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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stopover in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

As promised!  Our Puerto Rico Christmas gave way to three lovely days in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, giving us a few more hours to tan and relax before a week of crazy yachting.

Thursday,  December 26, 2013

We packed up our things at the Seraton and made our way to the airport where we had a liiiiittle trouble finding our plane.  Turns out that's because it was a tiny puddle jumper!  We also gained another member of our Yacht Week crew... the remaining girl. 

The flight to St Thomas was a little scary for one of our crew members but boy were the views amazing! 

When we landed in St Thomas it was a $10/person ride to Rhoda's Guest House, the hostel where we'd be staying for this portion of the trip.  Rhoda's House is owned by Eric and Abby and is absolutely adorable and clean although slightly out of the way to most places.  But for the value it can't be beat!  Four of us shared one of the private rooms with our own bathroom and the fifth stayed in the bunk bed room with a shared bath (she signed on later).  Eric and Abby were also amazing.  Eric will regale you with hilarious stories if you ask...


The weather in St Thomas put Puerto Rico to shame so we were eager to get to a beach.  Eric kindly offered to take us to Magen's Beach which was pretty far from the hostel and avoided us having to find a pricey cab or taking two different safaris to get there. Safaris are open air trucks that fit about 15-20 people in the back (like a bus) that run on a prescribed route (like a bus) and cost $1-2 per person.  You just pull the little rope to activate the buzzer and they pull over and let you off.

I can definitely see why Magen's Beach is the most famous beach in St Thomas.  It is beautiful!!  Part of the reason is that it's very shallow for quite aways out so you can walk around and look down at the fish.  It also has easy access to drinks.  Only annoyance is it's a pain to get to and $4 per person entry fee.  On our way back to town we had to take a taxi who tried to extort us for $10 per person ($50?!??!) but I talked them down to.... $9?

We took the taxi into to Red Hook since we'd heard that's where all the action takes place (bars, restaurants, etc).  A rasta at Magen's had told me to get fish tacos at Fish Tails so Mochila and I deviated from the rest of the group for smoked tuna and Mahi Mahi tacos.  The smoked tuna app was DELICIOUS - slightly salty and perfect on chips.  The tacos were good too although nothing out of the ordinary.  You could tell they were fresh.  And the mudslides washed it all down nicely.  I'd definitely recommend this as a good place to chill at the bar and have some apps.

Our afternoon then devolved at Señor Frogs down the street (apparently we have to check them off in each country we visit on this trip) where we made besties with the heavily moustached bartender, ordered drinks in penis-shaped palm trees and fashioned our own balloon hats which were pretty sorry looking.  At one point, Shamena (she loves to sing outloud but never knows the lyrics so we told her to just mouth Sha-me-nah over and over again) decided she was done with the game of Jenga and just back-handed the tower across the bar.   We made our exit after that.

Only to hit up the infamous Duffy's Love Shack!  Shamena's brother had recommended this dive as the best bar in St Thomas so we had to check it out.  The fun thing about this bar is that each of the crazy drinks comes in certain glasses/mugs.  So, for example, if you order a "Cry Baby" it comes in a plastic baby bottle.  The "Booty Call" came in a pirate cup.  I ordered both.


Around the time that I'd finished both drinks, and had them refilled, I'd given my balloon hat to an eight year old boy and was doing "hand-made" limbo to Vamos de la Playa. Easily one of my finest moments.  Since we were still going strong straight from the beach the "magic mochila" was with us and made another ratchet dance appearance. The night ended with the grumpy cat bartender trying to cheat us by making us pay for a bunch of drinks we didn't order.  And I knew I was right because we didn't have the matching cups to go with the drinks he said we'd ordered.  Nice try dumba--  When I tried to reason with him he just said to forget it and wouldn't let me pay at all.  FINE.

The cab home was $7 a person for those who don't want to get ripped off.  That's how much it should be for Red Hook back to Rhoda's (Tillett Gardens is where you say you want to go).

Friday,  December 27, 2013

In the morning, we walked down the street to get supplies from Kmart and then took the $1 safari to Sapphire Beach. We managed to pass it and end up at Red Hook again (oops) so we had to walk back to the beach (safaris only go one way).

On arrival at the beach, I made the most amazing discovery... a BBQ truck called Off the Grid that sells all you can eat BBQ for $15.  Um yes please.  And if you order a beer you get a coozie!!!  SOLD!  You can also pay normal prices and takeaway down to the beach too since the unlimited is only if you stay up by the truck and we wanted beach time (safari drops you at the top of a hill where the truck is and then you have to walk down quite aways to the beach).

