Thursday, April 12, 2007
Another Tray of Slides

Waking up to see St. Thomas out the window.

Disembarking at St. Marten

We're more accustomed to oaks, maples, and pines that this.

Real life sometimes gets in the way of doing my favorite things, so it's taken awhile to post. Here's the second part of our fun, fun trip. And if you were overly impressed by our dress-up photo, you'll love this post. The camera doesn't lie - you'll see the 'real' us. I'm going to tell you about both St. Marten, and St. Thomas, since, after two islands in two days I'm a bit confused about what we saw where...

I opened my eyes, the third morning, looked out the balcony window, to see lots of little, twinkling lights of all colors. St. Marten was just waking up. We expected it to be flat, for some reason, but it was in fact hilly and wooded, if you can call groves of palm trees that. Cars were going here and there, as people headed out for the day, involved in getting ready for us to 'disembark'. We pulled up alongside the port. For someone who is challenged to parallel park, I was duly impressed as the captain parked this 950 foot long vessel. He backed in! We were required to insert our little plastic cards in a machine as we left the ship. They told us this was to let them know who they were waving goodbye to, in case any of us were late getting back onboard at the end of the day. They were serious.

St. Marten has two governments, French and Dutch. Neither works real slick. We heard more French than English, which sounded charming. The French side has a reputation for being cleaner, and more liberal. The first thing our tour guide told us was that everyone on the island, who works in the tourism industry, makes $6 an hour. I think that was the priming for all the tips we gave during the day. Lots of tips.

Overlooking St. Thomas, and further outlying islands.

We chose to do a tour of the island, both days, from an open-air vehicle. It looked much like something you'd see driving around Disneyworld, although they are built for mostly slim people, and of course not everyone is. That made for some interesting stops, while we took time to squish in some people, or get someone unstuck who'd only made it halfway onto the vehicle. Literally the driver had to get out and shove on someone's rear to get them loaded. All the island natives wore long pants and long sleeved shirts. We were all stripped down to the minimum, thinking it was hot. Likely March seems cool to them, in comparison to July or August. Both tours took us on a circle of the island. Overall St. Marten was trashy, I'm sad to say. Hurricane damage was evident everywhere, and some businesses or residents had rebuilt, but they leave the rubble right there. New next to ruined. Trash littered every street - they seem to have no concept of recycling, or of keeping their island beautiful. St. Thomas, on the other hand, is beautiful, clean, has a good sized airport, and they are very proud of the fact that they have Kmart, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. The St. Thomas guide kept reminding us they are a part of the U.S, and he'd say, 'you have it, we have it'.

Overlooking Megan's Bay, wearing my only souvineer.
Don took home a piece of coral from the beach, and we bought the
grandsons all T-shirts with pirates on them, saying "Bad to the Bone".

At some point in our tour of St. Marten, we headed to Orient Beach, famous for being 'clothing optional'. It was. We had fun playing in the water, body surfing. Both Don and I got twirled around, upside and down, more than once, and I spent some time looking for my 'Life is Good' cap that had been pulled off my head. So had much of my suit, but I'd reapplied that before I came up for air. Clothing is not optional for me. Sure enough, soon after we arrived, a group of much older adults showed up, and they immediately stripped down, and headed for the water. I do think possibly my mouth hung open, as was the case with many of the beach visitors. One elderly lady had nothing on but a little straw hat with a bow on the front. I have to be honest and say I've never seen a rear sag that low. She looked tall, skinny and saggy. So did the man. There was one couple who walked down the beach, the man in swim trucks, the woman in bikini bottoms. He seemed quite pleased with the prize on his arm, although I think she should have gone with the enhanced swimsuit top option. We were surprised at how many of the people on the cruise were foreign, and it's likely many beach visitors were too. I believe they have a more liberal stand on nudity. My stand, which could include all sorts of verses, but won't here, is basically, if you're ever going to participate, likely about the time you get your driver's license is a good time to switch to the clothing mode. Soon after that age, everything begins to go south.

This is my hot date. He went topless.

I clothed myself in a tankini, the closest I care /dare to get to a bikini.

