Road trips rock! And on an island like Jamaica, the options of where to go and what to do are endless. What’s not to like about a road trip? The open road (and we have highways that take us from north to south and back again with ease and breathtaking vistas, as well as from central out west), good company, the prospect of an adventure or two, the certain knowledge that you’ll meet memorable characters along the way and the promise of food! And even if you’re keto like me, there’s no reason why you can’t honour your keto way of eating while on a road trip in Jamaica. In fact, it’s easy! Here we go…
Carbohydrates are a critical part of how we eat in Jamaica. Talk of giving them up leads to the inevitable: So what will I eat then? What are Jamaican keto foods and do they even exist?
As a Jamaican living right here in Jamaica, I’m very happy to say that you can absolutely eat keto in Jamaica! What follows are some approaches and options that have been working for me on my own keto or low-carb journey.
So during August of 2017 we were at the beach. My photog daughter snapped a pic of me. I was in my happy place. After all, Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica and a bottle of rum are the closest one can get to heaven, right? I was HORRIFIED when I saw the pic. It wasn’t even a full-body pic. It was just my face.
Yesterday someone came to me with a real and urgent need. One of her employees had broken down and told her that she was struggling. The employee had been having marital difficulties and was planning to separate from her husband. Her desire to split was not sitting well with him. He had threatened to kill the both of them and now the woman was in urgent need of somewhere to stay while she finalised alternative rental arrangments that would see her living on her own. I promised to make some calls to see what could be done. I thought it should be easy enough. The woman didn’t have children and she was employed. All she needed was a safe haven for a few days for herself and her clothing. She could pay.
|Photo courtesy Loop Jamaica|
I reached out to my Village, a small community of professional sister-friends. They immediately responded. One, a lawyer, gave advice about restraining orders and reporting to the police and offered her services. Another sister-friend, always practical, suggested AirBnB. That was a great suggestion. I found furnished short term accomodation in Kingston, Portmore and Spanish Town for USD35.00/night and up. Another Villager was able to tell of a newly renovated house in an area where the rents weren’t to high which was available for rent at a modest rate. I shared all this info with the person who had come to me for help on behalf of the woman seeking refuge
No Where to Run to: Escaping Domestic Abuse in Jamaica
I was still trying to find a shelter or half way house though. New rentals require a 2 month cash deposit and so the woman seeking to leave her husband would most likely prefer options that didn’t put her too much out of pocket. Plus options are always good, right?
I reached out to a priest via Facebook who immediately responded. He gave me a number for Eve for Life and a name there. He promised to tug on his own network and get back to me. His response was empathetic and caring and he sensed the urgency of the situation. I called Eve for Life, but the person I wanted to speak with wasn’t available. I was put on to anther person though with a direct cell number. She didn’t answer when I rang, but immediately Whatsapped me back with an apology (she was in a meeting) and a promise to call me ASAP. I called Woman Inc. Several times. No one was available. I left a message via Facebook Messenger with a brief description of the issue and all my contact info. I reached out to the Twitterverse. Tweeps immediately retweeted and were quick with suggestions. Most people suggested I call Woman Inc. I was grateful for the quick responses and compassion that my solicitations elicited. The woman from Eve for Life eventually called me back. She too was empathetic, seized of the urgency of the situation and willing to help. She said she knew of an organisation that operated safe houses and promised to call someone there on my behalf. She told me that she would get them to call me directly. I remained grateful.
All of this happened between 8am and early afternoon yesterday. It is early afternoon 24 hours later as I type and I have yet to be guided to a safe house. The woman who had originally come to me advised me towards the end of yesterday that the woman seeking to leave her husband was eventually able to get help from her sister. Thank God. I pray that she is safe.
To be Clear: I am in no way condemning Woman Inc or Eve for Life. These groups are doing good I know. And they operate from a small resource base. I know this. And sometimes it is not possible to help everybody.
But I’m putting my own experience in trying to find help for someone out there hoping that someone more in the know than I can tell me definitively where women fleeing a dangerous situation can go to. I was trying to find somewhere for a woman running solo, with money. I thought it was simple. What if she was broke or destitute with children? That would be a much more complicated situation to deal with.
