Last year this time, I had received my press accreditation for Jamaica Jazz and Blues, a 3 night concert series held in Trelawny, Jamaica. Shortly after, I was notified that I had won a Jamaica Jazz and Blues VIP trip for two. I was already in Jamaica at the time and brought down one of my good friends, Tequila, for her very first trip to Jamaica (which turned into 1 of 4 for the year).
Tonight is the first night of the 3 day festival. In between conference calls and other work, I’m tidying up my apartment and packing my bags for the weekend. But instead of my black skinny jeans, cute tops and wedges, I’m throwing in my swimsuits, slippers and a huge appetite. Why?
Because Portland’s calling…
I can’t believe that I’ve been on the island for 2 months and haven’t set foot in my favorite parish yet. I’ve been so wrapped up in all of the events, activities and hangout with friends in town and just never got around to it.
Well today, I’m changing that.
In a few hours I’ll be packing up the Corolla I picked from Island Car Rentals and heading off to my piece of paradise on the island instead of Jazz and Blues.
I don’t have any concrete plans as yet or quite know where I’m staying (likely Match Resortor Great Huts), but my tummy is ready for a full house veggie burger from Woody’s and some jerk chicken sausage from Little David’s in Boston Bay. I see a good bit of beach lounging in my immediate future too. And, if I feel up to it, maybe a return trip to Bath for a nice relaxing mud massage. Lord knows I could use it. (Check out a clip from last time below)
Whatever the heck I end up doing, know that I’ll be enjoying/savoring/relishing/devouring every moment.
All of you going to Jazz, have a blast and tell Romain Virgo I said wah gwaan!
January 30, 2013 No Comments
Since my first conversation about the Jamaica Epicurean Escape with event producers, my mouth had been watering and my tummy ready! Two days of food from hotels, chefs, catering companies and restaurants all over the island converged in one venue to show us their stuff — a foodie’s paradise!
Well the day finally arrived and I was not disappointed. The event was held at Richmond Estate and big open lot about 15 minutes from Ocho Rios in Priory and was divided into 3 main areas, The Epicurean Village, The Luxury Pavilion and the Youth Village.
The Youth Village, as the name implies, was open for kids ages 6 – 14 and offered games, rides and entertainment as well as culinary demonstrations for the budding chefs.
The Epicurean Village hosted most the main attractions including the stage for cooking demonstrations and performances. Vendors in this area represented a wide range of tastes from all over island, including tradition “yaad style” food, international fares and organic and vegetarian options.
And last, The Luxury Pavilion housed the gourmet tasting stations and luxury lounge. The plush tents were tastefully decorated with comfortable seating when you needed a break from walking and sun and was the perfect shelter when the rain started to come down hard on the first night.
Here are some of my Jamaica Epucurean Escape favorites
I guess you can say I have somewhat of a major sweet tooth and after searching the booths for cupcakes and coming up empty handed, I had to go with the next best option. Ms. had her chocolate chip s’more cookies and lemon cookies to sample. Both were amazing, but the s’more cookies really hit the spot, so much so that I ordered a couple dozen for the holidays. Amazing!! Can’t wait to sample some of their other creations.
If you are Kingston, you can place an order for delivery. The Gourmet Cookie Shoppe will also ship. Please inquire for pricing.
June Plum Restaurant – I just happened to be staying at the Mystic Ridge Resort during JEE, but hadn’t sampled their food before hitting up the festival. It was quite a nice surprise and entre of what’s to come as I enjoyed my meals for the remainder of my stay.
Website: www.mysticridgejamaica.com/dining.php| Phone: 876 - 974 -9831 or 618 – 1998
The Dutchie in Kingston
My selection from the Dutchie was simple. Fried chicken with stamp and go (salt fish fritters) with a mango chutney. The food was flavorful, but what stood out was the presentation. I don’t think I’ve ever had stamp and go that looked this neat and wasn’t extra oily and messy.
As if the food, wine and spirits weren’t enough, each night closed with several cultural and musical acts including Ms. Patti LaBelle and Chronixx.
Overall it was a great event and I’m looking forward to returning next year!
