Newcastle Jamaica

Newcastle was established by the British as a military center in 1840. It is now used as a training camp for soldiers and recruits of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

The location, in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, was chosen by Major General Sir William Gomm, the lieutenant governor of Jamaica at the time, who noted that yellow fever, a major cause of death among British troops, occurred less frequently in the cool of the mountains. And it does get cool. It’s about 10-15 degrees cooler than in most of the island and there’s sometimes snow and ice in the higher elevations in the winter months.

Newcastle parade square with medals
Parade square at Newcastle
Barracks for soldiers at Newcastle
Red roofed barracks at Newcastle station

Newcastle has a parade ground, named for the major general, barracks, a cemetery, and several buildings. A sentry is usually posted at the entrance and as the main road, from Kingston to points east, goes through the parade ground, you’re likely the company doing their normal activities. One morning, it was recruits being put through their paces, another day, the national netball team was in training.

Life at Newcastle isn’t meant to be easy for recruits and soldiers. I’ve read that back when the British troops used it as a base, they would march the 12 or so miles from Kingston, which is at sea level, 4,000 feet up the winding mountain road – with their gear.

Parade ground at Newcastle
Part of the Sir Wm. Gomm parade square

Vehicles arriving from Kingston enter the square here and pass through the compound to Holywell Park and other points east, like Portland.

Cemetery at Newcastle
Newcastle cemetery with gravestones dating to the 1800s

I plan to return to Newcastle when I can do the climb as I’d love to see more of it and from other angles.

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.




Lucas the Lion Finds a Home at Hope Zoo

Lucas the lion was the talk of the town last week. The four year old African lion arrived at Hope Zoo in Kingston the week before from his home at the Monterey Zoo.

Many of the animals at Monterey are trained to perform in Hollywood. Lucas, apparently, was too “aggressive” to be trained but instead of keeping him at the zoo as is the normal practice, Charlie Sammut, his former owner, donated him to Hope. Sammut, who was seen with zoo officials near Lucas’ enclosure the day I visited, is helping the lion settle into his new home.

When I heard that Lucas had been described as aggressive, I said to myself, he’d fit right into Jamaica. As a side note, the previous lion at Hope was named Scrappy but I’m not sure if he was called that because it described his personality.

Lucas was on his side, when I arrived, his back to the world, quite oblivious to the hubbub that was going on just beyond the fence of his home, which was decked out in yellow ‘caution’ tape. As I joined the small knot of children and adults, a zoo employee standing near the cage announced that Lucas was sleeping. I noticed then that everyone was staring straight ahead, as if willing Lucas to wake up.

Lucas the lion at Hope Zoo
Lucas waking up after his nap

“Lucas sleeping?” a boy asked.

Before the employee could reply, someone put in words the thought in head, “It must be the heat.”

It was about 86 F but felt more like 100 F, even in the shade.

“Yes,” she replied. “Just think about how you’d react if you went to London in the winter. You’d need time to adjust to the cold, right?”

“Yes, Miss,” a little voice replied sheepishly.

Just then, a group of about twenty chattering and excited school children, no more than 9 years old, approached. They walked in an orderly line two by two, each boy’s hand loosely holding a girl’s, their teacher walking behind them.

As they neared the enclosure, the zoo employee put her index finger to her lips.”Shhhh, Lucas is sleeping.”

Lucas the lion settling in at Hope Zoo
Getting used to his new home and climate

“But he should know heat, he’s from California,” someone shouted bringing us back to the original exchange.

“Well,” the employee started out slowly as if searching for the right words to appease the disconcerted group, “the climate where Lucas was is very different from here. He traveled several hours in a cage and needs time to adjust to our climate. He needs to sleep so he can be active when you come to see him.”

“What you mean adjust?” a woman asked roughly. “I come all the way from St. Elizabeth (about a 3 hour drive) and he sleeping? Wake him up! Luuu-cas!”

“Please don’t wake the lion, Ma’am. He needs to rest.”

“Lucas need company,” a man said emphatically. The woman he was with glared at him. “No, is true. If him get a female, him will liven up.”

