Monday, February 12, 2007

Hanging in St. Croix

Tourists and locals alike are crowded around, leaning in from a staircase to the second floor, craning for a view of the big event here on a Monday night: The crab races at the local brewpub.

They start around sunset, and before you know it, crabs with such venerated names as Mayor and Brewpub are going for the ... well, going for something. Not always toward the finish line, either. But that doesn't stop the restaurant-bar crowd on the Christiansted waterfront from cheering them on.

Not that this is a soused crowd. Sure, there are more than a few beers on tables, and a couple of Voodoo Juices, a local Cruzan rum concoction. But the crowd includes families, blue hairs, sunburned yachties, sun-deprived Yankees escaping the snow, and more than a few Danes. Everybody seems equally happy.

The Danes used to own St. Croix, along with the usual suspects: Brits, French, Dutch, Spanish, the Knights of Malta (O.K., not the usual suspects) and now, of course, the Americans. St. Croix passed to U.S. hands in 1927, and is now part of the American Caribbean.

This 82-square-mile island is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. And though it was popular with foreign governments for its agriculturally rich lands, it's a bit less known by tourists than neighboring St. Thomas.

At first glance, it's both American -- there's actually an Office Depot outside of town, and no passport is required for U.S. visitors -- and Caribbean, with plenty of palms and waves lapping at the shore. The locals invariably are polite and well-spoken in that way you find in Canada and Seattle, but rarely in New York or Florida or California.

I'm staying at the Buccanneer, an historic resort with superb service and a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere...more Caribbean to me than the ultra-posh surrounds of a luxury resort, and more engaging.

Tomorrow I'll explore beyond Christiansted. For now, I'll listen to the lullaby of waves against the beach, and sleep deeply.

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