26 March 2009

Yea Mon - We're Home!

Jamaica 2009
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

We arrived home from Jamaica last night - we had five wonderful nights and six days of fun in Mo Bay.

When we left last Friday (3/20), it was snowing on the way to EWR. After temps flirting with 70F earlier in the week, it was nice to have some icky weather to get away from. Our flight was overbooked and they were offering $750 per person and an upgrade to first class to go through Miami on a later flight, but since that wouldn't get up there until 8 PM, we opted not to take that offer.

We arrived in Montego Bay about 2 PM (Jamaica time) -- an hour later than we should have. Going through immigration and customs was annoying - not enough agents to process the passengers. I think every plane bound for Mo Bay landed around the same time. Once we managed to get through those lines, we were on the bus an on the way to our resort.

For the next few days, we called the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort our home. I have mixed feelings about the place, but for what we paid, it was worth it. The location (only 10-15 minutes from the airport) was right - it was a good jumping off point for our excursions around the island; the room was large and clean and we had plenty of hot water; the rum drinks flowed freely. The not-so-great things were the quality of the food (breakfast was the best meal of the day); the long lines at the bar (resort seemed to be severely understaffed); and that that pools/hot tubs closed at 6 PM and there was very little to do (for adults) after dinner. Although I would have been quite content to lay on the beach with my book and iPod, I'm glad that we opted to take a few excursions around the island.

On Saturday, we took a cab into Montego Bay to visit the hip strip. In the middle of a Saturday afternoon it was rather dead. Margaritaville was empty, the shops were full of typical souvenirs, but we found a good place for lunch - The Pork Pit. Mark had read about this place in a travel guide and we found it and enjoyed some great jerk along with rice and peas. (Why they call red beans peas, I don't know.) After lunch we made it to The Twisted Kilt -- yes, Mark found an Irish pub in Jamaica. He enjoyed a couple pints of Guinness; brewed in Jamaica he said it tasted a little different than at home.

Sunday morning we were scheduled to go on a rafting trip on the Martha Brae river. We gathering in the lobby to wait for our bus; a tour guide looked at our reservation slip and told us to get on the bus. After a few stops to pick up more tourists, we discovered the bus we were on was going to Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios. We just went along for the ride, grateful we had on our bathing suits and towels in our bags.

Climbing the falls was a lot of fun! Yes, it's touristy, but we are glad we did it. I only wish that I had a waterproof camera so I could have taken pics during the climb. The falls start at the sea and you climb up about 600 feet via a human daisy chain to the top of the falls. You most definitely get wet.

On Monday, we took a taxi over to Rose Hall, not more than 10 minutes from our resort. Rose Hall was home to Annie Palmer, the White Witch, who murdered three husbands, several slaves, and in turn was murdered by her lover. Her spirit is said to haunt the house still. Annie Palmer died in 1831 and the house was empty for many years before being purchased by an American couple and restored in the 1960s. It's absolutely gorgeous - both the furnishings in the house as well as the grounds. At one time the estate spread far and wide -- the ground that our resort and several others sits on was once part of the great Rose Hall Estate. Johnny Cash's Jamaica home (Cinnamon Hill) was also once part of the estate as well.

Our last full day (Tuesday) in Jamaica we took an all day tour to Appleton Estate, Black River Safari and YS Falls. Although it's not a long distance to the opposite side of the island, it was a 2.5 - 3 hour drive over twisty, narrow roads up and over the mountain. I'm glad we did it, but it'll be a long time before I complain about Jersey roads and/or drivers!

The Black River Safari was fun -- we took a boat ride up the river and our tour guide called the crocodiles to the boat where the brave shook 'hands' with the crocs and our guide kissed them. (The crocs, not the tourists who shook hands with the crocs.) Due to a layer of peat moss on the river bottom, the water looks black, but when you scoop up a cupful of river water, it's crystal clear. I've NEVER seen water that clear. Never.

Our next stop was YS Falls -- a smaller waterfall in St Elizabeth parish. We climbed the staircase to the top of the falls where our photo was taken. Mark then took a couple swings on the rope swing while I had a 'water massage' closer to the base of the falls. Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time to relax and unwind at the falls since we had to get to the Appleton Estate before the tours ended for the day.

We arrived at the Appleton Estate just before 3 PM. While we were enjoying a complementary cup of rum punch (or rather Mark was since the smell nearly knocked me off my feet), the skies opened up. So with the help of a few umbrellas, we set off around the grounds to learn about rum making. We got to taste some wet sugar -- which tastes about as good as a it looks. (I suppose if you like molasses, you'd like this wet sugar stuff, but neither of us likes molasses.) We also saw the stills - no photography permitted - and the ageing house. After the tour, we were invited to sample a variety of the products made by Appleton and their parent company, Wray & Nephew -- including Overproof Rum and my new personal favorite, Rum Cream.

I'm a huge fan of Bailey's and the like and had been eying the bottle of rum cream at the resort for several days. I didn't try it though -- and I'm glad that I waited until my last day in Jamaica to try it. It's even better than Bailey's -- it has a very nice caramel flavor. Mmm, caramel. We bought two bottles of it to bring home, even though we're told it's available in the US. I've never seen it, but then I've never looked for it before either.

After the long ride back to our resort, we had dinner, packed for our Wednesday departure and called it a night. I think the all day tour wore me out more than anything else during the trip, although the copious amounts of rum and sunshine had me in bed early most nights as well. (For the record, I was up with the sun during the entire trip.)

The trip home was pretty uneventful -- we managed to get through immigration in Jamaica quickly. We did a little shopping in the duty free shops in the airport - including purchasing some Blue Mountain coffee for friends/family. We landed in Newark and cleared immigration and customs without a hassle -- wondering if I could have brought back more liquor since we didn't even have our bags searched.

All in all, it was a great getaway and I'm glad we went. I'm not sure that we'll go back to Jamaica any time soon, and most likely we won't stay at the same resort. I think I'd like to try a place in Negril if we were to go back, but the long ride from the airport is sort of a turnoff. Already we're looking at other Caribbean destinations - although probably not for a while still.

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