Sunday, February 23, 2020

Jamaica trip, 2nd half.

This was our place in the Blue Mountains. We had a hell of a time finding it. The owner is not a local and was a lovely person but exceedingly vague about directions. And not a fan of punctuation. Our directions:
If you reach Port Antonio Stony Hill Road pass the small river and come all the way up until you see a watertank and signs about waterprojekt on your right side also a shop. Desi Shop. Go there. If you park by the shop, pass the Shop and come the way will see it by your left side.

I finally called in despair and she told us to look for the car wash. Many more trips up and down the road until we noticed men washing cars in a creek that ran along the side of the road. We forded the creek and finally found our way. We were thankful for the 4WD car we'd rented - the road through the mountains was crazy.
The owner is basically a hippie who wanted away from the gray skies of Germany and planted herself in a little spot of paradise. She designed her house and this little guest house herself, making sure to work around existing trees.
On one side, we overlooked the Rio Grande River
and on the other side, we could see (and hear) the Caribbean sea in the distance.
In the morning before breakfast, we took a walk along the road below the house.
We found an interesting little graveyard and a cookhouse.
We both assumed it was abandoned and didn't know until later that we were actually trespassing on someone's private property. Our host told us she'd kept an eye out in case the owners came along. They did, in fact, while we were eating breakfast, so we waved and wished them a good morning. Oops.
With just one full day left, we decided to spend it lazing in the shade back at Winnifred Beach. Give me leafy branches overhead, the sound of waves and an ocean breeze and I lapse into a blissful coma every time.
The beach was loaded with friendly dogs. This set seemed to be deep in conversation. We named them Winnie, Ackee and Bammy (for the beach, and two Jamacain foods).
It was a family beach with only a handful of non-locals. I was enjoying watching these kids playing in the sand.
One of the little dogs brought a knotted rope for a game of tug of war with me. Earlier, she and another dog had been wrestling with it.
Finally the pup we called Ackee curled up under my legs for a nap. I know she belonged to someone and was clearly well cared for, but I so wanted to smuggle her home.
This guy had a table under the trees selling lighters and ganja. When my husband asked what he was selling, he answered, "Whatever you're smoking." 
This bus, playing loud music, rolled up mid-day.
Women in unusual clothes and men (in normal clothes) were in and out of it for a couple of hours. Draw your own conclusions.
True to her word, Cynthia had saved us a sizable lobster. We had it split, with rice, vegetables, callaloo (greens), plantains and fried dumplings. And of course, Red Stripes.
This cat was so eager she nearly took my hand off when I gave her a small piece of lobster.
Finally it was time to head back through Port Antonio. We stopped again at a little store for more snacks.
And at a fruit stand on the side of the road, where the owner insisted on taking his machete and slicing open different fruits for us to try. We came home with a couple of Star apples, a nase berry, a Jew plum, and a fruit I never could find the real name of that the fruit stand guy called "Jamaican ice cream." Except for that plum thing, which was hard as a rock, they were all delicious.
We spent a fair amount of time watching the gorgeous streamertail hummingbirds while we were there. We liked them so much that when a guy on the beach came by with bamboo cups he had carved, we bought one with a streamertail on it.
The hummingbirds apparently use those long tails to attract mates.
Both mornings our host made us a wonderful breakfast, which we ate on the deck. Banana fritters, museli with local honey and almond milk, slices of papaya, toast and jam, and Blue Mountain Coffee.
Again, it was hard to tear ourselves away. We bought a couple of bags of the coffee which the owner said she buys from a friend of hers, and got a far better deal than we would have in a store.
Back along the narrow, winding roads, we took a different route to the airport. We made it in plenty of time to stop at the duty-free store and buy a bottle rum to bring home with us as a reminder of a trip that had an inauspicious beginning but turned out to be wonderful.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Jamaica trip, 1st half.

