Why Are We Here?

We still wrestle with the same problems that preoccupied Plato and Aristotle centuries ago: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? We search for answers, but the signs all seem to say “no exit.”

But the Cross boldly stands against the confusion of our world, a beacon of hope in the midst of darkness and doubt. In the Cross, Christ not only bridged the gap between God and us, but there we find the answers to life’s deepest questions. There we discover our true identity: forgiven sinners who now belong to God. There we discover our true destiny: a glorious eternity with God in Heaven. There we discover our true purpose: to love God and serve Him with all our might.

Celtic Cross in Ireland

Never underestimate what Christ did for us through the Cross. By it our salvation was won, and by it our lives—and our world—can be transformed. What difference does the Cross make in your life?

By Billy Graham in Hope for Each Day, Words of Wisdom and Faith

The Caribbean – Part 4

My husband and I jumped in the taxi at the Red Hook Ferry terminal. We were headed for the rental car company that had confirmed a car for us for the next few days.

Ten days earlier, when we had arrived in St. Thomas, Budget Rental car at the airport had confirmed a car for us, but they had not saved us one. That is not the way it is done in the States, but I do understand. St. Thomas is such a small island and there are an overwhelming number of tourists. The rental car companies have to do the best they can. There simply is not enough physical space on the island to hold all the rental cars that are needed. If they hold a car for someone, then if that person does not show up, they lose a significant amount of money. I understand the system, I simply wish they had told me that when I made the reservation. To get off the airplane, tired and hungry from the long trip, expecting to have a car, and not have one, is a bit disconcerting. Yet, in the end, it saved us a lot of money to do taxis for the first week we were there. Also, it gave us time to get used to the roads and the flow of traffic. In the end I was very happy.

So now, here we were walking into the Dependable Car Rental Agency on St. Thomas recommended by our bnb. Would they have a car for us? Yes! They did! They were very kind and had an extremely comfortable and clean SUV waiting for us. We were off!

The Fort

The bnb (Casa Grand View on Airbnb – check it out!) that we had booked for our last few days was up on top of the mountain with a fantastic view out over Megan’s Bay, out to Tortola, and beyond. But, to get there we had to follow some very interesting directions. Drive past the Fort, take a left at the light, follow the road up the hill (there was a left turn not mentioned but we figured it out). Follow the winding road till you come to an arch and a burnt-orange wall. Hmm, several arches, but no orange wall. Finally, after a few more zigs and zags, there appears before us a huge burnt-orange wall on our left, and lo and behold an arched doorway just before it. There we take a left. A few more zigs and zags, then a stop sign that is very well hidden. Oops. Didn’t make a stop as the road turns very quickly up to the right around a sharp corner. Next came Sib’s restaurant. (Great place to eat.) Take a right. Watch for the lime-green school and the Catholic church. There we take a left. Looking for a grey house with green shutters. A mile or so down the road and we are “home”. Great directions.

Megan’s Bay

The view is fantastic! We stand on the deck and just stare. God’s creation is beyond belief!

Once we have settled in, we drive down to the Fruit Bowl grocery store. We hear it is a bit on the expensive side but they have lots of fruit and a fantastic salad bar. We picked up some hot food and a few salad choices for our evening meal, much cheaper than going out to eat again and the food was delicious. We returned the next day because we loved it so much.

One day we drove down to Hull Bay. It was quiet (no cruise ship people) and pretty, but not much of a swimming beach. We sat and watched the surfers for awhile and ate at the restaurant. Great food!

Another day we drove down to Megan’s Bay. Absolutely gorgeous!! We went early and staked out some shade under a palm tree. Follow the beach down to the left and it won’t be so crowded. We had great fun watching the pelican’s diving for fish right in front of us. On the way back up the hill from there, we stopped at a restaurant called Brooks Restaurant and Bar. The food was incredibly delicious and the portions were gigantic! You have to go there.

We visited the Mountain Top view spot. The view was great, but not any different than our bnb. The gift shop was lots of fun. There was a wonderful pirate on the wall which I wanted to buy, but the lady just laughed at me and said he was not for sale.

One other beach we visited was at Secret Harbor. Most of the beach is for the resort, but go down to the end on the right and you can rent lounges and umbrellas. We got there early so the parking was easy and the umbrella available. Before long, the cruise ship people came and they were out of luck. The snorkeling was good, and the best part was the restaurant had a beach waitress so we didn’t even have to move from our chairs to get drinks and food. Loved it!

And so our Caribbean Trip came to an end. As one sign said, we had “Sandy toes and salty kisses.” The Caribbean is a fantastic place to visit – but we are always glad when we reach home.

There’s no place like home!

The Caribbean – Part 3

St. John – Red Hook Ferry

Riding the ferry to St. John, we saw numerous nearby islands, floating on the Caribbean Sea. It was a quick 20-minute ride. As we departed the ferry terminal in St. John, we were quickly surrounded by taxi drivers. We dove through the group and swam out the other side. Our ride was waiting for us. The lady who hosted our bed and breakfast met us in the cute little park opposite the ferry terminal. Since we had no rental car, we decided to try the taxis for a day or two. Our hostess said her house was about a mile and a half from Cruz Bay.

