After mentioning that Alan was in hot pursuit of “the perfect” Southern Caribbean island, I thought you might be interested in a quick look into what we found. We know lots of people who’ve been (or are even down there right now), so if you have photos or thoughts to share about what you found, or you have highlight experiences to recommend, please add them in the comment box below. One friend told me about an island where they were given bread to cast to the fish (while standing in waist deep water), and the fish nibbled at their toes. 🙂#1. Our first port was St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Due to terrible blizzards up north, we missed sailing from San Juan, so we flew into St. Croix and took a taxi to the ship. This gave us more of an unvarnished view of the island, as we took back roads from the airport to the port in Frederiksted. From the ship, we were able to walk to the beautifully sandy, warm Frederiksted Beach and enjoyed Fort Frederik, but as senior citizens, we felt a little intimidated by the poverty and number of young men who seemed to be homeless and roaming the streets with nothing to do. St. Croix is famous for fishing and is home to America’s only underwater National Park, Buck Island Reef, so if you’re a snorkeler or scuba diver, or love to fish, this might be a game changer for you. There are also miles of hiking trials and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, old sugar plantations, etc. However, we felt like Baby Bear from the three bears: This island was too HOT! (Well, maybe a little too remote and wild for us.)#2. St. Maarten. We landed at Philipsburg in St. Maarten and could walk to this gorgeous beach after several blocks of meandering through neatly arranged shops loaded with every possible item to allure tourists, including diamond jewelry, etc. I did end up buying a beautiful lacey coverup for 25E, which was about the only “major” purchase I made on the whole trip. St. Maarten is very cosmopolitan and rich. The little bears thought this island was too COLD for us (not temperature-wise, but in sophistication, nightlife, golfing, expense, etc.).#3. St. Lucia felt like a real country, not just a remote wilderness or tourist trap. We anchored in the capital city, Castries, and then toured the island.Alan’s older brother used to be the Peace Corp Director of St. Lucia, so we’d heard many interesting stories about the people and culture. A highlight for us was touring “Mama’s (Botanical) Garden” and tasting various new fruits, like “golden apples” (which aren’t like apples at all), agave juice, sugar cane, etc. One story that stands out in my memory is that despite the many beautiful beaches in the Southern Caribbean, many people (20 years ago) didn’t know how to swim! I’m not sure if that’s still true or not, but swimming isn’t an instinct we’re born with, so just living by gorgeous beaches doesn’t make one a swimmer.The last time we were in St. Lucia, we took a mud bath at the sulfur springs at Soufriere, advertised as “the only drive-in volcano in the world” which was definitely a unique, fun adventure. This time we spent some time at Rodney Bay, a beautiful, family-friendly beach with clear, warm water and soft, clean sand!St. Lucia was definitely a place Alan and I would both enjoy visiting again. Lots of natural beauty, lovely beaches, interesting terrain, more than just tourism going. The little bears would say this island is JUST RIGHT!#4. For unexcelled beauty, Alan and I both fell in love with Grenada!Grand Anse Beach (as I mentioned in an earlier post) is one of the most splendid in the Caribbean, and the day we were there, it was alive with colorful sailboats, due to a big race that day. Also, there were more lobsters being grilled than I’ve ever seen at one time. We thought we’d found “the perfect” spot until we inquired and found that rooms rent for about a thousand dollars per night, which is approximately twice as much as we paid per person for our entire 12-day trip, so we decided that we’d have to leave Grand Anse for rich grand aunts or whoever else might afford it!#5. This is Bridgetown, Barbados. If you’re there on a Sunday, try “The People’s Cathedral” for a morning of spirited worship! God is good, all the time!#6. Kingstown, St. Vincent is home to the oldest tropical botanic garden in the Western Hemisphere and definitely worth a visit. By the time we arrived in St. Vincent, we’d given up trying to find paradise on earth and began exploring highlights from each island. Their botanical garden was definitely a highlight!#7. This is Fort-de-France, Martinique. The height of modern civilization.Or not! The largest iguana we’ve ever seen outside a zoo was this fine fellow, just sauntering across the waterfront park. He was a bit on the bashful side, though, and would sit for a portrait but took off as soon as I asked for his autograph.