The fourth day, the boat unloaded again, to enjoy St. Thomas. They literally have a reception area dedicated to the arriving cruisers. St. Thomas is known for good jewelry shopping, and in the days before we arrived at the island, the ship had classes you could attend on how to purchase diamonds, etc. I bought a tank top. I got to pet a baby shark at Coral World, and we did an underwater thing, seeing what's really down there in the water. Beautiful fish of so many bright colors, funny mouths and eyes. The day we visited St. Thomas, there were four huge cruise ships in port. That's a lot of tourism.

One of the weird fish we saw. Beautiful weird.

Any children we saw, leaving school, wore uniforms. Most people had dark skin, dark hair and dreadlocks were in abundance. The vegetation was amazing on both islands we visited. We saw bananas, papayas, mangos growing next to the roads. Most people have fruit trees in their yards, for their personal use. Imagine going outside with your bowl of cheerios and a knife, and grabbing what you need to top it off! We saw iguanas everywhere, it wasn't something that endeared me to island life. Lizards are creepy, and the bigger - the creepier.

A clump of bananas. The strange bottom thing looked like it should be on a cuckoo clock!

Ugh. They were everywhere, trees full of them. I cannot believe some people buy these as pets. Where's the fur????

The blue of the Caribbean is amazing, a blue I used to be able to describe in other terms. Then my daughter started producing children. The Caribbean is the color of her children's eyes, especially Grayson. If you're up on a high road, looking over the islands, the water seems to be in layers, deep navy blue further out, then that amazing turquoise, then a paler blue, then white, white sands. The sand was crunchy to walk on, with crushed coral and shells mixed in, and the water had a rocky bottom to most of it.

St. Thomas had the unique feature of driving on the wrong side of the road, although their steering wheels are the same as ours. It made for crazy driving. Most roads have a double, no passing stripe, which is unanimously ignored by everyone. They just drive down the middle of the road, laying on their horns. Sometimes we just watched in amazement, sometimes we closed our eyes. Most of the vehicles we saw on St. Thomas were dented, beat up, and for good reason.

Gas was $4.50 a gallon on St. Marten, $3.50 on St. Thomas. All cars are small.

We didn't get in the water on St. Thomas, but should have. They have one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Megan's Bay. We saw it from a gift shop overlooking it, and it was gorgeous. Enclosed on both sides by groves of trees, white sandy beach. If we ever go back, we'll spend some time there.

Overlooking beautiful Megan's Bay.

Something else both tours did, immediately upon loading us all, was to take us to a gift shop, unload everyone and give us all free "rum punch". At 8:30 in the morning! Apparently the shops aren't open, and they want you happy and shopping, so they did a stop, gave everyone alcohol, then took us to the shops. We thought 8:30 was a bit early for rum punch. Many thought it was just fine.

We visited one of their open markets, saw fresh fish laying in huge filets. Bright, bright colors, t-shirts, shawls, baskets, bags, hats, and fake dreadlocks so we could look like the natives. I bought a huge bright green bag for $6, to haul our stuff to the beach later on our trip.

Trying a new hairdo. Don found this hysterical. That would be one way to describe it.

Their open market - a bit smelly!

"No ma'am, it does not make your rear look wide. I promise."

One of the funniest entrepreneurial ideas I saw was this pitiful looking man who 'just happened' to be at one of our photo stops. He had a goat with him, a flower lei around his neck (the goat, not the man), and you could take your photo with the man's goat for free. Tips were appreciated. I honestly wondered at what he takes home at the end of the day, not having a job at $6 an hour, but hundreds of tourists coming by, charmed by his flowerdy goat. Smart man! His entire cost of business start-up was whatever one goat costs.

At the end of two days of touring islands, safely checked back in, and on the ship, we climbed into a hot tub near one of the main pools, alone for a minute. An elderly lady approached, in a leopard print one piece suit. My husband did not recognize her. I did. She wore a little straw hat with a bow on the front. She was foreign, and during our conversation I found she'd been married 53 years. I asked her what she attributed her long marriage to. She said, "respect each other". I thought she might add - 'a little skinny-dipping doesn't hurt either.'

Well, that's enough slides for this day. I'll come back in a few days, and tell you a bit more about our day in the Bahamas, snorkeling and barbeque, and how the cruise finished out. If you're not bored yet, come on back.

And yes, Phyllis, I know I still have an announcement to make. Haven't forgotten, promise. xooxxo


  posted at 2:30 PM

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