Herein is part two of
the report on my recent vacation in Jamaica; the first part having been
emailed last Wednesday (05 February). When
we left off, Nicole Kelley and I had just scammed ourselves a free meal and
some drinks from the Goldeneye Resort, built around the hilltop Jamaican home
of Ian Fleming and where he wrote all the James Bond books. With the unknowing help of Clayton, the
Goldeneye concierge, we were about to continue the scam on Sandals Grande Riviera and the Royal Plantation.
and I had just met Rocco the personable general manager of the Grande Riviera
and Mark Starkey the GM of the next door Royal Plantation, when Rocco surprised
the hell out of us by calling in Lydia, the concierge, and asking
her to comp us as a guest for the
night, with all of the inclusive privileges.
Even Nicole was stunned. The
gesture was worth at least US$1,200.00, if not more.
that wasn’t enough, Mark proclaimed that we would be his guests for the second
night. All they asked for was to eventually
receive a copy of the book or series of articles that I would be writing on
their resorts. It looked like my work
was cut out for me.
my occasional journalism days with Reuters, I’ve always written my notes on 3 X
5 memo books. I had filled a complete book at Goldeneye and
it now looked like I would need some extra Memo Books for this assignment. Lydia promised to see that I had
plenty of such pads. With that, there
was nothing left but for Nicole and I to go to work.
Nicole had insisted that we take an overnight bag with us in case along the way
we might need to dress for dinner.
And, of course she included our swimsuits and other essentials. Nicole is one of those persons who think of
Lydia personally escorted
us to our room, which was on the Riviera
(Ocean) side as opposed to the Great House side. As I previously mentioned, the resort is
basically two resorts (separated by a functional roadway) and you take a free
resort shuttle which makes three stops (in a loop) to get to the other
side. The Great House side has a main pool, smaller (individual) room pools
(al la Mexico’s Las Hadas and Las Brisas), and larger rooms with butler
Riviera side has more restaurants and all the
water sports activities because it's on the ocean.
Our favorite water sport is scuba diving and grabbing our swimsuits
we wasted no time in rushing to the dive center in an attempt to make the final
boat of the day to the scuba dive site. Nicole
has her IDSA, level 3, “open water” certificate and was assigned by dive master
Richie to look after me. My PADI “scuba
diver” certificate was somewhat more limited.
Fortunately, both of us had the foresight to bring our plastic credit
card size certifications. With the dive
shop providing us with the necessary equipment, we took the boat out for the
last dive of the day.
The dive was 45 minutes in the water on a coral reef, and we saw
lots of big and little fish (I loved the ugly groupers). If you wanted, they would give you a spear to
catch lion fish (which the resort would cook for you a Kelly’s Dockside). This was a lot of fun and Nicole and I enjoyed
the experience immensely.
After returning to our room and a lengthy rest, we met Lydia who introduced us to the resort’s popular Oceanside restaurants; including The Manor House,
Valentino’s, China Doll, The Reef Terrace, Napoli’s,
Tepanyaki, and Kelly’s Dockside. After
showing us each venue and introducing us to those chefs in attendance, Lydia
left us to return to her concierge
duties; leaving the decision as where to eat up to us.
chose Valentino’s due to its gorgeous setting and Italian-Caribbean fusion dish
specialties; with everything cooked to order (from scratch) using only fresh
ingredients. We tried some fish
antipasti (imoscardini) and the mozzarella in carroza (fried mozzarella) which
were exquisite. For the main course we
both decided to go for the handmade tagliolini with porcini mushrooms, callaloo
and melanzane alla parmigiana. For
desert we ordered a handmade dessert with an authentic espresso ristretto. The flavoring was outstanding. Even though this restaurant is not part of
his group, Piero Selvaggio would have been proud.
we stopped by the Manor House where the chef poured us a rare Penfolds (Thomas
Hyland), South Australian premium (extra aged) Chardonnay which had enough oak
and tannins to make an impression, even when paired with red meat. To prove a point, the chef paired this
buttery wine with samples of his signature dishes: a coffee rubbed, smoked rib
eye BBQ roast (which cut like butter) and his coconut shrimp dish; proving that
there are chardonnay’s that will go with nearly everything. The
Sandals resorts are not known for Michelin three-star food, but Valentino’s and
the Manor House certainly qualify for the stars.
