St. Croix Taught Me How to Relax

Author Natasha (bottom left) with wife (bottom right) and friends on the beach in St. Croix

Relax. It’s what we all aim to do, right? Well, for me it is not the easiest thing in the world. I’m always meeting people; talking is probably one of my specialties. Whenever I go on a vacation, I’m interested in the area, the swimming, the beach, the restaurants, the people, shopping and being on the go all the time.

Recently, my wife and I went to St. Croix for a birthday trip, and that standard hectic tempo didn’t quite fit the island’s vibe. We spent the first two days in Cane Bay at The Waves, a boutique hotel that’s right on the water with an outside terrace bar and fantastic restaurant.

Upon arrival, we realized that nothing was open except a cool little bar called Off the Wall. This laid-back seaside pub served cold beer, great drinks and regional food. This was definitely our speed and a great start to slowing down. The only time I used my phone was to take pictures of the incredible sunset.

The employees were nice and chill and made you feel like you belonged. Everyone was definitely local, and by the end of the night, we decided that we were going to come back for weekly Bingo night.When we returned for Bingo, the place was packed. We caught a few games, didn’t win, but cheered on the winner!

The next day, we toured around, swam and just shut down from work and all of our technology. At first, it’s so hard to do, but for some reason during this trip, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought. We played in the clear waters as much as possible and saw turtles swimming around us.

To spark an unplugged relaxed groove, we like to drive around, make our own stops, find lunch on the way, just live in the space around us, and take it all in. At one point, we found ourselves tucked away in the subtropical rainforest of the island’s west end, just off Route 76 and discovered Mount Pellier Hut’s Domino Club. We spotted a little sign on the side of the road on what looked like a roadside bar, so we stopped and sashayed inside.

Domino Club is known to locals as Norma’s, after beloved proprietor Norma George. The property houses a small open-air bar and restaurant and a separate outbuilding that is home to stars of the attraction — the beer drinking pigs. Animal lovers can rest assured that the Domino Club owners and staff treat the pigs like family pets, bestowing upon them names such as Kevin Bacon, Chester, Ms. Piggy and Buster. All are well fed and cared for and never forced to drink but are permitted a sip of the non-alcoholic beer if they want.

If the next phase in relaxing is stepping away from the normal routine, the boozy swines fit the bill and were possibly our most unique experience on the island. I’d heard about swimming with pigs in the Bahamas, but meeting Buster and friends was an animal encounter beyond our wildest dreams.

We strolled into the little bar, grabbed a drink for ourselves and beer for the pigs. With brews in hand, we walked up to a set of doors that opened to reveal several enormous pigs snorting at us and not smelling particularly good. Well, what do you expect from five to seven pigs in pens? I fed Kevin Bacon, and my wife Heathar, tended to Chester, then we watched in amazement as they grunted and guzzled and downed the suds with unbridled glee. Through them, I started to get the point — relax, lighten up and don’t take things so seriously.

Afterward we sat at the bar with the owner who told the story of how Domino Club started. Over 25 years ago, George and Norma, the farmers who own the place, decided to downsize the number of pigs they kept on the farm. They sold almost all of them but kept two as pets: Ms. Piggy and Buster.

One day, a visitor walked past Buster with a beer in hand, and Buster unabashedly helped himself to a drink! Little did they know that after that day, Buster would become a star on the island.

As time went on, people continued to visit George and Norma to have a beer and play dominoes and occasionally give a beer to Buster who had expressed his love of suds the day he stole his first one. As a result, Domino Club was created and became one of St. Croix’s best-known and beloved attractions.

Grapetree Bay St. Croix | Credit Wikimedia Commons

We sat around talking with other people who stopped by to see what was going on, and others who knew this was a must-stop destination. We loved the slow pace and easy interactions with everyone we met.

The next few days, we stayed in Frederiksted at The Fred, a beautiful hotel right on the beach with a restaurant, full bar serving cold drinks, a pool with all the amenities and fantastic service. As I mentioned earlier, I have a hard time slowing down. So, I roamed around, walked on the beach and eventually kicked back at the pool and soaked up the lazy groove.

Lounging at the pool brought me to the island state of mind, but the beautiful beaches of St. Croix were calling my name. After hearing about the fruitful local snorkeling, I decided to throw on fins, a mask and gear and flippered into the water.

I was captivated by so much coral, magnificent fish, a tremendous amount of sea glass and even some pieces called “chaney,” which is the name given to old porcelain shards that wash up on the beaches. As a hybrid of the words for “china” and “money,” chaney refers to fragments of European ceramics brought to St. Croix by the island’s former colonizers. Tourists on the beach hunch over the sand looking for these treasures. I became one of them, calmly and slowly searching the shoreline.

Next stop was Christiansted, a fun town where we lunched at the Deep End Bar & Grill in Green Cay Marina and dined on the best blackened mahi sandwich that I have ever eaten. I wanted to bring home a memento from this trip, so we stopped at Sonya’s Fine Island Jewelry for the St. Croix hook bracelet. The hook has been worn by islanders and visitors for centuries and holds the meaning of love and unity. The horseshoe design is worn in different ways to signify your heart. If the hook is facing outward, then your heart is free and open to love. Mine is facing inward, because I am one lucky woman!

Putting the hook bracelet on my wrist brought full circle the lessons I learned from this trip. Relaxing is achievable — and even enjoyable — if you let the island spin its magic and open up to the sunshiny feeling that it’s ready to give.

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