5 Reasons to Get Out of Negril and Explore Hanover Jamaica

Hanover is Jamaica’s second smallest parish after Kingston & St. Andrew. It was created out of the neighboring parishes of Westmoreland and St. James on November 12, 1793.

Hanover got its name for George I, who was from the House of Hanover. Lucea, its capital has been known as Sant Lucea, St. Lucia, and St. Lucea.

There’s an interesting story about Lucea and its clock tower. According to the story, Germany gave a clock to the people of the island of St. Lucia. Unfortunately for the St. Lucians, the captain of the ship that was taking the clock from Germany confused the name and landed it in Lucea instead. Continue reading “5 Reasons to Get Out of Negril and Explore Hanover Jamaica”

Oakton House Jamaica

The Oakton House, a stately wooden structure caught my eye. Located in Half Way Tree, Kingston, it’s a stone’s throw from the Old Courthouse that I wrote about a few posts ago.

It was probably built in the 19th century, during the height of Jamaica’s Georgian period (1702-1910), but no records have been found to show who the original owner was. Continue reading “Oakton House Jamaica”

Orlando, Top Family Spring Break Destination

I have a confession: I’m not big on theme parks, but most of my relatives are. So when we had to choose a city to hold our family reunion a few years ago, we looked for a location that had activities that everyone would enjoy. Orlando fit the bill.

It was probably the easiest decision we made as a family in all the years we’ve been organizing our reunions, and serendipitous for me as that year, I was running the Walt Disney World Marathon, one of the annual racing events that takes place on the property.

Orlando is a hit not just with our family. Fifty-one million visitors agree annually, making this central Florida city the top Family Spring Break destination in the US.

It’s easy to understand why Orlando is so popular. With several different properties, from the Walt Disney World Resort’s four theme and two water parks, to Universal Orlando, Seaworld and Legoland, there are entertainment options that are appropriate for every age group.

Everyone in our party agreed on Disney World, the sprawling 20-acre complex just outside of the city where two of the main attractions, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center greet 38 million visitors every year.

The Disney staff helped us plan our reunion to coincide with the time of my marathon weekend in January.  It was perfect as there are fewer people at Disney in January than in the summer, when we usually have our reunions.

Given its size and the number of attractions, we had to agree on a plan for how we’d spend our seven days at Disney so that everyone would enjoy the entertainment they preferred and all 35 of us would still have our ‘together times.’

We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. With its African safari theme, it was a hit with the younger ones and even with the adults. Staying in the same hotel, made it easier to gather up the early risers for breakfast together and head out before the park got too crowded.

I wasn’t prepared for the lines, which for most of the popular activities, were long. Fortunately, they moved along quickly but with more people out and about in the afternoons, everything slowed so we knew then to take the little ones back to the hotel for afternoon snacks and naps. We saved the evenings for dinner and conversations.

After a week of family togetherness, it was my time to shine. My race started with a bang, literally, as dozens of fireworks lit up the still dark sky on race morning. It was the most spectacular race start I’ve ever had! Throughout the course, several cartoon characters from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Goofy and Snow White greeted us and cheered us along. They definitely took my mind off the miles I had to run and the growing ache in my feet.

After the celebration, I joined my family a bit sore but with a definite sense of accomplishment, for our last night’s dinner together and reunion close-out. Everyone said they’d return to Orlando to enjoy more of the city outside of Disney World.

Getting There

There are several flights to Orlando from most major US cities, Canada, the UK and Europe. A variety of accommodation options, from hotels, resorts and vacation rentals make this an attractive place to visit whether you are traveling with a family or group or with a loved one.

If you’re planning a trip to Florida, be sure to check out the theme parks and all the other attractions that Orlando has on offer.

– Sponsored Post 

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Jamaica Chosen “Caribbean’s Leading Destination” at World Travel Awards Ceremony

Jamaica was voted the Caribbean’s Leading Destination at the 2012 World Travel Awards Ceremony for the Caribbean and the Americas at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa on September 14th.

Jamaica took home several other awards including “Caribbean’s Leading Airport” (Sangster International Airport), “Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination,”  “Caribbean’s Leading Villa Resort” (Round Hill Hotel), “Caribbean’s Leading Meeting and Conference Center” (Montego Bay Convention Center), and “Caribbean’s Leading Meeting and Conference Hotel” (Half Moon).

