Friday, September 24, 2010

The Best Adventures Yet...

As I said in my previous blog, up next was my mom coming to visit for about 10 days. She departed a few hours ago which I am sad about because she is a wonderful person to spend time with and I am very lucky to have her as my mom. We had a blast together and did some of the most fun, exciting, and adventurous things I've done since I've been here which I am happy to have shared with her.  Now I will share it with you...

We stayed in the beautiful villa that my landlord also rents out, so basically we were the only tenants of the whole place.  It had two bedrooms, a huge living area with a lot of wonderful paintings, a nice kitchen, and the best part was the enormous deck that has a spectacular view of the island, ocean, and other islands across the water (and is especially great when viewing sunsets).  We loved staying up there and really took advantage of the deal we got.

So the first few days my mom was here we did a lot of exploring (with me trying to be her tour guide).  We went on a hike to Salomon Bay which is one of the gorgeous National Park beaches, we relaxed on some of the other beaches including Hawksnest and Maho, we hiked up Peace Hill for a view that's indescribable, we enjoyed The Westin and their amenities, we went for walks (well, I consider them hikes because nothing is really a walk around here), we did a lot of cooking, we hiked the nature trail at Cinnamon Bay after watching surfers enjoy the waves (it's heavy here right now due to the storms out there), we went shopping, and probably the best part of the days were at about 6:30pm when we had wine, cheese, and watched the immaculate and always disparate sunsets.

Early on during her stay we also ventured off to the other side of the island and visited Coral Bay and the unique places it has to offer.  Our first stop was Skinny Legs, a must visit for a feel of how Coral Bay life really is.  It is this tiny open-air restaurant/bar that only serves burgers (and a vegetarian burger) and is the most laid back and relaxed place I've been to here.  It's a local favorite with lots of charm and character... bugs, friendly people, humidity, noisy televisions, the most delicious burger you'll eat while on the island (granted that's about my vegetarian burger but I have heard that about their other burgers as well), and donkeys that you'll pass on the way to get there.  After eating we went over to Salt Pond Bay and hiked around the edge of it to get almost to the most southern point on the island.  The draw to this hike of bush whacking and cacti avoiding is the amazing experience of "Coral People" once you reach the end.  People from all over have come to this coral ridden beach to build a unique person of their own with the random coral and debris strewn about.  It's one of the most fun things to do in Coral Bay, in my opinion, because it is so unique and something I've never seen or done anywhere before.  My mom and I built just the head of a silly looking coral man who has coconut husk for his hat and his mustache.  Even though the hike was a bit treacherous and ended with soggy feet for the rest of the afternoon, it was definitely worth it.

The next day was my birthday... and what a way to spend a birthday.  No alarm was set, my mom made me a delicious breakfast, we spent most of the day on Trunk Bay - always considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, then came back to the villa to watch one of the most amazing sunsets I've seen since I've been here while talking with family and listening to my nephews wish me a happy birthday in their sweet five and two-year-old voices.  Later we went to this wonderful restaurant called Rhumb Lines.  It had a very enchanting ambiance and I ate the most delicious vegetarian food that I've eaten in months, along with a guava margarita and freshly made key lime pie on the house.  We came back to the villa and skyped my dad so he could be a part of me opening presents, and then had loved ones on the computer, the cell phone, and in person sing happy birthday to me over one lit candle in the middle of a marble cheesecake.  It was heavenly.  What a great way to start off another year of life.

