Welcome! Tally ho!

Our B.V.I. Adventure is designed to give our family, friends and any other interested followers a look into the life of two expatriates making their way on the island of Tortola. Tortola is the largest island in the British Virgin Islands.

So, why did we move 2,000 miles away from our home in Knoxville, Tennessee? Michael accepted a position as the director of retail and international sales for a Caribbean clothing brand.



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Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Party

The Last Resort threw a fabulous party on Friday night for New Year's Eve.  The circus theme was carried out to perfection!  Partygoers may have docked at Bellamy Cay, but they stepped into the Big Top as soon as they arrived...

The bar was painted in bright blues, reds and yellows complete with stripes and stars.  And just as the advertisements promised, the night was "intents" and featured costume-clad band members, twinkling lights, bearded ladies and more ringmasters than you could count!

The most impressive of all stunts?  The bass player, Geoff, performed while balancing on stilts!  He could most definitely hold his own with the jumbies over at Trellis Bay! 

The leadsinger, Al, even climbed up a ladder and played a guitar solo atop a 15 foot platform (more than once!)  As midnight approached, we gathered on the lawn to watch confetti and fireworks shoot out from a large canon on top of the restaurant!  We had the best time!!!  We always do at The Last Resort, but they really pulled out all the stops for the party under the Big Top!

Happy New Year from Our BVI Adventure!!! 

The Things People Do in the Sand

How did you ring 2011?  We went to the Last Resort's Circus-themed party, but more on that later...

First I must share this hilarious photo we snapped at Smuggler's Cove, earlier in the day on NYE.  Not sure it needs much explanation...although I'm guessing her son or daughter will demand one when he/she finds this photo in a few years! 

Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rum Cake Rencounter

Pusser's recently won a head-to-head contest for its rum cake hosted by Uncommon Caribbean, a blog that celebrates the "undiscovered charms" of the Caribbean.

Tortuga has long been THE rum cake in the Caribbean, but as the results of the contest show, Pusser's Premium British Navy Rum Cake is giving old Tortuga a run for its money!  As Uncommon Caribbean points out, it all comes down to rum.

Pusser's rum cake is laced with 3 ounces of Pusser's Rum, as opposed to Tortuga's rum cake which doesn't exactly specify how much rum or rum essence is used...

So, if you're a fan of cake and you like rum, then this is the cake for you!!!  We gave several of them as Christmas presents this year - with a warning, of course.  Don't eat and drive!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"On St. John" On Jost van Dyke

We had the pleasure of meeting the guys behind the blog, On-St John the other day.  If you haven't checked it out yet, let me give you a reason...

Sharon, Dennis, Michael, and I are stars in their Christmas video!  (Just click the link to see it - I can't embed it here.)  We ran into them on Jost van Dyke at the Soggy Dollar Bar...the perfect backdrop for a hilarious rendition of "Winter Wonderland," don't you think? 

While we can't say much for the singers (ourselves included!), these guys are talented videographers.  They're also owners of a villa on St. John!
Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 374: More Family Arrives!

My parents and sister arrived on Christmas Day!

What we thought would be a slow travel day turned out to be a pretty busy one!  The airport was packed!  Fortunately, all of their luggage made it which meant we could exchange Christmas presents on Christmas night!  Oh, and look who accompanied us to the airport to greet them...  Can you spot little Mills in the back seat?  :)

Oh, and I must give a quick "shout out" to Margaret from New York!  She came up to me in the aiport, as we were waiting on my family.  She said she had been reading Our BVI Adventure in advance of her trip to the BVI!  It was great meeting you Margaret and thanks for reading!  Hope your BVI adventure is a great one!  

Merry Christmas!

Did you know that the Griswolds have a house in the BVI?  Check it.

{Click photo to enlarge!}

Complete with a movie projector and loud speakers blasting "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," this holiday decor rivals anything I've seen!

And aren't we lucky?  The people who live in this house are our neighbors!!!  Merry Christmas everyone! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Night on Necker

Remember that mammoth gig Da Tree Men were practicing for???  Well, Thursday night was the night.  The band boarded a boat bound for Necker Island

The gig? A Christmas party for Sir Richard Branson and family!  Necker is his private 74-acre island.  We were all a bit nervous - well, everyone but Pier.  He was calm, cool and collected...must be a Jamaican thing!  Regardless, we took the edge off with a beer on the way out there.  We also toasted Joanna (bottom left) since she was responsible for the booking.   

