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Hope Botanical Gardens

Hope Botanical Gardens or Hope Gardens, as most Jamaicans call it, is a popular spot especially for those who live in Kingston and surroundings. It’s where they go to relax on Sunday afternoon, or to enjoy nature.

With the nearby Hope Zoo, Hope Gardens is also a favorite destination for school trips – it’s on almost every school’s excursion schedule.

Small fountain at Hope Gardens

Entrance to the lily pond

Hope Gardens sits on 60-acres of the Ligunaea Plains at the foot of the Blue Mountains. The property, originally part of Hope Estates, was acquired around 1881 and experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, assisted in laying out the formal gardens. They introduced several varieties of endemic plants, rare flora and exotic species.

Gazebo at Hope Botanical Gardens

The gazebo

I’ve read that Queen Elizabeth II was so impressed by the Gardens that she gave permission for it to be called the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hope.

Hope Botanical Gardens

Part of the gardens

Through a series of unfortunate incidents, including devastation from hurricane, vandalism, and mismanagement, Hope Gardens fell into disrepair in the 1980s. It is now nearly back to its former splendor.

Hope Botanical Gardens

Blue Mountain forms a beautiful backdrop to the gardens

Hope Gardens has a lily pond, sunken gardens, orchid house, bougainvillea walk, and other attractions. It’s a great location for bird watching. Several species, including doves, egrets, Jamaican mango, yellow- and black-billed parrots, and different varieties of the hummingbird (Jamaica’s national bird) can be seen in the park.

Hope’s expansive space and lush environment make it a popular venue for weddings, reunions, picnics, festivals, yoga classes or a leisurely stroll.

Hope Botanical Gardens Particulars

Hours: Daily from 6:00 a.m. except on Labor Day and Hero’s Day.
Current Entrance Fees: Adults $5, Children (3 – 12 years) $3

 

Today, I’m linking up with Travel Photo Discovery‘s Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check out other photos from around the world.

 

Friday Focus: Kristi Keller

This week’s Friday Focus visits with Kristi Keller, a Calgary native who fell in love with Jamaica and has visited the island about twenty times since 2003. Kristi has also spent months at a time in Jamaica.

Kristi Keller

Kristi relaxing on the dock at Pelican Bar, Black River

1.     Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Calgary, Canada.  As a youth I was a dancer and a country girl, spending most of my time riding my horse.  As an adult I spent my time being a single mom and working for a communications company, and then for the municipal government.  My corporate time totaled roughly 15 years.  Life was pretty normal and uneventful and I just blended in….until I started traveling.

2.     What brought you to Jamaica?

In 2003 I won a trip to Jamaica through a local radio station here in Calgary.  Before that I had never considered traveling abroad at all.  Travel was not on my radar other than visiting family in the USA.

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Kristi at Blue Hole waterfall, St. Ann

3.     What were your first impressions of the country and how did those match up with what you knew or had heard from others?

Since I had never experienced a foreign country or a different culture EVERYTHING about Jamaica struck me from the very first minute on the ground.  Landing at a tiny airport (back then), stepping off the plane onto the runway, the amazing greenery and palm trees everywhere I looked, and the heat.  In that first week on the island I was part of an organized group and had to stay with them and participate in the excursions they took us on, but I distinctly remember wanting to get the hell off of that bus and go explore!  I wanted to know everything and everyone!  From that first trip I knew that I hadn’t even seen or learned a fraction of what Jamaica is all about.  Staying in resorts and spending time with an organized tour group doesn’t let you learn anything except how to eat, drink and shop a lot.

4.     What made you return, how many times have you been back and how long, on average, do you stay?

I returned to Jamaica 2 months after my initial trip and the reason I went back so soon was because I received an offer I couldn’t refuse by a Jamaican police officer I briefly met.  He said that if I ever want to come back to Jamaica he would show me what the island was REALLY about.  It was a done deal and I went back, stayed at a home in the countryside and toured the entire western half of the island.  I went to places that tourists don’t normally go, shared a yard with a family of donkeys, met people I would have never met if I had been staying in a hotel, and just absolutely fell in love with the island. 

I’ve been to Jamaica twenty times (and counting) since 2003.  My trips evolved from 7 days, to 10, then to 14 and eventually I quit my job  and left Canada for months to stay in Jamaica.  I’ve done that twice now.

