St Croix – St Thomas – St Johns – Tortola

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We had spent enough time in Christiansted by the first 4 days but due to another Tropical Wave moving through on Wednesday and the wind then veering to North East we were stuck and had to spend until Sunday before we had our first opportunity to head North back to St Thomas and then back to the BVI’s.

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Wednesday saw some absolutely extreme weather with 35 knot winds being experienced in our anchorage, which is pretty sheltered behind Protestant Cay.  We spent the day watching the lightening and catching water.  We managed to collect 30 litres of fresh water just from one storm.

The rest of time was spent studying for my Yacht Master exam and relaxing.  We had already made some very nice friends in Christiansted and it would be a shame to leave but we promised that we would come back at some point.

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Sunday arrived and we departed St Croix at 05:30.  We decided to run what they call a ‘dead ship’ with no power.  We have become so used to using computers for navigation and route planning so it was time to go back to the traditions of navigation and switch everything off; we even had emergency navigation lights at the ready for clearing the channel.  Everything went well and with two reefs in the genoa and one in the main we were averaging 6 knots and at points 7.1 knots.  We had carried out our current vectors,Leeway calculations, estimate positioning and dead reckoning and once land was spotted a few fixes put us only 1 nautical mile out of our destination.  I must admit it was great fun and we will hopefully not use the chart plotter as often moving forwards.

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We arrived back at Christmas Cove as we needed to stock up with fuel and water from Red Hook the following morning.  Our friends from Yacht Demeter were also there so we enjoyed a night of conversation with a few beers.

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The next morning we departed and carried out the water and fuel run.  After this we headed to the North Side of St John as we had missed this on the way down.  I must admit St John’s is a gorgeous island.  We visited Trunk Bay, Hawknest Bay, Cinnamon Bay and settled at Maho Bay for the night.  The islands reminded us of St Lucia with it’s green high mountains and the sound of the Jungle.  The water was clearer than we had ever seen and the beach a dazzling white.

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We were happy in Maho and spent a lovely evening listening to the thousands of creatures nearby and the sound of water crashing on the beach.

We needed to head back to Tortola to stock up on food and get some washing done.  The next morning we departed the US Virgin Isalnds and St John’s heading back to Tortola and The British Virgin Islands.

We now only have 10 days left before Troskala is hauled out and we are not counting.

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St Thomas to St Croix

Our Anchorage
Our Anchorage

After leaving Culebra we had to start making our way to St Thomas.  A break in the weather occurred on the Sunday so we decided to take our chance and complete the 20-mile motor back to Red Hook Bay to top up with water.  We cleared the reef but the wind and swell had not settled.  We were beaten up in the first 3 hours with Troskala struggling at times to maintain a reasonable speed when slamming into 2.8-meter waves.  I was dogged throughout with seasickness, which has only ever once happened before.  I do not wish seasickness on anyone and it is so debilitating.  I was flat out for most of the journey and Carlotta took over the watches.  About 3 hours in we decided to make our first stop at Honeymoon Bay on Water Island; 8 miles short of our planned destination, but to be honest I did not care and once we dropped the anchor I was back to normal.

Approaching St Croix
Approaching St Croix

It was lovely being back in Honeymoon Bay.  We met with some friends on our first night that we had met in Tortola and another lovely American Couple.  We joined them in the evening for cocktails and smoked Oysters; a lovely evening.

We were in no rush to set out and spent another day enjoying beach life,  Our friends on Yacht Demeter kindly loaned their 20 horse power dinghy so that we could get to Charlotte Amalie to stock up on provisions without having to move Troskala.  We had Demeter over for drinks in the evening with their lovely children Max and Anya.

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We departed early the next morning and circumnavigated Water Island before heading back out to sea.  We motored another 2 hours to Red Hook where we filled with water and disposed of garbage before taking a mooring in Christmas Cove just off St James Island, a secluded and beautiful spot.

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It is easy for most people to miss St Croix and not give it another thought.  The island lies in splendid isolation 40 miles south of the other Virgin Islands.  It is surrounded by the largest barrier reef system in the Caribbean.  St Croix is said to be rich in history and the Capital (Christiansted) is said to be the most beautiful town in the Caribbean.  We also learnt that on one spot of the island you are on the closest land to the deepest water in the world. How could anyone miss this place based on what is written.  We had to go and the nest morning we set off at 07:00 to complete the 40 miles south that would take us from 18 degrees Latitude back to 17 degrees.

