FINALLY posting a little video from our trip to the brand new (at the time) Riu Reggae in Montego Bay, Jamaica in March of this year. Enjoy!
Our trips to Jamaica are always magical. I just cannot get enough of the island, the people who live there, the culture, the sunshine, and the food. Last March, we branched out from our usual visit to Couples Negril (CN) resort, risking an experience we know we would love for the possibility of a new adventure. I, of course, researched our new destination, Couples Sans Souci (CSS), thoroughly and arrived with a list of things we had to try (see Ocho Rios, Jamaica: 100 Memories.)
(photo: just past the spa, there are some wonderful hidden seats overlooking the ocean)
(photos, clockwise from top left: gorgeous tropical flowers at the entrance to the resort; one of the many palm trees; my standard rum and Ting at the beach grill for lunch; breadfruit!; view of one of the resort sailboats from the spa elevator; stairs into the mineral pool; so, so many stairs!; detail of the coral tile by the entrance to the resort)
Overall we loved the understated elegance, the special hidden places we discovered all over the resort, the slightly more sophisticated demographic of our fellow travelers, the tropical foliage, waterfalls, and beautiful surroundings here. The staff here is remarkable and made us feel right at home, many of them joking with us that we would never return to Couples Negril after our week there. The food is also outstanding and, although I usually have a million photos of what we ate, I was clearly too busy stuffing it all in my mouth to bother with pictures.
(photo: view of the mineral pool, spa, and hidden beach as well as G block where we stayed in suite G16)
(photos, clockwise from top left: celebration decorations; the gorgeous light green water; Crackers, the parrot; the entryway to the hidden beach by the spa; Palazzina, where we ate breakfast and several dinners; us at the Starlight Gala; one of many banana banshees I drank by the main pool)
This resort was built in the 60s and has that old-school Hollywood-on-vacation glam vibe. The mineral pool used to be the main pool and I could just envision how stylish the place must have been then. If they served alcohol there, we wouldn't have moved from that spot. They do however serve delicious cassava chips with pumpkin jalapeño and roasted artichoke dips at the veggie bar. SO good!
(photo: view from Casanova restaurant)
(photo: view of the main beach)
Our room was enormous and had the most amazing view! In the morning, since I'm an early riser, I would watch the white egrets fly towards wherever their feeding grounds were for the day and then again at night, watch them fly back. (Quick note: The Chikungunya virus, spread by mosquitos, was pretty prevalent when we were there. Just make sure you use heavy duty insect repellent before you throw open those slider doors on the balcony. I forgot on day one and promptly got bit.)
(photos, clockwise from top: the are-you-kidding-me view from our suite G16; view of the main beach; the Mr. in the mineral pool; a fabulous lamp in the main lobby; the floor tiles in the spa)
On my birthday, I got a hot stone massage in one of the many massage huts on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I could hear the waves crashing below and felt such gratitude for my life and the opportunity to be in Jamaica again to celebrate.
(photos, clockwise from top: there are SO MANY steps at this resort and we found walking down to the spa and taking the elevator up to our building was easiest path (or the laziest); us at dinner at Casanova, we had a table outside and could listen to the nighttime entertainment below; the gorgeous blue steps at Palazzina -- no longer blue after their recent renovations; couples can paint rocks to leave at the resort -- many repeaters just add their latest dates to their rock; the view from my massage hut)
When we are in Jamaica, we try to get off the resort to experience some of the real Jamaica. We hired a driver, Orville, to escort us to Scotchie's, rumored to have the best jerk on the island. The place is filled with tourists and clearly isn't "real Jamaica" but it serves up some really good food! I love breadfruit and ordered a side with my jerk chicken and a Red Stripe (of course!). We bought lunch for Orville and enjoyed sitting with him and talking over our delicious meal.
(photos, clockwise from top: Scotchie's; jerk chicken, roasted breadfruit, and Red Stripe; birthday jerk photo at Scotchie's)
One of the best things we experienced was on our last night. Couples rewards people who visit their resorts multiple times (we're called "repeaters"), and we learned that we had quite a bit of resort credit left to spend so we booked a private sunset tour on their speedboat, Dolce Vita. Somehow we managed to not spill a drop of champagne even though we were bumping all over the place at high speeds. The Mr. got to drive and we had a nice tour of Dunn's River Falls, Lobster Dave's and the cruise port, and some of the nearby resorts, like the iconic Jamaica Inn.
(photos, clockwise from top left: one of my favorite photos of the Mr. -- totally relaxed and loving life; Lobster Dave's; us as the sun went down and the Mr. took the wheel; Dunn's River Falls; sunset; us in front of the Jamaica Inn; and the end of the champagne.)
So, I'm guessing many of you may be wondering which resort or which side of the island we liked best. As far as the resorts themselves go, if they could move the older part of CSS with it's old school glamour, tropical foliage, and gorgeous views next to Couples Negril; add a floating dock to the CN beach, and get someone to carry my up the stairs, it would be the perfect resort. Both are amazing places to visit, have wonderful people, and fantastic food.
(photo: view from G block looking over the hidden seats past the spa)
(photos, clockwise from top left: the Mr. at the main pool where we spent most of our time; gorgeous foliage we saw on our nature walk with a member of the staff; awesome tile; a local boat on the beach; us at the Beach Party our first night there (BIG smiles); and some of the straw items for sale by local vendors.)
But this is where my heart is clear: Ocho Rios made me feel a little like I was playing dress up. Negril -- with its long sandy beach, cliffs, super casual vibe, and easy mingling of tourists and locals -- makes me feel like I'm 20 years old, wearing cut off jean shorts and flip flops. It's more me than I am.
