Love it or hate it.
That’s Jamaica. You’re either all in or all out. There’s no middle ground.
Case in point. We no sooner hopped into our rental car and headed out of the airport on our way to Negril, than we got a little lost. Signage is practically non-existent even though everyone says “no problem mon”. So, we’re waiting at a light deciding which way to turn and a guy on a bicycle comes up to us and says “hey mon, I just saw you at the airport-are you lost? Where are you going? Follow me.” So he pedaled ahead of us ON A BIKE and directed us through downtown Mo Bay. And, at another light a guy walks past our car and says “hey- I just saw you at the airport-where are you going?” Guy #1 stopped to buy a paper and then said “let me hop in and I’ll get you on the highway” to which we politely said “no thanks we’ll find our way”. And we did. That’s Jamaica. Some people would be completely intimidated. For us, it was just a little scam which is played because of course they know we’re tourists, in a rental car, trying to find our way! And hey, everyone has to make a living!
So began our trip to Jamaica. We couldn’t wait to get out of Snowmaggedon also known as Boston. We’ve been all over the island. Yea mon, No Problem is the mantra. That, and Respect. Turn off your clock. Forget about time. If you don’t like waiting, if you have no patience, don’t go to Jamaica. But, If you love Jerk chicken and pork, white sand beaches, a cool vibe, a cold Red Stripe or a Ting, Bob Marley, Rasta culture, Blue Mountain Coffee, beautiful people, then Jamaica is for you!
Our destination this time was Negril. We rented a car which we now look at as not probably a great idea. Roy was a little bit challenged with right hand drive. Pot holes that could swallow a car- well maybe not swallow a car but definitely blow a tire, people walking on the road, no speed limit – I was screaming about potholes and was totally white knuckled for the entire trip. It was almost a divorce. But a great trip.
Arriving in Negril you have a choice – the beach or the cliffs. We’re cliff people. Past the all inclusives, the funky beach hotels on 7 mile beach, going around the roundabout in a direction you think is wrong which actually was the first time and then we had to go around again but that road takes you up to the West End and the cliffs and The Rock House.
We’ve been there 3 times. Starting back when the “villas” or bungalow’s were $160/night. Now we’re talking 3 times that. But, worth every penny. Once upon a time it was a well kept secret, now not so much. They’ve added villas, a pool, the spa, and have two great restaurants. The hotel restaurant overlooks the water and its a great way to see the sunset in a civilized manner. By that I mean you don’t have to go to Ricks. The other restaurant is The Pushcart. Very casual with music most nights, the food is outstanding. We stayed in three different villas. #12 because we arrived a day early due to a snow storm in Boston (surprise, surprise!); then we moved to #16 which I love. Hidden by vegetation which you look out on from your outdoor shower, a beautiful ocean view in front of you, individual sunbathing platforms – simple and perfect. There’s nothing better than listening to the ocean crashing on the rocks which it did because of a storm that came through one night. Our last night we stayed in a premium villa – #1. New, larger but close to the road and not as private. Still it was all good.
And this is where we parked ourselves for the week. Snow be damned. We couldn’t care less! Great food, drink, music, lots of sun and Scrabble, a great book and oh, a little ganja for someone. What else do you need in life? We totally vegged out. Something we don’t ordinarily do.
But that’s not to say we didn’t venture out; we did. We had a check list:
Spend a day on 7 mile beach – check: One day, down to the famous 7 mile beach for the day with it’s parade of people and vendors on the beach. A little music which I had to join, walking down the beach to Niah’s for a great handmade pattie for lunch with a Ting and a Red Stripe. An awesome day.
The best pattie in Negril-check: A pattie from Niah’s on the beach. Totally hand made including the pastry. How good does that look?
Supposedly the best jerk in Negril-check: everyone said it’s Ossie’s so that’s where we went for lunch one day. Simple and good but not great.
One night we went to 3 Dives, a funky outdoor restaurant down the road from the hotel. As I said if you have a problem waiting for your food, forget Jamaica. At 3 Dives, it was probably an hour before our food arrived. And don’t ask me how they found us. There seems to be no system but apparently there is because our food miraculously arrived! And, there was supposed to be music that night but there wasn’t. No problem, mon!
And, Roy needed to learn how to make Jamaican curry. So one day, chef Warren from The Rock House restaurant brought Roy into the kitchen and taught him how to make shrimp curry which was then served to us in a papaya for lunch. Yea Mon!!
One evening we were picked up late in the afternoon and driven to Zimbali, a retreat off the beaten path. Zimbali is the creation of Mark Swainback who is actually from Vermont. He was a commodities trader, got fed up and left for Jamaica where he had a vision and started a new life. Zimbali has 7 rooms, it’s a working farm and every evening he entertains abuot 20 people for dinner. Two chefs entertain and cook, wine is poured, there is drumming and it’s a generally great evening. Mark’s created something special, his wife runs the show and he has a precocious little girl named “Sol”. There’s no way you could find Zimbali by yourself, in the daylight or in the dark. Going back to civilization after dinner, thank god for the driver because we would have been lost in sugar cane fields forever!