None of us had been to Necker Island before and it absolutely lived up to the hype.  The grounds were stunning!  The band played on a stage that overlooked the beach and pool area.  Behind the hammock is a large table where dinner was served.

Everyone was so friendly, especially Richard's son, Sam who introduced himself to us and thanked Da Tree Men for being there.  Most of the party guests were his friends, so it was a young and hip crowd.  Adam brought two guitars, so Sam joined the guys on stage for a few songs.  And he wasn't the only one!  We had a harmonica player and yours truly played the jingle bells!  Da Tree Men performed a few Christmas songs, including Mele Kalikimaka, which was a huge hit.

It was such a fun night - we completely lost track of time!  Before we knew it, it was half past twelve and we were heading back to Tortola.  Whew!  What a night!!!  So proud of Da Tree Men! 
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anniversary Survey

First of all, a HUGE thank you for all of the submissions to our Anniversary Survey.  It was wonderful to hear from so many people from all around the globe!  We are going to do our best to answer all of your questions and we have a special video reveal for the giveaway, so make sure to read (and watch) all the way to the end!

The survey is divided into three categories:  About Us, About the Past Year and About the BVI.  Let's start with that one...
About the BVI
Question: What is the most similar about the culture of the BVI and the US, and what is the biggest difference?
Answer:  The most similar...let's see...this is a hard one.  We share some of the same holiday traditions, which is evident now as we see Christmas decorations dotting the island, and rows of little bikes and other toys lined up outside the department stores.  Even though it's 80 degrees and sunny, the Christmas spirit is very much alive in the BVI right now.  And similar to the pomp and circumstance associated with the 4th of July in the states, the Emancipation celebration we witnessed back in August was impressive.  We could most definitely identify with the pride of the people on display that day.

The biggest difference has to be the drive, or lack thereof.  I'm reminded of a certain passage from "Don't Stop the Carnival" that really sums it up:
The West Indian is not exactly hostile to change, but he is not much inclined to believe in it.  This comes from a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him.  It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday and tomorrow will be like today...the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun. 
Michael and I - like so many other expats here - arrived in the BVI and marched in that parade of human effort and noise, until we turned around and realized the culture of the BVI prohibits the locals from joining in!  The best way we've learned to cope with this stark difference is to adopt the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"  So in a way, we've become more like them.  This change was most recently realized when we met some new expats.  We just nodded and listened as they shared their first impressions of the island with us.  While we shared those exact experiences and felt the same frustrations, we are much more mellow now.
Question:  What could you tell us about finding a place to live in the BVI?
Answer:  The housing situation in the BVI can be a challenging landscape for expats looking to rent.  If you're a buyer, there are quite a few houses on the market right now and great real estate agents to show you around.   (Louise at Coldwell Banker is highly recommended!)  From large estates with guest houses and maid quarters to small cottages or even condos are available for sale.  Apartments for rent, on the other hand, are harder to come by...  It's not that there isn't a plethora of options, it's just that so many of the houses have the most ridiculous furnishings or finishes.  This is something that you have to see to believe!

Question:  What's involved in obtaining a work permit?
Answer:  Obtaining a work permit in the BVI is more often than not a very long and daunting process.  The BVI protects it workforce which means expatriates (non-belongers) must go through a few rigorous rounds of applications in various offices to obtain a work permit.  The entire process - from start to finish - took Michael 10 weeks to complete and for my "dependent status" it took another 9 weeks after that!  A full medical exam is required, along with criminal records from the state from which you are leaving and the state where you were born.  You will need a handful of passport photos and a whole lot of patience.  One of the most frustrating things about the work permit process???  The bizarre hours the different departments keep.  It goes something like this:
The medical office accepts immigration/work permit papers on Wednesdays from 9 - 2 and 8:30 - 11:30 on Thursdays, except for the third Wednesday and fourth Thursday of the month. 
The labor department accepts final applications between the hours of 11 - 3 on the second and third Tuesdays.
While these are a bit exaggerated, it's not by much as anyone who's been through the process can attest!  Oh and lastly, while waiting for your immigration status to be finalized, you must leave the country every 60 days.  For us, that meant a few day trips to St. Thomas and St. John here and there.

Question:  We know from past experience that the cost of goods is considerably more than here in North America, and the selection of available goods is different. But what more can you share with us?

Answer:   One thing that may surprise you about the cost of goods in the BVI is that beer is cheaper than Coca-Cola.  Pretty much anything that has a "sin tax" in North America is dirt cheap here.  Liquor, wine, and cigarettes are extremely affordable, while a bag of Ruffles potato chips may run $7, as opposed to the $3.99 you might pay in your local grocery store.   

