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Monday, December 14, 2015

Crashes, Feeding Frenzies, Disappointments, and Triumphs: St. Croix, Part 3



Need to catch up? Click on the following links for Part 1 and Part 2 of this trip.

We’re here, we’re squared away as far as access goes…why don’t we start enjoying St. Croix?

The Buccaneer is an historic, family run hotel sitting on over 300 acres just east of the town of Christiansted. It’s a rambling affair with a great house on the hilltop overlooking three beaches and a golf course. All guests receive a complimentary, full breakfast buffet with an option of omelets or eggs cooked to order.

Watch the Video!


Since we’re trying to do this on a budget, the plan is to eat a big breakfast to last us most of the day so we can skip lunch and save a little money on this expensive island.





Heaping piles of creamy scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, and sausage sit on our plates followed by a bowl of fresh pineapple chunks, oranges, grapes, and bananas. Steamy coffee wakes us up and a variety of juices gives us a filling and healthy way to start the day. All this fresh and delicious food is attended to some of the friendliest staff you’ll meet.


Looking to the west, we can see the harbor at Christiansted. It’ll be quiet on this Sunday morning so we’ll go over and have a look around after tipping our waiter.


It’s a two mile, fairly hair raising drive over to the town. Driving in the Virgin Islands is unique. Yes, you’re still in the United States but it’s a bit different here. For one thing, you drive on the left. I’ve done this in Ireland and really had no problem adjusting but there’s another curve these islands throw at you…you’re driving American style cars…which mean the driver sits on the left and drives on the left, not right-hand drive like you’d see in the UK or Ireland.


It is quite disconcerting and takes a bit of getting used to. To start off, the narrow little driveway of the hotel is a roundabout with a fountain in it. I’m watching on the right to make sure I have room when I suddenly hear the awful sound of metal scraping concrete. I’ve just put a large, crescent shaped dent in the driver’s door by rubbing up against the fountain.

We manage to extract ourselves, curse a bit, and hope that American Express will really cover the damage. With that behind us, we continue on to town without incident.


Downtown Christiansted is a warren of tiny little narrow one-way streets. Parking is scarce but we do find two handicapped spots open two short blocks from the waterfront. Luckily, we remembered to bring a parking placard with us.

Walking down to the boardwalk is an adventure in accessibility…roll down the sidewalk a bit, cross over mid block where there’s a ramp to cross over, get halfway down the next block and finish by rolling in the street until we hit water.


A dive shop offering snorkeling tours to Buck Island, just offshore, is open. On the web, they say they accommodate disabled tourists so we stop in and ask.

“Can he walk down stairs?” we’re asked.

“No.”

“Well you need to be able to walk up stairs into the boat and off of the boat when we get to the island for snorkeling.”

“But on the Internet it says you take disabled people out for snorkeling…you even have a picture of a guy in a wheelchair on the boat.”

“We do, but they have to be able to walk up and down stairs.”

“They don’t sound too disabled to me,” I finish up with and leave.

We’ll see if we can do some shore diving at the hotel and task the concierge into finding us a trip we can take. In the meantime, next door is Rum Runners, a waterfront bar, with very large fish swimming in the water under the dock.


“They’re tarpon,” someone says.

We strike a long conversation with a local lady just enjoying the dock while surfing on her iPhone.

“They’re not good eating so we leave them alone. Sometimes people will catch them, cut them up, and use for bait.”

We learn something new each day.

A short stroll to the other end of the boardwalk brings us to Fort Christian National Historic Park. Since Tim has a Golden Access Pass, we don’t have to pay the $3 admission into the fort. Doesn’t really matter since only the area inside the gate is accessible. The volunteer on duty tells us they can’t put a ramp inot the fort because of the historical nature.

I politely suggest that she should pass the word along that non-permanent ramps and lifts have been used at national historic sites like the White House and Fort Sumpter, maybe they could look into it?

While Tim takes a look at the binder full of pictures and descriptions, Letty and I go into the fort to explore and take pictures.


Under a half-staff flag (we were there just days after the Boston Marathon bombing) sits a row of cannon to ward off pirates and invading navies…never used by the way. Down below is the powder magazine, next to the officer’s day room and armory. Across the courtyard is the tiny, cramped, dungeon where recalcitrant slaves were punished, along with some small detention cells.

Outside the fort is the old custom house with another building still holding the old scales where cargo was weighed to establish the tax owed.


A couple of hundred yards offshore is a five acre island called Protestant Cay. It looks lovely with many trees, flowers, and a wide sandy beach. There’s also the Hotel on the Cay there, offering some unique and low priced accommodations on their own little island paradise.

I don’t think it’s too accessible, though.


We finish off our first foray into town at the waterfront Fort Christian Brewpub, the Virgin Islands' only microbrewery.  We have some calamari and beer when one of the very mean feral cats comes to beg. I say mean because I found out just how feral it was when I reached down to pet him. I’m lucky I still have a hand…

The bartender goes over to the water and throws something in. There is a big splashing commotion so we go over to take a look.

He’s throwing chicken bones into the water, which immediate sends the tarpon into a feeding frenzy. It’s quite a sight to see.

Apparently, it’s a tradition here to order chicken wings at the pub and then throw the leftover bones into the bay where the tarpon will gladly swallow them whole.

With a little island brew, history, and cheap entertainment under our belt, we head back to the hotel.

I meet tonight’s musicians unloading their van in front of our room. Junie is his name, as he introduces himself to me along with his son Rocky and associate Charles.

“I’ve never heard of anyone with the last name of Musick,” he tells me with great amusement. “Come and see the show.”


We do. Junie and Rocky provide a great, steel-drum set of music while we sip on cocktails on the terrace. Junie sees Tim and says “you have a special son.”

Yes, I guess I do.

“I have a special son too,” he tells me as he points to Rocky, who is now across the room surfing the Internet on the hotel's lobby computer. “He has ADHD and was put on all kinds of medicine including Ritalin. I had enough, it was just poisoning his head and it’s easier to deal without it.”

He tells me he’s been playing here at the Buccaneer since he was eight.

“The first night I was here there were battleships, aircraft carriers, and destroyers offshore. The Kennedy brothers and Lyndon Johnson were sitting where you were. It was during the Cuban missile crisis.”

He tells me of his family’s history on the island and the ranch they own.

“I’m cash poor and land rich but I consider myself a very wealthy man. My wealth is over there,” he says, as he points to Rocky. “That’s all the riches I need.”

Junie and the Jungle, as they call themselves, go back onstage for the second set as we finish off our drinks and head back to the suite.



A suitable introduction to our home for the next five days.


Darryl
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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