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5 Reasons to Leave the Beach and Explore St. James Jamaica

Tall ship, St. James

Most visitors to Jamaica arrive in Montego Bay, but I doubt many know that it’s the capital of St. James, the island’s fourth largest parish. Located on Jamaica’s northwest coast, St. James shares borders with the parishes of Trelawny (east), St. Elizabeth (south), Westmoreland (southwest), and Hanover (west). It got its name, in 1655, from James II, who was formerly the Duke of York.

Like the rest of Jamaica, the original residents of St. James were Taino Indians. Sadly, they didn’t survive Christopher Columbus’ landing on the island in 1494. Some succumbed to European diseases, others committed suicide instead of accepting subjugation to Spanish authority, while some died fighting against the Spanish. Remnants of their presence have been discovered in settlements along the coast of the parish.

Mobay Beach, St. James

Mobay Beach

Montego Bay is derived from Bahia de Manteca (Lard Bay), the name the Spanish called it because of the large population of wild hogs that they found there and which slaughtered for lard that was exported to Spain.

During sugar’s heyday, several plantations dotted the parish making sugar and rum the main exports.  Many of these plantations and great houses were burnt to the ground in the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, one of the largest slave uprisings in the island’s history. The revolt was lead by Sam Sharpe, who was born on Croydon Plantation. Sharpe was hanged and now one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.

Monument to Sam Sharpe at Croydon Plantation, St. James

Monument to Sam Sharpe at Croydon Plantation

St. James has developed much in the last several years, due in part to its location and its legendary white sand beaches, which began attracting visitors to Montego Bay and the north coast since the 1940s. Commonly referred to as the Second City, and the tourist capital of the island, Montego Bay welcomes nearly half of the approximately 3 million visitors the island sees each year, making tourism the parish’s main industry and largest employer.

Most visitors who travel to Montego Bay never leave their all-inclusive hotels. If you’re one of them, here are five reasons to get out and discover the diversity of activities that St. James has to offer.

Ahhh...Ras Natango Garden & Gallery, St. James

Ahhh…Ras Natango Garden & Gallery

Ahhh….Ras Natango Gallery & Gardens – A rock garden, art gallery and the best ecotourism spot in St. James. Ahhh…Ras Natango is located about 20 minutes from Mobay, in the small community of Camrose. Entrance $30, includes shuttle pickup. Lunch is available on order for an additional fee.

Greenwood Great House Pub, St. James

Converted Pub, Greenwood

Greenwood Great HouseNear the border of Trelawny in a community named Greenwood is Greenwood Great House, which was once owned by the family of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. Greenwood has the Caribbean’s finest collection of musical instruments, antique furniture, china and rare books, which all belonged to the Barrett family. Guided tours are available 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. US$20. 876-953-1077

Rocklands Bird Sanctuary – With more than two-dozen endemic birds, Jamaica is a bird lover’s paradise. If you love birds and are in the Montego Bay area, head over to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary where you can spot up to 17 species, including the humming bird, Jamaica’s national bird, and feed them too!

Rows of pineapples at Croydon Plantation, St. James

Fields of pineapple

Croydon Plantation – Croydon Plantation owes its reputation to pineapples and coffee, as well as its connection to national hero, Samuel Sharpe. Sharpe was born a slave at Croydon. He became a Baptist preacher who organized a peaceful protest in December 1831 that turned into the largest rebellion on the island. Plantation tours with pineapple tastings are conducted on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Cost $70 includes round trip transportation and lunch.

Drummers at the Rastafari Indigenous Village, St. James

Rastafari Drummers

Rastafari Indigenous Village – If you’re interested in learning about the Rastafarians, how they live, what they eat, their philosophy, head to the Rastafari Indigenous Village, a small community of Rasta bretheren, and some sistren too, who’ll give you the 411 on Rastafari beliefs, show you some drum moves and give you a tour of their village. An ital (purely vegetarian) lunch is also offered.

Bonus Option:

Rafting on the Great River – Nothing relaxes more than river rafting. This one-hour excursion down the Great River includes buffet lunch and drinks.

I’m sharing this post with Wanderlust Wednesday, which Dana at Time Travel Plans organizes.

Foodie Tuesday: Codfish Fritters (Stamp and Go)

Codfish Fritters

I love codfish fritters – tasty bite-size morsels of cooked codfish enveloped in light flour – but made them for the first time only last year. Cod or salt fish fritters are very popular as appetizers or snacks and are made by adding flaked codfish to a batter, which is then deep-fried.

Codfish Fritter batter

Batter

Also called Stamp and Go, apparently after the command (“Stamp and go!”) that was given to 17th century British sailors when tasks had to be done in a hurry, codfish fritters are sometimes referred to as Jamaica’s first fast food. They are relatively easy to make, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to make them. Codfish fritters can be eaten by themselves or accompanied by a dipping sauce.