Jamaica Epicurean Escape Info/Details:
Website: jamaicaepicureanescape.com | Date: TBD | Location: Richmond Estate, St. Ann, Jamaica (just west of Ocho Rios)
December 31, 2012 No Comments
Four years ago, this is what the Lumley family did. It started with their loved one, who is a resident at the Golden Age Home. What began as a family gathering quickly grew into a feast for a large group of the community to enjoy! This Christmas I had the opportunity to join them in spreading a little Christmas cheer.
Here’s how I spent Christmas in Jamaica
We arrived at the Golden Age home in Vineyard Town right at 12:30pm to a mostly empty courtyard in Cluster F. I joined the on duty nurses and other volunteers who were setting the tables for dinner. Slowly, the courtyard began to come alive with residents and in no time, each distinct personality began to shine through.
Dinner started with soup and rolls and then continued on to the main course: ham and chicken, mac and cheese, rice and peas, salad, mixed veggies, pumpkin and fruit cake for dessert. It all smelled, looked and tasted amazing. And judging by the empty plates, I’d say that was the general consensus. Shouts out to the chef, Ms. Lumley, who prepared the meal.
After dinner came the gifts. Many, many thanks to Stephanie of Delusional Divas and Cindy who made monetary contributions that went towards the purchase of handheld radios (and batteries), dominoes and a myriad of personal items for each resident. It was so much fun to watch everyone open their gifts and put them to use right away.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend my day with this amazing group of seniors and volunteers. In between serving food, cleaning up and passing out gifts, I had a chance to sit and talk with some of the residents who were all appreciative, not only for the food and gifts, but for the time and conversation. I made two special friends, Ms. Gibbs and Ms. Robinson, who vowed to keep me in their prayers and asked me to write to them when I return home. I think I can handle that and plan to return to visit them again in a few weeks!
December 27, 2012 1 Comment
Typically on a Sunday when I want to go to the beach, I head to Hellshire. Though it can be a bit loud and and kinda crowded and obnoxious, I still love it! People watching, a nice dip in the sea, fresh fried fish from Prendy’s or a million other little beach side shops — all make for an interesting beach experience. This past Sunday, however, I decided to meet up with some friends and head to Lime Cay for the first time.
There was quite a bit of work I needed to finish, but I’m glad I headed to beach instead. It felt good to laze around in the sun, take a quick dip in the warm waters and watch the Caribbean Airlines planes land in the distance at Norman Manley Airport. Lime Cay is really small and doesn’t have a lot of beach, but thankfully it didn’t get too crowded. Vending is also prohibited which help cut back on a lot of excess traffic.
The only negative was stepping on a sea urchin (or sea egg as Jamaicans call them). Someone was nice enough to offer to urinate on it for me to help. So sweet (NOT), but I passed. It didn’t hurt too bad and I think I was able to pull a few of the spikes out of my foot and was good to go.
After a relaxing day on the beach, we packed up our things and headed back Port Royal for dinner at Gloria’s. It had been over a year since I had been to Gloria’s and things have changed a bit. Instead of just seating on the road under the tent, they’ve built up a nice little dining area above the kitchen with nice views of the sea and Port Royal.
Tips for Lime Cay Beach and Port Royal
What to bring:
Whatever you need for the beach: towels, sun screen, toy/games, camera, snacks, drinks. Vendors are prohibited, but you may get lucky and have 1 selling cold drinks. Otherwise, you’ll be taking the boat ride back into town to get sustenance.
Getting to/from Lime Cay:
From Downtown Kingston, we took the 98 bus ($80 JA) to Port Royal and got off at the first stop, after the airport, which dropped us right in front of the Y Knot Bar.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own boat (or a friend with one), you can catch a quick ride (10-15 minutes) over to Lime Cay for $1000 JA (round trip), just inquire with the persons at the bar.
By the time we finished dinner, night had fallen and we headed back to the main road to catch the bus back into town. There’s no real set schedule for the bus, but we were told the last pick up is around 9:30pm with pickups approximately ever hour. so be mindful if you aren’t driving or don’t have a driver.
Dining at Gloria’s:
If you are reading the Lonely Planet Guidebook, you’ll probably see 2 Gloria’s referenced. They are two about a 5 minutes walk apart. The guidebook mentions a difference in price, but there isn’t anymore. Same name, same owners, same price, same menu and same food, just a different location.
