Treasure’s of St. Thomas USVI

Treasure’s of St. Thomas USVI

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Destination: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Date: November 2011

At Blackbeards castle, St Thomas USVI
November 2011

As I’ve mentioned before, the best vacation for kids is a beach destination.  Believe me I’ve done Disney, Sea World, Universal Studios and nothing compares to the ease of a beach vacation with kids.  I’m not saying those other trips aren’t fun but they are a hassle.  Lines, lots of cash, and organization are the necessities of amusement parks. Sometimes what everyone needs, including mom and dad, is a day, or a week on the beach.  Packing is also another bonus to beach trips.  There is so little to pack!  A few swimsuits, coverups and two extra “real” outfits are all that’s needed for a week trip on an island.

Bright and sunny day on the island of St. Thomas
All six kids, Bailey 13, Lexi 7, Bella 4, Leah 7, Clay 9, Colton 15
November 2011

For Thanksgiving 2011 we decided to take our kids to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  We made this decision based on the fact that we have a Marriott timeshare that we could trade for a week in a two bedroom, condo-type, room that fits eight perfectly.  So we packed up our kiddos, and with their small duffles on hand, we set off for Frenchman’s Reef.  More info on this location can be found on the Marriott website: www.marriott.com

Driving to the beach in one of our two cars
November 2011

One downside to visiting such a small island, during such a popular time of year, was that we could not find a car rental for eight.  So we did the next best thing and rented to small cars, in which Trent and I had to each drive to get our little army around the island.  It reminded me a lot of the movie The Italian Job, because we were in these tiny cars, on trepedous island roads, and running around the island like it was our own personal playground.  I should mention that though the cars are a standard left side drive, the roads down there are the opposite of what we have here in the US.  So either Trent or I would start off driving on the right side of the road, only for the other driver to follow and realize the mistake.  Then the following driver would start honking to get the first drivers attention, and get them onto the left side of the street.  It was a little white knuckle at times but we managed, and we all made it home safely.

The view from our hotel suite
November 2011
Once we were checked into our resort we were excited to see the beautiful views and get to our room to change into our swim attire.  The Frenchan’s Reef sits in a beauitful cove overlooking the Caribbean and it was beautiful.  One of the best moments was when we all got down to the pool area and noticed the large iguanas that collect down there.  Bella, who was four at the time of our trip, stopped quickly in her tracks and began screaming at the first sight of these small dragons.  There weren’t just two or three there were fifteen or twenty that roamed the bushes and sprawled out on the hot stone sidewalk around the pool, lounging like they owned the place.  Of course these iguanas were harmless and only caused me heart attacks when they saw a small crumb on the ground and went dashing for it every now and then.  I will say I wasn’t the only pool patron that let out a few shrieks!
Clay posing with one of the many iguanas found around the island
November 2011
At only fourteen miles long and three miles across St. Thomas is a small destination but there are many things to keep a traveler busy.  Our most favorite sight to see was Blackbeard’s castle, www.blackbeardscastle.com For $14 per adult and $5 per child, twelve and under, there are lots of things to see at this attraction.
At the top of Blackbeard’s castle
The kiddos pose with one of the pirate statues
November 2011
Bailey having a heartfelt conversation with this pirate
November 2011
Lexi posing with yet another statue
November 2011
Clay in the middle of this statue duel
Did I mention there were a lot of statues?
November 2011

At this one sight there’s Blackbeard’s Castle, The West Indian Treasure Company, The Rum Factory & Store, and  there’s life size pirate statues- even Jack Sparrow if your interested!  There are beautiful estates to browse, like the Pedersen Estate or the Haagensen House, and with the right tour guide these are fun and informative.  Our kids couldn’t get enough, and laughed imagining using the “toilets” they had in the homes.

Toilets found in the Pedersen Estate on St. Thomas
November 2011
One of the dioramas found on the tour
Clay loved it!
November 2011
One can never get too many of these kinds of pictures taken in their lifetime…
Bailey posing like always
November 2011

The gardens around this area are well taken care of, and since this is a tiered sight overlooking the bay we started at the top at the lookout post, and gradually made our way down the side of the hill toward the water.  Along the way there are many pools that most people think are just for looking at but once my kids enquired they found out they were indeed open for use, so my kids jumped in got wet, looked at another home or garden, then ran back to get wet again.  Since I don’t think many of the other tourists knew that the pools were open for use, I could tell they thought my kids were quite the dare devils.  For some reason I felt like I needed to explain to the other tourists that the pools were available for use, but my kids preferred letting them think we were breaking the rules.

