There are many ways to bask in the St. Thomas sunshine but Gerard Sperry is making a living on it by offering walking tours to visitors and locals alike.
During the Historic Main Street Tour offered through the couple’s company, St. Thomas Food Tours, guests are taken on a culinary experience laced with the island’s rich history.
Sperry is a local guide knowledgeable of Caribbean cuisine and passionate about the island’s heritage. He shares his love for the area with as many as 12 guests on each tour. He started a recent food tour at Fort Christian, where seven guests met him on the fort’s steps midmorning.
The red fort’s large clock loomed overhead as Sperry explained how the Danish colonized the island in 1754 and told of how the fort, named after a Danish king, came to fruition. He said that it was erected for the purpose of warehousing goods and protecting what was within from looters, most commonly pirates.
“During its restoration, no detail was spared,” Sperry said. He shared with guests how in the refurbishment of the fort restorers procured bricks from Denmark to keep the building as close to the original architectural material as possible.
Guests followed Sperry from the fort and through the Emancipation Garden, where phrases such as “Oh, I had no idea,” and “Wow! That’s so interesting” were frequently used by the tour’s guests. Sperry spoke of history that transcended the island and went into the personal history of guest’s from New York, Virginia and Maryland.
Stopping at a Liberty Bell replica, Sperry said each state and territory of America has one identical to the statue in St. Thomas, which was cast 55 times by order of the United States Department of Treasury in the 1950s.
During the tour, guests explored several places of note but the tastings at the various local hot spots were by far the guests’ favorite part of the island’s history.
“Salt fish was very important to the people here. The fish could be put on a shelf and kept for a month so they could get adequate protein without needing to fish each day,” Sperry said.
Salted cod was one of the first things guests sampled, along with an aromatic hibiscus tea at E’s Garden Teahouse. Guests delighted over their plates while seated at a reserved table that was comprised of chairs made from dense, local Caribbean hardwoods.
Sperry took the guests meandering through streets and into tucked away cafes and pubs that boasted the same unique Danish architecture and were erected with walls that Sperry said were made from the ballast stones taken from ships.
On a main street, before guests ducked further into cobblestoned alleyways, My Brother’s Workshop Café and Bakery served guests a sampling of rum cake, vegan chocolate cake, spiced vegetarian wraps and a chicken soup that most resembles chicken and dumplings, a dish found in the southern United States and Canada.
“I love this tour,” said Rashmi Pandya, sitting at Side Street Pub awaiting a taste of Caribbean fusion tacos. “And I welcome the rain,” Pandya added as the sky started to send droplets to the floor which only accentuated the cobblestone’s patterns and coloring. Though St. Thomas is generally full of sunshine, the food tour goes on rain or shine all year round, except Sundays, which Sperry and his wife reserve as a day off.
The tour concluded with a parting over drinks and a stroll through Palm Passage, which Sperry said could quite easily be the prettiest of the streets in the 350-year-old city.
In the middle of the passage is an outdoor bar where guests indulged in a drink and took in the salty sea air. The locally famed, tropical cocktail dubbed the “painkiller” was mixed using local rum, pineapple, other tropical juices, and cream of coconut. Each guest was provided a sizeable glass and were free to roam nearby shops.
Pandya’s son, Ketan Pandya, gave the tour two thumbs up. Carolyn Smith, who came to visit St. Thomas from Maryland, said “what a lovely day spent in somewhere so beautiful.”
The company is also doing company tours as teambuilding and employee appreciation. Their 2.5 hour tours take your group (as many as 12 per tour) for a food, history and culture tour through Charlotte Amalie. Guides are long-time residents who will entertain your staff with the compelling story of the island while feasting on delicious food at top restaurants.
Tours can be customized to allow for special recognition and time constraints.
Visit their website or call 340 998-0202 for more information.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to that Gerard Sperry and Aslin Sauer are not married to each other. Sorry about that.