St. Thomas Feature

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In Search of Pirates

The line between fact and fiction is often fluid, and it ebbs and flows according to who is telling the tale. So it is with the swashbuckling seafarers of St. Thomas, such as Bluebeard, Blackbeard, and Sir Francis Drake. But you'll find the story—we don't promise that it's completely true—if you follow the pirate trail.

Start atop Bluebeard's Hill to the east of Charlotte Amalie. Today this is the site of Bluebeard's Castle hotel. According to legend, it was Bluebeard—in reality Eduard de Barbe-Bleue—who picked this prime location to build a stone watchtower from which he could keep an eye on approaching enemies. Bluebeard kept his most prized booty, the lovely Señorita Mercedes, prisoner in the tower. That is, of course, until Mercedes broke free and discovered his gold-filled treasure chests along with gushing love letters to several other young ladies. Just as mean as her mate, Mercedes invited all of Bluebeard's paramours to the tower to pillage his plunder. Today you can walk the hotel grounds, gaze up at the still-standing watchtower, and enjoy an incredible view of the harbor. From this outlook you can spot yet another pirate-named tower.

High atop Blackbeard's Hill, rising north of Fort Christian and Government House, is Blackbeard's Castle. No one knows if Blackbeard—better known as Edward Teach—ever visited this site, but historians agree that this infamous pirate did indeed sail the Caribbean Sea in the early 18th century. Learn all about Teach and his treacherous band via guided tours that take place between 9 and 3 when a cruise ship is in port. The cost is $20 per person for a guided tour, $12 for a self-guided tour. Life-size—and lifelike—statues of pirates dot the route and look ready to issue an "Argh," "Aye," and "Ahoy, matey!"

Drive over the hill to Drake's Seat. Named for the English privateer Sir Francis Drake, this popular scenic overlook is supposedly where Drake spied ships approaching from what are now the British Virgin Islands. Don't let anyone tell you that the wooden bench is where Drake sat, however. Scholars have a hard enough time trying to prove that Drake really stood on this spot.

Finally, head back into downtown Charlotte Amalie and to Royal Dane Mall. This winding trio of brick-and-stone-paved alleyways is home to a couple of bronze plaques inscribed with historical facts about the island. One of them tells about buried pirate treasure. Some doubt it's really here. Others never stop dreaming of the day they'll find it.

Updated: 12-2013

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