This is from our recent trip. Just a few feet from the beach.
Gov. Mapp promotes territory on Fox News in New York; Pressure...
After 2 years of on and off construction we are approaching the finish line! The final large projects are scheduled for August 29 through October 3. Villa Tesori will be closed to rentals those weeks.
The driveway is being expanded with a larger turnaround, as well as a permanent home for our personal Jeep. The pool is being redone with new plaster, waterline tile, led lights and of course Turtle Mosaics!
Our friend Catherine Perry has started on the last of the sconces for the post lights. The parrotfish above will go on the driveway pillars supporting the driveway gate. They are between 2.5 and 3 feet tall! The new post lights will also be parrotfish in alternate colors, likely about 2 feet tall..
When Brian and I look back over the past 2 years of renovation I doubt we would have undertaken the process if we knew what was involved. It was a labor of love and we are incredibly pleased with the outcome. We appreciate all of the comments from our guests complimenting us on the changes. Should you stay at VT and have an idea, please drop us a line.
For now we will finally get to enjoy the beauty of the island and its wonderful people without having to find items, fix problems or discover who can replicate railing.
Thank you again to all our guests for their patience.
Lisa and Brian.
Today St. John lost a part of its soul. Early this morning our friend John Brandi passed away. He represented the best of us all. To those who say that one person can't make a difference we humbly disagree. John was that man. He made us all better people with his infectious humor and incredible love of life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
We received an email asking about the dust everyone was talking about in the trip advisor and virgin islands online forums. The pictures below show the effect of the dust on visibility. Keeping in mind that St. Croix is 43 miles. Even with the dust, the visibility in St. John is still greater than at our home in Pennsylvania.
The dust has little negative effect (other than limiting long range visibility). It does however help to create some amazing sunrise and sunset opportunities for photography.
Last night Morgan's Mango had a fire break out in their kitchen. There is a go fund me campaign to help them get back to serving Island Hospitality.
A few months ago we discovered that our friend John Brandi had retired. He owned and operated Palm Tree Charters for years. It is the only business that i know of which had over 10,000 reviews on Trip Advisor and every one was 5 stars. No one ever left John's boat unhappy. I feel sad for those who never had the opportunity to sail with John.
One of my favorite memories of John was last year we were out with our children and their friends when I spotted a large turtle. We were moving slowly past Maho beach and I told John to stop, I wanted to go visit the turtle. By the time he turned around I had leaped in the water, followed by Lisa and our son. The turtle was much faster than us, and all we saw was a blur, but it was fun. Upon getting back into the boat John was shaking his head and muttered to me, "Lisa is right, you really are a goof.....wait until i stop the damn boat next time." To this day I take this as high praise as John has pulled a number of his own stunts.
Last April fools day, he had half the island convinced he was going to run a charter service to the soggy dollar on the large ferry ships which were sitting idle in St. Thomas. Apparently his wife had no idea and from Johns telling called him in a panic about it. He managed to recruit Mick from the Soggy Dollar and Jen from News of St John to pull off this prank. Here is the link to John's April fools day prank from 2014. http://newsofstjohn.com/2014/04/01/ferry-boat-to-serve-new-purpose/
Anyone who went out with John realizes he loves photography. His favorite topic to shoot are the new ships cruising around our little rock. I remember cruising back from White Bay nearing Cruz Bay and all the sudden we are being whipped to one side.....a large sailing vessel was moving past and John needed to get a picture of it....so our little boat needed to circle it to get the correct shot. He has a Facebook page Captain John's iPhotography which shows his love for the islands and quite a few of the sailing ships he found. I enjoy looking through it while stuck in Pennsylvania between trips to Villa Tesori.
On every trip we took with John, we learned something new about our little piece of the planet. John loves history and how it relates to our little rock called St. John. To say he is knowledgable about St. John is an understatement. Here is a "shot of Brandi."
John's better half is Sue. She is a wonderful woman who managed to take care of all the paperwork so John could be where he wanted, on the water. If you ever went out with John, you would have heard him mention her a number of times. Hearing John talk about Sue and you immediately understand this man would walk through fire for her. She is also a saint....he enjoys surprising her at times.
We managed to get involved in one of John's surprises for Sue last year. John and Sue love Italian food. While St. John is the most beautiful place we know of tomatoes are not native to the islands and must be imported. Which means most are hydroponic and tend to taste like cardboard. We were able to bring down some local grown tomatoes for John last year.
We had just gotten off a boat at the national park dock, John was waiting...as we settled up with Dohm's and John was staring at our suitcases. We immediately open up a suitcase with John watching like a hawk. Finally we get to the tupperware containing the tomatoes, hand them to John....he hugs Lisa and darts off while telling us he needs to get home so he can surprise Sue.........in retrospect it seemed like some drug deal or spy hand off.
Later that week while walking to the Westin Beach Bar for lunch we found ourselves being hugged from behind. We heard "thank you so much". When we turned around we found Sue, who explained that she came home to the most wonderful smell the other night. John had surprised her with home made red sauce.
Visiting with John and Sue at a restaurant or bar on St. John is an event. Every few minutes someone will stop by and visit to say hello or share a story with him. There is the constant shout of "hey John". Sue just shakes her head as John starts one story or another.
There is a belief in certain religions that you will be judged by the number of people you helped in life, that your positive influence on each person will determine your fate. If that is the case, John has enough good Karma to go to heaven thousands of times. Thank you again John for all your friendship and the wonderful memories.
During the remodel of Villa Tesori we looked for some personal touches to use. We met with one of the islands artists, Catherine Perry. After wandering through Villa Tesori with her, Catherine went to her car and returned with half a dozen artist's sketch books of her previous work. She walked us through how she integrates the desire of the client with her unique skill set.
