We are in Vegas for eight days and spent less than a couple hours inside casinos. Las Vegas is not just casinos – there are so many other more interesting stuff to do (if you are not into gambling). So we drove about 1,800 miles to the Death Valley in CA, Grand Canyon in AZ, Zion National Park in UT and the Valley of Fire in NV (and Vegas and Red Rock Canyon). We saw summer (ish), definitely winter, and a bit of spring.
This whole week I am playing tour guide to and old friend an her family and have an opportunity to be a tourist in my new hometown. It is always great to be able to go places and take pictures.
It started with the owls last week and suddenly I am thrust into the world of birds – I find myself consciously trying to get better (and closer) pictures of birds. The weirdest part is that I am starting to notice them. I used to see them, but this is the first time that I am noticing them 🙂
My birdfeeders do help.
I can’t believe that I was actually excited to see a lot of snow in the lowlands. Living in Michigan for over a decade caused me to dislike snow (they are everywhere and messy after a while) but this much snow in the city of Seattle and Puget Sound are in general is quite a sight to see.
So I took my camera and started exploring
I had a chance encounter with someone at a park shooting at ducks (no, not that kind of “shooting”) of which I ended up learning about this place to photograph owls. Until today, I have never seen owls in the wild – other than in the zoo or on TV. I have never seen more owls before than I have today. It was exhilarating.
We are back to our old grind after spending a week in St Thomas. It is amazing how quickly we have gotten used to the tropic. The weather in Seattle is mild (compared to when we left) but it still felt much colder.
The first thing we did when we got home was to buy a lot of fruits (remember, we were quite deprived of fresh fruits on the island – oh the abundance that we enjoy on the mainland US.)
As if it is not cold enough, I decided to hike Franklin Falls trail. I have been seeing nice pictures of near frozen waterfall and decided that it is as good a day as any.
The trail was long – much longer than summer because the road to the park is closed and the hike started just after the freeway exit and the trail was very slippery – even treacherous at some location. I fell about 8 times before the hike was over. Don’t worry, I make sure the camera is fine 🙂
The hike was nice while it lasted and I probably wouldn’t do it again. It was very cold, I didn’t have the proper shoes and hiking stick. I had to use the tripod a few times to prevent me going into a free slide. I also had a very short window (I started at 3 pm) – the entire hike took about three hours and only about 15 minutes to take pictures. The sun was gone by the time I got back to my car.
Sun, Sand and Ships
One would think that being a tropical island, there will be plenty of cheap fruits – and one would be wrong. US Virgin Islands are rock islands where (almost) everything you need there have to shipped – so stuff (food, water, supplies) are expensive and definitely not as fresh as you can get from mainland US. So be prepared. I would go as far as bringing your favorite supplies. In most places, alcohol (read: rum) are cheaper than a bottle of water.
When we arrived on Friday – the place looked almost deserted until Monday to Thursday when the cruise ships come in – then suddenly the Charlotte Amalie downtown is buzzing with activities.
We spent some time hiking at St. John (an island that is more than 65% national park) – we didn’t get to experience much because the “taxi” ride didn’t feel as satisfying and we didn’t bring our car. I think next time (if there’s one) it is better to drive on our own. Speaking of driving – USVI drive US car (driver on the left) but on British side of the road (drive on the left side of the road)
Caneel Bay Resort once owned by Laurance Rockefeller. The hotel was one of the early members of Rockefeller’s hotel chain, Rockresorts. The resort takes its name from the location of the property at Caneel Bay (Caneel means cinnamon in old Dutch). Rockefeller was so impressed by the area’s beauty that he arranged to buy up most of the island of St. John. He then donated most of it to the U.S. government for the creation of the Virgin Islands National Park.
The beaches are beautiful – we drove the island and visited all top 10 beaches including the top rated Magens Bay beach (a mile long of white sandy beach) – it wasn’t bad but we are spoiled at our (almost private) beach at the Marriott.
One of the most common things people see here are iguanas – they are almost everywhere and most of them are used to people. However don’t let the iguanas fool you – there more to see.
It was a very fun vacation – more fun that I expected (especially I was sick as dog on the flight to the USVI – but the shock of coming from 35 degree to 75 probably set my body straight and I was able to fully enjoy the vacation
As I mentioned in the beginning all food supplies must be shipped – there are several “supermarkets” on the island – we found after a week of gallivanting around the island – Pueblo is probably your best bet for supplies.
If there was one bad experience during the stay, it was when we tried to visit the Sugar Bay resort to check the place out (we were supposed to stay there but there was some issue with the reservation thus we ended staying at the Marriott) – the gatekeeper was rude and we weren’t even allowed to go past the gate. Keep in mind that we had just finished checking out Ritz Carlton resort. I can tell you the people at the Ritz are super nice and friendly to visitors – if only we could afford the Ritz next time.