While we don't have a trip booked for Jamaica just yet (GASP!), I'm certain we will return soon. I'm curious about other parts of the island like Port Antonio, but I won't be able to resist the pull of Negril for too much longer.
For more details, feel free to read my review on Trip Advisor.
We vacationed in Jamaica again this past March. After four years in our beloved Negril, we decided we wanted to explore a different part of the country. Because we've loved our time with the Couples Resorts, we chose Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios as our home for a week.
"The details are not the details. They make the design." - Charles Eames
Last year I started keeping a list of the tiny things I wanted to remember from our annual trip to this special island. It's those moments that make the experience so wonderful. Here's the 2015 list:
- getting a red "TSA expedited" stamp on my boarding pass and not having to take off my shoes
- seeing a gorgeous sunrise outside the windows at Logan as we waited for our flight
- having a direct flight this year (yay! no stress!)
- watching and enjoying Big Hero 6 on the way there
- only spilling a tiny bit of Red Stripe on my shirt this time on the bus to the resort (baby steps!)
- getting to see a whole new part of Jamaica on our bus ride, especially the beautiful coastal vistas
- the Mr. and I letting out a simultaneous sigh after we stepped out of the bus and saw the orchids and lush greenery at the entrance to the resort
- seeing our room and the amazing balcony view for the first time
- drinking my first dirty banana of the trip and enjoying a grilled red snapper sandwich while seated at a table right on the beach
- discovering I didn't have to jump up to get on the perfect-height-for-me swim up bar seats
- feeling sad yet intrigued by a tiny dead tree frog floating in pool
- getting a special delivery of Ting to our room
- enjoying cheese and crackers on our balcony before dinner
- seeing my first little lizard
- watching the white egrets fly past our balcony at the end of the day
- enjoying the beach party with some of my favorite Jamaican foods: escovitch fish, fried bammy, and rice and peas plus a very yummy sweet potato tart for dessert
- getting a seat just inches from the ocean
- listening to our favorite steel drum band, The Silverbirds
- sipping a rum cream at the Balloon Bar before turning in for the night
- watching the egrets fly back the other direction in the morning
- witnessing a giant piece of fruit falling off a tree, just missing our heads
- diving in to our first breakfast at Palazzina -- fresh papaya, sour sop, guava, salt fish and ackee, pineapple French toast, and fried dumplings
- walking on the beach and finding tiny pink shells and a huge crab
- finding an awesome seat at the pool with a view of the ocean
- trying a few new-to-me drinks -- Banana Banshee, Peach on the Beach, and a Jamaica Delight
- winning second place in trivia and getting a bottle of rum cream for my morning coffee (and discovering that it was Miss Jamaica Universe who beat us)
- enjoying a jerk burger and a rum and Ting for lunch by the beach
- discovering how much better a piña colada tastes with a rum cream float
- spending the last few hours of the day on the beach
- finding a giant crab and a giant spider in its giant web on the way back to the room
- having a lychee martini at the Martini Bar
- The Mr. saving that martini (and me) after a rat almost jumped on my shoulder
- savoring an incredible dinner at Palazzina: Caesar salad with crunchy proscuitto bits, charred tomato soup, lobster, and passion meringue pie
- feeding lobster bits to the kitties
- plotting to empty the bowl of anchovies into my purse so we could lure the kitties back to protect us from those rats
- starting the day on the balcony with a little rum cream in my coffee and a chocolate croissant with some banana bread
- wandering around the spa paths and checking out each massage hut
- finding the hidden beach
- walking on the main beach with my honey
- eating a beef patty with extra jerk sauce and a chocolate ice cream cone for dessert
- walking around the pond and seeing pelicans divebomb the fish in the pond, and seeing egrets, herons, and turtles
- meeting the green parrot, Crackers, and having her whistle at me
- taking our first dip in the mineral pool
- soaking in the hidden jacuzzi and then relaxing by the mineral pool
- enjoying dinner -- beef tenderloin with jerk sauce and ackee rice -- at a beachside table for two at Bella Vista
- eating fried bammy and fresh papaya for breakfast
- getting a hot stone massage in a hut overlooking the ocean, waves crashing below, on my birthday
- having some quiet time on the balcony afterwards
- discovering the cookies in the lobby!
- taking a trip to Scotchie's to enjoy jerk chicken, roasted breadfruit, and a Red Stripe with our gracious driver, Orville
- finding Anita, the blue macaw
- being addressed as "m'lady" for a week
- being completely overwhelmed by the wonderful Starlight Gala -- and especially enjoying the red snapper with lime buerre sauce, tomato soup, and banana dessert
- watching Milton and Co. dance and listening to the fantastic singer, Tammy T (and little bro Clive with his awesome dreadlocks)
- enjoying my morning coffee with rum cream and croissants on the balcony
- experiencing a quiet early morning by the pool
- listening to the birds squabble in the trees
- discovering the popcorn machine at the beach grill
- dozing underneath the pool umbrella as the rain poured all around us for about 20 minutes
- loving the cassava chips with pumpkin jalapeño and roasted artichoke dips at the mineral pool
- following it with a chaser afterwards -- a snapper sandwich
- finally feeling like we knew our way around the paths of the resort
- savoring dinner at Casanova: shrimp and salmon kebab with the awesomest risotto, tomato and crab soup (with vodka), and beef tenderloin
- listening to the reggae show, playing on the terrace below, during our dinner
- sipping Blue Mountain coffee after dinner
- being awake for that early morning moment when the tree frogs are still chirping and the birds begin to sing
- despite inertia, getting up and going on the morning nature walk
- seeing a doctor bird
- seeing my childhood hero, Rikki Tikki Tavi, aka a mongoose darting across the lawn
- eating almonds fresh off the tree
- appreciating the magnificent rubber tree
- eating fresh papaya and muesli for breakfast
- sitting in the jacuzzi during a rain shower
- seeing a little black lizard inflate his throat
- watching the talented Brian at the Balloon Bar do his cocktail tricks
- enjoying Blue Mountain coffee after dinner (again!)