The kids, disappointment written all over their faces, walked away. Soon, there was only the employee and me. We chatted for a little then she moved closer and whispered conspiratorially, “Lucas got a cut from the cage and it was infected so we tranquilized him to take care of it. That’s why he’s sleeping.”

As we talked, I noticed Lucas’ tail flick. He moved his head, then pulled himself up slowly to rest on his front paws.

A few children who were nearby saw him and hurried to the fence. One of the women who’d been in the group also saw and moved quickly to take up a position, her little boy in tow. “Don’t pass the crime scene tape,” I heard her say to him.

We watched Lucas come to life. He looked around, shook his head as if to dislodge something from his thick mane then looked off in the distance, not even acknowledging us. Yes, I thought to myself as I walked away. He’s perfect for Jamaica. He’s already acting like our politicians.



FoodieTuesday: A Traditional Breakfast in Jamaica

In Jamaica, a traditional breakfast, sometimes called a country breakfast, is substantial. It usually includes some of the following: green bananas, Johnny Cakes also known as fried dumplings, roasted or fry-roasted breadfruit, fried plantains, bammie (a flat bread made from cassava), and yam and either ackee and saltfish, saltfish and callaloo, mackerel, fried fish, pork, or liver.

Green bananas, Johnny cakes, ackee, callaloo for FoodieTuesday
Traditional Breakfast offered at a special tour of Appleton Estate

A traditional breakfast in Jamaica can sometimes mean porridge made from bananas, cornmeal, plantains, oats.

This particular traditional breakfast included green bananas (on the left, they don’t look green though), dumplings (the two round items on the right), callaloo (green, from the spinach family), ackee and saltfish (yellow), and mackerel (between the bananas and the ackee).

Of course, a traditional breakfast such as this takes time to prepare so nowadays it’s more often done on weekends or purchased from restaurants and cookshops. And a breakfast like this will stay with you all day.


How to Join the FoodieTuesday Linkup

You can join the FoodieTuesday linkup, by posting a foodie photo on your blog, adding the link to your post in the link tool at the bottom of this post then tweet this post using the hashtag #FoodieTuesday.

Hope to see you at FoodieTuesday!

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The Breadfruit, Bligh’s Gift to Jamaica and the Mutiny it Caused

Looking up at a breadfruit tree laden with fruit, I heard an older gentleman remark to no one in particular, that it’d be a rough year. Breadfruit, he continued, as if revealing some truism that was lost to this younger generation, is always plentiful during hard times.

His words echoed in my head each time I noticed tree after tree that was covered in the slightly oval fruit that grows to the size of a large grapefruit. And as the value of the Jamaican currency fell to unprecedented levels against the US dollar this month, I began to wonder whether this abundance of breadfruit might really be a harbinger of hard times.

Maybe now, I thought, that prices on basic food items begin to creep upwards and salaries that have stayed flat buy less and less at the supermarket, its time to turn to this nutritious, and often overlooked food.

Lone breadfruit on a tree

How the Breadfruit Came to Jamaica

The breadfruit was brought to Jamaica in 1793 by Captain William Bligh of the unfortunate HMS Bounty, precisely because it was considered an inexpensive and nutritious way to feed the large number of slaves who worked the island’s then numerous sugar plantations.

Bligh, an experienced navigator, who had lived near Lucea, Hanover from 1784-7, had sailed ships of sugar and rum from the island to England while he was in his uncle-in-law’s employ.

His ill-fated expedition to the South Pacific to bring back breadfruit and other plants ended in the now infamous mutiny in which Bligh not only lost his ship, he also lost the specimens he had collected.

He and 18 of his trusted crew were given a small boat which Bligh piloted 3,618 miles to Timor aided only by a quadrant and pocket watch, and his memory of charts he had seen. On his return to England, he was promoted to captain and in 1791, returned to Tahiti on the Providence for more fruit.

It was from this shipment that Bligh delivered specimens to the island of St. Vincent and Jamaica’s Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas, and Bluefields in Westmoreland.