Sapphire Beach was beautiful as well although a little more windy than Magen's and smaller beach front.  You can rent beach lounge chairs for $7 each.  We had a lovely day and then came back to shower before heading back to Red Hook for dinner at LTD Pizza.

LTD is in a hip little spot overlooking the harbor and their LTD Deluxe pizza (sausage, pepperoni and peppers) was insanely good.  Be warned that it will seem like a huge wait (there were eight of us) but it took no time at all so I recommend giving it a little time before you bail because the pizza and the atmosphere is worth it.

After dinner we wandered around looking for a new bar to go to since we were basically banned from Duffy's after not paying the bill and so we ended up at Molly Malone's.  No offense to Irish bars (afterall I'm Irish) but they just don't hold any interest for me.  There was a live band with a crazy man playing harmonica but he could hold our interest for only so long so we went looking for a new spot.

We ended up at Fatty's which is in the same parking lot as Duffy's (yes Duffy's is a bar smack in the middle of a parking lot).  Turns out it's also heaven and filled with all the locals including probably the hottest chef I've ever seen.  Shamena and I took turns trying to catch glimpses of him in the kitchen.  This place was just as divey as Duffy's but without the tourist BS.


The bartender self-proclaimed himself as "Big Pappa" and Shamena got into a dance off with some dude to the sound "Jump on it; ride it"  He eventually started dancing so dirty that she turned red and conceded the dance off.

We made friends with some of the locals who suggested we continue on to Caribbean Saloon across the street where I got sucked into playing the naked matching game and trivia.

One of the guys was wearing an interesting bracelet that I'd seen on a few people so I asked him about it (reference image below).  He said that the bracelet let's other people know if you are in a relationship or not.  If the hook faces your hand you are single; if it faces your elbow you are taken.  This obviously prompted him to point out his was facing his which point I made excuses to find my friends.


It was getting pretty late and someone managed to flag down a massive car to take us back.  Late night in St Thomas locals will just drive around in their own cars and if you are going in the same direction you can throw them a couple bucks to take you on their way.  I wouldn't do it by myself at night but in a group you are safe... island culture still embraces hitchhikers... for a price obviously.

I managed to ask one of the guys from our hostel for a bite of his pizza.  I was later told I folded the entire slice into one bite and ate it.  He was not pleased.  Upon arrival back at the hostel someone got a wild hair to make pancakes which was appreciated by the whole group and a perfect way to end a great day.

Saturday,  December 28, 2013

Next morning I woke up feeling sick but figured I could just as easily feel sick at the beach so we took a safari to Red Hook in search of Secret Harbor Beach since the crappy map made it look like it was right at the edge of town.

Turns out you have to....
  • Pass through the whole town of Red Hook
  • Pass the high school 
  • Turn left at the yellow shack
  • Go up the hill on the left
  • First right you see a little sign for Secret Harbor
  • You walk for ages down the hill through a residential neighborhood to the beach
The crew kept asking me "ARE WE THERE YET???" which I obviously had no idea SINCE I'D NEVER BEEN THERE so I finally yelled "THEN TAKE A F-ING CAB!" This just made them all start laughing at me... sigh.  But in the end it was worth it because the beach was so secluded and amazing. 

I'd brought Winston, my traveling Flabongo with me, and the hostel boys showed up so we spent the day in the water taking Winstons and playing water tennis.  I took a pit-stop at the restaurant on the water and ordered buffalo wings which were spicy and sweet and perfect.  I highly recommend them!!  Soon we had to leave because the two remaining people in our Yacht Week crew had arrived at the hostel and we'd all planned to have a big family dinner for our last night in St Thomas.

Within seconds of meeting up with the final crew members at the hostel, it was clear that Yacht Week had started even though we weren't there yet.  We made an amazing dinner of burgers, sausage, salad, and dark and stormy drinks before, you guessed it, heading out to Red Hook where we convinced all the guys to order us drinks at Duffy's so Grumpy Cat Bartender wouldn't see us and we could party there.

All-in-all a great part two to our two week vacation.  I love St Thomas and would return here in a heartbeat.