The biggest adventure that I've experienced since coming here came just two days after my birthday and was one of the best gifts I could have received.  My mom took me on a full day boat trip exploring the British Virgin Islands.   The beginning part of the boat trip was not too pleasant.  Due to all the storm and hurricane activity out there, the ocean was extremely rough and I spent the first hour feeling like I was going to vomit.  I have never been sea sick before but let me tell you, that was one of the worst feelings I've ever had.  Luckily, it went away once we hit dry land and then I never felt sick again on the boat rides throughout the day.  The first stop was The Baths on Virgin Gorda.  What an amazing formation of rocks.  They have such neat markings on them and the way they looked up next to the turquoise water seemed so perfect, it looked fake.  We were able to meander through the rocks and explore the caves while the ocean crashed up against it all and came pouring inside.  After Virgin Gorda we stopped at Scrub Island which is extremely small and has only one resort on it (which is about the only thing on the island) that has only been open for less than a year.  It was immaculate with lots of docks, a huge swimming pool complete with a water slide, beautiful fountains, and modern furniture.  We ate a delicious lunch there and then got to take a dip in the pool and venture down the water slide (I think my mom was the loudest screamer - awesome!)  We had a blast.  Then the boat took us to a nearby island to go snorkeling at a place called Diamond Reef.  The colors under the water were amazing.  I saw more colors of coral than I've ever seen and they were humongous.  There were also a whole ton of brightly colored and striped fish, so many at the time I was getting back on the boat that I thought they might be conspiring a way to get me back in the water for their lunch.  We had another long boat ride to our final destination of White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.  Perfect.  That is all I can say about that place.  I have never seen water the color that is in White Bay and I've never seen a whiter beach.  It was unbelievable.  That was our favorite stop.  There is no way to pull up to the beach so you have to jump off the boat and swim into it.  So, naturally, I jumped off the top of the boat which was a little terrifying but definitely worth it.  Once on shore, there are hammocks lining the palm trees that you are welcome to relax in.  So obviously that was what my mom and I did for the majority of our stay there.  I wish I had better vocabulary to describe the view we had from those hammocks and the amazing colors that we saw.  Again, simply perfect is the best I can come up with.  There are a few little bars along the beach, the most popular being the Soggy Dollar Bar.  It is named that because you have to swim in from your boat since there is no other way to get there, so all the people who pay for their drinks have "soggy dollars" which they will hang on a clothesline above the bar.  They also created the very popular drink of the islands called a Pain Killer.  It has pineapple juice, orange juice, coconut milk/juice, rum, and nutmeg sprinkled on top.  It's delicious.  It was created because people kept coming there asking for Pina Coladas at a time when there was no electricity, so he created a drink to be suitable enough to compare.  I highly recommend trying one if you get the opportunity.  So after buying postcards, putting them in a plastic bag, and swimming with my hand above the water back to the boat, we were headed back to St. John.  It was one of the best days I've had here and is one I definitely will not forget.

The last few days of my mom's stay mostly took place on beaches just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful views.  We went to some of the calmer beaches to float in the water and both of us did a lot of reading.  One of the last nights we went to this wonderful restaurant called Asolare.  It's considered one of the best, if not the best, restaurants on the island.  I can see why.  The menu changes daily based on the proteins that are available and what they have bought fresh at local farmers markets - local being inter-island.  They do not have anything vegetarian on the menu, however the chef will come up with something to make based on the local organic ingredients they have available that evening including the fresh herbs and vegetables from their garden below the restaurant.  I actually watched the host walk down to the garden and pick different ingredients while I was sitting at my table waiting for my meal.  That is how it should be, in my opinion.  The chef made us both port-glazed lentils with freshly cooked organic vegetables piled on top including yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin, and snow peas.  Thickly layered around the outside was the most delicious part of the meal... an organic baby carrot and Japanese sake emulsion.  Indescribably delicious.  We had an amazing time sipping delicious wine throughout the meal as well as eating a warm cinnamon glazed pear with vanilla ice cream for dessert, all while enjoying one of the best views on the island.  What a delightful experience and a wonderful evening to share with my mom.

When my mom left it was very bittersweet because I knew it had to come to an end even though my adventure was going to continue.  I was excited about getting to stay here longer, however it was really nice to have the company and to have someone to share my experiences with.  I am so thankful that my mom came to visit me and that we were able to do so many fun things together.  It will always be one of the best and most memorable parts of my adventure here.