A Travellerspoint blog

St. John Day 3: Limin' Out

It was another pretty early morning as we had a full day boat charter that departed from Coral Bay on the other side of the island. It was a curvy drive over with surprise pockets of rain showers as we went up and down the large hills. We arrived at the marina and boarded the Busy Bee with our captain, Justin. We took Dramamine ahead of time but Melissa was still concerned about getting seasick so we asked Justin to take us to snorkel areas that were on the calm side.

Our first stop was Flanagan's Island, a nature reserve for birds. I suited up and jumped in the water to swim towards shore. I was looking down, messing around with the camera and almost swam directly into a huge jellyfish. I was able to put the brakes on and snap a picture as it floated downward.
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I made it to shore and walked around a bit but there wasn't much to see so I didn't stay long.
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Underneath the water, this site had some rock formations and canyons that I don't often get to see as a snorkeler. The topography was very interesting but there was a swift current and I had to be careful not to get bashed against the rocks.
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Our next stop was a shallow bay called Newfound Bay. This was supposed to be a good place to see turtles and rays but unfortunately, I didn't see either. I did almost run into yet another jellyfish.
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Someone lost their boat in this bay.
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Large school of blue tang.
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Small red fish in the center is a squid.
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Our last stop was Pelican Rocks, a snorkel spot that is widely acclaimed online. I guess it was an off day because I saw almost nothing there. The coral was in decent shape but the fish life was non-existent. We didn't stay long. We were getting hungry by this point and Lime Out, the floating taco bar was calling our name.

We started heading back toward the marina.
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We passed the USVI version of Section 8 housing.
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Then pulled up next to Lime Out. I've never seen anything like this. It's a completely floating taco bar. You pull up in your boat, anchor, and then swim over to the bar or they can deliver tacos to your boat.
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We opted to swim over where there were 2 options:

Floatie tables
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Or the swim up bar
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We sidled up to the swim up bar where we sat on stools that were completely submerged and ordered our tacos.
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The short rib tacos were amazing. Truly. I thought this was going to be a tourist trap but they really use fresh ingredients and make great tacos.
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Justin took us on a brief tour of the marina after our taco fix. There were a lot of interesting boats anchored there and still some hurricane damage from the double effects of Irma and Maria. We opted to cut the day short an hour early since we were done snorkeling and had enough sun for the day.

Leaving the marina, we came upon some wild donkeys.
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We returned to the condo for our usual routine of getting cleaned up for dinner. We didn't have reservations anywhere so we called Chico and asked him to drop us off at Mongoose Junction where there were several options. After a short wait, we got a table at Greengo's, a Mexican restaurant and ordered a couple of drinks.
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The drinks and the queso were good but the chips were stale and my enchiladas were terrible. It was made worse by the garbage/sewage smell that wafted thru ever so often.
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We were exhausted after our long day in the sun so we called Chico and he took us back to the condo. We found a good series on Netflix to binge during the rest of the trip but I think we only lasted through one or two episodes before falling asleep.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:54 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

St. John Day 2: Turtle Time

We were both awake relatively early the next morning which was planned but also happened on its own since we'd gone to bed early the night before. We threw on our bathing suits, made some sandwiches, packed the cooler, grabbed our snorkel gear and chairs/towels (which were provided by the condo), and made it to Maho Beach by about 915a. This is a beautiful little beach right off the road on the north side of the island. It's famous for its turtles which we were hoping to see.