Other winners include St. Lucia (“Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination”), Tobago (“Caribbean’s Leading Hotel – Coco Reef Resort”), Necker Island (“Caribbean’s Leading Private Island”), and St. Vincent (“Caribbean’s Leading New Hotel” – Buccament Bay Spa & Resort).

Rio de Janeiro won the award for “South America’s Leading Destination,” while Cancun was voted “Mexico & Central America’s Leading Destination.”

The “North America’s Leading Destination” award went to Las Vegas while New York City was voted “North America’s Leading City Break Destination,” and American Airlines “North America’s Leading Airline.”

South Africa was the big winner at the WTA Africa ceremony with awards including “Africa’s Leading Luxury Hotel,” (Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villa & Spa), “Africa’s Leading Luxury Train” (The Blue Train), and “Africa’s Leading Safari Lodge” (Shamwari Game Resort). South Africa Airways and Abercrombe & Kent were among the organizations voted finest in their fields. Marrakech took home the award for “Africa’s Leading Destination.”

Dubai earned honors as the “Middle East’s Leading Destination” while Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace copped the “Middle East’s Leading Luxury Resort.”

In addition to the Turks & Caicos ceremony, others were held in Nairobi and Singapore. Europe’s event will take place on October 6th at the Conrad Algarve in Portugal. The winners of these legs will go head-to-head in the WTA’s Grand Final, which is set to take place at The Oberoi, Gurgaon on 12th December 2012. Read more about the winners here.

The World Travel Awards (WTA) was launched in 1993 to acknowledge and recognize excellence in the global travel and tourism industry. Now celebrating its 19th anniversary, it is regarded as the very highest achievement that a travel product could hope to receive.


Can You Afford Not to Have Travel Insurance?

Having travel insurance should be a no brainer for those of us who travel. But most people don’t think of it until it’s too late.

Take my friend, Jessica, for instance. On her first trip to Africa, she arrived at her destination only to find that her luggage had not. For two weeks, all she had was the clothes on her back, a few items given to her by others on the trip, and some personal articles. Her suitcase went on its own adventure. Following her return home, she had to produce receipts for the contents but received a check from the airline that only covered the cost of a new suitcase.

In the grand scheme of things, a lost suitcase is a temporary inconvenience. But what if my friend had become ill and had to be hospitalized, or worse, evacuated home? Without travel insurance with appropriate coverage, her trip and her finances would definitely have been ruined.

Why then are we so cavalier about travel insurance?

One of the reasons we give so little thought to travel insurance is because we believe it will be prohibitively expensive. But at a cost of a fraction of the actual price of the trip, it’s a small amount to pay for our peace of mind.

There’s also, I suspect, the expectation that vacations will be perfect interludes where nothing bad ever happens. Ironically, it’s also the time when we’re most likely to venture way outside our comfort zones and engage in activities we’d probably never do at home.

According to Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), 10 Brits have been hospitalized abroad every day this year. Last year, the figure was 70 a week.

And so far this year, there have been 13 cases of young Brits falling from balconies while on vacation.  Unfortunately, 3 lost their lives while others ended up with very serious injuries.

Because of this, the FCO along with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA – The Travel Association) are now campaigning jointly to help prevent further incidents.

But it has to go further than that. Of 2,000 people surveyed by the Foreign Office, 48% revealed that they did not realize that they would be responsible for their medical expenses if they became ill abroad.

The situation isn’t better in America where the United States Travel Insurance Association (UStiA) found that since the summer of 2010, one in eight adults have had their travel plans changed because of natural disasters. Of that number, only 29% had travel insurance.

To further underscore the importance of having travel insurance, it is one of the requirements for obtaining a Schengen visa.

So how much coverage should you get? Whenever I buy travel insurance, I make sure to have medical coverage, including provision for evacuation in the event of an emergency; trip cancelation and interruption; lost, stolen, delayed, or damaged baggage or personal effects; missed connections and flight delays. I’ve also bought coverage in case my hotel or airline becomes insolvent while I’m on my trip.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to file a claim but knowing that I was protected was worth the additional expense.

