Pressure Appears on Wendy Williams!!

The song that never gets old… Check out Pressure’s appearance on the Wendy Williams show.

A Whimsical Side of St. John

explore dream discover

Like many people, Ali Norton always wanted to live a free and independent lifestyle. After a little soul searching, she found herself settled on our beloved island of St. John where, for the past 10 years, she’s created whimsical art that is sure to make you smile.

Ali focuses on creating artwork that brings the vivid colors and tranquility of paradise into the homes of her both travelers and locals alike. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, anyone who loves St. John will certainly see its beauty, and Ali hopes that through her art people can keep a piece of this beauty with them always.

See for yourself:

Ali Norton 2

Ali Norton Main

Ali sells her paintings and mixed media pieces at Hibiscus Jazz, a quaint little boutique tucked next to Chateau Bordeaux on Centerline Road. In addition to her paintings and mixed media items – many of which she creates right on site – the boutique also sells other artist’s works and touristy items. Nearly all of the items sold at the boutique are made in the USA, Ali said.

Ali Norton 3

Ali Norton 1

The next time you’re on Centerline Road, make it a point to stop by Ali’s shop and say hello. Be sure to bring home one of her amazing items. We did!

Ali is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also find her on the web at www.AliNortonArt.com

Life on a Rock: Full Circle

roccos second pic

Yesterday we introduced you to Carol and David Rocco, a couple from Missouri who decided to take a leap of faith and move to St. John for one year. Here’s part two of their story:

Rock Fever – September 24, 2013

Rock Fever – temporary claustrophobia and restlessness caused by living on an island

The fever is alive and well. And I have it.

How can anyone living in ‘paradise’ have moments or hours or days of restlessness? Good question. I can only describe just a few of the annoyances crowding my thoughts of late …

  • I’m going to toss a spike strip in front of the truck driver who blows his horn for a good quarter of a mile up the hill 18 times a day.
  • Could I get more than one bag of groceries for less than a hundred dollars?
  • Keep raining so it will fill the cistern and I can let the shower run for one full minute.
  • Stop raining! The dishes won’t even dry!
  • I dream of a mouth-watering pizza … delivered …
  • Oh how I miss the smell of a mall … even the offensive, mucus-inflammatory odor pouring out the doors of Hollister.
  • Is it happy hour yet?

I realize slow season is the calm before the storm, but at this moment I would welcome a hurricane. I haven’t crawled into a dry bed for three nights anyway.

P.S. To concerned family and friends: No worries. My antidepressant is still effective and there’s no need to alert AA. Rock fever is a normal and temporary condition of living in paradise. I feel better already.

Six Months in St. John: What I’ve Learned – December 17, 2013

We left America six months ago for an island adventure – and what an adventure it is!

Notes to Self:

  • You don’t need much to live here. You don’t need much to live in America either … you just thought you did.
  • This isn’t South Beach. No one cares about your designer clothing, expensive jewelry and shoes with bling. Those things will get ruined anyway. You’ll be glad you brought the weatherproof, functional (boring) handbag.
  • You will not live in a big house with air conditioning and all the luxuries you’re used to (unless you win the lottery, so start playing). You will, however, have a magnificent view while ‘suffering’ with less.
  • 450 square feet isn’t so bad. On the bright side, it will take only 30 minutes to clean house.
  • Do not bring anything you’d rather not replace. Your favorite pirate shirt will mold. Your most comfortable flip flops will fall apart. The metal embellishments on your pink bikini will rust. And you will replace computers and cameras at an astonishing rate.
  • After spending $60 on an appetizer and two drinks at a fancy restaurant, you will decide the $10 burger meal at Woody’s is a pretty good deal.
  • You will consume drinks at approximately 3 times the normal rate to avoid the immediacy at which ice melts in the tropics.
  • Choose ‘dry days’ and stick to it. Your liver will thank you.
  • Lizards are your friends. Scorpions are not.
  • You will live in Mayberry. The guy you dissed yesterday may end up being your landlord or employer or bartender or mechanic.
  • Want to be happy here? Then embrace island culture. This includes greeting everyone with a Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night or the all-inclusive Good Day before uttering another word. Get comfortable with island time – the more of a hurry you’re in, the slower they’ll move. West Indians love music so when the gal on the taxi sings as if there’s a talent scout lurking, just sing along.
  • Try new things, sample new dishes, go new places. That is why you moved here, right?

