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Jamaica: Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon

Almost everyone I talked to said I had to see Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon but when I asked why, the universal response was, see for yourself. As we drove from Montego Bay to Falmouth, I found myself questioning my decision. I hadn’t had time to do much research so I was flying in the dark. And at 7:00 p.m., it was also dark.

Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon
Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon

We bought our tickets a few minutes before departure and were handed a glass of rum punch. So this is the kind of tour it’ll be, I said to my friend.

At 7, we joined several visitors on a small boat and set off. A few yards into the marina, which is formed from the confluence of the Martha Brae River and the Caribbean Sea, and the boatman stopped and killed the lights. It was pitch black.

Jeffery – I think that was his name – our tour guide, explained that the brackish marina water, which is only between 3 and 8 feet – contains millions of micro-organisms (dinoflagellates) that live and thrive where the layers of salt and fresh water meet. When the water is disturbed, they cause it to glow. Think fireflies.  Sure enough, as the boat moved forward, the wake became a luminous blue while everything else around us was inky black, I couldn’t see the person next to me.

When we stopped again, Jeffrey asked if anyone wanted to take a dip. Only a few people did. We couldn’t see them but as each person moved around the boat, we could tell exactly where they were as the water glistened. They looked like snow angels.

As Jeffrey continued to explain, this luminous water phenomenon is found in only four countries, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Indonesia and Jamaica – Jamaica’s apparently is the brightest.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able take a photo. The luminosity is best viewed when it’s dark and the flash on my camera popped up automatically as soon as I touched the shutter. I tried holding it down but I didn’t catch much and I couldn’t see to fiddle with the settings. But here’s one I grabbed from their website.

Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon, photo via the Internet from
Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon, photo via the Internet from

In addition to the lagoon, Glistening Waters has a restaurant that serves fresh seafood, bar and boat marina with full hook-up for daily, weekly and long-term rentals, as well as charter boat rentals for deep sea sport fishing.

Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon is located in Falmouth, Trelawny, which is roughly a 45 minute drive from Montego Bay. Tours start at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. and cost US$20 per person, inclusive of rum punch.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence

The first thing that popped into my head when I saw that this week’s photo challenge is indulgence, was, of course, food. But there are so many other ways to indulge and fortunately, I was able to find one non-food photo that captures it.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence
Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence
Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence
Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence

I really couldn’t leave out a food photo.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence
Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulgence

This is my entry to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge organized by WordPress.

Soulful Sundays: Rolando Alphonso

Jamaican tenor saxophonist, Rolando Alphonso, was born on January 12, 1931 in Havana, Cuba.  He was brought to Jamaica by his mother when he was two years old.

Rolando Alphonso, photo from the Internet
Rolando Alphonso, photo from the Internet

In Jamaica, Alphonso learned to play the saxophone and worked as a studio musician, backing performers such as Jimmy Cliff, the Wailers, the Maytals and most of the other leading performers of the 1960s. Alphonso also worked for two of the most influential music producers in Jamaica – Duke Reid and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. It was while working Dodd’s Studio One that he and fellow musicians, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo, and Jerome Hinds, among others, formed the ska band, The Skatalites. Ska was the new music at the time in Jamaica. The Skatalites disbanded a little more than a year after they formed and was re-formed in 1983. They continue to play.

Alphonso was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in 1977.

He moved to the U.S. in 1980 and lived in Brooklyn. He died from an aneurysm in Los Angeles in 1998.

Here’s Alphonso on Jah Shakey and Guantanamera.


Greenwood Great House

Greenwood Great House has the best collection of Victorian-era furniture, musical instruments, and china in Jamaica, perhaps even the Caribbean.

Part of the 84,000 acre estate that belonged to the wealthy Barrett family whose relatives were the British poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her aunt, Sarah Moulton Barrett, who was also called Pinkie. Moulton Barrett was born in Jamaica and was immortalized in the painting, Pinkie, by the British artist, Thomas Lawrence. Both Pinkie and Thomas Gainesborough’s Blue Boy, hang in the Huntington Gallery in San Marino, California. A copy of Pinkie’s painting can also be seen at Greenwood.

Not only does Greenwood Great House have the best collection of antiques, it is one of a few great houses that were never burned during the 1831 slave revolt that destroyed most of Jamaica’s great houses. It has also been occupied continuously since it was built in 1790 by Richard Barrett, a member of the family and a former speaker of the Jamaican House of Assembly.