How the breadfruit caused the Mutiny on the Bounty
Breadfruit storyboard, Hanover Museum, Jamaica

Today, hundreds of varieties of breadfruit can be found in nearly 90 countries from the Pacific Islands, to Southeast Asia to the Caribbean and Central America. Left untouched, a tree can grow to about 85 feet, and yield between 150-200 fruits each year. One hundred grams of fruit has 27 grams of carbohydrates, 70 grams of water, as well as vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.

Fried roasted breadfruit, ackee, saltfish, Johnny Cakes, avocado
Traditional breakfast, a slice of fried roasted breadfruit on the right. Max Jamaica Restaurant, NJ

While the easily grown trees, with its distinctive large, cut leaves, flourished in Jamaica, it took more than 40 years for the breadfruit — the taste is sometimes described as a cross between a potato and a plantain — to become popular to the local palate. Now, every household has at least one tree in its backyard and breadfruit or breshay is a staple of our diet, eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even as a snack.

It is baked, fried, boiled, jerked, roasted and juiced. We also make chips, porridge, dumplings, salads, fritters, cakes, muffins and puddings from this almost year-round fruit all the while being mostly oblivious to the story behind their introduction to the island.

Given a choice, I take breadfruit over rice every time. A few slices of the young breadfruit give soups ‘body.’ The ‘fit’ breadfruit, when boiled is soft enough to be mashed like potato and eaten with butter. The ripe or slightly ripe better yet a yellow heart breadfruit is mandatory for roasting.

For the unlucky few who don’t have a tree in their backyards, breadfruit can usually be found in local markets. Roasting breadfruit is typically higher in price. Depending on location, they are between $0.50 and $1.00, and between $0.30 and $0.70 for boiling.

One of my favorite breadfruit recipes is baked breadfruit stuffed with ackee and saltfish.

Baked Breadfruit Stuffed with Ackee and Saltfish

Prepare ackee and saltfish, as shown below, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stem from a medium breadfruit, rub with butter or brush with olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake breadfruit for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Test whether a knife or skewer inserted into the breadfruit comes out clean.
Remove the breadfruit’s core (heart), stuff with salt fish and ackee. Rub more butter or olive oil on the outside and return to the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool then cut breadfruit in half. Garnish and serve.

Ackee and Saltfish

1/2 lb Saltfish (dried, salted codfish)
12 fresh ackees or 1 (drained) can of tinned ackees
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 sweet pepper, for garnish (optional)
1 chopped tomato
1 sprig fresh thyme
Oil for frying

Soak saltfish overnight or boil to remove the salt. Drain. If boiled, let it cool before removing and discarding the skin and bones. Flake the fish. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Saute onions until transparent then add chopped tomato, pepper and thyme. Add saltfish and mix with onions, tomato, pepper. Fold in ackees and stir gently so the ackees stay whole. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with sweet pepper or use as stuffing for baked breadfruit.


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 and stories from locations around the world.




Group Getaways: How to Travel with Friends and Keep Your Friendships

I don’t like group getaways. There are too many personalities to contend with, too many logistical issues to manage, and no matter how carefully you plan, someone’s fragile ego always gets bruised.

However, a few years ago, when my best friend announced to family and friends that she wanted to celebrate an upcoming milestone birthday in South Africa, I knew that for her sake, I’d have to set aside my hang ups about group getaways.

I was lucky. By the time the real planning for the trip rolled around, there were only three of us – the birthday girl and a new friend, who’d been out with us a few times to concerts and dinners, and me.

Four friends at dinner
S.A. singer, Lorraine Klaasen at one of our Group Getaway Planning Meetings

Although my friend and I had taken short trips together, neither of us had traveled with our new friend. I wondered secretly what 2 ½ weeks of being in close proximity to each other would do to our friendships, especially when, to control costs, we’d decided where possible, to share a room.

At our first planning meeting for the trip, we discussed our quirks and pet peeves and each person listed their deal breaker behaviors. We also decided on a few ground rules: each of us had to make a three-item must-see/do list, and since we were a small group, we decided to participate in all nine activities, even if an item from someone’s list wasn’t of interest.

That rule might sound unfair but it was a brilliant idea, one that got us out of our comfort zones. It’s how the birthday girl and I ended up at a safari camp in Zimbabwe ooohing and aaahing over exotic animals we’d only seen on National Geographic television.

