So, what do you do when you walk out of a restaurant on June 9th, and you are walking to you car, and you see fireworks? Well, the obvious thought is, “What? For me? You shouldn’t have!” Then it makes you start to think, “What holiday is this? What day is this?”
But what if you didn’t have those thoughts. What if you didn’t have to explain why such a special event is happening? What if people walked around and saw random fireworks or suddenly burst out into song and dance like on a musical? Well, I think it would be a better place. People need something to make them stop and see beauty. People need to stop and smile. People need to stop and DANCE!!!
We wanted to do something that didn’t involve sand. So, of course, the butterfly farm was a perfect choice. This is in Havensite, but it is a little off of the beaten path. Because of multiple signs, we knew we were going in the right direction.
We had our yearly pass that was good for Coral World and for the butterfly farm. This would be a low key afternoon.
As soon as you step on the porch, you are surrounded by several exotic birds that they use to take pictures with the tourists. Before I had time to read the sign that stated “Please No Pictures”, I had snapped this photo, which turns out to be illegal to do….oops!
You enter the net enclosure in the back of the location after hearing a few instructions like “Please be careful where you step because butterflies may be on the ground” and “Please make sure you don’t have any on you when you leave.”
That last statement rang so true with me. Almost instantly, I was covered with four to five butterflies. It was a very strange sensation. I really wanted to have the same reaction I would with a huge spider on my leg, but I tried to tell myself that they were beautiful, gentle creatures.
I had to be constantly moving because if not, they would swarm me. I had several others tourists taking pictures of my feet and legs. Of course, it made for a good laugh for the family thinking of why they were so interested in me and not the rest of the onlookers. I think it may have been my lotion!
It was calm, peaceful, and beautiful. You could just stand there and watch them float along from one branch or flower or leg to the other.
Kicking myself for not bringing a sketch pad, we wandered along the dirt path glancing all around to see the butterflies and the gorgeous flowers.
As we walked and took in the vibrant colors, the delicate butterflies, and just the beautiful splendor, it made me think that God is an artist. When you see such diverse vegetation or unique creatures, you can’t help being awed.
There were some butterflies that had different color patterns on their top and bottom to help them blend in with their surroundings from predators, whether they are being stalked from the sky above or from the ground below.
I know we will definitely visit again, but until then, I think I can get some killer paintings out of these pictures!!
One of our favorite places to visit before picking up the kid from school is Mojo’s. This little tiki bar is located at Havensite, conveniently where the cruise ships drop off all of their passengers. Nestled amongst shops selling sun block, scuba gear, and T-shirts, you can smell the savory aromas as you are walking.
Not only does this place have a fun atmosphere, but it has really good chicken that is grilled right there with jerk seasoning or BBQ. You can sit and swing and visit with locals and tourists. You can grab a couple of drinks and do some really great people watching as well. Let your worries melt away with the sea breezes, cool tunes, and cold drinks.
This is one of my favorite places because you meet so many different people there and hear their life stories, all at a little tiki bar in the Caribbean. I don’t know about you, but that last line sounds like it belongs in a song.
What do you do when you are a little tired of going to the beach every weekend? You learn how to paint. We had talked to the kids about the possibility of scooting the coffee table to the side and picking a subject to experiment with painting.
My kids have obviously painted at school and with loving family members, but I’m ashamed to say, that this was the first time they were going to paint with me.
We chose our subject, a view of Magen’s Bay and displayed it on the TV through the computer. That way, it would be easier for all three of us to see it.
I choose which colors to place on our palettes (they were paper plates). Then we choose our brushes, and I explained some general rules of oil painting.
Words are not enough to describe how fun it was to see the kids painting. They would occasionally looked at mine to see which color I had picked. A few times, each of them would ask, “Mommy, which color did you use for the water? Or the beach?”
I am not an expert by any means, but I told them that each painting is a learning tool. They were both so happy with their finished products. Joaquin painted quickly and therefore, produced two paintings. It is not a easy task to take something that is flat (the canvas) and turn it into a three dimensional piece of artwork.
I know we will be doing this activity again.
The day had finally arrived for Joaquin to represent his school as The Duke of Joseph Sibilly. We went down early to the parade to make sure we knew where we were going. He is wearing the sailor outfit that matches the rest of the carnival troupe for his school since our theme was “The Seven Flags that Flew over the Islands.”
He also wore a regal cape and crown. Many of you know this, but I think capes are the best and should be brought back into fashion.
What Duke could be complete without his very own Duchess? I had to tease Joaquin a little bit about that. They both humored me by taking this picture.
The school arranged for their ride to be comfortable and stylish. We showed Joaquin how to do to the proper wave and reminded him to smile as the car eased out onto the street.
I was one of the parents assigned to walk with the Carnival Troupe, so, I waited with the group until it was our turn to advance down the narrow road.
They block off a long section of Main Street for the children’s parade. The adult parade happens the next day, but we didn’t make it because we spent three hours walking in this parade. Well, Jonathan, Isabella, and I walked as the Duke rode in his sliver convertible.