The nighttime entertainment at the amphitheatre was very
entertaining. We attended both nights we
were there. The performance reminded me
somewhat of the Rockin’ “R” Ranch in Mesa,
Arizona; talented musicians doing
what they do best. Also, the resort
doesn’t go into shutdown mode after dark.
Bars were open late and you don’t have to pay al cover charge to get
into a nightclub. And, of course, the
more restrictive dress code kicks in after dark. Although ties are not required, jackets are
encouraged at most venues.
next morning, after a breakfast consisting of a stuffed omelet (onion, green
peppers, mushroom, tomato, and callaloo (like a sweet spinach) and a stack of
banana pancakes, we headed for nearby Mystic Mountain and its Rainbow adventures;
including the popular one-man “Jamaican bobsled” ride.
the mere cost of US$89 each we elected to do the Sky Explorer (the chairlift
ride up and down the mountain), the one person bobsled ride, and what they call
the zip-line; similar to what I used to call bungee jumping.
the chairlift through the rain forest to the top of the summit, the first thing
we did was soak up the extraordinary view of Ocho Rios’ curving bay, first
glimpsed from the chairlift as it ascended through the canopy of flamboyant
At the summit you can enjoy a beverage or browse a few handmade
crafts booths along with watching some Jamaican dancers dancing to the
drums. There is a retail gift shop whose
prices were a few dollars more than what the gift shops charge at the port
where the Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships dock.
headed over and checked in at the zip-line shed, where we soon found ourselves
putting on the gear, with the assistance of the zip-line people. One couldn’t help notice the sign that stated
that no one younger than 14 or over 62 years of age was allowed to risk making
a full head of hair and little, if any gray, I’m often assumed to be in my late
fifties, instead of my actual age of 74; especially when seen with Nicole. But Nicole could see the fright in my eyes. However, instead of talking me out of making
the jump, she did her best to console me.
She knew that it was important to me that I kept up with her, although I
was at least 29 years her senior and in reality the task would prove impossible;
at some point be doomed to failure.
The Zip-line turned out to be fun. If you count the bounces, I think there were
6 zips and one 25' repel. I actually enjoyed the sweeping views of Jamaica’s mountains
from high in the forest canopy; zipping through the trees on up to 1,600 feet
(487 meters) of cables. But
then there’s the finish.
It only takes about 2 seconds to drop the 25 feet. The women only have time to get off one
scream. At the end I was so excited that
I contemplated doing it again, but then thought better of it.
was the Jamaican bobsled ride. The single
person roller-coaster-like cars quickly pick up speed, propelling riders on a
wild journey alone 3,280 feet of track; hurtling through the forest and
plummeting more than 300 feet down the mountain before finally coming to a
Mystic Mountain also has one of those ubiquitous water
slides that typically have teenage boys, with an overload of charging hormones,
standing on the sideline near the bottom of the run, waiting for the building
water pressure to whip off the bikini tops of the young women who may or may
not have known what to expect.
Returning to the Grande Riviera we were delighted to learn that
under the watchful eye of Mark (the manager of the neighboring resort to the
east), our overnight bags had been expertly packed and moved to our new room at
the Royal Plantation.
We were in suite
303 on the third floor, a king-size air-conditioned suite with a
fantastic view of the ocean and all the amenities, including the huge flat
screen, satellite TV screen. The Royal
Plantation is another of those wonderful boutique resorts, with only about 72
suites, instead of the hundreds of its neighbor to the west, the Grande
between the Royal Plantation and the Grande could not have been easier; a simple,
The Royal Plantation is a Butler Only Resort, which may take a
little getting used to. You have two
personal butlers that work in shifts and two beach butlers during the day also
working in shifts; the latter for all guests.
