Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Paradise Found

We're back! Our honeymoon on St. John, USVI was more than perfect.... it relaxing, romantic, adventurous, and refreshing. We weren't even aware of Tropical Storm Olga, even though there were plenty of remarks from locals that the amount of rain and wind was unusual (but there was plenty of sun everyday). Of course, now the hard part is getting ready for the holiday season and being back at work, but I'll give you a peak at our vacation before I get back to reality....

We bounced around quite a bit on St. John for only being there for a week. We rented a Jeep, which was a good move, but watch out, the roads are crazy steep and narrow in places (plus they drive on the left....)! For the first two nights, we stayed on the less populated southeast side of the island at Estate Concordia. It is part of a larger eco-resort (we stayed at the other one the next two nights, Maho Bay). We stayed in a studio that was solar and wind-powered and built from recycled materials, how cool! There is even a natural garbage disposal, hermit crabs living on the hillside (guests were encouraged to put there food waste out for them)! The only downside is that there really was no hot water for showers, but that seemed like a small price to pay for this view....

We arrived late that first night but got there in time to enjoy their cafe for dinner. I was so excited to read on their blog that the chef is interested in organic and vegan cuisine! No photos, but we had a wonderful salad (greens grown right on that side of the island!), grilled tofu, and jambalaya stuffed red peppers over polenta with green beans. Definitely one of the best meals I had on the island. I would highly recommend staying here if you're looking for some isolation from the rest of the world and some seriously unspoiled beaches.

Our first full day we took a hike out to Ram's Head, the southernmost point on the island. Views were incredible and I was amazed at the blue blue water. Also surprised to see plenty of cactus, but I guess this was the dry side of the island.
Afterwards we relaxed on Salt Pond Beach. Not very crowded and it was even a weekend. We had so much fun walking down the beach looking at the different corals, shells, and rocks on the shoreline (we're geo-nerds). What amazing variety.
After a beautiful day we drove into Coral Bay, a lazy, quiet "town" on the east side of the island. We stopped at a local bar for a few rum concoctions. John had a rum and Diet Coke while I chose something a bit fruitier, a raspberry rum colada. This is what vacation is all about....
Next was dinner at a restaurant called Sweet Plantains. We had stopped by earlier in the day to inquire about vegan options and the owner was more than helpful. To start I had a pumpkin soup (no photo, turned out even more horrible than this next one). Then I enjoyed a West Indies curry with tofu and broccoli served with basmati rice and of course the restaurant's namesake, deep fried plantains, mmmm. The dinner was very enjoyable, so if you make it out to Coral Bay, stop by this family-owned restaurant!
The next day we set out for another hike on Reef Bay Trail (except we started from the southside), this one wandered through the forest into the central part of the island and ended up at some interesting petroglyphs made by Taino Indians. The rain got us a bit wet on this hike but by the time we returned to the beach (Lampeshur Bay), we had some more sun to enjoy.

I was surprised at the variety of animals we saw for such a tiny island. Of course, then we read that the only native mammal on the island a several species of bats (which of course we didn't see). What we did see was the following: donkeys, iguanas, honeymooning insects (open the photo and you'll see what I mean), mongoose, mini-hermit crabs, and chickens roaming around!

We then moved north to Maho Bay, staying in their Harmony Suite. The hot water was a bit improved here. But the number of stairs increased five-fold! It was a good workout getting down to the beach, but especially getting back up (my hamstrings are still tight). We had a bit of a rainy day, so we slept late and then lounged on Maho Beach and did some reading before eating dinner in their cafeteria (I finished reading The Good, Good Pig and highly recommend it. Let me know if you want to borrow my copy! Haven't finished the other two I brought along). They have a vegetarian option every night (overall, the island was very vegetarian friendly, of course, this does not always mean vegan), and the theme for the evening was Caribbean cuisine. Luckily it was a vegan meal, vegetable roti topped with a red pepper sauce served with rice with lentils and some more fried plantains. I took a picture, but it was really horrible. I think if you give the cafe advanced notice, they can accomodate vegans even on Italian (= lasagna with cheese) night.

