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Turn Your Phone into a Personal Tour Guide with GPS-Guided Travel Articles

Like most people, I make a list of places I want to visit when I travel and bookmark articles about interesting sites I’d like to see or restaurants I’d like to try. But the lists are just that and since my cell phone plan doesn’t include international travel, I can’t read the articles I’ve bookmarked without incurring fees to access them.

All isn’t lost, however. GPSMyCity is a new service that created a city walk app that embeds GPS navigation into travel articles. It also maps the route described in the article to show you the best attractions in over 750 cities around the world.

GPS-Related Travel Articles

The Holy Trinity article as it looks on my phone

All you need to use the GPSMyCity city walk app as a guide is to download it to your phone – you won’t need an internet or a WiFi connection. Once you navigate to the city you’d like to visit, the app will show you where you are on the map and guide you to the next location. You can read any article from GPSMyCity however, if you decide you’d like to use a GPS-guided feature, you’ll need to pay $1.99 to upgrade. That’s less than a cup of coffee! 

As a way of introducing you to this lovely concept, beginning today, January 30, 2017, I’ll be offering free upgrades to two of my article apps, The Awesome Splendor of Kingston’s Holy Trinity Cathedral and A Visit to the Bob Marley Museum.

To access these and other GPS-guided article apps or to browse by city for available article apps, click this link. Articles are free to download to your Apple device. Once you’ve downloaded the article, choose UPGRADE and pay $1.99. You will be linked automatically to an offline map and GPS navigation that will guide you through your tour. You only pay for the offline GPS-guided use.

Announced today, GPSMyCity announced today the addition of two new features to the iOS app: Audio and Custom Walk.

Audio. The audio function offers the option of having the article read to you as you walk rather than reading it yourself. 

Custom Walk. This new Walk function allows you to select some or all the sights featured in the article and create your own self-guided walking tour to these sights.

The GPSMyCity app is available for download at the App Store. 

The giveaway lasts until February 7, 2017.

 

 

 

Here are a few more articles that I have on GPSMyCity:

Note: If you choose to upgrade to one of my downloaded travel articles, GPSMyCity will send me a few cents to help me defray some of the costs of operating my travel blog.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall Great House

One slow Friday evening in 2012, I decided to make the 15-minute drive to Rose Hall Great House for their night tour. I was excited.

Years earlier, I’d done the day tour of this great house that’s reputed to be haunted by the ghost of one of its former owners but I had no idea what to expect on the night tour. Would I see a ghost (or duppy) as we call them here in Jamaica?

My pulse quickened as we pulled through the security gate and I saw the great house sprouting out of the hill. I hurried to the ticket window but was crushed when the attendant said they were closed for a wedding reception.

Who’d want to celebrate a joyous beginning in a place rumored to be, and advertised, as haunted? I asked myself as I walked away, aching with disappointment. I didn’t realize until then how much I had been looking forward to the tour.

Disappointment still fresh in my mind, this time I called before heading out. Good thing too because I found out that I could get a $4 discount off the regular US$20 admission price by booking online.

As my friend and I passed through Rose Hall’s manned gate – day or night, it’s quite an impressive view – I stopped and took this photo of the imposing great house whose blacked out windows and muted lights give it a spooky air.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall

Entrance to Rose Hall Great House

But I was skeptical. Can this old house, with its claim to a violent past, release some of its restless spirits on command? How does a property satisfy visitors who’re looking to be scared witless?

Our group, about seven, met our tour guide at Annie’s Treasures, the gift shop on the property and started the short walk along a torch-lit path to the back of the house. Except for a few lights here and there, the grounds are pitch black.

As we got closer, someone screamed.

“A woman! A wo-wo-woman in the window!”

I looked in the direction she pointed but didn’t see anything. Could it have been Annie? We weren’t sure.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall Great House

Approaching Rose Hall

In advertising and marketing, it’s the hook – that story or idea that draws one in or sets one product apart from the rest. In the case of Rose Hall Great House, the story of Annie Palmer, the so-called White Witch of Rose Hall, has become so entwined with the facts, so wildly successful, it’s getting to be difficult to separate fact from fiction.

