My husband and I are social people; we talk to people everywhere we go. How else can you find the best local restaurants (Why on Earth would I want to eat at some chain or fast food restaurant on vacation?), or the best places to stay, or the best tours to take?
Before we landed in St. Croix, USVI, I did my research. I knew we were staying at an all inclusive resort that had a wide variety of activities on the premises, but I also knew that there would be other things to do on the island. I used Google and asked “things to do in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.” The website US Virgin Islands got me started, and I ended up with more things to do than our 5 day – 4 night vacation could allow.
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So, how does one decide exactly what to do? By talking to locals and other tourists.
An activity might sound interesting on the screen, but it’s what locals and other tourists say about an event, tour, or restaurant that excites us more.
As we talked to other people, we were encouraged to make sure we took the Sweeney Tour.
The lady who ran the gift shop at the resort called and made reservations for us.
Sweeney, the tour’s namesake, picked us up with a dozen or so other people at the resort. No need to take the shuttle into Christiansted. The tour, however, was overbooked by 5 people. Never fear. Sweeney made a call and shortly a second tour coach arrived for those people.
On the way to the first stop on the tour, Sweeney talked about life on the island and the history of the island. The houses, he explained, had roofs that were pitched like a short circus tent so that the rain water would run off and into the cistern below the house. When the Dutch came in and cut the rain forests down to make room for the sugar cane plantations, the deforestation devastated the land. The island, which once maintained 2 lakes and several rivers, now has one river and receives only 25 inches or so of rain. He also took a moment for our tour tram to stop at one of the highest scenic lookouts over one of the bays.
Our first stop – St. George Village Botanical Garden.
St. George Village Botanical Garden was started by a small group of women who, as Sweeney put it, needed something to do. They started the garden on one of the old plantation sites with the ruins of the plantation buildings still visible. The tropical plants have come from all over. (As one of the members of our group commented, “You can see that plant in Florida.”) It is, however, a work in progress; St. Croix Garden Club is working to re-establish tropical plants that might have been present on St. Croix before room was made for sugar cane plantations.
The tour begins at the ruins of the kitchen. The ladies had initially tried planting within the walls, but couldn’t get anything to grow for very long. When they decided to remove the top layers of dirt, they found the stone floor of the kitchen. Outside, as well as inside, sit large pots and barrels of herbs, many of which Sweeney invited us to rub or sniff a leaf or two that he plucked off the plant.
We were able to look into the remains of the blacksmith’s shop,
walk through a museum building that contained a model of the plantation and a list of the various owners of the land,
Sweeney was a super-intelligent, knowledgeable guide who was ready to answer any questions about the island that we had – we even got into a couple of discussions on politics.
Next stop on the tour – lunch, but that’s for another post.
If you ever get to St. Croix, make sure you take the Sweeney Tour.