The food is great, but it will take FOREVER to get your food, like over an hour. Two hours is not unheard of. You’ve been warned. LOL While we waited (and waited) for dinner to be served, Jono and I walked around Port Royal to snap some photos while the others chatted at the table.
December 20, 2012 No Comments
Models and fashion lovers alike walked the red carpet during this evening of fun, food and fashion.
I got a last minute invite from a friend and joined the photographers from the Gleaner and other local media houses to snap some of the arrivals on the red carpet before putting the camera away and enjoying the night.
Saint International Presents: Color Me High Fashion 2012
One of the highlights for the night was meeting one of Jamaica’s top gourmet chefs, Chef Brian Lumley, Chef de Cuisine. In addition to his charming personality and 1000 watt smile, Chef Lumley has an impressive list of accolades including being named Chef of the Year (twice) and commissioned by the Embassy of France to be the personal chef to the French Ambassador. In 2010, he and his younger sister, Stephanie, founded Foodie Focused Limited and have been bringing good food straight to the masses via events like Foodie’s Lyme and Budding Chefs. I’m looking forward to volunteering with them for the Annual Seniors’ Christmas Dinner (more on that here).
Over all it was a great night. I mean who can argue with being surrounded by hot Jamaican male models?!? Not I! And it felt good not being the skinniest person and getting 5 thousands comments about how tiny I am. Now if I can just find who took those pics of me on the red carpet with the models…
Saint International is an innovator in the fashion scene in Jamaica and the Caribbean. They are responsible for events such as Fashion Face of the Caribbean, Style Week Jamaica, Fashion Block (Mobay) and Model Icon and have groomed Jamaican models for the world wide stage. On December 14th, they will be holding a model call in Kingston, Jamaica. For more information, follow them on Facebook.
December 13, 2012 No Comments
When friend’s got word of Sam’s first trip to Jamaica, they insisted he make a stop to climb Dunn’s River Falls.
Now I know many die hard Jamaica lovers out there will dismiss Dunn’s as too “touristy” and have a list of other places they recommend including Somerset Falls, YS Falls, Reach Falls and more. I get it. My first Dunn’s River experience was with a wedding party of about 35. We held hands as we climbed up the falls and took turns, one by one, taking photos and experiencing the hidden surprises of the falls. Not exactly my preferred way to experience a day at the falls, but it’s a beautiful landmark non-the-less and can still be a lot of fun.
Not one to deprive Sam of his first Jamaican falls experience, we made a pit stop at Dunn’s on the drive down to Kingston. Here’s his experience via photos!
Have you been to Dunn’s River Falls? How’d you like it?
Dunn’s River Falls & Park Contact Information
Dunn’s River Falls & Park Operating Hours
Daily: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Cruise Ship Days: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Dunn’s River Falls & Park Pricing
Non-Resident Adults – US$20
Non-Resident Children (4-10 years) – US$12
Resident Adults – J$600
Resident Children (4-10 years) – J$300
Sam Visits Jamaica: 1 2 3
August 29, 2012 No Comments
As much as I love and in most cases prefer solo travel, it’s always nice to have a familiar face around, especially on longer trips. I was lucky to have Sam, the homie from LA, come down for his first visit to Jamaica and our very first villa vacation experience. Here’s how it went down…
Fresh off a business trip in Miami, I met Sam, dressed in his usual all black everything, at Sangster International Airport. We picked up the rental, a silver Toyata Yaris, from Island Car Rentals and hit the road. Fifteen minutes later we arrived in Ironshore, a more upscale Montego Bay neighborhood lined with huge vacation homes, private residences and villa rental properties. I maneuvered our little Yaris up a steep, windy driveway to our home for the next few days, Vista del Mar…
Before we could get to the front door, we were met by Ms. Evan (our lovely housekeeper and chef) with two tall glasses of ice-cold lime-aid. Mr. Dennis (our “Mr. Everything”) helped us with our luggage and gave us a tour of the property. Everything we needed from fresh linens to a perfect view of the Caribbean sea was in place. Everything was spotless and welcoming; it was like visiting a good friend of family member’s home.
Because there was only two of us, we only rented the master bedroom, which sleeps four comfortably. If we would have had more in our group, we could have chosen to rent an extra room or all the rooms of the house. Regardless of how many rooms are rented, all common areas, including the pool were available for use. And boy did Sam make great use of the pool.
