Walking Charlotte Amalie
Charlotte Amalie Travel Blog› entry 8 of 14 › view all entries
A new tour guide, Michael, met us at the entrance to Blackbeard's Castle. This is a National Historic Site. It is really a round watchtower dating from the Danish period. It was known as Skytsborg then and its purpose was to serve as lookout for invaders who might have landed at Magens Bay. However, it's now promoted as Blackbeard's Castle and is the center of a pirate-themed area. Pirates are big business in St. Thomas. (Pirate-themed souveniers outnumber regular souveniers.) A large statue of Blackbeard stands in front of the tower and statues of other pirates dot the grounds. One of them must have been the inspiration for Caprain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. The area also has a nice view of Paradise Point above the port area.
Michael collected the group after a time, and began the tour. He was quite knowledgeable about the history of the Virgin Islands. The U.S. purchased St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix from Denmark in 1917 when it appeared Germany might pressure Denmark into selling. Thus, the islands are marking their 90th year as a U.S. territory.
The group began a walk down the hill. First stop was Villa Notman. This historic house was built by a Scottish civil engineer in 1860. He had come to design the deepwater port and dock in use today. The house contains period furniture made of mahogany. Of special interest was the Planter's Chair. The chair has wide arms that allowed the master of house to put his booted feet up on them so a servant could remove the boots.
The path down the hill led to Haagensen House. This restored house was built in the early 19th century and belonged to part of the Magen family of Magens Bay. It is also furnished with period china and West Indian mahogany furniture and the floors are mahogany. Our hostess at Haagensen House was very proud of her Creole heritage and said many of her family hierlooms are among the displays. Her family has lived in a neighboring house since the early 19th century. The veranda offers yet another beautiful view of the harbor and also of the hillside governor's residence. A compliemtnary rum punch geeted us on the lower level.
The top of the 99 Steps are just outside. The 99 Steps is the most well-known of a series of stone stairways that lead from the lower part of the city up the hillsides.
As we walked down Dronnigens Gade, my son and daughter ran into someone they knew from school! He was on a cruise with his family on Carnival Liberty, also in port. Small world.
Lunch was in order. Cuzzin's for West Indian cuisine had been recommended. We found it off Raadets Gade, but to was mobbed! I had snagged a map and dining guide during the walking tour. We decided on Cafe Amici instead, and it was a good choice. (See my review.) This left us in the middle of the A.H. Riise Mall--really a shopping arcade in adaptively reused warehouses. My daughter wanted to look at cosmetics and perfume and my wife at Caribbean Hook and larimer bracelets. This was the place to find them. It's said that the shopping in St. Thomas is the best in the Caribbean.
Emancipation Park commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the Danish West Indes in 1848. It serves as the town square. There were open-air vendors here, but they were packing up their wares by the time we arrived. Time to return to the ship. We took a taxi from Emancipation Park back to the dock area for US$4 per person.
But, before going back aboard, my daughter and I rode the St. Thomas Skyride up to Paradise Point. It's right across from the cruise ship dock. Paradise Point offer a scenic overlook of the harbor and It was hazy, so we did not have quite the pristine postcard view. (We had lucked out on the weather. Locals told us there had been a thunderstorm the night before and power went out over the island.)
Carnival Glory sailed promptly at 7:00 p.m. It was now already after dark and the lights of Charlotte Amalie played on the harbor as we sailed out to sea.