Codfish Fritters

Fritters

How to Make Codfish Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted codfish (deboned) 
  • 2 cups unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks escallion, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Soak codfish overnight in water, or bring to a boil twice (for 12-15 minutes), draining and adding fresh water after each boil.
  2. Drain and rinse the codfish under running cold water.
  3. Using a fork or your fingers, flake the codfish into small pieces, taking care to remove any remaining bones.
  4. To a small skillet, add oil and allow to get hot. Add onion, garlic, tomatoes and escallions. Sautee until soft about 5 minutes. Add black pepper then combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool
  5. Add codfish to the seasonings. Stir to combine.
  6. In a medium bowl, add flour and baking powder. Stir to incorporate.
  7. Add codfish mixture to the flour and stir to combine.
  8. Add water gradually, mixing by hand until a firm but loose batter is achieved
  9. Pour oil into a 6-qt. Dutch oven to a depth of 2, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Using a tablespoon, drop rounds of dough into oil, and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes; repeat until remaining dough is finished.
  10. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fritters to paper towels to drain briefly.
  11. Garnish with tomato or lime wedges, chopped scallion, etc., and serve.

Recipe adapted from Enid Donaldson’s The Real Taste of Jamaica.

Although I’ve only used codfish, I’m sure other meats can be substituted. Fritters are not only about meat. Bananas that are very ripe can also be used, though the recipe is slightly different.

 

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Jamaica Board Signs, I

Signs like this one make me smile. Specifically, it’s the part that states, it is my intention to apply. As long as you intend to apply, you’re golden.

Signs

Liquor license sign

Like most places, business establishments in Jamaica that sell spirits must have a license. However, they can begin operating without one if they post a sign like the one above.

There are clear requirements for the sign: it must be in capital letters not below 5mm in height, and displayed prominently.

The business owner must apply for a license and submit the application form ‘21 clear days’ prior to the sitting of the Licensing Authority, but I’ve seen signs like these displayed on businesses for months or even years. I’ve often wondered if the owners just never bothered to take them down after they receive the license or if they ever bother to submit an application. After all, if the authorities ask, you can just say, I intend to apply.

Applying doesn’t mean the license will be issued automatically. Members of the community can object, but it has to be in in writing.

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.

The Institute of Jamaica – Rastafari: Unconquerable!

Rastafari exhibition in Jamaica

On July 21st, the Institute of Jamaica opened an historic exhibition entitled, Rastafari: Unconquerable! It is the first exhibition in Jamaica on the Rastas and as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to see it.

Rastafari exhibition in Jamaica

Entrance to the exhibition

During the ride to the museum, I thought several times of One Love: Discovering Rastafari, the first exhibition on the Rastas that I had seen at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. I was excited to see that Rastafari, the small movement that began in Jamaica in the late 1930s and has since spread worldwide, was finally getting consideration and scholarship. Discovering Rastafari, which ran from November 2007 to November 2011, left me wondering if that was all there was. I hoped the current show would be the definitive study on Rasta.

Rastafari exhibition, Jamaica

Rastafari: Unconquerable!

Rasta exhibition, Institute of Jamaica

Artwork from Rastafari: Unconquerable!

Undoubtedly larger in space and scope, Rastafari: Unconquerable tells the story of the birth and evolution of Rasta through videos, installations, artefacts and personal stories. It covers several watershed moments in the history of the movement in segments organized around themes such as Revelation of Rastafari, its Philosophy and Evolution, and the 1966 visit to Jamaica of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. It also features a review of the attempts at suppression of the movement by Jamaican authorities, by far one of the most appalling periods in our history.

Rastafari Exhibition, Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey

Rastafari Visionaries

Visionaries

Rastafari Exhibition

Haile Selassie in Jamaica, 1966

Rastafari has come a long way since Lionel Howell, the first Rasta, founded Pinnacle, the home he established for his followers, and Marcus Garvey advised the poor and downtrodden to look to Africa for the crowning of a black king who would deliver them out of poverty.  It’s exciting to see the museum finally undertaking this important step in recognizing Rasta’s influence on the society, and their presence in the world.

Rastafari exhibition

Haile Selassie

One thing that struck me about the exhibition was its stillness, its flatness. It was as if the breath, power, vitality and passion that pulses through Rastafari could not, as the title suggests, be conquered even in this exhibition that celebrates Rastafari; the Movement which grew out of struggle, with larger than life visionaries who fought against the system, could not be tamed. Still, it’s an excellent first exhibition, a must see.

Rastafari: Unconquerable remains on view at the Institute of Jamaica, 10-16 East Street, Kingston. 876-922-0620, Admission $5