Tips for escaping domestic abuse
Until I learn of a name and number for a safe house resources, here are my own suggestions for women wanting to and needing to leave a dangerous, undesirable situation:
1. Have some cash…easier said than done I know. I know. But even USD300.00 can buy you some time and space via AirBnB.
2. You need a sister friend at a time like this…someone who can and will accomodate you for a few days. Live good with people, confide and ask for help.
If you have more info re: resources that actually work in situations like this, please share. I will also share what you tell me and we could be saving someone’s life. I was grateful for the empathy, concern and advice. But at the end of the day, I got no real help for this woman.
UPDATE MAY 12 2019
Since this post was written, I’ve received confirmation that there is one shelter available. The NGO Woman Inc operates the country’s only official facility for battered women — the Crisis Shelter. But the Crisis Shelter is only able to accommodate 12 women and their children at a time temporarily. They run a 24-hour hotline which can be reached at 929-2997.
The government of Jamaica has announced plans to establish shelters in each of the 3 counties of the island. The Government has bought a guest house which is being set up as a shelter for abused women and should be fully operational this year.
Two additional shelters for abused women are to be established during the 2019/2020 fiscal year. This will bring to three, the number of national women’s shelters across the island, with one in each county.
“There’s a lady on Church St with the loveliest poinsettias at good prices” she offered.
I was looking for fluffy, good looking poinsettias that wouldn’t break the bank and a colleague at work tried to help. She too wanted some and we agreed to pay this downtown Kingston vendor a visit. She reassured me that I would get parking (in the JPS parking lot…she had business to do at JPS so we wouldn’t be lying) and that she would direct me.
So at the appointed time, we removed our jewellery (Downtown Kingston, DUH!), grabbed our tiny purses (no need to advertise) and headed out in my car. Traffic was heavy going up Duke St. The commercial district that is Downtown Kingston was a bustle with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. On a regular day, Downtown is a bargain hunter’s paradise. So everyone and their mother trying to maximize their Christmas spend was out in the brilliant December sunshine in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.
The traffic was sluggish and I decided to make conversation as we slowly made our way up the road. You see, my passenger/guide is my co-worker but we’re not close friends, if you understand what I mean.
“So what are your plans for Christmas dinner?” I enquired. Food is always a great place to start as far as I am concerned.
“Well…” she hesitated…“We would normally go to my in-laws, but for the past two years we’ve done nothing.”
There was an awkward pause. But not for long. I sensed a story.
“How come?” I pushed.
She sighed. “Two years ago my sister-in-law was rude to me at dinner, Kelly. I was hurt but I held it in. And I decided that I didn’t need to put up with that ever again.”
As I listened, I sensed that she was conflicted, that she responded the only way she thought she could have, but that she wasn’t comfortable with her own decision.
“So how do your hubby and your kids feel about your decision? Don’t they miss the jollification and family togetherness?” I asked gently.
Another sigh. “I’ve encouraged, I’ve begged them to go without me, Kelly, but they don’t.”
I explained to her that as mothers WE are the nucleus of the family, that everything revolves around us, and that if we aren’t happy, no one else is really happy. Then I felt led to share a story with her.
I told her about my friend Rachel Cunning. I met Rachel on Twitter. She was a thirty something professional who was suffering from Lupus when we met. She was a lively and engaging tweeter, posting links to interesting topics and offering witty comebacks up and down my timeline. She tweeted in passing that she was spending Christmas alone. Immediately I perked up. No one should be alone at Christmas unless they choose to, is my belief, handed down to me by my own mother. Now let me confess, I am not the most sociable person. I am no social butterfly who loves to entertain. Not me, no Siree. But Christmas has always been a time for family and food and fellowship and so I reached out to her. She immediately accepted my invitation to dinner. It was a bit of a logistical challenge for me as she was not mobile and she lived all the way in Portmore, miles and miles away from my Coopers Hill home. But I planned around it, picked her up early, and warned her that she would have to watch me cook and prepare and just spend the day with me. I got a bedroom ready for her in case she needed to rest and took out blankets and socks since Coopers Hill is delightfully cool at this time of the year. I fussed for nothing. Rachel fit right in with the family and we all embraced her immediately. Our other guests came later in the day and December 25 2016 was another warm, enjoyable, fun time.