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Our passage went well at the start.  We had to reef the genoa and the main by one but Troskala held a steady course and when we reached the island we were only 2 miles west off our rhumb line, which is not bad considering the cross current and leeway that took place.  I suffered again from seasickness, which is a bit of blow so I will need to take seasickness tablets for the next voyages.

We approached a lush and large island, it looked beautiful from the sea and we could not wait to get in and explore.  I would not have wanted to complete the approach to Christiansted in wind over 15 knots.  The place is strewn with reefs and although there are numerous buoys, this only aids to confuse you even more with the two channels.  A couple of sunken yachts was a stark reminder of how dangerous the entry can be.

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We survived and entered the harbour at a safe 2 knots.  The guidebook recommends anchoring in Gallows Bay.  This did not look that nice so we went around Protestant Cay, a small island in the harbour.  You are not meant to anchor here due to a large mooring field that is used by many cruisers who forgot to leave the island, so really it is a homemade mooring field and not listed this was on the charts other than it being an anchorage so we used it with not a single bit of guilt.  I have to add that do be careful upon taking my advise.  I went snorkelling the next day and found that our anchor had only just missed several mooring chains, two car engines and a tyre.  The bottom is littered with debris, which is a shame as the water and the harbour are stunning.  If you do manage to anchor and avoid all the metal the holding is good, in fact we are still here with the wind gusting to 30 knots at times and we have still held.

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What shocked us the most when going to land was the friendliness of all the people.  As soon as we entered by dinghy local cruisers were there to help Carlotta off and advise us where best to leave the dinghy.  We went to a great bar, which used to be an old windmill.  We met several locals who were informative, kind and funny.  We played bar games with another lovely American couple who were staying in a hotel locally. Were given free shots of Whiskey and Rum and after becoming slightly intoxicated we departed but invited Ed and Danielle over the next night for drinks on Troskala.

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The next day was spent in Christiansted.  Yes, the town was everything we expected, in fact it was more than we expected.  I would say that the town is the most interesting, beautiful and well appointed town in the Caribbean.  There is very little tourism so it maintains its charm as a small village.  Everyone is friendly and will talk to you on the street for no apparent reason.   We felt at home and I can see why cruisers do not leave after reaching this place. I think after a few days and a few whiskey shots you could call this place home and never go back to your previous destinations.

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We loved the architecture, the small streets, shops and lovely café’s.  The history is all around you and encompassing.   St Criox does have its problems.  One of its largest revenue generators was a oil depot situated on the North coast.  The Oil depot closed down this year and an island that has only 50,000 inhabitants lost over 2,000 jobs, which has been crippling.  There is desperation and it is not recommended to walk the streets after dark.  I never at any stage felt intimidated and enjoyed my time wondering around the small streets.  There is still a very Danish feel.  The Danish ruled the island for 200 years and made the town what it is today; a relaxing, calm and beautiful.   I would say that is you want to see a Caribbean Town as it was before being messed around with mass tourism, such as St Maartens, and St Kitts, visit Christiansted before it is too late, you will not be disappointed.  Our photos do not do it justice and there is no doubt we will be back.  In the evening we had the friends we met the previous night, Ed and Danielle.  Danielle had made a made a fantastic punch and they had very kindly brought us some beers and wine.  We had a lovely evening learning about them and sharing numerous stories. It could not have been a better ending to a great day and I hope we get to meet them in New York in the future.  It is evenings like this that I think we will miss the most when our adventure comes to a close.

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The following day we decided to rent a car to tour the island and visit some of the old sugar plantations.  I have recently read a couple a books related to the history of sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean and was therefore eager to explore some old ruins.   So our new car would be a Ford Fiesta that we picked up from Centre point car rentals.  We headed firstly to Frederiksted.  Fredericksted is a quaint, charming and laid-back town with a mixture of Danish and Colonial and Victorian architecture.  It is another lovely town but much quieter than Christiansted.  We had a late breakfast at Polly’s, located on the sea front and then headed to the north of the island.  It was similar to driving in Wales or Scotland.  Steep cliffs were covered with lush green foliage.  The roads were winding and the views were spectacular.