One story is that Annie Patterson, an English woman, came to Jamaica at 18 in search of a husband. Following the death from yellow fever of her parents in Haiti, Annie’s nanny, a voodoo priestess cared for the girl and taught her the tricks of her trade. By the time of her arrival on the island, she was a voodoo expert.

In another story, Annie was French. (The family being French probably quieted those who wondered what a British family was doing living in Haiti, a French-speaking country.)

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall

at Rose Hall

Whatever. This much is indisputable: Annie married John Rose Palmer, grandnephew and heir to John Palmer’s 6,500-acre estate and 2,000 slaves.

The estate, which had passed from John Palmer’s wife, Rosa, included Rose Hall Great House, a Georgian mansion, which was built in 1750 by Rosa’s second husband, George Ash. A calendar house, it originally had 365 windows, 52 doors and 12 bedrooms.

Entering Rose Hall’s Dungeon

We entered the house from the dungeon, or Annee’s Pub (that isn’t a typo), and Rose Hall’s photographer asked each of us to pose for a photo on the back steps of the great house. (There were “No Photography” signs posted all around the property. I don’t remember them being there when I took the day tour years ago.) We could buy the photo, if we liked, for $10 at the end of the tour.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall

The entrance to the Pub

Fortified sufficiently by Witches Brew, a rum and fruit juice concoction I bought in the Pub, our tour guide began describing Annie’s 11-year reign of terror at Rose Hall. According to our guide, whose name I have totally forgotten, Annie would banish disobedient slaves to be tortured and murdered in the dungeon.

Hearing that, I expected to see a few vengeful spirits – but none appeared. Disappointed, we moved from the dungeon, and as we did, I noticed a figure dressed in white. It was a slave woman – or a contemporary woman dressed like a slave – her bonneted head lowered, she whistled as her bare feet shuffled against the wooden floor.

Our guide explained that slaves were required to whistle as they served so they couldn’t eat or spit into the master’s food.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall

Annee’s

At one point, as she showed us a passage now blocked off, that led to the sea – it’s how they believe Takoo, the slave who ended Annie’s life, entered Rose Hall – a male slave bolted out, slamming the door loudly behind him. It was so absolutely unexpected I almost jumped out of my skin.

If the stories of Annie’s brutality are to be believed, it begs the question: what would motivate a young woman to perpetrate such unspeakable acts of cruelty? Even given the times when savagery on slave plantations was an everyday occurrence, the story of Annie’s acts are shocking and revolting.

According to the legend, Annie was a firm and sadistic owner who killed John Rose Palmer, her first husband after he beat her with his riding whip. Palmer had discovered her dalliance with one of his slaves. The unfortunate man didn’t see the light of the following day. Annie supposedly killed him with a potion.

She went on to marry and dispatch two more husbands – no names mentioned and no reasons given — in different rooms at Rose Hall. A similar fate befell several slave lovers, who it is said she grew tired of quickly, as well as slaves who didn’t bend to her will. According to our guide, she would order the slaves to dispose of her kills only to murder them herself.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall

Inside the Pub

The slaves were so fearful of Annie’s power, they named her the White Witch. One, however, was immune to her. As the story goes, sometime in 1831, Takoo, her lover, found his way into the house under the cover of darkness and strangled Annie in retaliation for the killing of his beloved granddaughter. Takoo was himself killed by an overseer, who was another of Annie’s lovers.

Still fearful of the White Witch even after her death, the slaves burned her possessions, including her photos and buried her in the deepest hole they could dig.

I’ve always heard there were no photos of Annie but during the night tour we were shown a group portrait that included a woman our guide said could be the White Witch. (I did the day tour so long ago, I can’t remember if they showed us this particular photo of Annie – or the woman they believe could be her – or is that another story made up to feed the legend?).

Annie, she explained, was known to dress in red, the same color one of the women was wearing. We were told to walk pass the portrait and watch as the woman in the photo seem to follow us with her eyes.

