St. Croix

The Escape-to-Island

By Carleton Varney

Carleton Varney

Carleton Varney

In today’s world of what I’ll call “mixed emotions,” there are getaway places – where there are few greedy landlords, doorbells ringing, and television shows programmed with mundane commercials. Hurray for the peace and serenity of St. Croix in the sandy shores of the Caribbean!

Once a property ruled by the Danish kings Christian and Frederick, St. Croix is now an independent American territory where elected officials govern. I have been a Cruzan – so to speak – for some 30 years and have designed and decorated for a number of properties on the island that I love – including Villa Madelene on the east end, Buccaneer Hotel at Shoys, Gentle Winds condominium resort on the north shore, as well as villas for private owners.  I’ve been through hurricanes on St. Croix including Hugo in 1989 – and through not-so-happy moments, such as the Fountain Valley shootings. And despite all the acts, by man and some of God, I have always enjoyed the friendship of the Cruzan people – for they are jovial, warm, sincere and God abiding. Today, while the sugarcane plantations are not operating as they once did in Danish time, and the refinery Hess is now closed, the island has become one where art and artisans now live, work and display their creative joys. Of all the islands in the Caribbean, I would not hesitate in saying that St. Croix has some of the best, young and older talents in America.  When visiting St. Croix and its two cities, Christiansted and Frederiksted, here is what’s not to be missed…

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What To See in St. Croix
ART AT TOP HAT GALLERY – 52 Company Street in Christiansted. Tel. 340-692-2787,  www.artattophat.com. Operated by Hanne Rasmussen, a Danish lady who, with her husband Bent, once served from her Top Hat Restaurant the best “Frikadeller” Danish Meatballs. Hanne has a stable of special exhibits by local and international artists, including one-of-a-kind jewelry and locally made pottery. Kate Knapp’s vivid watercolors and tropical oils are staples at the gallery. See also Claudia de Ledebur’s:  Caribbean Scenes; Preston Doane:  Island images; Troy Roberts Portraits.

THE ST. CROIX HOOK BRACELET – SONYA ltd. – 1 Company Street, Christiansted. Tel. 877-766-9284, www. sonyaltd.com.
St. Croix is the island to visit for jewelry. The St. Croix Hook Bracelet, so popular today, as it was in its original Cartier Design, has been re-imaged by Sonya Hough in gold and in silver for children and adults. The bracelets can be traded-in at Sonya’s Shop as the child grows from size to size.

ESTATE WHIM MUSEUM
52 Estate Whim, Frederiksted. Tel. 340-772-0598. www.stcroixlandmarks.com. At the only 18th century Sugar Plantation Museum in the Virgin Islands, one can see and feel the life of the early plantation owners who awaited boats from Europe and the United States for their produce
and necessities.

BOARDWALK
In Christiansted, a walk on the boardwalk is essential and a tour of the old fort is an adventure.  Christiansted is a town with bright golden mustard buildings with white trim and green shutters. The Governors House in downtown Christiansted is a gleaming, colorful architectural beauty of a building.

ARMSTRONGS HANDMADE ICE CREAM
78 – B, Whim, Frederiksted. Tel.  340-772-1919. www.uncommoncaribbean.com. This historic shop has been in business since 1900, using local fruits of St. Croix. Try my favorite flavor: rum raisin.

CRUZAN RUM DISTILLERY  3A Frederiksted. Tel.  340-692-2280, www.cruzan.com. Enjoy a taste of the light as well as the dark – there are lots of flavored rums to taste.  Try my favorites, coconut or pineapple.

SPRAT HALL PLANTATION  29 Sprat Hall, Frederiksted. If you rent a car, ride by this antique plantation built by a young French nobleman in 1650 for his bride.  All the beams and lumber were transported by Island – way back when.  The plantation, the oldest great house on the island, is family operated and owned by Joyce Hurd.  Enjoy your getaway in St. Croix! Be sure to tell them Carleton sent you.

FOR THE SPICE OF LIFE RESTAURANTS THAT ARE ISLAND FAVORITES
DUGGANS REEF
This wharf style restaurant, under roof in the open air, is owned by Frank Duggan and assisted by his two children. A great family atmosphere with steaks, chops, famous whiskey lobster and peanut butter pie. A must for an on-the-water evening. Super cocktails. 5452 Teaque, East End. Tel: 340-773-9800, www. duggansreef.com

SAVANT
A family bistro with an antique island flavor in the décor – a tad Tennessee Williams-style. Excellent pastas, lobster and island taste, with spices to add just the right zest. Owned by Tom Miller, the local farm-to-table menu offers Blackstrap Rum and root beer Danish baby-back ribs. Hospital Street, Christiansted.
Tel: 340-713-8666 www.savantstx.com

KENDRICKS AT THE BUCCANEER
The Kendricks, Jane and David, have been island restaurateurs for many years and are famous for dishes like chicken with apples, and desserts that are the island rage – from coconut to pineapple specialties. 5007 Estate Shoys, Christiansted.
Tel: 340-712-2100, www.thebuccaneer.com

St. Croix