She showed us previous projects from collaborative sketches to pictures of the completed project. Lisa and I looked at each other and simply said, Yes. Catherine, while an incredible talent was taken a aback. She insisted on hiring others to help, as our project would likely take a year. Lisa and I looked at each other, giggled, turned to Catherine and said in unision..."That's ok, we want your work. A year is fine."
Two things. One, Catherine is now one of our closest friends. Two, We have never seen her at such a loss for words since...We agreed to take delivery of the items as she finished a room. We started with the kitchen. The previous lights were the standard builders grade and Lisa and Catherine came up with a Flower/Island theme. I asked if we could integrate some turtles into the project as we view the turtle as the Villa Tesori mascot. Catherine drew a few sketches and we agreed.
On our next trip down, Catherine delivered the lights and we were amazed. Beautiful Lillies now hang from the kitchen in Villa Tesori. She even was able to make turtle sconces. Much to our surprise and enjoyment, she put turtles on the round sconces mounted to the ceiling...extra turtles!! Below are pictures previous lighting and the new items. Close up of the sconce.
The kitchen was the first area updated with her work. From there we replaced a number of the boring ceiling sconces throughout the house. After all, one can never have too many turtles at Villa Tesori. To be honest, one needs to look directly up at them to be seen, could be a fun game to count all the turtles in our home.
The next area Catherine worked on was our outside Gazebo and pool deck. We had completely remodeled the gazebo and the previous lighting was literally bulbs hanging from rusty sockets. Below is a pic of the gazebo post remodel, but pre Catherine Perry lighting. And a couple after we installed her pieces.
Now a picture of these items installed.
We were amazed on how well the gazebo turned out and were looking forward to seeing what Catherine would come up with for the pool deck lighting. Lisa and Catherine discussed having the new lights reflect things local to St. John and add a bit of whimsey to the pool deck as well. We were very excited to receive them. Couple of pictures of them and a photo putting in perspective where they are.
The next project we came up with was to turn the stairway leading to the second floor into a garden. Having the sconces on the wall that are flowers. The previous lights were standard sconces, but had an interesting feature that the shades were held upright in a mount. We discussed having new shades made to look like flowers. This required that the holes on the bottom be the correct size as they needed to fit over the existing fixture.
The lights are in, but the project is not quite complete. We will add pictures of this project when it is finished.
Having known Catherine for well over a year at this point, I asked her if she would make a vase for my wife. Our anniversary was during our next trip and I wanted to surprise my wife with something unique and special. Catherine at this point was a dear friend and said she knew just what to do. This is what Lisa got on our trip in December. A mermaid vase.
A friend of ours had this piece commissioned and shipped to him. His wife loves dragonfly's.
During our trip in December, Catherine showed us a project she was working on for one of the art shows. We Knew she had talent, but this piece showed a depth of soul and emotional weight that was overwhelming.
She had made an old St. John style burial urn. It reflects the life of a slave on St. John. The average life of a slave during the heyday of the sugar plantations were measured in months. The urn had a number of scenes of life for the slaves from arrival to death. It was a very spiritual and moving piece. At the top Catherine had Jumbies leading the slaves from one step to the next on their journey. Jumbies are an important part of island culture and their addition shows a level of understanding and caring for the locals that is reflective of who Catherine is.
Catherine is an amazing artist of skill and scope. She has shown us beautiful lighting inside of Villa Tesori. Followed up by the whimsey and fun on the pool deck and gazebo. The beautiful vase she made for Lisa reflects an understanding of who Lisa is. This was followed by the burial urn, an incredibly spiritual piece which took our breath away. She does have many shades, and we are blessed to have seen them.
If you would like a very unique piece of art to remember your time on St. John, consider meeting with Catherine. She does ship her work.
Catherine has a studio, but it is by appointment only.
One of the rituals we have is shopping while on our little rock. There are some beautiful items for sale. It is a common occurrence for me to be walking at Warfside Village or Mongoose Junction and suddenly realize I lost my wife. Like a magnet the Shiny Things drag her to the display window. Whether you are looking for native art, pottery, spices (we recommend St. John Spice), watches or jewelry there are some amazing things to browse.
We now take a day trip to Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas for Lisa's jewelry fix. I go along in self defense. There is a direct ferry twice a day from the Cruz Bay dock. It takes about 25 minutes from Cruz bay to Charlotte Amalie. You arrive at the hub of the shopping area downtown. Across the street on the left is a Coffee shop. If you are on a long shopping trip stop in.
Many of the jewelry stores are owned by the same group. The inventory varies from one store to the next so we recommend browsing around at all of them before making a purchase. I believe there are over 20 such stores within half a mile of the dock. From our experience the jewelry is about 20 percent cheaper than home. Remember haggling is part of life down here.
After bagging Lisa's prey, we head over to Jen's Island Cafe and Deli. It is a fun place just steps away. They have good food and a fun atmosphere. If you are lucky Party Marty will be there.
Marty is a fun guy with more information than the encyclopedia Brittanica. Marty is a tour guide as well as a waiter. We discovered that the predecessor of the White Star Line (Titanic) had their origins in St. Thomas. As we were enjoy the rum punch we have not had time to take a tour with him yet, but we are planning on it.
Just down the street is the local market where you can get anything from hand crafted items to Tshirts. There are also stores specializing in anything from perfume to Liquor.
There is also a group of stores near the cruise ship dock. They remind us of the malls at home. If you can't find what you want downtown, you might look there. This is at least a half a day trip.
We usually arrive back at Villa Tesori in time for Lisa to review her treasures and watch sunset before heading out to dinner. This is the where Lisa tells me how much money we saved....
Lisa and Brian blog about their adventures on St. John and the experience of owning Villa Tesori.