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Crashing waves in Hanover

5.     What does your family think of your visits?

For that second trip where I flew back to hang out with a complete stranger, my mother thought I was on crack.  She was very worried about my safety, knowing that Jamaica has a bad/dangerous reputation.  Now, after all these years and trips I think my family just doesn’t care anymore.  My mother wonders how I can just keep going back to the same place every single time and wonders why I don’t want to discover something new.  But what she doesn’t understand is that every single trip IS new.  If you do Jamaica the way I do Jamaica there is no sameness in any trip.  I drive around the island solo and discover something new every trip.  I stay in local guest houses (not hotels), experience new things to do, meet new people and learn something new every single time. [Read more…]

Devon House Revisited

I’ve written about Devon House but only recently returned to do a tour of the Georgian style house, which is located in Kingston. Devon House was built in 1881 for George Stiebel on a property that was known as Devon Penn.

Devon House, a Georgian mansion built in Kingston in 1881

The fountain

Popularly described as Jamaica’s first black millionaire, Stiebel, the child of German and Jamaican parents, was a carpenter, shipper and gun runner. He struck gold after he invested in a mine in Venezuela and made a fortune, returning to the island a rich man. Stiebel got involved in politics and business, bought 99 properties — it was illegal to own 100 or more – and built his mansion.

Devon House lower vestibule

Vestibule

Partial view of the upper vestibule at Devon House

Vestibule with wing backed and planter’s chairs

The house features classical Georgian lines – simple form, detailing and symmetry. It was built entirely of brick and wood with high ceilings, carved transoms over elegant doors, and ample louvered windows that circulate air efficiently throughout the house. The furniture is a mix of Jamaican, English and French antiques, and reproductions. The large 35-foot ballroom is, without doubt, the mansion’s showpiece with its Broadwood piano, Wedgwood ceiling and English chandelier that Stiebel bought.

Devon House, the Palm Hall featuring painted murals on walls

Palm Hall, with partial view of the living room

Formal dining room at Devon House

Dining room with Chippendale dining table

Stiebel married Magdalene Baker in 1851 and had two children Sigismund, named after his father, and Theresa. When he died in 1896, the mansion passed to Theresa, then Theresa Jackson, the only surviving child. It was later sold to the Melhados in 1922, then to the Lindos, who lived there until 1965. Devon House was turned over to the government of Jamaica. Today, the mansion, which sits on 11 acres, is known as one of the premier destinations in Kingston to enjoy culture, art and heritage, the lush grounds, and its very popular “I-scream” (ice cream).

Master bedroom with canopy bed at Devon House

Master bedroom

Partial view of the master bathroom at Devon House

Part of the master bathroom

A room for games at Devon House

A room for games

A sewing room with fainting couch at Devon House

Sewing room with fainting couch

Wedgwood ceiling and English chandelier at Devon House

The 35-foot Devon House Ballroom with Broadwood piano

The mansion has been restored several times, the latest in 2008. Many of the old buildings from Stiebel’s time are still in use. For example, the Grog Shoppe was the horse and carriage stable and blacksmith’s shop; the Courtyard Shops were servants quarters, and the current Devon House Bakery used to be the kitchen. When I visited recently, workers were replacing the wooden shingles on these buildings.

The welcoming entrance to Devon House

Entrance to Devon House

The expansive lawn at Devon House

Devon House lawn

Devon House Particulars

Tours run on weekdays only with the last tour at 4:30 p.m.

Cost: $10, per person, includes ice cream.

Devon House is located at 26 Hope Road in Kingston.

 

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

The Gumbay Drum

The gumbay drum caught my attention at the Accompong Maroon Festival in January. I’d never seen a drum that was small and square and looked more like a stool than a drum.

As I was leaving the festival, I noticed a small stall with storyboards explaining how gumbay drums are made. There were also several drums on display. The gentleman inside introduced himself as the son of the master drum maker.

Gumbay drum maker's son

Son of the master drum maker

Maker of the gumbay drum

The master drum maker

Sanding the gumbay drum

Storyboard of the master drum maker

Although simple in design, the gumbay drum has several parts. The inner part of is called a baby, the outer part the frame. The top, which is usually made from the skin of the female goat, is the membrane. Maroons use the gumbay drum in their rituals and traditional ceremonies. They are also used to induce a trance state and to communicate with the ancestors.

Storyboard explaining the making of the gumbay drum

Storyboard

He explained how the drums were made — the design looked simple enough for a professional. I doubt that I would have been able to fit the pieces together as easily.  He also demonstrated the special rhythms that drummers play in the different instances when the drum is used. (Sorry, I can’t find my notes and I’ve forgotten the names of the master drum maker and his son.)

Three gumbay drums

Drums on display

Closeup of a gumbay drum

Closeup

 

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.