Saturday 8 February 2014

Day One- it was a long one! Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I (Jen) am going to type out my journal entries that I've been writing, pertaining to our awesome vacation~ will include lots of photos here, too!  I will be having this blog printed out as a photo album/journal, for our family to enjoy.

1/29/14 St. Croix, 7:30am (6:30am home time)
The Palms at Pelican Cove

Sitting on a patio chair off of our room.  Everyone else is still dozing.  What an amazing night of sleep!  I'm happily surprised, actually- didn't expect that!  I don't usually sleep well while away from home!

Right now, all I hear is wind and palm tree branches swaying, and ocean waves.  The air smells tropical.  A huge pelican keeps diving to the ground among the palms, and a little lizard is scurrying along the coral and shell-lined patio wall.

Yesterday was LONG but good- thankful to the Lord that it all worked out!  First, we hit a snow squall on the ride to Boston (we left home at 3:30am).  Then, we made it through the airport detours.  Practically ran for the airport shuttle in the sub-freezing 5:30am morning.   Our first flight was late in taking off and took longer than expected(we sat on the plane for 4 hours total), and so we barely made it to our connecting flight out of Miami.  The STX airport was HOT and small (one baggage claim)!  There was no tarmac; we walked off the plane down stairs to the ground. We finally got our luggage and rental, and then began the stressful yet funny, GPS-less(no signal) journey to the hotel.  Mark and I had a lot of laughing yells, as we navigated his driving on the left side of the road! We made it!

It is what Trip Advisor reviewers said it was- a bit run down and not fancy! Almost more like an aunt's old beach cabin than a hotel.  Dinner last night was crazy- we waited 25 minutes at the table before anyone even took a drink order.  I went to the room for granola bars for the kids b/c they were so hungry.  Nobody asked us how the food was (it was awesome, actually), or if we needed anything else, etc.  But- despite the place being not posh, the view and property on the water are amazing!  I am so relaxed already!  It's therapeutic.

(Here are some pics of us checking out the hotel a little, when we arrived, including loving on the hermit crabs and geckos that were scurrying around on the beachfront patio. The beach is also covered with coral, especially 'brain coral", and shells- the saying here is "leave only footprints," meaning ocean creatures can be touched but not taken, which makes the whole area amazing to explore- it's full of beautiful things and creatures! We stayed in our long sleeves and pants for a short bit since we were excited to check things out, but as soon as we could, the bathing suits went on!)

(The boys thought the shower was awesome:)

The building that our room was in.  Open air.  This hotel only has 40 rooms, so it's very quiet and lovely in that regard.
Hermit crabs galore:
Checking out the beach and coral:

Geckos galore:

Wednesday and Thursday

St. Croix

Wind blowing my wet hair dry, warm sun on my back- alone by the turquoise water, sitting on the white-ish sand.  About to watch Captain Louis give a snorkeling lesson to a lady, off the beach.

*Amazing, waterside breakfast.  Pool with Logan and Cam while Mark and Elijah booked some excursions for our trip.  Then the boys jumped waves at the hotel ocean, and then we had a family 2pm snorkel lesson!

We met the owner's daughter's dog Fido, and saw three iguanas together at the hotel entrance- cool!  Then we got fitted for gear, tried the gear out at the pool, and then we walked down the beach a bit into the rough sea!  The water was not calm, so Captain Louis brought a life ring that he pulled the 3 boys on.  Came very close-inches-to many sea urchins!  Got to see and hold a live brittle star- awesome!  Funny thing was being pretty far from the shore, standing on a sandbar, and having a kite surfer dude come pause on the sandbar with us, to ask us what time it was.  So funny! For the pm we went to the Bombay Club for an amazing dinner.  The atmosphere, pub-style and cozy, reminded the boys of Biederman's Deli in Plymouth.

Pool Practice:

 Walking down to the snorkel spot:

Here is the old pier area where we snorkeled from- where the ocean waves that are breaking in the distance is about as far as we went.  There is a sandbar out there that we were able to pause/rest at.

 Some spots heading out were VERY shallow, and we had to navigate around sea urchins- could've been a big ouchie!

 The boys holding the ring:

 Cam's post snorkel ring:

 Look at my crazy post-snorkel hair!

A few more pics.  Some of these are from Louis- both he and I brought our underwater camera for pics.  One awesome thing this hotel does, on top of the complimentary snorkel trips, is that they take photos for the guests, put them on a CD, and give them to the guests at no charge! Amazing!

 My hair looked like a brittle star, afterward,  too! ha

*Breakfast in our room, and then to Christianstead for an 8:30/9ish boat trip to Buck Island.  WOW.  The colors of the water were just AMAZING! Would have paid the money just for the ride to the Island and back, because the views were so stunning.  Had a snorkel lesson on calm, clear Turtle Beach, for an hour, and then they brought us to the other side of the island where it was rough!  They dropped anchor and we climbed down a ladder into the ocean, at the National Monument Reef.

Waves were crashing like crazy out there, against the reefs, and we got bumped around a lot by them.  Schools of beautiful blue Tang fish, pretty coral and other fish, and even a barracuda swam under and around us! I could not take pictures there, because just staying safe among the sharp reefs were the main concern.  Cam panicked a little, as he (and the other boys) were smashed repeatedly into the boat and stairs, while hanging onto the life ring in the water, while waiting for our guide to come take our group out, so he climbed back on board and skipped that snorkel, which was a good choice- the current was strong!  One man decided not to even try that area, and a couple did try for a few minutes but came back on the boat as well, because it was so rough.  But we thought it was worth it~ we snorkeled there for about an hour, before the boat brought us back to Christianstead.  Amazing experience!! My legs are covered in huge bruises from smashing into the metal stairs as I tried to climb back into the boat- the waves and current were so strong! The bruises don't hurt, but the legs won't be pretty for the rest of this vacation.  :)  I

 Coming up to Turtle Beach:

The fins that fit Elijah best happened to be pink, so he and his brothers found that amusing during this vacation.  :)

 No pics from the crazy reef side of the snorkel, but here are some from the ride back from the island.  Just picturesque.

 Almost back:

PS: Elijah and Logan went with Chuck, the Palms owner, for a night snorkel!  Wetsuits and gloves, underwater flashlights, etc...eeek!  They saw: fish, an octopus, an eel, sting ray, sea cucumber, and held porcupine fish as they puffed up and swam away...said it was the coolest experience they've ever had!  Logan said it was "50 times better than Disney!"  I was so relieved that God answered my prayers and brought them all back safely.  :)  The 2 boys did not stop talking about it for an hour after they came back, around 9:30pm. While they were doing that, Cam and I hung out together by the ocean and pool, listening to live music and enjoying the amazing weather.  What a night to remember.