Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thanksgiving with Friends in St. Thomas

Thanksgiving sunset from our patio at Secret Harbour

This was the 10th year that we have spent Thanksgiving on the island of St. Thomas with our friend Marty. It has become a tradition for us to miss the crowds at the airport by flying on Thanksgiving day and arriving in St. Thomas in time for a Thanksgiving dinner with Marty. This year we were up bright and early for our flight, which connected in New York. We arrived in St. Thomas soon after 1:30 p.m. We picked up our rental car, stopped for groceries, and were checked in to Secret Harbour by halftime in the Patriots/Lions game. Our room was a three bedroom this year, and it was very nice. Soon Marty came over and we watched a gorgeous sunset from the patio. Some pelicans had taken up residence on the jetty this year, and we enjoyed watching them soar and dive. The sign on the jetty clearly said "No diving". Apparently pelicans can't read. (And though the Lions were leading when we turned on the game, the Pats made an amazing comeback to win. Sorry, Marty from Michigan!)

 Steve (Milky), Steph, Craig, and Marty:
Thanksgiving dinner at the Toad and Tart

Next we headed over to the Toad and Tart, a British pub. The proprietor, Anna, once again made a stellar turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. This was our third year eating Anna's Thanksgiving feast, and she outdid herself once again: roast turkey with sage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, buttered zucchini and yellow squash, green beans almondine, cranberry sauce, and fresh bread. Although we were stuffed and feeling rather sleepy after such a delicious meal, we of course couldn't say no to her apple pie with homemade cinnamon ice cream.

Marty and Jesi on Cap'n Marty's Island Hop

The day after Thanksgiving was our traditional Cap'n Marty's Island Hop day, where we rent a boat from Mattheus at See and Ski Power Boat Rental. We met Marty and his friend Jesi at Marina Market in Red Hook, where we bought supplies for the day. We loaded up the boat and headed out. The water was a bit choppier than usual, but we enjoyed meandering around Hawk's Nest  and Peter Bay off St. John. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the sun and the turquoise blue water, while pelicans flew and splashed down into the water around us. We were running a bit later than usual as we stopped  to clear customs for the British Virgin Islands in West End, Tortola.

Marty, Steph, Craig, and Milky with our new
Cap'n Marty's Island Hop T-shirts

Cap'n Marty and Jesi in front of Presidio del Mar
Peter Bay, St. John
We made our way across the channel despite the wind and choppy water, and stopped in Hurricane Hole to rest our shaken bones. At around 1 o'clock, we arrived at the Willy T, a bar and restaurant located on a boat off of Norman Island in the BVI. Our old friend Zeus was there behind the bar, and he recognized us immediately. We ordered a round of painkillers and he kept them coming. Craig immediately noticed the larger than normal glass, to which Zeus replied "16 for 12", meaning 16 oz for the 12 oz price. Marty tried to convince him it meant 16 drinks for the price of 12.

Our good friend Zeus at the Willy T

We noticed that the shot ski was back (it had been out for repairs last year). This is a water ski with four holes in it. Zeus mixed up a concoction that looked like antifreeze and poured it into 4 shot glasses which he inserted into the holes on the ski. Craig, Steve, Marty, and I downed the drinks and Zeus was amazed that we didn't spill any.  It was a party atmosphere at the Willy T. When a woman asked Zeus if he could play some music for her kids, he quickly queued up "Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up" by Denis Leary. We had not heard this song before and found it hysterical. Jesi and I got temporary Willy T tattoos. We enjoyed our time with the charismatic, irreverent Zeus (and his alter ego George who is much more serious). In fact, we enjoyed it a bit too much and were late returning the boat to Red Hook. Sorry, Mattheus! We didn't even have time to stop at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke this year. The Willy T is just too damn much fun!

Shot Ski: Craig, Steph, Marty, and Milky

Having fun at the Willy T

Marty and Jesi on the Willy T

On Saturday, we had a relaxing day at Secret Harbour beach. Craig made us "Craig McMuffins"  (cheese omelets and bacon served on on English muffins) for breakfast. We then headed down to the beach and submerged ourselves up to our necks in the cool refreshing water. Eventually, Steve wandered down the beach to the Blue Moon Cafe. While he was gone, an  iguana menacingly circled me until I shooed it away. The last thing I needed was for it to come after me once I had food. Steve came back with a round of frosty bushwhackers and chicken sandwiches with fries. We sat on beach chairs end enjoyed our picnic lunch iguana-free.

We then went for another dip in the water and then hung out on our patio for a while. At 8 o'clock, we walked down the beach to the Blue Moon Cafe for dinner. We sat on their open air patio and enjoyed the sound of the waves lapping up on the beach. We ordered a round of bushwhackers and got gouda "cheesecake" with crackers as an appetizer. We had seen this on the menu for the past 2 years and had been curious about it. We are very glad we finally decided to try it. Far from being a traditional cheesecake, it was a pie-shaped wedge of spreadable gouda. For our meals, we all ended up ordering the same thing because it sounded so good:  Baked scallops with parmesan and provolone served with rice pilaf and asparagus. It was savory and delicious.

