Oct. 24 – Nov. 2, 2013My husband and I first stayed on St. John back in 2003 at Caneel Bay. We fell in love with St. John and Caneel, but due to the seasonal closing that took place a few years back, we started staying at villas. So far we have been very fortunate enough to stay at Island Stones, Kaleidoscope and Wings Over Water.
This year marked our 10th time returning St. John and we couldn’t have been more excited especially because we were staying at the same villa that we stayed the previous year, Wings Over Water (WOW). I also made sure to ship two boxes ahead of time containing all of our toiletries, snorkel gear, and extra clothes that wouldn’t fit into our carry ons – which turned out to be a huge time saver in the long run.
Day 1 – Oct. 24th – Arriving to St. John
Being that we were flying on a Thursday, United had us connecting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The flight from Newark to Puerto Rico was uneventful and we had a few hours to kill in between flights. We found the newly refurbished “Air Margaritaville” bar located on the two level of the airport. We thought this was a perfect spot to wait for our next flight to St. Thomas. The reason I mention “refurbished” was due to the fact the bar looked very similar to its previous state besides for a few extra signs, different menu, and new music. We still enjoyed it nevertheless
After a couple hours it was time to walk down to the Cape Air gate and head onto the plane. As usual we had to wait and see where we were going to sit – based on our weight. I was paired up with a very nice lady and sat at the back of the plane. I commented to her how normally the smallest person sits up front and I thought that it would have been her vs. the larger gentlemen that got the co-pilot seat. (Turns out the reason why the gentlemen got the seat was because he was a pilot). She smiled and said that she thought it would have been me. Immediately we started talking about where we were staying, etc. It turned out that her and her husband have a villa on St. John all the way out on the East End called Gin Del Mar. She was so nice that she invited my husband and I to stop by while we were on island to see her villa. Before I realized we were approaching St. Thomas, our plane had landed. I joked to her saying how it was the quickest flight from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas because we were talking the entire time. We exchanged our contact information and gathered our things. Unfortunately time never allowed us to drive out to the East End this trip but I would have loved to have checked it out in person http://www.vrbo.com/408124
Since we only had carry ons we didn’t have to wait for any checked bags. This was such a time saver. Our flight landed just before 3pm and we were skeptical about making the 4pm ferry. Wings Over Water is managed by Vacation Vistas, which is run by Lisa Durgin. She arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the airport. As soon as we entered the airport, Bazille (our taxi driver) was standing ready to go. We tried to look for the customs forms before we left the airport but we couldn’t find them. We hopped in Bazille’s taxi and surprisingly he made great time. We arrived at the ferry terminal in Red Hook with 15 minutes to spare! We were going to make the 4pm ferry! We thanked Bazille and we were on our way to St. John.
It was a beautiful short ride to St. John. Every time we arrive into Cruz Bay, we always notice how much every year it changes. As we docked, I gave my sister (back in NJ) the heads up that we were arriving. She was able to screen capture my image on the webcam.
We were greeted by Lisa and my husband had time to go to Connections to pick up our boxes that I shipped before they closed at 5:30pm. Once we got our boxes and rental jeep (at Bougainvillea), we were off to Wings Over Water. Even though this was our second time there, we were still excited to see it. The driveway is always “a leap of faith” when you drive down it. My husband was the sole driver on this trip. I never have driven on St. John, but hopefully one day I will gather enough courage to do so! Lisa gave us a few updated facts about several features at Wings Over Water and some new restaurants on St. John. The new restaurant Cruz Bay Landing (which replaced JJ’s) wasn’t open yet, but found out that La Tapa had opened earlier then expected for the season.
We had ordered provisions through St. John Catering so we had everything available for breakfast the next morning, but didn’t order any grill packs this time for dinner. WOW is located somewhat close to Cruz Bay so my husband had no issue with driving back to Cruz Bay in the evening for a light dinner at High Tide. http://hightidevi.com
Our first order of business was to order to rum punches which we find to be one of the best on the island. Trying to decompress from a long day of travel, we order a few appetizers to fill our stomachs.
Soon the travel day started taking affect and we headed back to our villa.
