Beautiful Works on Display at Art Opening Tonight

bajo opening images

Two island artists will debut their latest works tonight at an opening reception at Bajo el Sol – painter Deborah St. Clair and ceramicist Mandy Thody.

Bajo el Sol is a quaint three-room gallery located in Mongoose Junction. It opened in 1993 by local artists who wanted to share their vision of the Virgin Islands’ beauty through paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and other works of art.

Here are the details on tonight’s event courtesy of Jaime Elliott for Bajo el Sol:

This month’s opening will feature new works by painter Deborah St. Clair and ceramicist Mandy Thody, combining whimsical hand sculpted pieces and striking modern canvases.

For this show, Thody has been focusing on the many and varied animals of the Caribbean, the artist explained.

“From human to goat to iguana; most of the pieces are glazed matte with oxides and very simple glazes in natural colors,” said Thody. “I have wanted to do more domestic or farm animals for a long time and it finally happened.”

In addition to Thody’s charming and varied animal collection, her show will also feature a series of masks which nod to African and tribal traditions, Thody explained.

“The masks are also a new style, in heavily embossed and carved surrounds with elements of African and other cultural motifs,” she said.

While working in a very different medium, long-time St. John painter St. Clair has been using her considerable talent to investigate instinct, she explained.

“These current paintings are a progression in the work I am doing using instinct and chance,” said St. Clair. “The technical knowledge is there to call upon, but the painting is to have free reign.”

It is through taking chances and opening herself to the possibility of failure which has allowed St. Clair a new freedom in her paintings, the artist explained.

“I use a process of creating a painting by taking the chance of destroying it,” she said. “I paint over it, into it, or scrape away from it. As a result of this process, there are many layers of under paintings.”

This process also allows the paintings to literally lead the way for the artist, St. Clair added.

“Often the painting will diverge from my original idea which affords me the opportunity to explore the new and unexpected direction,” she said.

St. Clair’s work is often striking, always vibrant and has the ability to engage viewers while they reflect on color, composition and emotion.

Tonight’s event begins at 5 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m. For more information on the opening or Bajo el Sol, please visit www.BajoelSolGallery.com

St. John Featured Last Night on House Hunters: Where Are They Now? Episode

Eco Serendib, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen

The folks over at House Hunters really seem to fancy St. John. But really, why wouldn’t they…

In case you missed it, Eco Serendib was featured last night on a new episode of House Hunters: Where Are They Now? (We have Papa News of St. John to thank for this. He alerted us about the show being on just 30 minutes prior to airtime.)

For those of you unfamiliar with Eco Serendib, it’s a spectacular eight bedroom, eco friendly villa overlooking the waters of Fish Bay. The home was first featured on House Hunters about four years ago when Harith Wickrema was looking for a property on St. John.

Here is a quick clip from the original House Hunter’s episode:


Last night’s episode returned to the property, giving viewers a glimpse on the incredible updates Harith has made over the years. (Last night’s episode was filmed back in September.)

“Eco Serendib Villa and Spa agreed to be on the show with the hope of spreading the fact that while reducing the carbon footprint, one can also enjoy luxury,” Harith told us late Thursday night.

Since the show’s original airing, Harith has added 69 solar panels, as well as an organic garden designed by Josephine Roller (of Coral Bay Organic Gardens) which offers guests a seed to table experience. The villa supports the island’s Resource Depot to repurpose construction materials, and has a paperless conference room, a dining table made out of repurposed construction boards that look and feel like marble, and a repurposed Styrofoam barbecue stand.

Eco Serendib's solar panels, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib’s solar panels, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib's organic garden, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib’s organic garden, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib's dining table made from repurposed construction materials, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib’s dining table made from repurposed construction materials, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib's barbecue made from Styrofoam, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen
Eco Serendib’s barbecue grill made from Styrofoam, Photo Credit: Steve Simonsen

But what makes this villa even more special to us is how it works to restore the island’s beaches.

“For every day the villa is rented, Eco Serendib donates funds to Friends of the National Park to plant native trees as part of the Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project,” Harith said. “We have donated almost $20,000 since the program was launched last year.”

(News of St. John wrote a story about the project back in August. You can read that story here.)

House Hunters: Where Are They Now? featuring Eco Serendib will air again on February 22, March 6 and March 23. Check your local listings for times.

Throwback Thursday: Barefoot Cowboy Visits the Tourist Trap

Larry Wayne Knocking em back
Wayne Campbell and Larrey Grenier film an episode of Knockin ‘Em Back at The Tourist Trap. #TBT

We decided to jump on the Throwback Thursday bandwagon this week.

Last year, Wayne Campbell of the Barefoot Cowboy Lounge paid a visit to Larry Grenier over at The Tourist Trap. For those of you unfamiliar with Larry or The Tourist Trap, it’s a funky little eating spot on the side of the road past Coral Bay but before Salt Pond. Larry is known for his incredible lobster rolls and my personal favorite, his soft tacos.

