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Story #12: Pre-Move Story from a prospective St. Thomas Resident!
(Submitted in 2004) Arrived on St. Thomas 2 days ago, when we got to the airport we were exhausted from the long travel from Austin, Texas. Got in about 3:30 pm. The airport was very busy (and it's off season), very humid but a cool breeze was blowing through the open airport. Got our luggage and proceeded to get our rental car. Seemed like it took forever to get it checked out but we weren't in a hurry so it didn't much matter. They didn't have the car we reserved so Hertz asked us if we wanted to upgrade to a blazer, sure but do you have a jeep? (that's what we own in Austin, and will be bringing to the island with us). Joanne was very sweet, she put us in a red Wrangler which we were very happy about. At this point Darren (the husband) was a little nervous about driving on the left. I'm a little nervous too because of the accident (I totaled my brand new Jeep July 4th, some butthead ran a red light and I hit him going 50 mph!) As we're loading the car and getting ready to leave it started to rain a little but the sun was out. In St. Lucia they call that "liquid sun-shine", we've carried that with us and we didn't realize how much we missed it and loved it until that very moment. Our first impression of STT was a great one.
So, we get in the jeep and start driving to the Flamboyant Manor on the South end of the island. We decided to stay at the Flamboyant so we could get the "real feel" of island living. On our way we drive through Charlotte Amalie "Town". It's a little dirty and poor as we drive through. A lot of traffic, horns blowing (we weren't sure what that meant). there was a cruise ship at port so there were a lot of people walking around, shops everywhere (by the way, Darren is doing very well on the left side of the road). As we make our way through town we see a few grocery stores and we make a mental note for later. On our way out of town the road starts to get very hilly and curvy, seems like the locals drive like Indy car racers!!
We find the Flamboyant Manor, it's cute from the outside white w/blueish trim, very tropical looking. We chose this hotel because it has a kitchen to do some cooking during our stay. It's small, not a lot of rooms, maybe only 7. Nobody was in the office so they left a not on the door for us. It said "Jessica- Welcome to the Flamboyant Manor, your room # is 5, keys inside, door unlocked." WOW! nothing like stateside!
We go into room #5, it's VERY small, maybe 300 sq. ft. & very narrow! We walked to the back of the room to the back door and immediately we saw the sea! I've never seen anything like it before (not even in St. Lucia was the water this beautiful!) I couldn't believe my eyes! The water is a bright turquoise, the most amazing site I've ever seen, completely took my breath away. Darren was overcome with emotion as we stared out at what we've been waiting for for months. The water is one of the main reasons why we want to move here.
After enjoying the gorgeous view we needed to start unpacking. I walked back in the room and at that point, I started to feel a little depressed. It was SO small and kinda dingy & dirty. The air unit wasn't on so it was hot and humid! Reality started to sink in at that point so I started to get a little scared. I peeked my head over the balcony to look at the room next to us and it was SO much bigger. I put a call into the manager to see if we could switch, had to leave a message. Darren said he was fine staying in the small room but wouldn't mind switching to the bigger room. We decided not to unpack incase we transfer. We were VERY hungry so we looked in the restaurant guide and found a place called Fungis on the water near the east end. Got in the jeep and headed that direction.
Darren is getting used to driving on the left. he thinks it's pretty easy except at intersections. We decided to take the road that goes through the middle of the island, it was VERY hilly, sometimes so steep that we thought the jeep wouldn't make it. So, we're looking for Fungis, took a wrong turn and while we were trying to find our way back we see a herd of goats on the side of the road. There had to have been 10 of them. They were standing on top of each other on top of a wave runner to eat off a tree. It was an interesting site to say the least. They were so cute, Baille is going to love seeing a goat for the first time (our chocolate lab). We watched them for a few minutes and went on our way.
