Summer Solitude: Fruit Lovers’ Paradise, Zika Recommendations

Planning a getaway for next winter or maybe a beachy summer break? Don’t postpone joy, come down and see us this wonderful tropical time of year!

Summer 2016 is shaping up to be a beautiful one for visitors. While last summer we experienced record-breaking drought, we had plenty of rain in May of this year so the trees and gardens are beautiful and green and verdant. Valeria continues to expand her orchid collection on the trees around the property, and many are in bloom.

In general, summer is a great time to experience the island of St. Croix as locals do. Stores and restaurants are happy to serve customers, the throngs of tourists and snowbirds are gone, and people are relaxed and enjoying family life. You may have to plan a little more carefully for some sites and tours, as summer hours for some attractions may be limited. But it’s a small price to pay for enjoying this wonderful season of the year in the Virgin Islands. 

Summer is the prime season for enjoying flowers and local fruit. If you love tasting new things, plan to come in July this year for the 20th annual Mango Melee festival at the Botanical Garden! During the summer, farmers’ markets will feature delectible treats such as soursop, many kinds of mangoes and plums, tiny fat fingered bananas, pineapples, genip fruits, dragonfruit, local cherries, jackfruit, sugar apple, sapotes, and many other tropical treats that are too delicate to be exported.

The Zika virus has been in the headlines this year. Unfortunately, it is recommended that young adults who are pregnant or trying to conceive a baby soon should avoid travel to Zika-affected areas, including the Caribbean and Latin America. The good news is, the risks are lower for other people. Exposure to the virus can be easily limited with a few precautions for all other travelers, and 80% of people who contract the virus have no symptoms at all. We wanted to share this article from NPR that gives a lot of detail on the risks, and the best way to avoid catching Zika

Come and enjoy the calm and quiet summer beaches. In summertime the days are long and sunny, the waves are generally calmer, making conditions ideal for snorkeling or scuba diving for taking a boat out to Buck Island! 

Call Valeria today and make a reservation to come and enjoy a tranquil summer stay – or your next winter’s vacation – at Longford Hideaway! (340)773-2386

Beach Reads: Land of Love and Drowning

Christina just finished this second novel from young St. Thomian writer Tiphanie Yanique. Here’s her recommendation:

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Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique makes for some great pool- or beach-side reading!

“Land of Love and Drowning is breathtaking, a real page-turner that seems to offer insight into the world views and inner lives of Virgin Islanders and how historic and natural events have shaped the culture.

Based loosely on the life experiences of some of her family’s matrons, Ms. Yanique’s novel is in the historical fiction genre. The book spans eras of rapid change in the Virgin Islands, as it traces the path of a family from the 1900s through the 1960s.

The power in the book comes from the actions and inactions of its characters. Ms. Yanique weaves her tale through the different voices of her cast, with varying degrees of local dialect. There are few if any pages frittered on exposition or languorous descriptions of lush vegetation and sandy beaches. The set props are mostly assumed. This makes it a perfect read for the visitor, who is already surrounded by the largely unchanging flora, scenery and cuisine of the Caribbean islands. Instead, the intense focus on the personal lives and thoughts of the protagonists brings the stories and themes across much more pointedly than if the story were told from the third person or even from a single point of view. The voices are vivid and pungent. During and after reading this novel I found it had tuned my ear more to the subtleties of the interactions around me in present day St. Croix.

Ms. Yanique wends her way through many of the issues that make the tiny bubble of island culture so complex: class, race, gender, education, the small-town mindset, insiders vs. outsiders, the diaspora effect (people leaving island and coming back), islanders vs. down islanders, family legacies, the effects of investors…

I was crestfallen when the novel ended, as its pace and richness of character and plot twists left me wanting much more. Perhaps this makes it a great read for a week’s vacation, weighing in at just 358 pages (hardcover edition). A wonderful panacea to the sweet sorrow of the end of the story are the author’s notes at the end, where she pulls back the curtain on her creation, pairing her fictional characters and events with the VI history she researched in her creative process.