For the consummate cook, the stainless steel and granite kitchen was perfect. Every kitchen gadget you could need was there. Sam’s only concern was a coffee maker. And I made sure to pick up some fresh Jablum blue mountain coffee, which Ms. Evan had brewing for him every morning. When it came to the kitchen, I let Ms. Evan work her magic for breakfast and dinner every day. I stopped at the market and picked up what I wanted and she made it happen. If I wasn’t sure what I wanted for the day, she’d pick up some supplies and surprise us. I never left the table hungry or disappointed!
Besides the food, space and privacy, I really enjoyed the shower. The ceiling of the shower was open (covered with a screen and decorative grill work) that let just enough of the outside in during my shower. I could literately stay in there for hours standing under the water and taking in the sights, sounds and smells from outside!
Four Reasons to Choose Montego Bay Villas
There are a lot of great reasons why you might choose a Jamaican villa the way Sam and I did rather than using the average resort hotel. In fact, the advantages of a good villa are almost too many to count, but here are the top four reasons Sam and I found our Jamaican villa vacation so awesome:
1) In-House Staff
Sure, room service at a luxury hotel can be pretty tasty, but it can also come with a hefty price tag. Plus, you’ll never get to enjoy the kind of amazing home cuisine that we got from Ms. Evans, our local chef and housekeeper located on site. Ms. Evans was only too happy to cook delicious Jamaican or American meals on request.
2) All the Amenities of Home
Most hotels try to accommodate your daily needs with a few domestic amenities, but in a villa you truly feel like you are at home. That includes unrestricted access to your own full kitchen, coffee pot, washer and dryer combo, personal driver (if reserved) and even in home spa services (at an additional cost). We had everything we needed (and more) at our fingertips.
On the same note, some resorts cater to thousands of guests during their busy seasons. While staying at our private Jamaican villa, there was no one else to worry about but us. We could make our own itinerary and keep to our schedule or not — and we’d never have to think about crowds or long lines for anything.
When you’re charged based on the number of guests in your group, you end up paying more for less. At any good Jamaican villa, you have the opportunity to be charged based on how many rooms or what property you’ll be using. That means you can get great value whether you bring a friend or two or the entire extended family on your trip.
Have you ever rented a villa on vacation? Would you consider this an alternative to a hotel?
Sam Visits Jamaica: 1 2 3
Disclaimer: All views and opinions are my own and based on my personal experiences.
August 7, 2012 No Comments
Happy 50th Independence Day Jamaica!
The last (almost) 3 years exploring the island have been an amazing ride. And, this past week of Olympic, emancipation and independence celebrations has been one I won’t soon forget. While Jamaica may not be the land of my birth, it’s definitely a land I love. Things aren’t perfect in Jamaica, but I’m hopeful for better and brighter tomorrow! Happy 50 years of Independence!!
Nuff love and respect,
The Absolute Travel Addict
August 6, 2012 No Comments
One of the hardest parts about living in Jamaica is not having my car. Because I have no idea how long I’ll actually be here and shipping costs and duty fees are astronomical, my little Honda Civic continues to sit in Atlanta until I return for it or sell it
Getting around Kingston and other areas of the island is quite easy and can be very affordable, but nothing beats being able to explore the hidden gems of a new place on your own time with your own wheels. And yes, Jamaicans drive on the “wrong” side of the road, but it literally took about 10 minutes of practice to get acclimated to driving a right hand drive car on the left hand side of the road. I’ve been unstoppable ever since.
In my many Jamaica road trips that have brought me through all 14 parishes, Island Car Rentals has been there to help make it all possible. Here are 5 of the many reasons why I keep coming back to Island for my rental car needs in Jamaica.
First, they have a reliable fleet of rental cars. After all, this is most important when choosing a rental company, right? No one wants to hit the open road only to end up broken down and stuck for hours. Trust me I’ve been there before and while it was an adventure, I’d rather not do it again.
While I typically opt for the compact car with high fuel efficiency, there are a wide range of options including vans, SUVs and luxury sedans. During the rental process you go through a thorough walk thru to ensure full functionality of everything. The scratches and paint chips, blinkers, all caps and hoses under the hood, the spare tire, hubcaps, tools for tire change, AC, radio and CD player…everything. Even after the full inspection, in the event something does go wrong, there is 24 hour road side assistance available for anywhere on the island.
