Anatomy of a Vacation Decision, Part 2

It may be a blog that I don’t publicize much except to my friends (although maybe that will change if I post more frequently) but I feel kind of bad that I haven’t been keeping it up. My excuse is that shortly after I wrote the last post I spent a day in the garden weeding then spent the evening typing and typing and typing for work and basically ruined my right hand for a month. I have carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis and an entire day of extreme overuse made it blow up to enormous size and turn red. It stayed that way for a while and I spent most of my time in splints since I can’t really take a few days off  and rest it. Then we went on vacation and then…anyway, excuses, excuses.

When I left off we had eliminated Cayman Brac, Eleuthera, Roatan and Jamaica while keeping St. John in the U.S Virgin Islands on the list. The list also included a big one that is utterly impractical for most of the year: St. Barthélemy.

Ah yes, St. Barth’s. Swimming pools, movie stars. One of the most expensive places in the world, where a hamburger and a rum punch will leave you $50 poorer. Make that 50 EUROS. But it’s ridiculously gorgeous, which is why the movie stars, record moguls, and Internet billionaires go there.


The thing is, they go there in the WINTER. From late April until August it reverts to a normal, sleepy island, albeit with world-class pastries and expensive hamburgers. (In August Europeans use some of their 1000 vacation days to visit la plage, sans exchange rate difficulties.) It also has one of the world’s most terrifying airports. We need to go just so Buck can film the landing (he’s geeky that way):

There are two hotels on St. Barth’s that provide you with an apartment or cottage, rental car included, for less than 100 euros a night in the offseason. The Auberge de la Petite Anse overhangs a little bay and is next to the trail to the most beautiful and secluded beach on the island. Not fancy, but 60 euros a night. That’s just a hair over $80, INCLUDING rental car. The Auberge de Terre Neuve is a little more money but you get a really nice freestanding cottage (and rental car) for 80 euros. We figured that we would just cook for ourselves most of the time.

Meanwhile, we were still thinking about the snorkeling. St. Barth’s seems to be okay, but maybe not as good as the Virgin Islands. So off I went to my favorite website, ITA Software, to research airfare for both places, multiple tabs open, typing furiously.

Ouch. St. Barth’s was going to be really high. Meanwhile, flights to St. Thomas were the cheapest I’ve seen, so we clicked “buy.”

I shot off an e-mail to this place and waited. And waited. And waited. While we waited, we got to talking and realized we hadn’t used our passports this year. It’s really a waste of such handsome official documents to keep them stashed in my underwear drawer. We’d been to St. Croix and were preparing for Vieques, both of which are lovely and interesting products of U.S. imperialism (more on both some other time), but the passports had been sitting sad, lonely, and unused.

A few years ago we splurged on a day trip to Virgin Gorda to climb around The Baths. What an amazing place…enormous boulders stacked up in a shallow turquoise sea. While wandering around as the boat crew dealt with customs and immigration we stopped by Bucks Market for a photo op and found a lovely elderly woman selling homemade patties out of a cooler. We bought a conch pattie to munch on while looking at sailboats in the Yacht Harbor and it was one of the best things we’ve ever had. So yeah, we had fond memories.




If St. Barth’s is one of the most expensive places in the world, Virgin Gorda isn’t far behind. Put it this way…it’s not hard to run into Richard Branson (who owns Necker Island, just a mile or two away), a Google founder, or an aging rockstar–especially if you’re on a boat at the time. But there are some inexpensive places to stay that are genuinely nice: Fischer’s Cove Beach Hotel and Bayview Vacation Apartments (who really need to get rid of that music on their website).

Normally I’d be all over a cottage directly on the beach like Fischer’s Cove, but in the height of summer even a sea breeze probably wouldn’t keep it cool enough for Buck to sleep. Meanwhile, Bayview is really more like a townhouse than an apartment–two stories, air conditioned bedrooms, upstairs and downstairs porches–and costs even less at $570 a week. The two stories thing is a really unexpected luxury. Buck can sleep in while I go downstairs at my usual ridiculously early hour to guzzle iced coffee and work. And who minds working when you’re doing it from this porch?


So Virgin Gorda it is. I’m foolishly excited about renting a Suzuki Jimny


even though the guys on Top Gear hate them because screw those guys. It’s exactly the kind of thing I wish we had here: a tiny four wheel drive vehicle for summer adventuring and winter errands, small enough to park in the city. There’s at least a possibility that we’ll get to test our competence by driving stick with right-hand drive on a mountainous island (left hand drive=no big deal, right hand drive=adventure!).

And there’s a very good possibility that we will spend my 50th birthday doing this:


It even looks like us!

I’ll just leave you with this image from the Virgin Gorda underwater webcam, with a banded coral shrimp and some Christmas Tree worms. I promise not to go two months between posts from here on out.

shrimp virgin gorda


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