So whether we’re making plans for that Caribbean vacation, the trip around the world or to take the kids to see their grandparents, we should always include travel insurance to the budget. Can you afford not to?


St. Andrew Parish Courthouse Jamaica

The St. Andrew Parish Courthouse is located in Half Way Tree and is popularly referred to as the Half Way Tree Courthouse. Built in 1807, this Georgian style building has louvered windows and a closed verandah.

It was damaged in a storm and repaired in 1882, then repaired several times after. Miraculously, it escaped damage in the 1907 earthquake.

St. Andrew Courthouse Jamaica
St. Andrew Parish Courthouse Jamaica

The Courthouse was the setting for the trial of Alexander Bedward (1859-1930), a preacher and a Black Nationalist after whom the Revival movement, Bedwardism, the Jamaica Native Baptist Free Church, was named. Bedward spoke out against the government and was arrested and tried for sedition. He was committed to the mental asylum at Bellevue, where he died.

The St. Andrew Parish Courthouse was listed by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust on their register of historic sites in 1957 and declared a national monument in 1985.

This is a elegant building that I hope the Jamaican National Heritage Trust will restore and make it open to the public once again. In this part of Kingston, there are several other historic buildings including the St. Andrew Parish Church, which is just next door to the Courthouse.

The St. Andrew Parish Church was founded in 1666, just after the British captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1665, making it one of the oldest on the island. (More on the St. Andrew Parish Church in a later post.)

 The Secretariat

Another example of Georgian-style architecture is the Secretariat at King’s House.

The Secretariat, King's House, Jamaica
The Secretariat, King’s House, Jamaica

This building is now used as an office.

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.


In the Shadow of 9/11

Being in New York on September 12, 2001 was like living Hollywood’s depiction of the End. The normally bustling city was eerily quiet as if everyone had left in hurry.

The World had shifted, and we who were still around were holding our collective breaths, unsure what our next move should be.

I took the subway to work, not because I had to but because I couldn’t watch any more television, and because I wanted everything to go back to normal, in a New York minute. Somehow, I thought, if I willed myself to go out, the city would do the same. That spirit of resilience did return but it would take months for the new normal to take shape.

A few weeks shy of the first anniversary, I found myself working next door to the site. From my office

New World Trade Center Building
New World Trade Center Building

window, 9 floors up, I could look straight down into the crater that was once the World Trade Center. I did, once, and that was enough. I kept playing back the images I’d seen on television of people jumping to their deaths. I tried to imagine the terror that pushed them to make that choice. It was difficult for me to fathom.

Each morning as I walked the narrow path that wound its way through the cleanup site and lead to my office, I wondered if the spot I had just put my foot was the place someone had died.

No matter how early I went to work, people clogged the path and lined the chain link fence that surrounded it. I couldn’t understand why anyone who didn’t need to be there wanted to and worse, to bring children, some still in strollers.

No one wore masks or covered their noses from the acrid stench that stained the air like bad gas. I dreaded going to work until I discovered a new subway stop that bypassed the site altogether. It meant a longer walk, but it was worth it.

On that first anniversary, I wept during the minute of silence at work. I wept for the victims, their families and for my city.

By the time work took me to New Jersey, the debris had cleared. And as the PATH train snaked through what was the lower levels of World Trade Center station, I turned my back, I didn’t want to look. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was disturbing the dead.

I was relieved when construction started to take shape and the new towers began to rise quickly, triumphantly to the sky.

The events of 9/11 cast a long shadow over New York City and the U.S. It was the closest thing to war for me. I can’t forget, I won’t forget but I can smile because New York City has healed. New York City has found its new normal.

Update: Two of my friends in New York emailed me that today’s an almost exact replica of 9/11. Besides it being a Tuesday, the skies are beautiful, not a cloud and the air is crisp.


Campari Takes Over Appleton Jamaica Rums

Gruppo Campari, the maker of aperitif, announced this week that it had bought controlling interest in Lascelles deMercado, maker of Appleton Jamaica Rums, from CL Financial Ltd.

Campari takes over CL Financial’s 81.4% share and will buy the remaining shares by year end. The total deal is worth $414.8 million and is expected to lead to a profit from next year.