Don’t mistake this for young adult fiction. There are serious and dark themes which necessitate the inclusion of sexual content and descriptions of incest, so I would advise parental discretion.

Fantastic, gripping story woven in the truest Virgin Islands threads.”

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Land of Love and Drowning is, along with many other books by local authors, available at Undercover Books in Gallows Bay on St. Croix, USVI.

Sunset Dinner Sail from Frederiksted – Mmmmmm

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Image courtesy Bon Bagay Sailing. The lovely Bon Bagay leaving Frederiksted Pier for a sunset dinner sail.

How can a visit to the Caribbean be complete without a bit of time out on the sea, as the pirates and discoverers and native Taino in their dugout canoes did? St. Croix offers kayak tours through mangrove estuaries. We’ve always recommended the eclectic calypso singer and expert sailor Llewellyn Westerman and his engineless racing yacht Charis+ for visitors interested in a day trip to Buck Island – and most definitely still do. AND there is a wonderful sunset sail, not to be missed, aboard the non-profit educational historic schooner, the Roseway.

BUT… new on St. Croix this year is Bon Bagay Sunset Sail, another seafaring option that takes up to six visitors on a decadent evening of fine cuisine on the calm waters of the west end.  While enjoying a foodies’ delight five-course locally sourced, expertly prepared dinner with wine and/or cocktails, inquire about Captain Jerry and first mate Yosi’s voyage here from California.

We found out about Captain ‘Jerry’ and his crew when they started showing up at ARTfarm on a regular basis to provision their boat for these evening farm-to-table dinner sails.  Jerry and his wife Yosi are multi-talented individuals, but perhaps above all, expert sailors with many seafaring tales to tell. They are also deeply interested in preserving, promoting and expanding the cultural attractions of St. Croix, both for tourists and for local residents. This includes local farms and cuisine. Jerry has started producing a short film about agriculture on St. Croix for his “Live Local” cultural/culinary preservation campaign, and has interviewed and filmed Luca and Christina and the ARTfarm along with many other local farmers and chefs.

 

 

 

Dashi in Christiansted

Dashi is our one-and-only sushi restaurant on St. Croix. Market economics would dictate that, given no competition, they don’t have to excel. But owners/chefs Ashley and Mike McKinnon both share a serious perfectionist streak and passion for great food – as evidenced by their multiple wins over the years at the annual, highly competitive and internationally judged Taste of St. Croix Food and Wine Experience. The food at Dashi is absolutely on par with many big-city sushi joints we’ve tried from New York to Portland OR, with a few creative twists toward the tropical, Caribbean locale.

Dashi has an online menu where you can get a sense of the variety of sushi and non-sushi options available (yes, even non-sushi eaters can find delicious options). Dashi is open for lunch and dinner (take-out is an option too), with live music two nights per week – check their website for days and times. The staff is friendly and flexible, and they offer both indoor (air conditioned) and outdoor (garden patio) seating, and dress is casual or fancy, depending on how you feel! The outdoor seating is particularly kid-friendly. Located in the Caravelle Arcade about a block south of the boardwalk from RumRunners. A walk on the boardwalk after your meal is a must.

Savant in Christiansted

Savant Restaurant on Hospital Street on the east side of Christiansted is one of our family’s favorites. Executive Chef Eric Nielsen clearly has a passion for creating new culinary experiences, and loves to source his ingredients locally from St. Croix fishermen and farmers, including ARTfarm. The menu is diverse and fusion, with everything from delicate Thai curries and spring rolls to Mexican fajitas to Caribbean fresh caught fish with tropical salsas to lamb shanks with garlic mashed potatoes and on and on… Owner Tom Miller’s theme is “We have what you want.” The specials are IN.CRED.IBLE, so be sure to study the chalkboards when you arrive!

Indoors, entering from the street side, the place has a gorgeous little wooden bar tucked into the corner and a bistro-like cozy feel with air-conditioned banquettes. There is also seating entering from the parking lot, in the romantic back garden, with a bar built into the ruins, candles and tiki torches, starlight overhead and an incredibly engineered sailcloth roof that is extended in the event of a tropical rainshower.