Our butlers, both young and attractive females (Romaine and
Shelley) were wonderful. There was a
cell phone in the room which we used to call and talk to the butler on duty
whenever we wished for something. The
butlers made it happen, acting as a concierge in making reservations at the
restaurants, taking care of the laundry, turning down the bed, or booking the
water sports, etc., even at the next door Grande. If you ordered room service, one of them delivered
the meals together with the adult beverages, and set everything up; lighting
the candles and pouring the French champagne.
Nicole has far more experience than I in dealing with this
accommodation, so I left dealing with the butlers to her. They followed her instructions to the
letter. Except for your personal
butlers, you’re not supposed to tip any of the staff, including at the
restaurants. Nicole and I didn’t think
it was fair and broke this rule many times throughout our stay in Jamaica.
the food at the Grande Riviera is hit or miss, Valentino’s and the Manor House being
a hit; according to the food connoisseurs we talked to, the food at the Royal
Plantation is consistently first class in every restaurant. So we decided to have lunch at the Royal
Grill and dinner at the highly rated French restaurant, Le Papillon (the
Butterfly); both highly recommended.
lunch at the Royal Grill, with memories of the tasting at the Manor House the
previous evening, Nicole went for the coconut shrimp and I had the Lobster
BLT. We accompanied this with the
outstanding chicken nuggets. For dinner
at Le Papillon, Nicole went for the rack of lamb while I settled for the fillet
steak with avocado butter; both terrific choices.
dessert we were visited by the executive chef.
Noticing the grilled duck listed on the menu, I mentioned that after
having twice eaten at The Fat Duck, Berkshire, UK, west of London, I had developed a fondness for the
meat when properly prepared. I merely
asked how he dealt with the layer of fat indigenous to the duck. The chef was impressed with my mention of the
Michelin 3-star Fat Duck Restaurant, always listed as one of the world’s top eateries. He dragged Nicole and I to the kitchen where
he showed us in detail how he prepared his grilled duck and chicken
after cutting the chicken and/or duck into two pieces; the breast and thigh
with leg-in, discarding the back and using the wings for another dish; using an
oversized pot, the chef marinates the meat overnight in a combination of water,
salt, chopped onions, herbs like rosemary and bay leaves, peppercorns and some secret
ingredients which reminded me of an episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins
and Dives. It doesn’t matter whether the
oversize pot is filled with duck, chicken or both. The next day the meat is removed from the pot
and the mixture sans the meat is brought to a boil. Before reintroducing the meat to the boiling
water, in the case of the duck, puncture wounds are carefully made in the skin
to allow the fat to ooze out during the boiling process.
the chicken and/or duck is reintroduced to the boiling water with all its added
ingredients, and the bubbles again become noticeable, the chef suggested
reducing the heat so that it is at a “simmer” which means that it is not
rolling at a boil but rather simply bursting a bubble every now and then on the
surface. Depending upon the size of the
meat boiling in the oversize pot, after approximately twenty minutes remove the
chicken and place on the grill. After
approximately 30 – 35 minutes do the same with the duck. Due to its larger bones, the duck will
naturally take slightly longer to cook.
Both meats will be slightly undercooked when removed from the oversized
here’s the trick – according to the Le Papillon, chef. Since grilling isn’t for the purpose of
cooking the chicken / duck, but merely to give it flavor, there is no hurry to
toss it on the grill. Instead, you can
do so as the orders come in; in the meantime keeping the cooked chicken / duck
in the fridge.
upon taste, at this stage a sauce may be introduced to be cooked into the meat
while over the grill. Or, instead, an
appropriate sauce may be applied to the chicken or duck while on the plate,
prior to serving. Regardlesw, the sauce
is always cooked from scratch. The Le
Papillon chef then told me to grill the chicken and/or duck until the meat
pulls away rather easily and that it is cooked inside with little if any trace
six weeks or so, when the weather warms up a bit, I will invite some food and
wine aficionados from Jackson, Wyoming, for lunch at a friends place (perhaps
the Liz Cheney-Perry home in Wilson) and try cooking this same dish, using their
Weber barbeque as the grill. My trusted
readers will receive a full report on the outcome.
