Reflections on our ...
 

Reflections on our first trip to St Thomas  

 

ChrisMI
(@ChrisMI)
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February 16, 2013 2:06 pm  

Thanks much too all of you who helped me out in my opening post about 2-3 weeks ago, where I mentioned that we found St Croix too quiet for us personally and wanted to check out St Thomas.

Random thoughts from our trip:

1. We continue to be surprised at how friendly people are here. We hung out with 'strangers' for hours every day, where people would just come up and engage us and we would end up hanging out on the beach together for hours. It's not just greetings, people are overtly friendly, welcoming, and engaging. Not only did we have a fantastic time as a result, we made some new friends (and got to meet and hang out with VISnorkler and her BF, which was really great) and learned alot about being a prospective islander. The people in the VI are just flat out generally better human beings than in the states, and by alot.

2. My wife fell hopelessly in love with St. Thomas within about 15 minutes of leaving the airport, as our taxi climbed to the skyline highway for our trip to secret harbor on the east end. She only half-joked that I couldn't make her come back to the states with me.

3. Rented a car and drove all over the island. I'm convinced the zero street signs and general lack of any helpful indicators on any street are just the result of a conspiracy among taxi drivers to ensure their bountiful employment. I delivered pizza for 5 years, I know mapping and have a good sense of direction, but that was something else. Trying to get from just west of Charlotte Amalie over the top to Mahogony Run I got lost, and ended up on a one lane road, up a 15%+ grade, facing 2 trailers with bulldozers coming down the mountain at me in the opposite direction. Tried to pull to the side, much yeling from them ensued (don't blame them), before I reversed back down the one-lane uber-steep hill. Drove back to Charlotte Amalie and took a taxi to Mahogany Run, and discovered an incredibly easier way to get there 😉

4. My car rental from from a guy named Andre on the east end - freaked my family out when he came to our hotel room to pick me up saying "give me your drivers licence and all your credit cards, and I want your family in here too, we'll be back in an hour". Suffice to say I went alone, and my wife wondered just a little bit if she'd ever see me again.......when she called after 15 minutes Andre said "yep, this is generally when they all call" You don't say....... In the end, Andre is a cool guy who has just seen so many banged up cars that he likes to spend about 30 minutes showing you all the dangerous intersections, curves, places to park and not to park, and other safely things to watch out for.

5. Went shopping at KMart - I was very impressed with their selection and prices. So much of what I read here made it seem like it was goign to be like the USSR in the 1980s with bread lines and ration cards. It seemed just like a nice big store that had everything. I kept accidentally banging into all kinds of other people's grocery carts and wondering if they were trying to somehow ram me on purpose, then it dawned on me........stay to the left......duh.

6. Drove my the housing projects just east of Charlotte Amalie -- didn't even realize they were "housing projects" - they were about the nicest I'd ever seen, the area was really well taken care of. One of our drivers, Stanley, said before the housing projects there were alot of shanties around, and once those were put up it put an end to "shantytown" and provided affordable housing for alot of people who were priced out of a place to call home.

7. All the houses we slected to look at (and there were alot) were in Nazareth, on the east end near Red Hook. We didn't "fall in love" with any of them, but liked the area. At the end, our Realtor told us that after really gettting to know what we liked he had one more house that was not on our list that we wanted us to see, but it was in a very different area, in Frenchman's Bay. Turns out my wife fell in love with the home, and I like it too. I always thought of Frenchman's Bay as being all alone out there, and not near anything (except Antilles school), but Nicole sees it the opposite way, that it is close to everything - from Charlotte Amalie to Red Hook to the golf course and the airport, all within a 20 minute drive.

8. My wife spent more time in the ensuing days going to Havensight, Frenchmans Reef, the marina, the Mariott, and other places around. She telIs me the area is "5 times better than Red Hook", but my wife generally defines 'better' in terms of shopping. In short, she has found her paradise, and I like it too, but am struggling with my inbred fear of change 😉 I was told by one fairly surly person to watch out for being downwind of the landfill - is that true? There's a good chance we'll be buying this one in Frenchman's Bay, so if anyone has any comments, positive or negative about the area I'd be quite appreciative.

Thanks,

Chris


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East Ender
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February 16, 2013 2:56 pm  

Dear Chris: I'm glad you had such a productive visit. The reason people recommend that you wait to buy is that you may find a house or an area that meets your needs even better. Frenchman's Bay is a great area. The only time you have to worry about being down wind of the landfill is when it is ablaze. Did you switch your idea about activities for your child? I still think that either the Magens area or the east end are better playgrounds. Not too many residents spend their time shopping at Marriott, Yacht Haven, etc. You will spend more time grocery shopping and K-Mart/Price Smart/Cost-U-Less shopping. Do you all golf? You might want to consider something in the Mahogany Run area.


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A Davis
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February 16, 2013 10:55 pm  

great trip report!

glad you had a beautiful time and got to see the island. you seem to have a good sense of humor. it will come in handy, as life here is far from perfect.

the selection for everyday shopping is not horrible, but being on an island, you will eventually meet a day when the one thing you really want, you cannot find and you cannot drive to another county to get it. still, not enough to wreck the day.

like most places, the majority of people prefer peace and friendship. but the screwface is always around somewhere. when screwface shows up just remember that screwface is actually outnumbered and let screwface have a moment. then move on.

you can also learn from people, even when they appear brusque, so pay attention to advice while reminding yourself to disregard the packaging. you will find pearls all around you.

thanks for sharing, and best of luck to you and your wife!

best to you,
anita.
"do the best that you can in the place where you are, and be kind."
--- scott nearing


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noOne
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February 17, 2013 1:11 am  

I grew up living in Frenchman's Bay. I never smelled the dump. It was nice to be able to walk home from Antilles School.


