What’s for dinner, and where?

St. John has a number of fine restaurants.  Some really talented people are working hard in those kitchens, trying to do their best with an unpredictable supply chain of meat, fish, vegetables, and so on.  And the high prices at those restaurants reflect both the challenge and the execution.

 Some first-time visitors were wondering on TripAdvisor, “Since groceries are so expensive … is it actually cheaper (to cook at the villa) or (is it) the same as eating out?”

Monkeynoclimb’s answer was fast and conclusive. “Still cheaper to eat in. (Besides,) many times we are too tired to leave the house after a day on the beach, too.”

For couples, going out can be economical, if you go to the right-priced places. “We always go to Candi’s BBQ one night, hit Banana Deck a couple times for a late lunch at the bar, and Aqua Bistro in Coral Bay open night for Tuna Ponzu,” said Bluewater43.

Brenda-2004 said, “Just as expensive to cook a meal in than to just go out, unless you are doing high-end dining.”

Virgin Islands veteran Rick G passed along that, “Groceries are more expensive (than home). Staples are 10-25 percent more. Prepackaged meals, frozen chicken tenders, bag cereal;? More expensive.”  His recommendation: get a whole chicken at Starfish Market, add Cruz Bay Grill Rub and hot sauce from St. John Spice, rice and peas, “and you have four to six meals.”

Coral Bay’s only road in and out, in danger

As if driving on the left side of the road isn't challenge enough for tourists, now they have to worry about there being no road.

So say worried residents in Coral Bay where heavy rains three years ago undermined portions of Centerline Road which still haven't been repaired.  The Public Works Department is still preparing "bid packages for the remediation work", the Virgin Islands Daily News was told.

Now, the problem is worse.  Heavy, heavy rains last weekend did more damage.  The Daily News quotes Denise Barbier saying there are at least five places along two miles of Centerline that could collapse beneath a car, taxi, school bus, or construction equipment.  "There is nothing under the road," she said.

The News reported Public Works has put up some barricades to keep drivers away from the dangerous sections. But, the newspaper said, a week ago, three of them fell over the side of the road.  Obviously, these are not the concrete Jersey barriers we're used to seeing in the States.

"If the road is closed or collapses, then there is no way in or out," said Coral Bay homeowner Franz Jaggar. On the other hand, he said if that happens, "Skinny Legs will do big business."  

As Hill Street's Sgt. Phil Esterhause might have said, "Drivers … Be safe out there." 

Puppies on parade at Wagapalooza

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Several hundred people and dozens of dogs are expected to turn out for the 12th annual Wagapalooza all-island pet show on Saturday.  This year the event will be hald at the VI National Park ball field, instead of the hot, noisy, dusty Sprauve School.

The annual fund raiser for the St. John Animal Care Center draws dogs of all shapes and sizes and, of course, many breeds – often in the same body because many parading around the show ring were Island and rescue dogs.

Many of the dogs in competition are flaunting their good looks and/or cute costumes.  A few always try to brazenkly influence the judges by licking their faces.

Elaine Estern, a devoted dog lover and world-class watercolor artist, was chosen to design the official t-shirt and she'll be selling them at the event.

Promotion for this year's Wagapalooza was nil, online … the Wagapalooza Web site's not been changed in a year, and there's no picture of the t-shirt. What the heck!  Send $25 to the Animal Care Center here, and they'll send you a shirt, and you'll know what Elaine's design is.

Wagapalooza starts at 5 p.m.

Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus Photography was on hand to chronicle last year's event and uploaded hundreds of pictures from the event. Click for Bob Schlesinger's portfolio of Wagapalooza, 2012.

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Maho Bay: countdown to closing

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These are the final hours of Maho Bay Campground.

Stanley Selengut’s lease expires at the end of June and the last guests at the eco-resort are expected leave tomorrow. And St. John may be the loser.  He told the St. John Source that “Maho’s closure will cost the territory … $20 million in lost revenue” from the some 12,000 guests a year.

For a few weeks, the Maho Bay Blog has been showing a countdown clock, which you can see here.

The blog also ironically links to a (recent?) video segment on Kathie Lee and Hoda touting Maho Bay as a great place for a family vacation or even a getaway without the kids.

The best part of the piece, thought the Inquiring Iguana, was when either Kathie Lee or Hoda said, “St. Johns is gorgeous .”  Duh!

Selengut has not yet announced the logistics of closing down the resort. He and his staff have to dispose of millions of dollars’ worth of linens, furnishings, and equipment.  It could be the world’s largest garage sale.

Selengut’s not leaving the island.  He owns Harmony Resort and Concordia Eco-Resort, both of which are near Maho.

Government assigning street names

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What's next?  Stop lights?

