De Coal Pot

Yesterday we went off in search of authentic Caribbean cuisine. Our search led us to de Coal Pot, a nifty little restaurant near the Cruz Bay harbor that serves the spicy Caribbean food you crave. Given the enormous portions they serve, if you go there expect a long, tasty, relaxing feast.

I got the curried chicken, which came with three — 3! — sides. I went for the spicy rice and peas, fried plantains, and french fries, and ended up needing a take-home box for the plantains. The curried chicken had that rich curry flavor and was served bone-in, so it had extra flavor and super-moist texture. It was wonderful. Because of the bones, deft knife and fork work was required to extricate the meat, which then paired perfectly with the peas and rice. I shoveled in great heaping forkfuls, washed down with ice-cold Presidente beer. The french fries were a nice complement, too.

Our group’s orders included curried goat, which drew raves, a grouper sandwich, and several rotis, which are a kind of local wrap. We really liked de Coal Pot, and I’m thinking we’ll find our way back there again before this trip is through. What’s the Caribbean without legit Caribbean food?

The Pelican, Briefly

On our trip to the beach yesterday we sat next to a tree where a pelican nested briefly. He used his long bill to engage in some personal grooming and then peered out over the bay, surveying his domain. A few seconds and several flaps of his wings later and the pelican was off, skimming a few inches above the water and on the lookout for prey.

On Snorkeling

Yesterday we went snorkeling on one of the many pretty beaches on St. John, and I decided it’s just about the perfect vacation activity if you’re looking to relax and get away from whatever you’ve been doing back in the real world.

Snorkeling meets the minimum criteria, because it’s underwater — and therefore by definition away from email, computers, and offices — and you can’t take your cell phone, either. But there’s more to it than that. You’re floating effortlessly in warm salty water, propelled by only a few desultory movements of your flippers. When you’re in the water, you can’t hear much but your own steady, regular breathing through the snorkeling gear. It’s almost the definition of calm and serene.

And as you float and breathe, you’re focused on that totally different undersea world, where even waving fronds of seagrass or drifting strands of seaweed are interesting, and every fish is a darting and exotic sliver of color. Yesterday we saw regal sea turtles slowly munching their way along the ocean floor, a stingray, some barracuda, and zebra fish, sponges, sea anemone, and many other species of fish, large and small, that I can’t identify.

They’re living in their own corner of the vast undersea world, untroubled by government shutdowns or stock market plunges or the other real-world developments that might affect our thoughts. And when you’re there with them, you’re not thinking of those things, either. It’s a pretty good escape.

When The Shutdown Hits Home

You could almost forget about the government shutdown, it being the holidays and all — except for the fact that the port-a-potties at the national park next door have been closed and sealed and aren’t available for use. The sign on the door reads: “AREA CLOSED. Because of a lapse in federal appropriations, this national park facility is closed for the safety of visitors and park resources. Please visit http://www.nps.gov and select ‘Find A Park’ for additional information about access to other parks and sites in this area.”

You learn something new every day, I guess. I had no idea a port-a-potty is a “national park facility,” or that letting a visitor use it for its intended purpose would pose a risk of safety to visitors and national park resources. An inoperable port-a-potty seems like a good metaphor for our federal government these days, though, doesn’t it?