The next day we drove west to Cinnamon Bay to enjoy another beautiful beach. Right away we noticed how protected from waves all of the other beached we had been to were compared to this one. Supposedly you can surf at this beach during the right season. There is also an archaeology center that has information about many of the native cultures on the island, which was fun to read about.

Across from Cinnamon Bay are the Cinnamon Sugar Mill ruins. Here we went on a short walk that included interpretive signs discussing the history and plants and animals on the island. Our hike got cut a bit short by some rain. We had fun running through the forest getting a bit wet.

That night we drove into Cruz Bay, the main city on the island (though still very small), for dinner. I had searched St John on Happy Cow for vegan restaurant options and the only one that popped up was Satyanuma. So we gave it a shot.... sad to say it was pretty disappointing. It is more of a takeout place located in an outdoor mall, no ambiance at all. I can forgive that, but the food was pretty awful. I had a pineapple tofu curry that was poorly reheated, had no flavor, and the rice seemed like it was glued together. John's dinner was slightly better, really the only good part was the falafel (and it was deep fried, go figure). The hummus tasted like nothing and the salad was unimpressive. Bummer, I was expecting more.

After our last night at Maho, we moved further west on the island to Caneel Bay. This was our splurge for the last few nights of the honeymoon. We decided it was worth it (although, if we return to the island, we will likely stay at Concordia as our first choice). It was nice to have drinks on the beach and lawn chairs to relax in. Here is a view of Caneel Beach and the incoming ferry.

We also walked over to Honeymoon Beach (how appropriate?) and spent some quiet time there near the end of the day. There was almost no one around, perfect for honeymooners :-) I took some photos of our footprints in the sand that I thought were somewhat artistic.... (at least for me)

Our first dinner at Caneel Bay was at their fanciest restaurant, Turtle Bay. We called ahead so they knew a vegan was coming. Unfortunately, another disappointment. The meal wasn't bad (sauteed shitakes over plain plain plain tofu with broccoli and a grilled portobello), but it certainly wasn't worth what they charged. (we also ate at their casual restaurant one night, I had a reasonable pasta dish with veggies)

The next morning we had our first official breakfast on the island (most of the time we woke up pretty late and I would just snack on Luna bars anyways). Fresh fruit, english muffin with apricot jam, and soymilk! It was a delicious start to the day. Too bad we forgot to check prices before we ate, needless to say this was the only breakfast dining we did at Caneel.


The most famed beach on St. John is Trunk Bay (pictured below). It was certainly the most crowded, but the views were spectacular and the snorkeling was good (so John tells me, it's not my thing).

That evening we went on a sunset cruise, a wedding gift from good friends of ours. It was one of most enjoyable evenings. The crew (a couple living on their boat) was friendly and we enjoyed the conversation. Most of all, there was an amazin sunset and beautiful views of St. John and the surrounding islands. We even saw the official beginning of the Atlantic Ocean!

For our last dinner on the island, we tried Caneel's third restaurant, the Equator (near some interesting sugar mill ruins). Luckily, the third time was the charm and I enjoyed the curry dish with lentils, tofu, and various veggies. I think my favorite was the balsamic glaze that was on the plate, I sopped up as much of it as I could!
We were both sad to leave St. John, I think we both could have used another week of relaxation. I am sure we will return to St. John someday though. At the end of the vacation I wrote down a long list of moments to remember on some Caneel Bay stationary and sealed it up (not showing John). We will open it on our one year anniversary, Sept. 23, 2008, to remember all the special moments of our honeymoon. :-)

(I thought this was photo-worthy of next year's holiday greeting card.)

25 comments:

Chris said...

Hey those pictures look very familiar! Ram's Head, Reef Bay Trail, Trunk Bay, the steps from Harmony, sugar mill ruins, wild donkeys (did you see the crazy goats too?)... Our honeymoon photo album looks very similar. We stayed the whole time at Harmony (and also a night coming and going on St. Thomas). We weren't totally vegan back then so for food we mostly just had whatever veg. option they offered at Maho, though we did have something decent at a place in Cruz Bay.

Anyway, I'm glad you had a good time!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Aww, I love the photo of you and your husband... and the other photos are just spectacular! What tropical storm?! It looks beautiful-- definitely looks like paradise to me!

Vegan*asm said...

