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Weekend Getaway – Bermuda

Bermuda Cup Match takes place this weekend in Bermuda. My friends are there. Since I couldn’t make it, I’m thinking about them and wondering which of the sites they’ll get time to see.

Held over two consecutive public holidays, Cup Match is a signature event of Bermudian cricket that pits two rival cricket teams, Somerset and St. George’s, against each other. It has been held on the island since 1902.

Outside of Christmas, Cup Match is the most popular event in Bermuda. Scores of Bermudians and international visitors swarm the island, swelling the population to more than twice its size. It is one big weekend-long party that shuts the island down. [Read more…]

A Step Back in Time: Greenwood Great House

Great houses provide a wonderful opportunity to step back in time to see how life was lived in a particular period.

Greenwood Great House, which is located on the border of Trelawny and St. James in the

Ring the bell to enter

town of Greenwood is a time capsule that has carefully preserved the legacy of its previous owners.

Part of an 84,000 acre plantation, Greenwood has an impressive pedigree. Built in 1790 by Richard Barrett, a custos of St James, Speaker of the Assembly and cousin of the British poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, it has been in continuous occupation since.

Chair with Barrett family crest

Greenwood boasts the original Barrett family library complete with leather-bound books dating to 1697, china and original furniture, some with the Barrett family crest.

What impressed me most about this house is that is has never been abandoned. It still has original furnishings and artifacts, a lot of which I had never seen before.

Bob and Anne Betton, its proud current owners and operators, opened Greenwood as a museum in 1976.

Main bedroom

Greenwood Great House, 876-953-1077 is open every day from 9-6. Tours cost $14 for adults, $7 for children under 12.

View of the Caribbean Sea from Greenwood

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Rose Hall, Jamaica’s (Haunted) Great House

Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean, was ‘discovered’ in 1494 on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World. He was in search of silver and gold. Columbus declared Xaymaca, as it was then known “the fairest island that eyes have beheld.”

Among the ‘gifts’ he brought to the New World was sugar cane, but the indigenous Taino (Arawak) population was decimated before it could be developed into a viable industry. This forced the Spanish to look elsewhere for cheap labor. They turned to Africa.

The slave trade was well underway in 1655 when, after 150 years of colonial rule, the British wrested control of the country from the Spanish.

Sugar flourished and Jamaica was, at a time, its largest producer. The wealth sugar generated made plantation owners extremely wealthy. Some of that wealth made its way back to Britain. Some of it was spent building lavish ‘great houses’ that demonstrated the wealth and power of the owners. About 700 existed on the island — all but fourteen were destroyed during and after the 1831 slave revolt which was led by Samuel Sharpe, a local Baptist preacher.

My next few posts will be about this interesting aspect of Jamaica’s history. Walk with me as we take a step back and discover Jamaica’s Great Houses.

Rose Hall

Rose Hall

Rose Hall was built in 1770 for John Palmer, then custos of St. James, and his wife, Rosa. A ‘calendar house,’ it has 365 windows, 52 doors and 12 bedrooms. The house eventually passed to Palmer’s grand-nephew, John Rose Palmer and his wife, Annie, the infamous ‘White Witch.’

Annie’s bedroom

Annie, Palmer’s second wife, is said to have killed three husbands and several slave lovers at Rose Hall before being murdered in 1831.

The slaves were so fearful of her that after her death, they burned all her possessions, including her photographs.

The property was in ruins for several years before being restored to its former glory by the owners, John Rollins (now deceased) and his wife, Michele.

Truth be told, like a lot of Jamaicans, I’m afraid of ghosts and the stories of the brutality at Rose Hall more than clouded my image of the place. But I realized later that those

stories were keeping me from enjoying something that was almost in my backyard, a place that I now find intriguing because of its history.

I can’t say that I saw any ghosts at Rose Hall but several of the photos I took inside the house

turned out blurry, a few had shadows where I know there hadn’t been any.

Walking down the steps to Annie’s torture chamber, the last thing you see is the azure blue waters of the Caribbean Sea just visible through the doorway. It made me wonder what went through the victim’s mind as he (or she) was being led away to be tortured.

Rose Hall pool

The day I visited, a soft breeze brushed my cheek as I sat near this man-made pool. The peace and beauty surrounding the house seemed incongruous with the stories of destruction inside.

Rose Hall Great House is located about a 20 minute drive from the airport in Montego Bay. Open 9-6. Tours are given daily with the last tour given at 5:15 p.m. Call 876-953-2323 for information.

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Jamaica: In Search of The Real Jerk

Scotch Bonnet, Maynefoto

Scotch Bonnet

The first thing I do when I arrive in Montego Bay is find a spot for jerk pork. I’d start tasting it, and yes, it’s always pork, before the plane even lands.

For years, Scotchies, a little joint about 1-2 Jamaican miles from the airport on the north coast road between Montego Bay and Falmouth did the trick.

But the last time I went to Scotchies (MoBay), my mouth watering in anticipation of the jerk pork that I knew would be succulent, seasoned through and through with the right balance of Scotch Bonnet peppers, scallion, thyme, a little mace and sugar rubbed in, then slowly cooked over pimento wood, I was disappointed.

While the pork was succulent, it was bland! Nary a Scotch Bonnet in sight!

Who ever said jerk should be this bland? By definition, jerk, The Real Jerk, must have a reasonable amount of the fiery Scotch Bonnet pepper.

A trip to The Pork Pit on Gloucester Avenue in town was marginally less disappointing. I blame the need to please visitors and make more money.

What’s Jerk?

Jerk is a way of cooking that was created in Jamaica. It involved rubbing the meat with a mixture of spices and cooking it over a pimento fire. The pimento wood adds a distinct smoky flavor. Jerk also refers to the spices that are used to marinate the meat.

Jerk and drinks at Scotchies, Mobay

Enjoying the company of friends at Scotchies, MoBay

Jerk has been a part of my life since childhood. As a little girl, I remember a man (known only as “The Jerk Man”), who would ride around our district usually on a Saturday evening selling jerk pork – it was only pork then – from a pan that was attached to the handlebars of his bicycle. The pork was suspended on a mesh layer over pimento coals in a tray just below. We could smell it way before The Jerk Man arrived at our gate.

Sometime between my childhood and high school, jerk pork all but disappeared, perhaps because of the influence of Rastafarianism and their abhorrence of pork. When it came back in the 70s, it had expanded to include chicken, fish, even sausage.

In time, the knowledge of how jerk was made went from a few cooks, mostly male, who knew the (then secret) ingredients to a bottled wet or dry rub that became available locally and internationally initially to satisfy the palates of the growing number of Jamaicans who lived abroad.

But something got lost in the transition from a few local cooks to international recognition – everyone was free to put their own interpretation on what jerk was supposed to be. But I knew I could always count on finding the Real Jerk in Jamaica.

Not anymore. At least, not in any area that sees a lot of visitors. Something about wanting to make jerk palatable to them and therefore make more sales produce a jerk that’s nothing like how I know jerk is supposed to taste.

(A few years ago, even the Jamaica Tourist Board announced a culinary Jerk Trail, which allows visitors to sample the real thing.)

For true aficianados of The Real Jerk, come with me to one of my favorite places. It’s right on the border of Hanover and Westmoreland and called appropriately, Border Jerk. (I also have to mention Boston Jerk in Boston Bay, Portland, the jerk capital of Jamaica.) There you’ll get some good jerk pork. For those who don’t like pork, there’s chicken, Festival (flour and cornmeal mixture) and soup. If the jerk’s too hot, wash it down with a bottle of Ting, a carbonated grapefruit drink. Me, I prefer a rum and Ting.

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