One of the pools found on site
Leah wasn’t afraid to let loose!
November 2011
Bailey giving the statue of Jack Sparrow a little kiss, much to Colton’s distain
November 2011
Towards the bottom of Blackbeard’s castle there is also an Amber Waterfall and large pieces of amber that have been found on the island.  One in particular is for making wishes upon, and all six of my kids needed a chance to make their wish as we continued on the tour.  The tour lets out here at the amber store, where we could purchase anything we’ve ever desired made from amber.  
At the Amber waterfall at the bottom of Blackbeard’s Castle
November 2011
Bella making her wish on the amber stone
I’d love to know what she wished for!
November 2011
My kids weren’t too interested at the amber store and  wanted to get out to the local shops to do some negotiating and find a few trinkets and treasure of their own.
Even Bella had to negotiate the price of the doll she wanted to buy
November 2011
Looks like she was successful in her negotiation
November 2011
After a torrential rainstorm the kids finished their shopping and we were off again
November 2011

My favorite place to dine while we were in town was Iggie’s Beach Bar, www.iggiesbeachbar.com

We made it for the all-you-can-eat crab night and it was delicious.  They cook the crab right there on the beach, our table was twenty yards from the ocean and an island band was playing off in the corner for a very perfect evening with the kids.  Nothing is as relaxing as a steel drum band playing in the distance.
Lexi and Trent posing before dinner arrives
November 2011
Like I said we keep it very casual on the island and that includes not even doing our hair
November 2011

The kids loved running around on the beach, playing on the hammocks located on property, and keeping themsleves busy while we waited for our food. Once it arrived, we gave them the signal and they ‘d all come running back to the table to fill up.  There was no reason to even wear shoes for the majority of our stay in St. Thomas, see why I think a beach vacation is so much easier than Disney?

The hands on exhibits were pretty cool for the kids
Leah loved handling this starfish
November 2011
Another sight we decided to go see while on island was Coral World, http://coralworldvi.com  As the website reads “Come to Coral World Ocean Park and experience the beauty and magic of life under and above the Caribbean Sea. Stay dry while gazing into the ocean from 15-feet under in our Undersea Observatory or take the plunge “moonwalking” through ocean gardens with Sea Trek.
Lexi loved the shark aquarium
November 2011
See tiny seahorses, giant lobsters, scorpion fish and other fascinating sea life in the Marine Gardens. Or get in the swim with our playful Sea Lions. Enjoy the sounds and colors of our Rainbow Lorikeets or hand feed these sociable birds.”  I had to put their description into the blog because it really all does sound fantastic and with an open mind it is!  However, my kids are spoiled, as is any child who has ever visited a Sea World in the US.  Other aquariums and sea life encounters just aren’t the same in foreign countries.  Yes even the USVI does not count as truly being a US experience.
Colton gets up close to the feeding frenzy of the iguanas
This is enough to make me have chills!
November 2011
The best part of Coral World was watching the feeding time of the iguanas.  Though we thought there were lots of iguanas at our hotel pool, here the numbers were closer to the triple digits.  When the park workers came out with their lettuce scraps twenty or thirty iguanas would run to grab a leaf.  It was cool but eerie all at the same time.
All six posing for mom at the shark exhibit
It never fails that all six can’t look at the camera at the same time!
November 2011
 It was neat to see how hard these locals are trying to preserve something beautiful for future generations but it is going to take a lot of investment to make this site something that anyone would want to spend more than an hour observing.  That is basically what we did.  We got in saw everything rather quickly and then left to go to a beach.  Luckily my favorite beach on the island, Sapphire Beach, isn’t too far from Coral World.
Bailey and I enjoying a very relaxing Thanksgiving Day at Sapphire Beach
November 2011
This is why I love the beach so much… it seems to bring the best out of my kids
Lexi giving Leah a smooch, November 2011
Clay climbing the trees that were so close to shore on Sapphire Beach
November 2011
This may give you an idea of the shoreline by Sapphire beach
November 2011
All giggles as they played on the beach… Lexi says no more pictures
November 2011

Sapphire beach is located in a gated community but we just told the guard where we were going and he let us right in.  The beach life around this amazing beach is a little sad since it is surrounded by many foreclosed or out of business condos, restaurants, and drink stands.  The real pull to this beach is the beautiful beach line, the perfect amount of waves for the kids, and the trees so close to the water that I could keep shaded and still be apart of the fun.

Waiting patiently to board the ferry over to Tortola
November 2011
On board the ferry to Tortola
November 2011

One day adventure that we took while in St. Thomas was over to visit the neighboring island of Tortola.  Since this is a British Virgin Island we had to take our passports and board a ferry that would take us over.  After a short forty-five minute ferry ride we arrived in Tortola.  Right away, like usual, we waved down a taxi and negotiated a price for him to take us sight seeing.  Luckily it was a van with a very kind taxi driver and he took us to pick up a picnic lunch and head to a very beautiful beach, Long Bay West.