Day 2 – Oct. 25th – Francis Bay
One thing we noticed that the iguanas from last year that like to hang out on the cliff below the villa, were much more friendly. We weren’t sure if it was because people fed them or not, but they would come right up to you without any fear.
While we were on St. John last year, we missed the horrible storm Sandy back home in NJ, however the storm surge caused high surf on all of the north shore beaches.
Since our opportunity to go to them last year was shorted, we were determined to hit several this time. Our first beach to hit on this vacation was Francis Bay. We had never been to Francis before, but with recent reviews of this beach, I wanted to try it. Plus we decided this would be a trip with a few “firsts”. We took the drive along the North Shore and were still amazed after 10 years the beauty of St. John.
The drive was about 20 minutes or so from Cruz Bay and we found a parking space close to the sign.
We noticed a bunch of vehicles parked at the beach and figured we weren’t the only ones that heard about how nice Francis Bay is….
Several hours passed by and we were getting a bit thirsty. We headed back into town. Our jeep was rented through Bougainvillea so we were able to park our jeep outside their store throughout our stay. It was an easy walk down past the traffic circle. Our first stop was Joe’s Rum Hut. We each had a mojito and they definitely hit the spot.
It was getting a little bit late in the afternoon so we agreed to head back to the villa. On our way back to the jeep we noticed it was happy hour. We wanted to stop in at Woody’s but there weren’t any seats available outside.
We kept walking and noticed the Quiet Mon Pub above La Tapa. We had never stopped in there before so we gave it a go. We ordered a couple of beers and watched the action go by in the street below from the outside porch.
Since we were going to take the ferry over to Jost Van Dyke the next day, we wanted to eat in at the villa. On our way back to WOW, we stopped at the Marketplace to get some fresh grouper for fish tacos.
Day 3 – Oct. 26th – White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI The 7:00 alarm came fast that morning but it was worth getting up early to another gorgeous day. I made a quick breakfast so we would be satisfied before heading over to the Soggy Dollar Bar. http://www.soggydollar.com
We made it to the ferry dock just before 8am. While we were filling out our customs forms, we met another couple from Colorado, Pam and Drew that were visiting the islands for the very first. We were quite eager to give them some pointers as we were waiting for the ferry.
On our way towards Jost, I noticed the ferry started to take a turn towards Tortola. I heard that sometimes the ferry first stops at West End, Tortola before ending up at Jost. And that’s exactly what happened. It turned out that we were also going to go through customs in Tortola, so we all had to exit the ferry. While we were waiting online, there was a customs agent that was checking everyone’s forms to make sure they were filled out correctly. Drew and Pam were standing ahead of us and they had to make a few changes to their form. Luckily I had a pen and they were able to make those changes. It turned out a few times they had to ask us for a pen and it wound up being the joke of the day –
Once we got through customs we had to wait outside until everyone went through. While we were waiting, we heard Pam and Drew talking about going to Foxy’s first and then go to the Soggy Dollar Bar. We then mentioned how it would probably be best do end up at Foxy’s since no one would probably be there at the bar. Plus it was the day of the Cat Fight so a lot of people wouldn’t be at Foxys’ until later on in the day. We agreed to share a cab to take us to the Soggy Dollar Bar once we got to Jost.
Finally everyone was through customs and we were back on our way to Jost. The one positive of going through customs in Torola, once we arrived at Jost, we were able to go right into a taxi.
After a short 5 minute ride we arrived at the Soggy Dollar Bar. We asked the taxi driver to pick us back up at 1:30 so that we could go to Foxy’s before heading back to St. John. It was only around 9:40am so we had a lot of time to drink a lot of painkillers.
After a short 5 minute ride we arrived at the Soggy Dollar Bar. We asked the taxi driver to pick us back up at 1:30 so that we could go to Foxy’s before heading back to St. John. It was only around 9:40am so we had a lot of time to drink a lot of painkillers. We wound up hanging out with Drew and Pam for the entire time and we had a blast.
After several (or so…) painkillers it was time to head back to Foxy’s. Foxy’s was still quiet but at least there was someone there to buy a beer from. We were looking for Foxy, but he was out for the Cat Fight so we didn’t get to see him.
