California Girl's trip report - a VERY LONG part 1

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California Girl

California Girl's trip report - a VERY LONG part 1

Post by California Girl »

I apologize for the length of this first installment and I promise following reports will be shorter :D

I will start with a little background. Two years ago, my husband, Rick was awarded a "free trip" to St. Thomas by his company for having high sales. The trip was to be Mon. - Thurs., but we were allowed to extend at the hotel (Marriott Frenchman's Reef) at our own expense, and we got the company's rack rate. So we went from Sat. to Sat. I knew NOTHING about St. Thomas except for the fact that it was one of those "fantasy" places where the "rich & famous" play, or you could go on a cruise there. It was certainly no place I ever thought I'd get to! I was incredibly busy in the weeks preceding our trip, including having house guests, so I didn't do any research and of course, I didn't know anything about this forum. I worked myself to the point where I actually got sick before our trip. The morning we got up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the airport, I told my husband I really should be going to the emergency room, but I pulled myself together somehow and we went to the airport. I mean, how often do you get a FREE TRIP to St. Thomas?! I knew I'd get well in a couple of days and I'd rather be in St. Thomas when I did! I did my best not expose my secret identity (Typhoid Mary) on the plane and I apologize to anyone who got sick because of me. It took us all day Saturday to fly to STT from Orange County, CA, arriving in STT at 10:30 p.m. When we got to the hotel, I went to bed and didn't get up until Monday! We tried to go shopping in Charlotte Amalie on Monday, but after an hour, I had to go back and lay down again. It was just awful! By Tuesday, the company program was beginning and I was starting to feel normal again - I guess I just needed to rest. From that point on, every minute of our day was planned and we certainly didn't see much of St. Thomas, other than a nice view of Magen's Bay from the St. Peter Greathouse. On Thursday, everyone else had to go home, but we weren't leaving until Saturday, so that left us Friday on our own. One of the other participants on the company program said they'd taken a ferry over to this little island called St. John and we really should check it out. So we went to the hotel concierge and booked a little tour. I think we were probably the only people not off a cruise ship that day on that open bus with the red-striped seats. At the hotel, they said we'd see Trunk Bay, but never mentioned we could go IN it, so we didn't wear or take our suits and sat at a picnic table and stared out at that turquoise water for 2 hrs. I wonder to this day why I didn't just go in in my clothes? In spite of everything having to do with our tour group (yikes! I hope I never see ANY of those people again!), it was an amazing introduction to what would turn out to be my paradise. It was just like that place with the turquoise water on the poster I had hanging over my desk in the 80's, and that I longed to go to someday! I was hooked for life on that little tour, and I started saving my money that very minute so I could go back on my own terms someday. My initial reaction, of course, was to sell everything we own and move down there - HA! I had it BAD! So I read the Settler's Handbook and Desiring Paradise and revised my thinking to keep that beautiful place as my escape, not my job. While researching moving down there, I stumbled on the VINOW relocation forum and somehow from there, I found my way to this forum and here I stay. :D Our trip to St. John would not have been nearly as good without the information that everyone here has shared with me over the past 2 years.

Now... on to St. John!

I booked our flight on American Airlines for an 11:45 p.m. Friday departure out of Los Angeles because I didn't want to waste an entire day flying, arrive at night and try to find our way to a villa on St. John in the dark... even if a villa rep DID lead us! We'd probably wake up in the morning and wonder where in the hell we were! Leaving at midnight got us into STT at 11:15 on Sat. morning - perfect! The flight plan took us from LAX thru JFK to STT. A good route I thought... not going through SJU. But in the weeks to come, AA moved our flight up by 3 hours and the way our plans were at that time, we would never have been able to get to the airport in time. So I called my travel agent friend, who had gotten us the tickets, and she was able to get our outbound flight changed back to the original time, but now we'd have to go through San Juan on the way down. Okayyyy. WHATever! In the meantime, my best friend, Sharon ended up deciding to come with us. Her hubby had no interest in going to St. John. NO INTEREST?!?!?!? Excuuuuuseee me?! Oh well, he's a little lame, but I still love him. He obviously doesn't "get it" and I doubt that he ever will. That much more Rum for meee!!! Sharon couldn't get on the same flight as us, but was able to get a good deal on Spirit, leaving LAX the same time as us, and getting into STT 2 hrs. after us.

Our connection in San Juan was supposed to give us about 45 min. between planes, but as soon as our flight from LA landed at SJU, the flight to STT was boarding! We made it, but.... our luggage didn't. Here is Rick waiting for our luggage at Cyril E. King Airport. This is not a happy man.