Appleton Rums
Appleton Rums

This is Campari’s third biggest acquisition. In 2009, it bought Wild Turkey from Pernod Richard SA, and Skyy Spirits in 2001.

Lascelles deMercado has the largest stock of aged rums in the world – Appleton Jamaica Rum, which is distributed by J. Wray & Nephew, a subsidiary company. DeMercado was formed in 1825.

It’ll be interesting to see what impact, if any, the sale will have on the local market. Other distillers, like Worthy Park Estate and Hampden Estate, producers of bulk rum for the European market, have expanded into the lucrative white rum market with Rum Bar Rum and Rum Fire White Overproof respectively. Hampden’s Rum Fire, which was launched in March last year was awarded its first gold medal at this year’s International Wine & Spirits Competition.


Christopher Columbus Monument, Jamaica

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica on May 5, 1494, he anchored off the coast of the parish of St. Ann. He named the spot where he landed, Santa Gloria.

There is some uncertainty about whether Santa Gloria is now St. Ann’s Bay or Discovery Bay.  There is no doubt though that St. Ann is where Columbus first landed.

La Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus Statue, Jamaica
La Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus Monument, Jamaica

On his second visit in 1503, Columbus was shipwrecked and remained in St. Ann’s Bay for a year. During that time, the first Spanish settlement, Sevilla la Nueva was created. Sevilla is now known by its Anglicized name, Seville.

La Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus Statue, Jamaica
La Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus Monument, Jamaica

This monument of the navigator, called La Santa Maria, can be found near Seville. It’s in a beautiful little spot, but definitely out of the way. If I hadn’t been with one of my cousins, I would’ve driven right past it, like I’ve been doing for months now.

I was struck by how small in stature Columbus appears here but I think I remember (hope I’m not making this up!), that people were smaller then so this might be accurate.

Or maybe it’s that the base is so bulky that it looks disproportionate to the monument. I’ll definitely have to do more digging.

Also, I have no idea when it was built or by whom and so far, haven’t been able to find any information about it, which is a bit surprising.  There’s an inscription on the base of the monument but the gate to the little garden where it’s located was locked and I couldn’t get close enough to read it. Again, more digging is needed.

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.

This week, I’m also linking this post to Rwethereyetmom’s Friday Daydreaming series. Hope you’ll check out their photos too!


How to Eat a Jamaican Patty

The patty is probably the best known fast food in Jamaica. This meat- or sometimes vegetable-filled meat pie is favored by rich and poor, young and old – for lunch, or a snack or sandwiched between a coco bread, a soft buttery roll, a meal.

Said to be a direct descendant of the Cornish pasty, the Jamaican patty is made most often with beef, which is enclosed in a

Jamaican Patty
Jamaican Patty

flaky shell that has been brushed with egg yolk or tumeric, depending on the baker, to give it a reddish-yellow color.

The patty has evolved over the years and now comes in a variety of fillings – chicken, shrimp, lobster, fish, vegetable, callaloo, ackee and cheese. Beef, though, still remains the favorite.

Patty is big business, with as you can imagine, hundreds of patty shops around the island and in Jamaican communities abroad. Many popular eateries, like Juici Beef here, began as patty shops. (Juici Beef is now in all fourteen parishes and has a factory in Canada. Tastee, another popular patty place has several locations on the island and distributes in the Caribbean.) Golden Krust, which started in New York and now has about 120 franchises in the U.S. credits a substantial portion of its revenue to patty sales. It now supplies patties to Wal-Mart, the New York Public Schools, and correctional facilities.

There’s an art to eating a patty. Fresh from the oven, it is hot enough to cause burns. In fact, some restaurants in New York, display a sign right above the patty oven to warn customers.

My preference is to let the patty cool a bit before digging in. But usually by the time I reach for a patty, I’m quite hungry and maybe because I’m hungry, I think I convince myself that my hunger will insulate my tongue. No such luck. I’ve been burned several times!

A friend of mine opens hers up so the filling can cool faster, then she eats it with a knife and fork.

So the key to eating a patty, is to take your time. And if you’ve made a patty-coco bread sandwich or, as we used to call it in high school, a coco-pat, go even slower — the coco bread doesn’t cool the patty down any faster.

If you’ve had a Jamaican patty, do share your tips for eating it.