Inside Jokes from the Night:
"Are u sshing me?"
Something something cup

Sunday,  December 29, 2013

Our last day we packed and returned to Sapphire Beach for some final BBQ and sun before heading on the ferry to Tortola for the next chapter...YACHT WEEK BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Monday, March 24, 2014

Feliz Navidad in Puerto Rico

Wow... the last three months of been a whirlwind of trips both for work and for pleasure.  And I owe you all the stories!  I'm getting back in the groove with a look back at Christmas in Puerto Rico.

As many of you recall, I went to Yacht Week in Croatia this summer and spent seven gorgeous sun-filled days sailing the Adriatic.  I was so entranced I had to experience it again... so three of us originals and four new "mates" would find ourselves booking a boat for Yacht Week in the British Virgin Islands for NYE.  And that's how I found myself in Puerto Rico for Christmas.  Our motley crew had to fly through San Juan in order to get to St Thomas (entry point to BVI) so we decided to spend a few days sampling the Bacardi and sunning ourselves poolside.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

We arrived in San Juan coming off a red eye that got us to the hotel at 1am.  We were staying at the Sheraton which we immediately started referring to as the Seraton because the "h" was burnt out.  I'd called the Seraton three different times asking if I needed to book the night before so that we'd have a room on arrival and they continually told me they'd just let us check in early.  Of course they were singing a different tunes when we arrived.

So... since we didn't have any beds to "make" or "lie in" we made the next most mature decision.  We checked our bags and went clubbing.  Yes, that's right.  Clubbing in sneakers, ankle socks, khaki shorts, a baggy T, my purple eyeglasses I've had since sixth grade and loosely braided hair.

Before hitting the cluuub, we stopped next door at Brickhaus, a sports bar that apparently had decent food and giant fish bowls.  The food was only decent but the fish bowls were super alcoholic and after the four of us demolished one we were quickly ready for the club.


The club was SO ratchet and we were the most ratchet attendees.  The first nickname of the trip was created that night.  One of our crew had wandered out with her backpack on.  Seeing as how we were in a Spanish-speaking country she continually referred to it as her "mochila."  She then preceded to booty-dance like a crazy person, the backpack slapping up and down on her back, that we couldn't have but dub her "Mochila" for the remainder of the trip.

Even the ratchet club couldn't handle us for long as they began to close up around 4am.  Only 8 more hours until our 1pm check-in time!  As we prepared to leave, we spied a decorative Christmas tree ornament that Mochila grabbed and ran out with it.


We spent the next 4-5 hours passed on the floor of the hotel until the pool opened.  We changed into our suits and then passed out there instead. 

After burning away some of our white New Yorker skin and FINALLY checking into our room (which was really nice), we grew hungry (can't live on fishbowls alone!) and decided to wander Old San Juan until we found somewhere that looked good for lunch.

We ended up at Pizza E Birra where we promptly ordered everything BUT pizza which was a huge mistake.  I got little empanadas with some type of meat in them and they were really dry.  Mochila's salad looked pretty great though.  I still had the leftover taste of fish bowl in my mouth so I'm sure that contributed to my disinterest in the food.

On our walk back towards the hotel, we saw this adorable little restaurant called Barrachina which apparently invented the piña colada.  Clearly we need to see this in action so we wandered in, took a seat at the bar and tried them out.  They were SO good that we took roadies to go.


We spent the next two hours wandering the streets checking out the ridiculous touristy stores until we found ourselves hungry again AND right in front of, you guessed it, Senor Frogs.  The guac was good, the drinks were tall, and Erwin the bartender was a gas.  We left feeling goofy in our balloon hats ready for nap time before dinner.


It was about 9pm by the time we got ourselves together and out to get dinner.  Everything was closed and it was starting to rain which was pretty depressing.  I'd been looking forward to an entertaining restaurant with outdoor seating.  We ended up at Pirilo Pizza Rustica where we had an unexpectedly delicious dinner.  We ordered pizza this time which was probably why.  It was so delightful and the perfect end to our first real evening in Puerto Rico.


Inside Joke of the Night:

Monday, December 23, 2013

It turns out that December/January is Puerto Rico's busy season.  Who would've thought all the frozen East Coasters would choose to come South to tropic warmth... apparently not us.  EVERYTHING was booked.  You couldn't find a rental car to save your life, the bioluminiscent pools were fully booked, even the rainforest was booked (how the hell does a RAINFOREST get booked?).  We quickly realized we were SOL on doing anything outside of Old San Juan.

