January 9, 2007
St. Thomas is located 40 miles east of Puerto Rico and are a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas covers an area of 32 square miles with a population of 56,000 people. We didn't bother to take any side trips as we have visited this island many times previously.
During the course of history the flags of six countries have flown over the Islands. There are settlements that date back to 1500 BC with evidence of people living here 1,000 years before the first settlement.
The first European settlement on St. Thomas consisted of four taverns. Now known as Charlotte Amalie, and a haven for shoppers, it was once a pirate sanctuary. When it was declared a free port in the 1700's, legitimate trade gained popularity and it became a major trading center of the West Indies.
The 1800's brought great change. The indentured population gained freedom in 1843, just as the shipping trade transitioned from sailing to steam engine vessels. Ships traveled faster, increasing sea trade between Europe and the Americas. During World War I the U.S. feared that St. Thomas' perfect port area might provide a dangerous base for German forces. The U.S. bought the Virgin Islands for $25 million in gold and prosperity showered the island. In the 1950's, St. Thomas became a tourist mecca and enjoys this status today. More than 1.7 million cruise ship guests visit each year to enjoy the duty-free shops, historic attractions, pristine beaches and friendly locals.
Cruise ships dock about five miles from the downtown area. The quickest way to get to town is to rent a taxi for about $5 per person with most taxis carrying 8 to 10 people. The distance looks deceptively short when looking across the bay. A number of people walk the distance and elect to ride back.
As you can see in the photos, a number of people live in homes on the hillside located above the city. Individual homes are predominate at the highest levels and transition into condo-apartments located nearer the city.
A number of people live on their boats and the harbor is full of sailing vessels of many kinds.
The photo above is a snorkeling vessel returning from an excursion. The boat nearest is a patrol boat that constantly monitors the activity near the cruise ships.
While we didn't take many photos in town, Lynn did capture a photo of a walkway joining two streets.
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