In early February, 2008, we took a long weekend vacation on St. Croix, one of the US Virgin Islands. The trip was very spur-of-the-moment and it only came about because we noticed that one of our favorite bands, The Grandsons, was planning a USVI tour. Their music consists of a fun blend of 50s-style rock’n’roll, New Orleans R&B; and some very witty original numbers. Needless to say, they’re very dance-able.
It seems like on all our previous vacations, we’ve made such an effort to find places where we could dance. This vacation had the dancing “built-in.”
We planned to see three or four Grandsons shows while also spending a significant amount of time relaxing on the beach and indulging in our other passions, e.g. eating and discovering new cities and towns.
We arrived Friday, February 1st, leaving behind sub-freezing DC temperatures and a lovely morning of freezing rain, ice and slush. Getting off the plane in St. Croix, we were treated to their version of cold winter weather, which consists of 75 degree temperatures and light breezes. We took a taxi to our lovely resort complex, The Buccaneer, which came highly recommended by multiple friends. We were wowed by the palmtree-lined entrance and the pink grandeur of the hotel’s main buildings along with the perfectly manicured lawns, sprawling flowers and water fountains.
Getting a free upgrade to a luxurious ocean-view room with a four-poster bed, marble floors and a huge balcony was the first of many wonderful experiences we had with the hotel staff.
After getting settled in, we immediately hit the Mermaid Beach for conch salad, rum cake, sand, sun and surf (and ping-pong). We headed into the quiet town of Christiansted for dinner that night, having chosen the highly-recommended Bacchus Restaurant. We dined on beet salad, seared Ahi and “the best lobster ever.” We then headed to Chicken Charlie’s Roadhouse, a shanty-cum-dive bar frequented by pleasantly rowdy (and very much inebriated) locals whose only care in the world was how to have a great time. The Grandsons rocked the roof off that place and we danced the night away.
After our first dance, Chicken Charlie himself and his wife hit the floor followed by several other couples. Seems like we started something that night.
Saturday morning, Groundhog Day 2008, we slept in and then were treated to an amazing buffet breakfast including creamy and delicious grits, fresh strawberries, potent coffee and numerous other delights. We trekked up toward Cane Bay for the “St. Croix de Gras” parade and block party, which is the island’s version of Mardi Gras, if that wasn’t obvious form the name. (Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which fell early this year.) We were probably the only tourists at this parade (other than The Grandsons) and we were pretty much blown away by the raucousness, recklessness and rowdy-ness of this whole affair which consisted of cars, trucks, ATVs, floats and hordes of totally wasted party-goers. Beads, Jell-O shots and beers were flying left and right amidst honking horns, hooting and hollering locals and spurts of water from some indiscriminate water-pistol wielding marksmen. We ate beef and vegetable roti at a makeshift roadside stand and, later, at a beach shack bar thingamajigger, we drank rum punch made with the storied Cruzan rum, which is pretty much the best tasting rum we’ve ever tried. In fact, it doesn’t taste like rum at all — it tastes more like candy than alcohol.
We arrived a bit late at this whole St. Croix de Gras affair, so we missed The Grandsons playing on Chicken Charlie’s float. We waited around a while for another show, but it never actually happened, so we hopped in a taxi and headed back to The Buccaneer for a cat nap on the beach. After getting cleaned up, we sat and listened to an amazing jazz pianist in the Buccaneer lobby while sipping “vintage” cocktails. He did a mean “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and a “Take The A Train” that really rocked the house.
We danced. Of course we did.
That night we enjoyed an amazing dinner at the Thai/Mexican-style restaurant Savant: Vietnamese summer rolls followed by sesame seared Ahi (Allison) and a bacon-wrapped double-cut pork chop over jalapeno cheese grits (Chris). We sat in a most lovely and romantic, candle-lit, stone-walled garden replete with native vegetation and even a few chirp-chirping birds to accompany our fabulous dinner. Then it was back to Chicken Charlie’s for a reprise of the previous night’s dance-fest to The Grandsons. This evening we closed out the bar and helped the crowd of totally sauced locals convince The Grandsons to do an encore, which turned out to be Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” — a real gem.
Thomas the taxi driver, who had picked us up and dropped us off at nearly all of our destinations, arrived to pick us up that evening.
He tried to convince us that he was not the only cab driver on the island, but we remained dubious.
Superbowl Sunday arrived with many of the thematic elements from the days before: perfect temperatures, gentle warm breezes, a fantastic breakfast buffet and more Grandsons. After a luxurious post-breakfast nap (when do we ever get to do that?), we headed over to the islands other major city, Fredericksted, located on the island’s West side. There we had a great lunch at Blue Moon, a fine establishment billed as a “jazz cafe” which was completely true other than the “jazz” part. Our disappointment over the music (or lack thereof) was mediated by the great food — steak and eggs and a fantastic grilled shrimp caesar salad with homemade dressing. We topped it off with an “almond joy” sundae and mint chocolate chip ice cream cake.
We spent the afternoon reeling and rocking to the Grandsons at another beach shack/dive bar called Rhythms at Rainbow Beach. You could sit outside or in or sit on the beach or even go for a swim in the ocean and still hear the band playing their unique blend of American roots rock and New Orleans jazz and swing. We danced, we drank more Cruzan rum punch and we snacked on local dive-bar delicacies.
Sunday evening we had a lovely dinner at The Terrace restaurant in The Buccaneer overlooking the glimmering lights of Christiansted. We dined on beet salad (again), spinach and bacon salad, shrimp cocktail and Mahi Mahi over risotto. Mmmm. We closed out the evening by watching the second half of what turned out to be an amazingly close, nail-biter Superbowl game in which the Giants edged out the undefeated Patriots 17-14, coming back from behind (as a wildcard team) and spoiling what would have been a perfect season for them. Amazing.
Monday morning, our last day in paradise, started the same way — we slept in late, had another phenomenal breakfast, had a spa appointment (Allison) and then hung out on the beach where we enjoyed a swim, more Ahi and Mahi Mahi, more ping pong and some welcome warm rain showers to cool us off. As Allan MacEwen of The Grandsons said,
“If you don’t like the weather on St. Croix, just wait five minutes.”
Whereas following an indie swing band around a tropical island may not be for everyone, it was certainly the right vacation for us. We may just have to do it again some time soon.