Sunny St. Thomas
Each morning when the Noordam drops anchor and the passengers are cleared for take off, the hustle and bustle begins as people are released onto the paradisial ports. Having a good plan for the day is the best way to insure squeezing every drop of memory making pleasure you can out of each island visit.
Because I’m a travel journalist I’ve spent most of this cruise photographing, videoing, writing and interviewing, so by the time I reached St. Thomas I was ready to do a little sightseeing and a lot of relaxing on the beach.
Charlotte Amalie, the cruise port and ebullient commercial hub of St. Thomas is also the capital of this 32 square mile island. Although some 1.5 million cruise ship tourists frequent the island each year, my trip into the city didn’t lend the feeling of being overwhelmingly crowded.
The island capital cradles a beautiful harbor that is glittered with sailboats and spectacular yachts, like gaily embellished ornaments on a Christmas tree. Shopping is paramount to most tourists and the streets are lined with shops from the upscale Cartier to farmer’s markets.
Today I set my sights on Magen’s Bay, one of the Carribean’s most famous beaches. It has been dubbed one of the top ten best Caribbean beaches by Caribbean Magazine.
Some reports are that the famed beach is within walking distance but I wouldn't recommend trying it. I decided since I was on my own today and carrying video and photography equipment, I’d walk a ways and commandeer a taxi for the remainder. The drive to the beach delivered me through breathtaking scenery and who’s to say the taxi drivers don’t take the long way around, but it’s nonetheless worth a few extra dollars for the view.
I’ll attest this was by far my favorite beach I’d visited so far on my Holland America Line cruise. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first on the beach for the day and was able to enjoy the quiet splendor of the multihued blue and aqua waves washing the powdery white sands before the multitudes arrived.
Feisty Brown Pelicans entertained with a fantastic, albeit humorous dive show, all the while I strolled the beach enjoying the sand between my toes. Alas, as time to re-board the ship encroached, I made my way back through the bustling shoppers and multi-colored historic architecture.
St. Thomas has been a member of the United States for almost a century now, having been purchased from Denmark in 1917 for the bargain basement price of $25 million.
Although St. Thomas is perhaps the most renowned of the United States Virgin Islands, the hustle and bustle of the cruise tourists do not diminish from this enchanting island’s charms.
In addition to shopping, island activities encompass sailing, snorkeling, hiking, diving, golfing, sky-trams and those oh-so-beautiful beaches.
A host of holidays, music festivals, regattas, Yacht shows, agriculture and food fairs are celebrated on St. Thomas each year. There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to visit though, this island paradise will have you convinced you’re on holiday whenever you’re fortunate enough to drop anchor here.
Kerry & Chris Shook have written a book called One Month to Live. The primary focus of the book is that many people don’t start living until they know they are faced with immediate death. The book encourages among other things to ‘live life passionately.”
I have on occasion posted on our Exploring with Happy’s facebook page the question, “What is on your bucket list?” For most people two things are foremost, spending time with family and traveling.
For many with only 30 days to live, they’d quit their job, eat dessert first and for the most part aside from showing their families and friends how much they love them, attempt to live a life free of worry.
But what if you had 3 months to live or even 6 months? Quitting work might mean no electricity or food. Or without thought of a personal diet or physical care, having 10 people carry your casket instead of 6.
In 2013 months we’ll be exploring the passionate things in life, or ‘Exploring the awesome in your life.”
We’ll be exploring awesome travel opportunities and also exploring things you can do to prepare physically to get the most out of your travel opportunities. I’ll be tackling things like training and running a half-marathon, learning to scuba dive, taking dancing lessons and getting a physical. Feeling my best will enable me to swim with sharks or maybe even parasail or skydive, catch a Blue Marlin, zip line, learn to snow ski or go to Disney World.
Physical fitness is paramount to feeling good while traveling. I’m no stranger to holiday weight gain or getting lazy with my exercise routine in the cold winter months. To combat that, we’ll be learning about how to hurdle those physical obstacles, as well as others like chronic back pain, getting rid of migraine headaches, how to avoid Type II Diabetes and fueling your body so that you feel awesome enough to tackle life passionately. We’ll learn about eating fun and healthy, at home and on the road.
We’ll focus on great and fun things that will help families make happy and unforgettable memories; things like fishing, hiking, camping and taking family trips together. We’ll do things that one can do on a budget, and trips or activities that may require a bit of splurging.
There's no time like a new year to start living life passionately. I challenge you this year to go out and 'Explore the Awesome in Your Life!" I'm ready, how about you?
I’ve got to tell you I’ve been itching to do some leaf peeping and I finally got my first chance of the season on my birthday, which was October 22nd. Mom and I decided to celebrate with a birthday lunch at Cracker Barrel in Alma, and then head on up to Lake Ft. Smith to do a little hiking.
We took the old highway from Alma to Lake Ft. Smith and the color was incredible. In fact, I don’t know how it could have been any prettier. Hiking at Lake Ft. Smith is always enjoyable and the foliage only added to the experience. For all you parents, this is a real memory making experience you can share with your kids, picnicking, hiking and foliage and it doesn’t cost much if you pack your own lunch.
After we left Lake Ft. Smith we drove on up to Artist’s Point and it too was spectacular. The view from atop the Boston Mountains just makes you want to say Praise the Lord out loud! It was a gift just to be able to take it all in. Artist’s Point is open 7 days a week and it’s a great stop in the middle of nowhere to take in an amazing view and pick up some locally grown honey, or a piece of beautiful art.
A few days later we made the trek up to Bentonville to visit Crystal Bridges Museum and the color on I-540 through the Boston Mountains was amazing. Rain was in the forecast and on the trip north it was overcast, which really made me homesick for Branson. Once I get that far up into Arkansas, I start wishing I had my dogs with me and I could just drive the additional couple of hours to Branson and just settle in there.
As we drove towards Bentonville, the endless warm autumnal hues of gold and oranges blanketed the mountains as we made our way north, and were spotted with an occasional fiery splash of burgundy. The color in the Midwest this year has to rival that of New England's, less the intensity of the saturated reds and crimsons of the sugar maples the Yankees are blessed with. Still the color palette here has an immense warmth to it; I could imagine the Lord's hand as He brushed the landscape with the perfect combination of coordinating colors.
We had only a short amount of time to spend at Crystal Bridges and our main goal was to get a layout for what we wanted to write about when we go back in a week or so.
Truth be told, shortly after we got to the grounds it started sprinkling and we weren't there for more than an hour before the rain began to pelt us. We had camera and video equipment and couldn't take a chance on getting it wet.
The outdoor experience at Crystal Bridges is a juxtaposition of the ultra contemporary museum architecture against a background of heightened natural beauty. The unfolding serenity of the landscape was sincere enough to have me speaking in whispers, as if I were in Church. Shades of autumnal hues from the flora and fauna created a such a well-planned and thought out landscape that it all seemed to have sprouted from the would-be canyon naturally to cradle the multi-million dollar architecture of the museum layout.
The best I can offer up for proof of my colorful adventures is a few photographs that capture a small cross-section of the natural beauty, much better than any words I write. I look forward to going back, both to view more of the grounds and to drink in the incredible collection of art both inside and outside the museum.
My mom always told me when I was growing up that "No one paints like God does." Recently we posted those words with a beautiful photo on our facebook page and we had more than a handful of people state that it wasn't God it was Mother Nature doing the painting ~ or they detailed the steps of photosynthesis to kindly educate us. To that I say, the God I love is THE Master of Science. I'm sure He knows His way around a laboratory, and painting the woods with photosynthesis is as easy as finger painting for Him.