The islands of the Caribbean captured her heart

By: Sue Clark
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I was about to disembark at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands for my third visit to that island when I decided two times was enough. I found a boat that would take me to St. John instead. Now I was excited. St. John is one of the windward islands in that eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. Since I’d been to approximately 25 of the islands in the Caribbean, I wanted to add this small, pristine island to my list of adventures. I discovered a nature lover’s island, two-thirds of which is the Virgin Islands National Park. Magic. St. John is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The park includes much of the waters that surround the island. And the beaches, made of the wondrous Caribbean sand, call to the visitor and nature lover alike. As I think back on why I didn’t need to see St. Thomas again, I have to chuckle. The first time I visited that island, someone told me I could buy a Cuban cigar there, but I’d have to smoke it before boarding the ship. Although I’d quit smoking cigarettes some time before that, I’d been smoking cigars for more than a year. You know the kind, Virginia Slims or big stogies I’d cut into three pieces because it took too long to smoke them in one sitting. So, smoking a Cuban cigar moved to the top of my list of things to do while on the island. Yes, I did enjoy it. Another chuckle comes to mind. On top of Crown mountain was a gigantic bar where banana daiquiris were invented. The oval-shaped bar seated at least 30 to 40 people, as I recall. “Everyone who was anyone” (you know that old saying.) just had to have a banana daiquiri while on the island. At one point, I found myself seated at that bar. People were waving and shouting their orders to the bartenders. Then, one of the bartenders raised his finger in my direction and yelled, “One?” “No,” I yelled back. “I’d like a glass of white wine, please.” Well, the entire place became quiet. Everyone looked at me. I’m sure my face matched my red hair. “I’m allergic to bananas,” I said, apologetic. On my second visit, my sister and I hired a taxi driver to “take us to the best beach on the island” for the day, away from all the cruise ship tourists. That’s where I wrote this poem. Caribbean love I laid my head down gently on the quiet sea and its salty bed cushioned me. My eyes searched the narrow beach where coconut palms shaded the white coral sand And, while I listened to the warm sounds of the calypso band, I fell in love with the ways of the Caribbean while longing for you. I can’t tell you which Caribbean islands are my favorites. Each holds a special place in my heart for a variety of “special” reasons. One thing I will always remember is how many European countries settled, fought for or just plain took over so many of the islands. And how each country left its mark: the English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Danes. What fun to go from Bermuda to St. Maarten to Martinique. Or from Willemstad to San Juan to Charlotte Amalie. Then there’s the difference between Jamaica, Haiti and the Bahamas. I learned so much when I toured those places. Now that I think about it, perhaps one of the favorite spots I visited on my many trips in the Caribbean was Virgin Gorda, part of the British Virgin Islands. That 10-square-mile long, narrow island is the second largest in the group. Christopher Columbus named the island because the terrain reminded him of a “fat virgin.” We took a small launch from the cruise ship to the Baths. This secluded, uninhabited beach is famous for the huge boulders that Mother Nature stacked and strewed along the white, powdery sand. The result of her sculpture is a labyrinth of caves and caverns through which I swam for over an hour in utter breathtaking quiet and peace. Wow. There are still a few islands in the Caribbean I’d like to visit for the first time if the opportunity arises. Right now, however, a villa in Tuscany is high on my list for ’09.