By now we were exhausted, (as I am sure you are just reading all these posts). I was quite curious about St Thomas, as Denmark had owned it until 1917, when it was the Danish West Indies. Many of the town names and also street signs (ie: Gada is Danish for street), are in Danish so there is that international feel.
St. Thomas was our last stop on our cruise, and we had tickets for the St Thomas Skyride.
Ian wanted to do this as soon as we got off the ship, it was almost directly across and it would be a great way to get an overview of Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas. Aerial gondolas take you 700 feet in the air to Paradise Point. There is a little amusement park at the top, with a ferris wheel, shops and a mini zoo.
We found some friends there.
Charlotte Amalie has a huge number of historic sites all within walking distance of the downtown, it was known as Tap Haus or Beer Hall during its pirate days, and we might see a bit more evidence of pirates a little later.
There is a wonderful, very well landscaped walk from the harbour to Charlotte Amalie, (and a lot of duty free shops on the way). The first building as we arrived into town was Fort Christian.
Now there are a lot of photos with the famous clock tower, but I thought I would give you a look from a different angle, a bit ‘grittier’. It is undergoing renovations, and during its lifetime (since 1680), it has not only been a fort, duh, but also a jail, church and now a museum.
Across the street is the Legislature Building, this is where ownership of St Thomas passed from Denmark to the United States. It was originally built as barracks for the Danish soldiers.
Walking long the waterfront street, known either Veterans Drive or Waterfront Highway, depending on which map you use), are a multitude of shops. Running parallel to this road is the Dronningens Gade or Main Street, (filled with jewellery shops) and in between the two,
alleys filled with more shops, and lets throw in a few bars and restaurants.
We certainly checked out a few, had a drink here, there and (it seemed) everywhere, before we got back on track with our walking tour.
Charlotte Amalie is built on the side of a hill, and ‘step-streets’ were built to make getting around easier.
99 Steps is the most famous (apparently there is 103, but I couldn’t concentrate on counting as I was concentrating on breathing).
These steps were built of bricks that were used as ballast in the Danish trade ships back in the 1700′s.
At the top was an amazing view, we could see the harbour with our ship in it.
Also at the top was the other pirate connection I told you about earlier, Blackbeards castle. Built in 1679 as a Danish watchtower, legends claim that Edward Teach, known more colourfully as Blackbeard, had his stronghold here. Now a hotel surrounds the ruins.
Just in front of it is the Three Queens statue. This commemorates the women who led the labour revolt in St Croix in 1878. “Set in bronze, Queen Mary, Queen Agnes and Queen Josiah – who on Oct. 1, 1878, led laborers in setting fire to half of Frederiksted on St. Croix in a successful demand for better wages and working conditions. ” The sculpture, made by famed Richard Hallier, shows the women standing with arms raised, holding a machete, jug of oil and flambeaux as water from a fountain made out of the island’s blue bit stone cascades over their backs.” This sculpture commissioned by the St. Thomas Historical Trust in partnership with Circa 1675 and Virgin Islands Inns.” Quote courtesy of the Blackbeard’s Castle website.
Walking around up on top of this hill is a gorgeous historic district called Kongens (King’s) Quarter, which is the ‘Williamsburg’ of the Caribbean.
Everywhere we looked gorgeous homes, and even more gorgeous view, a wonderful area to live.
Walking back down the 99 Steps,
we turned left for a view of Government House, which was built for the Danish Colonial Council in 1867. Now it is used as the governor’s headquarters with the first two floors open to the public.
Down (still more steps) towards the harbour is the Frederick Lutheran Church which was established in St Thomas in 1666, but rebuilt in 1826. This church has silver equipment, still in use, that is more than 200 years old.
Walking back to the ship, we (almost) wish we had taken a cab, aren’t they cool looking!
Next stop… Barbados