Since we were hitting three cities in South Africa, each of us took on the responsibility of planning a leg of the trip, from deciding which tour company to use, where to stay, to what to do on our infrequent free days, etc.

It took us a little more than a year to pull the trip together, and during that time, we were in constant communication via email, phone, and face-to-face meetings, usually over dinner at a South African restaurant. We discussed every aspect of the trip and shared whatever information we found on our own.

Not surprisingly, the meetings to plan the trip brought us closer than we’d been before. But no amount of bonding can change people’s personalities, and no matter how much you prepare to accommodate another’s idiosyncrasies, it always is a jar to the senses when you discover what they are.

Travelers at Sani Pass, Lesotho
Freezing at 9000′ Sani Pass, near Lesotho

While no one had a melt down during the eighteen-day trip, there were a few times when I felt ready to close my fingers around someone’s neck, and many times I was rubbed the wrong way by someone’s attitude. In the end, I realized that I could obsess about minor things, miss the beauty in front of me and mar the overall experience, or relax. After all, it was a vacation, not a marriage.

Planned carefully, a group getaway doesn’t have to be a disaster. Here are some tips from our trip that, I believe, not only helped us have a very memorable vacation, but have kept our friendship intact.

  1. Have an organizer: Every group getaway must have an organizer – someone who’s very meticulous, has excellent communication skills, knows how to handle different personalities, can plan and delegate.
  2. Plan is more than a 4-letter word: Plan as much as possible beforehand to ensure your group getaway is a success. Know each day’s activities in detail and make sure everyone else does too.
  3. Know each person’s objective/s: Find out why participants want to be part of the group getaway and what activity they’d like to engage in. Getting each person to identify their ‘must-sees’ ensures that each person’s interests are addressed. Since our group was small, and we mostly liked the same things, it was easy for us to do things together.
  4. Be inclusive: The best way to get participants invested in the success of the group getaway, is to include everyone. In our case, we were 3 people visiting 3 different cities so it was simple enough to plan. For larger group getaways, break the trip down into activities, cities, countries, etc., and make subgroups responsible for each segment.
  5. Set deadlines: To ensure that you have a successful group getaway, it’s not only important to set deadlines for the payment of fees, but also to obtain information. For example, before you book a hotel, you’ll need to know that Uncle John wants a room with an ocean view.
  6. Keep communication open: When it’s difficult to get together in person, use email, telephone, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc., to keep communication lines open.
  7. Discuss pet peeves:  Find out as much as you can about the person you’re sharing a room with. Understand that you might have to put up with behaviors that are different from your own but remember, it’s only for a short period.
  8. Have fun! The whole reason to plan a group getaway is to gather friends, family, etc., together to share an experience and have fun. Once the trip begins, that should be the only thing on the agenda.

What are your suggestions for keeping your friendships intact as you explore the world with your friends? 


This post is part of Boomer Travel Women’s Group Getaways blog carnival. Head over to More Time to Travel to read about more group adventures.

Beach Dreaming and a Giveaway

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. – Jacques Cousteau

I love the beach. I love the sea, I love looking at it, being near it, and being in it. I love the sounds of the waves, whether they’re lapping gently or crashing to the shore.

Sunrise at Boston Beach, Jamaica
Sunrise at Boston Beach

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. — Isak Dinesen

I didn’t realize how important being near water was to me until some years ago. I was restless and out of sorts. Nothing I tried brought me back to myself. Then my best friend reminded me that we hadn’t gone to the beach at all that summer. It was November and cold so I bundled up, hopped on the train and took myself to Coney Island.

Morning at Boston Beach, Jamaica
Morning at Boston Beach

I still remember crossing the boardwalk, stepping onto the sand and hearing the roar of the sea. It stirred something so deep inside, I began to sob, then weep uncontrollably. A light rain had started to fall but I didn’t care. I found a huge rock near the water’s edge and sat for hours watching the waves grow larger and larger as the approached the shore, then become smaller and smaller as they receded. By the time I left, I felt at peace. I felt whole again. Since then, I never go for more than a few weeks without going to the beach. Being able to see the sea or having access to it is as important to me as how many bedrooms I have.