Soon it was time to head back to St. John. Once we went through customs we said our goodbyes to Drew and Pam. We made sure that we would stay in touch and wished them well as they were spending the rest of their stay in Virgin Gorda, followed by Peter Island.
We were starving! We were both in the mood for mexican so we walked on over to Margarita Phil’s.
We ordered a couple of margarita’s and had some chips and salsa as we waited for our to go order.
Once back at WOW, we enjoyed our specialty tacos that we had ordered (I had the ahi tuna tacos and my husband had the sirloin tacos).
It was a long day.
Day 4 – Oct. 27th – Gibney Beach and Stolen Spare
Once again we woke up to a picture perfect day. While I was making breakfast we decided to give Gibney Beach a try. We tried going to Gibney several years ago but we didn’t walk far enough down the beach to where it opened up and thought there wasn’t much of a beach.
After breakfast we gathered all the essentials, snorkel gear, sunscreen, soft-sided cooler containing water and beer….
We drove up to the gate and noticed there was no one parked in front of it so we had an easy area to park our jeep in. As we were exiting our jeep and headed down the road, there was a white pick up truck that drove by and parked next to the building below. We notice several people around and a few tents set up in the area. It was a bit strange but we kept on walking.
As we sat there I noticed that across the way there was something going on at Hawknest. We could hear faint sounds of singing and saw a large group of locals wearing their Sunday’s best and a few gentlemen in white. I figured that it must have been a baptism of some sort.
We were alone on the beach for most of the day besides a few dingy visits… and a local who came out from one of the cottages behind us to take his kayak out for the day.
Once a large group of people arrived in a dingy, it was time to head out. Plus we wanted to catch some of the NY Giants game back at our villa.
We walked back up towards our jeep and noticed the white pick up truck was gone. We didn’t think anything of it until when we got to our jeep there wasn’t a spare on the back of our jeep??!! Who would steal someone’s spare tire? My husband is a mechanic and noticed there wasn’t a lock on the spare to begin with and that it was one with an alloy wheel so it was worth a lot of money.
Immediately we headed back to town and to Bougainvillea. We told them what happened and he seemed a bit puzzled. It was a Sunday so the owner was not available. He took down our information and said we would be contacted the next day.
We spent the later part of the afternoon watching the game and relaxing at WOW. It wasn’t a very exciting game (5 field goals really?) but at least it was a win to put us in a good mood. We decided to freshen up and get ready for dinner. We thought that we would go to the Lime Inn for dinner that night.
We got to the Lime Inn and sat at the bar. Unfortunately they told us that they only had a limited menu and they would be closing early for food. We looked at the limited menu and nothing impressed us. We headed out and walked to Rhumblines. http://www.rhumblinesstjohn.com
Our first course was an order of the tempura rock lobster tail and the cracked-pepper tuna.
For dinner I had the tofu pad thai and my husband had the steak special.
Everything was delicious.
Again after dinner we were tired and were probably back in the villa, asleep before 10pm!
It was then time to get out of the sun and head into town. We wanted to check in again with Bougainvillea about the stolen spare. We went back to Bougainvillea and told them again what happen. They asked if we were going to be in town for a bit and we said that we would walk around and leave it outside their shop.
Once our mojitos were empty, we walked over to the Motu Bar for a beer for my husband and a pumpkin buschwacker for me (yum!)
Dinner tonight was going to be La Tapa. http://www.latapastjohn.com/menu.html
This is one of our favorite places and it never disappoints. We sat outside along the road which we always enjoy.
We started out with the charcuterie and braised pork belly.
Our main courses were linguine tossed with shrimp, lobster, chanterelle mushrooms, eggplant,
garlic, olive oil & albariño and seared local yellowfin tuna, shaved fennel, red beets, white beans, arugula, lemon truffle vinaigrette & crispy fresh herb polenta
Day 6 – Oct. 29th – Villa Gravity Day
Today we woke up a little later then normal. We were kind of dragging our feet and taking our time. After breakfast we decided to just relax at the villa for the day. We were on the go pretty much every day so we wanted to relax for a bit.