Greenwood Great House - china cabinet
China cabinet
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder
Step ladder
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder unfolding
Step ladder unfolding
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder chair
Step ladder chair
Greenwood Great House - antique furniture
Antique furniture
Greenwood Great House - screw-press
Screw press

Household linens were put between two pieces of flat board. The top piece was then lowered all the way down by a screw, that way flattening and smoothening the clothes.

Greenwood Great House - chamber pot
Chamber pot
Greenwood Great House - bed
Antique bed
Greenwood Great House - Wind organ
Wind organ
Greenwood Great House - Rosewood inlaid piano
Rosewood inlaid piano

This rosewood inlaid piano was built by John Broadwood, who also made pianos for Beethoven.

Greenwood Greathouse is located in the community of Greenwood, St. James. It is 15 miles from Montego Bay and 7 miles from Falmouth. Open daily from 9-6 p.m. Guided tours cost US$20 per person.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

How Greenwood Great House Is Connected to Pinkie

Greenwood Great House, the entertainment home that once belonged to the family of Pinkie, subject of the famous painting by Thomas Lawrence, looks largely the same now as it would have when she left Jamaica more than 200 years ago.

Though she died of whooping cough at age 12, about a year after its completion, because of the painting’s resemblance to Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, she has become more easily recognizable than her famous niece, the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Pinkie was born Sarah Goodin Moulton Barrett in Jamaica in 1783. Her father was Charles Moulton Barrett. She left the island with her brothers around 1793 to further her education in London.

Greenwood Great House, image from the Internet
Greenwood Great House, image from the Internet

The Barretts had established themselves in Jamaica in 1655. Hersey Barrett, was an officer in the unsuccessful 1655 raid on Hispaniola (now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) that was led by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables. Following their defeat in Hispaniola, the British captured Jamaica, which was less fortified, from the Spaniards later that same year and Hersey Barrett was granted lands on which he settled.

Greenwood Great House - dining room
Greenwood Great House – dining room

In time, the Barrett’s fortune from sugar grew. They owned 84,000 acres straddling two parishes – St. James and Trelawny – and 2,000 slaves. When Pinkie’s brother, Edward, father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was head of the family, he reportedly received income in excess of 60,000 pounds a year, a considerable sum in those days.

Greenwood Great House
Greenwood Great House

The family resided at Barrett Hall, which was located in the hills a few miles from the border of St. James and Trelawny, and entertained at Greenwood Great House, further down the hill. They also owned the nearby Cinnamon Hill Great House, and a house in London, which is near what is now Selfridges.

The 15-room Greenwood Great House is a Georgian-styled mansion that was built in 1790 by Pinkie’s cousin, Richard Barrett, who was a speaker of the House of Assembly and custos rotulorum (representative of the governor) of St. James.

Greenwood Great House - Pinkie painting
Greenwood Great House – Pinkie painting by Thomas Lawrence. Image Wikipedia

During the Christmas slave revolt of 1831, many of the more than 200 great houses in Jamaica were razed. Fortunately for the Barrett family, they had been good to their slaves and their properties were spared.

Greenwood Great House, which was purchased in 1976 by Bob and Ann Betton and carefully maintained, has always been occupied. It houses the finest collection of antique furniture in the Caribbean, the Barrett family’s Wedgwood china and their library numbering about 300 books with some first editions dating to 1697.

Also included in the collection is a grandfather clock which tells the time and date (it was accurate the day I visited), a punch clock, clothes press, desks with secret compartments, a step ladder that unfolds into a chair, paintings, letters, and rare musical instruments, among them a rosewood inlaid piano made by John Broadwood, who reportedly was the only piano maker whose work satisfied Beethoven. The instruments have been restored and are all in good working order. In this video, Bob Betton, demonstrates one — the polyphone, an upright music box that plays parts for several voices or instruments.

One fascinating piece is a chatelaine, which the lady of the house would have used to keep items such as scissors, thimble, notebook, pencil, etc., handy. It would have been worn attached to her belt.

Greenwood Great House - Chatelaine
Greenwood Great House – Chatelaine

Just outside the main house, are two posters: one advertising for the purchase of “Negro Coopers,” the other announcing that a slave woman, Mary Gold, had run away. It’s unclear whether they are connected to Greenwood. There’s also a mantrap, a horrific looking contraption that was used to capture runaway slaves, as well as a bathtub that was carved out of a single piece of wood, water jars and farm implements.

A few yards from the house is the kitchen, now a licensed bar called The Level Crossing. Our guide explained that as the slaves carried food from the kitchen to the house, they were required to whistle. The thinking being that if they whistled, they wouldn’t be able to steal the food. On the other side of the kitchen/bar are the souvenir shop and garden.