One Wednesday in early October I spoke to Rachel. She was in hospital but was upbeat that she would be discharged on the weekend. I was supposed to call her that weekend to make arrangements to get something to her later that week or so. I didn’t call her. The weekend passed and on the Monday morning heading out I remarked to Nick that I had to call Rachel “today today today.” Imagine my horror when I saw “RIP Rachel” on my twitter timeline later that Monday morning. Two phone calls later confirmed the worst: Rachel had passed away in hospital the previous evening.
“Life is short” I told my colleague. “At the end of the day, is whatever you’re holding on to really worth it?
By this time, we had parked and exited the car. All the nice poinsettias were sold off. But I wasn’t disappointed. I had the distinct feeling, almost certain knowledge, if you will, that the drive out for poinsettias was not really about poinsettias, but more about the delivery of a well needed, perfectly timed message to my colleague that could potentially impact her life and her family’s life for the better: something infinitely better than potted plants for my home.
This morning she came in late and came straight to my desk. She was beaming and bubbling as she pulled up a chair.
“I know you were disappointed about the poinsettias, Kelly. But I have to tell you, I think the reason for our little outing was bigger than poinsettias.”
She shared how late into the night she wrestled with the challenge I offered her. She felt compelled to reach out to her sister-in-law to resurrect family dinner on Christmas day. She had discussed it with her husband and children and they all eagerly encouraged her to reach out. They were in full support. She eventually Whatsapped her sister at 7:30 this morning and almost immediately her phone rang. Sister-in-Law was on the other end, happy and eager to pick up where they had left off two years ago. My colleague told me that she felt a great weight off her shoulders and lightness in her heart. She was excitedly working out menu plans and best of all, the family was going to be together for Christmas. She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she had done the right thing. I have a feeling that this Christmas will be a very special Christmas for that family.
Is there a fractured relationship that you need to address? Christmas is as good a time as any to deal with it.
Is there a lonely person in your circle that you can include in your plans? Christmas is a great excuse to intrude.
Are you the lonely one? Are you the hurt one? I am sorry for your pain and hurt. I encourage you to reach out. You’d be surprised at the welcome waiting for you at the end of that call or text message.
Here’s to an abundance of love and happiness this Christmas.
|Courtesy Marion Ann|
I love mushrooms. I can eat them raw, sauteed in butter by themselves, cooked up with bacon, perched atop a thin crust veggie pizza (yum!), paired with tender chicken in a creamy sauce…you get the picture. Typically, mushrooms in Jamaica are premium offerings, imported and resold at high prices in the more upscale supermarkets. But in the early ’90s, there was a local project that saw oyster mushrooms produced by small farmers in rural Jamaica available on supermarket shelves. They were different from the typical button and portabella mushrooms that I was familiar with, but they were half the price and they were fresh and I lived for the times when they made their appearance. I can’t recall the details on the project that brought this exotic food local. It could have been RADA or JADF (Think inland shrimp farming, ornamental fish rearing, bee keeping,small farmer orchid production in Yallahs, cassava and tobacco farming, greenhouse agriculture…some of the more well known agriculture based projects that were initiated with the aim of transforming lives & communities. Too bad scaling up seems to elude us. I stand to be corrected). They soon ceased to be available, much to my dismay. There’s that scaling up issue again.
Over the years I have mourned their absence until a few weeks ago when I stumbled across an article in the local papers signalling a new project and the availability of locally produced oyster mushrooms again! Oh happy day! I immediately went to the Facebook page indicated in the article and enquired. Production was happening in Manchester. Were they available in Kingston? Where? How much? I eventually got a response stating that deliveries were going to be made in Kingston on Nov 16, please place orders at a specific email address. So I did. The minimum order would be a half pound at J$2500.00. More later on the pricing.