As part of trip planning, I read on Trip Advisor that there wasn't a lot of shade on St. John beaches and since they were currently more crowded than usual due to COVID, we needed to get there early and carry our shade with us. So I bought a Neso tent...a tent that is supposed to be easy to set up on the beach and stay standing in the wind. It even had cute pink flamingoes all over it. Needless to say it was neither easy to set up nor stay standing so we gave up and used it as a beach towel.
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Maho beach is stunning and set between green hills on both sides.
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I was pretty antsy to get in the water so we donned all our snorkel gear and set out. This was Melissa's first time snorkeling. I have an extra set of gear and I taught her the basics in the pool at home. Unfortunately, she didn't enjoy it and after seeing a couple of turtles, she swam back to shore. I stayed in and swam across the bay and back. In total, I saw six different green sea turtles.
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This guy was underneath a boat that was anchored. There was a man sitting on the boat with his leg hanging out into the water. I ran right into him while watching this turtle go up and down for air.
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I made sure to get some pics of the topside from the water.
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Then it was more turtles.
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I watched this turtle for a while and learned something new. When the cleaner fish attach to the back of the turtle, they do so upside down. They swim up, turn over on their backs, and attach.
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I got my fill of snorkeling and started to get hungry so I headed back to shore and we had our picnic from the sandwiches, dip, and crackers we brought with us. Across the street was a drink truck where we also got some rum punch.
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We spent the rest of the day alternating between beach and water. It got a bit more crowded after lunch and by 3p or so, we were ready for some a/c. We stopped at the overlook on the way back to the condo. This would end up as my favorite beach and favorite view on the island.
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After we got back to the condo, we cleaned ourselves up in order to walk into town for drinks and dinner.
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Just by our front door was a back gate that led to the road into town.
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It also led to the big hill which this photo does no justice at all.
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We made our usual stop at Beach Bar for BCBBBC and sunset.
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Then we walked down the waterfront to Morgan's Mango for our 8p dinner reservations. It was Saturday night which was supposed to be lobster night but unfortunately, the fishermen didn't catch any lobster that day. So we started with the ceviche.
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Melissa had coconut shrimp and a salad.
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I had whole red snapper.
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After dinner, the thought of walking up that hill was just too much for either of us to bear so we called Chico, the taxi driver recommended by our leasing agent. For $10, he took us the short way home. It was the best $10 we could spend.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:51 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

St. John Day 1: We Survived the Ferry Boat

Some time around May 2021, at one of our pool Sundays, my friend Melissa and I decided we needed a beach vacation. Because of the pandemic, I hadn't been on a "real" vacation in two years and it had been even longer for her. We didn't want to deal with COVID testing to re-enter the US so we chose another of the US Virgin Islands, St. John. With only a couple of months to plan and what seemed like all US travelers making the same plan, the pickings for lodging were slim and reserving a Jeep was even slimmer. I finally found a nice little condo in Cruz Bay and a very expensive Jeep on St. Thomas.

As with our trip to St. Croix, we had a somewhat early morning flight so Melissa came over and spent the night before at my house. We had enough time at the airport to grab some coffee for Melissa and some McDonald's for me before our 9a flight. Five hours later, we arrived on St. Thomas. The Jeep wasn't ready when we arrived but after a semi-short wait we loaded everything into our dark green Jeep and made the 30 minute drive to the St. John car ferry.

This was the most nerve-racking part of the trip for me...backing the Jeep into a tight space on a bobbing car ferry. Ugh. We had lots of direction.

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We made it as the last car on the boat and they raised the ramp.

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We enjoyed the fairly smooth 20 minute ride over to Sl. John.

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We arrived on St. John around 5p and it was a short drive to our condo where we met the leasing agent who gave us a tour. It was only a one-bedroom but it was convenient, clean, and new. Ours was on the second floor.

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This trip, no grocery store run was needed. I used a service on St. John where you place an order for your groceries ahead of time and they stock your kitchen for you. It was a smart move. I had made dinner reservations for most nights on the island since it was more crowded than usual with tourists and COVID had created a labor shortage. Tonight was a reservation night and it was for 7:30p at Banana Deck. We had some time to kill before then and we were craving our first island drink. We made the relatively short walk into town to Beach Bar.

The walk to town started off walking down a very long, very steep hill then up a shorter, less steep hill to arrive at the cemetery outside of town. Across the street, a peacock was hanging out.

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We arrived at Beach Bar and sat at the bar for our first island drinks. Melissa ordered a pina colada and I ordered what would become our nightly staple, a BCBBBC which was basically a pina colada with banana cream and bananas made with Blue Chair Bay rum. This was one of those places with good music, a sense of humor, and a beautiful sunset.