dinner we wondered over to the Wobbly Peacock where Andre held court at the
piano bar. After a few drinks, we made
the transition to the Grande Riviera and the more lively entertainment at the amphitheatre.
the next morning (Saturday) we slept in; having a late breakfast at the Royal
Grill where we both ordered the tasty ackee and saltfish, a traditional dish,
known as Jamaica's
national dish. The ackee fruit was
imported to Jamaica from West Africa before 1778.
It is also known as Blighia Sapida.
The scientific name honors Captain William Bligh who took the fruit from
Jamaica to the Royal Botanic
Gardens in Kew, England in 1793 and introduced it
to science. Because parts of the fruit
are toxic, there are shipping restrictions when being imported to countries
such as the United States.
To prepare the dish, salt cod is sautéed with boiled
ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers (optional), tomatoes, and spices,
such as black pepper and pimiento. It
can be garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes, and is usually served as
breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried,
fried plantain, or boiled green bananas.
It’s the Caribbean
version of an omelet.
checked out early, having decided to have lunch in Montego Bay before heading
south along the west coast of Jamaica
to our resort at Negril.
check out, we were told by both the Grande Riviera and the Royal Plantation that
in addition to some premium adult beverages (heavily discounted) all we only owed
was the equivalent of the Jamaican room taxes, which are substantial, especially
when compared to the Bahamas
and the United States.
As we were told from the beginning, comping a room doesn’t relieve the resort
owner from paying the outrageous room tax.
If a room is occupied, taxes are due.
But the resorts are happy to pay it in exchange for all the courtesies extended
by the Jamaican government.
11:00 a.m. we were in the Mustang, heading westward to Montego
Bay. We didn’t mention our
luncheon plans to anyone lest they might have a compulsion to phone ahead and
arrange for a free lunch. We felt guilty
enough as it was.
checking with her Smartphone, Nicole suggested we have lunch at the Port Pit,
near Fletcher beach in Montego Bay, a down to
earth fast food style barbeque joint that offered all of the Isle’s succulent
grilled meals. It turned out to be an
The bustling eatery is almost always jam
packed with hungry beach goers who deserted their beach towels to enjoy a
hearty grilled lunch and many tourists munching on succulent jerk pulled pork
or spicy jerk chicken. Non meat eaters
need not fret because they also have grilled seafood. Side options include salads, fries, baked yam,
corn on the cob, or baked potato. They
also offer soda and local beer for drinks as well as combo set meals with
Jamaican wines. There are several tables
indoors by the counter and the building is also surrounded by picnic
I enjoyed the jerk pulled pork while Nicole
chose the jerk chicken. Jamaican cooking
uses a lot of spices and the culmination of their fiery and flavorsome
potential is jerk sauce. A mixture of
island-grown seasonings like Scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, cinnamon and
nutmeg are dry-rubbed on meat which is then traditionally roasted, sometimes
for hours, over pimento wood. Any meat
can be jerked, but chicken is the favorite, and Jamaican chicken is unlike any
you’ll find in the States. Chickens
raised in the Caribbean are fed on locally
grown foods rather than the typical imported grain, which results in a
deliciously richer taste. If ever in Jamaica, try
the sweet and spicy meat with a piece of hard-dough bread for a traditional
We debated whether or not to take in some
of the tourist sights in and around Montego Bay
and have dinner, before heading down the west coast to Negril and our resort,
The Caves. Recalling the caution of the
Avis rental agent who insisted that while it was perfectly safe to drive the
roads during the say, at night we might be subject to car jacking and robbery,
if not worse. He was looking at Nicole
when he added the “if not worse.” We
elected to take in some of the sights but not stay for dinner.