- listening to the jazz entertainment back in the room while falling asleep
- waking up to sunshine after a cloudy, rainy day
- getting our favorite poolside seat for the last day
- realizing we still have a ton of resort credit left and booking a private sunset boat tour for our last evening
- walking along the beach and finding a cool shell and the remnants of a palm leaf arch used for a wedding next door the night before
- swimming out to the floating dock and dangling my toes in the Caribbean while watching the boats go by (and laughing when the Mr.'s shorts almost fell off when he climbed the ladder)
- enjoying my morning Banana Banshee
- eating my last beef patty with extra spicy sauce and a rum and Ting
- buying a few photos of ourselves that we actually liked
- taking time to explore the hidden beach
- finding the hidden mineral grotto
- taking a photo walk on my own
- sadly taking our last dip in the pool
- enjoying everything about our private sunset cruise on the Dolce Vita
- going really, really fast and managing to barely spill our champagne
- discovering there was a cheese plate to enjoy on the boat
- seeing Dunn's River Falls and Lobster Dave's from the water
- finding Mick Jagger's house on the top of the mountain
- sipping champagne while watching the sunset
- ordering room service on our last night and enjoying my favorite, grilled snapper with lime butter sauce
- one last room service breakfast of Blue Mountain coffee and buttery croissants, and dumping the rest of the rum cream in my cup
- sitting outside on the balcony in my underwear until the very last minute when I had to put my pants on to get on the sad bus home
- taking in everything on the final ride home and seeing slices of Jamaican life (and Usain Bolt's school and track)
- eating our traditional cheeseburger before our direct(!) flight home
(originally published on March 25, 2014)
Oh, friends, we've been back from Jamaica for over a week. That beautiful island of sunshine, smiling people, lush greenery, and the bluest of blue shades is just the faintest of memories now.
However, while we were there, I kept a simple running list of wonderful things that happened each day. Last summer when I was on the Cape for two weeks, I kept a similar list and found it to be such a great way to capture the feelings, thoughts, and special moments of my vacation. Turns out I wrote down 100 memories from our nine days in paradise. Here's the entire list:
- handling both the flight to Orlando and the flight to Montego Bay with confidence and ease (see my posts on my fear of flying journey)
- watching Frozen on the plane and loving Olaf's summer song
- feeling my heart soar when I saw the Caribbean blue of the ocean when we landed in Montego Bay
- thanking the awesome resort message board for alerting us to the glory of the new arrival escorts through Club Mobay -- 20 minutes from plane to lounge, bypassing a two-hour wait in immigration!
- drinking my first Red Stripe in the resort lounge and then spilling it all over me -- as usual -- before we got out of Montego Bay and not caring one bit
- enjoying the 90 minute drive to Negril
- after checking in, heading right to the bar for my first Dirty Banana and seeing the giant pile of fresh bananas waiting for me (last year they used MIX)
- having my disappointment at being housed in building 1 instead of building 2 replaced with joy when I saw our view (half ocean and half our beloved garden)
- enjoying our first sunset of the vacation, drinks in hand, and feeling the stress just leaving my soul
- eating a wonderful lesiurely meal at Heliconia on lobster night
- having both papaya and sour sop juice -- two of my favorite things! -- for breakfast
- establishing my drink rotation for the trip on the first full day (Dirty Banana, Piña Colada with rum float, Miami Vice, Hummingbird, Purple Rain, Jamaica Smile, with a Dark and Stormy thrown in where needed. Repeat.)
- trying a new-to-me drink, a Jamaica Smile, (layered: strawberry daiquiri then piña colada then topped with a rum cream float)
- seeing a hummingbird while drinking a Hummingbird (seriously!)
- sharing jerk chicken and a jerk burger with the Mr. at lunch
- decorating my pool float with flowers I found
- wearing the first of many (!) caftans
- picking the theme song for the vacation (The Good Good by Snoop Lion)
- eating three desserts ... at lunch
- taking the snorkel gear out and seeing eight starfish and a school of fish right before sunset
- wearing a carefully curated delicate Caribbean bracelet stack
- enjoying a delicious cup of espresso at the bar after dinner with the Mr.
- seeing a grey heron on my morning walk
- discovering Rick's Cafe retweeted my sunset photo
- being selfish and take three giant, super ripe pieces of papaya for breakfast
- finding more sour sop juice waiting for me
- scoring the perfect piece of crispy bacon
- watching a butterfly land on my knee ... twice!
- seeing a huge white egret fly over my head, but no one else seeing him
- seeing a large hummingbird -- another one!
- enjoying my first grilled snapper sandwich at lunch while staring out at the ocean
- trying another new drink, Ellie Smile, which is a dirty banana with apricot liquor
- inhaling the amazing coconut chicken soup and green papaya salad at Lychee
- sitting on the tree swing with the Mr. while watching a movie on the beach
- loading up on guava juice, fresh papaya, coconut French toast, and sugar cane for breakfast
- walking the full length of the beach (and, sadly, discovering that my beloved Office of Nature is no longer there)
- seeing a crab scurry on the beach
- being completely taken aback by the Mr. spotting one of our least favorite people from previous trips on the beach and laughing afterwards by how funny it was that I shouted "Holy shit!" a little too loudly when I figured out what he wanted me to look at
- sipping pineapple orange water
- adding some spicy oil to my fried snook at lunch (and then looking up snook on the interwebs to figure out what I just ate)
- slowly eating my sour sop SORBET
- hearing and then seeing a Jamaican woodpecker
- enjoying a less crazy than usual catamaran cruise to the cliffs and singing along to Sean Paul on the way home
- being amazed by how close the giant white egret allowed me to get on my morning bird stalk
- spotting the turtle in the pond -- my only sighting of this trip
- discovering that Edge of Water, the next book in Elizabeth George's YA series, was automatically delivered to my Kindle
- enjoying the delicious combination of a juicy papaya, boiled banana, and passion fruit juice
- spending a gorgeous clear and quiet morning reading by the pool
- cheese fries!