The troupe was a nice size of about twenty kids and twenty five parents, who walked the perimeter, to make sure the kids didn’t escape.
We were also responsible for helping the kids remember the simple dance moves that they learned. They would do them to the tune of the steel pan band that played in the double decked trailer in front of us, also from our school. Now, remember, this is a troupe from an elementary school with the majority of the troupe being in K-3rd. It was like herding cats. Most of the older kids are committed to a steel pan band or dance group.
It still was incredibly fun and sweet to watch these kids perform to calypso music. I really felt part of the celebration. I also felt a little proud that our son, after being here for only a matter of months, was representing Joseph Sibilly.
We inched along and had to smell the delicious food from the vendors along the route. We tried to remember where along the route we would want to return once we were done with the march. This and the adult parade are the climax of Carnival. People begin to stake out spots on the route even the night before the parades.
As we finally reached the end of the parade, we realized that they had each group up on the stage to introduce themselves over the PA system. I panicked. We had not prepared Joaquin for this. I had a sudden vision of the woman announcer asking Joaquin simple questions like: what is your name, what school do you attend, how old are you? Then in my vision, Joaquin would look blankly into the crowd as cricket sounds over powered the silence.
We rushed over to him and told him what would be expected of him.
Then he and his duchess walked confidently on stage. Joaquin’s voice boomed through the speakers. “My name is Joaquin Hawkes and I am the Duke of Joseph Sibilly.” I was so proud of him. He did great and looked so at ease.
They walked together to the end of the runway and took their bow to the applause and cheers of other parents and students.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Sibilly represent the older grades of Joseph Sibilly.
With sweaty backs and tired feet, we retraced our steps of the parade route, only this time catching a quick glimpse of other troupes and searching for well deserved food.
Some troupes had Moko Jumbies, where people stand on stilts that can be anywhere from a few inches to what looks like five to six feet tall. One young man, on what looked like five feet stilts, hopped on one leg and bent backwards to show off his balance. I’m not sure that I have the courage to learn that skill.
I wished we had been part of the crowd so I could have documented this elaborate display of colors, traditions, and culture.
Well, maybe next year I will get more pictures.
Apparently, the Food Fair during Carnival should NOT be missed. Well, Jonathan and I don’t need extra prompting to eat local food, so, we headed downtown to see what all the fuss was about.
Okay, the traffic and crowds proved that this was the place to be. Carnival is an interesting event. The town of St. Thomas actually constructs structures to serve as “The Village” where the carnival rides are, like a Ferris wheel and other similar state fair rides. Carnival is supposed to be a week long event, but seems to really start mid month and continue for several weeks. I guess the best comparison would be a Mardi Gras celebration.
In the market square, they set up for food fair. They have the familiar white temporary tents, as far as the eye can see, housing wonderful local food such as Callaloo stew, pates (like a hot pocket, but better), salt water fish (a very popular dish, but definitely an acquired taste), and Johnny Cakes (like a sopapilla).
We did indulge and got a small guava berry tart to split. She also gave us a block of that sweetness that looks like fudge. That was good, but it tasted like pure sugar. My dentist would not approve.
We ordered three different plates from different vendors and picked a spot on the side where we could sit on the steps and devour our first ever Caribbean Food Fair choices.
We left pleasantly plump. We look forward to next year to see what else we will get to try.
During my parents trip, I asked them to watch the kids one weekend, so, Jonathan and I could go to St John with our friends. We rode the passenger ferry over in their jeep. After we loaded the jeep, all of us wondered if we were staying a week or just the weekend. You just never know what you are going to need.
We arrived at our hotel, The St. John Inn, which was decorated with an clear Caribbean color scheme. We all remarked on how cheerful the common grounds seemed. The pool is small, but who cares. When you come St. John, you want to go to every beach you can.
The rooms were not the cookie cutter hotel rooms you get with the big chains, but that really fits the island life on St. John. Unique. Special.
We ditched our bags and whatever else we didn’t need and headed for a new area. The woman, who checked us in, told us to hike to Ram’s Head and go to Salt Water Bay. I forgot my camera when we left the car, but will definitely have to go back.
As we were hiking, we walked on a path that followed the side of a huge cliff. Several times we would peer over the ledge with weakened knees to see the ocean surf smack against the sharp, black rocks below.
After the hike, we were obviously hot and had perspired a little, so, the logical choice was snorkeling. Jonathan and I were on the hunt for sea turtles. Well, we didn’t see any that day, but saw some amazing fish, a large crab that blended in with the coral, and lots of sea grass.
Day 2 of St. John. Jonathan and I were so excited because we were going to go to another beach that we had never seen, Maho Bay.
Our friends said they really like this beach because it is not as popular as Trunk or Cinnamon, making it a little quieter. Also, it seems to be a longer beach creating more room for tourists or locals to camp out and just watch the sun go down on the water.
They had also said that you can view several different types of animal and marine life. Well, they weren’t joking. As soon as we dropped our beach chairs, towels, and cooler, we spotted two perfect star fish chilling in the shallows near the beach.
