Outside In Jamaica

The following represents random observations based on the 50+ days I’ve been lucky enough to spend in Jamaica so far. Hmmm…. What should I mention first?

– The prettiest women in the world live in Jamaica. (My wife lets me say this)

– Jamaica is friendlier and more real than America.

I feel safer in downtown Kingston than in downtown Memphis, Tennessee… Of course, a person can get in trouble anywhere on the planet, but by and large the island is full of people looking to be of service, for a small fee. Learn to negotiate and you’ll do fine.

Street hagglers are easy to spot as they come flapping your direction. Instead, find a vendor with a street cart and buy a Red Stripe buried deep in the ice. You’ll never taste anything better on such a hot day.

Port Antonio is the place to stay if getting away is what you crave. You can be Bruce Willis and not be hassled on the street. Accommodations surrounding the town range from simple beach houses to the royal trappings of the Jamaica Palace. Swimming pool in the shape of Jamaica, pink marble floors, chandeliers and antique furniture in every room. If that isn’t enough, all beef served in the dining room was raised on Errol Flynn’s own cattle ranch, still maintained by his widow. Swashbuckling beef! The hotel’s official beach is Frenchman’s Cove, where many of the scenes for Brooke Shield’s Blue Lagoon were filmed.

Down the road from Port Antonio lies Boston Bay, inventors of Jerk spicy cooking and the finest roast beast ever cooked in an outdoor pit. This is the holy grail of bar-b-que and a taste experience you’ll never forget.

Montego Bay is the place to immerse yourself in Jamaican stereotypes… They really do close off Glouchester and dance in the street, just as the song sez… It’s also hustler training grounds (not everything in dredlocks is a Rasta) and the ideal place to go only if you like lots of tourists mixed in with your native settings. However, there are a LOT of opportunities for adventure in the outlying areas if you find a local you feel is trustworthy to guide you. I often looked to cab drivers for this service, working out a daily rate with them ahead of time.

Ocho Rios was one big wave of food and drink and merriment, courtesy of one all inclusive hotel known as Boscobel. While the experience was enjoyable, in a Roman orgy sort of way, it bore no resemblance to the real Jamaica. My wife and I headed away from the amenities and visited locals on the mountain side on the third day. Now, THAT’s when I started enjoying myself! Jamaica is really best seen while traveling across the island by one route or another. I’ve traveled from Kingston to Port Antonio via two methods… Along the coast road and across the Blue Mountains. Both trips were hot, long and breath taking. Another route, between Kingston and Montego Bay, takes you through the center of the island and into a magical place called Fern Gulley. In that small area of parkland, more varieties of ferns grow than in any other place in the world. The views through this area reminded me of Edgar Rice Burrough’s descriptions of the escarpment where Tarzan lived. Finally, there is the experience of thrilling your way across the island, between MoBay and Kingston, flying in a small commuter plane over what all the maps call “Cockpit Country.” So named because the only way you’ll ever see it is by plane. Have not yet been to the west side of the island, including Negril, so nothing to report from there… Yet!

So much to say about Jamaica…. So few words that really say it well… When in Kingston eat lunch at Heather’s for class and Chelsa’s for the best jerk in town… Get some Tasty brand Patties for the best in Jamaican fast food… Anytime a tradesman puts his hands below the counter, check what he’s preparing for you again. I once had a pound of the finest Jerk pork in life vanish into bones, fat and suet when I reopened the sack back in my hotel. Much more to tell, including a hotel by hotel rundown, but that’s enough for now…Steve