The agent at the airport told us that our connection was so tight at SJU that our luggage didn't make it, but it would for sure be in on the next plane at 12:30 or whatever it was. Ok, we had to wait for Sharon's plane to get in at 1:25 anyway and I've decided I'm on Island Time now. Note that one reason Rick looks so unhappy in the picture is because, as you might have noticed, he is wearing black sweat pants! EEEK! It was chilly when we left L.A. and we both wore sweats for cozyness and comfort on the plane. I had packed a pair of shorts in my carry-on to change into in STT, and I was sure I told Rick the same thing, but... Anyway, this man is DYING from the heat and they're telling us our luggage is delayed? I bet he remembers to pack shorts in his carry-on next time. :wink:

You may remember my angst on this forum about where could we stay and wait for Sharon for 2 hours when we arrived at the airport ahead of her. I received many good suggestions, and had decided we would walk over to the Best Western Carib Beach, but upon arriving at the airport, we found that the little snack bar/booze bar in the baggage area was very sufficient. That's where I learned to never order another Banana Nana ever again in my life! I hate artificial banana flavor, but silly me, I sort of expected a REAL banana in my drink in the Caribbean. Oh well. During our wait, Dr. Curly and his wife, Kathy showed up, I knew the Jorge gang would also be coming in right after Sharon. It was great to meet Tim & Kathy and we had a nice chat and a drink or two. Rick doesn't drink, but he was beginning to mellow-out a little anyway.


It was about then that the baggage agent showed up again and told us that the plane from SJU had come in but it was packed and they couldn't get our luggage on it! So I had to go over to the office at the other side of the baggage claim area and fill out paperwork so they could deliver it to us when it came in on the 3:30 flight! Poooor Rick in those sweats!

Sharon's plane landed on time and we said, "See ya later" to Tim & Kathy and got a nice air-conditioned taxi to The Greenhouse in Charlotte Amalie where we got a late lunch and I had another fruity drink of some kind. The hostess at the Greenhouse was very nice and let us stash all our carry-ons behind the little wall of the DJ booth. Let me say here that during our entire week in the USVI, neither Rick nor Sharon had one single drop of alcohol. They just don't like it. I, on the other hand, tried to make up for them to the best of my ability, but never actually got drunk, just a little fuzzy :D

We made the 3:00 ferry from downtown to St. John, but it was a teensy orange ferry. I was sort of planning to sit up on top of the big ferry and let the wind blow in my face while St. John came into view, but alas, the only outside seats on the small ferry were taken, and we had to sit inside on the starboard side. Not much to see out that side, but I knew where I was going to end up, so it was ok. I'm on Island Time now.

I had called our villa rep, Judy, from Caribbean Villas, while we were eating lunch at the Greenhouse to tell her we'd be on the 3:00 ferry and she said fine, but someone she was supposed to meet earlier had missed their Red Hook ferry and was coming in right after us, so she hoped we wouldn't mind if she was sort of in a rush. Ok, no problem, I'm on Island Time now, remember? She told us she'd be wearing turquoise pants and a white blouse and would meet us at the ferry dock. Well geeezzz man, it was a friggin' ZOO at the ferry dock and she wasn't anywhere to be found... and by the way, do you know how many people wear turquoise in Cruz Bay? EVERYONE! We parked ourselves in the shade on the sidewalk under St. John Kids so we had a higher vantage point from which to spot her. Finally after about 10 minutes I got on my cell phone and called her. At that very minute she showed up and all I had to do was tell her to turn around and I waved at her. At the same time, Ruth and Ron had come out on their balcony and when I saw Ruth I yelled up to her. She ran down and we tried to say "hi" to each other, but Judy was headed one way with Rick and Sharon and I was falling behind. So Ruth offered to show me where Courtesy Car Rental was and Rick and Sharon went with Judy in her car to meet me there - it was only about a 2 block walk. Thanks Ruth! You de-stressed me on that one! :D

I cannot begin to tell you how great Courtesy Car Rental is. I would never rent from anyone else! They are central to Cruz Bay (next to the police station) and you can park in their lot when you come to town. The parking lot is fairly easy to get into and out of once you learn to drive over the sidewalk like everyone else! :lol: There was only ONE time during the week that we ever found a parking place in town, so I was very happy to know I could always park at Courtesy. The initial paperwork went very smoothly and before we knew it, I was driving with Rick riding shotgun and Sharon was in Judy's car as she led us out to Coral Bay. During the drive Judy told Sharon everything we needed to know about the villa (Bayview) and the surroundings (like where the closest dumpster is), but when we got to the villa, she barely had time to let us in before she had to turn around and rush back to Cruz Bay for the next ferry. As we got out of our car we stepped into a literal SWARM of mosquitoes, and as we walked toward the front door I counted about 8 on Rick's arm between the sleeve of his t-shirt and his wrist, and about another 15 or 20 on his back. I knew I must look the same. We couldn't wait to get inside!! Judy explained that this was very unusual, but with the rain the preceding couple of weeks it was just really bad now. As she left us, Judy said she would bring us our luggage back up to us later, not to worry. I thought that was very nice, as I couldn't help but think about other "lost luggage" sagas here on the forum.

