Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sounds of a Steel Drum Christmas

I would like to admit up front that Christmas is hands down, the best holiday of the year. While others dread the shopping, music, and enormous amounts of weight gain, I welcome it…all of it. Every year, our family celebrates the normal traditions by getting together, opening gifts, eating great food, and watching our all-time favorite Christmas movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I have quite a few fond memories that I’ll always keep tucked away; however, one year in particular sticks out in my mind.

In 2007, my family and I decided to take a cruise at the beginning of December. We’ve always been a family of summer vacationers; however, that year, we decided to spice it up a bit and enjoy the warm climate at a time when everyone else we knew would be fighting the bitter cold.

I have to tell you…there’s nothing like cruising through the Caribbean and enjoying the hot sun in December. To see a cruise ship decked out in Christmas d├ęcor and hearing Christmas music being played…there’s just no better time to cruise if you ask me.  Our cruise ship was adorned with tall Christmas trees, lights, and garland; guests truly felt the holiday spirit when coming aboard. 

Enjoying the fact that I could slip into my bathing suit and bask in the sun, in the middle of December, I was anxious to arrive in our specified ports. I wanted to see just how countries in the Caribbean celebrated the holiday season.

One of the ports was St. Thomas. Having visited this beautiful island before, we knew what to expect. However, to see it decorated with Christmas trees, lights, and being able to watch school children dance and sing in the town’s center, it was quite a sight.

Megan's Bay in St. Thomas
We visited Megan’s Bay, as always, and enjoyed the hot sand and amazing view. I made sure to keep in the Christmas spirit by incorporating Christmas songs on my iPod. Listening to Bing Crosby and some of course, some Jimmy Buffett holiday music was just what I needed to relax and enjoy my visit to the Caribbean.

After spending most of our day on the beach, we found ourselves walking through the shopping square that was settled conveniently right outside the docking area of our boat. Dozens upon dozens of shops were open and available for tourists to open their wallets and pour out the money inside.
Overlooking St. Thomas

Since I wasn’t planning on buying everyone’s Christmas presents there in St. Thomas, I chose to keep my money tightly secured in my bag. However, a few little knick knacks came home with me, but no major spending on my part. This was one of those trips that simply walking around and admiring the sights and the locals were enough for me.

My thoughts were quite similar when we reached the island of St. Maarten. As soon as our boat docked, we were already dressed and ready to go with our swimsuits on and clothes to cover. The island itself was breathtaking, with sailboats, yachts, crystal blue waters, and homes that sat along the shoreline. This place was the epitome of the care-free lifestyle that so many of us wish we could have.

Just imagine…walking out onto your patio and looking out onto an ocean that goes for miles, water that allows you to see straight to the bottom, boats coasting up and down the shoreline with relaxed travelers aboard; it would be Heaven.

My sister and I on the ferry

The ferry ride over to the French capital of Marigot allowed us to take in the sights of the island. It was agreed that if we were to ever win the lottery, not only would we buy a vacation home there, but another definite purchase would be one of the dozens and dozens of yachts that sit near the shore. Hmm…talk about the good life, huh?

Arriving at the island, we walked over a wooden walkway and into a quaint, little shopping area; one full of small outside diners and open markets. Cats walked up and down the market area, laying in the sun and enjoying the relaxed lifestyle that only an island in the Caribbean could give. Of course, if you’re a cat, you’re lifestyle is pretty laid back as it is.

After spending the afternoon in the city, we decided to grab some lunch. Luckily for us, the beach that we planned on spending the rest of our afternoon on was only a short distance away from various restaurants and more open markets (imagine that?)

My family at a dockside restaurant
Sitting at a little dockside restaurant, we waited for the deliciously good hamburgers to arrive. Not only did the outside table provide the perfect setting for an afternoon lunch, but the sun, the music, and of course, the view of the ocean only made it better.

Filling our bellies with food, the only thing that sounded good was chilling out and relaxing on the beach. Opting for the side of the island that allowed for tourists to keep their clothes on, we headed down to the warm sand and grabbed up a few lounge chairs. Throwing down my towel, I stripped down to my bathing suit and lathered on my lotion.

“Now this is how I could spend my Christmases from now on,” I leaned over to tell my sister.

“Agreed,” she replied back.

The beach we lounged on in St. Maarten
Laying there with the most perfect view, I relaxed back into my lounge chair and took in the beauty that is St. Maarten. Out of all of the islands I have ever visited in the Caribbean, St. Maarten has to be one of my ultimate favorites. It is quite hard to beat St. Thomas, but it ranks pretty high up there, if I’m being honest.

Locals walked up and down the length of the beach trying to sell homemade jewelry; one of which convinced my mom to buy a bracelet. My mom is such a sucker for that kind of stuff. I have to say, it was quite beautiful.

My sister and I swimming
Never wanting to leave the beauty that, that one particular beach in St. Maarten provided us; it was now time for us to head back to our cruise ship and bid farewell to the island. Begrudgingly, we walked along the soft, warm sand, and made our way towards a small boat that took us back to our cruise ship. Boarding the boat, we were greeted with the sounds of steel drum music; a sound that was heavenly to hear as it played to the tune of Christmas songs.

I remember sitting down, closing my eyes, and tilting my head back in an attempt to soak in the sounds of this unique and definitely favorable Christmas music. I immediately wanted to find out how I could get a CD with that kind of Christmas music. I may live in Arkansas but the sounds of the Caribbean could come with me and keep me company for any future holiday.

Unfortunately, I could not find what I was looking for, but in my mind, I can still hear the sounds of those steel drums and even though I’m in Arkansas and bearing the cold, I just close my eyes and I’m back in St. Maarten, enjoying the sun, the sand, and the steel drum bands.


ropcorn said...

That looks amazing! And December is definitely a great time to travel to warmer areas. Especially when you live in a cold one, lol!

Merry Christmas! :-)

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