Thursday, February 17, 2011

Christiansted – a day about town

Given that we toured the island yesterday, we spent today exploring the quaint streets of Christiansted. Much of the waterfront and shop fronts are maintained in their eighteenth century Danish style with Fort Christiansvaern anchoring the eastern end of the main area of town.

We are anchored off to the east past Gallows Bay near the fishing dock and Altoona lagoon. This has provided beautiful vistas of the sun going down over the yellow, peach and blue facades of the buildings. Now was our chance to explore up close.

Actually, we started the day with returning our jeep which put us walking back into town from the western side. First stop was St. John's Church built by the English in the mid-1700s and just like an English country church it was replete with old trees and a churchyard. Here the similarity ended as we clambered around the wonderfully eccentric Caribbean graveyard where you really do feel the spirits just below the surface.

Further on into town we took a personal tour of, actually we wandered around, Government House. This building is used as the seat of government on St. Croix which is actually administered from St. Thomas. But, the original house was built by a Danish merchant and the upstairs ballroom with ante chambers opening to the courtyard and the street was beautiful. The peace and calm of the inner courtyards, the neo-classical styling with Caribbean concessions to the heat and the ubiquitous yellow, leads to peace and quiet just yards from the bustling streets below.

Loved this - the Danish sentry boxes were decorated with hearts!

We meandered on to the eastern end of town where we found the scale house and Fort Christiansvaern. In the scale-house we met up with a tour of school-children and I was amazed at how politely almost everyone of them said good morning to us. This would never have happened back home. In fact, all over the island you are constantly greeted with a smile and at least good morning, good afternoon or good evening, if not further enquiry as to how you are enjoying your day.

The fort is pristinely maintained by the National Parks Service and while you get a feel for the architecture and the cramped quarters (it is not very big), it is so incredibly clean it is almost impossible to imagine the deplorable conditions the soldiers and imprisoned slaves or citizens would have found themselves in. The whipping post was tastefully removed by a former governor and with every surface freshly painted yellow, white or green, there is not a trace of the former conditions. The views of the bustle of the anchorage however, were pure delight and we happily watched Mowzer bobbing in the distance.

Lunch rounded out or visit of the waterfront where we scooped up some free wifi (we're a bit distant in our anchorage) and then back to the boat for some R&R. We have a dinner reservation at Rum Runners where we'll be heading once we've charged up the boat's batteries and lazed around on the trampoline in the sun and afternoon breezes.

Addendum: Funniest thing just happened in the anchorage. Suddenly this noise started up near the back of the boat and we rushed out to see what might be wrong with the engines or dinghy. It was a strange sort of pulsing noise. Luckily we were quickly put out of our worry as a fellow swam by with his horse - it was the horse puffing through it's lips that was the noise we could hear. He calmly headed off to the boat launch and I'd like to say he rode off into the sunset, but he was going the wrong way.