St Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands! This month’s contribution comes from Vanessa “Ness” Fennessey, who descends from a line of London-based realtors dating back to 1804. If you like to watch HGTV’s House Hunters International, you may have seen her in not-one-but-two episodes that feature the popular island. Like many before her, Ness visited St. Croix in 2001 and fell in love with all the island offers. Plan a visit and connect with Ness for some sage guidance. She would be delighted share with you the virtues and secrets of island living, followed perhaps with a tour of available properties.
From Ness Fennessey,
FED UP WITH FROSTBITE? SEEK THE SUN.
When SeattlebyDesign’s Chris Kallin first invited a contribution to the team blog and newsletter, I jumped at the chance to share my love of St Croix— my adopted home. It’s hard to put one’s love for a place in words, but sitting now as I am on holiday in England—suffering a miserably cold day—my thoughts are clearing. Don’t get me wrong, I love England. The pubs, the scenery, visiting my family, marmite, I love it all, but it’s no St Croix, USVI. There is something special about the island and the people who choose to live there.
When I first arrived back in 2001, it was the sea that transfixed me. It was the cleanest, warmest waters I have swam in (and I am well-traveled). The politeness of the Crucians was endearing from the start. It is considered rude not to greet everyone with a good morning, good afternoon or goodnight (yes, this is a greeting here). I thought it was funny the first time I witnessed a person enter a bank and greet everyone with good morning—now I do it myself. In true, laid-back Caribbean fashion, a car may stop dead in front of you to greet a friend walking down the street. At first alarming, now charming.
St Croix really gets under your skin after a while. My friends in England ask me what there is to do on a small island in the Caribbean. The short answer is whatever you want, but with consistently fine weather. Of course, there is everything water related—diving (some of the best in the Caribbean), sailing, snorkeling, kite boarding and the like, but there is much more to it than that. For one, this island has history. It is an island much fought over, owned over the years by seven countries and steeped in pirate history. In the 1600s, the island was held by England and Holland at the same time— one west, one east. You can only imagine the confusion. We still drive on the left here and the story goes the Brits trained the donkeys to walk on the left and when they departed the donkeys refused to adhere to the right, so the islanders had no choice but to accept the status quo.
The two towns of Christiansted (East) and Frederiksted (West) are utterly charming with their Danish architecture of the 1700s. I am biased, I know, but sailing into Christiansted harbor is the most enchanting experience. Other islands have their charm, but St Croix welcomes you with the site of a collection of buildings built in the 1700s including a beautiful fort and customs house and flows into a vibrant boardwalk filled with fun bars and restaurants. Frederiksted is a different atmosphere altogether with a much more laid-back feel. It offers the most spectacular beaches on the island and what is best described as a promenade along the waterfront, dotted with benches from which to watch the stunning sun sets over the water. Behind the town of Frederiksted is the rainforest, lush and rambling.
After all these years I can still get truly lost in the rain forest. I find it sort of mystical and I’m not really all that New Age. In this part of the island there are great hikes to waterfalls, the reservoir, ancient sugar mills and the lighthouse which overlooks the craggy northwest tip of the island and reminds me of a Scottish cliff face. In comparison, the east end of the island (cunningly called the East End) is much dryer with cacti growing freely. We have the dubious honor of being the most easterly point of the United States. I say dubious because even though we are a US territory we do not get the right to vote for the presidency which I find tremendously unfair.
So come visit, stay a while, relax, buy a house or a condo if you prefer. I’d love to show you around and our market has everything from a $200,000 waterfront condo, to a 9-million-dollar castle (which comes with 100 acres). Business wise, we have amazing tax benefits for US companies with the EDC program. Too complex to explain here, but feel free to call me for more information. We have a refinery about to reopen which is economically a great thing for the island and only a blight on a small part of the landscape. I just put under contract a wonderful beach bar business on the North Shore listed at 140k so your dreams of Caribbean living may not be so far-fetched at all.