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Two hours in to our drive the car felt slightly odd and on further investigation we found that we had a flat tyre.  We were in the middle of nowhere but two cars past and offered a hand, which I kindly declined.  Twenty minutes we were on our way and after a short drive we found the plantation.

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It was eerie to be walking around this site, which is the site of Sugar Mill Base, dated 1765.  There was a tomb nearby but we did not know whose is was and why it was there,  We then realised that we were standing on the spot that has the closest land to the deepest water in the world and that the site was used for research for Ocean Temperature Energy Conservation.  We was a lovely site and we spent some time reflecting and enjoying the glorious scenery that St Croix offers at every possible angle.

After the plantation we drove into the rain forest and stopped off for a smoothie at a small zoo, where we were looked after by the staff and spent some time holding puppies, kittens and watching tortoises make love; not on purpose, but they were all at it; must be the time of the year or something.

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The rest of the island did not disappoint.  There are relics and history at every turn and we could have spent much longer enjoying such sights but we were tired, hot and needed a swim.

We had enjoyed another lovely day on this very special island.  We are now stuck due to high winds and swell but expect to depart Christiansted in the next couple of days to head to Buck Island, which is the first underwater National Monument; so of course, we have to go and hope to send you photos of this paradise shortly.

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On a personal note, our plans have changed yet again.  Our circumnavigation on Troskala will be shortly coming to end as we pave a career in Chartering. I had hoped to keep Troskala in the BVI’s with the idea of sailing her into the Pacific but I cannot kid myself that this will be a few years away and I cannot bear the thought of leaving our beautiful yacht to rot in a marina as so many do.  We have therefore decided to sail her back to Northern Spain in May next year as it is a  place close to our hearts and the best cruising ground we have encountered during this trip. In our holidays next year, which normally occur in August and September we will sail her from La Coruna back through Portugal and into the Med as we have wanted to do this area since the start and at least this way we can use her yearly and putting her in the water here during the high hurricane months does not make sense.  That said, there is still so much to wright about and new adventures and just around the corner.

Best wishes,

Oliver

Culebra – Spanish Virgin Islands

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We have been in Culebra for a week now and we are still enjoying the quiet and relaxation that this island has to offer.  Yesterday we rented a brand new Jeep from Carlos’s Jeep rental.  Finally we had a half decent car and an island to explore.  Our first stop was Flamenco Bay, which has been voted the second best beach in the world.  Flamenco Bay did not disappoint.  The beach is crowded in parts but as it is such a long beach it is easy to get away from the tourists and do some quiet snorkelling and walking.  Culebra has been used by the US Navy in the past and some of the remnants still litter the beach, such as tanks and other debris.

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After we left Flamenco Beach we drove around the island visiting various other bays, which were all unique, quiet and beautiful. It has to be said that the island is not that big and we had driven around most of the island by 16:00.  We went for lunch in the main town at a restaurant called Mamacitas, which was good value and very tasty.  After lunch we headed to Brava Beach on the north side and completed an amazing walk through thick forest to reach it, but when we did we found complete solitude and not another person around for miles.

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The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn as we only had the car for 24 hours and this would terminate at 11:00AM.  We headed to Tamarind Bay, where there is said to be a lot of Turtle activity.  We were in the water by 08:00 but there were no turtles, just some very strange fish and a Sting Ray.  We gave up shortly afterwards and headed to Flamenco again as we had had such a great time there the day before.

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Renting a car in Culebra is worth it.  You can also rent scooters and Golf Cars but for the price difference you may as well travel around in style with Air Conditioning and a roof to protect you from the elements; we paid $70 for 24 hours.

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It looks like we will be leaving tomorrow and heading back to St John’s.  From there we will turn south and head to one of the largest US Virgin Islands; St Croix.  We will blog once we get there.

Best wishes,

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St Thomas to Culebra / Puerto Rico

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After being a couple of days in Charlotte Amalie we moved Troskala to a lovely anchorage on Water Island called Honeymoon Bay.  This bay was such a contrast from where we were based but it was lovely to get a break from the noise and smell of pollution.  The next day we had to take Trosksla back to the town, which was only 2 miles away so that we could stock up on food and clear customs as the next day we would be heading to the small island of Culebra, which is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands.

