Friday, November 30, 2007

How Often...

Douglas Lee ‘85 I’m not sure when we heard about the Paradise Jam, but I decided we had to go. How often do you get to watch your favorite team play in St. Thomas? I have realized the question - “How often…” - has caused me to spend money, but it has also led my family to unique experiences that we cherish.

How often do you get to see your favorite team play in Boise? That was our first trip out of Northern California to watch Stanford play. How often will we get to watch Stanford in the NCAA tournament? This was two seasons ago and we went to Denver and San Antonio. Hopefully, we will have many more of these opportunities.

We planned early to attend the Paradise Jam. Traveling during Thanksgiving is always a challenge, but we found some reasonable flights. The weather cooperated and we had no delays flying from SFO to Dallas to San Juan to St. Thomas or back.

The tour company picked us up at the airport. There was another family on the shuttle. The parents graduated from Stanford in the 90’s, but now they lived in Washington. Their two young daughters didn’t quite understand that they were there to cheer for Stanford. One wanted to cheer for Virginia, a place closer to home for them.

We decided to stay at the team hotel, because how often do you get to do that? The Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef is a beautiful property perched at the end of a rocky isthmus. It overlooks Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Our room was in a wing built into the rocky hillside that looks out to the Caribbean Sea. The view outside our room was stunning. It was a short walk down to the beach where we had breakfast one morning.

On the path to the beach we encountered many iguanas. They look ferocious... ...but are only aggressive if you have fruit, or red toenails. They chase red toenails because they look like berries.

One morning we rode the water taxi to the downtown area.We shopped for t-shirts and jewelry (there are about 400 shops downtown and over 75% are jewelry stores).For lunch, we found the delicious Gladys’ Café that served more traditional Caribbean fare. The jerked chicken sandwich was delicious as were the fried plantains. Every restaurant has hot sauce, but here they made their own and it was one of the best I tasted the entire trip. The cover of the menu shows Gladys with a platter of scotch bonnets in her hands and another platter balanced on her head. The restaurant is in a converted brick warehouse from the colonial days. We ate well the entire trip. One other memorable meal was at the Banana Tree. It is located on top of a hill in Blackbeard’s castle. Bluebeard also called St. Thomas home. The view of the harbor is stunning and if not for the ugly pool house, the sunset would have been beautiful. The moon was silvery and full as we dined in the open air. The dark rum and brown sugar glazed salmon and double cut pork chops were delicious. St. Thomas has many gourmet restaurants. Oh yeah, there was a little basketball too. All the games are played at the University of the Virgin Islands. The gym is intimate (think mainland high school size). We had great seats for all the games we attended. We sat behind the bench and had a close-up view of the action. We attended some of the other games, even in the St. John division, and got to watch many teams we otherwise might never get to see. Each team has its own personality and style. For me this brings an appreciation of how our team plays and how well they are coached. The games themselves were very exciting. The Stanford versus UCONN game felt like an NCAA tournament game. The ODU game was a very exciting back and forth contest, but we pulled it out at the end. The Temple game was a great comeback and really showed the resilience of this young team. My take away from these three games is how well we played as a team and how each player’s contribution made us successful. I don’t know if Stanford will ever play in St. Thomas again, but if they do, I recommend asking “How often…” Go Stanford!

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