Boats at Negril Jamaica
Negril boats

It’s been more than a month since I’ve been to the beach and I’m getting antsy. A fractured ankle has kept me away from home and my daily view of the sea from my back porch. Now my thoughts are filled with images of beaches I’ve been and ones I’m yet to explore.

Dump Up Beach, Mobay
Mobay Beach

I can’t wait to rid my ankle of its bandages, sink my toes into the warm sand and dip them into the cool water.

The sea is flat as glass
On Jamaica’s north coast

The day I took this photo, the sea was so choppy along the coast, Falmouth-bound ships were redirected to Montego Bay. I was surprised to see how flat it was here, as flat as glass.

 If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough. Unknown

Treasure Beach view, Jamaica
Treasure Beach
Playing football near the sea, Hector's River, Jamaica
Football near the sea
Fishermen going out to sea, Little Ochie Jamaica
Sunset boats

As much as I love the sea, I doubt I’d want to be a fisherman.

Boats waiting for the sun to set, Negril Jamaica
Waiting for the sun to set

This is the life!

Sun setting on another day at Rick's Cafe Negril Jamaica
Sunset at Rick’s Cafe

Some people can’t live without the mountains, I can’t live without the sea.

Mountain or sea, which are you?


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.

For even more travel photos, please check out Becca’s Friday Daydreaming series at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there! 

Summer Beach Bag Giveaway –

In celebration of summer and the beach, I’m giving away a beach bag to one lucky winner. Enter by June 8th by leaving a comment, tweeting about the giveaway #beachbaggiveaway or liking us on Facebook. It’s that easy. Unfortunately, the giveaway is open only to addresses in the United States. Good luck! 



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Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden, an Eco-Tourism Destination

When Ahhh….Ras Natango Gallery and Garden’s Ian Williams, aka Ras Natango, first saw the property that would eventually bear his name, he was looking for a place where he and his wife, Tamika, transplants from Kingston, could put down roots and raise their young son. After a bit of negotiating, he bought it on spot, telling Tamika about it only when he returned home. If he expected high fives, he was wrong. She needed more than a little convincing.

View from Ahhh...Ras Natango
View of Montego Bay

You see, the property he bought is tucked into the side of a hill, about 2,000 feet above sea level, with rocks everywhere, some the size of boulders. And it presented its own problems — like how to build on rock and, equally as important for Tamika, then a teacher and an avid gardener, where to put her garden. But Ian, the artist, had a vision and eventually, he won her over.

Part of the rock garden at Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden
View of the rock garden

They began slowly building their home, which clings like tentacles to the hillside, starting from the top and adding space below, as needed and funds allowed. When one of the guests at the hotel Ian worked asked to see where he found his inspiration, he realized he needed a studio, and Ras Natango Gallery was born.

Making the Rock Garden

Ian and Tamika continued working and sculpting the land for their use. To create the garden, they terraced and backfilled the hillside with compost, and planted flowers that would thrive in shallow beds.

Rock painted lion at Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden
Rock painted lion Ahhh…Ras Natango

Soon lantana, bougainvillea, gladioli, heliconia, hibiscus, zinnia, nasturtium, convolvulus, torch ginger, ginger lily, beehive ginger, cosmos, sunflower, amaryllis, lantana, bromeliads, and several other varieties bloomed. They added fruit trees (mango, guava, cherry, naseberry), and planted herbs and vegetables as well.

Continue reading “Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden, an Eco-Tourism Destination”

A Walking Tour of Falmouth Jamaica, Part II

The quiet charm of Falmouth Jamaica lies in its commercial buildings as well as its residences. Modest or grand, they offer a glimpse into a bygone period, a time when sugar was king.

In first part of the tour, we looked at some of Falmouth’s commercial buildings. For the second part, we’ll view some of the private homes that are located on Trelawny and King Streets. Both parts of the tour can be done together and will take about 2-3 hours to complete.

To start this tour, turn right after leaving the pier and follow Trelawny Street. When you cross Market Street (the Baptist Manse is at the corner of Trelawny and Market), we’ll arrive at our first stop on Trelawny Street.