Welcome back, I'm glad you had a safe trip. The island looks so beautiful. I wish I could have been in that deep blue water last week when the weather turned bitter. Looks like you guys had a great experience. Even if some of the food was a bit sketchy, it seems you lucked out with most of it. I looove plantains!

Tamara said...

I'm so glad you had a good time! Your photos and descriptions make me want to go... not sure how much fun it would be with a two-year-old though. :-) Maybe in a few years.

Anonymous said...

Hi Amanda! Glad to hear you two enjoyed the Island! I love all the photos, espcially the one of you and John. The hiking swimming and cruise sound wonderful! What a paradise! I love your list of moments for you both to read next year.

love, Linda

aTxVegn said...

Oh, I'm so glad you had a great time! The pictures are wonderful and you look so happy.

VeggieGirl said...

welcome back!! I've missed you and your posts!! :0)

wow, between the delicious, exotic food, and the picturesque surroundings, I am quite envious of your trip - it certainly looks like you and your husband had a lovely time!!

LizzyQ ~ Vegan Mother said...

You make me wish I did a food blog when we were on our honeymoon in Jamaica! Looks like you had a great time, welcome back!

the pleasantly plump vegan said...

yr honeymoon pics are amazing. i especially love that mini-hermit crab . . . too cute! i'm glad yr back (and blogging) and that you had a great time!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Welcome back! Everything is SO beautiful, I'm glad you had a wonderful time. I'm always shocked by the price of fruit platters when I travel! That's a great photo of you two as well!

Veganista said...

WOW, gorgeous pics. That beach just looks amaaazing. So glad you had a wonderful time. Hmm, maybe I could take a second honeymoon sometime?!

Ashasarala said...

Welcome back! That sounds like a fantastic time. The pictures show it too. =) The scenery is so beautiful.

Yeah, sometimes it's hit or miss with vegan dining, but it makes yummy stuff that much more exciting. ;)

By the way, I love the footprint picture. It looks postcard worthy.

Kumudha said...

Beautiful pictures! I'm glad you could find vegan-friendly restaurants!

Ruthie said...

So cute...

*looks at ice and snow out the window*

So... jealllooouuusssss.....

Jill said...

Your pictures bring back great memories!
4 years ago my husband and I got married on St John. We had 17 people at our wedding and they all thanked us for choosing such a beautiful yet adventurous island. We stayed at the Westin and can't wait to go back for our 5 year anniversary.

bazu said...

Welcome back! I'm glad you guys had such a beautiful honeymoon.
I don't know where to start with how much this post rules- the views, the sun, the food, the animals... ahhh. I just want to say thank you for bringing a little bit of the tropics to our December... I'm taking lots of notes for this summer!

Anonymous said...

Loved looking at the pictures and reading about the honeymoon. Can't wait to see all of the pictures at Christmas and hear all the details...well maybe not all. Afterall, it was your honeymoon. MOM

textual bulldog said...

Welcome back! It looks like you guys had a wonderful time in paradise :)

Tracy said...

Oh, I am soooo jealous! What an incredible experience! You've made a memory that will last a lifetime. Congrats to both of you.

the little one said...

First, your picture of the footprint in the sand is very artistic. Kudos.

Second, aren't you quite the romantic? Notes to open on your 1st anniversary? Wow. Very sweet.

In general, glad to have you back and super happy you had such a wonderful time!

jd said...

Well, color me jealous! It looks like you & your hubby had a fantastic time on your honeymoon!

Your pictures are gorgeous - they almost make me feel like I went on vacation, too! (I especially like the grouping of animal pics - that tiny little hermit crab is adorable.)

And the food looks great, too!

Thanks so much for sharing :)

Mihl said...

Welcome back and thanks for sharing those gorgeous pictures! I am jealous too but I am glad that you and hour husband enjoyed your honeymoon so much.

Veg-a-Nut said...

Welcome home and I am so glad you had a wonderful time! Everything looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing your wonderful time with all of us!

vko said...

What a wonderful trip- so glad that you had such a beautiful honeymoon! That picture of you two is just utterly sweet and your sealed letter is a lovely idea.

What a gorgeous place and so vegan friendly- definitely paradise and I want to check it out one day!

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I enjoyed your pictures and reading about your vegan St. John experience! It brought back memories of my trip there.