- floating around the pool on floaties with the Mr. while calling out "Rose!" and "Jack!" anytime we floated away from each other
- being followed around the ocean by a school of fish (I could do that forever!)
- seeing 20 starfish during our daily pre-sunset snorkel (The Mr. is THE best starfish hunter!)
- enjoying our dinner at the fancy restaurant, Otaheite -- especially the salmon and artichoke mousse, rum drenched shrimp, mango sorbet, and the coffee press of Blue Mountain coffee
- grabbing a coconut and enjoying really fresh coconut water
- scoring a front row seat at the pool with an umbrella
- cheering on the Mr. while he saved a drowning bee in the pool -- we named him Beejesus
- soaking in the hot tub
- discovering there were hard tacos and grilled snapper for lunch
- enjoying the glass bottom boat ride over the coral reef
- seeing the Sargent fish and a stingray
- during our daily snorkel, seeing some sort of creature before he buried himself in the sand
- taking a wonderful nap before dinner
- devouring grilled snapper with lime. butter. sauce.
- spending my fourth birthday in a row in Jamaica and thinking how really, really lucky I am
- before leaving the balcony for the day, watching a white egret fly over my head, seeing a Jamaican woodpecker land on the tree in front of me, watching two little yellow bananaquits build a nest, and watching a cat play with a lizard
- getting my favorite seat by the pool on my birthday
- discovering that they had boiled dumplings for breakfast on my birthday (the ONLY day they served them)
- indulging in jerk chicken, cheese fries, and cocoa bread for my birthday lunch
- finally learning I could get a fresh papaya daiquiri (!!)
- eating an ice cream cone in the hot tub
- heading to Rick's to watch the cliff jumpers and the sunset
- getting a coveted table IN the pool at Rick's
- watching a really cool and fiery sunset while drinking Red Stripes
- meeting other people from Boston as we watched it and learning they lived in the town over from us and were staying at the other Couples resort in Negril (clearly, our Bizarro friends)
- enjoying my birthday dinner at a table by the beach with tiki torches
- indulging again in the sour sop sorbet
- drinking as much guava juice as possible
- eating fried plantains for breakfast
- sitting on the other side of the pool for a change and being able to stare at the Caribbean blue ocean all day
- listening to a lovely quartet playing mellow music at breakfast
- really savoring the last Dirty Banana of the trip
- spending our last day just chilling by the pool, listening to tunes, floating on the pool floaties, and watching the palm trees sway in the breeze
- spending our resort credit on coffee, coffee, and more coffee
- also getting a cute clutch from the resort store and a blue and white polka dotted frog, which I named Jerk
- finding a banana flower (!!) and bananas on the other side of the resort
- discovering a staircase I never knew was there and getting an awesome photo for my lighting series
- enjoying a chocolate ice cream cone
- finishing our trip the way we started it: with a lovely dinner at Heliconia, this time with beachside seating
- enjoying one more Caesar salad with shrimps (yes, shrimps!)
- getting lobster tails that were so easy to remove from the shells this time and enjoying every last bite of them
- experiencing a really good night's sleep
- getting first dibs on the fresh papaya (the upside of having to get up early to leave the resort for the airport)
- trying callaloo at our last meal
- seeing new things on the Ride of Great Sadness to the airport
- bypassing the giant security lines at the airport with our Club Mobay departure escort
- seeing and quickly buying my favorite brand of rum cream to take home with us (Sangster's!)
- getting seated at a private table in the quiet room at Club Mobay
- being surprised by how good the last drink in Jamaica was, a guava daiquiri at the Jamaican Bobsled Cafe
- messing around with the bobsled on display next door
- starting the planning for our return trip next year!
I have lots of photos, too, friends. Of course I do. Stay tuned for the visual companion to these memories. Irie!
(originally published on March 29, 2013)
So far, I've spent every birthday of my 40s in Jamaica. Its become a goal now to keep this tradition going -- although I've widened the circle to include any warm, Caribbean island.
This year, we celebrated on the awesome, word-of-mouth tour of Negril bars, the One Love Bus Bar Crawl. The tour is free and you make reservations by emailing the driver, Lenbert, directly. (NOTE: Make sure you tip the man well when the tour ends!) He picked us up at the designated time at our resort in this super fun rasta-colored bus. We then picked up about 35 like-minded and fun-loving people, most having to stand in the aisles, as seating is limited. No one cared though. We were all there to have fun!
Our first stop was Sunset After Dark.
Inside was great open space, friendly people ...
... the most awesome Bob Marley mural in all of Jamaica ...
... and a deck with an incredible view! We watched pelicans diving for their food as we enjoyed our first Red Stripes of the afternoon.
Our next stop was a short distance down the road, Mi Yard.
The people here were so gracious! They brought out trays of Jamaican specialties for us to try. I, of course, gobbled up everything -- the fried festival (Jamaican fried dough) and escovitch (fish) were delicious!
Mi Yard is right across the street from the ocean and the Love Boat bar.
When it was time to scramble back on the bus for our next destination, the Mr. and I sat in the front. Lenbert was blaring Fly Robin Fly, which is now in heavy rotation on my playlist and, is on right now as I write this.