I don’t recall why we chose the Half Moon
known locally as Chukka Blue, but again it was an inspired decision. Located a
few miles west of Montego Bay, without booking in advance, we showed up at the
Center and put ourselves in the hands of Trina, who suggested the beach ride at
Sandy Bay; called “swimming with the
being thrown from one of Liz Cheney’s broncos, back in August, I admit to being
somewhat apprehensive about climbing back on a horse. After that incident, I was stiff for
months. But I need not have
worried. Although all the horses were
healthy and strong, they were extremely well trained and people friendly.
The Horseback Ride N’ Swim staff of 18
includes the best-trained and fully certified guides who not only know the
horses but also specialize in matching their personalities to those of the
riders. There are two different types
of horses: thoroughbred and quarter
horses, each flanked with their own caretakers.
The equipment is top line, including military, English and Western type
saddles. They also provide life jackets
during the “swim” aspect of the ride.
The horseback tour takes about 1 hour and
45 minutes to two hours and 45 minutes; depending upon whether you return from
the swim on horseback or take the shuttle.
The actual swim with the horses lasts approximately 12 to 15 minutes and
is the thrill of a lifetime.
Our group consisted of me, Nicole and six
other tourists from the cruise ship docked at the Port of Falmouth,
one hour away. Three guides were
assigned to the group. Nicole and I
were in the back of the pack and out guide, Tony, was very informative,
entertaining and attentive. He continually kept
up a running commentary and made sure we were riding safely up and down the
hills by making sure we were leaning forward/legs back or leaning back/legs
forward when necessary.
Being able to see the countryside was awesome – Tony pointed out
local flowers and fauna as we rode across a seemingly peaceful valley, hills
and a small stream. We even rode through
a shanty town of very friendly people ... it was a very interesting day – and
an eye opener! People were poor but
seemed to be in good spirits.
rode through a pasture and up and down some hills on dirt paths. The ride lasted about an hour before arriving
at Sandy Bay.
At the water’s edge we dismounted to get ready for the ocean ride;
switching horses for the ones that swam in the
sea! It was exhilarating...the horses
actually swim. I was told by Toney that for
this part of the tour they only choose the horses that love the water.
The saddles used in the water are different from the ones used
on land; although you have the choice of riding bareback if the guide agrees
that you’re a good candidate. After
convincing Tony that I was an excellent swimmer and showing him my PADI
Certificate, I was declared a good candidate.
The horses were so docile and well-behaved. We had about 10 minutes to change into our
swimsuits and drop off our shoes (closed toed shoes are required for the
horseback riding). While I wore long
sleeves and long pants, many in the group simply wore bathing suits or shorts
and were fine. No problems with tree
branches or insects.
changing into my swimming suit, I wore my old Nike Air Jordan 5 Retro sneakers out
to the mounting area where we mounted up. I took off my seldom used (like-new) sneakers and
left them on the elevated berm and rode in the water barefoot. The swim lasted less than 15 minutes during
which I found myself sliding off my horse’s back and hanging onto his tail in
water over my head – and loving every moment.
The horses (obviously used to
this game) cooperated and remounting in water over your head was easy.
are bathrooms and lockers at the swim site and you can purchase jerk chicken
and rum punch while waiting for the shuttle to take you on the eight to ten
minute ride back to the Equestrian
Center, where our Mustang
was parked. Or, if you prefer, you can
ride one of the horses back with the guides.
By this time, most choose the shuttle.
At US$79 per person it’s a real bargain (I
believe children receive a discount) and you have to be at least 6 years of
age. I should caution, however, there is
a weight limit. They prefer riders
weighing 220 pounds or less. However
they make exceptions for height. At 6
ft. 1 inch, I weighed in at 227 (fully dressed with sneakers) and I was
welcome. Because of my weight, however,
I was assigned a thoroughbred. Mounted
atop the horse, I could not help but feel the power beneath my legs. It was thrilling and exiting at the same
Nicole and I made it back to the Caves
Resort in time to sit and watch the spectacular sunset from the balcony of our
Moon Shadows cottage, while sipping chilled Veuve Clicquot (gladly paying the
extra charge for premium beverages).
