Thank you all for taking the time to read my rambling report and post such nice comments. It was fun to write and much more interesting than the journal article I am supposed to be working on. This final installment will just be some random thoughts. Per our plan, the Emerald Beach hotel proved to be a stress-free end to our trip. We had a leisurely morning, which allowed the kids to sleep in, walk the beach and eat a good breakfast. The hotel itself is not luxury, but it is clean, the air conditioning worked great, the beach is pretty and there is a restaurant and bar. The employees could not have been friendlier. I would recommend it, especially if you have an early flight. You just never know what is going to happen. One year we hopped in the taxi at Red Hook and were heading to the airport when we heard a loud crash. There was an accident behind us and all of the other taxis from Red Hook got stuck behind the accident.
Just before noon we took the 10 minute walk to the airport. It was a Tuesday and the airport was not crowded at all. I took note that the lines at the ticket counters were only a couple people deep and there was only 7 groups ahead of us at customs. Living close to Canada, we go through customs often and always joke that we must be the most innocent looking family ever because we never get extended questioning. The same has always held true at STT, until this day. The agent took forever and asked every question twice (hoping to catch us in a lie?). I knew we hadn’t done anything wrong yet I was starting to sweat. Then he scanned NB’s passport first and silently clicked at the computer for what seemed like 5 minutes. Since NB and his college buddies had been to the Bahamas over spring break I started panicking in my head, “what if NB was in trouble with the law and didn’t tell us? Is this how I am going to find out? What if they don’t let us leave? I’m going to kill him”. I was so relieved when the agent put down NB’s passport and picked up Phil’s. I still don’t know what that was all about. We moved on to security which was very slow considering how uncrowded the airport was. I have never seen TSA being so thorough; they were pulling bags left and right for further inspection.
Some notes about the airport. There are kiosks selling cold drinks (including beer), sandwiches and salads. The gift/liquor shop was not open (much to SG’s disappointment) nor was the café. There is also no water fountain in the airport but they will sell you bottled water for $3.25 each. In case you are wondering, I was not cursed on this flight. We took off and landed on time – no delays, no cancellations.
If you are hesitant to visit St. John, do not be. The beaches are beautiful and most of them unchanged by the hurricanes. The grocery stores are open and stocked as well as they ever have been. With a few exceptions, the restaurants, bars and shops are open. One of the reasons we have gone to Virgin Gorda instead of St. John the last five years was to get away from the STJ crowds. Well, there are not any crowds now. Parking at the beaches (including Jumbie) is available all day, reservations are not needed at restaurants and the islanders are happy to see you. Aside from one waitress, we have never been treated so warmly by everyone as we were on this trip.
You may be wondering about construction and the answer is yes there is construction. There will be construction for quite awhile. They were working on the villa above use every day starting at 7 am, but it really didn’t bother us at all. They were done by the time we came back for pool time. The villa next to us was sadly destroyed and a couple of days there was a backhoe there completing the tear down. The island is recovering and construction is a part of that recovery. View it in a positive light and don’t let it stop you from visiting.
When we decided to take this trip, I read the thread “the good, the bad and the ugly” regarding villa management companies and decided I would stick with Destination St. John. They got good reviews and we are all about supporting local businesses. I am happy to report they lived up to their reputation and were so easy to work with. Laura was quick in responding to my multitude of questions via email, the villa was exactly as described, there was a welcome basket in the fridge and one minor internet issue was quickly resolved. The villa we stayed in is called Palm Hill and I plan to review it on TripAdvisor as well. We could not have been happier with the villa and with Destination St. John. We rented our Jeep through Courtesy and they were also very easy to work with. Reserving and paying the deposit was simply via their website. They met us at the ferry upon arrival and delivered us to the ferry after returning the car. Like all the other rental agencies their return time is before noon regardless of when you pick up the car. As such, we did have to pay for an extra day in order to keep the car until 7 pm. We had one surprise at the end where they charged us to have me on as an extra driver but Phil argued they didn’t tell us that up front so the charge was removed.
Finally, do not let jobs, school and life’s other distractions get in the way of taking a family vacation. It doesn’t have to be a big trip to St. John or some exotic destination, you don’t have to spend 1000’s of dollars – just take time to be together. Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.