Clay enjoying the taxi ride to the beach
November 2011
The little girls loving the beach
November 2011
All the kids with Dad on Tortola
November 2011
Everyone is having fun jumping the waves
November 2011
Posing on the beach
November 2011
It was so beautiful with only about a twenty yard beach front and almost a mile of beach.  We sat up close to the foliage and the kids ran around and played in the surf.  The ocean shelf was long and wide and the kids could go quite far without being out too deep.  When we arrived at Long Bay West, it was only our family and one other little family there, for the entire three hours we spent swimming and playing.  We picnicked here and took lots of pictures while our sweet taxi driver sat over in the shade reading his book.  I think we were the best fare he’d picked up in weeks.  
Colton on board the Morning Star sail boat
November 2011
Lexi and Leah loved everything that has to do with sailing
November 2011
One other fun day trip we took while in St Thomas was over to St. Johns.  We decided to charter a sail boat with Morning Star Charters,  www.morningstarcharter.com  It was the best decision we made all week.  It was an amazing day!  Our captain was a good ol’ American boy named Mike and he was very kind to the kids.  He let anyone who wanted to captain the boat steer at the helm, and take turns letting others be his first mate.  Even when we arrived over to St. Johns and realized we had forgotten to bring our snorkel equipment he quickly pulled out his stuff and fitted the kids perfectly.
The three little girls swimming in from the sailboat in the far right corner
November 2011
Lexi and Leah were all outfitted to snorkel by our Captain Mike
November 2011
Bella was already to snorkel in St. John’s
November 2011
Once we were at St. John’s, about an hour and a half sail from St Thomas, our captain showed us where we could swim into the beach and relax, while he and his first mate made us an absolutely delicious meal on board the boat.  The kids, Trent and I all snorkeled looking for sea turtles, crabs, and fish while they prepared the best meal I have ever had on an excursion like this.  I’m being serious.  Most of the time I’ll get a dry sandwich wishing there was mayo or mustard around but never had I been given a warm meal of perfectly seasoned chicken and vegetables and corn on the cob with a roll.  It was so good that even my kids chowed down.  Of course weather in the Caribbean is unpredictable and we had rain and wind, only for it to dry up in ten minutes time, and another beautiful day reveal itself.  It was the perfect way to see the beach in St. John’s.  We also loved visiting with Captain Mike and received so many helpful hints and insights of St. Thomas.  By the time we left his sailboat we felt like old friends and our kids couldn’t resist giving him a hug goodbye.
A special night out with just the big kids, Colton and Bailey
November 2011
Another wonderful restaurant we ate at was Havana Blue.  Check out the website havanabluerestaurant.com, I think the website does a great job giving you a small taste of our encounter there.  This is for a romantic evening for two though we decided to let our older children join us while the little kids were having a pool night with the hotel staff in the kids club.  We enjoyed more island music in a beautiful restaurant that was on cliffside over the water.  We could hear the ocean hitting the rocks outside all of the open windows as the light linens on the windows fluttered a little from the ocean breezes.  It was a fun night for the four of us as we discussed the upcoming Christmas rush.  It will be one of my favorite nights when I think about this fun vacation with the kids.  Just being with Colton and Bailey as we all dressed up in one of the two “real” outfits we brought that week and laughed about our weeks events.
Three of my girls and I enjoying our time together
November 2011

Our Thanksgiving dinner was at a restaurant that wasn’t amazing and therefore has slipped my mind what it was called.  Of course like any place in St Thomas, the people were kind, and sweet, and so nice to our kids.  I think sometimes in cultures where family is valued so much they treat those with a big family with more respect.  The people, seriously, were so good to us.  We love our untraditional tradition of travel during the holidays.

Going to church “island style”
November 2011
We also had a great opportunity to spend a Sunday on the island where we attended church before our flight home.  The kids love to visit other congregations and see so many similarities but yet still a few differences like no air conditioning, boys in sandals and things they aren’t used to seeing in the states.
Our attempts to get a good family photo taken on the island of St. Thomas
It proved to be very difficult since we didn’t have a photographer, only the timer on my camera!
November 2011
This Thanksgiving, 2012, we will enjoy an unexpected stay here in Texas as we get the chance to celebrate with Trent’s family.  Yes all forty!! It should make for a very exciting holiday week and I’m excited to catch up with them all, and watch my kids rekindle their friendships and recommit to better contact in the future.  However, I’m sure maybe just every now and then, through all the hustle and bustle of so much family, I might just find myself imagining a hammock, ocean side in the beautiful island of St. Thomas!
When I think of my kids this is the perfect picture that comes to mind
Our last day on island
November 2011

Be Safe and Happy Travels!

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