Question:  Is the BVI more Caribbean or more British?  Or is it a mismash?
Answer:  The BVI is more Caribbean, but in it's own BVI-way.  If you've traveled in the Caribbean you know that each island, from Jamaica to Grenada, has its own identity.  And the BVI is no exception.  However, the majority of expatriates are British, but I don't think that population defines the island as much as the BVIslanders do...that's just my opinion.   

Question:  Why does the BVI use the US dollar?
Answer:  I'm not really sure why the BVI uses the US dollar, and I can't seem to find a definitive answer...we are close in proximity to the USVI, so maybe that's why? I did find out when the BVI started using the US dollar.
With the breakup of colonial rule in the eastern Caribbean in 1956, the BVI declined both amalgamation with the USVI and membership in the now defunct West Indies Federation of British Islands (1958–1962). Constitutional reform in 1967 established the BVI as a British dependent territory, with a locally elected legislature and chief minister, and also established the US dollar as the official national tender.
About the Past Year...
Question: Has Milly made any friends?
Answer: Yes! Our dear Milly has made friends with a few dogs on our hill. One in particular is named Molly. They met when Molly was just a few weeks old and have been friends ever since.

Question:  What's been your most hilarious moment on the island?

Answer:  Goodness!  There have been so many!  One particular night comes to mind....  It was the middle of June and we were at the Tamarind Club with Felicity and Jerry when the boys decided to go swimming to cool off.  In nothing but their boxer shorts the boys jumped into the pool!  Well, for Jerry his boxer shorts were white Calvin Kleins!!!  Felicity's face was about as red as a fire truck when he emerged from the water!  Ha! 

Here are the boys sipping their rum and cokes!

Question:  What's the most beautiful thing you've seen or experienced?

Question:  What is the most memorable moment of the past year?
Answer:  These two questions have the same answer.  The most beautiful thing we've seen and experienced in the BVI is the sea life!  Watching dolphins swim in White Bay on Jost van Dyke...snorkeling with parrot fish at the Indians...holding our breath as a barracuda swims beneath our boat...squealing with delight at the sight of a flying eagle ray!  These are all moments we'll never forget!

Question:  What has been the hardest thing about life on Tortola?
Answer:  Life on any Caribbean island comes with its share of challenges, but on Tortola, we've survived a hurricane, a subsequent power outage and lack of water.  That was one of the most challenging weeks of our life, not just this past year!

Question:  What's your favorite food and/or drink that you've discovered in the BVI?
Answer:  This one is pretty easy...Anegada Lobster!!! 

Question:  How many bottles of Pusser's Rum have you consumed in the past year?
Answer:  In our old house, we actually kept track by placing empty bottles on top of our kitchen cabinets.  We had a "home team" (Pusser's) and an "away team" (Mount Gay).  It was neck and neck there for a while.  It's probably been 1.75 bottles/month, based on an average of 2.25 visitors/month.  Ha! 

Question:  What was the hardest lesson to learn?  And the most pleasant discovery?
Answer:  One lesson we learned the hard way was the difference between a sidewalk and the side of the road.  Parking on one is legal and the other is illegal.  The problem is telling the two apart.  A few $100 parking tickets later, we figured it out.

The most pleasant discovery was the Tamarind Club.  We had lived here almost two months when we finally made it to this special place.  I remember it well - fried green tomatoes were on the specials menu!  And we heard the word "Y'ALL!"  (The owners are from Georiga, you see?)

About Us...
Question:  Will you ever jump off of Willy T's in nothing but your birthday suit?  Or have you already?
Answer:  Uh, no.  ;)  While we have jumped off Willy T's, we are far too modest to jump sans bathing suits.  That doesn't mean we don't enjoy watching the occasional exploit!  Right KK??? 
Question:  If you could have a daily supply of one thing from the US that you miss, what would it be?
Answer:  Well, we drink coffee from our Keurig Single-Cup Brew each day, and we rely on our guests to bring us boxes of our coffee K-cups.  It sure would be nice if each and every morning we woke up to a new supply.  Another another thing I would love is a Chick-fil-A drop every once in a while! 

Question:  If you and Michael could magically transport yourself back to Knoxville once a month - but for only two hours - what would you do each and every time without fail that you can't do on Tortola?
This is really fun to consider! 
During football season, we would tailgate on G-10 and maybe catch the first quarter of a game in Neyland Stadium!  (Preferably it would be the Florida game in September so I could cheer on my Gators!)
I would love to go back - once a month - for a long lunch at Taccer del Saco!
For Michael, he says he would spend his two hours getting his hair cut by a proper barber.
On a hot summer day, we would also love to splash in the pool with our nieces, Avery and Gracen.