Bittersweet – March 21, 2014

Warm weather, beautiful beaches, a small town where everybody knows your name – what’s not to love? As our one-year sabbatical comes to an end, we are often asked why we are returning to America. Why not park under a palm tree and live in paradise forever?

Leaving St. John will be bittersweet. There are so many things we love about living here aside from the obvious beauty and laid back lifestyle.

For instance:

  • We are judged by who we are, not by what (or who) we wear, who we know or how far we’ve climbed on an imaginary career ladder.

  • We have fewer aches and pains. A more consistent barometric pressure and warm weather is good for the bones. Our stash of antibiotics has remained virtually untouched.

  • We are far removed from mainstream media. Who cares about the latest iPhone release, or that Kim Kardashian named her baby North or South … instead, tell me what time the local parade begins and if the island’s second gas station will ever be finished.

However, living here and visiting are very different experiences. While on vacation, you climb into a fluffy, comfy king-sized bed in an air-conditioned multi-million dollar villa with panoramic views. We sleep in a lumpy, humid bed exactly four steps away from a toilet. But not before checking under the bed for iguanas.

Another misconception is that we are eating fresh fruit, vegetables and mahi every day. Not so. We shop at the grocery store just like you. Ciguatera, a toxic disease affecting reef fish in the area, prevents us from fishing anywhere near the shoreline. As for produce, St. John’s soil is equivalent to a desert so even most roadside vendors import.

Simply said, it is very expensive to live here. Most people work multiple jobs – with no benefits (which are rarer than a watermelon for less than $19.99). We could stay if we worked far more for far less. But that was never our intent.

I once overheard someone say {paraphrasing}, ”There are times when I think: I CANNOT believe I live here! … and other times when I think: I can’t believe I live HERE!” So true!

The rudimentary aspects of the islands are precisely why many people come here, including us. Escaping the daily grind has been good for the soul. We often hear people say, “You’re so lucky!” It has nothing to do with luck. It is a conscious decision.

Whatever your dreams are, pursue them. Don’t wait for someday. You will never have ‘enough’ money and the time will never be just right.

You just might run out of time.

Time’s Up – March 8, 2014

This experience has accomplished exactly what I had hoped — it changed me. My perspective, my attitude, my goals. I always had a wandering spirit; I just never had the guts to step outside of my comfort zone. Learning to live with less has been the shallow part of my transformation. Immersing myself in a vastly different culture in which I am the minority has provided the greatest insight. I use the term culture broadly: race, language, values, background, opinions … I am now much more open-minded, non-judgmental and tolerant. I am surprised by how liberated this makes me feel – obviously my ingrained belief system was stunting my growth.

I also realized how much I used to live in fear — fear of losing a good job, fear of something bad happening to the people I love, fear of not having enough money, fear of change. Uncertainty breeds vulnerability. I am learning to welcome vulnerability as a necessary ingredient of legitimate growth.

We return to America on May 1, starting with a family visit in Florida followed by a month-long journey back to Missouri. The old Carol would be anxious. After all, we are returning without a blueprint. However, the new Carol is learning to trust. And whaddya know … the Universe has already begun to provide.

Full Circle – April 22, 2014

214 hours …

I’m watching imaginary sand trickle through an imaginary hourglass timer – only I cannot turn it over or lay it on its side to delay the passage of time. Our last days are spent resurrecting the wonder and awe we felt when we first moved to St. John, while deliberately ignoring the countdown.

The transmission went out in our vehicle here in the ninth inning. We are now afoot just like our first days on island. Full circle.

Our walls are bare and supplies sparse. Just like our first few weeks. Full circle.

We are hypnotized by the sea, moved by scenic overlooks, and silenced by the sunset. Just like when we arrived. Full circle.

Our blog reaches more than 1,200 subscribers, many we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting. We often hear from followers who have been inspired to make a change or take a risk simply by witnessing our journey. Jimmy and Bridgette from Tennessee let us know we are living their dream. We were thrilled to finally meet them during their visit to St. John last month. Now it’s their turn. They will be moving into our apartment shortly after we leave and begin their own journey.

Full circle, wouldn’t you say?

May the island be as good to them as it has been to us.