The Mr. took the first position shotgun and I sat behind him. I have the whole thing on video and can't wait to get that together for you all to see. At this point, I was thinking, "this is the best birthday ever!"
Our third stop was On the Rocks.
Let me take a moment here to share a travel tip about the tour. Bathrooms. Not always available and when they are, not always fully equipped. So, use one when you see it (a little mantra my mom taught me) and bring along a packet or two of Kleenex and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Toilet paper and a working sink were rare.
The DJ booth here was really fun. And although you can't see it in these photos, the bar is right on the water and there is a tiny beach there that was filled with sea glass. And a dead puffer fish. If you've been following Juniper Disco closely, you know how fascinated I am by things that wash up from the sea.
There appeared to be some rules here at On the Rocks. The "at the bar" part cracks me up.
Most of us tried to finish up our drinks before we got on the bus until Lenbert said, "You can drink on the bus. This is Jamaica." So funny how conditioned we are to follow the rules from back home. Notice how quickly I acclimated.
Our next stop was the No Limit Bar.
Again there seemed to be a rule here, but it was a little more generalized than the last bar.
In the back there is a small outdoor space. And a PARROT. Lenbert told us that farmers shoot these birds because they like to eat the ganja seeds. I bet they do.
After this we went to a restaurant/bar, called Choices, where a huge spread of Jamaican food was waiting for us (for $5). Sadly, I only took video of this place and no still shots.
Our sixth bar was a place I had long been curious about, having seen it from both the road and the water side. Xtabi is right on the cliffs and had some really fun things to explore -- gorgeous views and caves right on the ocean.
I have some great video of this as well -- including our descent into the caves and the amazing things we found there!
By this time, it was getting rather close to sunset so we headed to a bar just past the oh-so-famous Rick's Cafe (of cliff-jumping activities from last year) to a much more rustic, agriculturally enhanced bar, Sir D's Lookout.
Nothing more really than a few wooden boards on a cliff!
The farther point with the three trees on it is where Rick's is.
If so inclined, you could climb down to the water.
And the views of the sunset were really spectacular!
We were told that we should expect to visit six or seven bars during our trip and that the roster changes every time. Lenbert was quite generous that night and took us to one last bar, Bella Donna's, where we were each greeted with a warm hug.
We enjoyed one more Red Stripe and a slice each of some awesome pizza!
And, since I can't really end a post on Jamaica with a photo of pizza, here's one of Bob Marley instead.
The drive back to the resort was pretty fun, with all of us singing at the top of our lungs and feeling pretty good about our afternoon together. Remember, tip Lenbert well when you leave the bus!
To reserve your spot on the One Love Bus, email Lenbert Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(originally published on March 27, 2013)
One of the things I look forward to the most on our trips to Jamaica is the overwhelmingly fresh, isn't-it-gorgeous fruit offerings at breakfast. We've also developed a bit of a habit of taking our first meal of the day out on to the deck, overlooking the beach.
I tried absolutely everything they put out: (clockwise from top) fresh papaya, watermelon, Jamaican apple (which has very little flavor and more of a consistency like a pear), and naseberry (looks and tastes something like a fig. So good!).
More fruit, with pineapple this time and mango juice. They also had WARM banana bread and some pretty tasty hash. Corned beef hash, that is.
Clockwise from top: cheese (please! I had a slice every morning), more papaya, sour sop (with the watermelon like seed -- the juice is my absolute FAVORITE but the fruit itself has a mushy texture), a boiled banana (which tasted like a potato), more naseberry, and a stick of sugar cane.
One of the days we sat by the pool instead. I had papaya juice and the white thing on the right is a boiled dumpling. The Mr. thinks its odd that I love these so much. I blame my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. We love dough.
Muesli ... in a COCONUT shell!
I even participated in a Jamaican fruit tasting while I was there. From the top: coconut, sugar cane, sour sop, star fruit, Jamaican star apple fruit (purple), Jamaican apple, naseberry. When I was at the spa, they taught me how to eat the purple fruit correctly -- you fold it over and squeeze out the mushy stuff. It stains, so watch your super cute coverup when you eat these!
And this is the national fruit of Jamaica, ackee.
Which is served in a traditional Jamaican dish, ackee and salt fish. I tried some with breakfast and it tasted like scrambled eggs and salty fish. I liked it!
Although breakfast was my favorite, we ate excellent food pretty much all day. This was an amazing lunch I had: clockwise from top, cocobread (Jamaican bread made with coconut milk), rice and peas (as Jamaicans call it), some sort of pork, fried plantains, and breadfruit (which tasted like BREAD. Seriously! And totally appealed to my dough-loving tastebuds.)
Jerk chicken, of course!
Fried snapper. On cocobread. Yummy!
Friday nights are lobster nights at Couples Negril. I have to admit, it can be hit or miss but these lobster tails at Heliconia were cooked just right and were served with a wonderful buttery sauce.
In years past, I have posted photo after photo of their amazing desserts. I tried to keep it a bit more under control this year but you really do just need to look at how beautiful these are!
And the carved watermelons were everywhere! This one is my favorite.
This year they had a champagne toast on the beach at sunset. You could get a shot of flavoring in your champagne, and we opted for raspberry.
So ... here's where things were not perfect. (Gosh! Life is so hard!) My favorite drink in Jamaica is the Dirty Banana, which is made with real bananas. Up to this point. This year, they made it with mix. MIX. Only one day did they have real bananas and those ran out quickly. I read on the message board that there was some issue with the banana crop this year, but who knows? Anyway, I got a "proper Dirty Banana," as the Mr. called it, at Xtabi.
