We booked the flight; but what about a hotel?
We've both travelled a lot, and stayed in places ranging from scary, low-cost hostels in the Middle East, to high-class, impersonal hotels on corporate business trips. Neither extreme was going to work for us this time. And we both wanted to know more of Jamaica than a gated, multinational-owned beach resort with private beaches and locked gates.
So we both researched places to stay online: Jade from New York, me from Sacramento, looking for somewhere that seemed cosy and friendly and Jamaican. We kept coming back to the same place: Emerald View Resort Villa, in Greenwood, east of Montego Bay, west of Falmouth. We read the reviews on Trip Advisor and other places, and thought: this sounds like the place for us.
Still: booking a room in a country that you've never been to before, when the majority of the people you know who come to Jamaica zoom straight from the airport to a Hilton or a Sandals or some other stuccoed-and-secured resort, and lock the gate behind them, you wonder: have I chosen the right place?
Big smile. Happy faces. Yes, we had!
Miss Jennifer and her staff made us very very welcome. We didn't take a rental car: I'm glad we didn't. While driving on the left is how I learned to drive, (it's English, of course!), not knowing where to park and trying to negotiate the traffic in busy, narrow town streets would have left my nerves a tad frayed, more importantly we would have missed the friendship of Duran, who drove us here-there-and-everywhere, checked on us to make sure we were OK, and who became our friend during our week's stay.
Emerald View is perched on a hill, overlooking the tropical blue sea, and surrounded by lush greenery. The garden is full of flowers: in January, the bougainvillea was in full bloom, hibiscus were showy, and the garden was very pretty.
Our room had a balcony with a view down the hill to the water.
Several times, we had our evening meal at a place by the water: the Chill Out Hut; a very restful place with a bar and restaurant right on the beach. Driving back up the hill, we'd often see a local donkey, running away before us, before turning into one of the properties, off the road. Free-roaming donkey. One evening we walked back from Chill Out, up the hill in the dark. A friendly guy on a bicycle saw us struggling to brave a dash across the main road, and guided us across. Construction workers (still working in the dark? or staying in the part-built houses overnight?) called greetings as we passed. Local dogs ran away and watched from a distance. It took about 30 minutes to climb the hill back to the hotel, and it felt good.
We heard the dogs in the night. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they fight and snarl, sometimes just a yap to let you know they are there. And then, the sound of an owl.
Breakfast in the morning, on the balcony overlooking the pool: eggs and bacon, or Jamaican? Oh don't forget the coffee... Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee, with a little Jamaican sugar. It's perfect. Truly. Perfection in a cup. Most of Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee is exported to Japan. You can find it in the USA, and elsewhere, if you look hard or search online, but it's darn expensive. So guess what I brought back home in my suitcase?
(A holiday, a vacation, is an investment; you save hard to make it happen, to have spending money, to have the time away from work, and finding a place to stay where you feel at home makes it all worth while.)
A little further up the hill from Emerald View is the Greenwood Great House. More to come about that in another posting.
More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alisontoon/sets/72157632674230688/