Question:  What is your favorite island drink?  (Carib, Presidente, Painkiller, Bushwhacker)
Answer(s):  We both really like Presidente, which is imported from nearby Dominican Republic.  Michael prefers the painkiller to the bushwhacker and I'm just the opposite!

Question: How do we get our own Da Tree Men t-shirts?
Answer:  First, you need to buy a plane ticket to the BVI, come stay with us at Gecko Manor II, attend a Da Tree Men show and buy a t-shirt during their break. Total cost: $678.98. It's really a win-win. ;)


Now, onto the giveaway!  We put the names of the entrants on little pieces of paper, put them in my sun hat and drove to Smuggler's Cove.  Michael will take it from here...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Full Moon over Marina Cay

December's full moon fell on Tuesday night this year!  Lucky for Sharon and Dennis, we had planned on having lobster at Marina Cay which is directly across from Trellis Bay where the Full Moon Parties are held.

Here we are on the ferry! 
It was a windy night which meant embers from the balls of fire were flying everywhere!  The jumbies were entertaining the crowd and dancing to the music.
All of the shops at Trellis Bay were open during the party.  That's really what makes Trellis Bay so unique.  The Caribbean Artisan Network is based there, along with Aragorn's Studio which brings artisans together from all around the world. 
Friday, December 17, 2010

Waves, Waves and More Waves!

Despite a cold front moving through the BVI, the water at Smuggler's Cove was still warm enough for swimming.  Check out this video of the boys body surfing on Friday afternoon...

Smuggler's Cove is our absolute favorite beach and we highly recommend it to folks traveling to Tortola.  May we also suggest limin' with Stephen - he's the bartender to the left, when facing the beach.  He's there almost every day and makes delicious drinks, as well as barbecue chicken and ribs. 
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Band Practice

Michael's band has a mammoth gig coming up next week so it's practice, practice, practice...even with our company here. 

Before heading up to Da Tree's Nest (Adam's house), we took Sharon and Dennis to dinner at Pusser's East.  It's been so cool here these past few days, we were a little chilly sitting outside on the deck.  Now, before you roll your eyes, our weathermen used the words "cold front" to describe the system that moved in.  Sharon and Dennis weren't complaining.  A cool breeze sure beats the 8 inches of snow they left back in Tennessee! 

{The conch fritters at Pusser's East are really yummy, BTW!} 

Since the band's mammoth gig is a private Christmas party, they've added a few holiday tunes to their repitoire, including Mele Kelikimaka!  Christmas Vacation, anyone?  They're going to be playing at The Elm on Sunday night, so I"ll have to get some video of their performance of that song.

Even though Da Tree Men were all business at practice, they did play Sharon's favorite dancing song - Mustang Sally!  Thanks Pier! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 366: Sharon & Dennis Arrive!

Michael and I are so blessed to have our families visiting us this Christmas. 

His parents were scheduled to arrive this coming Saturday, but were able to escape the cold a few days earlier since the snow in Tennessee shut down the schools in Sharon's district.  Here they are at the airport!

 We got back to the house just in time to take in a beautiful sunset...

Faithful readers may remember that Sharon and Dennis visited in April with Michael's grandparents.  While we packed a lot into their schedule during their last visit, there's plenty more to see and do! 

Lastly, if you haven't read our Anniversary and Giveaway post, scroll down and enter to win!  We're putting together a prize packed with treats from the BVI.  All you have to do is submit a question to our Anniversary Survey.  And thanks so much to those of you who've emailed me!  Who new we had readers from Minneapolis, Sarasota, and Palm Desert?!? 

Our Anniversary & a Giveaway!

365 days in the BVI.  Wow. 

It was exactly one year ago today - in the early morning hours of December 14th - that Michael and I left our home in Knoxville with suitcases in hand.  A crate of our belongings was already on a ship making its way through the Caribbean sea.  Our life was about to change drastically.  We were feeling a mix of emotions...excited, somewhat scared, and sad to leave family and friends.  I remember looking at Michael when our plane landed in sunny San Juan and saying something like "We're really doing this..."