I also enjoyed an ice-up papaya (fresh papaya, rum cream, dark rum, & house-made pineapple-ginger syrup) at Pushcart.
And because we enjoyed them so much last year, we ordered the jerk chicken skewers.
And the jerk sausage.
A few Red Stripes were had, of course!
On the last full day that our new friends were at the resort, we all took a walk down the beach to the Office of Nature, where we enjoyed some fresh grilled lobster. So tasty!
Our last gasp tradition before we leave Jamaica is to have a cocktail and a snack at Margaritaville in the Montego Bay airport (after we procure our rum and rum cream to take home with us!) It was only 10am but who cares?
This jerk chicken pizza with pineapple wasn't bad either. And you can bet I took that little Jamaican flag home with me where it now sits on my Juniper Disco Lounge desk!
(originally published on March 25, 2013)
There is a difference between vacation and travel. Vacation is focused on getting away from something, from home, from work, from life. Travel is about going towards some place, about being immersed in wherever you are going. Our latest trip to Jamaica was more about being there than about being away from our lives. I tried to explain that to people when we returned home, but most people just wanted to talk about the weather. Bostonians are obsessed with weather.
So, Juniper Disco readers, I am counting on you to get it. To get that I didn't just go on vacation. That I traveled to a place I love deeply. That fascinates me to no end. And that fills my heart with joy.
The water and beaches in West Jamaica are just gorgeous. That color is like nothing else in the world. You know how regimented I need to be when I fly so I don't freak out (including not looking outside)? I was craning my neck to see out the window during our entire leg from Orlando to Jamaica because this color was everywhere below us (That and Cuba. Cuba!) I had entered the magical zone where all my anxieties and hang-ups disappeared.
We are decidedly pool people. I know that seems at odds with my love of the ocean. I can walk up and down the beach all day long but I really like to relax by the pool. This is our view of the swim-up bar.
And what came to be our spot for most of the week plus.
This was our third trip to Couples Negril and a number of people -- both fellow resorters and staff members -- recognized us from our past trips. One person even told me they saw my video! Here we are with some of the new friends we made this time around. Such great people!
We also took a couple of trips to the cliffs to enjoy the sunset. At some point in my life, we will stay in one of those huts at the Rockhouse Hotel. The sound of the ocean lapping right outside, jumping off the cliffs into the water, and watching the sunset every night seems like heaven!
This papaya drink disappeared in about 30 seconds.
There's that color again (at Xtabi)!
We chilled in the beach chairs at our resort with champagne, listening to a live saxophonist while the sun set over Bloody Bay. They really do treat you like royalty at Couples!
They also feed you like kings and queens! The beach party is one of my favorite nights. And they do this every week. Incredible. (Look at that sky!)
We also made friends with the locals. There is something about Jamaicans that just puts me completely at ease. I think it's their energy. The Mr. thinks it's the thin film of smoke that is present all over the island. Either way, I find myself syncing with their completely relaxed vibe. Yeah, mon.
We now have an annual tradition of visiting the original Office of Nature for the freshest and tastiest lobster ever!
The grounds of our resort are lush and tropical. Birds are singing all day long. It is what I miss most when we leave here and return to the city.
That and these birds.
We spa'd this time (the Mr.'s first spa experience ever.) The spa is enclosed but open enough that I could hear the birds singing and the ocean lapping at the shore while I laid in my peppermint sea twist wrap.
And we listened to the Silver Birds play three times while we were there. So fun and energetic -- it is amazing what they do!
And then all too soon, it was time to leave. I had to put closed-toe shoes back on. Which matched the chairs. Sigh.
Soon come ... my annual feasting Jamaican-style post. And a play-by-play ride along with the One Love Bus Bar Crawl on my birthday! Irie, friends!
(originally published on March 18, 2013)
I'm BACK! Still pouting and edging quickly toward grumpy but here, nonetheless.
We had an awesome time and I'm slowly working my way through all my photos and videos. There is a lot to share! Including a very fun birthday celebration on the One Love Bus bar crawl through the West End of Negril with Fly Robin Fly blaring out the windows. (That video is 70s-fabulous, by the way. Note: not for kids.)
While the photos will show you a lot about our trip, they won't show you everything. When my brain has time to slow down, it's amazing what pops up. Here's what else happened ...
Made some awesome new friends. Read two books. Thought about life. Walked around in a swimsuit for eleven days and decided it would be a good idea to start exercising more regularly. Wore some hardcore Australian 30+ sunscreen and still got a tan. Totally overpacked. Learned a new phrase: "piss on it!" Committed to FINALLY changing my last name. Discovered wearing white jeans for the flight home was not such a great idea. But stashing a Tide to Go pen in my tote was.
Ate papaya every day and in some cases, every meal of every day. Realized I need to work on my posture. Tried a bunch of new foods. Admitted to the Mr. that I need to see an eye doctor. After swearing off shots years ago, did two in one day. Learned some Jamaican Patois and finally figured out what Pitbull is saying in the remix of Sean Paul's "She Doesn't Mind" ("Wha Gwan, Jamaica"). Chased a hummingbird around the garden. Tried to figure out a way to wear caftans to work back home.
Did not have one bit of anxiety during our three flights. Even completely forgot I was on a plane at one point when I was engrossed in Breaking Dawn, Part 2 and silently chanting "Get that Dakota! Get HER!!" Arrived with dark brown hair. Left with blonde streaks. Had a teeny, tiny terrifying panic attack while wrapped in peppermint, seaweed, ACE bandages, and saran wrap. Slept, and slept, and slept. Discovered the reggae channel. Realized I look like Sheldon Cooper when doing a fist bump no matter how hard I try to look natural.