“That’s not very far.” I told my husband. “Let’s just walk to Cruz Bay in the morning and get a taxi from there to the beach.” Our hostess smiled and said, “Well, it is a difficult walk,” and she gave us phone numbers for several taxis. She drove us around Cruz Bay in a quick tour and then headed up the hill, then around some crazy corners, then down a hill, then up a very steep hill, then down some more hills, more crazy corners, then up, and up again, then waaaay up. That last hill was incredible—I never thought any vehicle could make it up that hill!

My husband looked at me and said, “I am not walking to Cruz Bay!” We climbed out of the car, grabbed our bags and headed into the house. It was a beautiful view straight through her living room, out the sliding glass doors, and out over the Caribbean Sea. Tropical greens and blues spread out before us as far as the eye could see. Our room was upstairs with its own balcony looking out over Rendezvous Bay across the sea and even out to St. Croix, over 40 miles away! We simply stood in awe. The room was beautiful, extremely clean and private. Check her out on Airbnb. It’s called Hawk’s Rest, Cruz Bay, St. John USVI. She went out of her way to make sure we had everything we needed.

The view from our balcony at Hawk’s Rest.

The next morning, she gave us a ride into Cruz Bay where we bought some sandwiches and easily grabbed a taxi headed out to the beaches. The taxi was an open-air Safari taxi. It was fun riding along looking out over the bays and islands, not worrying about keeping my eyes on the road. As the wind was up, we chose to start on Maho Bay. The waves were up, but not too much. We dove right in and swam to our hearts content. We did try to snorkel, but the waves had stirred up the sand so there was no visibility. Instead we built sand castles, stretched out in the sun, ate our delicious sandwiches and swam to our hearts content.

When we were ready to head back to our room, we stepped out onto the road behind the beach and looked around like we were lost. What if no taxi ever comes again? Before we had all the sand brushed off our feet and our shoes back on, a taxi came to our rescue. The following day we spent some time shopping in Cruz Bay and had a delightful strawberry and banana smoothie! Cruz Bay is quaint and delightful during the day. In the evenings, everyone has music blasting and the bars are overflowing with people having a great time. When Friday came, I announced it was time to rent a Jeep tomorrow and drive ourselves. Our hostess mentioned that most car rental companies are closed on Saturday, so we headed down immediately and found a Jeep available at the first place we stopped.

I have driven on the left side of the road before so no problems there. But those hills! Sharp corners with extra steep switchbacks make blind driving very interesting. Yet no problems occurred. The speed limit is usually 20 mph and everyone is kind and willing to wait their turn. We spent a few more days swimming and snorkeling, investigating all the beaches in turn.

Our favorite place to eat turned out to be the Sun Dog Café at the Mongoose Junction. Their Shrimp Vera Cruz was excellent! My husband said the Stuffed French Toast was the best food he had ever eaten. The mango and cream cheese stuffing literally explode in your mouth!

Sun Dog Café

The Jeep had to stay on St. John so we turned it in and headed back to St. Thomas. Our final Airbnb recommended a car rental company so we put in a call. Yes, they had a car and yes, they gave us a confirmation number…

The Caribbean – Part 2

Margaritaville, the song, is a lot of fun. Margaritaville, the resort on St. Thomas, is even more fun.

My husband and I spent four nights at Margaritaville. That was just enough time to see everything nearby as well as to have some time to play at the beach.

We booked our room through Airbnb and it was much less expensive than other area hotels. The room was gorgeous and immaculately clean. We had a full-size refrigerator, microwave, and even a dishwasher. There was also a blender for those frozen concoctions and the king size bed was extremely comfortable. Our second story balcony looked out over the pool and beyond that out to the bay.

Margaritaville Poolside Bar

The pool-side bar was very comfortable and did a great job of serving food from the kitchen any time we wanted. There is also a hill-top infinity pool which has unbelievable views out across the bay. It has a sit-down/swim-up bar up there, but they don’t have access to the kitchen, so no food.

Live music in the restaurant was great fun in the evenings and the pavilion next door hosted lively music and dance shows.

Margaritaville sits in Water Bay and while it is possible to swim there, the seaweed continually washes up onto the beach. It’s not too bad, easy enough to step around and they do rake it all up every several days or so. For swimming, Coki beach is a quick walk up the road. It has soft sand and beautiful turquoise water. We did a little snorkeling, but that day there was not much to see. Coral World Ocean Park is on Coki Point as well. They have an aquarium with quite a variety of sea life. We had great fun watching them feed the fish and even train the sharks. The touch pool was lots of fun to play in and the huge sea turtles had their own pool. The little pond turtles were cute (lots of babies) but watch out for the many iguana lurking nearby trying to steal the turtles’ food. The tower in the bay is the perfect location from which to watch the wild sea life. It was fascinating. And when they brought the food out—the myriad of huge fish went crazy! The diver had to wear chain-mail gloves to prevent becoming part of the fishes’ lunch!

