Thursday, January 27, 2011

Touring Charlotte Amalie with Friends Aboard

Equinox on anchor with all the sailboats in Charlotte Amalie Harbour, St. Thomas, USVI

Ron and I now have our friends Karen and Kerry from Concrete Idea aboard with us! They arrived late Wednesday evening, and we spent Thursday walking about St. Thomas, first sightseeing in the morning and provisioning at the Pueblo in the afternoon. It was fun showing them a little of St. Thomas -- Karen had been here as a child, but Kerry had never seen the island before, so it was all new territory. The Virgins are so mountainous and visually different from the familiar flat islands of the Bahamas, and the historic Danish architecture of the downtown area so interesting. 
Blackbeard's Watchtower, dating from the 1600s
We hiked up "The 99 Steps" -- one of several Danish-built “step-streets” that were constructed to deal with the problem of St. Thomas’s steep hills -- all the way up to Blackbeard’s Castle, a watchtower built in the 1600s, where we enjoyed a fabulous view of the harbor, islands and anchored yachts -- you get a glimpse of what it must have been like 300 years ago! Ron and I have really enjoyed meandering through the quaint old sections of town, where the long Danish warehouse buildings once housed goods like cotton and indigo, used for trading to colonial New England or to Europe. We’ve also been on the lookout for more of the off-the-beaten-track places, trying to avoid the obvious tourist traps that spoil the charming local flavor. There are a few hidden gems: there is the Seven Artches Museum, which was once a Danish craftsman’s residence built during the 19th century, with a stairacse supported by seven arches. Ron discovered there is a synagogue here, one of the oldest in the U.S. and its territories, having been formally established in 1796 by Sephardic Jews. An interesting architectural note is that is has a sand floor, a reminder of when Portuguese and Spanish Jews had to worship in secret and used sand on their floors to muffle the sounds. There is also one of the oldest Lutheran churches here, established in 1666, the same year that the Danish West India Company took possession of St. Thomas. Very cool history indeed!
Frederick Lutheran Church, established in 1666, and the present building
rebuilt in 1826.
We were disappointed a bit with Blackbeard’s watchtower -- the tower itself is no longer adjacent to an open-access restaurant as it was long ago, but is now cordoned off, fenced off and hawked as a museum and rum factory tour. Rather disappointing on that score, but the views from the hillside are just as stunning, and we had a great walk up and down the stair-streets of the upper parts of the city. 
Looking out towards Crown Bay from the base of Blackbeard's tower

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