Where does one begin when recounting a holiday of a lifetime? A holiday full of colour and taste and sound and smell. The perfect blend of culture, history, family, beachy relaxing and tacky touristing. Sounds like an advert for special blend coffee, but hey, I’m guessing my best option is to start.. well, at the start…
The land of idyllic beaches, picturesque mountains, smiling people, historic and popular cultural sites, incredible sunsets and the original “One Love”. Your travel agency will sell you the beach resort holidays – 7 days in the sun – beautiful? Yes. But there is so much more and I want to share it with you…
Now two weeks is not a long time – you can’t possibly see a whole island in two weeks, you can’t even see most of an island, but you can experience a great deal. If you’re discerning there is a “’ol ‘eap” to be found that appeals directly to you.
Me, being a beach lover and tropical connoisseur, and he, not really voicing an opinion, the coastal activities were where we were headed. I’ve heard great things about the Blue Mountains (coffee and scenery), Cockpit County (the rugged landscape), The Great Morass (swampy, and might appeal to Crocodile Dundee), but I’m not into hiking or getting dirty, so it was the more genteel pursuits I had in mind.
Best advice before I start – “Get a guide book and read it before you go.” You may then stand some chance of getting out and seeing something. I got teased mercilessly for buying mine a month in advance but I can say with a smug grin “It paid off” and he has apologized!
We get there. Long flight, and it is HOT!!! My perfectly straight hair, curls immediately. Don’t worry, I have a back up plan. Couple of hours having my hair braided on the beach, soaking up the atmosphere and learning to understand patois by a process of osmosis from Miss Ann who is pulling at my head. Hmm, cultural experience number one, two birds, one stone and all that – I have Brand New Hair!
A family break, with his parents who recently moved to Runaway Bay. Off to Negril… White sands, pretty hotel, warm sea, great food and reggae on the beach at night. All this spiced up with a spot of cliff jumping on the west side of town at “The Pickled Parrot” and a quick parasail, high above the ocean, easily arranged with the boat men who roam the beach. Perfect and romantic, he even wanted to stay another night to catch an extra sunset!
BUT, don’t get lulled into complacency, there is more to see…
On the drive back to Runaway Bay, a detour into the hills, and well off the tourist trail, we found Rocklands Bird Sanctuary where you can feed the humming birds with sugar water while they rest on your finger. A riveting experience even if you are not a wildlife fanatic, as long as you have patience!
Next stop, tourist heaven – Dunns River Falls. 600 feet of water cascading down rocks, interspersed with pools that you can bathe in. Equipped with rubber-soled shoes, we trek down to the beach, to start our climb from the bottom. We’ve timed it well, having arrived late, each green-blue pool is deserted as we reach it and there are no signs of the human chain snaking up the rocks that is pictured on the postcards.
And, for you girls: shopping. He, was actually quite understanding!
Now, I have to say that though they are widely available, t-shirts are not Jamaica’s only souvenirs. There are lots of craft markets, where, if you don’t mind the hassle or the haggling, with a good eye, you can spot some fantastic wood-carvings, shell jewelry and paintings. Of course each stall owner claims to be the original craftsman and the price is very dependent on you bargaining skills, but I felt that all of this only added to the charm of the experience and I came away with one or two great buys!
Jamaica is the native home of Mr. Marley and was adopted by Noel Coward, who saw the beauty of the island and wanted to be part of it, which brings me to their actual residences.
Nine Mile is Bob Marley’s birth and resting place and the tour, led by rastas who sing Bob’s songs throughout, tells of his childhood, achievements and beliefs. It allows you “the shelter of [his] single bed” and a slow walk through his mausoleum, a surprisingly spiritual experience.
Noel Coward’s home, Firefly is more notable for the spectacular views, but it also offers a look at his private rooms and time to study the photographs of his friends, amongst whom he counted many superstars of the1940’s.
A quick stop at Brimmer Hall, a working plantation, includes a tractor tour round the fruit orchards, a meander through the Great Hall and a guide who fills us in on the history and then on to Port Antonio.
Finally, my favourite: on the North East Coast, Port Antonio is a tropical paradise where we found deserted beaches, spent a lazy day at The Blue Lagoon where we ate the best Jerk Platter of the holiday, took a sea rafting trip and sunbathed at Frenchman’s cove, a beach renowned for the parties held there by the actor Errol Flynn. We stayed at a romantic hotel called The SanSanTropez, run by two Italians who have certainly been bitten by the Jamaica bug.
It must be said that traveling was made so much easier because we were with family and had a van. The good news is that Chef now runs Sunseekers Tours using this very same van and knows the best places because he did it all with us!
So that was our holiday, “nut-shelled” off course and even that wasn’t a quick read! It was an action-packed two weeks and if you think that whistle stop tour was too hectic and exhausting, you should come round and see the rest of the pictures!!!