Discovered a new motto, which I will be posting on my office door:
"Oh, please don't you rock my boat (don't rock my boat)
'Cause I don't want my boat to be rockin' (don't rock my boat)"
Learned quickly that I was the only one at the resort, not counting the staff, who knew the words to all the Sean Paul songs. Vowed never to move to the Midwest or Canada. Ate lobster three times. Had someone tell me I look 32 (I do, too! Shut up.) Reconfirmed I do not like loud people. Reminded myself a hundred times to just go with it. Except when asked to play volleyball. Decided to plan trips to Charleston, Ft. Lauderdale, the DR, and Barbados. Tried water aerobics with cocktail in hand. Confirmed I really, really need a new camera. Missed writing this blog. A lot.
Give me some time to get my photos in order. I'll have some great posts for you later this week! (60 days until the boat starts running to Ptown! Summer is coming, people!)
(originally published on March 4, 2013)
I'm about to get all Oprah on you. When I travel, I try to set an intention before I leave. Most of the time my intention is to be open to whatever comes my way. Sometimes it's just to get through the flights without a panic attack. And other times it's to give myself the space to rest and not pack every second with activity.
As we prepare for our annual trip to Jamaica, I'm stumped for an intention. Mostly I just want to be there. I have a huge list of things I'm looking forward to -- fresh papaya and sour sop juice every morning, my daily bird stalking in the garden, grilled lobster at the Office of Nature, the drive from Montego Bay to Negril, snorkeling with pretty fish, Dirty Bananas by the pool, the sounds of the tree frogs at night, jerk chicken, the sun ... Sorry. It's easy to get lost there. But maybe that's the intention this time around -- to get lost in the moments while I'm there.
I know I usually leave you all with some posts while I am gone. Not this year. I've decided to take a real break. I'll likely share some photos on Instagram and a few videos on Vine. Maybe I'll even be inclined to compose a tweet or two. Feel free to follow me there. This space will be quiet until I return in two weeks.
Now for that video I promised you! This is only the second video I've ever made and I learned so much in the process. As they say, "Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle." I'm ecstatic to share it -- with all its imperfections.
Watch until the end. The last clip is my favorite. And now, the debut of my Jamaica video ... click here!
Irie, my friends!
(originally published on March 24, 2012)
It wouldn't be a Juniper Disco post without some good food photos. I cannot tell you how well we ate when we were in Jamaica. This should give you some idea ...
Jerk chicken. The FIRST thing I ate. When we arrived, our room wasn't ready so they told us to go get something to eat. The words were barely out of her mouth before we were sprinting down the stairs to the beach grill. So freaking good!
My favorite salad in the whole wide world! This caeser salad is prepared at the table and served in a parmesan cheese bowl and sprinkled with crispy proscuitto bits. The first time I had this I saved my cheese and proscuitto for last and the waiter tried to take it from me before I was done. I almost stabbed him with my fork. It's that good.
My birthday lobster at the legendary Office of Nature (the real one -- it's the second one on the beach in Bloody Bay with the really rustic bar.) We watched the lobster pulled from the ocean. And watched it die. The Mr. said the people there were amazed I wasn't shrieking when that knife sliced him in half. I'm hard core like that. I also watched them grill it and put almost an entire stick of butter on it. And then I ate it, sans forks, like a happy little kid. With my $3 Red Stripe.
Friday nights are Lobster Nights at the resort -- we had two Fridays there. Yippee!
Apologies to the vegetarians ... I actually had only a small bite of this. You all know my rule about not eating baby animals.
Spring rolls at Lychee.
So this is my absolute FAVORITE thing at breakfast. I know it's only dough, but I LOVE IT!
Typical morning breakfast: french toast with syrup of the day, one piece of bacon, fried bammy (NOM!) , and fresh fruit and juice. Look at that papaya!
More morning fruit ...
Curried conch -- my first taste!
This year they switched out the self-serve-whenever-you-want corn chips for cassava chips. So yummy!
Chicken Balls Soup!
The desserts were ridiculous ...
Fruit tempera (this one is banana.)
My second favorite drink, the Miami Vice.
Coconut water was available every morning.
This ended up being my favorite juice. It is not sour at all and has a nice mild sweetness to it.
The Mr. brought us One Nut shots ... the top is milk frothed with tequila, rum cream is the second layer, and grenadine is on the bottom. Have to say it was pretty tasty!
A watermelon cooler --rum blended with watermelon, lime juice, and house-made pineapple ginger syrup -- with the Rockhouse in the background.
And my favorite drink (and first of the trip), a Dirty Banana. It was always my first drink of the day at, um, 10:00 am when the swim-up bar opened. Luckily, we brought a huge bottle of rum cream home and found a great recipe that is pretty close to the real thing so we can have a little taste of Jamaica whenever we want.
(originally published on March 23, 2012)
This year we stayed on the garden side of the resort in Jamaica. We were so lucky to get a first floor corner room so that I could sneak out every morning before the Mr. woke up to go on a walk around the grounds. I was amazed by all that I saw in those early hours before the other guests started moving around (and making noise.) I was even visited by a swallowtail hummingbird one morning. I was so stunned when it appeared before me, I gasped. It was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen -- emerald green with a long plume-like curly tail and it sounded like it was singing to me. After it flew away, I started crying. It was just one of those amazing moments that is impossible to recreate in words. I get a little misty thinking about it. While I did not get a photo of that magical instant, I did manage to capture a few others ...
These first three birds I saw almost every day. I learned to approach them as quietly as I could and as slowly as I could. But we danced every morning -- me seeing how close I could get and they trying to keep a safe distance. I got a few squawks and sometimes they flew to the roof of the spa or into a tree, but mostly they let me be near them. I am so grateful for that!