We find Fungis. It's sort of like a restaurant back home except for the water of course! We sat at a table right next to the clear beautiful sea and we could believe that we could see 10 feet down to the bottom! It's as clear as a pool! We order a few drinks (rum of course) and we order dinner. I got a chicken wrap and Darren got a chicken dinner. Both dishes were to die for! We ordered off the local menu not the American food menu. My wrap had curry and potatoes in it with a mango chutney sauce to accompany it. We enjoy our dinner and we talk about our feelings on moving to STT. We were a little discouraged because "town" seemed a little dirty and the hotel was nothing like the hotels in the states. But, we both agreed that we were tired and we needed to keep an open mind. We would go back to the hotel, go to bed and wake up the next day nice and fresh and re-evaluate our feelings.
We stopped in Red Hook on the way home to get ice cream. Red Hook is cleaner, more our style, we like it here, could be a possible area where we could live.
We woke up Thursday morning @ 6 am. The mornings in the Caribbean are so peaceful and beautiful. Of course we need coffee (still no word on the room transfer). We jump in the jeep, still very tired. We go to Beans Bytes and Websites (we were told about this place from someone that posts on the USVI Moving Message Board, thank you!!) It's in town. It's located in a very cute historical building, brick walls inside, doors open to welcome the cool trade winds. We order our fav from Mary (the owner) we ask her a few questions about Island living. She said that it's "different" food is expensive, it's just more expensive all around. She's lived on the island for 8 years (I think, cant recall exactly) she told us that it's hard to go back to the states after being on the island because it's so fast paced and overwhelming. Looks like we can jump on line and check email here. We're not ready yet though, need a break from that. We pick Mary's brain a little more. What part of the island does she live? North she says, it's cooler and not as populated. We pick up an Island Trader and a VI Daily News so we can get an idea on rentals. We leave to go check out Gold's Gym. We notice that the cruise ship has docked, it's going to get crowded soon. We meet Jack at Golds, nice guy, has live on STT for 12 years, he came from Texas (could hear it in his voice). We looked around the gym, it's nice, good equipment. Best part is the treadmills face the sea, what a feeling to be able to run while gazing at the gorgeous water. Off to grocery shopping!!!
We go to Pueblo in Town. It's ok, nothing special, we see that some things are more expensive, not horrible though. We get the essentials and on our way to the meat isle to get chicken (thank God we don't eat beef or pork, it's disgusting down this meat isle!). We were VERY disappointed with the selection of chicken. We pass on buying meat there, we'll have to try to it it somewhere else. On our way to the hotel we spot a health food store, more our style. We meet Doug from Seattle, he's been here 18 years, lives in the Magens Bay area, very nice guy- tells us that there is more water availability on the north-side. 2 good things about the North-side now. After picking Doug's brain we arrive back at the Flamboyant Manor, the office is open and we're able to transfer rooms!
Karen the owner of Flamboyant Manor is very sweet and laid back! We get situated in our new room (it's 2x the size as the other and the balcony is 4x the size as the other). It's about noon now, we head to Magens bay to catch a little sun and relaxation, we need it. This is our first trip to the North-side of the island. It's like night and day from the south. The drive is breathtaking! Mom would love it here! The water is so BLUE!!! We had a hard time concentrating on the road because the view is beyond beautiful!
We arrive at Magens Bay, get our towels spread out, put sunscreen on (we're so close to the equator) it's pretty hot out today (but nothing like Austin). I'm getting ready to go in the Sea for the first time, I walk in the water and feel no worries as my feet touch the sand. The water is refreshing, very cool! I jump in and when I come out I can taste the salt on my lips. I forgot how much i love salt water!! The sun feels good on my face, I feel at home when I'm in the water. Darren is laying on the beach, he looks so happy. After a relaxing afternoon we head to Red Hook for dinner. We decide to go to Duffy's Love Shack, it's cute, cool atmosphere and amazing food! I met a dog, let him kiss me, miss my babies back home. It gets dark early here (6:45). Enjoyed our first full day on STT, it's growing on me!