Transplanted from a place where all things were familiar and comfortable, we landed on Tortola without much more than a sense of self and each other.  We rented a car and Michael drove us "home."  Grocery shopping on Day 1 seemed too overwhelming so we went to Pusser's in Road Town for dinner.  {Remember, this was before the new Rite Way!} 

This date on the calendar has completely snuck up on us!  To mark our anniversary, we are unveiling a new design for Our BVI Adventure!  You like?  Too much pink?  :) 

We'd like your help with Our Anniversary Survey!  Similar to the exit surveys we give our guests, we'd love to turn the tables a bit and answer your questions.  What do you want to know about life in the BVI?  What have I missed? 

And to incentivize our dear readers, we're giving away a BVI package full of treats from all over the island...
A bottle of Pusser's Rum, Da Tree Men t-shirt, local spices from Sunny Caribbee, just to name a few! 

All you have to do is submit a question either through the comment section, Facebook, or email (ameliadaniels @ gmail.com).  We will do a follow-up post that will include our answers to your questions and announce the winner of the random drawing!  Sound like a plan??? 

Lastly, a huge thank you to all of the family and friends who've supported us during this year away from home.  I received so many sweet messages from friends this past weekend, reminiscing about the bon voyage party, hosted by our dear friends Caty and Matt.  Here are a few photos from that night...

I think I win the award for "most changed." {My skin color is much darker and hair color is much lighter thanks to the sun!}  Ha!

Okay, submit those questions!  We'll  be accepting them all week, until midnight Friday!   Thanks for joining us on Our BVI Adventure!
Monday, December 13, 2010

Da Tree Men Originals

At a recent Da Tree Men gig, the band perfomed some of their original songs.

The first one is a new song, one that Our BVI Adventure readers haven't heard before.  It's called "Virgin Gorda" and Adam wrote it for children.  But as an adult, I love it too!

Here are the lyrics...

If I was a tree on Virgin Gorda,
Standing tall for everyone to see.
I'd provide the shade
While you drank lemonade.
If I were a tree on Virgin Gorda.

If I was a fish on Virgin Gorda,
swimming in the Baths next to you.
I'd swim right up to you,
And we'd play peek-a-boo.
If I were a fish on Virgin Gorda.

If I was a frog on Virgin Gorda,
Peepin' all the time just for you.
I'd hop right on your face,
Just to liven up the place
If I was a frog on Virgin Gorda.

If I was a bird on Virgin Gorda,
Flying high and lookin' out for you
I'd fly right over you;
And I swear I wouldn't poo...
If I was a bird on Virgin Gorda.

You know I'd fly...
High to Leverick Bay.
Relying on the wind as it changed,
Looking out for you along the way...

Funny and sweet - the perfect combination for a children's song, don't you think? 

The band also performed Bushwhacker which is Da Tree Men's first single.  If you've never had one, the bushwhacker is a popular frozen concoction that tastes something resembling an iced coffee, with rum of course.  As you listen, the song really isn't about the drink itself, but rather "Tortola's favorite girl" who enjoys them all too often!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Signage Sunday: Fish Are Getting Fresh!

Check out this chalkboard sign at The Elm Beach Bar...  Notice anything amiss?  I'd like to buy a vowel Pat.

There are actually two gems here.  The lack of the letter "u" turns the grouper entree into something a little more obscene.  The fish is getting fresh...wink wink!  Keep reading and this hopeful little meal isn't a sandwich at all, but rather a sandWISH.  

To end on a high note, it looks like they spelled "Caesar" right!
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 358: Oh Christmas Tree!

Over the past several weeks, Christmas decorations have been popping up all over Road Town.  Michael and I were itching to get in the spirit ourselves, so on Day 358, we set out to get a live Christmas tree.  And no your eyes aren't playing tricks on you, you read it right.  We wanted a live tree, just like we used to have at home.

We'd heard that Bobby's (a grocery store) had the best selection in the BVI, so that was our first stop.  We chose a tall tree from a large refridgerated container and we were on our way!  

When it comes to Christmas, I'm a traditionalist.  Since we started dating in 2004, Michael and I have always gotten our Christmas tree at the same lot in Knoxville - the one in front of Stir Fry in the Gallery shopping center if you were wondering. ;)  And that was just the beginning...we also used to wear these hilarious Christmas sweaters year after year.  We would take cheesy photos, documenting the entire process from selection of the perfect tree, cutting it, wrapping it and tying it to the top of the car... 

Unfortunately, those sweaters didn't make it to the BVI.  They must be in storage somewhere, along with all of our ornaments. {If you know me well, you know where this is going...}

A couple of weeks ago, I started making ornaments for the tree, based on ones I saw on MarthaStewart.com.  The ornaments are made completely of paper and ink.

