Sunday, May 6, 1973
Arrival 12:06 amidst "dinky" but colorful airport. Crossed St. Thomas via cab driven on left. Country abodes look poor, as stray goats wander about bumpy high tortuous roads. Stop at Bluebeard's Castle afforded high, colorful glimpse of town nestled among the mountains. Into the luscious aqua-tinted waters by late afternoon. Spectacular paradise setting with colorful flowers, hummingbirds and coconut palms swaying amidst the ever-present gentle breezes. Pineapple Beach quite lovely with scenic, island views circling the bay.
For a career English teacher and amateur poet, my father's sentences read much like a telegram. Visited the beach. Stop. Admired the palms. Stop. But as Joy and I deplane on the St. Thomas tarmac, his truncated reflections speak volumes. Cyril E. King Airport, while far from "dinky," is still awash in local color. We're welcomed by steel-pan music and offered free shots of Cruzan rum that tempt us to linger, but there's a rented Jeep waiting. The drive east takes us through historic Charlotte Amalie – pronounced "Charlotte Amal-yah," it's the island's main city and U.S.Virgin Islands capital – but instead of stray goats, we encounter wandering cruise-ship passengers, and lots of them. Still, the setting is glorious. The harbor-hugging road gives us our first glimpse of the sea, then lifts us up into the hills, where our Jeep fills with tropical scents of the surrounding forest. No longer are St. Thomas' roads "bumpy" and "tortuous," and they soon deliver us to Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.
Owned by the Doumeng family since 1974, the cozy hotel reaches back to my parents' era. It has 65 well-appointed rooms right on the beach, and a laid-back vibe you just don't find at many big resorts. Joy loves our room's tasteful wicker furniture and plantation style ceiling fan, and I can't get enough of the water view from our patio. Sitting at the pool bar, being served ice-cold Carib beers by an affable St. Thomian named Harry, Joy and I imagine it's much like what Pineapple Beach Resort must've been like before it closed in the early '80s: friendly owners who greet you by name, oversized hammocks slung across shady palms, all on a quiet cove to call your own. My mother likes to say that Pineapple Beach made them feel like they were characters in a romance novel, and that's just how Bolongo Bay feels to us.Hot on my parents' trail, we make dinner reservations at Banana Tree Grille, an Italian-inspired restaurant on the grounds of Bluebeard's Castle. Sure enough, my dad was right: It's got one of the prettiest overlooks on the island, with the lights of Charlotte Amalie twinkling below.