Like a lot of people, I can’t believe 2013 is over. While it wasn’t a bad year overall, it presented a major personal challenge that forced me to change course, literally and figuratively, early in the year.
As many of my regular readers know, I’ve been exploring Jamaica, my home country, since late 2011. I’d hit most of the places I wanted to see but there are still more that I haven’t touched. 2013 was the year I had planned to do that. But at the end of April, I fractured my ankle when I fell in my backyard.
Everything changed in that instant. For the following three months, all my attention was on getting whole again so I could continue traveling. Although I still have some pain and stiffness, my ankle’s much better now and I’m anxious to resume my exploration of Jamaica and see other places on my list.
Before I do that, I’d like to do a photo review of 2013. Looking back now at the photos of these high points brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart. Hope they do the same for you.
January – St. Elizabeth
Every January 6th, for the last 275 years, the Maroons of Accompong Town in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica celebrate the anniversary of the signing of their treaty with the British and the birthday of their founder, Kojo. I was thrilled to join the celebration last year.
This man and his partner drew a crowd as they danced for a good five minutes. They moved so well together — he matching her move for move – I wondered if they were a couple.
February – Falmouth
Thanks to my work with an organization that restores historic buildings, I spent a lot of time in Falmouth and went on several walking tours of the town. On my first tour, we visited this masonic lodge, now the Baptist Manse. Built in 1798, it was the first masonic temple in Jamaica.
March – Westmoreland
I’d never had a fish pedicure and honestly, that wasn’t what I expected to do when I made a return visit to Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park. The property gets its name from Abeokuta, the Nigerian city. Its Olympic-sized pool, which has been on the property since it was part of the 18th century Deans Valley Estate, is fed by water from the Sweet River, which has its source about a 15-minute walk away. The pool is now home to inch-long carp that nibble on the dead skin on your feet. It’s hard to keep still while they exfoliate the skin but they are so sensitive, they disperse at the slightest movement.
Seaford Town is the largest German settlement in Jamaica. It was established in 1835 for immigrants who had been recruited from Bavaria, Westphalia, and Waldeck. On my second visit, I accompanied Inge, a family friend from Germany. Here she meets one of the residents, a German descendant. Do they look to you like they could be related?
April – Trelawny, St. James
I was excited to return to Good Hope Great House and Plantation in Trelawny. On my first visit, I fell in love with its location in the expansive Queen of Spain Valley, the warmth and elegance of the old house with its orange wood floors and tray ceiling. This time, I got to see parts of the Martha Brae River which flows languidly through the 2,000-acre property, tour the estate and see the citrus factory.
My neighbor told me about Ahhh….Ras Natango, an eco-tourism spot just outside of Montego Bay. One of the owners, Ian Williams, came to pick me up for the 10-15 minute ride up the winding road to the property. I was blown away by the views, by the garden Ian and his wife, Tamika, had carved into the rocky hillside, and the birds that flitted among the flowers.
May, June and July – Kingston
My travels came to an abrupt stop at the end of April when I broke my ankle. Between May and July, I shuttled back and forth between Montego Bay and Kingston – first for surgery, then for follow up visits with my orthopedic surgeon.
Despite my crutches, I took a trip to Holywell Recreational Park with a friend. I couldn’t move around much but the views fed my soul.
To get to Holywell, we drove through Newcastle, a military center that was established by the British in 1840. Its location, high up in the cool Blue Mountains, was perfect to inoculate the troops from yellow fever, a common cause of death back then. Newcastle is now a training camp for members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
I don’t usually like to see animals in captivity but when I heard that a donor had gifted Hope Zoo with a lion named Lucas, my curiosity got the better of me. I had to see him.
Lucas was sleeping when we arrived. One of his handlers said he was getting acclimated to the heat — it was July and Lucas was in the open part of the enclosure with very little protection from the sun. We waited for several minutes and finally, he raised his head. He looked docile and tired, likely because of the heat.
Sharing space with the zoo is Hope Botanical Gardens. After walking around the zoo, I was in no shape to do the gardens justice. I took this photo while I waited for my ride.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to Devon House for its famous ice cream, and to shop, dine or visit the wine bar. But I’d never done a tour of the house.
For me, one of the high points of the tour is this elegant and impressive 35-foot ballroom. It isn’t difficult to imagine the music that was played on its Broadwood piano, or the dances that took place under its Wedgwood ceiling with its English chandelier.
I was excited to see this exhibition, titled Rastafari: Unconquerable! at the Institute of Jamaica and I wasn’t disappointed.
It takes perfect timing to catch the night blooming cerebus, which blooms only once per year. Luckily, I was no longer on crutches so I was able to go back and forth several times to catch it as its petals opened slowly during the night. These were taken near midnight and it’s still not fully opened.
August to December – New York, New Jersey and North Carolina
I returned to New York at the end of July and got right back into the swing of things. Since I was still nursing my ankle, I didn’t want to risk being in the large crowd that typically gathers on Eastern Parkway to celebrate the West Indian American carnival on Labor Day but I didn’t want to miss out all together. So I made my way to the smaller Kiddies Carnival that Saturday. It was my first time at the carnival and it was thrilling to see the future mas players.
Wine festivals abound in New York and New Jersey in the fall. At the Jersey Skyline Wine Festival, my friends and I sampled wines from several vineyards and left with a few bottles of our favorites.
On a beautiful October Saturday, we traveled by train to Villa Milagro in southern New Jersey for a tour and tasting. I could have bought all the wines we tasted but returned with my two favorites.
In November, Elizabeth, a friend and blogger at Mirth and Motivation, and I met at The Cloisters for a lovely afternoon of art and music.
Then it was off to work in Charlotte, North Carolina, where except for Thanksgiving and food related posts, I never took a photo.
By December, I was already daydreaming of the trips I plan to take in 2014. Here’s what I have in mind:
* a more in depth look at Kingston, including a tour of St. Andrew Parish Church
* Port Royal
* South coast Jamaica
* UK – April
* Nicaragua – August
* Canada – February or March
* Tanzania or Kenya – both would be ideal!
* Gabon or Zimbabwe – October
* New Orleans
The New Year is time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Here’s wishing you joy and peace for 2013.
Happy New Year!
If you had unlimited airline miles, where would you go?
What would you like to see more of on InsideJourneys in 2014?
Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.