Ok, so now it's about 6 p.m. and we're hungry. Part of our delayed luggage is our cooler with all our snacks and such. I've got visions of Island Blues or Aqua Bistro dancing in my head, but Rick's hot and bit up and we're all tired and cranky. I couldn't wait to get our luggage so he could change into some shorts. We got tired of waiting, so Sharon and I drove down to Love City Mini Mart and got a bottle of Cruzan and some Pineapple/Orange Juice for me, some Sobe's for Rick, Gatorade for Sharon, and some tortillas and cheese. And this is where we bought that wonderful bug zapper racket thingie! The guy behind the counter was using one and we got a great demonstration and it sold itself to us! It's probably about the best $15 bucks I spent on the island that entire week! And as long as we were there, I drove us out past Shipwreck Landing almost to Miss Lucy's, just for a look-see. I couldn't just SIT IN THE FREAKING VILLA all night my first night on St. John!!

We made cheese quesadillas for dinner. Eventually we got a call from either some taxi driver or some baggage guy at the airport that I could barely understand who told us our luggage could be picked up. But we never could quite figure out where it was supposed to be. I called Judy and got her voice mail, so we waited and watched TV.

This wasn't my vision of my first night on St. John. My vision was all about sitting out on the deck with a candle on the table, grilling some steaks and listening to Kenny Chesney. Instead we were closed up inside because of the skeeters and we were watching CSI because Rick surely wasn't going out to dinner in the sweats he'd had on for the past 24 hours, and I didn't blame him. What's wrong with this picture?!

I was just getting ready to get the scissors and make Rick's sweat pants into sweat "shorts" when Judy called about 8:00 and said she was on her way up to our villa with our luggage. Hooray! When she showed up I tipped her $10.00 and then agonized for days over why I didn't give her $20 until my brain reminded me that I'd paid a 20% service fee to Caribbean Villas, and didn't this fall under the category of "service"? We didn't see or hear from anyone from CV for the rest of the week until our last day when they called with check-out instructions. I'm still feeling a bit of angst over the $10 though, because it was kind of late when she brought us our bags. Too bad the cooler was upside down. A lot of stuff got smashed. But I don't blame Judy for that. How hard does a soft-sided cooler have to be thrown at the airport or ferry dock to dent a large can of tuna that's packed under bubble wrap? And cookies? You mean cookie CRUMBS?? Oh well, they're pretty good sprinkled over ice cream. I'm on Island Time now, I refuse to stress.

A little more CSI, a shower and to bed at 9:00 to be lullabyed to sleep by the frogs and other night critters. It was a lot like sleeping in "the Tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tikiroom" at Disneyland. And I loved the harmony of the night!

Next installment: The villa and Sunday brunch at Miss Lucy's :D
Last edited by California Girl on Sat May 19, 2007 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by mbw1024 »

QUITE a start! I know it gets better. Can't wait for more!

note to self - shorts in carry on :)
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Post by Betty »

I was feeling a little down when I decided to look at the forum .... "Happy Dance" time for California Girl, Thank you for cheering me up with your trip report!
And remember ... No trip report is toooooo long! I could read them all night!
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Post by kellyanna »

More, more, more! Your report is great! Poor Rick in his sweats!
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Post by Bug »

That was a heck of a way to start your vacation but like a true forumite you handled it with alcohol and patience!!! You ROCK GC:D

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Post by mrsb »

I love the long trip reports. Sorry 'bout the bugs and the luggage. At least you got it that day and you guys looked very happy :D
When will I see St John again?

Post by obsessedmuch »

Great start! I would have not been able to hold out on cutting the sweatpants. I love the "I was on island time"- great reminder to refrain from panic and have a drink instead. :)
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Post by Pia »

Great start :) Sorry we didn't get to spend more time together - next time :wink:

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Post by Jan&MikeVa »

Ooohh, what a long travel day you guys had! I feel so bad for Rick in his sweats, that must have been tough.

You definately had the right attitude, Island Time suits you well.

Looking forward to more, and NO your report is not too long, it's just right!! :wink:

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Post by designbyroe »

I would have cut the sweat pants to shorts too.......
So since Rick does not drink, is she just real mellow?
I have not met many people that live or visit that do not have a cocktail or 2.........
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Post by cypressgirl »

What a great story teller you are!!! You had quite an ordeal just getting there. I'm laughting because we've had several first day mishaps.

I can't wait for the rest of story.
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Post by patr »

Great start CG!

The "island time" mentality really helps to keep a trip relaxing. It took a couple of trips before I fully understood that concept.

Anxouisly waiting for part 2 . . .

~~Longing to be back on St. John~~
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Post by cat »

Great report! Definitly not too long! Keep em coming!
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Post by SoCaTraveler »

Sounds great so far California Girl! I sent you a PM, by the way...
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Post by sea-nile »

Thanks for the great report! Your travel day is a lot longer than most of ours. I'm glad you got your luggage the first day. You should get Rick some zip off pants. :)
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