In this video, Larry prepares a grouper taco with southwestern seasonings, his famed lobster roll and his own personal favorite, The T3 – Tourist Trap Taco. Wayne knocks em’ back as always and enjoys all three.

It’s an oldie but goodie. Not to mention, it’s pretty entertaining. Check it out:

St. John: The Wildest and Most Pristine of the USVI

caneel bay donkey st john usvi
caneel bay donkey st john usvi
Image credit: Amy Laughinghouse, For The Philadelphia Inquirer

This article just appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer. We liked it so much, we thought we would share it with all of you. We’re sure you’ll enjoy reading it just as much as we did.

St. John, the Virgin Island’ Wild Child

By Amy Laughinghouse, For The Philadelphia Inquirer

ST. JOHN, U.S. Virgin Islands – I’m lying face down in a spa cabana at Caneel Bay resort, gazing absently into a bowl of fragrant blossoms. The door is open just enough to admit the serenade of the surf and the softly filtered sunlight of the sultry Caribbean morning.

Cheryl, a masseuse with startling blue eyes accentuated by a deep tan, is gently working out the knots I’ve accumulated through work and travel. In less than an hour, she transforms me from a bag of aching bones to a blissed-out beach bunny ready to relax and take on – well, as little as possible during my 10-day stay on St. John.

This is arguably the wildest and most pristine of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and that legacy of feral beauty began right here, at Caneel Bay, where philanthropist and conservationist Laurance Rockefeller originally built a house as a private retreat. He grew so fond of St. John’s tangled jungle of hills and white crescent beaches that he bought up huge swaths of land, which later formed the basis of the Virgin Islands National Park.

At the resort itself, which features just 166 rooms on 170 acres, you’re more likely to encounter herds of deer and donkeys than another human. Throw in a few mongooses and leaf-munching iguanas, and it’s practically a free-range zoo.

While it’s tempting to simply remain at Caneel Bay and play castaway, this is an island that’s made for exploration, as I’ve discovered over more than a half-dozen visits these last 12 years.

Cruz Bay, the main port, hardly qualifies as the big city, with free-range hens shepherding their chicks along a zigzag maze of roads. But it offers enough shops and bars and restaurants to put a dent in your wallet and add an inch to your waistline.

Pick a perch at the Beach Bar, where you can gaze out over the sailboats that fill the harbor while sipping a Painkiller – a potent combination of rum, fruit juice, and nutmeg that will certainly leave you feeling no pain, until the inevitable hangover the next morning. Woody’s is another well-known watering hole, with a couple of plastic tables on the sidewalk (to call it a “terrace” would be overstating it) that provide front-row seats for first-rate tourist-watching. For a splurge, head to the hilltop Asolare and try an aptly named Honey Badger martini, which packs a bite worthy of its name.

Of course, St. John’s best attraction is its 30-plus beaches. These range from the “Mermaid’s Chair,” a beach barely big enough for two that my friends and I visit on a catamaran trip one afternoon, to the sugary expanse of Cinnamon Bay. The quirkiest is Drunk Bay, a remote rocky beach where visitors – perhaps fueled by fruity umbrella drinks, lending the place its name – create whimsical sculptures of mermaids, pirates, and cowboys from coral and coconuts.

As stunning as St. John’s coastline is above water, more surreal scenery lurks beneath the waves. Trunk Bay – which CNN.com recently ranked No. 48 on its list of the world’s 100 best beaches – features an underwater snorkel trail, where I spot eels, reef squid, and a stingray hovering like a spacecraft above the sandy bottom.

At Waterlemon Cay, while swimming in a spectral cloud of shiny silversides, I notice a 4-foot-long, missile-shaped fish just yards away. From my panicked reaction, anyone would have assumed I was an ill-fated extra from Jaws.

Fortunately, my friends, both experienced divers, assure me it’s only a harmless tarpon. (Well, harmless to humans, at least. The silversides it swallowed would probably beg to differ.)

Undeterred by echoes of “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” we sign up for a kayak tour (very small boats indeed) with Hidden Reef Eco-Tours. Our guide, Jennifer Russ, not only knows some of the best snorkeling spots around the island, but she’s also a bit of an expert on St. John’s flora and fauna as well.

“Oooh, that’s a Pseudosphinx caterpillar,” she coos, eyeing a plump yellow, black, and red critter suctioned to a piece of coral at Haulover Bay, where we meet. “He’s poisonous,” she notes cheerfully, pushing sunglasses atop a mass of long black curls.

Of course, this creepy-crawly sounds positively cuddly compared to the manchineel tree, which Russ points out next to her stand of kayaks. Eating the fruit can be fatal, earning it the nickname “Death Apple,” and its sap triggers terrible blisters.

Leaving caustic caterpillars and flesh-melting manchineels behind, we paddle for perhaps half an hour, slicing through blue waters before Russ directs us to beach the kayaks. As we slip into the water in masks, fins, and snorkels, a pair of butterfly fish engage in a courtly dance just below, and rainbow-colored parrot fish crunch loudly on the reef.