So basically, that was our trip. Laid back. Until we heard that another storm was heading toward Boston. Well, that threw me right back into the real world. Everyone from Boston worrying about flights, storms, whether we would get home and me worried about Romeo and if he would have to stay at camp for another night. But, the plane took off. And right outside Boston the pilot came on over the loudspeaker and told us we’d be landing on “auto pilot” so please turn off all your electronics. And “Don’t Worry” , we’re right there and the auto pilot is better than we are! Okay then! That’s a good way of taking that laid back vibe away!
But we landed – all is well. Romeo is home and we’re looking forward to our next vacation – Cabo!
Here are a few more pictures from Jamaica:
We took an early morning walk one day and came upon this guy. I asked him if I could take his picture and he asked if I would take the picutre with his “product”. I said sure. So he fixed his hair, arranged his product and here’s the result. One of my favorite pictures of all times.
This is Barbara. She owns one of the little shops across from the hotel. She’s been there for over 20 years. I love her!!
View from The Rock House. What can I say!
So, see you at the bar……
What draws us to Turkey. This latest trip is our third time. Could it be the people? The food? The amazing coastline with turquoise blue waters that run from the Aegean down to the Mediterranean. It’s the cradle of civilization. Archeological sites galore if that’s what you like. Us, we like the beach clubs, the food, the shopping, the walking, meeting the people, taking in all the local action. We ddidn’t see one archeological site even though we weren’t too far from one big one.Read More
…..Lots of them on our road trip to Mendocino.
When I think of Mendocino I think of Dough Sahm and Sir Douglas Quintet and the song they made popular in the late 60′s…”Mendocino, Mendocino, where life’s such a groove you’ll blow your mind in the morning”. (Really, those are the lyrics-well it was the 60′s!). It’s just a little off the grid and still has that 60′s hippy vibe but also has some incredible retaurants and inns along the coast. It’s three and a half hours north of San Francisco which makes it a destination, not a day trip. It’s probably what Napa was 20 years ago. The historic or “hysteric” council depending on who you talk to, will not allow any development to deter from the town’s original look. No box stores, no chain stores, no Starbucks. For that you have to drive to the next town. Mendocino sits on the edge of the Pacific Coast and wherever you go whether it’s on the Big River, Route 128 or any of the other number of roads winding through the mountains, the natural beauty is everywhere.
So this sounded like somewhere we’d like to visit and we headed west for the long 4th of July weekend.Read More
We’ve been eating! I haven’t been posting but I’ve been eating. And, here are some great new finds:
Empire – at the Seaport. Wow! I can’t say enough. I’m still dreaming about the Lobster Cupcakes. They were outstanding. The hot and sour soup served in a big bowl, some Singapore noodles. All awesome. Great looking restaurant. Open kitchen with a sushi bar. Great bar. Lounge area where you can reserve seating. It has it all. In fact, we had to go back and weren’t disappointed the second time around.
Tryst – in Arlington. A wonderful little restaurant. We stopped there for dinner before a show at the Regent Theatre, spent almost 2 hours with some friends. At the table – a great bolognese, a perfect hamburger, some delicious epanadads and crispy calamri. A definite return to Tryst. They also own Cook in Newton. Tryst is small and it has a nice bar if you that’s your preference.
Row 34 – located in a warehouse space in Fort Point Channel brought to you by the people who own Island Creek Oyster Bar. So you know it’s probably going to be pretty good. And it is. Industrial looking, we sat at the bar (of course) and had a terrific bowl of clam chowder, some perfectly prepared fried clams and butterscotch pudding.
These are all restaurants worth revisiting.
Wait, T\there’s more on the way.
So, see you at the bar……
The Kentucky Derby – I got a hot tip. A sure winner. I never bet and rarely watch the Kentucky Derby but it sounded like fun thing to do – go to Suffolk Downs, do some people watching and bet on a few horses. So I did a quick study on the field, Roy did some studying on how to bet and with money in hand we went to Suffolk Downs with L and M and J and C who relied on us and our knowledge (they’re very trusting). We had a system. Roy would bet on the ones that weren’t favorites and I bet on three favorites including my sure thing. I had to bet on Wicked Strong because he had a Boston connection and a portion of the earnings are going to the One Fund; Intense Holiday, my sure thing; and, Riding on Curlin, another Boston connection. Well, they say that the favorite hardly ever wins but he won yesterday. Six of us betting and six of us lost! Oh well!Read More
I’m not a religious person but I think I found heaven. In fact, Peter one of the exceptional guides at Isla Palenque told me that he thinks he knows that if there is a God, he’s on Isla Palenque.
Where to go, where to go? That was this year’s dilemma for our winter vacation. When an email popped up about The Resort at Isla Palenque, a private island in the Chiriqui Province of Panama, we couldn’t book it fast enough. Why? A private resort with only 6 casitas, luxurious with all the amenities you could ask for, beaches, great food. How could we miss? Plus, with non-stop service from Boston on Copa Airlines, it was a great incentive to go to Panama. Done deal!Read More