Our friend picked one up to show us, and then carefully returned it to its home on the ocean floor. She said to make sure you put it back down correctly because star fish cannot flip themselves back over, and their shell serves as their protection against predators.
A cute note is that later that particular star fish had moved 25 feet away. If you know anything star fish, they move incredibly slowly, so, we joked and said that that star fish was running for its life to get away our friend.
We also saw a Manta Ray. This creature had a six foot wing span, at least. The two guys just grabbed their snorkel gear and jumped into the water, quickly swimming out to the dark shadow gliding in the water.
I know that a Manta Ray is completely harmless, but I still opted to stay on the beach and watch from afar.
The dark shape came closer and closer to shore. Just a few feet from us, he broke the surface of the water and splashed one of his wings, as if to say “Hi”, and then faded out of view.
I was really glad of my decision to avoid being in the water with him. Perhaps, next time, I will try to see him, but he was a little intimidating that day.
Maho Bay does have some facilities, but they are more what you expect when camping because there isn’t any running water. It is definitely a beach we will return to, hopefully in the near future.
For the rest of the afternoon, we visited, swam, and soaked in the sun. Then we loaded up the jeep again and headed home to St. Thomas.
I have to admit, I missed the kids. Thank you to Mom and Dad for holding down the fort while we were living it up in St. John.
Since my parents were still in town, I thought they would like to see the botanical gardens at the Great House. Plus, I had never been, so, it would be great to know whether we should recommend this attraction to future guests. Also, it is only minutes away from our house.
The Great House would be an excellent setting for a wedding. It has spectacular views and a large convention room that could serve as a reception hall.
The Great House is appealing for several reasons. It has gorgeous views, parrots, diverse plant life, The Blue Orchid (excellent restaurant), and admission includes a free rum punch.
As we plunged down into the jungle, the air changed. You could almost touch the humidity. Sounds of birds chirping and the winding staircase, made you feel like you had stepped into a modern day tree house.
You are completely surrounded by strange, exotic plants, flowers, and trees. This particular one is especially interesting. Appearing to seem so different, I would have believed it to be fake.
I glanced back up to the Great House and could barley see it through the thick tropical forest.
The vegetation was wonderful to see. The sounds and smells were amazing. As the path snaked back up to the beginning, I took a few pictures of my favorite flowers, not realizing, that I should have captured their descriptive plaques too.
The whole tour is a self guided one, which means you can take as long as you like. It did seem to be a smaller path than what I had originally anticipated.
Also, some of the plants are prevalent over the island like the picture featured above and below this passage. I think that if you were on a cruise ship, that you wouldn’t be able to traverse the island to really enjoy what it has to offer. Since I live here, some of these plants seemed commonplace as I see them everyday while taking the kids to school.
The admission fee is $8, which I believe is a little steep for what you get, but it just depends on what you really enjoy. I had a fantastic time because I was admiring God’s creative handiwork with my parents. Unless you live another island, some of these plants or trees will seem very foreign and mysterious.
Summary: You might want to make a short afternoon with this attraction. Perhaps, go in the late afternoon and explore nature, then end up at the Blue Orchid for drinks or even stay for a fabulous meal and decadent desserts.
Joaquin’s school had a competition. There were two winners from the upper grades, 4th-6th and two winners from the lower grades k-3rd. You had to sign up and then seek donations. The top female and top male would win. Several students raised large amounts, so, I kept telling Joaquin to keep his expectations low.
Well, he did WIN! He was crowned the Duke of Joseph Sibilly. We was awarded a trophy, a beautiful bracelet, and of course, a crown. He will be featured in the Children’s Parade for Carnival.
He was a little stunned when they called his name. I was so proud of him. Everyone likes a trophy!
The bag says it all. (Thank you Liz for ordering it) With our bags packed, we sailed over to St. John. We were excited to show it off to my parents and Karen. The hard part was to decide which beach, which activities, and later, which restaurant.
Salomon Bay…….. I almost feel like my words aren’t enough to describe how tranquil this beach is. Those colors are not the result of photoshop. We had finally made it to Salomon Bay. This is the beach that we thought we went to when we really were at Honeymoon Bay.
The boys (Jonathan, my dad, and Joaquin) retraced the hike up to Caneel Hill. I chose to take the girls (Isabella, my mom, and Karen) on a smaller hike to Salomon Bay. We soaked up the sun and played in the water while waiting on the boys.
With sweat stained shirts, the boys arrived bearing lunch. That was awfully sweet and fantastic since this beach doesn’t have any facilities. They had ordered four BBQ plates from Uncle Joe’s BBQ, complete with sides. We divided up the food and our picnic spot went silent as everyone chowed down on the food.
It was a true picnic. With our stomachs full, we relaxed to the rhythmic sounds of the water. We threw the Frisbee around and eventually had to pack up our stuff in order to head back to Cruz Bay for dinner.
We ended up at High Tides, which is along the water. It had live entertainment. As the sun set and our day grew to a close, we smiled, laughed, and realized that is what life is about!