Lots of wild iguana hang out with the small turtles.

Their dive tours are popular, as well as snuba and their underwater trail. We also enjoyed watching the trained parrots. The sea lion show was said to be excellent, but we missed that one.

It was back to Coki Beach to swim on our last day, but it was a Sunday and several cruise ships had arrived on the island. It didn’t take long for the beach to be overrun with all those tourists covered in oil!

Amazing Coki Beach

The meals at the restaurant were delicious! We had fresh sea food dishes and the rice had the most incredible flavor. The ribs were also wonderful. Don’t miss them! Though the meals were fantastic, they did make quite a dent in the pocketbook. We walked down to the local market (10 minutes) and bought some milk and cereal for our breakfasts. They had items that we were familiar with, so we bought those, then we bought a few things that were completely new to us—just to try and see. One thing we bought was a plantain. I had heard that they are very similar to bananas. We bought one and tried to eat it with our cereal in the morning, but it was hard and crunchy, not a pleasant taste. I should have googled it! Apparently, you have to cook it. Later in our trip we greatly enjoyed some fried plantain.

The pool/bar had music going most of the day. They even had some games sprinkled throughout the week as well.

All in all, we had a great time and would definitely go back. Yet four nights was enough and we were excited to head on to St. John.

The Caribbean – Part 1

We just returned from our yearly get-away-from-the-cold trip. This year our trip was to the soft, warm sands and turquoise-blue water of The United States Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John. This once in a life-time trip was courtesy of an airline voucher we received in exchange for giving up our seats a year ago on an over-booked flight. Free airfare! Where would you like to go? Not a doubt in our minds.

The flight took us to Houston (raining), then Puerto Rico, then finally to St. Thomas. I was mesmerized by the tropical ocean, so many shades of blues spreading out in all directions!

A major surprise for me was Puerto Rico. Through an occasional news story, I have only heard about Puerto Rico’s poverty — how destitute they are. Unfortunately, I have never delved deeper than surface knowledge about the people nor the land. Flying in to San Juan, I saw a beautiful city with palm trees, blue ocean, beaches, tall hotels and office buildings. It reminded me Honolulu. Why have I not heard about the beauty? I asked myself.

Yes, I did see a number of houses that still had blue tarps spread across their roofs. I recalled scenes on T.V. from the two 2017 hurricanes Irma and Marie. Bridges and roads were ruined, cutting off whole communities. Electricity was out throughout the entire island. Exhausted people stood in long lines to receive food and clean water.

But still… Why have I not heard about the beauty?

I began reading what I could find about being a tourist on Puerto Rico. They have amazing beaches, surfing around the whole island, hiking through the mountains, and beautiful gardens. They also have a rich culture and a complex history. And the food! Mouth watering pictures floated before me.


Picture courtesy of: crazyjamie.wordpress.com. Crazy Jamie has many delicious 
recipes on her website. Check them out!

I can’t wait to visit Puerto Rico someday!

Then we were on to St. Thomas. We had done our homework on St. Thomas: beaches, restaurants, shopping, museums, driving, taxis, ferries, all of it. Yet I was not prepared for the physical size of the island. Very small! Thirteen miles long and four miles wide. As we dropped out of the sky I scanned the numerous other islands as well and got a sense of what thirteen miles by four miles really means. I am accustomed to living in Montana, Big Sky country with lots of wide-open spaces. Yet this tiny island was surrounded by picturesque beaches, green hills and sailboats galore.

I had reserved a car at the airport and we were excited to get to our first hotel. I stepped up to the rental car counter and the lady said, “No cars. They are all gone. Come back tomorrow at 1:30 and I will get you a car.” I stood there confused for a second then handed her my confirmation number. The line of tourists behind me were frozen just as I was. So the lady explained. “No cars. They are all gone. Come back tomorrow at 1:30 and I will get you a car.”

The taxi men were hovering.

By the time we were loaded up and headed down the road it was dark. The taxi zipped in and out of busy traffic and zoomed up and down and around the crazy corners that make up the road system of St. Thomas. I looked at my husband and said, “I sure am glad there was no car for us!”

The taxi van was full of young people from the States. They repeatedly told the taxi driver that he was not going the right way. They said they knew of a shorter road. A quick check of the map the next day showed that the taxi man had indeed taken the shortest route. The patient taxi man had been kind, but I was embarrassed. Those of us from the States are guests on their island and in their towns and in their taxis. Guests should show hosts the respect they deserve, not be demanding and act as if they know it all.

Nevertheless, our room was beautiful and the bed was very comfortable. We woke in the morning and immediately opened the curtains to look outside for a peek. A sparkling swimming pool lined with palm trees, lounge chairs and umbrellas greeted us. The sun shone over everything. Behind the pool was a bluer than blue bay, sailboats lazily bobbing at their moors. We slid open the balcony door and warm tropical air enveloped us. “We are not in Montana anymore Toto,” my husband grinned.

Have you ever been to the USVI? Share your thoughts and/or web page.