Naturally the only thing we could do was take the 50 cent ferry to the Bacardi factory.  Two free drinks later we were on a tour of the Bacardi factory.  Note:  Do not use your drink tickets when you first arrive.  Wait until after the tour because they won't let you bring your drink with you so you end up chugging both drinks in order to get on the tour bus.  Better to wait until after so that you can enjoy them!


Here are all the random facts I learned on the tour:
  • The bat is special to Cataluna, Spain, which is why it is the symbol of Bacardi (that's where Bacardi was from)
  • Grain sugar and molasses are byproducts of cane sugar and the molasses sugar is then made into rum
  • The Pirates of Caribbean were instrumental in the creation of rum because they thought seasickness was demonic possession and so they created "fire water" to exorcise themselves
  • The pirates smoothed the flavor of the fire water with mint leaves and lemon juice which was one of the first cocktails and the origin of the "Mojito"
  • Molasses was easy to bootleg in the backyard so Bacardi started making fire water from the molasses and then refining it into the Bacardi Rum we know of today in Cuba but he added two new things to the process - charcoal and aging in oak caskets
  • Turns out Prohibition was instrumental in Bacardi's success because all the Americans came to Havana!
  • There is even a law that if you ask for a Bacardi rum they must serve Bacardi
  • Mojito is the oldest cocktail ever (1862) and Bacardi was the first liquor to be used in one
After the tour we came back and napped for a little bit before going back to Barrachina for dinner since we'd had such a lovely time at the bar the day before.  The food was TERRIBLE and the pina coladas were extremely watered down.  I ordered the Mofongo which tasted like it'd been sitting out for hours.  Probably had been considering it took over an hour for us to get our food.  It was a horrible experience.

The bar we went to after dinner made up for it though.  We went to a SUPER divey place called El Batey.  I ended up sitting at the bar next to a local named Eduardo who was super cool and invited us to a pig roast but I couldn't convince any of the other girls to get on board.  Damnit!  We ended the night dancing to salsa with a bunch of random college guys at another bar and then peaced out for home.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve!  I'm embarrassed to say that I've started every morning eating quiche at Starbucks.  I don't know if they put crack in the quiche there or what but they were SO good.  I also just desperately needed WiFi since the hotel's connection was terrible and as the only Verizon person on the trip I was relegated to being the only one without service.  A win for AT&T!

We spent most of the day at the pool since it was finally nice weather and then searched for somewhere to have dinner.  Yet again we didn't think through the fact that all the restaurants would be booked on Christmas Eve.  Fail.  We ended up at Cafe Berlin for dinner which had an hour wait so we sat at the bar waiting for our table.  We tried ordering wine but after three bottles that were all corked we gave up and asked what else they had.  The bartender mentioned that he won a national award in the U.S.A. for his Long Island ice teas.  Turns out that's a drink favorite of ourselves.

By the time my dish arrived I think anything would've tasted good but this was by far the best meal I'd had on the trip.  It was a very enjoyable dinner.  And we were plenty ready for the bar crawl to Nonos and Acqua.  Both bars were fairly fun although nothing stand out.

Inside Joke of the Night:
"Feliz Navidad (FFYD) and you know you ain't ever coming back from that"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!  Yet another nice day so most of the day was spent at the pool preparing our bikini bods for the quickly approaching Yacht Week.  We decided to try something new and hit up the beach for a bit so we took a taxi to the beach in Isla Verde.  I wish we'd thought of this sooner (not that the weather had cooperated).


We spent the day crushing buckets of Coronas in the steaming sun before heading back to get dressed up for our holiday dinner.  Back at the hotel, Mochila surprised us with Christmas presents that she'd put under our ratchet stolen Christmas tree.  One of the packages contained hair dye called "Crazy Huez"... definitely bringing that to BVI!

As Mochila would say later "That's so romantic" and indeed our little lady dinner was just that.  We ate at Sofia because I'd been craving steak and they had some on the menu.  Our waiter had the longest rattail I've ever seen.  Near the start of dinner, someone spilled their water on me and felt horrible only for me to end up spilling my drink all over myself 15 minutes later. 

We ended the night at the Nuyorican, a combo of New York and Puerto Rico, because the owner is from both places.  I somehow convinced them to give me a discount on a T-shirt because I have this blog.  HAH.

We spent the rest of the night salsa dancing with mildly creepy men and then returned home to pack and prepare for our flight to St Thomas in the morning.  Hasta luego Puerto Rico!