Several of the homes we’ll see were owned by free people of color. During the 18th century, Jamaica had a sizable population of free people of color, who generally lived in the urban areas. Though the majority was poor, a good number accumulated considerable wealth.

Trelawny Street

The Love House, Trelawny Street
Built by a mason, Isaac Love

Just behind the Baptist Manse is this well preserved home that once belonged to and is believed to have been built by Isaac Love, a mulatto mason. Love purchased the lot in 1781 from Edward Barrett.

Trelawny Street, Falmouth
Trelawny Street, Falmouth

Located next door to the Love House, this property is now being used by the Department of Corrections. I don’t know its background but judging from its design – 2 stories, brick, quoins, the archway, the verandah with fretwork – I’m guessing it could have been built in the 19th century.

Two story house with porches at 2 Trelawny Street
2 Trelawny Street House

Across the street from the Love House is this two story brick house. Construction date unknown.

Elizabeth Somerville House

Historic house, Falmouth
Elizabeth Sommerville House, 8 Trelawny Street

Cross King Street and you’ll arrive at 8 Trelawny Street. The storyboard outside the house describes Elizabeth Somerville, its original owner, as a free woman of color. She was one of the first women of color to buy property in Falmouth after Emancipation in 1834. The house, constructed of wood, is typical of the houses that were built by free people of color around Falmouth. It had two rooms of similar size that were separated by a partition wall. The front room was probably used as a sitting and bed room, the back a waiting and sitting room. Since the house was made of board, cooking would probably have been done outside or in a separate structure away from the house.

King Street

Small board house, Falmouth
Small Board House, Falmouth

Go north on to King Street to see this sweet little house. Another typical Falmouth house, it has been renovated. The outside has been coated with sand, to protect it from fire.

Wooden house, Falmouth
Brick & Board House, Falmouth
Wooden house with wrap-around porch
9 King Street

9 King Street was originally owned by Richard Barrett Waite, who was probably related to the Barrett family. It was likely built in the 1800s. It has a hip roof, tray ceiling and partial wrap-around verandah.

Davidson House

Two story wooden house near Falmouth Pier
Davidson House

North on King Street, near the edge of the pier, is the Davidson House, which was owned by Mary Gairdner, a free woman of color. Gairdner was an extensive landowner in Falmouth. By her 1837 will, Gairdner deeded her “Creole” house to her son, Thomas Davidson, and provided that each of her four children were to remain in the houses in which they were living at the time of her death. The Davidson House is now privately owned.

Davidson House, Falmouth
View of Falmouth Pier from the Davidson House

At this point, we can retrace our steps to the pier. I’ll be bringing you more of Falmouth in other posts.

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.

A Walking Tour of Falmouth Jamaica, Part I

Falmouth Jamaica is one of the best towns on the island to do a walking tour. It’s compact, well laid out (on a grid), and pedestrian-friendly – no cars are allowed in the center of town. Most importantly, the Georgian buildings for which Falmouth is well-known are almost all storyboarded and within a few minutes of the pier and the center of town.

A Little Intro to Falmouth

Falmouth, the capital of Trelawny, was established after the original capital, which was located near the Martha Brae River, became unsuitable for many reasons, including the fact that at 50 acres, it was just too small. So the town council appointed a commission, chaired by Edward Moulton Barrett, to identify a site for the new capital.

Taken from the Church Tower, Duperly
Falmouth Taken From the Church Tower, Adolphe Duperly, 1840

Moulton Barrett, great grandfather of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was a wealthy plantation owner whose holdings totaled more than 80,000 acres between what is now St. James (a neighboring parish) and Trelawny. Interestingly, the commission agreed to place the new capital on land that belonged to the Barrett family. Moulton Barrett wanted it to be called Barrett Town, but the residents preferred Falmouth, after the birthplace of Governor Trelawney*, then the governor of the parish. Falmouth, the new capital, was established by Thomas Reid in 1769.

The establishment of the new capital came at a time when Jamaica was the largest producer of sugar and rum, and Trelawny, which had as many as 100 sugar estates, the most in Jamaica, had at least 40 factories. All this made Falmouth a wealthy town, with one of the busiest ports on the island.

