1 We spent Christmas vacation in a beautiful private home on the Island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands.
2 We had most of our meals at home, preceded by a homemade island cocktail. I love blender drinks made from fresh fruits and juices and this is a coconut milk margarita in a sugar-rimmed glass.
3 The house was located on a high hill in the eastern part of the island. The views, 360-degrees, looked north to Buck Island, a national monument and one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea.
4 The gardens around the house contained all sorts of beautiful tropical plants - agaves, aloes, cycads, and tropical trees.
5 A giant beach plum was thriving on the steep hillside.
6 Not far from our property was a windswept promontory with beautiful sandy beaches. This is Point Udall, the easternmost point of America territory.
7 Point Udall has magnificent views and a wonderful monument. It is a tourist "must see" but is very quiet and remote. It was named for Stewart Udall, United States Secretary of the Interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
8 The monument is a sundial known as the Millennium Monument.
9 The monument was a favorite destination for Jude and Truman. They had fun running around the stone structures and climbing on the walls.
10 The Millennium Monument is relatively new and was built above Point Udall for the New Year's celebration in 2000.
11 This is the "mission statement" of the monument.
12 The town of Christiansted is charming but quiet and not very touristy. Hurricanes and economic troubles have plagued this beautiful island. Significant job loss occurred in 2012 when HOVENSA shut down its oil refinery on St. Croix.
13 A former capital of the Danish West Indies, it is home to the Christiansted National Historic Site, which includes the Danish Custom House - 1844, the Scale House - 1856, and the Steeple Building - 1753 on a large green.
14 The Steeple Building, built in 1753, was St. Croix's first Lutheran Church.
15 The baroque tower and cupola were added about 40 years after the initial construction and the steeple is the highest structure on the island. The building has been used as a military bakery, community hall, hospital, and also a school.
16 Fort Christiansvaern is located on the harbor and is very beautiful. This Danish fort was constructed circa 1749 of yellow brick. Built around a small courtyard, the fort is a fine example of Danish colonial military architecture.
17 A curious feature of the town are the free-ranging chickens. They live everywhere and co-exist nicely with cars, people, and even dogs!
18 the Jacuzzi where we stayed was a favorite location for the children. They spent a great deal of time in the warm and comfortable pool, as did all of us!
19 We tried our best to eat "local" - snapper, bread fruit, sweet potato, fungi (similar to polenta), manioc, and okra. It was very healthy and very delicious, prepared in the local fashion.
20 Our house had several traveller's palms, a favorite home for local bees. The honey business is thriving on the island!
21 The traveller's palm is wonderfully patterned. It's not a true palm, but is a member of the bird-of-paradise family and bears large, white bird-like flowers.
22 To the north, we had extensive and beautiful views. The island is 27-miles long and about 7-miles wide and is relatively under-developed.
23 Green rolling hills and large fields were once covered with sugar cane and other valuable food crops. There's not much agriculture on the island now, as the Cruzan Rum Distillery now imports sugar cane molasses from other Caribbean islands.
24 This is the long view from the house to the east towards Point Udall.
25 One day, we drove to the western portion of the island to explore. Frederiksted is the big town there, named after Frederick V of Denmark, who purchased the Danish West Indies in 1754.
26 The carnival was just being set up, an annual celebration for the New Year. The locals are called Crucians, and the carnival attracts most of the island's inhabitants for 4 days.
27 I was happy to see that The Home Depot is the big sponsor of the Carnival.
28 The beaches on the north-west side are really white sand and have coral reefs. This is a favorite late afternoon spot to catch the sunsets!
29 It's very easy to find a deserted beach to relax on.
30 Some of the beaches have food stands and recreational games.
31 There are many ruins on the island - old houses, slave quarters, mills, wells, cisterns, etc.
32 Goat and sheep are raised on the island. They are free-grazing, healthy, and the meat is widely consumed.
33 The goats everywhere were friendly and many were giving birth to twins and triplets!
34 My favorite restaurant on St. Croix was The Chicken Shack, located mid-island. It's very popular with locals and tourists alike and offers spit-roasted chickens, ribs, and pork, as well as johnny cakes, slaw, plaintains, rice, and more. One orders at a window and waits until the number is called.
35 A view of the spit-roasting process - Chickens are served whole, in halves, or in quarters.
36 The Chicken Shack is located on a part of the island known as La Reine. The popularity of the place attests to the freshness of everything and the fun of pulling apart chicken with one's fingers.
37 The Chicken Shack is also famous for its particular mix of coconut milk, rum, eggs, and other ingredients in a beverage called Coquito. It's very similar to our eggnog.
38 This was taken in late afternoon. It gets dark by six at this latitude and the cloud formations were spectacular.
39 There was another traveller's palm on the terrace of the babies' rooms. Honeybees were all over this one and we had to keep the kids off the balcony.
40 Looking north from the house late in the day - The surf was always mildly excited and a favorite for surfers.
41 Our favorite part of the house was the aerie at the very top of the structure. We napped here, played here, and just gazed at the view from here.
42 On Saturdays, there is an outdoor market in Frederiksted. Local growers and cooks display and sell their wares here on green-painted tables. Fish stalls, conch stalls, and even honey stalls are here.
43 Carambola are a local crop - a favorite fruit we know as star fruit, whose crisp, juicy, yellow flesh has a lemony-apple flavor.
44 Avocados, bread fruits, herbs, and salad greens are in demand at the market.
45 We ate many avocados - in salads, as guacamole, and just as bowls for conch salad.
46 Some booths had just a few items, such as this one.
47 These deep red fruits are Hibiscus sabdariffa, used to make a drink known as sorrel.
48 The children devoured all types of locally grown bananas.
49 Stick cinnamon is used to flavor lots of the local dishes.
50 This great orange squash, locally called pumpkin, is used in soups, as a puree, and in callaloo - the local crab/fish stew.
51 Bread fruits grow plentifully on the island and unless they are well-prepared, they're just too starchy for most tastes.
52 We ate lots of cucumber salads and cucumber sandwiches.
53 Eggplants are also popular and they grow well in the St. Croix climate.
54 This is another type of eggplant that's very nice sliced lengthwise and grilled.
55 There are many delicious fruits, like this custardy mamey.
57 This is a sugar apple - so good and custardy with black seeds.
58 There are fresh coconut stands on the island. I drank the water from one coconut every day. Jude also loved it!
59 This is one of the many different locally-grown and jarred honeys from the island.
60 This seed, moringa, is very very tasty. It grows in a long pod on a local tree. When dried, it's crunchy like a nut, and the taste lingers on the tongue for a long time.
61 The machete is the tool of choice for most garden and orchard growers.
62 I bought conch freshly harvested like this. I made delicious fritters and also salad.