On Thursday I got an email indicating the approximate time of delivery and in the afternoon, the front desk at my office called me advising me of a delivery for me. I rushed out and was greeted by an elegant woman, with a slightly foreign accent, with 2 boxes and 2 jars for me. She introduced herself as Pauline Smith with a firm handshake, instructed me to immediately place the still warm and oh so beautiful mushrooms in cool storage, uncovered!, she was careful to admonish. She also said that as a first time customer I was getting two new products to try on one condition, that I give her feedback. The jars were labelled as mushrooms in bamboo vinegar. I was intrigued.
|Look at that! Fresh and beautiful. One half pound of pale creamy and delicate salmon coloured mushrooms|
|Same label, but two different products I think. One had smaller bits with a firmer texture, and one had larger softer pieces.|
I asked her to tell me more about this project. She explained that she was part of a cooperative aimed at empowering women and attacking rural poverty. She explained how they had worked to demystify mushroom cultivation and evolve a system where it become a plug and play endeavor. They had developed starter kits, very little land space was required, and that value added products was seen as the real value added side of this industry. Oh wow! I was intrigued. I love food. I love food innovation. And woman empowerment was simply the icing on the cake. Absolutely.
Pauline gave me more strict instructions on how to use the jarred products. “The mushrooms are a great meat substitute” she advised. “Simple use a little virgin coconut oil or sesame oil, sautee the product straight from the jar and then add a little of the vinegar it’s preserved in at the end.” “Oooh” I rejoined. “So it’s like an escoveitch then” I asked excitedly? “Not really…” she replied. “It’s more like a…like a…” she searched. “Like Thai food!” I jumped in as a light bulb went off. “That’s it exactly!” she agreed. I knew that I was in the presence of real foodie. Hey, Sis 🙂
I put my treasures in my igloo that I keep under my desk (don’t ask…I do, and it has come in handy on multiple occasions) and on cloud nine, I went home that evening my head swimming with all the ways I was going to enjoy my mushrooms.
On Friday evening I decided to have a light supper of lettuce roll ups. I put slices of ham and chicken processed slices in lettuce leaves, added cream cheese, olives, onions, pepper sauce and some of the mushroom pieces pickled in the bamboo vinegar and rolled them up. Delicious! These mushroom pieces were crisp and slightly sweet and went well with the other ingredients in my roll ups.
On Saturday morning I tried the preserved mushrooms in exactly the way she advised. I used sesame oil. The end result was a meaty, slightly sweet perfect side accompaniment to my bacon and hard-boiled egg breakfast. I imagined that it would also be perfect in a 100% veggie stir-fry creation that included baby corn, onions, sweet peppers and broccoli. Yum! My family concurred. Definitely a winner.
|Oyster mushrooms picked in bamboo vinegar, sauteed in sesame oil, a little of the bamboo vinegar added at the end.|
|Don’t mind the shape of my eggs. It’s magic! The mushrooms were a delicious part of my breakfast.|
For dinner, I decided to make chicken and mushroom in a cream sauce. Perfection! These oyster mushrooms have a meaty texture and they were so fresh and unblemished and unbruised (is that even a word?) unlike the imported options we have that have been cold storage for sooooo long and are soooooo far away from their origins. The end result was a delicious, easy to make meal that we all enjoyed.
|I sauteed the cut up mushrooms with onions in my wok.|
|After stir-frying boneless, skinless chicken thighs, I added the sauteed mushrooms and onions. Fresh ginger, loads of fresh garlic, heavy cream, a dash of freshly grated nutmeg and fresh parsley brought it all together.|
|I served the chicken and mushrooms with a garden salad, and stir fried chayote and zucchini. All locally grown.|
I did a little digging of my own. I visited Pauline’s Facebook page (she accepted my friend request), I visited her cooperative’s website and I read two Gleaner articles on her movement here and here. What I came away with is this: Pauline and her team have a vision. A great vision, that, if realised in full, will see women with an option for economic independence, a new healthy addition to our food options locally, an opportunity for exciting new food innovations with mushrooms as the base, and hopefully an abundance of fresh mushrooms at a reasonable price in supermarkets, so I can enjoy one of my favourite foods with ease. Like so many similar projects, this one seems to have had its problems: in-fighting, funding, support, etc. But they’re still going. Pauline has had her own health challenges, but she’s still going. And they’re working hard to spread the message. At a recent event at Devon House, they were fully present, selling “grow-kits” to allow people to grow their own mushrooms in their kitchen! I’d love to try that.