Spending some time at WOW is never a difficult thing to do.
While we were spending time at the villa, we noticed that when the iguanas wanted food, they would come right up the stairs and wait.
A few years ago we went to the Bahamas and took a boat trip to iguana island where you would feed them grapes. So we would feed them grapes. Just be careful because they can bite….
Later that evening we headed back into town. We went back to Spyglass during happy hour. We had a couple of margaritas before heading out to dinner.
That night for dinner we decided to go to the Banana Deck. http://thebananadeck.com
We enjoyed our dinner, but not really overly impressed… later we found out they are known for their steaks.
We went back to the villa and called it a night.
Before we left for St. John I remember reading about this one villa being built on St. John. There is a blog written by Mike Mullen documenting this villa. It is called Bordo Mare. I contacted him before we left and he said he wanted to come by during our stay, we could check it out, even though it wasn’t completed yet. http://mikemullenblog.wordpress.com
I got in touch with him and we decided to meet him on location after breakfast. The villa is located in Chocolate Hole area on Great Cruz Bay road. It is being built right below Sopre Mare, his other villa. We pulled up and were great by Mike. He was very nice as he showed us around the construction site. We walked to the area of the living room where you could see out over the cliff onto the water. As were standing there I noticed WOW across the way.
I told Mike that’s where we were staying. He thought the villa looked larger then two bedrooms but we explained how it is broken up in pods. The villa he is building is more or less set up like a house. The first level has the living/dining room area and kitchen. Above are the bedrooms. The pool area was very spacious. We actually prefer the pod style for villas, but I do know some families prefer to be in one villa at the same time, and this one looks like it is going to be quite nice.
Once our tour was complete, Mike offered to show us Sopre Mare, however the renters had left the house locked. We thanked him for his time and we were on our way to Cinnamon.
It would up being a beautiful beach day and by far the longest day we spent on any beach.
After a long time spent on Cinnamon we headed back to WOW to get ready for dinner. Tonight we were having Ted from Ted’s Supper Club cook for us. I told him to come by around 5:30 since it takes him about 30 minutes for the first course.
At 5:30 Ted showed up right on time. He was familiar with the villa so we didn’t have to show him where things were in the kitchen.
While we were waiting for our first course, we sat back and watched another beautiful sunset.
We were getting a bit full at this point but we had to keep on going! The next course was a warm baby spinach salad, topped with apple wood smoked bacon and sparkling cider vinaigrette. I never thought a salad could taste so rich and delicious.
We thanked Ted for everything and he was on his way. (and he also cleaned everything up for us)
After that feast we could barely keep our eyes open! Bedtime soon followed….
Day 8 – Oct. 31st – Halloween
During the night we were woken up by some serious downpours….
When we did finally wake up that morning, it was the first day with overcast skies. We weren’t too disappointed since every day so far had been so beautiful. We just decided to have another villa gravity day. Plus we were meeting our friend Captain Joe (from the Scubadu) later for dinner.
After spending most of the day at WOW we took showers and made our way back to town. (Last year we used the shower off the master bedroom but felt it lacked privacy – when a passing ship would go by and would get a bit brisk with the wind off the water – so we used the shower off the kitchen bathroom that faced towards the back of the house. We preferred this shower over the master bedroom shower)
We walked on over to Mongoose Junction not realizing that’s where everyone gathers for Halloween. We walked up to the Tap Room, but it was too crowded. We walked back down to the Ocean Grill. http://oceangrillstjohn.com
We hadn’t been in the Ocean Grill since it was redone a few years ago. We walked in and it was quite nice. We each had a cocktail as we watched all the kids run around collecting candy throughout the shops.
We also noticed that the Ocean Grill had steel pan music every Monday and Friday. Interesting… the next day was Friday so maybe we would stop by.
It was getting close to 5 to meet Joe at the ferry so we headed back to High Tide. High Tide is a great place to wait for people coming off the ferry.
Once we met Joe we headed over to Fatty Crab. http://www.fattycrab.com/menus/st-john/
It was great to see him!
Next we had the fried calamari followed by the tempura shrimp.