Unlike Goldeneye, Grande Riviera and the Royal Plantation, there is
only one restaurant at The Caves. All
meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) are prepared in one massive kitchen
and then served at various locations, including in your room, or in one of the
many romantic caves. Exhausted by the
past two day’s activities, we chose the room service.
We decided to go native and ordered mostly
the real Jamaican fare no fancy fusion attempts. We shared the curry goat, jerk chicken, roast
lamb; with a large snapper, fried calamari, lettuce, tomato, callaloo, and
green pepper salad; with a local (very tasty) dressing. Everything was Michelin 3-star quality. We washed it all down with one of the vast
selection of Caribbean wines (red and white) found
in our refrigerator (not a mini bar, but a full size fridge).
After an early breakfast the next day, Sunday,
we hooked up with Paul for some kayak and snorkeling. As I mentioned earlier, for some reason I find
it much easer to get around in water than on land. I guess that’s why I love scuba diving so
much. It’s certainly not has hard on the
body as snorkeling. Like Skiing,
snorkeling burns up a lot of calories and truly tends to whip one into shape.
In our kayaks, Paul guided us into some partially
water filled caves (that reminded me of the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri) and
pointed out marine life you wouldn’t normally see. Emerging from the caves, feeling somewhat
invincible, even as exhausted as I was, I couldn’t wait to make another jump
from the Clift; which I did.
Nicole checked her iPhone and learned that
the Super Bowl kickoff was scheduled for around 6:30 p.m. EST (also Jamaican
time); considering our evening plans, not a particularly good time for us. So, using a 4-hour tape, she set the Magnavox
VHS / DVR to record the Fox Sports Channel, HD Satellite transmission on a
tape; where we could run it back and forth upon viewing at a more convenient
time. Naturally, we were rooting for
different teams; I for the Broncos and Nicole for the Seahawks.
instead of viewing the game live, we enjoyed happy hour at nearby Rick’s Café;
after which we would have dinner at the Three Dives, a non tourist restaurant
catering only to locals.
Café is within walking distance of The Caves.
However, since we had a car, we drove.
Rick’s is one of those so-called tourist- traps but can be fun if you
get there ahead of the tourists. Voted as the Best Happy Hour by Caribbean Travel + Life readers, Rick's
Cafe is a Negril Cliffside classic for two reasons: the island's best sunset
views outside of The Caves, itself, and the breathtaking daily performances of
daredevil divers, who plunge from heights of up to 100 feet into the turquoise
you’ve ever witnessed the La Quebrada cliff (professional) divers of Acapulco
make one of their 125 foot jumps into an average dept of 12 feet (depending
upon the waves), then you can begin to appreciate what these Jamaican divers
sipped rum drinks and watched the local daredevil divers until happy hour was
over and then, before the tourists began arriving, we headed over to the Three
Dives Restaurant where we each ordered the restaurant’s signature dish, the
lobster and curried goat with red bean/rice and
callaloo. Pardon the cliché but as Nicole always says, it
was to die for.
was a bonfire by the cliff, which definitely makes it a potentially romantic
setting. The place itself looks quite
shabby, but it is remarkably clean; including the kitchen and restrooms.
Lloydie, the owner also creates a mean chicken jerk that
is cooked so good it falls off the bone. His wife Paula prepares the red bean/rice and
callaloo to perfection. Time permitting,
Paula and Lloydie sit and share time with you.
Nicole speaks (and reads) fluent Spanish, as well as
French and German, and we were treated like locals. This has to be the most relaxing restaurant
in the entire world. I understand that you
can even stop by just to chat. It was a truly memorable experience on our
last night in Jamaica.
interest in cooking had me studying the Three Dives chef as he whipped up
various indigenous dishes; including the following:
Escoviche: The bountiful seafood of the island, whether its snapper,
kingfish or grouper, is often cooked in a style known as “escoviching.” The fish is marinated in vinegar, onions and
spices for a dish that preserves and brings out the taste of the ocean-fresh
fish. It tastes better than it sounds,
and the longer it marinates, the better.