But the climax of our afternoon is the sea turtle that emerges like a shadow from the deep-blue fathoms. Gliding through the sea, he’s the Dalai Lama of the depths, the very essence of serenity.

I reckon he’s just had a massage.

Amy Laughinghouse is a London-based freelance travel writer. You can read more of her work at www.AmyLaughinghouse.com

Well This Looks Promising…

Image courtesy of Kevin McCarthy
Image courtesy of Kevin McCarthy

Gas soon come?

Our friend Kevin McCarthy sent over this picture Monday of the new fuel pumps over at the someday gas station on South Shore Road. And by the looks of it, it seems that gas may be in the near future.

We tried to reach the owner to get a formal update, but had no such luck Monday.

Plans for the gas station, located adjacent to St. John Market and near the Westin, have been in the works since 2010. Residents fiercely opposed the new gas station citing concerns over environmental impacts, parking, sewage and storm water.

The new gas station has made headlines several times since construction began. In October 2012, a bulldozer toppled over on the upper portion of the site. Less than a month later, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) shut down construction after learning poured concrete had not cured prior to its forms being removed. This subsequently weakened the retaining wall, causing it to bow.

This image, courtesy of blogger P-600, was originally published on Oct. 23, 2012.
This image, courtesy of blogger P-600, was originally published on Oct. 23, 2012.

Once completed, the gas station will be the second on the Cruz Bay side of the island. Coral Bay remains without a gas station since the Domino closed several years back.

And the Cause of Sunday Night’s Power Outage is…

wapa logo

Numerous people reported that an explosion in St. Thomas caused Sunday night’s power outage that affected the entire island during the first hour of the Super Bowl. Here are the details on exactly what happened straight from WAPA:

On Sunday, February 2, shortly after 7 p.m., the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority experienced an island-wide electrical service interruption which was the result of a flashover on the power transformer for Unit 14.  A flashover is an unintended electrical arc or ball of fire which occurs during a low impedance fault between two conductors or one conductor and the ground.  While Unit 14 was not in service at the time of the event, the transformer was energized. 

According to Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr., “Once the flashover occurred, the other generating units online at the time reacted by shutting themselves down as a protective mechanism to minimize damage to the systems power generating components.”

During the unforeseen event, no personnel were injured. An immediate inspection of Unit 14’s transformer indicated there were burnt insulators and lightening arrestors.

“When we knew the employees in the immediate area were safe and the units were not damaged,” said Hodge, “we immediately began bringing the other units back online.”

Plant personnel continue to evaluate Unit 14 to determine the extent of damage.

Executive Director Hodge noted the numerous inquiries about the connection between the timing of the service interruption and the demand on the system resulting from the volume of customers tuning in to view the Super Bowl. 

“The interruption subsequent to the flashover had no connection to the demand on the system,” stressed Hodge.

Look Who Just Got a Little Fancier

We did!

Has anyone caught a glimpse of our new fancy sign over at the Coral Bay Triangle? We’re super excited to be there, and are very grateful to our friend Pia for sending these photos over to us. (You may recognize Pia’s name – She has a ton of great advice for travelers over on TripAdvisor and VIOL.)

So again, thank you Pia and check us out!

News of St. John Coral Bay Sign

News of St. John Coral Bay Sign 2

Only in St. John…

eyes blackout
Image courtesy of Active St. John

We had a pretty good story scheduled for today, but we could not ignore the obvious…

Where in the world loses power a few minutes before the Super Bowl begins?

Only on St. John folks. Only on St. John.

So as many of you may have read, power went out just after 7 p.m. local time Sunday night, mere minutes before the big game was set to begin. People wandered around Cruz Bay, almost bewildered in some instances. Lights were out everywhere from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay. Even the lights along Centerline were out.

Wharfside Village had lights (generator backups presumably) as did some spots over in Mongoose Junction. We heard an explosion over in St. Thomas was to blame, but we’ve been unable to confirm that as of late Sunday night.

Fortunately power was back on in Cruz Bay just after 8 p.m. I don’t know about you, but the whole situation made me think of a headline I read in the Virgin Islands Daily News back in December:

WAPA Continues to Bleed as VI Government Continues to Fail to Pay Multi-Million Bills

I’m not saying that’s to blame, but it all has to make you wonder.

And keep in mind, this all comes only two days after we realized this VI government error:

Sign spelled wrong
Image courtesy of Active St. John

Not only is there a gross misspelling in the signage, but how does more than three years since an incident constitute as emergency repairs?

Only in St. John folks. Only in St. John.

Let’s be honest – St. John is not a bad place to be. It has the most beautiful beaches in the world and some of the world’s best people. Seriously, where else in the world are you greeted with a “good morning” or “good day”? It’s a pretty sweet place all around, but it’s also fun to gripe once in awhile.

So what’s your best “Only in St. John” saying? Leave it in the comments. We’ll start:

  • Only in St. John will the power go out minutes before the biggest television event of the year.
  • Only in St. John will the government take three years to fix an “emergency” and then misspell the sign announcing it.
  • Only in St. John do you have to worry about a mongoose stealing your keys.

Your turn…