Now, I work in the food industry…commercial manufacturing and distribution. So I always think commercial viability of any food innovation. Was the J$2,500.00 value for money? Perhaps…these are organic, fresh offerings delivered to my door. I haven’t done the gram for gram comparison with the imported options. And maybe I shouldn’t. But premium-offerings consumers are a niche market, and there is still a mass market out there who think out-of-pocket-spend instead of premium-and-healthy and may be put off by such a huge outlay. The mushroom project will ultimately choose their target demographic and proceed accordingly. I wish them every single success.
I have another tray of fresh mushrooms left and I am conspiring to sautee them with garlic and veggies and enjoy. By myself. No easy feat in house of foodies. Selfish? Yes. Without apology 🙂 #causeImworthit.
Published in the Daily Gleaner July 11 2017
I imagine that the harassment is along the lines of taxi drivers and tour operators and vendors trying to woo visitors off the ships to spend their money with them. Imagine that you are a visitor to this island. This wooing is likely to take the form of a relentless verbal assault, as it were, cajoling you to look and buy in an environment unfamiliar to you. Perhaps you don’t even understand what is being said, but the tone and body language and posturing have now converted what should have been a leisurely stroll into an excursion into hell, where all you want to do is get back to the relative safety of your cabin.
Now put yourself in the place of the average citizen who resides here driving to work in the morning. You stop at the red light, and one or two or even three windscreen wipers swoop down on you. They yank up your wiper blades before you cyaan even mouth a polite “no thanks” and insist on cleaning your windscreen, turning abusive when you indicate helplessly that you have no money to give them. The abuse is verbal (“Yuh too mean, Mummy!” or “Yuh a gwaan like yuh betta dan people!) and is sometimes physical, damage being inflicted directly to your car.
Or let’s say you commute using public transport. You enter the bus park (pick any one), and immediately, the ubiquitous loader man approaches you, verbally assaulting you with a running commentary on how nice you look, and he knows where you are going, and this is the bus you must take, all the while holding your arm and dragging you to his’ bus, literally shoving you into the vehicle.
The emotional and physical strain and the ever-present possibility of personal danger associated with anticipating and dealing with the harassment meted out by windscreen wipers and loader men are not insignificant, and many of us choose our routes specifically to avoid this sort of trauma. I understand the cruise ships’ decision. Too easy.
It is important to understand why this harassment happens in order to eradicate it. There will never be enough police to arrest every single harasser and keep would-be harassers in check. The craft vendors, tour operators and guides, windscreen wipers, and loader men all do what they do out of need. They are grabbing on desperately to the only chance they have identified to provide for themselves and their dependents.
Their relentless assault, though, that aggressive push and determination to make you accept and pay for a service/product that you do not need, is directly linked to the culture of patronage that political leaders have fostered. This practice of selective benevolence, meted out to some of the many existing in a state of depravity instead of creating the environment that allows the collective to level up, has perpetuated the fight for scarce benefits and spoils.
Recipients of the largesse are envied by the overlooked, and the resulting resentment feeds a sense of entitlement. “Why not me?” I imagine that the harassers don’t see themselves as harassing, per se. I imagine that this is how they process the situation: “I need. You have. I ought to have. Take what I am offering you and give me some of your money in return.” The harasser’s need trumps any other variable in the dynamic.
Where development plans are crafted and executed, excluding and ignoring the very real need that exists in communities, rest assured that the justification that I have just outlined will prevail. Until patronage is replaced with enabling, until observing and craving are replaced by real participation, tour operators, vendors, windscreen wipers, and loader men will continue to do the only thing they feel they can do to survive.
It is late in the day to halt, and then reverse, these dysfunctional cultural paradigms that have formed and become entrenched through the years of our national development. But to give up now is to accept defeat. We need our leaders to craft and enact developmental plans in harmony with local communities. It can be done.