Woke up at 6 am again went to workout; had a good workout. Went to eat at Tickles by the marina, was ok, nothing to write home about. Darren decided to let me drive for the first time. Being behind the wheel of a jeep was the worst part about it. I really got the hang of driving on the left and the jeep thing I quickly got over. Driving is interesting here, people honk at each other to say hi, they honk at each other to say go ahead they do it to say F^&*% you....you just never know what the heck they're honking for. You get used to it after awhile. We stop at Gourmet Gallery, SO MUCH NICER than Pueblo! I highly recommend this grocery store! much cleaner and it compares to stateside grocery shopping much more! Groceries are expensive but I came to the realization that food is the most important thing for my body, I'll get what I need to maintain what I've worked so hard for, that's what's important to me so I don't care that I'm going to spending an extra $100-$200/mth on groceries. It's worth it to live on a beautiful island.
We're going to need to move to the island with more money than we originally planned. The original sum of $ would have been enough (more than enough compared to others) but we thought it would be wise not to tap into the big savings. We thought that keeping that aside until we were able to buy a house would be best. So, we are going to have enough to carry us through with or without jobs for 6 months. Our goal was to move in October of 2005 but now we're shooting for April of 2007. This will give us enough time to save the $, do this right and never move back to stateside. We don't want to make this big of a leap and fail.
Ok, so at this point we've decided that we need more $$ before making this big leap! We planned on making dinner at home so we got chicken from Gourmet Gallery but it's frozen so it will have to be another day so we nibbled a bit and then headed for the beach. On our way down Darren spotted an Iguana on the rocks, it was so nice to be able to stop and look at this beautiful creature that we don't get to see that often. He was just hangin out, catching some rays, he was so HUGE I had never seen anything like it! We hung out at the beach for a bit and watched another one of Gods amazing creatures eat dinner (the Pelican!) how they do it I just don't have a clue! After sometime spent at the beach we headed back to the room to share a few drinks and enjoy our view. We talked about how we're doing this the right way, while listening to the waves hit the beach and watching the pelicans do their thing! The Island is definitely growing on me. Before I forget to capture this- a lot of the foliage is exactly like Texas! Cacti, oleanders and even a few cedar trees! Very relaxing to look at, gives me a sense of home.
Saturday August 14th
Up at 4:45 to drive to the east end so we can catch the sun-rise. Finally after trying to find the perfect spot we found a vacant lot on a hill nestled in between 2 homes. We parked the jeep, watched the sun rise and enjoyed the beauty of a new day starting. After the sunrise we jumped in the jeep and porceeded to drive until we could find a spot for our morning run. We feel it's important to carry on with our daily activities as if we were truly living here. We find a resort near Fungis and decided that this would be the best place to park. As we started our run we saw the same heard of goats as before, it was so cute, they thought we were chasing them because we were running! We ran for 20-30 mins. boy, there are some hills on this island! Had a great run and it felt great! Afterwards we're starving! (all you runners out there know what I'm talking about) We decide to cut through the middle of the island on 40. There were many opportunities to pull over for pictures, it was breathtaking! You would look to the right and see nothing but blue water, look to the left and see nothing but blue water. I thought it would feel weird being on such a small island, almost like feeling trapped but so far it doesnt feel that way, maybe because subconciously I know I'm going home but who knows, I'm not going to read into it. I guess when you really think about it, everyone in the world lives on an island, some are just bigger than others!