The wealth that sugar generated transformed the town and its residents. It translated into the construction of fine commercial and public buildings along Market Street, the main thoroughfare, and residences large and small. Falmouth’s population at the time was made up of not only whites, but also free blacks and coloreds many of whom, according to property records, bought land from Moulton Barrett and owned their own homes.

Market Street, Falmouth from A. Duperly, 1840s
Adolphe Duperly’s Market Street

Falmouth’s fortunes rose and fell on sugar and its harbor.  With the emancipation of slavery, production fell and the once busy harbor was found to be too shallow to accommodate steamboats that began arriving in Jamaica around the 1830.

Many of the buildings and homes that were built then remain, some in good condition, others needing repair. It is in recognition of this rich architectural and archeological legacy that a section of the town was declared a National Monument on September 5, 1966 by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

How to Recognize Falmouth’s Georgian Buildings

Georgian architecture, named for King Georges (I, II, III and IV who reigned from 1714-1830), was the architectural style that was popular in England between 1720 and 1840. It has three basic distinguishing features: simple form, symmetry and detailing.

The style became fashionable in Jamaica from approximately 1750-1850 with modifications to fit the climatic conditions on the island. Hip roofs (with sloping sides and ends), fretwork, and sash and louvred windows helped air circulation in the harsh tropical climate. Other features include quoins (corner building blocks, usually larger and more prominent than the surrounding blocks), and columns. Commercial and residential buildings designed following the Jamaican Georgian vernacular began appearing in Falmouth around 1780.

This walking tour will show you some of the finest examples of Georgian and historical architecture that Falmouth has to offer. It can be done in two parts, each taking about 2 hours. The first part will look at the commercial buildings that are within a 2 block radius of the pier. The second part, which I’ll post tomorrow, will look at some of the private residences.

Albert George Market

Clock Tower at Albert George Market, Falmouth Jamaica
Clock tower

As you exit the pier, you’ll see this clock tower and a portion of the Albert George Market, a prominent landmark, that was built in 1894.  The market was named for Queen Victoria’s grandsons, Albert (Duke of Clarence), and George (King George V) and was the largest on the island at the time. The quoins, a feature of Georgian architecture can be seen to the sides of the arched entrance.

Falmouth Courthouse

Falmouth Courthouse, Jamaica

You won’t miss this imposing structure, which is directly to your right as you exit the pier. It’s the Falmouth Courthouse. Erected in 1815, it was one of the first official buildings in town. Of Georgian design, it was rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire in 1926.

Cases are tried on the upper level of the two-story structure. If you decide to take a peek upstairs when court is in session, remember to be quiet. You’ll also notice that everyone’s smartly dressed. They have to be, if they’re going to appear in court.

The lower level functions as a town hall and the mayor’s office. Use the courthouse as your landmark as you stroll around the town. The entrance faces north.

Baptist Manse

Falmouth Baptist Manse
Baptist Manse

Continuing west past the courthouse, you’ll arrive at the Baptist Manse on the corner of Market and Trelawny Streets. This striking Georgian building was constructed in 1798 for the Athol Union Masonic Lodge of the Scottish Constitution. It was the first Masonic temple built in Jamaica. Unfortunately, the temple was sold in 1834, to the Baptist Missionary to pay off debts that were incurred during its construction.

It is thought that the manse was home to Baptist Missionary and Abolitionist, William Knibb (1803-45) and his family in the 1830s. The manse housed the William Knibb High School from 1951-75, and was home to the Falmouth Heritage Renewal, an organization that restores historic buildings in Falmouth.

Barrett House (Ruins)

Ruins of Barrett House, Falmouth
Barrett House

Cross Trelawny Street, walk about a block and you’ll see the remains of the Barrett House (located almost across from the Bank of Nova Scotia Building). A merchant house, it’s believed to have been built around 1798 for a member of the family. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by hurricane in 1988 but the ruins leave no doubt about its former grandeur.

The Vermont House aka The Old Post Office

The Old Post Office, Falmouth Jamaica
The Old Post Office

After checking out the Barrett House, double back on Market Street and continue walking south pass the Baptist Manse to the Vermont Building at Cornwall Street. Constructed sometime after 1832, for Thomas Vermont, this two story brick house cum store displays striking detailing, beautiful arches and quoins. The windows on the front and side provided good ventilation for the living quarters upstairs and the store below.