Published in the Daily Gleaner September 2016
The millennials on my timeline responded. And they appeared, for the most part, to reject in full the talk-show host’s rallying cry.
Others on my timeline, closer to my age (not millennials), bemoaned the apparent apathy of the younger generation and were quick to call them self-absorbed, shallow and apathetic.
I think it is important, though, to go beyond mere labels and seek to understand why this younger generation appears to have no fire in their bellies.
First of all, our millennials are products of Jamaica. What they are today is informed by what they have seen around them for several years now.
One millennial rejected the call to march, stating very definitively that she is not interested in “empty symbolism”. Why empty? Why merely symbolic?
LACK OF LEGITIMACY
The State lacks legitimacy. Our young people see chaos and loss of life when the State, when it suits it, reneges on international agreements on extradition. They see the State failing to fill the void created with the extraction of the don from the community and the resulting upswing in crime. Justice looks different depending on who you are, who you know and where you come from. They see this. They see laws being passed in record time when pressure is applied from alien nations to which we are beholden.
They see governments applying fiscal discipline only when a foreign third-party holds the handle. They hear about kickbacks on national capital projects and then hear nothing more about investigations and repercussions. Coupled with this, they see a reluctance on the part of the powerful and those who want to be powerful to speedily enact campaign-financing legislation.
Our millennials face high unemployment. They see a glorious picture of their country in the document that is Vision 2030, and no further reference to the vision going forward. They hear talk, talk and more talk, but see preservation of the status quo, which excludes them and excludes real improvement unless those with power stand to benefit.
Their apparent apathy is possibly simply a rejection of our preoccupation as a nation with form and appearance at the expense of real substance.
Jamaica reached where we are under our watch. Why do we, therefore, expect our young people to rise up and push back now? They are simply modelling our own behaviour.
Do all Jamaican citizens have an equal voice? Is enforcement of the law predictable? Are our authorities seen to be fair? To answer any of these questions in the negative is to support the argument that the State lacks legitimacy.
Our young people will continue to demonstrate this so-called apathy, being true to our own example in allowing governance lacking legitimacy.
Published in the Daily Gleaner June 16 2017
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Once upon a time, The Organisation was losing millions of dollars per year in inventory variances. The main warehouse was a mess. Antiquated processes, haphazard putaway systems, zero accountability with receivals, and poor management making collusion too easy were the status quo.
With obscured visibility, both literally (goods were placed randomly and without order within the warehouse) and because of the inaccurate data on the system, thieves had a field day. They deep-dived under the chaos and enriched themselves.
Then one day, we planned and executed an operational turnaround. An automated warehouse management system was instituted and warehouses were racked and binned. New ways of operating led to visibility and accountability. Inventory variances all but disappeared. With the imposition of order, lawlessness had no context in which to flourish.
What if Kingston were clean? What if litterbugs were prosecuted?
What if the horrible, brutish taxi drivers who create third lanes were prosecuted under the law?
What if traffic violations, regardless of perpetrator, were always prosecuted?
What if schools partnered with the police force and the Transport Authority to get our children awaiting buses in the HWT Transport Centre to comport themselves with dignity and decorum?
What if justice was equally swift, regardless of brown or black skin, or address?
What if the flow of raw sewage below Torrington Bridge was dealt with as quickly as if it were flowing in Kingston 8?
Would the crime statistics in Jamaica change?
If you’ve ever driven to Negril via the South Coast, you would have driven along a coastal stretch in Westmoreland overlooking the bluest water you’ve ever seen. That area is an idyllic seaside community aptly named Bluefields. Back in December, the entire family took a trek to Peter Tosh’s grave in Belmont, Westmoreland (H claims that he is a relative of the late, great Tosh…antecedents from Westmoreland like Tosh, same surname..who am I to argue. I’m just along for the Road Trip!).
|Peter Tosh’s Yard|
|Peter Tosh’s Grave|
Belmont is a tiny seaside community that literally runs into Bluefields. So to call that entire stretch of white sand and blue waters Bluefields is understandable and forgivable.