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After sorting all the paperwork and shopping we moved back to Honeymoon Bay for the evening as we could then make a clear break to Culebra, which is 20 miles away.

We departed fairly early the next morning with lovely sunshine but a brisk 25 knots from behind.  We hoisted the pole and set Hydrovane up and enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the sail.  We approached the reef-strewn entrance to Culebra around 14:00; we had had a fast sail, averaging around 6.5 knots.  We had to take down the main sail before we approached the first bouy, the wind had picked up and the seas were now 2.5 meters.  We managed to bring it down and motored through the channel to our new anchorage in Dewey, Culebra.

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I have not managed to take many photos of Culebra yet, but watch this space.  This is a great place.  If you want the Caribbean but with seclusion and no cruise ships this is the place.  We have had numerous beaches to ourselves whilst being here.  The people are friendly and Spanish, which is a bonus with Carlotta being here. I have to say that is we could we would stay here much longer just for the quiet and the community feel.  Last night our dinghy managed to get trapped under the dock as the tide had risen slightly.  In no time at all half the neighbourhood were there trying the free Daisy from underneath the dock.  We are surprised how friendly, polite and liad-back the people are.

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If you have never been to Culebra and want to see what the Caribbean was like 30 years ago then get here, you will not be disappointed.  On the downside though, there was a massive thunderstorm the other night that managed to knock out all phone and internet on the island for two days, so this kind of seclusion does have it’s draw backs.  Photos will be posted before we leave this paradise.

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We had spoken to a few people in regards to heading to Puerto Rico.  The Island is only 20 miles away and we would be quite happy to sail there, but due to un-favourable currents and wind it would take us 24 hours to complete the 20 miles to St Thomas so instead we decided to take the ferry and spent a day or two in Puerto Rico.

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Guess what. You can take a ferry fro Culebra to Puerto Rico, which is 20 miles away, all for $4.50, so around £3.20.  The journey takes 1 hour 30 minutes and the scenery is great.  I used to spend £350 a month to travel from St Albans to London with no seat and horrible scenery; something is not right with the UK rail service and what they charge.

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So, we took a lovely ferry ride over from Culebra to Fajardo (Puerto Rico), we slept most of the way as we had woken up at 05:00 and caught the ferry at 06:30.    We arrived in Fajardo at 08:30.  Fajrdo is a busy little place but not to spend a day there.  We wanted to get to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.  We were going to take a taxi but this cost $60 one way, which is crazy especially when you can rent a car for the day at $70 including insurance.  There is no direct bus service either, so you are quite stuck.

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We went to the rent-a-car agent and managed to get a lovely Nissan Sentra, which has to be the worst car I have ever driven.  The air-conditioning did not work, the steering was interesting in a way that if you exceeded 65mph and tried to steer to the right it would take a few seconds to steer that way; the vibration at over 70mph made your teeth actually hurt not to mention the other starting issues we had.  We complained at the end and will hopefully get some money knocked off.

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Besides all the car issues we had a lovely day driving to San Juan.  They drive well over here and the roads and pretty looked after, especially the Auto Express.  It took us around an hour to get into San Juan and we were smitten by it. San Juan not only had a splendid European feel, it was clean and the people were lovely.   You had history at every turning point and great views.  A free bus runs around the old town so you can hop on or off at any time with no charge.

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We spent the morning wondering around and drinking coffee; it could have been any European City but so far away from Europe.  We took photos and decided to press on to an Outlet village as I needed to stock up on some new clothes and Puerto Rico is meant to be cheaper than most of the islands.  We completed our shopping and my first time in a Walmart and then headed back to Fajardo.

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On the way we took a road up to the Rain Forest, which was spectacular.  You could compare Puerto Rico with St Lucia for its green slopes and amazing trees, but it is more developed in a good way and not spoilt as much as certain Caribbean islands have been with mass tourism.  We lost the road in the end and had some tricky manoeuvring to get it back down the hill in reverse, but all was well.  The photo below shows Carlotta with a look of panic in her face.  The was some huge dog running down the hill so we only had a few moments before we had to get back in a drive like the wind.

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Puerto Rico was amazing and we need to spend more days there, as it is such a large island.  We hope to spend another day there is possible but we will return soon and spend much more time on this fantastic island.

