By Peter Ivey
In last month’s issue we highlighted the “Town” side of Jamaica’s dual personality in our article A Tale of Two Jamaicas Part 1: “Town”. In this issue we bring the other side of the Caribbean’s third largest island: “Country”. Visitors and locals alike are very familiar with the distinct appeal and sometimes contrasting offerings of the island and, thanks to the Jamaica Tourist Board,WhereItzAt got a chance to experience all of it first hand.
Our “Town” experience wound down in similar fashion to the roads leading away from the Blue Mountains and got us on our way to the resort town of Ochos Rios known as “Ochi” to locals. Road conditions in Jamaica make for smooth “country” trips and faster ones with the newly built highway that has cut travel across the island by more than half. Our first stop was Yaaman Adventure Park, an experience that delivers on one of its own taglines, “Experience Jamaica in 1 day”. The operators of Yaaman have a lot of experience in showing Jamaica’s visitors a good time as they are also the operators of the popular Dolphin Cove attraction that allows visitors to swim with the friendly creatures. Yaaman takes full advantage of what is the greatest argument for “Country”: land space. It sits on hundreds of acres of the historic Prospect Estate and every inch of the estate is used for visitor enjoyment. I had an opportunity to enjoy the jitney ride and great house tour. While the great house is reminiscent of other great houses on the island, the jitney journey across the estate was quite educational as we passed several trees scattered across the plantation that were planted by some of the world’s most famous people. A giant mahogany that was planted by Sir Winston Churchill in 1953, greets you at the entrance to the great house. Mud Buggies whirring and whizzing by with masked riders will get your blood pumping as this is another way to explore Yaaman, albeit more extreme. I completed my Yaaman adventure with what makes this place truly family friendly, a calm and peaceful ride on the world’s sweetest camel. The camel guides are professionals and speak to the animals in Jamaican Patois, which made our team laugh heartily.
I know that hunger can induce illusions of an oasis, so imagine my surprise to find Miss T’s Kitchen in a lush colorful garden smack in the middle of Ocho Rios just off Main Street. Miss T’s is just what the weary Jamaican visitor is looking for; authentic local cuisine served on bamboo and in baby dutch pots, old-fashioned settings and friendly, local young people. Our team was seated in their “living room” to have a family style dinner and one by one the dishes came parading through the door. First came the escoveitch fish, then the curry goat, oxtails, rice and peas with the fried plantains in tow. Next time you’re in Jamaica and want some country cookin’ with the vibes to match, please go see Miss T’s in that country tourist town of Ochi.
Few places on the island offer a spectacular view of Jamaica’s sunset quite like the balcony of your room at Moon Palace Resort, Ocho Rios. Ochi’s newest gem sparkles from the lobby with elaborate chandeliers and grand restaurants. One night in Ocho Rios would ordinarily be enough for this well travelled Jamaican, but certainly not with the exquisite culinary experiences at Moon Palace being offered on a nightly basis. The Tuna Tar Tar and Lamb chops were glorious and my chocolate dessert was beautiful with browns set against a white plate. Retreating to your room at Moon Palace after dinner is never coerced but done hastily to ease into a waiting Jacuzzi and plush bedding ready “fi rock you to sleep.” If you visit Moon Palace check out one of the resort’s main attractions, the Flow Rider Surf Simulator. Kids and grown ups are sure to catch the hang of surfing on this ingenious invention, hopefully without a few of the hilarious slips and falls I had on my experience.
My favorable views on a “Country” vacation took a turn for the wonderful upon meeting the now famous Puddin’ Man. On a stretch of road heading into Montego Bay there are busloads of visitors, cars and people bustling to get a piece of this pudding. Jamaican Pudding is a delicious pastry made with potato, cassava or cornmeal, sweetened with sugar and spices and baked with two heat sources, one above and below the mixture. In Jamaica, this old fashion style of baking has its own moniker i.e. “Hell a bottom, Hell a top and Hallelujah in di middle.” The Puddin’ man’s personality is just as colorful as his shop’s outside walls that are lined with coal stoves made out of old tire rims. I had to sample both the cornmeal and potato, and I immediately saw why the Jamaica Tourist Board has endorsed this treat and its jovial baker. The Puddin’ man shop is one of the most authentically Jamaican culinary roadside stops you can make in the “Country” and don’t hesitate to ask him a thing or two about his humble beginnings.
If there is one thing Jamaicans know it’s their rum, but how much do we really know about this concoction enjoyed by many for hundreds of years? With a past steeped in slave history and a future beautifully intertwining with our island’s culture, no one knows rum like Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, Dr. Joy Spence, who happens to be the first woman in the world to hold that title.The Dr. Joy Spence Master Class at the Appleton Estate Rum Experience, it is recently opened at Appleton Estate, one of the world’s oldest rum distilleries. Visitors can expect to interact with artifacts and exhibits, learn about “rum culture in the newly built theatre” and even have the master blender herself walk you through the process of creating your very own rum blend.
Majestic resorts line the Jamaican countryside but one would be hard pressed to find one more magestic than the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa. My final nights in the Jamaican countryside were spent dining in ultimate luxury, staring at either expansive ocean views or rolling green hills. Expect Jewel Grande to remain on top of the resort game with unparalleled hospitality. We were greeted with hugs and kisses from the general manager and I joined the hugs line twice! The Grande Spa at Jewel Grande is dripping in gold, literally. This is where rejuvenation meets innovation, scenes and scents curated for your relaxation along with mysterious gold pebble sand that emanates warmth against your body.
All these wonderful experiences on my island left me a bit melancholy on the day of departure. On my way to Sangster International Airport I couldn’t help but do a final check of my belongings; Camera (with beautiful pictures) CHECK! My bottle of Appleton rum CHECK! My last piece of pudding from the Puddin’ Man. CHECK! New things to love about Jamaica whether “Country” or “Town” and realizing that “nuh wey nuh betta dan yaad.” CHECK, CHECK and CHECK!