The 17-foot verandah at Greenwood Great House provides a commanding 180 degree view of what would have been the Barrett family holdings, which stretched east to west as far as the eye could see and right down to the Caribbean Sea. From this vantage point, you can also see how the land curves into the sea. Standing on the verandah, it isn’t difficult to grasp what it must have been like to be a Barrett, with all you own — land and slaves — right at your feet.


Not surprisingly, Greenwood Great House is said to have its own ghosts, two to be exact, but the Bettons do not emphasize that information. They don’t have to — there’s so much more than that to see and experience at Greenwood, a magnificent relic of 19th century plantation life.

Greenwood Great House -- part of the view from the verandah
Greenwood Great House — part of the view from the verandah

Getting there: Greenwood Great House is located 15 miles from Montego Bay, 7 miles from Falmouth, off the main highway in a community called Greenwood. Make the turn at the shopping plaza and follow the signs up the hill.

Hours: 9-6 p.m. everyday

Guided tours: US$20

Phone: 876-953-1077

Soulful Sundays: Burning Spear

I’ve been a fan of Burning Spear (the Spear) since high school. It was the height of the Black Power Movement in the U.S., a movement that had spread to the Caribbean and expressed itself in a growing consciousness and pride in our Africanness. The Spear’s third album, Marcus Garvey, became an anthem, an indictment of the times. Marcus Garvey words come to pass, Burning Spear sang and we cheered.

It was one of the first albums I bought; it almost never left my room or my sight. I played it every chance I got. There were many favorites.

Burning Spear, photo from the Internet
Burning Spear, photo from the Internet

Burning Spear, who took the name of the former president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, was born Winston Rodney in 1945 in the parish of St. Ann.  Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley have been credited as his major influences. The Spear has been connected with several legendary Jamaican producers and studios of the 1960s and 70s. He was with Island Records until 1980 when he formed his own label. Burning Spear Music Production company and Burning Spear Records handle his bookings and music.

Now living in New York, the Spear tours extensively. Nominated 12 times, he won Grammy Awards for Best Reggae Album for Calling Rastafari (2000) and Jah is Real (2009). In 2007, he was honored by the Government of Jamaica with an Order of Distinction (OD).

I saw Burning Spear in concert in New York a few years ago. The show was memorable for several reasons. First, it was the Spear. Second, it was the only time I remember going to a show on a Sunday night, getting home after 3 a.m., and going to work the next morning. (It was after this show, I think, that I discovered Red Bull.)

When we arrived, there were only a few people in the audience. However, by the time the opening acts had warmed us up sufficiently and the Spear took the stage, the crowd had swelled considerably. There was no place to stand in this standing room only show. I could hardly see him — and my friends and I had been standing only a few yards from the stage.

Here are a couple of my favorites — Marcus Garvey and Slavery Days. Take a listen.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Down

It’s hard to think of down without thinking of its opposite: up. As a matter of fact, we use the expression up and down quite often. We anticipate that what goes up, must eventually, go down.

Down can also describe our moods. No one wants to feel down, on the other hand, people who are down to earth put everyone else at ease.

Here are my pick of photos that express down. It wasn’t difficult to find examples, I have quite a few. What was more difficult was deciding which ones to include. Let me know which you like.

Looking down, Cape Point, South Africa
Looking down, Cape Point, South Africa

I like looking down, seeing how everyday things get smaller, the higher up you are. These houses, for example, look as small as matchboxes. Imagine how large those rocks above are even at a distance.

Looking down, Table Mountain
Looking down, Table Mountain
Looking down, Eiffel Tower
Looking down, Eiffel Tower

Visitors on line waiting to climb the Eiffel Tower look tiny, a little higher up and they’d look as small as ants.

Walking down, Paris metro
Walking down, Paris metro

This is my entry to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge organized by WordPress.

Travel Photo Thursday: Negril

Negril is located on the western tip of Jamaica. It got its name from the Spanish word, Negrillo, which either refers to the black cliffs south of this small community or the black eels that used to be found along its coast.

Whenever I go to this world famous spot, I always think of my first visit. I was 10 or 11 years old at the time. All Negril was then was a main road, the beach, a couple places to stay and a few houses. I wish I had photos.

Thirty-plus years later, Negril is a busy resort area that plays host annually to more visitors than the estimated 3,000 people who live there year round. It is this year’s Spring Break destination. Its well known white-sand beach is lined with all inclusive hotels, guest houses and cottages, and its main road — the only way in — now a boulevard that bears a famous name: Norman Manley, national hero and leader.

