved parking lot is available within easy view of the beach. Not a terrible beach, but the water was rough and the beach can simply be described as mediocre.

Chaney Bay Beach…

A hubs internet discovery that we decided to try for beach day #1. Not a bad little place that’s accessed off East End Road near Cheeseburger in America’s Paradise. A large cul-de-sac allows for parking surrounded by tropical trees that even our sad, little Nissan could handle. We commandeered an oceanfront tree to hang our belongings, spread a towel on the beach, and started soaking up the sunshine while reading a new novel. Cooling off in the Caribbean Sea… Not a bad little spot, I must say. However, I would recommend a larger vehicular device that you can bring a grill in to cook up some BBQ on the beach.

Coakley Bay Beach…

The result of poor planning. I had heard nothing but good reports regarding Cane Bay Beach, which is located about 30ish minutes from our house. The snorkeling may require long fins (we only have short travel fins), but the beach was raved about. However, Hubs and I putzed around a bit too much this day, and I elected for a closer beach. Oops. Should have just driven to Cane Bay. Last time on the island, we toured several homes for sale in the Green Cay neighborhood. We recalled there was a beach walking distance from the homes on Prune Bay. Score! Or so we thought… we backed into a little spot, giddy to finally beach it. We opened the doors, and BAM! What in tarnation is that awful smell?!?! I took a few steps out to the “beach” only to find an unidentified mass of brown muck had completely taken over the small, sandy area that was supposed to be a beach. The aforementioned muck had a bouquet of dead animal, mixed with rotting fish, blended with a sewage treatment plant, churned in together, emanating from it. Trying to eradicate that odor from my nose was next to impossible. Next! Google maps was consulted to find another seaside paradise. The Shoys looked promising, but alas, only private property lines it. A little farther east we go to find Coakley Bay.

Coakley Bay Beach is hidden down a rutted drive next to a dilapidated hotel-looking-thing. One backs their vehicular device into a cutout, and the promptly strolls out onto their own little slice of sandy bliss. It was relatively empty early on, but after an hour, the place got packed with grilling, day-drinking, excited beach-goers. One of the aforementioned beach-goers was one of our friendly construction workers that we spoke to daily when we walked into town. This was certainly my favorite beach of this trip.

Turtle Bay Beach, Buck Island…

Visited for about an hour on a snorkeling trip to Buck Island. This was definitely one of the most beautiful white, sandy beaches on St. Croix. The western point of the island/national park is marked by this beach. Crystal clear aquamarine waters lap up on the people-free shoreline. I could have spent hours lounging on the sand, soaking up the sun. Alas, you have to have a park pass in order to visit it, as they have severely limited the number of people permitted per day. You also must have, or commandeer, a boat in order to get to the secluded shoreline.

Altona Lagoon…

Recommended by Denise, but only during the wee hours of the morning. Unbeknownst to us, this particular beach is known for criminal activity. Apparently, a double homicide occurred there years ago, so everyone knows not to go alone. An older crowd frequents it in the early morning hours, but the criminally inclined take over later. In fact, just two days after we left, a car was stolen from there and used in a shooting. We ventured there for an afternoon anyhow. It was deserted except a devious looking fellow in a battered, old truck. Shortly thereafter, a Rastafarian looking character pulled up behind our rental with a duplicitous sneer plastered across his face and a joint in his hand. Alas, even the local pot smokers are friendly in St. Croix, as our new friend plopped on the table next to us, asking if we had an extra beer. Although, I got the feeling the only reason he didn’t make us victims of some crime was because we shared a beer with him.

We had a blast wandering and shopping in Christiansted almost everyday. The trickiest part of that, was locating shops that were open. Might be part COVID, but boutiques were only open a few days a week with odd hours (aka. Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1000-1600). Regardless, we spent far more money on ourselves this tour than any other time we’ve traveled. Hubs commandeered a watch at 60% off… I got locally made earrings… my betrothed got a couple island-approved shirts… I acquired a brightly colored satchel. We purchased more non-breakable, silicone cups with ‘St. Croix’ emblazoned on the side. The list just keeps on going.

During the course of our shopping excursions, we may have gotten threatened by a lunatic homeless gent, who nicely informed us, “I don’t even know y’all, but I already want to kill ya.” Uhhhhh… Hubs, let us walk faster. I would gladly take the fellow on the boardwalk that always stood a tad off-kilter while drinking and talking to himself, all while he chain smokes. Death threats before starting to follow us is not the sort of individual I care about befriending.