Following Vermont’s death, the house passed to a Mrs. Mary Atkinson and her daughter who had acted as caretakers of the house when Vermont was away. The Vermont House was once home to the Falmouth Post Office  and a sauce company.

Water Square

Turn right on Cornwall (or Duke) Street, walk about a block and you will be in Water Square and the market, the commercial center of town. Water Square was critical to the development of the town as its reservoir, which was built in 1798, provided piped water to Falmouth residents from the nearby Martha Brae River and gave the town the distinction of having piped water before New York City.

Phoenix Foundry aka the Dome

The Phoenix Foundry aka The Dome, Falmouth
Phoenix Foundry

Leaving Water Square and the Market, take Harbor Lane to Tharp Street. There you’ll see the Phoenix Foundry, also called the Dome. Constructed in 1810, the Dome is one of the oldest industrial complexes in the island that still exists. It was used to repair ships that were docked in Falmouth Harbor as well as sugar manufacturing equipment. Excavations at the foundry have turned up iron, copper, and lead. Its dome shape as well as ceramic and glass artifacts that were also found there, suggest that the kiln was used to make glass and ceramics.

Tharp House

Tharp House, Falmouth
Tharp House, Falmouth

Go north on Tharp Street to Seaboard Street. As you near the pier, you’ll notice Tharp House which was built in 1790 by John Tharp, one of the wealthiest plantation owners in Trelawny, and the owner of Good Hope Plantation. Tharp House was his shipping office and residence. Rum and sugar were shipped from Tharp House and when Tharp went into slaves trading, slaves were received there. In recent years, Tharp House served as the office of the tax collector of Falmouth.

You can also see Tharp House on your left as you exit the pier. Unfortunately, the building is in disrepair and is not accessible to the public. However, you can see architectural details here that are repeated at Good Hope, Tharp’s main home.


* Trelawney is the correct spelling of the governor’s name. Somehow the second ‘e’ got left out of the parish name and was never corrected.

The Jamaican Cherry

The Jamaican Cherry has red, sometimes yellow skin, is yellow inside and has two to three small oval seeds. It is slightly sweet, slightly tart and juicy, and is used to make juices, or washed and eaten just picked from the tree. The cherries are low in carbohydrates and are packed with vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.

Lone garden cherry on a tree Jamaica
Jamaican Cherry

The Jamaican Cherry is native to the Caribbean, southern Mexico, Central America and south to Peru and Bolivia. But it has also been found as far away as India and the Philippines. The Jamaican Cherry is known by several names, including Panama berry, Singapore cherry, and manzanitas.

Garden Cherry Jamaica
Jamaican Cherry
Cherry pits Jamaica

Flesh of a garden cherry Jamaica

The Jamaican Cherry is also a flowering tree. The flowers can be used as an antiseptic and also to relieve headaches and colds.

I took this flower, which I’ve magnified several times, around November. Since then, there has been two crops of fruit – cherries are in season again.

Flower of a cherry tree, Jamaica
Cherry flower

The trees are beautiful in season with specks of red peeking out from among verdant green leaves. The fruit can be picked individually or shaken from the tree, which typically grows no more than 6 or 7 feet tall. And since the trees are not very large, they can be found in the backyard gardens of most Jamaican families.

Cherry Drink, Jamaica
Jamaican Cherry Drink

During the season, it’s possible to get dozens of cherries – more than enough to juice. I usually freeze them and use them sparingly until the next crop. For color, I add some to my homemade fruit juices.

The Jamaican cherry is in season now so if you’re visiting or planning to visit soon, you should try the fresh juice. Ask at your hotel or guest house if there’s some on the menu, or if they can get some. I know some of the smaller establishments will gladly oblige.

The juice is quite easy to make. Put cherries in a blender, add enough water to cover the fruit and blend. (You can also add a bit more water if the juice is too thick.) Strain, add a little nutmeg, lime or ginger, and sugar to taste. Serve over ice or chill before serving.


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.