Tomorrow, we have to leave and as with every trip to STJ, I’m sad. My heart doesn’t feel whole unless I’m here. We had another great day hanging at the beach, eating too much food and an afternoon by the pool with the iguanas and peacock neighbors.
We were considering getting cleaned up to go to town for dinner when my friend, Jenny, got a message from the villa managers saying that there was going to be a power outage soon. While this was common before the storms, it seems to be VERY common post hurricanes. We immediately jumped into action getting the kids, and ourselves, showered, gathering flash lights, getting water bottles filled, etc. We knew all too well that the power could come back on in minutes, hours, or days. Thankfully, everyone had showered and we were ready to go before the power outage hit. We opened all of our windows, thankful we were on a hill with a breeze, and made the short walk to town for dinner and limin’. Most restaurants and bars in town have generators, due to the frequent outages, and can operate normally when power is interrupted.
After dinner, we came back home to still no power. No worries, the kids enjoyed an Ipad movie in the living room by flashlight! Sometime in the middle of the night the power came back on. For a brief moment, I stopped sweating while trying to sleep. The next morning as we packed, WAPA struck again. We had no power as we packed up our things and started our journey home. After a quick breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing, we boarded the ferry back to St. Thomas.
After my tenth trip to the most beautiful place on earth, I can’t wait to go back! Feel free to comment with your thoughts on our trip, hurricane recovery or any questions you may have!
Today we rented a Jeep and drove to the other side of St. John to a sleepier town called Coral Bay. I LOVE how opposite it is from Cruz Bay in every way. As we drove the 8 miles over the windy curvy mountains of St. John, it was sad and beautiful to see how different it was. Arriving in Coral Bay we were met with the school’s ball field covered in various piles of organized debris. This was clearly the dumping ground from storm damage. It really was amazing to see how MUCH stuff had been cleared and placed here to eventually be moved off island. We went over to a pop up “Stuff Bazaar” that our babysitter told us about. It was right next to Pickles in Paradise and I got some cute hand made drawer sachets. We then HAD to make a stop at Skinny Legs. Skinny’s is a MUST visit and an institution in Coral Bay with its open air vibe and new roof! Thanks again to Kenny Chesney. Their chili dog, and pretty much everything on the menu, is so good and sooo messy. We also had to have some Key Lime Pie. I wish I had caught our waitress’ name, she was one of MANY people who thanked us for being there and for coming back.
We then took a drive past Hurricane Hole where so many boats were lost during Irma and Maria. There were still numerous boats in piles on the shore and one boat with only its bow sticking up above the water line. It was haunting and one of the most profound images that I will remember from the storms. We stopped at Hansen Bay Beach where another 50ft storm reminder sat on the beach. A popular catamaran named Kekoa was blocked on the beach as the owners repair the boat they built themselves many years ago. Their story is really awesome and I would encourage anyone reading this blog to look them up! Despite all the devastating storm reminders we had a great afternoon at the beach and snorkeling in the water.
Wednesday, otherwise known as “the day I saw Kenny Chesney from 5 feet away.” It was bound to happen eventually right? He has a house on the island, we visit as much as possible, Philip already spotted him once before. You would think it would be easy! It hasn’t been easy to see him while on island and you know what? I’m glad. It’s his haven, his place to unwind and I would never want to disturb him. However, if the babysitter calls and says he is gonna be at open mic night at Sun Dog Cafe at 7:45pm then you better believe I made my friends show up at 5:30pm! We had to get a good seat after all! Thankfully, Sun Dog Cafe serves a delicious Mahi sandwich in a beautiful open air setting as part of the twists and turns of a shopping complex called Mongoose Junction. Mongoose has many restaurants and shops intertwined with palms, flowers and beautiful stone steps. As many times as I’ve been there, I always get lost and I LOVE it. It is the coolest little shopping area on the planet.
Photo Credit: MongooseJunctionStJohn.com
Anyway, back to KENNY! We sat down at a little table and had some dinner while we waited. Open Mic Night was already going on with Miss Ingrid singing as well as another local named, Lauren, who hosts the Open Mic Nights. They both had amazing voices and made for great dinner music. We also had a visit from the neighboring table’s dog, who in one bite ate Philip’s entire sandwich bun. What a pig! Only in St. John was this funny and would result in a lengthy convo with the neighbors.
Then, as time was nearing, my very sneaky ninja friend, Jenny, quietly gets up from her seat and moves closer to where Miss Ingrid was singing. (Did I mention she is also the one that got the phone call about Kenny and had to convince us it was true for at least 20 minutes…she is sneaky like that!) Next thing I know, I am running up to stand beside her and out comes my favorite singer!! Right there!! Literally five feet from me. You know what? It was cool, like super cool. He sang only one song…Old Blue Chair…but I swear we were there for a whole concert. The audience of locals and visitors were all expressing their love, admiration and support for everything he had done for St. John as he sang. I could see healing in peoples faces. I could see their spirits lift and their smiles get bigger. It solidified what I LOVE about St. John and that is the people….and one of those people just happens to be Kenny Chesney.
For more information on what Kenny has done for St. John and the Virgin Islands thru his foundation, check out Kenny Chesney’s Love For Love City
Our first beach day we got in an open air truck taxi and headed to one of our favorite beaches, Maho Bay. It looked the same and different all at once. The sand and water were still every bit of amazing. The poor palms and other surrounding trees still have a little growing to do. There were several new baby palms planted near the picnic area.
While the kids played, I jumped in the water to go find my favorite Maho residents, the turtles. The bay is mostly grass and the turtles love it. I ended up seeing a total of six turtles most with remora catching a ride as well as some squid and pretty fish. It was an amazing snorkel day.
Checking out Cinnamon Bay beach was a bit more disheartening than the other beaches. Maybe it was all the disheveled tents you walked past or the snack shop and restaurant that were in shambles. At the end of the walk was more Irma/Maria destruction with the little archaeological museum that was literally no more. St. John has a way of making beauty out of ashes, though. Through the one still standing window of the museum were the gorgeous blue waves and the British Virgin Islands in the distance.
While at Hawksnest, a guy noticed Philips’ petroglyph tattoo and regaled us with his hiking adventure the day before. He said the 2.5 mile trail was as hard as it’s ever been, but with much less shade as you hike up and down the rocky terrain. He also mentioned, the waterfall was beautiful flowing over the rocks thanks to the recent rains. For more on the Petroglyphs and their significance to St. John go here: St. John Petroglyphs
I’ve been waiting since Sept. 6th for this day to come. Our original trip should have started on September 10th but Hurricane Irma ( and eventually Maria) had different plans. I remember being at work not focused on anything but what was happening to my beautiful little idyllic island that I loved. The pictures that first came out were horrific. The devastation seemed endless and overwhelming. Yet, when i stepped off the plane on Feb. 28th I knew it was all going to be okay. I could finally breathe and see just what some of the devastation looked like. It was AMAZING to see the progress in such a short period of time. I had so many emotions on the always breathtaking ferry ride over to St. John and as we got closer it still looked so beautiful and serene. As i learned throughout the week, however, its really not about the buildings and the palms and the gorgeous azure blue water. It’s ALL about the people. The people are why we continue to be drawn to this little rock, but more on the people later! Continue reading “Back to St. John”