St. Thomas Stories and Tips

Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, USVI

Returning to the Carnival Freedom Photo, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Our cruise director told us that by stopping at the United States Virgin Islands first we would be introducing ourselves gradually into the Caribbean. He was right. This island had the worst traffic, very American high speeds and lots of honking. This island also had US Postal Boxes just like at home, they use US dollar, and speak English (with a charming accent).

All of our port visits are similiar on this trip. We debark, acknowledge the colorful greeters, and walk or ride to the main shopping district. There we look for museums, art galleries, local flavor restaurants and souvenirs hopefully of local origin. Many of the other people from our ship bought shore tours ranging from snorkling, to beach picnics, to boat trips to near-by islands, and to adventuresome athletic activities. At this point in our lives, walking to Main street is as adventurous as Bill wants to get. I was very interested in learning the history and culture of each island. Some shore tours hinted at that feature, but Bill was reluctant to commit to the length of those tours. I agreed, figuring the cruise personel would provide a lecture on history and culture to fill my needs. Wrongo...at least not on the Carnival Freedom.

So off we went to catch a taxi, which was a van shared with others. We were dropped off near the Post Office in down town Charlotte Amalie. I was impressed to see a large old building painted in coral with limestone trim dating 1571. Wow! We proceeded down the Main Street in search of elusive gift shops and art galleries. All we found were jewelry stores and very persistent salespeople. These folks are agrivating. Finally I let one of them lure me into his shop. I told Bill to sit in the "hubby" chair while I delt with the salesman. That man frantically showed me a large array of gem stones looking for what I would tumble for. I kept a watch on Bill and when he looked rested, I thanked the clerk and left the store. Am I mean? No, the clerk didn't lose any sales by spending time with me. And who knows...I might have found something I like.

We saw signs pointing to a cluster of shops on a side street or alley. This was what we were looking for. We visited a wonderful art glass shop and two antique stores. We like the less frantic sales people here they were better about sharing information about the island. Bill found a treasure, a petrified whale ear-bone. I found us a restaurant.

Located in one of the oldest buildings still on the island, Gladys' Cafe serves a blend of Caribbean and American cuisine. The walls of the building are made of an assortment of materials, balast stones, bricks, limestone and coral. It was lovely and alive with centuries of use. They are particularly known for their hot sauce. Bill stayed with the American side of the menu by having a bacon cheeseburger. I selected a local special of stewed chicken with sweet potatoes, plantains, fancy rice and macaroni salad. What a taste treat!

After lunch we walked along the waterfront, which was dangerously busy with speeding vehicles. We decided to try Main Street again and this time found the home of Camille Pissaro. Going back to Art History 102, I remember this famous artist was born here in the Caribbean, left to study in Paris...and never came back. The museum gallery was not open when we were there.

As we headed back to the place the taxi let us out, a driver of a taxi who was cruising Main Street recognized our tired look and hustled us into his vehicle for the ride back to the dock. Apparently this is the normal practice. When you are done shopping, just step to the curb and a cruising taxi will stop for you.

When we returned to the ship we walked around the Panorama Deck to enjoy the view of the beautiful harbor, and the lovely volcanic shaped island.

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