Parking is easy, they’ve got their own private lot behind the restaurant. You can tell the staff loves working there as they have all been there for years!

Check out their menu online and make reservations for a special night out during your stay at 340-713-8666. Dinner is served Monday – Saturday, 6-10pm. Dress is casual, but feel free to dress up if you feel like it! We love Savant and have had many memorable meals with their friendly, efficient staff. We recommend our Longford Hideaway guests don’t miss it!

ARTfarm Farmstand Summer Hours!

It is officially summer and ARTfarm is open on Wednesday afternoons 3-6pm and Saturday mornings, 10am – 12 noon. Check the ARTfarm website or Facebook page, to see what’s growing now! Summer is the season for mangoes, papayas, passionfruit and other tropical fruits, as well as sweet corn, kale and collards, cucumbers, fresh herbs and salad greens!20140623-112911-41351831.jpg

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Regarding the Chikungunya virus in the USVI…

We have had a few people contact us about their vacation reservations, in light of the mosquito-borne illness called chikungunya that has been making headlines. The way we all know the media can sensationalize things, you would think we had a major health crisis in the islands! While it is important to be cognizant of these advisories, here in the US Virgin Islands this virus is still generally a mild illness that is easily preventable, and here at Longford Hideaway and ARTfarm where we live and work we’ve had ZERO cases!

We’d like to share a summary of the information from the US Federal and Territorial Health Departments along with links to the health advisories, for anyone concerned about chikungunya while visiting St. Croix.

According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), chikungunya is a virus that, in otherwise healthy people, causes a mild-to-uncomfortable flu-like illness that starts 3-7 days after receiving a bite from an infected “indoor” type mosquito, and lasts about a week with symptoms such as fever and joint pain. It is NOT known to be fatal or permanently harmful, and usually confers future immunity on most people who contract it.

That said, the US Virgin Islands Department of Health has put out an advisory regarding cases of chikungunya virus reported in the US Virgin Islands. However, since this advisory was published, the VI Daily News has reported that up to three possible cases have been reported on St. Thomas.

Because chikungunya has been reported in the mainland U.S., we figure that we are no likelier than any other warm place in the world that is visited by tourists-who-fly-on-planes, to have an outbreak. It’s been nice and breezy at Longford, and that sends the little guys packing!

Our rentals at Longford are outfitted with screens on all windows and doors, and ceiling fans in all the rooms. If needed, we can supply our (adult) guests with a mosquito-killing battery-powered “Jolt” tennis racket. It is entertaining, satisfying and effective. Snap, crackle, POP!

After doing a little research, we don’t recommend the bug zapper UV type lights, as  studies at Iowa State University have shown they are ineffective at attracting mosquitoes and even harmful – they don’t attract many mosquitoes, but can spread bacteria and harm the ecosystem by splattering a great number of the bugs that prey on mosquitoes. The ARTfarm depends heavily on beneficial predatory insects to organically control crop-damaging pests, without the use of harmful chemicals! For mosquito control in the farm water reservoirs, we keep a population of mosquito larvae-eating “mosquito fish”.

Here is a link to some of our favorite anti-mosquito spray. We love this stuff because it is preventative, herbal, smells good, works well for us, and is soothing to put on if you forget to apply it and do get a bite. Another effective and less expensive bug repellant we’ve used is coconut oil mixed with vanilla extract.

If you are having any doubts about visiting the Caribbean due to these health advisories, we’d gently remind our guests of the health perils of not getting a relaxing vacation with some vitamin D! And suggest you plan your adventure, and trust that you will have a wonderful time. We live and work here year-round on the property, and we spend lots of time outdoors! Simply keeping your body healthy with fresh chemical-free fruits and vegetables, daily exercise, plenty of water and sufficient sleep will go a long way toward maximizing your immune system’s ability to minimize any pathogens it may encounter during travel. Take the usual precautions you would already take against mosquito bites, and you’ll be just fine!