We just learned, among other things, that Jamaica was originally called Xamaica when Christopher Columbus discovered the natives on the beach in 1494. Or, one can look at it as the natives discovering him and his guys, undocumented aliens, on the beach. Perspective is important when dealing with people who have their own jargon, which they refer to as “Patois,” and who also have a way with foods that defies compare. To be really “in” with the locals, when hailed, or waived to, simply reply, “Irie,” pronounced I Ree, which means, “I’m fine.” The addition of “Ya Mon,” puts a nice touch to it. These two bits of patois engender smiles throughout the lush, tropical island of Jamaica. I’ll get to the foods later. Irie….Ya Mon.
For you history buffs, Jamaican Independence was declared August 6, 1962. For you etymologists, Xamaica, in Jamaican, means “Land of Wood and Water.” There isn’t a lot of land, but there is a lot of food, water, rum, coffee, and ganja, a type of marijuana that guarantees instant ignorance. We were told that it is a super powerful IQ suppressant. It is smoked, and/or baked into brownies semi-legally. As to whether we took their word for it, or did some “scientific investigation” for ourselves will herein be left to conjecture.
The plane ride there was basically uneventful, except for our layover in Miami, which led us to finally try, for me for the first time, real Key Lime Pie. What a palate pleaser. I had tasted it elsewhere, and it was always gluey, and nigh-on to tasteless. This, as I had been told previously, was the real deal, the emmiss of Key Lime Pie. As you may have gathered, it more than lived up to its reputation among the Miami mavens. Following this mini food fest, we were off to the tropical paradise that spawned Bob Marley, Appleton Estates Rum, fabulous coffee, and, not to be forgotten, Ganja.
After going through the Customs Conga Line, we waited for the taxi we had hired prior to our arrival. The driver never appeared. Thus it was that we hired a rather gregarious, and thank goodness, basically honest cabby at the airport stand named Carlson. We found out that this was, as in literature, “foreshadowing.” As we wended our way to our resort, he told us that he could procure whatever we wanted, “Ganja, Cocaine, a woman.” That’s where I stopped him and told him that we were there to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Upon hearing this, he brightened up and said, “Well. How about some Ganja Mon?” Needless to say, it was a fun ride through the countryside. We saw some of the fabulous houses up on the hillsides owned by the rich and shameless, including Lennox Lewis, who was given a bunch of trouble making his house purchase because he is black. Go figure! We also witnessed some local fishermen who were fishing, not just to goof off, but rather to sell their catch right there on the shoulder of the highway. They displayed their wares on fishing line hanging on the nearby bushes and trees. How do you spell FRESH? There’s even a “Cold Beer Joint” along the way. Yes. Jamaicans make sure that they are happy. Irie. Ya Mon.
Yes. The island is a tropical paradise. Yes. The resort is absolutely gorgeous, and well appointed. Yes. The all-inclusive restaurants are for the most part top drawer. However, here comes the big caveat. The people manning the posts, other than the management are woefully slow and/or inept. If you are in no big hurry for anything, this will be no problem. After a while, during our two-week stay, we adjusted to those workers with a slightly different slant on reality. This included the maids, food servers, front desk people, and anyone else on salary, other than the gardeners who kept the grounds looking as manicured as the 18th green at Pebble Beach. Here’s one example. We asked our waitress for two cups of coffee with sweetener, not sugar, on the side. She dutifully acknowledged our request, took off, and returned five minutes later with two cups, sans coffee. We then asked for the coffee and sweetener again. She again acknowledged our request, took off, and returned with a carafe of coffee, without sweetener. We reminded her of our sweetener request. Once again, she returned, this time sans spoons. At this point, I went to a separate table and got a pair of spoons for us, with which to stir our coffee in the cups with the sweetener. Irie. Ya Mon.
This is going to read a bit avant-garde, but it’s all for real…honest! We took a bus trip to the “Luminous Lagoon,” located in Falmouth. It’s referred to as the “”Glow With The Flow Trip.” Yes. It is a lagoon that has microscopic organisms that give off a bright green glow after dark as soon as the water is disturbed. Naomi jumped overboard to stir things up, along with other fellow travelers, as I, along with others, sat in the boat taking pictures as best we could of this natural phenomenon. The hitch is that if one uses a flash, it destroys the glow, much the same as taking a flash picture of a shadow. Thus, everything had to be totally blacked out, and those of us on board the boat had to shoot pictures predicated on sound, and the quick flashing of the “glow.” It was really quite something to behold. The only drag was that the water was only about six feet deep, with slimy mud up to the knees. Nonetheless, my intrepid bride prevailed, and we got a few shots of the Luminous Lagoon Effect. Yay for Nature, chemistry, and Naomi “The Stalwart!”
Montego Bay, on the West Coast, was named by Christopher Columbus “The Gulf of Good Weather.” On the day we visited there to check out the various crafts shops, to buy things that until that very moment we didn’t know that we absolutely needed, it rained. Oh well, so much for Chris and his undocumented aliens. “If you ain’t bargaining, you ain’t shopping.”
Shopping in Negril is nigh-on to a contact sport. Bargaining is, of course, high on the menu. Yes. We packed away more indispensable treasures. The shopping spree was followed by a three-hour stop at “Rick’s Café,” home of various rip-off artists, and cliff divers, who constantly try to hustle everyone for tips before they dive. They invite the public to take the plunge at the individual’s own risk. It’s a rather formidable height from which to dive, but the water below is constantly calm and deep, unlike the setting for the Acapulco Cliff Divers, where the tide goes in and out, and must be timed accordingly, or the consequences can be disastrous. Some little kids jumped in, thus taking a lot of the theatrical effect away from the “pros.” The music of Bob Marley is omnipresent throughout the island. Rick’s was no exception. It was just louder. All in all, it was fun to watch and try to photograph. By the way, this is not the “Rick’s Café” from the movie “Casablanca,” even though some people got in pretty deep. I know that’s a cheap shot, but it does end the paragraph pretty well.
The “Blue Mountain” and “Hillside” coffee/espresso are without compare. They are simply the best we’ve had thus far. How’s that for a lack of segue, but a bit of information? We had it in the morning with breakfast, as well as in our suite at midday. The buffets are incredible, with such exotica, to us, as braised ox tails, curried goat, jerk chicken, and an incredible array of tropical fruits. The conch soup, seafood stew, baked plantains, and cocoanut shrimp were fabulous. It was rather a challenge to moderate our excesses. “What foods these morsels be.” I had to put it in somewhere. This seemed to be the most appropriate place.
The beaches and pools were all perfect settings for all types of water sports. All in all, for a laid back vacation, Jamaica fills the bill. Irie. Ya Mon.