I designed them using Scrapblog and had them professionally printed. That's when the real work began. I had to cut the paper into squares, fold each side and then use a glue stick to attach all six pieces together.  I also used a needle and thread to create an almost invisible loop at the top from which to hang the ornament.

Along with Christmas greetings and lyrics from some of our favorite Christmas songs. you'll notice black and white photos on the ornaments.  This is a way to have our family members and friends around us, even though 2,000+ miles separate most of us.  I can't help but smile when I look at the tree, filled with memories of the past year. 
Here's a shot of the entire tree (minus the bow for the top that I hadn't yet made when I snapped this photo!)
Now all that's left to do is have a little party and pop some holiday bubbly!  (Oh, and finish up my online shopping and get to wrapping!) 

Even though it's 80 degrees outside it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the BVI!   
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 356: Recovery Mission

A VISAR (Virgin Island Search and Rescue) helicopter was flying near the house on Tuesday.  I can count on one hand how many times I've seen a helicopter in the past year, so I grabbed my camera and snapped this shot.  I wasn't aware at the time that this helicopter was on a recovery mission...a very tragic one.

In the early morning hours on Monday, a boat carrying mostly Haitian immigrants wrecked on a reef at Brandywine Bay...less than a quarter mile from our hill.  According to news reports, VISAR recovered the bodies of six adults and two children. Twenty others were either rescued or swam to shore; they are now being detained. 

Haiti's Port-au-Prince is some 500 miles from the BVI.  I cannot even wrap my head around the hardships these people endured which led them to flee...the feelings of desparation, fear, hope and defeat...and the terrible loss that they're feeling now.  What a tragic end to what was already a dire situation...
Saturday, December 4, 2010

Go Hermit Crabs! Go!

What has to be one of the best executed fundraisers in the BVI was held on Saturday night at Peg Leg's at Nanny Cay.  "Gaming Night", as it's called, benefits the Humane Society of the BVI and involves classic gambling games like black jack and roulette (all for a good cause remember!)

One of the most popular games?  The hermit crab races held on the hour.  That's right, we were betting on actual live crabs and their ability to expeditiously move from the center of the ring to the outer edge.  First crab to touch the wall wins!  This video is of the last race of the night...

What a fun night!  We had some luck at the roulette wheel and won a few hands of black jack too!  I haven't heard a total just yet, but with 200+ attendees there had to be quite a lot of money raised for the Humane Society!

Day 353: Retail Therapy by way of Lady Sol

Amex in hand, we headed for the USVI on Day 353.  Normally, this means catching a ferry from either Road Town or West End, but our friends Louise and Richard elected to take their boat, Lady Sol since the conditions were so perfect.  Flat water and no wind made for a smooth (and more importantly dry) trip!
We "cleared" through Cruz Bay on St. John. This means we went through Customs there and got the necessary paperwork for the boat, which allowed us to legally motor in US waters.  We grabbed a coffee at a charming little bakery and headed for Red Hook on St. Thomas. 

Check out this member of the welcoming committee there...yikes!  He gave me quite the startle!  I think it's a he...
 We hitched a ride on the open-air "dollar bus" - Charlotte Amalie bound!
We enjoyed a yummy lunch at W!kked in The Galleria at Yacht Haven Grande.  The shops there include Louis Vuitton, Gucci, BCBG, just to name a few! 

The big winner of the day, however, was K Mart, yes K Mart.  When you live on an island where a generic microwave costs upwards of $250, it was fiscally responsible of us to shop there and stock up on essentials, from scotch tape to "toilet rolls."  :)
The most gorgeous part of day came as the sun was setting over St. Thomas. 
While boating in the dark isn't necessarily what any of us had in mind when we started out, it was a beautiful view.  We had to go back through Customs in the BVI and settle up with the Duty Officer before navigating the Sir Francis Drake Channel, again, in complete darkness. 

Richard did a stellar job as "captain" and returned us safely back to the docks at Nanny Cay.

You know, after writing this, I'm amazed at the energy expended in the name of retail.  While it was the most enjoyable day, don't get me wrong, I just think about the lengths people (in this case, us!) will go to when it comes to shopping.

SO, if a short car ride happens to separate you from a mall or shopping center, will you do me a favor?  Savor that convenient little drive, free parking, and selection of stores stuffed with the latest and greatest!

Reciprocally, we will savor the sunshine and warm temperatures this holiday season while many of you are bundled up and scraping ice from your windshields so you can take aforementioned trip to the shopping mall!

Merry Christmas!