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I boarded American flight 671 at Miami International, set my compass to the Caribbean and my watch to island time. Convinced that a week of island hopping and self-indulgence would melt my stiff shoulder muscles and emotional knots, I was on my way to sample the sweet, slow-paced charms of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, the principle isles of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After a pleasantly uneventful 2-1/2 hour flight, and a ten minute water taxi ride, I arrived at Caneel Bay, an upscale resort on island of St. John. Plied with tropical punch and a salty breeze, my transition began immediately. I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler, who turned out to be Tina Sloan, better known for 30 years as nurse “Lillian Raines” on the CBS daytime drama “Guiding Light.” She forgave me for not watching soaps, and I promised not to reveal her identity so she could unwind without a crowd.

CANEEL BAY, ST. JOHN’S, USVI

Laurence S. Rockefeller first “discovered” Caneel Bay in 1952 when he was sailing through the Caribbean. Now owned by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Caneel Bay is set on its own peninsula and is bordered by the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Its seven separate beaches, personal service, attention to detail and philosophy of “total disconnect”---no televisions or phones in any of the rooms----make it the perfect respite from reality. If you absolutely MUST have a cell phone, you can bring your own (mine worked perfectly) or get a free loaner from the front desk.

I checked in, bid goodbye to Tina, and accepted a golf cart ride to my room. Spacious and casually elegant, the room was furnished with hand-crafted furniture, a comfortable reading chair, commissioned artwork, and a brightly tiled (yellow and blue) bathroom. The walk-in shower was stocked with a fabulous sponge, mango shower gel, plus-my favorite!-coconut shampoo and cream rinse. Mango body cream topped it off. A huge picture window faced the beach, located only a few steps out my back door. The first thing I did was pour a glass of Caneel Bay’s private-brand wine (part of the bar set up), plop down in the chaise on my deck and absorb the hypnotic rhythm of the waves. I repeated this ritual every afternoon and evening. Some nights, I’d follow the short path through the mangroves and stroll along the moonlit beach. Sun worshippers used the chaises on the beach by day; I used mine to count the stars.

Caneel Bay offers a plethora of amenities, including six restaurants. My favorites? The Equator, which served Caribbean delicacies high atop the ruins of an 18th century sugar mill, and the Turtle Bay Estate House, offering gourmet feasts in an open-air, two-story dining room. To sup more privately, reserve the Caneel Bay Wine Room and enjoy a full seven-course wine pairing menu amid the collection of more than 1,000 rare wines.

The resort offers complimentary equipment for kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and Sunfish sailing. Free Scuba introduction classes, night dives, private snorkle outings, and a nearby underwater snorkeling trail are also available. There are eleven all-weather outdoor tennis courts, complimentary tennis clinics, and a fully-equipped fitness center. Those vacationing with children will enjoy the resort’s babysitting services and Turtle Town Children’s Center, a lively hub abuzz with pirate treasure hunts, nature walks, arts and crafts, magic shows and more.

When it comes to relaxation, however, none of the aforementioned amenities compares to the bliss I found at The Self Center. Built on a forested hillside, the large screened room feels like a treehouse. Founding Director Jan Kinder offers private and group classes in yoga, meditation, breathing techniques for vitality, and Pilates. She also leads a revitalizing water workout called M’ai Chi, partner yoga, and kickboxing. Two of the most intriguing are an “Introduction to Ayurveda,” an ancient holistic healing system from India that is rapidly gaining acceptance in the West, and “The Rhythm of Relationships for Couples,” a class for which she would give NO information, saying it would spoil the surprise of it for others. My attempts to draw information from a couple on their honeymoon were unsuccessful.

St. John is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but the one I found most enchanting. Two-thirds of the island-including the Annaberg Sugar Plantation-is a national park with lush mountains sloping down to white sandy beaches and intimate bays. Once known for its thriving sugar production-very important in the production of rum!-St. John is now best known for Reef Bay hikes, colorful boutiques and Trunk Bay’s renowned underwater snorkel trail. Must-stops include St. John Spice (dozens of hot sauces, and yummy dried ginger for snacks), art galleries like St. John Glassworks and Syzgy and Coral Bay Jewelers for signature gold and silver jewelry handcrafted in the islands. Two of the island’s best eateries are The Stone Terrace, housed in a beautiful native stone house and The Fish Trap, both owned by Albert & Lonnie Willis, and managed by their son, the Corporate Chef of both award-winning restaurants.

 

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www.Dishmag.com / Issue 107 - September 2018
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