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My Year of Travelling Jamaica, Part I

As 2012 draws to a close, I’m eagerly anticipating another year of travel and discovery. But before I start the New Year, I wanted to look back at my year of travelling Jamaica.

Since January, I have logged hundreds of miles around the island. Sometimes I traveled solo, sometimes I was with friends who were visiting. Each trip though, brought me face to face with intriguing individuals, or took me on explorations of interesting and historic places, or opened my eyes to things I’d missed or just hadn’t paid attention to before.

The best times during the year though, were the simple ones. At those times, my camera felt intrusive. I didn’t want to break the flow of conversation or make notes. I only wanted to savor the moment that I was no longer observing and reporting, the moment I felt a part of the story.

Here’s some of what I experienced.

Sunrise over Negril Jamaica
Sunrise, Negril

At dawn one morning in February, friends and I walked the beach in Negril from our hotel near the center of town to well past the Hanover border. It was the first time I’d done that and I loved the near emptiness of the beach and the pinkish color the sun had painted the sky as it climbed above the horizon to start the new day.

Herb vendor, Jamaica
Herb vendor, Negril

The first person we saw was this guy who was walking the beach selling various herbs. After chatting with him, I bought a bag of ground bissy or kola nut. Bissy came to Jamaica from West Africa and is used to help digestion, and fight fatigue and hunger. It’s also good for the heart.

Tall and cruise ships, Jamaica
Two ships docked at Freeport, Montego Bay

Two, sometimes three times a week, ships dock at Freeport in Montego Bay. Usually, it’s a ship from the Carnival fleet but early in 2012, I spotted this tall ship. It looked impressive even from a distance and I watched it almost all day.

Pink skies over the Blue Mountains Jamaica
Blue Mountains

In March, I fell short by a few hours in my attempt to hike to the top of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica’s tallest, to greet the new day. I was very disappointed but on the hike back, I was able to see what I had missed in the 2:00 a.m. walk up. These views almost made up for the sunrise I didn’t get to see.

Coffee Beans on the Blue Mountains Jamaica
Coffee Beans, Blue Mountains
Clouds and house on the Blue Mountains Jamaica
Clouds on the Blue Mountains

One day, I visited King’s House, the official residence of the Governor General who is the Queen’s representative in Jamaica. A few days later, I was at the former home of Bob Marley, the King of Reggae.

King's House external view - Jamaica
King’s House
Bob Marley Museum Jamaica
Bob Marley Museum

Two places of worship caught my attention during my travels: Holy Trinity in Kingston and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in St. Ann.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jamaica
Holy Trinity, Kingston
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Jamaica
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Ann

In July, I discovered Fay who still practices the (almost) lost art of making peppermint candy by hand. I also found out that it was a skill my paternal grandmother had.

Fay, the Peppermint Candy Lady, and her family
Fay and members of her family
Peppermint candy swirl Jamaica
Peppermint candy mixture

It was fascinating to watch Fay’s mixture turn from brown to white then, as she added coloring, to red and white. (More about Fay in an upcoming post.)

Hope you’ll check back for Part II of highlights from my year of travelling Jamaica.

This is my submission to this week’s Travel Photo Thursday series, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Hope you’ll head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.



New York City at Christmas

Christmas decorations start going up on stores, office buildings and private homes in New York City right after Thanksgiving. The decorations are sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate. No matter, they put a smile on my face and help me get into the spirit of the season. I’m sure they do the same for others, which is why there are usually scores of people milling around.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 9.07.35 AM
All Dressed Up for Christmas

Each Christmas, this building on 6th Avenue near 50th Street decorates with these large red balls but every year when I see them, it feels like the first time (at least to me). A little Christmas magic, perhaps?

Red balls decorate building in New York
All Dressed Up
Lipstick lights decorate a building in New York
All Dressed Up in color
Radio City Music Hall tree
All Dressed Up – Radio City Music Hall

Continue reading “New York City at Christmas”

How Not to Get Sucked in by Times Square Electronic Stores

Up to 70% off all cameras, the sign screamed, its bright red letters unmistakable against the white background. It could have been there for months but on that day late last year, it drew me in.