Anyhows, let’s back up. I had a desire to spend the Easter weekend out of town this year. And so in January I started my research. I had some must haves:
- I must be right on the sea
- I must have WiFi
- I must have a fridge
- It must fit within my budget
I knew I didn’t want an all-inclusive vacation spot. I’m at the stage of my life where I don’t join lines for food. The children are old enough to eat on schedule. And I know exactly what I want to drink. Simple. I just need ice, Wray and Nephew White Rum, Appleton VX, Tonic Water, Coconut Water and Ginger Ale. I don’t need to be jostling and competing for a shady spot around the pool and I most certainly do not need an enthusiastic play-maker coaxing me to do the Dollar Wine. I also knew I didn’t particularly feel for the oh so convenient, predictable and almost luxurious Silver Sands villas of Trelawny experience (our summer break of choice). I also could not afford the USD800.00 and upwards per night for exquisite villas along the south and west coast of Jamaica that exist. I kept coming back in my mind to beautiful Belmont. My interest had been piqued since our December pilgrimage to H’s famous ancestor. Rustic (BUT WITH WIFI OF COURSE!) & unknown to me is what I was going for.
Luna Sea Inn, Belmont Jamaica
I logged into Air BnB and after many,many, many hours of searching and consideration settled on a newly refurbished inn called Luna Sea Inn, right in Belmont. It checked all my boxes. We would be a party of 5, with kids ranging from 21 to 5. I booked the cottage which could sleep 5. There was a fridge, there was cable TV and there was WiFi. Luna Sea was right on the sea and while there wasn’t an ideal swimming beach, swimming spots were within walking distance, and they had a tiny pool. The booking included breakfast and the room came with a fully stocked coffee station. Yes!
So we arrived Saturday midday. We were checked in, no problem, given welcome rum punches (juices for the younguns, a Red Stripe for the 21 yo) and we settled in. The cottage was obviously a caretaker accommodation in a previous life, but the new owner (a retired American doctor lady) had done her best to make it habitable. It was clean enough, had AC & smart TVs in each room. BUT someone had not ensured that all was well before handing the room over to guests and we discovered that the fridge wasn’t working, neither was one of the TVs. On the bright side, there was a large day-bed just outside the cottage, under a shady almond tree, six steps away from the rocky area where waves crashed relentlessly. I was in Paradise.
|View from the Cottage at Luna Sea|
|View from the day bed at Luna Sea|
|Another view from the day bed at Luna Sea|
Intrepid adventurers that we are, we had packed snacks, juice, water rum, more rum, chasers of all kinds, mangoes, Easter bun, cheese, salad fixings, pickles and a roasted chicken and ice. And we had 2 igloos. Broken fridge? Ha! Bring it!
We explored the small but well kept property. The adults settled down with cocktails, the kids logged on to their various devices and in between games and surfing the world wide web, walked down the rocky steps and found crabs, sea urchins and various forms of marine life dwelling in the rocky outcrop.
That night, we decided to check out the famous Dor’s Crab Shack, a 2 min drive down the road, billed as the best place to eat in Belmont, apparently famous for stuffed crab backs. It was totally devoid of patrons when we pulled up after 6pm and we were informed that only fried chicken and shrimp were available. Oh…and they don’t take cards, only cash. Bummer. We decided to drive into White House, the nearest town, and after checking at the main gas station for recommendations for places to sit and eat, we still came up blank. The one restaurant that looked like we could sit and have a meal was closed off that evening for a private party. Sure there were jerk vendors and roadside fish vendors, but road food with nowhere to sit is not the most convenient way to feed a 5 yo. So reluctantly we headed back to Dors. Truth be told, the fried chicken and curried shrimp we had there were delicious…well seasoned, nicely presented and of course nothing beats eating right on the white sand with waves gently breaking. The food was inexpensive and filling and tasty. Only cash was accepted.