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Tortola to St Johns – 28th May 2013

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After finishing off some tasks in Tortola and finding a place to leave Troskala for a year we were ready to get on with our final month of cruising these amazing waters and we planned to enjoy every minute of it.

We departed Tortola in the early afternoon heading for Cruz Bay in St Johns.  It may not seem like it but this was quiet a voyage in terms of countries as we would be now leaving British Waters and into American waters.  I only mention this due to the endless struggle we have had in getting visa’s sorted in order to get Troskala here.   We should have sorted our B1 and B2 visa’s before leaving London but we had though that it would be easy enough to sort this out in the Caribbean but this is not the case and the only place you can do it is Barbados, which we are not planning to visit soon.  Anyway, due to our work on the Superyacht and flying into Miami when departing them we had the stamp that gave us entry for 90 days into the US.  This, along with our ESTA (a visa waiver) we should be able to enter America with no problems but of course Carlotta’s nerves were going.  My advice to anyone planning to sail to the Caribbean and America is to get your B1 and B2 visa’s before leaving your home country, it has been an absolute battle with the US homeland securities and I would not wish dealing with these people on anyone.

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We had a great sail into Cruz Bay, which is the main port of entry.  Our arrival was late and therefore we could not check in but managed to drop anchor in the spare square meter that was free from mooring buoys but with only 0.4 meters below it was tight.

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In the morning we went to customs and faced our fears; 15 minutes later we were out with no problems at all but as we only have until the 28th June on our passport it was to be a short visit.  We walked around Cruz Bay but there was nothing of interest but it did have a feel of a national park, which most of St John’s is.  We did not spent long there before returning to Troskala and setting sail to St Thomas.  We will return to St Johns on the way back but due to the nationality of the crew the Spanish Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are the destinations we want to explore in more detail.

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Cruz Bay (St Johns) to Red Hook Bay (St Thomas) – 29th May 2013

We set sail shortly after returning to Troskala.  We only had a passage of 3 miles to make so used only Genoa.  There are rocks and reefs everywhere not to mention the amount traffic in these waters.  We made Red Hook Bay in St Thomas early afternoon and found a nice anchorage just off a little beach.  The wind was beginning the howl but we had held well and after some lunch and a siesta we took the dinghy over to the marina complex.  Again, there was not too much to explore but the feel of the place was very American.  We went to a bar to have two Mudslide cocktails before staggering back to the dinghy and motoring back to Troskala.

The night was pretty uneventful but the wind blew making it very uncomfortable on board.  We had to get out of this place fast and planned to fill with water the next morning and head to Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St Thomas.

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Red Hook Bay to Charlotte Amalie – 30th May 2013

We managed to wake up early for a change and after a quick breakfast we motored to the marina to fill our water tanks.  Shortly after we departed and headed out into 30 knots of wind on the nose.  It was an evil sail with short choppy waves crashing over Troskala’s bow.  We have not been in weather like this for a while and it was not long until items below started flying around.  We decided to take a short cut through a narrow passage called Current Cut, where the current passes through at 4 knots.  The gap is strewn with coral and rocks and is only a few meters wide.  I must admit there was an element of worry as approached the gap.  The water between went turquoise showing shallower depths.  I started the engine ready to make a turn back is needed.  We flew through with the depth going from 15 meters to 3, but before we knew it we were through the other side with the depth gauge reading 10 meters and increasing.    It is good to challenge yourself but not too often and not in these waters.

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The rest of the sail went well and as we turned west the wind followed and we made good speed reaching Charlotte Amalie around 13:30.

We anchored close to the town and the ferry dock.  The place already seemed busy with endless trucks and buses spoiling our view and tranquillity, this is another favoured cruise ship destination so we did not hold out any hopes for any culture.

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We ventured into the city and were amazed by how busy Charlotte Amalie is and how American.  We already noticed the cars and traffic lights that are depicted in any American film. We were also pleasantly surprised by the architecture and history that surrounded the place.  The island was formally owned by the Danish and a lot of the old buildings from that era exist.  You do still have the cruise ship area with shops selling anything to do with Diamonds but there is also other shops and alleys that make it pleasant to walk around.  We spent the whole afternoon here before returning late evening and enjoying a spectacular thunder-storm.

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