ST. THOMAS: This island, with its deep-harbor, red-roofed capital of Charlotte Amalie (pronounced ah-MAHL-ya) is the most cosmopolitan of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Today, the town is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Its old-world downtown area was once a New World sea-trading crossroads where the wealth of Europe's colonial nations was exchanged.
|CRUISE SHIPS LINE HARBOR OF RED-ROOFED CHARLOTTE AMALIE|
If you arrive on one of the many cruise ships that dock in the harbor every day, you can find something for everyone just minutes from the dock. There’s hair braiding by Ladi Rainbow.
|HAIR BRAIDING BY LADI RAINBOW|
Or photo shooting a dressed up donkey with a famous name.
A DONKEY NAMED OPRAH
Or take a break from the heat and cool off at Magic Ice. Magic Ice, the tourist venue that opened in 2012, is a Scandinavia-inspired attraction where you can explore incredibly varied and intricate forms created from snow and ice. This is a sub-zero experience where you will be provided with warm clothes, gloves and shoes.
|THE ICE BAR AT MAGIC ICE|
High atop Charlotte Amalie, overlooking the pristine Magens Bay, Drake’s Seat is still one of St.Thomas’ most popular tourist attractions. It affords a panoramic view of Magen's Bay and the British Virgin Islands. Although some deny it, legend has it that 16th-century explorer Sir Francis Drake kept watch on his fleet from this vantage point.
One of the most impressive religious structures in the USVI is the Sephardic Synagogue. The roof of this square building is pyramidal and sheathed in corrugated sheet metal. In the Sephardic tradition, the center of the synagogue's floor is covered in sand.
|SAND-COVERED FLOORS OF SEPHARDIC SYNAGOGUE|
Camille Pissarro, one of the most renowned impressionist painters of the 19th century, was born in St. Thomas on July 10, 1830. His father had a trading store at 14 Dronningens Gade and the family lived above the shop. Today that building is named after Camille Pissarro and it houses an art gallery (selling work of local artists) named in his honor.
|CAMILLE PISSARRO HOUSE|
If you've ever taken a Caribbean cruise, chances are you've been to Charlotte Amalie and exchanged some of your wealth in the plethora of shops on Main Street (officially named Dronningens Gade which is Danish for Queen Street). For liquor, perfume, crystal or fine cigars, check out A.H. Riise shops.
Jewelry shoppers, who wish to make a purchase they can trust, might want to do their shopping at H. Stern’s. This jewelry empire was founded by Hans Stern who, at age 17, came from Nazi Germany to Brazil with his parents and his prized possession…an accordion. Fascinated by the art of lapidary, this teenager found a job with a company that exported mica, rock crystals and precious stones. At age 24, he hocked his accordion for $200, rented a room and founded H. Stern, which today, with 160 stores around the world, is one of the largest jewelers in the world.
GOLD FEATHER BRACELET FROM ONE OF H. STERN’S 160 SHOPS
Take time out from shopping for an authentic Caribbean meal at Cuzzin’s, tucked away in the historical district of downtown Charlotte Amalie. You may have to ask a local for directions, but you will find many locals dining there.
|CUZZIN’S IS TUCKED AWAY ON A SIDE STREET|
A true ethnic experience since 1991, Cuzzin’s is the place to try fungi, a cornmeal-based side dish; kallaloo, a soup made from okra, spinach and fish; sweet-potato pudding; johnnycake bread; plantains and conch fritters. A full bar includes island beverages such as ginger beer, tamarind, passion fruit, and sour sop juices.
CUZZIN’S IS THE LOCALS’ CHOICE SINCE 1991
The Banana Tree Grille, high atop Charlotte Amalie Harbor in the historic Bluebeard's Castle, offers spectacular sunsets, twinkling stars and their famous "Oh My Gorgonzola Loaf" and Key Lime Pie.
For the ultimate in luxury, check out the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, miles away from the madding crowd. Nestled within a 30-acre tropical beachfront estate, this palazzo-style resort majestically melds classic European elegance with the traditional warmth of the Caribbean. Nothing is too much for the staff at Ritz Carlton St. Thomas. When I asked an employee to point out the way to the Ladies Room, she replied: "At Ritz Carlton we don't point, we escort!" And escort me she did.
Whether you prefer the bustling cruise port of Charlotte Amalie or the more relaxed coast of the island, you will find that St. Thomas is a place where time simply disappears.
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writer Awards and is a Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Cincinnati, Ohio