Next was my favorite, the watermelon with the crispy pork belly.
The evening spent catching up and having a great time.
We went back to High Tide for a night cap
Joe offered to meet us at the ferry that Saturday on St. Thomas to take us to the airport so we would see him again. We were very excited and thanked him for the offer. We said our goodbyes until Saturday.
We made our way to Francis and found a parking spot quite close to the beach. We found a spot and camped out for a while. As the day went on the sun would try to make its way through and more people would arrive.
Several people would go in and out of the water snorkeling and mention how many turtles they saw… I was starting to get a bit jealous.
(I wound up cleaning our snorkel gear the day before so it would have time to dry before packing, so we didn’t bring it with us.)
While we were sitting there I notice an odd current moving across Francis. I heard the stories of the large ray that had been spotted there last year so I quickly got out of my chair. My husband and I started following this “current” as it started to come closer to the shoreline and continue to swim across the bay. People noticed it too as we walked on by. As we neared towards the end of Francis, we could see it was a small shark. I am not sure what type it was, but then I was glad I didn’t bring my snorkel gear…. I would have freaked out!
That night I had made reservations at Zozo’s which recently moved to Caneel Bay. http://www.caneelbay.com/sugar-mill-restaurant.html
So we headed back to our villa to get ready and pack up some things since we were leaving the next day.
My husband didn’t have a problem driving to Caneel, so we took our jeep to Caneel. We were greeted at the gate and they just told us where to park. Unfortunately it began to rain – a lot. We parked the jeep and were a little early for our reservation so we headed down to the Caneel Beach Bar. It was the 2nd day Caneel was officially open for the season and it was very crowded. I did notice that the logo had changed, but besides that, everything else looked the same.
My husband and I ordered two glasses of wine as we waited out the rain. We probably should have ordered two cocktails instead (at $11 a piece), because the price for 2 glasses of cabernet wound up being $28!!
We ordered (one of the most reasonable) bottles of red for $42.
For our main courses, I had the pistachio crusted mahi mahi and my husband splurged and had the porterhouse
On the way back to town we stopped at Ocean Grill to check out the steel pan music. Surprisingly he was very good. If we weren’t leaving the next day we probably would have stayed a lot longer.
This is one place I would definitely come back for dinner next time.
We set the alarm so that we would be up by 7am. This made us not rush for our last morning at WOW. Unfortunately when we woke up the skies were dark. We were able to take showers even though the rain made it a bit uncomfortable. I contacted Lisa about returning to WOW but unfortunately the owners are staying next fall for a few months which makes it unavailable for our annual October trip, which I completely understand since afterall it is their villa and if I owned it, I would be sure to stay there as much as I could. Disappointed, we thanked Lisa for another wonderful stay at WOW.
Once everything was packed and washed, we were on our way back to town. My husband dropped me off near the ferry with our luggage, while he went to drop the jeep off at Bougainvillea. I gave Joe a call to see if he was still available to pick us up at the Red Hook ferry terminal and he was. I told him we would be on the 10am ferry and see him soon.
Luckily the skies cleared somewhat so the ferry ride wasn’t too bad. We gathered our things and met Joe. We had some time before going to the airport. He wound up taking us around the island showing us some beautiful sights, including the overlook to Magen’s Bay.
Eventually it was time for him to drop us off at the airport. With sad faces, we thanked Joe for the ride and wished him well – until we would see him again next year.
We made it through customs with ease. We did have one bag that we had to check because we had an overflow of clothes and some liquid items (toiletries) that we couldn’t carry on. We also stopped at the duty free shop to get a few bottles of liquor – (1) grand marnier (1) golden Petron (1) cruzan aged rum and (2) bottles of russian vodka – all for $132. Not too bad!
While we waited to board our flight the skies opened up again and it started to pour. Despite the weather, we were able to board on time. The weather did make it a bit easier to leave however. We landed back in Newark around 6:30 that evening to 50 degrees. It was another great time on St. John and stay at WOW.
Now its back to reality. We are now on a mission to find another villa that is comparable to WOW but I know it iss going to be a tough act to follow. We are determined to return to St. John next year and make it our 11th time!