I’d heard about them before I even moved to New York – these stores around Times Square that pull you in with the promise of good deals on electronic items. For years, I never even looked their way. Then, on an impulse, and thinking I was immune to the hard sell, I walked in.

Yes, young lady. What can I help you with today?

Just looking, I said, in my best I’m-not-interested voice.

You looking for a phone? camera? We’ve got the iPhone, iPad and all the cameras, all on sale. Seventy percent off. You looking for a camera?

At this point, I thought, what the heck?

Yes, I’m looking for a camera, I replied nonchalantly.

What kind of camera?

Canon, I told him.

Well, the Canon’s a good camera, but you’ve got to try this one.

Continue reading “How Not to Get Sucked in by Times Square Electronic Stores”

Pigeon Peas

One of the sure signs that Christmas is around the corner is the flowering of the pigeon peas. Also known as gandules, they are called gungo or pigeon peas here in Jamaica and are the essential ingredient in the rice and peas dish most families prepare on special occasions and, in particular, on Christmas Day.

Pigeon Pea plant
Pigeon pea plant

The pigeon pea originated in eastern India and was brought to east and west Africa, and eventually to the Americas by African slaves probably around the 17th century. It has been cultivated for at least 3,500 years.

Small in size and light green or white in color, the pigeon pea takes on a light brown hue when it’s been dried. Besides its use in rice and peas, pigeon peas can also be used in soups.

Pigeon pea plant
Pigeon pea plant

Pigeon peas are rich in protein, fiber and essential amino acids.

What fascinates me about the pigeon pea is the plant. The leaves look velvety and the ‘flowers’ are so colorful, they look as if they could be cut and put in a vase. These ‘blooms’ will last about a week then will be replaced by pods that are long and have individual pockets that hold each pea. Each pod can hold up to 8 peas, and grow in bunches of 5 to 7.

The green pigeon peas can be frozen for later use. When cooked, they have a slightly different taste from the dried ones.

Have you tried pigeon peas?

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.


I was so taken by this boat – its color and design, and the way it contrasted with the blue of the water – that I had to take a photo.

Dragon boat near Montego Bay
Dragon boat

It also gave me the idea for today’s Travel Photo Thursday post. Here are a few other ‘boat’ photos I found in my archives.

Treasure Beach Boats
Fishermen and their boats

Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need: a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. – Jerome K. Jerome

Glistening Waters Boats
White boats

Any damn fool can circumnavigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk. – Sir Francis Chichester.

Falmouth Boats
Lazy boats

Only the guy who isn’t rowing has the time to rock the boat. – Jean Paul Sartre

Boats going out
Little Ochie

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. – Martin Luther King

Boats waiting for sunset

I still remember my first time on a boat. I was nervous as we sailed away from shore, and overwhelmed by the vast expanse of water around me, and the smell of it. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the early navigators and explorers who set off in search of lands they thought were there; how endless days at sea could easily discombobulate and disorient.

I’ve been on many boats since then, though I’m not confident that I could navigate one, even with a compass. There are no reference points on water!

What do you think of when you see a boat?

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.

Eating Lionfish

I love fish, especially red snapper and salmon but I’ve found a new love lately: the lionfish. I’d been hearing about the lionfish since I arrived here last year but I was nervous to try it.

From news reports, I learned that the colorful spiky fins of the lionfish are full of venom and that makes them deadly to other fish and potentially dangerous to fishermen and swimmers. If stung, the venom can cause a variety of illnesses from numbness, pain, nausea, headaches, redness, dizziness, difficulty breathing, fever, and vomiting to, in rare cases, heart failure and death.

No, there was no way I wanted to endanger my health by eating lionfish.

But I kept hearing more and more from people who’d eaten lionfish, without ill effects, and my curiosity began slowly to overcome my initial apprehension. A few weekends ago, I decided to give it a try.

Continue reading “Eating Lionfish”