I took these photos on my most recent trip.

Negril - early morning on the beach
Negril - Early morning beach scene
Negril - beach scene
Negril - Beach scene
Negril beach sign
Negril - Beach sign

There might be no nude bathing allowed but I did see a few nude sunbathers.

Negril Starfish
Negril - Starfish

This starfish was washed ashore just as I walked by.

Negril beach scene
Negril - Beach scene
Negril, Riu Hotel
Negril - Riu Hotel
Negril - waiting for the sunset at Rick's Cafe
Negril - Waiting for the sunset, Rick's Cafe

Rick’s Cafe has been a fixture in Negril for about 30 years. Crowds gather to watch the sunset with the same enthusiasm as they do in Times Square to watch the ball drop on New Years Eve, except there are fewer people.

Negril sunset
Negril sunset

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

Negril, Miles of Beach

Ask anyone about Negril and the first thing they’ll mention is its beach. Nearly 5 miles long (though everyone claims it to be 7 miles) of unobstructed beach, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for the best white-sand beach and spectacular sunsets.

Negril straddles two of Jamaica’s western parishes – Westmoreland and Hanover – and hugs the coast from Bloody Bay (Hanover) to the lighthouse, in Westmoreland, which was built in 1894.

The lighthouse near the west end of Negril
Lighthouse, built in 1894

Along the rugged cliffs of the southwestern stretch in Westmoreland, the so-called West End, there are several underwater caves, restaurants and cottages and exclusive guest houses.

Negril boats
Negril cabanas

The northern end is home to the larger hotels and all-inclusives such as Couples, Riu, Hedonism II, Sandals by Beaches, etc.

The first time I visited Negril, I wasn’t yet in high school. The youth group I belonged to had our first camping trip there. Back then, Negril was a quiet place with a few houses, even fewer hotels, lots of land and sea crabs and its now famous beach.

Negril crab
Small sand crab

Today, Negril still has the best stretch of beach in Jamaica. However, in the space of thirty years, it has been transformed from a tiny village to a bustling resort town with a mix of accommodation, an assortment of places to eat and an active night life. Negril however attracts couples, singles and families – some come year after year to this beautiful spot.

Negril sunset

Beside the beach and the clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea, Negril is also known for its spectacular sunsets. As evening draws to a close, legions of visitors and locals alike flock to Rick’s Café, or one of the resorts on the water side, to watch the sun turn crimson and orange and purple before it disappears from view.

Getting to Negril:

Negril is about an hour and half’s drive from the Donald Sangster Airport in Montego Bay. You can also fly there from either the Montego Bay or Kingston airport.


With more than 90 places, from luxury retreats at $500 or more to rooms for $50 a night, you are sure to find the perfect place to spend a night, or two, in Negril.

Soulful Sundays: RIP Whitney

Last night, I heard the shocking news: Whitney Houston had died. I sat in total disbelief, glued to the television set, watching as the news scrolled across the ticker. Even after I saw the word was, as in Whitney Houston was….it didn’t feel real. No, Whitney Houston can’t be dead. But she was.

Whitney Houston, photo from the Internet
Whitney Houston, photo from the Internet

In the footage that played over and over, she looked vibrant, alive. Nothing in these images predicted this end. I thought she’d gotten it together. She looked so good the last time I saw a photo of her, much better than in that other photo – you know the one, when she looked emaciated and fragile.

We’ll never know what hurt she tried so unsuccessfully, so tragically to salve — not that we really need to know. Her loss will, no doubt, leave a gaping hole in many hearts, especially that of her mother, Grammy Award winning gospel singer, Cissy Houston, her cousin, Dionne Warwick, and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who also reportedly has her own substance abuse issues.

Whitney Houston, a mezzo-soprano, was born in Newark, NJ on August 9, 1963. She was a model, singer, actor and producer. With 415 awards, Whitney has been recognized more times than any other female artist. Her awards include two Emmys, six Grammys, 30 Billboard Music, and 22 American Music Awards. She has sold more than 200 million albums and singles.

Whitney holds an honorary doctorate from Grambling State University in Louisiana. She has seven albums and four movies to her credit including the hugely successful, The Bodyguard, that was the second highest-grossing film worldwide in 1992, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. Her fourth and final film, Sparkle, now in post production, is scheduled to be released in August. Whitney has also appeared in television shows and in several commercials.

Singers like Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson and many others acknowledge Whitney as an influence.

Here’s Whitney singing Saving All My Love For You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Rest in Peace, Whitney!