Think of escoviche-style fish as an ultra-fresh seafood cocktail, with
extra Jamaican kick.
Rice and Peas: Don’t
be fooled by the name. The “peas” in the dish are typically red beans, though
any legume can be used. Rice and peas
are a mainstay of the Jamaican diet, and as you can probably expect, there’s
more than meets the eye. The extra
Jamaican twist to rice and peas is that they are simmered in fresh coconut
milk, making a creamy, sweet side dish with a tropical taste. Peppers and other spices kick it up an extra
notch, and combine with the sweet coconut to make a traditional side that’s
pleasing to the tongue in multiple ways.
probably seen plantains at the grocery store and been perplexed: What’s with the big, green bananas? The sweet and starchy fruit has to be cooked
to be palatable, but once it is served piping hot, it’s a delicious side dish
to any spicy Jamaican meal. Often fried,
then topped with butter and salt and pepper, the plantain is much like a tropical
sweet potato. You can also find them
sold by themselves as a substantial snack; their gooey richness makes them
delicious at mealtimes or in between.
gizzada is the Jamaican version of a pastry, and it rivals any European dessert
with its decadent sweetness. Found in
bakeries, restaurants, and at food stands, the gizzada is a tart shell filled
with butter, fresh sweetened coconut, ginger and nutmeg. It's crunchy and gooey at the same time, and
you’ll be glad that the majority of Jamaican food is made up of veggies and
fresh fish. You can afford to indulge in
a pastry or two … or three.
Fresh Fruit: You can’t sample
Jamaican food without tasting its best natural resource: fruit. Don’t expect dull apples and oranges,
though. In Jamaica you have the chance to
sample exotic and unusual fruits, fresh from the tree that you’d never find at
home. Try a ripe paw-paw, a sweetsop, a
star apple or a guinep. Even the fruits
you’ve heard of are better on the island: juicy pineapples, lush tangerines and
mangoes in shapes and sizes you’ve never seen before. Even if you’re not normally a big fruit
eater, you won’t be able to stop yourself from indulging in these sweet,
Coffee: If you’ve seen Blue
Mountain coffee at your local
coffee shop, you may have been shocked at the price. That high cost is because the coffee beans
grown in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica are among the best in the
entire world. Known for its smooth,
non-bitter taste, the cup of Blue Mountain coffee you drink in Jamaica will be
one that is at the height of its freshness.
What a way to start your day on the island!
A final observation on Jamaican food. You
have to try jerk chicken, of course, plus the Tastee patties, the Blue Mountain
coffee and so much more. If you have to
pick one place to sample everything, try Negril. The cuisine reflects the national motto, 'Out
of Many, One People.' Almost every plate reflects the island’s rich cultural
tapestry. The Spanish, first to conquer,
left behind escovitch and other vinegary marinated dishes. From the English came the patty, the Jamaican
turnover inspired by the English pasty.
The Maroons, former slaves, cooked over open fires, contributing to the
birth of jerk cooking over allspice wood.
Then there is curry, brought by West Indian indentured laborers, and
Rastafarian ital cuisine — totally vegetarian, devoid of salt and extremely
flavorful. This is why someday, the good
Lord willing, I plan to return to Negril. "
If you’re planning on spending any time on
the isle of Jamaica,
be sure and try as many of these specialties as you can. It won’t be a chore, but an exciting culinary
adventure. From the fiery spices to the
juicy tropical fruits, your tongue will be doing a reggae dance, Jamaican-style.
at our resort, The Caves, I suggested we take a stroll on one or more of the
property’s lighted trails. There was
something I needed to discuss with Nicole.
