Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Born Again Cruzan

Why St. Croix is So Special
You will wish you had been born Cruzan. What a magical island. This is the place that I picture in my mind when I need to escape the reality of my daily life. St. Croix is one of the US Virgin Islands. It's not as crowded and does not cater to tourists like some of the other islands. And if you're planning to island hop, this might not be your best option because it is farther south than the other cluster of islands, so hopping is expensive. But really, why would you ever leave? I spent my last trip trying to figure out how to move there permanently... and people often do.

Local Eats
Obviously, I would never consider moving to a place unless there was great food. On my first of two visits to this island, I got a great tip about a vegetarian soul food restaurant in downtown Frederiksted. It's called Yucca's Kitchen. She has a hand written menu of a few items every day to choose from and when it's gone, it's gone. I beg you to try this place even if you're a carnivore. I had the best chili I've ever eaten there and it's the spot to get your fried plantains, fresh fruit juices and spicy popcorn. Portions are large and will probably cover a few meals at a cheap price. You will meet very friendly locals here. I've never run into another tourist. Please tell Ms. Yucca I said hello.

I require an excellent coffee shop while vacationing and this is the spot: Polly's (downtown Frederiksted). Once we discovered this place, we were there every morning for a few hours. The owners, Steven and Seth are very friendly and wonderful to talk to. I enjoyed the best espresso since leaving Italy there. They also serve smoothies, ice cream, cocktails, beer and sandwiches. By the end of the week, I called these guys my friends. http://www.pollysatthepier.com/

Best sunset view restaurant: Ono's (Frederiksted)
The food is very creative and the menu changes frequently. Service is good. Vegetarians and meat eaters will be happy with the selections.
$ Budget Tip: Check for coupons around town. Also, there is a bar only menu that offers cheaper options.

Villa Morales
Okay, this is the real scoop. They are only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Plan your trip around it. They serve Puerto-Rican and Cruzan food such as plantains, fish, goat, etc. The changing menu is written on a dry erase board at your table. You must try a Johnny cake or two (better yet, get several to go). Tell J.T. I sent you and he'll treat you like family. He is also the master of the mojito.

Things to Do
It's a great place to go and do nothing, but you don't want to miss these beautiful places.
  • Day sail trip to Buck Island. The island and reef are protected and when you see the water, it will be hard to believe your eyes (see pic at top of this post). I had a great experience with Caribbean Sea Adventures (http://www.caribbeanseaadventures.com/). Ask for J.P. to be your sailor. $ Budget tip: this company offers a second trip at half price if you decide to go again. I recommend avoiding Buck Island on Sundays because all of the locals head to the island on that day.  
  • Hike to the tide pools at Annaly Bay. Soaking in the pools is worth the two mile hike (and free).
  • Horseback riding through the rainforest: http://www.paulandjills.com/.
Side Bars

  • Racial diversity: as a member of a racial majority, I think it's healthy to experience being in the minority occasionally. When I first visited St. Croix, I expected that the locals would not be friendly, but found that nothing was further from the truth. They treat you like family as long as you remember to begin conversations with "good morning" or "good evening".
  • Driving on the left takes some getting used to, but you'll catch on sooner than you think. Just remember that it's left on red there and be careful not to let your autopilot driver take over at intersections. Roads are not marked well, so take a map but be flexible and realize that the island is not very complicated, so you will get there eventually. Also, honking in this culture means "hello", or a signal that they'll let you go first (which happens a lot and makes you a friendlier driver).
  • Go in search of roadside fruit and vegetable stands. It's a good idea to do this at the start of your trip so you can stock up for the week (you can't take it with you). It's also a great way to meet people and learn about their own recipes.

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