This is a Jamaican woodpecker (or more specifically, a Jamaican woodpecker's behind -- I tried to get his head but he kept building that nest!). I overhead someone say, "oh, we have those at home." And I thought, "I'm pretty sure you don't." It always fascinates me how some travelers spend their entire time away comparing everything around them to what they know from their lives back home.
These little yellow birds are FAST. It wasn't until the last day that I was able to get a photo of one.
These pigeonish birds are all over the resort. This one decided to join us for breakfast.
Remember Bob from last year? We went to the other side of the resort to see if he was still there. I think he recognized me.
The one end of the beach is covered with tiny hermit crabs. I could have sat there all day and watched them. I also freaked out when one touched me -- I picked up his shell and thought he'd stay in there but he decided to fly out onto my finger. Yep, I screamed.
If you've ever been to Jamaica, you've heard the loud chorus of tree frogs that sing at night. The resort sponsored a tree frog hunt one evening and the Mr. and I were dying to see one! We left the meeting point and not 15 seconds later did the guide say, "There's one." We thought they'd be really hard to spot! They are teeny tiny but they don't move when you shine a flashlight on them.
As the Mr. pointed out, this gecko looks like he is pole dancing on the hummingbird feeder!
There is a turtle that lives in the pond by the spa. I was really lucky that he decided to show himself one morning.
There are several ponds around the resort. This one is on Bob's side and is filled with fish.
And there were many gorgeous flowers and plants all around us. We were there long enough to see flowers bloom and die, bloom and die ... I was amazed by the short life span of some of them. And how quickly they would grow.
I am certain when we go back we'll stay on this side of the resort again. It's wonderful to have this lush tropical garden to start and end your day after spending most of your time at the pool and beach. It really is Eden.
(originally published on March 20, 2012)
Jamaica. The word conjures all sorts of things for people -- reggae, Bob Marley, Rasta, rum, sandy beaches, cliff diving, um ... agricultural products, sun, sun, and more sun. For me it also means freedom and joy. I've always been a warm weather, sun-on-my face kind of gal. Much like my beloved Ptown, the place lives by the anything goes mantra, "No worries, Mon!" And no worries did we have.
One day during our trip I had two things on my To Do List: float around in the ocean on my floatie and, by the time I was finished doing that, I couldn't remember what the other one was. Back home my Non-Blogable To Do List had grown to over 11 pages (I counted when I got back) and my personal list fills the first section of my dot grid notebook. We lost track of time, couldn't remember which day it was, and had conversations like: "I wonder if they'll have corn chips or cassava chips today." I never read a single word while I was there, I watched the palm trees sway, the birds fly around, the water ripple back and forth, the clouds float by -- I wanted to be nowhere else but right there in that moment.
Returning to real life has been challenging and there may have been a few tears hysterical breakdowns in the past couple days, but the temperatures have been in the 70s here and that has helped.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip to Couples Negril. I'm busy working on my Picasa album and am learning to use my movie software so I can share some of the video footage I shot while there.
(originally published on March 4, 2012)
After what has seemed like an unbearable wait, in a few short days we leave for Jamaica. We're headed back to the same resort where I celebrated my 40th birthday last year. Friends living in the midwest will be joining us for part of our trip -- and two of us will be celebrating birthdays while we are there!
One of the best parts of going on vacation is the anticipation (and the planning of outfits -- I'm totally overpacking and I don't care.) Here are a few things I am looking forward to:
- I might just hug the first person who says, "No worries, Mon" to me.
- The first sighting from the air of the island surrounded by that light blue water.
- The shuttle bus drive from Montego Bay to Negril -- Red Stripes in our cup holders and smiles on our faces.
- Splashing into the Caribbean from the slide onboard the catamaran.
- Riding in the nets on the catamaran on the way to the caves.
- Drinking my 1st, 10th, 20th, whatever-th Dirty Banana of the trip.
- Jerk. Chicken.
- Snorkeling with my new prescription dive mask.
- Eating lobster in the surf at the Office of Nature.
- Floating on the cushies in the ocean and in the pool.
- Seeing if our favorite bird, Bob, is still there.
- The sounds of the tree frogs at night. And going on the frog hunt with the resort staff.
- Sunset at the Rockhouse.
- Joining the elite group of previous resorters for the Repeaters Dinner.
- Going to Rick's to see the cliff divers.
- Syrup of the day!
- Doing my first Bob Marley shot ever.
Last year for "Jamaica Week" (redubbed "11 Days of Jamaica" for 2012), I left you some videos to watch while I was away (this one and this one and this one). Again this year, I have something fun in store. I will also leave you with the words of that wise sage, Justin Bieber: "I'm gonna live my life, no matter what we party tonight; I'm gonna li-i-i-ve my life, I know that we gon' be alright. Wo-oh oh oh oh, wo-oh oh oh oh ..."
(originally published March 18, 2011)
I turned 40 this past week. In Jamaica. My day was pretty fabulous ...
First, every girl needs a maribou trimmed sparkly tiara with blinking lights to wear on her 40th, if only worn while drinking morning coffee.
Bob the grey heron visited us every morning and this morning was no different.
Breakfast included banana syrup french toast.
After a walk on the beach (where I found a large starfish in the water), we went on a WONDERFUL glass bottom boat ride around Bloody Bay and Seven Mile Beach ...
... with beautiful water surrounding us and a flying stingray swimming by (too fast to photograph!) ...
.... and a brown pelican flying near us.
Spent some quality time at the pool (and the swim-up bar) ...
... with a steel drum band playing in the background.
Watched an afternoon ice sculpture demonstration on the pool deck.
Found a beautiful flower.
And ended the day with a once-in-a-lifetime private four-course dinner of seafood and tenderloin with the Mr. on the beach at sunset.