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blu4u
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February 17, 2013 3:22 am  

At the end, our Realtor told us that after really gettting to know what we liked he had one more house that was not on our list that we wanted us to see, but it was in a very different area, in Frenchman's Bay. Turns out my wife fell in love with the home, and I like it too. I always thought of Frenchman's Bay as being all alone out there, and not near anything (except Antilles school), but Nicole sees it the opposite way, that it is close to everything - from Charlotte Amalie to Red Hook to the golf course and the airport, all within a 20 minute drive.

8. My wife spent more time in the ensuing days going to Havensight, Frenchmans Reef, the marina, the Mariott, and other places around. She telIs me the area is "5 times better than Red Hook", but my wife generally defines 'better' in terms of shopping. In short, she has found her paradise, and I like it too, but am struggling with my inbred fear of change 😉 I was told by one fairly surly person to watch out for being downwind of the landfill - is that true? There's a good chance we'll be buying this one in Frenchman's Bay, so if anyone has any comments, positive or negative about the area I'd be quite appreciative.

First off. I really think you should wait before purchasing. But....since you asked, here my thoughts on Frenchmans Bay:
1) Will you be on the Antillies side or the BlueBeards' side?
2) Depending on the house and it's orentaion, you will get consistant breezes and views of the cruise ships.
3) If you are far enough off the main road the area is very peacefull.
4) good neighbor hood mix. Safe.
5) walking distance to antillies!!!
6) Do you like to exercise? check out the Marin Center, Spinning, Yoga, BB ball.
7) If you choose to send you child to antillies, you;ll have pleanty of afterschool playdates.
8) NEVER let your kids cross the road alone to get to antilles.
9) the water front area (aside from the hotel) is pretty rocky, a couple small islands, good snorkeling. Frenchman's Bay Beach is fabulous.
10) great location if you work in town.
11) one time share hotel. Not allot of tourrist rentals. A more "settled population", then the condo heavy white east end.
In my opinion Frenchman's Bay is one of the choice areas. I think that in some ways, Red Hook has "jumped the shark". I used to like the selection at Marina Market, but it just isn't the same. Red Hook parking is hellaious.
The layout of the house, the orientation, the design, the site are ALL very critical and will effect how comfortable you are and howmuch maintence you incurre. I know of a few houses in that area which are wood frame construction (not good) and spanish tile roof (not good). Please check out the house and it's mechanical systems carefully. Simple is ALWAYS better in the tropics.


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Exit Zero
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February 17, 2013 3:55 am  

I lived in Frenchmans Bay #1 in the 1970's - these days the traffic into and out of Havensight can be jammed up at morning and afternoon drive times - I do not find it convenient to Mahogany Run at all - probably easier to get to Ft Mylner area through Bovoni than going through Havensight and up Raphune Hill - hot in the summer but not as hot as Nazareth - nice views higher up - a better chance of rain for your cistern than out East - I doubt you will smell the landfill although there are fly problems on occasion - if there is a giant fire there it will be noticed but they are much better at that these days - easy beach time access - unless you are working in Red Hook you probably won't really be going there often but it is access able - not many big and broad leafed trees, mostly very scrubby bush but it is easy to have ornamentals around the house - depending on your destination pattern on a daily basis it is a fairly central location and unless the house exposure is west and south not too sunny and hot.

Buying a house before living here for awhile may be the least pragmatic part of your move.


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ChrisMI
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February 17, 2013 12:25 pm  

Did you switch your idea about activities for your child? I still think that either the Magens area or the east end are better playgrounds. Not too many residents spend their time shopping at Marriott, Yacht Haven, etc. You will spend more time grocery shopping and K-Mart/Price Smart/Cost-U-Less shopping. Do you all golf? You might want to consider something in the Mahogany Run area.

Thanks EE -- we kind of decided that unless we were going to live within a few houses of a public beach / hotel beach that we were going to have to drive to meet other people at the beach anyway, so if it was a 2 minute drive or a 10 minute drive didn't realy matter that much. I love golf, and our 4 year old like it a lot as well, but in Michigan we live right on a golf coure (the cart path comes literally within 6 steps of our pool), so if it's 20 minutes now to play when we're in St Thomas we're OK with that.

Very glad to hear you think Frenchman's Bay is a great area! I know the North side is beautiful, but in general, we prefer hotter and drier to cooler and wetter so the south and east ends of the island are generally more up our alley personally compared to the north end, climatalogically speaking.


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Alana33
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February 17, 2013 2:06 pm  

"we prefer hotter and drier to cooler and wetter so the south and east ends of the island are generally more up our alley personally compared to the north end, climatalogically speaking."

Wait until summer comes along and you get your first WAPA bill after extended A/C useage.
Be prepared!


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stt007
(@stt007)
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Joined: 11 years ago
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February 18, 2013 3:25 am  

Agree with alana33. I would put a high priority on north and easterly wind flows. So critical for daily comfort and wapa bills, esp in the summer doldrums.


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