alone one of the lighted paths and listening to the waves crash against the
limestone cliffs, I once again broached the subject of our age difference (29
years) and once again she didn’t want to hear about it. Nevertheless, I persisted. I pointed out that while the relationship
worked great when I was only 48 and even into my fifties and perhaps early
sixties, it was doomed now that I was in my mid seventies. She needed to find someone her own age.
that she had no complaints, I suggested that such was because, for the past
decade, we only occasionally saw each other that those hookups were under idyllic
circumstances similar to that which we were currently experiencing.
told her that while she had no complaints now, the time was nearing when a beautiful,
spry young woman of her age would; and that perhaps it was best to end the
relationship now while all the
memories were positive. I told her that
I had some lady friends nearer by own age; one of which I was thinking of
asking to settle down with me for whatever time we had left.
didn’t appear to be particularly put-off by my suggestion. After all, we have had this conversation
before. That said, ever time she calls,
it’s like Homer and his reaction to the singing Sirens-of-the caves in the
Odyssey. He knows they are dangerous and
that he should put wax in his ears, but they are so enchanting that he cannot
Super Bowl game had concluded when we returned to our cottage. Nicole rewound the tape and, sipping chilled
Veuve Clicquot, by fast forwarding the tape we watched the nearly four hour game
including halftime highlights in slightly under two hours.
you know, the Sea Hawks humiliated the Broncos.
Even though I bet on the Broncos, I wasn’t upset since I’m from Washington and greatly
admire the Seahawks. Although I still
found the game exciting, I just wish it hadn’t been such a rout. Nicole loved the halftime show with Bruno
Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers while I couldn’t help reflecting on last year’s
halftime performance by Beyoncé Knowles.
Both shows were visually spectacular.
I guess it’s just that I prefer Beyoncé’s spectacular thighs to a
shirtless Red Hot Chili Pepper.
next morning, Monday, after the traditional omelet and banana pancake breakfast
(with a large, spicy German style sausage thrown in), we headed for the airport
at Montego Bay. Without the usual passionate goodbye kiss;
obviously to needle me a bit for the previous evening’s lecture, Nicole caught
her direct flight to JFK. Forty minutes
later, I caught a Delta flight to Atlanta; where
I changed planes for a flight to Phoenix and
eventually on to Salt Lake City and finally Idaho Falls. At the Idaho
Falls airport parking lot, late at night, I found my
car was covered with 10 inches of snow.
The sight made me long for another week in paradise. The previous five nights just went too
phoned to tell me that despite the balmy temperature the day before (Super Bowl
Sunday) her Mercedes (in the long term parking lot) was covered with 5 – 6 inches. JFK was closed in the morning but opened up
in time for her Jet Blue flight to land on time.
the proverbial genie in the lamp were to grant me my third and final wish it would
be that all my many friends and relatives still with us would have the
opportunity to grab such an experience, while it’s still possible. But be aware, despite the discounts and
airfare credits, it’s not cheap; and if you refrain from adult beverages, an
all exclusive resort is not for you.
make sure to use your credit card for purchases when possible. While most tourist restaurants and sights
post prices in Jamaican dollars, US dollars, the EURO, and English pounds, the
cash exchange rate is usually 1 USD to JMD 700.
Your credit card will likely give you an exchange rate at or in excess
of 1 USD to JMD 707.15. This can add up
depending on the amount of purchases.
average all inclusive Jamaican resort cost is US$825 per person, per night,
depending upon the accommodations and length of stay. But there are tremendous discounts for stays
exceeding seven nights and even more for stays exceeding 10 nights; the latter
of which can offer discounts of as much as 50% - 65%. A 12 night (14 day) visit can be had for as
little as USD 330 or less (per person, per night) and a reimbursement of from $250
- $355 on airfare, depending upon resort, accommodations and time of year.
stays of 4 nights or less, generally, full rates apply. And rates do not include side tours or
premium wines and other expensive adult beverages; nor do stays of 5 nights or
under include airfare discounts. While
Nicole and I did not receive any airfare reimbursement, we did get a fairly
decent rate for our five night stay at The Caves.