We made our way back into town and stopped at Bumpas to eat. It's a small quaint restaurant in Town, looks like a father/son operation. Very cute, overlooks port, food was good! It was 8:30 and people were drinking beer! After breakfast we went to market square in town to pickup some fresh fruit and veggies. There were all different walks of life there. Locals drinking beer, people driving by playing loud music (remember, it's 8:30 am). Very different, I felt a little uncomfortable because we were the only tourists there. Everyone there was obviously local. They were looking at us funny like we were the plauge or something, but, I knew they didnt mean any harm, it was just odd for them to see tourists there buying their fruit and veggies because that's not a very touristy thing to do. So, we buy an avacado and a couple mangos, HOLY COW the avacado was HUGE! and, it was the best damn avacado I've ever eaten! After market we head back to the room to get ready for the beach. We've already got 4.5 hours of the day under our belt, it's 9:30 and half the island and probably just waking up! now I know why mom loves waking up early! You get SO much accomplished! Maybe I'll sleep on the beach a little, very tired:-) Later we decided to explore more of this beautiful Island. We headed to the north near Caret Bay and than South down to Crown Bay, didnt fall in love with any area in particular. Hull Bay was nice but seemed a little far from everything. Saw some crows, chickens and roosters, cute fellas! There were some really pretty roads along the way, stopped to take pictures. After driving most of the island we decided that we would be happy living near Magens Bay, Red Hook or Frenchmans Bay area, all are doable. We made dinner in tonight, too much eating out can really get to someone! As we were eating on the porch, the 3 ships carrying 10,000 people were leaving port, It was a little strange watching them leave, they came here, spent their money and now they're gone. I wonder if I'll feel strange or happy when I'm finally living here when I see the ships leave. Reminder: The days are short here. Sun comes up at 6 and gets dark @ 7 (a little before). I wonder if the days get shorter in the winter like in Austin- Question for you Islander!!!
Sunday August 15th
Our 4th full day on STT. We planned on going to St. John that day to be tourists. We thought it would be nice to get one last day of relaxation and fun in before the work week starts and our researching continues! We arrived on St. John at 11:00 am decided we were going to rent a scooter. I know, I know, it's dangerous and mom told me NOT to do anything dangerous since I've been so accident prone lately (house caught on fire at Christmas time and I totaled my brand new jeep 6 months later) so, I thought life is too short and I could technically die tomorrow, so why not enjoy today! So, we got the scooter. I was a little nervous because of the terrain on St. John but I knew that Darren would do ok. He's good at that stuff! We grab lunch (starving cause we eat 6 times a day) (not good eating habits on vacation, no way to eat 6 times a day on the go like this, must get used to it and figure out a way!!) After lunch we start our self guided tour of St. John. WOW what a beautiful spec of earth! The first beach we approached was Caneel Bay, the water was more blue and clear than the water in STT, how could that be? I couldn't believe it! We pulled over to take a picture but then decided there would be plenty of opportunity for pictures! We pull into Caneel Bay and see the Red tree that we keep seeing, we later learned that it's called the Flamboyant, how ironic. It's like someone took a paint brush and splattered red paint on a canvas! Amazing! We end up locking the scooter keys in the storage compartment, Rob the owner comes out, we apologize and he says "How horrible is it that I have to jump on a scooter and drive through a tropical island?, someone's got to do it" good point Rob!
We hit Hawksnest Bay, we decide to swim a little, it's a bit warm outside. The beach was full of locals, very calm water, clear as can be, like glass. Saw a few sting rays and jelly fish, what a life. Now heading towards Trunk Bay, wow roads are steep and windy, a little scary, if it's my time to go it's my time to go. Approach Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay both beautiful. We head towards the middle of the island and stumble upon Columbo Cafe. Very small motor-home built in the ground, cute. We stop for a smoothie, Darren has been chanting "Banana Smoothie" since we got here. So, we treated ourselves and it was nice to sit there and watch people come and go. Scrumptious! We end up meeting a guy from Virginia there, he is there for his son's wedding. We tell him about our dream to live on the islands and that we have had several near death experiences in our lives over the past 7 months and he tells us he has cancer and that life is WAY TOO SHORT to not live your dream. That really hit home. I've realized on this trip that I don't need a lot to be happy. I brought FAR TOO MANY clothes for this trip and I think I've worn 2 pairs of shorts and 2 shirts, probably wont even crack open the other suitcase.
Go to Coral Bay check out a few shops, meet skinny legs, great guy). Everyone we meet that has been on the island for a long period of time says that when they go visit the states they cant wait to get back, it's just too fast pace there for them.
Oh, the typical directions from a local is "go to that tree down there and make a left at the white house with the goat in the front yard, and than make a left where the donkey is". Somehow you just learn to drive the directions without knowing the names of the roads, it kinda just falls into place. You get lost, you turn around, it's not like you really can go that far!
We need to leave, head back to catch the ferry back to STT. Going to go look at some apartment/condos/houses the next day. Need sleep!
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