So we had a perfect plan - drive to Nashville after work Thursday, spend the night at a cheap motel near the airport, fly out at dawn to Miami, and then another flight to arrive in Kingston, Jamaica a little after noon on Friday, pick up our rental car, head up north to a place we'd rented in the Blue Mountains, and fly back home mid-day Monday. We all know what happens to perfect plans.
I got up in the middle of the night to try to adjust the heater to make the fan block out some of the noise at the God-awful cheap motel, and saw a text letting me know our flights had been canceled due to snow. They offered to give us flights that would get us there either Saturday night or Sunday night. No. So after more than an hour on hold and being disconnected, we got through to the airline and they finally arranged for us to fly that morning to LaGuardia, then back down to Miami, and THEN to Jamaica, arriving that night. It was our only viable option, so we took it, and I scrambled to make a new reservation near Kingston for the first night. We sat on the tarmac for a quite a while while they de-iced the plane, but fortunately our connecting flight was held for us. On our flight from Miami, the first class section just a few rows ahead was occupied by Jamaica's Prime Minister and his security detail.
After a hairy wrong turn into a bustling and not-particularly friendly neighborhood in Kingston and a close-call with an angry driver, we got to the place I'd rented for the night in Bull's Bay. And it was amazing. The ocean was literally a few feet from our balcony.
We left the balcony door wide open all night to hear the ocean. I can't remember when I've slept that soundly.
We had a glass of wine on the balcony before bed and sat for a while with a cup of hot tea in the morning, just watching the waves and the pelicans.
Leaving the airbnb in the morning, we drove north along the coast. I say "we," but I didn't drive. My job was to help navigate and to offer periodic reminders to "stay left!"
The roads were often insanely rutted and narrow, and animals wandered freely. Cows, chickens, goats, dogs. People walk in the road a lot, too. Couple that with extremely aggressive drivers and you have an adventurous ride.
But what a beautiful place! And we got perfect weather the whole time, with highs in the mid-80's.
We stopped in Manchioneal around 10am for breakfast. I saw a bartender and people drinking in Monk's Seafood Shop as we passed, so we turned around and went in to see if there was food available. The bartender cracked open a couple of beers for us while the cook threw two snapper into the oil.
A whole fish, vegetables, and crackers soaked in the sauce. I ate every bite of mine. As we ate, we talked with some of the local people who wandered in out of curiosity, to smoke, have a drink, and chat with us. I got the impression that this was not a place tourists ever stopped in. One guy, who identified himself as the Chief of the town, was knocking back glasses of gold rum and a local energy drink  mixed with a shot of overproof. He probably shook our hands three dozen times. And then suggested that it was the custom to pay homage to the Chief with a tip. I don't believe that for a minute, but he was happy with the $100 Jamaican note (about 71 cents), which went toward another drink.
The drive wound its way in and out of tiny communities and along the shore.
Later in the drive, we stopped in another small town,  at this wonderfully-named grocery store.
We picked up a couple of beers and some crackers to have for snacks.
When we got to Portland, we went to Winnifred Beach, one of the few free beaches.
It was quiet and everyone was friendly, and I could have stayed for weeks.
The water was a little cool so I didn't do more than wade in.
There were several little restaurant/bars and my husband went in to this one to get us rum drinks and ask about the food. The cook, Cynthia, told us she'd be getting lobster in the next day and would save a good one for us.
Then back on the road to Port Antonio. This time the road hazard was a herd of goats.
We ate at this little place right by the road that went to our lodging.
The area specializes in jerk, so we had jerk fish and jerk chicken, both with fried plantains and breadfruit. Another really good meal, and the cook came out to talk with us. He had told some regular guests that we were friends of his, and one of them bought us a second round of Red Stripes. It had been a long couple of days and we were glad to head on to our Airbnb  in the mountains that evening.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Break time!

We're headed out for a few days to take a little break in the sun. Perfect timing, because it's been raining like crazy, the temperature is dropping, and they are calling for snow tonight. Other than a purse, this is literally all I'm taking with me. My husband has a comparable stack and it all fits into a single carry on.

I meant to get around to blogs before I left but flat ran out of time. I will when we return and also post about this little getaway.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Out and about.

We've been trying to spend a little more more time getting out to hear live music - especially when it's free! Downtown they have a taping of a live radio show every day at noon, so we took in one on a recent Saturday.
It's generally Americana/Appalachian music. Fortunately I love that. The studio at the visitor's center sells coffee, but on this occasion we had just had breakfast and just dropped in for the music.
Today, we went to a brunch at the Cancer Support Community with live music. There was a really good spread of food - quiches, bagels, gingerbread, fruit, and coffee and juice. The band is one we've seen before, and includes a therapist who works at the center. And again - free! At least to cancer patients/survivors and their families.

One sad note was my next-door neighbor coming up to say hello and tell me she'd "joined the club." That is a club we current members don't want anyone to have to join. And her boyfriend, who has had the house next to ours for all of his adult life, lost his first wife to breast cancer. My neighbor on the other side also had breast cancer. Three houses in a row, four incidences of breast cancer. What are the odds?