Don’t get me wrong – I love my son. My life has changed for the better ever since he entered this world in September 2012. But before his wonderful existence, my wife and I usually traveled two to three times a year across the amazing destinations Travel Keys is privileged to represent; each destination providing its own adventure and memorable moments. On September 8, 2012, that all came to a screeching halt! We’ve had the opportunity to take vacations, but they have all been ‘family vacation’ experiences.
This past winter was a challenging one; our son was maturing and craving independence (aka, running us ragged), Travel Keys was coming off our most successful high season ever (aka, busiest – I lost nearly 15 pounds in January by not having time to eat lunch), and my wife’s law firm had recently changed their minimum billable hours policy from 2000 to 2100 for the year. Bottom line: we needed a ‘pre-son getaway.’ So, when I was fortunate enough to get my parents to watch him for a 72-hour window, the conversation with my wife went as such:
Me: So, my parents are able to watch Worth two weekends from now. We have a 3-day window. Where should we…
Wife: St. John
Me: OK then.
St. John has always held a special place in our hearts. The beaches are fantastic, the people are wonderful, the views from the hillside properties are amazing, and we have always loved trying to squeeze in a day trip to neighboring Jost Van Dyke, Tortola or Virgin Gorda. We honeymooned on St. John, spent our first anniversary there, and made a couple of other trips to the island. Over the years, we have had the privilege of staying at Spellbound, Cinnamon Bay Estate, and Acqua Blu – each amazing properties in their own right.
The homeowner of Mare Blu graciously offered her home for our non-child jaunt and I couldn’t have accepted fast enough! We arrived into St. Thomas on a Saturday afternoon. The weather was perfect; sunny and not a cloud in the sky. As I already mentioned, this was not our first trip to the islands and while it had been a good three years since we last flew into St. Thomas, the arrival to the island was like we had done it a thousand times. We quickly caught a taxi, made our way to the other side of the island at Red Hook, grabbed two Painkillers (the drink!), and hopped on the 3 o’clock ferry to Cruz Bay. Twenty minutes later, we had met our greeter (Justin, who is fantastic and manages six to seven other homes on the island), picked up our Jeep (thanks Cool Breeze!), and made our way to the villa.
There are not many roads on St. John – basically four main roads (North Shore, Centerline, South Shore and a road the runs up Gift Hill that connects Centerline with South Shore). Once you pass the intersection of South Shore and Gift Hill Road, you come upon the gates of Mare Blu. Certainly unique in design, its bright colors provide a warm environment – the blues, purples, and oranges mesh with lush vegetation on the hillside and beautiful blue waters below. The property is massive in size, spread out between three buildings that form a semi-circle overlooking Rendezvous Bay. The outdoor living space is sublime; lounge chairs are dotted around the long, infinity-edge pool and the villa has several cushioned couches and chairs in shaded nooks where one can escape the sun but still enjoy the wonderful views and ocean breezes – perfect for curling up to a good book. I should know – I finished two books in two days!
We like to think of ourselves as pretty self-sufficient people so the plan was to hit the grocery store once we got settled at the villa. But first, we had to share a champagne toast, courtesy of our gracious host! Following the bubbly, we went into town (no more than 10 minutes) and to the main store (Starfish) where we shopped for breakfast fixings, deli meats for lunches, and dinner items for two of the three nights we were on island. Just about anything you find at your local grocery store, you can find on St. John.
Mare Blu has a wonderful kitchen and outdoor grill space that any chef would be proud of. We kept it simple the first night: brie and crackers as a starter, and then burgers with an avocado salad for dinner. We sipped our wine as we watched the sun fade, the burnt-orange sky slowly darkening and the stars brightening. We took advantage of the pool and patio lights the villa offers, took a night swim, and following a long day of travel, went to sleep in the master on the north wing of the property.
Our first full day on island was packed with activities that included reading, lying out in the sun, reading more, eating, reading, napping, and taking the occasional swim. It was truly exhausting. In the afternoon, we decided to finally venture to the other side of the island and grab a drink at Skinny Legs (and buy replacement t-shirts that had faded over the years). That afternoon, Skinny Legs was hosting a Team Horseshoe Competition. It was for women only and they naturally named it “The Pitch and Bitch.” We arrived for the semi-finals so we decided to have a couple of drinks and stay for the finals. The winning team rocked these bad boy pants:
On the way back from Coral Bay, we stopped at a small farmers market to pick up some fresh basil. That night, we took advantage of the spacious kitchen and grill areas by making one of our favorite meals: deconstructed chicken pesto. Another night of star watching and swimming concluded a truly tiring day.
The next day brought more of the same; a lot of hanging around the pool and reading. I had decided that I had to do a little bit of work while on island and scheduled a couple of meetings with our local partners. As we were leaving the following morning (how is the trip already almost done?!), we made it our mission to make it to the beach at least once that afternoon. We packed our gear (all chairs, towels, bags and coolers are stored at the villa) and made our way to the North Shore. We lounged on both Hawksnest (first beach once you pass Caneel) and Cinnamon (I wanted to view some of the Peter Bay properties) before heading back to the villa. On our way home, we noticed a lovely little restaurant sitting cliffside just north of Cruz Bay – Asolare. When we got back to Mare Blu, I called the restaurant and made a reservation for that evening. (Important note: if you want to get a reservation to view the sunset, I definitely recommend you do so in advance.) Both the view and the food from Asolare are fantastic. My wife and I are self-admitted food snobs (she grew up in New Orleans) and Caribbean dining has never really been held in high regard for either of us. However, we were quite impressed with the menu selections at Asolare. The special (scallops) was delicious and we both thoroughly enjoyed our entrées (she went with the crab cakes and I had applewood smoked pork tenderloin). On our next St. John trip, we certainly plan to return to Asolare – this time making reservations a bit more in advance!
Our final morning, we awoke early so we could take in as much pool time as possible before leaving for St. Thomas en route to Atlanta, and back to reality! My wife decided her favorite reading spot was the built-in couch and ottoman in the outdoor living room. My preferred lounging spot was on the pool deck.
Before we packed up to say goodbye to the island we love (and the home we had come to love!), I took a few videos of the property. Be sure to check them out.
I love you son…maybe just enough to invite you on the next trip!