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

Proper packing for Paradise

Snoopy7982 raises this interesting question at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line forum for St. John.

"What clothes do I need other than bathing suits, cover-ups and sundresses? Can my husband wear shorts in all restaurants or should he bring some slacks?"


Seems like a lot of people have the same answer.  "Each time we go, we vow to bring less and less," is the way FourStreams put it.  "From 3 golf shirts to 1 … from 3 pairs of nice shorts to 1 … 4 tee shirts to 2." And, since many villas have a washer and dryer (ask your management company), that helps reduce what you need to bring."

Read moreProper packing for Paradise

Two guys walk into a St. John bar …

Kevin Chipman
and Chirag Vyas, the founders of St. John Brewers at Mongoose Junction, didn't exactly just walk in to a bar.  They got there the old fashioned way.  They earned it.

Their story began soon after they graduated from the University of Vermont and decided to move to St. John.  The first year, they lived on a sailboat with no electricity while they figured out what they would do with the rest of their lives.  "You don't worry about what might go wrong in life when you're snorkeling, hiking or sailing," they told Islands magazine.  "Very quickly, we fell in love with the lifestyle here on St. John," and decided to stay.

But doing what? Well, they loved craft beers, and Paradise had no craft beer.  So they made some.

The key to their 'overnight' success, which has taken several years: hard work that began with their idea, and then their explaining – and selling – it to restaurants and bar owners.  "When our first 40-foot container arrived (with 1,300 cases of Virgin Islands Tropical Mango Ale), we warehoused it ourselves.  Half on St. Thomas, half in our apartment."

For all those people who think they'd like to c move to the island, the Brewers story is pure gold.  They found the harder they worked and the more they cared about the comm,unity, the greater their success and acceptance and support.  "Part of knowing everyone is supporting everyone," they said.

It also helps that St. John's a happy place. "If St. John  has a reason to party, it definitely will," they told Islands.

How to bring home a great shot from St. John

PHOTO St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots.  But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work.  Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.

In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.

Read moreHow to bring home a great shot from St. John

Virgin Islands business opportunities

There are some interesting businesses for sale on the island right now, but what if you're an entrepreneur and want to start your own? Forumites at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com site have been mulling this question.

Lsugolfer in Baton Rouge said "So, here's what I do when I sit in my cube and think about how crappy this is compared to STJ. Start a gas station or a 'Louisiana'-themed restaurant."

JMhouse said, "Ha ha. I'm in a cubicle, too, listening to someone else have a loud conversation on a speaker phone.  I'd much rather be the Park Ranger that leads the Reef Bay hikes."

Other suggestions people have for new island businesses.

  1. "A storage business where you could leave your snorkel gear/beach chairs, shoes and whatever you don't want to cart back and forth." (Diana2)
  2. "A wind turbine, maybe somewhere on Ajax peak." (Laurie)
  3. "An electric car rental company.  And a self-serve car wash and vacuum area." (Msgcolleen)
  4. "Chicken Removal Service." (StJohnRuth) Details 
  5. "Underwater camera rental. Would have to be a side business. (Not big enough to sustain itself.)" (Jmaq)

Why people bring food to St. John

Twenty years ago, our packing for St. John always included a cooler of food and salty snacks.  

Not because we wanted to save money but, back then, there weren't fully-stocked food stores.  You couldn't be sure you'd be able to buy bread and milk never mind good cuts of beef.  That's changed now, but many people still bring coolers.

In a thread on Trip Advisor, most people said they bring food for convenience, not to avoid restaurants.  

"We dine out, but we visit STJ for relaxing," said Toes_in_the_Sand.  "We find it more relaxing at the end of a day at the beach to sit at the villa, enjoy a couple of drinks while we fix dinner.  No hurry, no parking, no worries."

Poolmom_9 added, "We saved a lot of money (bringing food).  We still ate out plenty.  It was nice to grill (at home)." Cleobeach1 said, "We generally eat out every lunch and dinner, but we have taken a cooler more often than not. We are particular about our meals, especially meats and specialty snacks like cheeses."

What about you?


The developers are calling it the Grande Bay Renaissance.  

Conceding "years of challenges and construction delays," the Grande Bay Resort and Residence Club is open for business.  An experienced, high-end resort manager is now on board to help oversee the project which is offering fractional ownerships with prices starting at $14,900. Read more about it here.