Endeavors to partake in: Big Beard’s snorkeling excursion to Buck Island’s underwater national park. At least once. Sign up online, meet at the Christiansted dock, take off your shoes, hop on a catamaran, and away you go! We are spoiled… We have snorkeled in the Maldives where the water is pristine everywhere and the colors are insanely vibrant. Buck Island’s reef was rather grey and bland comparatively, and the water was choppy. However, the beach was phenomenal, and it served as a great place to try out our newly purchased travel snorkeling gear. A $24 Amazon purchase for the win! Side note: We did not partake in the excursion that ferried it’s participants over to Coakley Bay Beach, fired up a grill, prepared a delectable BBQ, and offered up a rum punch for all on board! That particular trip was over $100 per person… we opted for the cheaper version. However, just because the half-day excursion was cheaper, never fear… On the trip back from Buck Island, our Captain did mix up an ENTIRE cooler full of the tropical punch, and urged us to go back for seconds/thirds/fourths/fifths… you get the point. Not a bad afternoon swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. We disembarked the ‘Adventure’ a little tipsy and very happy!

For the most part, we cooked our own meals at the house. That includes a night we invited Denise and her family over for dinner. Denise’s family included her brother, his wife, and their two teenage children. Hubs and I are not too keen on younger humans, and therefore, not certain how the kids would act. We were pleasantly surprised when both miniature people turned out to be two of the most polite, and respectful individuals on the planet. Good parenting win! Anyway, I made family recipe comfort food (aka. chicken casserole), as well as a couple of sides. What a relaxing, rainy evening sharing dinner on the porch!

When we opted not to cook at home, Hubs and I dined at the various restaurants in downtown Christiansted. Be prepared for island time, as the waiters will surely not hurry to meet your every need. Much like the shops, the restaurants were open at random times on random dates. We visited a couple of establishments for the first time, but also returned to several we’d ventured into in 2018.

Shupes, which is also located on the boardwalk, looks out onto the marina and is open most of the day. The entire bar and dining area is open air, and now with COVID, seats far fewer people. Shupes is good for a meal, or just a fruity drink (as Hubs prefers) with a roasted Brussel’s sprout appetizer drizzled in cheese of some kind.

Nate’s Boathouse… Expect island time to kick in full force. My other half is a type 1 Diabetic, and his sugar was dropping a tad. I’d ordered our food 45 minutes prior to his arrival, and watched tables around me that had been seated after me, get their dishes before anyone even approached our table. I get island time, but c’mon guys, I ordered first! I took a jaunt to the bar, and the manager said they had taken my order. It quickly became obvious by the look on his face that he had, indeed, forgotten. He claimed we were next on the list. I call shenanigans, but we’ll see what happens. Eventually, we got our food (to-go). One thing you’ll get in a speedy fashion, though… drinks.

When you discover a 10 week old winery with some tasty Cab Franc and Pinot Noir. Even met the owners on our second go at the place! Because of the beer flu, tastings are not what they used to be. Gone are the days of standing at the bar while a personable barkeep pours you a sample of assorted intoxicants. In are the days of sitting at physically distant tables while the barmaid brings you a run of chosen wines from their menu. To go along with the wine… some amazing french onion soup. Too bad they only make so much – they were out the second trip we made to the Cellars. Annnddd Masks… the new reality for being inside any sort of establishment anywhere. Thanks, COVID and China.

St. Croix restored my faith in humanity, if only temporarily. The flight to Miami began the fall of that faith again, but at least I know there are places on the planet where people don’t suck!

Random update since arriving back in the continental Unites States – USVI has since closed to outsiders yet again. They went from 81 COVID cases to almost 1100 in the month they decided to reopen for tourists. Dammit, people of this planet, can you asshats not clean yourselves?! Wash your friggin’ hands… don’t sneeze on people… hand sanitizer does not help when your hands look like you jammed them in a bucket of mud… wearing a mask with your beak of a nose sticking out defeats the purpose. Earth finally starts reopening, and these dirty fuckers ruin everything for everyone else. Okay… Off soapbox now.

Also since returning home from this much needed break, we started utilizing the VI Consortium, which helpfully provides anyone with a smart phone news coming out of the Virgin Islands. We’ve heard of far more murders, shootings, and violence than we ever noticed occurring on the three isles. For instance, there was a carjacking at Altona Bay, and the stolen vehicle was subsequently used in a murder/shooting near the grocery shopping area we frequented. Hmm… a tad disconcerting.

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