After making sure I have reliable wheels, my next concern is insurance. I know people who have rented with smaller companies and even from guys on the street. The primary reason I won’t go that route is lack of full coverage insurance. If something happens to the car and it’s your fault, you have to take care of the bill. With Island how ever, you have a range of insurance options to meet your needs with coverage for everything down to the tires.
Let’s face it, the world is relying more and more on technology, and luckily Island Car Rental is caught up in terms of booking. You can make your reservations by phone, on their website, islandcarrentals.com, and via their mobile app. My trips are usually very last minute, so it’s great that I’m able to check availability and make a reservation directly from my phone quickly when I’m away from my computer and it’s after business hours.
Renting a car is not just about the car, and Island knows that. They offer many more amenities, including maps and a GPS system for your rental. If you are traveling from outside ofJamaica, they offer cell phone rentals at very reasonable rates as well. Depending on your distance from the rental office, pick-up and drop off service may be available as well. Not interested in driving? Island offers private transfers, day trips and executive chauffeur services as well.
Last, the staff at Island Car Rental really takes the cake when it comes to customer service. I typically work with Ms. Donna, but the rest of the team are always pleasant and have a smile on their face even in during the busy rush time. But like their slogan says, “ISLAND PEOPLE TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOU!”
Not only is Island Car Rental my rental car company of choice, but they have a history of excellence servicing Jamaicans and visitors to the island for 30 years and is the largest Jamaican rental car company on this island. I know bigger isn’t always better, but in 2011, they were named Jamaica’s Leading Car Hire in the World Travel Awards. Help get them there again this year and case your vote here.
Disclaimer: Island Car Rental supplied my rental for my Portland Jamaica Road Trip. All opinions are my own and based on my personal experiences.
August 5, 2012 No Comments
I’ve said it a million times before and today is no different. The best way hands down to explore Jamaica (at least for me) is to rent a car and just drive! It’s funny because for a long time, I was never a fan of driving, but in Jamaica every time you get in the car it’s a new adventure, from navigating the roads to the people you meet and everything in between.
Of course, I picked up my rental from Island Car Rentals in New Kingston. I’m sure by now the staff is probably wondering why I won’t just buy a car, as much as I’m in there!
First stop, Portland
I think it’s safe to say, this is my favorite or at least one of my favorite parishes in Jamaica. Besides the beautiful landscape and laid back vibe, I’ll be making my way to Rock da Boat, an all day retro Jam on Navy, Island. Navy Island was once owned by Errol Flynn, an American actors in the 30s-50s who hosted several wild Hollywood parties on the island. Now, efforts are underway to clean up Navy Island and restore it as a destination for locals and tourists to enjoy once again. Proceeds from the event will go towards clean up efforts.
Another Visit at Great Huts
I fell in love with Great Huts a few weeks ago and I’m back again for this weekend in Portland. It’s always great to check into a place and people recognize your face and know your name. Here are a few shots from my last stay at Great Huts when I stayed in the African Sunrise Hut. This time I’m taking up temporary residence in the Queen of Sheba Hut. Here’s a sneak peak of the room. More to come later…
Monday with the Maroons
Monday morning, I’ll be heading to the Maroon’s Cultural Center in Charlestown. Maroons are descendants of slaves who escaped from slavery and settled in their own free communities in the mountains throughout Jamaica. In January, I had the chance to visit Accompong, another Maroon settlement, for the annual Maroon Festival. This time around, I will have a resident of the community showing me around. Excited!!
Come along for the ride
Can’t make it to Jamaica just yet, well join me on Twitter, @AbsoluteADT, and on Facebook, Absolute Travel Addict, to stay up to date with the journey. I’ll be posting picks and tweeting as much as my Digicel service allows. I’ve already posted an album from the first day of driving. Check it out here.
Help me decide what’s next…
After my weekend in Portland, I don’t have any specific plans on where to go next. All I know is I will eventually end up in Negril, an area, I’ve spent very little time.
I need your help. Have a favorite place you love to go? Somewhere you’ve heard of and want me to check out? Leave your comments below and stay tuned for where I end up next.
Disclaimer: Island Car Rental provided the rental car for this road trip.
June 3, 2012 No Comments