Breakfast the next morning at Luna Sea was an event. They bungled our order and despite apologetic, well meaning staff, there was once again the absence of management and a missing service standard which resulted in a sub-par experience. The food was tasty enough when we finally got it: a fresh fruit plate, good coffee, and your choice of Jamaican or American style breakfast. Nice. We had ackee and saltfish, seasonal fruits, pancakes, bacon and omelettes.
|My Tribe waiting for Breakfast at Luna Sea|
Fellow Jamaicans staying in a nearly suite (those rooms are more updated than the cottage…I know because I am nuff and asked a cleaning lady to allow me to view an empty room) told us that they had actually driven into Negril for dinner and pointed us to the excellent public beach just a minute down the road. We finalised our plans for Sunday! We would go for a dip in said public beach and then we’d drive to either Negril or nearby Black River in the adjoining parish for dinner. I had planned to dine at Luna Sea, but after the near catastrophe that breakfast was (did I tell you that the card machine stopped working at breakfast?) we decided to dine off-property.
Before I tell you how awesome dinner was and where we dined, let me pause to make some observations about Belmont, Westmoreland. So you already know that dining options were limited, despite it being a fishing area. You already know that cards are meaningless in this area. So walk with cash, inconvenient though it may be. But what we noticed that day on the public beach was a relative plethora of young Caucasians, obviously staying in Belmont, hanging with locals, smoking ganja, eating local street food, absorbing the vibe. An obviously impoverished area still had enough to attract visitors! There was a tree house type establishment right on the beach with a trap set and speakers where H discovered people jammed after dark. The air in the tree house, even in the afternoon, was thick with ganja smoke, not conducive I think to family togetherness, but obviously attractive to a particular demographic. Surely it is possible to maintain the authentic, rustic vibe without being pop-down and limited in the offerings to a wider demographic. Food for thought, Jamaica Tourist Board?
Cloggy’s for Fish, Black River Jamaica
Google maps told us that it was a mere 23 minute drive from Luna Sea Inn to Black River. That evening, we headed to Cloggy’s on the Beach in Black River. We had eaten there before and were sure that we would be able to get a good fish dinner right on the beach. And we were not disappointed. We selected huge snapper fish and told them how we wanted them prepared: escoveitch and brown-stewed with festivals and bammy were the order of the day. Once again we had to pay in cash (bummer!), then we took our seats in a raised gazebo overlooking the Black River coastline. Simply beautiful.
|Cloggy’s At Sunset. Photo Credit: Rachael McIntosh|
We (happily) observed that Cloggy’s had spent some money fixing up their dining area and cleaning up the surroundings since last we were there. And bonus! It was Sunday night, also billed as Karaoke Night at Cloggy’s. Woo-hoo! We got our perfectly done fish meals, cold beers and drinks and Yours Truly made a perfect fool of herself participating in karaoke! Bellies full, still laughing, we left Cloggy’s a very happy, satisfied crew. I should note that while we were waiting on our meals, two potentially distressing things happened: the DJ turned up the volume waaay too loud. H had a quiet word, and that ended well. And then motor cyclists, almost like a gang, with their bike mufflers removed, kept riding in to Cloggy’s revving and being a general nuisance. Thank God they eventually left.
|Waiting for Dinner at Cloggy’s on the Beach, Black River|
|Brown Stewed Snapper Fish with veggies and bammy|
The disparity between Belmont and Black River was obvious: both sleepy seaside towns, but Black River had more activity going on, more options for a wider range of visitors.
We ended our weekend out west by taking the scenic, easy route over the hills into St. James, to drop our daughter back to school. I have no regrets at choosing Luna Sea Inn, and you know what? I’d go back. With better on the ground management, that spot right at the edge of Paradise could be an absolute gem. The rates are more than reasonable, the location is perfect and the intentions are righteous.
A bus with tourists pulled into Luna Sea the Sunday afternoon we were there. H & I were sitting under the almond tree, sipping rum and reading, the waves were crashing on the rocks a mere six steps away. The children were crab hunting. One of the tourists who had disembarked remarked wistfully: You have the perfect spot! And you know what? She was perfectly correct. She was part of a group of bird watchers and I was able to point her to some nesting chicken hawks in the almond tree shading us.
I knew that I was part of a picture perfect postcard: sparkling ice cold rum drink in one hand, kindle in the other hand, feet up on the huge day-bed, in the middle of a pretty garden, with the blue Caribbean Sea providing the soundtrack only feet away. I did indeed, have the perfect spot.