Over winter break, my parents, brother and I embarked on a week-long cruise filled with lots and LOTS of food, amazing beaches, awkward encounters with our dinner waiters, and perhaps the second-most chaotic New Year’s Eve celebration in the world (or on the Atlantic Ocean, at least). My brother and mom made their grand karaoke debut (“Welcome to the Hotel California…”), and my dad defended his title at the “Finish That Lyric” game. We shared laughs, unnecessary cheese plates at dinner, and desserts (OK, actually, we each had our own desserts). All in all, it was a great week of family fun (sans technology).
St. Thomas: Hills and History
My favorite port-of-call was St. Thomas, which is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is equal parts beauty and history. Upon arriving in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, we hopped in a taxi that kind of felt more like a wagon than a car. The leather/pleather seats were hot and flat from the previous passenger. (I also found it interesting that people were driving on the left side of the street, but the cars still had the wheel on the left side.)
The ride into the downtown area was bumpy but picturesque. We were dropped off in a shady spot (both meanings of the word “shady” are applicable here), but we made our way to the main area with shops and restaurants. My brother and I followed my parents through a narrow alleyway on a giant hill (it was practically vertical). It probably doesn’t sound like it, but we had a plan – we were headed to the second-oldest synagogue in the Western hemisphere, which was perched on top of the steep hill (See pictures below!). The synagogue was absolutely beautiful, and it had an amazing backstory. It was an honor to set foot in the sacred and unique space.
After spending some time in the downtown area, we took a cab to the other side of the island, which was more serene and less touristy than the area near the cruise dock. Lunch was courtesy of Iggie’s Beach Shack, which is exactly what it sounds like – an adorable restaurant and bar plopped directly on the beach. Even though the heavy winds caused some food fiascos (i.e. salsa all over the table), it felt great to eat, sit, and relax in a place that truly embodied the meaning of “island time.”
(Not pictured: the most fresh and delicious fish tacos I have ever tasted.)
St. Maarten: A Slice of Heaven
St. Maarten is unique in that it is split in half; one side is Dutch, and the other side is French (called St. Martin). Although we spent less time in St. Maarten than in St. Thomas, I loved visiting the French side of the island, which had a long stretch of beaches lined with restaurants and cafés. Even though my dad, brother and I had a sketchy encounter with a local who tried to sell us his “10th reggae album” that was supposedly “free of bad vibes and cursing,” the day at the beach was absolutely perfect.
Although I am no longer on a beach in St. Maarten, I can dream about the fun times my family had on our getaway. As I am writing this, I am two weeks into my second semester of college. My days are already very hectic – and there is (almost) always some sort of daily embarrassing fiasco to deal with – but they are filled with awesome people and activities that I enjoy.
Here’s to sunshine and getting back to the college grind,