The last time I was in the Caribbean was in the mid 1980’s. I was a lowly Media Supervisor at a large advertising agency and as was the want of poorly paid ad agency employees we gleefully accepted every invitation from the magazine, radio and television industry. They of course were courting the bucketfuls of media dollars at our disposal in exchange for free drink, food and entertainment. It was at one of those soirées in what was pretty much a rigged name pull (by my friendly sales rep) that I won and set sail on a Caribbean cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, Caracas, Barbados and Martinique. Though recognized in later years as a budget sail we had a wonderful cruise and as my first ever big vacation it left me with the fondest memories of the islands and its warm creamy waters. I discovered that the Caribbean seas came in more shades of blue than I could imagine and that the sun sparkling on the waters created mirages of indescribable beauty. After that trip, I have traveled extensively in the past few decades and seen many ocean hues but it took a return trip to the Caribbean this week to remind me how unique the beauty of these waters are with the volcanic Virgin Islands strewn carelessly as if a giant hand was playing with marbles and creating a panorama of colors with their reefs, lagoons and bays. So here I am back in St.Thomas on my way back to the mainland and I leave my sensory week in Tortola, British Virgin Islands with incredible images imprinted on my mind.
My first sight of the perfectly situated home of a good friend and my host for the week transported me back to Mykonos. It was picture postcard perfect and all I could think of at that moment and the next few days was why it had taken me so long to come back to the Caribbean.
It is with a feeling of surprise and trepidation that I am winging back to the 30 degree temperature of Minneapolis when I have been basking in an even 82F for the last few days. The night before I left Minneapolis, winter had returned after an unexpectedly early spring with 5 inches of snow followed by another blast a few days later. So the first sight of St.Thomas was a balm to my frozen soul. Cruise ships lined the harbor and sea planes buzzed about.
As I boarded the Road Town Fast Ferry from St. Thomas to Road Town, Tortola I had already immersed myself in the Caribbean ethos with a fish, rice and beans and fried plantain meal.
You knew you were in the Caribbean when on arrival in Tortola, immigration and customs seemed to be happening in another dimension and time. The customs agent who looked liked he was 19 was convinced that I was bringing in cigarettes but after a liberal use of ‘Sirs’ in my most dulcet tones and an invitation to check my bag, which was ridiculously small for a week stay, I was allowed to proceed and start my visit with vistas and warm breezes that rocked me to sleep the first night.
As I sign off the first of my Caribbean blogs a few pointers.
> Make sure you carry your passport to the Caribbean. If North America is your home, it does not matter that you are not leaving US soil. You cannot leave the U.S. Virgin Islands without full customs and immigration procedures.
>Give yourself a break and go Caribbean. Leave your efficiency desiring brain behind. They move at a different pace around here. It’s the islands Man!
>The currency used all over the Virgin Islands is US dollars. Yea! Makes life simple. So even if you go in and out of the Britsh and U.S. Virgin Islands no foreign transaction fees.
>And last but not least let your senses take over and ENJOY what is truly another bit of paradise on earth.
Adios till next time!