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Banana Deck was just across the street so we stumbled over after our drinks for dinner. We hadn't eaten since the early morning McDonald's so we were starving and tired. And Banana Deck was slooooooooow. We started out with conch fritters which they forgot about and then when we reminded them, they brought them out overcooked.

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For dinner, we both had the blackened shrimp and mahi mahi with broccoli and rice. It was fine but nothing special. Banana Deck would not get a repeat visit.

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After dinner, we both just wanted to go back to the condo and relax. Unfortunately, that required walking up that very long, very steep hill that we came down into town. We thought...how bad could it be? The answer is "always take a taxi back to the condo" bad.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:46 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

Sedona Days 4-5: Canyon by Foot

OK so we weren't really exploring a canyon and we weren't totally on foot. The title is a stretch but it fit in with the other two days so I went with it. We checked out of our cabin this morning and I wanted to do some shopping at Tlaquepaque shopping center. It's pronounced Tuh-lack-ee-pack-ee which is fun to say and makes me smile. We hit some of the jewelry stores and I bought a gold bracelet as well as the Christmas store for a javelina-themed ornament in honor of the wild ones we saw on our Jeep drive.

Afterwards we drove down the road to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built into the red rocks with a breathtaking view. It was originally commissioned to be built in Budapest but when WWII broke out, plans were moved to the current location.

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We did have to hike up a large, steep hill to enter the chapel (hence the "by foot") and see the view.

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This was our last stop in Sedona before leaving for Phoenix where we planned to spend two nights before flying home on Sunday. We stopped at the outlet mall and a few stores on the way to Phoenix. When we arrived, a friend of mine from home texted me to tell me we should consider changing our flight. Apparently a winter storm was headed towards Dallas and would arrive on the day we were scheduled to fly home. I called the airline and they were allowing free changeovers so we took advantage. We picked up some sushi from a nearby place for dinner and then left out early the next morning for our new flight. It turned out to be the right decision as the morning after we landed a snowstorm came through and grounded all flights for several days.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Sedona Day 3: Canyon by Air

Early to bed usually means early to rise and we were up fairly early the next morning for our road trip to the Grand Canyon. We drove through Oak Creek Canyon, a beautiful, winding drive through the mountains, with snow and ice on the ground in many places. We stopped just outside the park at an air facility so that we could board our helicopter for the flight through the Canyon.

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There were eight of us plus the pilot onboard and they seated us according to weight distribution. Alex and I were in the back behind the pilot.

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We flew out over the treetops until we could see the Canyon peaking out then flew through it for some spectacular scenery.

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We reached terra firma again and I wanted to drive to the Canyon rim itself for a ground level view. We stopped off at one of the first viewpoints in the park.

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I would have liked to walk along the rim trail for a bit but Alex was pretty cold so we decided to drive instead. We stopped off at the General Store where I bought my usual Christmas ornament and a t-shirt then drove a few miles to the Bright Angel trailhead. I got out and took some pics from the top of the very steep, very icy trail. This is the same trail that people use to ride mules down into the canyon floor which is something I've always wanted to do in theory. Reality took care of that for me!

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Before leaving the park completely, we had a picnic with the leftover burritos from the night before. They were surprisingly good leftover and cold! On the way back to Sedona we stopped off in Flagstaff at a few stores for Alex then headed back to relax for a while before our dinner reservations.

Dinner that night was at Mariposa, a beautifully lit restaurant high up on a hill just outside of town. We started off with the scallops and mussels with white wine, garlic, and chorizo.

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For our meals, I had steak with chimichurri sauce and a side of au gratin potatoes.

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Alex had the fish of the day.

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The food was incredible, especially the broth the mussels were in. Alex raved so much about it to the waiter that he got himself invited back to the kitchen. It was late when dinner was done so we returned to our cabin and called it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:40 Archived in USA Tagged arizona sedona alex Comments (0)

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