We saw other ‘apparitions’ – a woman dressed in red sitting casually in an armchair in one of the bedrooms, and a slave man in the dining room – but they weren’t nearly as unnerving as the canned sounds or, I’m sure, a real ghost, or duppy, would have been.

Life at Rose Hall After the Palmers 

After the Palmers, Rose Hall Great House passed to three different owners. One, the Hendersons, were so terrified when their maid fell from Annie’s balcony and broke her neck that they abandoned the house and relocated to Kingston.

Rose Hall was empty for years and was falling apart when John and Michelle Rollins, from Delaware, purchased it in 1965. They spent $2.5 million restoring it with silk wallpaper, chandeliers, mahogany paneling and floors, as well as European antiques.

Rose Hall estate is a mix of properties, which includes three championship golf courses, residential and commercial real estate, and another great house, Cinnamon Hill, which Johnny Cash owned.

Ghost Hunting at Rose Hall Great House

Tomb said to be Annie’s, Rose Hall

Annie Palmer has been immortalized in H.G. Wells’ The White Witch of Rose Hall, which was published in 1928. Some say that it’s the story of this fictional Annie Palmer that has wrapped Rose Hall in intrigue.

As we walked the ink black night towards Annie’s grave, we heard the unmistakable sounds of chains. In Jamaican folklore, a particular duppy called a rolling calf wears a chain around its body and makes a clanging sound when it walks. I didn’t believe it was a rolling calf but I really didn’t want to find out.

Do you believe the Annie Palmer story is true?

Would you visit a place that’s haunted?

What to Do When Rain Threatens Your Vacation

A Carnival cruise ship pulled into port this morning for its daylong stop in Montego Bay and within two hours of docking, clouds covered an anemic sun and the rain began. Immediately, I thought of the passengers who undoubtedly would be looking forward to a day of sun and fun. How would they spend their day, if the rain continued? 

Carnival Cruise Ship, Montego Bay

Carnival Cruise Ship, Montego Bay

Call me pollyanna but I always thought the vacation gods would smile on all my trips but I know differently now. Here’s what I recommend:

* Pack Rain Gear: Since weather is unpredictable, it’s always advisable to put a small umbrella, rain slick or hat in your luggage, especially when traveling to tropical destinations.

* Check the Weather: Outside of the hurricane season (June to November), except for the occasional rainy day, the weather is usually the same from day to day. But if you happen to be traveling between June and November, there’s a chance (even though years can pass before a hurricane actually hits), a hurricane can form. If you’re concerned, plan cruise vacations outside this period. If a hurricane does form and threatens to interrupt or prolong your vacation, follow the advice of the cruise lines and stay safe.

* Indulge in Indoor Activities: Take a book or magazine to read if the weather turns nasty. If you have internet connection, catch up on email. Visit a museum or go see a play. Spend a day at the spa. Do some shopping or catch up on sleep.

* Keep a Positive Attitude: The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. Don’t let bad weather ruin your mood or spoil your vacation.

5 Things to do in Montego Bay if it rains:

* Take a taxi to one of the Great Houses – Both Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House offer guided tours of their properties. Rose Hall was the home of Annie Palmer, also known as the White Witch of Rose Hall. Greenwood Great house belonged to the family of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Both charge admission fees.

* Visit the Rastafari Indigenous Village – Catch the vibe at this indigenous village located about a 15 minute drive from the port. Listen to drumming, get a lesson in plants and herbs that are native to the island and enjoy an ital meal.

* Pamper Yourself – Book a Jamaican Coffee or Sugarcane Body Scrub at the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort.

* Have a meal – Montego Bay’s “Hip Strip” a section of Gloucester Avenue populated by hotels, restaurants (Margarittaville, the Bobsled Cafe, etc.) and shops, is a great place to eat or spend a rainy day.

* Explore Jamaica’s rich ethnic and cultural heritage with a trip back in time at the Outameni Experience.

When planning a vacation, be prepared for bad weather and plan accordingly. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

 

 

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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