Secret Harbour

On Sunday, we went to Magen's Bay for Jesi's weekly sand castle picnic. Marty brought his Limin' Cooler (a cooler pimped out with serious stereo equipment) for tunes, and we met up with Sean (whom we had met many times before) and his girlfriend Carol, and a few of their friends. Now, Carol and Jesi are some serious sand castle makers. They had all of the tools to do the job right. They started out by building the foundation, dumping buckets of water into the sand and then standing on it, piling it up higher and higher with waterlogged sand. Then, once the foundation was finished, they set to work carving. Carol and Sean had brought a skull and some little pewter pirate figurines, and they fashioned a sort of Castle Grayskull. Jesi had her heart set on  creating a pirate ship, and she, Marty, and I got some of the hull and a wave going, but it turned out to be too ambitious. Marty worked with her to convert it into an extension of Sean and Carol's castle.

Marty working on the sand castle at Magen's Bay

Carol, Sean, Jesi, and Marty:
Sand castles at Magen's Bay

There were no cruise ships in port today (three days in a row with no ships - not good for the island's economy), so the majority of people at Magen's were locals. A family reunion a little way down the beach was very interested in our castles. They came over to admire them while Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" was playing on the Limin' Cooler. The two sisters (one of whom was visiting from Maryland) spontaneously burst into song. Jesi promised their adorable kids that they could help us wreck the whole thing when we were done. A little while later they came over with beers for our entire group. They were very friendly and we enjoyed chatting with them.

Carol, Jesi, and Marty: The Castle Moat Dance

We ate our chicken curry salad sandwiches, enjoyed some drinks, and just enjoyed a relaxing day at the beach. We truly felt like locals rather than tourists today. Once the sun was getting low and the castles were complete, Marty played his favorite song on the Limin' Cooler ("Say Hey (I Love You)" by Michael Franti and Spearhead) and he, Jesi, and Carol performed a spontaneous and very entertaining dance around the castle that we captured on video:.

Then Jesi called the little kids over to help knock it all down. The kids were hesitant at first, as if afraid that it was too nice, or they would get in trouble. But after admiring it for a while, they eventually got into the spirit and demolished the castles. We headed back to our place and had SeƱor Pizza delivered to the room while we shared photos with one another. Jesi is a professional photographer, and had gotten some great shots.

Craig and Steph at Secret Harbour Beach

On Monday we had a relaxing day at Secret Harbour. Craig made another nice breakfast of Craig McMuffins and we relaxed on our patio for a while. Then we went down to the beach and we spent some time in the water. We skipped lunch today as we had had a big breakfast. There was an absolutely gorgeous sunset which we admired from our patio.

Sunset from our patio, Secret Harbour

It was our last night on the island, and we met Marty and Jesi at the Schnitzel Haus for dinner. We had eaten here with Marty a couple of years ago, and learned to trust him about the menu. Things that I normally wouldn't necessarily think I would like were absolutely delicious. We had snails in garlic and butter as an appetizer. I always picture snails to be rubbery and slimy, but these were tender and succulent. For his meal, Craig got the rahmschnitzel, pounded veal in a cream sauce with mushrooms and onions. I had the pepperschnitzel, pounded veal seasoned with cayenne pepper and cooked with onions and red and green peppers. It was delicious, with a spicy zing. We got bratkartoffeln potatoes (which basically taste like the best home fries you can imagine) and red cabbage, which was strangely sweet in contrast to my spicy meal. And this time when Marty called for the reservation, he reserved five apple strudels with ice cream for dessert. Last time we had all had to share a single remaining serving. It was all delicious. Much like Anna's Thanksgiving turkey, this felt like a meal home-cooked with love. It was like eating in someone's home, on their back deck overlooking the water.

We went back to the hotel and chatted for a while, looking at one another's pictures. We said our goodbyes as Marty would be at work tomorrow before we headed to the airport. This vacation is always a really fun one for us, with the opportunity to really relax and enjoy the company of a dear friend. Of course it is also always much too short!

Dinner at the Schnitzel Haus:
Milky, Steph, Craig, Marty, and Jesi

Steph, Craig, Marty, Milky

On Tuesday we checked out of Secret Harbour, stopped at Marty's place to drop off the Limin' Cooler (which he was kind enough to lend us for Steve's iPod throughout the trip), and then continued on to the airport. We got some cheese johnnycakes at the airport (basically like a cross between cheese, a doughnut, and fried dough - what's not to love?) We arrived in Miami on time, but we were delayed there. Instead of landing at 10:15 in Boston, we landed at 12:15 a.m. By the time we made it back to the house, it was 1:00, and we had to go to work the next day.

We are already counting down the days until next Thanksgiving. Thanks, Marty, for such a great time.

View from Marty's place