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Later that afternoon, I flew to St. Croix via seaplane and checked in at the Buccaneer Hotel, a family-owned and operated beach resort. Encompassing 340-acres on the eastern end of St. Croix, the resort’s 138 spacious rooms are located throughout the property. Mine was on the ocean’s edge with a stone terrace that seemed to float over the bay. When I wasn’t outside relaxing to the pounding surf, I was reclining on the wide, pillow-packed window seat underlining a massive expanse of glass. Both were perfect places to sip champagne, nibble on fruit, dive into a novel or grab a nap.

The award-winning Buccaneer dates back to 1653, when Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, built the hilltop manor house on a tobacco and indigo plantation. The manor’s graceful bonnet arches are still visible in the resort’s main building, where Alexander Hamilton once lived. The Armstrong family, owners and managers of the resort for three generations, opened The Buccaneer as an 11-room inn in 1948. It was the first hotel in the Virgin Islands to have screened windows, closets, and hot water. Guests (called “continentals”) were treated like family and happily painted furniture, raked the beach, tended bar, and shared their recipes with the cook. Helen Hayes frequented the hostelry in those days, and it was she who once unearthed a couple of skeletons while scouring the beach for decorations to use on the hotel’s Christmas tables. While today’s guests no longer perform utilitarian chores-a plus in my book-you’re still treated like family. Even the resident lobby cat allows you to pet her.

Once I got the lay of the land-quite hilly; I called for a shuttle and headed to the resort’s new Hideaway Spa for a pre-dinner manicure and pedicure. If I’d had more time, I would have succumbed to a massage or sampled the Seaweed Toning Wrap. As it was, my “Up The Amazon Without A Paddle” polish barely had time to dry before I headed to The Terrace at The Buccaneer.

The Buccaneer offers a choice of four restaurants-“The Mermaid,” located on the beach just behind a line of swooning palm trees, offers a full breakfast buffet (yummy breakfast burritos), and an extensive lunch menu. It’s also a great place to pick up a copy of the in-house newsletter, “The Coconut Grapevine,” which highlights the day’s menus and activities. “The Brass Parrot” is the winter home of acclaimed visiting chefs, and the “Grotto Grill” serves up hot dogs, hamburgers, and veggie burgers poolside. “The Terrace”, located in the Greathouse, offers complimentary breakfast, covered and open air dining, and entrees like “Thai Barb-B-Que Salmon with Bean Thread Noodle,” “Panko Cursted Chicken with Onion Marmelade,” “Basil Parmesan Crusted Mahi,” and grilled steaks.

Though St. Croix is the biggest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, it lags behind the other two in tourism, a problem local government and tourism officials are currently addressing. The Divi Carina Bay Casino on the far east end of the island is the only casino in the USVI, offering entertainment and the opportunity to lighten your cash load. Other diversions: snorkeling the crystal clear waters at Buck Island, a U.S. National Park, and a place where you’ll likely see large star fish carpeting the ocean floor. There are plenty of day and sunset sails available as well as overnight charters. One of St. Croix’s biggest claims to fame is Cruzan Rum, founded in 1760, and produced by the Nelthropp family at the Cruzan Rum Distillery in Frederisksted. Distillery tours (with samples!) are available Monday through Friday. (www.cruzanrum.com)

I spent a full day in St. Croix wandering through the shops and art galleries in Christiansted. At the Maria Henle Studio, I viewed Maria’s island-inspired oil paintings and perused the photo collection of her father, the late Friz Henle, whose work includes the renowned portraits of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. I also visited with Christiansted Gallery owner/artist Marjorie Rollins (fabulous palm tree interpretations), then checked out the one-of-a-kind finds at Yellow House Gallery, the studio-showplace of St. Croix jewelry artist Judith King.

At Sonya ltd, the oldest established jeweler on the island, I found (and bought) the Virgin Islands’ signature bracelet, a hand-crafted sterling silver and 14k gold (or 18k or 22k) “hook” bracelet. A nod to the Irish overseers at the sugar plantations, the bracelets are worn like the claddah: the hook facing in means you’re “taken;” facing out signals you’re “available.” If you’re taken and available, you’ll have to buy two. In keeping with the tradition of Virgin Islanders, my hook bracelet stays on 24/7, a constant reminder for me to sail fast, live slow and set my life on island time.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 57 - September 9107
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