#8. Dominica is rather wild and romantic. They have steaming mud pots, lush waterfalls, and the perfect setting for movies. In fact, some of the scenes from The Pirates of the Caribbean were shot here. We swam upstream (literally where the bases of two mountains meet) through the icy cold waters of the Titou River and along this gorge (used in one of the Pirates movies) to peer at Titou Falls. Definitely cold. Definitely gorgeous. Definitely took our breath away on both counts!Thankfully, our tour guide was thinking ahead, because after we were all half frozen from our time in the mountain stream, he took us to some idyllic mineral baths at Bongo Hot Springs to lounge until we were steaming hot!#9. St. Kitts was especially interesting to me, or else we just happened to have an especially varied tour. (This was where we ported, at Basseterre, St. Kitts.) We visited the Fairview Great House and their lovely botanical gardens that overlooked the Caribbean Sea.(This is a “Hong Kong Orchid.”)We also toured some beautiful tropical gardens at Caribbe Batik,and learned all about the artistry involved in making true batik prints. Oh, and there are some monkeys on St. Kitts—although I think most of them are used as pets and for commercial cuddling purposes. Pay as you hold! Many of the Caribbean islands are mostly beautiful sandbars, but don’t they look alluring? Bali-Hai, come to me! Our driver, on the other hand, said that St. Kitts looks like a chicken drumstick on a map, with Nevis (also under the same governmental authority . . . the island furthest away in this photo) looks like a dumpling, so together, folks have chicken and dumplings every day here. 🙂We definitely enjoyed our day in St. Kitts, but I’m not sure if it would be interesting enough (at least for us) to stay for weeks. Still, there was something almost heavenly about the ambience and glowing sunset, which made us want to linger rather than leave!#10. Antigua had lingered in my memory as a tropical paradise ever since it was our last stop before launching out across the Atlantic to Africa one year. Antigua is famous for having 365 beaches: One for every day of the year! I rode hoses down the beach and through the water once in Antigua (although they wouldn’t let you gallop or run free like you see in the movies . . . all quite sedate and in follow-the-leader format). St. John’s, the capital of Antigua, is a unique blend of historic Spanish and modern English culture. Antigua is the largest of the British Leeward Islands and has a complex history.The area around Nelson’s Dockyard is a World Heritage Site and full of living history as well as a fascinating museum and array of old (but well maintained) buildings. The area also attracts a huge sailing crowd in April, but even when we were there, there were lots of people around, as the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, “The World’s Toughest Row” was just finishing. I thought this was a sailing race, but it truly is a race where teams literally row across the Atlantic! I was amazed! I can’t even imagine trying to row across the ocean! The winning team had already arrived. They’d rowed 3,000 miles in 34 days, 12 hours, and 9 minutes, and I heard they looked pretty skinny when they arrived! Alan and I aren’t nearly so daring, I’m afraid. Our idea of a good time was a 90-minute swim at Fort James Beach. The weather and swimming in the Southern Caribbean (almost uniformly on every island) were unparalleled in my mind.#11. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Downtown Puerto Rico was completely jammed with hundreds of women (and a few men) in pink tutus running to support breast cancer research and awareness. Our bus driver was very frustrated that he couldn’t take us to all the wonderful sites he wanted us to see, but we enjoyed what we did see, including the beautiful Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which is also a World Heritage Site.This fortress, along with El Canuelo (across the bay), protected the entrance to San Juan quite effectively, as cannon fire between the two fortresses could completely reach any enemy ship attempting to attack the city. After giving careful consideration to which was our favorite island (as you may have read a couple of weeks ago), we decided that our first choice would be to cruise from port to port, leaving all the difficulty of transportation and food prep to the experts, and giving us maximal time to kick back and relax.On the other hand, if you have a favorite island and accommodation, I’d love to hear about it! However, my conclusion from our trip is to be very thankful for what we have, and to remember again to take joy in the journey. Ditto for our pilgrimage through this life. There’s always that illusive “perfect life” that seems to be out there somewhere—possibly a little out of reach but still within the realm of imagination. I think it’s the longing for heaven, but we’ll never really get there until we leave earth!
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).