Field workers have begun contacting residents on St. John to assign street names and numbers to their homes.  They will be visiting residences, "leaving door hangers … to verify existing street informtion as reported in property tax databseas," the office of the Lieutenant Governor said.  "These hangers will also contacin the new address that has been assignbed."

"Addressing is not only critical to emergency services," said Gregory Francis, the Lt. Gov., "but is also an important tool as we continue to build the territory's economy and infrastructure."

Some roads in Estate Enighed and Contant already have street names, but some don't.  So the government is asking for suggestions.  There are guidelines. One of them is that "All names shall be culturally appropriate or relating to local history."  Here are the gudelines.

Advice about the street addressing project are included in a document from the Lt. Gov. It answers questions such as high tall should my house numbers be and how mail should be addressed.  You can read the FAQ here.

Taming the St. Thomas airport

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The only thing worse than having to leave St. John after a vacation … is having to navigate the security and Customs lines at the St. Thomas airport.  Lines onto the sidewalk are not uncommon.  Waits of an hour or more … sometimes in hot, hot weather … are not unheard of. Here's how to avoid them. Hire a porter.

On a recent TripAdvisor thread, Mir214 asked "How do they work and how much do they cost?"  The simple answers are … they work fine and the cost is about $10/person.  For that money, you get someone to help you with your bags, puts them on a dolly, and manages to wheedle you through faster than you could yourself.

"Well worth it if the lines are really bad," said Itsconnie on the TA forum. Snorkle2007 said, "The place was packed and we were able to bypass most of the lines except the security line."  StJohnMax said, "I think they charge $3 per bag.  I gladly gave the porter $26 for my two bags.  Saved me an hour." Tnkbstr55 said a porter "took us to the American self-check-in kiosk, checked us in and got baggage tags. We saved an hour of time, at least."

In search of a $500,000 fixer-upper

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In a real estate market where two out of three homes are priced at $1 million or more, how do you get a reasonably nice house for a reasonable price?

Answer: the old fashioned way: you haggle and do a lot of repair work yourself.

That’s the story House Hunters International told in their latest St. John-focused episode, To Renovate or Not.

The show followed Ken and Rob in their quest for a $500,000 house.  Their priorities: privacy, close to town, good view, and two bedrooms/two baths.

A Fish Bay house failed because it needed a lot of work, a lot! – more than even the below-budget cost of $395K would justify.  Another property near Coral Bay was just too far out, so they chose a two bedroom/two bath house with a so-so-view of Chocolate Hole.  They got it for $50K less than asking price and began spending the ‘savings’ on their fixer/upper.

Rob and Ken also own, and started, the St. Johnimals pet store.  The store is for sale for $95,000.

Their House Hunters International show will be aired again at 6pm eastern on May 27.


Grande Bay’s Final Four

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The developers of the Grande View Residences at Grande Bay Resort on Cruz Bay are finishing the project with a quartet of new penthouse  homes.  Called "Whole Ownership Residences," the one or two bedroom units start at $900,000. 

John Alvarado, director of sales, said the Residences "represent the best of St. John in terms of location refinement and convenience.

"The big distinction is that owners have the option to live here year round," he said.  The units can also be rented, in which case guests will be pampered with "exclusive amenities such as daily housekeeping and a complimentary in-room mini bar that is replenished daily." Whole Ownership owners also get priority access to use of the resort's power boat and Jeep.

Where to pop the question?

Don't tell Dave A's girlfriend, but the New Yorker is planing to propose.  In a month, they'll be on the island and he's asking the St. John Travel forum for some guidance to the most romantic place on the island and the fanciest/nicest restaurant.

Ski2play2002 suggested "any beach with a westward viuew" at sunset time and then a trip to the Sugar Mill at Caneel Bay. "Absolutely loved the romance, food, and service."

54b is an outdoorsy person, suggesting Peace Hill at dusk, between Hawksnest and Trunk bays. "It has a neat windmill ruin and a large outcropping, wide panoramic views."  Ram Head Bay at dawn was also an idea. "Nothing says 'take the plunge with me' like standing on top of an overlook with 100-foot clffs on three sides."  However, 54b reminded, "it does require a three-mile round trip hike from the Salt Pond Bay parking lot."

PotluckDreamshark from Minneapolis remined, "The tiny biting flies tend to come out at dusk.  So, if you're both dancing around and slapping no-see-ums, the romantic quality of your proposal may be affected."

After reading more of the responses, it appears Dave A and spouse-to-be will be on the water when it's Question Time.  They're staying at the Treetops villa and its co-owner Hank Slodden does sunset cruises with his New England lobster boat, Pot Luck.  Dave's asked Hank to find the perfect spot.